Confidentials begins a series of interviews on how to survive beyond a decade in hospitality
In the first of three interviews, we ask business owners what the secret is to surviving as a business in the Northern Quarter (NQ).
First up is Beau Myers, founder and owner of Almost Famous, which set up on High Street in 2012.
1. How does it feel to still be going strong in NQ after 11 years?
Honestly, it's flown by. One minute we were young, wildly ambitious and full of energy and next thing we're trying to stay young, wildly ambitious and are knackered!
But seriously, when you actually take time to reflect on the time and success we've enjoyed here, it's a little humbling. The NQ still feels like the home and the epicentre of it all; it's where the spark took light and the magic happened.
The face and the vibe of it changes so frequently, you can have a mental image of it from years ago but it might be different now.
2. What do you think has helped you have continued success over the years?
We've stayed true to our independent spirit even as the business has grown and elements have become more mainstream or standardised. We were always acutely aware that the NQ should always be different and special. It had to keep its style and attitude and be cooler than the rest. We use it as our creative outlet and it'll always be the epitome of our brand.
3. Why do you think there have been so many short-lived bars and restaurants in NQ over the years?
I think a lot of people have tried to jump on the coat tails of others - anything unoriginal or copycunt gets seen through pretty quickly. Pretenders don’t last.
4. What’s the strangest fad you’ve seen come through NQ in your time?
Burger restaurants in offices, frozen Dr Oetker pizzas, full English in a burrito, cats on laps, dick waffles, cheeseburger spring rolls, burger this, burger that, burger it all. We share the odd laugh about the crazy or stupid shit people try to do but honestly we're too caught up in our own stupid shit ideas to notice too much.
5. What was NQ like when you opened in 2012?
Fresh, carefree, gritty, raw, lawless, energised, hyped, cool without trying to be, rough, exciting and primed to take off.
It was the place to be but it didn't have the attention of the masses, so you had to be bold, hang it out there and take chances.
6. How do you think NQ has changed since you opened?
The NQ no doubt was like a cool and dirty secret when we first opened; you had to be in the know and a little brave to venture in. The cool kids came, then the crowds, then the out-of-towners and weekend warriors wanting to follow the fun and the hype.
It goes through cycles. I feel like it's settled now and you get a bit of everyone. NQ has something for everyone and is this beautiful, eclectic, wear-what-the-fuck-you-want and be yourself relaxed friendly place.
7. What do you think the future holds for NQ?
Further polishing, more pedestrianisation, more multi-use venues, more green spaces, even more of a community and neighbourhood vibe.
The great thing about the NQ is it has this neighbourhood feel, you always have this sweet and friendly undercurrent of adopted locals - no one is "from" the NQ. We're all migrants from somewhere and it makes it a delicious melting pot of people from all over, but who are united in their love of the NQ and their fave local hangouts.
8. What advice would you give to someone thinking of opening something in NQ?
Maybe make sure the NQ now is actually where you want to be. The face and the vibe of it changes so frequently, you can have a mental image of it from years ago but it might be different now.
But if you've got an idea and you're set on opening there, keep it real. People see through shit pretty quickly and especially in the NQ. Indies and people pushing boundaries with their passion are celebrated and smash it. Do something you actually believe in; don't come with a business model and a spreadsheet, come with a can of paint and a dream.
Just chatting about this has reminded me what a truly magical hub of art, creativity and passion the NQ is. When you're too close or working in it I think you can forget to lift your head. But whiling away an afternoon and drifting from bar to bar, coffee to coffee, and discovering untapped delights around the backstreets really is one of the best days you can have in Manchester.
In the next interview in the series, Confidentials speaks with Matt Nellany, one-time general manager and now owner of Trof on Thomas Street, an NQ institution since 2006.
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