Nick Lazarides, Cyprus Kitchen, Walthamstow
Nick started his business, Cyprus Kitchen, in 2015 after running a series of Cypriot themed supper clubs. However, he soon realised that he wanted to bring his food to more people and began thinking about running a food stall and a catering business.
How did you come up with the idea?
I hated my old job – I was miserable. After a couple of months considering my options I thought ‘I love food and cooking’ so I started the supper clubs. At the supper clubs, it was 10 people and I would do 4 courses, but I soon realized I couldn’t get to many people this way.
I always wanted to run a food business and do street food. I was always keen on one particular type of Cypriot food which is sheftalia, a type of sausage I make myself. They went down a storm at the supper clubs, so I started thinking how I could make it a commercial enterprise.
Street food seemed like a good option because there’s not too much startup capital – I just needed a table! My family pushed me to do it and without them I don’t think I’d be here.
How did you get started?
I used my savings and worked part-time until it took off. You only need a few thousand pounds to start a stall. And you don’t need any money for a supper club.
I joined the Nationwide Catering Association (NCASS) and I did all my hygiene and food safety certificates. I got my public liability insurance and got my safety certificates - when you’re dealing with food you can’t mess around.
I used social media and luckily the local community was very active and word spread. E17 was the first commercial market I went to. I started in the winter and it’s been my home every Saturday since.
What’s a typical week like?
The job is pretty much 7 days a week. On Monday, I do most of my preparation – my food prep for the week.
I do all of my sauces and salads from scratch. And then I’ll be at various markets during the week. And doing social media. And ordering packaging and supplies – the list goes on.
What’s the worst thing about running a food stall business?
No time off. Realistically, in year one, you have to plough everything into it. On Sundays I am not at a market but I’m still doing lots of business admin. It’s also labour intensive – you have to lug everything around.
It’s often a 14-15-hour day on your feet. I start at 6.30am, arrive at site at 9am, and then come home wash-up, and prep for the next day. But I still like it.
What are the challenges of running this type of business?
The seasons – in the summer everyone’s cheery and happy to be outside, but in the winter no-one wants to be outside and it’s a rush. You have to find the right markets in the right locations. You’re also very busy – you have to keep on top of everything and maintain quality.
What’s the best thing about running a food stall business?
The satisfaction on people’s faces – interacting. I now know a lot of my customers. Being creative – I can try out recipes and be creative with my cooking.
What skills from your past career helped?
I’ve always been in sales. I’d worked as an estate agent in Bristol and I’ve always really liked interacting with people and being out and about. And knowledge of planning and targets helped. I also had social media skills.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to set up their own food business?
Do it. Research it, see if there’s a niche in the market. I get pigeon holed as Greek and they don’t want more than one on a market – but I think we’re very different.
If you can find something that people aren’t doing, then you are onto a winner. Trial ideas with your friends – test everything. Build up slowly – build a name for yourself. Get work experience on a market – you need to know what you are getting into.
What are your influences?
My parents and my grandparents. I have Armenian and Greek Cypriot family – we were always around the table. That was my inspiration.
Do your family get involved?
They have helped me immensely – them and my friends have helped on the stall, and with prepping. Everyone has been there. My family are foodies so they love it.
What are your future plans?
I would like to open a restaurant but there’s a big risk element, but I would love to have somewhere one day. Maybe serving lunches, or a small tavern. Right now, I cook at home, but want an outdoor oven and a separate space where I can have all my fridges and freezers and prep my food.