The sibling team behind Nigerian tapas concept Chuku’s have kickstarted plans to develop their pop-up restaurant into a sustainable future business after successfully crowdfunding towards a permanent site.
Ifeyinwa and Emeka Frederick had initially aimed to raise £30,000 in 30 days, but broke through the target two days sooner than expected. The duo are now seeking a permanent site in the capital with previously saved funds bolstered by the backing of supporters, and are potentially eyeing up a location in Haringey’s Seven Sisters.
Speaking to The Caterer, Emeka – who maintains the kitchen side of the concept –said enthusiasm surrounding the pop-up had helped drive support, while previously unknown backers raised hope for the future. He added: “It’s really nice because there are people who have obviously been to the restaurant who have donated, and obviously in many cases obtained a reward as well, but there are also quite a lot of people whose names we definitely didn’t know and we’re actually pretty sure haven’t been to the restaurant.
“So to have people read what we’ve put together and then be so enthusiastic to support – not in exchange for part of the business, but just to support the journey and ensure that we get open – has made it a really lovely campaign to be a part of.”
The pair will be looking to bring what made their pop-up successful into the new Chuku’s site – in particular drawing heavily on Nigerian culture to give a taste of country’s cultural offering.
Ifeyinwa, who leads front of house operations, added: “Chuku’s has always been about more than food, and so what we deliver in the restaurant is a culturally immersive dining experience where, to the extent that we can, we like to give you a taste of Nigeria, a taste of Lagos, which leads people up to want to explore further.
“So whether that’s through the music that’s playing, which will be Nigerian afrobeats, or Nigerian street photography on the walls, or the proverbs on the back of the toilet, it’s all there to provide a stronger taste of Nigeria to you than just the food on your plate.”
The two have also been able to take advantage of the rising trend of vegan and vegetarian food, as well as gluten- and dairy-free offerings, without compromising the concept. By stripping dishes down into tapas-style portions and playing on the strength of Nigeria’s heavily plant-based cuisine, Chuku’s offers a menu ready to address dietary requirements without removing ingredients.
Emeka added: “It’s funny because a lot of people think that we’ve created a really extensive menu which is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and is also gluten-free and dairy-free, but the reality is it’s just in the concept we have. A lot of the dishes that we have in Nigeria are plant-based and then they get combined with meat to make one of the larger dishes, but because we’re doing the tapas, we can almost separate the two dishes so you get the chicken on its own and then you have the plant-based dish on its own as well.
“Similarly with the gluten-free items it’s just that wheat is not the big starch within Nigeria. We have cassava and yam that are more traditional, and again with dairy, we eat a lot of cattle for beef but not so much for dairy products, which is probably due to traditionally not being able to store it.”
The crowdfunding money will now help to support the pair through to maintaining a sustainable restaurant as they move away from the temporary sites that allowed them to establish a fan base in the city. Emeka said: “We had already built up a pot to try and get open, but also there’s a couple of things – one that all the sites we’re considering are more expensive than we’d initially budgeted for, and two that given the state of the industry we’re conscious that you need a long time to incubate your idea before you really hit a really good run rate.
“We had to make sure we’ve got some working capital, so that’s what the crowdfunding has really allowed us to do – to tackle the unexpected costs for surveyors and the higher costs for architects and stuff like that, which we weren’t really budgeting for, and to make sure we can not just get open but survive our first year, 18 months, and actually have a sustainable business. We don’t want to be somewhere that just pops up and pops down. We’re finished with pop-ups now – we want to be open permanently.”