Business

Hanover couple invests $54m in UK patty chain

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 14, 2014    

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JAMAICAN-BORN Brit Theresa Roberts and husband Andrew have invested US$500,000 ($53.7 million) to start a Jamaican patty franchise in the UK with an aim to open up to 50 retail stores in the European country.

Jamaica Patty Co (JPC) will launch its first store in leased property at 26 New Row, Covent Garden, in the heart of London's entertainment and retail district, on March 15. Along with seven different patty flavours, JPC will offer Blue Mountain Coffee, rum cake, soups, juices such as coconut water and soursop, and other Jamaican food items, Andrew told Caribbean Business Report yesterday from the Roberts' Tryall Country Club home in Hanover, Jamaica.

"The model is designed to tap into the growing UK trend for fast casual dining and has been designed to allow rapid expansion once the first store is producing an acceptable sustainable profit margin," said Andrew, noting that JPC is Theresa's brainchild.

Patties are arguably the most popular pastry in Jamaica. A patty is typically filled with spices and meat — traditionally beef, but chicken, vegetables, shrimp, lobster, soy and ackee patties are not uncommon — with a flaky coating.

While the UK is generally seen as an attractive market for local businesses because of its relatively large Jamaican Diaspora and growing West Indian population, JPC's target market is mainstream UK consumers. The plan is to initially expand to about 15 stores in London and then roll out throughout the UK with the ultimate goal to create a chain of around 50 stores, according to Andrew.

"Whilst we very much hope the brand will become a favourite with the Diaspora this is not the market we are targeting," Andrew said.

"Theresa is passionate about promoting Jamaica and its people in the UK and Europe, and wanted to showcase the country's food in a way that has not been done before," he explained. "We considered various ways of doing this but decided on this format as it gives us the best chance of potential rapid expansion thus exposing JPC and modern Jamaica to the largest number of UK consumers possible in the shortest possible time."

The Roberts have employed four full-time staff and one part-time administrator for the first store in Covent Garden.They have invested US$500,000 in acquiring and fitting out the property and a "high profile" public relations and marketing campaign, Andrew said.

"Launch costs have been high because we wanted the brand and the physical design of the store to be as sophisticated and contemporary as possible. We very much hope this is the launch of a brand not a store," he told the newspaper.

Andrew explained that Covent Garden felt like the perfect location for launch because it can support "seven-day all-day trading", noting that the area attracts a mix of shoppers, office workers, tourists, theatre goers and "people on a night out."

He noted that JPC "where possible" is sourcing products from Jamaica either by way of supply agreements or licensing arrangements. He did not wish to immediately make public any names of partners without consultng with them first.

Internationally acclaimed chef Collin Brown, who is originally from Trelawny, is behind the recipes of the patties that will be produced by JPC.

"Patties are made to recipes created by Collin Brown but produced for us in the UK," Andrew said. "The important differentiating feature of our offering is that each patty is freshly baked in store in a bank of patty ovens."

A private equity lawyer, Andrew Roberts spent 25 years doing leveraged buy outs in the UK but said he now divides his time between the JPC project, his family's privately owned property interests and a couple of non-executive board positions with other companies.

Theresa is working full-time in the JPC business and the family's property business while also promoting Jamaican Art in Europe.

The UK is home to other Jamaican-owned patty businesses, among them Cleone Foods, operators of Island Delight patties, which was awarded the Santander Responsible Small Business of the Year award in 2012.

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