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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Arjun Waney, Zuma, Roka, La Petite Maison

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Arjun Waney, Zuma, Roka, La Petite Maison

Overall ranking: 22 (ranked 41 in 2011)
Restaurateur ranking: 8 (ranked 14 in 2011)

Arjun Waney – Snapshot 

Indian-born Arjun Waney is a successful venture capitalist who has backed several restaurant winners, including the Asian-inspired Zuma and Roka, which have been rolled out internationally from London, as well as La Petit Maison, Aurelia, Banca, Il Baretto, the Arts Club and the forthcoming Coya, all in the capital. 

Arjun Waney- Career guide 

Waney’s first foray into the world of restaurants saw him team up with Divia Lalvani to invest in the opening of modern Japanese restaurants Zuma, in Knightsbridge in 2002, and Roka, in Charlotte Street, in 2004. The concepts were devised by chef Rainer Becker while working in Tokyo and are both based around the Japanese robata grill. 

More sites followed for Zuma, in Hong Kong in 2007, Istanbul and Dubai in 2008, Miami in 2010 and Bangkok in 2011. Meanwhile, further branches of his Roka restaurant opened in London’s Canary Wharf in 2009 and Hong Kong in 2010. 

In 2007, Waney opened La Petit Maison, an upmarket French “tapas” restaurant that aimed to bring the cuisine from the original in Nice to London’s Mayfair, and in 2009 he invested in an Italian concept, Il Baretto, in Marylebone.

The last two years have seen the 73 year old launch a spate of new restaurants. In late 2011 he opened Italian restaurant Aurelia in Mayfair together with Giuliano Lotto and relaunched the nearby Arts Club. He followed this up in 2012 with two more sites in his Mayfair mini-empire –another Italian, Banca, and Peruvian restaurant Coya. Plans are also afoot to open two restaurants with Rainer Becker in London’s Shard next year.

Arjun Waney – What we think 

Despite being an influential figure on the London dining scene for over a decade, Waney has shunned the limelight, admitting in a rare interview that his restaurants are not a platform for his ego. But considering that he initially set Zuma up as an investment hobby – after he constantly struggled to book a table at Nobu – he may have been surprised at the runaway success of his restaurant ventures.

Then again, having already set up and sold two successful home-furnishing businesses, as well as run a London financial fund, Waney had acquired plenty of business acumen by the time he moved into restaurants in his early 60s. Although even he admits that he never dreamt that some of his restaurants would be as profitable as they are, with the likes of Zuma doing upwards of 500 covers a day even through the recession.

The source of a lot of this success lies in his ability to spot food trends and surround himself with talented staff. The likes of Zuma and Roka offered diners sharing plates long before it was fashionable – thanks to co-founder Rainer Becker – while Waney has recently spotted Londoners’ growing appetite for South American cuisine and reacted accordingly with Peruvian restaurant Coya. He has also ensured that his cadre of talented chefs – which includes Becker, Nic Watt and Raphael Duntoye – are so heavily invested in the business that it isn’t worth their while leaving. What’s more, his teaming up with Gwyenth Paltrow and Mark Ronson to relaunch Mayfair’s Arts Club displayed a canny use of his celebrity connections.

Zuma and Roka continue to expand internationally, with the former adding its sixth site in Bangkok in late 2011, while Waney plans to open two restaurants with Becker in London’s Shard next year.

Despite a recent period of expansion for Waney’s mini-empire, he admits to not being in a rush to open up sites and would prefer to avoid the stress. However, with a Chinese restaurant mooted, expect more to come from this serial entrepreneur.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 2011: Arjun Waney, Zuma, Roka, La Petite Maison >>

Arjun Waney to open Peruvian restaurant Coya in November >>

Just Opened – Banca, London >>

Arjun Waney relaunches Mayfair’s Arts Club with Mark Ronson and Gwyneth Paltrow  >>

The Shard signs up Zuma and Roka operators >>

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