GOOD, old fashioned gravy dinners have been the secret weapon of entrepreneur Kelly Newman, who has grown what was a snack bar to a business delivering more than 100 hot meals a day.
Most of the meals go to elderly people who are either private clients or attend Age UK’s lunch clubs and Kelly (34) says: “The older generation do recognise the quality of proper, home-made meals. It’s just good, old fashioned gravy dinners, and we get everything in as fresh as possible and everything is prepared and cooked fresh each morning.”
Kelly, who trades as A Country Kitchen, was one of three local firms to reach the final round of the Businesses Accelerator campaign promoted by local newspapers all over the country and backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden. Local winners are receiving free advertising with the Spalding Guardian as well as expert mentoring over the same period.
Kelly has adopted the Meals on Wheels model, delivering food to people who would otherwise have to depend on delivered frozen meals or supermarket-ready meals, and giving her customers 13 meal options each day. These range from roast pork with potatoes and vegetables, costing £4.50, to fisherman’s pie from the Gourmet menu, which is £5.50.
Kelly and her mother Cheryl Chapman are partners in A Country Kitchen, which has been going just under 18 months. It was previously based in Donington, where Kelly was living, but she has moved to Spalding with partner Wayne Scholes and children Billy (8) and Charley (5).
She and Cheryl were running a sandwich bar in Donington High Street when the recession began and Kelly realised she would have to come up with a way to improve business. She had noticed that their hot food was particularly popular with older people, and says: “We realised there was a big niche in the market. Frozen meals or supermarket-ready meals serve a purpose, but they are not hot and they are not freshly cooked and that is the big difference in the quality of what we do.”
Starting off with five clients, the business quickly grew to over 100 and Kelly gained a contract with Age UK to deliver meals to lunch clubs three times a week. Meals are now being delivered to dozens of villages in the district, and as far away as Boston and King’s Lynn, with referrals coming from personal recommendations as well as a result of the good relationship the pair have established with social services and local hospitals.
After six months in Donington, the women realised they needed larger premises, and they now operate from a unit at the University of Lincoln Holbeach Campus. Elaine Inkley has joined the staff to help with the preparation of vegetables, grown in Donington by her husband Jim and his brother Paul at Inkleys Farm.
Kelly says of the move to Holbeach: “It was a magnificent opportunity and we have the capability in these kitchens to produce over 400 meals a day, so we have a lot of potential for growth.”
The company can deliver a tea time snack at the same time as hot meals and the five delivery staff will dish out and cut up meals for people with disabilities. In some cases, they are the only faces the elderly people see in a day and Kelly says drivers have occasionally identified a problem, such as a strong smell of gas.
Kelly adds: “We have worked very hard and we know this is a business that can only grow. It is not a fad. Everyone needs food and with the cut-backs everyone is having to fend for themselves.”
Meals can be ordered as little or often as people would like, and Kelly is encouraging new customers with a special offer on the first order – a two-course hot lunch delivered for just £2.50.
Contact Kelly on 07979 500162 or email her at email@example.com