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City outlet for Latin American restaurant firm

A LATIN American-themed restaurant group will open its first Glasgow outlet next month, doubling it presence in Scotland after a successful launch in Aberdeen's Union Square.

Bristol-based Las Iguanas, which has 33 outlets across the UK, brought a long search for premises in the city to an end by signing a 25-year lease on a property on West Nile Street.

The restaurant, which is expected to employ 50 full and part-time staff, is located across from a branch of Carluccio's, the chain founded by Italian celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio.

The Las Iguanas' site, which is currently being refurbished, will be spread across two retail units formerly occupied by Aspecto and The Sony Centre, with the restaurant offering 180 covers over 5500 square feet.

The landlord, a client of Aberdeen Asset Management, recently renovated the building.

Katrina McGrath, marketing co-ordinator at Las Iguanas, said: "Because it is such a brilliant city, we knew we had to get the right venue. We had been looking for an awful long time.

"When I started here six years ago we were considering some venues, but I think this is the right one for us and it has been worth the wait. We are very happy with the location."

Ms McGrath described the Las Iguanas model as casual dining with freshly-prepared food. She said the presence of Carluccio's, itself part of a chain spanning 77 UK outlets, had been a factor in its decision to move to the area, with the restaurant's proximity to the shops on Buchanan Street a further attraction.

Ms McGrath said: "We like to be around restaurants we consider to be on the same level. You want healthy competition. And the fact we are so different means that people are not going to be coming for the same evening out. If you go to many of our other competitors we have a totally different offering.

"There are a plethora of restaurants in Glasgow, hopefully we are going to add something different to the mix."

The move by Las Iguanas, which was founded by managing director Eren Ali in 1991, to Glasgow was hailed by Cushman & Wakefield as indicative of the strength of the city's restaurant market.

John Menzies, the property firm's partner for retail services, who acted for a client of Aberdeen Asset Management in the deal, said the casual dining model had emerged from the downturn as the strongest part of the restaurant sector. He noted that the "value-driven" pricing strategy, with meals priced £10 to £20 per head, was allowing it to perform more strongly than fine dining restaurants.

Mr Menzies said: "The casual dining market is good throughout the UK just now, and it is particularly good in the key UK cities, so Glasgow is obviously playing on that platform.

"I think what we are seeing is that people are eating out more than they used to. Compared to 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, people are busier, they are leading busy lives and there does seem to be a growth in their interest to go and eat in restaurants. That is partly driving the demand.

"What we are seeing is a number of largely London-based restaurant brands expand throughout the UK, and Glasgow is very much on their radar. Las Iguanas is one of the more acquisitive brands that is expanding its portfolio significantly."

Mr Menzies said he expected the casual trend to continue, particularly among private equity-owned brands, and suggested the market was likely to see the arrival of further brands. These include Brasserie Blanc, a format devised by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc; Bill's; Miller & Carter, a steakhouse brand from pub group Mitchells & Butlers; and Coast to Coast, joining a market of players such as Prezzo, Frankie & Benny's, Pizza Express and Zizzi.

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