Speaking to BigHospitality, Des Gunewardena said that the restaurant group would look to open more sites in Europe and the US if problems with Brexit negatively affected the UK restaurant industry.
Last month the group launched its Bluebird brand in New York’s Time Warner Building and will open two new concepts in the city next year at its Hudson Yards development.
“If Brexit is managed badly and we are successful in America we would definitely look to shifting our growth overseas from the UK,” said Gunewardena.
“We have restaurants in Paris and Tokyo that are trading very well. We could think of doing other restaurants in Europe. If New York works our main plan would be to do more in America and we are looking at other cities overseas as well.”
According to Gunewardena, uncertainty around Brexit has forced the company to consider increasing its geographical spread “so all our eggs weren’t in one basket”. Currently around 90% of its business is UK-based.
“The single biggest asset you have when you open a restaurant is getting great chefs and managers to run them. If that becomes a problem and you have the option it’s clearly something to have a look at,” he added.
“We work with Franceso Mazzei who’s from Calabria, Italy, and have some amazing sommeliers and staff from the EU. We do train home-grown talent and to an extent we are addressing that. But if we can’t get great staff why would we open more restaurants in the UK?”
Gunewardena said he believed the UK would still be a great place to invest, but if the group thought that the economics were more attractive in other countries it would go abroad.
“But we’re not saying that at the moment, I’m confident in the resilience of London and the UK long-term. But you just don’t know, and sensible businesses will be hedging their bets.”
He also said the company would consider rolling out more Bluebird Cafes in London and beyond following the launch of the first, more casual spin-off in London’s White City development earlier this year.