The story behind the launch of table&candle: Jamie Alexander's answer to the chainifcation of London’s high streets
Our first meeting with Jamie is at his apartment in Old Street. He’s invited us round for a home cooked meal – cacio e pepe. The place is a jumanji of entrepreneurial activity: every inch of the dining room table is covered in post it notes (Jamie still handwrites his to-do lists, despite running a tech startup); the hallways and bedrooms are filled from floor to ceiling with plants and boxes full of hand-crafted crockery.
We’re here to discuss the launch of his new concept – table&candle.
As we eat, Jamie tells us about the inspiration for his idea: “I was 23, working in Soho. I would step out of the office door near Carnaby Street and have at least five really eclectic restaurant options within 100 meters, from eateries specialising in British crab to Swiss cheese fondue. In Finchley Central, you were hard pressed to find one.” As a fellow North Londoner, I can relate. “I wondered,” Jamie continues “what would it take to bring a slice of the Soho restaurant scene to Finchley Central?”
His simple but effective solution to tackling the chainification of London’s local high streets lies in pairing creative chefs with independent, underutilized spaces – a reinvention of the restaurant model that aims to bring new, delicious, seasonal food concepts to local high streets beyond the gastro-hubs of zone one.
It’s eight weeks before the launch of the first restaurant in Iron Bloom, Hoxton, where Chef Bettina Campolucci is lined up to cook a six-course vegan menu. First, though, he needs to take the concept to market, launch his online presence, and inspire hundreds of people to subscribe and reserve seats for the opening nights.
Every founder has different attributes. Jamie is a natural marketer who understands people. The exotic plants outside the restaurant, the choice of art on the walls, even the scent of the candles in the bathroom is all carefully considered. However, it isn't organised into a clear story that explains what table&candle stands for and why people should care.
This story, “the brand narrative”, becomes the basis for a pilot project. It has since formed the foundation for every piece of table&candle communications, be it with customers, investors, or the press.
Following this pilot project, we become Jamie’s de facto marketing department. We help him launch his acquisition channels and gain his first diners. Branded merchandise, press releases, email newsletters, website messaging – the complete table&candle marketing machine is sparked into life. One windy Sunday afternoon in September, he even convinces me to don a table&candle sandwich board and chef’s hat and join him at Columbia Road flower market to recruit Londoners – we gain 200 subscriptions in under four hours.
A year on, table&candle is not just surviving, but thriving in building a faithful audience of diners in challenging times. During the first lockdown, we helped Jamie reinvent table&candle as a click and collect service, bringing fine dining to people’s doors on a Routemaster bus. When things reopened over summer, new restaurant evenings sold out quickly each week, with people coming from every corner of the city. The Telegraph, Courier Magazine, The Guardian and other top publications have all walked through table&candle’s doors.
We’re delighted to have played our part in helping table&candle reinvent restaurant dining and accelerate its growth from day one.
We wish Jamie the best of luck for the future... we’ll see you at the next table&candle.
“I don’t think calling Cutler+Goddard an agency does them justice, they’re more like my brand and marketing department – brilliant creatives with an eye for uncommon commercial sense. I can’t recommend them highly enough”
– Jamie Alexander, Founder, table&candle