By Christina Golding
GROUPE Chez Gérard is preparing to muscle in on the London coffee bar market with the expansion of its newly acquired Richoux cafés.
The group agreed this week to buy the Richoux Café Restaurant Group, ownedby Michael da Costa, for £7.25m.
The deal adds six London restaurants to the Chez Gérard stable, including four Richoux Café restaurants. But the firm's main interest lies in expanding the less formal Richoux coffee cafés.
Although more food-based than the larger coffee bar chains such as Costa Coffee and Seattle Coffee Co, the cafés would compete with the "top end" of this market, said Laurence Isaacson, deputy chairman of Chez Gérard.
"It's a very successful concept. Over the next two years we will concentrate on expansion of the contemporarycafé restaurants in London," he said.
The company intends to add a further four cafés in the short term. Richoux will become the group's third core brand, alongside its Chez Gérard and Livebait restaurants.
The acquisition of Richoux gives the group a fast entry into the £5 to £15-a-head market where there is less dependence on highly skilled kitchen staff.
Da Costa, who is the chairman of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain, will retain his position as managing director. He has agreed a fixed three-year contract plus a profits-linked bonus payment of up to £300,000, payable next June if profits exceed £860,000.
Last year Richoux made pre-tax profits of £308,000 on turnover of £5.97m.