One of Europe’s most popular pizza pasta brands opened its first UK site in December and it the first of an ambitious plan to open at least 30 restaurants over the next twelve years. L’Osteria was originally founded in Nurnberg in 1999 and in the time since it has expanded to over 65 locations across Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Bristol has been chosen as the launch city where four shop units in the Quakers Friars area of Cabot Circus have been turned into the UK’s L’Osteria. Situated between Carluccios and Brasserie Blanc, the new restaurant will offer signature 18 inch pizzas and fresh pasta dishes using authentic Italian ingredients, supplemented by locally sourced produce.
The UK arm of the brand will be owned and operated by Pru Naik in a joint venture with Maria-Klara Heinritzi of L’Osteria Austria with each owning 50% of the franchise. Pru spoke to Premier Hospitality about this new venture and the challenges faced bringing the L’Osteria brand across the English Channel:
“I was looking around for concepts and L’Osteria came to my attention. My business partner Maria-Klara Heinritzi and I started talking about how we could possibly evolve the brand and decided to do it together.
“In terms of pure economics, the pizza and pasta market is expected to grow by 20% by 2020 and it was this that we based our initial decision on. Then when we looked around at existing operators and we felt that there was a niche for us to target. We offer really good value for money, our portion sizes are great and we spend a lot of money on making each restaurant look unique. We also take a lot of time choosing the people we are going to work with so service is high quality.”
Finding the right site to begin the venture was crucial and it took two years to identify the Bristol location, with Pru explaining:
“The restaurant is based in a theatre. A ‘L’Osteria’ in Italy is a tavern where somebody would go in and get an affordable, hearty meal in an environment where they’d feel comfortable and at home. If you look at the site in Bristol, it’s very unique and creates that authentic Italian feeling for us in that location.
“In total we have 230 seats including a little terraced area that can be open or closed whilst the rest of the restaurant is surrounded by glass that can be opened up. There is a bar and an open kitchen where we can show off our fresh ingredients and the staff can have a bit of fun while working.”
The Bristol site also has booth seating and larger tables for families and friends to gather as well as a private function room accommodating 23 people. Whilst each L’Osteria restaurant has its own individual style, they are collectively known around Europe for their distinctive design cues, buzzing atmosphere and fresh flavours.
Pru has previously been hugely successful within the UK hospitality and restaurant industry, bringing over 30 years of experience to the project. Until recently he was of the largest McDonald’s franchisees with 25 McDonald’s restaurants in central and west London under his operation, turning over £55m in 2013.
The start-up cost for the Bristol restaurant was an estimated £1.2 million with projected sales of £1.7 million in year one and return on investment anticipated within four to five years. Naturally, introducing a new brand to a foreign market is no simple task, with careful consideration required for a variety of elements with Pru adding:
“The biggest challenge was finding the site because we’re a new operator. We’ve also had to finance the project ourselves. It’s been a learning process changing the established system to suit the UK market. Food regulations, for example, are different over here so we’ve had to adapt certain aspects.”
“Bristol is a very economically active city and we feel we can establish ourselves there. We’ve signed a development agreement where we have to open 30 restaurants in the next 12 years but we actually think we are going to do better than that.”
That growth has already begun with a site in Southampton set to open in March 2017.