The Inspiration Behind Tapas Revolution

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Omar Allibhoy is a Spanish celebrity chef. Trained by Ferran Adria from the legendary El Bulli, he came to the UK in 2008.  His first stop was to put El Pirata de Tapas on the culinary map where he was noticed by Gordon Ramsey who refers to Omar as ‘the Antonio Banderas of cooking’.

Omar Allibhoy smiling in checked shirt

Omar’s mission is to put Spanish food back on the map and in 2010 he decided to do a tour of the UK, cooking authentic Spanish food and winning a huge fan base in the process, which led to the opening of his restaurant business, Tapas Revolution.  Not content with owning and running his own restaurant brand, Omar also won the 2012 ‘Young Star of the Future’ award.

Tapas Revolution, which aims to bring a taste of the casual, convivial style of ‘Spanish all day bar’ to London, has a few restaurants; including one in West London’s Westfield shopping Centre and another in Bluewater in Kent. Omar has also been steadily appearing on our TV screens in recent years, most recently on This Morning, Saturday Cookbook and Drop Down Menu. His first book, Tapas Revolution, was published in 2013.

Who/what inspired you to set up Tapas Revolution?

I have been a man on a mission to bring real Spanish food to Britain. I wanted British people to have the chance to experience simple and authentic Spanish cuisine and the best of Spanish culture, and to do this I could have opened a fine restaurant in which I spent 16 hours in the kitchen as a head chef, or open the type of traditional tapas restaurant that you find all over Spain. And I chose the latter.

What is your unique selling point? What makes your brand stand out in such a competitive market?

Quality, price and entertainment…

Our customers aren’t just paying for good food; they also expect to be entertained.  We have an open kitchen, an open bar and energetic staff so customers can watch food being prepared in a lively and exciting environment, which is the very essence of an authentic Spanish tapas bar.

How do the shopping centre locations influence your business?

If you choose a neighbourhood restaurant, only locals will come and I am on a mission to cook simple Spanish food for as many people as possible in an authentic and convivial environment.  Westfield Shopping Centre is a great location for our business because it has a 28 million footfall.

How do you react to the changing marketplace?

Trends come and go but in my opinion Spanish food is not a trend, tapas is a tradition which has been going for centuries!

Our brand ethos is all about cooking good Spanish food at good prices, and I believe that if we get these things right then we will continue to have a successful business model that will grow and expand.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing foodservice businesses like yourselves today?

Our biggest challenge has to be balancing offer and demand. There is a big risk in the hospitality industry of market saturation. For example, Bluewater is looking to expand to include five more restaurants, they already have 50.  If the footfall doesn’t increase someone is going to suffer.  We are very confident of our business and we have ambitious growth plans but you do worry that there is always a risk of over saturation.

What is the biggest business mistake you’ve made and what key learning did you take from it to make your business better?

At the end of 2007 I took out a large loan for a catering business and within nine months, when the recession hit, I went out of business.  With a catering company you don’t have a physical space for people to visit and you’re unable to reach people and show them what you do.  Unfortunately, catering companies are often the first to go when times are tough.  Now I’m in the restaurant business...I learned a lot from that experience.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to other chefs/entrepreneurs looking to succeed in the industry?

Get yourself good business partners. Nothing in life is a one man operation.  In business you don’t have to be the best at everything. You need people around you who are better than you.