EXCLUSIVE: Bill’s carries out review of kitchen estate

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Restaurant chain Bill’s is carrying out a review of its kitchen estate to make sure that its sites are equipped to cope with its future growth plans.

The company, which serves a comprehensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, is examining its catering set-up across the 76 restaurants that it now operates around the country.

“It is an exercise we are undergoing right now – to re-evaluate our kitchens, understand the platfoms we have and make sure the proposition is right for what we want to deliver in the future. It is clearly important to us,” CEO Mark Fox told FEJ.

Although it has been trading for more than 30 years, Bill’s really exploded into life as a restaurant business in the early 2000s. Its strongest period of growth came between 2011 and 2014 when it went from 20 restaurants to 60.

The company’s financial accounts for the year to July 2016 show that it opened nine restaurants during the period as sales rocketed 20% year-on-year to £110.5m. Adjusted EBITDA before pre-opening and exceptional costs, meanwhile, increased 9% to £13.5m.

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Mr Fox said the chain currently had a “consistent” approach towards the dozens of kitchens it operates, subject to the vagaries of individual properties. “We are looking to revamp that, extend it and create additional space for future requirements,” he said.

The review is being led by Ron Lento, the company’s innovations director and an expert in food development. Mr Lento joined Bill’s last year from Whitbread, where he was food and beverage director. Prior to that he served as head of food at Wagamama.

Bill’s was founded by Bill Collison, who opened a small greengrocery in Lewes, East Sussex and subsequently transformed it into a cafe. It became so popular that he went on to open a second site in Brighton and grow the concept into a chain of restaurants.

Mr Fox said that Mr Collison was still actively involved in the design of new Bill’s restaurants today.

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