The hospitality development scheme’s founder and CEO Chris Miller speaks to MCA about taking on new concepts, expanding existing ones, and building the in-house platform

In the eyes of White Rabbit founder and CEO Chris Miller, the next few years will be full of opportunities to find and build the next big thing in hospitality.

The former Soho House commercial director, who founded White Rabbit as an investment vehicle in 2016 and evolved it into a hospitality development platform, is on the lookout for new concepts after helping grow brands such as Lina Stores, Island Poke, and Kricket to more than 50 sites across the portfolio.

“Some of the most exciting hospitality businesses were built during downturns,” he says. “There’s real value in a multibrand development platform that’s multi-territory with multiple revenue streams.

“We’re going to grow in sensible, disciplined ways that are right for the brand.”

White Rabbit recently secured an undisclosed multimillion-pound investment from private investment firm McWin – backers of Gail’s Bakery and Impossible Foods – to inject capital into both new and existing concepts.

After launching Lina Stores in Japan and Island Poke in France, the platform is actively looking to further its existing concepts internationally as well as expand revenue streams, according to Miller.

While these will remain a priority, growing White Rabbit Studio – the in-house initiative that builds bespoke concepts – is also a key focus. It was established following the incubator scheme’s success.

“We’ve got four large scale projects, none of which I can talk about today,” Miller says. “We design, develop, and operate brands for landlords that are bespoke from a design and culinary perspective.

“We’ve definitely got grand ambitions…we’re looking at multiple concepts in Oxford, Cambridge, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, plus multiple in London and multiple internationally.

“I went through the last recession with Soho House – it didn’t affect them too much because they were providing something unique in the market.”

Uniqueness is the key ingredient for both Studio initiatives and any new concepts that come along. While there’s no art to the process, Miller says there is one rule he keeps in mind while visiting markets and pop-ups or looking at the next food trend on Instagram.

“There are loads of people doing things well,” he explains. “If we can’t do them better or differently, I won’t go near them.

“We’ve only invested in four businesses. We could do two or three more as we’re expanding our capacity and building our team…I’m quite fluid on where this goes.”

As for existing investments, each concept is “back to 2019 trading or better.” Despite staffing and cost inflation crises, the business is lucky to have small, agile brands that can menu engineer easily and move rapidly.

White Rabbit owns majority stakes in all of its concepts, but its role changes over time as each brand matures, moving at its own pace and according to its own goals, Miller says.

“Lina Stores is at an earlier stage compared to Island Poke, so we’re still very involved with design and development.”

He’s open to the ever-evolving nature of the business.

“I’ve definitely got things wrong and will continue to get things wrong. I’ve missed massive opportunities in the past because I thought they were overpriced.

“So far, we’ve opened 52 sites and screwed up one. I’ll take those odds.”