The best restaurants feel like home. There’s no fuzzier feeling than the one felt when you head into your local restaurant after a long day, chat to the staff, sit yourself down at your table and order The Usual: not that you have to remind them, anyway.
For a couple of hours, you’re somewhere else; but that somewhere else still feels like home. There’s more to eating out than just the food. It’s about sharing stories, connecting with your community, catching up with old pals and making new friends with equally excellent taste.
Creating this space isn’t easy. But if you get it right, starting a food business is one of the most rewarding things you can do, a chance to create a space that becomes part of the local architecture. First, though, you’ve got to get your name out there and take your idea from scribbles on a napkin to words, or a menu, on a page.
Enter Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that provides you with everything you need to set up shop, kitted out with an intuitive, simple-to-use interface that will allow you to build your online empire. Thanks to its customisable templates, Squarespace enables anyone to create a site for their personal brand or side gig.
No wonder, then, that it’s become a staple in the restaurateur community. Squarespace also offers Tock, an all-in-one tool for hospitality, which lets people order takeaways, book tables or sell food online.
Sitting down during a rare moment of quiet, THE FACE caught up with three special London venues and longtime Squarespace users – The Dusty Knuckle, Jumbi and Chuku’s – to hear their stories.
Hi-fi music bar and restaurant Jumbi isn’t just in the heart of Peckham; it captures the heart of Peckham, too. Set up by Rhythm Section head honcho Bradley Zero and Colour Factory co-founder Nathanael Williams, the venue mixes music, rum, bakes and the essence of Afro-Caribbean culture to create a creative centre with real spirit. Visit their Squarespace website here.
Where did the idea for Jumbi first stem from?
Nathanael: It started with rum – we wanted to open our own distillery. With Colour Factory doing well, it made sense for us to create a venue where you could drink rum and listen to music.
Bradley: I’d got to know a lot of the community here in Peckham from working in a bar and it has always been my dream to put these skills together and have my own space to create a hub, which I think Jumbi is slowly becoming, which is really exciting.
What are the roots of the name?
Bradley: It’s a Caribbean Creole word, which means spirit, a kind of archetypal trickster but also a kind of ancestral protector that was said to have survived the journey from Africa to the new world. I just like the idea that we’re bringing that back here and shaking up things a bit in this hospitality space, by doing things our own way, and by, you know, referencing our own cultures.
Why did you choose to base Jumbi in Peckham?
Bradley: I couldn’t have imagined doing this anywhere else because I’ve been here for so long and it’s been the centre of everything I’ve done.
Nathanael: There’s a lot of the community we can serve here. There’s a strong history of colonialism and slavery associated with rum and sugar plantations and how rum came about. So to have somewhere that is also in Peckham which is a community that does traditionally serve Black people it’s special to have it here.
How did signing up to Squarespace help you?
Bradley: When we made the website with Squarespace it was like, it’s real. As soon as you go live with that and send people the URL it feels like it’s coming together. That was a pivotal moment.
Nathanael: We both actually use Squarespace for our other businesses. Even a buffoon like me can get the website up and running and looking sleek and clean and operational really quickly!
What kind of food can people expect?
Bradley: When we first opened we worked with a lady called Mindy who ran a bakes kitchen. Since then we started working with Naz who is the founder of Bando Belly.
Nathanael: She was in Peckham Levels before and Bando Belly sadly burnt down during lockdown. It was really nice to have Naz, who is a local legend, to be here. She’s experimental in her approach to Carribeban food: she has Jamaican and Turkish heritage and that fusion of different flavours really comes across.
What’s your music like?
Bradley: Jumbi and music are synonymous from the beginning and it couldn’t have existed separately. I think a lot of places have records as decoration but inside the venue it’s a central kind of altar that’s literally my entire collection from the last 20 years. It was about creating a place where people could play that music and enjoy it on a good sound system.
Nathanael: You also have one turntable which is a pretty old school Caribbean way to approach a reggae sound system. You can be more considered in your selection. It’s that silence in between records, people really want to hear what’s next, it’s a nice approach to the way people can listen to records.
Can you dish out a tip for starting a small biz?
Bradley: Don’t don’t measure yourself too much against other people. I’ve been working behind bars for five pounds an hour for like half of my life in London in order to get an understanding of that and build up a genuine community and I was playing records for the same fee. Take things one step at a time and enjoy the process.
What’s next for Jumbi?
Nathanael: We’re launching Jumbi rum – the original idea. That should be here as a “white label test press” in the next three months so we’re looking forward to having people drink it. And we’ll be selling it on our Squarespace site!
Claiming the title of the world’s first Nigerian tapas restaurant, Tottenham-based restaurant Chuku’s is an ode to the cultural melting pot of Africa’s biggest nation. Brother-and-sister duo Ifeyinwa and Emeka Frederick transport its guests to Lagos through trademark hospitality, a lively atmosphere, traditional art and heaps of conversation. Visit their Squarespace website here.
Why did you start Chuku’s?
Emeka: We started it to celebrate our heritage as it’s about more than just food. We wanted to create a place that was going to be about Nigerian cuisine as well as Nigerian culture so we started it as a pop up back in 2016 and opened our first permanent site in 2020.
What’s your motto – chop, chat, chill – about?
