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Hartford to rename after rejuvenation

24 January 2006

Hartford Group, which all but imploded after running into trading difficulties while the owner of the former Pharmacy restaurant in London's Notting Hill, is to rename itself as it emerges from its past.

The company is to be called The Food & Drink Group after coming through what it describes as "a period of extensive repositioning, reorganisation and turnaround".

It made its first profit since being founded as a restaurant group in 1998 just 18 months ago.

The original restaurants in the chain, including Pharmacy and Dakota, have been sold-off or closed, and the focus has been on wine bars since the 2002 acquisition of Jamies Bars.

The strategy shift is now paying-off and, with the September 2005 purchase of Henry J Beans for £5.8m, the company intends to develop both managed operations and franchises.

Henry J Bean's currently has 14 international franchises and a further four in the UK.

It also has six managed operations including a flagship restaurant on London's Kings Road. More international franchise deals and UK managed sites are in the pipeline.

Steve Thomas, chairman of Hartford (and also head of nightclub chain Luminar Leisure), said: "Hartford is now in a strong position to move forward and accelerate the expansion of the group."

During the 52 weeks to 23 September, sales were up 10.4% to £13.3m with like-for-like sales up 3.7%. Pre-tax profit was £401,000.

Trading for the first 16 weeks of the new financial year showed like-for-like sales up 2.9%. Over the five weeks to 31 December, like-for-likes were up 3.3%.

As well as Henry J Bean's, the company has 19 bars including nine in the City of London. It now has just one restaurant, Canyon in Richmond.

By Andrew Sangster

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