“Our Biggest Problem Was Running Out Of Food Everyday”

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How did you come up with the idea for Roll’d?

Myself, a primary school friend, and my cousin started the business in May 2012 after a few years of planning. It’s based on a lot of our family recipes, so Mum’s recipes and my Aunty’s recipes. We felt like there was an opportunity in the market to provide an alternative for sushi at that time. We just felt sushi had been around for sort of ten years, and ten years before that it wasn’t found anywhere so we thought that people were sort of looking for an alternative option for lunch.

How much planning went into opening the retail operation?

We weren’t really prepared for what it would become. It was a bit of a challenge in just learning the craft of health sign off inspections and food safety requirements. We didn’t do any marketing at our first stage and on the first day, we actually had a queue of about 30 people when we opened our door. On day one we served about 150 people thinking that we’d absolutely knocked the ball out of the park but quickly realised that we’ve got to do a lot more than that to actually make money in the food business.

Our biggest problem was that we actually ran out of food every single day. The store ran on very minimal equipment, we didn’t even have gas in there, so we were running off electric cook tops cooking 100 kilograms of chicken a day. We also had to play tetris to fit things into the fridges and I was driving in at midnight every night just filling the fridges with all the produce that we were preparing.

How did you fund the business initially?

From a lot of personal credit cards and loans. Our first store only cost us $130,000 or so to set up. We probably had it paid back within three or four months and I guess it was much easier for us to then roll out more stores on the success of the first store.

You’ve had 750 per cent growth in three years is that right?

Yep, if not more. we went from four stores to eighteen stores within a year, and then we went from eighteen stores to now 38 so there has been some serious growth.

How did you manage that?

A lot of our learning! initially we grew pretty quickly probably too early. we spent sort of the last few years going lets just focus on our people, turnover staff which we’ve had to do, and develop staff better as well. We’ve come out of it really strong now and hopefully we’ll continue that moving forward which is exciting. But it hasn’t been easy and there’s been a lot of work and we’re big on culture and family because a lot of family do work in the business as well.

Why did you decide to franchise?

We franchise but we own about 50 – 60 per cent of our stores. I’m actually a physiotherapist by profession but I am a franchisee so I ran a physio business as a franchisee so I’ve got good experience. It is a great way to grow the business quickly, with dedicated people who are looking after their own business and are willing to learn quickly.

What’s your biggest challenge?

Getting the right people into the business. At the end of the day, if you have the wrong managers in the business who are training the others, you’re in trouble. And being in Australia, labour isn’t the cheapest thing in the world so just learning around people and culture and being able to really get the most out of individuals is definitely our biggest challenge

What’s your advice for business success?

Prove the product first. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of passion and I think that’s the reality of making this work. We have a lot of franchise enquirers who come to us and wanting to own their own business and they’re earning $350,000 a year in their corporate job. The grass isn’t always greener. People have to realise that running a small business is a 24 hour, seven day job and you’ve just got to make sure that you’re really immersed and passionate about what you do.

What’s your favourite thing on the menu?

This changes depending on how I feel but I’d say the Pho. It’s a recipe that’s over 100 years old from my Mum’s grandmother’s grandmother.

Every day, KBB’s Dannie Doughan chats with an entrepreneur and features their story on our website. If your business wants a ‘Date with Dannie’, email us a quick bit about your biz!

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All pics: Supplied.