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What's holding back our brilliant 'foodpreneurs'?

Byline: THOM HETHERINGTON

MANCHESTER has produced some of the most exciting food and drink operators of the last decade.

From the team behind Socio Rehab and Almost Famous and the developers of Black Dog Ballroom and Crazy Pedro's, to contemporary operators like Mission Mars, who own Albert's Schloss and now Rudy's, not to mention the hotbed of food and drink entrepreneurs making their homes in Ancoats and the area around Chapel Street in Salford.

What is surprising is not that Manchester's bar-owners and restaurateurs have launched so many significant venues, but that so few of them have grown into operations with tens of sites spanning the country, rather than just the M62 'Expansion Pack' of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.

Of course growth isn't always the aim, but for many of these entrepreneurs scale would have been the ambition. So why hasn't it happened? Running NRB, the north's hospitality trade exhibition, I wanted to find out what might be holding back these hungry 'foodpreneurs', so we commissioned research which showed that up north there was significantly less access to finance - whether banks, private equity or investment from other operators - which, in turn, meant young companies in the region weren't exposed to strong, experienced outside voices demanding better process and structure.

You can run a couple of great restaurants or bars through nothing more than passion and hard work, but to get to 50 you need serious funding, an FD and an HR manager, paperwork, process and head office resilience.

Finance tends to be centred in London, where these good habits become ingrained and passed onto each new start-up, but at NRB we felt strongly that being based up here shouldn't be a disadvantage.

So we decided to kick-start this same process, of engaging with the experts who can help advise and direct young businesses, here in Manchester.

March 18 sees the launch of the inaugural 'NRB Future', a unique networking event pairing some of the region's leading experts on hospitality law, finance, property and more with a hand-picked cohort of the most brilliant start-ups and fast growth operators in the north.

We agonised as to the format of the event - should it be a talk, a forum, some complex speed-dating set-up with VR and AI? But then common sense prevailed.

Conversation flows over good food and good wine and this is the hospitality industry after all, so we're taking everyone for a long lunch at Hawksmoor.

I don't doubt that ideas will be exchanged, relationships will be forged and the future of northern hospitality will emerge.

? NRB Future takes place the day before NRB 2019, the North's hospitality industry exhibition, which takes place at Manchester Central on March 18 and 19. Free tickets are available for hospitality professionals at northernrestaurantandbar.co.uk

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Thom Hetherington

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 10, 2019
Words:465
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