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Arby’s undaunted by London closure

Arby’s, the giant US roast beef sandwich chain, is to press ahead with expansion plans in the UK, despite the closure last week of its flagship London restaurant.

Roland Smith, vice-president of marketing for Arby’s International, told Caterer the company had played no part in the closure, which had been the decision of the outlet’s franchisee, GSR Restaurant Group.

However, he agreed that part of the reason had been the outlet’s poor location on Haymarket, where several fast food operators, including Burger King, had opened and subsequently closed outlets.

Mr Smith said the US group had developed an aggressive expansion plan since a change of ownership last year. It now intended to open 300 company-owned and franchised stores in the UK and a total of 1,000 outside the USA by 1999.

In 1992 Arby’s International signed a master-franchise agreement with GSR, which said it planned to open 100 stores within 10 years. The London store opened in October that year but it was not until the end of 1993 that a second, sub-franchised outlet opened in Glasgow.

Just over a year ago Arby’s was sold by DWG Corporation to US conglomerate Triarc. A new management team of largely ex-PepsiCo executives bought back the UK master franchise, leaving GSR with the London outlet, and at the same time bought the Glasgow outlet, which remains its only UK property.

But Mr Smith said the company had been under-managed in the past and was planning to open three or four UK outlets in the New Year, with negotiations taking place over two sites. “The closure in London was just unfortunate because it made it appear Arby’s was in difficulty,” he told Caterer.

He expressed confidence in the Arby’s concept, serving slices of roast beef folded into a hamburger-style bun. Chicken and ham varieties are also available. “We fill a niche that has not been tapped before,” he said.

Arby’s operates more than 2,670 outlets in the USA and lies 14th in the league table of the country’s biggest restaurant chains by turnover.

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