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Simply Lunch: Food truck to a multi-million pound operation

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Simply Lunch is a thriving enterprise with around 400 employees supplying ready-to-eat meals such as sandwiches and salads to organisations across the UK

If you were a motorist passing the Surrey village of Godstone in the 1980s, you may have glimpsed a little white food truck parked up in a layby. Painted with bold lettering advertising its uncomplicated menu—“saveloy”, “pie and mash”—it may not have seemed especially remarkable. But behind its serving window lay grand ambitions. Flash forward to today, and that unassuming business has evolved into Simply Lunch, a thriving enterprise with around 400 employees supplying ready-to-eat meals such as sandwiches and salads to organisations across the UK. With clients spanning hospitals, schools, airlines and workplaces, it commands an annual turnover of more than £40m a year.

So how did it get from there to here?

The founder, Terry Page, had been a professional footballer before setting up the food van in 1979 with his wife Julie, but soon discovered his inner entrepreneur. Encouraged by the success of his roadside operation, he opened a chain of South London cafés and sandwich bars, which steadily expanded over the course of 25 years. However, the business shifted gears when Terry's sons, Sam, Jack, and William, joined in 2008 and rebranded to Simply Lunch. “We really felt like there was an opportunity in the market to focus on convenient, food-to-go products,” says Sam, Simply Lunch’s Managing Director. The business pivoted towards healthy offerings and diversified into wholesale supplying. “We want to be the leading food-to-go supplier in the UK, and we really believe that we can achieve this vision by staying true to our purpose of improving lives through delicious food.”

For Sam and his brothers, business growth is about more than just the bottom line. They view it in the round: helping their staff fulfil their potential.

Recipe for success

The business has scaled from £800k in to £40m in annual turnover, and now sells 25m products a year—a trajectory that Sam credits to three key factors.

The first is keeping the basics front and centre: a high-quality product and high level of service. That is only possible when employees care, and Sam believes that the company’s culture explains why they’ve managed to continually deliver on those two aspects. It is a family-run operation—Terry and Julie are still involved—so it enshrines family values. “That just brings out everything that you would expect. So: treat others, like you'd want to be treated. Show teamwork, show compassion, and make sure you're looking after your colleagues around you,” says Sam. “We've got a really strong work ethic in the family and that filters through to our team.”

Simply Food

The second key factor has been a strategic emphasis on health to differentiate from the competition and reflect changing consumer priorities. All ingredients are ethically sourced and, where possible, come from local suppliers, while the menu includes a range of meals under 400 calories plus high protein and fibre options

The third key factor is Simply Lunch's financial partnership with HSBC. According to Sam, the bank’s support goes beyond financial services. “Our relationship director, Simon, has been with us every step of the way. He really gets our business, and he can offer us solutions to our problems.” This includes connecting Simply Lunch with other experts within the bank when needed. “The network of people that you have access to has been helpful,” says Sam. “But as well as the expertise in the bank, what HSBC are very good at is connecting us with people across the industry.” All in, this has given Simply Lunch the confidence to grow. “They think differently to other banks that we've worked with in the past,” he says. “We found our trusted partner.”

Takeaway tips

Many small and medium sized businesses would envy Simply Lunch’s steep ascent. Sam has some advice for others on a similar path. Patience, he says, is a virtue—changes tend to happen on the scale of months and years rather than days and weeks. Hard work, too, is essential. “But probably the most important thing that I would say is that you need to build the right team around you,” he says. “Because you certainly can't do it all on your own.”

Riccita Pattni, head of people operations at Simply Lunch, notes that the biggest team-building challenge in a competitive market lies not only in attracting the right talent but also in retaining it. “We’re reviewing our practices constantly, checking in on our team, hearing their views, understanding their experiences and trying to improve them,” she says. “It’s really important that we make sure our team are always engaged, they've always got goals that they're working towards, and they're always feeling developed and supported.”

That will only become more important as Simply Lunch charts its next growth phase. Over the coming five years, Sam and his brothers want to double the size of the business. “We're going to do that through doubling down on what we do best,” he says. “That’s thinking about our people, and really thinking about working as a strong team.”

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