Harry Ramsden’s has undergone somewhat of an overhaul over the past three years and is now surpassing the already high expectations of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Joe Teixeira as the company drives forward its company stores, franchising and licensing arms.
Having been in the hospitality industry for more than 25 years, Teixeira was well aware of the iconic status of Harry Ramsden’s in the UK but has been taken aback by the level of affinity that its loyal customers still has with the brand, paving the way for such a rapid regeneration.
“When I was given the challenge of turning Harry Ramsden’s around I saw an iconic brand that had lost its way and new it was a great opportunity,” he said. “Three years on and I’m still overwhelmed by the affinity that the brand has with its customers; millions of pounds into marketing can’t buy you that.”
Leveraging the value of a strong customer base is one thing, but Teixeira has been sure to repay the faith through the company’s expansion plans, encouraging not only an increase in visitor numbers, but also a change in attitude to bring shareholders back on side to encourage investment into its franchising efforts.
The main driver behind a franchising strategy is the ability to react to market needs quickly and effectively, with Teixeira identifying a gap in the market for a branded, ethical fish and chip organisation.
“We always knew that franchising was the best strategy to take us forward,” the CEO explained. “Opening a lot of new company stores requires a lot of fast capital expenditure, but if you have capable and experienced franchisees, you then have someone who you know will absolutely care for your brand because it’s their hard cash going into it.
“It is the fastest growth to market without diluting the proposition, we’ve hit at the right time of the economic cycle and there is a lot of interest in our business.”
The goal is to have 250 sites in place by 2019, and the company is already well on track, having development agreements across Scotland, Yorkshire, West Sussex and the North East of England for 150 sites.
The only challenge in that respect now comes from selecting the right people to partner with as the pace accelerates; an example of which can be seen in the company’s recently secured agreement with Welcome Break MSA to develop up to 26 outlets.
“I’m trying to avoid handing out single franchisees because it’s very difficult to manage 500 different partners.” Teixeira said. “We now look towards franchisees that can open between five and 20 sites within a specific allocated space.”
Merging the industry knowhow of Harry Ramsden’s with the local expertise of selected partners is also supported by a unique, award winning training package offered to encourage standardisation and consistency across all its stores.
Complementing its franchising expansion is also the ongoing development of its traditional fish and chip shops, of which there are now more than 10,000, with Teixeira aiming for 10 percent of a saturated and competitive market place.
One surprising addition though, has been the inception of its own licensed products hitting UK shelves, as Teixeira explained: “We entered into a partnership with Birdseye on developing a frozen fish retail product and it was so well received by our customers it took us by surprise.
“We’re now going to extend that agreement while also ramping up other areas, including – and I could never have dreamt that Harry Ramsden’s could command such a product - a chicken product in the retail environment.
“It punches above its weight and when Tesco conducted their research it was on par with a brand leader. It is our target to have £100 million sales within five years and we’re already 30 percent towards that.”
Recent successes have come ahead of schedule in a lot of respects, but Teixeira has emphasised from the start the need to remain flexible in what is an ever-changing industry.
“The first stage we went through over the first 18 months was fixing what we had and resolving property issues in terms of the right sites and right investments,” Teixeira said. “Once we believed we had the right proposition in place, it was then a case of convincing the shareholders to invest in the business to allow it grow properly and we went about refurbishing the jewels in the crown at our key seaside resorts.”
The overriding ethos throughout all stages of development has been in establishing value for money within the business, meaning the best proposition for the price of the product, rather than simply the cheapest offering.
This, alongside a more convenient strategy in terms of store location has conspired to achieve excellent returns on investment within the first year of expenditure at some sites, and within two years for most others; all of which has encouraged the shareholders to accelerate growth even quicker moving forward.
The immediate positivity to come from Harry Ramsden’s development over the past three years is testament to its customers who continue to embrace the new proposition and provide helpful indicators on upcoming trends and taste preferences.
“We have a plan and five year vision but it needs to be updated and flexible enough to react to the market and the customer. What they want is what we do,” Teixeira said. “We want to make sure that what we do is consistently above the quality of our competitors and that the customers walk away understanding why they’ve paid for that experience in terms of value.”
In turn, Teixeira knows that Harry Ramsden’s’ notoriety in the UK will make any internal success a success for the industry in general, as the company strives to raise the general level of standards.
He concluded: “If Harry Ramsden’s is the market leader, it can only be good for the industry in my opinion. We have gone on a journey that the owners began in 1928. It lost its way in the past couple of decades and is coming back to dominate and our ambition is to be recognised around the world, commercially successful, employing thousands of people and having a positive impact on the economy.”