London Union, the newly-formed parent company of Street Feast backed by a consortium of big names in the food scene, is launching a crowdfunding campaign later this year to raise £3.5m to create its flagship London food market.
Jonathan Downey, who co-founded the venture with Leon’s Henry Dimbleby, told M&Che wants to bring together parts of the food scene happening across London to create a flagship destination for food that will transform the food landscape in London and open up disused spaces in the capital to create a world-class food market.
A number of locations are under consideration - including a floating barge on the Thames and the old Smithfield’s Fish Market in Farringdon - to house the market, which is expected to open in 2016/17.
The venue will include anchor tenants and rotating stalls with fresh produce stalls alongside street food. A number of the founder investors are interested in taking pitches at the venue when it opens as well as the established network of Street Feast traders.
As well as the flagship venue, London Union is looking to add 15 local, day and night markets in semi-permanent locations across the city over the next five years.
These will be a mixture of lease lengths dependent on the sites with some operating for a single season or for a couple of years.
Downey said the group wants to create not only a viable business but also really help communities and parts of London that have lacked investment in recent years.
“If we can repeat what we have done in Lewisham with Model Market I will be very happy.”
He estimates up to 200 street food vendors could become involved with London Union and believes there will be a wave of professional chefs turning away from traditional kitchen to pursue a career in street food.
“It depends how many people jump onto the scene and see it as a viable income and good lifestyle with a balance that isn’t offered in some basement kitchens working seven days a week.”
London Union is backed by some of the biggest names in the British food scene, including Jamie Oliver and Soho House’s Nick Jones.
The new venture, which also includes Bill Granger, Nigella Lawson , Thomasina Miers and Russell Norman as backers, has already opened three local markets this year: Model Market in Lewisham, Dalston Yard in E8, and Dinerama in Shoreditch. These markets are expected to welcome 750,000 visitors in the next 12 months, create over 400 jobs and support over 60 small businesses.
The consortium of food enthusiasts has invested almost £1m in the start-up, with 30 of Street Feast’s 60-plus strong network of traders having also chosen to invest in the venture.
Downey said: “London is the greatest city in the world, but it doesn’t yet have the world’s greatest food markets. With London Union we are going to change that.
“The past 18 months have been phenomenal for Street Feast. We’ve turned underused and derelict parts of London into lively food markets that have brought people together, created countless jobs and helped individuals get their new business ideas off the ground. We’re making a real difference to local communities and London Union will help us take this model to a whole new level.”
He told M&C he wants London Union’s flagship venue to rival the food markets in Paris, Barcelona, Rotterdam and south east Asia and combine elements of the food scene that are currently happening in separate spaces across the capital.
Co-founder Henry Dimbleby said: “London is in danger of being hollowed out. It is full of empty spaces that have been bought by investors awaiting planning to build flats. We want to take those spaces and use them to create something both profitable and positive for Londoners. In particular we want our flagship market to become one of the great global food destinations and to cement London’s place as the street food capital of the world.”
The Street Feast model takes underused and neglected spaces in London and turns them into “vibrant street food markets”, bringing communities together, creating employment, and providing opportunities for new food traders to establish themselves without requiring large amounts of capital.
Dimbleby said: “Beautifully designed and lit, each market will be like a miniature town of independent street food traders. With a great crowd, rooftop bars and music festival vibes, these markets will offer some of the best food available anywhere in the world.”
The London Union board of founder investors comprises: Petra Barran – founder of KERB; Rosie Boycott – chair, The London Food Board; Giles Coren – writer, broadcaster and restaurant critic, The Times; Gizzi Erskine – chef and food writer, The Sunday Times; Bill Granger – founder of Bill’s (Australia/Japan) and Granger & Co; Nick Jones – founder and CEO of Soho House Group; Nigella Lawson – food writer and broadcaster; Thomasina Miers – co-founder/director of Wahaca and writer, Guardian; Russell Norman, Richard Beatty – owners of the Polpo Group; Jamie Oliver – chef, broadcaster and restaurateur; Marina O’Loughlin – writer and restaurant critic, The Guardian; Tom Parker-Bowles – food writer and restaurant critic, Mail on Sunday, and Food Editor, Esquire; Stevie Parle – Chef/owner of The Dock Kitchen, Rotorino and Craft London; José Pizarro – Chef/owner of José and Pizarro; Mark Sainsbury – Owner of the Zetter Group and Grain Store, co-founder of the Sustainable Restaurant Association; Shamil Thakrar – Co-founder of Dishoom; Richard Turner – Chef/partner in Hawksmoor and Turner & George; and Yotam Ottolenghi – Co-owner of Ottolenghi and Nopi, and food writer, The Guardian.
Stef Calcraft, who co-founded the advertising agency Mother, is the new company’s chairman.