The business, which launched its first restaurant in Hove in 2009, currently has four sites across Sussex and Kent and is set to open a fifth in Henley-on-Thames in early November with three more planned for the end of the year.
“There aren't any truly national Thai chains, despite the increasing popularity of the food,” Andy Laurilland, who owns Giggling Squid with wife and business partner Pranee, told BigHospitality. “There's Busaba Eathai (which has nine sites in London and one in Oxfodshire) and Thai Square (17 sites in and around London) - so we’re hoping to be the first to go nationwide, but it’s all about getting the food right in every restaurant.
“I think that the people opening Thai restaurants here haven’t really cracked how to manage large numbers. The thing about Thai food is that you can’t make it in a factory, you have to make it with chefs on-site.
“There’s just over 1500 Thai restaurants across the UK and we've eaten in lots of them and I can’t think of anywhere that gets near the peaks of Thai cuisine that I've experienced in Thailand.”
In terms of other Thai restaurant chains in the UK Busaba Eathai has nine sites in London and one in Oxfordshire, while
Henley and Reigate
Giggling Squid’s new Henley restaurant is based on the former Brasserie Gerard site, offering 80-90 covers and continuing the brand’s ethos of authentic, rustic and fresh Thai cooking with the emphasis on street food and coastal specialities.
Over 40 dishes feature on the menu, including the signature ‘Giggling Squid’ - steamed baby squid filled with minced chicken, squid and herbs with basil and chilli – priced at £10.50. The restaurant also offers tapas-style ‘tasting sets' and a variety of smaller individual dishes.
The Laurillands have also this week completed a sixth deal on a site in Reigate, with a possibility of three further restaurants to open by next Easter.
“We’re doubling in size this year and by the end of 2012 we’ll have eight sites,” added Andrew. “There are 50 to 80 towns in the UK where we think we could fit a decent scale Thai restaurant.
“We’ve looked at about 20 sites from about 10 o’clock to 3 o’clock on the M25, for example - the likes of St Albans, Farnham and Sevenoaks. Then we’ll look at central London and branching out into Bristol and Birmingham.”
Explaining the inspiration behind Giggling Squid’s business model ahead of the expansion, he said: “The model that I really like is Cote - it’s very much chef lead; they've got more area chefs than area managers so they take the food really seriously and that’s a model that we’d like to copy with Thai food.
“Our restaurants are quite profitable, they generate a lot of cash and we’re just reinvesting it all for this. In theory, we need one to live off, one to pay the tax and finance, and all the cash generated from the rest will get reinvested.
“HSBC have been very supportive of us - all this stuff about the banks not lending money, my view is that it’s actually just people not wanting to borrow it.”
Giggling Squid’s offices will be moving to the site of the Henley restaurant, giving the Laurillands a foothold into London and faster access to other potential areas for expansion.
The business’s existing sites are in Hove, Brighton, Crawley and Tunbridge Wells.