A successful independent North East restaurant group has revealed plans to more than double the number of restaurants it runs across the UK and create more than 200 jobs by the end of next year.
The Fat Hippo Group is aiming to open up to nine new burger restaurants over the next 18 months, with the first of these set to open in Cardiff city centre at the end of May.
The Newcastle-headquartered group’s next restaurant will then follow in Birmingham a few weeks later, with its first restaurant in Scotland, which will be in Glasgow city centre, opening soon after that.
Around 70 new jobs will be created across the three new venues, taking the total number of people employed across the group past the 300 mark, and up to a further 150 new jobs are then expected to follow by the end of next year.
As part of its development plans, Fat Hippo Group has now finalised a new six-figure finance facility with NatWest to complement the investments it is making in its new venues from its own resources.
The management team is also working with Paul Gainford and Julie Cuthbertson of Gosforth-based RMT Accountants and Business Advisors on all aspects of the development of its growth strategy, as well as the wider management of its expanding operations.
Fat Hippo was founded in 2010 by managing director Mike Phillips, who opened the company’s first restaurant in Jesmond after writing his original business plan while still a student at Northumbria University.
Since then, the firm has opened further Fat Hippo restaurants in Newcastle, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham city centres.
It also has four concessions, including kiosks within premium bowling venue Lane 7’s Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh premises, and operates a street food fleet that travels across the UK.
Fat Hippo offers a range of signature beef and chicken burgers, with vegan options now making up a significant proportion of its offering and more plant-based options set to follow in the near future.
Mike Phillips says: “We’ve navigated our way successfully through the pandemic thanks to take out sales, click & collect orders and a solid relationship with Deliveroo, and we’re now ready to take Fat Hippo’s presence around the UK to the next level.
“We’re being very selective in terms of the cities we’re considering for our new restaurants and are only looking at vibrant, dynamic locations that fit with our brand aspirations, the quality of our products and the great service that our teams provide.
“Once the three restaurants that we’re planning to open this summer are up and running, we’ll be looking to open our doors in a new location every couple of months and expect to have more than doubled our current number of restaurants by the end of next year, with around 25 new jobs being created at each venue.
“Our new arrangements with NatWest will add a degree of flexibility to the investments that we’re making with our existing capital in these plans and we’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for us.
“The RMT team has been a long-term part of our growth story and their advice and guidance remains central to the way in which we’re taking the business forward.”
Mike Cross, Relationship Director at NatWest, adds: “It’s an exciting time for the Fat Hippo Group as they expand into new markets and open new venues across the country.
“We have a great relationship with Mike and the management team who have a clear vision around how they want to grow the business, and we look forward to working with them as they move forward with these plans.”
Paul Gainford, director of commercial services at RMT Accountants, says: “Fat Hippo is a real North East success story that’s becoming firmly established as a national brand. Being part of the business’s evolution over many years has been a great experience for us and everything is now in place for it to achieve a great deal more in the future.”