Chain Store Massacre

Matt ask:

Who is best to write to to raise concerns about the opening of Nando’s and Frankie & Benny’s in Greenwich? The council, a planning team, Greenwich Hospital estate? Do you know? I want to do what I can to object to any more chain/big name brands opening up in the area.

The Phantom replies:

Matt, you are one of a number of people who are quite upset at our getting a pair of chains as the first thing people see when they arrive at Greenwich Pier on the boat.  And I have to say I’m particularly un-jazzed about the signs, especially, which I feel cheapen the traditional view of Greenwich from Island Gardens (actually, I have a bit of a bag-on for the whole pier building with its nasty fake copper finish and…no, I promise not to go off on one about that today…)

Thing is, though, I’m not convinced that it’s possible for the council to refuse permission to a company just because they’re a chain – it would be discrimination of a sort and I can’t see that it’s legally enforceable to refuse one place that serves food because you don’t like the cut of their jib and allow another establishment that also serves food to open in the same place instead just because they’re a nice local indie. Hell – if we could do that we’d have booted out a hell of a lot of very bad restaurants in the centre of town by now and replaced them with lovely places that sell decent food.

Until I am the Phantom Despot of Greenwich Towne, and I can decree that henceforth only shops and eateries I like are allowed to trade, I suspect I have two choices. The first is to make it clear to places like Greenwich Hospital and whoever owns the pier (‘m not sure who that is…) that I want to encourage indies to flourish rather than to ban chains which would be legally hard.

With gardening if you encourage enough nice flowers the weeds don’t get a look in. Independents need to be allowed the space and time to grow, and not to feel that they are being leant on all the time by landlords who would rather have the big, reliable bucks they can get from multinationals.

The second is simple – don’t go to the chains and do go to the indies. This is, admittedly, harder, given that most of the chains’ trade is from tourists who often head for what they know – but if the indies look good and enough locals are seen going inside them, hopefully visitors will be intrigued to visit them too.

I agree – we need to be vocal on this and let big landlords – Greenwich Hospital Trust being the biggest in the town centre – know that we want one of the last remaining largely-independent shopping centres to stay that way. Whether it will have any effect will be interesting, of course. Ultimately GHT is answerable to its trustees, whose aim in life is to get the most cash for their charity, not to us who just live in the place they own.

Thanks to Paul for the pic, BTW…


the attachments to this post:

F&B2 (2)
F&B2 (2)


48 Comments to “Chain Store Massacre”

  1. IanVisits says:

    It would also help if the Indies did a bit more self-promotional work.

    It doesn’t take a lot of effort to print off a load of 10% discount vouchers and send someone down to the pier (or wherever) and hand them out during quiet times of the day.

    Would also help if they had more space to sit, but that is for a different debate.

  2. MR T says:

    The thing that gets my goat the most is that places like the greenwich brewery, who have little to no signage, Bianco 43, which got told off for having the wrong colour on their sign , but Frank & Benny’s are allowed to have huge ghastly red signs on their building…

    I would have thought protecting the world heritage site’s atmosphere would be the priority…

  3. Adam says:

    These three applied for planning permission – not sure which of them owns the site as the documents have been removed from the website -have asked for them:

    Port of London Authority/
    Greenwich Hospital Trust/
    Stonehurst Estates

  4. geoff3 says:

    As I predicted the F&B river facing neon sign has been installed. The famous vista from Island Gardens will sadly never be the same.

  5. chuckie says:

    At least Bryron Burgers will be opening. They make great burgers. I think it’s great new places are opening and creating new jobs to the area. Or would people like a disused pier with a closed ice cream shop for the last 5 years and about to fall into the thames not creating new jobs and more visitors to Greenwich?

  6. Where’s Byron Burgers going to be? I thought it was just F&Bs and Nandos?

  7. Charl says:

    I remember reading somewhere way back that it would be Byron and getting quite excited. But then reading that they’d been beaten to it or somesuch by F&B – very disappointing… Sorry can’t remember where so this is just hearsay.

  8. Charl says:

    Ooh mno I lied, this is from the Byron FB page…

    Byron Greenwich

    We’ll soon be opening a new restaurant next to the Cutty Sark when the famous Tea Clipper finally reopens to the public in April. Whether you’re a Greenwich local or a fan of that lost era of sailing, you will soon be able to sink your teeth into our juicy ones and admire the old girl. Not a bad combination, eh?

  9. AB3 says:

    There are 4 units as I understand it: Byrons, F&Bs, Nandos, and Zizzi.

  10. Paddy says:

    Are Byron opening in Greenwich? I heard that was no longer happening. I hope I am wrong though – they are the kind of chain I don’t have a problem with and they do amazing burgers.

    Speaking of local independents – have you heard that Goddards Pies are taking over the Inc fish & chip shop in what was the Cricketers?

