Famous Brands strengthens foothold in Mauritius

South African restaurant group Famous Brands has laid the foundations for an extensive presence on the island of Mauritius, with the signing of a master license agreement with Gaetan Ning, a long-standing partner of the group via his existing master license agreements in Swaziland and Mozambique.

Ning’s company, NG International was the group’s first international licensee; in 1997 he signed a license agreement for the Steers brand in Swaziland, followed by the license for Debonairs Pizza in 1999. He also has two Debonairs Pizza outlets and one Steers restaurant in Mozambique.

Darren Hele, Managing Executive: Franchising, for Famous Brands, says, “Mauritius is the first market where one individual will represent the group’s portfolio of quick service restaurants/casual dining brands under one umbrella.”

The group has master licensees in 15 territories other than South Africa, ranging as far afield as the United Arab Emirates.

By virtue of these agreements, a master licensee is granted the right to serve as the group’s agent in a territory, where they manage the business on behalf of the group in exchange for a royalty payment for use of the group’s intellectual property and business systems.

In 2002 and 2003, Ning’s Island Famous Brands company signed license agreements for Mauritius for Debonairs Pizza and Steers, respectively. He currently has five Debonairs Pizza and two Steers outlets trading on the island. With the signing of this agreement, Ning will now also become a master licensee of the following group brands: Wimpy, Mugg & Bean and FishAways. In addition, Famous Brands has three Black Steers outlets on the island, which will now also be serviced by Ning’s company under the new agreement.

Ning’s intention is to double his existing store network from 7 to 14 outlets in the next two years, with a full roll out to 20 stores in the medium term. With the completion of the roll out, the staff complement will be between 500 and 600 employees. The new stores will be situated in shopping malls and other strategic sites on the island.

Ning is tremendously excited about the potential in the Mauritian market. He says, “The Mauritian economy is one of the fastest growing in sub-Saharan Africa, with a growth rate of 3% per annum. In just three decades, the country has transformed from a mono-crop sugar dominated economy to a services-orientated one. The tertiary sector currently accounts for 70% of GDP.”

Ning comments, “Our extensive research illustrates that there is strong opportunity to expand our network. The Mauritian culture is evolving and more people are eating out. In addition, the government has embarked on a tourism drive aimed at increasing the number of tourists to two million per annum (up from 1.2 million currently), and is establishing Mauritius as a duty-free island. I am confident that we can grow the current 20% usage by tourists by another 20%.”

He notes, “There is also a large South African population living on the island that is familiar with the brands – for example, Debonairs Pizza is the most popular convenience food brand on the island and has been for the past 10 years.”

Hele comments, “A master licensee agreement is a win-win for both parties. We benefit from the licensee’s expertise and knowledge of the local market where we don’t necessarily have a presence, or the unique skills required for that territory, while he benefits from the group’s intellectual capital and systems which would traditionally take years to develop.”