Welcome to this bonus episode of “Then One Day”. In these podcasts, we share tips and advice from community business leaders that we hope will be useful to you if you run a similar project or if you’re looking to start one. This mini episode is on one of my favourite topics – food.
Now, they say food is the way to people’s hearts so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of community businesses set up around food. But from health and safety policies to distribution, food can be a tricky business. And there is a risk that things won’t go according to plan. So, I decided to call up Farhad Negipooran from Derby’s Food and Education Enterprise to get some tips on how to avoid a few of the common food pitfalls. The Food and Education Enterprise, known as FEE, is an organisation that helps Derby’s disadvantaged groups with essential and basic needs. That is to provide and direct them to education, clothing, and, most of all, food. For Farhad, everything good happens on a full stomach.
Farhad Negipooran, FEE
First of all, when we initially established the organisation, we called it FEE Cafe. FEE stands for Food and Education Enterprise. And the reason we said food and education – some people ask me how these two go together and I say food is essential for living. We need food but then education is essential for our thoughts. And if we are hungry, we won’t be able to educate properly.
In our organisation, we use food in two different ways. We have a catering service within our organisation which is the way of generating income to contribute towards our charitable aims and that creates volunteering and employment opportunities. The other aspect of food is our food bank services. Before the pandemic started, we used to run one day of food bank activities, providing donated surplus food through supermarkets, to people who need food. And then since the first pandemic has started, we had to stop some of the activities, including the catering project – temporarily, we had to stop that. And in that time, we had the opportunity to increase our food bank days from one day to three days a week, and that brought more people to us. So that provides food to people – food which is essential, and people need especially in these difficult circumstances and times we are going through.
I agree with Farhad – food is essential for making sure you’re in the right frame of mind for learning. So, grab a snack if you need one, because here are his top five tips on what to pay attention to when you’re setting up a food business.
Farhad Negipooran, FEE
My first tip in relation to food and catering businesses would be to make sure you follow the health and safety procedures and rules and regulations by educating yourself properly with the system and with the requirements by your city council or local authorities. That would be the most important thing.
Tip number two would be training – to make sure you’ve got the right training in place for yourself or your directors, staff, and volunteers, because then that protects your business.
Tip number three would be that quality needs to be considered all the time. It is very important. And it’s important to keep your quality consistent, because if people love it, they stick to it, and they come to you. So, you need to provide that quality all the time.
Tip number four, you need to have a good team – passionate, dedicated and willing to do the job and enjoy the job. That feeling, that teamwork, reflects on your services and that helps your service users and your customers to happily continue to access your products.
Tip number five – keep the price of food affordable and reasonable. We have a good shopping system in place. First of all, the main ingredients we need for Persian food, those are ingredients that are usually available in Persian shops – like rice and some of the herbs; saffron, we use a lot; some of the herbs we use a lot. Those are available through Persian shops and they’re not that expensive; they’re a reasonable price. And secondly, we buy our main products from where we need to buy; even if they are expensive, we have to buy them. But then for other ingredients that are commonly used with other communities and cultures, and are available in all supermarkets, we don’t have to go to expensive ones. So, we know where to go and where to buy the good quality with reasonable price. And we try to reduce our costs to make it profitable, and at the same time, provide products that are reasonably good quality, and healthy to our customers.
Thanks to Farhad for sharing some key ingredients for a delicious home-cooked Persian meal and for a successful food-based community business. If you’d like to dive a little deeper on the subject, check out www.powertochange.org.uk for more information. Before I sign off, I want to leave you with one more message from Farhad. Just as we were saying our goodbyes, I asked him why he felt food was so important in making us feel at home and I loved his response.
Farhad Negipooran, FEE
It is really important. I’ll give you one example if you don’t mind. I was just walking into our apartments in the block of buildings. And then just in the corridor, I felt a scent of lovely, beautiful food. There are lots of flats around and I thought, “This is my food. This food is mine”. And I was right. My wife had the chance to cook Persian food today and that smell of food, that scent of food, made my day. I felt so relaxed. I felt happy. I felt that I am at home.
What an absolute treat! I’d love to hear what you think of the information and stories that we feature on “Then One Day”, so please leave us a review or send us a message on social media – we’re @peoplesbiz. Thanks to Power to Change who brought you this podcast and to Pixiu for producing. We’ll be back in two weeks’ time but, until then, from me, Veronica Gordon, thanks for listening.