The South African owner of Wimpy has gobbled up British burger chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) for £120 million, pouring cold water on Brexit fears in the process.
Famous Brands, which bought Wimpy in 2007 and operates the business on a franchise model, said its acquisition of the upmarket burger bar was the “biggest deal the group has ever concluded”.
It added: “The low interest environment in the UK is supportive of continued consumer spend, while the impact of fears of Brexit on this sector appear negligible – endorsed by a recent survey which confirms that despite the generally subdued economy, household spend in the eating out category is up 4 per cent year-on-year in June 2016.”
GBK had been owned by private equity firm Capricorn Ventures, another South African vehicle, which is also the parent of Nando’s.
Kevin Hedderwick, Famous Brands’ strategic adviser, said the group would continue to expand in the UK, opening ten to 15 restaurants a year, and also look to export the brand to South Africa.
He added: “GBK has substantial store growth potential in the UK, with a secure, current pipeline of sites in place. Furthermore, there is opportunity to export the brand to South Africa.”
GBK, which was founded in Battersea in 2001, currently operates 75 restaurants across the UK, with sites on Edinburgh’s George Street and St Vincent Street in Glasgow.
Famous Brands said there would be no changes to personnel, with the intention being the transition in ownership to be effected “seamlessly”.
The first Wimpy Bar opened in 1954, at the Lyon’s Corner House on Coventry Street in London, and the chain once had a presence in towns and cities the length and breadth of Scotland. However, it now has just four branches north of the Border – in Dingwall, Fraserburgh, Kilmarnock and the M&D’s amusement park in Motherwell, next to Strathclyde Country Park.