American bakery café chain Au Bon Pain has struck a deal with Indian-owned Spencer’s Retail, to open 100 stores across India. Au Bon Pain signed a master franchise agreement with Spencer’s Retail, part of RPG Enterprises, which plans to open the target number of stores within the next two years.

"India provides exciting new expansion opportunities for American companies," said Au Bon Pain president and chief executive officer Sue Morelli. "With their extensive experience, we know that Spencer’s will have great success introducing our brand to India."

The Indian menu will be tailored to local needs, including an expanded vegetarian selection. Spencer’s operates around 400 stores in 66 cities in India, from convenience stores to hypermarkets, and is part of the $3bn Indian conglomerate RPG Enterprises.

Boston-based Au Bon Pain now has over 200 company-owned and franchised outlets in the USA, South Korea, Taiwan and Thai-land, selling artisan breads, pastries, sandwiches and salads.


=== Reporting In ===

== Matthew Goodman, Policy representative, Forum of Private Business (FPB) ==

The summer doldrums are starting to creep into the public affairs arena. Schools are out and parliament is in recess from 28 July, with most folks off on holiday. But many small businesses cannot afford to put their feet up, so the FPB cannot stop either. We’re knuckling down with a couple of months of planning and preparation for a busy autumn and winter.

At the end of June, I was in Brussels for a conference on the European Commission’s Small Business Act for Europe (SBAE). The SBAE is a package of recommendations and legislation to help provide opportunities and remove barriers. It includes improving access to public contracts, trying to find a solution to late payment and making it easier for businesses to trade throughout Europe.

As part of the package, the Commission has invited Member States to raise the threshold for VAT registration to €100,000 - about £79,000.

It has also lifted restrictions on where Member States can apply reduced VAT rates, which means the UK will have the option to apply a reduced rate to locally-sourced trade and services. These reduced rates are aimed at bringing customers into those local businesses, so bakeries, restaurants and coffee shops may see the benefit.

It is too early to tell how any of the SBAE’s proposals will be implemented here at home. The UK already has more exemptions from VAT than any other Member State, but there is definitely an opportunity here to help promote local businesses. The government should make sure that British customers and businesses can take advantage.