JASON CADDY HOT-FOOTED IT TO DUNDEE (AS THE GOOSE FLIES) FOR A CHAT WITH THE WINNERS OF THE EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR AWARD AT THIS YEAR’S SCOTTISH BAR & PUB AWARDS, LAUREN AND CALUM RUNCIMAN, OF THE CITY’S WHITE GOOSE AND THE GIDDY GOOSE.
Three’s the magic number for Lauren and Calum Runciman. They just got married, Lauren is expecting, and the meteoric rise of their
Dundee businesses, The White Goose and The Giddy Goose, just secured them the Emerging Entrepreneur accolade at this year’s Scottish Bar and Pub Awards. The duo will receive a year’s worth of business mentorship from none other than Buzzworks’ Colin Blair and Montpeliers’ David Wither as part of this coveted industry recognition. They’re also in the process of opening venue number three – another Giddy Goose in their hometown of Peebles.
They walked away with the award because, and despite Calum and Lauren being just 25 and 22 respectively, they have opened two venues in the last couple of years and managed to grow their business while remaining debt-free. And they both genuinely happen to be big fans of both mentors.
Said Calum, “We absolutely love what David and Colin have done and the imagination behind their venues and the quality of the finishes. Edinburgh’s Tigerlily is one of my favourite places and when we met David he was just so modest for a guy that has achieved so much. We are both so very excited about the mentorship.”
They started out financing their business by working at food festivals. Explained trained chef Calum, “It all began in 2017. We made everything at home after getting our kitchen signed off by environmental health. We made sausage rolls, tray bakes and tarts and even though Lauren wasn’t all that experienced in this field, I’m yet to find a chef that can bake a better brownie.
“We would spend Tuesday to Friday cooking because it took us longer in a home kitchen. We attended loads of food fares – sometimes multiple times a week during the summer of 2017 and this was also when we opened The White Goose, which fed its refurbishment.”
They’ll be honeymooning in New York City by the time this interview is published, which has been carefully timed so that they are back doing what they do best by the time the students return to Dundee when, according to Lauren, “the town goes crazy.” We spoke at The Giddy Goose in a pergola, (a wooden structure that looks like the framework of a conservatory), that the couple hope will become their signature design addition in what they plan to be a series of Giddy Gooses (or should that be Giddy Geese?) across Scotland.
And venue number three is already on the horizon. Said Calum, “We are opening a third venue, another Giddy Goose in our hometown of Peebles. Presently it’s a rundown pub so there’s a lot of work to be done. We’re hoping to get planning permission for in January and open in June 2020. The biggest difference from our other venues is that this one has eight rooms and we have been looking for a hotel aspect and that is why we went for this place. The plan is to roll out a Giddy Goose brand across Scotland.”
And they are both incredibly hands-on when it comes to all aspects of the business. Explained Lauren, “We use very creative joiners and choose everything interior-design wise. We also do everything on a strict budget to begin with and then re-do it six months later when we can afford that little bit extra. We think that it’s important for our customers to see that we are continually re-investing in the business and we plan to continue down this road. We are always buying new things and making things better.”
So, from where did the couple get their entrepreneurial flair? Said Lauren, “My grandparents owned and ran hotels on the Channel Islands so I must take after them because and I’m naturally ambitious,” while Calum told me, “I didn’t do all that well at school so my only option was to pull my finger out.”
And what about working together and living together? How do they handle that? Said Calum, “Not everyone could work with their partner but one of the advantages of working together is that you can say anything and that you want and not feel like you have to hold back. It’s as simple as ‘as soon as we think, we say’ and it works very well for us both at home and work.”
Lauren and Calum, who got together when they both worked at a hotel in Peebles, moved to Dundee from the Borders town in 2015 but the lure of the trade proved too great to resist for Lauren, who has effectively paused her degree in medicine. Explained Lauren, “I quickly decided that this wasn’t what I wanted to do, although I can return to it if I want to, but I’m really happy and fulfilled doing what we are doing. When we moved up to Dundee Calum spent a year working at former Bon Vivant Group (The Tinsmith, Darcy’s, The West House and The Gallery) but it soon transpired that there was nowhere for him to progress other than to go down the road of opening our own units.”
So it was all a bit of a gamble at the start and did the couple feel supported as newbies to the licensed trade in Dundee? Said Lauren, “Dundee licensing board was very approachable and efficient and were extremely encouraging to us as new operators. We had one challenging experience with planning in that they dragged out a planning application for The White Goose for eight months, only to then approve the original draft with no changes.”
She continued, “When we applied for the licence it was the end of over-provision and we were one of the first businesses to get an alcohol licence for The White Goose. We also had to change the class from what was a storage facility. I do feel that Dundee would benefit from more support for new businesses. We have seen a few of our peers in the trade start and fail in the first few months which isn’t good.”
Are their businesses directly benefiting from the hype around Dundee and the opening of the V&A and all the buzz around Dundee? Said Lauren, “We haven’t noticed any type of spike in our businesses, to be honest, but there’s no doubt that Dundee is getting a lot of positive press and the opening of the V&A has made the town busier.” Calum added, “It’s going to take more than just the V&A to fully revitalise the city and I think that once the waterfront development is finished it will make a huge difference. I’m a firm believer in the more licensed premises the better, including chains and franchises, as well as a big shopping centre to rival what Edinburgh and Glasgow have to offer. Dundee is a fantastic city but it still lacks in the type of investment enjoyed by Scotland’s two biggest cities.”
And speaking of Edinburgh, this is where the couple sees themselves settling ultimately, possibly with another Giddy Goose opening nearby. Explained Calum, “I thrive when I am in a situation when it’s all a bit scary and unfamiliar because that’s when I’m driven to make it work. The two of us would love to open a place in Leith. There are some great places there.”
So, when they are away from the business, which isn’t much by all accounts, what do they like to do to relax and unwind? Said Lauren, “The baby is due in January so that’s a big focus for us and we will have a new wee addition to help us out in the business (only kidding!). We also love eating out – particularly in Edinburgh, like Indian tapas restaurant, Dishoom, on St Andrews Square. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.”
We finished a relaxed and pleasant chat by talking about their upcoming trip to New York, and it seems that their prudent business practices across the Atlantic. Said Lauren, “We have been once before but we didn’t have very long there. I’m looking forward to visiting Chelsea Market. I love all the small units in all the wee cubbyholes and how they make it all so appealing and understated commercial. We’re also going to be looking for restaurants off the beaten track and not Michelin-starred ones. We’re going to be budgeting about 40 to 50 dollars spending money a day and no more!”