  11. Kate says:

    I’m not a fan of the tacky too-bright signage of F&B at all – I am surprised it was given permission in the first place and, to be fair, I could happily live without either of those places on my high street….but it obviously comes down to who can pay big money to the freeholder for that piece of prime retail space and big corporate chains like those are the ones who will cough up. I guess with it being a franchise it will be pretty standardised quality-wise and appeal to families/tourists alike. It is also a lot less likely to suddenly go out of business like an independent or new business may be at risk of. An empty/closed down/dilapidated space is worse than a gaudy commercial space in my opinion..though only just.

  12. Smallpaws says:

    I can’t believe it. It is utterly ridiculous that consent was granted!

    Actually Im not surprised at all… I mean the council who turns down the Black Vanilla Champagne Bar application and puts up parking prices so much that So Organic sadly closes down due to lack of footfall is bound to agree to big chains moving in.

    We should be encouraging and supporting small independent businesses and those which enhance this beautiful UNESCO heritage site that we live in, not making it look like any other faceless town centre!

  13. Richard says:

    Nandos is a step up in quality compared to ‘indies’ in the centre of Greenwich.

  14. Other Adam says:

    I agree with Richard – I’m not too bothered about the chainification seeing as the indies do such a poor job.

  15. Indeed I did hear that Godards was coming back.

  16. scared of chives says:

    Hard one this. Many of the cafes and restaurants in Greenwich ARE poor – seemingly catering for the ‘one visit’ brigade – but others do/have at least tried – like Rhodes, Nevada Street deli, Royal Teas, L’Artisan on Trafalgar Road.

    But if all ‘indies’ were like the above the big boys would probably still move in regardless. I hope the current crap places fold, they deserve to.

    I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing – but no Pret, EAT or POD? – what does that say – why aren’t they interested/ I thought Pret were coming to town once upon a time…

  17. Mike says:

    Surely the main issue should be quality, not ‘indie vs chain’? F&B’s!! I mean come on. Not very classy for a World Heritage Site.

    @TGP re “nasty fake copper finish” – I think it’s supposed to mirror the hull plating on The Cutty Sark (old school antifouling paint). In my experience, copper was used due its toxicity, but that metal looks like brass.

  18. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    According to their UK website, they are opening in ‘Greenwich Village’…

    At least one of the outlets is British. Silver lining and all that.

  19. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    Yeah, that’s Nando’s I was talking about….move along, nothing to see here….

  20. Pedro says:

    Zizzi? Say it ain’t so… I went to one of those once. Does anyone go there by choice?

  21. Ankur says:

    I floated this idea elsewhere a while ago as a means of a) livening up the area around Maze Hill and b) of introducing some good indie traders to the area. The idea I mooted was for a weekend farmers/food market (a la Borough Markets!) along Woodlands Park Road. It ends in a dead end by the Vanbrugh Tavern and doesn’t have a lot of passing traffic. I am not sure what the logistics of organising a street market are, but it is being done in many areas around London quite successfully. It will be excellent for animating the area on the weekend and if producers/vendors get a good response hopefully someone might even set up shop on Trafalgar Road!

    The other place I thought would be great for a street market would be along the section of the Thames path starting at the Cutty Sark tavern and heading west towards the town centre. 

    Do people know if the idea of street markets has ever been considered before for these spots?  It would definitely be interesting to know what other people think.

  22. Jack Cross says:

    Re Goddards slinking back -
    When Goddards was threatened with demolition to clear space for the development of what is now Cutty Sark DLR and the surrounding shops/flats etc, the brothers got up a petition, which many local people including myself signed, and got Tony Banks to come over and list the building. They got English Heritage money to refurbish the building. Everyone was happy that a genuine part of Greenwich, quirky and individual, had been saved. And it was a good business, always busy with people queing out of the door at the weekends. However, along came Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and it transpired that the 110 year Goddard heritage was in fact for sale if the cheque was big enough.
    Now Inc, having had the sale of their town centre pubs blocked by the Hospital, and wanting still to be rid of them, especially the chippie which is not a success, have done a deal with people who were supplying their pies, and Goddards come creeping back.
    Inc, the Hospital and Goddards – 3 of the concerns which have done most in the recent past to destroy the unique character of our town come together in an un-holy triple alliance. Yuck.
    I will not being eating their pies, nice as they always are.
    I think that the destruction of the old Goddards and the Cricketers (both of which were viable businesses) are two things that real Greenwich people will never forgive.

  23. Rod says:

    There is a certain vile symmetry to Goddards, who destroyed their own heritage, moving into the former Cricketers, where Inc had already destroyed the heritage of the site for them.

