Pratt family sells Avoca to US catering group

Aramark buys chain for €60m and plans to ‘internationalise’ the brand

Avoca deal is subject to approval from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. Photograph: David Sleator

Avoca deal is subject to approval from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. Photograph: David Sleator

 
The Pratt family that owns the Avoca chain of luxury retail outlets and cafés yesterday agreed a deal to sell it to the listed US catering group Aramark for a price rumoured to be upwards of €60 million.

Avoca’s new owners plan to “internationalise” the brand, raising the prospect of eventual expansion into the US market, where Aramark is listed on the New York stock exchange.

The deal is subject to approval from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, owing to Aramark Ireland’s extensive catering interests in this country. Aramark operates in 23 countries overall.

The sale, the result of talks ongoing since the spring, was finalised in Dublin yesterday. Simon Pratt, the managing director and second generation of Pratts to run the business, informed its founders, his parents Donald and Hilary Pratt, last night.

Remain involved

Mr Pratt’s siblings, Ivan and Vanessa, will remain involved in Avoca along with the founders, while Simon Pratt will retain his current role and he will also join the senior management team of Aramark Ireland.

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“As a family we are very excited at this latest development for Avoca and believe that it is the right decision for us as a business and a family, at the right time and with the right partner,” he said. “Aramark provides us with the corporate structures, the global reach and the resources to reach our fullest potential and to continue to grow both in Ireland and internationally.” Donal O’Brien, president of Aramark Ireland, said, “Avoca’s retail operation will provide us with consumer insights that will enable us to identify future trends”.

Huge opportunity

“We have a huge opportunity to internationalise a truly Irish culinary dining experience,” he said.

Avoca, which was founded as a textiles business from the back of solicitor Donald Pratt’s car in the 1970s, has grown to incorporate luxury retail outlets and cafés in 11 locations in Ireland.

It also includes the Avoca@Home catering business. Avoca boosted profits last year by 70 per cent as many Irish consumers reacquainted themselves with luxury goods with the ending of the economic downturn.

The group recorded a rise in sales of €1 million to almost €59 million in the year to the end of January 2015, while net profits rose to €2.2 million.

The company squeezed costs during the year despite rising sales, normal practice among businesses readying themselves for a sale.

Buying a luxury retail brand is a new departure for Aramark, which has more than 120,000 staff worldwide.