"Dougys": Sticking To The Recipe
The original concept for the business came from my elder brother, he’s now in the Caribbean delivering produce and developing our 'fast food take-away' into a total restaurant experience in Jamaica.
He's currently running a Sea View Restaurant in Black River, The Ocho Rios Restaurant, and is in the process of opening a third in Mandeville, Manchester Jamaica .
He was in the British Army, he was a military guy use to always having a plan to action and being prepared for anything. On leaving the army he wanted to do something different, he wanted to find a way of working for himself.
Being a bit of an entrepreneur he realised that there was a gaping hole in the Caribbean community in Old Trafford; He realised that the families, that had previously run local grocery stores where you could get your yams and bananas were no longer in business. They'd retired, and the next generation, British born, weren't interested.
That took off really well and he said “you know we can do better, we’ve got the food lets cook it”. It was a no brainer.
It was quite a trek from Old Trafford to Princess Rd, and he was saying “no” we need somewhere closer. So to fill that gap he opened a grocery store (1991) selling West Indian food; yams, Sweet potatoes, seasonings and culturally spe-cific foods. That took off really well and he said “you know we can do better, we’ve got the food lets cook it”. It was a no brainer -grocery to 'Dougy’s Carib-bean Take Away' a natural progression.
You can look it as a chain or not a chain ok. Dougy’s is the short form of our families given surname, 'Douglas'. Everyone that knew my father in OT called him 'Dougy'. So it was natural for us to use it has our trading name in the UK.
We're quite lucky as we can trace the use of this family name back to 1806. My great, great grandfather Samuel Ferguson Douglas. He had the land titles for 1500 acres of land in Milk River Jamaica. He provided a legacy and because of him we’ve kept the 'Douglas' going all the time and followed it through in all as-pects of how we live, grow and prosper as his descendents. As a mark of re-spect my youngest son is called Samuel Ferguson Douglas.
Like many of our parents my father left Jamaica for the UK to better our lives. One of his mantra was 'you’re here, use the education system get some training, get qualifications.'
Another of his mantras was the value of having transferable skills. At the time, being young, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about. Basically, he was educating us often using Jamaican proverbs to put his message across. His favourites were; “Why hire a donkey and pull your own cart!” "Why have a dog and bark yourself!"
He taught us about how business works,-business needs, managing money and working with others. He also made it clear that you don’t have to be a chef to own a restaurant but that you needed to have a sound business concept if you wanted to be successful.
So even though I went to university and became a social worker, working in the statutory sector for 31 years, I was always looking at professional roles, ones that would provide me with those transferable skills my father talked about.
Taking on the family business I knew that the original concept had worked for us but that if we were to continue, being relevant and, growing the business we needed to embrace 21st century practises.
I see the ' Dougy' approach as needs led. Is there a need? Yes lets fill that need. It has meant that being user friendly we continue to provide the menu choices we offered at the outset, while, attracting new customers through our website, credit/debit card facilities. This is also carried through to our busi-ness premise. We realised that wherever they were in the city they had to re-flect the sophistication of eateries in the city centre or the suburbs.
So in Manchester we're still a 'take-away' we still provide a sit-in and eat ser-vice. We've just focused on giving the community a better experience.
Moving from our initial shop, 9 Moss Lane West, to Great Western Street(former Alvino's Pattie Shop). Taking over and buying out that business with its large ovens and its classification as a bakery provided a new impetus.
We had to change the way we looked at things... ''Afro-Caribbean' re-stricted our market to a relatively small group of people.
Sticking with that classification, and recognising the racial and cultural compo-sition of the surrounding community (old) Somalians, Indians, Asians, British, Irish & Jamaicans as well as (new) the Polish, and other Eastern Europeans, we rebranded adding 'Delicatessen'.
We had to change the way we looked at things to meet the needs of the walk-in trade. As a global word Deli is recognisable; and that ''Afro-Caribbean' re-stricted our market to a relatively small group of people.
