Six independent London restaurants receive a share of almost £70,000 to bolster their businesses


·        Backed by American Express, the Backing International Small Restaurants programme has awarded six restaurants £11,500 each to help grow their businesses 

·        Grant recipients include London-based venues Canvas & Cream, The Goods Office, Buster Mantis and The Sound Lounge.

Backed by American Express, the International Downtown Association (IDA) in partnership with the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) has awarded equal shares of £69,000 to six small restaurants across London to help improve their businesses.

Now in its second year, Backing International Small Restaurants runs in five major cities around the world – London, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. The programme aims to highlight the important role independent restaurants play in their communities and provides them with valuable support to succeed. 

Over 100 restaurants London-wide applied for the grant, with six selected by the IDA and ATCM to each receive a grant of £11,500. The funding means each venue can make a range of essential improvements, such as upgrading their restaurant operations, investing in digital capabilities and revitalising dining spaces.

The programme grant recipients in London for 2023 are:

  • Buster Mantis, a Jamaican and British fusion restaurant in Deptford, also offering live music and community art space for local groups. 
  • The Goods Office, an all-day independent café, bar and restaurant in the heart of Stroud Green, North London.
  • The Sound Lounge, a vegan hub in Sutton, bringing together the local community to celebrate delicious plant-based food. 
  • Canvas & Creama quirky restaurant, gallery and event space situated in the heart of Forest Hill’s vibrant artist community.
  • Casuarina Tree, a restaurant and hotel in Mitcham that’s been serving authentic Sri Lankan and Indian Cuisine for over a decade.
  • Chuku’s, founded by a brother and sister duo, to celebrate the best of Nigerian cuisine and culture, located in Tottenham.


American Express research revealed a continued appetite among consumers to support local independent restaurants; almost three quarters of diners (73%) believe that small independent venues play a critical role in maintaining vibrant and diverse communities; and about three-fifths (61%) say they are choosing to dine at local restaurants to support them in a challenging economy. 

Grant recipient Buster Mantis plans to use the grant to buy essential new kitchen equipment, revamp its dining space and improve its digital presence. First opened in 2016, the venue takes its inspiration from the Jamaican heritage of its owner Gordon McGowan, and its name from the country’s first Prime Minister. 

Speaking about receiving the grant, owner Gordon McGowan said: “We’re thrilled to receive this generous grant which will allow us to make the changes we need to breathe new life into our venue. We’re passionate about providing our local community with a welcoming space that brings people together to meet, socialise and enjoy great food and drink. This grant enables all of us at Buster Mantis to continue with that mission and build for the future.”  

David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation, said: “Our second year delivering the Backing International Small Restaurants programme recognises the vital role small, independent restaurants play in our communities. The programme furthers our commitment to supporting the businesses which have been selected, helping them thrive and succeed in the wake of ongoing economic challenges worldwide. It is an honour to implement this innovative work with the generous support of American Express.”

Ojay McDonald, ATCM Chief Executive, added: “Hospitality plays an important role on our high streets, allowing people to come together around good food and drink. The entrepreneurial spirit and drive of business owners in this industry is excellent but the pandemic and inflationary pressures have dented their momentum. It’s why this programme from American Express has been so well received, supporting innovation within a sector that needed a helping hand to get it moving again.”

Dan Edelman, General Manager, UK Merchant Services at American Express, said: “We’re proud to back one of the UK’s most dynamic and resilient sectors through this new grant funding. Small, independent restaurants play an important role in local communities so American Express is thrilled to offer this boost to help them continue to thrive into the future. I’m looking forward to seeing these enterprising ideas being put into action.”

Backing International Small Restaurants is part of American Express’ ‘Backing Small’ support for small business owners and entrepreneurs across the world, and includes grant programmes, mentoring support, and technical assistance. It compliments American Express’ Shop Small campaign, a global movement to spotlight small, independent businesses, along with its support of Small Business Saturday (2 December 2023), of which American Express remains founder and the Principal Supporter in the UK.

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