Famous Brands forays into fast-growing plant protein segment, acquires stake in Lexi’s Healthy Eatery

SOUTH AFRICA – Famous Brands, owner of Wimpy, Steers, and Debonairs, among other restaurant brands, has acquired a majority stake in Lexi’s Healthy Eatery, as part of its strategic investment roadmap.

The JSE listed company has bagged a 51 percent shareholding in the mostly vegan, whole-food restaurant, with the deal effective from 1 April.

With this move, Famous Brands joins its counterpart Tiger Brands who recently through its venture capital fund, acquired a plant-based food company Herbivore Earthfoods alongside private equity firm Secha Capital.

According to Famous Brands, the acquisition is aligned with its three-year strategic roadmap, which includes acquiring brands that have the potential to lead in their category and which offer growth prospects based on opportunities to improve existing operational efficiencies in the target business.

The company’s existing portfolio does not include an exclusively vegetarian or plant-based offering, and as a forerunner in its category, Lexi’s is a good fit for the group.

“The trend to healthy eating and plant-based foods has been present in the market for some time, and continues to grow; this is evidenced by the increasing receptiveness to and take-up of healthier and vegetarian options on the menus of the group’s existing brand portfolio,” highlighted Famous Brands.

In explaining the rationale behind the acquisition, the group said Lexi’s would perfectly complement the group’s Signature Brands’ Fun Dining portfolio, providing a more comprehensive offering to where the group already has a presence and to existing and prospective customers.

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Lexi’s, whose slogan is “Eat more plants”, is a casual dining restaurant brand offering a full-service, sit-down, dining experience across breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Its menu is plant-based, being almost entirely vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free but also offers a free-range meat and fish menu option to accommodate flexitarians.

It operates a fledgling central kitchen that develops and produces meals for the restaurants and sells a limited range of convenience frozen goods to a small number of supermarkets.

The acquisition pertains to the franchise and central kitchen operations of the business.

Famous Brand’s management is confident that the brand offering has strong potential to be expanded into a quick-service restaurant format.

Founded in 2018, Lexi’s currently has four restaurants that are located in Rosebank, Modderfontein, Hazelwood (Pretoria) and Sea Point.

There is also scope to develop Lexi’s products for the supermarket retail space and leverage off the group’s well-established route-to-market.

As part of the deal, Lexi Monzeglio – who founded the business in 2018 – as well as her business partner Ezio Nichele – who manages the businesses operations – will continue to play a vital role in the restaurant’s growth.

Together Monzeglio and Nichele will develop the strategic direction of the business while Famous Brands will put up the infrastructure capacity, industry experience and working capital to assist achieve the business’s potential and make the plant-based sustainable lifestyle more readily available and convenient for communities.

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