‘The Wolseley brand is so iconic… we don't want to fail'
The owner of the Wolseley Hospitality Group is aiming to open international offshoots of its restaurant brands in Dubai and Thailand this year ahead of wider expansion.
Dilip Rajakarier, chief executive of Thai hotel group Minor International, told The Caterer he saw the potential for openings in Hong Kong, Singapore and other "key cities" overseas.
The first Wolseley pop-up is expected to open in one of Minor's hotels in Thailand this year, and the group also hopes to launch a Colbert restaurant in Dubai.
"We have to be careful because we don't want to overstretch ourselves. When we open we need to go with a big bang," said Rajakarier.
Minor is looking to expand the business after it wrested control of the restaurant group, formerly named Corbin & King, from its founder Jeremy King in a takeover last year.
Under King, the business was conservative in its expansion and only launched one regional site, the now-closed Café Wolseley at Bicester Village, outside of its small London portfolio. Its other brands include the Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel, Colbert, Fischer's, Soutine and Bellanger.
Minor gave a hint at its expansion plans when it hired Baton Berisha, who previously oversaw the rollout of the Ivy spin-off restaurants, as chief executive officer last year.
In London, the group will open seafood restaurant Manzi's in Soho in June and the Wolseley City in the old House of Fraser building in the City of London this year. It will be in a larger site than the original Wolseley, which opened in a Grade II-listed building on Piccadilly in 2003 and became an industry institution.
"We're fully focused on Manzi's and the Wolseley City opening this year because we don't want to fail, we want to make sure this will take Wolseley to the next level," said Rajakarier.
"We've not been aggressive in terms of open, open, open. We're doing it carefully. Even the Wolseley City has gone through many months of planning and fine-tuning because we don't want to fail, because the brand is so iconic and it's an institution, that's why we have to be careful."
Berisha said he "didn't see the Wolseley becoming the Ivy" and mimicking its rapid roll-out of Ivy Brasserie and Ivy Café casual dining restaurants across the country but said there was potential for more UK sites in "key locations".
He added: "The Wolseley [attracts] a different demographic, and we can also create new concepts. You don't just have to take what you've got in the business. We've got choices as to when we move and how we move."
Although the hospitality industry is facing challenging trading conditions Berisha said the Wolseley Hospitality Group was seeing "double-digit growth". "We can cope, although we have been affected [by price rises] like everyone else."
Minor has over 500 sites in its global hotel portfolio but only operates one UK property, the Nhow hotel in London's Shoreditch.
Rajakarier said the group was keen to open more hotels in London, Birmingham and Manchester as well as in other key cities across the country.
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