  24. Lara says:

    I like Nandos and Bryon Burgers looks good but I have always thought Frankie & Benny’s is shite. Disappointed to hear about the flourescent sign and the spoilt vista from Island Gardens. I love that vista. :-(

    But…

    The creation of jobs locally is surely a good thing?

  25. Paddy says:

    I was unaware of the details around Goddards closing their old shop. But I’d rather see Goodards at the old Cricketers site than the Inc fish & chips shop (whatever the circumstances). I’d rather still see the Cricketers still there – I used to enjoy the Sunday live music!

  26. PiratesPatch says:

    we do get the lovely Harbour and Jones specialist tea rooms at the cutty sark which will be great, and most importantly, the sark back!

    As for Nelson Road shops, maybe if the trusy hadnt covered the buildings for 9 months last year so know one could see what they were, or bothered to put in a proper crossing from the market over Nelson Road instead of the current death trap, or told the traders they couldnt have adevertising boards outside their shops for elf&safety reasons…then maybe places like So Organic wouldnt have to move up North!

    It doesnt help that the market shops will be going, or that designer outlets will be opening in the dome!
    WestField Stratford has also had a big effect.

    And the Trust should get INC+Frank a taxi and get him out if he wants to go…not block his sales!

    Any support from MP NickR…..silent as ever!

    Lets hope the Olympics bring in some cash.

  27. Steve (yes, the one of many!) says:

    Wow… Hasn’t this caused peps to wake up? I recall a TrGP posting I commented on last year abt the types of outlets these new pier bldgs were attracting (was to be 3 restaurants , amended to 4 as “AB3″ rightly said above(/below?!)

    I feel the need for perspective here… Ideally it would be great if Greenwich was full of fab indies… But we don’t have all fab indies, as has been said, so perhaps a bit of competition might help.

    This is about business after all. A shame about signage, partic Thames facing, but that’s the direction of most incoming trade so again from a business point of view it makes sense (the council will have needed to agree this, but I get the impression they are not the best listeners to electorate concerns).

    Whilst I live in SE10 (and kinda love stricken after four years) I also travel a fair bit. There are some parts of the UK that quite honestly wouldn’t care a bit if they had indies/chains/any kinda shop wanting to move into the area.

    We can do nothing abt these new eateries- we don’t have to go there (although Byron’s are kinda yum) but we could benefit from them… To be more competitive, existing indies need to add value to their goods/services to tourists and locals – whilst being more creative in getting the message across. The foundations for a stronger indie presence will build from this.

  28. JR says:

    Zizzi? The food & service in those ‘restaurants’ is … how to put this politely … utterly crap.

  29. PiratesPatch says:

    Wow….l think its best l dont attempt to write at 1 in the morning after a few drinks…spelling all over the place, sorry folks!

    But good to see the views of locals, and as above, considering the state of some parts of the country, you should be glad for any inward investment.
    Balance will come, and some indies have to think that overpricing or poor service will only send more people to Stratford, or soon the Dome.

    Many shops also dont work together, for instance many shops in Greenwich insist that Wednesday night is late night shopping night…where up and down the country, at least outside London, Thursday is always deemed the Late night opening…so why would the shops here be different!
    Best to work on a combined Marketing aim without the Trust and move in the same direction instead of all falling alone.

    More info on the Hotel/Markets plan might be a big help for a start.

    Good luck to all.

  30. Pedro says:

    I’m really glad Goddards are back.

    Like you, Jack, I signed the original petition, objected to the original application, and felt betrayed when they moved out for filthy lucre.

    But – that campaign didn’t just save the shop, it saved the building, and much of the block. It was worthwhile on that basis alone.

    And now we lose the crappy fish shop and we get something that has a Greenwich connection. In this case, the parable of the return of the Prodigal Son is apt. We can continue to hold a grudge or we can be happy about the return of a Greenwich landmark. I’m happy and I’ll tell my friends to go there. Otherwise, one day we will have nothing left.

    (And I share all your sentiments about Inc. THey’re a parasitic organism that has ruined the Bar Du Musee, the Spreadeagle (special offers on at the mo), the Cricketers, the Trafalgar, the building that housed the Inc Bar and is now – incredibly – disused, the Admiral Hardy is pretty poor too… I long for the day they’re gone)

    And Rod, before you attack Goddards you should pay attention to the Old Brewery… this is a great addition to Greenwich that is now sitting on its laurels. The once wonderful staff now include some incredibly miserable, uninterested personnel who rival anyone I’ve encountered from the Inc Group. Please sack them, we want your empire to grow.

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  32. Kate says:

    I dont know about the Old Brewery, I was in there a week or so ago, we went twice for food there during that month and both times we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful. Service was a bit on the slow side but the food more than made up for it.

