Monika Linton first discovered Spain and its flair through the travel stories of her father. In den 1950s, her dad drove from coast to coast on his motorcycle and slept in haylofts in the countryside – an idyllic picture that left a strong impression. Monika wanted to learn the language, immerse herself in the culture and enjoy Spanish food. Today, decades later, she is the founder and owner of two successful companies which are precisely based on this passion: Brindisa Ltd. imports and distributes Spanish delicatessen, Brindisa Kitchens is the name of a small series of tapas bars in London. What is the story behind this passion which evolved into a business that has been successful for 30 years now?
After having earned her university degree in Spanish in 1980, Monika decided to move to Catalonia to work as a teacher. She wanted to learn more about the locals and above all, about the food – as this was something she felt particularly attracted to. “Before my apprenticeship in Spain, I worked in a wonderful Spanish restaurant throughout the summer months. That was when I fell in love with the flavours, aromas and colours of the Mediterranean cuisine”, Monika raves. But above all, she admired people’s close connection with food and the culinary traditions of the Spanish people. This fascination became the basis for her future life story.
The brilliant idea for the foundation of the Brindisa company occurred to Monika after her return to London. Still under the impression of her time in Spain, Monika organized a dinner party for which her brother Mark brought along a box of Spanish cheese. This box increased Monika’s curiosity about the products and goods of Spanish manufacturers and about how they could be transported to England. That very evening she took a decision and proposed a toast at the table – she made known that she wanted to start her own enterprise. “Brindisa is inspired by the Spanish word ‘brindar’ or ‘hacer un brindis’, which means something like ‘to propose a toast’. Brindis S.A. became Brindisa”, Monika explains. The first Spanish products sold by her were select wines which her brother shipped from Spain to Great Britain. The dream to sell Spanish food in London began to take shape.
The wines were followed by a selection of foodstuffs from the peninsula and the Spanish Islands. Gradually, sausages, ham, cheese, canned fish, olives, olive oil and many more things were added. It did not take long until the best foods that Spain had to offer were shipped to London in the Sprinter. In 1988, Spain was not yet a Member of the EU. Monika became a pioneer in the importation of Spanish foods. “This, in turn, enabled us to work as a rather unconventional business which was a good approach”, Monika thinks. Since in the beginning she did not have any experience in company management, it makes her really happy that she has been running a successful business for 30 years now.
We hope that we can bring about changes by cooperating with small rural producers and selecting foodstuffs which are healthy, ethical and integral.
As early as 1998, Brindisa catered for chefs, merchants and curious foodies – the time had come to go one step further. With a lot of energy and resources, London’s first traditional tapas bar was created, soon to be followed by one in another location. A variety of Spanish Tapas, as well as a selection of main dishes, has been offered there to this day. Twice a week, products from Spain arrive in London – in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. “The brand is known for its reliability, sturdiness and workmanship, and these qualities are also essential for the daily deliveries across London”, says Monika. In addition, the vehicles are equipped with refrigerators. Besides, the refrigeration compartment can be subdivided to create a deep-freeze area.
Of course, the company is affected by the Brexit. “The uncertainty, the resulting fluctuations of the British pound and the risk that we may be restricted in our freedom of movement make things very difficult for us”, says Monika. In order to counteract these problems and the costs involved, certain measures were taken. These included the creation of small internal teams for project management, an external consultant in the executive board and the performance of selected services that enrich life. The intention was to focus on the core of the business and a healthy growth. Brindisa started off as a pioneer and did not have any competitors at the time. However, times are changing. “Our current goal is to make sure that we will continue to be the market leader in Great Britain for top-quality Spanish foods, product innovations and the best customer service.”