This is going to be a little bit of a weird post. It was originally destined to be something of a review, of our favourite place in the whole world to eat at. The entire thing would of been praising how good this restaurant was, and outlining exactly why you should go visit – but, instead, this… this is a post of mourning.
A few weeks ago, shortly after we were invited to review Griddle & Shake, the business went bust. When interviewing the manager, there was a certain somber tone to his voice, that would lead to us ultimately realising exactly what was going on. So, instead of a pretty average food review, this post might actually turn into some far more… grown up. It might even turn into some real journalism, and for that I sincerely apologise.
Let’s start at the beginning: Griddle & Shake was an american styled burger restaurant in Nottingham’s city centre, based around the idea of burger customisation and a great in-house experience. I’d liken the style of food to be not too dissimilar to another favourite of mine: Five Guys. Only, about ten times better, more variety and with customer service that would make even Rihanna feel like she was the only girl in the world.
The way you ordered your food was more of a conversation than just reading from a list, with the staff being so obviously passionate about the food they were serving, often chipping in advice of what flavour concoctions would work well together, and giving you a slightly raised eyebrow when putting something together that just wouldn’t work. Somehow they always seemed to know your name, without them ever seeming to ask – be that creepy that they were eavesdropping on your conversations or not, I don’t know, but when you stepped up to the counter to order and you were met by a smile and your name, it always felt kinda cool.
Their interior design was also a key ingredient that shaped the experience of eating at Griddle & Shake. Their style was oddly familiar, making you feel at home, yet completely unique and held it’s own against everywhere I’ve ever dined within. As a filmmaker, look at anything I’ve ever made and you’ll see two consistent colours throughout my work: Blue and Orange. These complimentary colours are some of the most visually appealing of all to me, and so sitting down and being surrounded by it, add some metal, wood, retro-styled Edison bulbs and I was in visual heaven.
For the two of us it all started back in March ’17. Han had heard about G&S on twitter, and after reading about their gluten free options, she was intrigued. After reading about their milkshakes however, well, I was told we were going whether I liked it or not. So as her ever-loving slave, with no real reason to visit Nottingham, I agreed to drive her there.
It was a Sunday, the shops were closing and we found ourselves sitting in Griddle & Shake waiting for our food to arrive, it was pretty excellent really. The meal was amazing, the venue itself was so chill and relaxing, and it just generally felt like a place you’d want to bring friends to hang out.
Han took several Instagram photos, booked in a hair appointment and we drove home. We used having her hair re-dyed to visit again, and the food just got better. The staff greeted and remembered me as the “bacon and fries guy”, as that is what han had chosen to eat previously, and though it felt kinda sad to be remembered for something my girlfriend had created and not for my incredible personality, it did make me think how cool is it that these guys actually care enough about the people who eat here to remember us?
It’s easy to say we were both already fans of the place, the food was fantastic and it had become top of the list of things to do in Nottingham for us, even after only eating there twice. What caught the attention of the people behind Griddle & Shake for them to invite us to write up a review? Who knows, but when we received the invite it’s an understatement to say we were a little bit excited.
So there we were. DSLR in hands, food on the table, excited to work out how we were going to make this review our best yet. We knew we loved the food, we knew we loved the atmosphere, and we knew the images were going to turn out great with how visually pleasing the restaurant was, but we wanted more. Han and I really wanted to learn about the story of Griddle & Shake, where it had come from, how they were doing, and where they saw themselves in the future, what we didn’t know however, was the fact that they would cease to exist in just under a month. So, here it is, the rise, and the fall, of Griddle & Shake.
The best way to start any business by finding a problem. Once you’ve found a problem, you can normally gain a pretty straight path on which to find a solution, and then from there find a way to sell that solution. Boom, business 101 with Tom. You’re welcome. The founders of G&S saw a huge gap in the market between cheap fast food and pricey premium, freshly cooked food – and that’s where they thought they could solve a problem.
They aimed to start a restaurant that would bridge that gap. With fresh, tasty food, at a price point slightly higher than most fast-food chains, but with a far more premium approach, starting with the customer service and way the customer would order the food. Like I said previously in the post, you’d pretty much build your own burger, designing your meal from the ground up, the food would then take around 10 minutes to cook, and then you’d have the lovely atmosphere of the place to keep you seated (and keep you buying drinks!).
