A wealthy young man named Henry J. McGovern (USA, 1967) He saw, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, an opportunity to do business in Eastern Europe. It was the nineties and with his friend Don M. Kendall he acquired a building at number 48 on Rynek Street in Wroclaw, Poland. Both, along with Don's father and another partner called Christian Eisenbeiss, they tried to rent the bass to Pepsi to set up a restaurant business, but they failed. Fortunately for them, Pizza Hut offered them exclusively the franchise in that country, which was the germ of American Retail Systems (which would become AmRest), a group that today has 1,420 restaurants of brands like KFC, Burger King, Starbucks ; others 389 whose exploitation yields to third parties; 38,000 employees and a capitalization of more than 2,000 million euros.
Since this year, AmRest is a company based in Spain. And it is very different from what it was. After that romantic beginning (its star phrase says that "everything is possible"), the property of AmRest has gone from the entrepreneurs (except McGovern, who continues in the group) to important investment funds and insurers in search of higher returns. . Since 2015, the main shareholder is Finaccess - controlled by the Mexican millionaire Carlos Fernández González, one of the former owners of the Corona brewery - who in turn acquired the controlling interest in the Warburg Pincus fund. That movement has made the company gradually It has been moving its structure from Wroclaw to Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid), although its headquarters are still not here. Before the end of the year, it will start trading on the Spanish Stock Exchange.
"What did we see when we decided to enter? The company had a strong presence in Europe but was limited to the east. We thought we had a very important growth opportunity ", says José Parés, its president, on the other side of the phone. The group billed 1,236 million euros in 2017, after growing 28%, and in the last four quarters (until last September) accumulated sales of 1,388 million. In Spain it has 298 restaurants, but the most important thing is that its sales margin here is greater than that obtained in the other 15 countries where it is located thanks to La Tagliatella.
La Tagliatella became an AmRest brand in 2011, when the group acquired the Spanish company Restavia. "Now we take full advantage of their potential," says Parés, who explains that Tagliatellas have already opened in Germany and Portugal. And they will come more.
Contracts with third parties
On the other hand, with the brands that exploit from third parties (KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Kabb) their margins are lower: "We can not talk about the profitability of each one because they are contracts that are developed one by one, according to market conditions, but what I can say is that our strategy is to continue growing towards Western Europe. We want to do it organically, with franchises and with our brands. " That has led them to make several operations in recent months, such as the purchase of the Sushi Shop chain, which will be closed in the coming days, or the acquisition of the Bacoa burger chain. In addition, they are present in China with 55 restaurants of the American chain Blue Frog.
Do you have a business based on hamburgers, pizzas and fried chicken in countries threatened by the advance of obesity? Parés is convinced that yes. "It's a matter of balance. Milk is healthy, but drinking three liters a day is not. We sell products that feed humans, which have proteins, carbohydrates ..., the problem is when we do not consume in an orderly manner. Hamburgers have been around forever! ", Defends the president of AmRest. Although he admits that trends are changing. "We are constantly evaluating what the consumer is asking us. 20 years ago no one thought about sushi, for example, and now it has become popular. Besides, it's not only about types of food, it's also the concepts, the places to consume ".
In this sense, Eduardo Abadía, director of the Spanish Association of Franchisors, supports that the Spanish market is moving very fast and defends that there are "good margins" for personnel costs "attractive with respect to other countries", still moderate rents and tariffs from competitive suppliers. "The problem now is not product, it's service. Currently people do not look for the brand as much as comfort, restaurants where you have Wi-Fi or chargers ". The same thinks Jon Etxeberria, of the company Baiba, consultant of restoration. "Every year we see that they open up more and those that do not close, demand is growing due to trends such as food at home."
But the expansion is not free. AmRest, which this year will open 300 more restaurants, has seen its debt grow up to 350 million, almost 100 more than it had at the beginning of 2017. "We have increased capital by 70 million and we hope to reduce the liability", point out in the company . "We are fulfilling the commitments with the brands and we surpass the objectives that we have proposed. They have been good years; when we entered, the group had 800 restaurants [1.000 menos que ahora]", Adds the president.
The tentacles of the group also arrive at the delivery companies. They have just acquired 10% of the Catalan operator Glovo, which has been sued for the conditions it offers its employees. Are they fair? "I can not speak on behalf of Glovo, that should be asked of them," replies Parés. "The consumer is claiming new channels, such as the order at home. This has led us to be close to these aggregators, it is a complement to our strategy. In Poland we partner with Deliveroo. It is undeniable that this model works all over the world as long as you are able to arrive in a reasonable time with hot food. "
On his plan to move the company to Spain, he believes it has been successful because it gives them access to new markets. Another thing is the 900 employees in central services in Poland. "There is a plan to move people, but we have to be cautious because we talk about people and their families. It will be done gradually, since the plans are based in this country. The financial management will soon be transferred. " In Wrocław, yes, Pizza Hut will follow in the lower part of Rynek Street.