Since launching in Nottingham in 2004 the buffet-style concept, which combines different menus from around the world, has grown to be operational in seven sites from Leeds in the north to Milton Keynes in the south.
"It is pointless saying that people are just looking for a cheap meal because that is not what they want today," Helen Dhaliwal, director and co-founder of the company with her husband Parmjit told BigHospitality. Dhaliwal said instead of a bargain people were looking for escapism, choice and value for money in a great venue.
"They are almost experiencing an a la carte experience because they can go to counters and pick individual dishes and have it made there and then."
Glasgow and Sheffield
The group is continuing to enjoy strong sales growth with trading up 5.5 per cent over Easter compared to a year earlier. The 360-cover Manchester restaurant, which opened in May 2011, is currently proving to be the most successful of the sites with plans afoot to open another floor in the Deansgate venue adding another 140 covers.
Both Helen and Parmjit have always been open about their growth aspirations for the business and while the target to have eight sites operational by the end of 2011 has slipped Helen revealed the plan to open 18 more restaurant in three years remained on target.
“We want to go up and down the UK it just depends where the sites come up and which ones are the right locations for us,” she said. The company is hoping to open sites it had previously earmarked in Leicester and Nottingham this year before sites in Glasgow then Sheffield are on the horizon for the beginning of next year.
Dhaliwal explained target dates for openings often changed and revealed the company approach to potential sites had been modified. Recognising that the brand will only get one shot at an opening in each city, the pair told BigHospitality they were looking to open bigger sites in bigger cities and ensure the best locations with room for a large buffet unit.
While there is no mould for the ‘right site’ for Red Hot World Buffet the group seeks out good locations with high population sizes in high footfall areas to deliver the required turnover. Having a smaller buffet and too many seats is not effective for the company – getting the balance is key.
Although some of the newer openings have been in new build sites, the brand recently launched in Cardiff in St David’s 2 Shopping Centre, Parmjit said many of the best locations were former office, retail or nightclub locations as change of use had become easier if other licensed operators were already open nearby.
Helen revealed the company remained in talks with private equity firms with a view to securing investment in order to push the rollout of the brand faster. “They are banging on our doors which is a really nice complement to have. The process is going ahead; we are talking to some people so hopefully you will hear about something in the news very shortly. Watch this space,” she said.
It is believed if secured the investment size will be dependent on the needs of the business rather than giving away a certain size of the company. If any deal goes ahead senior management are expected to get shares in the company and Helen explained the leadership of the company would not change.
“They liked the way that we started the concept and the way that we have been running with it and the way that we have grown so the leadership at the top is what they are investing in,” she concluded.