ASK turns back on greedy landlords

ASK kitchen

ASK Italian has vowed to back away from potential new locations than pay unreasonable premiums being demanded by landlords, its CEO has said.

Property owners are continuing to exploit the demand for prime sites from restaurant groups, with bidding wars helping to drive up rental prices. But ASK boss Stephen Holmes said the chain had no desire to get embroiled in a price fight, adding that the brand’s “preference” has always been not to pay premiums.

“I think it is difficult because if what I have seen is true then the rents are going up and people are over-paying. We are not one of the big players and if the premium is too high or the rent is too high we will look somewhere else,” he said.

ASK said that stores in city centres, town centres and shopping centres had traded the strongest during the recession and therefore future openings will be focused on similar locations. It currently operates 111 restaurants in the UK after recently opening a restaurant in Manchester.

“The beauty of a mainstream Italian restaurant business is that it can actually trade pretty well in all locations, so while I might have a preference for big city centres and shopping centres, we still trade really well in Haslemere and you can pick up a site in Haslemere at a very reasonable level without paying any premium,” added Holmes. “I would like to do [prime locations] but I am not going to put £1m on a cheque to take a site in Charing Cross.”

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