The Tashas brand has moved further global expansion to London…

Envisioning, developing and growing new restaurant brands is Natasha Sideris’ passion. The 47-year-old entrepreneur has expanded from one Tashas restaurant in the Joburg suburb of Atholl to five brands across two geographies, and announced plans to grow the brand’s portfolio and global footprint.

Tasha now has 15 restaurants in South Africa and nine in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Under its umbrella, it houses four other signature restaurants – Flamingo Room by Tashas, ​​Avli by Tashas (a Greek restaurant featured in the opening of the Michelin Guide to the UAE), Le Parc by Tashas and Galaxy Bar – which is listed as one of the 50 best bars in the world. the scientist.

The company also recently entered into joint venture agreements to expand the footprint of Collective Africa – a retail group sponsored by Charles Gregg; and 1701, makers of luxury sweets. Both concepts started in South Africa and are growing in the Middle East.

The group will add new locations in South Africa, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and London.

Tashas Restaurant, Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Denfor de Wee)

The past 17 years have indeed been a long journey.

In 2008, Sideris sold 51% of Tashas to JSE-listed Famous Brands, which provided the support needed to grow the brand and its franchise, but their vision diverged, and in 2019 it repurchased its stake after two years of friendly, but difficult, negotiations.

Sideris then moved to Dubai to develop its vision of building a multi-concept restaurant chain, and recently appointed a Director of Operations — a decision the self-confessed partial manager says is needed to ensure the group does not falter as it expands.

“I am an entrepreneur… I love conceptualising. I love designing menus and interiors, meeting clients and suppliers. I am not a practical person.

“I don’t like HR, supervisor, procurement, operations… I don’t have that skill set.” But she acknowledges that work needs this.

“I don’t want our wheels to come off as we scale.”

The expansion will see Tashas – which will continue to expand in South Africa and the UAE – to open its first restaurant in the UK this year. Sideris is being cautious about this market, which she says faces difficult barriers to entry, and will evaluate it before rushing to open more.

The Flamingo Room, which has been in Dubai since 2017, will expand to Saudi Arabia later this year and Abu Dhabi in early 2023.

“This is the ultimate expression of my South African roots and the epitome of old school dining with a bit of sophistication.”

In typical Sideris style, location is very important and in Saudi Arabia the restaurant will be in Riyadh near Diriyah, A world heritage site and 18th century mud city that was once the capital and stronghold of the first Saudi state, it will overlook the Wadi Hanifa stream.

In Abu Dhabi, the restaurant will be located inside The Galleria, a luxury commercial and retail center on Al Maryah Island.

Saudi Arabia in particular is witnessing major cultural and social changes as the Saudi King and Crown Prince are working to put the country on the world tourism map.

“People are embracing change – women are driving and they are no longer required to wear a headscarf in public…Women and men can sit together in restaurants and expats mingle with the locals,” says Sideris.

Natasha Sideris. (photo: attached)

Saudis are highly travellers, very artistic and have an increased ability to express themselves. As a result, every major restaurant brand in the world is here, and the market is competitive.” But she adds, it is not as competitive as Dubai.

Alongside the Flamingo Room, Sideris will launch the African Lounge – a new concept with décor inspired by the wilds of Africa, and a luxury retail offering called Collective Africa.

It also plans to open new concepts in Dubai this year.

The first, Bungalo34, will be located on one of the popular surfing beaches, a restaurant where “70s charm meets beach chic,” she says.

Another is Le Park, a food and retail store designed in Dubai but launched in Hyde Park Mall in Johannesburg in 2021.

Finally, there is Nala, a luxury express service concept that opened in Alserkal, Dubai in early 2023. The group intends to spread the concept to major urban markets internationally. This will cater to a luxury fast food market and serve fresh meals featuring dishes inspired by African and Middle Eastern cultures.

In total, Sideris sees the group operating between 50-70 restaurants over the next five to 10 years — more than double the current number.

Sideris has business partners in the UAE and UK that provide the additional financing needed for expansion. This means that the list is not on the cards at the moment.

“Right now, I’m nowhere near leaving my job. I have just regained my freedom… We have reached the point where we are able to make big strides in our expansion plans and I don’t want to start reporting to the board of directors and adhering to strict corporate governance rules.

“But who knows – ask me again in five years.” DM

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