Las Iguanas

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Las Iguanas Ltd
Private company
IndustryCasual dining
GenreLatin American
Founded1991, Bristol, England
FoundersEren Ali and Ajith Jaya-Wickrema
HeadquartersBristol, England
Key people
  • Julie McEwan (brand director)
ProductsLatin american foods from brazil, mexico and beyond

Las Iguanas is a casual dining restaurant chain originating from the UK with a Latin American theme.[1] Founded in 1991, it operates 56 outlets in the UK as of July 2019.[2] It specialises in Latin American food from Brazil, Mexico and beyond, cooked from scratch.


The first Las Iguanas opened on St Nicholas Street, Bristol, in April 1991,[3] offering a Latin American-themed menu. A further 53 restaurants have opened in the UK including Bath, Manchester, London and Edinburgh.[4]

In 2003, the group acquired its own Cachaça sugar cane field and distillery on the Fazenda do Anil estate, outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[5]

One of the co-founders, Ajith Jaya-Wickrema, left Las Iguanas in August 2009 to start a Caribbean-themed restaurant chain, Turtle Bay.[6] The first overseas branch of Las Iguanas was opened under franchise in Gibraltar in July 2018.[7]


An example of food served in Las Iguanas – Xinxim

Las Iguanas menus include Latin American food such as nachos, burritos, xinxim, fajitas and tapas, along with steaks and burgers. They include vegetarian and vegan options such as veggie chilli, moqueca and empanadas, and gluten-free options. Las Iguanas is approved by the Vegetarian Society.[8][9]

Las Iguanas Restaurant at Deansgate, Manchester, England


Las Iguanas made it on to the 2019 Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for in 26th place.[10] The list celebrates UK companies with the highest levels of staff engagement. Las Iguanas also made the list in 2015 and 2013.[11] Las Iguanas retained the Investors in People Gold award in 2015 and also holds IiP Champion status. The company held a rating of 4.5 and a 92% approval rating of MD Mos Shamel in July 2019.[12] Shamel stepped down from his role in July 2019, handing over to Julie McEwan who was promoted to brand director.[13]

Las Iguanas won best restaurant drinks offer at the Restaurant Magazine R200 Awards in October 2014.[14]

It won the overall award at the National Burger Awards 2017 with the Buenos Aires Burger.[15] It won Best Non-traditional Cuban Sandwich and was runner up in World's Best Traditional Cuban Sandwich at the International Cuban Sandwich Festival in Tampa, Florida in April 2018.[16]


Las Iguanas hit the headlines in August 2015 after their controversial tips policy was revealed. Staff had to pay back 3% of all sales (4.4% in London) to the company at the end of every shift out of their tips. Some staff had claimed that this charge was taken even when they had received no tips for some tables forcing them to 'pay to work'. Las Iguanas denied that the charge was ever taken from staff wages. Since then they had an internal vote amongst all the staff to agree a new policy.

100% of cash tips are now shared by the team. When tips or service charge are paid for by a credit card or debit card, the company take a 2.5% administration charge, before distributing the remainder to employees (passing on fees for opting to pay by credit or debit card to customers was banned in the UK in January 2018). Tips and service charges are in addition to the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. In practice, this means for every £1 in tips given on a credit card, the company keeps 2.5p to cover credit card fees and administration costs.[17][18]


  1. ^ "About Las Iguanas". Las Iguanas. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  2. ^ "Las Iguanas Locations". Las Iguanas. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Our History". Las Iguanas. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Las Iguanas – Locations". Las Iguanas. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Allegra Restaurants Brand Portal – Las Iguanas – Overview". Allegra Restaurants. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Las Iguanas founder leaves for 'other opportunities'". Big Hospitality. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  7. ^ "Las Iguanas Gibraltar".
  8. ^ "Las Iguanas – Book Now". Las Iguanas. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Vegsoc Approved".
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Las Iguanas celebrate Sunday Times Top 100 ranking". Hospitality & Catering News. 5 January 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Working at Las Iguanas". Glassdoor.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Bills Wins Operator of the Year at R200 Awards". BigHospitality. 7 November 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Winners of 7th Annual Cuban Sandwich Festival". The Cuban Sandwich Festival. 2018. Archived from the original on 1 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Las Iguanas".
  18. ^ Bachelor, Lisa (22 August 2015). "Restaurants' tipping policy 'forces waiters to pay to work'". The Guardian.

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