I had a love of numbers long before I knew that they could be of any use to me. I certainly didn’t anticipate that I’d be applying maths as a chef, and I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I’d be using maths to help hospitality business owners to Build Better Businesses.
I started to find that I was using maths in almost every aspect of running my kitchen- from deciding how many hours to use on the rota, how much stock I could order, and what to price my menu at- absolutely everything involved maths and planning, and the performance of the kitchen was directly dependent on how I had applied the maths.
I spent over a decade in the hospitality industry working in independent businesses and national chains. Large chains teach you the value of stock counts, effective scheduling, and accurate ordering, but you don’t usually see out the full process as this will be carried out by the accounting department.
Working for independent businesses, however, is a totally different experience- you’ve usually got a longer leash on creativity and the overall management of the business, so long as how you work fits within the confines of gross profit and labour targets. Understanding the role that maths plays in cheffing and how to apply it to what your doing is the difference between a good, creative chef, and an exceptional chef. If you look at any well known, or celebrity chef that is portrayed in the media, they often emphasise their creativity, but what they fail to talk about, is that if that creative chef ran their kitchen poorly and constantly delivered a poor GP, then it wouldn’t have mattered how creative they were, or how big of a personality they were, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to rise through the ranks and progress on to more illustrious kitchens that would inevitably kickstart their public careers.
It wasn’t until much later on whilst studying AAT that I learned that the “maths” that I thought I was applying to all my previous roles, fell within the realms of accountancy- more specifically, Management Accountancy.
I started to get more and more frustrated with the places I was working. I (thought) that I had gained a huge amount of knowledge whilst progressing through my studies, and I quickly identified areas to apply my new found knowledge to- areas that I believed would ultimately save my employer money, generate a higher return, or improve our efficiencies.
But as a young chef, it was often difficult to sell this idea to a business owner, or higher up manager- they often viewed it as egotistical- who was this child (in their eyes) to give them advice on running a business in an industry that they’d worked in for decades? Hospitality is a notoriously slow industry to adapt to change and so a lot of my improvements fell by the wayside.
As my frustrations grew, I started to look more and more toward self-employment and how I could directly influence change in an industry that severely needed it. I realised that it wasn’t necessarily that my ideas were bad, it was my level of influence. The position I was in didn’t have the authority or gravitas to initiate change. The people that could influence my employers were accountants and business advisors- these were the people that my employers would spend (what I thought to be at the time) a huge amount of money on to tell them that they were doing alright, or that they weren’t making enough money. But that was about all they could tell them- they couldn’t explain why the company wasn’t making enough money, or why the GP could be so low and the labour figures so high. They knew the symptom but not the cause, and so they weren’t able to identify the cure.
I knew there and then, that as soon as I was able to, I would set up my accountancy business and niche down into the hospitality sector. Then lockdown hit. Luckily enough I was working for the accounts department of a large company and I got to work from home for a good few months which worked out really well as my wife was about to go back to her job in the NHS after being on Maternity Leave, and so working from home enabled me to do the pick ups and drop offs at nursery. It worked really well for us as a family, until my employer said that we had to come back into the office- which just wasn’t going to work for our family.
So my wife and I sat down and looked at our options. We had a bit of money saved up- not much, but enough to keep us going for 4 or 5 months should I leave my job and the plan was that either I was making enough money to earn a living, or I’d go and find whatever job I could whilst I built my business. I got myself set up as quickly as possible with HMRC, insurances, a website and anything else I thought that I’d need to be able to start up on my own. Then I handed my notice in in August 2020- it was probably the scariest thing that I’ve ever done in my life.
I started sharing my thoughts, ideas, concepts, and knowledge on Facebook, and then in specific hospitality groups on Facebook- being careful to seem knowledgeable enough without seeming too ‘salesy’. I got a few interactions and managed to gain my first client. Things were slow at first, but I kept sharing my knowledge and offering help to hospitality businesses wherever I could. At the end of the 5 months, I had a flood of enquiries from different businesses that had seen my posts and were just waiting for the government to announce when they would be lifting restrictions so that they could book in with me prior to reopening their businesses.
At first I was caught up in the whirlwind of everything that was going on, and I never stopped to think about my “mission”- what was it that I had set out to do? I thought about it and at first at thought that my mission was to reduce the financial admin burden of hospitality business owners- and I guess it still is, in a way. What I didn’t know was that reducing the financial admin burden was purely a by-product of my actual mission.
It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally been able to sum up my mission as follows:
“We’re on a mission to provide hospitality business owners with the actionable and insightful data that they need to grow their business in a sustainable way, whilst spending less time worrying about financial admin, and more time with their families.”
To expand on our mission a little further, we interpret all of the data that is flowing through a hospitality business and turn it into something meaningful and understandable that business owners can then use to make important decisions about their business.
But that isn’t all of it.
We thoroughly believe that hospitality business owners deserve a work life balance, and to be rewarded properly for the work that they put into their business- from creating hubs for the community, to providing sustainable work for dozens of people- and with the right support and guidance, they’ll be able to grow their business, take a better wage, and stop feeling exhausted.
Our vision is not too dissimilar to our mission. In fact, our mission is how we believe that we’re going to work toward our vision.
Our vision is simple:
“To see a world where the hospitality sector becomes a profitable, and thriving industry dominated by independent businesses that reward owners and their teams physically, mentally, and financially, without the need for competing on price with other independent businesses.”
It seems simple, and if we were talking about any other industry in the world, it might seem daft to talk about getting paid properly, or having time in the evenings and at weekends for family.
But this is hospitality.
It’s an industry that is still built on the notion that you should work 6 or 7 days per week, for no change in pay, and not complain about any of it. In fact, in many of the kitchens that I have worked for, there was a constant competition between chefs over who had worked the most hours that week, or who had the least amount of time between shifts. It was almost a right of passage to have worked those gruelling hours. It’s an old-school mentality that holds no place in any industry, but it’s still rife in the hospitality sector, and until this mindset is changed, it’ll be difficult for any hospitality business owner to work less hours, and to pay themselves properly.
We hope to achieve this vision, by adhering to our mission, and educating hospitality business owners on the 4 Cs to Building a Better Business; Clarity, Consistency, Change, and Control- our principle methodology.