Since FoodCycle started cooking, back in May 2009, they’ve served over 125,000 meals – cooked by volunteers who rescue good food and cook nutritious meals for their guests. FoodCycle combine surplus food, volunteers and spare kitchen spaces to create nutritious three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

Growing from the London-based ‘hub’ to eight around the UK in its first three years, FoodCycle recognised they needed external assistance to further scale nationally.

FoodCycle approached ICSF to help develop a strategic plan to scale their social impact in a sustainable way. FoodCycle has now scaled to over 29 new locations and is on track to fulfilling ambitious growth plans to reach thousands more lives.

Read further for an in depth insight into our work with FoodCycle.

ICSF made an invaluable contribution to the development of our social franchise system and the supporting documentation that we needed to develop. ICSF have a unique mix of business format franchising experience and an understanding and awareness of the challenges faced by organisations in the third sector. We could not have developed our social franchise system so efficiently and quickly – they were there for us every step of the way.

Kieran Daly, Head of Programmes

Sharing a meal
Enjoying FoodCycle's hospitality

Challenge

Our challenge was to expand volunteer-powered community projects from 8 to 200+ sites across the UK, working to reduce food poverty and social isolation by serving tasty, nutritious meals to vulnerable people.

FoodCycle is a UK nonprofit that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

In its first three years (2009-2011), FoodCycle grew rapidly, from its London-based pilot to eight ‘hubs’ around the UK. Collectively the hubs:

  • Served over 16,000 meals using reclaimed food
  • Recovered over 11,000 kilograms of food
  • Catalysed over 13,000 volunteer hours
  • Organised over 60 community-building events

As of 2012 however the large amount of time the central staff expended on problem solving at headquarters and the over-reliance on FoodCycle to fundraise centrally meant the model was not capable of scaling nationally.

Acknowledging they did not have the internal expertise nor finance resource, in 2013 FoodCycle secured a grant from Nesta to work with us.

FoodCycle came to us with an ambitious scale target – moving from 8 to 200+ delivery sites. Our task was to help FoodCycle design a detailed roadmap for rapid scale, systemise operations and then pilot the new system.

Approach

We designed and helped to implement a social franchise model that was successfully piloted in three locations and continues to inform FoodCycle’s expansion plan.

Applying our Five Stages of Social Replication, the first stage of developing the plan to scale FoodCycle’s impact involved conducting an internal review of their model and subsequently identifying a franchise model as the most suitable social replication method.

After designing the franchise model, we supported FoodCycle’s journey in getting itself franchise-ready, by assisting the team codify key processes, procedures and policies. We worked with FoodCycle to identify which operations were key success drivers, which policies and procedures crucially needed to be codified for franchisees, and ensured quality assurance measures were put in place between FoodCycle and franchisees.

We then helped FoodCycle pilot the new franchise model in three new locations and introduced a formal feedback loop and multiple checkpoints to ensure key lessons, successes and failures, were being captured and learned from.

Results

FoodCycle has now scaled to over 29 new locations and is on track to fulfilling ambitious growth plans to reach thousands more through the new social franchise model.

As a result of a successful piloting stage FoodCycle has now scaled up to over 29 locations and is seeking to expand to a minimum of a further 12 hubs across London over the next three years to reach thousands of new beneficiaries.

Whilst undergoing the expansion process FoodCycle is maintaining consistent performance on its social impact targets and beneficiary reach. From 2014 to 2015 FoodCycle experienced a year on year increase in food waste redirection (7%), meals served (26%) and volunteer hours contributed (13%).