Oriental Restaurant signs up Ken Hom

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Oriental Restaurant Group, the Far Eastern restaurant chain which floated on AIM last year, has hired Chinese chef and TV presenter, Ken Hom, to create a national chain of restaurants and take the group into continental Europe.

Oriental has signed an exclusive contract with Mr Hom to use his name and specially designed dishes in their restaurants.

In return Mr Hom, known to millions of television viewers as "Mr Wok", will receive an undisclosed consultancy fee and share options related to the success of the new chain. A flagship restaurant will be opened in the West End of London. Another London outlet is also planned next year, after which Oriental will look to open restaurants further afield.

"This is perfect timing for us. Mr Hom is filming a new BBC series which should appear on prime-time TV in the autumn. After London we will probably go to provincial cities like Birmingham and Manchester. Europe is also likely. We can see us opening up two or three restaurants in each of the major cities we choose," said Hock Ann Chua, managing director and founder of Oriental.

Mr Hom's new menu will include "Asian fusion" food, in other words he will take a Western dish such as a steak and add oriental sources and spices. "It will be East meets West," said Mr Chua.

The new two-floor restaurant will brew its own beer and lager and have a cheaper brassiere on the ground floor. Oriental already brews its own beer, Siam, and is in talks with a larger Far Eastern brewer to distribute other beers.

Oriental also plans to tie up a deal with "one of the worlds large international hotel groups" within the next few months to open a series of hotel restaurants around the world.

Oriental has four Chinese and Thai restaurants in London which typically cater for the business market and trade under names such as Sri Siam and Sri Thai. It is due to open its fifth London restaurant next month near Liverpool Street in the capital's financial district. The new eatery, its first Indian restaurant, has been built on the site of an old Turkish Bath.

"It is a listed building which is more than a 100 years old. We will even keep some of the old tiles. We will sell lighter Indian meals so people stay for three courses instead of having a vindaloo and feeling bloated and not fit for work in the afternoon," said Mr Chua.

Mr Chua's comments came as Oriental announced pre-tax profits of pounds 1.4m (pounds 640,000) for the year to March. Shares rose 3p to 297.5p.

Mr Chua founded Oriental in 1988. He met Mr Hom through his sister, who is a friend of the Chinese chef's financial adviser.

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