Itsu, the new street food master-franchise from Groupe Bertrand


Philippe Claude, Managing Director of Itsu France.

by Valentine Puaux

Groupe Bertrand continues its momentum by implementing a new restaurant concept from England. The Asian-inspired offering, called Itsu, was created by Julian Metcalfe, founder of Prêt à Manger. Explanation at the brand’s first French restaurant in Paris (7th) with Philippe Claude, general manager of Itsu France.

After conquering the Anglo-Saxons with more than 70 outlets in the UK (the first establishment opened in Chelsea, London in 1997), the Itsu concept set out to conquer the French market under the encouragement of Groupe Bertrand. The French restaurant giant just inaugurated its first master-franchise establishment in the 7th arrondissement of Paris (Pont de l’Alma). The aim was for its managing director, Philippe Claude, to revive Groupe Bertrand. A strategy consisting of strengthening existing brand portfolios and investing in street food concepts, especially Asian ones. “Developing this new concept is part of a street food oriented strategy. What Olivier Bertrand wants to reinforce. As you know, we are currently in exclusive negotiations to acquire Pitaya. But we also have other ideas to develop street food. Specifically by creating our own brand around chicken. With us, it’s not just a one-time development but a real onboarding! We needed to diversify the group’s offerings but also anchor ourselves to these new consumer trends.”, explained Philippe Claude.

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As a result, the manager intends to maintain it 90% of British brand DNA, while adapting its menu to the tastes and expectations of the French market. The aim is also to maintain its very colorful graphic charter, part of which was done with a British team with backing from the Parisian interior design firm Initial-B. We are here at a restaurant that is articulated around contemporary furniture made of wood and pink. “In this flagship about 180 m2, [un ancien Bert’s* que le groupe exploitait], we target tourist and office customers. We will offer about fifty hot and cold dishes. Such as sushi, maki, gyozas, but also rice-pots and stock while highlighting the dessert offer with mochi or even fruit salad”, explained Philippe Claude. And he added:

“We will be pricing more aggressively than the market with an average ticket of around 14 euros and a menu of around 11.80 euros.

Remove some irritants

The menu was prepared on site, the same morning, in an open kitchen with air supply (but no extraction duct). In order to avoid certain irritations specific to catering, the brand also offers its customers the possibility of ordering via terminals to facilitate traffic on site. Since its opening, this restaurant has welcomed more than “300 checkouts per day, no advertising, no marketing operations, or communication campaigns with influencers for launch”, according to his representative, Philippe Claude. “One of Itsu’s strengths is that it can serve you within 1 minute 30 to 2 minutes. It’s faster than fast food! Meanwhile, it has a capacity of 48 seats inside and about twenty seats outside”, added the Itsu France manager. Another strength of the concept has to do with potential future franchisees looking to join? Build a British model that also offers grocery section.

The next Itsu d’Opéra will also have a wholesale department to develop additional sales“, convincing Philippe-Claude.

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Franchise concept in 2024

At the moment branch tested, a model still in its infancy in France, should soon be implemented in the capital in order to capture several types of customers. “Two more companies will open branches in 2023. In the Opera district (9th) for customer flow but also in Les Halles (4th) to target a younger clientele. Then, once we judge that the concept is working for our future partners, we will start developing it as a franchise. No doubt during 2023, for the first opening in 2024. It’s not a matter of rush at all”, notes Philippe Claude. And the last one continued: “Because street food works with flow and demand, we can arrange it in all kinds of areas that offer high flow at lunch time. Not to mention that tomorrow we can also deliver products via drive”, added the latter, which is now targeting cities such as Lille, Lyons and Marseilles to make the take-off sign. i.e. areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants. And why not open a second time abroad according to the odds.

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Additionally, aspiring franchisees looking to apply in 2023 will be able to quickly make their business profitable.

We expect from a company like Alma-Marceau a turnover of 1.8 million euros and up to 3 million euros for the Opera site in the future“, notes Philippe-Claude.

The leader even plans to welcome up to 500 people per day on average at his company. “But you need to surround yourself with a team of 15 people at each restaurant which is important for product manufacturing and verification. Mainly because you need perfect cleanliness to work with fish”, underlined the latter. See you in 6 months to find out more about how to access the network (including knowledge training).

*French fast food chain, offering sandwiches and pastries

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