The Hungry Penguin Pancake Company

Des Alleyne and his wife Allysha founded The Hungry Penguin Pancake Company after a trip to their beloved Cornwall delivered them ‘a sign’ that starting a food businesses was on the horizon.

The couple pride themselves on offering up sweet and savoury pancakes alongside good chat, good music and love. We caught up with Des for a chat…

Des, thanks for chatting to us! Start from the beginning…

So me and the wife had always holidayed in Cornwall. We spotted this really cool place that was in a container type building and just really lovely. We got talking to the couple that owned it and ended up trying their crepes which were absolutely beautiful.

Anyway, we went back down to the beach the next day and were thinking of grabbing some food at the local pub when it just happened there was a music festival on with probably around 10,000 people on the beach at Watergate Bay, all hitting it up with their surfboards and absolutely fantastic music. The first people we bumped into just happened to be the couple from the crepe company who just happened to be running the day. I took it as a sign.

We headed home to Birmingham and started getting bits and pieces together; the gazebo, the tables, covers and all. We contacted the local council to get trading permission and I got in contact with NCASS to find out exactly what we needed to do to get cracking.

Did you have a desire prior to that to work in the food industry?

No never. I never thought I’d own my own business and be working in the foodie world having people love what we do, but it’s just an absolute joy for me and the same goes for my wife. I always loved my mom’s food and my grandmother’s food, but to tell the truth, I was never really interested in cooking. That holiday in Cornwall was really just a realisation that actually, this is what we want to be doing in life. It’s a bit like when you step off a plane abroad and the humidity just hits you, there’s just this feeling that washes over your body and it’s a bit like, “why haven’t we been doing this all along.”

I love the name of your business, where did that come from?

Well for me, Cornwall is my spiritual home. I love being outdoors in nature, I love the sea, I love running on the beach too and surfing. When we’d holiday there with the kids, I very much believe it’s an opportunity for them to have adventures and really find themselves, so every trip I’d take them to the beach and task them with finding me a pebble in the shape of a heart or something. Anyway, in nature, the male penguin will search the beach to find a pebble to give to the female penguin and if she accepts it, they say she is being polite. There’s just this whole connection to the beach and the pebbles and making memories that really made it a very personal name for us.

Do you find people are surprised by your offering of savoury pancakes?

When Brits think of pancakes their mind automatically associates them with being sweet. Variety is the spice of life for me and we’re showing them that although they might not have tried savoury pancake before, it’s not as scary as you think. Just give it a go and if you don’t like it, there’s always sweet pancakes.

 

How do you find working with your wife?

People ask me that and it’s like, “well this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, so I don’t just want to see her in the small moments, I want to see her all the time.” We’ve got children together and a great working relationship. At the end of the day, if someone is working towards the same goal as you then why wouldn’t you want to experience it all together; the tears, the laughter, the fun. My favourite thing about working in this space is that I get to spend the time with my wife and that’s massive. I know I’m working with somebody who’s got the best intentions for the business and also for the customers. Working in this industry is great because it has that flexibility and it allows you to be a team together and create and build this dream together. So why would you not?

What is your favourite type of event to cater at?

All the events, from the football, to the corporates, the weddings and festivals. It’s the people that make them. The thing for me is it’s like people are actually spending their hard earned money with us, so whatever event it might be, I make sure each one is as good as the next. If I’m doing a festival, I’m dancing, having a little drink because obviously we’ll be staying over for a few days and I’m generally just having an absolute blast.

Favourite thing about independent hospitality?

I think especially with mobile, you can have that face to face interaction with someone. I was at a festival last year and I went to get some food from one of the vendors while Soul II Soul was on stage and I just stood talking to them as they were dancing in the van. I ended up just kind of chilling with them for a little bit and chatting for like, 20 minutes about what music we liked. You don’t get that with chains and it’s sort of like being invited into someone’s home and asking the sort of questions you’d ask at a dinner party. That’s what I think’s really nice about this industry.

Would you consider going into bricks & mortar?

I would want it to be a small, intimate setting. As I said, I love interacting with customers and you just wouldn’t be able to do that in a big restaurant setting to such an extent that I’m used to. I’ve got stacks of paper and ideas boards I’ve kept since the very beginning and we already know more or less how we’d have the décor. But it would have to be a very intimate setting with conversation spaces so that people come in as customers and leave as friends.

My generation definitely grew up with this fast capitalist, in-out sort of hospitality trend with the likes of fast food chains like McDonalds. It was very much “how can we make money fast.” But as I’ve got older, I have far more appreciation for the places that don’t do that. A lot of Middle Eastern restaurants for example, you never feel rushed and you can sit there at a table with a bottle of wine and chill with your friends for hours. You’re having a great time and it’s amazing, and no one’s trying to kick you out to get their hands on your table.

So what does 2024 hold for the hungry Penguin Pancake Company?

Just as one of my favourite singers of all time always says, “just keep on keeping on” and that’s all we can do. But essentially, the plan is to just keep doing what we’re doing; continue to get ourselves out there and enjoy it.

For 2024 going into 2025, when people think of The Hungry Penguin Pancake Company, we want it to be synonymous with having a great time at an event. Come to us, enjoy a sweet treat alongside good conversation. Just enjoy it, it’s that simple for me.

How has NCASS helped your business?

It’s been great because I’ve got my Safety Management System and everything is online for us to go through, from gas safety checks through to sourcing an engineer. If there’s been any sort of problem, NCASS is my first port of call because I know I’m getting the correct information. Having everything at your fingertips is just a game changer.

Any last thoughts?

We are a Ltd company now which is massive for us after all this time. My beautiful wife and best friend Allysha (Ally) has been my light at the end of a long tunnel and we are finally starting to see the light after doing this since 2015. A massive shout-out to the very first beautiful person to eat with us and to every person that has spent their hard earned money with us. It’s very powerful. My whole reason for doing this is to make my family live better and for them to say “Dad we are so proud of you.”

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