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Interview: Tim Gee on spotting future street food stars

Photo of Fred Sirieix, host of Million Pound Menu. Image copyright BBC/Andrew Hayes-Watkins

Million Pound Menu, BBC Two’s new six-part business series, airs its first episode on the 17th May and Allied London’s Tim Gee will feature.

The show, filmed on location in Spinningfields, Manchester, shines a light on the UK’s newest and most exciting food traders who are looking for investment to scale-up and establish their brands – more information is available via the BBC Media Centre.

Allied London launched its own Street Food Competition in 2015, The Kitchens, which also offered street food traders the chance to win investment and a permanent restaurant site on the Spinningfields estate – now home to brands such as the Ivy, D&D London and Living Ventures. Fittingly, the winners of that competition Beastro went full circle, with their restaurant playing host to the Million Pound Menu hopefuls.

Here Tim shares his experiences of being one of the 10 investors on the show. Tim is the Managing Director of All Work & Social, Allied London’s coworking and social-spaces brand.

Photo of Tim Gee, All Work & Social Managing Director

On the importance of independent operators in successful placemaking…

Tim: “As property developers, we have a unique understanding of how to create the right place for a restaurant operator to thrive and how their restaurant will fit in with the surrounding development. It was the first time I’ve been on TV in a long-time, but I found the whole experience very positive and it was great to taste the food of these great British food operators and see what they had to offer.”

On his Million Pound Menu highlights…

T: “There were two operators that stood out for me. Finca was one, a Cuban street food operator with a signature dish of a Cubanos sandwich, which is one of the greatest inventions in history! The other was the Black Bear Burger, which was delicious. I ended up eating three because we did a few retakes. I kept thinking I could squeeze another one in, but I only managed half of each.”

“It was great to meet Chris Miller, the Managing Director of the White Rabbit fund. His company make initial investments in restaurant concepts and have some great stuff opening. Take Lena Stores, which is a little Italian on Brewer Street, London, I’m sure that’ll be fantastic.”

On food trends….

T: “I think Chinese food is still largely unexplored and people are waking-up to the fact that Chinese is not just the stuff you get at the local takeaway. It’s a trend that I would be very passionate about, having spent four years in China. I did recently go to the Dumpling Shack at Spitalfields in London, where the Dan Dan noodles and Shengjianbao were as close to the real thing as I’ve experienced in the UK.”

On Allied London’s aims for the show…

T: “Our first criteria was to find someone local to Manchester, so they already had an understanding the local market. It was also important for the operator to be able recreate again and again with consistency and quality, so we needed to be confident they could go from a small pop-up to operating as a desirable and profitable business.”

“We noticed that Manchester’s burger scene could be stronger but our investment wasn’t restricted to any one type of cuisine. Clearly it had to be something that would be popular, but we were more interested in how they would work in the space and location.”

“Ultimately success comes down to the old cliché: “location, location, location”. It’s very rare that a restaurant can be successful without having a strong location.”

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