Case Study – The Tipsy Pigs

Case study

James Farmer, owner of The Tipsy Pigs talk about how he started his catering business that serves private clients as well as operating cafes in some of Surrey’s premium heritage sites.

Describe what The Tipsy Pigs is

The Tipsy Pigs is now a full service catering agency, providing high quality catering from informal hog roast garden parties to 600 person celebration dinners. We operate cafes in some of Surreys premium heritage sites and manage a selection of bar hire options.

We had a brainwave to buy an old VW Campervan without much idea what to do with it but we shared passions for food, drink and making people happy.

How did the idea of The Tipsy Pigs come about and what gave you the inspiration to start the business?

The Tipsy Pigs was launched by three old school friends in 2015. After attending Fullbrook School in the 90’s we went our separate ways in the catering & events industry for the next 20 years. In 2014 we had a brainwave to buy an old VW Campervan without much idea what to do with it but we shared passions for food, drink and making people happy. Our philosophy is catering for the good times.

What training or experience did you gain to help start the business?

As above, all 3 owners had 20 years experience in the catering & events industry. Neil was a head chef, Carla managed restaurants and James ran a communications agency.

What advice would you give to new traders starting out?

When we bought the campervan we did two years on the events circuits, working weekends around our fulltime jobs, making very little money. We built the business as a side hustle and didn’t rely on it for income, which allowed it to grow. It was really tough but the opportunity to manage venues only came about because we put in the graft.

How have you marketed the business?

We’ve had an almost non-existing marketing budget so had to really focus on quality to make sure our reputation grew through word of mouth. We made sure our website looked good with key search words  and do our best on social media, which doesn’t come naturally. We’ve signed up to every free listing out there, a couple of paid for websites, sent out e-shots and tried google ad words. We’ve avoided print media because its expensive and never felt the payoff was worth it in the modern world.

What are the challenges and conversely, opportunities your business faces?

Pre pandemic the challenges were the margins. There are endless costs in catering and its difficult to charge high prices because of the competition. Obviously the pandemic has changed everything – it’s difficult to know what the future looks like but we’re facing a world with much lower customer numbers in our cafes and at events. There are however opportunities for the companies that adapt the quickest and socially aware events or home catering may see a big leap.

We built the business as a side hustle and didn’t rely on it for income, which allowed it to grow.

What type of events do you cater for?

Everything from BBQ garden parties, celebration dinners, weddings or corporate functions.

How much preparation goes into an event?

A lot.  A small garden party for 40 people takes 2 or 3 days of prep plus a 16-hour day of the event.

Feast and Quench could help to share our story with more people.

Where do you source your produce?

We try to keep it local as possible.

How could Feast and Quench help a business like yours?

Positive PR and bookings.