Overall ranking: 34 (new entry)
Restaurateur ranking: 11 (new entry)
Alan Yau is a Hong Kong-born restaurateur who has brought a radical edge to the London market for Oriental restaurants. He founded noodle bar chain Wagamama as well as Michelin-starred Chinese restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, which were sold for £30m in 2008. As well as remaining a director for the 14-strong Busaba Eathai chain, which he founded in 1999, his recent launches (all in London) include Babaji Pide on Shaftesbury Avenue, Duck + Rice on Berwick Street, and Park Chinois on Mayfair’s Berkeley Street. His most recent opening was Yamabahçe, serving pide, a type of Turkish pizza, in St James Street at the end of 2017.
What we think
From humble beginnings on the franchise trainee scene with McDonald’s in Hong Kong, Yau has become a titan of the London restaurant scene. Over the course of 25 years, he has redefined how we approach Oriental food – from launching Wagamama in 1992 to being behind the first Chinese restaurant in the UK to win a Michelin star in 2003.
Born in Hong Kong in 1962, Yau came to the UK when he was 12 to join his parents in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where his father ran the kitchens of a chop suey house. After taking his A-levels, Yau helped his father open a Chinese takeaway and opened a second while still at college. He then enrolled for franchisee training with McDonald’s in Hong Kong and worked for KFC in London to feed his fascination with foodservice systems.
In 1992, he opened the first Wagamama noodle bar – his healthy take on the fast-food genre – in central London. He sold the business in 1998 when it comprised two venues. His first Busaba Eathai opened in Wardour Street in 1999. Today, with Yau as a director, 14 Busaba restaurants are spread across the capital, with turnover to 27 May 2017 up 6% year-on-year to £29.4m.
Yau also spent close to a decade as a major force on the fine-dining scene. He opened Hakkasan in 1999 and Yauatcha in 2004, with both restaurants quickly earning Michelin stars.
In 2015 he launched Park Chinois – an extravagant Chinese restaurant in Mayfair. With a decor inspired by the French Rococo period, the 242-cover restaurant cost a reported £16m to launch and recorded a pre-tax loss of £5.9m for the year to March 2016 and £3.6m for the year to March 2017. He also has plans for an as yet unnamed restaurant on Beauchamp Place in London, working alongside restaurant consultancy Global Food and Beverage (UK) Management Services.
Yau’s revitalisation of Oriental cuisine at both the top and the cheaper ends of the market won him the Independent Restaurateur of the Year award at the 2005 Cateys.
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