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Pioneer behind Jamie Oliver, Gary Lineker and Nigella Lawson-backed Street Feast vows return after pandemic collapse

·3-min read
A Street Feast event  (Street Feast)
A Street Feast event (Street Feast)

The entrepreneur behind London street-food festival phenomenon Street Feast today pledged that none of its high-profile backers would lose out from the operator’s financial collapse.

Culinary stars including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Heston Blumenthal were among 300 investors in the venture, which was founded by Jonathan Downey in 2012.

Gary Lineker, restaurant critic Giles Coren, and Wahaca’s Thomasina Miers have also been named as shareholders in the liquidator’s report published this week.

Downey initially sought backers to fund creation of a “world-leading” food market on the site of historic Smithfield General Market in Farringdon.

When that plan ran aground, he and his team pivoted to picking up leases on derelict and disused spaces in London, transforming them into urban arenas hosting Instagram-friendly pop-up food festivals.

At its height, Street Feast was a millennial touchstone with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and annual revenues above £12million.

It hosted regular events featuring DJ sets, cocktail bars and a roster of independent stalls serving dirty burgers, bao buns, fusion tacos and global street food.

But papers filed to Companies House show the company, since renamed 100 Clifton, crashed last autumn with debts of around £2.1 million including unpaid salaries, rents and tax, with cash in the bank of £52,000.

Downey said: “A lot of our backers were already rich and successful and weren’t investing for financial gain but were giving us their support as we tried to create something great for London.

 (Daniel Lynch)
(Daniel Lynch)

“Sadly because of Covid that didn’t happen, but nobody’s going to get burned."

Street Feast’s industrial-chic venues included Hawker House in Canada Water; Giant Robot in Canary Wharf; Model Market in Lewisham and Dinerama in Shoreditch.

But the business, like thousands across the UK, was knocked sideways by the pandemic and the chaotic stop-start reopening of the hospitality sector that followed.

Downey said he lost eight years of his life and a paper fortune pegged at £25 million from the collapse but nevertheless intends to revive the concept once the threat of further lockdowns has fully lifted.

Jonathan Downey
Jonathan Downey

With the majority of Street Feast’s sites now back in the hands of their landlords, and the founders bruised by their experience, it is possible this will be outside the capital.

The Incipio Group is turning the Giant Robot site into a City version of its Pergola restaurant concept while Dinerama is being developed into a 12-storey hotel and office block.

The liquidator’s report shows big name backers also include chefs Yotam Ottolenghi, Gizzi Erskine, Bill Granger, José Pizarro and Stevie Parle; food critics Tom Parker-Bowles and Marina O’Loughlin; and Polpo founders Russell Norman and Richard Beatty.

Downey said the majority of investors backed the company through the government’s start-up accelerator the Enterprise Investment Scheme, with much of the outlay covered by tax relief and failure protection.

He said: “The business was killed because of the lockdowns and government restrictions. We also had some very difficult landlords.

“Some of them have now brought in new operators, a bit like a cuckoo taking over someone else’s nest.”

He added: “Dinerama was a car park. It was 12000 sq ft of concrete. We got a licence, planning permission, spent a million pounds building that site.. then some other company gets to take it over because we can no longer operate due to Covid restrictions.

“We’ve been completely screwed over. But we’ll be back.”

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