Written by Seth Rowden Posted 4 October 2022
For those of you who don’t know (which is most of you), I happen to live in Norwich.
Ironically, I moved here from Brighton, the exact reverse migration of the Norfolk-born Creative Director of UnitedUs, the agency behind Farmyard Frozen.
Like many restaurants in 2020, Farmyard in Norwich had to think creatively about how to serve its à la carte menu to customers who couldn’t leave their homes.
You could say that Farmyard Frozen is a more refined version of their lockdown experiments, although that would be unfair. It’s more accurate to say it’s lockdown-inspired.
These are restaurant-quality frozen meals made from locally-sourced ingredients and delivered across the UK. Before we get into the spin-off brand, we should probably talk about the restaurant itself.
Since it’s basically down the road, I’ve eaten at Farmyard several times. We’re lucky to have dozens of incredible restaurants on the doorstep – Benedicts (my favourite), Roger Hickman’s, Benoli, Woolf & Social, Stoke Mill, The Wildebeest, XO, L’Hexagone to merely scratch the surface without even venturing towards the rural gems like Rocky Bottom, Steak In The Sticks, The Orange Tree and dozens of others.
I could write a book about the creative transformation Norwich has gone through in recent years, but that isn’t the purpose of the article. The point is, Farmyard sits within a lively food scene.
So how does it measure up?
Well, it’s right up there. The Farmyard is a three AA Rosette restaurant run by husband and wife Andrew Jones and Hannah Springham. Jay Rayner said some nice things about them, which is unusual in itself, and he wanted to hug the staff.
The interior is modern and full of natural light. It’s always busy yet never crowded. Think vibrant, relaxed and minimal without feeling stark or cold. There are no tablecloths or candles, just great food that’ll put a smile on your face.
Like a satisfying wine pairing, the frozen range needed to compliment the look and feel of the restaurant.
The choice to focus on short “bite-sized” slogans makes sense. The copy isn’t doing the heavy lifting it would on a menu. There are no abstract descriptions that are impossible to decipher and hard to pronounce.
Instead, the language is unpretentious – stuff you’d blurt out after tasting a mouthful of tender beef wellington (only to realise with a blush that you might want to rephrase).
Many of these tongue-in-cheek slogans lean towards sexual innuendo, the sort of thing Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas might come out with to raise a smile from a contestant.
The design further amplifies a colourful, bold and humorous brand voice. Hot pink type is drawn almost like it’s written by a finger dipped in sauce – not so literal that it’s gross, but just enough to suggest a hands-on attitude to food.
You don’t need a refined palate to feel included. The language helps to demystify fine dining and appeal to a younger audience who might not frequent the restaurant or could even feel intimidated by the whole experience.
This last point is important.
I wonder how many Farmyard customers understand the pop culture reference behind the “No carbs before Marbs” mantra. That said, Farmyard Frozen is speaking to a new demographic; it’s a different price point and proposition to booking a table at their restaurant.
Rather than replicating the in-person dining experience or competing with the freezer aisle in the supermarket, Farmyard Frozen sits somewhere in the middle.
You might assume they’re speaking to new parents who are too exhausted to eat out, couples who subscribe to Hello Fresh or grab a mid-week Charlie Bingham, hosts who want to claim all the glory, or those who thumb-swipe a Deliveroo on a Friday night.
And you wouldn’t be wrong.
But there’s an opportunity for Farmyard Frozen to embrace a more ambitious vision.
Instead of marketing themselves as posh frozen meals or a tastier alternative to a take-away that’s been sweating in a bag for the last 15 minutes, I wonder if their arrival marks the start of a more exciting culinary movement.
One where chef-run restaurants continue the “from our yard to yours” relationships they started in 2020. Where food lovers can support local businesses, order from chefs they love and sample highlights from a seasonal menu, even if they live miles away.
The fact these meals are frozen is almost a side note.
It’s simply a means for decent restaurants who care deeply about food to achieve two goals: create additional revenue streams and scale their business without becoming a chain.
I hope this concept is a success. I hope customers brighten up their freezers with Farmyard Frozen. But most of all, I hope other restaurants follow.