Coqfighter looks to open at least two restaurants this year as it shifts focus back towards bricks-and-mortar expansion, co-founder Tristan Clough tells MCA.

The fried chicken concept has five sites across London as well as a delivery-only kitchen, and focused heavily on delivery sales during and after the pandemic.

As it gears up to open in Brighton – the first site outside London – next month, the group is prepared to reach the 20-site mark within the next four years, according to Clough.

“If things go well and we maintain our trajectory, I don’t see why we can’t reach that goal in the next three or four years,” he says. “People may go out less, but they still want to go to restaurants.”

The brand is “picky” about its locations, Clough adds, but looks to maintain its current spread of both city centre and neighbourhood sites.

Residential areas such as Finsbury Park, Croydon, and Battersea are trading “exceptionally well”, but the group is keen to open another site in Soho.

“Our Soho site is really busy and always has been,” Clough continues. “But we’ve also seen massive success from delivery.

“You can have sites close together…we’re also looking at places like Victoria, London Bridge, and Liverpool Street.”

The focus is primarily on London at the moment, but Coqfighter has always been “opportunistic.”

“There’s still so much opportunity in London, but we’re about to open in Brighton, so we’re not locked inside the M25.

“It’s about what comes our way. The plan is not necessarily to grow grow grow, but grow in a way that doesn’t affect our core values.”

Coqfighter burger

Corporate catering has provided another reliant revenue stream through a partnership with Just Eat for Business.

“Diversifying our offering to reach a B2B audience alongside our B2C model has shown that there is a very valuable market to be tapped,” Clough explains. “Since joining Just Eat for Business, we have seen a 179% increase in sales month-on-month between July 2023 to February 2024.

“It has always been a market that we wanted to explore.”

As the business comes into its own and pushes its brand identity, the idea was to maintain consistency between its B2C and B2B offerings.

“There were not many adaptations that we had to make, other than slightly simplifying the menu for office orders, meaning that the shift was minimal with big rewards.”

Now that the brand expanded its reach and “really solidified” itself as a dark kitchen operator, it is focused on driving culture and experience within its bricks-and-mortar locations.

“Takeaway, catering, and delivery has always been a major part of our operation,” Clough says. “But we want to create vibey restaurants…it’s more important than ever to pay attention to service and create a destination for people.”

Coqfighter is also pushing a competitive lunch deal - £10 for a burger and fries – which has helped it gain traction in a different day part.

“We thought we’d have difficulty because of our fried chicken offer, but lunch does really well.”

The group will continue to look for smaller units, not only from a financial standpoint but also from a brand perspective.

“We like intimate spaces; we’ve always been able to make them work quite well…and while the era of big, high-cover restaurants may not have ended, they’re certainly on the backburner.”

The brand has noticed a shift in spending habits, with the period leading up to Christmas less busy than before, and trade slower to rebound in January.

However, following the post-Christmas slowdown and recent warmer weather, “this year has been very good to us,” Clough says.

“Fried chicken is much more popular now than when we started. There’s a lot more people in this space.

“More than ever, quality determines ranking, and we’re focused on doing our best.”