Growth on menu as Bar Soba lands £3m funding deal

Brad Stevens is the founder and chief executive of Bar Soba. Picture: Contributed
Brad Stevens is the founder and chief executive of Bar Soba. Picture: Contributed
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A bar and restaurant chain that began life as a pop-up venture at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is embarking on a major expansion after securing a multi-million-pound investment.

Bar Soba, which was founded almost ten years ago by chief executive Brad Stevens, already has five sites spread across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds.

It will initially target Scotland and the north of England under the growth plans and is eyeing a number of sites in key cities including Aberdeen, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, before expanding further afield.

The first phase of expansion is being backed by £3 million in investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) while the Glasgow-based chain plans to grow in the longer term to 30 sites.

Alongside the funding, industry veteran Mohan Mansigani has been appointed as chairman.

Bar Soba, which serves “creative cocktails” and south-east Asian street dishes, also said it was on course to turn over in excess of £6m during the current financial year.

Stevens said: “I’m really excited about our ambitious expansion plans and that we’ve found the right partner to provide the funding and expertise we need to accelerate our growth.

“Expanding to 12 city centre locations will allow even more drinkers and diners to enjoy our combination of indulgent cocktails, freshly prepared street food inspired by the night markets of south-east Asia and music.

“We have been researching locations we feel will suit the Bar Soba offering but are always open to hear ideas from others.”

Stevens launched the brand at the Fringe in 1997 as a pop-up restaurant. He opened his first permanent Bar Soba venue on Mitchell Lane in Glasgow and has since expanded into premises on the city’s Byres Road and in the Merchant City, as well as on Hanover Street in Edinburgh and Merrion Street in Leeds.

Mansigani, who has been appointed as non-executive chair, served as chief finance officer at Casual Dining Group – the company behind brands including Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo – from 2002 until 2014, having previously worked as finance director at Costa Coffee and TGI Fridays and in finance roles at Grand Metropolitan and Pizza Hut.

He said: “I’ve worked with some really vibrant brands during my career and I see many of the same elements in the DNA of Bar Soba. Brad Stevens and his team have created bars with a strong personality and a relaxed dining style that runs through all of their venues.”

Patrick Graham, an investor with BGF heading up activity in Scotland and Northern Ireland, added: “The Bar Soba concept appeals to students and young professionals, which ties in well with the target geographies in the north of England and beyond.”

BGF’s other investments include Mexican chain Barburrito.

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