Far East Organization acquires stake in Aussie restaurant group

Private property developer Far East Organization has acquired a 65 per cent stake in Vue Group, the Australian restaurant group by celebrity chef Shannon Bennett.

Bennett, 41, is best known as the head chef of his flagship Vue de Monde in Melbourne's Rialto Towers.

The Australian is also a guest chef on the reality cooking competition, MasterChef Australia, and a cookbook author.

He retains a 35 per cent stake in Vue Group and will continue to play a "key role" as its creative director, said the joint press statement issued yesterday by Far East Organization.

Bennett will also oversee the group's operations with its chief executive Michael Gray.

Vue Group started in 2000. Besides Vue de Monde, its portfolio of restaurants includes Jardin Tan and The Lui Bar in Melbourne; Burnham Bakery and The Piggery Cafe in Sherbrooke, Victoria; and Benny Burger at Sydney Airport, Bennett's latest venture.

For Far East Organization, this partnership marks its first investment into a food and beverage group in Australia.

Since 2013, the company and its listed unit Far East Orchard have invested A$1.8 billion (S$1.9 billion) in Australia and built a property portfolio there which spans multiple sectors.

In Singapore, Far East Organi- zation's food and beverage arm, Kitchen Language, was established in 2008. In 2014, it acquired a majority stake in home-grown F&B company The Big Idea.

The combined group operates under the umbrella of Refinery Concepts, which owns restaurants such as Kinki Restaurant + Bar at Customs House, Fat Cow at Camden Medical Centre and Oriole Coffee + Bar at Pan Pacific Orchard Serviced Suites in Somerset.

This year, Refinery Concepts launched its newest brand - gin bar Cin Cin in Peck Seah Street - and its first e-commerce platform with gourmet cafe chain Dean & DeLuca.

It also runs a catering arm, Kitchen Language Catering, and oversees the operations of three hotel restaurants - Saltwater Cafe at Village Hotel Changi, Straits Cafe at Rendezvous Hotel Singapore and Katong Kitchen at Village Hotel Katong.

Bennett, who had told The Straits Times in an interview two years ago that he would pick Singapore as the country for expansion, says: "I am looking forward to growing the group brands... working within both organisations to expand in Australia and Asia - something that the Vue Group has not been able to fully achieve without this partnership.

"The investment speaks volumes about Far East Organization's confidence in the Vue Group and our ideas to deliver innovative dining experiences."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Far East Organization acquires stake in Aussie restaurant group'. Subscribe