Minute on the Clock – Tony Kitous
Middle Eastern restaurant chain Le Comptoir Libanais has just opened a third site in Westfield Stratford City, with a fourth planned for south Kensington. Neil Gerrard speaks to founder Tony Kitous
How long is it since you started Le Comptoir Libanais? Since November 2008, but the concept has been brewing in my head for the last 10 years.
What inspired you to start it? I have always wanted to bring Lebanese food to the British high street. The UK restaurant market has so many different cuisines I thought it was the perfect place to open Middle Eastern restaurants. Mainstream Lebanese cuisine in the UK is way overdue - it's healthy, made for sharing and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.
You have opened a third site in Stratford and are planning more. What makes a good site? A good site is very important for any business; busy footfall, the right demographics and a good frontage - all help to make a good site.
What has customer feedback been like in the two new sites? The customer feedback has been extremely overwhelming. For some reason it feels like "where have you been all these years?". We get all sorts of letters from customers asking us when are we opening in their area. For us it's a huge compliment.
Do you plan on expanding outside of London? Yes, we have plans to go outside London by the end of 2012, but we need to plan it properly without overstretching our resources.
How many sites do you want to get to? We aim to have 50 Comptoir Libanais venues by 2018 - but good sites are very hard to get.
Is anyone backing you financially, or are you funding it yourself? At the moment we don't need backers. So far we are self-funded from cash-flow and with a small bank loan. We are already in touch with investors for when we start our expansion programme as they believe in our concept and vision.