London-based barbecue brand Big Easy Bar.B.Q & Lobstershack is to open a flagship 500-seat Canary Wharf site (350 inside, 150 outside) later this year, and has launched a campaign on crowdfunding website Crowdcube to bankroll further expansion. Founder Paul Corrett tells Hannah Thompson about his plans
After years in the business, why expand now?
Given the national interest in barbecue and lobster we feel we are a natural fit in today’s market. Big Easy has been exciting guests since 1991 with compound annual growth in guests, sales and profit. We decided to open our second site in Covent Garden over a year ago now, and it has proven to be even more successful.
How many sites are you hoping to have, and by when?
We are flattered to be invited to occupy great new spaces in developments around the country by leading developers. We hope to have a national presence over the next few years and are always looking for new opportunities.
You’re aiming to raise £3m to invest through crowdfunding with Crowdcube. Why do it that way?
We wanted to bring our guests with us on the journey, and during the offer we were approached by private investors, banks and high-net-worth individuals that wanted to support our long-term plan. We were strongly advised that crowd finance on its own was not going to provide the facility we are now discussing.
Your first new opening is set for autumn at Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf? Why there first?
We took this iconic space at the invitation of Canary Wharf Management itself as we share their vision of not only Canary Wharf as it exists today but everything they have planned for the future. We also believe in the Government’s long-term view of the growth and opportunity in this part of London. And last but by no means least we are keen to be in the very heart of so many respected north American financial institutions and to offer them a slice of home on their doorstep.
The new site is set to have three two-tonne US-built smokers. How did you get them over here?
We shipped our new family of smokers from the States. They took two months to cross the Atlantic. We then took 10 of the strongest men we could find, along with a 30-tonne crane, to position them in our new restaurant.
How much, ballpark, does it cost for you to open a new site?
Around £1.5m to £3m plus, depending on square footage. We tend to generally invest more in our kitchen installations, in particular our infrastructure and equipment, because of our varied and specialist menu.
What other plans are in the pipeline for Big Easy?
We will keep doing what we do and continue to evolve and strive every day to get better. After all, it seems clear that people still love us after two decades. We are now looking at different models – ie small, medium and large outlets – and we are looking carefully at opportunities with other facets of what we do. After two decades we believe we now really have something special. And with our new senior executive team and their vast experience, we have ambitious plans and are actively looking for opportunities of all kinds, both nationally and internationally.
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