Excluded. Olivier Bertrand signs the Itsu master franchise for France and forces the line on street food

With a rate of 120 to 150 openings per year, the Bertrand group, created in 1997 by Olivier Bertrand, continues to weave its web throughout France. Multi-positioning, multi-location, multi-segment, it now occupies the entire spectrum of catering. With a turnover of €2.2 billion projected for 2022, 1,100 restaurants on the counter and 38,000 employees, the 2nd restaurant group in France will see its center of gravity migrate a little more towards the QSR. And for good reason, he has just won the master franchise of the superb British Asian label Itsu, he will create 2 virtual brands this year… to start with, and should materialize the acquisition of a French restaurant network positioned in street food. Exclusively, Olivier Bertrand explains his strategy to France Snacking.

Can you remind us, who is Groupe Bertrand today?

Independent, our group now covers 4 activities: fast food which was until last September, Burger King but also Quick until its sale last September to the investment fund HIG Capital, commercial catering which covers several divisions including the major Parisian brasseries, concession catering, luxury with brands such as Angelina and, finally, themed brands, developed in branches and franchises such as Hippopotamus, Léon, Volfoni and Au Bureau. The 3e a strong growth pole is the hotel industry, then, finally, the real estate activities. The heart of the reactor, real estate is transversal to the group and allows us to secure our development and our rental conditions. An asset of choice, too, for our franchise partners.

After two years of health crisis, how is Olivier Bertrand Restauration doing?

With activity down by around €600 million last year, and turnover contracting to €1.5 million, 2021 is not the best vintage there is, whereas 2019 posted at the meter €2 billion in turnover. The indicators are much better for this year where we should develop €2.2 billion without counting the acquisitions in progress. After the complicated period that we have just gone through, the resistance of a group like ours is due, in particular, to its multi-positioning, multi-segment and multi-location model. We tick, indeed today, all the boxes of the restoration from the fast with Burger King, while passing by the large Parisian brasseries, or the franchise theme restoration around meat, fish and Italy. with Hippopotamus, Léon and Volfoni as well as Au Bureau in the pub segment. Also, when the market was badly shaken, as we experienced, we realized that in the storm, while some segments clearly underperformed, others, on the other hand, outperformed such as fast food and Burger King in particular. Defensive segment, it has proven to be particularly resilient and agile by fairly easily activating all sales channels through digital, click & collect, delivery. This allowed us to absorb a large part of the sales postponements, when the restaurants were suddenly closed. While some balances have since been restored in favor of table-served catering, delivery flows have remained strong. Enough to motivate new ambitions in the street food segment.

How has this crisis changed the group’s strategy?

Our roadmap was mapped out and some tracks already sketched out. But the violence of the blow pushed us to accelerate our future on many strategic subjects of the future. This was particularly the case for digital and delivery, for most of our catering concepts. From the moment our rooms were closed and faced with our teams who wanted to get involved, delivery became a priority. The advantage of our national network allowed us to quickly activate a “delivered” offer via aggregators, without going through the box of a third-party dark kitchen, relying on the kitchens of our own business. And we had some real surprises! Where we thought that our sales would turn, for example at Hippo, to products that we were in the process of packaging, such as ribs or chicken, we were surprised by the success of orders for traditional meat products and in particular rib steak which was a hit on delivery. Our historic brands have every right to play a leading role in delivery, through their culinary know-how. Each must be able in one way or another to follow the customer where they are, either through their own brand or through another brand and using all the channels available to us. Léon, for example, has unique expertise in moulds. It’s 25 years of concept and industry construction that have been used to deliver casseroles. But our expertise can allow us to go further on other seafood products in delivery by using our kitchens in rear bases and ensure incremental sales. Which is not without raising other questions in terms of operational constraints, packaging, recipes. Hence our current reflections on the diversity of customer journeys, particularly digital ones. We have grown a lot on this question of delivery now placed at the heart of our strategy, even if our job remains and will remain that of welcoming the customer in our restaurants to make him live an experience, it is the DNA of our group. . But with a push of 10 to 15 points, depending on the brands (which barely achieved a 3 to 5% take rate) on this delivery activity, it has become a major subject.

Do we say worn-out peri-urban theme restaurants? Your opinion ?

A crisis of this nature causes a scissor effect with, on the one hand, the acceleration of certain trends and, on the other, the decline of concepts from the past. There is a reality that imposes itself between certain brands that put themselves in a position to project themselves into the future and those that no longer have a reason to exist. We decided to anticipate and look ahead by renovating ours, without lying to our customers. Our investments are heavy compared to the returns we get each time. A Léon de Bruxelles revisited in Léon, in the decor as in the offer, it is today between 20 and 30% of additional turnover as is the case with a transformed Hippo. Performances that we now wish to share even more in the regions with franchised and multi-franchised partners to whom we offer a portfolio of powerful brands and proven expertise. A local entrepreneur, registered in his region, is a strength for a group like ours. In the closeness he maintains with his clients as well as in the proactivity he can demonstrate in managing his recruitment, his teams, the career plans of his collaborators or his ability to occupy the field proactively.

What are your ambitions in fast food?

As I explained to you, periods of crisis accelerate major trends. And among those that are asserting themselves as market standards, we can mention street food, where we need to be more present. If, with Burger King, we perfectly cover the burger segment as well as we have the legitimacy to invest in the delivery of meat and fish products from our traditional restaurants Hippo and Léon, we also wish to be more widely involved in themes that have on the rise, including Asian cuisine. To strike hard and fast, we have just signed a masterfranchise with the Itsu group, which today has 75 own restaurants in Great Britain. From 2022, we already plan to set up 1. What I liked about this brand is both the originality of the concept, but also its sharp process and the quality of its offer. It is a healthy Japanese-inspired cuisine, based on sushi, salads, gyosas, but also hot products such as soups, Chicken teriyaki, and udon noddle. Our ambitions do not stop there since we are also preparing an external growth operation with a French network in strong development also positioned in street food. Other avenues under study, healthy and chicken, where we want to advance our pawns, here too, either in external growth or in own development.

What position in the face of the rise in raw materials?

Faced with the war taking place on our doorstep and the domino effect resulting from the closure of restaurants, we are going to experience a few complicated months on many subjects, including shortages and increases in the cost of raw materials and energies which are already affecting our organizations. A new shock for the profession which is likely to be very brutal for the most fragile. Even if we have secured a certain number of products by contractualisation, with nearly €550 million in purchase volume, it is clear that our services are on the alert and the supply chain is tense on certain families of products. . What is clear is that, if we cannot maintain quality by default of supply, we will remove certain references rather than compromise on our criteria of excellence. This requires us to be agile in the construction of maps and to be able to make them evolve from month to month, or even day to day. It became complicated on poultry, beef, potatoes, oil…

Have you also bought a farm in the Paris region? What purpose ?

Indeed, I managed to carry out a project that was close to my heart to invest in an organic farm. I found the ideal place in Ile-de-France, in Seine-et-Marne where we already produce products for our restaurants. A way to integrate short circuits, to enhance the Ile-de-France region and draw a more direct link with the world of agriculture. An approach that goes even further since we also want to be a catalyst and regionally federate organic farming, which has already been started. Our goal is to create a whole virtuous ecosystem to deliver our starred restaurants and major Parisian brasseries, while promoting the region’s organic know-how and skills. In the same spirit, we are in the process of creating a bakery with a farmer baker. The idea is to plant our wheat, to invest in a mill, to produce to deliver organic bread so as to cover the entire chain, from the ground to the plate.

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