The Laurel Pub Company expects its food business to increase by 70% if its Slug & Lettuce and Ha!Ha! Bar & Canteen brands merge with newly acquired tapas restaurant chain La Tasca.
Laurel owner Robert Tchenguiz won the bidding war for La Tasca earlier this month, offering £104.2m (£123m including debt) in conjunction with Icelandic bank Kaupthing, beating off two bids from the Blackstone-backed Tragus, owner of Café Rouge and Bella Italia.
The deal, which will create a 200-strong restaurant division, is not expected to be completed until May, but Ian Payne, chairman at Laurel, told Caterer: "If the deal were to go through, it would increase the size of our food business by 70% and would give us three strong brands."
At the end of 2006, Laurel completely restructured its management team under Payne with the appointment of Spirit Pubs and Bars managing director Paul Symonds as chief executive in September. He was followed by fellow Spirit executive Toby Smith, who came to Laurel as head of pubs and bars, and chain restaurant veteran Steve Rogers, who heads up Ha!Ha! Bar & Canteen after running Spirit's Old Orleans brand.
By Christopher Walton
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