restaurants: high street newbies get a slice of the action

People pile on the pounds in a recession, a fact supported by a wave of new restaurants opening up across the UK.

Established chains like Pizza Express, Mr Pretzels, Hummingbird Bakery and Starbucks are doing well, but there’s no doubt that restaurants still need to find exactly the right interior design recipe in order to succeed. More than ever diners are looking for added benefit, both in the food they eat and in the restaurant environment itself and it’s only those that can tap into the zeitgeist when it comes to their look that will survive the choppy waters of an uncertain economy. Two of the most interesting eateries that we have come across recently are MASH and Moment.

MASH, or the Modern American Steak House, may just be one of those right time right place offerings. The hugely successful Copenhagen Concepts, plumped for Soho as its first foray outside of Denmark and looks like its got a hit on its hands. However, restauranteur Peter Trauboth comments that the brand is going to take it’s time considering whether to stick or twist when it comes to a UK roll out, “it’s one thing to play like a world champion at home but it’s another to go to Wembley,” he says modestly. However, at the moment with rave reviews, things are looking good and the 300 seat restaurant that brings style to steak, is a far cry from your local Angus. But, having said that, a big hit calls for broad appeal, and MASH’s interior design has set out to appeal to women, an American inspired trend that is happening throughout the steak world at the moment.

Can we support the growing numbers of steak restaurants? It would appear that MASH is not life threatening to London’s other high end steakeries although its kind could just sound the death knell for the few remaining Angus Steak Houses. Also, on the wave of a new look is Greggs which has launched ‘Moment’, a Newcastle coffee bar concept that leaves the doughnut and the almond slice far behind. More restaurant than corner cafe it sports chesterfield sofas, discreet lighting, and elegant
coffee tables. It deserves to catch on, but I cannot think why they have retained the Greggs identity on the fascia.

All of this is a far cry from the bakery I knew and loved as a 6th former and, as I pause through my first bite of a perfectly frosted cupcake, I wonder if I’ve fallen into a  parallel universe. It’s only the picture of Greggs fascia board, uploaded by a puzzled Geordie onto the brand’s Facebook page and succinctly captioned: “Explain?”, that brings me crashing back to earth. With its low cost food and high comfort surroundings, Moment is right for an age of austerity where people are looking for alternatives to expensive high street coffee shops. But does it have the magic that’s needed to hack it on the high street? Some soul searching is obviously going on as Tony Rowson, formerly a senior executive at Costa Coffee, has been asked to look at the brand’s potential for a UK roll-out. So, we shall see.

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