Vietnamese street food restaurant chain Pho has opened its 19th restaurant, in Bristol, with plans to open a further three venues in London this year.
The company also wants to open another five restaurants per year over the next few years. It currently has 13 venues across London and another six in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester.
The Bristol opening saw queues around the block after the company announced on social media that it would be serving free food to mark the launch.
Speaking to The Caterer, Pho marketing manager Libby Andrews said: "We like to make a splash when we open a new restaurant and the response was great."
The restaurant chain was founded by husband and wife team Stephen and Juliette Wall after they returned from travelling in Vietnam, opening their first Pho café in Clerkenwell in 2005.
Pho specialises in Vietnamese street food, taking its name from the Vietnamese national dish pho, which consists of rice noodle soup served with fresh herbs, home-made chilli paste, garlic vinegar, sriracha and hoi sin.
Other dishes on the menu include Pho Xao, a wok fried flat noodle served with greens and a choice of meats or tofu and mushroom, topped with roasted peanuts and beanshoots; Bun noodles served with fresh herbs, carrot and mooli pickle, a range of hot toppings and stir-fried in lemongrass and chilli; and ComTam, a spicy wok-fried rice which comes with xáo - a stir fry of chilli and greens in a mild ginger sweet sauce.
Andrews said the company was on an expansion drive. "Bristol is our 19th restaurant. Over the past eight months we have opened restaurants in Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester as well as Bristol. Our focus for the rest of the year is on Greater London. Although nothing is signed and sealed yet, we are looking at opening three or four locations in London by the end of the year."
Looking to the future, Andrews said the company is aiming to operate a "controlled" roll out across the UK of no more than five restaurants a year for the next few years, located in major cities.
"That number feels safe to us" she said, explaining that the company did not want to lose the intimate, small, independent ambience which she said its restaurants' offer customers.
"Given our scale and size this is still run by a husband and wife team which brings a much more independent feel to the group," she said adding that Stephen and Juliette Wall are working at the new Bristol restaurant during its first week.
Andrews said the company had retained the feel of a family firm, despite its growth. "Our head office has definitely grown this year from 12 to 20 staff since last year out of a total of 500 staff but it is still run by a small group of people", adding that most of the management team have been with the company from its early days.
Andrews said the company's focus on opening London sites this year did not mean Pho had turned its back on the provinces. "We wanted to roll out our restaurants throughout the UK and now we've hit some cities out of London we are looking at London again but if the opportunity comes up in the right location we will open more outside London," she added.