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Everyone’s heard about eureka moments - that lightning bolt of inspiration that you turn into a thriving, money-spinning business venture that sets you and your family up for life.
Ingvar Kampard couldn’t fit a table into the back of his car so he took the legs off, shouted ‘Aha!’ and founded Ikea. Caresse Crosby couldn’t squeeze into a corset, so she invented the bra. Nick Woodman went surfing in Bali and wanted to take selfies, so the GoPro was born.
The list is endless.
What got me thinking about moments of inspiration, whether for an invention or for carving out a profitable niche in business, was a recent break in Tuscany, where I stumbled across the “world’s most famous butcher” – Dario Cecchini, who you might have seen on the Netflix show Chef’s Table.
Wooed by the free wine and hors d'oeuvres on offer, my girlfriend and I stumped up €50 each to experience one of Cecchini’s three restaurants in the picturesque, hilltop town of Panzano in Chianti.
Up to 20 diners from all over the world are packed in around a long table and fed seven small courses of mostly bovine-related dishes, although a scant vegetarian menu is also available.
Despite the simple concept, it clearly rakes in a few thousand euros a night, 364 days of the year (the business only closes on Christmas Day).
Panzano has a population of around 1,100 inhabitants, yet Cecchini’s business empire extends from his macellerias to supplying most of the local trattorias with their slabs of Bistecca alla Fiorentina, each weighing up to 1.2kg. I can’t begin to imagine the turnover.
It is a very niche, but very effective business and made me wonder what his eureka moment might have been.
Cecchini is clearly not afraid to break the mould and redefine the role of a butcher. The same can’t be said about most aspiring high street retailers who struggle for imagination.
As the high street continues to decline in the UK, you can see the rise of coffee shops which are filling the gaps left as shops close. And it’s not just multinationals like Starbucks or Costa Coffee (who are owned by Coca-Cola), but also independent sorts squeezing their way in by finding unique angles.
It might be the offer of gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan products. Maybe it’s a loud commitment to environmental friendliness. Or it could be the sophistication of the offer – sought-after beans or blends brewed in the most sophisticated ways.
Even in this apparently booming sector, though, it can be a struggle to succeed.
Liquidators were called into Bristol-based coffee chain Grounded only this morning. The offer of pizza, tapas, burgers and cocktails offered in its branches clearly didn’t do enough to set it apart or bring in the necessary volume of punters.
While businesses that offer casual dining in the UK continue to struggle, delivery firms are cashing in on a growing eating-at-home trend.
Multinational pizza chain Domino’s gained customers last Christmas as people opted to lounge in front of the TV, while Deliveroo and Just Eat – both of which piggyback on independent high street eateries like the local curry house or Chinese takeaway – continue to thrive.
Earlier this week, Just Eat - which bought HungryHouse in January 2018 - agreed terms with its Netherlands-based rival Takeaway.com in a £8.2 billion deal that will see them form one of the biggest online food delivery firms in the world if approved.
With around one in three people in the UK moving away from eating meat in recent years, a British take on the gluttonous beef-feast that is Cecchini’s seems unlikely.
But a vegan or vegetarian take on Just Eat… that might have legs. Time will tell.
And, for what it’s worth, the meals we ate at Cecchini’s were the worst of our week - and the most expensive at €100. An interesting angle and strong brand can carry you a long way, it seems.
Did Somebody Say Just Eat?
I believe the eureka moment comes when you find a solution to your own problem and then realise that many other people are suffering from the same problem, but have just come to accept it.
That is what lead me to start my own business, selling blue berries in the office...