Yann de Rochefort, owner of the Barcelona-inspired tapas concept Boqueria, said the time is right for Spanish cuisine in America.
This week, Boqueria announced a minority investment by longtime restaurant industry veteran Paul Fleming, who has created and helped grow such brands as P.F. Chang’s China Bistro — he’s the “P.F.” — Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and, more recently, Paul Martin’s American Grill and Tacos & Tequila Cantina.
Fleming has joined Boqueria’s board, along with Rick Federico, former CEO of P.F. Chang’s. The two will help Boqueria with the next stage of fundraising to fuel the casual-dining concept’s growth.
“What I’m happiest about, in terms of their involvement, isn’t necessarily the investment. It’s their advice, counsel and offering to be a sounding board for me,” said de Rochefort.
First launched in New York in 2006, Boqueria has four locations there and two in Washington, D.C. A seventh unit is scheduled to open in Chicago before the end of the year.
De Rochefort said the goal is to open two to three company-owned units each year going forward, and the company is looking across the country at cities including Boston, Nashville and Miami. There are no plans to franchise.
Boqueria restaurants are typically around 5,000-square feet with an average check of $45 per person. The menu, created by executive chef Marc Vidal, is designed to evoke the “kioskos” around the food market El Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona, with dishes like pulpo de la plancha (grilled octopus with fennel, smoked pimientón and Picual olive oil-mashed potatoes); and paella de mariscos with bomba rice, monkfish, sepia, squid, shrimp, clams and mussels, flavored with saffron and salsa verde.
The upscale restaurants are high design — Boqueria this year was a finalist for a James Beard Award for restaurant design in the category of 76 seats or more.
De Rochefort sees a wide-open space ahead for Spanish cuisine. Only José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup and the Barteca Restaurant Group, parent to the Barcelona Wine Bar and Bartaco chains, have successfully attempted to create Spanish concepts with national potential, de Rochefort noted.
“We see tremendous interest from landlords,” he said. “Spanish food is really accessible. You’re not asking people to become familiar with strange ingredients or flavors. It’s distinctive, but it’s not all that challenging. It’s in a sweet spot where it’s different enough, but has that broader appeal so that, with a table of eight, everyone will find something to eat.”
Fleming, in a statement, said, “Boqueria has a fantastic opportunity to grow and [bring] this this wonderful food and culture to more people. Quality food, execution, vision and value spell success — and that’s Boqueria.”
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout