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Faversham: The town untouched by McDonald's, KFC, Starbucks or even a Chinese delivery service


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Walk down a high street nowadays, and chances are, you'll soon see a fast food joint or coffee chain.

The rise of the likes of McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks mean most towns are now full of them - but not Faversham.

Independent bars and cafes surround the stunning Grade II-listed Guildhall in Market Place
Independent bars and cafes surround the stunning Grade II-listed Guildhall in Market Place

The quaint north Kent market town is a rarity, untouched by the seemingly ubiquitous junk food and coffee house giants.

And while there are a handful of independent takeaways, not one Chinese offers a delivery service in the town. And Deliveroo? No chance.

But is this fast food desert welcomed by residents? Reporter Brad Harper visited the town "lost in time" to find out.

I am peering through the window of Yeung’s Chinese Takeaway - along with a young couple - as the owner opens the door for another busy evening.

As I walk into the Preston Street eatery in Faversham, I hear the mutterings of someone behind the counter taking a telephone order.

Yeung’s Chinese Takeaway in Preston Street, Faversham
Yeung’s Chinese Takeaway in Preston Street, Faversham

"It's collection only", the employee tells them - a line it sounds like he too often says. In fact, no Chinese takeaways in Faversham offer a delivery service.

The only option available to residents is a 17th century pub willing to deliver Chinese cuisine from neighbouring Teynham, but with that now up for auction, hungry customers will soon have to venture out themselves.

"We saw a gap in the market and exploited it,” owner Peter Gomm previously explained.

“I’m very surprised no one in Faversham has followed suit – they’re definitely missing a trick."

Back at Yeung's Chinese Takeaway, the owner appears out of an archway and he is rather taken back when I ask him why he does not deliver to the good people of Faversham.

Roland Yeung explains: "In the beginning, we had the restaurant running as well so we were too busy - and the business is OK so there was no need for it.

"I know that if I did deliveries, business would pick up but again if we do that there are more costs like drivers."

But there are other voids in Faversham's takeaway scene. Unlike most Kent town centres, it does not have the big giants such as McDonald's, KFC or Burger King.

But while these multinational companies are absent from the street, Domino's launched a branch in Preston Street in 2015 - to a mixed reaction from locals.

News of its plan for the town was met with a wave of opposition from neighbours and conservation groups, with takeaway bosses raising concerns it would impact their trade.

There were the usual fears over the potential for increased litter, traffic, anti-social behaviour and noise from delivery vehicles.

There is no McDonald's branch in Faversham town centre
There is no McDonald's branch in Faversham town centre

But its arrival was welcomed by many who felt Faversham was crying out for more choice when it came to convenience food - and in particular, takeaways that delivered.

A quick search on UberEats shows the only takeaways delivering in the area are two Indian restaurants: The Prince of India in Preston Street and The Raj in West Street.

Deliveroo is even more disappointing for those in Faversham town centre wanting a fast food fix. I’m greeted with the notice: “We’re not there yet! But we’re working on it.”

Just Eat’s website is slightly more reassuring, with fish and chips, pizza and Mexican up for grabs. But the selection would leave any takeaway fanatic recycling the same orders month after month.

Some might welcome the lack of access to artery-clogging junk food, given Swale's dubious title of the most overweight district in Kent.

According to the most recent government data by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the borough has the highest level of overweight and obese adults in the county.

Other noticeable absences in the town centre include popular national brands, such as Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Greggs.

There was a fierce battle to stop Costa - the UK's biggest coffee shop chain - from invading Faversham in 2014 when a planning application was lodged for a site in Market Place.

The plans attracted hundreds of letters of objection as residents fought to keep the big brands out of the town. The battle was ultimately won when the application was withdrawn the same year - although a Costa concession has since opened in the town's Tesco store.

It is fair to say any big chains with hopes of moving into the heart of Faversham will likely face fierce opposition from residents.

As I walk down picturesque Preston Street into Market Place, I immediately get a sense of why people adore the area - and why they are so eager to protect its charm.

Market Place is surrounded by bars and coffee shops
Market Place is surrounded by bars and coffee shops

Apart from a few national chains - Wetherspoon, Specsavers and Superdrug to name a few - it's the small, quirky businesses which give the town its character.

Independent bars and cafes surround the stunning Grade II-listed Guildhall, with customers basking in the sun around small tables.

Visitors wave to familiar business owners, elderly ladies carry clear carrier bags of fruit and vegetables from a local grocers and couples browse goods displayed in small shop windows.

Living in Medway, the vast selection of fast food I can order straight to my door is something I unashamedly take for granted.

But walking through Faversham town centre, it seems most shoppers and business owners do not feel anything is missing.

