TGI Friday’s chief takes on MD role at Beefeater

Whitbread has appointed Neil Riding to succeed John Derkach as managing director of hotel, pub and restaurant group Beefeater.

Derkach, who was marketing director for Whitbread Beer Company before joining Beefeater three years ago, became chief executive of Pizza Hut UK in August (MW August 15). Riding is managing director of Whitbread’s TGI Friday’s chain, which he will continue to run until a replacement is found.

Last week, Whitbread admitted that sales at Beefeater had only grown 1.5 per cent in the 24 weeks to August 17, compared to group-wide growth of 3.8 per cent.

Whitbread chief executive David Thomas said the group had failed “to put enough sales promotion activity behind the brand”, adding that it would now be addressing this problem.

According to Nielsen Media research, advertising spending on Beefeater for the 12 months to the end of June 2002 was &£100,000.

However, a Whitbread spokeswoman says press reports of a complete brand overhaul for Beefeater, or even the sale of the chain, are untrue. “There is no brand review – that is just press speculation,” she says.

Beefeater was launched 28 years ago, and had considerable success, taking over rival Berni Inns 12 years ago and becoming the UK’s largest full-service restaurant operator, with more than 300 sites.

But a &£50m brand relaunch in 1997 seems to have failed to stop a fall in sales, and Whitbread has converted a number of outlets to its Out & Out or Grillbar formats in recent years.

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