Thai restaurant group Rosa's Thai Cafe is expanding rapidly, having begun life as a market stall in 2006. The business recently opened a new site on Wilton Street in London Victoria, with an eighth to open in Brixton later this year. Neil Gerrard speaks to co-founder Saiphin Moore about what she has learned as the business has grown, and the growing appeal of Thai food
What appealed to you about the London Victoria area?
Victoria is a lovely area, although quite forgotten by the London food scene. The venue is on the corner of Gillingham Street and Wilton Road and we're lucky to be one of the first restaurants you see when you leave the station. We get a high footfall from residential customers, as well as from offices around the area and commuters passing through. It's one of the busiest places in London.
You are expanding rapidly. How long ago did you come up with the idea for Rosa's and did you imagine it would become a group?
The idea of Rosa's grew organically from our market stall in Brick Lane in 2006. We saw a demand for simple, quick and delicious Thai food, as well as an obvious lack of good, casual, Thai dining offerings in the UK.
In 2008 when an East End ‘caff' called Rosa's became available on Hanbury street, we thought it was the perfect time to introduce London to something different. It was always the intention to grow Rosa's into a group, with the goal of 10 sites in London. The most surprising thing for us has been the astronomical love and support from our customers.
What have you learned as you have gone from one site to seven?
Location and timing are key. It might sound obvious, but we need to be extremely careful and strategic where and when we want to open a site. There have been plenty of offers and opportunities for us to open more restaurants, but we don't compromise on the sites.
We also aim to grow our business in a strategic way by investing in new IT systems to support our growth; that way our team doesn't necessarily have to work harder to be more successful. We really believe in efficiency.
Do openings get easier?
What do you think it is about Thai food that appeals to the UK?
The flavour of Thai food is different from other Oriental cuisines; the fresh and aromatic flavour combined with the distinctive zing from chillies give UK customers a new experience. UK customers are far more adventurous with food nowadays, so we can play with dishes they're familiar with.
What are your future plans?
We want to grow to 10 sites across London by the end of 2017. After that, we'll re-evaluate and plan where to go next. We also have plans for our own line of products in the near future. Earlier this year, we ran a really successful Laos Café pop-up, which has inspired us to open a permanent Laos Cafe in central London. We're in such an exciting time!
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