Tollcross, Glasgow, but we are a mobile company and can provide services around the UK.
High-end food on wheels. Scoop is a food-led events catering company. It provides what we believe is high-quality cuisine for a whole range of occasions such as weddings, festivals, pop-up restaurants and private catering.
Who does it sell to?
It varies: it can be corporate clients at industry events, VIPs at private parties or the general public.
What is its turnover?
£250,000 (projected first year turnover)
How many employees?
Four full time and, depending on the type of event, up to 10 temporary staff members.
When was it formed?
Why did you take the plunge?
The modern, pop-up, street-food approach to events catering was well established in London and throughout the US but hadn't really been seen before in Scotland. I saw a gap in the market and decided to go for it.
The quality of the food was always going to be the main focus and I wanted a vehicle to reflect the high-end nature of the business and set us apart from your average burger van or street vendor. At big events and festivals there's only a small window of opportunity to attract customers' attention – not like a restaurant where you can build your reputation over a number of months or years – so I knew it was important our van made a statement.
I'd seen converted airstream caravans used as catering vehicles elsewhere and I originally hoped to import one from the US and kit it out. But, to avoid the complications of buying a second-hand, unseen vehicle and importing it, I decided to order a bespoke trailer from a company down south who would build it and arrange the internal fit-out according to our design. The design process took about two months and the van was delivered in the early hours of June 20th, just hours before we were due to be on site at the Royal Highland Show. But we made it and were ready for our debut serving breakfast on the morning of the 21st.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I was head chef of the McLaren Formula 1 team. I travelled with the team to more than 20 race tracks across five continents and cooked for the team, sponsors and celebrity guests.
My job at F1 actually came about through an unexpected break during a university placement. During my hospitality course at University of Strathclyde, I went to work at the Dubai Air Show for a week. I was serving in the TAG Aeronautics chalet looking after sellers and buyers of private jets. The CEO of TAG, Mansour Ojjeh, is a shareholder in McLaren and one of his assistants must have liked me as she suggested I be interviewed by Absolute Taste, part of the McLaren Group.
This was the start of a four-year career as part of the McLaren team – one minute I would be cooking a hearty breakfast for the mechanics and the next preparing carefully planned food for the drivers and sponsors.
One of the main reasons for jetting a crew of chefs around with the team was to ensure consistency in the drivers' diets. They're elite athletes, so everything is carefully planned and nutritionally balanced – although that didn't stop some of them popping into the kitchen to sneak a few chocolate brownies on occasion.
It wasn't as glamorous as it sounds but there were some glamorous perks; the drivers and sponsors parties were always good fun – the party that followed Lewis Hamilton's 2008 world championship win in Brazil was particularly good.
For European races, we'd be working in the McLaren Brand Centre – an incredibly sophisticated pop-up building with a fully kitted out kitchen in the back – but for flyaway races outside the Continent, the venues and equipment varied considerably, and sometimes only consisted of a couple of trestle tables at the back of a garage. At least it got me used to working in small spaces, though, which is an essential skill when cooking for events.
I also volunteered for Koto, an organisation in Vietnam providing training in hospitality and catering for youngsters.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
With a loan from my family, which, together with the family's business acumen gave the business a fantastic start.
What was your biggest break?
We were asked to provide catering at the Edinburgh Festival with only 12 days' notice, we were fortunate to get an amazing pitch at Assembly George Square.
Our food was really well received and we ended up going down to Cheshire to cater an Everton and England player's 30th birthday party off the back of it.
What was your worst moment?
The door of our trailer popped open on the M74, en route to our very first event. I had visions of our carefully prepared dishes scattered all over the motorway, but luckily no food – and no staff – were lost.
What do you enjoy most about running the business?
I really enjoy coming up with the menus for each event – considering what will suit the clientele as well as the venue, and at the same time making sure it's achievable within the constraints of the site.
It's nice when we work in a place where people haven't come across the concept of high-end mobile catering before – in situations like that we tend to create a bit of a buzz.
What do you least enjoy?
Definitely the paperwork. My mum gets roped in to help with that. I prefer the creative side of things.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
I want Scoop to be the best event food producer in Scotland.
What are your top priorities?
Our food and our service. When you're mobile you don't have a location or nicely fitted-out restaurant to trade on, so making sure every event is special is of paramount importance.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would most help?
There's been some attention given to the issue of food VAT lately with the media splashing headlines about the pasty tax, but that's still a serious issue for businesses like mine.
The takeaway products that we serve incur VAT with very few exceptions, whereas other types of takeaway food are zero-rated because of slight differences in the way they are prepared.
It's discouraging to consumers when going out is so expensive and it might help both businesses and the economy if the Government were to adopt a policy similar to that in France and Spain, where food businesses are taxed at a reduced rate.
What was the most important lesson you learned?
In this first year of trading, every day is a learning process. Perhaps the biggest lesson is to do thorough, independent research into areas such as the likely attendance at events. If you get it wrong you can be left with a lot of waste.
How do you relax?
I seldom relax; however, I am looking forward to my holiday in Thailand in January next year.