Friska Meets The McLaren Group

Owner, co-founder and Director of ethical restaurant chain Friska, Ed Brown welcomed the opportunity to learn from the experience of iconic motor-racing and engineering group McLaren when they hosted the latest Breakthrough Masterclass

“Friska is value-led,” says Ed Brown, owner and Director of the healthy fast-food chain. “Our proposition is quality at a competitive price-point and that’s a great place to be.” Co-founded by Ed and fellow Bath University graduate Griff Holland, Friska’s restaurants offer ethically sourced, locally produced seasonal foods, with the price of a lunchtime meal typically coming in at around £5.

The business began in 2009 with just one restaurant, and has now expanded to four, with more planned for the future. With the challenges associated with expansion very much on his mind, Ed was one of 18 delegates attending the Breakthrough programme’s latest Masterclass, which aimed to enable ambitious SMEs to learn from businesses at the pinnacle of their market sectors. Hosted by Formula 1 engineering company the McLaren Group, this Masterclass provided insights into the company’s approach to getting the most from its personnel and diversifying into other sectors.

Friska’s growth story

Ed acknowledges that running a restaurant has involved a steep learning curve. “Everything was new to us when we started,” he says. “We really had to learn to do things as we went along.” From just a handful of staff, Friska now employs 32 people and turnover has increased tenfold. This in turn has meant adapting to the demands of a bigger business. “We’ve had to put new processes in place,” he says. “We are constantly looking at our processes and procedures – for example, sourcing.”

Effective recruitment and training is also high on the agenda. Friska is very much a business built around the vision of its two founders. It’s therefore important that the values and culture are retained as new members of staff are brought on board. Meanwhile, the founders keep a close eye on evolving cashflow requirements as the company grows.

Training and motivation

A self-confessed Formula 1 fan, Ed was keen to learn from the experiences of McLaren, and he believes McLaren’s approach to staff development provided the most interesting insights of the day. As a racing team and as a diversified business, McLaren seeks to get the best out of everyone on the payroll. It’s a competitive working environment, underpinned by training and development programmes.

“We’re a different type of company [to McLaren] and we can’t motivate people in the same way. – But what we can do is show that we are an ethical company supporting a social enterprise and that the values we have are genuine.” - Ed Brown, co-founder, owner and Director, Friska

Following the Masterclass, Ed feels he would like to replicate the motivational techniques he saw at McLaren. “We’re a different type of company and we can’t motivate people in the same way,” he says. “But what we can do is show that we are an ethical company supporting a social enterprise and that the values we have are genuine. We’re a company that people can be proud to work for. And we can train people to work at the highest level they can.”

Friska’s success in the Bristol area has already demonstrated that its approach to providing excellent, competitively priced food resonates with the expectations of customers. From that strong base, the founders are keen to grow the company further, with people-development an important part of the equation.

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