Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — For someone who has pocketed $60 million this month for a stake in just one of his U.K. restaurant businesses, Alan Yau is remarkably modest and self-effacing.

He is casually dressed for an interview in his Michelin- starred Yauatcha eatery and switches tables so as not to disturb guests. He orders a tea and talks quietly as he outlines five projects, any one of which might be something to shout about.

First, he’s going to start opening overseas branches of Hakkasan and Yauatcha — two of London’s most-fashionable restaurants — next month. Tasameem, the property arm of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, will provide $100 million in working capital after buying its undisclosed stake. Yau is also opening a new London eatery chain and a bakery business, plus an up-market restaurant, and plans to develop a worldwide fast-food operation.

“It is exciting in that I believe it could compete with the top players in the fast-food business, in terms of the burger products, such as McDonald’s” Corp., he says in the Jan. 15 interview. “It’s also exciting in terms of something I believe could become an iconic brand in its own right.”

He won’t say what kind of food he is talking about, other than using the phrase “healthy Asian” at one stage. Even then, he says his aim is to divorce the food from its origins. He points to pizza as a parallel, saying it’s no longer tied to Italy.

“If you look at mass-market players such as Pizza Hut, they are able to put a chicken tikka masala topping on it and are still able to get credibility with the customer because that product is no longer Italian,” he says. “That’s important in fast food. The product needs to move away from its ethnic origins.”

Noodle Chain

Yau, 45, previously founded the Wagamama Japanese noodle chain with a single outlet in 1992. He sold that business to investors in 1998. There are now more than 50 branches in the U.K. and others around the world, including in Boston and Sydney. Yau is starting a Chinese equivalent — called Cha Cha Moon — in London next month and won’t be drawn on whether this might be the basis of his fast-food plans. He also declines to discuss financial details or to say what stake he retains in Hakkasan.

Hong Kong-born Yau didn’t speak much English when he moved to the U.K. as a child. He later worked in a McDonald’s back in Hong Kong and hasn’t forgotten the lessons he learned there.

“Fast food, for me, has an operation blueprint and that blueprint has been defined by McDonald’s,” he says. “As you walk in, you have the customer counter. Above is the menu display and behind that is the kitchen. This blueprint, even if you change it to something else, works extremely well as a fast-food system.”

The first overseas Hakkasan is scheduled to open in Istanbul next month, followed by Abu Dhabi in August, Miami in October and Shanghai early next year. Branches of Yauatcha are planned for Kuala Lumpur and Dubai in October, and Yau says he is about to sign for a site for another London Yauatcha. He doesn’t plan a second Hakkasan.

Designer Dining

“I want to position Hakkasan as a parallel to the luxury fashion brand, and therefore the quality issue and also the exclusivity issue is important,” he says. “For example, there are 50 Prada shops/concessions in Hong Kong, whereas there’s only one or two Hermes or four of five LV’s. I’d like the number of operations to be very, very limited in order to safeguard the quality and also to safeguard the exclusivity.”

Yau has several other irons in the fire. He founded and owns Busaba Eathai, a Thai restaurant business that is separate from Hakkasan, and last month he opened a Japanese establishment, Sake No Hana, where the cheapest champagne is Krug, at 30 pounds ($58.66) a glass. The place received mixed reviews.

“In terms of the post-opening re-engineering that we have to do, we’re only about 50 percent there,” Yau says. “I think it will take us at least two more years slowly to fine tune the operation. There’s so much that needs to be done.”

Duck Ovens

He plans to open an Italian bakery called Princi on London’s Wardour Street in June, with Milan’s Rocco Princi, and he has bought the site of Cafe Grand Prix — opposite Nobu Berkeley Street in Mayfair — where he will open an up-market restaurant called Hakka Berkeley, serving northern Chinese food, especially Peking Duck. The venue will be part of Hakkasan Ltd.

“We’re putting in about six wood-fire ovens, each the size of a pizza oven, for the roasting of the duck,” Yau says.

It’s after 7 p.m. when the interview ends. Yau, who appears shy, for all his big plans, heads out to a meeting with investors. He’s one of the most influential and successful restaurateurs, and I’m not sure if anyone in Yauatcha even recognizes him.

Interview by Richard Vines

(Richard Vines is London food critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this review: Richard Vines in London at rvines@bloomberg.net.