Wok & Go has opened five new sites in recent weeks and is to open a further two by October, Des Pheby, founder of parent company Pheby Food Concepts, told MCA.

The 16-site business shifted its model just before the pandemic to move away from opening single unit franchises and down a mini master franchise route, with current development plans totalling 150 new sites over the next 10 years.

Its regional franchisee for London, which has signed a development plan for 37 sites, has just opened sites in Harrow, Hounslow, Canning Town, High Wycombe and Wembley, with Shoreditch and Swiss Cottage to open soon.

The business has also just signed a franchise partner for Ireland, which will be opening its first store next month.

“The openings came to a bit of a halt during the pandemic. We were able to sign up a number of franchisees but we just couldn’t get the stores open,” Pheby explained.

“What you are seeing at the moment is a flurry of activity in terms of openings, particularly in London. There was a bit of catching up to do.”

Wok & Go currently has also multi-site franchisees covering the North of England and is just finalising the paperwork for partners that will cover the South West of England and the Midlands.

Making good progress

“We have pretty much wrapped up most of the country, except Scotland, Wales and the South East corner, so we are quite happy with the way in which Wok & Go is starting to progress.

Pheby is also looking to further the brand’s growth overseas, with two sites in Portugal and another on the way.

But despite continued interest from franchise partners, Pheby said he is expecting a “fairly tricky year”.

In addition to Wok & Go, the group also acquired the rights to a Canadian brand called Crepe Delicious, during the first lockdown.

“It’s taken two years to get the first one off the ground, but it will open in Camden, London, in the first week of September,” he said.

“We are hoping to replicate what we are doing with Wok & Go with that brand as well.”

Shifting trade patterns

The pandemic saw a permanent shift for the business in terms of trade, from walk-in to delivery.

“We went from about 25% delivery pre-pandemic, to now almost a 50/50 split,” Pheby said. “That throws in its own challenges because obviously the delivery providers take a fair old chunk of the commissions.”

He said the business had been actively trying to encourage walk-in trade, over delivery, “as it’s not sustainable for us to keep paying 30% to Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats”.

“Delivery is really about supplementing existing sales […] it should never really be the predominant revenue because it’s very difficult to make money from it in those kinds of high street locations.”