From windy Wellington to his second visit to the UK, 17 years on, Adam Wills has just set up his third brilliant business idea to take on London’s food industry.
Having first found London intimidating, like many Kiwis do, he’d returned to New Zealand, but felt he had unfinished business to see to. Adam had sold a successful delicatessen and catering company and soon returned to the UK with a job offer in hand. Each week he’d drive all around the UK for work, returning each Friday night back to London, wondering where you could get a ‘decent burger’. This was where the idea for Gourmet Burger Kitchen began.
Together with Brandon Allen and Greg Driscoll they started GBK with a lot of planning and preparations. The idea was a hit and their business quickly grew to the point that 5 years on, with 10 branches in London they decided to move on. After taking a break from the hospitality industry for a couple of years Adam got speaking to Peter Gordon, who was a consultant for GBK and had founded the Providores and Tapa Room. The Providores is a very busy and successful restaurant. Adam, along with Michael McGrath, Peter Gordon’s co-owner at The Providores and Brandon Allen, they decided to open up a new restaurant. This saw the beginning of Kopapa.
Kopapa which means ‘a meeting place’ in Maori, provides international fusion cuisine in the heart of Seven Dials, Covent Garden. While it has a heavily Kiwi wine list, some Kiwi art, as well as the owner and management all being Kiwi’s, it is still the sort of restaurant that any nationality can enjoy without it being too heavily Kiwi focussed from the outside. Every week Kopapa is filled with people and Adam loves providing them with an enjoyable dining experience.
With Kopapa’s growing success, Adam reflects that ‘restaurants are extremely complicated, with huge amounts of equipment and people involved with so many things to keep on top of, and I was keen to do something simpler’. A young Australian entrepreneur called JP had approached Adam to start a coffee business, and while he loves his artisan coffee, Adam is ‘more of a food guy than a coffee guy’. Adam started thinking of another friend that was a baker and then came up with the idea of gourmet doughnuts to ‘use the dough as the vehicle to deliver lots of exciting new flavours’.
Together they started investigating doughnuts all around the world, finding out how long doughnuts had been around and peoples experiences of doughnuts. They decided to create a ‘modern day doughnut offer utilising all the tools, experiences, cuisines and flavours’ they’d picked up over the years and tie it in with great antipodean coffee to create the company that is now called ‘Crosstown Doughnuts’.
As much as Adam wanted to start out simple, Crosstown Doughnuts has been yet another big hit in London. It’s still in its early days, having just passed 3 months, yet companies like Selfridges, Ozone Coffee, Curators Coffee and Sourced Market in Eurostar Terminal are already interested and getting ready to be supplied with their gourmet doughnuts. Crosstown’s first store will be opening late October in Piccadilly Circus Tube station.
When asked about how he has come up with so many brilliant business ideas in the food industry, Adam explained ‘nothing is ever sure in business; you can’t just have an idea and drop it into London without making it right for the London people. It’s very important to have the right business idea for the right place, such as London. Luck always plays it’s part in getting the important breaks you need… New Zealand is a very well regarded nation of hardworking, straight talking and trustworthy people, but the idea still has to be right.’
Adam’s advice for new Kiwis wanting to set up a business in the UK is ‘make sure your idea has a place in the market that you are trying to operate in. Crosstown doughnuts are not American doughnuts; we wanted to use local and domestic produce. Everything from the ingredients, flavours, packaging and so much more were designed to target a particular sector that was likely to respond to the product.’ He strongly believes that you should get as much feedback as possible, don’t be afraid to tell people about your idea. Be prepared to listen to people who don’t like your idea or don’t think that it will work. Sometimes you need to hear that it isn’t the best idea. You’ve got to be prepared for the hard work ahead and how it will affect your life and the people around you. Adam currently works days ranging from 3-4am starts to finishing late at night to manage two successful businesses with 45 staff that depend on him to make the right decisions.
Kopapa can be found at 32-24 Monmouth St, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9HA. Find them online at www.kopapa.co.uk.
Crosstown Doughnuts will be popping up at more and more locations, but their regular spot is weekdays on Leather Lane, but can also be found throughout the city, for more locations and tasty information check them out at https://www.crosstowndoughnuts.com/.
Ngaire Ackerley is a New Zealand travel/wildlife photographer and travel writer. She is available for freelance projects. Her work can be found online at https://designack.com and https://kiwifootprints.com.