ECONOMY

Growth-hungry food firms

The catering sector has been flourishing in recent years, as seen through the growth of several chains and listed firms. Most entrepreneurs believe that the near future will bring partnerships of a strategic character designed to create strong groups with diversified activities. The attainment of competitive size – even by European market standards- does not appear to be a challenge only for Greek industry. Besides, the catering sector faces unmistakable challenges for future growth, as it is still dominated by thousands of personal businesses. Market experts see Delta Holdings, which includes the country’s largest dairy industry, as a particularly weighty factor in future developments. For several months early this year, there was great expectancy as to whether and how the group would acquire a controlling stake in Goody’s, the largest fast-food chain. After completion of the deal during the summer, interest has shifted to the group’s next possible moves in the 500-billion-drachma fast-catering industry. These will certainly concern Goody’s further growth, for which Delta had long argued as a minority shareholder. The overall framework has already been more or less defined as growth through buyouts and the creation of new chains, with priorities for immediate implementation in the market segments of souvlaki, snacks and Greek cuisine. The picture is expected to be clarified soon, after Goody’s submits a series of proposals. Thus far, the big chains seem to have shied away from the souvlaki market, which has an estimated 6,000 outlets and a 200-billion-drachma annual turnover. Pita Pan, which first attempted it in 1993, has had to overhaul its image and relaunch its name in Greek letters after a disappointing start. It has since grown from four outlets in 1998 to 13 today, with an approximate annual turnover of 2 billion drachmas. One of the first indications of other upcoming developments came from the listed Grigoris snack outlet chain, with its acquisition of Neon restaurants, projected for completion before the end of the year. The firm has also acquired a holding in the Venetis outlet in the ISAP railway station in Piraeus. Both Grigoris and Everest, another listed snack outlet chain, seem finally to have grasped the need for expanding their activities and for gradually diversifying. Grigoris has recently opened outlets in the relatively closed segments of the industry (supermarkets, banks) and laid the groundwork for the development of a Chinese restaurant chain. Everest, for its part, began acquiring holdings in companies such as Domino’s Pizza, Delikiosk and Papagalino. Meanwhile, the ice-cream chain Dodoni, which has applied for a listing on the Athens bourse and in which Delta has a 25-percent interest, is said to be considering diversifying into the cafe business. Finally, McDonald’s is expected to announce new business plans soon. Its new management has said it is resolved to narrow the distance from Goody’s by adapting its philosophy to the mentality of the Greek consumer. It was some ideas presented by a third party. The end result of it is continued Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian territories, and Israeli control of the water resources, airspace, and international crossing points. Even the Palestinian territory to be the base for a Palestinian state is not integral. It’s divided into Bantustan-like fragments with Israeli roads and settlements cutting through. And that means the perpetuation of Israeli occupation.