BigPot started selling vegan meals from the Erasmus Food Lab in the Mandeville building in April 2023. During a tasting session (which EM attended), the first guests were very positive. Since then, the start-up sold meals three times a week during lunchtime, with sales averaging around fifty meals each time they opened.

New location

But those fifty meals were not enough to make the business viable, owner Rajarshi Chakraborty knew. This despite the fact that the business was able to take advantage of all kinds of free services, such as volunteer labour and using the Erasmus Food Lab as its point of sale.

The Food Lab was never intended as a place for commercial activities, however, and so BigPot needed to find a new location. That was going to be much more expensive, since the EUR building services charge a commercial rate for commercial activities. As a result, Chakraborty’s dream to offer high-quality food at an affordable price became impossible.

New plan

And so BigPot’s founder decided to cut his losses and revamp his entire business plan. His business sold its last vegan meal in the Food Lab at the end of June. Chakraborty is okay with that. “The first 12 to 16 months of a business are meant for experimentation and learning where the market needs and gaps are. Our initial assumptions were not confirmed but we keep testing until we find the product that fit the market”, he says.

Now, rather than selling directly to guests, BigPot is focusing on selling to businesses instead – and it’s doing it off campus. “We are currently supplying meals to businesses. Another change is that we no longer do the cooking ourselves, but are turning into a platform and have started working with local chefs. Some of them are cooks who work in a ‘dark kitchen’ (a restaurant that operates only via delivery service, ES), who previously prepared most of their meals in the evening. Thanks to us, they now have additional lunchtime customers, too”, says Chakraborty, explaining the new concept. The meals are no longer strictly vegan, either. “That is still our preference, but we take the client’s wishes into account.”

Testing ground

While Chakraborty is disappointed with how the on-campus adventure ended, he emphasises that he does not blame EUR at all. “As it turned out, there was simply no way to convert our dream into a sound business plan without selling at least 200 meals per day. And so we had to try a different approach.”

He does note one area for improvement, though, saying that while the university makes a strong effort to promote start-ups – including via Erasmus Enterprise and the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship – it neglects opportunities to offer its campus as a testing ground for those start-ups. “I think of the university campus as a small city: the perfect place to test new business concepts among campus residents. EUR could do a lot more in this regard. As it stands now, all those little businesses are pretty much invisible to students and members of staff.”

Big Pot Melis 2

Read more

BigPot: Alumnus-founded affordable meal enterprise kicked off with a food tasting event

Affordable food start-up Big Pot hosted an initial free tasting event last Tuesday to…