Simon Elliot is the co-founder of caterer Gold & Brown, which was an inaugural Caterersearch Web Award winner last year. The company is opening three new sites up to April, which will take its total to five inside 12 months of trading. He spoke to Chris Druce.
Caterer You were with Duchy Catering before, while your business partner Andrea Walwyn was at Autograph Foodservice. Why go it alone?
Simon Elliot I'd been keen to move away from the "fish and mushy peas" syndrome of some business and industry [B&I] contract caterers and, after spending summer 2007 in California, I was so impressed with their attitude to provenance, food quality and food miles, I knew it was something I wanted to do in the UK. Andrea and I are from neighbouring villages in the Yorkshire Dales and had known each other for some time but never really talked business. We had lunch after I got back and realised we had both been looking at the same opportunities and decided to go for it.
CatererWhat is Gold & Brown all about?
Simon Elliot It's a caterer operating mainly in the profit sector [the majority of the company's contracts are run on a concession basis], typically at visitor or leisure destinations with high footfall. Inevitably, some deals may fall into the more traditional contract catering space over time. Our three new openings this year include an arts centre in the North-east, a garden centre in south Harrogate and a B&I site in Rutland. The first site launched last October at the Academy Health Club in Harrogate.
CatererSo what does Gold & Brown offer?
Simon Elliot We make a point of selling premium products that come from sustainable sources and are fairly traded from companies with ethical business practices. We also sell regional produce [the company's head office is in Harrogate], so teas from Bettys & Taylors, chutneys, and Black Sheep bitter from Masham, North Yorkshire, are available. Customers can buy these at our coffee shop-delicatessen hybrid, which we call Caffètessen, or via our online shop. We also have a restaurant offer called Ampersand that offers clients something slightly more formal.
CatererWhat's the thinking behind the online shop?
Simon Elliot I thought there was a market to offer British products to the expat community. Also, as the business grows and we're at more sites, we'll see more tourists buying the products and then, hopefully, ordering them online when they run out back home in their own countries.
Simon Elliot We're developing pods in various sizes up to 100sq m. The pods will be self-contained units with kitchens that will offer newspapers, coffees and drinks, salads and sandwiches, all within a small footprint. The idea is to allow companies and other businesses to reclaim valuable office space which is currently given over to catering and install our compact alternative in the building.
By Chris Druce