Specialist recovery funds are vying for control of some of Britain’s best-known restaurant chains, including Café Rouge and Las Iguanas, even when the coronavirus pandemic leaves the sector’s prospects for recovery highly uncertain.
Sky News found that Aurelius Equity Opportunities made an offer to buy Café Rouge and Bella Italia, two of the brands owned by the Casual Dining Group (CDG).
Aurelius, an investor in special situations who came close to buying the chain created by Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef, before collapsing last year, must have presented his offer in the past few days.
Endless, another recovery company, has submitted an offer to Las Iguanas, the other chain owned by CDG, and is competing against Trispan, a private equity firm that is an investor in Thai’s Café Rosa, according to experts.
The auction takes place at a turbulent time for the restaurant industry, with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk as a result of the pandemic.
Many operators have said they will not be able to reopen on Saturday after the blockade, because the rules of social detachment will make their business unfeasible.
Image: CDG’s restaurant franchise brands also include Bella Italia and Las Iguanas
This week, Byron, the hamburger chain, filed a notice of intention to appoint managers as they ran to find new owners.
Other well-known names, including Carluccio’s, have been unable to prevent the collapse – although part of their business and brand has since recovered.
The CDG itself filed and subsequently issued a notice of intention to appoint directors.
A person close to CDG, owned by the private equity giant KKR, said he was also interested in an acquisition of the entire group.
Image: Carluccio joined the administration earlier this year
CDG is one of the UK’s largest restaurant operators, trading at around 250 points of sale and employing around 6,000 people.
A significant number of points of sale are expected to face permanent closure, regardless of the outcome of the sale process.
AlixPartners, a professional services company, is advising the process.
CDG’s biggest brand, Bella Italia, sells on more than 100 sites, while there are around 60 Las Iguanas and Café Rouge restaurants each.
CDG, Aurelius and Endless declined to comment, while Trispan was not found.