Now I would like to start off by admitting that I am not a huge fan of cereal. It was around the age of 11 when I realised that I don't like how it gets soggy within minutes, nor the fact that unless the milk is just above the threshold of freezing, I find it unpalatable. I may be alone in saying this, but I don't understand why much of the nation would choose cereals which often taste like the aftermath of flood in a newspaper distributor (looking at you Weetabix) over a slice of toast. Which is why when I first heard about the incoming arrival of Cereal Killer Café on London's Brick Lane, I immediately imagined it as being another one of those fuckwit experiments which are turning South and East London into an autonomy run by guys with gauge piercings and shit haircuts.
Thus it would perhaps be somewhat surprising to you when I say that I do sympathise with one half of the twin co-founders, Gary Keery, who was cornered by Channel 4 reporter Symeon Brown, and essentially told that his £3.20 price tag for a bowl of cereal was too much in "one of the poorest boroughs" in London. Keery, perhaps understandably, snapped at this question and stopped the interview, and has since written an open letter in response to the video of this encounter going viral.
I have grown up in a poor area, and I still remember days when my family would refuse me McDonald's due to a lack of money. That does not mean that I have now grown up with the desire to picket every McDonald's restaurant in the nation and demand that they means-test their prices depending on their location. Anyone with common sense would know that any business, be it McDonald's or Cereal Killer Café must mark-up their prices because, I dunno, they may have rent, employees, utilities etc to pay. The bottom line is that if you are poor in the UK, your first concern is not the fact that you are not going to be able to afford the £3.20 for a bowl of vintage fruit loops with guava milk or whatever this café serves. Your first concern may be the current issue of state benefits. It may be the fact that electricity and gas bills have climbed (in real terms) by 170% and 67% over the last decade (as a result of government policies) while salary increases remain stagnant. It may be a whole host of things but by trying to make Keery and his brother, Alan Keery, feel like tyrants for charging the prices they do is the sort of tired journalism that takes the spotlight away from the real issues at hand.
Yes gentrification is a thing, but can you blame the Keery brothers for starting their business in E1? Rent prices, while increasing, are relatively cheaper compared to other areas of London, and Brick Lane attracts the sort of clientele the café is likely to appeal to in the first place. Yes you can buy about 750g of Kellog's Cornflakes for nearly half of what they charge for an average portion but why do we not take this further and get Kay Burley to attack Starbucks/Costa/Café Nero for charging just under £2 for mince pies when you could go to Co-op and buy 6 for £1. These are two guys who are trying to make a living from something that they dreamt of, so to try and then take this achievement away from them is cruel.
Moreover these guys are not trying to charge double figures for a slice of bread. They are serving punters with a bit of nostalgia, with rare cereals that they may have not eaten for decades or giving people a taste of what children eat on the other side of the Atlantic without having to shell out a tenner for an entire box you may not want. It's an experience that is on offer, and whether or not you believe in the longevity of the business, you have to commend the Keery twins for their innovation.
Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in London yes, but the questions should be redirected to the local government, andto the UK government, not to the small business owners who are bringing money into the local economy. And while I may still have a burning dislike for cereal and everything it stands for, I may well be making visit to Brick Lane and tucking into a bowl of Oreo-O's before fully making my mind up.