Caffè Ritazza set for agency hire

Coffee shop Caffè Ritazza is in talks with agencies for a worldwide trade and consumer brief.

The brand, part of caterer Compass Group, has previously handled PR in-house, but has decided to bring an agency on board with a brief to raise its profile in the trade sector and build public awareness.

Five agencies are understood to have pitched for the business, and international brand director Richard Barclay is on the verge of making a decision.

The winning agency will report to Barclay.

Relaunched in 2002, Caffè Ritazza has outlets in nearly 30 countries, with branches in Milan, Paris, Stockholm, New York, São Paulo and Sydney. It announced plans earlier in the year to open 100 more units in a further ten countries and claims to have exceeded sales targets in all its regions.

Despite a 2004 turnover of £2.6bn, parent company Compass Group – also owner of the Harry Ramsden's, Whistlestop, Upper Crust and Millie's Cookies brands – last week issued a third profit warning in 12 months. It also revealed a timescale for next year's departure of chief executive Mike Bailey.

In an attempt to pacify investors, Bailey told the City that the firm's Select Service Partner (SSP) division, which controls Compass brands such as Ritazza at roadsides, airports and railway stations, would be put on the market for about £1bn.

In the event of a sale, Compass would retain use of key brands such as Caffè Ritazza, and the PR brief would be unaffected, said SSP communications manager Susan Gray.

A deal would enable the group to focus on the contract catering side of the business, Bailey said.

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