Be At One to open up to 10 sites outside London in three years

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bartender

Be At One has this month opened a bar in Islington and is preparing to open its first site outside London
Be At One has this month opened a bar in Islington and is preparing to open its first site outside London
Cocktail bar group Be At One opens its first site outside London this week in Reading and is set to open up to 10 venues outside the capital as it looks to grow to 30 sites within three years.

The London-based group, which celebrates its 15th anniversary in May, opened its 16th bar earlier this month in Upper Street, Islington.

Number 17 will open tomorrow night in Reading city centre and, speaking to BigHospitality, Steve Locke, one of the founding directors of the company, said sites outside the capital were set to play a bigger part in the ‘very full’ opening pipeline.

“We are going to see how well Reading goes and then we are going to look to open a few more in areas like that,” said Locke.

Provincial

The company, which was honoured earlier this month at the Publican Awards,​ has said it plans to operate 30 bars within three years.

Locke said that, of the 30, he imagined between five and 10 would be located outside London in large provincial towns.

“What we are offering people want all over the world – it would be more a question of where we can’t operate.

“Every bar needs to be as good as the last. We have a plan and we have finance in place but as soon as one doesn’t quite go as we want, we hold back and make sure that one is fixed before we move forward,” he explained.

Doesn’t need food

Be At One was founded in 1998 by Locke along with Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller - all former bartenders with TGI Friday's.

The firm received £8m financial backing from Piper Private Equity in 2011​ in order to fund its expansion plans however last year it also negotiated a new banking facility following the introduction of the Government's Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS). 

In August last year, Be At One announced a partnership with former River Café restaurateur Ossie Gray to showcase a new food offering at its latest opening in Gresham Street.

However Locke revealed the trial had ended in January and the company were not now intending to replicate it or develop a strong food offering as part of the business.

“People like the food but they don’t come for the food and whether you do it or not, people are still going to come,” he said.

“It didn’t drive any more liqueur sales and, as soon as we stopped it, it didn’t take away any liqueur sales. The food conversation comes up again and again and we actually went for it in a bigger way than ever before so we can sit here and say ‘our brand just doesn’t need food.”

As the company heads towards its 15th​ anniversary, Locke said the biggest changes he had seen during his time at the helm were the difficulties of funding and the increase in customer knowledge of spirits and cocktails.

“I remember 15 years ago doing a function bar with 100 guests and there was a competition to guess the cocktail. Only one person got the cocktail – it was an American and she said that is a Cosmopolitan. If you did that competition today, probably most of them would spot a Cosmopolitan,” he concluded.

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