23 February 2018 Courier Weekly

The street food chefs-turned-authors

PLUS: Digital payments – Citymapper’s taxi plans – Mini-bonds – Toy trends

How chefs become authors.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe founder Saiphin Moore has a new project stewing: a vegetarian cookbook, announced at the end of January.

Restaurant cookbooks have flooded the market in recent years, from the likes of London hotspots Pizza Pilgrims, Honey and Co, Trullo, The Palomar, Caravan, Breddos Tacos and Le Bab. In 2016, Brits brought 8.7 million food and drinks books, worth over £90m.

For chef Emily Dobbs, running a Sri Lankan street food stall at the Druid St Market gave her enough of a profile to get picked up by publisher Orion.

‘Doing street food got me in the door,’ she says. ‘Without it, I doubt I would’ve got a book deal.’

From a publisher’s perspective, working with small food businesses can be a good way to hop onto trends, find new audiences, and use the businesses’ social media channels to market books.

Street food toastie vendor Grill My Cheese has a book dedicated to its cheese sandwiches. Co-founder Nisha Patel (who spent a year working on the book) recommends finding an agent to share the workload: ‘When you are also running a full-time business, it was really useful to have someone oversee the process, contracts, and follow up with things on your behalf.’

While a cookbook may not bring in big money, ‘it’s a great marketing tool’, says Sarah Lavelle, publishing director at Quadrille. ‘A book is a chance to break your brand out to an audience who might not otherwise have heard of you.’

Cash payments are dwindling.

Despite the £5 and £10 notes’ revamp, a report released this week shows the use of cash in the UK is plummeting. Small businesses are taking note. In London, craft beer bar The Beer Shop is trialling a cashless till this month. It says cash represents only around 20% of payments. Gosnells Mead, a drinks company based in Peckham, only accepts card payments at its taproom, while Browns of Brockley is one of several cafes that now only accepts digital payments, even going as far as to implement the policy at its local farmers’ market stall.

On a global scale, Canada is ploughing on with its mission to reduce coin circulation. It’s considering phasing out the five cent coin.

A common criticism of card-only businesses is their potential to exclude elderly customers or those who don’t have access to a bank account — a conundrum Swedish authorities are currently grappling with.

Citymapper scraps eight-month-old bus route.

Just months after Courier reported on Citymapper’s Islington-to-Aldgate night bus, the transport app company has announced it will be stopping the so-called ‘CM2’ service altogether.

The startup has released a series of blog posts on the topic, one of which appears to take a swipe at TfL (the body which regulates London’s buses). Ultimately, it concludes that its tech wasn’t fit for purpose.

The announcement follows news this week that Citymapper has been granted a private hire licence [£]. On Thursday morning, it announced it’s launching a minibus/taxi hybrid service.

Whether riders will miss the bus is unclear. Despite being a ‘fun ride’ with an entertaining music playlist (Britney was on CM2’s speaker when Courier hopped on), we haven’t taken a Citymapper bus ride since.

Read Courier’s profile of Citymapper’s founder, Azmat Yusuf.

Mini-bonds cause latest headache for Crowdcube.

Crowdcube is getting grief after Square Pie, which raised a £650,000 ‘mini-bond’ on the platform just two years ago, announced it’s going into administration.

Mini-bonds made a splash in 2014, when burrito chain Chilango became the first to crowdfund debt financing, raising £2m. It promised customers an 8% return on investments. Others to offer mini-bonds via Crowdcube include craft beer company Brewdog (raising £790,000 in December 2017) and Taylor St Baristas (completing a £1.8m raise in 2015).

It’s said that while the interest rate is better than a bank account’s, the bonds still don’t offer a decent return given the risk of the business not meeting growth expectations.

Crowdfunding sites have clear warnings of these risks on their websites.

We previously explored the challenges of crowdfunding platforms such as Seedrs and Crowdcube and how they’re trying to tighten up their operations.

Finally, a toy story.

This piece in the Wall Street Journal is a fascinating read on how toymakers are turning to the playbooks of Zara and Forever 21 in a bid to get new products out at speed. It’s allowing them to respond more quickly to fickle kids’ toy trends.

Given this strategy, smaller, nimbler toy companies have an advantage over giants such as Hasbro or Mattel.

This news comes at a turbulent time in the toy industry: Toys R Us has announced a raft of store closures alongside the sale of its UK business.