Neil Rankin on plans to back new restaurants by Alyn Williams, Tom Brown, Gizzi Erskine and Jasmine Hemsley

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th January 2020

Chef Neil Rankin and Restaurateur Handley Amos are launching The pepper collective, and will back new restaurant concepts by Alyn Williams, Tom Brown, Gizzi Erskine and Jasmine Hemsley.

In an interview with The Staff Canteen, the chef owner of Temper and Simplicity Burger explained that by combining his and Handley's experience of opening close to 500 restaurants, The Pepper Collective will provide support to projects on a collaborative basis.

Focusing on talent to drive profitability, Pepper Collective will give chefs a leg up with the finnicky aspects of opening a new restaurant, from HR to legal advice, as well as a much-needed financial crutch.

"When you start off as a restaurant, you really want to come out as being very professional and have all these things, but they're almost unaffordable to most people when they start out," he said.

"To have the expense for back office when you're opening your first restaurant is a huge undertaking, and it's usually where a lot of people go wrong - trying to go it alone."

The run-down

Gizzi Erskine's restaurant will build on her vegetarian/vegan burger concept, Pure Filfth, while Jasmine Hemsley's will be an all day-dining Ayurveda wellness cafe. Alyn Williams' project, he said, will be a "single pub," and Tom Brown's will be a new restaurant concept, a step away from Cornerstone, but still very much his own idea. 

"With a lot of these guys, like Alyn and Tom, it's been: 'what else do you want to do, we need something a little more commercially viable, or smaller, or something you're really interested in doing.

"Fundamentally, the support will go to individual concepts to help them get off the ground and be profitable, without necessarily aspiring to become the kind of restaurant investors typically consider, like a chain."

"From a lot of investment vehicles, you're not getting that. They want five, they want ten, they want whatever." 

"Sometimes that's good, sometimes that works, but sometimes it takes the magic out of it. and you look to yourself and go: 'look, we don't need to do that.'" 

Financial backing, with a twist

He stressed that creative freedom would be left with the chefs, as the concepts that they're backing are already fully-fleshed out.

 "We're not necessarily opening these businesses, these are very much their businesses that we're helping them out with. It's in between a consultancy and a partnership and that whole thing helps as we grow."

The need for groups like theirs has certainly made itself felt in the industry, where launching a business is a risk few can afford to take, yet backers for independent restaurants are sparse. 

Neil said: "You can't expect people to agree to spend billions of pounds opening up restaurants anymore, so it's just a way of looking at the restaurant industry a little bit differently and looking at talent and going 'we're only going to partner with people we really believe in and we really want to see succeed. It's not just a case of us giving money to people or finding money for people and just helping anybody out." 

"It's really people that we trust and believe in and want to see be successful as well." 

The initiative is intended to be a positive driving force for the industry, not only driving restaurant profitability but giving good chefs a boost they might struggle to find elsewhere. The chef said he drew inspiration from models like JPS, with an even bigger focus on collaboration and skill.

"The industry needs a bit of a kickstart. Hopefully other people will look to this and this is the way things will go moving forward - a little bit more of a partnership base, focusing on talent - which is huge - and not letting it die out." 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th January 2020

Neil Rankin on plans to back new restaurants by Alyn Williams, Tom Brown, Gizzi Erskine and Jasmine Hemsley