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Cafes, catering and cooking with the Social Pantry – meet Alex Head

By Isabella Gerber — May 13, 2017

Founded in 2011 by Alex Head, Social Pantry was born out of an adoration for fresh, seasonal and delicious food. Alex started her first business at the age of 15, selling sandwiches off the back of her bike in Saudi Arabia. Her hard work and entrepreneurial spirit took her from hand-delivery to owning and running Social Pantry: an events and catering company with a café in Battersea of the same name.

Alex’s unassuming and cool approach to food and entertaining has seen Social Pantry become the go-to catering company for brands such as Alexander McQueen, with her popular supper club nights named as ‘One To Watch’ by Harper’s Bazaar. In the past year alone, the Social Pantry team has tripled with a team of over 25 staff operating across three sites in London.

Alex has carefully selected a handful of charities that naturally align with Social Pantry values and is very proud to work with the likes of Key 4 Life and Bad Boys Bakery. As part of the Key 4 Life scheme, Alex employs ex-young offenders as part of her full time kitchen team – helping young men to learn how to reintegrate into society once they’re released from prison and offering guidance and support.

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We had the chance to catch up with Alex

Tell us a bit about the Social Pantry?

Social Pantry is a London based event and corporate contract catering company with a fun little café on Lavender Hill in Battersea – best known for hit-the-spot brunches and sell out supper club evenings.It all started when I was 14 years old, living in Saudi Arabia. I did my very best to avoid school work and instead, decided that my time would be much better spent trying to make some pocket money. So, I started my first business at the age of 15, selling sandwiches from the back of my bike. After a lot of hard work and late nights, I have gone from hand-delivering sandwiches to now owning and running my own catering business. There’s nothing I love more than seeing my friends and family enjoying good food; since my teenage years, cooking and entertaining for others has been a huge part of my life.

As the founder of Social Pantry, what does your typical day look like?

I love the variation of my job, one day I am at the café chatting seasonal menus and coffee making, the next at a smart law firm with our in-house catering team, serving street food at one of our venues, or having a morning of legal and accounts. It’s all very fluid, I’ll always try to be where I’m needed. I have an incredible team of skilled, supportive and flexible staff who allow us as a company to be very reactive.

What do you enjoy most about doing your own thing? 

I love the freedom of being able to take on any challenge. Over the years we have said yes to pretty much every catering scenario presented to us, from Notting Hill Carnival to Football teams there is no catering enquiry we will not take on which means it has always been very diverse. Everyday is different and I the challenges presented I seem to thrive on.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced in creating your business?

Growing a business without funding is one of the hardest things to do, I have made many mistakes and am always learning but I often go with my gut. Knowing the market and capacity of the team, I will recruit as and when I have a new venture or when we are at full capacity and completely run off our feet. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with running a company you have created, you can’t just go home, switch off and forget about it over the weekend. Social media has been great to build the profile for Social Pantry. When I first started my business, the importance of social media was still undiscovered, I’d have jumped on the bandwagon much earlier had I know how crucial it is to a small business. Instagram is a great, cost effective, marketing tool and Google ranking is key however word of mouth is king. When you have a great experience, you are bound to tell your friends.

Here at Eyedea have been honored to host some of the world’s leading women in business across different sectors. Who would you say are the women who inspire you?

I love this question as there are so many brilliant women who always have and still are inspiring to me. I admire someone like Thomasina Miers as she is clearly a not only a total business guru but an incredibly cool, inspirational cook at the same time.

Darina Allen who started Ballymaloe many years ago has created a total empire in Cork, Ireland which myself and Thomasina attended along with many others. It’s a very special place and Darina herself a very special woman who I have completely admired from the age of 17.

Taking it out of the cooking world I am heading off on holiday with Jo Malone’s autobiography, which I am excited to read after listening to her desert island discs, what she has overcome, built and created is just incredible.

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What would be your top 3 words of advice for anyone thinking of branching out in this direction?

  • Make sure you love it as you will work harder than you can ever imagine
  • Plan and always have a contingency fund as you never know what is round the corner
  • Enjoy it; you’ll meet some great people along the way.

Social Pantry has gone from strength to strength since its start up, how do you see it taking shape over the next few years?

Personally, I would love to write a cookbook and share my great insider tips on entertaining and taking the fear out of cooking for a crowd, I also want to become a TV presenter! (no joke…!) There are so many exciting opportunities for Social Pantry; we’re constantly looking ahead to what’s next and ways to get there. I would love to see Social Pantry in more great London venues over the next year.

You can explore more about Social Pantry here

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