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Thursday September 21st, 2023

Sri Lanka’s Harpo’s to bake pizza across South Asia

The homegrown Harpo’s is famous for its wood-fired Italian-style Pizza. Source: Harpo’s Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT- Harpo’s, the homegrown Sri Lankan pizza and pasta chain, will be expanding into the South Asian region with a franchise, founder and chief executive Harpo Gooneratne said.

“We are already in discussion with potential franchisees, and the opportunities are promising,” Gooneratne said, speaking to EconomyNext.

“An international brand manual is currently being created to list our standards for franchise,” he said.

“Once the brand manual is complete, we will be ready to franchise both locally and internationally.”

Harpo’s is initially targeting neighbouring India and Bangladesh for franchise operations.

Standards will be maintained with constant quality checks, Gooneratne said.

Harpo’s wood-fired Italian-style pizzas and pastas became popular rapidly, and was the first homegrown pizza brand to compete with international franchises like Pizza Hut and Domino’s in the local market.

In turn, it is now one of two local restaurant chains to begin its own international franchise, building on the brand’s four restaurants in Ethul Kotte, Ja-Ela, Nugegoda and Mount Lavinia.

Gooneratne, a former highly sought after DJ, founded the Harpo’s Group of Restaurants in 2004, drawing on his hotel school training and a hospitality and event management career that spanned across the globe.

Harpo’s Group of Restaurants Founder and Chief Executive Harpo Gooneratne

The pizza chain, which was formed in 2007, will continue to add to the brand’s local momentum with the expansion of its fully-owned mobile food truck operation and the launch of smaller pizza parlors.

“Rather than investing in big restaurant spaces, we will be setting up multiple pizza parlors and get more trucks running,” Gooneratne said.

The trucks are available for both private function hires and public events.

The food trucks will expand from Colombo into major suburbs like Ratmalana, Moratuwa, Thalawathugoda and Malabe.

Gooneratne has plans for further expansion of his other brands, such as The Commons Coffee House.

The Commons Rotti Cart, which sells flatbread at the café, will also be open for franchising and further food trucks, Gooneratne said. (Colombo/Dec15/2019)

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Sri Lanka government to develop Arugam Bay tourism sector

ECONOMYNEXT – The Arugam Bay Tourism Development Plan, which focuses on challenges to infrastructure development in the area and obstacles hindering the growth of the tourism sector, was discussed by government officials and key stakeholders yesterday (20).

Participants from heads of relevant organizations, the Police and district officers met at the Presidential Secretariat to discuss how each institution could contribute to finding solutions to these challenges, the president’s media division said in a statement.

The main tourism plan for Arugam Bay, prepared by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) was presented by chief of presidential staff, Sagala Rathnayaka.

904,318 tourists visited Sri Lanka from January to August 2023, an increase from the 719,978 tourists that arrived in the country during the whole of 2022, statistics provided by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority show.
“A tourist will spend an average of 185 -195 dollars a day,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Chairman, Priyantha Fernando, told EconomyNext.

Sri Lanka’s government aims to attract five million tourists a year, and has mooted the establishment of an Investment Infrastructure Corporation, a decision-making council and regional committees under provincial tourism boards. (Colombo/Sep21/2023)

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Sri Lanka gets 19.23 mn US dollar grant from USA

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States yesterday (20) announced the commitment of more than 19 million US dollars in additional funds to further the development of Sri Lanka.

The 19.23 million US dollar (6.2 billion rupees) is obligated through the Development Objective Grant Agreement between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Sri Lanka government.

“This development assistance will support economic growth and democratic governance activities and demonstrates the ongoing US commitment to its partnership with Sri Lanka and in building lasting people-to-people ties,” a statement by the Embassy of the United States of America read.

“This investment demonstrates the United States’ ongoing commitment to our partnership with Sri Lanka and our steadfast support to the people of this stunning, opportunity-filled country, as USAID Administrator Samantha Power and President Wickremesinghe discussed in New York,” said Gabriel Grau, USAID Sri Lanka and Maldives Mission Director.

“With these funds we’ll continue to work with the government of Sri Lanka to improve economic growth and democratic governance and advocate for vulnerable populations.”

USAID is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance.

The United States has provided more than 2 billion US dollars (nearly 720 billion rupees) in assistance to Sri Lanka since 1956. (Colombo/Sep21/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s 2022 EPF returns falls to lowest, single digit in near two decades – CB data

ECONOMYNEXT – The 2022 annual average return on Sri Lanka’s largest contributory pension scheme, the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), has fallen to its lowest in nearly two decades, Central Bank data showed.

The annual average return in the last year fell to 9.52 percent from the previous year’s 11.40 percent, a central bank response to a Right to Information (RTI) request showed.

Returns on EPF has raised concerns among contributors after the government decided to include EPF investments in the government treasury bonds under the domestic debt optimization (DDO) process.

Last year’s lower return has been recorded despite market interest rates being more than 30 percent towards the end of the year. In contrast, the fund has given a double digit return in 2020 when the market interest rates hovered in single digits.

Analysts have predicted the returns to be further low with the central bank opting for the government’s DDO option.

A central bank analysis on DDO showed the return on EPF could fall to as low as 6.79 percent if the DDO option was not chosen within the next 12 years as against 8.02 percent if opted for DDO.

Trade unions and some politically motivated fractions opposed the government move to include the EPF investments under the DDO. However, parliament approved the move early this month.

According to the data made available from 2005, the central bank, which is the custodian of the EPF, has given the highest return of 16.03 percent in 2009.

The island nation’s largest pension fund has almost 21-million member accounts including 18.3 million non-contributing accounts due to some members having multiple number of accounts.

The 3.38 trillion-rupee ($10.6 billion) worth fund as of end 2022 is managed by the central bank, including its investment decisions.

As of end 2022, the central bank has invested 3.23 trillion rupees or 95.7 percent of the total EPF in government securities, while 84.1 billion rupees has been invested in listed companies in the Colombo Stock Exchange, the central bank said quoting the EPF audited financial statement. (Colombo/September 21/2023)

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