Alex Savelli, Pasta Evangelists2018/08/21
What’s it really like to start a business in hospitality? We started an interview series to find out.
This week, we talked with Alex Savelli, Founder of Pasta Evangelists, about the meal kits business model, how service is the key to retention and plenty of pasta too.
Cooking culture in Italy and England are very different. It seems that fewer people than ever are cooking now in London with the advent of Deliveroo and street food and so on. What can we do to get more people cooking?
People lead busy lives and cooking takes time, not only because you have to spend time preparing and cooking the food but also because you have to make time to buy the ingredients and organise your meal plan for the week.
I actually think that the advent of meal kits is a great way to get people back into cooking, as it offers a level of convenience that can compete with the rise of the on-demand market and also gets people back into the habit of reserving time to cook food themselves.
Many people are attracted to try meal kits because they’re not confident in the kitchen or are looking for inspiration to try new things, so I think that they’re a great way to get people passionate about home cooking and try out new recipes themselves in the future.
The meal kit market has been heavily invested in, but the challenge seems to be retaining customers over the long term. How do you solve this challenge at Pasta Evangelists?
I think our overall strategy to retain long-term customers is a combination of ensuring we have an exciting, delicious product and providing a reliable, reactive and responsible service.
We continually ensure that our pasta is new, exciting and adaptable, introducing a different menu and new dishes every week, collaborating with different suppliers such as The Ginger Pig or La Fromagerie; experimenting with modern pasta innovations such as chocolate-filled gnocchi or adapting to different dietary lifestyles with our vegan and gluten-free range.
Our most important retention strategy, however, is listening to our customers’ feedback and making quick changes that respond to customer demands. A recent example is our box-return scheme for postal deliveries, which we launched in response to customer concerns about waste packaging. We also work hard to maintain excellent customer service on a day-to-day basis, so that we can quickly rectify any problems and ensure that our customers are compensated when things go wrong.
Bottom line one cannot find our product in stores or supermarkets and for this reason, many customers come back often.
A number of meal kits have taken that route recently – being in shops. Do you see this as part of your roadmap?
A multichannel approach is important for new food brands, indeed Pasta Evangelists will be launching soon in the most prestigious food store in the UK…I just can’t share that with you just yet. Follow us and find out very soon.
You work with a number of high profile people in food – Giles Coren, Prue Leith, William Sitwell – are you surprised more businesses don’t try to associate themselves with influencers like this?
At Pasta Evangelists, we consider ourselves an authority on authentic, artisan fresh pasta, so it suited our brand to seek endorsement from renowned authorities of good, fine-quality food.
I think that the main difference between us and other meal kits is that our dishes are not designed to represent a typical home-cooked meal; they are hand-crafted daily by professional Italian chefs and therefore of a quality that you would expect to find in a fine Italian restaurant.
So I’m not surprised that other meal kit companies have opted for less high-profile influencers, in the sense that they are offering dishes that taste of good home-cooking as opposed to a fine dining experience.
"I think that the main difference between us and other meal kits is that our dishes are not designed to represent a typical home-cooked meal"
As a customer, one of the most enjoyable parts of any Pasta Evangelists delivery is the unboxing process. How much thought did you put into this? And how much value do think this provides for the customer?
We put a lot of thought into this, as we are well aware that the way our food is perceived directly impacts your perception of its taste. We want our customers to perceive our product as a treat, so the box is designed to look elegant, sleek and beautiful.
Where do you go to eat pasta in London?
I have to be entirely honest, I only eat Pasta Evangelists when I’m in London…
And what’s next for Pasta Evangelists?
We’ll be on TV in August. I just can’t say which program!