LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Pickstock, which sells upmarket food and wine in bars and restaurants around the world, expects a pick-up in business after the launch last month of a new business line catering for fooded and ready meals.

A man waits outside a Pickstock and food takeaway in central London, Britain, November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Pickstock had a customer list of roughly 300,000 in Britain before it decided late last year to diversify into pre-prepared dishes like chicken in banana peppers, for which it is now expecting revenue of 65 million pounds ($85 million) in 2021, Chief Executive Ian Winterwood told Reuters.

“It’s more profitable per head and that’s why we’re not worried about the growth of the business,” Winterwood said. “This is an area for us which we think is a much, much bigger opportunity,” he said.

His description contrasted with that of some firms in the sector, such as the burger chain Byron which last year posted disappointing results because of the rise of increasingly healthy food, prompting Chief Executive Darren Rees to forecast slower growth in the sector.

However, the catering sector as a whole has a good track record of growth, with spending on the sector rising by 3.6 percent last year, the most of any industry, according to data from Nielsen.

Pickstock focuses on the so-called “social occasion”, where people want to eat out with others, but with fresher food and good service, and Winterwood sees scope for expansion to include more markets across Asia and in Europe.

COOKING PAN OR CARROT?

Winterwood will need the business pipeline to pick up. Pickstock, which has a market capitalization of around 100 million pounds, is expected to return to profit this year after posting a nine-month loss of 29 million pounds last year.

The company made a pretax loss of 3.9 million pounds in the six months to December.

Pickstock has catered for fooded customers for about 40 years, but this move into ready meals is not its first foray into new product categories.

Earlier this year it backed a new line of convenience wine made for supermarkets, as well as a third of struggling international pizza chain Pizza Express.

“There’s this creeping move towards a ‘personal chef’ society ... The next sort of thing is ‘cooking at home’. That is ... a very big market that is growing at 7 or 8 percent a year,” Winterwood said.

It shares closed up 1.9 percent at 54.4 pence on Friday.