Founded in Scotland, but now expanding right across the UK, Maki and Ramen is a real hospitality success story

It’s a familiar story. A restaurant chain finds success down south, then eventually expands into Scotland. But for one popular Japanese restaurant group, founded and based in Edinburgh, that story has been flipped on its head.

Having made Scotland the ideal home for his brand of authentic, fun, Japanese food, Teddy Lee is now set to bring his Maki and Ramen venture right across the UK. Known for their signature cherry blossom installations in their restaurants, Maki and Ramen aims to offer diners an elegant Japanese dining experience at an accessible price point. Having opened his first branch in Edinburgh in 2015, Teddy has since brought Maki and Ramen to Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester, with new openings planned for Aberdeen, Birmingham and Sheffield.

“Growing up, food was a massive part of my life,” Teddy explains. “My family owned a restaurant so I was often in that environment, working and sleeping there at times when my mother was working late.”

Going into the food industry was a bit of an inevitability, but the young Teddy worked in various types of restaurants, across various cuisines, in order to hone his skills. He travelled to Japan to study at the prestigious Tokyo Sushi Academy, where he spent two years immersing himself in their national cuisine.

“I fell in love with Tonkotsu Ramen (a traditional delicacy made with pork bone broth). It was so amazing and memorable, but when I came back to Edinburgh I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I decided I would open my own restaurant, to offer it to diners, and Maki and Ramen was born.”

The first branch was opened in 2015 on Nicholson Street, close to the University of Edinburgh.

“We saw a massive gap in the market for Japanese restaurants in student areas around Edinburgh,” Teddy explains, “and decided to really hone in on this.” A second branch soon followed across the street from the first, with Maki and Ramen eventually expanding to four locations across Edinburgh and two in Glasgow.

(Image: Maki and Ramen)

“We are expanding at a massive rate,” stresses Michael Salvador, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, “and we attribute this to the buzz we create in the new areas where we open. Our food does the talking for us, with a speciality in ramen and sushi, but we are also a one stop shop for all things Japanese. We include unique elements that you don’t see in other restaurants, such as our sakura skies, traditional Japanese taiko drums and flower walls.”

It’s clear upon entering one of their restaurants that Maki and Ramen have hit upon a winning formula. Whether you visit on a Friday night or a Tuesday lunchtime, you’ll find a hubbub of atmosphere and a refreshingly varied age range of clientele. Although they offer traditional dishes like Miso Broth and Hosomaki Sushi (as well as Teddy’s favourite Tonkotsu Ramen), there’s also dishes like Katsu Curry and Prawn Tempura to provide an entry level to Japanese cuisine.

(Image: Maki and Ramen)

Cocktails are another key highlight, with inventive, ‘Instagramable’ creations that bubble and smoke when they arrive at the table. Maki and Ramen have also recently joined forces with Kirkstall Brewery to create their very own Makibiru lager, which Teddy and Michael describe as a “fantastic” milestone for the business.

They certainly have no shortage of ambition for Maki and Ramen. They want to see the brand “in every major city in the UK”, with a franchise offering currently in place in a bid to aid their expansion plans.

“We are keen to cement ourselves within these cities and create meaningful, lasting relationships with our customers. We want to harbour a great environment through our food and our team morale.”

Longer term, Teddy hopes to take Maki and Ramen into Europe – thus proving that Scotland might just be the perfect place to establish an international food brand.

This article was brought to you in partnership with Maki and Ramen