POD: Tim Hall

A major advantage of serving financiers is that they want to invest in you

One shop, two shops, three shops, four. Or, if you’re Tim Hall: One shop, lots of shops, world domination. The founder of POD may have only one outlet up and running, but no-one can accuse him of underestimating its long-term potential: “Yes, we’re one little shop now, but what we’ve got is a template that will make us successful on a global scale.”

Hall’s image is an acorn rather than a pod-like business, its tiny size belying huge potential. And potential was what he was looking for after moving on from his Savile Row clothing business into a “market I perceived to be exploding with growth”.

This market was the growing interest in healthy, good-quality food and, after two years of research, Hall opened an outlet in the heart of London’s financial district, serving fresh fast food to City boys. But in a world of smoothies, superfoods and no-bread sandwiches, haven’t we seen it all before?

Not so, says Hall. “Everybody wants healthy food made by a company with environmental values, and I don’t think there’s anyone providing that, so people have to use Prêt or Tesco.”

The interest in his business model bears witness to this. Much of the start-up finance came from business angels, and customers of the first shop (including the MD of Deutsche Bank) have bought into the concept in more ways than one.

“We’ve raised a lot of money from customers saying: ‘We love it – can we invest?’ It’s an advantage of a City location.”

This has funded the second store, opening early in 2008, and within the year there will be eight PODs dishing out salads and soups to Londoners. So the long-term plan is to go national? “International,” corrects Hall. “I hope to have a store outside London in 2009, and a store outside the UK by 2011.”

He believes the groundwork is in place. The first six months of trading didn’t exactly set the world alight, and Hall went back to the drawing board: “We rebranded, refurbished, redesigned the menu, all based on customer reaction. It was tough, because we had been proud of what we created, but we were right to do it.”

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But the heart of the business, the strategy Hall spent two years formulating, didn’t change. “The values behind how we communicate with customers haven’t changed,” he says.

“The biggest success has been the realisation that the strategy, and the values work.” It is this that provides the template for expansion, whether in the Midlands or the Middle East. “Everybody, globally, wants delicious, healthy food,” he says. If confidence is anything to go by, POD will play a big part in providing that.



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