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Restaurant Group (The)

Address :

56-62 Wilton Road
London
SW1V 1DE
UK

Telephone :

020 7630 2800

Fax :

020 7630 2806

Activities :

The Restaurant Group (formerly known as City Centre Restaurants) is one of the UK’s largest and most respected independent restaurant chains. The group claims a leading position in the leisure park and concessions sector and serves around 20 million meals a year.

After rationalising and refocusing its line-up, the group operated five key brands (Frankie and Benny’s, Chiquito, Garfunkel’s, Caffé Uno and Est Est Est) in leisure parks, high streets and concessions until 2005.

However, in 2005 it sold the under-performing Est Est Est to the Living Ventures group, in which it acquired a 40% stake. It went on to buy the Blubeckers and Edwinns restaurant chains, which operate in semi-rural areas within the M25. In November it sold Caffé Uno to Paramount Restaurants to complete its exit from the highly-competitive high street.

The group’s Concession Connection operates in airports and railway stations. It includes three franchised brands (an Eat sandwich bar and two O’Neills pubs) along with a number of concepts (the Bite sandwich bar, Pip juice bar and Est Presso coffee bar) which it developed for the British Airports Authority.

Time Line :

  • 1970s: Philip Kaye, father of Ask owners Adam and Sam, founds Garfunkel’s restaurants with his brother Reginald. The Deep Pan Pizza brand follows shortly after.
  • 1987: Kaye sells Garfunkel’s and Deep Pan Pizza to Scottish brewer Belhaven. The following year, Belhaven is acquired by Control Securities and the restaurant business becomes City Centre Restaurants (CCR).
  • Late 1980s: CCR buys Mexican chain Chi Chi’s and renames it Chiquito.
  • 1993: CCR develops its Caffé Uno concept.
  • 1995: CCR opens its first Frankie and Benny’s in Leicester. It announces a joint venture with the former Forte Roadside Restaurant management to develop a chain of US-style restaurants called OK Diner and buys the Nachos chain from New York New York Restaurants for £5.4m.
  • 1997: The group opens its first Wok Wok restaurant and buys 13 outlets from Genesis Restaurants - nine Est Est Est Italian restaurants and three What’s Cooking American bistros.
  • 1998: CCR announces plans to ditch its 89 Deep Pan Pizzas, along with its 22 OK Diners in the Midlands. It pulls out of the café bar market with the sale of the four Fraternity House outlets it has developed since 1997 and a number of individual outlets. The sale of 46 Deep Pan Pizzas to Queensborough Holdings for £9.75m (down from an original price of £16.5m) falls through the following year.
  • 1999: CCR sells half of its 22 OK Diners.
  • November 2000: PizzaExpress withdraws from a hostile £127m takeover bid for CCR that it made in the wake of a profit warning.
  • May 2001: The group sells its 14 Wok Woks to a number of other operators for between £4m and £5m. The remaining five are offloaded in 2002.
  • September 2001: The company sells 49 of its remaining 54 Deep Pan Pizza restaurants to a management buyout team (called DPP Restaurants) for £3.3m. It also offloads its remaining OK Diners.
  • November 2003: CCR launches a friendly £168m takeover bid for pizza and pasta group Ask Central (owned by the sons of Garfunkel’s founder). However, it is pipped to the post in February 2004 by a £223m offer from venture capital firms TDR and Capricorn which own the Nando’s and PizzaExpress chains
  • January 2004: City Centre Restaurants changes its name to The Restaurant Group (TRG).
  • November 2004: TRG declines a continuing option to take control of struggling Deep Pan Pizza, which owes £1.8m in rent and £500,000 of deferred consideration.
  • March 2005: TRG buys a 40% in restaurant and bar operator Living Ventures for £7.7m. It sells its flagging Est Est Est chain of 19 Italian restaurants to the group for £16.4m to revitalise the brand. TRG has the right to buy the remaining shares in 2008, or to buy back Est Est Est.
  • June 2005: TRG buys Blubeckers from CI Traders of the Channel Islands for £27m. Blubeckers operates 12 Blubeckers brasseries and five Edwinns restaurants in semi-rural areas within the M25.
  • November 2005: TRG agrees to sell 53 of its 58 Caffé Uno outlets to Craftbutton (owner of Paramount Restaurants) for £33m. TRG retains five high street sites which are to be sold or rebranded, along with three derivatives of the brand in airports locations which TRG will continue to run under licence from Paramount.
  • January 2006: The group buys the Deep Pan Pizza chain, which has slimmed down to 33 outlets since the 2001 management buy-out. TRG announces initial plans to rebrand 20 restaurants within the year, sell off six sites, and review the remaining branches. 

