Italian high-end restaurant chain plans Lankan entry

11 November 2013 03:30 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


High-end Italian restaurant chain SOHO is currently in discussions with potential local partners to set up a luxury restaurant in Colombo as early as next year, followed by a second restaurant in Galle, according to the founder owner.

To this end, the Italian domiciled Sri Lankan entrepreneur, Damian Ranasinghe is setting up a holding company before the end of this year to function as an investmentcompanyinSriLanka.

Ranasinghe, who was on a brief business visit to Sri Lanka last week, said he would invest at least 250,000 (Rs.45 million) for the first SOHO restaurant in Colombo.

“We are opening our first SOHO next year and I am currently discussing with a few parties to lease a land in Colombo,” he said in an exclusive interview with Mirror Business.

Currently, there are four restaurants operating under the SOHO brand - three in Italy and one in Czech Republic - with another one soon to be opened in Moscow. All SOHO restaurants are unique in their architectural designs.

Once opened in Sri Lanka, it will be the first country outside Europe for SOHO and the same standards will be maintained.

Although he was ready for franchising, Ranasinghe said he wanted to manage the first SOHO in Sri Lanka by himself because he wants to set a benchmark and never wants to compromise on the quality of delivery.

 “We are ready for franchising. But in the first SOHO I am investing 100 percent and want to run it by myself,” he remarked.

Ranasinghe said he likes to have his hands on in every bit of detail from developing unique architectural designs, matching colour combinations between furniture and more importantly investing on state-ofthe-art kitchen equipment.

Therefore, he said he would not open more than five to six such restaurants because his restaurants cater to a niche and once opened in numbers, “you become your own competitor.” Therefore, SOHO’s strategy is to offer quality dining at limited locations.

“Our restaurants are usually about 200 to 250 square meters and will serve no more than 80 diners to ensure the highest quality,” he remarked.

SOHO’s target market is the European middle class and an average Italian spends between € 60 - € 70 in a restaurant, which is equivalent to Rs.13,000.

“We will have to think about a different pricing model for Sri Lanka and we are looking at around € 40 to € 45 a person here,” he remarked, while expressing his optimism in the growing upper middle class in Sri Lanka.

While the standard Italian cuisine will be available in Sri Lankan SOHO, he said he would like to prepare at least 30 percent of their menu according to the Sri Lankan tastes.

Ranasinghe left for Italy at the age of seven and followed hotel management after receiving his elementary education. He has worked in famous Italian restaurants and cruises under chefs before he started his company in 2000. Ranasinghe is now a world-renowned food and beverage consultant travelling around the world.

Starting with food and beverage, his company has now diversified into luxury apartment building and renovation for renting and yacht sharing, where a wealthy person could rent a yacht with the crew, captain and all other luxury facilities from a person who owns one by charging a brokerage, a business which is very popular in Europe.

SOHO has grown over the last 13 years between 15 to 25 percent annually despite the Europe’s debt crisis and asked where he wants to see his business in the next five years Ranasinghe said, “I want to move my business to Asia.”

  Comments - 1

  • Muniyandi Monday, 11 November 2013 02:05 PM

    My prediction a failed plan!

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