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Wed 28th Jun 2017 - PizzaExpress’ owner to launch Chinese brand in UK
PizzaExpress’ owner to launch Chinese brand in UK: PizzaExpress’ owner Hony Capital is to bring its Chinese brand Beijing Hehegu to the UK. Hony Capital, which is one of China’s biggest private equity firms, said it aims to boost its global network of retail food outlets to more than 10,000 over the next decade from about 850 now in a bid to be a top world food and beverages player. Operating through its Hong Kong catering and retail arm Best Food Holding, Hony Capital will kick-off its hospitality expansion by launching Beijing Hehegu in London by year-end. Managing director Bruce Wang told Reuters: “When we were working on the takeover of PizzaExpress in Britain, we struggled to find a nice Chinese restaurant at the time. Given the large Chinese population residing there and lack of authentic Chinese food chains, it’s a huge opportunity for us.” Hong Kong-based Best Food, which currently has more than 150 stores in mainland China, will open new outlets of its Beijing Hehegu fast food chain in London’s business districts with a localised menu that should also be palatable for Western customers, he said. Wang added: “If Beijing Hehegu can make a success in the UK, other Best Food’s Chinese cuisine brands will certainly follow the lead.” Hony Capital’s food and beverages global growth push comes at a time when the restaurant industry is seeing intense competition that has hurt sales at giants such as McDonald’s. Wang did not comment on the investment needed for Hony Capital’s growth plan or how it will be financed but said funding won’t be a hurdle to its ambitions. Hony Capital, which has $10bn under management and is backed by Legend Holdings – parent of personal computer maker Lenovo Group – bought PizzaExpress for about £900m in 2014. It plans to boost the British restaurant’s numbers in mainland China to more than 200 by 2021 from the current 35, Wang said. He added Best Food hoped to leverage PizzaExpress’ distribution network and client base in Britain, where it has nearly 500 restaurants, although the company would have to overcome global concerns over Chinese food safety standards following a series of scandals in the country. Wang said Best Food would try to source more than 50% of its ingredients locally and continue to team up with large Chinese suppliers to ensure food safety. Hony Capital’s founder John Zhao told Reuters in February the company would continue to scout for acquisition targets abroad – including in the US – to further its expansion, while looking for investment targets closer to home. Late last year, Hony Capital was a lead investor in a $11.5m fund-raising round by Chinese burger franchise Xishaoye Roujiamo, which is also looking to enter the British market.

Brasserie Blanc plans another 24 pubs, a ‘sad and uninvested sector’: The Brasserie Blanc group has secured a £20m facility from Oaknorth to finance the roll-out of 24 new sites and employ a further 700 staff by 2022, taking its total estate to 59 locations. The move follows the success of its White Brasserie Company pub business, which now has 15 sites. Chief executive Mark Derry told The Times: “On average, the pubs we’ve taken on have been doing £8,000 a week. We’re doing £37,000 by extending them and putting in kitchens. If you’re in a pubco and we take on your site, you allow us to get on with because you know we’ll make money. Every high street is getting fuller and fuller of ever more interesting and good things. So the last thing I want to do is plonk more stuff down on the high street. You can’t build another pub in Oxshott (in Surrey) in the kind of locations we have. As long as we don’t make a mess of it, there’s no reason why it can’t be sustainable. We don’t follow fashions. We like stuff that won’t go pear-shaped at the drop of a hat. In the broader sector, unless you’ve got a property strategy, you’ve got a problem. Pubs offer us an avenue into more remote locations. It’s an uninvested sector with a sad 20-year history. We can put our people and money to work to improve interesting and fun places.”

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