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Fish Friers

Harry^s revival

Article Date: 2013-05-28

Harry Ramsden’s, once the dominant force in the UK sector, is targeting a 10% market share as it enters the growth phase of its revival, said its managing director.

Since being put in charge of the chain by UK food entrepreneur, Ranjit Boparan, in September 2011 Joe Teixeira has been working to turn its fortunes around.

Boparan — who also owns the UK’s largest chicken processor, 2 Sisters Food Group, as well as Northern Foods and Five Star Fish – took over Harry Ramsden’s from Select Service Partners in 2010.

At the end of this financial year, the company will no longer be loss-making, and the confidence and trust of everybody involved is returning.

“Phase one was fixing the brand, and that’s probably about to finish. We’re happy with the products, happy with the service, we’ve got good people in the business and [the chain^s image] looks right,” he said.

The second phase is growth, marked by ambitious targets such as gaining a 10% share of the fish and chip takeaway market, via franchising, the opening of the world’s largest fish and chip restaurant, and international expansion.

Of the current 28 sites, Harry Ramsden’s wants to keep 20 of the most profitable and then to expand through a network of franchising, said Teixeira.

At the beginning of May, the chain brought in law firm Ashton KCJ to advise on the franchising process.

Through a franchise network, the chain hopes to capture 10% of the fish and chip takeaway market, or around 1,000 units, said Teixeira.

Then the chain aims to target key city centres, predominantly in the north of England to be begin with – Leeds, Manchester – for restaurants which seat 100-120 covers. These restaurants will also have takeaways, or ‘locals’ attached to them.

The chain will also keep an eye out for opportunistic property purchases such as sites in airports and train stations, though this remains a flexible part of the strategy given the costs involved.

Another route that is being discussed, and is currently only in the early stages, is licensing the brand and products to pub companies.

“So the five year plan is to have between 400 and 450 units operating, mainly through the franchising and through pubs. It’s exciting times,” said Teixeira.

“In parallel, we’re talking to international partners in China, and in India through a joint venture that Ranjit has with a local prominent company. The Middle East too. It’s in the very early stages, but there’s been a lot of interest, and I’ve been holding it back until the proposition was right.”

There has been keen interest from the US as well, including Florida, but given the crowded and costly nature of the market there, Stateside expansion is currently not a priority.

Harry Ramsden’s has been careful to maintain the heritage of the name and style, while bringing it into the 21st century. Traditional, but not old-fashioned, restaurants – they still have the chandeliers, but a more modern take on them.

The menu will now be rounded out with other dishes, including chicken, joining the classic fish and chips (fish from the North and Bering Seas, headed and gutted, frozen within four hours and MSC-certified).

“The fish and chip world is different now, the competition is stronger. Fish and chips has been through a rollercoaster ride, and is probably just emerging from other side,” said Teixeira.

“A restaurant probably couldn’t survive with just fish and chips now, But we want to retain the classic feel of the British brand. Because it’s probably the only British restaurant brand in the world.”

Fish Friers