INNOVATE OR DIE, SAYS SUMO SALAD FOUNDER

INNOVATE OR DIE, SAYS SUMO SALAD FOUNDER

LUKE Baylis is tossing up the fast-food industry, growing his Sumo Salad business from a single store in Sydney in 2003 to more than 130 stores across the world.

The journey to delivering healthy, ethical and sustainable food started when he spent time in America, and after indulging in a few too many fattening meals along the way.

Baylis tells Business News Australia that when he returned to Australia he made a conscious decision to shed the excess baggage, although he discovered there was a real lack of choice to keep him on track.

The focus for the new venture was affordability and convenience and, through Sumo Salad, the entrepreneur has leveraged the great produce of Australia by offering sumo-sized portions of healthy fast food.

Baylis says the growth of the business has been astounding, and is still expanding at about 30 outlets a year.

But the success hasn't been without its challenges, with Baylis saying 'there has never been a bigger focus on innovate or die'.

"We have really had to look at our core business and make sure that we are evolving to meet the market conditions and change in consumer expectations," says Baylis.

"We have really had to take a leadership role and determine what we believe the future of this space will look like, and make the necessary moves now to ensure that we are a leader in future trends to come."

Baylis attributes the success of the business to people becoming more health conscious over the past 15 years and says salad is no longer considered a 'weird little side'.

Offering his top tips for startups, Baylis says the key is to create a strong strategic plan and conduct thorough research before entering into it financially and committing to the business.

"It is important to look at all of the elements of your competitors and scope your market opportunities including funding requirements and staffing requirements - all these things need to be adequately planned before you do anything," says Baylis.

"Secondly you need to consider the team and get the best possible people around you in order to bring the concept to life.  Getting the wrong team can kill a great concept and business opportunity very quickly.

"I also think ensuring you have the adequate funding to meet the needs of your business plan is important, and you probably need to ensure you have a great buffer of 50 per cent in case things don't happen as quickly as you hoped.

"You also need strong financial governance and good data to ensure you make great decisions and quick decisions, and can respond quickly in the right manner to business opportunities or challenges.

"And the last piece of advice is probably just pray for a bit of luck."

In its attempt to make the world a healthier place, Sumo Sald sources produce locally and ethically, and offers fully compostable packaging.

Sumo Salad offers three different experiences the small format, offering grab-and-go foods at airport locations and high-traffic location; the original Sumo Salad business which is food court centric, and the Green Label which is an elevated Sumo Salad experience where customers can sit down in a café style location.

Baylis will be sharing more of his business journey, particularly about the necessity of relationships within the strategic execution, at the Strategy and Innovation World Forum in Sydney, which runs from May 26-27.

Sponsored by Business News Australia, the forum brings together leading business minds and creates a platform for strategy and innovation.

Other speakers include Jason Juma-Ross, head of tech, entertainment and comms at Facebook; Ryan Liddle, head of innovation at Woolworths; Jack Dan, national GM of Telstra; and Leigh Angus, head of innovation at Dominos.

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