Kuwait-based Kout Food Group’s acquisition of British roadside dining chain Little Chef for the cheap as chips sum of $23m raises some big questions.
The eateries, known for their Olympic-sized fried breakfasts, were originally bought out by private equity firm RCapital in 2007. After some substantial efforts to trim the fat off the company, including closing two-thirds of its 234 outlets, RCapital has somehow returned this once noble British institution to profitability. That is not forgetting roping in the help of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal along the way.
While I personally wish the best of success to Kout, which also runs some KFC and Burger King restaurants in the UK and Kuwait, I do find something quite fishy about all of this.
Glancing at Little Chef’s menu, a lot of it seems to be based on pork products, whose consumption we all know is prohibited in Islam. Obviously Muslim customers have the option of requesting meals without pork, although I do not know if Little Chef serves halal meat generally.
As a Kuwaiti firm though, does Kout not have some kind of obligation to guide its investments by Sharia principles?
In the past we’ve seen companies bend to Islamic rules. For example, following its tie-up with Emirates Airline, Australia’s Qantas removed pork items from its menu on flights into Dubai.
Pork is probably not the only thing about Little Chef’s menu that Kout will want to have a think about, if some recent reviews are anything to go by.
While many of the customers were obviously happy with the experience, one visitor to the TripAdvisor website was less than pleased and described the dining at Little Chef experience as “utterly revolting”, with “slow service, filthy toilets [and] disgusting food”. Another customer was apparently left similarly unimpressed, saying they later “spent most of the night vomiting and running to [the] toilet” after consuming its fish and chips meal.
That is certainly something Kout will want to chew over in the coming months.