The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
Social good: Can restaurants help sustainable businesses? Nick That thinks so…

Is there a better way to start 2013 than to have a bit of a look at a philanthropic business venture which aims to help everyone? Hangovers spent under the duvet aside, of course there isn’t.

Last month, I went to a launch event in Hackney at a place called Degree Art. Funnily enough, it’s a block or two away from where I used to live; the area has been tranformed from empty warehouses to a thriving creative community and Degree Art is one of more than a handful of new galleries on Vyner Street selling the work of up and coming artists and designers. It’s very reminiscent of Portobello in the early 90s, where I also used to live, so to say I felt at home was an understatement. We were gathered to hear more about a new company, Nick That, and treated to talks from GB Chef’s Mecca Ibrahim (aka Annie Mole), Cook Sister and Street Kitchen, live music and some rather lovely cheese and wine. Much as I love a good launch event, I was intrigued by the concept of Nick That and wanted to find out more about the venture so met up with the founder a few days later to ask him more about this fledgling online business.

It’s no secret that we’re truly a nation of foodies, there are oodles of amazing food bloggers and millions of viewers for shows like Master Chef and The Great British Bake Off. We’re also mad for street food, pop up restaurants and farmers markets, our curiosity for all things culinary has never been stronger which is what makes Nick That such a great idea. We are overwhelmed by choice, which often makes us stick with what we know, unless of course a well told story can persuade us otherwise. View London has a staggering database of 4,830 restaurants listings pages, which is great if you want all the basic details like opening times, location and so on, while Nick That is a web site which helps restaurants tell their own stories in a friendly, online magazine style, rather than a listings or advertising format.

Brainchild of Nick Wong, Nick That is a new innovation for the London restaurant scene. There’s a delightful added twist too; so while you’re breaking bread with your nearest and dearest, you’ll also be helping others make their own bread by supporting the microfinance non profit organisation, Kiva, and of course keep the local high street alive by helping small food businesses thrive.

‘I’m a real foodie, especially into Chinese and Japanese food, and get it from my Dad. My background is Malaysian and it struck me that everyone in London needs to eat, and eat out somewhere and what the cost of that meal could do in a small town in Malaysia. I really want to give something back. Nick That mixes philanthropy and independent quality restaurants with something to say, and 40% of the income generated goes towards a Kiva loan.’ Says founder, Nick Wong.

So how will it help build sustainable businesses? The virtuous circle starts when restaurants join up with Nick That and create content for the site. They will use this to whet the appetite of customers; it might be an interview with the chef about the latest menu or a story about how meals come from field to plate, or even how a house special is made. Restaurants will also use the site to promote their latest offers or ‘trends’ which means people who might not be regulars get to discover new and interesting places to eat. It’s great for someone like me because I only tend to go to my favourite restaurants locally but would be happy to try somewhere new if I felt the story behind the food was interesting and also if somehow I could also help other people.

The Nick That business model is all about giving something back and a generous 40% of income will be donated to Kiva – the charity that changes lives by helping others to help themselves. That way, every time you have a fantastic meal via, you are helping someone towards getting an education or improving their living conditions.

There’s more about it and the launch event I went to recently on the video here.

I particularly love this illustration which was hanging on the wall at Degree Art, it’s created by Carrie May especially for Nick That. It sums up the proposition in a visually stunning way.

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