Rainer Becker, the restaurateur behind Zuma and Roka, could bring his new casual dining concept Inko Nito to the UK after it is established in Los Angeles, MCA has learnt.
Speaking as Zuma in Knightsbridge celebrates its 15th year, Becker told MCA the concept, like Roka and Zuma, would be centred around the robata grill he helped popularise, but with a more casual mid-market offer serving less premium cuts of meat.
Becker had originally planned to a open Roka in LA but was forced into a rethink as there were already restaurants in America trading under the Roka name.
He said there was potential to open Inko Nito restaurants in London, as well as an addition to the four-strong Roka collection in the capital, though his current priority is expanding Roka and Zuma worldwide.
On Inko Nito, Becker told MCA: “It’s a completely different look, with different materials, architect and designer. We wanted to give it a new direction.
“We will still use the robata grill, but if we had fillet steak at Roka, there would be flank steak at Inko Nito. There won’t be any lobster or caviar.
“If it works it could come to the UK. We’ll focus on America first, but I think it would work over here.”
Going forward, Becker said he expects to open one Zuma a year, and between one and three Roka restaurants a year.
He said there was also potential to replicate Oblix, his refined urban grill at The Shard, in other landmark buildings in major cities, such as Dubai.
He said: “Roka is easier to roll out because it’s driven by a robata grill, whereas Zuma needs a robata, a bar and a sushi counter, so the space needs to be right.
“I think there’s space for one more in London - maybe Notting Hill, maybe Shoreditch, maybe in the years to come when Battersea is fully developed. Kings Cross is an up and coming area.”
There are plans for a Roka in Dubai at the start of 2018, a potential opportunity in New York at the end of 2018, and Becker is also looking for another location in Hong Kong after closing his Roka site there due to expensive rents.
Becker suggested there could be potential to develop new formats under the Zuma brand, as the Hakkasan Group has done with clubs in Las Vegas.
Becker, who was a consultant on Alan Yau’s original Hakkasan restaurant, said: “We are both lifestyle restaurants. Would we explore different angles of the business? Why not. But at the moment my hands are full.
“What Hakkasan have done with the clubs is amazing. But personally I think it is difficult to juggle both restaurant businesses and clubs.”
“It’s great to explore your brand, and it’s something I could look into. Zuma is a global brand now. It still surprises me when people know about Zuma. It’s unbelievable. I never expected it. So why not utilise that brand – as long as what you do is as good as it is now?”