Italian restaurant and deli chain Carluccio's is on track to reach its target of 100 sites by 2015, but chief executive Simon Kossoff has warned that there would come a point of saturation for the brand.
Speaking at the Arena networking lunch earlier this week, the former Catey Restaurateur of the Year - Group winner said that, since being taken over by Dubai-based investment group Landmark in 2010, Carluccio's had reached the right rate of expansion at around 10 new sites a year.
"However, I think there will come a level of saturation for us at around 120 sites and we can't be like PizzaExpress or some of the other big brands out there," Kossoff said. "But there will always be room for us and we will continue to serve the market. Some concepts will come and go but there's always space for good operators."
Kossoff added that the group would need to look into alternative channels of growing the business, including focusing on its overseas expansion, as well as its retail concept, which currently makes up around 20% of turnover, increasing to 50% at Christmas.
He also revealed that Carluccio's had this week launched its Carluccio's At Home brand into more than 100 Sainsbury's stores.
Kossoff defended his resistance to discounting. "It has been around for a long time now and it's engrained in casual dining," he said. "There is now an expectation for vouchers and how can we unwind it in the future? I think you have to offer value in other ways."
Sharing the story of Carluccio's, which was founded by Antonio Carluccio and his then wife, Priscilla, in 1998, Kossoff said he knew right from the start that the concept would be successful.
He added that some of the bad moments during his tenure at Carluccio's had included 30 diners getting food poisoning from badly stored tiramisù and being at the centre of the minimum wage tipping scandal, as well as Antonio Carluccio giving an interview with a national news paper saying: "It's my name but not my food."
The Arena lunch took place at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel this week and played host to more than 200 industry leaders.
By Neil Gerrard
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