- Farmstand has chosen to permanently shut its central London restaurant to focus on a new D2C model that allows consumers to order subscription deliveries of fresh meals directly to their door.
- Since 2016, the healthy food business has championed equitable business values across its company – the entire team are owners, all are paid at least the London Living Wage and half of their Board of Directors are women.
- “We’re not trying to be another over-branded, over-packaged, over-priced recipe box or frozen-meal maker,” said Founder Steven Novick. “We’re taking a stand for good nutrition, good values and great taste.”
LONDON, United Kingdom — London plant-powered food company Farmstand has re-launched direct to consumers, hinting at the model wellness hospitality businesses could follow to bounce back from the pandemic.
Since March, Farmstand’s flagship Covent Garden restaurant has been closed and its 12 concessions in large corporate offices across the capital have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Yet, last month, the healthy food business launched a new D2C subscription model which, according to Founder Steven Novick, has proven an instant hit with its devoted following and enabled the business to reach its February target in just three days.
Now the company is setting its sights on wrestling power back from food aggregators who have prospered during the pandemic and doubling down on promoting sustainable business practices across the sector.
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Since its launch in 2016, Farmstand has championed equitable business values across its company – the entire team are owners, all are paid at least the London Living Wage and half of its Board of Directors are women.
Now, in response to the unequal impact of the pandemic, the conscientious company is focusing on catering to families, who Novick said are “the most underserved part of the meal delivery market”.
“We think the greatest opportunity is initially targeting families with healthy, convenient and affordable food,” the e-commerce entrepreneur told Welltodo.
“Families, especially families on a budget, are the huge neglected audience for healthy food. The way the food industry is structured has historically forced them into a compromise between health, convenience and price.”
As a result, Novick said, families are often forced to resort to unhealthy cheap fast food. “Families want to put more plants on the table and get kids eating more healthily but there just aren’t many affordable options.”
This is a dilemma Novick has resolved to address. “We are pointing Farmstand squarely at this problem. We see it as a hard nut to crack but also a huge opportunity. If we can get it right for families the benefits will flow to the rest of the market.”
A food business not a restaurant business
Despite the challenges of the past 12 months, Novick insisted 2020 was a year of growth for the business and one that crystalised the company’s desire to become a wellness enterprise promoting sustainability, not just a wellness product.
“This has evolved even more deeply since COVID as we’ve seen massive shifts in how people buy, cook and eat food and a realisation about the deeper implications of that for society,” Novick said, highlighting the power shift from restaurants to delivery aggregators.
“We don’t want to offer a wellness product for the end-user if it’s perched on top of an unsustainable or exploitative business model.”
He added that although the pivot to D2C might appear a departure from earlier plans to open more physical stores, the company’s priorities remain the same.
Novick said: “We were in the process of expanding physical locations, but the food industry was always our bigger picture. That’s still true. We have pivoted to D2C but we are a food business, not a meal delivery business.
“We’re not starting over,” he continued. “We’re just changing gear and accelerating.”
The value of D2C relationships
Farmstand’s announcement to relaunch D2C comes as food delivery service Deliveroo readies itself to list on the London Stock Exchange, following soaring demand for takeaway meals during the pandemic.
While acknowledging food delivery platforms have enabled restaurants to stay afloat, Novick suggested an over-reliance on them could present a challenge for the hospitality sector as restrictions start to ease.
“One of the main challenges for the hospitality sector will be for businesses to start forming direct relationships with their customers, no matter what they do in hospitality,” Novick said.
He highlighted takeaway pizza franchise Dominos as a prime example of this. “Love them or hate them Dominos does this really well,” he said. “People only ever order via the Dominos app or website. Dominos delivery people deliver. There’s no Deliveroo. No Uber Eats.”
Following this principle, Farmstand’s new D2C model allows consumers to order a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly subscription of fresh meals via the company’s website. These are subsequently delivered directly to the customer’s door.
“When you have a D2C relationship with your customer there are no middlemen involved. We will get an even better idea of what our customers like, what they don’t like and what they would like to see more of,” Novick explained.
10 cities, 10 countries, 10 years
As revealed in Farmstand’s Master Plan, the B2B arm of the business will return once the pandemic restrictions lift, which they hope will enable them to expand to 10 cities in 10 countries within the next 10 years.
At the same time, Novick is determined to raise environmental and ethical standards across the food and hospitality sector in the UK and abroad.
“We’re still driven by a passion for the benefits of healthy plant-based food, but we’re raising the profile of other vital aspects of wellness like waste, ecology and carbon emissions, in the long term,” he said.
Adding: “We’re also driven to pay our people enough that they can live well in London. We want to show the industry it can be done.”
Ultimately, Novick said, this is why Farmstand looks different from other DTC meal delivery companies.
“We’re not trying to be another over-branded, over-packaged, over-priced recipe box or frozen-meal maker,” he said. “We’re taking a stand for good nutrition, good values and great taste.”