When we opened our new shop in Chorlton some folks would look in and say “is it alright for us?” My first thought was why someone interpret it as not for them but as a needs led business It meant we had to look at what we were projecting and how we'd overcome it. Given Chorlton's diversity the shop has a diverse staff team that reflects the wider community.
There's variation in what we do so for example if you walk into Dougy's on Great Western Street and want a cup of coffee you'll get an instant coffee. Walk into Dougy’s in Chorlton, with its street eating and drinking culture, Costa Coffee and Mediterranean/ Turkish restaurants, we invested in a coffee ma-chine. We offer an alternative. We have premium Blue Mountain coffee, Kenyan and Brazilian blends.
We’re consistent. We open at 11am, we close at 9pm. The quality of meals we serve are the same. I'm not a chef, so 'Dougy's' approach to taste, style of cooking and produce used come from my mum’s kitchen. We’ve got a mixed Car-ibbean and South American heritage. She’s the one who did the main cooking, devised the menus and came up with all the concepts.
I'm not a chef, so 'Dougy's' approach to taste, style of cooking and produce used come from my mum’s kitchen
She has never used MSG in her kitchen at home so why would we use it in the food we sell? We provide authentic home style cooking. We limit the number of , We do We’re Jamaican, so we don’t do the sugar dumplings. We suggest alter-native food choices and will jovially pointing out “You’ve been in three times this week, fry chicken, fry chicken, try the stew chicken”.
It's dead simple, as we’ve been a constant and consistent presence in the com-munity, we can do that. We have an established customer base with first, sec-ond and third generations eating Dougy’s brand of 'Afro-Caribbean food.
We’re catering for 2 or 3 funerals each week. We are aware that people in their 50's are diagnosed with, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabe-tes. All of this has always influenced our view of quality foods, aiding a better life expectancy.
Beyond the UK
We basically set it up to generate work and an income for my family in Cuba. It also projects our name and it shows that we’re not just a one trick pony
Little Dougy’s Cuba. It's a very tiny small place that's been running for five years now.
We basically set it up to generate work and an income for my family in Cuba. It also projects our name and it shows that we’re not just a one trick pony. The same produce is available as in other Caribbean countries, however if you cook the food as we do in the UK or in our restaurants in Jamaica many of the Cu-bans couldn’t eat it. “Too much salsa,” that’s what you'd get. As they don’t use a lot of seasoning and spices their food is 'watered.
The plan is we’ll be expanding more, we’re gonna roll out the catering arm. We are currently viewing commercial properties. Properties that we can buy and own out right. I see no point in renting a building and paying a Landlord it's non-sensical. I’m working for myself, so I’ll invest in new properties as and when I see the business requires. Just as my father said have a plan tweak it, raise the funds yourself and make it work for you.
When we moved from our original shop we had to buy the new premise at auc-tion. I approached the bank we'd been banking with since our inception. I went prepared with business plan in hand, my five year forecast I did my presenta-tion but it wasn't enough. They wanted me to jump through hoops and I said you know what forget it. So we bought it cash we self injected.
Once we got up and running guess who came knocking - the bank! Mr. Douglas, your business is entitled to an £40k instant loan. No thank you is my reply. It’s too late, I’ve done it now. I don’t need their help.
Finding ways of reducing our outlay and we use the green concept. We’re recy-cling a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of messing about folding up the cardboard and putting this one there. Separating our food waste, recycling our cooking oil. By recognising that the weight of what we put in our commercial bins dictates the cost was a massive learning curve for our staff teams but, by dealing with our rubbish in a more constructive way we’ve reduced costs.
Every aspect of the business has to work to continue so our staple goods are sourced from Sister Produce, they are a Birmingham company. A black Bir-mingham company. They deliver the yams, bananas, Plantain; anything you want Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Their quality is good and it’s cost effective. If there’s a problem with the products, you keep it when they come, they’ll take it back no questions. So I’m supporting them.