The University of Huddersfield has seen a growing number of students enrolling on its courses in recent years and as a consequence there have been increasing opportunities within the town from a leisure and catering perspective. One company that has looked to capitalise on this potential has been CPL Food Group, which has been involved in the development of a major food court at the Packhorse Shopping Centre that includes a Burger King as well as other emerging food brands.
“We started five years ago with a Burger King outlet in Clacton under the umbrella of CPL Food Group,” explains Lamen Reddy, Director. “A second Burger King site soon followed in Hull in May 2010, before we began working on the development of some of our own brands.”
These specially created brands, El Taco Loco, Real Café and Roosters, a fried chicken offering, complement the Burger King outlet, which has been much-missed within Huddersfield since a previous outlet closed several years ago.
“We decided to create additional brands as we wanted to run the whole food court at the Prospect Shopping Centre in Hull, which had the same landlords as the Packhorse in Huddersfield,” adds Mr Reddy. “The landlord and ourselves put a great deal of investment into creating the food court in Hull and we subsequently developed four more food courts after that. During this process we also developed our own brands in terms of product and marketing.”
El Taco Loco, Real Cafe and Roosters Chicken are now the three most prominent brands within the CPL Food Group, although this is a portfolio that will be increasing moving forward. “We have plans for another two brand launches in 2016 and another two food courts. From a Burger King perspective, meanwhile, we have been expanding quite aggressively and now have 23 with another six in the pipeline at the moment. In terms of how we’ve been able to make such strong progress, having the right people in place and getting strong support from the banks has been crucial. The improvement in the economic climate has also helped as the situation continues to move in the right direction.
“The feedback to the Huddersfield development has been quite positive. I have to say in a couple of the centres that we’ve been to in the past there has been some negative comments and people questioning why we were coming and asking whether there was a need for another eating establishment. In contrast, for some reason in Huddersfield it has been extremely positive and we’ve been welcomed with open arms. On opening day in particular we had a lot of passers by coming in to see what was going on and to tell us what a great job we had done in reinvigorating the shopping centre. The consensus was that the food court looks great and that not only the shopping centre needed it but that the town as a whole did. We were therefore delighted with the response and have been really pleased with how things are progressing. Our plan is to make it a destination and we’re talking to many local retailers about using pop up pod units. We’re working with the centre about creating entertainment nights and things like that so we’re very positive about the prospects of Huddersfield moving forward. It’s a great town that has a really good buzz about it.
“As for the reasons behind the success of the development, it has really been a joint effort. David Heathcote-Smith, the centre manager, played a major part in driving the awareness campaign for the development, whilst our team also worked extremely hard to get the message out there. This enabled us to hit the ground running and allowed us to generate high footfall levels very early on.”
Not one to rest on its laurels, CPL Food Group is looking to maintain its momentum in 2016. “We’re aiming to carry on with our growth plan,” says Mr Reddy. “We have a plan for another ten units in the next 12 months, along with a further two food courts. With each new food court that we’ve developed, we’ve increased our experience by learning lessons that we can bring to the next project. The first food court we did was fraught with difficulties but we overcame them and with each site it has become easier, as we now know what to expect. The process has definitely become much smoother. We tend to use the same team of people for the openings and to run the training so everything’s much simpler now.
“In terms of the biggest challenges that we face, many are people-orientated and recruitment can be tricky. Having the right people in place makes everything a lot easier and it’s important that we ensure we have the right team to enable us to keep developing the business. Fortunately we’re working with companies that are assisting us with this and we’re putting a lot of emphasis on training and rewarding through merit. This will give us the workforce to keep moving to the next stage in our development.”
With its commitment to building the team of people it needs to sustain its progress, it is clear that CPL Food Group will be an increasingly prominent name within the marketplace and its brands are sure to become ever more recognisable on the high streets of the UK’s towns and cities.