Matt Hermer, founder of Ignite Group which owns the Bumpkin brand, told BigHospitality that he believes the concept ‘has got legs to move in and outside of the capital’ and that ‘everything feels right for expansion’.
“I love the Bumpkin brand,” he said. “It’s a move away from pretention around fancy restaurants and it’s got a bit of a patriotic vibe.
“We want 20 Bumpkin sites in the next five years and we are beginning to solidify those plans right now. Tina (English) is our newest appointment (as managing director), with a raft of experience of doing exactly that.
“As is always the case with things, it takes a bit of time. I won’t put any undue pressure on Tina by telling her that we need 20 sites indefinitely, but it’s a conversation that we’ve had and she knows and we are funded to do so and that’s what we want to do.”
Outside of London
Ignite also has the Boujis (nightclub) and Eclipse (cocktail bars) brands in the UK, and has recently partnered with Starwood to operate venues within the W Hotels in Leicester Square and Barcelona. But it’s the restaurant arm that Hermer believes is ready to really take off in the UK.
“If we can get the expansion right then I can’t see any reason why we can’t have a Bumpkin restaurant next to every Carluccio’s or any other major high street brands.
“I think we probably need to open a few more Bumpkins in London first. I can’t imagine us doing anything next year outside of London, but I can certainly imagine it the year after.
“We decided to pull a potential new site in the City at the very last minute due to the current state of the economy and the environment there. Right now, I’m going to just hold until we get the Olympics out of the way, and by September we’ll be avidly looking for new sites.”
Nightclubs to restaurants
Boujis nightclub in South Kensington is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary, having quickly risen in popularity to become a major celebrity haunt. The brand is still thriving here in the UK and is about to be rolled out in Hong Kong with a few more international sites to follow.
Hermer explained that his move from nightclub owner to restaurateur was significantly harder than he’d anticipated.
“Did I think it was going to be very difficult to make the transition to restaurateur? No. Was it very difficult? Yes!
“I think that you move from bars into nightclubs which are essentially the same. But a restaurant is totally different and an enormous uphill learning curve. It was significantly less profitable, so we’re all a bit bonkers to be in this business.”
With the London 2012 Olympics just around the corner and the vast majority of his businesses within the M25, Hermer admitted that he’s unsure of the financial implications the event will bring.
“In Stratford, I’m fairly comfortable with the Bumpkin unit. It’s already showing now that trade is increasing on a day-by-day basis because of the summer events.
“I’m slightly more sanguine about the rest of the portfolio during the Olympics because I think a lot of our target audience will be away. It could well lead to a decrease in business, but it’s incredibly hard to know.
“Generally across the Ignite portfolio, I don’t think it’s going to be a bumper period at all.”
Ignite Group: timeline
- 1998 Eclipse, Chelsea
- 2002 Boujis
- 2002 Eclipse, Kensington
- 2004 Cocoon
- 2006 Volstead (sold in 2009)
- 2006 Playtime
- 2006 Bumpkin, Notting Hill
- 2009 Eclipse at the W Hotel Barcelona, Spain
- 2009 Bumpkin, South Kensington
- 2011 Wyld Club at the W Hotel Leicester Square
- 2011 Senkai
- 2011 Bumpkin Westfield Stratford City
- 2012 Boujis Hong Kong