Mark Garner and David Adamson talk to Sir Malcolm Walker and Tarsem Dhaliwal of the Individual Restaurant Group

The pair behind Piccolino say they are in the food and drink game for the long term after their rebranding of the Gino D’Acampo restaurants.

Iceland founder Sir Malcolm Walker and his long-time deputy Tarsem Dhaliwal have given a shot in the arm to the ailing Gino D’Acampo restaurant chain following their buyout of the brand, as well as investing heavily in the well-loved Piccolino brand.

While we do have a brand, each restaurant is relevant to the community that it serves.

After their purchase of the Individual Restaurants Group for a reported £40m in November 2020, Malcolm and Tarsem have now added the struggling Gino restaurants to their roster.

With five former Gino sites across the North now recast as Piccolo and Riva Blu, the duo say ‘you don’t need a celebrity’ to get diners through the door.

“We were left with Gino’s and that was in a bad state,” said Sir Malcolm. “We had a disagreement with the way the Gino brand was working and we tried to salvage that business.”

“And that’s where Piccolo and Riva Blu was born,” added Tarsem. “We’ve learned both with Iceland and here that you don’t need a celebrity. It’s what you do here that matters. Celebrities might get people through the door but it’s the service that’s the key.” 

2023 05 10 Piccolo Manchester
Piccolo in Manchester's Exchange Square Image: Individual Restaurants Group

The pair say they are very much looking to the future not only in terms of the newfound Piccolo and Riva Blu brands, but also with flagship restaurant and food and drink stalwart of the North West, Piccolino.

“We have an expression at Iceland that we’re ‘long-term greedy’,” explained Tarsem. “Everything we’re doing is for the next five or six years, not next week. Once we got into the restaurant business we took the same view.

2023 05 10 Piccolino Hale00001
Piccolino in Hale Image: Individual Restaurants Group

“The key for us is that while we do have a brand in the likes of Piccolino or Bar and Grill, each restaurant is relevant to the community that it serves. And the key to something like Club Individual is that 80 or 90% of our diners eat in the same restaurant, and that has to be managed accordingly.”

“In the first 18 months that we’ve been 100% involved in Individual Restaurants, all the money has gone to places where you wouldn’t see it,” said Sir Malcolm. “It’s all in the back because that’s got to be the foundation. The actual front of house isn't bad in most places, but there's no point refurbishing the restaurant and having a crap kitchen.

“The truth is, you have no idea how much effort we’re putting into the food. The reality is so many people can go into a grill and ask for a steak done medium and it comes out well done, and so we’re trying really hard, from training our staff and buying new equipment. If we can’t do steak we can’t do anything, and we’re going to get it right.”

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