Here’s How Cleverchefs Expanded Their £3M Catering Business
Over the past five years, Nick Collins and his team catered thousands of weddings and events all over the UK. Then came March 2020. When COVID-19 shook the wedding industry, Cleverchefs stepped up and thought inside the box.
Now, they sell food boxes online, complete with restaurant-quality meals. To be understatedly British about it: It’s working quite well. In two months, Cleverchefs amassed over £50k just from their Wix online store.
No matter what comes next, Collins plans to continue with eCommerce.
Watch his Wix Best Sellers interview. Then, check out his full story and expert business tips below.
The basic ingredients
"Looking back when we started, I never thought we would get to this sort of stage. Last year we nearly turned £3m."
We spoke to Collins in Cleverchefs’ headquarters in Bristol, UK. Complete with a beautiful tasting room, kitchens and offices, we get a clear sense of Cleverchefs’ catering success.
Collins became a chef when he was just 16. After working in the market for 20 years, he decided to start his own business. “I saw a massive gap in the market for fine dining event catering and just grabbed it with both hands,” Collins says. He started the company on his own in December 2015. Today, he has a team of 100, £3 million in revenue and two prestigious catering awards.
Cleverchefs grew by doing what they do best: serving beautiful and delicious dishes. With every wedding they cater, Cleverchefs gets more clientele. By 2020, Cleverchefs was catering 8-9 weddings per day. Although Collins’ team of high-end restaurant chefs handles most of the events, he’s known to step in and don his chef’s jacket in busier times.
The Cardiff headquarters expanded with their business. Showing us around the Cleverchefs kitchen, Collins explains, “This space has tripled in the last 3 years.”
Along with their sustainable business model, Cleverchefs commits to sustainable practices. They cook with ethically-sourced ingredients, use plastic alternatives and drive fuel-efficient trucks. That way, they make a positive impact on both the environment and their events.
Cleverchefs’ talent and taste
“People are always shocked by what they get for a wedding with 150 people.”
As the company grows, Collins makes sure they maintain their personal touch. No matter how large the event, Cleverchefs serves restaurant-standard food and presentation. "We've got that big company feel, but we're small enough to care and make sure everything's perfect,” Collins says.
Collins maintains Cleverchefs’ excellence in their branding. “It's about creating perfection in the food industry,” he says. “Creating something that is different and vibrant." Everything from Cleverchefs’ tasting room to their website shines in bright colors and refined design.
"When I ask my clients why they chose us over our competitors, they usually say it's because of our website," Collins says. "I think they can really feel our passion through the way we connect with them and stand out as a creative catering company."
Their work lives up to the hype. Cleverchefs plates with precision, innovating both their taste and design.
Even after catering thousands of weddings, Collins finds each event exciting in its own way: “You never get bored. It’s really great to see someone’s day go fantastic and be a part of that.” He quickly adds: “Without being too corny about it.”
Collins considers Cleverchefs his family. Although he’s the founder, he pushes against overly-formal hierarchy—all new ideas and passions are welcome. He himself is present at every level. Event Chef Lucy Alchin confirms: “When I first came here I was really shocked at how passionate and involved Nick was. He really pulled me into the company.”
Above all, Collins prioritizes the “clever” in Cleverchefs. He loves running an independent catering company because it allows his team to stay dynamic: “We can change the business quickly, and be unique and creative with our dishes.”
Changing the recipe with an online store
“We're reaching people who never heard of us before."
Cleverchefs’ creativity was crucial when COVID-19 impacted the UK. Clients were cancelling weddings and events were becoming virtually impossible.
The team took a step back. If they couldn’t cater to hundreds of people at once, why not cater to them one by one?
It was decided: they would sell food boxes and deliver them to individual customers. “We offered a different way of enjoying great food while staying safe,” Collins says. British clients were missing the quintessential afternoon tea, so Cleverchefs started simple with an afternoon tea box.
First, they knew they needed to start an online store. Luckily, Cleverchefs’ website was already on Wix, so they added Wix eCommerce tools and got to work.
Collins was a bit apprehensive about selling online. “It was something I had never done before,” he explains. “But I knew it needed to be sleek and professional.” Collins connected Wix Payments to accept secure online payments from customers. Then, he started sending email marketing to spread the word.
Most importantly, the Wix Editor and backend empowered Cleverchefs to make the changes they needed, fast. “With Wix, we can change anything at the drop of a hat,” Collins says.
To promote their online store, Cleverchefs got to marketing on social media with high-quality food photography. Collins used the Wix Video Maker to show off the dishes in their posts. “I was blown away by the video maker,” he says. “We’ve created clips that really match our brand.”
Within a few days, they got the store up and running. Cleverchefs’ Facebook page brought in their first online customers. "We've seen our social media likes explode,” Collins says. “We're reaching people who never heard of us before." The orders came in a storm. In the first week, Cleverchefs sold over 500 afternoon tea boxes. Collins and his team prepared, packaged and delivered every box in their catering vans.
"In just two months,” Collins says, “the revenue from our online store exceeded over £50,000.” He’s now sold on the idea of selling online.
To date, the afternoon tea reigns as Cleverchefs’ bestseller. Over time, they’ve also added more restaurant-quality boxes to their online food shop, like lotus caramel cheesecake and an American feast box. They’ve also started a “Steakaway” service, offering freshly-barbequed steaks for pickup at their Cardiff headquarters.
A new business plan
"I would like Cleverchefs to be at the full front of everyone's mind—one of the best caterers around."
Cleverchefs’ online food store has become more than just a back-up plan. "Initially we opened an online store to keep business coming in, since weddings and events were canceled, but it's been a great way to get our name out there and provide for our clients," says Collins. They want to sell their food boxes even once weddings start up again, in sickness and in health.
By expanding their business model, Collins hopes to keep strengthening Cleverchefs. "I would like Cleverchefs to be at the full front of everyone's mind—one of the best caterers around."
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Tova is a content marketer with a passion for compelling business stories. Perhaps more obsessively than others, she watches the Super Bowl for the ads.