The company already operates 14 bistros across the UK within hotel properties outside London, but is planning to expand its standalone bistro brand to high footfall locations within the capital.
“We’re taking the bistro out of hotel and popping it onto high-street,” said CEO Robert Cook. “We’ve grown enormously as a brand over the last five years, and as a hotel business we’re heavy on the food side anyway. That puts us in a great place to expand the bistro business.”
Hotel du Vin currently has a turnover of around £120m, with £55m of that coming from the restaurant operations within the hotels.
Bistro du Vin expansion plans
The company yesterday officially opened its first Bistro du Vin, located on the former site of Bjorn van der Horst’s Eastside Inn in Clerkenwell.
It has secured a second 125-cover site in Soho, located on the site of the former Las Iguanas on Dean Street, which is scheduled to open in mid-June.
The group is currently in negotiations for its next two sites – located in Chiswick and Shoreditch – which it hopes to secure by June and open later this year.
“That’s about as far as we’ll stretch this year, but over the next 18 months we plan to have around 10-12 sites around London,” Cook told BigHospitality.
These will open in what he calls “villages of London”, which have good footfall, such as Marylebone High Street, Kensington High Street and Notting Hill.
“Finding restaurants is not difficult. We have a good feel for what we’re looking for. It needs to be a high footfall area, where the site feels good and the price is right.
“It’s got to be absolutely bespoke. I’m not in a hurry to dive into the first opportunities in those areas, we won’t be the next MacDonald’s.”
Good staff on tap
A key advantage for the quick roll-out of the Bistro du Vin concept is that the business already has a strong force of trained staff from its hotels, explained Cook.
“We hire about 12-16 graduates every year, and we also work with a lot of interns and train them up. Our staff know that if they are good at their job they can move up fast.
“We’re lucky that we can easily staff the Bistro du Vin sites with our own people who want to transfer. It means that once we get a hold of a site we can churn them out quite quickly because we don’t have to do the recruitment. When we say we’re opening a new one everyone wants to apply. We have good people on tap.”
Bistro du Vin twists
The Bistro du Vin concept is based around simple food, quality ingredients and an eclectic wine list. However, each new site will also include its own nuances and twists intended to add interest to the brand as a whole.
“These twists will be dependent on the building we buy, which will in itself dictate what we do. I always say it’s what we don’t do to the building that makes it special,” said Cook.
For example the Clerkenwell bistro features an on-site butchery, with freshly cut meat from nearby Smithfields market showcased in the venue’s windows.
It also includes a wine dispensing machine, which customers can use with a pre-paid card to select a range of wines by the glass. These are stored in a cabinet using nitrogen, which keeps the wine in suspension and ensures there’s no degradation in quality.
“People loved it at the opening last night. It means there’s more choice of wine by the glass for the discerning palate, and it also adds an element of intrigue,” said Cook.
“My gut instinct is that the Bistro du Vin could be a slam dunk.”