On Saturday I was visiting my Mum in Lewes and popped into Cook to pick up that night’s dinner. If you haven’t come across Cook, it’s a small chain selling frozen ready meals using the same ingredients and techniques you would at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade. Prices are around £3.85 a portion, making it cheaper than buying the ingredients and creating the dish yourself. They’re a complete godsend if you’re ill, a new mother or, like me, too bone-idle to cook.
They also do a party range, where you can buy dishes such as large sides of salmon, honey-glazed gammon with cloves, or puy lentil and aduki bean salad. The salads cost £15.95 for what they say is 16-20 portions (so I will call 15). But even so, that’s a little over £1 a portion, which has got to be worth paying if it saves you standing over the hob cooking lentils for 20. Oh, and the dishes taste great. The chocolate mousses are so good my babysitter pigged both of them.
So, as you can tell, I’m sold on Cook. I was telling the man in the Lewes shop this and he in turn told me that he used to work in the City but, seeking a change of lifestyle, bought the franchise on the shop. It was the best thing he ever did, he said. Obviously the first question I wanted to ask was, how much money do you make? But there seem to be rules against asking that sort of thing, so I dressed it up, saying, “I don’t know anything about franchises, do they give you a good deal?”
He immediately guessed what I was getting at and said, “Oh yes. We far exceeded expectations in the first year, and we’re doing so well we’ve bought the franchise on a shop in Hove.” I then whinged about the fact that all their London shops are South West (they’re all in places like Clapham, West Dulwich and Barnes) and he was very encouraging, suggesting that I tell my friends to buy their own franchises and open branches across the rest of London.
I came away thinking that, since the product is so good and well-priced, it would surely be a guaranteed money-spinner. Admittedly Shoreditch isn’t the right location, and the rents in Islington or the City would probably cancel out any profit, but in somewhere like Queen’s Park or West Hampstead they would be all over this. I would be, anyway.