When Chris Gill returned from seven years in the Far East running huge projects for a global company, he felt that he was ready to work for the most demanding clients in the world... kids.
I understand that this venture is completely new territory for you Chris, could you give me a bit of background about yourself and how Kids Aloud came about?
I wanted to do something back in the UK after working for seven years in the Far East for BOC and there seemed to be a lot of opportunities in the leisure sector. In the food and beverage area in particular there seemed to be massive gaps both in the offering and the customer service. I looked at setting up a restaurant, but I think that not having a culinary background and having to rely on someone else would have been pretty high risk.
I was in a children?s playcentre mulling over my options with my daughter who was five at the time when the penny dropped. I literally did the numbers on the back of a napkin. It was pretty
awful, we were in a warehouse, the food and beverage was rank, the service wasn?t great and this guy was turning over about a million a year.
After a lot of research in Australia, America and the UK it was pretty obvious that there was a massive opportunity, it was a fragmented market in which the whole offering was pretty poor. There was an opportunity to get it right and then leverage it across multiple sites. I therefore took the decision to leave BOC about fifteen months ago, took my share options and redundancy and funded the pilot site.
So distil for me what this place is about.
The model I have created is a great location, a fit out that is as comfortable for adults as it is exciting for kids, a great food and beverage offering and all in all a business that is a real adult and child leisure destination.
So, you made the leap, you are back in the UK with the business model, take me through the decision making process, particularly regarding the food and beverage offering, where do you start regarding appointing a kitchen supplier?
Two decisions really to start with, one was to appoint a main contractor, who had got some experience in doing leisure builds before, and secondly to get some expertise on the cooking and kitchen side in terms of choosing a supplier, putting the kit together and putting a menu together.
So how were you made aware of Vision?
We found a consultant chef through the recruitment agency I was using, he helped us put some initial scopes together for the kitchen design, he told me about Vision and was very complimentary about them. They sounded like the type of people I could work with and so they went on the tender list.
Oh, so it wasn?t cut and dried for Vision?
No, Domino, the main contractor put two other suppliers on there also.
So what factors did the suppliers need
Initially I needed to get my head around what we could practically do in a play centre environment. I didn?t just want standard remit nuggets and chips, jacket potato with fillings, sausage and chips, that?s not what we are about, the food is a core part of the brand. The whole issue around children?s obesity and healthy eating in schools needed acknowledgement, in this environment where the child is getting an hour and a half of aerobic exercise, why not offer them good healthy balanced choices of food, as opposed to something that works against the
exercise? Mum?s and dad?s want their children to have good quality home cooked food, it?s what people have come to expect in retail environments. I conveyed all these sentiments to each supplier.