When a derelict snooker hall became available on a resurgent east London high street, it was the cue for four young entrepreneurs to expand their retail empire.
Their unique retailing story began in 2007 when brothers Dan and Chris O’Connor, James Brundle and Chris’ partner Siobhan O’Donnell took over a convenience store in Walthamstow.
After four years of learning the ropes and making a name for themselves with an in-store pizzeria, they bought a bistro next door and named it Eat 17 in honour of the neighbourhood’s postcode.
Spar has been incredibly supportive and flexible in terms of what we wanted to create here [/pull_quote_right]
There are no multiples in the area, but some local businesses were concerned about the arrival of a Spar store.
But the Eat 17 founders have been careful not to step on any toes.
The store – like its predecessor – doesn’t carry news and magazines and lottery and cigarette sales take a back seat.
Instead, the majority of shopper missions are for evening meal items and sales of wines supplies by independent vintner Borough Wines are strong.
There are clear benefits to having a skilled chef in the shop at all times.
Any wastage or surplus on fruit and veg goes straight to the kitchen where it becomes a menu item or is turned into ready meals for the shop’s shelves.
“The ready meals sell out every day and we have virtually no wastage,” says Dan.
“People who don’t want to cook after a long day still want food which is good quality and the fact that it has been cooked that day and on site is a great selling point.”
Do this unique business’ owners regard themselves as retailers or restaurateurs?
“It depends who you ask,” says Dan. “Chris and I would probably say we’re in the restaurant business, but James is a retailer.
“There’s a lot of crossover and what we want to do is provide quality food and good service so that we build a consistent brand.”
At the same time as building a brand, they want to build an empire and Dan says opening a second site has given them appetite for a third.
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