The Cheese Bar’s Journey From Food Truck to Seven Figures and Multichannel Success

One of my favorite things to do in London is let my feet and feelings take me to new neighborhoods and eateries. On a recent day of exploring and eating, my friend Olga and I found ourselves at Seven Dials Market. The indoor market has more than 20 different food vendors, but a conveyor belt circulating copious amounts of cheese caught our eye.

The street view outside of Seven Dials Market during a December evening with holiday lights decorating the building.
Our final evening stop was Seven Dials Market, which led to our discovery of The Cheese Bar, which serves British cheese on a conveyor belt. Shuang Esther Shan 

The 40-meter-long conveyor belongs to Pick & Cheese, a restaurant showcasing British cheeses and accompaniments like charcuterie, jams, pickles, and wine. 

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Pick & Cheese itself is a part of The Cheese Bar, a collection of restaurants and retail stores that was initially launched in 2014 by Mathew Carver as a mobile food venue called The Cheese Truck.

 Pick & Cheese setting within Seven Dials Market filled with patrons on its seats and servers behind its conveyor belt serving up wine and cheese.
Pick & Cheese is a part of The Cheese Bar, which has three restaurants, a retail store, and an online subscription business.   Nic Crilly-Hargrave 

Mathew’s entry into the food scene was done with lots of planning and thought, complete with a trip to the United States to learn more about the street food scene. 

“The research trip was really trying to gain insight into food trends, especially with street food and food trucks,” Mathew explains. “At the time, in London, our street food culture was just taking shape. So the idea was to go to the States and see what was happening there, because the industry was maybe a few years further down the road.”

Mathew Carver, in his retail location, Funk, which showcases a wide variety of British cheeses.
Mathew Carver, in his retail location, Funk, which showcases a wide variety of British cheeses.  Nic Crilly-Hargrave 

Noticing a gap within the London food scene for cheese-centric eateries, Mathew decided to highlight local cheese producers through a food truck. But financing proved to be a hurdle, so he pivoted to testing out the idea on a smaller scale. 

“We started with a market stall, fairly low financial startup costs—I think somewhere in the region of a few hundred pounds—to buy a griddle to cook the sandwiches on and some Tupperwares and basic kitchen equipment,” says Mathew.

Various plates of cheese on a conveyor belt from a bird’s-eye view at the restaurant Pick & Cheese.
Before committing to a truck, Mathew tested out his idea by operating a stall at a food market. Nic Crilly-Hargrave 

Once the concept was validated at food markets and Mathew had enough savings, the team purchased an old ice cream truck to drive the idea further. Sticking to the dairy theme, the vehicle was converted into The Cheese Truck, and the team grew the business even more by operating at concerts, festivals, and events.

A grilled cheese sandwich along with salad and a beverage served inside The Cheese Barge location of The Cheese Bar.
The Cheese Barge serves up grilled cheese and other dishes while floating on London’s Regent Canal. Shuang Esther Shan 

“I think we were really lucky at the time that we were in the right industry at the right time,” Mathew says. “Street food in 2014 in London was just kicking off. So there were lots of opportunities, and most corporate events wanted street food businesses to come and do the food.”

A box by Funk filled with a bottle of wine, cheeses, and a poster.
COVID restrictions forced The Cheese Bar online, and the team adapted the business by offering wine-and-cheese subscriptions. The Cheese Bar

Building on the momentum, The Cheese Truck turned into The Cheese Bar in 2017, when the team built its first restaurant in Camden Market. From one location to three, the business grew each year until 2020, when doors had to shut due to COVID. 

“Overnight we closed the restaurants. Helen and Taylor, who works with me, very quickly found Shopify,” shares Mathew. “[We] found it pretty quick and easy to set up an online site.” 

The COVID pivot moved The Cheese Bar online by offering wine-and-cheese subscriptions under the moniker Funk, which helped the business survive past lockdown-induced restaurant closures. Once things opened again, Funk also took up a physical retail location to service the community in person. Similar to the initial challenge of purchasing a truck, Mathew and his team adapted and turned a challenge into a chance to grow the business.

A pair of yellow socks along with a t-shirt and tote bag offered by Funk the online and retail store operated by The Cheese Bar.
Along with wine-and-cheese subscriptions, Funk also offers merchandise like socks and shirts that let patrons showcase their love for cheese. The Cheese Bar

Now closing in on a decade in business, Mathew is setting his sights on bigger plans to expand beyond London to even more locations.

The twists and turns of building The Cheese Bar are just one of the topics Mathew shared on the show. Tune in to the full episode of Shopify Masters to hear about Mathew’s fundraising journey and advice for fellow food entrepreneurs when expanding.