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Thu 23rd Jun 2016 - Casual Dining Group signs Saudi Arabia franchise deal, Boparan to invest £10m to add ten Cinnamon sites
Casual Dining Group signs franchise deal to open Bella Italia restaurants in Saudi Arabia, paves way for push into Middle East and Asia: Casual Dining Group has signed a franchise deal to open restaurants for its core Bella Italia brand in Saudi Arabia. The agreement with Riyadh-based retail and leisure conglomerate Fawaz Alhokair Group comes as Casual Dining Group looks to accelerate its expansion in the Middle East and Asia. The deal will see the company open an initial 18 Bella Italia restaurants in the country during the next four years. The deal, allied to other Casual Dining Group activity in the Middle East and Asia, is a statement of intent, with the company recently establishing a Dubai office led by Paul Smith, who was responsible for structuring the franchise deals that took Costa Coffee to China and then Dubai. Smith reports to Mark Nelson, managing director of Casual Dining Group’s international franchising and concessions arm. Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards said: “We are pleased to announce this strategically important agreement with such a significant and respected partner. As a business we are building real momentum overseas. In addition, we are in meaningful discussions over similar partnerships across the Middle East and Asia regions, with further agreements in train.” Fawaz Alhokair licences and operates international retail and leisure brands such as Marks & Spencer in the Middle East, and is understood to be opening an outlet a day in the region. Initial operations will be led by Karim Hajjali, chief business development officer, under the leadership of Kamal Abusara, chief executive of Alhokar’s food and entertainment division. Fawaz Alhokair, which is listed on the KSA stock exchange, is described as “one of the leading groups of companies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia focusing on retail and real estate business sectors”. Founded in 1989 by three brothers, it invests in those sectors across six Middle East countries, North Africa, the US, and central Asia, representing more than 80 international brands. Last year Casual Dining Group, which also operates Las Iguanas and Belgo, opened a Café Rouge in Dubai and earlier this year launched a Bella Italia in India, with both restaurants operated via franchise.

Boparan to invest £10m to add ten Cinnamon sites over three years: Boparan Restaurant Holdings is to invest in excess of £10m to fund expansion of the Cinnamon Collection by at least ten new restaurants over the next three years. The funding will enable the group, spearheaded by executive chef and chief executive Vivek Singh, to accelerate rolling out two of its brands – Cinnamon Kitchen (currently City based) and the most casual and modern of the Collection’s restaurants, all-day dining concept Cinnamon Soho. The fine dining Cinnamon Club based in the grade II-listed Old Westminster Library will continue to be the Collection’s flagship brand. Central London sites are being sought for Cinnamon Kitchen, with plans to expand to other major cities in 2017, alongside regional locations for Cinnamon Soho. Vivek Singh said: “We are delighted that Boparan Restaurant Holdings is supporting the growth of our business in London and nationally, taking The Cinnamon Collection to the next level. Opening ten-plus sites is a very exciting prospect and I look forward to sharing our modern Indian approach with the rest of the UK.” Ranjit Singh Boparan, chief executive of Boparan Restaurant Holdings, added: “We acquired Cinnamon Collection because we believe the business has significant potential for growth and with a strong pipeline in place the team led by Vivek Singh and Tina English are ready to start scaling the business.” Vivek Singh, who has authored five successful cookbooks and is a regular on television cookery shows, will personally oversee the roll-out programme alongside commercial director English, who will ensure the brand retains its luxury positioning, premium product range and innovative reputation.

Star Pubs & Bars to invest £250,000 in food support: Star Pubs & Bars is to invest more than £250,000 in food support for its licensees in the next 12 months, leading the way in food support in the leased sector. The commitment was made at the launch of the second year of its Star Food programme, a two-day food event designed to upskill the company’s business development managers and management team in food development. The announcement builds on the success of Star Food, which saw the dry sales mix of food sold in Star pubs increase by 6% in the programme’s first year. 74% of Star pubs now sell food, the highest percentage of any national leased pub operator. As well as promising to continue with existing food training for pub staff and chefs, Star said further initiatives in that area, such as kitchen staff recruitment support, would be introduced during the next year, helping to tackle the industry shortage. The Star Food event also saw the launch of special pricing agreements for Star licensees, with four national food suppliers and a modern back bar food support guide for pubs without kitchens or with kitchens that closed at quiet times of day. The supplier agreements were created in response to licensee requests for help on pricing and are designed to enable licensees to sell food at a competitive recommended selling price while retaining healthy profits. Negotiated using Heineken’s buying power, all of the savings go direct to licensees. National suppliers have been appointed in four areas to ensure quality as well as keen prices. These include Russell Hume butchers, Direct Seafood, Nisbets for consumables, and Brakes for frozen and ambient groceries. The new back bar food support guide addresses the premiumisation of the eating out sector. It encourages licensees to move away from lower quality microwaved pizzas, burgers and pies to more gourmet snacks and dishes using fresh ingredients from olive and crisp boards to cheese boards and ploughmans with a contemporary twist. The guide includes all angles of selling food without a kitchen from equipment to presentation as well as 60 new menu ideas. Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Star Pubs & Bars, said: “We’re focused on long-term sustainable leased pub businesses and having multiple income streams such as food is key. We want to give our licensees the very best support in this area. Our package now spans fully funded residential cookery courses for licensees and staff workshops to financing kitchen fixtures and fittings. We’re continuing to upskill our business development managers so they can provide expertise in this specialist area and using outside chef consultants to give licensees the very best advice.”

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