Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Richard Caring, Signature Restaurants and Caprice Holdings

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Richard Caring, Signature Restaurants and Caprice Holdings

Overall ranking: 11 (ranked 5 in 2011)Restaurateur ranking: 3 (ranked 1 in 2011)

Richard Caring - Snapshot

Richard Caring is the once-reclusive clothing industry millionaire who has emerged into the limelight in recent years through his rapid acquisition of a clutch of trophy hospitality businesses. His current collection comprises Caprice HoldingsSoho House Group, the entire Birley Group (Annabel's, Harry's Bar, George, Mark's Club and Bath & Racquets) and Wentworth Club in Surrey, where he serves as Chairman. He has stakes in Bill's restaurants and the Côte chain (set up by the former management team of Strada).

Richard Caring - Career guide

Richard Caring's spending spree in the hospitality and tourism sector kicked off in January 2004 when he bought the Camden Market complex - one of London's most visited tourist attractions - for £40m.

After buying Wentworth Club in 2005, Caring realised he needed to raise the standard of food there. He approached his favourite restaurants, Le Caprice and The Ivy in the summer of that year, but as discussions deteriorated, Caring joked that it was costing him so much, he might as well buy the whole Caprice group; it transpired that the management was looking for a buyer.

Six weeks later, after selling designer evening wear label Amanda Wakeley, Caring secured a £31.5m deal to take over Caprice Holdings, owner of The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, as well as Italian restaurant Daphne's, south east Asian restaurant Bam-Bou plus Pasha and The Collection.

In 2005 he also added Mayfair fish restaurant Scott's and catering and production firm Urban Productions (which became Urban Caprice), but sold Pasha and The Collection. He also bought Strada and Belgo from Signature Restaurants' owner Luke Johnson for £57m.

In 2006 Caring bought Rivington Grill, the two-restaurant group independently set up by Caprice Holdings' then Chef Director Mark Hix and then CEO Des McDonald. After expanding Strada over 18 months, he sold it for £145m in 2007 to fund the purchase of the Birley Group for £95m (comprising Annabel's, Harry's Bar, Mark's Club, George and Bath & Racquets). Around this time, he also bought stakes in Sussex-based deli and café Bill's Produce Store and Italian chain Carluccio's, the latter of which he gradually upped his shareholding before selling his stake in 2010. The same year, he teamed up with two former directors of Strada, Andy Bassadone and Chris Benians to launch a new French bistro concept, Côte.

In 2008 Caring agreed a leveraged buyout of 28 small investors in private members' club Soho House, taking 80% for £105m, with the remainder held by founder Nick Jones. However, both partners sold a majority of their stakeholding to American billionaire Ron Burkle in 2012 - a deal that netted Caring £60m and saw him retain 30% of the group - so they could concentrate on driving overseas growth, with five new private members' clubs planned internationally.

In the past three years, Caprice has also looked to expand its international portfolio. In 2009 Le Caprice opened in New York in the Pierre hotel, while a deal with Tatweer (now Jumeirah) in Dubai that same year means there are further launches planned across the Middle East and North Africa - adding to The Ivy and Rivington currently in operation in Dubai, and Scott's in Abu Dhabi.

Although expanding the international side of his businesses, Caring still has a canny eye for the UK restaurant scene. Caprice's year-old Mayfair restaurant 34, the extension to the J Sheekey Oyster Bar and Soho House's recent London launches - Kentish Town's Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop, plus the three-strong Pizza East - have all been successes, while he has also teamed up with New York restaurateur Keith McNally to open a UK outpost of his successful New York brasserie, Balthazar, due to open in early 2013.

Richard Caring - What we think

There are serial deal makers; then there is Richard Caring. The clothing industry millionaire has been involved in many of the largest, highest profile deals seen in the hospitality industry in recent years - The Ivy, Soho House - but also with smaller operators such as Côte and Bill's Produce Store.

In recent years, his empire has taken on a global complexion, and his recent sale of 50% of the Soho House Group should help fund this even more - as well as clubs in Berlin, New York, Miami, West Hollywood and Toronto, there are planned openings in Barcelona, Chicago, Istanbul and Mumbai in the next two years. The group is in exploratory talks of expanding its namesake London club by acquiring neighbouring restaurant Kettner's, with talk of using the upstairs space to add bedrooms.

All of this fits in with Caring's "grand plan", which he talked of in a 2009 interview with trade magazine Management Today: "I spotted an international gap in the market. In the restaurant business, there are single brands, but not a group of brands - which is what we do. There is only one Ivy, one Annabel's - there is nothing like them. A group of top-notch brands like them - that is what we're trying to achieve. There is a grand plan and it starts with building strength in London." As well as the export of Caprice restaurants and Soho House private members' clubs, this shrewd eye for exportable, high-end concepts explains the hotly anticipated arrival of Balthazar in London.

Caring also has ambitious targets for his casual dining chains. As well as the 12 Bill's Produce Stores, the Côte portfolio stands at 35 sites. And while Caring has talked of scope for over 200 of each across the UK, there is also speculation that he is considering selling Côte after appointing a corporate finance firm to review the business's options.

He is also looking at sites for Caprice Holdings in the UK - and is not ruling out new deals on hotels, restaurants and clubs. "We have the experience and the management structure, chefs and staff," he told Square Meal. "I don't think there is anybody in this country who has the depth of people working in food and beverage."

Richard Caring's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

Soho House sold to finance overseas growth >>

Soho House to expand club by taking over Kettner's

Richard Caring considering sale of Côte restaurant chain

Soho House to open third Pizza East and launch new concept Chicken Shop

Aldo Zilli sells remaining London restaurants to Bill's Produce

Caprice Holdings opens steak restaurant 34 in Mayfair

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