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Gondola Holdings PLC

Address :

20 High Street
St Albans
Hertfordshire
AL3 4EL
UK

Telephone :

01895 618 786

Activities :

Gondola Holdings is a leading player in the UK casual dining market and serves around 30 million meals a year through its two core pizza and pasta restaurant companies, PizzaExpress and Ask Restaurants (which operates the Ask and Zizzi brands). 

The company was set up to float the restaurant brands owned by private equity firms TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures International (CVI). TDR and CVI (which also owns the  Nando’s chain of chicken restaurants) retained a majority stake following the flotation.

Their partnership began in 2003 with the £278m acquisition of PizzaExpress, which was founded in the 1960s by Peter Boizot.

In early 2004, they bought Ask Central (founded in 1993 by brothers Adam and Sam Kaye) for £213m to add the mid-market Ask and more up-market Zizzi brands to their portfolio.

Gondola Holdings also owns a handful of non-core restaurants, of which Jo Schmo’s, Lupo, and Bar and Grill belong to the Ask estate.

Prior to its flotation, the group disposed of most of the non-core and overseas PizzaExpress restaurants to a company owned by TDR and CVI and retained only the upmarket Kettners restaurant in Soho.

Those sold on included 12 Café Pasta restaurants, the Marzano and Riviera pizza and pasta restaurants in London and four Gourmet Pizza outlets. The disposal also included around 45 PizzaExpress restaurants outside the UK and Ireland, most of which were franchised.

The group additionally has a small retail business selling PizzaExpress-branded products through leading supermarkets in tandem with manufacturer Geest.

Time Line :

  • June 2003: TDR and CVI’s £278m offer for PizzaExpress (which was founded in the 1960s by Peter Boizot) is accepted.
  • January 2004: TDR and CVI make a £213m bid for Ask Central, which is accepted in February to supersede a friendly £168m bid from City Centre Restaurants . Founders Adam and Sam Kaye opened the first Ask restaurant in 1993, the first Zizzi in 2000, and the first Jo Schmo’s in 2003.
  • October 2005: Ask opens its first Bar and Grill in Leamington, Warwickshire.
  • November 2005: Gondola Holdings floats on the London Stock Exchange. The offer price of 320p per share raises £135m and gives Gondola a market capitalisation of £431m. TDR and CVI’s stake reduces from 80% to 51.4%, while employees hold a 7.2% share. Prior to the flotation, the group sells the non-core and overseas PizzaExpress brands (except for Kettners) to a company owned by TDR and CVI.

Financial Snapshot :

Full Year
Turnover: £378.8m
Pre-tax profit: -£19.2m

Half Year

Turnover: £219.9m (2005: £202.5m)
Pre-tax profit: -£4.1m* (2005: -£7.8m)
* after exceptional items of £12m relating to the cost of entering the Stock Market and disposals

Full year end: 26 June 2005
Half year end: 8 January 2006

Operating Data :

Figures for the half-year to 8 January 2006 (excluding restaurants sold before the flotation)
Total sales (including retail sales): £210.8m (2005: £198m)
Total restaurant sales: £206.7m (2005: £193.3m)
Like-for-like restaurant sales: £195.4m (£187.9m)
Operating profit: £38.8m (2005: £37.1m)

Total number of restaurants: 505

PizzaExpress: 315
Kettners: 1, in Soho, London

Ask: 109
Zizzi: 74
Jo Schmo’s: 3 (Guildford, Wimbledon, Kingston)
Lupo: 2 pizza takeaways (North London)
Bar and Grill: 1 (Leamington Spa)

Location of group restaurants: high street (58%), retail/leisure parks (10%), business districts (9%), local neighbourhoods (23%).

Number of employees: 10,741 (7,500 at PizzaExpress)

Strategy :

“All three core brands continue to trade strongly across all regions of the UK and Ireland and across all location types.

Our new openings are on track to achieve our target of 20 to 25 for the full year.  We have opened seven restaurants during the period, with another three restaurants opened since the close of the first half. Another 10 are currently on site."

Source: interim results statement, 16 March 2006

Key People :

Chairman: David Ross
Chief financial director and commercial director: Chris Heath
Company secretary: Martin Eckersley

PizzaExpress
Managing director: Harvey Smyth
Finance director: Jackie Freeman
UK and Ireland managing director: David Sykes
Commercial and marketing director: Helen Benedict
Property director: Helen Burgess
Human resources director: Julie MacDonald

Ask Restaurants
Managing director: Jo Fleet
Deputy managing director and operations director: Neil Blows

Commentary :

Gondola believes there is scope for at least another 300 of its three core brands in the UK and Ireland. It plans to open between 25 and 30 new restaurants a year.
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