Our leaf – hand-cut from the fields of Church Farm in Kent during the season
Even after 14 years, I still get excited sourcing fantastic fresh produce to make our salads, soups and other scrumptious eats found in each of our stores. I’ve continually believed a good food business should always stick to its core principle it had at inception, however I will admit that quite a lot has changed somewhat. Our stores are much smarter, with an improved layout and clearer menu boards. The website is slicker, more informative and purposeful with our nutritional calculator and online ordering, oh and we have many more stores and people. Yet, something that has not changed over the years and never will is our basic principle, our obsession in finding the best quality ingredients brought into our kitchens with which to make our salads and soups.
It dawned on me recently, that we probably don’t let you know quite how much goes on behind the scenes of our stores. It might seem a tall order, making over 20,000 salads to order and serving 10,000 soups each week (thanks and respect to our lovely, fantastic people who work so hard in our stores), however, this part of the process is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we need to do to achieve this. There are hours of frantic preparation and planning every morning in each kitchen, as well as thousands of metal mixing bowls and tongs used to toss each salad that need to be washed and dried one by one (they don’t fit in the dishwasher!) You don’t see the hours spent with our food chief (Nicola) testing samples from different producers and suppliers from around the country, or the development sessions we have, tasting new ingredients, salad recipes, salad dressings, soups, wraps, porridge, coffee…. to get them just right. There are miles travelled visiting our many suppliers checking production methods, making sure we are getting the best available produce, correcting tiny (sometimes big) issues… don’t forget the time spent trying to improve our packaging, considering environmental, sustainability and practicality… and the hours spent working on the design of our menus, website, packaging and stores. To me, this is the interesting bit and I would love to know all about this if I was one of our customers, but then maybe I’m a bit quirky or just nosey.
We are very excited about 2015, with a new store in Victoria around the corner plus a handful more store openings planned for this year. We are introducing some mind-bendingly good and very healthy ‘grab & go’ products around Springtime, plus exciting new guest ingredients, dressings, salads, an all new catering platter range with an improved online ordering system for those in a hurry, not forgetting our very own App (how can we be in 2015 and not have an App?!), the list goes on. Keep an eye on here too, as we will have lots of interesting nutrition information about our menu and regularly provide you with a sneak insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
Words by: Alex Heynes