A desire to retail ready-to-heat meals to busy commuters has turned into a rapidly growing business for 26 year old Brisbane entrepreneur, Alison Price.
Unable to locate a catering company willing to supply quality meals cooked fresh daily to a budget, Price decided to set up her own kitchen and production facilities to support her idea.
Despite a total lack of commercial kitchen and food experience, Price has managed to assemble a team and production facility capable of producing up to 500 meals per day, cooked fresh from scratch.
She places a high value on processes and her production team’s ability to manage the kitchen to minimise wastage. Ten10 Eats works closely with suppliers and many ingredients arrive pre-portioned and within a specified weight range. The kitchen orders only what needs to be cooked to stock retail stores. Spreadsheets track the pre-cooked and yield weights of ingredients resulting in accurate meal costings.
“The cold room is left almost totally empty twice a week”, she said.
Unsold meals are frozen and Ten10 Eats helps schools, sporting clubs and community groups with frozen meal fundraising drives.
When cooking ten different meals fresh daily, menu design has also been important. “We’ve changed a few menu items along the way to streamline our kitchen processes.”
Price says one of their other big lessons has been staffing. “Labour costs are one of our biggest spends and we’ve worked hard to come up with ways to be more efficient yet not sacrifice on quality”.
Meals are cooked and chilled during the day by Chef Manager Michael Edmonds and his team. Kitchen Assistants work after school packaging and labelling meals, serving customers, washing up, and cleaning the kitchen ready for the next day’s food preparation.
“Running a business with mainly Generation Y staff and an average employee age of just 17.5 years is another challenge,” said Price.
One of the cornerstones of the business is an online Wiki with fully documented procedures and staff checklists.
“We’ve made a conscious decision to give staff lots of responsibility,” she explained.
Sixteen year old staff are regularly left unsupervised to run their shift without manager supervision.
“All our retail staff spend their first few weeks in the kitchen, helping to cook and package the meals.” Staff are given the opportunity to work in both stores, and Price says this constantly challenges them and gives them a better understanding of the ‘big picture.’
With a 91% staff retention rate they must be doing something right.
The finished product is a testament to taste testing panels, nutritionists, and a head chef with a passion for food. A menu of ten sumptuous dishes caters for various appetites and diets including vegetarian, low fat, and gluten-free options. “All our meals are sold fresh not frozen, and everything is designed to be microwaved.” The high end version of bangers and mash with caramelized onion, green beans and shiraz jus is just as popular as the signature dish of ricotta gnocchi with artichokes and eggplant in a sage and tomato sauce.
One other point of difference for Ten10 Eats is that they don’t add anything to their food to make it look better or keep for longer. “Everything is real food cooked from raw ingredients just like you would make at home,” Price said.
Lucky Brisbane city commuters get to pick up meals from conveniently located stores in the CBD and on major arterial roads. Even better, Ten10 Eats also operates a meals delivery service, with daily deliveries to inner city areas and weekly deliveries further out of town. We’re increasingly time-poor, but want to be healthy and eat well. Ten10 Eats works for busy people by providing balanced meals on the run.
Ten10 Eats seems to be a recipe for success, recently shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Food Retailer section of the 2008 National Retail Association Awards.
“Being put on the same list as incredibly successful food franchises like Boost Juice, SumoSalads, Healthy Habits, and Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar is as good or better than winning any award”, said Price.
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