Harry Ramsden's goes fishing for fun: Chippie chain expands into leisure

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HARRY RAMSDEN'S is expanding into takeaway fish and chips, and adding leisure activities to some of its restaurants, as part of a strategy for continuing the group's growth.

John Barnes, chairman, believes that there is scope for only 20 of the group's large fish and chip restaurants. It already has eight restaurants, with another five due to open this year, so the group is likely to achieve its target by 1997.

It has already expanded internationally - its first overseas store was opened in Hong Kong last year and it hopes to open in Singapore, Melbourne and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, shortly. It has also acquired a 50 per cent stake in Welbourne Ramsden's, a takeaway fish and chip shop company, which has just acquired 11 small freehold sites in the South of England. These will become takeaway fish and chip shops.

The group also announced that it had bought an amusement and fairground area next to its Guiseley restaurant. 'The owner bought it years ago and I have negotiated with him every year and have finally persuaded him to sell.' The facilities will be upgraded and Mr Barnes said most of the other restaurants had space for similar developments.

The announcements came as the group disclosed that profits for the year to October had risen by a third to pounds 815,295, while earnings rose a similar amount to 7.2p.

That has triggered the conversion of the 2 million 'B' shares, created when the group floated in 1989, into ordinary shares, so that they qualified for the maintained 3.5p dividend for the first time.

The rise in profits reflected a strong performance at the original Guiseley restaurant as well as the benefit of new openings.

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