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Carluccio’s is Trialling ‘Formal’ Dining and an ‘Experimental’ Menu in London

The casual Italian chain is embracing vegan options, among other things

Carluccio’s Italian restaurant chain will change up its menu to stay afloat after the collapse of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group Carluccio’s/Facebook

After shutting close to a third of its restaurants last year, mid-market Italian chain Carluccio’s is revamping its offering in south west London as part of a £10 million refurbishment programme.

As reported by Big Hospitality, the group will be using its Richmond site as a test-bed for concepts including a more formal service style in the evenings, new cutlery, crockery and glassware, and a fresh focus on vegan dishes and ingredient provenance. According to chief executive Mark Jones:

We’re 20 years old this year, we pre-date most of our competitors. The market has radically changed, and people [now] require a difference customer experience on a Saturday night to a Monday breakfast.

It’s been a difficult few years for Carluccio’s, which closed 35 sites as part of a Company Voluntary Agreement in 2018 after suffering an 81 percent fall in pre-tax profits in the year up to 25 September 2016. “We will try everything and roll out things that resonate best with the customers,” Jones continued. “My expectation is that some things will work and some won’t. Everything is evolutionary, I’m just expecting [the restaurants] to evolve a bit faster than we have in the past.”

Carluccio’s is aiming to perfect its new formula in Richmond by June, before rolling it out across the UK over the next two years — the company plans to spend up to £400,000 per site. In the same interview Jones revealed he won’t be opening any new restaurants in 2019, and expressed anxieties about the long-term effects of Brexit on Carluccio’s structure — 1,550 of its 2,300 staff are from non-UK E.U. countries.

“Seventy-five per cent of the roles we hire for we promote from within, so we need a within,” he said. Before the £65 proposed fee EU nationals were set to be charged for “settled status” was dropped, Carluccio’s was one of the first hospitality groups to announce it would cover it.

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