Gloucester Food Dock has captured the public imagination – and the interest of businesses too, with news soon to break that all 15 available spaces reserved for up-and-coming food outlets are taken.
Ladybellegate Estates, the business behind the development, remains confident in Gloucester’s fortunes as it watches its ambitious vision become a reality, and other fledgling food firms are also sharing their faith in the county.
For those whose job it is to champion Gloucestershire and its £1 billion a year hospitality and tourism sector, it is proof the county is continuing to reinvent itself, to encourage and support businesses, and deliver something exciting for visitors.
Ken Elliot, of Ladybellegate Estates, said: ‘We have almost filled the 15 places now. We are just making some final decisions. The difficulty is choosing which businesses – but we are keeping our powder dry on the detail at the moment.
‘We know that Gloucester Quays has now filled all of its hospitality space and the national names do a really good job and encouraging footfall, but we also know people want something a little different too.
‘They want something special, something they won’t get anywhere else, there are many small businesses that do that and they will be moving into Gloucester Food Dock.’
For Steve Gardner Collins, of Visit Gloucestershire, it is just another example of why the county is so special.
‘The county knows what the challenges are and what it needs to do to continue to draw the eyes of people looking for somewhere interesting to go and to continue to offer something new, and this is a really good example of it doing just that.
‘Businesses have continued to invest post-pandemic and adapt. There has been a focus on offering something vibrant, something local, something special, and that kind of creativity is what Gloucestershire does really well.’
Alex Cottrell, of The Growth Hub, which supports businesses of all sizes county-wide and which has worked with the likes of Sibling Distillery and Wholly Gelato – both destined for Gloucester Food Dock – said: ‘We know the county is not just one of the best places in the country to start a business, but also that it is excellent at supporting entrepreneurs and at helping those fledgling firms thrive.'
Post pandemic Raisin UK released the findings of an economic study it says reveals the strongest area in the UK for local business and business growth, and names that place as Gloucestershire.
'However, we also see that there are real challenges around staffing – both in terms of recruitment and retention – and we must all continue to work with the sector, employers and the future workforce to find ways to overcome this,' added Cottrell.
As well as encouraging established and fledgling businesses, the dedicated support here in Gloucestershire is also helping a new generation of entrepreneurs, like Gabija Jakštytė, develop their ideas and give birth to new ventures.
Jakštytė, a 23-year-old University of Gloucestershire student who also works at a Cheltenham restaurant, is about to unveil a new phone app that uses augmented reality technology to allow customers to scan menu options and see three-dimensional examples of the food choices – as well as better understand portion sizes.
‘I am confident it will be out by the end of this year at the latest. I am really happy with the augmented reality, we are just working on getting the coding right,’ said Jakstyte.
Dev Chakraborty, of GFirst LEP, said: ‘The economy of Gloucestershire is pretty robust. It is about £20 billion a year in total, and a lot of sectors are worth about five per cent of that.
‘And we have strong sectors in food and drink, so when there are bumps in the road, the county is quite robust and we can recover well too.
‘We have plenty to shout about here, and that is what the new Made in Gloucestershire campaign is all about.’
The campaign is seeking to promote and celebrate the county’s growing army of exciting food and drink producers.
Matthew Jefferies, founded the mobile food business Woozy Pig after being laid off from his job back in 2017. He has survived the worst of the Covid 19 pandemic, thrived through it even, and is on the verge of revealing new premises.
‘We try to support the other businesses within Gloucestershire too – we use local butchers, bakers and all Tubby Toms sauces. There is so much good produce here and such a good community,’ said Jefferies, referring to the thriving Forest of Dean business and Made in Gloucestershire member that has a loyal fan base for its hot and spicy sauces.
Elliot said the Food Dock’s business model was all about helping grow the exciting businesses it was partnering with.
‘This is a relationship which needs to see these businesses thrive for it to work, or we simply do not get paid any rent. So we have to pick the right business and support them in every way we can - and we do use The Growth Hub for that too.
‘A lot of these businesses are making the transition from mobile to street food style operations and it is a big step. But they have a lot going for themselves already.
‘Big name restaurants are feeling the cost of living crisis and so are customers, but these businesses are starting at a different price point, offering something new and are already very savvy about costs.
‘Gloucester has such a lot going for it. Its relationship with Cheltenham is like the relationship Bristol had with Bath 10 years ago.
‘Like Bristol, its assets are its multiculturalism, its creativity, its edginess, and it is realising that. We are confident about Gloucester, there is so much investment here – just look at Kings Square, for example – and think the county is a great place to invest and do business and an exciting place to visit.’
No matter how big or small your business, whether it’s an idea you just can't let go of, or a well-established SME, if you want to know about the help, support, expert advice, potential funding support and training opportunities that may be available to you, The Growth Hub is here to help. Just email email@example.com or visit thegrowthhub.biz to find out more.