Nick Wyborn, head of food at Incipio Group and former executive chef at Mac & Wild, tells Caroline Baldwin how the group is elevating its Pergola concept for the Canary Wharf crowd.
How does Pergola on the Wharf differ from Incipio's other sites?
The other Pergola sites have worked fantastically well – and still do today – but we wanted to create something specific for the people in Canary Wharf.
We have a loyal following in West London: Paddington has that garden vibe, with big crowds, which suits street food. But to introduce Pergola to the City crowd, we wanted to diversify our portfolio. We decided to move away from street food and bring the food in-house, building a brigade of chefs to deliver delicious food seven days a week.
Since we launched in 2015, we've moved on and grown up. We're serving food on crockery and showing London what we've learned and how we've progressed.
We're serving food on crockery and showing London what we've learned and how we've progressed
How else are you planning to diversify the business?
In addition to the great street food contacts we have made, such as Rudie's Jerk and Salt Shed, we decided to explore that area a little ourselves. We've created two street food concepts at Pergola Paddington and the Prince – a dirty burger brand called Filth & Co and a pizza brand called Nonna Madonna.
It's showing what we can actually do as operators, and it felt like a natural progression for us. From a financial perspective you make a little bit more money trading your own concept and operating it yourself.
Tell us about menu development at Pergola on the Wharf.
Our ‘Earth, Land and Sea' menu came about when we visited the site. We were out on the terrace and I saw Billingsgate and thought, ‘we've got this incredible market here, we need to celebrate our food suppliers and our markets'. We also have New Covent Garden and Smithfield, so we broke the menu down into what they each sell – fish, veg and meat – to celebrate the amazing markets of London.
What are the best sellers so far?
Our big bar area is doing a lot of bar snacks. When the offices come back, I expect we'll see a bit of change, with lunches becoming stronger alongside corporate bookings. We have canapés and bowl food offerings ready to go.
Right now our top sellers are fries, blackened chicken, Launceston lamb bites, crispy crackling squid and masala south coast monkfish. I like to look into the detail of the demographic of the area, and there's really cool inspiration from being dockside.
How do you stand out in a busy London dining scene?
What makes us stand out is our people and our customers. We have a very loyal fanbase and we must be doing something right for them to come back week on week.
It's been non-stop for the group, which is on an exponential rise. We've got the right people to deliver it and a fantastic culture in our venues – it makes them magical.
What have you brought to Incipio from your time at Mac & Wild?
It's important to give the customer what they want. As a classically trained chef, you can get caught up in creativity. Sometimes all they want is what they want – that is the strongest lesson I learned at Mac & Wild. I also feel it's very important to have a commercial mindset, as well as being creative.
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