The Ambrette at Rye, which opened in December last year, is already fully booked throughout the week for lunch and dinner and Biswal believes he has found the winning formula for the restaurant.
“It’s a combination of the location, the style and concept of food that we’re offering and the value in today’s digital market,” he told BigHospitality.
“We’ve been in Margate for quite some time, but Rye has been the test for the concept really, and it’s proven to be really, really busy. The restaurant started becoming financially viable from the second month of business which was very encouraging for us.
“We’re now looking at good, affluent locations in the South East to set up more Ambrettes -we’re looking at Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Guildford, Surrey and Canterbury.
“We haven’t secured any sites as yet but we’re looking very closely at a couple of locations. The new restaurants will follow the same formula but they will all use local and seasonal produce, rather importing everything.”
Hitting the capital
Biswal trained at the Dubai Sheraton, before moving to London in 2003, aged 26, for spells at Mangoes and Eriki. The chef explained that his expansion plans are fairly risk-averse as he hopes to ultimately take The Ambrette to London.
“At the moment, lending from banks is not very promising, but our businesses are funding the growth. Each new restaurant is funding the growth for the next one, which is a good way to go as it means we’re not taking too many risks.
“I think we’d like to hit the tourist spots in central London or the West End. The capital is a real platform for international expansion.”
With Masala Zone (seven sites) currently the largest branded Indian restaurant chain in the UK, the chef hopes to eventually move onto a different format of Indian restaurant under a franchise business model.
“I’d like to cap our growth of the Ambrette concept to six in the UK and then maybe expand to other formats and try a franchisee model with simpler cuisine, working with less ingredients,” he added.
Difficult to franchise
“I think the fact that there is no major chain is due to the way the Indian restaurant sector is structured in the UK, it’s mainly dependent on chefs and nobody has standardised a proven formula which works nationwide.
“Also, the cooking involves too many parameters, so it can be very difficult to franchise it - we cook with so many different spices and ingredients. But if one gets a formula right for one site, then it’s actually easy to replicate it.”
Tobias Barfoot, restaurant manager of The Ambrette at Margate, is through to the final of this year's Academy of Food & Wine Service Restaurant Manager of the Yearcompetition.
Last week, BigHospitality reported that Giggling Squid, a small Thai restaurant group with four sites across Sussex and Kent, has bold plans to become the first major national Thai chainwith a target of 50 sites over the next five years.