Following on from ‘Our Moment with Candice Fonseca’ last week, Colu are continuing our #StoriesToSupportChallenge as we look to inspire a joined up and prosperous local economy in Liverpool. Each week we will be visiting one of our businesses to experience them for ourselves, let you know more about them, hear their plans for the future and listen to the trials they face as local businesses.
When I mentioned to a group of friends I was going for lunch at Free State Kitchen, just from their reaction I knew I would be in for a treat. What started out as two of us going out for food turned into seven instantly, all salivating at the thought of a gorgeous burger.
Tucked away on Maryland Street, Free State Kitchen has an amazing garden which is the perfect suntrap in good weather, and lucky for us we snagged the last table on a 26 degree day.
I ordered the Garden Burger, which when requested vegan comes on a sesame bun instead of the classic brioche and without cheese. I found it to be one of the better vegan burgers I’ve had; it’s not trying to replicate meat but instead pulls no punches with great flavour and sturdy texture.
My friends ordered double deluxe burgers, barbecue cheeseburgers, buffalo wings and mac & cheese which they raved about too, clearly the burgers lived up to their strong reputation!
Kate Hughes, co-owner at Free State Kitchen, was inspired by the casualness of American dining style from multiple trips she has taken to the States and noticed Liverpool was lacking the classic American-style food scene and atmosphere. Pioneering not only in concept but also as one of the early independents to open its doors in Liverpool, I was keen to find out more about the challenges facing local entrepreneurs.
“We found the network of support from other people and companies within the industry wasn’t as accessible as it is now, meaning it was hard sometimes to find decent suppliers and workmen by recommendation. However, Facebook groups such as Liverpool Hospitality Exchange and the business networking and support from local events and companies like Independent Liverpool and Colu means there’s a much tighter community feel, especially between the independent businesses meaning we can all support each other much more.”
I asked Kate from her extensive experience, what advice she would give the budding restaurateur.
‘Get experience both front of house and back of house, do all the jobs from washing the pots to cashing up! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and be prepared for long hours. Also, employ people with good hospitality experience and who know the local industry too, plus always listen and take on board what your customers want.’
Then we discussed the use of Colu at Free State Kitchen. (If you haven’t heard of us we’re a digital wallet that aims to keep more money in Liverpool, by the way.)
‘Its new and extremely easy plus it’s also a talking point with diners, especially when they learn they get extra money when they add to their wallet! Working with Colu to bring a new technology to the city also means we can attract new customers. It’s always nice to welcome new faces who soon become regulars!’
Finally I asked Kate what she was looking forward to in the coming months, both at Free State Kitchen and in the wider independent community.
“Mainly seeing how the city continues to transform and support local independents over chains. Seeing our gorgeous garden in bloom and full of people enjoying food and drink is always fantastic plus we love meeting all the new students in September!’