Pizza giant’s shock store closures as debts hit $8.5m

AN AMERICAN pizza giant which had plans to dominate the Australian market has closed its 14 stores as debts hit $8.57 million, leaving loyal customers shocked.

Little Caesars set its sights on becoming the biggest pizza franchise in the country when it arrived in Australia in 2014, but six years later the franchisee for the US heavyweight has gone into administration.

Australian director Ernest Koury had talked up the company's ability to take on Dominos and Pizza Hut in the saturated pizza market, with Little Caesars offering pizzas top customers within 30 seconds of ordering.

At its peak Little Caesars had 14 restaurants dotted across Greater Sydney and regional New South Wales.

Pizza and crazy bread at Little Caesar's in Casula.
Pizza and crazy bread at Little Caesar's in Casula.

Half were closed between September 22 and October 21, before the company was put into administration on October 23 with "ongoing cashflow difficulties and trading losses".

Investigations by administrators Andrew Spring and Trent Devine found Evo Pizza Pty Ltd, trading as Little Caesars, and its related company Esca Distributing, which was used to buy and distribute raw materials for Little Caesars stores, had debts to creditors totalling $8.57 million.

Evo Pizza's creditors totalled $5.7 million while Esca Distributing's debts hit $2.86 million.

Administrators had continued to trade the stores until last week, when all were closed.

Little Caesars had planned to open dozens of restaurants in Brisbane and regional Queensland.

Mr Koury said "the market itself could easily sustain 400 Little Caesars franchises", with an expansion into Melbourne and Adelaide also on the cards.

The company has more than 4000 stores in the US.

Little Caesars’ director Ernest Koury’s exact whereabouts is unknown, hindering investigators’ ability to get answers about the company’s finances.
Little Caesars’ director Ernest Koury’s exact whereabouts is unknown, hindering investigators’ ability to get answers about the company’s finances.

This month Little Caesars told its 4.2 million Facebook followers the company's Australian stores were closed by the local franchisee.

"Little Caesars is actively seeking a new franchisee and we hope to see you again very soon," the post said.

"We appreciate your support and thank you for being such wonderful customers."

Administrators said their investigators "have been frustrated by a lack of reliable financial information pertaining to the business operations prior to our appointment".

They noted Mr Koury's "exact whereabouts" is also unknown.


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