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Restaurant Powerhouses Defying Economic Odds

Against a challenging economic backdrop, some players are thriving against the odds. Let’s dive into some of the success stories…

The UK restaurant scene is a battleground of resilience and innovation. Against a challenging economic backdrop, some players are thriving against the odds. Let’s dive into some of the success stories…

Beringea Fuels Farmer J’s Growth with £5.5 Million Investment

Farmer J, a Syrve UK customer and the popular eatery known for its “forkin’ good food,” secured a £5.5 million investment led by Beringea. The funding will propel the brand’s growth, and CEO Jonathan Recanati plans to open five new sites in 2024. Farmer J, renowned for its build-your-own Fieldtrays featuring nutritious food from high-welfare sources, continues to redefine fast-casual dining with a focus on quality and flavour. (3)

Afrikana Kitchen: A Burst of Flavourful Ambition

Joining the ranks of restaurant trailblazers, Afrikana Kitchen, a Syrve UK customer, steps into the spotlight with a pipeline boasting 50-plus restaurants. Managing Director Omair Ali shares a glimpse of the upcoming openings, including Hounslow, Ilford, Leeds, Sheffield, Southampton, Hayes, Endinburgh and Wolverhampton. With plans to make 2024 a year filled with delicious memories, Afrikana Kitchen adds a vibrant chapter to the UK dining scene.

Bubble CiTea’s Phenomenal Year Unveiled

Bubble CiTea, the iconic bubble tea sensation and Syrve UK customer, had a remarkable year in 2023, achieving extraordinary milestones. Popping over 472 million bubbles, conquering 16 new cities, and introducing self-service, Bubble CiTea solidified its presence. Launching on Uber Eats and Just Eat Takeaway.com , engaging over 140,000 loyal customers on Como®, and creating a buzz at MCM Birmingham Comic Con were just a few highlights of their journey. The TikTok sensation with 100 million impressions further attested to Bubble CiTea’s creativity.

As the brand looks ahead to 2024, the excitement continues with plans for expansion. Bubble CiTea remains committed to bringing joy through its offerings, promising another year filled with innovation, growth, and, most importantly, the joy of bubbles.

12th Street Burgers: A Diverse Line Up

12th Street Burgers , a rapidly growing QSR chain and Syrve UK customer, stands out for its commitment to delivering delicious and hearty comfort Halal food options. Joining a diverse lineup that includes Dynamite Wings, Route 77, Habb Wraps, Shakester, and Red Jalapeno, 12th Street Burgers is set for rapid expansion in 2024.

Honest Burgers Sizzles with Success 

Active Value Partners -backed Honest Burgers Ltd has emerged as a shining example of resilience in the face of economic challenges. The popular burger chain reported record-breaking sales in the last quarter of 2023, boasting a remarkable 12% like-for-like growth compared to January of the previous year. Led by newly appointed Thomas Kelly ,previously associated with McDonald’s and Costa Coffee, Honest Burgers served over 1.1 million customers in the last three months of 2023.

The success story continued into 2024, with a robust 12% like-for-like growth compared to January 2023. Kelly expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “It has been an amasing Christmas period with sales surpassing expectations. This has continued into January, and we are looking forward to the rest of the year.” The company’s commitment to expansion was reinforced by the closure of a crowdfunding campaign in October, raising close to £3 million, including a significant contribution from Active. Honest Burgers plans to utilise the funds to launch a new premium quick-service smashed burger concept named Honest Smashed. (1)

Gaucho Owner Sets Ambitious Goals

Rare Restaurants, the owner of GAUCHO and M Restaurants, has reported an outstanding year in 2023, achieving a record revenue of £75.3 million. The 22-strong group showcased double-digit turnover growth, with like-for-like sales surging ahead by 23% compared to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. The company, led by Martin Williams, plans to further expand its footprint with a pipeline of 30 UK locations. Williams emphasised the focus on sustainable growth, targeting university cities and neighbourhood venues to replicate the success witnessed in Richmond and Hampstead.

Acknowledging the challenges ahead, Williams highlighted the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and sector headwinds. However, he outlined the company’s approach to providing an aspirational yet accessible premium experience, supported by innovative brand and marketing strategies. (1)

Wagamama’s Expansion Plans Take Centre Stage

Wagamama is gearing up for significant expansion in 2024, with plans to launch ten new restaurants across the UK. The popular pan-Asian cuisine chain aims to introduce its offerings to diverse locations, including Bentley Bridge in Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Epsom, Doncaster, Chatham Maritime, and Woodside Leisure Park in Watford. This expansion is expected to generate 500 job opportunities, showcasing Wagamama’s commitment to both growth and employment.

