The 100-cover Covent Garden Opera Terrace site opened earlier this month and is the latest former Chez Gerard restaurant the brand has reopened. The Brasserie Bar Company, which also operates the White Brasserie pubs, acquired the entire Chez Gerard portfolio from administration last year.
All eight venues were operated by Paramount Restaurants in London and form the majority of the new Brasserie Blanc openings this year - the company aims to launch 11 new sites in 2012 taking its portfolio to 20. Further expansion is also planned to double the estate again by 2016.
Mark Derry, chief executive of Brasserie Blanc, revealed to BigHospitality the Chez Gerard sites came on the market just after the company had secured new financing to develop. He said they represented an opportunity to operate in a market they were previously under-represented in rather than a sign of a change in strategy.
"We had one site in London doing really well but we had historically shied away from London because the rents are quite fierce. We were looking to get a foothold because London economically seemed stronger than average for the country," he said.
"We are continuing with our old strategy of continuing to develop in the provinces – we have got that pipeline of outside of London sites and we have bolted onto it the portfolio in London," Derry explained. The company has opened in Berkhamsted and Bath and will also launch in St Albans and Farnham this year.
Derry sold the casual dining chain Loch Fyne to pub operator Greene King in 2007 to work for Brasserie Blanc full-time. However he has been involved with the brand since it was transformed from the Le Petit Blanc business Raymond Blanc originally formed.
After being developed into a viable business by managing director John Lederer, a process Derry said had taken five to six years, the company successfully secured new financing from backer Core Capital followed by bank financing earlier this year to expand.
A brasserie, Derry claims, closely resembles the French version of a traditional British pub and the Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie concepts are run in a similar way.
Speaking to BigHospitality at Hotelympia 2012, Raymond Blanc said the Brasserie Blanc operation was as important to him as his two Michelin-starred Oxfordshire restaurant Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons and explained how he differentiated the two restaurant brands he is associated with.
"For me Brasserie Blanc is important – it is more the French can-can while Le Manoir is the finest waltz but it is still lovely and I am proud of both. We now employ about 800 people and we have trained countless hundreds of young craftsmen who are now the leaders and they are setting the standards of this industry – it is fabulous," he said.
The launch of the Covent Garden Opera Terrace site saw Blanc run with this analogy with can-can girls performing in Covent Garden. This Tuesday Blanc will be returning to the venue performing the can-can for members of the public as well as signing books and running food demos, tastings and prize draws.
To watch Raymond Blanc can-can dancing at the launch of Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden watch the video below: