Husband and wife duo Pete and Jo Morrison expect to open Jo&Co on the former site of Indian restaurant Azaro on 115 Church Road in late June.
The pair met working for Ask Italian and Zizzi under the Kaye brothers. Pete was most recently operations director at Giggling Squid and took the Thai chain from 9 to 25 locations.
Jo was managing director at Tasty PLC where she launched Wildwood on behalf of Sam Kaye, growing the pizza and pasta brand from one to 60 restaurants.
“A few years ago we thought: ‘are we going to stick doing this for other people for the rest of our career or are we going to take the leap of faith and do it for ourselves’,” says Pete, who will focus on front of house, drinks and the design with Jo overseeing food and the business overall.
“After we finished up at our respective groups we took some time out. We were particularly inspired by the brunch scene in Australia and New Zealand. They just get it right over there,” says Jo, who has penned an eclectic menu centred around pulled meats, pizzette, small plates and sharing boards.
“Despite us having extensive experience in the space it’s not Italian,” she continues. “It’s more Mediterranean but it’s varied. We’re drawing inspiration from everywhere really.”
The brunch menu includes hashes served with braised beef or pulled pork on sautéed potato hash with poached egg and pickles; French toast ‘Bananas Foster’; and shakshuka eggs.
The evening menu lists the likes of truffled mushroom and fried artichoke pizzette; boneless harissa chicken thigh, home baked pitta, spiced cauliflower and sweet potato; and BBQ jackfruit served on potato fritters, asparagus salad. Pricing has not been finalised but is expected to be in line with other all-day dining concepts.
Open from 9am each day, the site will have a modern and eclectic look and feel with 80 covers in the main restaurant area and around 20 covers in a mezzanine bar area to the rear of the space (the site came with an A4 license). There will also be pavement seating for an additional 16 covers outside the front of the restaurant, which has been funded by the pair’s own saving plus some additional family money.
"It is tough out there at the moment and it is difficult to make money but we feel we have a really workable model and we have considerable experience opening restaurants,” says Jo. “I opened 70 odd restaurants for Ask and Zizzi and a further 60 at Wildwood. Pete has also opened numerous restaurants for the Kayes and overseen the rollout of Giggling Squid.”
“We certainly want to do more. The company is Jo&Co Restaurants limited so we've already made it plural,” adds Pete. “But slowly and in our own time. We also want the brand to be flexible, the concept and the name gives us quite a lot of room to adjust it to each location."