Lessons from the closure of Kettlebell Kitchen

JAW Digital’s managing director Wayne Berry discusses the future of the meal prep industry.

Has the meal prep industry found its ceiling?

Having always been around sport and gyms, gym life and gym people, I’ve always been around nutrition and meal planning. My uncle was a bodybuilder, my cousin is a bodybuilder, in my mid to late 20s gym was life and therefore diet was life. I’ve always experimented with food for the sake of training.

It used to be the case that you ate as many greens and as much protein as you could in a day, god knows how many steaks and eggs I went through in my 20s.  

Then the talk was about amino acids, macros and more complex nutrition systems, and the meal prep world was born.

First came lots and lots of small, niche offerings usually associated with gyms, PTs or nutrition experts serving serious athletes, footballers and anybody competing in their field at a high level. Meal prep was probably deemed too expensive for the casual trainer and every day gym goer at that time.

That quickly changed though, with most people’s first proper glance at meal prep coming by way of BBC’s Dragons Den and the company ProGainz. This was a company not without its own issues, as we see from the snippet below.

This represented a factory based, stack it high sell it slightly cheaper model that really took off and opened meal prep up to the masses.

My first sample of meal prep came from a professional chef, a guy I knew from my gym, who is now a client and has been for a couple of years. Myles was one of the first people to take meal prep or, healthy takeaway as it was also being called then, to the high street with his massively popular store come meal prep hub in Warrington, delivering nationally.

Therein lies part of the problem, delivering nationally, keeping it fresh, staying reliable and managing a walk-in retail/café style environment at the same time. You’re now dealing with different pressures and overheads, staffing issues and more competition.  It becomes a lot less about the food and the nutrition systems, reasons you started the business and a lot more about business systems, logistics, margins and growth.

When you look at the way these meals are ordered, prepared and delivered there are thousands of variants to consider: from storing a wide range of fresh ingredients, allergy control, eco packaging, ice packing, delivery system integration, split deliveries, website orders and marketing, staffing from chefs to drivers, the list is endless. A thankless task if it isn’t going right.

If one cog in this complex machine breaks, it can spell disaster. If multiple cogs in multiple stores break it’s easy to see how things have ended up here.

I’m no expert on this particular brand but Kettlebell Kitchen seemed to start as just that, meal prep for gym goers. Then they ventured into helping the average joe control their eating habits and office catering, and the menu and range grew and before we knew it they were catering for events.

Can you really be all things to all people in the catering world?

Is it safer and better business sense to stay with your niche and conquer that particular world as that niche grows.

From reading the article, it’s the speed of growth and the lack of consistency in sales and customer demographic between Kettlebell’s various stores that has killed it.  It’s an absolute crying shame because at one-point Kettlebell were leading the way by quite a stretch.

We’ve done a lot of work with www.fit-chef.co.uk who are incredible chefs, serving amazing food and who stick to what they know best. Starting their work around the cross fit community and expanding out into a commercial, web sales led model that is all about great tasting food, with a simple menu and robust system for delivery.

We’re just in the process of delivering something very sophisticated for https://rossimealprep.co.uk/ a Wirral based meal prep company that follows the ethos that our food is our medicine. We’re developing a website and backend order management system that will allow the company to seamlessly deliver their exquisite food across the North West and eventually there could be a move towards national delivery. Another commercial kitchen with a web sales business model.

Does doing meal prep right mean we must keep it off the high street with its high rents and unpredictable footfall?

As the owner of a growing business myself I can’t imagine how everybody at Kettlebell Kitchen feels right now and we offer our deepest professional sympathies.

Good luck to anybody trying to make it in this ever-competitive marketplace!

If you’re in the catering world and need help developing a marketing strategy, website or order management tool then we’d love to help

hello@jawdigital.couk 0161 941 3469