An innovative food retailer is throwing London’s publicans and restaurant owners a lifeline as the UK begins to come back to life following the coronavirus pandemic.
Award winning Eat17 plans to expand through franchising and is offering a proven model to pubs and restaurant owners interested in turning some floor space over to retailing.
They believe social distancing restrictions will mean many business owners will be interested in exploring how they can grow revenue by introducing retailing into their existing location.
The chain is planning to open new stores around the capital and is on the hunt for retailers, as well as pubs and restaurants who are looking to diversify and utilise space opened up by social distancing.
By introducing an Eat17 within an existing pub, restaurant or bar, the business owners can make full use of their floorspace and benefit from a new retail revenue stream.
Eat17 have pioneered combining elements of a convenience store with eating out and has achieved rapid growth, enjoying annual turnover of around £10m. It already has successful outlets in Walthamstow, Hackney, Hammersmith and Bishops Stortford.
Eat17 started in 2006 in East London, and has forged an innovative partnership with AF Blakemore, owner of 300 Spar stores and supplying 1,100 independents across the UK. It sees the grocery giant combine Spar branding with Eat17 to create a high-end convenience store.
Independent local retailers share the same aisles as Eat17’s own branded products ensuring every store is different. Each store also offers a dining experience with menus focusing on locally sourced fresh produce and tastes from across the globe, working closely with street food vendors.
Eat17 co-founder James Brundle said, “Our offering isn’t a one size fits all. Instead it’s about us working closely with publicans, restaurant owners and retailers to give them another stream of revenue as they adapt their businesses for social distancing.
“Our concept has been working well in our four stores for 14 years and it’s a model that can easily be applied to businesses that have struggled over the last three months.
“It’s a combination of a food retail outlet and in normal times, restaurants and places customers can buy quality street food.
“That model could work well with those businesses that have found things tough during lockdown. Most will already be set up with a proper catering kitchen meaning restaurant quality food is going to be a possibility.
“Where it isn’t or they want to diversify, that’s something we can help with. The same with the retail side of the business. We partner with Spar on our retail outlets. We can get into businesses and give the advice and support they need to get the retail side off the ground.
“We can also offer a large selection of foods we create ourselves from scratch including butchery items, wraps, sandwiches, sourdough bread and top quality ready meals.”
Eat17 founders James Brundle and Chris O’Connor are stepbrothers and lifelong friends who grew up close to the first Eat17 store in Walthamstow.
After pursuing different careers, the pair came together to plough their savings into converting a run-down off licence into their first outlet. They devoted all their cash and every hour of the day to the project, even sleeping in a beaten-up red transit van outside the shop.
Since then the business has grown to include four stores each unique to their location and offering different food and dining choices.
During the pandemic, Eat17 has had to diversify their business to work around lockdown and the restrictions in place. Home delivery has been introduced for the food retail and street food sides of the business.
James continued: “The last three months have undoubtedly been tough for retailers and we’re having to find new ways to do business and reach customers.
“Home delivery has very become part of our core offering and restrictions have been put in place in store to ensure our staff and customers remain safe.
“For other businesses, the pandemic has hit much harder and they’re the people we want to reach now and help them create a new stream of revenue with a unique offering for their local area.”