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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Restaurateur Alan Yau, the founder of noodle bar Wagamama, is defying the economic downturn with the expansion of his international restaurant network and plans to move into the global fast food market.
Yau, originally from Hong Kong, said many of his British restaurants are braving the recession, with casual dining eateries Cha Cha Moon, and Busaba Eathai seeing steady demand and his Michelin-starred Hakkasan and Yauatcha performing comparatively better than other fine dining outlets.
"We have not been affected as much," Yau told Reuters. "We are going to keep doing what we are doing. Rather than cutting costs; we are really trying to improve the products, food and service so we can compete better."
Yau is set to continue expanding his network of restaurants both internationally and in Britain with his second branch of Cha Cha Moon opening in London on Wednesday.
The casual noodle bar, serving Chinese regional dishes, ranging from Wonton Main and Taiwan beef noodles to spring onion pancakes couldn't be more different from Yau's fine dining restaurant Hakkasan, opening in Miami and Abu Dhabi this year.
However, what connects Yau's myriad network of restaurants is a desire to express his personality.
"Whatever I do, I hope there is a definite personality that translates through these projects," Yau said. "Creating a restaurant is a bit like making a film. If you watch a John Woo film long enough, you can tell it's a John Woo production because his character and trait come through."
Cha Cha Moon is Yau's answer to a modern Chinese noodle bar, and has been designed with extreme detail focused on both the menu and interior.
"I put a lot of emphasis on the social dynamics of the space, and I try to do that with various senses," Yau said.
He commissioned Tokyo based architect Kengo Kuma for the London Whiteleys branch, resulting in a design that utilizes long bamboo tables, Chinese limestone and a stainless steel, mirror and glass kitchen.
With his restaurants already spanning cuisines around the world, from Japanese Sake no hana to Italian deli Princi, Yau said his personal goal is to move into fast food, creating a concept similar in segment to McDonalds.
"I would like to come up with a concept at the fast food level, something that has universal appeal and is truly scaleable. To focus on this, and get the product onto the global route, is a platform to me that is very exciting."
Yau said his personal goal would be to expand his fast food idea via China over the next five to 10 years, piloting the concept in Shanghai or London.
"I cannot tell you what cuisine at the moment. It is extremely challenging new territory and a tough market to operate, and for that I am very excited."
Cha Cha Moon, Whiteleys opens to the public on Wednesday February 25
Telephone: 44 (0) 207 792 0088
Monday-Thursday 12pm- 23pm
Editing by Paul Casciato