Peter Morrison has been involved in his fair share of restaurant and kitchen openings during his 25 years in the foodservice industry. As operations director of Tex-Mex chain Chimichanga — one of various operational posts that he held within the Prezzo Group, which owns the business — he was instrumental in helping to double the brand’s store presence in the UK.
Now it is Giggling Squid that is benefitting from his insight after Peter joined up with husband-and-wife team, Andrew and Pranee Laurillard, to spearhead the Thai restaurant group’s ambitious UK growth strategy. Its formula of serving ‘rustic’ Thai cuisine, with the emphasis on sea- and street-food has proved to be a successful one. Meals are freshly prepared from scratch in the kitchen by master Thai chefs. Its healthy tapas menu has proved universally popular, especially at lunchtime with office workers, ‘yummy mummies’ and ‘ladies who lunch’.
The chain, which is credited with introducing the ‘Thai tapas’ dining concept to the UK six years ago, aims to have between 50 and 70 stores in the UK within five to seven years. The recent closure of an under-performing site in Crawley — the third Giggling Squid branch at the time it opened — was a sore point for the chain, but it also underscores its determination to focus on its stronger sites and those in the pipeline.
More than £50,000 has been spent transforming a former 120-seat Cleaver restaurant in Billericay into its newest site, while the company’s first Hertfordshire restaurant is about to open in Berkhamsted. Peter hopes that he can assist the six-year-old chain’s expansion without diluting any of the values that have brought it this far. “Most customers are under the impression that they’re eating in a one-off independent. They’re genuinely surprised when they discover there’s more than one Giggling Squid. I want to keep hold of that same feel, whilst building a national brand,” he comments.
“Most customers are under the impression they’re eating in an independent. They’re surprised when they discover there’s more than one restaurant”