Red’s True Barbecue is not a restaurant concept that fits well into the all-pervasive vegan/vegetarian mega-trend
Meat-centric American barbecue has fallen out of favour among UK consumers in an uncanny correlation with the rise of plant based food.
Red’s meanwhile may have been responsible for some mischievous, not altogether complimentary marketing around vegetarians.
Yet fast-forward a few years and even the macho Leeds-founded concept has taken vegan food by the proverbial horns.
Speaking to Diary off the back of its recently announced partnership with BrewDog in Leicester, founder James Douglas said: “It’s an evolution for us. Six years ago, we would never have thought we’d be taking vegan dishes by the horns – though that’s probably the wrong word to use!
“We didn’t just jump on it – we’ve been looking into it for 12-18 months, and got some exciting new dishes.”
The diversification is part of a re-evaluation of the Red’s food offer, which celebrates the classics while introducing new dishes, Douglas said.
“Forty percent of the new menu will be new discoveries,” he said. “The new stuff has been inspired by people we’ve met and place we’ve been.
“For people that are coming once a week, you’ve got to give them something new - people’s palates are evolving.”
The collaboration with BrewDog represented a great brand synergy, Douglas said, and was part of a wider strategy of diversifying away from solely operating restaurants, with key success here its retail sauce range.
“It’s been a challenging few years, and it continues to be so”, Douglas said. “You’ve got to be clever and think on your feet. If you don’t evolve, you are in for a tough ride.”
Would the brand ever return to London, after its ill-fated adventure in Shoreditch? Never say never, Douglas said – but there’s plenty of opportunities elsewhere too.
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he added. “Our original plan for growth was like dropping a pebble in a pond and seeing it ripple out.
“With Red’s 2.0 we will go back to some of the original ideas of the business, which was to grow outwards from where we’re centrally based.
“Absolutely we would go back to London – but between Leeds and London there’s a lot of people whop would happily go to Red’s, so we will probably grow slightly more regionally first.”