Corbin & King investor sees ‘huge opportunities’ ahead of Wolseley Café opening

The new majority shareholder in Corbin & King has said there are “huge opportunities” for the group’s brands, ahead of the opening of the first Wolseley Café in Bicester later this month.


Dillip Rajakarier

Minor Hotels paid £58m for a stake in the business, founded by Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (pictured), at the end of last year.

Seven months on, the Wolseley Café, a more casual spin-off of the Wolseley in London’s Piccadilly, is to open, as well as a new site in St John’s Wood, which is to be converted into a new concept to be developed by chief executive King.

CEO of Minor Hotels  told The Caterer: “Corbin & King only have one restaurant per brand and we’ve come in as a strategic partner seeing huge opportunities. We’ve announced the opening of Wolseley Café in Bicester, which is the third most-visited tourist attraction in the UK. The footfall is huge and the shopping village has been extended, with more high-end offerings.

“We are also now looking at other sites, which we should have by the end of the year.”

The Wolseley Café, Corbin & King’s first venture outside the capital, will take many features from its parent concept, including hand-painted Chinoiserie murals and a double-volume vaulted ceiling, as well as some familiar dishes.

The café-restaurant will open from 8.30am to 10pm most days, offering classic Wolseley favourites as well as new additions. Alongside the café-restaurant will be a takeaway counter and a shop housing the Wolseley’s growing retail collection.

King said: “We are delighted to be opening Café Wolseley. For many years we have wanted to extend the reach of the Wolseley, but it’s only now that we have found an opportunity to achieve that.”

Rajakarier said the newly developed Wolsley Café concept had huge roll-out potential, with the possibility of sitting in high streets, but stressed that it would remain distinct from its parent restaurant.

He added: “I think the Wolseley will be kept as a trophy high-end brand, it will be rolled out only to key markets and primary destinations.

“The Wolseley does have potential to go into Dubai, Singapore, as well as Scotland. The name is so well established, but we don’t want to take the shine away. We want to make it shine brighter and make sure these are great destinations.

“Other brands such as Colbert and Fischer’s can roll into other markets, but it’s important to keep the Wolseley as the head brand and make sure we keep that very exclusive, so we will not have it in secondary or tertiary markets, only in key, primary markets.”

Rajakarier said that Minor Hotels and Corbin & King have “plans for everywhere”, but was resolute that the roll-out of brands would be careful and considered to protect their integrity.

He explained: “We’re not saying to Jeremy we need to have 10 restaurants in a year. What we need to do is have the right restaurants, in the right locations. If you have targets of 10 or 20 a year you might do a deal for the sake of it and it may not be right. We look long-term we have to create a sustainable business and to do that we need to make sure the brands go to key destinations, we’re very opportunistic but we will wait.”

Rajakarier is also keen to see Corbin & King concepts sitting within hotels, be it those within his own company or others.

He said: “People were wondering why a hospitality company was going into restaurants, but one of the sectors of our business is the food sector. We run quick-service restaurants and casual dining – it’s the first time we’ve gone into something a bit more up-scale with Corbin & King.

“Most hotels just go very plain with the F&B offering, because most hoteliers’ focus is their rooms, but I think some of the Corbin & King brands will fit very well into hotels and we can take them outside the UK.

“We have to create something in our hotels first as a showpiece and then we will roll it out from there. It’s in the very early stages, we are in discussions with Jeremy to make sure we are fully aligned.”

Minor’s brands include Antantara (luxury), Avani (lifestyle) and Tivoli (four to five star), the Elewana Collection (lodges, camps and hotels in Africa) and Oaks (city centre hotels)

Earlier this month the company announced it had acquired an additional stake in NH Hotel Group, which has openings panned in Kent and London’s Shoreditch.

Rajakarier said his group was looking at further opportunities across the UK, with “the regions” particularly attractive.

But, once again, he said he was in no rush to expand, adding: “Our thing is not about growth, we don’t want to be the biggest hotel company in the world, we want to be the best hotel company in the world. Which creates guest experiences, shareholder value and is a sustainable business.”

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