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'We won't be exchanging butter for margarine': Avoca sold to a US catering giant

The family behind the Irish business wants to grow the brand globally.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated 13.45

THE AVOCA CHAIN of cafés and retail outlets has been sold to US-based multinational catering giant Aramark.

The deal announced today, which still needs to clear the Irish competition watchdog, comes with a reported pricetag of more than €60 million and a promise to open another five stores at an investment of up to €15 million.

The near 300-year-old Avoca Handweavers business was bought by its current owners, the Pratt family, in 1974 and expanded into a national network of shops selling clothes and other craft products, as well as cafés and food halls.

It also exports blankets and clothes, and runs a high-end catering business.

Speaking on Newstalk’s The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Avoca managing director Simon Pratt, whose parents Donald and Hilary began developing the business four decades ago, said the company would “not be cutting corners” under its new owners.

“We will not be exchanging butter for margarine on our scones, we will not be making it smaller, we will be making it better,” he said.

Pratt said he signed a three-year agreement to keep running the business as part of the deal, as did the rest of Avoca’s senior management.

One of the things that’s been said to us over the past while is ‘ooh it’ll change’ … the message from Aramark and from me and from everyone in the senior team is that we’re absolutely determined to prove that’s not so.”

2682748079_56be03dc2b_z Source: William Murphy

A different direction

Aramark is already a major multinational employer in Ireland with over 5,000 staff across the island and in its EMEA operations, which are headquartered in Dublin.

Its global businesses range from serving food at sporting events, hospitals and schools, to providing staff, uniforms and cleaning services. However the Avoca buyout will be Aramark’s first foray into the luxury retail business.

In an earlier statement, Pratt said in Aramark his family’s business had found a “global partner which recognises the uniqueness of the (brand) and is committed to maintaining the heritage of our company”.

90282733 The Avoca cafe in Suffolk St, Dublin Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

The new owner would help the  brand “reach (its) fullest potential and to continue to grow both in Ireland an internationally”, he said.

Publicly listed Aramark, which turned over some $14.8 billion (€13.8 billion) last year, employs more than 270,000 people worldwide.

The head of its Irish business, Donal O’Brien, said Avoca gave it the opportunity to “internationalise a truly Irish culinary dining experience”.

Avoca will be kept as a separate business unit in Aramark’s Irish operations with Pratt remaining at the helm for now.

First published 11.09am

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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