The 10-strong restaurant group this week has opened its first pop-up beach along London’s South Bank where it will serve a street-food and grill-based menu alongside a selection of Brazilian cocktails for the next four months.
The beach, made up of 90 tonnes of sand and featuring replicas of one of Rio’s iconic lifeguard towers and its hillside yellow tram, is also another way co-founder David Ponte hopes to educate Brits about Brazilian food and culture.
“We thought, if you can’t go to Rio, we’ll bring a slice of the beach to the South Bank,” he said.
“We saw it with the Football World Cup two years’ ago (held in Brazil). People know very little about Brazilian food. It’s not one not one of the great gastronomies we all recognise like Mexican or Chinese, so two years ago we found people eager to find out more with us.
“We aren’t totally Brazilian. Our staff aren’t all from Brazil and you won’t get some Disneyland approach to Brazil, but we do want our visitors to Cabana, either to our 10 restaurants or our beach pop-up , to get the spirit of Brazil when they visit us.”
Ponte told BigHospitality his restaurant’s sales showed a marked improvement during the Football World Cup two years’ ago and he is ‘hopeful’ the same will happen this year with the start of the Olympics in August.
“There is a demand, people did come two years’ ago and we had a really good summer. There were no screens showing games, we just had people coming to experience Brazilian food and we hope they will come again.
“The Olympics are more engaging than football as they have something for everyone. We’re publishing a Cabana Times during the summer which will be a source of information on the Olympics and Brazil. We’re looking forward to an amazing summer.”
Alongside its Olympics-focused activity, Cabana will publish its second cookbook with Quadrille Publishing this year and is focusing on the opening of its 11th site at West Quay in Southampton later this year.
The search continues for other sites, however, with Ponte and co-founder Jamie Barber keen to have 25 sites in operation in the next three years.
"We're aware that as you expand, trying to keep the soul and spirit of the place isn't easy, but we are on the look-out for more.
"We'd love to go to Scotland, particularly Glasgow and the South West - Cardiff and Bristol - where everyone else is looking really. Shopping centres are a particuilar focus. Cabana works really well in shopping centres where there are high densities of people visiting.
"We have our target, but we know the competition is there for sites - we all want the good ones."