The Tapas Lunch Company:
How changing fulfilment strategies helped the directors achieve their ambitions
Founded in 2005 by Jessica and Jonathan Pincas, The Tapas Lunch Company imports and sells excellent quality Spanish produce to B2B and B2C customers in the UK. Today, the company is run by Erhan Okay.
“In October 2005, we incorporated The Tapas Lunch Company Ltd on a hope and a prayer. The company was formed on the back of a passion for food, a love of Spain and a handful of contacts who were going to provide us with some fantastic products: mostly small, artisan producers in and around Jessica’s home city of León,” says Jonathan.
“We had just come back from Spain, Jessica was working in a Spanish/Italian restaurant and I was finishing my PhD. Back then we kept the samples we were selling from in our fridge at home. It was all very far from corporate.
“By late 2006, things started snowballing and Jess gave up her day job. We got our own warehouse in Merrow, built a proper website, widened our range and started selling to wholesale and retail customers.”
By early 2008, Jon and Jess could cope no longer with the daily pick, pack and dispatch as well as the administration and development of the company, and the warehouse at Merrow was already looking small.
It was at this point that they began looking for a company that could manage their warehouse operations on their behalf.
Over the next couple of years they tried working with a couple of different fulfilment providers, but hadn’t yet found a solution that could keep up with their growth:
Jonathan: “Outsourcing our logistics was proving the biggest hurdle. We couldn’t find a company that could deal with the complexity of 500+ different food products, most of which were labelled in Spanish.”
Erhan: “Demand for our products was growing rapidly and we wanted a more professional handle on things. Given the number of products and orders needing to be processed every week, we needed a fulfilment company that could automate the majority of the work rather than doing everything manually. We had found ourselves spending a lot of time chasing up orders on our customers’ behalf, tracking down and resolving human errors.”
After meeting with 2 or 3 more companies, The Tapas Lunch Company chose Vdepot in 2010.
Erhan: “We run our software through PAKK. Together we agreed that the team at PAKK could work with Vdepot to set up the integration between the two systems. This would allow orders to be sent with a click of a button and facilitate the inventory management processes for all our products; including batch control, date rotation and quality assurance.
“In turn, it would allow us to monitor all these processes remotely, and check on the status of our orders as and when we needed to. They were also fairly priced, which was another factor in our decision!”
Once Vdepot was confirmed as their new fulfilment partner, the transition happened quickly.
Erhan: “We couldn’t afford too much downtime, fortunately they had our new operation up and running in a few days. The movement of stock, integration with the system and introduction to the Vdepot team all happened very quickly and easily.”
11 years on, Jon and Jessica have relocated to Spain, while the company’s product range, customer base and order volumes have continued to grow year on year.
Jonathan: “Vdepot’s service is the foundation upon which we build our core business. They take a great deal of the stress and expense out of warehousing, picking, packing and distribution and allow us to get on with the job of providing exceptional products and customer service.
“They are efficient and accurate and fun and pleasant people to work with. Quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine life without them!”
Meanwhile, Erhan continues to oversee operations in the UK:
“I log into the Vdepot system most days to keep an eye on things, but there’s always someone at the end of the phone if I need to discuss anything in more detail.
“They have a real in-depth understanding of our business, to the point that it feels like they’re ‘in-house’ and a part of our team. They keep up with our growing product range and order volumes without compromising on care and detail.”
For other growing companies in the food & drink sector, Erhan shares some hard-won learnings:
“Make sure your products match the tone of voice used by your brand and on your website. Know your product: know what your competitors are selling, and how your products compare. It’s not about being the cheapest, but about being the best value for money.
“When it comes to systems, don’t compromise – your website should be one of your best assets, and Google Analytics/Google Search Console/order management software are all tools which can make a huge difference to how you understand your customers. If you don’t have the skills or the time to use these tools, then invest in a person or business that can bring that expertise.
“We now run our website and back office through PAKK which has improved the way we run our business massively.”
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