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When Gloria opened in East London in February 2019, the queues to dine at London’s new hottest restaurant started on the first day. Now Gloria's French owners plan to open a huge second trattoria in June.
Named Circolo, and serving Italian cuisine inspired by summer days in Sicily, it will be some 50 percent bigger and is strategically located at Fitzrovia's Rathbone Square, close to the bustling stores of Oxford Street.
Circolo will be the 10th restaurant of the Big Mamma group, which started out in Paris and now feeds as many as 10,000 guests a day, according to co-founder Victor Lugger, who has relocated to London with his family.
Lugger says Circolo will showcase a home-made and “slightly over the top” menu, including meter-long pizzas, pasta dishes served in hollowed-out cheeses, and skewers from a Sicilian grill, alongside “OTT 1L Sundae,” with giant cookie chunks.
About 20,000 bottles of spirits will line the walls, there will be large sharing tables, and 60 of the seats will be on an outdoor terrace. The new restaurant is about 836m² with room for 280 diners, compared with 560m² for Gloria, which seats 160.
The Big Mamma group’s approach has been compared to retailers like Zara, with high quality, large volumes and reasonable prices. Lugger says Big Mamma has been profitable from the start, about six years ago, but he denies that success is built on smart strategy.
“Every person I know has founded a tech company or something and everyone is dedicated to breaking new ground and going into new business models,” he says.
“But my partner (Tigrane Seydoux) and I went into the restaurant business because we were passionate about food and hospitality. If I was planning anything, at the eve of Brexit, I am not sure I would develop in the U.K.
“We are not doing anything special but what every restaurateur should try to do: Good food, cheap prices in a great design, served with a smile – these four things. And by trying to do this, yes we need high volumes. We want to do restaurants for everyone."
“In France, we are very lucky that banks are very keen on supporting retail businesses, so we had a few rounds of equity fundraising to secure our business. That’s how we raised some equity... our partners are all entrepreneurs."
“We are not over-focused on profitability right now, tomorrow morning. So I don’t have someone over my back telling me I should open another six restaurants. And on top of that, we have the banks helping us, and actually the company has been profitable from the first day. But it’s only nine restaurants in six years so we are not talking about running out a chain or a franchise."