Tony Kitous, owner and founder of the Lebanese restaurant chain Comptoir Libanais, is planning to open a further six sites next year with the City and Gatwick and Heathrow airports on his radar as locations for the new restaurants.
Speaking to BigHospitality just a week before the opening of the company’s fourth site at South Kensington, Kitous said the concept was performing well as its relatively low price points and healthy menus were proving popular in the current economic and social climate.
“People still want to eat out and they turn to places like us where the most expensive dish is £8 when times are hard,” he said.
“Our offer is recession proof, it works. It’s good for students, nurses and even executives. Even in the economic climate we have people queuing outside our restaurants.”
With business doing well, Kitous said the company was able to expand using its own cash flow and help from its banks.
He said: “People have shown interest in investing in the group, but we don’t need them right now. Between us and the banks we are happy for the moment.”
At least one more site in central London and first sites in the City and at Gatwick and Heathrow airports are currently planned with the aim of opening six in 2012 and then continue expansion into 2013.
Kitous said airports were a good fit for the brand, which already has sites at shopping centres Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City.
“Airports are changing their focus. It’s no longer operators from the 1970s or 1980s who are present there. The airport operators are trying to make their offer as good as the high street. Terminal 5 has proved a success and now other airports want to copy that,” he said.
However, Kitous said expansion could happen sooner if there were more suitable sites available.
“Everyone is struggling to find the right sites and it gets to the point where everyone wants the same ones, but fortunately landlords are looking at operators who they know will work well and who will add value to the property in the long term,” he said.
Comptoir Libanais’ fourth site will open in South Kensington at the end of November with plans to make it the flagship property for the group. It also has a restaurant in Wigmore Street, central London.