Covid-19 takes big slice out of pizza startup so owner takes his pizza to the people

Photo shows: Pictured: Tom Capell with Keely Hancox of the Chamber

The owner of a start-up pizza business in Coventry is hoping for a slice of the events industry action after innovating to ensure the firm survived lockdown.

Former Coundon Court student Tom Capell launched Surf and Slice in 2019 after deciding to leave his role as quality controller at Jaguar Land Rover after five years with the company.

He bought a mobile wood-fired pizza trailer, and with help from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, which helped him set up the  and gave him advice on how to run what is is first business, he got off to a positive start, operating at Cannon Park Shopping Centre in the city and taking private bookings for events.

But when the Coronavirus crisis hit, Surf and Slice’s market dried up, Tom had to come up with a new way of keeping the business alive. So he launched his own DIY pizza kits, including all the ingredients and recipes, which he delivered all over the region.

“All in all, I delivered around 2,000 kits throughout the crisis and that kept the business going.” He wasn’t the first to come up with the idea. Leamington Spa based Birtelli’s, also adopted a similar approach.

However, as lockdown has eased, Tom has now got pitches at Dhillons Brewery, in Longford, and one at The Criterion Theatre, in Earlsdon, where he’s back out serving customers again.

“I’ve got a real focus on quality and making pizzas the right way so I am bringing the true taste of Naples to the people of Coventry,” said Tom. “I tend to have five different pizzas on the menu at any one time including unique base toppings such as pumpkin or truffle.

“I can see real potential in the events sector once that is back up and running and, eventually, would like my own outlet – possibly in Coventry city centre.”

He added: “The Chamber has been great. They were recommended to me when I was first starting out and the support has been invaluable.

“I’ve always had an interest in catering and knew I wanted to focus on quality when it came to the pizzas we offered but in every other aspect of business I am still learning.

“I’d ask questions that probably seemed really basic but my adviser would just talk me through everything. For example, at the start I was doing all my business through my personal bank account but they guided me through setting up a business account which was something I’d never done before.

“That kind of advice meant I could focus on the quality of food I was serving knowing that I had expert support helping me in other ways.”

Keely Hancox, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Surf and Slice is a great example of a new business with a strong idea of what they would like to do but need help on the other side of business.

“People can be put off establishing a business because they don’t know to get started on some of those financial and administrative tasks. Our advisers are here to help as well as being a sounding board for ideas.”

The Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme is receiving more than £9 million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

Alongside more than €750 million of European Regional Development Fund support for businesses and communities across the Midlands, the government has awarded £1.9 billion in three rounds of Growth Deals.