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Planet Pancake: a business on the move
With the popularity of street food growing over the last few years, the number of mobile businesses on the road has increased hugely. But producing food in a temporary kitchen and a competitive market is challenging; you have to find a niche – and excel in it. This doesn’t come as news to Planet Pancake founder Neil, who has captured this winning combination in his gluten-free mini pancake small business. From knowing the right idea to go after, to the best bits of being your own boss, we quizzed him on his small business experience since making the entrepreneurial leap four years ago.
Get the full Greenwich Market Planet Pancake experience by moving around the 360 photo below…
Whether you prefer sweet or savoury, large or small, pancakes have unquestionable universal appeal. For Shrove Tuesday, we caught up with Neil on the advantages of leaving the restaurant industry to set up a mobile food business…
Happy Pancake Day, Neil! Today must be a busy one for you, so we’re here to make it even busier. Tell us how the business started?
“Two of us run the business – me and my business partner Shane. I come from a managerial background, and Shane comes from a creative background. I was working in the food industry, running restaurants and cafes, and one day I just thought why not? Shane thought the same. We both loved the concept of mini pancakes and both thought there was something missing from the market. We had a simple straightforward business and it went from there.”
Were you confident you had something special?
“We believed in it from day one and had a gut feeling that it was going to work. We knew it was going to be a big hit. Who doesn’t love chocolates? Who doesn’t love pancakes? We love our product. And it works because it’s always exactly the same. Same quality, same product, same standards. Across the board.”
You’ve developed a gluten-free product on the crest of a wave that makes free-from food more consumer friendly…
“Yes. I’m celiac, so we wanted something that was gluten free, and that’s what led to the pancake that we have now. But, originally we started baking and supplying shops with gluten-free cakes, brownies and pizzas. As people become more aware of evolving their own diets, people are changing what they eat and that does help businesses like ours.”
Although running a pancake business sounds like the best job ever, there must be a flipside…
“We face weather dependant difficulties. If it’s raining, people don’t come into Greenwich as much. Also, you’ve got to be ready for early mornings and late finishes. I usually like to be at Greenwich Market for half seven in the morning to set up. Because we’re not seasonal, and pancakes sell all year round, you’ve got to be prepared for those early starts throughout the year.”
What are the best parts of running a business – apart from the pancakes?
“You get the freedom to make your own decisions and decide the balance of work and private life that fits your timetable. You also get to learn a lot about yourself and develop your skills. Greenwich is one of the busiest tourist spots in London; having a stall here provides us with good footfall, a good way to do market research and a good way to experiment. There’s also the benefit of a tight small business community here that’s very encouraging.”
And what’s next?
“We’re going to enter the retail environment with a 50s style diner mid next year. And when it comes to tech, we’re going to take things a step further on the stall and explore using tills with iPads, connected to our social channels.”
Starting a business doesn’t require premises, or huge amounts of investment and staff. It takes a simple, original idea, and a complete belief that it is going to work.