Q&A: Lyndon Higginson

Lyndon Higginson, Cane & Grain

The creative force behind The Liars Club, Cane & Grain, Crazy Pedro’s, and director of B.EAT Street MCR, all round food and drink disruptor Lyndon Higginson has spent the past ten years redrawing Manchester’s hospitality map. What happens next?

What’s been the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past decade or so?

I think the biggest change has been people’s perception and understanding of a good product. People didn’t know or care about what they were drinking back then. It’s totally different now. The public now really care. Bars are so much better for it. People will pay more for drinks now too because of this, so it allows bars to use even better ingredients to make their cocktails.

What’s going to be the most game-changing new trend?

Craft beer is killing it at the minute. We have had craft beer for hundreds of years here in the UK but it took the guys in the States to really get this going for us to realise what we already had. That’s going to grow and grow. It could have even saved a lot of the beautiful old pubs that had to close if they weren’t all tied in to huge mass market breweries. The gin and rum markets are both massive too at the moment. There are so many new companies setting up it’s hard to keep up.

What about pop-ups – talk to us about what excites you about them?

They allow you to dip your toe in the water and find out if people get it. I’m currently working on a pop up that’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be a half inside, half outside street of food and booze. We’re wrapping up the space where we hold Food Fight to give the traders a proper unit each. It’s going to be eight different food traders that change on a monthly basis, with different bars and sun terraces. It’s going to feel like a street party 7 days a week.

What still fires you up?

Seeing a bartender who really cares about the drinks they are making. Drinks that look that good you almost don’t want to take a sip. Old buildings, rusty metal, rum, mezcal, America, old skateboards, tomato ketchup, bacon, trainers, tiki.

And what still really frustrates the hell out of you?

Queuing, vodka lovers, poor service, and people who moan about how noisy bars are when they moved into the city centre to be next to all the bars in the first place.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned along the way?

There are a lot of people in this industry who are just out to help themselves. They know who they are. Avoid them. I also learned that I can drink a lot and not get drunk. Which is very handy.

All my mates in London who come up for a night out love the city. They get it.

Are our city centres now too pricey for inspiring new indies to start up?

I don’t think so. It’s so much easier opening a bar here than in London. I have no idea how bars make money down there. The rent is mental. People are paying what we pay yearly every month.

What are your thoughts on big chains eyeing up MCR?

It’s great. It’s bringing more focus to our amazing scene here in Manchester. All my mates in London who come up for a night out love the city. They get it. We know how to have a good night out. I think London operators have noticed this and it’s the obvious place to open somewhere as they expand.

What’s still missing from the mix?

More outdoors spaces to drink. Yeah it rains all the time. But, when it’s sunny we want to be outside getting sunburned with a drink in our hands.

Who are your hospitality business heroes?

Jake Burger, Beau Myers, Tim Bacon.