Harvey Alexander, 48, who owns The Hobby Shop in Preston Street, says there are “plenty of takeaways of different types”
Harvey Alexander, 48, who owns The Hobby Shop in Preston Street, says there are “plenty of takeaways of different types”

Harvey Alexander, 48, who owns The Hobby Shop in Preston Street, says there are “plenty of takeaways of different types”.

“There are none of the big names, but there are takeaways, lots of cafes, burger bars and kebab houses and I don’t think there is a need for more,” he said.

“With Faversham, a lot of the businesses are independents so bringing in big name takeaways isn't the way forward.

“It’s better for the independent takeaways that provide that service to carry on doing so.

“Whitstable is similar, there are a lot of independent shops there and not big names.”

He believes there probably could be a demand for more takeaways with more houses being built on the outskirts of Faversham.

But he adds: “When the takeaways come, Deliveroo comes and the people on bicycles.

“They will bring employment but also bring litter and groups of youths which isn’t necessarily the best thing in what is a small, quiet town.”

Lucy Rutter, 49, says Faversham town centre is “lovely because it has lots of independent businesses” and she “really wants to support them”.

“I don’t think it would bring anti-social behaviour but they aren’t very beautiful,” she said.

West Street in Faversham is occupied by a number of independent traders
West Street in Faversham is occupied by a number of independent traders

“There are actually a lot of takeaways so I don’t think it's needed and the feel of the town is really enhanced by the beautiful shops and independent cafes here and I don’t think McDonald’s is beautiful enough to be here.”

Her husband Guy Rutter, 59, adds: “Otherwise it would be just like any other high street.

“Also, you would get wrappers everywhere and you would be putting all these people out of work, like the fish and chip shop.

“Takings would go down and they wouldn’t be able to employ as many people.”

Linda Brock, 63, says the town has "more than enough" takeaways but she does not mind the "few that are here", such as fish and chips, Indian and Chinese.

"It is a beautiful town of independent businesses without the usual shops like Costa and Starbucks, and we certainly don’t want McDonald’s or anything like that - why spoil it?" she says.

"We come from London originally and the high streets have been spoiled by these takeaways and you don’t find tea and cake shops or restaurants.

"It is all Costas and fast food takeaways like chicken shops."

Her husband, Steve Foulger, 70, has concerns about what the big chains would bring with them.

"Having moved from an area which is generally associated with a throwaway society, you would possibly get more litter," he says.

"You would also have a congregation of groups outside because they are popular with some people."

Cllr Julian Saunders does not believe there is a shortage of takeaways in Faversham town centre
Cllr Julian Saunders does not believe there is a shortage of takeaways in Faversham town centre

And Faversham town councillor Julian Saunders (Lab) does not believe there is a shortage of takeaways in Faversham town centre.

"In general terms, the look and feel of the town centre with its rich history, numerous listed buildings and small retail premises doesn’t really lend itself to the national chains which will tend to require larger premises, want very prominent branding and nearby customer parking," he says.

Meanwhile, Faversham Traders' Association chair and owner of E Street Music, Tim Brown, says there "probably is" a demand for more takeaways in the town.

"There are a lot of people who would use McDonald's but there are things that come with it like people hanging around and litter," he says. "I'm sure there would be a place for it.

"We have three fish and chip shops in town and a couple of kebab shops so I think there is a reasonable amount in town.

"There are a lot of independent shops which as a small town we need to protect."

Faversham Traders Association chair and owner of E Street Music, Tim Brown, says there "probably is" a demand for more takeaways in the town
Faversham Traders Association chair and owner of E Street Music, Tim Brown, says there "probably is" a demand for more takeaways in the town

While most people in Faversham seem to oppose the idea of a McDonald's or KFC popping up in town, Lisa West - the owner of L Jays Attic in Preston Street - sees differently.

"There is a lack of takeaways that deliver," the 55-year-old says. "We haven’t got anything like Uber Eats apart from the Indian which delivers and that is really good.

"They are missing out on a trick because a lot of people would order - especially a Chinese.

"I don’t think we need more shops filled with takeaways but I think the ones we’ve got need to look into it.

"I think now there are the houses on the outskirts, I would definitely 100% like more big takeaway chains.

"I would like KFC, Burger King and maybe Nando's - that’ll do."

Lisa West - the owner of L Jays Attic in Preston Street - has called for more takeaways to open which offer delivery
Lisa West - the owner of L Jays Attic in Preston Street - has called for more takeaways to open which offer delivery

It appears most are content with a lack of big name fast food outlets in the town - with multinational companies undoubtedly facing fierce opposition if they dare to try and open one.

Mr Yeung, on the other hand, doesn't seem too concerned about the prospect.

"It might have some effect," he says. "For now, I don’t think it would be a huge loss for my business. I don’t mind too much."

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