If you have any questions about trading with Ukraine or Russia, the Find Business Support website has the latest updates and links to further support.


Get a personalised experience with a MyHIE account

Make your life easier with a MyHIE account. It’ll save you time, help you find and organise content based on your needs and interests.

Cta Man

Boost for Bute food and drink

Bute Kitchen is being supported with HIE funding of nearly £20,000 to upskill the island’s hospitality workforce, explore local markets for food produced on the island and promote the Bute ‘brand’ to new audiences.

Bute Kitchen is being supported with HIE funding of nearly £20,000 to upskill the island’s hospitality workforce, explore local markets for food produced on the island and promote the Bute ‘brand’ to new audiences.

In Bute, as in many rural places, COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns brought many challenges for food producers - but they also had an unexpected positive impact. When the island’s inhabitants were forced to stay and shop local, many producers were able to take advantage of increased local sales which were further boosted by a new interest in food provenance. Wishing to capitalise on these changes in people’s buying habits, Bute’s food group - Bute Kitchen - has been working with its members on a number of projects.

Bute Kitchen is a collaboration of island food and drink industry entrepreneurs. The social enterprise is run by a voluntary board and has 31 members, from the farmers and smallholders growing and producing crops, dairy and livestock, to cheese makers and butchers crafting products from these top quality ingredients. The group’s aim is to build the wealth of Bute’s local communities by directly contributing to the economic success of local food and drink businesses via direct and internet sales. 


The importance of regional food groups

At HIE, we know that regional food groups like Bute Kitchen are an important cog in the wheel of COVID-19 recovery, and supporting them is an effective way to reach a wide range of businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic. Our Regional Food Groups grant programme gave groups the opportunity to identify and deliver projects that would make the biggest difference to their members.

Thanks to our funding, Bute Kitchen is working with Springboard Scotland, Developing Young Workforce (DYW), Skills Development Scotland and Rothesay Academy to deliver a series of digital and face-to-face courses to upskill workers. Half of the 24 training participants are Bute school students, who will learn the practical employment skills required by local hospitality businesses in order to give them valuable work experience and at the same time tackle the shortage of hospitality workers on the island. The other dozen participants are staff from island businesses - the coffee shops, ice cream parlour, pubs and brewery - who already work in the industry but who haven’t had formal training, as well as other islanders looking to retrain. The training will be delivered in spring 2022.

Bute beef is recognised as a really good quality product and it’s used in fine dining restaurants in London and Edinburgh, it would be great to sell it on the island.
Sandra Reid, Bute Kitchen board member

Keeping it local

For Sandra Reid, owner of Fare Consulting and one of Bute Kitchen’s board members, receiving the HIE funding and being able to run the training represents an opportunity to work with delivery partners and give practical, impactful support to the Bute community. As well as the training, Bute Kitchen is planning to use the funding to finance other activities to support its members. This includes influencer events in Glasgow and Edinburgh restaurants to promote the quality and variety of Bute produce to new audiences, and a project which is delving into the viability of keeping the meat produced in Bute on the island.

“There’s a tendency for hospitality businesses to not sell local meat,” explains Sandra. “So we’re using the funding to dig into the barriers. Bute beef is recognised as a really good quality product and it’s used in fine dining restaurants in London and Edinburgh, it would be great to sell it on the island.” This consultant-led work involves speaking to the meat producers and farmers to understand production volumes, where their meat currently goes, what could potentially stay local and what could go into public procurement, to supply local schools and care homes. It will also examine the demand aspect, looking at the barriers to local sales - such as price, seasonality and the challenge of storytelling, which is key to selling premium, locally sourced products. This project is ongoing at the time of writing and, as Sandra explains, Bute Kitchen is having to be patient as the arrival of spring means there’s a lot of lambing going on and farmers are less available than usual. It’s all part of island life.

kitchen training

An exciting future

These projects, as well as other ongoing collaborative activities being undertaken by Bute Kitchen, are all working towards the same vision of growing the value and reputation of food and drink on Bute. The island’s food and drink companies will soon be given a real boost in the form of Bute Yard, which benefitted from a Young Companies Grant in 2021. The Yard is a collaborative project to create a flexible commercial space in the heart of Rothesay and has been developed in partnership between the late Johnny Bute and the Isle of Bute Gin Company. The Yard, which opens this summer, will include a gin distillery, bar, pop-up café facilities, and flexible event space which will be open for business year-round. The main building will open out into a dynamic outside space which will be used to host farmers' markets, food and community events and as a venue that can support and complement significant long-standing local events such as the Bute Highland Games, the Agricultural Show, Bute Fest and other community-led initiatives.

Sandra believes that it’s good timing, as Scotland is getting much better at promoting the unique produce and skills present in the food and drink industry. “The food tourism piece is a no-brainer for Scotland, with such incredible assets - and Bute is no exception. I’ve worked in the food and drink sector for years, as a chef, a restaurant owner, in training and education and as the catering manager for Historic Environment Scotland. Food and drink businesses are no longer working in isolation. Schemes like the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s food tourism ambassador programme and regional food group network are improving the potential for everyone, and things are now so much more joined-up at ground level.”

It’s certainly an exciting time for food tourism businesses on Bute, and it’s clear that the regional food group funding is going to have a long-lasting and positive impact for many island-based businesses - as well as for future visitors.

Bute Kitchen is one of six regional food groups to receive funding from HIE to support their member businesses to recover from COVID. You can read more about regional food groups in the summer 2021 edition of our Focus magazine. Follow Bute Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or visit their website to find out more.


Sign up for all the latest news, information on investments and development opportunities from across our region.