Restaurant chain Giraffe World Kitchen is looking to expand its portfolio and menu offering under the stewardship of Boparan Restaurant Group, which bought the business from Tesco two years ago. Brand director Sam Wignell reveals why kitchen innovation is at the forefront of its growth plans.
How would you describe Giraffe World Kitchen’s position in the market place today — where do you see the opportunities?
Giraffe is a well-established brand, currently performing well in the casual dining market. We enjoy high levels of brand awareness and popularity, particularly among families, because we offer great food in very relaxed surroundings. We see ongoing innovation opportunities around nutritionally balanced dishes, great tasting favourites as well as more eclectic dishes and drinks. Our Giraffe Stop format also has growth potential.
The industry has gone through a period of turbulence, particularly at the start of this year with the news that a number of casual dining chains were consolidating their store networks. How has Giraffe fared during this period?
To be honest, we are pleased with our performance. Our outlets are trading well versus the market. We are delighted that our customers continue to enjoy their visits to Giraffe, and include us in their dine-out and, increasingly, home delivery repertoire.
How large is Giraffe’s UK estate now and do you have any significant expansion plans that you are working on?
We have 37 company-owned restaurants in the UK, and 17 franchise outlets, which include our Giraffe Stop format. We are currently seeking new restaurant sites for the brand across the UK and have a team actively working on this. We’re also working on a number of international expansion opportunities for the brand.
We have a best practice kitchen design template to slot into every new upgrade driven by a strategy to deliver faster, better food”
Is new menu development the role of your executive chefs and, if so, what are the main priorities for this year?
Development of new menu items is one of our key activities. For inspiration we look at market insight and trends, menu mix data, input from our suppliers and feedback from our customers and restaurant teams. Our food development, marketing teams and suppliers work together to create exciting new dishes.
How important is good back-of-house innovation when it comes to driving your offering?
Innovation is at the forefront of Boparan’s brand plans. Being ahead of market and high street trends is essential in the current climate. You can create any dish you desire, but without the right people supported by the correct equipment you are simply not set up for success. For example, the business has recently invested to deliver innovation aspirations at peak trading time slots.
What are the fundamentals of a Giraffe kitchen? Does every kitchen contain the same template and footprint?
The short answer is yes, we have a best practice kitchen design template to slot into every new upgrade driven by a strategy to deliver faster, better food. Each business has on/off guides to minimise footprint and optimise labour and energy.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a kitchen equipment supplier — especially given the right kit is so integral to the consistency of the food offer?
Reliability of equipment, guest care in relation to projects and front-line operations, support with problem-solving and breaking down barriers to meet the needs of development.
You can create any dish you desire, but without the right people supported by the correct equipment you are simply not set up for success”
You run a number of franchise operations — do you expect to increase the number of franchisees faster than self-owned stores?
We’re lucky to work with excellent franchise partners and we have a very healthy and successful franchise estate. We see many opportunities for new Giraffe and Giraffe Stop outlets and we have a number of new franchise openings scheduled over the next 12 months, in the UK and overseas. We are also aiming to increase the number of company-owned sites and expect to be opening in new locations during 2019.
Giraffe feeling ten feet tall after securing significant franchise agreement overseas
Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has entered a new franchise partnership with leading global group Lagardère Travel Retail to open its Giraffe Restaurant concept in Spanish airports.
The first outlet as part of the deal has opened at Malaga Airport, which is one of the country’s busiest with more than nine million passengers a year. Both a full-service Giraffe Restaurant & Bar and a Giraffe Stop, the brand’s grab-and-go format, are now trading in the airport’s Terminal 3.
Giraffe is already present in UK and Dubai airports, and Judd Williams, international development director at BRG, believes Spain will be a valuable addition to the portfolio.
“This will be our first operation in Spain and is an exciting next step for the brand in line with our strategy to grow our presence in international airports. We welcome Lagardere Travel Retail to our partnership family and we look forward to opening more new sites with them.”
Giraffe’s all-day menu will include bold, flavourful dishes from across the world including straight-up classics and new, on-trend flavours served in a relaxed environment.