From the West Indies to the West Midlands
Following on from our overview of Brixton Village and Market Row (MTN April 2015, issue 180) https://www.markettradenews.com/londonsbrixton-village-and-market-row/, Kirsty Flatt went to visit Market Operations Manager, Rachid Ghailane and Geraud Markets UK Area Manager, David Palmer- Barnes to hear about the exciting opportunity that the restaurant and café retailers have to join one of the UK’s finest Food Festivals and the work that is being done behind the scenes to ensure Brixton remains a busy, vibrant shopping experience.
BRIXTON VILLAGE GOES ON TOUR
Stratford Town Centre Food Festival will be coming to Stratford-upon Avon on 18th-20th September 2015 and this year they will be supported by some of the food traders from Brixton. The festival will feature local food stalls from Stratford’s three markets; the Farmers Market, Craft Market and Sunday Up-Market, along with arts and crafts and international food stalls, with extensive festival style street entertainment throughout the weekend. Local food outlets and restaurants have been invited to participate along with every restaurant in the Brixton Village and Market Row. Central to the Food Festival are celebrity chefs Simon Rimmer and James Martin, who will be giving Culinary Master Classes in the food demonstration tents over the weekend. There will also be hands-on cookery demonstrations, expert talks, and workshops.
The festival is organised by Stratforward BID team, and event partners Groupe Geraud, the stall organisers at the event, who have been instrumental in helping to persuade some of Brixton Village’s and Market Row’s café and restaurant owners to get on board. This is the first year in its new guise and at the time of going to press, there were a number of Brixton retailers already confirmed with several others in the process of sorting out the logistics.
As you would expect from central London, some of the traders don’t have access to a vehicle and so Rachid and David are looking at ways in which they can encourage the restaurateurs to pool resources, whether it is through hiring equipment or sharing transportation costs. Despite some of the retailers having no previous outside catering experience, they are used to catering in large numbers and their enthusiasm for participating was apparent. I caught up with some of them:
Someone whose enthusiasm for the festival was electric, was Stafford from Healthy Eaters; a Jamaican Food café situated just on the outskirts of Market Row. He originally set up stall in the street market back in 2002 before taking on the shop in 2009 and hopes to offer franchising opportunities soon. He specialises in healthier Jamaican food and offers a local delivery service, courtesy of brightly coloured bicycles painted in the black, green and gold of the Jamaican flag.
He said, ‘This is a great opportunity and I’m very excited about going to Stratford.’
Mexican restaurant Casa Morita has also signed up to go and will be offering authentic South American dishes at the festival. It has been at the market for three and a half years selling authentic food, along with a selection of Mexican produce and potent, tequila based drinks.
Maurilio Goncalves set up his Brazilian Restaurant Carioca three years ago and said of the market, ‘So much goes on at Brixton Market and Village, everyone knows about it and I wanted to be part of that.’ Carioca is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner selling classics such as feijoada, Brazil’s national dish of stewed meat and beans, as well as the sugar cane spirit cocktail, caipirinhas, which he hope to be able to sell at the food festival. It was recently voted by Buzzfeed as one of the best places to eat breakfast in London.
Mr Wilson Abrahan is the proprietor of Jalisco, a Mexican restaurant popular with locals for its horaloca (happy hour) situated in Brixton Village. He wants to be at the food festival but not being able to drive is a barrier that Rachid is helping him to overcome.
Also hoping to join is Claudia, the joint owner of Senzala, a creperie bar and café which has been trading for four years. The food festival is something that they would like to be a part of but they are currently finalising the logistics.
Unfortunately, the owner of Fish, Wings and Tings wasn’t available during my visit but I understand that he will be going to Stratford Upon- Avon. As the name suggests, it specialises in Caribbean food and is situated on the corner of Brixton Village, with plenty of outside seating. As it was a sunny day, we decided to sample his offerings and if his goat roti and curry goat were anything to go by, he should have some happy customers outside of London.