“We’re determined to make sure we’re not classified as ‘just another food chain’, but instead that we can stand out, and do something different.”
I know the first time Han and I visited, after eating a pretty large meal each and two huge milkshakes, I was expecting a hefty bill, and after how good it was I was more than happy to pay it. To my surprise it amounted to something not too far under £20, which was ridiculous for the quality and amount of food that had been scoffed!
The burger it’s self was delicious, a so totally obviously fresh beef burger, with pulled pork topping the gently melted cheese, crisp lettuce and tasty beef tomato all held within a remarkably well textured gluten-free bun. In fact, the bun was so good I’m still annoyed to this day I didn’t ask where they bought them in from, I could almost believe they were freshly made by themselves for just how good they were.
Another ideal they believed in, that felt specifically attributed to me, was having great options for those with intolerance, but not to charge the earth for it. As I’ve spoken about in previous posts, so often the average food manufacture will call something gluten free and then slap a big price tag on it and make you pay for the privilege, but when speaking with the manager he thought totally the opposite.
“It’s really not that hard you know? It’s not even that expensive anymore. Take our brownies for example, we just replaced the flour with rice flour. It doesn’t cost anything and personally I think they taste even better!”
So that’s all good and well, but in that case, why did they go bump? They’d built a food culture perfect for students, their placement was right by the University of Nottingham, why didn’t it work out? When speaking to the manager that day, I think he gave us a clue: People just weren’t coming in to eat anymore.
With the rise of Deliveroo and UberEats, people just didn’t want to walk through the door. Why make the effort to walk somewhere when you can order something to come straight to you, for just a fraction of the price more. Why did this matter you ask? Surely business is business, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from, inside or out? Well, sorry pal, but you’re wrong there.
The way these delivery services make their money is through commission, some taking up to as much as 20% of the total price of the order. Thinking back to their menu, I’m sure G&S had based their pricing around the idea of quantity. Small margins, but plenty of people flooding through the doors to buy up their delicious foods, but when that margin is reduced even further, the business makes no money.
Another problem I imagine they would of faced was timing. People who use the app delivery services are, surprise surprise, hungry. They want their food asap, I know I do when I use them! Why would you want to wait an extra ten minutes for your burger when you could get something very similar for two?
Think about this way, you’re browsing through one of those apps and you stumble upon Griddle & Shake… They look more expensive than any other food chain, you’re assuming they’re a chain and not an independent (though, would you even care?) as their branding is so good, they’re going to take longer to get to you, and as theres no photography other than the covering image, which looks exactly like everyone else’s food, why on earth would you choose them over the competition? This, I believe, is why they went bust.
They endeavoured to do it all. Great food, great staff, great atmosphere, great price – and they did it. They succeeded in doing all of that, however what they didn’t anticipate was people’s laziness. Everything they did was spot on, their branding was fantastic, the way they styled their interior was brilliant, and the way they interacted with social media to gain new customers was great too, but the demographic they chose to revolutionise, were all sat at home.
So, they desperately tried to reach new demographics. They started a new menu, focussing on the currently very popular ‘gourmet desserts’ trend. They took what they knew was great about their milkshakes and turned it into freshly made ice creams, huge waffles, gluten free brownies, the works – and damn did they do it well!
We didn’t realise it at the time, but this was a last ditch effort to try and reach people, and I think if they’d had the budget to keep it going just a few more months, maybe they would have. They only allowed their business to run for 7 months, and things take time to build. They’d taken a hit from the online delivery industry, but I think there may have been a chance they could of pushed past it? I don’t know, perhaps not. Perhaps the problem they sought to solve was actually one the majority of folks didn’t really care all that much about.
When we emailed their PR company to tell them this post was in the works, and got the news of their closure, it was somewhat soul destroying. Though I’ve listed some reasons why above, I still can’t quite work out how a restaurant that seemed to have it all, did so poorly. It’s saddening to know the two of us can’t go back there for one last meal, but I’d like to still thank all the people at Griddle & Shake for those three meals we had with them. They were pretty fab, thanks guys.