London Union, created by Leon co-founder Henry Dimbleby (pictured) and Street Feast's Jonathan Downey, has launched a £3.5m crowdfunding bid to build a permanent London street food market.
Using the crowdfunding site Seedrs, investors are invited to offer from £5,000 to £100,000. The group is aiming to raise £3.5m for a 10% stake in the business.
Depending on the amount, investors will become Union Members, with benefits including a seat on the advisory board, an invitation to the company's Annual General Eating and an invitation to all London Union markets and events, plus the chance to review a restaurant with food critics Giles Coren or Tom Parker-Bowles.
The project is backed by an advisory board, including over 60 street food traders who became involved through previous investment drives, as well as some of the biggest names in London restaurants and street food. These include founder of street food group Kerb, Petra Barran, Soho House Group founder Nick Jones, restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi, Spanish chef Jose Pizarro, Russell Norman and Richard Beatty of the Polo Group, partner in Hawksmoor Richard Turner, Zetter Group owner Mark Sainsbury, Craft London chef Stevie Parle, broadcasters Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, Dishoom founder Shamil Thakrar, and co-founder of Wahaca, Thomasina Miers. Chair of the London Food Board, Rosie Boycott, also appears.
A host of food journalists are also on the board, including Marina O'Loughlin, Gizzi Erskine and Giles Coren.
The street food market drive is boosted by the rising popularity of visitors to current sites, with the group's street food markets receiving more than 300,000 visitors over five months in spring and summer this year, generating around £3.5m revenue and £1.5m EBITDA (excluding overheads and cost), according to the group. The company also estimates that over 1.5 million people are expected to visit London Union markets in 2016.
Downey said: "We founded London Union to transform London's food landscape, turning underused and derelict corners of the city into vibrant street food markets. In Lewisham, for example, we transformed an abandoned 1950s market into one of south east London's most popular weekend destinations, with around 4,000 visitors each week."
Dimbleby added: "Although only five months old, London Union is already very profitable. This enables us to open commercially sustainable markets that bring communities together, create employment and provide opportunities for new food entrepreneurs to establish themselves without requiring large amounts of capital. We are doing this fundraising so we can move fast to open the world class, permanent street food market that London deserves."
Ben Aronsten, chief marketing officer at Seedrs, added: "We are excited London Union has chosen the Seedrs platform to provide an opportunity for the crowds to be a part of the rapidly growing street food movement with such accomplished entrepreneurs."
London Union is not the only high-profile name turning to crowdfunding as a means to secure significant levels of investment; recently, beer company BrewDog raised £25m via its Equity for Punks scheme to help it expand; Pizza Rossa raised over £150,000 via the CrowdCube website, and Cheshire restaurateur Gary Usher gathered £100,000 via more informal site Kickstarter.