Wokit

WOKIT is a fun, fresh and fast wok bar in London's Borough Market, serving fresh meat and vegetables.

Richard, Olivia & Emerencé began WOKIT to provide fresh, organic noodle dishes combining the best British & traditional produce.

Richard Martin, interviewed by Alex Mann

What led you to starting up your own company, in Wokit?

I have worked in restaurants since I was little and no matter whether they were Michelin Star or a local takeaway I have never been happy with the way they did things. So while studying at university I set up a number of miscellaneous companies and when I finished I sold them all to kick start a restaurant that did something a bit different. So my sister and I set up together. She does all the design and illustrations including the website and because of my background in restaurants I run the business day to day. Like the fast food industry Wokit is a grab and go concept however unlike its peers it is sustainable from the packaging, forks and bags right down to the food preparation and processes that we use.

How do you see Wokit developing in the next few years?

I think that we have a really interesting and exciting concept that I would like to expand and continue, but I also want to be able to create different spaces within our future locations. Currently we have a few seats and tables in our Borough Market store which opens onto the market but I think I would like to create something slightly more cosy and intimate in the next store. However I don’t think that we will stray too far from the original grab and go concept that we have started here because I know it works and people seem to really love it, it makes us unique and because we are healthy and fast it’s a hard combination to find anywhere else!

Why do you think that Wokit has been so well received and what are the keys to your success?

We have a great team working here that have been here since Wokit’s inception and this includes the Mongolian chefs that I headhunted from a restaurant that I used to work in. All the staff and my sister bring their own elements to the business and this includes some of the fantastic sauces and dishes on the menu, interior designs and customer service. We are all one big family here and they are in most part the reason why Wokit has been successful so quickly! But alongside this great team we have got a great core food offering which is fast, delicious and healthy. For all of these reasons we really are able to give people something that they can’t get elsewhere.

How important has your premises been to Wokit and where do you see yourself next?

Like most businesses will tell you one of the key core ingredients that make a business great is its location and this is exactly how we feel about Borough Market. We are on one of the main roads going into the market and after bidding with over 2,000 other people for it we were really lucky to get the opportunity to create our concept and do it in such a wonderful site with such great heritage and history. I think going forward with our other locations we want to be able to create a brand that people don’t mind travelling down back streets to come and visit but it is still important we are in the right location.

As such a young business owner what have been the major hurdles in setting up Wokit?

I think the hardest thing that I have encountered in the business has been managing people. At university you just have to manage your own time and what essay is next to hand in which in all honesty is pretty simple. I am not a very confrontational person and so learning when to put my foot down and make sure people are doing what I want them to has been hard to learn, but I think that as we have grown I have been able to develop this side of myself. I have always had my sister to bounce ideas off which has also massively helped me to develop not only the business but also my understanding of it.

So you talk about expanding the business, what are your expansion plans?

So at the moment I think that possibly over 80% are office workers coming down not only for lunch but also dinner after finishing late. We have got the Shard and office occupiers like the Financial Times just around the corner and judging by the popularity of Wokit from them we would need to move somewhere that was near a lot of office space. The dream is after opening a few stores in London we are able to take the concept to Edinburgh (where I went to university) as I know the healthy food provision up there is very lacking but there is a massive appetite for it.

www.wokit.co.uk/