Former City trader plots expansion for specialty duck restaurant

A former City trader who quit his job to start a duck restaurant is plotting expansion both in the UK and abroad as the eatery moves to its first permanent site.

Richard Humphreys, who spent 10 years in metal trading and mining, has outlined plans for growth after opening the doors of Monsieur le Duck in London’s Clerkenwell district in May.

The restaurant – which comes fresh off a successful six-month stint as a pop-up in Spitalfields – focuses on traditional Gascony-style duck dishes, as well as modern twists such as a duck meat burger.

Speaking to PA, Mr Humphreys said the business was on the hunt for at least one more site in London, and could subsequently look to Berlin, Copenhagen and even the Far East for further growth.

“We have a really strong East Asian customer base,” he said. “It’s normal for them, they see duck on the menu and they’re not scared whereas in the UK we’re not as used to it.”

The concept could even hop back across the channel, with the entrepreneur plotting to bring it to the tables of Paris.

“I would like to bring it round to Paris at some point which I know sounds very cheeky,” he said. “But this type of duck which is common in South West France is not as common in Paris.

“French people in London tell me ‘I can’t get food this good outside of Toulouse’. The people in Paris are missing out on this type of food.”

Mr Humphreys outside the restaurant in Clerkenwell (Monsieur le Duck)

Mr Humphreys, who said he “packed the freezers” with 12 days’ worth of duck ahead of the original March Brexit deadline, added that he is not worried about leaving the European Union despite the restaurant’s reliance on shipments of the meat from France.

He said: “At the end of October – if we’re looking at a no deal – all I can do is stock up my freezers and hope that in a few weeks something is sorted out. Realistically, I think if that were to happen and things really do go wrong, it’s a matter of weeks before it gets sorted.”

However, he expressed concerns over the conditions for restaurant operators amid rising costs.

“The one thing the government can do is work with business rates,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re waiting for. It’s really worrying.”

His comments come as even large restaurant chains continue to struggle, with the collapse of Jamie Oliver’s business last month just the latest in a series of blows to the industry.

Although Monsieur le Duck is eyeing expansion, Mr Humphreys said he will avoid the curse of over-expansion which has caused problems for several chains recently.

“I know a lot of restaurant groups expand very quickly if you throw a lot of money at it,” he said. “But we want to stay true to the concept.”

One potential driver of growth is changing consumer awareness of the environmental impact of red meat.

According to Mr Humphreys, meat lovers need not abandon the food entirely, but should try swapping beef for duck, which has a lower carbon footprint.

“At the end of the day people like red meat,” he said. “I am a big believer in having less meat but better quality.

“If you want to save some trees, eat duck instead of beef.”

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