What makes a smash hit restaurant? New BBC show came to Manchester to find out


Last year, we spent more than £33 billion on eating out in the UK. There are now more restaurants and cuisines on the high street than ever before. A new idea or concept can change the way we eat and create a multi-million-pound brand in the process.

But what does it take to create a smash hit restaurant? In a new six part series for BBC Two filmed in Manchester, the world’s most famous maitre-d’ Fred Sirieix tries to find out.

In Million Pound Menu, two budding restaurateurs who think they’ve got what it takes to go from pop-up to profit will compete each week for life-changing sums of money to turn their dreams into a bricks and mortar reality.

Photo: BBC/Electric Ray

It takes great food and great people to launch a successful restaurant business, of course. But above all, it takes a great idea.

In each episode Fred welcomes two different sets of restaurant hopefuls. They each have innovative ideas for new dining concepts, and hope to secure investment from one of 10 potential investors.

The investors, with millions of pounds to spend between them, include Jeremy Roberts, CEO of Living Ventures. This northern restaurant and bar group has an annual turnover in excess of £100 million with a portfolio including Manchester House, Australasia, Grand Pacific, Gusto and The Alchemist.

Jeremy Roberts

Other investors include Tim Gee, property director for Allied London, whose job involves providing new restaurant concepts for their estates in Manchester; Atul Kochar, the first Indian chef awarded a Michelin star in the UK and owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Benares in Mayfair; Scott Collins, co-founder of burger and cocktail group MEATliquor; and Lydia Forte of the 5 Star Rocco Forte Hotel group.

Each new concept is given a three-day trial run in a 40-seater pop-up restaurant in Manchester – the food capital of the north – to try to win over the paying public and the all-important investors.

Their food, service, team-management and brand potential will all be ruthlessly scrutunised. In tense one-to-one meetings with the investors they need to prove their business plans and financial figures stack up. After which it’s either game on or game over.

It’s like MasterChef meets Dragons Den – with a dash of the dreaded interviews round from The Apprentice thrown in for good measure.

In these challenging economic times, there is fierce competition to find a breakthrough concept. Will any receive an offer that could change their lives forever? Will they receive multiple offers and have to choose between competing investors? Or will they leave Manchester empty-handed?

“It’s a business opportunity like no other: the chance to open your very own restaurant and launch a multi-million pound brand,” says David Brindley, Head of Popular Factual at BBC.

“It’s a dream shared by so many but achieved by so few. In this series we’re giving the most exciting and genuinely credible restaurateurs the chance to prove their concept to the people who can transform their lives overnight. With millions of pounds on the table the stakes, and the drama, couldn’t be higher.”

Photo: BBC/Electric Ray

The competitors hoping to make an impression include traders from London, Scotland and Liverpool. We’ll also see Manchester’s own Wholesome Junkies, who specialise in vegan junk food.

Chelsea Campbell, 27, from Manchester, worked as a waitress and front of house for eight years before setting up Wholesome Junkies in early 2017. After turning vegetarian three years ago and learning about the ethics of the food industry, she decided to become vegan, making her own nut milks, vegan butters and cheese.

Looking for investment to grow Wholesome Junkies, Chelsea is after £95,000 to open in Manchester. Veganism is one of the UK’s fastest-growing food sectors, and viewers can see how Chelsea fares in episode two on 24 May.

“The UK restaurant scene is booming with creativity and a quality never seen before,” says Fred Sirieix, the award-winning general manager at Michelin-starred restaurant Galvin at Windows at the London Hilton on Park Lane.

“To play a part in discovering, nurturing and helping the next generation of restaurateurs is an opportunity like no other. I can’t wait for the series to start.”

Million Pound Menu starts Thursday 17 May at 9pm on BBC 2 and runs for six weeks.


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