Rachid spoke to owner of Oracle’s Organic Juice Bar, Ifatunde, whilst I was there and he seemed very keen to join those already confirmed. As well as a wide range of organic juices and smoothies, Oracle’s also sell a selection of vegan sandwiches, meals and nutritious soups. Ifatunde is also a singer and a bit of a local celebrity. He has his first album coming out at the beginning of August and will be opening a mini festival that will be taking place in the Market during the first week of September.
Mini festivals are just one of the initiatives that Rachid has put in place. He hopes to run one every two months with a particular theme. There are currently over 60 nationalities represented across the two sites and he hopes that the different communities will get involved, creating a bit of healthy competition between the countries, with a prize for the winning ‘team’ at the end of the year.
In 2009, there were 25 vacant units in Brixton Village and eight in Market Row; with some foresight, ingenuity and creative pricing, Rachid filled them all within two years and now has a waiting list of over 500 hopefuls. What was very apparent during my visit is that he is a well-known and respected figure amongst the traders, many of whom he has been with since the beginning, having interviewed them and helped them with not only their application process but also offering guidance and advice when needed during difficult trading periods.
He introduced ‘Life after five’ five years ago, to create an evening culture within the market and currently 27 traders have signed up for it. Whenever there is something on at Brixton Academy, the markets are buzzing and getting a seat at any of the participating restaurants is almost impossible without a reservation. Rachid hopes to enhance this with more live entertainment in the form of a busker’s or open mike area which would be marked by a flag or temporary stage. Family friendly events are also part of his focus and he is looking at the possibilities of having clowns, magicians and face painting available to keep children entertained.
An exciting initiative that is due to go live from August is a customer loyalty scheme. The Swiipi card is a relatively new concept, launched last year, which already has over 400 hundred retailers on its books. Rachid has elected twenty market traders who he thinks will benefit the most from the scheme to sign up, with Groupe Geraud funding the cost for the first year. Customers have the option of downloading the Swipii app or registering online for a card which also comes with a key fob. It works in much the same as any other loyalty programme in that customers get their card or device scanned with their purchase and gain points that they can then redeem with the participating retailers. Customers will have to provide certain information to qualify for the scheme including their email address and contact details. This will form part of a database that will be held centrally by Group Geraud with retailers being able to access their own customer details. This will enable both the company and participating traders to determine the shopping habits of visitors to the markets as well as finding out how many are local people and how effective marketing is to draw in tourists and visitors from further afield. In turn, this could initiate different products being offered or be used to promote special events and card holder exclusive offers.
Each outlet will have a loyalty offer unique to them so they determine how many points need to be accumulated before the customer is ‘rewarded’. For example, a cafe may choose to offer a point with every coffee purchased and after fifteen transactions, they then give a free one. They can have more than one level of reward, depending on what they choose to offer. These are not transferable against other businesses so for example you wouldn’t be able to accumulate points at a coffee outlet and redeem them at a participating pizza parlour. This makes the system fair and rewards loyalty at the source.
The retailers will be supplied with a mini iPad where customers will be able to ‘scan’ their card, key fob or mobile phone. They can see instantly how many points they have accumulated with that particular trader and should they choose to redeem an offer, it is instantly updated that they have ‘spent’ those points. Rachid has worked hard to alleviate any concerns that those taking part might have and has organised for a full training session from Swipii’s developers.
Marketing in the form of posters will take place in and around the market and 25,000 cards will be given out on the High Street. Retailers will also have their own stock of cards to hand out to loyal customers wishing to sign up. Rachid believes that he is the first market in London to offer this service.
It is clear that neither Rachid or Groupe Geraud are resting on their laurels, they are determined to combat competition and keep their markets alive with fresh, innovative ideas, whilst supporting their traders. As David commented, ‘Corporately, we need to do more and this includes at local level. Groupe Geraud’s aim is to support traders and make them successful.’
Brixton Village and Market Row is open from 08.00 – 18.00 Mondays, until 23.30 Tuesday to Saturday with some Sunday trading. For more information, contact Rachid on 020 7274 2990, during office hours or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone 0207 274 2990