Do you have a big idea that needs to take wing?
Have you ever thought ‘I could do that better and something MUST Be done?’ For every annoyance there is probably an answer and these Dragon’s Den days we’re often a last straw away from taking matters in hand and banging out a prototype in the disgruntled shopfloor of our imagination.
Well West Indies native Edward Johnson did that, and then took it further. His inspiration: the lack of genuine Jamaican Patties. His solution: get it done!
And he did.
From his 2015 North London base in Willesden he makes twenty thousand patties (in 11 varieties) each week, employing 32 people, and is able to support a number of local charities. That’s not to mention partnering with Trebuchet to support roots music, local industry and some on-the-go nosh that tastes pretty good too.
How did the Trebuchet and Port Royal symbiote come together? Meeting through a friend we started to discuss our mutual interest in grassroot social causes; how people deal with things outside of grander ideologies, and the uplifting experience of doing something that feels right and helps others on the way.
So we started to talk.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to over to get to 2015?
In January 2015 I was told by my landlord that he needed his property back for his own expansion. I have until March 2016 to move my entire business. This has been a very stressful problem and it is currently ongoing.
There is a great opportunity to move to a bigger and better facility and to reorganise our workflow. If the project is managed well our company will be more efficient and profitable in the long run.
So do you think challenges like these have made you stronger as an organisation?
Yes, we have become more efficient over time, mainly due to the pressures of serving the supermarkets. Our volumes have increased and we have had to put strong systems in place to handle the increase.
We have a food production certification called SALSA which requires us to work and produce our patties to high hygienic and traceable standards. The system requires a lot of paperwork and constant real time checks for our staff. It keeps us on our toes and drives efficiency.
It is essential to have a clear target to focus on. You will never hit the target unless you can clearly see it. Our Port Royal patty is the most authentic in the UK and this authenticity has been our target from day one. We had to make a few concessions to the UK market but these were considered and necessary.
What are the cornerstones to a premium Port Royal product?
A flaky, crunchy quite unique “Patty Pasty” which we call the Kingston Crust. This, combined with a spicy gravy-like filling gives an initial crunch, then a soft succulent filling.
Is it better to offer more choice, or to make sure that you develop a limited number of products?
It’s important to not go crazy with too many lines. Our Beef, followed by Chicken and then Lamb, are our three best sellers by far. It is tempting to keep adding new lines but it can cannibalise your existing range, which means your overall sales do not increase. New Product Development can be time consuming and wasteful. On the other hand, customers want to see NPD from time to time, so it has to be addressed.
Also if your competition is creating new lines you should react at some point.
What are the greatest assets of Port Royal as a company?
Our management team is very close and focused on what we do. The production team are also hardworking and are constantly working with very little idle time. Also, our product is very consistent so our customers can rely on the same taste every time.
How does imagination and creativity factor in the decisions you make?
NPD is a great chance to be creative. Our new gourmet range was and is still fun to produce and come up with new filling ideas. Our marketing budget is very small so we have to be creative with our Guerrilla marketing plans. Point of Sale material like posters and flyers need to be punchy and eyecatching.
Where do you test your ideas before you launch them?
Usually among staff and friends. If we don’t love a new product we won’t launch. I made a Veggie Mince patty last year using textured vegetable protein (TVP) very similar to Quorn. It tastes just like our beef patty only healthier. I was convinced it would be a great success but unfortunately none of my large customers has bought into it.
Finish the sentence: With great responsibility comes….
A lot of satisfaction on the one hand and a lot of stress and worry on the other.
What motivated you in the beginning?
I knew there was a market for an authentic Jamaican Patty and I knew I could make it. I had been working for my family’s business in one form or another and welcomed the chance to prove to myself that I could create my own business from the ground up.
What motivates you now?
Seeing the company grow and get stronger. Working hard to make it a proper UK institution for my family’s sake, and especially my young son Christian.Port Royal Patties
Editor, founder, fan.