Overall ranking: 62
Restaurateurs ranking: 20
Gerry Ford is the chairman and chief executive of Caffé Nero, the third largest player in the £1b branded coffee bar market in which it holds a 14.9% share. The group has more than 198 branches and employs in excess of 1,000 staff.
In the year to 31 May 2004, Caffé Nero reported pre-tax profits of £1.7m on sales of £50.5m, representing year-on-year rises of 228% and 28% respectively. Profits and sales soared by 189% and 40% (to £1.89m and £32.8m respectively) in the subsequent half-year.
Ford, who has a PhD from Oxford, worked at Hewlett Packard before spending three years with international venture capital firm Apax Partners, where he helped develop a series of businesses.
He then headed several small and medium-sized companies in the food and consumer goods sector. In 1991, he co-founded Paladin Associates to invest in and manage a stable of food, consumer brand and media businesses.
In 1997, Paladin bought the five Caffé Nero outlets that had been established in London since 1990 by Ian Semp.
What we think
Ford is responsible for the general management, strategy, growth and branding at Caffé Nero. His concept of upmarket, authentic Italian cafés selling gourmet coffees and deli products has differentiated Caffé Nero from the American style of its leading rival Starbucks. Consumers have voted Caffé Nero their favourite coffee shop brand for five consecutive years in Allegra's annual reports on the market.
The group, which is expanding at a rate of four openings a month, was named the 20th fastest-growing company in Europe in the 2004 Europe's 500 listing and it is forecast to reach 400 or 500 branches within the next five years.
Caffé Nero had 13 London branches by the end of 1999, when it started to venture outside the capital. By March 2001, when it floated on the London Stock Market at 50p a share, it had 58 stores. It made its first pre-tax profit in 2003 and, this April, its share price doubled to 155p from the year before on the back of excellent interim results.
The group has developed a series of strategic partnerships to drive growth and now has eight airport stores on British Airport Authority land. In late 2003 it opened a branch in the Selfridge's store in Birmingham's Bullring and, in 2004, it moved into House of Fraser department stores in London, Glasgow, Croydon and Guildford.
The expansion of its food offer to increase average spend has become more significant since its move into the provinces and in 2004 it was selling 70,000 paninis and sandwiches a week. It is also wooing technophiles with the roll-out of Wi-Fi internet facilities across its estate.
Ford aimed to reach 210 stores by May 2005, and is now looking to expand overseas through a joint venture in northern Europe and a master franchise in the Middle East. Branded products such as CDs, retail coffee packs and ice cream are also on the cards.