The Financial Week Ahead – Cooking up a strategy.

An expansion strategy that will see at least 100 new restaurants open both in and outside London will be outlined to shareholders when Groupe Chez Gerard announces its results on Monday. Leading the charge outside the capital will be finance director Paul Rivers who joined the group as FD in January 1999. After qualifying as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in London, Rivers spent nine years in practice. For 12 years he was head of finance at Morland, the last six of which he was finance director. Groupe Chez Gerard currently has 24 outlets – ten Chez Gerard steak et frites outlets and five Livebait fish restaurants. Although the group also has five signature restaurants and four Richoux coffee shops, they are not expected to form part of the expansion. Key elements of the new strategy are the focus on rolling out the two core brands, Chez Gerard and Livebait, in London and major cities nationwide; the potential for at least 100 Chez Gerard and Livebait restaurants throughout the UK; and an accelerating opening programme. Chez Gerard is initially set to target major cities in the UK such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol. It is also reported to have seen scope for Livebait in places such as Oxford and Cambridge. ‘The reason we are rolling-out these two brands is because we can make a lot of money from doing so,’ Rivers said. The development programme will be funded from existing facilities. As well as its cashflow, the group still has £3.7m of a £10m bank facility which should fund about five new sites. The company is also considering a sale and leaseback of its two properties in London’s Charlotte Street. Rivers said: ‘There is little prospect of us coming back to shareholders for a rights issue in the short term – unless a bigger opportunity comes up. One would never rule that out.’ The strategy is expected to revive the company’s share price which has fallen to 194p against a 12-month high of 286p and to counter takeover bids from rivals such as the Bank Group.

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