Meet Tom Gatz, co-founder of Growth Kitchen
Growth Kitchen co-founder, Tom Gatz, has a track record of building small ventures since high-school, with his first business established at the age of 17 in creating and distributing apparel in sustainable takeaway packaging. Following different roles as a consultant for leading consumer goods and Private Equity companies, he noticed that restaurant brands needed help to grow their delivery operations efficiently, and decided to start Growth Kitchen with his co-founder Máté Kun.
What inspired you to launch your business and what is the end goal?
Máté and I realised that the way people ate at home had hardly evolved over recent years. For decades we’ve been going to grocery stores, buying food, and bringing it back home to cook it. Yet this process has become inconvenient for many — some don’t have the time to do grocery shopping, others simply don’t feel like cooking. This leads to either lacklustre meals or wasted food. The alternative used to be to order takeaway food directly from a limited range of restaurants, which could be quite expensive and of varying quality.
Eating at home doesn’t have to be inconvenient. Fast, convenient services such as Uber and Netflix have raised the bar of customers’ expectations — similarly, we shouldn’t accept cooking as the norm. With this in mind, our objective is to build on the success of food delivery apps and revolutionise the way we eat.
What was the lightbulb moment for you?
That ‘lightbulb’ moment was probably a certain phase of our careers as management consultants. Máté and I would travel a lot for business, which forced us to order takeaway food almost daily.
We often found ourselves in the same situation: poor quality food delivered cold, that was overpriced and transported in single-use plastic. The way people ate wasn’t evolving to suit our way of living. That was the turning point for us.
Then when COVID-19 hit, we knew food delivery was going to be more integral than ever. Whereas before delivery was an ancillary revenue stream, with people suddenly stuck at home we knew there would be a big opportunity to bring great eating experiences to their living rooms, and that, as a result, restaurants would adopt a delivery-first mentality.
Working with a co-founder can be tricky, so understanding and compromise is important. How have you both found the process of building a business together? What makes it work?
Máté and I have been close friends for years and working with him for the past two years has made me grow a lot, and I like to think it goes the other way too. We’ve all heard that doing business with friends is a bad idea, but like many things in life, things are not black or white. It depends what friend you work with!
We have very different personalities, leadership styles and strengths so we both have unique things to offer the company. It’s not always a smooth ride, but learning to put ego aside, we both accept that we can’t control everything. It works because we clearly define our areas of ownership and trust each other to make good decisions. And when we argue, we acknowledge and listen to each other, challenging and valuing each other’s views and opinions, before coming to a compromise.
What does your business offer its target audience?
We help the best food brands cook and deliver where there’s appetite. Restaurants operate on razor thin profit margins, and introducing a food delivery service can be a challenge to get right. Our model finally makes food delivery work.
We partner with the best restaurants who generate good gross profits and they continue to work with us. We prove the model in one location, providing more efficient operations that drive faster and more consistent delivery times, resulting in higher customer satisfaction — with many of the brands signing exclusive multi-site partnerships.
Ultimately, our model allows us to bring more exciting, affordable, and sustainable, restaurant-quality food options to the end consumer, anywhere in the country — direct to their living rooms.
How do you set yourself apart from other businesses in your industry?
We are building a special company, working hand in hand with our customers to solve their biggest problems to become genuine long-term partners to them.
Our proprietary insights uncover the most underserved areas and our dedicated Operations and Customer Success teams are there every step of the way, allowing restaurants to concentrate on the cooking, while we take care of the rest. Our customers trust us because we consistently provide top quality hubs in the best postcodes with high quality support. That sounds simple, but nobody else does this well.
What’s the most common problem your customers approach you with?
We have a lot of customers who have great brands, but they don’t have the ability to deliver food on demand to their customers, because they don’t have the knowledge of where to go, or the understanding of how to achieve delivery-optimised operations from a marketing and operations point of view. They want to know how to reach their customers in their homes, on demand, in a more effective way and how best to take advantage of the growth opportunities in food delivery.
What plans do you have for Growth Kitchen over the next two years?
We are well underway with plans that will see us opening lots of sites in the UK and signing incredible restaurants that people want to order from. Our repeatable land-and-expand model will help us roll out our multi-site partnerships with top performing restaurants across London, to the wider UK.
We will be focusing on delivering sustained value and deploying capital efficiently, building even stronger foundations that will drive exponential scalability into our product. So as markets recover, we will be in a very strong position to scale fast and smart across our target markets.
Does your company help the community that you’re located in?
Today, we serve our communities mostly in two ways. Firstly, from the offering we provide to local residents. Because we work with top food brands, we’re able to bring more exciting, affordable food options to their homes where choice and quality were lacking before.
And secondly, we create dozens of jobs when we launch a hub — often for people who live in the area. We’re very proud of the model we’ve built at Growth Kitchen, as it’s been designed to keep the people that work in this industry at the centre. With dedicated staff and rider facilities as well as functional, spacious kitchens, we try to foster a good atmosphere where kitchen workers and riders alike are comfortable and enjoy their work.
As we continue to grow as a business, we intend to work closely with our restaurant partners to support wider environmental and social initiatives.
What’s the most important question entrepreneurs should be asking themselves?
Is the company that I’m building still on the path to reach that big vision that made me start it? I find it important to reflect on this regularly, in order to avoid rabbit holes and keep building the company forward. Every morning, I look at plans for the day and try to ask myself, “Am I focusing on the things that matter and will move the needle for the company? Or am I getting stuck in details that I should let break so I can focus more time on the bigger things?”. I find it quite useful.
What would be your top three tips to fellow entrepreneurs to look after their mental health?
Everyone has different ways to function, both mind and body, but here is what has worked for me so far (I’m still working on it!)…
Take time off/go away regularly: I’m trying to make taking days off and holidays a habit throughout the year, and to track when I take them. For instance, go on a long week-end away every six to eight weeks, and go on a couple of days or more away every quarter. This helps me keep a sane mind and not completely abandon my friends and family!
Speak to someone: It can be a very lonely journey, even when you have co-founders. Speaking to someone who listens and can help you put things into perspective is super important. For this, I had a professional coach that I spent a few hours with every six weeks or so. I’m now working with a family member on this who is also a professional coach!
Have fun: As a founder, you have a high pressure job; customers, employees, suppliers, investors are all expecting a lot from you. There is a lot of pressure. It’s so important to not take things too seriously all the time and have some fun along the journey! This is why we introduced half-day Fridays for the team throughout the summer.
How do you believe the evolution of tech will impact your industry over the next 10 years?
Food delivery in 10 years will be miles different than it is today. Smart satellite kitchens will be in every neighbourhood, providing sustainable, affordable options at everyone’s doorstep. Delivery logistics will probably be automated and commoditised. Kitchen operations will be smarter, robotised and much more efficient.
The Just-in-time (JIT) model hasn’t quite caught up yet with the convenience economy and I think in the coming years, we’ll be able to predict demand even more accurately, based on more and more data points, and different behaviours and patterns. This will allow businesses to be much more intentional from a supply chain demand prediction perspective. And I think once we have hundreds of hubs, with more things vertically integrated, such as vertical farms that can produce food without the need to extend its shelf life, we’ll be able to harvest certain food types much more on demand, resulting in less food and packaging waste.