In just one year award winning company The Olive Grows has established itself as a lifeline for some of London’s finest artisan speciality food and drink producers and caterers.
From two London premises, in Bermondsey and Park Royal, The Olive Grows provides three HACCP certified, commercial kitchens to small producers needing a stepping stone from the domestic kitchen to commercial production. As a result, over 20 small food producers have been able to supply such diverse retail giants as Boots, Tesco and Harvey Nichols.
The Olive Grows was founded by Olga Astaniotis and George Poole and is a totally unique concept offering professional standard, accreditted kitchen facilities for hire for as he facilities can be booked for as little as three and a half hours, as often as needed or for just a one off occasion. This flexible, short-term hire keeps the overheads to an absolute minimum for small and start-up food producers as well as providing much needed overspill facilities for more established businesses preparing to make the leap to larger premises.
The Olive Grows has just celebrated it’s first birthday and the3rdi spoke to Olga Astaniotis about the success and future plans.
Olga has the perfect background to ensure the success of The Olive Grows, having spent 7 years with Forte Hotels and 8 years as a business advisor with Business Link. Olga explained that in this latter role, due to the large food related sector in her part of London, providing support to the food industry was an important part of her job. Faced with redundancy, and being a single mother of two children under the age of three, Olga freelanced for The Park Royal Partnership, where she met George. George is a serial entrepreneur and food expert, having run restaurants and been financial controller for others.
Olga’s experience has led her to conclude that it is easy to start a food business but very difficult to grow one. Barriers to growth include not only the high cost of compliance with food standards regulations but the expensive equipment food preparation, cooking and storage. These considerations make it very difficult for small producers to take the step from their own domestic kitchens to commercial production. This is where The Olive Grows comes in!
The facilities comprise 2 kitchens of over 1,000 sq.ft, including chillers, walk-in freezers and storage facilities over and above the food production facilities. This allows small producers to prepare cook and store food in an environment which complies with all the necessary food legislation. As Olga puts it the producers can just “COOK – CLEAN – SELL”, and so it allows them to use the money they have, a scarce commodity for most business start-ups, more wisely. If they don’t have to spend money setting up a bespoke food production facility they have more money left to spend on marketing.
So what kind of companies use the Olive Grows?
This, as Olga points out, is very varied. For example an Asian Cookery School uses the facilities and the flexibility means that the owner of the school can promote the course dates and book The Olive Grows when the courses are full. Money isn’t wasted on booking and cancellation fees. Specialist caterers also use the kitchens. Small businees Chefs on the Move provide specialist event catering. By using the facilities at The Olive Grows they can produce more than they could from a domestic kitchen which allows them to take on larger contracts than would otherwise be possible. So you can see how the Olive Grows allows clients to aim higher and grow faster.
The storage facilities can also be important. Making large quantities of food in a domestic kitchen might just be feasible but storing those food products in a safe way can present just as many problems. Again, using The Olive Grows, large orders can be prepared and stored allowing client companies to bid for larger contracts; being able to chill or freeze food and supply a chain of stores rather than a single outlet.
The Olive Grows is more than just a production kitchen, and it is here that Olga’s passion for the project shines through. The team is creating a working environment that is nurturing and motivating, where people that make great food can learn from each other and be inpsired. Olga and George recognise that running a sucessful food business is not just very hard work, but at times incredibly lonely and scary and the Olive Grows provides a place where entrepreneurs in the food industry can find good, practical advice and information, gain introductions to potential customers, contact reliable suppliers and share resources in a trustworthy, confidential environment
And the proof is most certainly in the eating as four of their clients picked up six highly prized gold stars at the prestigious Great Taste Awards 2009!