Belgo empire pumps its muscles

Restaurant group Belgo is embarking on a significant expansion plan which will see it opening around 15 new Belgo-branded restaurants in the next four years and extending the brand into a new bar format.

However, the group has no plans to make any changes to London restaurants The Ivy and Le Caprice, which it acquired last week as part of the takeover of Caprice Holdings.

Belgo development director André Blais says the group aims to increase the two-strong Belgo chain to five in the next six months, with openings in Bristol, New York and London’s Ladbroke Grove.

Belgo co-founder Denis Blais will create the interiors with input from the group’s in-house design team. Blais will liaise with London architect Foreign Office of Architects for the Bristol and Ladbroke Grove sites.

“Each [Belgo] outlet is based on the same overall theme, incorporating the monastic beer-hole image. But each is tailored to the character of its building and tries to come up with a key theme,” says Belgo development director André Blais.

The restaurants will use the same graphic design as the existing chain, which was created by New York freelance designer John Coblin.

“In each case the logo is changed slightly to convey an aspect that is unique to the restaurant, such as a feature of the building,” says André Blais.

Meanwhile, Denis Blais has created concepts for a pilot Belgo-branded bar. This is based upon the existing Belgo restaurant concept, but will have a “more loungey feel, with a fireplace and bar stalls”, says André Blais.

Denis Blais has worked up the interiors with FOA and graphics with Belgo’s in-house design team. The logo design has yet to be determined, but will incorporate the Belgo logotype.

André Blais says he aims to open the first outlet in Islington by next February and is talking with breweries at the moment with a view to a large scale roll-out in the next few years.

Belgo also plans to evolve the Pasha restaurant, which it acquired from restaurateur Mogens Tholstrup in May. It is also looking for a further site for Pasha in New York. Tholstrup is working on graphics and interiors for the restaurants. The group hopes to open the first site within eight months and has plans to roll out further similar restaurants in the UK.

In a separate move, Denis Blais is working on concepts for Can, a new bar in London’s Smithfield, due to open in October. The bar is termed “designer-seedy”, and aims to provide a forum for people to let their hair down in style.

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