20 July 2018 Courier Weekly

Racism in London’s restaurants

PLUS: Brewery tap rooms – Vaping – Co-living – Beauty investments

Boring Thai: a tale of two reactions.

Much has been said this week about London restaurant Som Saa and its employment of chef Shaun Beagley – who, under the internet pseudonym Boring Thai, published a number of racist videos and social media posts. Beagley was fired by Som Saa after the content was widely shared on social media, despite having been published some time ago. It later emerged that co-founder of Som Saa, Andy Oliver, had seen and commented on one of Beagley’s videos in 2016 saying it was ‘how all Thai food should be taught’. He has since apologised.

Business owners should take note of how those involved in this episode have reacted.

Som Saa has been criticised for not delivering a swift, sensitive and robust enough response. Meanwhile, St David Coffee House in south-east London, where Beagley had run several pop-ups, acted on the information immediately. Co-founder Sian Thomas told Courier she cut ties with Beagley and released a statement within minutes of hearing the news.

‘I should have looked at his Instagram profile,’ she said. ‘I never read the content, and that’s where I need to change. We’re hugely appalled that this person was in our kitchen, exposed to our staff who worked with him unknowingly.’

Regional breweries make the move to London.

Earlier this month, a Cornish brewery opened the doors to its latest taproom in London.

Verdant Brewing has paired up with Tottenham-based Pressure Drop to open its first space in the capital, aptly called ‘The Experiment’, in Hackney.

Regional breweries immersing themselves in London’s craft beer scene is a trend that’s emerged in the past year, and which we explore in more detail here.

E-cig sensation Juul launches in the UK.

Californian e-cigarette startup Juul Labs launched its memory-stick-shaped vaping device to UK consumers this week, hoping to replicate its success in the US, where it accounts for nearly 70% of e-cigarette sales.

Contributing to Juul’s success is the way it has distanced itself from the negative public perception of big tobacco companies, which are also trying to assert their dominance on the e-cigarette sector. Juul’s device ‘purposely doesn’t look like a cigarette, behave like one or taste like one,’ emphasised James Monsees, the company’s founder.

Juul raised £500m last week, placing its value at £11.5bn. The cash will be used for international expansion and research and development.

What does a co-living community manager do?

Paris-based business incubator Station F – which calls itself the largest ‘startup campus’ in the world – will start offering co-living leases later this year. In preparation, it’s currently hiring a community manager to help new tenants settle in. The job description offers an interesting insight into what this role entails.

Co-living has its fans and its critics; something we debated at a recent Courier panel discussion, which can be read here.

Investors get interested in beauty.

Lady Gaga’s stealth beauty startup – Haus Beauty – has secured backing from one of Silicon Valley’s top VC firms, Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Haus doesn’t have any customers yet, but according to the US Patent and Trademark Office Gaga has applied to trademark an enormous range of 70 different beauty products.

The exact amount of investment has not been undisclosed, but this move highlights an important shift in capital flows towards the beauty sector, which is becoming increasingly attractive to VC firms. Brands which have caught VC attention include:

  • Glossier. The direct-to-consumer beauty brand secured £40m in a series C round in February, led by IVP and Index Ventures.
  • Beautycounter. The non-toxic skincare and makeup brand raised £50m in new financing in January, led by Mousse Partners and TPG Growth.
  • Huda Beauty. TSG Consumer Partners announced it has acquired a minority stake in this fast-growing beauty brand last year.

This rise in investment matches the growth of the beauty sector as a whole. In 2017, US beauty sales rose to £13.6bn, a 6% increase from 2016. Skincare alone accounted for 45% of those gains.