Steve Denham visits Vim Odedra’s West Chiltington store, where he has launched a successful catering service making Indian curries.

On a recent trip to West Sussex I took the opportunity to visit the store I used to own in West Chiltington. The current owner, Vim Odedra, had told me that he had started an Indian meal service and that he wished to treat me to lunch so that I could sample the food.

Vim-1[17]What I discovered when I talked to manager Malik and his wife Mani was that they had not set out to develop a catering business. Their primary role is operating a village shop and Post Office. The customers just kept on saying that they loved the aroma of the food that was being prepared in the kitchen and kept asking if they could buy it to take home.

Eventually Vim and his team decided that they should work out whether cooking and selling meals from the facilities they had was feasible. He put the project in the hands of his daughter Minal, and she researched the regulations. This included contacting the local council to discover what they required for a limited catering business.

An Environmental Health Officer visited the premises and after hearing about what was being proposed and inspecting the preparation and cooking area (the domestic kitchen) gave their approval.

The meals are all prepared to meet each individual order and are created from fresh ingredients. These ingredients are, where possible, locally produced, with meat from West Chiltington Butchers next door, tomatoes from the grower in the village and coriander from their own back garden.curry vim

I had a lamb curry with rice and chapatti for lunch and can say that it was cooked with great care and was delicious. The real test, of course, is whether their customers will buy from the menu. The answer is simple: yes they do. Just as I was about to leave the store an order for six meals was taken for collection that evening.

The lesson from this is a simple one. Listen to your customers, do the research, understand the regulations and gain the correct permissions. Price correctly and always deliver quality.

The Food standards agency publish a booklet called Starting up: Your first steps to running a catering business that gives all the information you need if you are thinking about starting a hot food business.