Feature

10 Mins With Paddy Griffith, CEO of Huski

Mountain meal delivery service Huski provide oven-ready menus, meals and drinks to self-catering guests in resorts across the French Alps, allowing holidaymakers to benefit from restaurant-standard meals which require minimal effort after a hard day on the slopes! This way, self-catering doesn’t have to mean pasta with whichever sauce you can find in the local Spar every evening. Huski’s meals range from Savoyarde specialties to curries and festive group feasts that have the potential to make this year’s Christmas dinner the most stress-free yet….

Now in their third year of operation, Huski have ramped things up a notch, this winter offering delivery to every single resort in the French Alps! So how exactly did a chairlift chat turn into such an innovative, successful business? We spoke to CEO Paddy Griffith to learn all about Huski’s humble beginnings, plans for the future and the surprising meal that has become a seasonaire favourite!

First things first, how did the idea for Huski come about?

My founder partner, Mark, and I were sat on a chairlift in the middle of a family ski trip, planning all the stuff we had to sort out before we were going to be allowed to chill-out and drink a beer…the firewood, the supermarket, the dinner, the picking up the kids… and we set ourself the challenge of coming up with a better way.

How did you get started?

We turned our chairlift chat into a few more pub chats, and the clincher was when we arranged a meeting with a contact at COOK food in Kent when with a freshly-baked business plan we asked for permission to export their home-made dishes to the Alps. They said yes, and we figured…”we’ve got a product to sell! maybe we should give this a go?”

How have your first few years been since? Can you tell us how many meals were served last winter?

The first year was chaotic but great fun. We got loads of things wrong and spent too much of our money, but we achieved one thing: we got 5-star reviews and proved that other skiers wanted a service like Huski too.

Then year two was tough. We knuckled down and worked on getting the business in shape, attempting and narrowly failing to break even. There were many moments when we felt like packing it in but slowly the pieces started to fall into place.

And as we now head into Year 3 we are believers again. We are selling to customers direct but also have established partnerships with some amazing Ski Holiday operators to bring our food to their guests.

This year we expect to be making 10,000 deliveries. It’s going to be a busy season!

People are usually creatures of habit when it comes to their ski holidays and catering options. Did you face any difficulties breaking into this market as a fresh new brand?

Definitely. We sit in an unknown space between the binary choices of ‘Catered’ or ‘Self Catered’ – and while we think ‘our third way’ is a total WIN WIN, skiers don’t know we exist – and they certainly are not looking for us.

I remember in Year 1 handing out flyers around Val d’Isere trying to convince people that a meal delivery service might be a good idea. But I’d say 90% of people said, “no, we like going to the supermarket (in ski boots) and cooking our own food”. It was heart-breaking.

But by working with the ski companies we are starting to solve this problem. If you book a catered package you might get offered a Huski option on the Chalet team’s nights off, or if you go Self-Catered you may be offered our meal deliveries as an extra service with your booking.

How quickly is the business expanding?

In Year 1 we served 6 resorts in the Tarentaise from a small shop in Bourg St Maurice.
By Year 2 we were up to 20 with Huski vans now also making it to the Three Valleys and Portes Du Soleil.

This year it’s our big push – delivering to all 250 resorts across the French Alps – from a big new warehouse in Bourg with a bigger team, bigger fleet and most exciting of all our own Savoyard product kitchen.

You now deliver to EVERY resort in the French Alps – how do you manage that?!

It all starts with having the right partners! Soon after Mark and I started the business we knew we needed logistics experts who could crack the challenge of delivering food all around the Alps, and when we met Anna & Duncan, a couple living in the Tarentaise but fresh out of the British Army we knew we had found them. As Captains in the army these guys had managed complex operations in wartime conditions, which put the challenge of distributing Tartiflette around a few ski resorts into perspective.

Three years on I would like to say we are the Amazon of the Alps and it’s all drone deliveries and robots….but the fact is our delivery model comes down to 3 simple things: hiring for attitude, an empowering management style, and investing in just the right amount of technology.

Do you deliver in any other countries or are you planning any further expansions?

This year is all about France but we are ambitious to go international by next season, with Switzerland the most likely candidate. We also want to crack the challenge of selling more food to French skiers…although that might take a little longer!

Which tends to be your most popular resort?

The Tarentaise is definitely our home base, with Val d’Isere, Tignes and Les Arcs leading the way. They are all popular resorts among British skiers with lots of chalets and apartments.

Is there a particular meal that has proved the most popular so far? If so, why do you think this is?

The biggest sellers are classic family-pleasers like Lasagne, Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon which are hard to beat after a day on the slopes.

But our surprise hit has been COOK’s range of curries – which have been a sensation among seasonaires who miss this most British of dishes, as well as giving skiers an alternative to cheese.

This season we are also launching our own range of locally made Savoyard dishes and we have high hopes that our Classic Tartiflette will become the #1 dish. It’s a belter!

Why should people consider Huski when thinking about their next ski holiday and their catering options?

I may be biased, but I think our service offers the perfect ski solution: The flexibility and lower prices of self-catering, with the hassle-free indulgence of Catering.

There’s a big swing happening in the industry right now from Catered to Self-Catered driven by rising staffing costs. So if you are one of those people who love a catered chalet holiday but are finding the prices a bit steep, I’d say go self-catered and give Huski a try. You may never go back!

Which is your personal favourite ski resort?

I am still looking for it, but I am pretty sure it will combine the spirit of Chamonix, the style of Zermatt, the range of Tignes and the aprés of St Anton!

Sounds like a ski resort we could get on board with!

To find out more about Huski and their services, head to: https://hu.ski/