Steakhouse group Tomahawk has said it will continue to push on with its expansion plans in spite of the ongoing pandemic and that it has a couple more sites in the pipeline for summer.

In August last year the northern-based business opened a restaurant in York, which it followed up with a debut site in London in Hoxton in December, both of which were venues previously operated under the Jamie Oliver brand.

“It could look a bit crazy, but we see opportunities within the marketplace,” says Howard Eggleston, Tomahawk co-founder told MCA’s Restaurant Conference.

“Timing wise it is horrific, trying to do this in lockdown was a crazy stunt, but we are not funded by banks so we don’t have the pressure and we can make those decisions, which could look irrational to anybody on the outside. We take the opportunity and try and crack on.

“We get landlords who laugh us off and I don’t take offence, we just move onto the next one. We have a one in 10 rule – we look at 10 sites and we generally get one.”

Tomahawk is currently in negotiations with two venues with more viewings planned for the future.

“Even though we have no income and no trade there is no point in sitting idle,” he said. “If this [hospitality] comes back to life on 5 May as some people are suggesting, we’ll be in a very strong position to open at least one by June with the potential for another one to open in July. We are still keeping a positive spirit in the Tomahawk group,” he said.

Eggleston said the 12-strong business, which has venues in Teesside, Newcastle and Darlington, as well as a Rio Brazilian Steakhouse and a Pollo Chicken Shop, will look at more opportunities in the south of England, particularly in the suburbs and with dark kitchens.

He said the pandemic had created opportunities in terms of the availability of sites and that Tomahawk was in a good position to be able to take advantage of lower rents and site closures.

“We will take a chance – my entrepreneurial spirit is to have a go. It might feel a bit vulture culture, but from a business point of view if somewhere is 75% fitted out and there’s £300,000 to £400,000 of air handlers left above a ceiling, that’s money we’re not having to invest.

“The big groups can’t do that; everything has to come out and they start afresh, but we don’t have to. None of our sites look the same, they are different formats that are down to what we are picking up. We’re very chameleon in the way we can spin the units round.”

Another positive from the pandemic has been with recruitment, with Eggleston saying that finding a team for the London restaurant had been easier than normal. “There are opportunities that way. As long as you’ve got the cash to burn for as long as this goes on, out of it we feel like we’re going to have a really good team.”

To watch all the footage from the event please click here.

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