As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA), Three Joes acquired Fuller’s 14-site strong pizza chain, The Stable, on 8 June for an undisclosed sum.
According to the operator's chief executive and co-founder Tim Hall, the deal was reached between Three Joes and Fuller’s very quickly after discussions began during Covid-19 lockdown.
“It's definitely something that's occurred for both businesses as a result of lockdown,” he told MA. “Fuller's has an incredible, enormous nationwide estate of pubs which are obviously closed at the moment, so they are very focused on spending their time reopening that estate.
“It's definitely a factor for them [Fuller's] that they've built this business up but they've got to focus their entire resource on reopening the pubs. It would have helped us, in a sense, that they were keen to reach an agreement."
On top of this, Hall believed the sector could yet see more merger and acquisition activity in the coming weeks as operators seek to focus on reopening core estates ahead of subsidiary brands.
"As boards of larger businesses start to focus on the reality of reopening huge trading estates, they're more likely to be thinking that smaller subsidiaries are a distraction to them, and therefore they would be likely to divest themselves of them,” he said. “But, there's not long to go before people are going to be reopening.
"You've got to think that that is likely – there's got to be a good chance, but it's hard to tell. We'll find out over the next couple of weeks.”
Integration 'easier' amid pandemic
Founder and former CEO of healthy fast food chain pod for a decade between 2005 and 2015, Hall formed Three Joes in 2017 with Emma Blackmore and Byron Hamburgers co-founder Peter Bruton.
Their acquisition of the £14.6m turnover The Stable using private funding from Three Joes’ shareholders, will see the pizzamaker take a slice of trade in the Midlands, Wales and south west on top of its estate of three restaurants in Winchester and Fareham, both in Hampshire; and Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
“It's a beautiful estate of restaurants,” Hall said. “There are waterside locations, so beaches and harbours, there are few market locations, really lovely places.
"Particularly with people going abroad less we felt they were the right kind of places to invest in in terms of the sort of locations that you'd want. In the same sense that you might shy away from a covered shopping centre at the moment because they're closed and they're likely to take longer to get back up to speed - but everyone's pretty comfortable walking around on the beach at the moment.”
Hall adds that in light of the near six-fold increase of Three Joes’ estate with the addition of the Stable's 14 sites, the business’ primary focus is now on integration and getting new sites up and running rather than any further expansion.
"Ironically the integration is easier with the pandemic, but the challenge is the reopening process,” he explained. "Where we had a team in place that could reopen three restaurants, we have very quickly got to get a team together that can reopen 14. That's the challenge, it's resource and people, really, that's our main issue at the moment.”