Bar Soba, the Glasgow-based bar and restaurant chain, is preparing to open a further seven restaurants following a £3m investment by BGF (Business Growth Fund) and the appointment of industry veteran Mohan Mansigani as chair.
The company, which already has five sites spread across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds, will initially target Scotland and the North of England and is already considering a number of sites in key cities including Aberdeen, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. It will then focus its efforts on expanding further afield.
Founder and CEO Brad Stevens launched the brand at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1997 as a pop-up restaurant.
He opened his first permanent Bar Soba outlet on Mitchell Lane in Glasgow and has since expanded into premises in Glasgow’s Byres Road and Merchant City, as well as on Hanover Street in Edinburgh and Merrion Street in Leeds.
His business, which serves creative cocktails and South-East Asian street dishes in a vibrant atmosphere, is on course to turn over in excess of £6m during the current financial year.
Bar Soba has an ambition to become a truly national brand and one of the few born in Scotland to then grow south of the border. This first stage of investment from BGF is supporting its immediate growth, while the business plans to grow to 30 sites.
Brad Stevens, CEO and founder of Bar Soba, said: “I’m really excited about our ambitious expansion plans and that we’ve found the right partner to provide the funding and expertise we need to accelerate our growth.
“Expanding to 12 city centre locations will allow even more drinkers and diners to enjoy our combination of indulgent cocktails, freshly prepared street food inspired by the night markets of South East Asia and music. We have been researching locations we feel will suit the Bar Soba offering but are always open to hear ideas from others.”
As well as providing the growth capital to fuel Bar Soba’s expansion, BGF introduced the business to industry heavy-hitter Mohan Mansigani, who has been appointed as non-executive chair.
He served as chief finance officer at Casual Dining Group – the company behind brands including Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo – from 2002 until 2014, having previously worked as finance director at Costa Coffee and TGI Fridays and in senior finance roles at Grand Metropolitan and Pizza Hut.
Mohan Mansigani, chair of Bar Soba, said: “I’ve worked with some really vibrant brands during my career and I see many of the same elements in the DNA of Bar Soba.
“Brad Stevens and his team have created bars with a strong personality and a relaxed dining style that runs through all of their venues. I have been very impressed with the food quality and fantastic range of drinks.
“I’m looking forward to working with Brad to help him fulfil his ambitions for the business, which I believe will prove to be just as popular in the North of England and further afield as it has been in its Scottish heartland.”
BGF’s existing UK investments in the leisure and hospitality sectors include Mexican restaurant group Barburrito, tapas brand Camino, and Thai chain Giggling Squid.
Patrick Graham, an investor with BGF heading up activity in the central belt of Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “Our team at BGF was attracted to Bar Soba’s business model – the bars serve a wide range of unique cocktails all created in-house and fresh Asian food during the day though to the evening, when DJs and other live music add to the atmosphere.
“That combination of the lunchtime trade transitioning through into cocktails and live music means that the outlets are busy throughout the day and night.
“The Bar Soba concept appeals to students and young professionals, which ties in well with the target geographies in the north of England and beyond. BGF looks forward to supporting the business through its expansion.”
BGF was set up with £2.5bn to invest in privately-owned and Alternative Investment Market quoted companies that have revenues of between £5m and £100m.
In return for an initial investment of typically between £2m and £10m, BGF takes a minority equity stake in the business.
The company can also provide follow-on investment and access to its Talent Network of entrepreneurs who can give advice to its portfolio of companies.