Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  28 Sep 2009

HOSPITALITY: Brazen Move Into Pub Scene


Recent Western Cape Business News

IN the late nineties there was a lot of froth blowing around the pub ‘n grub industry. One of the big movers and shakers was entrepreneur Basil O’Hagan, who tested the limits with a forecast that his fast growing O’Hagan’s pub chain could top 150 outlets by 2001.

Unfortunately by 2001 O’Hagan’s – which was formidable enough to be listed on the JSE – was suffering from a debilitating debt hangover caused by an expansion binge (which included shifts into other branded restaurants like Baron’s).

The group was placed into liquidation, and O’Hagan – who at one stage held a net worth of over R100 million - was shuffled off the JSE with barely enough to buy a round of Guinness.

But it seems O’Hagan – who must have learnt some harsh lessons about gearing up a fast growing business in late nineties – has quietly been re-establishing himself on the pub grub scene (see our separate report on the latest developments at Kingco below).

CBN was rather surprised to see an advertisement for Irish Restaurant and Pubs under the banner ‘Let’s get ready for World Cup 2010’.

The Irish themed franchise pubs are marketed under the ‘Brazen Head’ brand, which CBN has established is the brainchild of none other than Basil O’Hagan.

Brazen Head franschisees (and investors) are being sought to open pubs all over the greater Cape Town area -Brackenfell, Claremont, Constantia, City Bowl, Durbanville, Fish Hoek, Gordon’s Bay, Hout Bay, Kenilworth, Lakeside, Milnerton, Newlands, Plattekloof, Rondebosch, Somerset West, Strand, Tableview/Blaauwberg, The Foreshore, Tygervalley, George, Knysna, Hermanus and Paarl.

That’s a helluva big spread, and would – if the Brazen Head website is up-to-date – more than double the franchisee base. The website shows the Brazen Head has mainly a presence in Gauteng with outlets in Boksburg, Montana, Sandton, Witbank, Willows, Nelspruit, Fourways, Florida Glens, Edenvale, Centurion and Bryanston.

To date there is only one Cape-based outlet in Stellenbosch.

In an interview with CBN, O’Hagan stresses that although the Brazen Head’s Cape foray appears to target numerous sites, the expansion will be carefully and cautiously contemplated.

The Cape expansion is part of a ten year programme. We are realistically only looking at opening three Brazen Head outlets by 2010. Even if we manage to open just two we will be happy.”

O’Hagan notes that the Brazen Head has already enjoyed encouraging success in the Cape with its Stellenbosch store, which opened in 2006, trading strongly. “It’s one of the best stores in our group…”

O’Hagan says the group is aiming to have 50 Brazen Head outlets countrywide within the next ten years. “This is a far cry from the nineties when we were opening on average 14 O’Hagan’s stores a year. This time we are carefully contemplating growth…very carefully selecting sites and franchisees.”

He says the Brazen Head is doing well as a group. “We have been very fortunate in this economy.”

Thankful the Irish pub concept is still very popular and the truth is that whether someone has R20 million or R20 in their pocket they are still inclined to have a beer.”

O’Hagan points out that the group’s success is largely attributable to the fact that the Brazen Head differentiates itself from other pub businesses. “We are not a drinking hole. We are a pub and a restaurant under one roof.”

O’Hagan says one of the biggest lessons learnt from the collapse of his original O’Hagan’s is not to carry too much debt.

I am also aware of what can go wrong in any business, which means I am a lot more cautious. I have also learnt a lot about trusting people and making sure that I have a good team around me.”

Most of all, O’Hagan says, it’s critical to stick to core strengths.

O’Hagan dismisses any notion that he is making a great comeback. “I really don’t see the Brazen Head as big comeback. I am merely doing my best and retaining focus…there’s a long, long way to go.”

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