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"Doug Lindsay has been in the kitchen for 20 years, he still owns the menu" - new owner of the Ubiquitous Chip reveals plans for Glasgow institution

Manager Director of the Metropolitan Pub Company has spoken about his plans for one of Glasgow’s most loved restaurants.

Published: July 21, 2022
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It was reported last week that Glasgow's famous Ubiquitous Chip restaurant was being sold to Metropolitan Pub Company, an arm of pub chain Greene King.

Now managing director of Metropolitan Pub Company, Michael Horan, has spoken about plans for the iconic restaurant and fans of its pints of Fürstenberg can rest easy.

Horan explained that he'd been in talks with the Chip's owners, Colin and Carol, since October last year and they'd got to a point where they realised it was a good time to sell.

Horan, who used to live in the west end and who's wife is from Glasgow reacted to the mixed reaction from locals to the news, saying: "What's really disappointing is how it was reported as Greene King acquiring the business.

"Yes we were born out of Greene King but we are run completely independently. We started with 59 sites in 2019, mostly London-centric, and by the end of this year we should get to 78 sites. Each one of them is different."

He added: "Ubiquitous Chip is held in the greatest affection by so many people, myself included, as is Stravaigin and The Hanoi Bike Shop.

"I know this first hand from many years living in the West End with my Glaswegian wife.

"So, when Colin (Clydesdale) and Carol (Wright) decided they wanted to sell the venues, I was clearly delighted that they both felt Metropolitan was best placed to ensure the business would be in safe hands for many more years to come."

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Michael Horan Managing Director of Metropolitan Pub Company

Horan stressed that the business wants to achieve high-end, premium gastropubs that are run by the managers and chefs of the business.

They will, he says, have the autonomy to develop their own food with local provenance and their own liquor.

This also means that pints of customer's favourite beer, Fürstenberg, will still be available as Horan said: "We won't take out the Fürstenberg, that stays"

Plans also include forming a business plan for the Chip (and sister restaurants Stravaigin and Hanoi Bike Club) with the team, while looking at what can be improved and enhanced.

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He said: “I am aware of the deep connection patrons feel towards the business and conscious of their expectations of us to protect such an iconic cornerstone of Glasgow.

"The independent spirit of the Glasgow business is one of its greatest strengths and there are no plans to change this.

"Indeed, we are committed to more independence and more autonomy across the three venues, but supported with substantial investment.

"So, opening up opportunities for local food and drink suppliers, increasing local employment (there are currently around 40 -50 vacancies across the Glasgow business), engaging with local talent through cultural events that will bring back energy and excitement, and investing in facilities infrastructure such as the kitchen, the washrooms, looking at expanding the rooftop terrace and so on.

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"As a well-resourced independent operator, Metropolitan can strengthen areas such as these.”

Horan added: "Doug Lindsay has been in the kitchen for 20 years, he still owns the menu".

“The Glasgow team are exceptionally talented and passionate people with a wealth of knowledge.

"Doug Lindsay for example is a brilliant head chef who has been in the kitchen for nearly 20 years.

Ubiquitous Chip Head Chef Doug Lindsay

"We want to invest in Doug’s kitchen infrastructure to enable him and his team to keep doing what they do so well, to encourage them to be daring, to have the freedom to engage more with local suppliers, and even aim for a third AA rosette should Doug wish.

"We want to reward staff to make them feel valued.

"For example, remunerate appropriately on pay and benefits and provide opportunities for personal development such as great training, the chance to study for a degree if this is of interest, and support with access to mentoring.

"We make no apology in saying we will encourage management and their teams to sharpen their business focus so they are capable and confident in running their venues independently.

"This will ensure the business survives another 50 years. That is the legacy Colin and Carol themselves wished for.”

The Alastair Gray mural will be protected, as are all the important assets of the building as the new owners "don't want to take away the spirit of the building or the culture that exists within it."

A potential extension to the roof terrace could be on the cards, but the pressing issue is hiring more staff.

The group are also looking at other complimentary businesses in Edinburgh (they own Cafe Royal) and Glasgow, with Horan saying: "I like the west end but I just love the point of difference and that's what we are looking for.

"I think that's what's tragic about our industry, you go around cities and you see the same names and the same brands.

"There's a market for all of that, but I'd rather see businesses that know who they are."

Who are the Metropolitan Pub Group?

Founded in 2011, Metropolitan Pub Company is a collection of 70 unique and premium pubs across the UK celebrated for maintaining their individual character and charm, providing distinctive experiences, and delivering high quality food and beverage.

In keeping with the company’s new Glasgow business, strong cultural credentials underpin many of Metropolitan’s venues.

The City Barge on the banks of the Thames in Chiswick is famed as the location where The Beatles filmed the 1965 film ‘Help’.

The Black Swan in Surrey features in John Landis’ 1981 film ‘American Werewolf in London’.

In Cambridge, The Anchor is the iconic riverside pub which enjoys legendary status thanks to its Pink Floyd patronage.

The World’s End in London’s Finsbury Park was chosen by Ed Sheeran to perform his debut album ‘+’ just after signing his publishing deal in 2011.

And the 302 years old Grenadier in Belgravia, with its money ceiling and haunted stories, is a landmark in its own right.

Ubiquitous Chip’s unique sense of place in Glasgow’s West End - as well as that of Hanoi Bike Shop (which occupies the site where the original Chip was founded in 1971) and the nearby Stravaigin – has a natural and obvious synergy with the Metropolitan family, says Horan.

The company also runs Café Royale in Edinburgh, and is currently exploring a further pipeline of sites – complimentary businesses who share an independent ethos and possess a strong point of difference - in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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