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Restaurant group plans retail expansion

D&D London is launching an online retail extension to its restaurant business later this year, as well as a specialist wine shop in Bishopsgate in 2012.

The move will mark phase three of a major reorganisation of the group’s wine strategy this year, which has been designed to make its fine wines more accessible.

Anticipating an October launch for the online retail venture "in time for the Christmas sales", D&D chief executive Des Gunewardena emphasised: "It’s not about trying to hit the mass market. We’ll be working closely with our core suppliers to offer carefully selected wines to our customers."

However, purchasing director Paul Jenkins denied that the site would only be of interest for those in search of the most expensive wines from the group’s restaurant list. "We’re not specifically going to focus on fine wines", he insisted, "You’ll be able to pick up a really good quality case of reasonably priced wine."

Pointing to the fact that "our online bookings are growing hugely", Gunewardena observed: "If we’re looking to expand then online has to be the focus."

The online arm will be managed by one of D&D’s suppliers. For the moment, its identity remains unconfirmed, except for Jenkins’ hint that it will be "an established wine trade supplier based in London".

The Bishopsgate retail project will form part of a new addition to the D&D restaurant portfolio, located within a former East India Company warehouse, which is currently under development.

The group, whose London portfolio includes venues such as Orrery, Launceston Place and Le Coq D’Argent, is also planning to open an outdoor café in the Royal Exchange toward the end of this summer.

Although the Bishopsgate project is still at an early stage, Jenkins explained: "It’s not going to be a dry wine shop; we want to have a huge tasting table, wines by the glass and events there."

In addition to reducing its margin on wines above £50, on 9 May D&D will unveil a fuller programme, to include a wine club, staff training and an improved by-the-glass offer.

For more details about D&D’s plans, see the full interview in the May issue of the drinks business.

Gabriel Savage, 11.04.2011

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