Chef’s Cut Butchery

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Seeking assistance – both financial and technical – to set up the business, Chef’s Cut applied for a grant to help fund the cold room that forms the main foundation of the business production space, in which all machinery and food production sits.

Background

Registered in February 2021, Chefs Cut Butchery are both a wholesale supplier of meat products and a retailer of meat boxes. Based out of an industrial unit in Long Eaton, the fledgling business is the exclusive supplier of meat products to a number of restaurants in the Nottingham area, with an ambition (and a demand) to grow in size and scope over the next few years. Chef’s Cut supply the likes of Baresca, Escabeche, Perkins and Carriage Hall in Nottingham and the surrounding area.

Established in lockdown, borne out of a history of working in meat sales in the Midlands and incentivized by a period on furlough, the business sought to serve a regional customer base that were logistically becoming difficult to reach efficiently from suppliers outside of the region. The business was set up to meet a market demand for locally-sourced meat in the East Midlands. All meat is sourced from a range of farms across the country; the business traces the origin of all meat products to ensure that their customers have the best products available to work with.

The business model is based around taking the labour out of the meat preparation process, acting as an extended kitchen to their customers, set up from a chef’s perspective rather than from a butcher’s. The business better understands how chefs are going to use the product, and provides ready-to-cook cuts, at a much higher scale than a traditional butcher. The products are therefore bespoke, with cuts developed alongside the client, with unique recipes, that go straight on their menu.

The business is also looking to develop boxes of locally-sourced meat products that can be sold online. The boxes, at £30-£40 each, will feature a range of meats and cuts (primarily sausages, burgers, koftas, chicken, pork loin steaks etc.). The meat is of high quality, made of exclusively shoulder/ belly over traditional ‘trim’.

The Solution

Engagement with FEAST2

The business first encountered the project via online research, looking for any support available to food and drink manufacturers specifically. Having first made contact with the D2N2 Growth Hub, the business sought specific support from FEAST2 as the LEP could only offer generic business support. The business had previously sought alternative government funding, but felt as though it came with too many conditions, and ultimately was more of a loan, more requirements, and required more payback. To date, the project hasn’t had support from anywhere else, and isn’t aware of any food-centric business support programmes.

Seeking assistance – both financial and technical – to set up the business, Chef’s Cut applied for a grant to help fund the cold room that forms the main foundation of the business production space, in which all machinery and food production sits.

Within a week or two of contact, the paperwork was completed. The enrolment process was somewhat longwinded – in terms of eligibility criteria – but it is understood that with any funding, this is essential. A grant of around £3,500 was secured for the cold production room, and the business was quickly established.

Subsequently, the business sought technical support from FEAST2 for a number of processes. The grant helped with the set-up, to structure the priorities, getting the cold room in place, before the technical support was crucial for formalising all production processes in order to meet the required Environmental Health standards. The FEAST2 team supported with the development of a food safety flowchart, breaking down all processes in the business, including temperature controls, staff training records, cleaning instructions, check sheets, health questionnaires, employment screenings, audits – all of which is fundamental from a food safety perspective. The team developed a simple and efficient monitoring framework.

Impact of Engagement with FEAST2

The grant secured from FEAST2 enabled Chef’s Cut to invest in higher quality equipment than what was previously affordable, allowing the business to purchase new machinery, instead of investing in reconditioned or second-hand pieces that can’t offer the same warranties, piece of mind, or quality that newer machines can. With the grant secured, the business was able to secure a cold room that takes up the ground floor of the industrial unit in Long Eaton, and has enabled the purchase of higher quality machinery, including a new sausage machine, mincer, mixer, and vacuum packing machine.

The support from FEAST2 supplemented the businesses growth; the financial support helped to take pressure off, and allowed the business to increase spending elsewhere. The funding also gave the business peace of mind, to be able to purchase equipment from a reputable supplier, who installed it and commissioned it for them, there is a lot more confidence than buying reconditioned or second-hand equipment.

Food safety management systems improve the traceability of food products, providing batch codes for product labels, allowing both consumers and producers to better trace where their food is coming from. The technical support provided advised the business on how to meet the standards required by the Environmental Health Officer, helping the business to safely sell to individual customers, and to wholesale up to 2 tonnes within a 30-mile radius. A food safety system is fundamental to both the business core offer – wholesale meat products – and to its diversification into food boxes in its effort to survive and thrive in a Covid-19-impacted industry.

To move to a larger wholesale level, the business will need to be Food Standards Agency (FSA) accredited, which will enable the business to become a registered cutting plant, but they are already working to those standards with the cold room they have and the facilities, it will be a formality. As a result of the technical support, the business is already working to appropriate standards to meet the FSA requirements, which means they are ahead of the game, working to the best standards. Overall, the accreditation gives the business confidence in their own model and processes.

Despite only trading for a few weeks, the business is exceeding expectations and will soon be recruiting an additional member of staff to assist with production.

Impact of Covid-19

Although the impact of Covid-19 on hospitality was well-publicized, the impact on food and drink manufacturing supply chains has been less prevalent but equally as difficult. The pandemic necessitated diversification, and the business has been developing food boxes to tap into different audiences. The boxes will also help to increase the businesses product range, and improve the cashflow of a business which is hitherto reliant on wholesale contracts. The boxes, soon to be available online, will be marketed with local, regional features, tapping into the sustainability market where traceability is considered vital. The technical support provided by FEAST2 to facilitate business growth has allowed the business to pursue these alternative markets.

The Process

The FEAST2 team were praised for regularly checking-in on the business in the weeks and months following their support.

The Future

There is already significant demand for Chef’s Cut’s offer – the business could double or even triple its market if they wanted to, but the business model prioritises stable growth. At the moment, all produce is already sold before its brought in. The wholesale side will naturally grow – at which point FEAST2 will be engaged again. There are opportunities in Birmingham to increase sales by £3,000-£4,000 per week when required, but there is thought to be plenty locally to fill the capacity at the existing site. The business has low overheads, and so there is no rush to scale-up too quickly, they’re going to fill consistent orders that they can manage and manage growth appropriately.

In the short-term, the business is aiming to consolidate their strong starting position, which represents sales of c.£2,500 per week. Moving forwards, the business wants to supply c.50 food boxes in addition to the wholesale side, which will support a target of £1,000 sales production per day. Existing wholesale is likely to reach sales of £3,000-£3,500 per week which enables the business to be self-sufficient. This will help them to source better products, produce better products, and provide a better service – as well as recruiting more staff.

The FEAST2 project is receiving up to £2million of funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit: www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding