San Carlo on the lookout for further London locations as Cicchetti comes to the capital

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Cicchetti in Manchester will be joined by a second restaurant under the San Carlo-operated brand in London later this week
Cicchetti in Manchester will be joined by a second restaurant under the San Carlo-operated brand in London later this week
San Carlo is preparing to open its second restaurant in London, the first outside Manchester for the tapas-style concept Cicchetti, and has said it is hoping to open more sites in the capital under the brand.

Cicchetti will open at the end of the week in a 2,750 sq.ft. unit on 215 Piccadilly as part of the significant redevelopment of the St James's Gateway area by The Crown Estate.

"We are expecting to be very busy," Marcello Distefano, managing director of the group and member of the inaugural NRB top 50​, told BigHospitality. The son of group founder and chairman Carlo Distefano said the concept would be exactly the same as the original in Manchester and was designed to take advantage of the popularity of tapas-style menus, as featured by BigHospitality last month​.

"It will be the same as Manchester because the Cicchetti concept has been really successful there; it has beaten all our forecasts. It is something that people have really enjoyed. The opportunity to try five or six dishes is something that suits people and can be a lot quicker and more convenient."

Right location

The opening will take the UK portfolio for the group, which was founded in Birmingham in 1992, to 12. As well as six eponymous restaurants the group also operates French-style brasserie Le Petit Rouge in Leicester and the Flying Pizza in Leeds. The latter was acquired from administration last year​ and has been the focus of investment from the company of more than £1m.

Fumo, a version of the Cicchetti offering with a late lounge and bar, opened opposite the original San Carlo in Birmingham earlier this year and the group also operates the Signor Sassi restaurant in London.

Distefano revealed the group would be focusing on the growth of the Cicchetti concept but would not rule out new openings for any of the brands. He explained he was committed to not setting targets but launching in the right location for the right restaurant at the right time.

"We will be looking for, hopefully, other sites in London and other sites around the country. We have never said we are going to open a certain number next year because sometimes you can force yourself and make a mistake on the location. If the right place comes along we do it and if that means two coming up at the same time we don't mind."

London learning

Although the group, which is now number 69 on the R200 list​, will only operate two London sites after the opening, Distefano denied it needed to take learnings from its first foray into the capital.

"Everyone says London is completely different - I don't think it is completely different. There are more people of course but a lot of the cities are becoming very similar now in terms of pace and what people want. Being in London already is always a bonus because you have a name so it helps bring customers in."

Refurb

Distefano also revealed the flagship San Carlo restaurant in Manchester, which has the highest turnover in the UK portfolio, would be closing in August for a £700k refurb. The development will increase the number of covers by 40 and, by popular demand, add a 25-cover private dining area.

"It is a very popular and busy restaurant and you want to make sure the customers feel we are constantly investing in that and we are not just resting on our laurels. You can't just expect people to keep walking through the doors," he concluded.

Harnbury Holdings, the parent company of San Carlo, will open a Bangkok Signor Sassi restaurant next month under a franchise agreement joining other overseas sites in Beirut and Kuwait.

Related topics: Business, Venues, People, Restaurants

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