  33. Rod says:

    Pedro -
    I DO NOT post here as a spokesperson for anyone but myself. I have not attacked Goddard’s, I commented upon a kind of nasty synchronisity about this deal, and the destruction of the character of the town centre.
    I am not in a position to sack anyone at the Old Brewery,and it is not my empire. I have been open on this site over the last few years, but this is the last time that I shall post on this blog under my own name – henceforth, if I post at all, I shall use a pseudonym like the rest of you.

  34. geoff3 says:

    Not really bothered who occupies the site (chain or no chain), my biggest gripe is the awful river facing signage.£50 million spent on a national treasure and the council allow planning for those hideous buildings with their crap signage to be built in front of it.

  35. Pedro says:

    Rod, I love the Old Brewery. But why is it OK for you to accuse Goddards with words like “Vile” and “destroying heritage”, but not OK for another to say some of your staff don’t live up to the standard of their predecessors? Don’t be so over-sensitive.

    You could equally claim that Goddard’s saved heritage – were it not for the goodwill they’d earned, the building would be gone, no?

  36. Rod says:

    Pedro -
    read what I wrote, as opposed to what you think I wrote.
    That absolutely IS my last post.

  37. Meirion says:

    You don’t think all those visitors who catch the boat down to Greenwich want to see some old bits of masonry cobbled together by Wren, Vanburgh and Hawksmoor looming up at them as they disembark? No the new Las-Vegas-on-Thames on the pier head is a much more appropriate entrance to a World Heritage Site. I hear the red F&B lights are going to flash on and off to create the right ambience.

  38. Mr Dinsdale says:

    The neon signage makes the Heritage centre look like a theme park. Personally, the occupiers aren’t what I’d wish for Greenwich but someone somewhere must eat in them. There wasn’t any planning apps in Greenwich Time so how exactly has the signage been given permission?

  39. Chris says:

    http://www.greenwich.co.uk/daily-photo/07325-02032011-greenwich-pier/

    This is a link to a photo of ‘The Sign’ on Greenwich.co.uk.

    ‘Hideous’ about sums it up.

  40. Lara says:

    On another note, the boyfriend and I went to Desperados last night because we wanted a late drink and couldn’t think of ANYWHERE else to go.

    It was cheesy and a bit sad but we had fun and got pissed. Lots of photos on my Twitter! :D .

    But anyway, I wish there were more places to go out late in Greenwich. The town centre isn’t particularly residential so it would be lovely if we had more places to go after 11pm. I can only think of Bar Musee as an alternative to Desperados and it is only open late on Friday and Saturday nights.

    This or a Ping Pong is what I really want:

    http://www.greenwich.co.uk/news/06897-black-vanilla-greenwich-council-licensing/ < :-(

  41. Peter says:

    The council needs to pay attention to local people… The whole thing is hideous. Who is making money out of this?

  42. Pedro says:

    The council didn’t pay attention – because not enough people made enough of a fuss about the original planning application (you can’t rely on our spineless planning officers, who seem to roll over for any developer).

    But you CAN object to the neon signs – now is the time! Check the Phantom’s “Sign Applications” post, and YOU can help make this less hideous!

  43. Sue says:

    The ticket office on the pier – What an awful building, cheap looking false copper and the most dreadful signage. Who in their right minds ever let this through? The old one was so much better.

    Must have been some one that hates Greenwich and we have been waiting for this for so long.

    For years now people coming off boats have had to cope with the detours and a building site and for WHAT! A building that would be more in keeping in an American Shopping Mall than historic Greenwich and its the first thing you see when you get off the boat.

  44. PiratesPatch says:

    ‘Years’….

    Slight exaggeration there sue!

    Let them finish properly first, dont judge the building by the signs.

  45. david says:

    This is just another example of how the character of classical Greenwich is rapidly being destroyed by those who
    promote inappropriate Moderist architecture.
    It is unbelievable that this monstrosity of a building was approved within a World Heritage Site and the original allowed to be shipped to the Caribbean.
    The Neon signs are just the icing on one hell of an architectral dogs dinner.
    Anyone interested in forming a Greenwich Architecural Preservation Society

  46. Franklin says:

    PiratesPatch

    Sue is correct. It has been years. According to an April 24, 2008 post by Our Very Own Phant,

    “We’re all agreed that what we currently have is a mess. And a bloomin’ confusing mess at that – trying to work out where to get a boat from must be a minefield for a visitor (well- it certainly was for a Phantom.) A once-grand pier has deteriorated to a building site.”

    http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2008/04/greenwich-pier-2/

  47. PiratesPatch says:

    Yawn.

    has the record changed?

  48. Franklin says:

    Sorry?

    Didn’t you write:

    “‘Years’….

    Slight exaggeration there sue!”

    It’s been four fecking years, mate. Where’s the yawn coming from?

    Change your own fecking record.