Upscaling your food delivery business: how the UK’s largest vegan restaurant is adapting in uncertain times

Loui Blake, founder of the UK’s largest vegan restaurant Erpingham House, has turned his attention to upscaling their delivery business. During lockdown, Loui and his team have also launched a popular recipe challenge for thousands of their social media followers. 

We caught up with Loui to learn a little more about how his restaurant has adapted over the last few weeks. 

Tell us a little bit about your business?

After adopting a plant-based diet whilst living in London and travelling the world, I decided to open a venue that could offer the same food and drink I’d fallen in love with on my travels. 

Erpingham House is a local business, built by local people. I really wanted to offer more people the opportunity to access and learn about plant-based foods in a creative space. 

How have you adapted to the UK lockdown?

When the lockdown measures were put in place, the team and I were quick to respond. Within a few days we turned our restaurant into a takeaway kitchen – ensuring all the right safety measures were in place to account for the new social distancing rules.

This new way has affected us and many of our suppliers, which in turn has affected our menu and what we could offer customers via collections or delivery. I’m fortunate to have a dedicated team who worked around the clock to rewrite and relaunch our menu. Once the new menu was ready, we advertised it with marketing activity across social media. 

On the operational side of things, we’re doing business through customer collections and deliveries via Deliveroo. Three team members are now working on the delivery side of the business, which helps with the increase in demand. This is also a way of us keeping as many people in employment as possible until this all blows over. 

Another way we’ve pivoted is via social media. We have a clear mission to help people eat healthier and we wanted to continue instilling this mission even during lockdown: this is where our weekly recipe challenge comes in! 

Every week, we release a random list of ingredients and challenge our 22,000+ followers on Instagram (and anybody else that wants to take part) to create a meal using these ingredients. We’ve had great engagement with this initiative and enjoy seeing what our followers have rustled up. 

We reward their efforts as well! The best dish (and the cook) are rewarded with restaurant vouchers to use as soon as we open our doors again. 

What are you doing to look after your wellbeing?

Our mission binds us as a team and we have a strong community at the heart of our business.

Local schools in Norwich closed before we did, so in the spirit of community, we offered free school meals to kids that needed them most, right until we had to shut shop. 

The team at Erpingham House are also invited to weekly mediation sessions which would normally run in-house but we’re running them online for now. We get a great turnout, even during these turbulent times.  

There’s also constant communication with two weekly team meetings, where we invite experts such as our Xero accountants to join us and help demystify government schemes and other helpful initiatives the team could get involved in. 

We’re a creative bunch usually working in a creative space, so a number of us are running a skills exchange programme to teach things like art or yoga to the rest of the team. We’ve found this really helps keep our spirits up – especially for staff members that have been furloughed.

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