A chef who trained with Gordon Ramsay has founded his own food company after being made redundant during lockdown.
Theo Lloyd-Jones, 24, started meal box delivery service Out of the Box just 12 months ago from his flat in Battersea and has since turned over £65,000 in sales.
The budding foodie was inspired to start his business in October 2020 after he began cooking for neighbours and friends while on furlough from his chef job.
It has since become his “silver lining” after a “horrific year” that ended up with Theo eventually being made redundant after his furlough came to an end.
Theo had moved to London from Manchester at the age of 19 after being offered a role in the Gordon Ramsay Group apprenticeship scheme – but the aspiring chef never imagined he’d own his own business.
His career started with him working across three of the telly chef’s restaurants, including Savoy Grill, Bread Street Kitchen and three-Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
“It was certainly tough but the learning was amazing and helped to elevate my craft and skills exponentially by throwing myself into the deep end,” Theo said.
“I had originally wanted to leave school and go to university but during my A-Levels I realised this path was not what I wanted, but more what was expected of me.
“I then decided to pursue my love for cooking and I knew if I was going to do it, I would do it properly.
“The Gordon Ramsay apprenticeship was the only one I applied for.
“I was advised to spread my bets and give myself a backup but if I was going to do this I wanted to do it at the best level possible.”
After being placed on furlough last year, Theo said he missed cooking so much, he started offering to make dinners for neighbours and posted photos of his dishes on Facebook.
He said the response was “amazing” and he quickly outgrew his flat kitchen.
“I also thoroughly annoyed my flat mates with bursting fridges and mountains of washing up,” he joked.
During the start of Out of the Box – before the business even had a name – Theo had spent around £100 on packaging and basically had his food costs covered by his customers.
This means he wasn’t really making any money at all.
At the time, he was making around 20 meals a week and the most dishes Theo made in his flat kitchen was 100 in a day.
But wasn’t until a mystery investor, who Theo had cooked for a couple times, asked to meet him for a beer that he realised he could be on to a potentially successful business.
“This customer was called Dan, who is a business consultant, and he said he really saw something in my cooking, business, ideas and goals,” Theo explained.
“After a couple conversations with Dan, talking over how he may be able to help grow my fledgling business he offered me £10,000 for a 25% share of Out of the Box, a business that didn’t even really exist at the time.
“This is how I was able to move into a shared space commercial kitchen, build a proper website and plan for the future and growth of Out of the Box.”
As much as he loved working in fancy restaurants, Theo said having his own business has become a dream of his.
In some of his best weeks, the young chef turned over £2,500 and peaked at taking 350 to 400 meal orders in one week in April this year.
“This has been a constant up and down. The real metric for me is meals per week. This is what we are always looking to improve on,” he said.
“Unfortunately our journey hasn’t all been smooth as is often the case with new businesses.
“After this time we lost a freelance chef and friend of mine who moved out of London leaving me with all of the cooking.
“This resulted in 22-hour cooking days and eventually a pause in our marketing due to our limited capacity and our weekly meals dropping to around 200 a week.
“The six months after this were a constant battle to find staff. We decided to apply to the government Kickstarter scheme and after a long wait, we finally have a chef and first official employee start this week.
“Now is time to get back to marketing and push up those weekly meals.
“The next step in 2022 is to move out of our lovely, but limiting shared space kitchen, into a space of our own with office area and to build a great place for staff to work.”
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Out of the Box offers a subscription and one-off order service, delivering to all of London and everywhere within the M25.
Theo says around 75% of his sales are from subscription customers and over the last year has had around 500 individual customers.
“We’ve had some customers receive weekly meals from us for an entire year meaning our retention is great because of our food and service,” Theo said.
Prices start from £6.75 per meal for someone ordering a subscription of ten meals, going up to £8.50 per meal for customers wanting three dishes.Internet Explorer Channel Network