A digital food festival will take place next week with some of London’s best-known chefs offering limited edition menus and food for delivery across the city. The Great Feast of London, which was conceived by Street Feast founder Dominic Cools-Lartigue and entrepreneur Bejay Mulenga as a real life, food and music festival representing modern London, will take place between 3 and 5 July, but continue to operate as an alternative food delivery platform, to rival the likes of Deliveroo, into the future.
While it is being marketed as a digital festival, The Great Feast will become a permanent digital marketplace, where customers “can order food, shop ethical products and attend events which merge the digital and physical world.” The initiative is also closely tied to the founders’ charity, A Plate For London: for every meal purchased through Great Feast, a separate meal is donated to a Londoner in need. They say that throughout lockdown, the charity has provided 15,000 meals to Londoners suffering from food poverty. “Our ‘buy a meal, give a meal’ promise provides...an easy way to meaningfully support Londoners struggling to feed their families,” Cools-Lartigue said.
The platform will feature food from a range of operators including some of the most famous names, Michelin-starred restaurants, and cult-followed brands in the city: Nuno Mendes, Ollie Dabbous’ Hide, Elizabeth Haigh’s Mei Mei, 12:51’s James Cochran, Jeremy Chan of Ikoyi, Moro, Bubala, Dumpling Shack, Happy Endings ice cream sandwiches, Jun Tanaka’s The Ninth, Rice Error by BAO, ASAP Pizza by Flor, and ramen shop Kanada Ya.
The original plan was to deliver food during lockdown in partnership with a major food delivery platform. However, the pair soon decided to create their own platform, using their own fleet of “green” delivery bikes and electric vans, with what they call “a fairer commission structure for independent restaurants who are struggling during lockdown.” That commission structure is designed to be more affordable for restaurants who have been dissatisfied with the bigger, existing delivery platforms. Where Deliveroo typically charges 30 to 35 percent commission on orders, Great Feast will tailor its charge to restaurants on an individual basis, ranging from 10 to 20 percent.
Beyond filling a gap which Cools-Lartigue and Mulenga have identified — and which has been spotlighted during the pandemic as many restaurants and food businesses have relied on or moved into the delivery market — they have repeatedly questioned their underlying motivations. “What are we doing, what are our values?” Cools-Lartigue said.
The answers to those questions are informed by the duo’s past roles — as festival creators, entrepreneurs, and charity organisers who want to remain connected to the hospitality and local communities to which they feel a sense of belonging: “With so many food delivery platforms saying they’re just tech companies, we’re proud to say we’re hospitality people.” Cools-Lartigue also said that if all he cared about was making money then there were other things he could do. Great Feast wants to support restaurants and chefs who have been unable to trade, to also offer an alternative platform for logistical support, and to think hard about representation and inclusion in London in 2020. They will consider which chefs and brands reflect the values of the platform; this is not an exercise in accepting all those who approach them, nor is about which can generate the most money. “It’s important and poignant right now,” Cools-Lartigue said. “This has to be inclusive and properly represent London.”
As well as hot food delivery, the platform will feature the widest selection of restaurant recipe kits in London, which have become a popular means of generating revenue and retaining brand loyalty during the pandemic. The 20 on the platform include ones from Kricket, Patty & Bun, and Anglo Thai.
All hot food available on Great Feast Delivers is pre-ordered, which is designed to help restaurants operate in “a more economical way with much less food wastage.” 24 hours’ notice will be the typical cut-off time, with no current plans to provide food on demand.
Cools-Lartigue said that “supporting our industry with a fair commission structure makes delivery a [more viable] option for at a crucial time when many can’t open their doors...at a time when small businesses need to be at their entrepreneurial best just to stay afloat.” While Mulenga pointed out that “the transformation to a ‘new normal’ over the past weeks has left an undeniable mark on London commerce, community, and culture as we knew it.”
He added that in the context of hospitality being one of the hardest hit industries over the last four months, “if there’s one crucial lesson my last 10 years in business across retail, music, education, and marketing has shown me, it’s this: innovation begins with simple ideas of value.”
Into the future, the platform will present weekly podcasts, video and editorial content “exploring food, drink, wellbeing, and wider culture,” the founder say. A physical version of the festival is an aim for the future, subject to the evolution of social distancing guidance. It will also launch a production kitchen and events space at as yet unconfirmed location in east London.
Cools-Lartigue and Mulenga are buoyed by the take-up they’ve received and remain optimistic about the direction of travel for The Great Feast. That is helped by the fact they are self-funded and sure of their purpose. “We have nobody to answer to, apart from our own consciences,” Cools-Lartigue said.
Full list of chefs and restaurants involved at launch: Nuno Mendes, HIDE’s Ollie Dabbous, Simplicity Burger x Homeslice, Elizabeth Haigh’s Mei Mei, 1251’s James Cochran, Jeremy Chan of Ikoyi, Moro, Salon, Bubala, Patty & Bun, Dumpling Shack, Kricket, Eggslut, Happy Endings, Lagom, Snackbar, Taco Queen, Kutir, Dirty Bones, Jun Tanaka’s The Ninth, Rice Error by BAO, ASAP Pizza by Flor, Kanada Ya, and Little Bread Pedlar.