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Shrimp Shack is targeting the UK’s key cosmopolitan cities for expansion, with its next sites set for Birmingham later this year.

Following the launch of its flagship site in Streatham in December 2023, the seafood brand is opening its second restaurant in Camden in July; its first foray into franchising. Its next two sites will launch on Birmigham Broad Street, and the city’s StarCity retail park.

The fast causal concept was created by Balal Aqil, founder of Creams Café, alongside business partners  Danny Caratella, Rish Gola and Raf Adam.

Whilst the South-African inspired menu hails all things shrimp, the restaurant serves a plethora of customisable seafood and meat plates, including calamari, mussels and lobster. It also offers a range of sharing seafood boil baskets, and family style platters. Customers can choose their own dips, sides and sauces, from Creamy Cajun to Garlic Butter.

Adam tells MCA that the brand is keen to grow a significant estate in cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Leicester, where it sees a strong match for its multi-cultral and multi-ethnic demographic. These cities could take as many as 50 sites between them, he adds.

“I expect 50 [stores] to be done, definitely within five years. If we only hit 50, I’ll be disappointed.”

“In terms of central London, we’re going to look at the Covent Garden and Bayswater area,” Adam reveals, “but we’re not going to open somewhere like Mayfair, because we understand what our demographic is.”

He explains, “Wherever there’s a Nando’s, we think that we’d be okay.” This focus will see the brand largely expand on high streets and retail and leisure schemes.

The business currently targets 3500-4500 sq ft spaces and sees potential to experiment with ‘express’ kiosk formats further down the line.

Discussing the rationale behind its latest Camden location, he tells MCA: “In Camden, we’re next to blue-chip brands like Wagamama,” with a position near Camden Market, ensuring high footfall.

“It hits our demographic; you’ve an Arab community in St John’s Ward and Kennington, which are only a few miles away,” Adams elaborates. This demographic support, coupled with consistent tourist traffic, makes Camden a strong location despite high rents.

Adams likens Shrimp Shack to a seafood version of the multi-national South-African chicken chain, for a number of reasons. “We have got inspiration from the operation of their restaurants. We call ourselves a seafood version of Nando’s because we’re going for the same demographic, you pick your flavours, and the price point is very similar.

“We aim to be within a few pounds of Nando’s, with regards to a meal. But our food is totally different to theirs.”

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However, he acknowledges the challenges: “In all honesty, I don’t think we have the scope to open as many branches as them yet– you can eat chicken every day, and it’s very common staple for most people here.

“Seafood, although its healthy, it’s more expensive in comparison to chicken. Maybe in the UK, we don’t know how to be too adventurous with seafood, and it has historically been more about fish and chips.”

Adam also acknowledges significant challenges with sourcing and price management, exacerbated by recent global events. “When we embarked on this journey, it was pre-pandemic,”  and the fluctuating costs have impacted initial projections, but the company is adapting.

“We’ve started to look at the potential to import, and as soon as we get enough stores open, that’s definitely what we’re going to do straight away.”

The Birmingham location in StarCity could become a central hub for the brand for this reason. “It’s a huge property, much more than we need. We have the option to create a central hub and a big cold store there, and we could essentially import a whole load of seafood ourselves for delivery to the other branches,” Adams explains.