In October the Asian-inspired chain removed the fridges from its restaurant in London’s Lime Street and relaunched the site as Itsu [hot] in a move the group says ‘marks the direction for future Itsu stores and restaurants’.
The restaurant offers the 74-strong chain’s ‘biggest ever range of hot, customisable food’ with dishes created in partnership with 2011 MasterChef winner Tim Anderson, who is also behind London’s Nanban Japanese restaurants.
Self-service kiosks have been installed to give customers the option to add extra protein (egg or chicken), gyoza or even cheese to dishes, as well as swap noodles for vegetables and remove coriander as a topping.
The changes will be rolled out to a further 23 stores over the coming months, though it is not confirmed if sites will be rebranded as Itsu [hot].
Itsu says hot food sales doubled across its restaurants over the last 24 months, but the new concept will still see a smaller selection of the most popular sushi served from behind the pass.
The company is also trialling new waste bins to improve recycling and redesigning stores to give a better view of the kitchen.
Itsu was set up by Pret a Manger founder Julian Metcalfe in London in 1997.
“We’re putting a bigger emphasis on hot food including tailored rice and noodle pots, breakfast dishes like bacon bao buns and miso poached eggs to show there is something for everyone at Itsu,” says Metcalfe.
“The self-service screens and tailored dishes have been tried and tested to ensure the fresh, fast, itsu experience is completely upheld…40% of orders made via the screens are customised in some way.
“Creating our hottest ever Itsu has given us licence to develop new dishes like warm Asian salads – a space we’re looking to own.”
Japanese restaurant chain YO! has similarly moved away from cold food and is trialling a new concept without its iconic sushi conveyor belt and a wider Asian-inspired menu in London and Dundrum, Ireland.