From Philanthropy to Profits in London
This chapter explores the early careers of Ronald McDougall, Robert Lockhart and John Pearce, three caterers whose companies in different ways shaped the catering revolution in late Victorian London.
Ronald McDougall’s career as the manager of the People’s Cafè Co. is examined in detail because he would later claim to having been “the originator of London tea shops.” Though he had imaginative ideas, various developments in London—profits declined, mass-produced goods arrived and the City’s catering companies faltered—upended him early in the 1880s. These events overwhelmed him, forcing him into bankruptcy in 1882.
Capitalisation, timing, concentration and class, together with gender, all proved decisive in differentiating the catering careers of McDougall, on the one hand, and John Pearce and Lockhart, on the other. Both Lockhart and Pearce arrived early in the 1880s, and cautious expansion protected them from what McDougall had confronted.
Total abstinence, evangelist Dwight L. Moody and commitment to feeding vast numbers of London’s inhabitants—all these united John Pearce with Ronald McDougall and Robert Lockhart. Careers of the last two were shaped by coffee public houses in Liverpool. McDougall’s short-lived catering career in the capital and Lockhart’s premature death in 1880 deprived either of recognition as pre-eminent in London’s emergent mass food catering market.