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Tom & Simon's Humble Beginnings

Well Tom & Simon's Kitchen is a almost 7 years old now. Those years have flown by and we have met and had help from some amazing people along the way. Many people ask me how we came to be and where the idea came from. So im going to dedicate our first ever blog post to filling you all in on the back story.

It may sound funny to hear that the idea first came about with myself (Wayne, for anyone who still thinks im Tom ;-)) Tom and Simon sat in a local pub talking about ideas that would get us all out of our jobs we weren't too fond of. Simon was still in the thick of an apprenticeship in plumbing for a large company in Nottingham and had just about had enough of crawling around air conditioning units in commercial buildings. Tom had several years under his belt working in some of Nottingham's best restaurants as a chef and although clearly passionate about the job, he wasn't enjoying the long relentless unsociable hours. Myself i had recently been made redundant from my job as a personal trainer. I was hopeless at selling personal training as a skinny 19 year old with no life experience and little confidence in my real hourly worth. Selling personal training sessions for £35 a hour really was a struggle for me.

Anyway the idea actually came from my father. As i left the house and told him i was going to discuss new business ideas at the pub he chirped up about starting a fish & chip van. Laughing back at him i had never heard of this idea before and he explained that there used to be several locally in the past that came around the streets, sounded their horn and an orderly queue would form down the pavement to buy their supper for the night. It didn't seem too bad an idea to be honest.

When i got to the pub the only decent idea on the table was buying bouncy castles and renting them out for children's parties etc. Knowing nothing about this sector i put the idea my dad had mentioned on the table and the conversation suddenly became more optimistic. The conversation expanded and the more we talked about it the more the excitement in the conversation grew. We ended up leaving the pub after only one drink and it wasn't even 9pm, to go back and have a look if you could buy one of these chippy van things. Sat in front of the laptop and a couple of searches on google, we realised that these vehicles can cost thousands, literally a blank cheque may be needed and we were miles off having any amount of thousands to throw into it. Where else would you look if you wanted something cheap......EBAY!

I remember saying that before we looked on ebay that we had to pray that these things were within our price range. One search later and we were scrolling down looking through vans around the £20,000 mark (way more than we would be able to afford). As we got towards the bottom of the page there was an advert for one at £15,000, then another for £12,000. As we were running out of page we all had our fingers crossed and several vans popped onto the page at £6,000 to £10,000 and the excitement grew once again. We began making plans for the next day and gave each person a job to do to see if the idea would be feasible commercially. Simon's job was to make a few calls and research what we would need in a van and what that would be likely to cost. Tom's job was to get over to the local cash and carry and make some calls to fish merchants and see what kind of cost price we would be looking at for fish and chips. Mine was to ring the local councils and industry associations to see what licences we would need and to find out what we could and couldn't do.

I have never spent as much time on the phone as i did that day. Speaking to the council and then ringing Simon, then ringing the caterers association and ringing Tom to fill him in and then taking a call from simon to say he had found THE van. We met up that night and shared what we had found. Tom had discovered that there was sufficient margin to be made if we sold enough. I had found no real barriers to entry in terms of the legal side of things and Simon was pretty sure he had found the van we needed. We each went away over the next few days to visit our banks, friends and family to see what money we could raise. Unfortunately for myself this is where the sticking point came. I had just invested about £1500 into equipment, insurance and advertising as a self employed personal trainer and the bank were having non of this talk about a loan from me seeing as i didn't have a job (the credit crunch had hit that year). I made the decision that i would have to just focus on my personal training and not invest in this new venture. Tom and Simon shared the news that they could just about raise the money to buy the van between them. The loans at the time seemed enormous and i remember being envious of them whilst also thinking they were a little crazy. Talking about the idea was a lot easier than putting the money on the line.

Mobile fish & chip van | Starting out
Tom & Simon's Kitchen | The original van

I think it was about a fortnight later when Tom rang and said they were on their way down to Cornwall, "Cornwall?" i asked. He said yeah we are going to look at a fish and chip van. The next day Simon rang me and he was in the van driving back and it had already had one stop to fill up with fuel. He said that the man they bought it from had shown them how everything worked and they were confident they were getting a good deal. They parted with their cash after a little haggling and began the journey home after staying the night and finding some insurance. The van had a maximum speed of about 50mph when going downhill with a strong wind behind it(honestly, no joke). I told Simon i would come and see the van the next day. I remember it was in June/July and it was a hot day and i came around the corner and simon was literally on the roof with his top off getting a tan of this yellow, nicotine stained coloured van painting it. They had made the wise decision to give the van a repaint straight from the off (wise choice if you had seen the original colour). Money was tight and a coat of garage door paint later and the van did look a hundred times better.

The idea had been brewed and the van had been bought. The first few steps were laid out for this new venture. Looking back now i think a better word would have been adventure!

Here's a few pics of the first van. She is still working to this day back down on the south coast. Please like and share on social media and let us spread our little story with as many as possible.

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