A Gourmet Burger Offering

Austin Latimer is one of the co-founders of The Fine Burger Company.  Founded in 2003 with his business partner Robert Tame, the business has transformed from a restaurant brand to a highly innovative, multi-dimensional company, whose clients include many of the UK’s highest profile events: London 2012, Glastonbury and The Ashes. In addition, the business operates a central London restaurant at London’s 02 plus a number of ‘grab and go’ kiosks at major stations and exhibition spaces.

Co-founder Austin Latimer smiling

In addition to The Fine Burger, the company’s brand portfolio (under The Fine Food Company umbrella) has grown to include: Fine Fish Co, Fine Barbeque Co, Fine Chicken Co, Fine Coffee Co and Bramford’s Farm Roast, which all share the same ethos – providing customers with great quality, ethical food.

Who/what inspired you to set up The Fine Burger Company?

We saw a gap in the market for a gourmet burger offering.  When we launched back in 2003, people were becoming more conscious about what they ate and how their food was sourced, even when it came to the humble burger. The ‘gourmet burger’ concept was brand new and we saw a real business opportunity there. Muswell Hill was our first restaurant then Balham came soon after.  Within a few years, we had ten restaurants across London.

What is your unique selling point? What makes your brand stand out in such a competitive market?

Our brand ethos is ‘fresh quality fast’ and this is what sets us apart from competitors and has been fundamental to our business growth over the last decade.  We are an innovative company that has been prepared to change and adapt to customer demand, but our focus on provenance and local sourcing from reputable suppliers to give our customers fresh, quality food has never changed.

How does your location influence your business?

As a business, we do all we can to keep our food miles down, which means using suppliers local to all our events.  For example, we use an on-site vegetable supplier at Glastonbury. Keeping waste to a minimum (both food and packaging) is equally important to our business.

How do you react to the changing marketplace?

As a company, we are always listening to customers in order to evolve and grow.  Giving customers what they want is absolutely fundamental to the success of our business. For example, we launched the Fine Chicken Co. at Lords Cricket Ground as a response to visitor demand for a different chicken offering. Rotisserie Chicken fitted the bill and since launching at Lords, the brand has expanded and we now have a permanent kiosk at the ExCel exhibition centre as well as a number of mobile outlets operating at some of the country’s biggest events.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing foodservice businesses like yourselves today? And how have you overcome it to grow business?

The recession has clearly been the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a business.  And we’ve managed to survive it by being entrepreneurial and reactive.

Our business has changed direction hugely in the past ten years. We’ve evolved from a restaurant brand to a mobile catering and events business and this is a result of being very responsive to the market and being open to change in order to stay ahead of the competition and grow.

Plus, we’ve always stuck firm to our core ethos – giving people quality food and good value for money.  This is what our brand is all about and has been crucial to our success.

What is the biggest business mistake you’ve made and what key learning did you take from it to make your business better?

Trying to grow the brand too quickly was probably our biggest mistake. Our original focus was restaurants and now the business focus has changed. However, we’ve always been aware of our marketplace and have been prepared to adapt and change in order to grow the business.  In this industry, your initial objective will probably not become your end goal, so it is vital to be open to your marketplace and your competition.