The new Brigade venue will be located in the renovated 19th century Fire Station building in Bermondsey, which has been leased by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Set up as a social enterprise, Brigade will be a three-way partnership between PwC, De Vere and Beyond Food foundation, with the aim of creating a profitable business while providing work experience and on-the-job training to people from a disadvantaged background.
Following a £1.4m refit of two floors within the four-floor building, Brigade at The Fire Station is slated to open in the autumn.
“The idea is getting businesses and the public sector to work together to solve a problem that isn’t getting sorted – this is big society,” said Simon Boyle, who set up the Beyond Food Foundation to help homeless people find their way up the ladder in the hospitality sector.
Two thirds of the money for the project was sourced from the government through Boyle’s foundation, while the remaining funding came from PwC, De Vere and some third party sponsorship.
De Vere, which runs a portfolio of hotels and meeting spaces venues, will be managing the bar and bistro, while Boyle will be overseeing the project.
Although the underlying concept will be to help disadvantaged youngsters, the idea is for the brand to become a successful business in its own right, said Boyle.
“This is absolutely a profit-making enterprise. That’s the most important message to get out. You can’t actually help anyone unless you have a strong business message. The idea is to make it profitable and successful so it can be sustainable,” he told BigHospitality.
“We’ll be focusing the brand as an exceptionally good place to eat. It’s important that it’s a great business first and foremost, and hopefully when people find out about the concept behind it, it will be an added bonus. That will become part of the experience but not the selling point.”
Brigade bar and bistro
Brigade will include an 87-cover British bistro and a 65-cover bar on the ground floor. The first floor will house four 10-cover private dining rooms, one 45-cover private dining room and a wine tasting lounge.
Each floor will have its own kitchen, both of which will be “live and open” to encourage interaction with chefs and food, allowing guests to walk past or through the kitchens.
Chef training and employment
Kitchens will be staffed by a base of full-time chefs together with a stream of trainee chefs on work experience.
After following a six-week introduction scheme at the Beyond Food Foundation, participants will have the option of taking up a six-month apprenticeship at Brigade, which would be pursued in conjunction with a part-time hospitality course at the nearby Southwark College.