The South African company behind Wimpy has struck a £120m deal with the owner of Nandos to swallow up Gourmet Burger Kitchen, in the latest in a series of takeovers in the fast-growing casual dining sector.

Famous Brands said it had ambitious plans to double GBK’s estate in five years time by expanding the upmarket burger chain into South Africa as well as continuing to open new sites in Britain.

It has bought GBK from Yellowwoods, the investment firm controlled by South Africa’s wealthy Enthoven family that owns the British arm of the Nandos chicken restaurant chain.

Kevin Hedderwick, the executive at Famous Brands who masterminded the deal, said that the pound’s plunge in value since the European Union referendum in June had worked in the Johannesburg-listed company’s favour.

“It’s probably saved us 700m rand (£36m),” he estimated.

GBK was founded 15 years ago by a trio of New Zealanders in south London and now has 75 restaurants across the UK, five in Ireland, and one each in Greece, Oman and Dubai that are operated under licences.  

Famous Brands, which bought the Wimpy fast food business in the UK in 2007, said it would look to launch between 10 and 15 GBK sites here each year, expanding the burger chain further into what is an already ferociously competitive casual dining market.

A host of restaurant chains have changed hands recently, with many snapped-up by private equity firms eager to roll-out the cash generative businesses to meet growing demand among Britons to eat out.

ASK Italian, Zizzi, Giraffe and Las Iguanas are among the chains that have found new owners within the last two years. The Nandos owner bought GBK for £30m in 2010.

There had been fears that the vote to leave the EU would rattle consumers and end the boom in casual dining, but economic data since the referendum have not borne out those fears.

“These nothing to suggest that Brexit is going to make a difference,” Mr Hedderwick said. “I’ve been coming over a lot in the last few weeks as you can imagine… and there’s nothing suggest that people are spending less on restaurants and food.”



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