The new casual dining brand, which was originally mooted as ThaiPad, will serve a menu of Bangkok-style street food designed by chef and Thai Leisure Group joint-owner, Kim Kaewkraikhot.
The first Thaikhun site will open on The Avenue, Spinningfields in Manchester in the first week of June, with a second site planned for Union Square in Aberdeen in July.
“My passion is to bring authentic Thai dishes from the streets of Bangkok to the streets of the UK,” said Kaewkraikhot.
“Pronounced ‘tycoon’ the name celebrates the street food sellers who are real foodie entrepreneurs. I am really looking forward to sharing more signature dishes transported all the way from my cooking roots in Thailand.”
The 120-150 cover restaurants will feature rustic interiors, with open kitchens, wooden floors, food carts and lanterns.
Dishes on offer will include sharing platters of grilled and fried meats and vegetables, soups, light noodle dishes and traditional curries served in taster sharing bowls.
The drinks menu will focus on beer and cocktails, with Thai twists on classic serves such as mojitos made with coconut cream and coriander.
Thai Leisure Group commercial director Jason Almeida told BigHospitality that Thaikhun will be quite a different offering to the group’s Chaophraya restaurants, which offer luxury Thai dining in prime locations.
“Thaikhun has been designed for the high street, shopping centres and other high footfall areas where people are not necessarily looking for a full meal, but might want to come in and have a snack with a beer or a glass of wine,” he explained.
He added that the Thai street food concept was relatively unexplored in the UK so far, with most Thai restaurants in the UK serving regional Thai dishes such as curries and noodle stir fries.
“The food on the streets of Bangkok is more about soups and grilled foods. We thought that would be much lighter and less heavy, so more suitable for an all-day offer,” he said.
“It also has to do with the price point, we want to hit a low price point and get into shopping centres and high streets. I don’t think you can take Thai food into those environments if you only serve regional dishes, because people want a nibble, they want something light.”
Almeida said the group only planned to open two Thaikhun sites this year, and had purposefully chosen two different styles of locations to test out their success.
“We are confident the concept will do well but we want to let them breathe rather than just rolling them out straight away,” he explained.
“The Spinningfields site is in the middle of a dining area with some independent restaurants alongside brands like Wagamammas, Jamie’s Italian and Nandos, while the Union Square site is in a shopping centre, so will be more family focused.”
“Opening in these two different styles of locations will give us a good understanding of what needs to happen to roll the brand out further across the UK.”
The Thai Leisure Group is also planning to open three more of its Chaophraya restaurants this year, Almeida said.