Charlie Farr’s Career Journey to PKL Delivery Kitchens
Below I outline some of the key learnings through my career, how I ended up at DK, and why it’s a market I believe will see huge growth for the next 5-10 years, and how I’m using my knowledge and skills to help grow this brand.
Traditional Early Years
My career began quite traditionally – focusing on real estate. I began my career advising food and retail brands on their portfolio and acquisitions across UK and Europe, so big retail and food brands like Ralph Lauren, Burberry, LVMH brands in the retail part, on the food part brands like Joe & The Juice and Honest Burgers. I picked up a huge amount of knowledge of different European markets, different sales and negotiation techniques, contacts and understood the needs of different operators. At the same time, I had set up a music festival alongside my two brothers called Farr festival, a 700 people festival which over 10 years grew to over 5,000 people.
I next went from working on behalf of occupiers to landlords, what’s known as ‘client side’.
I was head of retail and leisure at Grosvenor estates, which is a top real estate institutional landlord based in the UK, managing their portfolio across mainly central London: Mayfair and Belgravia.
This gave me a good understanding into how landlords think, how they asset manage, how they think about strategy and Future Planning. As a hard-working entrepreneur and with Farr Festival evolving, I found it challenging to contain my creativity and ambition in a traditional corporate environment. I took a decision to take my property and Entrepreneurial skills into a more disruptive area and use my real estate skills to complement and move into a different sector, what could be known to some as ‘PropTech’.
Delivering Innovation with Deliveroo
I next moved to Deliveroo – then a young and high funded start-up looking to change takeaway forever. I was asked to lead a concept called ‘Roobox’, which later became known as ‘Deliveroo Editions’.
Essentially this was taking delivery data to identify areas that were up and coming, where you’d be able to bring new restaurants to brand new areas but only for delivery.
Things moved fast: we very quickly opened 25 delivery-only kitchens in London, and one in Brighton. We managed to collect the data to prove that out of 20,000 restaurants on the delivery platform, the top five independent brands were all coming off RooBoxes.
This meant that we were then tasked with scaling this business and building a team throughout the UK, the rest of Europe and the Middle East. A team of five people became 60 people, and 25 kitchens were then taken to over 100. Someone once described it to me once as ‘Starbucks on steroids’. You sure do learn how to plan and execute under big pressure at companies such as Deliveroo. I had clearly got the start-up bug and was keen to keep testing my own boundaries further.
I then moved to a growing series B funding level company called the Storefront. A global business first set up in France, its mission was to change the retail rental model and build it around short term flexibility: customers could book a retail space like you book a hotel room or an Airbnb.
I was brought in to set up the UK office and demonstrated success there very quickly by setting up partnerships with the largest global landlords such as Westfield, Hammerson, Cadogan, the Crown and some of the biggest and fastest-moving retail brands in the world such as Gymshark and Huda Beauty. I helped build the team out globally starting with UK and then across the US, Europe, and Asia.
I had kept a close study on the development of the delivery kitchen and food market during my time at Storefront. I then got approached to join the Lowe Group, heading up the PKL Delivery Kitchen brand. Getting back into the delivery kitchen market, and particularly with the pandemic being a big accelerator, it was very hard for me to ignore some of the huge opportunities within the sector. On top of Delivery Kitchens, I’d also seen a huge emergence of online delivery grocery, known as ‘dark stores.’
It was also the opportunity to work with PKL. This was a company that I was familiar with, because PKL helped me at Deliveroo, grow the RooBoxes, or Deliveroo Editions, supplying bespoke modular kitchens within car parks or development land areas.
I realised this is was a great opportunity to help PKL grow the early success they’ve had, from working with Deliveroo to lots of other fast-moving delivery apps and operators across the world.
Why Delivery Kitchens, and Why Now?
Delivery kitchens is not a new concept: it’s been almost five years since we first set this up at Deliveroo. But I think what’s happening now is that a lot of those barriers have now been taken down.
As an industry, Real Estate moves very slowly: that is hard for a technology company to appreciate, it hasn’t changed in a very, very long time. And what we’re now seeing is an adaption to technology, which is really driving this. And that’s partly because of the way consumer habits are changing. We want food quicker, delivered to our doors.
This big change in the way we order food, and the way transactions are done compared to how they have traditionally been done, because of the rise of delivery apps, and that being further accelerated by the impact of COVID, now means that you’ve had this huge transformation from offline to online which was already a very big trend before, but it’s now been further accelerated.
You’ll see that on the big food delivery apps like Deliveroo have now got an amazing selection of Michelin star restaurants alongside huge chain brands, like Pizza Express, and McDonald’s as well as large supermarket chains like Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s. You would have never really thought that luxury, or Michelin star restaurants would even be thinking of going into delivery. But now it’s a way for them to diversify and reach new customers in different areas. Restaurants that have previously ignored this can no longer ignore it because, ultimately, it’s a way for some of them to survive.
For me, the opportunity of Delivery Kitchens is only just beginning. Euro Monitor have stated that the worldwide delivery food market will be worth $1trillion in 2030 – we want to help food entrepreneurs take advantage of this massive opportunity now.