INDEPENDENT hospitality operators in Dundee have called for steps to be taken to ensure the bars and restaurants planned for the city's £1 billion Waterfront development are not dominated by corporate brands.

Dundee city centre is experiencing a hospitality renaissance, with 16 new independent bars, restaurants, cafes and delicatessens springing up in the last six months.

Now independent operators are hoping that vibrancy will not be lost with the Waterfront regeneration, which seeks to reconnect the city centre with the Tay.

The masterplan envisages a variety of retail, leisure and hotel springing up across various plots across a five-mile stretch of the riverside.

But concern has been raised that consumers are given a choice beyond the major food and drink brands that have come to dominate many town and city centres.

That fear was a key message to emerge at a workshop for hospitality operators at the city's Malmaison Hotel, where they were given an update on the progress of the Waterfront project.

Paul McMillan recently saw his Castlehill Restaurant win a two star AA rosette for culinary excellence, within six months of opening on the city's Exchange Street.

With Dundee anticipating a surge in visitors as the Waterfront project comes together, he insisted it is important locals and visitors to the city are given a variety of options when they come to visit.

Mr McMillan said: "I have a strong view that the council will have to take hold of those units, or certainly the majority of them, and get them into the hands of private businesses.

"On the other hand, it is good to have big names and big brands in Dundee, because it means Dundee is then going to work. Big brands only go where the money is.

"There has to be a happy medium from my point of view."

The concerns of the independent trade were made known to Allan Watt, co-ordinator for the Waterfront project, who answered questions from operators at Malmaison.

He insisted the council will not be under pressure to secure the most lucrative deals when lining up tenants.

Mr Watt said: "We own all the land on the Waterfront, so we can have an element of control of the type of development that takes place. We can have a stake in it and have some level of control in it.

"In order to get the right mix, by having a stake in the development we can decide the speed at which we want it developed, and the type of development. We don't always have to go for necessarily the right price, whereas if it was also purely commercial we wouldn't really care about those kinds of means and objectives.

"It gives us the ability to slowly develop it, to think about the right kind of development, rather than rush to take whatever comes along and not always to take the best financial offer but to think about what is best for the project and the city, which I guess is quite unusual."

The strength of the hospitality scene in Dundee is highlighted by the high numbers studying the subject in the city's colleges, with around 150 studying to be a chef and about 140 on hospitality courses.

But concern was highlighted during the seminar at Malmaison that too many young are leaving Tayside to pursue their careers elsewhere after graduation because of a lack of opportunities to learn their craft.

Mr McMillan admitted key members of his kitchen brigade learned their skills outside the city. In spite of recent investment in the city, he said Dundee remains a hard market for independent hospitality operators to start up and thrive.

Mr McMillan said: "I scrimped and saved to make this happen and I've been paying it off through the business.

"It's been a hard slog doing it that way. I didn't just walk into it and get support from the banks.

"The banks won't fund. I went to three banks and they wouldn't even touch me, or they wanted a massive deposit up front.

"So where do you get that deposit from, and where do you then start buying all the material to do the place up?

"Whether it is a bar or a restaurant it doesn't make any difference, you've got to find the collateral to get that place done up."