Belfast Telegraph

Spar owner buys popular cafe franchise The Streat

By Symon Ross

The owner of the Spar franchise in Northern Ireland has moved into the coffee business by purchasing popular cafe chain The Streat.

Henderson Group did not disclose how much it paid for the franchise, which has 37 outlets across Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic

Best known for its expertise in the retail business, the move is something of a departure for Hendersons and comes at a time when most retailers are struggling to beat the recession.

However, Damien Barrett, managing director of its food service arm, said the group had extensive franchise experience through the Spar and Vivo brands and had been actively seeking growth opportunities in that area. The food service division already supplies the catering industry with frozen and grocery products.

"The Streat offers an attractive proposition as a very successful and well-run business whose company ethos and ambitions echo our own.

"As a local wholesaler we see this as a very positive investment in a local brand which will bring mutual benefit," he said.

"As well as stand-alone cafes, at present we have two Streat franchises within Spar stores and we will continue to explore this as a collective opportunity. The partnership also has the potential to boost trade for local suppliers as we service the needs of the chain throughout Ireland and Scotland."

The privately-owned Henderson Group has been involved in the convenience retail sector for more than 100 years and employs over 2,000 people. It supplies 400 independent retailers and also operates 70 convenience and petrol forecourt retail outlets.

The Mallusk-based company has managed to ride out the recession better than many other retailers, posting a 12% rise in turnover to £455m last year.

It said The Streat would help expand its franchise portfolio and plans to use its own property skills, buying power and foodservice expertise to increase the value of the cafe chain.

Started in 1999 by husband and wife team Michael and Nikki McQuillan, The Streat network now employs around 350 people and saw its annual turnover rise 8% to more than £8m in the last year.

Hendersons said it will keep The Streat brand name and staff would continue to work as normal with Mr McQuillan still running the company following the takeover.

He said: "The deal with Henderson Foodservice is a fantastic opportunity for the chain to realise its true growth potential. We are very excited about the potential to develop our newly developed 'Food To Go' concept and with the support of such a significant player in the foodservice business The Streat will not only be able to increase its franchise outlets but also expand its "more than a café" business model to include additional outside catering and food delivery elements. We see this move as a natural partnership."