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Wed 27th Mar 2019 - Exclusive – former Jamie’s Italian chief executive Simon Blagden to launch chicken concept
Exclusive – former Jamie’s Italian chief executive Simon Blagden to launch chicken concept: Simon Blagden, who was one of the driving forces behind the launch and success of Jamie’s Italian, has reunited with Jules Hunt, former executive chef of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, to launch chicken-led restaurant concept Backyard Chicken, Propel has learned. The concept, which is set to launch at the end of next month at the former CAU site in Bristol, is backed by hospitality entrepreneur Jeremy Mogford, who founded the Browns brasserie and bar chain. It is thought Blagden, who stepped down from Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group in October 2017, has been working on Backyard Chicken for more than a year and hopes to open more sites under the concept if the initial restaurant proves a success. Backyard Chicken will focus on technology with customers able to order via tablets on each table, allowing the business to streamline staff numbers. The debut restaurant will also feature a takeaway section with ordering kiosks. The menu will offer two types of chicken – grilled or fried – with a third of the menu set to be vegan. Drinks will include wine and cocktails on draught. Average spend per head will be about £15. Blagden, who joined Jamie’s Italian in 2008 as its managing director from PizzaExpress, spearheaded the growth and development of the Jamie’s Italian brand in the UK and internationally, growing it into a business that at one time was valued at circa £200m. The former Mitchells & Butlers executive went on to become chief executive of the high-profile chef’s restaurant group, which included the Barbecoa concept and short-lived flatbread and pizza concept Union Jacks. Blagden told Propel: “I have wanted to develop a chicken concept for a number of years because it is a highly visible and saleable product. Backyard Chicken will take cues from the fast-casual segment – for example the ability to order quickly – but will be aimed at the casual dining part of the market. We want to put ordering in the hands of the consumer, allow them to take control and customise their meal and experience from their table. At a time when staff costs are causing increasing pressure it allows us to cut back on staff numbers while allowing our hosts to focus purely on ensuring customers have a great time. Obviously I hope the debut site is a success and we can look to do more because I think there’s still an opportunity for new casual dining chains to develop – but let’s see how this one goes first.”

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