Famous Brands, the South Africa-based operator of the Wimpy and Steers concepts, has acquired Gourmet Burger Kitchen, in a deal believed to be worth £120m.

The group said the acquisition of the 75-strong operator would significantly strengthen its position in the UK and stressed there were plans to double GBK’s footprint within the next five years. It also plans to bring the brand to its South African heartland.

GBK’s team will continue to manage the business with no changes to personnel planned.

Kevin Hedderwick, Famous Brands’ group strategic advisor, said: “We’ve been looking to expand our presence in the UK market for some time, and the acquisition of GBK was the perfect opportunity for us to do this. Not only will this enhance our existing income stream with currency earned outside of Africa, it simultaneously up-weighs Famous Brand to a higher league.

“Quite simply, GBK is a best in class business and brand, with growing consumer equity, supported by a phenomenal leadership team.This is the biggest deal the group has ever concluded, and one which will transform the future of the business.”

Hedderwick said the GBK model “creates flexibility across meal times, across a variety of occasions, and a wide range of customers across life stages, social groups and ages”.

He added: “The GBK business is a unique asset of substantial scale, positioned in the wider, unexploited bespoke burger market segment. Both the fast casual and premium burger market segments are growing.”

He said the well-invested estate, proven across multiple locations and with 93% of the portfolio refurbished or opened in the last five years, was also attractive.

He added: “GBK has substantial store growth potential in the UK – with a secure, current pipeline of sites in place, supported by the brand’s excellent track record of successful new store openings. The business has also recently concluded an agreement to re-acquire the franchise rights and manage the five GBK restaurants in Ireland, which provides an immediate platform for growth and a significant overseas footprint. Furthermore, there is opportunity to export the brand to South Africa, which would afford Famous Brands representation in the premium burger fast casual dining category where we do not currently compete

“We are confident that the existing business model has the potential to double GBK’s footprint within the next five years, and I am confident that the addition of GBK to our portfolio positions the group optimally to attain its future growth targets.

Alasdair Murdoch, chief execuitve of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, says “We’re delighted to move onto the next phase of growth with Famous Brands. Since we started dealing directly with the team, there has been real chemistry and a sense of shared understanding and vision.

“GBK has grown rapidly, and has had continuous like for like sales growth, but at its heart GBK is much more than that. It’s based on fantastic restaurant teams and critically, a continuous journey towards excellence in our food. We like to call it real burger obsession!

“Our aims remain the same; to continue opening 10-15 restaurants a year in the UK, continually elevate our food, and look at other growth opportunities. For instance, we’ve recently bought back a franchise business in Ireland, which adds 5 more restaurants with obvious growth prospects.

“We feel honoured to be the next chapter of the Famous Brands’ story and we are delighted to be part of the team.”