FOOD glorious food . . . hot sausage and mustard, as the song goes. Or in the run up to Christmas it’s more likely to be hot chestnuts and gluhwein if you’re taking in the atmosphere on Princes Street.
It’s a time of year when comfort eating keeps the chill at bay, and so it’s no surprise that festive fayre is top of the bill when it comes to shopping.
And Edinburgh is stuffed to the gunwhales with good food and drink shops – small, independent ones which have stood their ground against the supermarket onslaught by offering unique products to those of discerning tastes.
With this Saturday being the national day of support for small businesses across Britain, it’s perhaps the best excuse you could have for filling your face with the city’s culinary delights, be they to eat at home, or there and then in whichever cafe, restaurant, artisan bakery, coffee shop or teahouse has taken your fancy while you do a spot of Christmas shopping at an independent retailer.
Food blogger Nadine Pierce, the woman behind eatingedinburgh.com, says that many people forget that local restaurants and cafes are small businesses just like shops, and also rely on regular custom.
Indeed in the US, where Small Business Saturday started, there’s a coinciding strand known as DineSmall.
Nadine says she would encourage anyone to choose small and local, rather than chain businesses, when it comes to deciding where to eat out.
“It is such a competitive market, you hear a lot about restaurants closing, so they have to work so hard to attract and retain custom.
“It’s definitely worth giving as many homegrown businesses your custom as possible to keep the sector thriving. There are so many places you could choose from if you’re in town this Saturday, but, for me, it would have to be Contini’s on George Street for brunch – a coffee and a bacon focaccia, the best in town in my opinion. You can also get a great two-course lunch with wine at The Dogs for £20, so supporting a restaurant business doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune.
“We’re so lucky in Edinburgh that the local restaurants are of an exceptionally high standard – you’d probably be hard pushed to get a bad meal and they’re often at a similar price point to popular chains but with an emphasis on local seasonal produce.”
She adds: “There are a lot of great food shops too – Mellis cheesemongers is a classic – but I also like Cranachan and Crowdie on the Royal Mile, which sells a lot of Scottish produce, or Demijohn in Victoria Street.”
One of Edinburgh’s most successful food businesses has been celebrating its tenth year in 2014 – most notably by launching a walnut liqueur. Demijohn is a liquid deli, but it has branched out into jams and chutneys. And many of its ingredients are sourced locally too.
Owner Angus Ferguson knows how dependent his business is on attracting loyal custom. “One thing we have learnt after ten years in business is that to encourage local repeat business, we need to engage in an increasingly intelligent and gentle way with our wonderful customers to win their trust and enthusiasm,” he says.
“For Demijohn, this is not just letting them try our locally produced products, such as Organic Rhubarb Vodka Liqueur, but all staff being able to offer a knowledgeable and honestly emotive opinion about its provenance and taste.”
Edinburgh’s West End is an area which is a foodie’s mecca, whether your looking for a fresh take on a burger at Wannaburger or the finest of seasonal food at The Edinburgh Larder or even a real Italian ice-cream at Afogato. According to the West End Association’s chairman, Hamish Dobbie, when it comes to independent, artisan, boutique food, you’d be hard-pressed to find more choice elsewhere.
“Food and drink businesses are extremely important to the mix of a retail area,” he says. “And in the West End there’s a great combination available. There are great bars like Ryan’s and The Huxley with its Kyloe restaurant to Bert’s Bar and they’re very female friendly which I think is important and restaurants like L’escargot bleu and The Edinburgh Larder which offer amazing food and they know exactly where everything comes from.
“Then we have a new French patisserie in Queensferry Street, Patisserie Maxime, which is fantastic to see a young French guy doing do well, and at the other end of the scale Liggy’s Cake Company where you can have individual cakes crafted for any occasion. The variety on offer is amazing. We even have great individual cafes and sandwich shops such as Social Bite which is a social enterprise training homeless people in catering.
“It’s why when supermarkets or chains move in it’s so disappointing as all these small businesses are affected. It makes Small Business Saturday all the more important.”
One of Edinburgh’s newest food businesses is the patisserie Zukr Boutique, in Salisbury Place. The shop describes itself as an artisan confectioners, and for some time has been plying its trade solely online. This year though it took the giant step of opening its own premises and owner Maggie Simak says the decision was the right one.
“I run the business with my husband David, he’s the creative one, a trained patissier,” she says. “We started four years ago and we were selling our marshmallows and chocolates through the online site Etsy – and through them we had a pop up shop in New York. We also sell a lot in London as we’re stocked in Selfridges.
“Since we started with the website Notonthehighstreet.com we have been absolutely inundated, and we could have stayed in our production premises in Roslin – but we really wanted to have some face-to-face contact with customers, so decided to open our own shop. We knew, because of our success online, that there would be a market and Newington seemed to be the right fit for us. We are getting so many orders at the moment it’s just going crazy.”
The shop has also been chosen by Etsy to be in its first pop up shop in Britain, which opens in Covent Garden this Friday.
“It just all adds to the madness of this time of year,” adds Maggie. “But it’s great for us that our business is being seen by so many people.
“This is the first business we have had and we can’t believe it’s taken off in this way.
“It’s hard work, but opening the shop has been so rewarding because we now get to know our customers properly, and with food people really do want to be able to smell, see and of course taste what they’re getting.
“It’s so important to us that they like what we do and that we are offering something which delights them and so they come back again. Having that repeat custom is vital for a small business.”
Rebecca’s love affair with indie street
Rebecca Christensen of the website Love From Indie Street – a virtual high street of Edinburgh’s independent gift shops – says why she’s supporting Small Business Saturday:
“After last week’s Black Friday hysteria and the goliaths of the retail scene dominating shoppers’ minds, thankfully this weekend it’s the turn of small businesses to be under the spotlight with the second Small Business Saturday in the UK.
“I’ve been a life-long fan of independent local stores – even just walking into a faceless, oversized (just why do they have to be SO big) store makes me break out in a cold sweat. I started the website because I wanted to do something that could make a difference.
“In Edinburgh we are lucky to have so many magnificent independent shops, bars, restaurants, spas and hotels to choose from, but as the saying goes ‘if we don’t use them then we will lose them’.
“So Love From Indie Street is my contribution to preventing the ongoing and horrendous explosion of soulless carbon copy companies taking over every aspect of our purchasing experience.
“This is why Small Business Saturday is such a great idea. It was originally conceived in the US but is in its second year in the UK and the day exists to support, inspire and promote small businesses. It is easy and quick for all of Edinburgh’s small business owners to get involved with this initiative and to take the opportunity to hammer home to customers the importance of small businesses to our economy.
“The stats from last year’s event make for interesting reading: 48 per cent of UK consumers were aware of the day, #SmallBizSatUK was trending in Twitter’s top three all day and more than £460 million was spent in small businesses on the day.
“These figures are only set to rise this year following a nationwide campaign that has seen adverts during prime time television shows and a nationwide bus tour. The team behind SBS have done a fantastic job at making it easy for business owners to get involved and it’s still not too late to do so.
“If you are a small business owner then download a digital pack which provides materials for email activity, print out posters to pop in your store window and of course there are social media tools available through Facebook and Twitter.
“To celebrate this year’s event, Love From Indie Street is teaming up with Higher Love and will be running a free shuttle VW camper van between the city centre and the hubs of independent businesses that exist around the city on Saturday from 11am until 2pm for shoppers to hop on and explore the best of Edinburgh’s small business scene.
n To find out more about getting your business involved in this year’s activity
go to https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com.