Eco Investor November 2015

Unlisted Companies

Organic Fast Food Opportunities for Investors

We are all used to seeing the usual junk food shops on our intercity travels but increasingly motorists as well as investors are also likely to see organic fast food shops that want us to park and eat there instead.

In the school holidays in early October we took the kids camping and heading north out of Sydney we stopped at Wyong where I was delighted to see a shop called Oliver's Real Food that offered natural and organic fast food. As our kids are now old enough to appreciate good-for-you food, stopping there instead of McDonald's was not a big call.

It was also a coincidence for me as I was reading a book called Eat Real Food by David Gillespie, a huge campaigner against the rise of sugar and polyunsaturated fats in the modern diet. I suspect the only connection between Oliver's Real Food and Gillespie's Eat Real Food is their respective devotion to real food, and after reading the book and tasting the food I am a convert.

When I entered the cafe, a first impression was how many people were there. Yes, it was holidays and people were traveling, but the cafe was large and had lots of people.

The food looked good and the selection was impressive with a lot of choices such as pita and burrito pockets, salads, sandwiches, sushis, curries and fruit salads. There were vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and diary free options, and more than enough fruit juices, smoothies and organic teas and coffees. There were also plenty of people tucking into the steamed green beans in a chip bucket.

We got a variety of toasted pita pockets and as I had last choice I got the vegetarian one, which I didn't mind and which tasted great. My wife and the kids loved theirs, and the kids enjoyed a smoothie too.

The price was OK; not much more than we would have spent at the adjacent McDonald's or a Hungry Jacks.

We all liked the restaurant so much we stopped again a few days later on our way back.

What I didn't know at the time was that the Wyong restaurant was the first to be opened, in 2008, and the business quickly became a fast growing franchise that is looking for new franchisees and may IPO in the next year or so.

The founder, Jason Gunn, says he is passionate about nutrition and believes that "fast food doesn't have to be junk food" but should be delicious and nutritious. "A large and growing percentage of people prefer healthy food", he says, and this has made Oliver's Real Food "a thriving business".

The reference to Oliver is an allusion to the novel Oliver Twist where the young and hungry Oliver is fed on gruel. Mr Gunn says his is a mission-driven company that aims to set the standards in excellence for fast food retailers.

The company quotes Hippocrates' expression from ancient times "Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine thy Food". It says "There is no such thing as junk food; there is junk, and there is real food". And it promotes the idea that "a vital component of good health is when a person takes interest in the quality of food they are eating."

Above: A small selection of the healthy food at Oliverís.

Below: Oliverís Real Food, Gundagai, NSW.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the company also endeavors to run its business in an environmental way. In the men's bathrooms it has waterless urinal troughs that don't need flushing, and it recycles its juicing waste as organic matter to replenish soil nutrition for organic cultivation.

On the social side, the company has a Share the Love policy under which it provides food, shelter, clothing and education to orphaned children.

Back at the counter and tables, the food formula is working and Mr Gunn's statement that the business is thriving seems to be true as there are now 14 stores in Victoria and NSW and a fifteenth has just opened in Queensland.

The company is looking for new and like-minded franchisees to operate new locations ready to go in the Greater Sydney and Greater Melbourne areas, SE Queensland, northern and southern NSW, and country Victoria and South Australia.

The investment required starts at $400,000, and this includes an existing business or a new store ready to go; fresh food from the central kitchens delivered daily; and full training and support.

Mr Gunn said he is getting one or two enquiries per day from potential franchisees who are committed to the concept and are looking for more than just a money making business to run.

Mr Gunn said the business is profitable and he is looking at an IPO in the next eight to 12 months. A listing would raise capital to take the business where it can go, which is national. Overseas expansion might follow later.

He told Eco Investor that the performance of organic baby food maker, Bellamy's Australia, has also been an encouragement.

Meanwhile, in late October I drove from Sydney to Melbourne and back. A bit of research showed there were three Oliver's Real Food shops along the way, so I tried them out and they were fine, especially the big Gundagai one. Sorry, but the old stops had to do without me, although I did make an exception for one Whopper.

The 15 Oliver's Real Food sites so far:

Wyong North, NSW
Wyong South, NSW
Hexham, NSW
Goulburn, NSW
Gundagai, NSW
Wallan North, Vic
Wallan South, Vic
Eastlink out, Vic
Eastlink in, Vic
Officer out, Vic
Officer in, Vic
Penn link out, Vic
Geelong South, Vic
Geelong North, Vic
Slacks Creek, Qld





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