Tasty acquisition expands North food empire | 26 February 09

ENTREPRENEUR Hossain Rezaei MBE has opened up a new front in his fast-expanding food services empire with the acquisition of an acclaimed catering specialist.

Mr Rezaei, former owner of Pride Valley Foods in Seaham, has already established the Flatbread Café chain of Persian-influenced restaurants and a health and wellness monitoring business called The You Company.

Now with the help of law firm Ward Hadaway, the entrepreneur has bought County Durham catering company Church’s Cuisine for an undisclosed sum.

Currently based in Chester-le-Street, Church’s provides corporate catering services to customers across the region, specialising in menus to suit any dietary requirement.

The business, which employs 16 staff, was nominated for the Small Business of the Year Award in the Durham and Wearside Business Awards 2005.

As part of the acquisition, Church’s Cuisine founder Kris Blackburn will remain with the company to manage its day to day operations.

Hossain Rezaei said: “Church’s Cuisine is an extremely well-run business which has carved out an excellent reputation for itself in the contract catering and events management field.

“From early March Kris and her team are moving to bigger, purpose-fitted premises in Team Valley, Gateshead, in order to provide much needed further capacity for this fast growing business serving the corporate and events industries.

“Being able to retain Kris to run the business on a day to day business is the best of both worlds and her talent and enthusiasm will help our enlarged group enormously.”

Ward Hadaway advised Mr Rezaei on the acquisition with corporate finance partner Katherine Hay-Heddle leading the firm’s team.

Katherine said: “Hossain is a man who has a real vision for the future of his businesses so it is always a pleasure to help him to achieve those goals.

“Church’s Cuisine complements his existing food businesses and I am sure it will continue its growth under his stewardship, just the same as Pride Valley Foods did over the years.”

Ward Hadaway has worked with Mr Rezaei over a number of years and advised on the sale of Pride Valley Foods.

Mr Rezaei said: “Ward Hadaway have consistently managed to exceed my expectations in terms of getting the job done in an efficient and fuss-free manner and this occasion was no exception.

“The relationship is excellent and they have always helped my businesses from the beginning and provided support in all departments.

“They helped steer them through the usual obstacles facing fast growing businesses. They know and understand my vision and desire for growth and have always been facilitating and supportive.”

Iranian-born Mr Rezaei has a long history of successful businesses in the food and catering sector.

He started and built Pride Valley Foods in Seaham, County Durham, into the largest independent manufacturer of speciality breads in Europe and in 1999 he was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his services to the food industry.

In October 2006, Mr Rezaei sold Pride Valley to North American food group Gruma SA and the following year started up his Flatbread Café chain of trendy eateries.

Selling a Persian-influenced eclectic fusion of dishes, Flatbread Café opened its first outlet in Newcastle’s High Bridge with a second following at the Metro Centre, Gateshead.

Mr Rezaei plans to open a further four to five outlets within a 40-mile radius of Newcastle before taking the concept nationwide.

Last year, the entrepreneur also started up The You Company, a health and wellness monitoring business designed to help individuals to check their own health and for companies to help keep their workforces fit and well.

This online service is designed to help large employers and insurance companies keep their staff and clients well and away from unwanted episodes that no one desires, in particular the NHS.

The You Company has already got a number of contracts with some large household names in UK and is researching the US market for this innovative and groundbreaking online concept.

* Find out more about Ward Hadaway's Corporate Finance services.