Located in central Brighton, the unit has been overhauled following an investment of £90k. The newly named Bellota is more mid-market than its predecessor with a cava bar created in partnership with Grupo Codorníu and a focus on high-quality Spanish cured meats.
“It was a tired old La Tasca so the asset was under-utilised and not fit for the market within which it was located,” said La Tasca chief executive Simon Wilkinson. “There are certain demographics that demand innovation and independence alongside quality, and Bellota will tick all those boxes. It’s totally different to La Tasca and is a one-off independent site as opposed to a re-branding exercise.”
The group’s Edinburgh site is the next to go under the knife and become part of a freshly created independent arm of the company, Bar y Tapas. In all, eight La Tasca sites could be converted.
“La Tasca is a solid restaurant brand, it’s not tarnished and I would not say it needs reinventing, so it’s an interesting move,” says Paul West, managing director at Ignite Hospitality Consultants.
“Brighton is a sophisticated market with a lot of good independents, so perhaps the brand recognition a national chain has could be counterproductive there. There will be drawbacks, online visibility in particular and the fact that existing customers can’t be redirected to the new restaurant.”
With certain groups of consumers increasingly rejecting national brands in favour of independents and smaller localised companies, La Tasca’s de-badging strategy might well be the start of a wider trend in the sector. Indeed, Wilkinson is following in the footsteps of a number of operators.
It’s common practice for the big managed pub operators to give the units within the top tier of their estates a deliberately independent feel. Pub giant Mitchells & Butlers’ Premium Country Dining Group is a prime example. Its 81 sites offer a very similar menu and drinks selection, but most customers have no idea they are eating in a major chain. Orchid’s Free House Dining division adopts a similar approach.
National Asian group Tampopo launched an unbranded concept in London following limited success with its eponymous brand in the capital. Now trading well, Fitzrovia’s East Street offers a similar pan-Asian menu to Tampopo, but has a different look and feel.
The approach also chimes with the current move away from cookie-cutter designs, popularised by the likes of Byron and Jamie’s Italian, but now adopted by even bigger casual-dining players.
This article first appeared in the February issue of Restaurant. Subscribe here.