London restaurateur aiming for the "moon" in China

Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:23am EST
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By Farah Master

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."