Expanding Mexican restaurant chain Benito’s Hat uses Lynx Purchasing to obtain the best prices on a range of products and services, as well as to identify new suppliers the business needs as it grows.
From a City law firm to restaurateur is quite a career change, but it has proven a successful move for Ben Fordham, founder of Benito’s Hat. Having decided that a career as a lawyer in a large London firm wasn’t for him, in 2008 Ben decided to bring the freshness and vibrancy of authentic Mexican food not only to his former colleagues, but also to others who live, work and visit the Capital.
“I wanted to banish the old perceptions of heavy, greasy, tastebud-searing, so-called Tex-Mex food,” says Ben. The Benito’s menu takes a modular approach, allowing customers to choose a burrito or taco, and build their meal from a selection of bases such as cilantro rice and refried beans, filings such as chicken, steak, pork and peppers, and toppings including grated cheese, homemade guacamole and salsas.
Freshly made soups, salads and desserts are also available, with dishes produced from a combination of authentic food such as chipotle chillies, bright green tomatillos and soft flour tortillas from Mexico, and fresh, local produce sourced as close to home as possible. Benito’s Hat also has a lively bar trade serving authentic Mexican cocktails and beers.
The company now operates at three prime central London sites, at Covent Garden, Oxford Circus and Goodge Street, and its fourth outlet opens on the redeveloped concourse at Kings Cross Station in early 2012.
“We were one of the first restaurants in the explosion of Mexican food that has hit London in the last few years,” says Ben. “In contrast to some of the others, we make everything fresh in the venue, and also have a great cocktail bar and evening atmosphere.”
However much his legal training equipped Ben to deal with aspects of the restaurant business such as lease terms and employment law, sourcing food and other supplies was new territory, and Ben recognised that he needed expert support. “I initially found Lynx Purchasing through an Internet search, several months before our first outlet opened. Once I’d spoken to Rachel at Lynx, I was confident that I’d found someone who could help us locate the suppliers we needed for the business.”
Core products which Benito’s Hat regularly sources through Lynx include ambient food products and dry goods such as flour, disposables, and coffee. “At different times, Lynx have been involved in every one of our supplier areas,” says Ben,
This flexibility that Lynx’s ‘no contract, no ties’ approach offers is particularly appealing to a growing business. “For example, we’re currently buying fresh vegetables from a guy with a market stall, but with the fourth outlet scheduled to open we’ll need more fresh produce, and Lynx are looking at alternative suppliers for us.”
When problems arise, “Lynx’s responsiveness is phenomenal,” says Ben. “For example, our meat supplier recently went under without any warning, and Lynx found us a new one within a day or so such that there was no interruption of service.”
Along with getting the best prices, food quality is paramount. Benito‘s Hat Head Chef Felipe Fuentes-Cruz, a native Mexican, ensures that all produce used contributes to the fresh, authentic culture of the business.
As utility costs spiral, Ben has also asked Lynx to investigate energy suppliers for the business. “Just as finding the best energy deals at home is time-consuming, it’s a huge challenge for a business. I know that Rachel will come up with a choice of the best deals for us. Lynx provides us with the certainty with we are getting a good deal without needing to trawl through all the suppliers out there.”
Having worked with Lynx from the outset of the business, Ben has no easy way to calculate the value of the savings Benito’s Hat achieves, but says: “They definitely fight for us and get us reduced prices, because our suppliers complain about having to give us ‘Lynx prices’!
“Finding suppliers can be a challenge for a business our size. As we grow, the size of our orders move beyond what local suppliers can service, but we’re still too small for the big national suppliers to offer us their best discounts. Working with Lynx gives us access to the buying power we need to get the best prices on the best quality products and services.
“At the new Kings Cross site we’ll be trading alongside some to the biggest foodservice names in the business. It’s a validation of how hard we’ve worked to establish our reputation, and Lynx plays an important part in that.”