White Rabbit Projects continues to look overseas for growth opportunities, while expanding its hospitality concepts both within and outside the UK.

Founder and CEO Chris Miller tells MCA the specialist hospitality incubator is working on building bespoke concepts in Lisbon in partnership with hotel business Locke Living. Closer to home, it is preparing to launch modern Indian concept Kricket in Canary Wharf while eyeing an East London opening – and potentially a regional debut – for Italian restaurant brand Lina Stores.

Alongside the hospitality portfolio, White Rabbit builds bespoke F&B concepts for hotels, with clients including Marine Lawns and Graduate Hotels.

The business, which began as an investment vehicle, received a multimillion-pound investment from investor McWin in 2022 to support further expansion of its concepts.

Going international

Following the success of the Eve bar and restaurant launch at Kensington’s Ember Locke hotel, White Rabbit will again partner with Locke Living to open a series of F&B concepts at the latter’s upcoming aparthotel in Lisbon.

Situated in a 17th century monastery in the Portuguese capital, the venue will include eight restaurants and bars designed for the space.

“This has been a really nice little business,” Miller tells MCA. “A lot of hoteliers don’t want to run their own F&B.

“With our other brands, we’ve always had a lot of approaches from international landlords or operators interesting in growing them abroad.”

Having spent some time in the US and Middle East, these regions both hold potential for growth further down the line, he adds.

The evolution of Lina Stores

Lina Stores

Lina Stores

White Rabbit is actively looking for more sites for pasta-focused concept Lina, which operates seven restaurants in London and a further three in Japan.

Having recently opened in South Kensington – “the prettiest one we’ve done yet” – the idea is build a presence in East London, where the brand remains underrepresented.

“Japan has been a nice testament to the sort of international opportunities for that brand,” Miller says. “I think it would work really well internationally.

“It’s become a really flexible brand, an incredible all-day space that’s busy across breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“You’ve got people coming in for date night, buying starters, desserts, and sharing dishes, and others coming in for a bowl of pasta. You can spend £15 or £60…it’s a democratic concept.”

With a retail element, corporate catering, a deli focused on coffee and a grab-and-go offer, and a restaurant side, Lina’s versatility as a brand means it can succeed across a multitude of formats.

Alongside both small format and larger flagship venues, the launch of Bar Lina – a basement cocktail bar underneath the Soho store – has provided another revenue stream, as well as an efficient use of space.

A new East London site in the future, therefore, will ideally have a bar attached with a late night licence, Miller adds.

“We don’t want to oversaturate London. I think the sensible next step is the regions…we’ve spent time in Manchester and Edinburgh.

“The brand has been around for so long it has almost a century’s worth of heritage, but can keep turning into something different.

“You can see a completely new evolution of the brand with Bar Lina. We felt it deserves that.”

‘Huge opportunity’ for Kricket and Soma


Another key area for growth is Kricket. For some years now, the Indian restaurant group has focused on its existing estate of three London sites – but has huge opportunities to grow, according to Miller.

Alongside receiving a new round of funding from White Rabbit to launch in Canary Wharf, Kricket’s speakeasy-style bar concept, Soma, also has significant potential.

“We invested profits from the business into a little cocktail bar, which has been doing fantastic numbers,” Miller says. “The Canary Wharf site will have a restaurant and [Soma] bar as well.

“The view is that both those brands can grow, and Soma potentially even as a standalone business.”

Island Poké, meanwhile, is more of a “consolidation player” at the moment. While remaining poké-focused, the offer has seen the addition of hot proteins as well as undergoing a brand refresh across its estate.

‘Bars can be beautifully profitable businesses’

As White Rabbit builds its credentials in the bar sector, Miller acknowledges the late night economy has had its challenges. Both Soma and Bar Lina, however, made creative use of space the brands already had, while focusing on an intimate speakeasy-inspired offer.

“Bars are beautifully profitable businesses if you get them right,” he explains.

Aside from bars, overseas expansion opens up a lot of whitespace – vastly preferable to overexpansion within the UK.

“That ability to cross borders is a tough one…but gone are the days where you can open 100 restaurants in the UK before the desire to look further afield.

“The market is throwing up some really interesting opportunities. We’re seeing a lot of churn and a number of fully fitted sites coming to market.

“All I can say is we’re looking to grow – but with the right opportunities and right sites.”

Miller nonetheless emphasises the UK remains a key focus for White Rabbit. London remains busy as ever, despite consumer pressures, as the business branches out with a new wellness concept in the works.

“You can still make a lot of money in the UK, but the market has evolved significantly,” he adds. “Value for money is much more important. It’s not a conscious decision to move away from the UK – it’s about expanding our whitespace and the desire to go into new territories.

“And we’ve got a pipeline in the UK that’s definitely proving that we’re here for good.”