KK Fine Foods – The Family Recipe

We learn how KK Fine Foods has gone from one woman’s kitchen to a purpose-built factory, without losing that home-cooked charm.

KK Fine Foods’ story begins in 1987, as a small, family business built on a foundation of delicious home-cooked food.

The business was started by Leyla, my mother, who began the business in our kitchen. It’s a lovely story that reflects the focus we have on quality and the energy and passion we have,” explains Samir Edwards, the Managing Director of the company. “When you’ve got someone like Leyla, who’s an incredibly passionate person, it affects the entire outlook of the business. She built the business the hard way in her own kitchen, learning and making mistakes as she went, and it was very much home-cooked food. For us, our real focus as we grow has been to not deviate from that. We strive to create home-cooked style food, and even if it’s from a bigger factory, it’s made by people who have that same amount of passion for the quality of the dishes we produce.”

The company has evolved over the years, leaving behind the kitchen where they began to move into various sites.

“Originally we moved to a small unit that grew very organically, taking the next-door unit and the next door, and around the early 2000s we moved to a new site that was basically a field and built our first purpose-built factory,” Edwards says. “That was really on the back of working with the pub groups and restaurant chains, and it was about delivering a good quality composition. Our USP was about home-cooked food and back in the 80s, the foodservice market was really developing. There wasn’t the same level of choice and innovation and we evolved with the restaurant and pub scene, offering a good quality proposition, and on the back of that we’ve grown with those clients today.”KK Fine Foods

It’s a path of growth and evolution that KK Fine Foods is continuing today.

“It’s about continuing to challenge ourselves in terms of what we can manufacture. We don’t say no, we ask ourselves ‘What can our factory do for us?’” Edwards says. “We’ve implemented processes into the factory that give the products we make that quality that we strive to achieve.”

Management and Inspiration

But however far the company has come, Edwards is adamant that the company will not lose that unique, small family business feeling that it has had since the company began.

It’s all people-focused. With the best will in the world with a nice shiny kit in the best factory it’s still the people who are the guardians of the quality of the product,” Edwards insists. “So a lot of what we’ve done has been focused on that. It’s been an interesting experience for myself because I’ve seen it grow since I was a kid, and what I’ve seen is the evolution of how we manage people and inspire them to want to achieve within the business.”

An important part of that mix of management and inspiration is passing on the standards that are at the core of KK Fine Foods’ philosophy.

“It’s a focus on all areas of the business. It is people understanding what a good job is. You have to make people aware of what the quality parameters are, so they understand what they’re trying to achieve,” Edwards says. “When you have that, it’s inspiring watching your team strive for the best.”

This is more than simply setting out the criteria for the products KK manufactures. It means ensuring that KK’s people are constantly looking for ways to improve.

“We’re big believers in internal development, promoting from within. We give people the opportunities internally, and we have a strong training budget. We’re dedicated to taking our staff with us on that journey as we grow,” Edwards points out. “We have a lot of staff here who started with Leyla! We also have people who started with us aged 16 years old and are now in senior management positions. So that’s a good indication of how people can develop. It’s that spark that comes from people knowing that if they put in the work they can get the rewards of being in a lively business that wants to strive for success.”

KK Fine FoodsDrawing in new talent, and ensuring that the talent that is already inside the company feels like part of the family, is the day to day work of KK Fine Foods.

“My question is how to make KK Fine Foods the number one employer in this area? How do you keep people with you?” Edwards asks. “That’s about communication, what the business is trying to achieve. It’s about them linking that in with their part of the business and their development plan. So people who want to achieve and aspire can see that they can do that within the business.

How do you create a community within your business? You do that through a whole raft of ways across different areas of the business. We have a social committee, who off their own back arrange activities such as a trip to the longest zip wire in North Wales, driving the charity fundraising for Giddo’s Gift. They’re putting something back into the local community through a charity that the staff chose themselves. We run regular coffee shop mornings where staff can come and bring up anything they want to be discussed. So everyone in our team, no matter what level in the business they are at, is heard. We don’t want to treat people like numbers and we have a very flat structure.

Looking forward, Edwards is determined that KK Fine Foods will continue to grow, while still maintaining the DNA of a small business that started out of someone’s kitchen.

“The evolution of KK Fine Foods is very much about keeping the core elements of what made this business attractive,” Edwards says. “That is all about the approach to innovation, to how we deliver innovation in a factory environment while making sure we don’t lose the flexibility that is so important. Getting that balance between automation and the flexibility people can give you. Our focus is on repeat business with customers that we’ve had for many, many years. We build a partnership with our clients, we grow with them, they will grow with us and we’ll evolve together.”

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