Case Study – Penta Foods
We’ve always been in some sort of business. That’s been the mindset of my grandfather and father since immigrating from India in the early 60s, writes Manzer Rubbani, CEO of Penta Foods.
I was brought up to believe that owning a business gave you freedom. Freedom of action, to innovate, and think for yourself. You take risks but the returns are potentially higher.
We researched quite a few ideas before finally settling on food distribution. Our basic criteria were to start something simple, with minimum capex, not limited by geography, where we could put in maximum effort. And that’s how Penta Foods was born.
Everyone needs to eat
We set up our little food distribution business in our garage. It was empty anyway as we’d sold all our cars to help finance the business. We used part of the money to buy an old GPO van. Our first delivery vehicle.
Right from the start we decided we wanted to be a full-service business. That means we stock, pick, load and deliver whatever’s needed, including sourcing top quality ingredients and gourmet products from around the world. And for the first five to six years the family would do all that ourselves. In fact, it was a real shock taking on our first proper employee.
Our first customer was the Cromwell Hospital, London. Then Lythe Hill Hotel. Then Pennyhill Park Hotel, who we still supply. We hadn’t done this before and had almost no idea what we were doing. But we worked really hard and were hungry to learn.
We service chefs across the country that need premium ingredients and an unrivalled product range so they can produce food people will love.
What makes us different?
There are a lot of low-profit ‘lifestyle’ businesses in our sector. Then you get the big companies that need to make big profits at the expense of service and product range. We’re very much in the middle to fine-dining sector. For us that means high-efficiency optimisation, but still retaining personal service. We want to be nimble, implement technology and hire the right staff.
Our ambition is to be the leading player in the middle to fine-dining segment of the market. To be the best at what we do. We want to be the first place customers come to, and provide the best service we can to them.
Our focus is on growth. Not just in profit, but also efficiency and technology. We’re interested in disrupting the marketplace. We’re looking medium to long term; five to 10 years’ timescale.
Our attitude is OTIF: On Time In Full. It’s one that could easily be applied to IGF* too.
They understand and have been aligned with our vision since day one. They know where we’ve come from; our pressures and motivations. Their thinking is not short-termism like many financiers. It’s not just about the numbers.
We don’t have an overdraft and haven’t looked at other funding options. IGF just works for us. They provide instant support for our growing business.
We’re still a family-run business, and IGF is essentially part of our family.