Having worked in hospitality for over thirty years, Hodge and Huggett boast a wealth of experience in the sector which they make use of across their portfolio of food businesses. A lot has changed in the industry throughout those thirty years and as a duo they’ve remained innovative and persevered by prioritising serving good food and providing quality customer service. We caught up with owners Steve and Claire to find out about their experiences in the sector and what keeps them so motivated and driven to succeed:
What are some of the biggest differences you find between how the sector was when you got into street food and how it is now?
When we first started out nearly 10 years ago the street food scene was very different. There was no demand for vegan and gluten free options, we first introduced it to our menu when we started doing indoor corporate events, we had a few customers at the beginning, today sometimes our vegan sales can be 30% of our total sales!
Also today H&S is a lot more thorough than it was, a lot of events we cater require extensive certificates: PAT testing, gas, fire extinguisher, training, HACCP and they will check everything in GREAT DETAIL! When we started, 90% of takings were cash, however today it’s the opposite way round with most events we do being completely cashless.
When we started majority of festivals charged a set pitch fee, today most events take a percentage of revenue share.
What do you find most rewarding about running your businesses?
We are a husband and wife team who genuinely love working together, most of the time….! We then both have the freedom and control of where we work. Over the years we have catered in some super cool and interesting venues and for some amazing people, including The Kings Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle, major music festivals, huge sporting events, artist catering for A list celebrities and even overseas!
And what have you found most challenging?
Cash flow was a real struggle at the start, trying to expand the business. One bad event at the beginning could have easily bankrupted us.
What excites you the most about launching a new menu option?
We add specials for different events, like Christmas, Halloween, Okoberfest etc. It’s nice being able to adapt and come up with something new, it keeps it interesting for the staff and gives our regulars something different too. Our Christmas Quacker is a HUGE hit at the Christmas markets and brings people back every year 🙂
With having gained so much experience working in hospitality, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to other traders. It’s such a strong community and despite being each others competition we all help each other out. Even to this day we still regularly talk to other friends/traders in the business and ask for advice…. like the best fryer to buy, contact info for an event organiser you want to get in with or a decent gas engineer etc.
You’ve worked with and catered for some huge brands, what are those experiences like?
Some can be very challenging and demanding! Plans can change very last minute, so we have to be adaptable. The bigger brands do have big budgets but that can also mean they take a long time to pay, post event.
What inspires you most in independent hospitality?
The UK, especially London is massively inspiring to us. We love that there’s so many cultures to experience and so many different traders and venues to work with and along side. We love how hospitality is diverse and ever changing, you always have to be ready to adapt.
How do you successfully keep on top of such a busy stable of brands?
We have an amazing team who support us, we hardly ever have to use agency staff, so have a dedicated team all year around. They are all fully trained across all our brands so can jump in and help where needed, so in one week they might be in a muddy festival making duck wraps, to an indoor office serving healthy buddha bowls, to a champagne and canapé event in Mayfair!
What defines success for you in catering?
Success for us is enjoying going to work everyday. We work really hard all year so we can take 5 weeks off in January to go travelling and experience new foods knowing that our staff can run the business successfully in our absence.