Financial Snapshot :

Full year

Turnover: £287.3m (2005: £255.4m)
Pre-tax profit: £29.5m (2005: £24.4m)

Half year

Turnover: £130.8m (2004: £118m)
Pre-tax profit: £11.6m (2004:  £9.6m)

Financial year end: 1 January 2006
Half year end: 30 June 2005

Operating Data :

Total number of branded restaurants: 237

The Restaurant Group divides its operations into leisure parks and concessions. Below are figures for the 12 months to 1 January 2006.

Leisure parks

Number of restaurants: 194
Total turnover: £189m (2005: £151m)
Total profit: £40m (2005: £31m)

Frankie & Benny's: 114 restaurants  (including three in Spain)
Chiquito: 34 restaurants
Blubeckers: 17 restaurants
Garfunkel's: 29 restaurants

Concessions

Number of restaurants: 43, mostly in airports
Turnover: £59.8m (2005: £48.9m)
Profit: £8.9m (2005: £7m)

Strategy :

"We ended 2005 in a form rather different from that in which we started the year. Activity on the corporate front has resulted in our business having a focus geared largely towards out of town leisure and concession locations. Furthermore, our remaining high street restaurants are located mainly in sites which benefit from high footfalls of tourists, shoppers and 8 of 30 customers pursuing leisure-related activities such as the theatre. We believe that this more focused composition enables the Group to deliver higher quality profits and cashflows.

I am pleased to report that 2006 has also started well with like-for-like sales for the first nine weeks 4% ahead. We plan to open 25-30 new restaurants this year, we will continue to focus on ways to further improve profitability and we will continue to invest in our people and systems."

Source: preliminary results statement, March 2006

Key People :

Executive chairman: Alan Jackson
Group managing director: Andrew Page
Group finance director: Stephen Critoph
Managing director, leisure parks: Kevin Bacon
Managing director, Concession Connection: Trish Corzine

Commentary :

TRG has experimented with a wide diversity of restaurant concepts since the 1980s. Brands that have entered and left its portfolio since 1995 include the more familiar Deep Pan Pizza, Nachos, OK Diner and Wok Wok chains, along with such names as Fraternity House, Filling Station, Adams Ribs, Jaxx, Zack,  Jimmy Max, Rick Shaw’s, Johnny Rockets and Big Uns.

But by 2001, when chairman Alan Jackson came on board, the group was unfocused and in poor financial shape. It quickly restored its fortunes by concentrating on fewer brands and switching focus from the competitive high street to out-of-town leisure parks, cinema multiplexes and transport concessions. It then went on to improve the performance of its high street restaurants, with the exception of Est Est Est, and returned to the acquisition trail.

Thwarted in a friendly move to buy the Ask pizza chain, TRG went on to buy a stake in Living Ventures (which Jackson also chairs) in 2004 followed by Blubeckers in 2005. Living Ventures bought TRG's flagging Est Est Est high-street chain as part of the deal and TRG completed its exit from the high street in 2005 with the sale of the Caffe Uno brand.

TRG planned to double the Blubeckers chain to 24 outlets by the end of 2005.

TRG was the only restaurant group to appear in the top 10 table for pubs and restaurants in the peer-reviewed Britain's Most Admired Companies listings in 2004. It was voted seventh in the sector table, and 107th in the pan-industry top 220.

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