Byron has ramped up its investment in new technology and is moving to a digitally led format for its restaurants as the strategy for the business is refocused following its acquisition by investment firm Calveton last summer, chief executive Simon Wilkinson has told MCA.

The brand, which was been housed under parent company Famously Proper since the deal in August 2020, is launching order and pay at table within the next month and has made a permanent switch from physical menus to QR codes. It has also introduced click and collect and launched a new website earlier this week.

“We have done a lot in terms of IT and digital. We were going to move that way but the pandemic has accelerated the process,” he said.

Alongside its ambition to be “the biggest digital-ordered premium burger brand in the UK”, Wilkinson said the brand had harked back to its heritage with its menu, rowing back on many of the changes the previous investors were looking to make, such as adding brunches and steaks.

“Strategically Byron had gone off on a tangent. What lockdown enabled us to do was to talk about what the strategy actually was. It is very much about what Byron was famous for, which is premium burgers, craft beers and the best milkshake in the market,” he said.

It has narrowed the menu, switched back to a more premium burger – a larger 6lb Aberdeen Argus patty – reduced the price for the majority of dishes and made its fries unlimited. “We have increased the quality and the value,” he said.

The business opened its first new sites in five years, in May, in Wembley’s London Designer Outlet and is looking for additional sites, but Wilkinson is keen to point out that growth will not be dictated by target numbers and will be purely opportunitistic.

The new site sees a return to the original logo, with the décor a contemporary twist on the original design – something that will be rolled out to existing sites and feature in any new restaurants.

The parent company is also on the lookout for a third asset to add to its line-up. “Famously Proper was formed with the strategy that we want to have two or three brands. We are not dictated by numbers but we want to have a number of each brand so that if someone in the future buys us, they have got the scope to double it in size if they want to,” he said.

In addition to standalone restaurants the pandemic has seen Byron moving into dark kitchens, launching its first in September 2020, with plans to have around a dozen, 12 months on from its debut.

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The future Mother Clucker

Famously Proper is exploring all avenues when it comes to the future expansion of Mother Clucker, the fried chicken brand is acquired in May this year, from delivery and digital restaurants to street food and pop-ups.

The business, founded in a converted US Army ambulance in 2013 by Ross Curnow and Brittney Bean, has several food truck and street food pitches in London as well as a site at Stanstead Airport, and a restaurant in Clerkenwell.

“We had been toying with the idea of doing our own chicken brand – Byrd,” said Wilkinson. But then it heard on the grapevine that Mother Clucker might be available. “Luckily the timing was right on our part and the founders’. We wanted a chicken concept and it was the best in the market and available.”

The business is now fully integrated within the wider parent company in terms of its finances, supply chain and HR, for example, and Wilkinson said it planned to say more on its expansion plans later this year. “The early period has been about winning the hearts and minds of the people and getting to understand the business.”

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