Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, owner of the Black Farmer range of food products, which supplies several major supermarket chains nationwide, has revealed plans to found his own restaurant brand.
Emmanuel-Jones is targeting Bath for the opening of his first restaurant site, which is to be called the Black Farmer Kitchen. The first site is expected to open late this year or in 2014.
The Jamaican-born entrepreneur, now best-known for his brand of premium sausages, bacon, burgers, meatballs, chicken and cheese, started out as a chef. He also enjoyed a successful stint as a producer/director of TV shows, including the BBC show Food and Drink, and has been credited with bringing several top chefs to the small screen, including Gordon Ramsay, Antony Worrall Thompson, Brian Turner and James Martin.
His success in his 15-year TV career, as well as a period running a marketing agency specialising in food brands such as Loyd Grossman, Kettle Chips and Plymouth Gin, allowed him to buy West Kitcham Farm in Devon, where the Black Farmer business is based.
The decision to set up a restaurant group inspired by a retail brand is unusual, although the route that sees established restaurant brands, such as PizzaExpress, start selling their products in supermarkets is well-trodden.
Emmanuel-Jones told Caterer and Hotelkeeper that he had settled on the South-west as a starting point for the new venture because it was the heartland of his business, but he indicated that he had ambitions for the brand to go to London eventually, once he had opened in other cities in the South-west, such as Bristol and Exeter.
"I started off as a chef, and what I am doing is going back to my roots, which is something that I am pretty excited about," he said. "All of my career I have been involved in the food business, whether that has been as a chef, making food programmes for the BBC, or marketing food. It makes sense now to go into providing food direct to consumers."
Readily available He said he was confident that the restaurants would prove popular, despite the fact that many products on the menu would still be readily available in supermarkets.
"The stereotypical opinion in the past would have been, ‘Well, if you have got a retail brand, then people wouldn't want to pay the extra price for it in a restaurant environment.' I don't believe that to be the case and I think the Black Farmer Kitchen brand will prove that you can have a retail brand and a catering brand working side by side," he said.
The business, which Emmanuel-Jones said would sit in the same competitive space as operations such as Bill's, is expected to create opportunities to "cross-fertilise" promotions, with packs of sausages offering money off in the restaurants and vice versa.
And he said that the gradual convergence of retail with restaurants, as seen in Tesco's £50m acquisition of Giraffe earlier this year, had spurred him on.
"I believe that restaurants of the future are going to have to change, just like the high street has changed. Eventually, restaurants are going to meet the same challenge, that actually just serving a meal isn't going to be good enough," he added.
"I would lay a bet that 10 years from today a successful restaurateur is also going to have to be a successful retailer. I think we need to watch closely what is happening with the Tesco and Giraffe tie-up because I think that is demonstrating where the tide is now turning."
Emmanuel-Jones is in the process of building his management team and has been talking to designers as well as hunting for someone with operational expertise to join him in the launch.