Ifeyinwa: “Chop” is Nigerian Pidgin for “eat” and shows food is at the heart of what we do. Then we have a “Chat” which is all about the social atmosphere; we really want people to enjoy conversation and be present in the moment as a bit of an antidote to London life. “Chill” is all about being laid back and about the culture, to be hit with Nigerian music and wonderful vibrant colours and art.
Do you guys come from a food background?
Ifeyinwa: We hadn’t worked in hospitality before we started doing pop ups – we had to learn and some were an absolute mess – but seeing the reaction from people who enjoyed them fuelled us.
Emeka: While we don’t come from a food background in the traditional sense it does play a big part in Nigerian culture so I’ve always been very familiar with the kitchen and had our favourite dishes. It’s a very big part of how we interact with our heritage.
What’s the Nigerian tapas concept and what are your favourite dishes?
Emeka: In Nigeria we’ve got hundreds of different ethnic groups and so the food culture is so diverse. We wanted to create a menu that could convey that and allow people to try a range of different dishes.
Ifeyinwa: My favourite dish is sinasir, it’s a Northern Nigerian dish, essentially a rice pancake with a peanut and pumpkin stew on top and then we put our own little twist by drizzling some maple syrup on top. Our egusi bowl is our most photographed, it was our favourite dish growing up, part of a pillar of Nigerian food called soups and swallows.
How did your website help?
Emeka: We’ve used Squarespace for over seven years. In our pop-up days, lots of people would think we were a permanent site because of how good our website looks! Squarespace was really beneficial as we’ve had to watch our pursestrings and neither of us are particularly techie. The live chat is great as it’s still live late at night and you’re supported throughout that journey.
Ifeyinwa: We were always trying to grow our presence on social media but having a website gave us additional credibility and the ability to curate our own page and dive into what we do. Now we do merchandise, gift vouchers and blogs exploring Nigerian culture that we can host on the site.
What’s the magical ingredient for starting a restaurant or small business?
Ifeyinwa: Think about the smallest version and how you can create it and get some kind of immediate feedback. Before even doing pop ups we started with supper clubs in our homes, so think about the minimum viable product and the smallest proof of concept which you can do.
Emeka: Know your why and hold onto it as it’ll motivate you and get you going through each day. Enjoy the journey, too; find little things that are going to make you smile along the way, regardless of how it all ends up.
The Dusty Knuckle
Founded in 2014, The Dusty Knuckle has proven its ambitious concept, becoming a London baking institution. As well as serving bread, pastries and coffees at its Dalston cafe plus pizza in the evenings at its second venue in Harringay, its founders Max Tobias, Becks Oliver and Daisy Terry mentor at-risk youth, run local breadmaking classes, organise pop-up dinners and operate its trusty milkfloat. Visit their Squarespace website here.
How did The Dusty Knuckle all begin?
Max: I was working with young people in quite precarious lifestyles and it felt impossible getting them into legitimate work. I’d been thinking for quite a while about mentoring young people and privately I’d become obsessed with making breads. Daisy and Becca were the hospitality maestros and the more time we spent talking about the idea the more it made sense.
What’s the ethos?
Max: It’s about having a really nice time together, eating good things and coming to a really pleasant and welcoming environment every day. But the main principle is the food’s got to be top notch and stop yourself in your tracks. The moment when you eat and you’re like…ah!
What was the first iteration of The Dusty Knuckle?
Max: We actually started in my house before we were in a container. Then we opened a little hatch in the wall and started doing coffee and sandwiches and we realised it was more fun than just squirrelling away inside a box without any windows and taking bread around the city at four in the morning. Becks was banging out these amazing sandwiches and we developed this small community of people who were getting this amazing food for a fiver.
What’s the best sandwich you sell?
Daisy: We have an egg chilli cheese on the weekends, it’s a focaccia with fried egg and cheese on top so it’s crispy and melty and delicious. Then pickled coriander and green chilli and then the lid. Sometimes you get bacon in it if you’re that kind of guy. We do that on the weekends for hangover cures.
What’s the deal with the milk float?
Daisy: The milk float was an idea that Becks came up with; we put on Instagram that if you can guarantee ten of your neighbours will come out of the house and visit we’ll come straight to your street. It’s a really old float from like 1982 from a guy called Jeff in Surrey; it’s clunky but it works. In lockdown everyone was able to chat in the queue with their neighbours and we had so many messages saying that it was something they look forward to during the week.
How did having a website help grow The Dusty Knuckle?
Max: Squarespace helped us most during lockdown when we had to close most of our operations and we were like: how are we going to survive? We used the website to organise all the home deliveries and create this sort of mad system where we had everyone’s postcodes and were delivering bread and sandwiches and milk and eggs and baking kits.
Daisy: Also, you can turn things on and off really easily so when you’re growing and trying new things you might have an aspect that you then decide to stop doing and you can switch it off quickly which is good, like changing opening times. It’s really easy!
Max: It forces you to be able to describe what you’re doing and the best reason to do it. The process of building the site will help you to understand that kind of architecture of your business.
What are your top tips for budding bakers and businesses?
Daisy: Don’t get too stressed out as there’s always something worse that can happen. Read as much as you can if you actually want to make nice bread and watch as many YouTube videos as possible. If you’re not that bothered about making something really geeky just don’t worry about it because it’s always delicious when something comes out of the oven and is covered in butter.
Max: I think running a business is like a crash course in how to manage anxiety and learning how to not sweat every little detail and remember everyone is still alive. It’s only bread!