A tough call - pausing our first retail site to help our business progress

  • Why we're closing Broadgate Circle 23/10/17

  • How customers can still get their HiLo fix

  • By Tiffany Arntson, co-founder of HiLo

This post was prompted by weeks of conversation, emails and texts between my co-founder and brother Jasper, our kitchen and management teams, advisors and customers. All to try and figure out the best way to meet and feed our audience while expanding beyond early adopters into a more mainstream community. Although the response and loyalty of our customers is phenomenal - for which we are truly grateful - we’ve yet to reach our expectations at our Broadgate Circle shop.

We remain convinced that HiLo is the future of food. We believe in what we’re doing - making food that’s delicious, nutritious and slightly seditious. Our Hi veg Lo meat pots are a stealth health strategy to drive an appetite for plant-based eating, cited as the fourth top solution to climate change by Drawdown.

Tasty, healthy, affordable, convenient and sustainable are the new benchmarks for grab and go food. Doesn’t sound much like fast food but that’s what 90% of our customers tell us they love about HiLo. The food-to-go category is set to grow by a third in the next 5 years and we’re committed to making that growth beneficial beyond financial bottom lines.

Our story so far

After three months testing and honing our lunch pots we started trading in January 2017, doing pop-ups in co-working spaces across East London. The positive response led to us providing a lunch subscription deal for hard working grafters facing long hours and high stress, who’d feel and perform better with a balanced, nutritious meal easily to hand. The deal - 3 pots for the price of 2 on a weekly £10.50 direct debit - was enabled by crudely hacking 3 online tools and crossing town on bikes, trains and yup, even a skateboard, to deliver bags of HiLo pots to our new fans.

The loyalty of our subscribers gave us the confidence to take over a pop-up in Old Street Station for a week in May. Its success indicated a more permanent retail space in a high footfall location would be a logical next step to reach more people. We only needed a small site as we can pack 400 compact pots into a fridge, and found a kiosk spot in Broadgate Circle, home to 30,000 office workers we were eager to feed.

We opened in August with a sales target of 2000 pots a week. Whilst our customer base is solid and we estimate 80% regularly buy HiLo and recommend it to colleagues and friends, we’re not hitting target. While HiLo is for everyone, it particularly resonates with meat reducers, flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans, gluten and dairy intolerant and the health conscious. However these are niche audiences and make up a minority in the Broadgate catchment. The reality is we need to expand our reach to create greater traction among thoseearly adopter audiences that have are responding to HiLo more than the more traditional Broadgate crowd. That will help us put more pots into people hands and for HiLo to thrive. After all, that’s what really fuels every business, getting people to try, buy and keeping buying the product.

With a new rising demand for wholesale we can't stretch to all the existing channels and the one that's growth is slowest is the one we're pausing.

Testing testing

Broadgate is just one of the many sales channels we’re testing to find the best routes to market. We also have a pop-up in Old Street Station for three more weeks, where sales are growing weekly. We do regular and ad-hoc deliveries on demand through our website and via third parties like Caterwings, City Pantry, Feedr and Seamless web, and are working on listing with Deliveroo and UberEats. Bulk orders are coming in for team lunches and event catering across the city. We’re proud to be chosen by Sourced Market - our first wholesale partner - now stocking HiLo in four high profile stores in Barbican, St Pancras, Marylebone and Victoria. We host lunchtime pop-ups in co-working spaces, both on an ad hoc basis and with regular slots including WeWork Moorgate, the largest co-working space in the world. We’re investigating leads for wholesale catering, launching regular HiLo pick up points in set locations, weekly bulk orders to co-working sites (bring on #LoMeatMonday and #MeatFreeMonday) and exploring a mobile shop.

There are certainly Hi’s and Lo’s to all this activity. Jasper and I are exhilarated at the response - if slightly exhausted. We couldn’t do this without our 10 strong team of committed Londoners who represent the ambition, creativity and diversity of people in this city. We couldn’t do it without our investors, who’ve enabled us to get this far and  hone an evolved business model that is sustained by a highly efficient production system that will fly at scale. And crucially, we couldn’t do it without our customers, who are deviating from their habits to try something new, to eat better, with a lighter footprint, without compromise on taste or price.

Taking stock

Whilst we value each and every customer, we have to make a tough call to help improve the chance for HiLo to reach its potential and have the impact we know it can. The outcome of our many conversations and data crunching means on Monday 23/10/17 we’re closing our Broadgate Circle shop until further notice. Although the shop won’t be open, we’ll continue to meet the needs of our loyal fans and customers who can still get their fix at our pop-up at Old Street Station, by ordering online and via lunch time pop-ups in their workplace.

If you’re a customer of our Broadgate shop, please let us know how we can make it easier to fulfill your HiLo needs or if there’s anything else you’d like to share, by contacting Tiffany.

While slightly less convenient, this decision has been made with careful consideration; we hope you understand and that this doesn’t stop you enjoying HiLo. Either way, we’d love to hear from you, whether berating us or supporting us in our HiLo adventure, as without your feedback it’s harder to anticipate your needs.

Alongside managing the sales, operations and production we’re about to start Round 4 fundraising, looking to raise £300K to continue to turn fast food upsidedown. Jasper and I are reaching out to potential investors and launching a crowdfunding campaign in November.

Although this move to pause our first retail site comes with some risks, we’ve been shown again and again that people love our food and our mission. By being this open with our partners and customers our hope is to foster an open dialogue whilst acknowledging your support.

Thank you for your time reading. We hope to feed you soon.

A reminder of how you get can your hands on HiLo

HiLo pop-up, Exit One, Old Street Station, Mon-Fri 8am-7pm

Deliveries ordered at www.hilo.london/shop We deliver to E1, E2, EC and N1. Free delivery over £30. Deliveries outside of the designated zone also available.

Event catering, bulk orders and lunchtime pop-ups (payment by card or cash) - contact Tiffany@hilo.london to book

Get your fill at SourcedMarket

Please don’t be shy about getting in touch via comments here, on our website, on @hilolondon instagram, facebook and twitter or by email: tiffany@hilo.london