Franco Manca will open in Canterbury today as Taco Bell, Flock, Tortilla and other restaurant chains try to get started

A slew of new restaurants are set to open in Canterbury over the coming weeks and months, including one launching today.

Pizzas, steaks and Mexican menus are among those that will expand the city’s offer.

Franco Manca is due to open today. Photo: Franco Manca (56548496)

Two of the new outlets are planned in former retail units, while another is offered in a former travel agency as part of a “greater turn to leisure” on the high street.

Franco Manca, a pizza chain specializing in sourdough, is welcoming customers today for the first time in the former Costa café.

The prominent unit at the junction with Guildhall Street has been undergoing refurbishment for the past few months.

After opening its first store in Brixton Market in 2008, Franco Manca has grown rapidly and now has 70 branches, the majority of which are in London.

Further down the main street, a new restaurant focused on serving steak dishes is about to be launched.

herd.  set to open on lower main street
herd. set to open on lower main street

herd. opens restaurant in former Gourmet Burger Kitchen unit next to Subway and across from The Friars Junction.

herd. is also applying for a license with the council as it strives to get the green light for live music performances and the sale of alcohol.

His new restaurant is expected to be open five days a week, with doors closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

It could rival Socialite’s meat-based menu, which is also set to open in the coming months.

The rooftop restaurant above the city’s Hampton by Hilton hotel on St Margaret’s Street will seat over 100 diners.

Socialite is due to open soon in Canterbury's St Margaret's Street
Socialite is due to open soon in Canterbury’s St Margaret’s Street
It will have a rooftop restaurant
It will have a rooftop restaurant

A bid to get saxophonists, violinists and DJs allowed on the site is currently on file with the council, and the site is expected to open later this month or in June.

Elsewhere in St Margaret’s Street, a few doors down from the future Socialite restaurant, will be another rival upmarket restaurant.

Cozy Club, which already has 31 branches across the country but none in Kent, prides itself on providing table service in grand interiors that ‘create a sense of occasion’.

He has his sights set on the former Closs & Hamblin store, which is vacant following the move of the fabric and homewares business to the Marlowe Arcade.

Last month, the company obtained a sidewalk license from the council to set up 10 dining tables on the street each day.

The Closs & Hamblin store in St Margaret's Street is to become a Cozy Club restaurant
The Closs & Hamblin store in St Margaret’s Street is to become a Cozy Club restaurant
Cozy Club restaurants are generally grand.  Picture: Club Cozy
Cozy Club restaurants are generally grand. Picture: Club Cozy

Heading up the main street, a New Orleans-style sandwich shop is about to open in the former West Cornwall Pasty Company store opposite Patisserie Valerie.

Canterbury Po’Boys Ltd want to operate from 8am to 7pm daily. A po’boy is a traditional Louisiana sandwich, usually made with meat and French bread.

An Instagram page has been created ahead of the impending launch and a license offer is filed with the city council.

Po'boys sandwich shop to open opposite Sainsbury's Local
Po’boys sandwich shop to open opposite Sainsbury’s Local

Further down St. Peter’s Street near Franco Manca is the empty unit of Sta Travel, which looks likely to be filled by Tortilla – the UK’s largest ‘fast and relaxed’ Mexican brand.

The company has a growing number of sites across the UK, including one in Bluewater.

Tortilla, which has dozens of branches across the UK, is set to come to Canterbury.  Photo: Keith Hepell
Tortilla, which has dozens of branches across the UK, is set to come to Canterbury. Photo: Keith Hepell
The Tortilla Mexican cuisine restaurant will soon settle in the main street
The Tortilla Mexican cuisine restaurant will soon settle in the main street

Leaders of Canterbury’s Business Improvement District (Bid) say the range of restaurant openings to come is positive for the city.

Chief Executive Lisa Carlson said: “We are excited to welcome new businesses to the city and expand our hospitality offering.

“Herd’s philosophy of creating delicious meals using local produce is a great reason to celebrate their arrival. They will join 10 new businesses that have opened in the city center this year.

“We wish them all much success.”

Lisa Carlson, Managing Director of the Canterbury Business Improvement District
Lisa Carlson, Managing Director of the Canterbury Business Improvement District

Fast food chain Taco Bell is also set to take over the former Jigsaw clothing store, turning the main street store into a restaurant and takeaway.

The incoming tenant, who is also bidding to open a drive-through restaurant near Sturry Road, is expected to employ 10 full-time staff and five part-time workers.

In documents submitted with plans to convert the site into a restaurant, property consultants Green & Partners point out how difficult it is now to find a commercial tenant in Canterbury.

Taco Bell is to open in the old Jigsaw store on Main Street (55349108)
Taco Bell is to open in the old Jigsaw store on Main Street (55349108)
A second Taco Bell is set to open in Canterbury
A second Taco Bell is set to open in Canterbury

However, interest in the hospitality sector is strong.

The planning documents state: ‘Many name brands that have high street demands are nervous about Canterbury itself due to its close links to tourism and the effect the pandemic has had on footfall in the region.

“The Main Street is no longer considered a prime retail location.”

Speaking to KentOnline’s sister newspaper, the Kentish Gazette, in March, City Council Leader Ben Fitter-Harding said the increased interest from restaurateurs was a welcome sign.

“I think this is very good news for Canterbury,” he said.

Franco Manca is due to open today, with a host of other restaurants planning to launch in the city soon.  Photo: Franco Manca
Franco Manca is due to open today, with a host of other restaurants planning to launch in the city soon. Photo: Franco Manca

“There is a place for retail. Whitefriars performs very well and there are very low vacuum levels.

“In other parts of the city there’s a greater shift towards recreation, but I certainly don’t see that as a bad thing. I think that’s a good thing.

“Having places to eat is really positive. People may want to travel to Canterbury to eat and then shop, which helps retail.

“After Covid, it’s a great position.”

About Jonathan J. Kramer

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