Harlequin Leisure Group
Telephone:0141 576 5123
Harlequin claims to be the UK’s largest chain of Indian restaurants, although in 2005 it also diversified into Chinese cuisine and in 2006 will open a restaurant in San Francisco. The group is currently based in the west of Scotland – mostly in and around Glasgow – but plans to expand to other cities in Scotland and the UK.
It was set up in 1994 by Charan Gill, who became known as Glasgow’s Curry King and won an MBE in 1998 for his contribution to food and the catering industry.
Indian-born Gill started his career as a turner and fitter in a Clyde shipyard and worked part-time as a waiter in the 1970s at the Ashoka West End, which became the first restaurant in his empire. He raised £6,000 to buy a 17.5% stake in the restaurant in 1983 before acquiring the lease in 1984.
In 2005, Gill sold Harlequin to long-term business associate Sanjay Mahju, a Nairobi-born entrepreneur who also worked as a waiter in Ashoka West End in 1991 before taking on its franchise in 2002. Mahju, who owns a chain of six pharmacies under the Apple Pharmacies name, had bought Harlequin’s Spice of Life restaurant in 2001.
New owner Sanjay Majhu’s initial focus is on consolidating the group’s three core brands – Ashoka, Ashoka Shaks and Kama Sutra – and developing a roll-out package for each.
Kama Sutra, a city centre brand, will be joined by a new venue in San Francisco in March 2006.
The Ashoka Shak concept will continue to be sited in out-of-town cinema and retail parks but is also moving into the food court sector. Its first food court outlet will open in mid-November at Glasgow’s Braehead Shopping Centre.
Most Harlequin restaurants are clustered in and around Glasgow, but Majhu is looking to expand into Edinburgh. He will also be looking for sites in Manchester, Birmingham and London over the next few years.
As he is self-financing his expansion plans, he does not expect the group to make a profit in the current financial year.
The five restaurants in the portfolio that are not owned by the group are owned by members of the Harlequin group – for instance, Gill’s brother has taken on the Curry Karaoke Club while his son now owns Mr Singh’s India.
The group intends to roll out its Ashoka, Ashoka Shak and Kama Sutra brands beyond its current heartland around Glasgow to other key cities in Scotland and England. Key targets include Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and London.
Source: chief executive, 2005
The group forecasts a turnover of £16m for the year to March 2006.
Number of restaurants: 17, plus a whisky bar below the Bellshill Ashoka
Ashoka: eight: in Glasgow (West End, Ashton Lane, South Side, Ashoka at the Mill) or nearby in Bearsden, Johnstone, Bellshill and Kirkintilloch (the Ashoka Regent Brasserie)
Ashoka Shak: four, in Dundee, Coatbridge, Linwood, and Livingston
Kama Sutra (Glasgow)
Mister Singh’s India (Glasgow)
China Experience (Bearsden)
Spice of Life (Glasgow)
Curry Karaoke Club (Glasgow)
Whiskey Galore (below Ashoka Bellshill, Lanarkshire)
The group owns all but five restaurants, which now belong to members of the Harlequin Leisure Group. The five are: Curry Karaoke Club, Ashoka Regent Brasserie, Ashoka Bellshill, Ashoka Shak in Johnstone, Mr Singh’s India.
Number of employees: about 450
Address:10 Clydeholm Road