As chef shows dominate television viewing, one business seems to be turning its basic premise into a top earner.

That's the view of LINK business broker, Tony Andrew, who says within just a few years 'Social Cooking' — which operates in Auckland and Wellington — has turned society's newfound fascination with food preparation and chefing into a profitable events and entertainment enterprise.

"What's more, it is one with increasing numbers of regular corporate and social customers," says Andrew.

"Showing enormous growth potential, 'Social Cooking' — which operates primarily from premises leased in Auckland CBD — is now on the market for sale.

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"This amazing enterprise turns the latest popular culture trends into corporate entertainment and team building events," he adds.

"Corporates use Social Cooking for incentive rewards, team building and a positive group experience — and significantly there is substantial repeat business.

"In addition to lively corporate events, they cater for groups such as hen parties, sales gatherings, social-clubs, film productions and product launches."

But now the pioneers of the business have now decided to "hand on the ladle".

"They've made it clear that, due to pursuing fresh challenges, somebody else can now take this exciting business to the next level," says Andrew.

"And one thing's for sure — this opportunity couldn't have come along at a better time — for Social Cooking is truly going places. The innovative company constantly monitors the market for changes in social dining or drinking trends. It's how the business maintains its vitality and it's what underpins the growth evident in the enterprise.

"A report was commissioned during FY 2018. It details new products and processes that are achievable within or as an efficient extension of the current business model. The report will be available to the new owner."

Staffing

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Andrew points out that a deposit of 50 per cent on all bookings is paid in advance of each Social Cooking event. This means the business has no requirement for borrowings and for most of the time its has substantial cash deposits available to fund its working capital needs. Financial year 2018 delivered seller's discretionary earnings exceeding $500,000.

"There is one permanent employee (the CEO) and three 'semi-permanent' employees. These are the Auckland manager, executive assistant and finance manager. They are described as 'semi-permanent' because their hours are flexible and varied depending upon demand and workload. The shareholder/CEO performs a number of roles; he is Wellington manager and drives customer database management — a marketing resource that contributes to a high rate of repeat business. The CEO's partner performs the role of finance manager," he says.

"The balance of staff is hired on a casual basis to provide skills and labour for each event. This is managed ahead of schedule since events are usually booked weeks or months in advance. A complement of trained and experienced professionals is maintained in the main centres with many mobile so they can be deployed wherever an event is booked. The three key roles in the Social Cooking experience are chef/presenters, hosts and groomers."

How it works

Andrew says it's all about giving guests a unique, fresh and interactive experience involving the preparation of food, entertainment and convivial drinking in a fun, safe social setting. The business has developed a number of proprietorial interactive cooking experiences and robust operating models based around food, dining, wine, beer, cocktails, socialising and team building activities.

A typical entertainment option chosen by a corporate client would involve guests arriving to be served with an icebreaker drink to unwind.

A Social Cooking host welcomes guests, ensures they have an excellent time and collects feedback for future product development. A chef presenter takes the emcee role – helping to organise guests into teams and giving details of the event's planned activity.

Preparation of food by teams is then followed by a group dining experience while the chef gives feedback on (and occasional prize-giving ceremonies for) their dishes. A typical event would conclude with desserts as the guests relax and socialise.

The business derives core revenue from each function usually based on a per-person charge. As well there is significant revenue from liquor sales.

The business is structured into well-defined and easy to understand interactive cooking models. The experience is inspired by the likes of Masterchef Challenge, Hell's Kitchen, and My Kitchen Rules. The business has originated flexible formats that generate team excitement — hosted by Social Cooking employees, the business owner or specially contracted persons who are confident in front of a group and who can follow the proven systems.

"Hosts do not need to be chefs; they can be people involved in hospitality, entertainers, or simply love having fun and interacting with/directing an audience," says Andrew.

"Event booking is similar to the reservation system that would be operated by a restaurant, but forward bookings are typically weeks and months in advance."

Premises

The company's Auckland venue (leased till 2021) operates within the City Works depot, Cnr Cook and Nelson Sts, a rapidly expanding residential apartment area.

That means the site is opposite the forthcoming National Convention Centre which is due to open. There is capacity for functions with 90 people standing or 50 people cooking and seated. A pop-up site immediately opposite the main venue is also used when space for larger functions is required," says Andrew.

"A premises access arrangement is used in Wellington and the business is equipped to operate in suitable facilities anywhere in New Zealand."