Eat Out With...Scott Collins, co-founder of MEATliquor

Scott Collins
10/05/2017 - 07:30
MeatLiquor started around seven years ago when Scott Collins met fellow co-founder and collaborator Yianni selling burgers from the back of the now legendary Meatwagon. Fast forward to 2017, the brand is just about to launch its 12th restaurant in King's Cross. Maria Bracken spoke with Scott Collins

What is the story behind MEATliquor?

It all started around seven years ago, when I met fellow co-founder and collaborator Yianni selling burgers from the back of the now legendary Meatwagon. At the time, we were just based in a carpark in Peckham, but we were fortunate that burgers were really taking off at that time – people wanted to come and try good-tasting food. Since that point, we opened MEATeasy above a pub in New Cross and a further 10 locations around the country – with our 12th due to open in Kings Cross within the next couple of months – however it’s never been about building an empire as we have always focussed on the food, the drinks and the experience. We are obviously very proud of the growth of MEATliquor into a nationwide brand, but the truth is it’s been less of a calculated plan and more of an organic evolution – one that retains the MEATwagon ethos, allowing people to go out without having to grow up.

What is your ethos?

MEATliquor is all about creating innovative and affordable food and drink for people to enjoy. Most importantly, we want people to let their hair down and have fun whilst dining with us.

How is the business performing to date?

Business is good. The thing is, no matter who you are or where you’re living, you’re always going to want to let your hair down and have a good time. MEATliquor is a place that people from all walks of life come to, looking – in the main – for the same thing: great cocktails, fantastic food and a sense of fun.

We have been named as one of ten “ones to watch” in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 and currently have 11 locations in Brighton, London, Bristol and Leeds and are set to open our 12th in Kings Cross within the next couple of months.”

Tell me more about your focus on food and has this dictated how you develop your kitchen teams?

From day one, our focus has been on making great-tasting, no frills, quality food and drink. When you’re serving burgers from the back of a van you don’t have anything to hide behind, everything relies on taste.

How important is training? What do you do to meet the challenges of finding good people?

No matter what position someone is applying for, it’s important that they get what MEAT is about. During an interview, you tend to get a feel for whether someone will not only fit our culture and enjoy working with us, but flourish too. We want our staff to be the best they can be and offer training for all levels and roles. Carrie Bowers, head of training, helps find people that suit the role and is in charge of ensuring everyone is happy and gets the training they want and need.

How has technology and the digital evolved the business in any way?

MEATliquor actually all started on social media, when Yianni and I met on Twitter. I’d heard through friends about these brilliant burgers he was selling from a van and reached out to see how I could help, so to us, digital has played a vital role.”

“Today, we’re still really active on social media and think it plays a key role in our business. People can’t get enough of looking at pictures of food from their favourite restaurants, meaning our MEATgram Instagram account has racked up a pretty impressive following. Lots of people share their own snaps using our hashtags #MEATgram and #MEATliquor too – it’s always great to see people enjoying their meals with us.

Define your competition, and how you stand out from them?

The cities we’re based in are full of fantastic restaurants, so competition is rife. One of the ways we stand out is through our unusual design. Each MEATliquor has been designed to reflect that particular area’s cultural identity and we work with an amazing team who help us create big, bold and strong looks. Whilst each is unique in its own way, there are recurring themes which tie them all together – the look and feel of MEATliquor is unlike any other restaurant you’ll go to.

There are some people out there who try to imitate different restaurants’ look and feel, but from my experience, people tend to be able to spot this and prefer the original.

As consumer expectations continue to grow, how does the business meet these demands?

MEATliquor is primarily a place for people to come and have fun, so we’re constantly thinking up new ideas about how to do that. Yianni is always experimenting with new food and we have a recipe bank of over 200 recipes. Our bar team are always creating new innovative cocktails, too.

Identify the up and coming industry trends?

Home delivery will continue to be a huge success as people love the idea that they can eat their favourite restaurant’s food from the comfort of their own home. We work with Deliveroo which has been great, but of course we find that lots of people would still prefer to eat in the restaurant for the whole MEATliquor experience.

Who is innovating in our sector?

One of the main reasons people go out to eat is for the MEATliquor experience and there are loads of restaurants creating cool, bespoke experiences for customers. I think the key is making people feel involved and giving them a different experience that they remember long after they get home.

What are the opportunities and challenges for the business?

Delivery services such as Deliveroo have had a huge impact on the industry. They’ve allowed restaurants such as MEATliquor to target new people – we’ll deliver all day to all sorts of places. One of the main challenges we face through home delivery is quality control, it’s really important that customers at home are served food equally as good as they would in a restaurant. Effective and appropriate packaging is fundamental in ensuring this.

To get people out of the house and into the restaurant, we’re constantly evolving the MEATliquor restaurant experience. We find that lots of people still choose to come in for the whole experience rather than staying in.

Any expansion plans for the brand? What’s next?

We didn’t expect MEATliquor to ever get this big and still take it one step at a time. Next, we’re launching in Kings Cross, but we won’t ever open somewhere for the sake of expanding – each city and building has to have the right feel.

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