Island Grill eyes UK market

Business reporter

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

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Years after shuttering operations in the United States, founder and chief executive officer of Island Grill chain of fast food restaurants, Thalia Lyn, expresses her desire to expand the company's footprint into the United Kingdom.

Lyn, who attended the UK-Jamaica Trade Fair on the grounds of the British High Commission (BHC) on Saturday, told the Jamaica Observer that while there are not yet plans in place for Island Grill to enter the British market, it is an ambition that is getting closer to reality with help from the BHC and local companies with presence in the UK.

“We are thinking that Nandos, which is a South African chain, has chicken the same way that we have chicken on the grill. They use piri piri pepper; we use scotch bonnet, which is of far superior taste. Walkerswood is already in the UK and would provide us with our seasoning, so we have partners who will go with us,” she said.

“Even Tru Juice is already exporting the green juice in the UK which is our veggie boostah. For the festival, Jamaica Flour Mills makes our festival mix to our specification and Grace Kennedy has also approached us, so we have partners,” Lyn continued.

International casual dining restaurant chain Nandos operates about 1,000 outlets in some 30 countries. In the United Kingdom, Nandos operates a total 392 stores across the country.

Island Grill's launch into the United Kingdom would make the fast food chain's second venture outside of Jamaica, after closing three outlets in Lauderdale Lakes and Pembroke Pine, Florida, during 2002 and 2003 to focus on expansion in the Caribbean. In December 2007, Island Grill opened at the Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados. The company has since expanded to 18 fast food joints across Jamaica, the latest being Portmore, St Catherine and Mandeville, Manchester.

“The downturn in the economy caused us to retreat. It was really retreating to advance again and there will always be other advances. What we are thinking from a strategy point of view is that we might look towards the UK first before we look back to United States,” Lyn told the Business Observer.

“We just have to test the chicken in the UK to make sure that it can be seasoned with our jerk chicken in the same way and we are documenting our processes. Then we also have to have a team that we would be able to take with us, so that's what we are building on right now.

“We could also look for Jamaicans living in the Diaspora. But it has always been my vision and it has taken me a long time, but I do feel that the ambition is getting closer to reality, so hopefully we will get to the planning stage,” she said.

Island Grill's menu include jerk chicken and barbeque chicken satisfaction, jus nuff and supaah food meals, fricassee

and curry chicken yabba, veggie stew peas yabba, go lite chicken (500 calories), escoveitch fish, jerk burger, yaad style chicken, and fish sandwiches.




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