Philip McGuinness has big plans for North London pan-Asian tapas restaurant group Tootoomoo. The founder talks to Katherine Price
What was the idea behind Tootoomoo? To bring something different to suburban London; to take Soho hip to suburban London; to make great, affordable food local; and to make takeaway sexy.
How did you meet Ricky Pang [the brand's head chef]? I put an ad in The Caterer and he responded. He was consulting with a number of companies and he wanted to get stuck get into something.
Tell us about your plans We want to roll out six to eight restaurants over the next 18-24 months. We want larger sites (with more than 100 seats) with a large bar area, takeout and delivery. We really want to take over, buy or lease struggling pubs and put our Tootoomoo model into them. We are having conversations with a number of pub companies.
Will you keep the brand within London or go elsewhere? For the next few years we will be keeping the brand inside the M25.
How are you funding your expansion? Cash flow, leasing and bank funds.
What is it that your customers love about the restaurants? The food is fresh, made to order and healthy. We cater for a lot of dietary needs, we have amazing Asian cocktails and there's a great variety of food. And our team are warm and friendly and treat our customers as friends.
Are there any dishes that go down particularly well? The duck and watermelon salad, beef rendang, vegetarian potstickers and chicken gyoza, to name but a few.
What is your favourite dish on the menu? I think food is moody. Today I would like lemongrass chicken. I just love the crunchy vegetables, the mix of all the flavours - the whole dish just gives me a lift.
How has the brand developed since you opened your first site in Crouch End in 2012? We are constantly trying to grow up and stay fresh. The design has changed and the menu changes every few months to keep it interesting. We are a restaurant business now, not a takeout, which is where we started, and our format has changed now that we are in bigger premises.
What's different about your fourth and latest site in Islington? It's a small-plate tapas restaurant and we will develop this later in the year into a separate concept. It's a much more of a street vibe; very fast casual-dining.
Is engaging the local community around the restaurants a focus? We have a big presence in the local community: we sponsor schools and we go into local schools and teach them all about healthy eating. We also have a Tootoomoo cup with the Haringey youth orchestra, which is given to the most improved student each year. We love supporting the local community. We exist because they support us.