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Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts

Overall ranking: 62 (60)

Restaurateurs ranking: 17 (19)

Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts – Snapshot
Tim Bacon is the managing director and Jeremy Roberts the commercial and finance director of Living Ventures, the restaurant-bar group they founded in October 1999.

The group, which employs 1,700 staff, runs 13 Living Room restaurant/bars across the country, three Bar & Grill restaurants and 13 Est Est Est pasta and pizza restaurants.

Est Est Est came to the group in March 2005 when The Restaurant Group (TRG) bought a 40% stake in Living Ventures for £7.7m. As part of the deal, Living Ventures bought TRG’s flagging Italian brand for £16.4m while TRG claimed the option to buy the remaining shares in 2008 or buy back Est Est Est.

Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts – Career guide
Former actor Tim Bacon, who was born in Australia in 1964, came to the UK in 1986 to work at the Covent Garden TGI Friday’s for three years. In 1989 he set up a bar and restaurant consultancy which opened the JW Johnson’s bar in Manchester. Two years later, he merged with the Celebrated Group, where he became restaurant operations director.

It was here that he met Jeremy Roberts, who was operations director of Celebrated’s hotel division. Roberts, who was born in 1962, had trained with Trusthouse Forte, where he managed hotels in London and Manchester.

The pair left in 1996 to form Life Restaurants, which developed two restaurant chains in joint partnerships – Via Vita with Marston and Life Café with Whitbread. After selling these concepts to their respective partners in 1998 and 1999, they set up Living Ventures in 1999.

Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts – What we think
Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts have a history of creating and selling on successful restaurant concepts. Via Vita, a chain of eclectic Mediterranean restaurants, grew to six sites before its sale to joint partner Marston in 1998. Life Café (a cross between the Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood and TGI Friday’s) had two branches in Liverpool and Manchester when they sold it to Whitbread in 1999. 

The duo appear to have hit the creative and financial jackpot again with Living Room, an up-tempo, multi-level, casual dining restaurant and piano bar.

The judges who awarded Tim Bacon the Pub and Bar Industry Catey in 2005 (when he was also joint winner of the Best Individual in the Retailers’ Retailer of the Year awards)  praised the group’s innovation, style, panache, and wide appeal, along with its training, recruitment and staff motivation programmes.

Different sites mix and match a number of components that include the more relaxed Dining Room restaurant, a members’ bar called The Study, the high-energy Mosquito bar, and the private members’ bars The Study and The Vampire Suite. One Living Room is based in Niche Hotels’ Grey Street boutique property in Newcastle, where the group also handles the hotel catering.

The first Living Room, in Manchester, raked in more than £1.9m in its first year and was joined by a second venue within just 10 months.

Bacon and Roberts went on to develop the Prohibition bar format in 2003 (which they sold to Ultimate Leisure in late 2005 for £2.75m), adding the Bar & Grill concept in 2004.

In December 2005, the Sunday Times Top 100 named Living Ventures the fastest-growing company in hospitality thanks to annual sales growth of 99.25% between 2001 and 2004, when turnover grew from £2.47m to £19.55m as it became a national player.

The group is now turning over more than £51m and the Living Rooms, which trade all day, have average weekly sales of £45,000 per restaurant.

Its success did not go unnoticed by fellow operators. In April 2005 –  nine months after the collapse of merger talks between Living Ventures and the three-strong Bank Restaurants Group – TRG bought a 60% stake in the business, attracted by its sales progress, roll-out potential and the founders’ entrepreneurial, operation and marketing skills.

Living Ventures took on TRG’s ailing 19-strong Est Est Est chain, doubling its size in the process. Bacon and Roberts set about redefining it as “an aspirational, high-quality brand” with new menus and a new look, converting some branches to Bar & Grills.

The appointment of Deloitte in 2006 to assist in a major restructure has excited rumours of a sale for a potential £40m.

Bacon, however, says the group is being reorganised into four separate companies by concept – Living Room, Blackhouse Restaurants (for Bar & Grill), Est Est Est and a new format that will be launched in Islington in October or November, with a second to follow in Newcastle next year.

Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts – Further information

Living Ventures profile on CatererSearch

Living Ventures official website

Read more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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