Thai restaurant brand Giggling Squid has announced its second London opening, moving into a former Jamie's Italian site in Kingston upon Thames as rents in the capital ease.
Co-founder Andy Laurillard told The Caterer more locations inside the M25 were under consideration as rents begin to fall following the turmoil seen in the casual dining sector.
Laurillard explained: "I'd never really wanted to play in that arena because the rents, property and costs are so high but they've really fallen away. Premiums are down, property access and the number of sites available is up and landlords are seeming much more reasonable in discussions over sensible rents, which we had felt were not sensible up to now."
He added: "We're seeing landlords readjust expectations a bit and seeing some value, we've got a really attractive deal."
Simon Chaplin, head of restaurants at commercial property agent Christie & Co, agreed that landlords are showing a willingness to negotiate after a number of casual dining groups, including Jamie's Italian, Byron and Prezzo, agreed Company Voluntary Agreements that have seen of hundreds of sites close.
He explained: "Landlords are looking at a lack of tenants at current levels so having to offer big rent free periods (two years) and contribution to fit out (£250,000 plus). In addition the CVA's have seen headline rents reduce by 25/35% so they haven't much option. There are deals to be done unless you have sites in prime west end where rents have cooled but not dropped by much as demand still remains high."
Giggling Squid's new 3,000 sq ft, 120-cover High Street location in Kingston-Upon-Thames will be its 30th site. It will include a bar area and is expected to open in autumn this year.
Co-founder Pranee Laurillard said: "we're delighted to have secured this property in the heart of Kingston, having eaten here a lot on shopping trips in the past. It's a really convenient spot for car parks and the theatre and we have some really fun ideas for the interior."
The restaurant group is also planning openings in Chichester, Windsor and Cheltenham, Harpenden and Bishop's Stortford.
Laurillard said the company had ranked more than 600 population areas in the south and was focusing on the top dozen or so.
In the year to 31 March 2017, Giggling Squid reported that sales increased by 55% to £18.4m with earnings before tax, depreciation and exceptional expenses at £2.1m compared to £1.4m the previous year.
Laurillard said despite pressures seen in rents and rates across the industry Giggling Squid was continuing to perform well and had managed to offset cost increases with efficiency savings by focusing on areas including its supply chain.
He said the brand plans to open between six and 10 restaurants a year but wants to ensure its growth is sustainable by moving into the right sites at the right time.