An interview with the co-founders of Big Night
Author: Issariya Morgan
Big Night is our partner delivery service, a London-based start-up on a mission to support the hospitality industry through collaborating with selected restaurants sharing the same community values. We speak to them to discuss their roots in the pandemic, the values they look out for in partner restaurants and their vision for the future.
Visit Big Night’s website, and the first thing you’ll be met with is a big, bold promise to deliver “exceptional dining experiences straight to your doorstep”. The concept of “experience” is what distinguishes Big Night from other delivery companies, the likes of Deliveroo and Just Eat.
This is a start-up driven by a desire to support the hospitality industry – not just profit from it – by bringing restaurant experiences to people’s homes. Established and run by restaurateurs within the industry, their portfolio features a diverse curated selection of restaurants and gastropubs such as Quo Vadis, the Camberwell Arms and the Clarence Tavern.
Big Night’s three co-founders – Charlie Mellor, Pavel Baskakov and James Murray – are firmly rooted in London’s gastronomic scene; their CVs feature restaurants such as The Laughing Heart, Luca and The Clove Club. When the pandemic broke out, they were forced to consider their options.
“Charlie and I would spend a lot of time together in his restaurant The Laughing Heart,” says Pavel, who oversees the company’s tech. “When lockdown started, everyone was forced into doing deliveries. Charlie tried out the existing platforms, but the experience was very slow and didn’t portray what The Laughing Heart was all about – there were missed deliveries or things were poorly delivered. So, Charlie approached me and asked if I could help him put up a web shop, so that we could do our own deliveries by bicycle or car. And that was the beginning of Big Night.”
The Big Night experience stems from a sense of shared values between the company and the restaurants within their portfolio, fusing the worlds of home delivery and high-quality food without compromising on the hospitality that comes with in-person dining.
“We’re collaborating with restaurants who we believe are offering something exciting and of a high quality,” Charlie tells me. “It’s not about prestige. Our platform is starting to reflect London’s fascinating gastronomic diversity – from premier establishments to the sort of humble neighbourhood restaurant where you’ll find every great chef having dinner on their night off.”
“The restaurants have got to have quality shining through everything,” James elaborates, “the quality of the produce they’re using, the quality of the service and how they look after their community: the suppliers, the guests, the team. That’s why it’s such a personal thing when we choose who to work with, because there’s a sense of those shared values and the importance of community.”
So, how did the partnership between Big Night and Berry Bros. & Rudd come into being?
“Joe Woodhouse is one of our photographers and one of my closest friends,” explains Charlie. “He and I have worked together for years. I met Geordie Willis [Creative Director and Brand Experiences Director at Berry Bros. & Rudd] at Joe’s wedding, which was at the Laughing Heart. Geordie was looking for a solution to the issue you have when you’ve got this incredible kitchen team used to delivering hundreds of events per month – to support as many of them as they possibly could. The next thing, we were chatting and I said, ‘It sounds like what you’re after is something we’re super excited to help you deliver.’”
A post-lockdown vision
Big Night is a company born from the pandemic and the world of lockdown. Hospitality will inevitably return to some semblance of normality, and when it does, where does that leave restaurant delivery services?
“The time between the two lockdowns gave us the chance to see what normality looks like,” says Pavel. “What we saw was that a lot of restaurants continued to use take-out and delivery services because it created almost a brand-within-a-brand.
“Take Luca At Home, for example. The team are really interested in pursuing it further to reach customers at times when they might not want to come into the restaurant. It allows them to provide different experiences rather than just a normal meal – like their truffle breakfast box, which provides a celebration breakfast you can enjoy at home, or their deli box, which you can order for a picnic or a trip outside London.
“You’ve got people living in places like Wembley and Harrow who might come into Central London every so often for a great meal, but would love to enjoy some of these restaurants more regularly without making the journey in. So, there are various directions our business could take after the pandemic.”
It’s clear that the team at Big Night are driven by a sense of purpose, seeking to change perceptions around what takeaway food can represent. Tech plays a crucial role here, providing a means to support the hospitality industry and deliver true restaurant experiences to people’s homes.
“London had a lot of catching up to do with other food capitals around the world when it comes to perceptions about the quality of takeaway,” says James. “That’s why we started: because there weren’t really any services that catered for great independent restaurants. People here in London just didn’t have the choice that, for instance, people in New York have when it comes to eating at home. So, if we can change people’s mindset around what takeaway represents – the idea of eating restaurant-quality food at home – then that’s a positive.”
“There’s this broader positive vision of evolving the culture around hospitality,” says Charlie. “It’s about taking learnings from the restaurant – how to engage with your guests, developing the sort of conversation which comes from decades of tough times – and then translating those learnings onto a digital space. To me, applying these philosophies of hospitality through tech is a really pleasurable thing to explore.”
We’re delighted to be partnering with Big Night, who share our belief that hospitality lies at the heart of exceptional experiences and creates a sense of community.
Explore our weekly At Home menus here.