Inception Group: 'a good concept is more than just decorating the walls'

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Inception Group talk about new site Mr. Fogg's The Tavern

Related tags Victorian era London

It’s been a busy year so far for the Inception Group, the eight strong company founded by Charlie Gilkes. 

Having launched 40’s themed venue Cahoots, the group’s next offering will be a second Mr.Fogg’s, a Victorian tavern based on the adventures of fictional explorer Phileas Fog and the first concept to be replicated. Business development director Robin Kay puts the success of the first site down to a strong drinks offer and a well-executed concept.

“I think Mr. Fogg's has filled a gap in the London market - offering a quality curated cocktail list but with the addition of theatrical and storytelling elements. I also think the focus on contemporary details has enabled us to play with people's perceptions of what a 'concept' bar can offer. It is very easy to decorate the walls but to turn that attention to every detail from the uniforms, to the menus, to the posture of the staff to the turn of phrase they use has challenged people's expectations. Many bars offer one or the other - but the marriage has been the key to success.”


Storytelling is at the root of the group’s success, with the quirky ideas behind each Inception Group site gathering the kind of internet buzz money can’t buy. Cahoots (which is housed in a disused tube carriage) attracted 24, 314 views in three weeks and its own Buzzfeed article.


Fans of the first Mr. Fogg’s shouldn’t expect a carbon copy- the new site will be a spin off rather than a replica. The St Martins Lane site will be the groups first on a busy thoroughfare rather than off the beaten track, a departure Kay says ‘offers possibilities that felt right in this stage of our growth.’

“We were very keen not to copy of Mr. Fogg's residence. Basing the offer in Victorian times and around a fictional, yet well-known character has enabled us to recognisably be under the Mr Foggs banner but noticeably different. Making it a London tavern means we can use a different set of ingredients. Whereas the original Mr Foggs focussed on the ingredients gathered on the global travels of our protagonist, basing The Tavern in Victorian London means we can focus on those ingredients that would have been available from London markets of the time. We are also introducing a much larger food offer playing around with market ingredients and contemporary menus.”

One of the biggest themes to emerge from most recent MA300 event was the fierce competition for sites in London. Joel Czopor and Susie Clark, the duo behind the Grafton reported 18-months of fierce competition before they found their second site.

Kay agrees that finding ideal sites in the capital is becoming increasingly difficult.

“There is a massive demand on - and secrecy seems to be rampant. We are continually looking for new spaces but it is worth mentioning that there were over 50 bidders for this site.”

Inception Group have previously said their immediate focus is on rolling out their current brands. Pizza and karaoke bar Bunga Bunga is next on the list for Kay, who says 'we hope to continue opening two to three sits a year and we'd love to open a second Bunga Bunga next. 

Kay's top advice for multiple site operators: 

Make sure you employ the right team for each site - not based on your knowledge of the sites you already have. Be attuned to the specific needs of each site - one size does not fit all. Develop close relationships with agents. 

Related topics MA Leaders Club

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