The Echo can reveal that the North East hospitality chain, which also owns the Tomahawk steakhouse brand, will be taking up an empty city centre unit.
Due to open in March, the exact location of Rio will be revealed closer to the time but the business already has the keys and is planning on bringing something completely different to Sunderland.
The authentic Brazilian steakhouse uses a traffic light system of red and green coasters where, if your coaster is on green, specially-trained gaucho chefs keep bringing you churrasco meat to carve at your table or, if you’re full, you can turn the coaster to red.
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Along with the unlimited salad bar and a set price, it’s a dining experience that’s proved a hit, earning the Jesmond restaurant the Everyday Eats award from Trip Advisor, making it the top rated in the city.
Rio also has branches in Middlesbrough and Newcastle Quayside, but a spokesperson said that they’ve had their eye on a Sunderland restaurant for some time.
"We’ve been wanting to get into Sunderland for a while and there’s a lot of investment and new openings happening in the city, so this is perfect timing for us,” she said. “We’ve looked at a few units, but the one we’ve chosen is perfect. We’re really excited to be a part of all the development and to help make it a destination, a place where people want to come and eat out.”
Speaking about why the concept is so popular, she said: “People really enjoy it. It’s great for families because of the set price so they know what they’re paying and they enjoy the experience.
"You don’t order from a menu, so it’s totally different for people. The chefs walk around with the cuts, which are roasted on a spit, and slice them at your table, so it’s a really fun, upbeat and vibrant way of dining.
"All of our chefs are Brazilian so there’s a lot of heritage behind the food. It’s also a great way for people to try different cuts of meat. Often they go for fillet, because they’re not sure what else to try, but this way you can try something a little different.”
Rio will be the city centre’s only dedicated steakhouse so far.
Sunderland diners can expect an urban forest-themed restaurant in keeping with the chain’s other branches, where the lunch time menu is £22.95, the evening menu is £33.95 and the vegetarian, vegan and fish menu is £16.95.
The company’s Tomahawk brand has also proved popular in recent years, with branches at the Boat House in Durham, Newcastle Quayside, Yorkshire, Ponteland and London among the locations.
The Rio opening will create a number of new jobs in the city and is the latest successful restaurant group to announce they are branching into Sunderland.