The BBQ brand already has three sites in shopping centres including Westfield Stratford City, Trinity Leeds and Southampton’s WestQuay Shopping centre, but is branching out with plans to open a number of casual dining restaurants on the high street.
The plan is to open one more site by the end of this year and three more in 2015.
Chief executive of Chicago Rib Shack Christian Arden said: “We’re very close to agreeing something in Twickenham, which would the next neighbourhood-style venture, a full service restaurant with a large bar area and kitchen. Then after that we’re looking at towns like Cambridge, and we might do another shopping centre site, in a place like Watford for example.”
The new format of the restaurant will take the brand away from shopping centres, instead concentrating on local casual dining restaurants,
“It’s become very competitive in the shopping mall, with everyone going for the guaranteed footfall,” explained Arden. “ We’re thinking if we can establish ourselves as a new name on the high street, we can establish ourselves with a point of difference rather than just being one of ten units in a row in a centre. To be honest it’s a little bit more satisfying to open in the neighbourhood format as well, back to the roots of being a destination restaurant.”
Arden wants each new Chicago Rib Shack that opens to be an individual venture, shaped towards the neighbourhood it sits in. This means that they will all be different designs and sizes, and could have slightly different menus depending on the local influence.
“We’ll be tailoring each site to the local community,” said Arden. “We plan to get the product right and getting local feedback is key, we want there to be a buzz and a vibe about the place. We also want our restaurants to really suit the area, rather than taking a corporate cookie cutter product and putting it into a town that’s not appropriate. “
The new Clapham site is located at Arch 642 Voltaire Road and has 64 covers with space for 10 more outside. It also offers a few more rib options on the menu than the shopping centre sites. It includes a bar and will function as a blended bar and restaurant, as each of the new neighbourhood sites will.
“We have a barbecue rib style menu that’s very approachable, both in terms of price wise and the food being very easy-going,” said Arden. “We are in the fast casual dining sector but we’re going to have a bar in each new restaurant where you could sit and have a drink first, or enjoy a cocktail, and we want to do old fashioned serving.
“We’ve got a great team at the new site, enthusiastic front of house staff and chefs from the local community and it’s been very rewarding so far.”