The announcement follows Wagamama’s acquisition by Apollo Global Management, Inc. in December, signalling a new chapter for the brand. Thomas Heier, Wagamama’s CEO, expressed enthusiasm about the expansion, stating, “We’re proud to be opening ten new sites in the UK in 2024.” The move aligns with the brand’s strategy to enhance its UK presence and offer its signature dishes to a broader audience. (2)

Foodco UK’s Milestone Turnover and Expansion Plans

Foodco UK , the operator of Muffin Break UK and Jamaica Blue, achieved a significant milestone with a turnover exceeding £40 million in the year ending June 2023. The operator, currently under offer for ten new stores, experienced a 10% rise in like-for-like sales and customer footfall across its estate in January. The upcoming expansion includes a shift towards high street locations, reflecting the changing dynamics in consumer preferences.

Josh Nixon, Foodco UK’s head of estates, expressed delight at surpassing the £40 million turnover milestone, citing strong customer demand for their freshly baked goods and espresso coffee. The company, operating 66 Muffin Break and 20 Jamaica Blue sites, is optimistic about the year ahead, with plans to add up to 20 stores in 2024. (1)

Shan Shui’s Expansion and Concept Evolution

Restaurateur Ellen Chew is set to open a third site for her Shan Shui concept and explore opportunities for Mrs. Chew’s Chinese Kitchen. Chew, known for launching Rasa Sayang in London’s Chinatown in 2008, recently unveiled Singapulah, a cultural heritage showcase in partnership with Singapore government agencies. Despite challenges, Chew remains optimistic, citing an “encouraging” uptick in British customers and planning further expansion for Shan Shui and Mrs. Chew’s Chinese Kitchen in 2024. (1)

Forza Win’s Growth Accelerates with Key Appointments

The company behind Italian restaurant Forza Wine and the Forza Wine bar concept has made strategic appointments to accelerate its growth plans. Adam Walford, a hospitality-focused lawyer with over 20 years of experience, joins as chair, expressing confidence in Forza Win’s potential for growth. The company has also appointed Claire Wright as operations manager and Anna Robinson as head of digits, aiming to fortify its position and explore new opportunities. (1)

Caffè Nero’s Steady Ascent Amid Economic Pressures

Caffè Nero, the premium coffee house brand led by Gerry Ford, reported a 10.1% rise in sales for the first half of its financial year to November 2023, reaching £200 million across its 620-strong UK business. Despite ongoing inflationary pressures, the company showcased solid sales growth and strong cost control. Caffè Nero’s success extended to its delivery business, with partnerships with UberEats, Deliveroo, and Just Eat generating £4.7 million in revenue. The company remains optimistic about future sales improvement and expansion in 2024. (1)

Naan Staap’s Expansion Plans Unfold

London-based Naan Staap, the Pakistan-inspired café concept, has opened its sixth site in Harrow, with two more locations in Wembley and Islington in the pipeline. The brand, founded by Zohaib Shahnawaz, emphasises the art of making stuffed naan, along with cakes, cookies, and chai. Naan Staap aims to expand its footprint through franchising and regional presence, targeting major cities with its unique culinary offerings. (1)

Hawksmoor’s Steak Excellence Recognised Globally

Hawksmoor, the acclaimed steakhouse chain, celebrated a landmark year in 2023, achieving record turnover and profit levels. The brand, renowned for its commitment to quality and sustainability, secured the second position in the global list of the World’s Best Steak Restaurants. Despite economic challenges, Hawksmoor continues to be recognised as a top employer and plans ambitious international expansion, with a 16,500-square-foot venue for Chicago. (2)

Various Eateries Balances Losses with Ambitious Expansion Plans

Various Eateries PLC, the parent company of Noci and Coppa Club, reported a pre-tax loss of £6.7 million but successfully raised £10.1 million for expansion. Despite absorbing most price hikes to secure long-term market positioning, the company remains optimistic about future growth. Various Eateries plans to open up to 10 Noci and 3 Coppa Club restaurants, emphasising opportunities within the current market conditions. (2)

Conclusion: Success and Adaptation

Despite the economic backdrop, tales of success, resilience, and strategic adaptation shine through. These establishments exemplify the spirit of innovation and determination, offering valuable lessons for the broader hospitality landscape. The optimism and commitment demonstrated by Farmer J, Afrikana, BubbleCiTea, 12th Street Burgers, Honest Burgers, Rare Restaurants, Wagamama, Foodco UK, Shan Shui, Forza Wine, Caffè Nero, Farmer J, Naan Staap, Hawksmoor, and Various Eateries serve as beacons of hope and inspiration.

Sources: (1) Propel Info (2) Ceres (3) Beringea