Scottish entrepreneur Brad Stevens was working in Events and Marketing for a Scottish National Newspaper. Tasked with creating a pop-up Dining concept for during the Fringe Festival, he decided to take the new trend of fast-casual Dining and combine it with South-East Asian street food and premium cocktails. Fast-casual dining outlets were cropping up everywhere but none of them were doing it in conjunction with a quality liquor offering. Bar Soba was born in a lane next to the Assembly Rooms in August 1998 and became the talk of the festival. It was a huge success and after one too many suggestions of ‘you should open a place like this” Brad packed up his desk and found a permanent home for Soba on Mitchell Lane in Glasgow the following year.
1999 - 2012
Soba Mitchell Lane quickly went to the forefront of the drinking and dining scene in Glasgow. It was arguably the first destination Cocktail bar in Scotland and their weekly DJ roster of cool, up and coming House DJs meant that Soba was (and still is) generally seen as the only place to go for drinks before a night out at the infamous Sub Club. There were calls to expand Soba coming from all over but Soba was cool and Brad was cautious; he always knew that Soba would grow but didn’t want to succumb to pressure until the time felt right.
Expansion begins! Soba Byres Road opens in Glasgow’s West End. The same Soba DNA away from the hustle and bustle of the City Centre – your ‘friendly neighbourhood Soba’ quickly welcomed all the locals, students and west end bohemians and still offered great cocktails, authentic street food and a cutting-edge soundtrack. Bar Soba Hanover Street quickly followed suit taking the brand back to its humble beginnings in Edinburgh!
Expansion goes South (and no we don’t mean it like that)! Having wanted to open a Soba ‘down south’ for sometime, Brad set his sights on Leeds – the fastest growing city in the UK with a booming bar and restaurant scene. We opened Bar Soba Leeds on Merrion Street in the city’s ‘Northern Quarter’ in April 2015. Thanks to the city’s flexible licensing laws and late-night culture, Bar Soba Leeds is open ‘til 4am and makes the seamless transition from Bar and Kitchen to late night Bar and Club every weekend! With no time to rest, we quickly got to work on our third site for Glasgow and opened Soba Merchant City in July of the same year. Soba Merchant City has become like the other Glasgow Soba’s sophisticated big sister and is a beautiful multi level Bar, Restaurant and Events space in the city’s Merchant Square.
Expansion gets RELENTLESS! Relentless is our word of 2016 and beyond. We’ve opened two venues in the same year twice and we’ve opened our first venue in England – and that’s just the beginning! We want to become a leading light in the industry and break the mould, becoming the first Bar and Restaurant brand to be born in Scotland and expand successfully throughout England, Ireland, Wales and beyond! We’ve acquired a site in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle aren’t far behind and we’re also underway with a huge expansion to our very first venue in Mitchell Lane, as well as refurbishing Byres Road and Edinburgh. Recognising that we couldn’t do great things without great people, we introduced the Living Wage early back in February and we’ve pledged to invest in our team from the very beginning. Whilst all over 25s are now awarded the National Living Wage by law, we will also afford the same courtesy to new-starts of any age with the right experience and create a Training and Development plan for all staff to help them get to that level with us earlier than their 25th birthday! This is an exciting period of expansion and we want the right people to stay by our side throughout it.
Relentless expansion is all systems go! After securing a £3m investment from the Business Growth Fund in December 2016, we now have seven new venue openings in the pipeline and a 5 year plan to grow the brand from 5 sites to 30 sites! The Business Growth Fund (BGF) is a £2.5bn UK government initiative set up in 2011 to help small and mid-sized fast growing firms.
Brad said of the investment: “I’m really excited about our ambitious expansion plans and that we’ve found the right partner to provide the funding and expertise we need to accelerate our growth.
“Expanding to 12 city centre locations will allow even more drinkers and diners to enjoy our combination of indulgent cocktails, freshly prepared street food inspired by the night markets of South East Asia and music.
“We have been researching locations we feel will suit the Bar Soba offering but are always open to hear ideas from others.”
BGF also introduced Brad to leisure sector finance expert Mohan Mansigani, who has now been appointed as non-executive chair of Bar Soba.
Mansigani served as chief finance officer at Casual Dining Group, which owns the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo brands, from 2002 until 2014, having previously worked as finance director at Costa Coffee and TGI Fridays and in senior finance roles at Grand Metropolitan and Pizza Hut.