Wednesday 18 September 2019

Jamie Oliver executive new Avoca MD as Pratt steps back

Simon Pratt plans to devote more time to other ventures and says he is enjoying it not being “24/7 Avoca”
Simon Pratt plans to devote more time to other ventures and says he is enjoying it not being “24/7 Avoca”
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Simon Pratt has handed over the reins as managing director of Avoca to the former chief financial officer of Jamie Oliver's restaurant group, Tara O'Neill.

The high-profile appointment of Ms O'Neill suggests that Avoca owner Aramark continues to have its sights firmly set on expanding the Irish chain into the UK market.

While Mr Pratt has resigned as a director of the Avoca business that his family sold in 2015 for more than €63m, he told the Irish Independent that he is remaining for another year as an adviser.

"I'm still working for Avoca in a strategic role, but I handed over the role of managing director at the beginning of October," Mr Pratt confirmed.

"I'm going to be working for the company for another year at least in a strategic role."

Mr Pratt had agreed to stay with Avoca for three years following its sale to Aramark, the US catering services giant with annual revenue of more than $14.4bn (€12.2bn).

Avoca was founded in 1974 by Mr Pratt's father, Donald, who acquired a woollen mill in the eponymous Co Wicklow town.

The chain has expanded to become a business with an annual turnover of about €60m, employing 1,000 people. It opened its 12th outlet earlier this year, in Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Mr Pratt said the Avoca business needed someone with "great appetite and energy" and that it was an ideal time to bring in fresh thinking to drive the chain forward.

"I'm very positive about the whole thing," said Mr Pratt. "I recognised a year ago that I could still be of use to them, but that I'm not going to eat, drink and sleep this forever. It's time for a younger, sharper pencil."

Mr Pratt said the decision allows him to devote more time to other endeavours, but he said he's not working on specific projects at the moment.

"I'm really enjoying the fact that it doesn't have to be 24/7 Avoca," he added. "It was 363 days a year."

Ms O'Neill is from Co Wicklow. She was appointed chief financial officer of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group in 2012. She joined the group after previously holding roles with nightclub operator Luminar and online supermarket delivery business Ocado.

The Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group has been undergoing restructuring as it endures challenging trading conditions in the UK.

The holding group recently provided a short-term loan to Jamie's Italian chain to support its difficult trading environment.

At the beginning of 2017, the group announced that it was closing six UK restaurants, adding that Brexit was hurting the business. Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group has also hired external advisers to work with its new management team.

Irish Independent

Also in Business