Thu, Jan 03, 2013 - Page 13 News List

Gourmet Master hires James Hsieh as CEO

BRAND KNOWLEDGE:The firm said Hsieh’s experience would be an asset to its expansion plans, including in China, where it is planning upgrades and new outlets

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Gourmet Master Co (美食達人) yesterday announced it was hiring former President Chain Store Corp (統一超商) chief operating officer James Hsieh (謝健南) as its new chief executive officer as the company plans expansion this year.

Under Hsieh’s leadership, the company — which operates the popular cafe and bakery chain 85oC (85度C), high-end bakery Better Simple (麵包同話) and hotpot restaurant chain Top One Pot (這一鍋) — expects to expand its total number of outlets worldwide to 800 by the end of the year, from its current number of about 730.

Gourmet Master’s board of directors approved the hiring of Hsieh at a meeting at the end of last year. Chairman Wu Cheng-hsueh (吳政學), who also served as president, will focus on the chairman position, according to a company statement.

Hsieh has been working in the retail industry for more than 30 years. He left President Chain Store — which runs convenience store chain 7-Eleven — in July last year.

Shares in the company closed up 2.11 percent on NT$194 yesterday, compared with the benchmark index’s 1.04 percent rise, after Gourmet Master announced the hiring plan in the morning, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed.

For the whole of last year, Gourmet Master shares dropped 6.4 percent, versus the TAIEX’s 8.87 percent rise, according to the stock exchange’s data.

“Mr Hsieh will lead the brand of 85oC to become a well-known global brand, backed by his past experience in running various internationally famous brands,” Gourmet Master said in a statement.

The chain operator said it expected revenue for this year to continuously grow from last year, driven mainly by outlet expansion.

Under the board’s plan, the company — which has about 370 85oC outlets in China — plans to open between 60 and 80 new outlets in China this year, down from the 110 new outlets it opened last year.

Most of this year’s new outlets in China will be located in regions that have existing 85oC outlets to create higher economic efficiency, the statement said.

The company will further upgrade certain 85oC stores in China, mainly in the Shanghai area, to add high-end bakery space, because the company is preparing to promote Better Simple there.

As for Taiwan, the company is ready to launch four or five new outlets this year for Better Simple and one for Top One Pot, the statement added.

Grand Cathay Investment Services Corp (大華投顧) analyst Horatio Lin (林修平) said Gourmet Master’s multi-brand strategy may strengthen its long-term profitability as the business models of its newly launched brands mature.

However, the company’s move to expand more central factories in western China may raise operating costs and affect its profitability this year, Lin added.

Grand Cathay forecast Gourmet Master’s consolidated revenue would rise 15.5 percent to US$16 billion this year, with earnings per share to reach NT$9.17 per share this year, from NT$8.53 last year.

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