I recently caught up with Frank Yeung, the founder of Poncho No. 8, serving as Frank describes it, the best buritos in London.
Frank decided to start the business after a trip to New York and upon realising that burritos were more popular than sandwiches in the US, he decided he wanted to bring that to the UK. He quickly quit his job at Goldman Sachs to focus on the business.
Hi Frank, Tell me a bit about yourself growing up?
I come from a family of food! My parents opened their first restaurant when I was 1, and have been in them ever since. Whilst growing up we would eat out every week to try new places. My parents couldn’t help but analyse everywhere we ate and it rubbed off on me!
How did you initially get involved in business?
I worked for Goldman Sachs out of University but didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t imagine a long career there so started looking around for opportunities.
How did you get the idea for Poncho No. 8?
Goldman sent me to New York on business and I found burritos. In the US they’re more popular than sandwiches so I thought, ‘why can’t they be in the UK too?’. I started to do some research and a get a plan together, before quitting Goldman in early 2009.
Tell me more about Poncho No. 8?
We set out to improve the lunch offering City workers have in London. We wanted a fun and friendly place where people could come for excellent food and service. Everything we do now still tries to uphold this belief. We serve the best burritos in London (according to Evening Standard, not just us!) and we try to offer some of the best service too.
How have you been able to able to fund the business so far?
We’ve funded privately. Initially we went to friend and family who lent or invested a few thousand pounds. Now we’ve just raised investment from a large restaurant operator who we hope will help take us to the next level.
What was it about your project that drew interest from people?
Difficult to say. Burritos are a fashionable food so perhaps it was that?! People were also interested in City workers leaving their jobs to start something on their own.
What's the biggest thing you've learned so far in launching the company?
Focus. Know what you do and try to do it well. Don’t deviate without thoroughly weighing the options and possible pitfalls. We opened a restaurant in Soho that didn’t fit our brand. As luck would have it another restaurant bought it off us, but it taught us to focus on what we do.
What's the biggest challenge you have at the moment?
Finding excellent people. Poncho is built on our teams. We have great people in our teams but we need more and more as we expand. Finding, training and keeping talented individuals is tricky.
What has been your most memorable moment so far?
Our opening day. I got up at 3:30am (having gone to bed at 1am) and bought veg from New Covent Garden Market and meat from Smithfields market. Then I drove it to Poncho, dropped it off and took the car home before the congestion charge. I cycled in to prepare the food before opening our doors to the public for the first time. We were busy, with a queue out the door, but it was tiring. Then we closed at 8pm and cleared up before going for a drink to celebrate and discuss improvements.. and went to bed at 2am. It seems a far cry from our current setup with deliveries from long term suppliers and Store Directors running the daily show, but it taught us about the business from the bottom up.
What's the next big goal for you?
4 shops is the next big goal. We want to open 2 more shops this year, 4 next year and then 8 the year after, so we’ve got our work cut out.