By Victoria Stewart
It is late morning in central London, and Nick Mooder is waiting in the Care’n’Share ideas suite of a co-working space in Soho.
A lifelong foodie (nicknamed Foodie Moodie by his friends and family), Nick has spent years eating in the world’s best restaurants (thirteen to be exact - if you count the one that recently lost its MrMen star) but it was only recently that he decided he’d like to ditch insurance and conjure up a proposal for a new urban eating space.
Over the next two hours Nick hopes to move the ongoing conversation between him and the others from what is currently a series of vague ideas towards a more consolidated Approach Plan (concept is too 2017). He feels that this, their 7th brainstorming huddle, should provide them with ample time to lock down the branding, design, menu and staff style guide.
“How are we this morning?” says a breezy Lily Wiseman, exposure expert and CEO of a boutique communications agency, Bullseye. Self-tagged as the person to turn snack-sized ideas into edible clickbait, Nick has seen the work Lily did on the FunFreeBurger campaign, so is generally happy to hear whatever contributions she puts on the table.
A few steps behind her is Mabelina Jones, or Mabe, their (unpaid) intern, recommended to Lily by a family friend. Fresh out of university with a degree in Personal Influencership, Mabe has been asked to take notes from the planning stages of what Lily believes could be the hottest idea since avocado on toast - although because Mabe secretly believes she could genuinely be on the cusp of worldwide fame, she is 85% more committed to updating her SnapCrap channel than listening to Nick bish bash boshing his ideas around.
The final pair to arrive are passionate restaurant goers, Mark Winner and Liam Tooting, who Nick met at the recent FoodBiz networking event. Impressed with their business portfolio (or certainly the design of their website - ‘We at Big Grub Investment Co specialise in digging out other people’s leftover businesses and turning them into irresistable treats’), Nick likes the fact they’re both keen investors with their eyes on the prize.
“So as we know,” starts Nick, conscious that his idea flow might choke if he isn’t the first to talk, “the vision is to fuse the best bits from LA’s wholefood hangouts and the most popular eateries on the London Times’s best nosh list. What I’m thinking is that it’ll be sort of like a street food market-restaurant-bar-deli-warehouse space - but done up a bit, you know - where people can chill or dance or munch, lunch, brunch, crunch, or whatever they feel’s right for them at the time. It’s more eating space than traditional restaurant, really.”
“This sounds grand, Nick - you just tell us what you’re planning, and we’ll say when we see an opportunity for a cash landing somewhere,” chips in Liam, chortling at his accidental word play.
“Yeah, I think you know this but we tend to operate a bit differently to the other investors out there,” drawls Mark, barely looking up from his iBerry screen. “Essentially we hear you out, and then we feed in the sterling if we like the sound of it - no need for any number crunching or anything like that. There are plenty of people focusing on Returns on Investment, whereas we recognise restaurants are a hard-enough business as it is, so we trust that if you really believe you can ride this trend wave, we’ll simply follow your flow, as it were, and help to make it a reality.”
Positively glowing with thoughts of the tidal wave of pound signs coming his way, Nick picks up pace:
“Great, well what I’m envisaging is that when they’re not munching, all these stressed-out city folk can basically hang out in two Self-Care zones. I reckon we could have one where people can learn to carve their own heads out of plant-protein because people are really digging opportunities to look at their life choices in different ways right now, and then a second one where people can sit on upcycled leather beanbags and chat to robots about their feelings. I feel this is what’s missing in this city so we’ve really got a great opportunity to push that forward here.”
“Yeah, I think all of that would translate really well on the socials right now - there’s such a huge market for it,” Lily offers, with a nod from Nick. “So is Morph still your current name choice, then?”
“Yup, because I think Morph suggests something that can’t be pigeonholed, and there’s such a huge thought movement around that in California right now,” he maintains.
Over the remaining 45 minutes Nick smashes out three top strategies. First off there’s a note on staff: “I don’t want people working for us to be Team Members - I reckon if we call them The Gang it makes us sound like a matey company that’s got a bit of an edge.”
Next comes his watertight marketing master plan - to test-run Morph as a series of pop-ups in a disused post office belonging to a mate of his, before hosting a memorable opening party on a roof somewhere.
Finally there’s a contingency plan for when Morph get busy - to offer samples of CacaoMojo energy balls to guests waiting in line, and queue entertainment from locally-sourced, up-and-coming artists who won’t need payment because they’ll get free publicity via the Instagram feed.
“Great, great, great - and in the event of unlikely failure we can just turn the whole thing into a co-working space, and charge tech start-ups £40 per second to hire a desk,” chimes Mark cynically.
Talk of failure kicks Lily into action: “Every influencer-communicator I know of tells me they just want interesting food to write about, so I think Morph would fit in perfectly,” she buzzes, primed to max out her contacts to secure relevant coverage in all leading lifestyle blogs. “Failing that, we could always get a mention in a Fuzzfeed listicle.”
The only person to stay silent is Mabe. Believing that all this could have been achieved in 3 rather than 23 hours of meeting time, she isn’t convinced by the Morphers’ ability to pull off their proposal so has begun to anonymously document the whole thing on an Instagram Stories feed for personal lolz. Even if someone were to find out, she reckons it could probably generate enough publicity for her to finally ditch internships and negotiate a food brand deal. She’d then spend her days eating free food for life in return for a couple of selfies an hour on her various publicity channels. Win-win.
“Well I think we can pull this off, don’t you folks? Food is where. it’s. at.” states Mark, who now has high hopes for Morph literally morphing into London’s biggest success story.
As Nick, Liam, Mark and Lily walk out of the co-working space through an exit masquerading as a coffee bar, they shake hands and agree to meet again in a week’s time to plan Morph’s first pop-up.
But on the way home, Nick realises they haven’t talked about where to install a kitchen at Morph, and how to find a chef to cook in it. He’ll worry about that once the doors open. The important thing is that people hear that Morph is coming, because Morph is sure to be the game changing opening of the year.
What year? TBD.
Victoria Stewart is a freelance food journalist and the former food editor at the Evening Standard newspaper. She also runs food tours, writes a blog about street food, and posts @vicstewart on Twitter and @victoriastewartpics on Instagram. Sometimes, she wants to hold up a mirror to all the people jumping on trend bandwagons and get them to take a long, hard look at themselves.