Since 1998, Elite Hog Roast Machines has been supplying and exporting thousands of machines all over the world – from the Swiss Alps to Abu Dhabi.
We sat down with Managing Director Steve Cullum to chat through how the industry has adapted during Covid and where he sees the sector going once the vaccination programme has been rolled out.
Hi Steve, so tell us more about what happened to the business when Covid-19 hit?
We’d been keeping an eye on the news and were worried about what might happen, then in February 2020 we started seeing numbers decreasing and bookings slowing down. In order for a hog roast business to make a profit, you really need 100-150 guests at an event and we very much coincide with the wedding season from April to November.
Our main corporate work is for weddings and as soon as it became clear how serious the situation really was, I thought “we’re going to have to do something really quick to adapt.” As a result, I teamed up with a friend to get a new venture going whereby clients can reduce their carbon emissions and produce renewable energy at no cost to them through solar installations. I got a sales team together, approached a funder and formed the British Power Group.
What’s happened to your traders – have any of them be able to pivot?
95% people who do hog roast don’t just do hog roast – they all like to socialise and as such, have made a lot of good contacts. The ones that are doing well during Covid are doing hog in boxes for businesses and factories. One chap purchased three of our machines during lockdown and is offering multiple boxes of pork, coleslaw, apple sauce and all the trimmings delivered directly to a premises. We can’t do anything in large volumes currently in the hog roast sector but we’re staying afloat with other projects.
What are your thoughts on the next few months for the events sector?
The hog roast industry is heavily dependent on the weddings industry, and although many events have been postponed, I personally believe we’ll see a bumper year in 2022 for the hog roast sector, especially as the majority of people will be vaccinated and wanting a return to normal activities like seeing friends, hosting get togethers etc.
What advice would you give to someone to encourage them to keep going?
Most of our customers tend to have contracts with hotels and through that there is a route to the wedding market. I’d advise clients to target hotels for business; introduce yourself, send them your marketing literature. Last year pre-Covid we provided a hog roast for a wedding party of 427 people and it took us 2.5 hours to serve from two machines. I’d advise people to aim high – accepting small events where you’re only serving 30 people simply won’t be profitable when you work in the hog roast industry.
How has the current situation affected you on a day-to-day basis?
This whole nightmare has transformed my life in terms of what I’m trying to offer now and I’ve brought a lot of customers along with me on my new venture. The old business will come back once the wedding and events sector starts to open up again, but in the meantime, you need to help each other out and be determined to continue guiding your business forward in whatever way you can.
What’s your advice for NCASS members in the coming months?
If the market starts to pick up in late summer then you have to be ready so make sure your marketing is in place, your website is up to speed and you’ve got all the equipment in place ready to start when the government gives the green light. Marketing is the most important thing – if there’s no marketing then there’s no business. If you have a wonderful product and no one knows anything about it then no one’s going to buy it, so spending these last few weeks getting prepared is crucial.
Where do you see the independent food & beverage sector going post pandemic?
There’s going to be lots of opportunities for people to set up in the mobile catering industry once we get through this. People just want to be outside again meeting people and socialising and I’d suspect that a lot of small businesses will pop up as a result. There’s a lot of positivity coming through now, especially for the smaller events that might take place once the vaccination programme has been rolled out. I think as an industry we’re very adaptable and we’re always going to be in demand.
Finally, what’s your favourite street food?
It’s definitely got to be a hog roast and a nice pint of Guinness to go alongside. It’s a slow process doing a hog roast – it can take 7-10 hours to prep, cook and serve the pig and in that time, you get to know people really well. That’s one of my favourite parts of working in this industry; the connections you make is invaluable.