Why A Top Restaurateur Chose Chiswick To Open A Funeral Parlour

Oliver Peyton says Exit Here will modernise how we deal with death


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The news that a well-known restaurateur and TV presenter was planning to open a 'life affirming' funeral services company in Chiswick, was first revealed by this site.

This week, Oliver Peyton (Great British Menu) officially launches Exit Here, in the premises formerly occupied by estate agents Felicity J Lord. The venture is, in the words of one local trader, 'the talk of the town'.

While it seems light years away from the world of television and the restaurant industry he has been involved with for over thirty years, he does not believe the gap between both businesses is as wide as it first appears.

"In a way the funeral services industry is about hospitality, it's about looking after people and making them feel cared for at this difficult time. I want to bring trust back to that sector."

Peyton, who is a long-time resident of Acton and lives with his wife and three children close to Chiswick, said he had been looking for the right premises for several months. He chose Chiswick High Road because he is familiar with the area, and because it felt like the right base. He felt it would fit into the local community.

He wants to move away from traditional descriptions of 'funeral homes' or funeral parlours, and use a term, such as 'Funeral Services'. The general image of funerals and undertakers conjures up images of dark rooms, hushed tones, and people wearing black clothes. It is Victorian and forbidding, he believes. In contrast, the interior of Exit Here is bright colours, with natural light pouring in, more akin to a smart boutique hotel.

Exit Here will offer a complete funeral service – from orders of service, to bespoke caskets and catering, whether for a natural burial, a catered dinner, a celebration at a loved location or a service followed by tea and cakes. They can provide religious or humanist services, and the concept is for a bespoke arrangement. There will be no raised eyebrows at eccentric requests.

Oliver Peyton is a regular to Chiswick High Road cafes and restaurants and shops. He feels part of his local community, and enjoys reading his local Neighbour Net sites in Chiswick and Acton every week.

"I think local news websites are a really vital presence for the community, particularly for informing people are issues that need to be highlighted, such as planning matters."

The interior of Exit Here is light-filled and calm. The reception room's walls and ceiling are painted teal. There is a modern dark blue couch, brightly patterned armchairs and a selection of prints on the wall. Other rooms include an office, and a room at the rear for choosing coffin and other items, such as urns. Coffins will come in a variety of styles and colours, such as the bright yellow one pictured below.

One big attraction for local passersby this week was the 'Day of the Dead' coffin, inside the front display window. It was coloured by hand in the eye-catching design, by the architect/designer Masterson-Smith who was also responsible for the interior decor.

The premises was also deemed suitable for the business because it has adequate parking at the rear for hearses and ambulances. There will be no need to carry coffins along the pavement and the cycle highway 9 is not expected to interfere with access.

Chiswick resident Jenny Jawa from Bedford Park, is on hand as the first port of call when people come through the door. She says the local reaction has been very positive with many local callers and neighbouring traders calling full of curiosity and to wish them well.

Peyton says he came up with the idea of entering the funeral services industry following experience of the deaths of his parents.

He had a negative experience when his father died suddenly following a heart attack six years ago. He and his sisters went to a local funeral director "where all the coffins looked the same." In retrospect he would have preferred a more celebratory farewell for his father.

When their mother died four years ago, the family were better prepared. She had been ill for a lengthy period of time. After the funeral service, the family and friends had a meal in their mother's favourite restaurant, ordering oysters and Sauvignon Blanc and sharing their memories.

Peyton says his childhood attending Irish wakes has very likely influenced his desire to bring people together and make a joyous occasion out of a person's death, to give them, as the Irish say, 'a good send off'.

A simple coffin with rounded ends in a choice of bright colours at Exit Here cost £650, compared to a similar one at Co-Op. The Mexican Day of the Dead -themed casket at £950 is the same price as a solid oak coffin from a established chain.

The average cost of a funeral nowadays including service, coffins and burial is believed to be £4,000-£5,000,- £4,700 for a cremation including fees, a casket and a funeral urn. Aa trend gaining in popularity is for a natural burial at a venue such as Sheepgrove Organic Farm. This costs £5,900 including the plot and a willow casket.

Third generation funeral director Barry Pritchard will be at the helm at Exit Here to look after practical matters when Peyton is busy with his restaurant and television career.

Peyton, who set up a stable of clubs and restaurants, including The Atlantic Bar and Grill, Isola, Admiralty, Peyton & Byrne bakeries and catering concepts for the National Gallery and British Library, says that they are not just burying people. "We want to create an overall experience. People plan their weddings and birthdays, why not plan their funeral?'

He has already planned his own celebration. Following a priest-led service, he wishes to be buried in a biodegradable coffin in a patch of land in a Berkshire wood. The celebration will then take place in Cornwall with a menu which includes truffle risotto, sea bass and vintage champagne. The night will end with dancing until the small hours- he is still working on the set list for the DJ.

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October 13, 2019

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