Busaba is to trial a new wet-led concept in London’s Westfield Stratford, CEO Winston Matthews tells MCA.

Matthews – who took the helm at the Alan Yau-founded, 10-strong Thai concept in March – says the new brand is aimed at a younger audience and will offer Thai-influenced small plates, but will be largely focused on drinks.

“It will be a bit more vibey, more high energy whereas Busaba is more relaxed and at the top end of premium casual dining,” he says. “The new one will be pitched at a lower spend and shorter dwell time.

“Stratford has changed massively in the past few years, so we’re targeting those new demographics.”

The bar will be trialled for about 18 months at Busaba’s existing restaurant site at Westfield Stratford, while the restaurant will relocate to another area within the shopping centre and is due to open in September.

Busaba previously trialled a speakeasy-style concept called Ajia in Oxford in 2022, which is now closed – but Matthews hints there may be more bars in the pipeline following the trial at Stratford.

“I’m not treating it as a pop-up, but as a solid individual standalone brand,” he continues.

The expanded drinks menu will also offer an extensive non-alcoholic selection in a nod to low-to-no alcohol trends among younger people. Following the launch of the Elizabeth line, Stratford has become more of a destination, with traffic on the rise – while footfall in Westfield White City, where Busaba has another restaurant, has dropped.

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The estate is nevertheless trading well – with losses substantially reduced year-on-year – with cost pressures stabilising this year, according to Matthews. The chain reported £21.1m in revenue for the year ended September 2023.

With tourists back and strong footfall in the city centre, Busaba’s venues around Covent Garden are in particularly strong shape.

“We’ve done a lot of cost control but haven’t sacrificed food quality.

“As a sector, hopefully we’re at the bottom of the hocket stick right now and turning back up.”

As Busaba looks to return to the expansion trail, Matthews sees opportunity for at least three or four more restaurants in London. The brand also opened its first site outside the capital, in the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, last year.

“We’ve definitely got some dark spots on our map in London,” he says. “There are also lots of empty sites in suburban towns and cities around London.”

Shopping centres work well for the brand, he added, alongside a focus on “slightly smaller” restaurants in areas where takeaway can further bolster sales.


With more than 20 years of heritage, the idea is to keep the brand fresh and innovative. Busaba introduced a breakfast offer in 2022, served at two of its sites and to be rolled out at the Essex location.

“We trialled it at three sites, but it didn’t work at all in Westfield White City,” Matthews explains. “Demographic, location, day parts, and trading patterns are all different for each restaurant.”

‘Kids eat free’ offers have been introduced at some sites, for example, while others have lunch promos. The goal is to avoid a one-size-fits-all offer across the estate.

After seven years at Busaba, including three months as CEO, Matthews says he is proud that the food proposition is strong as ever.

“From the days of Alan Yau, Busaba had gone through lots of ownership changes. When Terry [Harrison, former CEO] and I came in, we felt the brand had lost its way.

“We refocused on consistency, training, and chef programmes. I’m now really proud our food is back to where it should be.”

The business keeps an eye on innovation – with ingredients like Thai basil and lime-marinated strawberries and pandan cream – along with classic Thai favourites.

“Busaba caters across all demographics…it’s a great business and we have fun.”