Photo of Tharavadu owner during Coca-Cola's Project Open

Project Open: Six businesses reveal impact of Coca‑Cola’s accelerator programme

Businesses from across Great Britain’s hospitality sector have received a wealth of insights, guidance and support to help them overcome the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are the results…

In 2021, our business accelerator programme Project Open has been helping cafés, pubs and restaurants battle against the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their business and support their recovery.

Businesses from across Great Britain’s hospitality sector have been offered access to exclusive content, video tutorials and insights through Project Open, and several small independents were given the opportunity to take a rare look under the bonnet of The Coca‑Cola Company and gain access to senior experts from Coca‑Cola GB, Coca‑Cola Europacifc Partners, Costa Coffee and Innocent.

Here we catch up with our six chosen businesses to hear how Project Open’s offer of cutting-edge expertise, personalised support and practical advice from leading behavioural scientists has changed how they do business.

Angel & Crown

This traditional British pub in East London’s Globe Town was advised to appeal to a younger audience by placing distinctive drinks more prominently at its bar, and to highlight ‘back by popular demand’ events, such as quiz nights. The Angel & Crown was also told to do more with the unique story of the pub, its landlady and its long-standing customers.

“It’s easy to forget how far I’ve come since taking over the pub,” said owner Melise Keogh, “but the programme has been invaluable and it has made me excited for the small changes I can put in place in the future to encourage my regulars to return, while attracting new faces from the local area.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity. There is still work to do, but with the great tools that have been given to me, it can be achieved.”

Free State Kitchen

This restaurant in Liverpool Riverside is another to have benefitted from Project Open, which has been directly supported by the area’s local MP, Kim Johnson: “The [Project Open] programme has been crucial in not only helping Free State Kitchen reopen their doors to customers, but has also provided them with invaluable support and guidance in helping them grow their business for the future.”

Also commenting on the impact of the programme was Free State Kitchen owner, Kate Hughes: “When we had to close the restaurant due to lockdown, it was isolating and difficult to know how other small businesses were managing. With this programme, not only was it was extremely beneficial to receive support from Coca‑Cola, but the support from the other small business owners has been invaluable.

“We created a really strong supportive network – giving advice on different challenges we were all experiencing, tackling issues facing our businesses together and putting our learnings from the programme into practise.”


A family-run Italian restaurant on Lothian Road, in the heart of the theatre district Edinburgh, Frizzante was advised by Project Open’s expert team to help its customers make quicker decisions when ordering and redesign its main menu to reduce choice overload – research has found that consumers find it difficult to make decisions when faced with too many options. Frizzante was also told to separate its drinks menu to include a soft drinks and wine list to increase the sales of their house specials, as research has found that customers’ eyes are drawn to a specific area on menus.

“Throughout the programme, Coca‑Cola and its partners have offered first-class support and detailed insight,” said Jonathan Chierchia, co-owner of Frizzante. “It was really interesting learning about the parallels in how large corporations and small businesses like ours operate and contend with industry challenges, such as the pandemic. Further, having other small businesses on the programme created a sense of exchange and collaboration that was hugely valuable. The programme has been stellar from start to finish.”

Pitch Bar & Eatery

This traditional Welsh restaurant and cocktail bar in Mill Lane, Cardiff, was also told to limit the risk of choice overload on its cocktail menu. Pitch Bar & Eatery was also advised to redesign its first floor to celebrate both Cardiff and Mill Lane’s unique heritage and the restaurant’s passion for local ingredients, while also using A-board messaging and its street-facing walls to promote its rapid service to commuters.

“Being an independent business can sometimes leave one feeling quite exposed,” said Ben Browne, owner of Pitch Bar & Eatery. “Covid-19 has really levelled the playing field across the hospitality industry, so any additional support is gratefully received. The whole programme has been so beneficial and a good exercise to relook at the business from a strategic point of view. I’ve been in the restaurant industry my whole life and some of the advice we received I never would have thought of!”


Tharavadu, an authentic Keralan restaurant in Leeds city centre, was told to emphasise its uniqueness and streamline choices on its food menu, while communicating a consistent brand identity as a Keralan restaurant – not an Indian one. Tharavadu was also advised to highlight the previously unseen expertise of its team of chefs by displaying photographs and biographies of each, promoting the different culinary skills they possess.

Siby Jose, owner of Tharavadu said: “Our food has been special, but we weren’t doing anything else in a special way, so we decided it was time to do something different to other restaurants. The Coca‑Cola Open programme really helped us to do that – it was so useful.

“We have already started to make some changes, and we are planning to open a “chatty café” later this Summer, which the Mayor of Leeds has already agreed to come and inaugurate. It is mostly small things, but we didn’t know how making such a small change could make such a big difference to the customer and to our business.”

Two Spoons

A busy café by day and a relaxed, speakeasy-vibe bar by night in Honor Oak Park, Two Spoons was told by the Project Open team to champion its most popular dishes and specials on its menu, while also streamlining its drinks menu to reduce choice overload and amending its wording to help customers in their decision-making. Two Spoons was also advised to invest in a new outdoor seated area with its own identity to encourage new and repeat customers.

“The past year has been an incredibly challenging time for the business but the support from The Coca‑Cola Project Open programme has been invaluable,” said Rose-Mary Garsi, owner of Two Spoons. “It’s been a great journey of learning more about my own business and the business has definitely benefitted from me taking a step back from the day-to-day in order to make strategic decisions for future success.

“The changes that were recommended are only small tweaks to what we do already, but will result in bigger returns for us and a better experience for our customers. I have already started implementing some of the recommendations!

“I am so thankful for the opportunity. There is still work to do, but with the great tools that have been given to me, it can be achieved.”

See Project Open’s expertise, knowledge and behavioural science techniques for small businesses in hospitality.