Interviews

'Chewing the fat' with The Skinny Kitchen's Joel Belchem

7 min read

25 February 2019

Reporter, Real Business

Who says you need copious amounts of booze and a deep fat fryer to have a good time? Joel Belchem, co-founder of Ibiza born healthy food hangout, The Skinny Kitchen – agrees. He talks to us about his award-winning formula, (high-quality health for the masses and celebrity fans included).

Ibiza, that hedonistic party paradise, and the place of sun, sea, and er, – healthy wholesome eating? Well apparently yes, and Joel Belchem is the entrepreneur who’s flying the flag for this new vision of the holiday isle.

He co-founded a healthy eating restaurant chain, The Skinny Kitchen, with his wife, fellow health and exercise fan, Lois on the island in 2014. Since then, the brand has experienced some great success, having expanded to a number of urban hotspots across the UK.

Expansion and clean branding

The brand’s ongoing success not only shows how insatiable the consumer appetite for healthy eating is, but it also shows how strong and consistent branding from entrepreneurial idea to the final product, always comes out on top.

Today, The Skinny Kitchen is a restaurant chain that’s loved and frequented by celebrities such as Nicole Scherzinger, Neyo, Ella Eyre, Example and Rudimental on one hand, and wholesome eating laypeople on the other, (UK outposts include spots in Cambridge, Islington, and soon west London).

There’s no deep secret as to why The Skinny Kitchen’s been so successful, it’s wide consumer appeal certainly shows the merits of offering diners a pleasant yet casual dining experience, (they serve all day) which is easy on the old cholesterol too.

The Skinny Kitchen, a future competitor for Joe & The Juice?

Late last year, the pair brought their laid-back Ibizan style dining experience to one of London’s most coveted areas. Having secured a 3,000 square foot premise in rich bohemian mecca, Islington, could The Skinny Kitchen become the next Joe & The Juice in a few years time? We sit down with Mr Belchem to find out…

It takes two: The Skinny Kitchen is a marital affair (left Joel Belchem, and right, Lois Belchem).

Describe your business in one sentence

The Skinny Kitchen is a clean healthy food hangout which offers all-day dining catering to a variety of diets all in a cool and relaxed atmosphere.

That was smooth! What did you do before launching Skinny Kitchen?

I started my career working in sales and marketing for Sony and Virgin Media, and then I was a personal trainer and owned my own gym. My wife and business partner, Lois, worked for a fitness brand in Los Angeles and then transitioned into social media.

What do you want your business to be remembered for?

I think that in this day and age we are trying to challenge the food industry and change people’s perception of fast food and eating out. The key fundamentals of our business are that we’re offering quick, clean and healthy food and drink options that are not only good for you but taste great as well making you feel good about your eating choices. We also cater to many different diets from vegetarians and vegans, to gluten-free diets and bodybuilders.

How do you measure success?

By how successful everyone else is around you.

Do you plan to enter new markets n the next 12 months or more?

Yes, we currently are talking with people in New York and Los Angeles and the UAE.

How did you fund your business initially, and how do you continue to finance its expansion in so many different locations?

We funded ourselves at the start and then we got our first round of investment from the founders of Ocean Beach Ibiza. This year, we are currently in the process of securing our second round of investment from various venture capitalists, and we will begin crowdfunding this month in fact.

What technology does your business absolutely rely on and why?

The EPOS system – electronic point of sale revolves around it so at any point we can see how much money we are making and what products are selling or not.

In five years, where do you see your business?

I think that at this point everything is evolving, and you can see people are more particular about what they want. They are more health-conscious and interest in where the ingredients are sourced. People are moving away from what’s bland and processed.

What is your greatest business achievement?

Opening Skinny Kitchen Islington – this is the finished article – we took 5 years to mold the brand to create this.

What was your biggest entrepreneurial mistake? How did you overcome it to get to where you’re at now?

Making decisions on things that are purely for financial reasons. When you are trying to create a brand there is a lot more to it than doing things for financial gain.

What would you tell your younger self?

Be patient. I feel like I made so many decisions that were not the right ones because I was rushing. Now I really want to digest something before I make a move on it, because I know the end result will be better once I fully think about it first.

What’s your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs?

Trying to find the right balance between passion and money. There’s a good line to strike,  and finding that balance is the key to success for a business.

The one app you use the most?

WhatsApp as I need to constantly communicate with my team and My Fitness Pal app, which tracks my calorie consumption and macronutrients which are protein, carbs and fat.

What is the number one must-read leadership book for entrepreneurs?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, which is a memoir by the creator of Nike.