Flat Iron is more than just a steak restaurant. It’s a very specific type of steak restaurant, serving one very specific type of steak prepared and served in a very specific way. In London, it’s quite unique in offering a mouthwatering ‘flat iron’ steak (a tasty yet inexpensive cut of meat also known as ‘feather blade’) at a single, affordable price – £10. And that’s probably why every Londoner seems to agree Flat Iron restaurants are the bee’s knees, and why it’s so tricky to get a table there.
Every detail of the Flat Iron experience has been meticulously thought out, and presented with care and creativity. From the simplicity of its no-nonsense menu to the mini meat cleavers where you might expect a steak knife, bowls of free popcorn on arrival and ubiquitous blue-and-white Falcon enamel pie dishes overflowing with old-fashioned chips lovingly browned in beef dripping.
Flat Iron’s been going for a few years now, and it seems news of its success has travelled as far north as Manchester – where a familiar-looking eatery (with no affiliation to Flat Iron) has opened for business. Featherblade, as it’s known, is a shoddy facsimile of the Flat Iron format (they’ve ripped off every last detail), suggesting its owners insultingly presumed all Mancunains to be untravelled troglodytes with no knowledge of goings-on south of Stockport. And they forgot social media…
I swear Featherblade restaurant in Manchester has completely ripped off Flat Iron???
— Carly Thomas (@_carlylt) November 17, 2016
That’s right, Carly. It has.
Now I haven’t been to Featherblade myself (though lukewarm reviews suggest it’s really no match for Flat Iron), and I’m not particularly concerned with what they’re selling – steak and chips isn’t exactly a new invention. What bothers me is that anyone thinks it’s OK to steal somebody else’s entire business vision and attempt to pass it off as their own to make a lazy few quid. It’s no different from selling fake trainers with ‘Just Do It’ and a swoosh on the side, and branding them ‘Mike’.
Featherblade’s menu, branding, pricing and table setting – its entire aesthetic, even the mini meat cleavers and popcorn appetiser – are all near enough identical to the genuine Flat Iron. The man responsible for it all, Lee Brennan, has told local reporters it’s an “unfortunate coincidence” and denies deliberately ripping off Flat Iron’s concept. His words remind me of a classroom cheat from my school who would gloat at getting full marks after copying all the answers from a brainier kid he sat himself next to. It wasn’t big or clever back then, and in the real world of business it’s embarrassing.
Obviously, I feel sad for the creators of Flat Iron, and I’d love to know what they think of this brazen plagiarism. Unfortunately, for now, the owners are keeping shtum (probably while they seek legal advice). But I also feel sorry for Lee Brennan. I bet he dreams of being an entrepreneur, but instead of innovating and pursuing new ideas he shortsightedly follows his greed to cash in on other people’s creations and leeches off their success. And anyone with a bit of money can do that.
Still, with all the free publicity – including national press coverage courtesy of The Mirror – the tills at Featherblade will be ringing for a while. So maybe life’s cheats really do have the last laugh. Maybe.