A European chain of casual dining Italian restaurants set to open its second Scottish branch this month is considering further sites north of the Border.
German-based Vapiano started out in 2002, launching its first branch in Hamburg and two years later embarking on a global push as a franchise concept.
Its UK and US managing director Phil Sermon told Scotland on Sunday that the Edinburgh restaurant, an 8,770 sq ft 240-cover space just off St Andrew Square, is progressing well.
The final preparations are under way for its forthcoming Glasgow premises, a 300-cover outlet at 235 Buchanan Street, above Topshop at the Buchanan Galleries end of the street. This will bring its Scottish staff total to more than 120 and UK branches to six.
Asked whether Vapiano is looking to open up anywhere else in Scotland, Sermon said the focus would likely remain on Edinburgh and Glasgow “which we think are perfect cities for us” given the large scale of the group’s restaurants. “The next opportunities may be for second sites in either city,” he added.
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are home to major out-of-town retail and leisure developments such as Silverburn in Glasgow and the capital’s Fort Kinnaird.
Vapiano offers pizzas, pastas, antipasti and salads ordered directly from chefs at an open kitchen.
It has at least 200 restaurants worldwide across more than 30 countries, having just opened up in Barcelona and Copenhagen, and construction is to start on a further site in London tomorrow.
Vapiano’s Edinburgh restaurant also sits in the city’s so-called “cuisine quarter” alongside the likes of The Ivy, Dishoom, Gaucho and Wagamama.
Sermon said when the Edinburgh branch welcomed its first customers that the firm was looking forward to bringing its “unique take to Italian food to not only Edinburgh but to Scotland”. Deloitte said in a recent study of the UK’s casual dining sector that the industry faces cost pressures combined with tightening purse strings. “However, changes in consumer tastes and the way diners engage with restaurants, alongside increasing use of technology, provide opportunities for growth if properly harnessed,” said Sarah Humphreys, lead partner, casual dining.
Sermon is unconcerned about UK consumers cutting back on discretionary spend, believing Vapiano’s offering at “very affordable” prices means “guests will come out for that”.
He added that competition “is always strong in any market, but we believe that what we do is just a little bit different”.