London restaurant chain up for sale – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

23 October 2006
London restaurant chain up for sale – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

London restaurant chain up for sale
Sunday Times, 22 October

Sale of TGI Friday to be announced this weekAlan Parker, the chief executive of Whitbread, is expected to confirm this week that it will sell its struggling TGI Friday's restaurant chain. It has acted as a financial drag on the leisure giant, with sales up just 0.7% in the last quarter. Analysts are predicting a swift exit. Whitbread is likely to sell the chain back to the US-based franchise Carlson Restaurants for £60m, after acquiring it from the company in 1986. - Scotland on Sunday, 22 October

Hilton sells London and Birmingham flagship hotels
Hilton Hotels Corporation of America confirmed the sale of the Hilton Metropole hotels in London and Birmingham to the Tonstate property group in a £417m deal. Marriott, the US hotel operator, said that it plans to add 85,000 to 100,000 hotel rooms worldwide by 2009, representing 5 to 6% net annual compound growth. - The Times, 21 October Click here for more]

McDonald's to refurb up to 200 UK restaurants
McDonald's is to give up to 200 of its British high-street outlets a facelift as part of its push to modernise the brand. The group is to spend more than £30m on refurbishment. Between 150 and 200 branches will be given a total makeover, with a new fascia above the front door, new furniture and a new colour scheme. The process is expected to take 10 months, after which McDonald's, Britain's biggest fast-food chain, will start looking at updating its drive-through outlets. - Sunday Times, 22 October

Café Rouge appoints new chief executive
Tragus Holdings, the owner of the Café Rouge and Bella Italia restaurant chains, has appointed Giles Thorley, the chief executive of Punch Taverns, as non-executive chairman as a prelude to a possible £200m-plus flotation. - The Times, 21 October [Click here for more]

Delight at tips ruling by Inland Revenue
Restaurateurs are delighted with new guidance from the Inland Revenue this week confirming that, although tips are considered part of wages, no National Insurance is payable on them. - Daily Telegraph, 21 October

McDonald's profits up
McDonald's reported a 15% rise in third-quarter profits as it benefited from strong US sales and improvements in Europe. The company said that net income rose to £452m, compared with £390m a year ago. - The Times, 21 October

Jamie Oliver and wife earn £2m wages last year
Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools paid themselves more than £2m last year as profits in the business empire of the celebrity chef turned food campaigner rose by a quarter. Profits at Mr Oliver's two main companies - Sweet as Candy Holdings and Sweet as Candy Limited - were boosted by higher international book and television sales in Asia and Eastern European countries such as Poland. His books have now been translated into 23 languages.- Independent on Sunday, 22 October

Prue Leith slams Gordon Ramsay's management style
Prue Leith has accused the celebrity chefs Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay of peddling "macho nonsense" and bullying staff to raise their profile. Leith has compared their abrasive style of managing their kitchens to "running a galley ship". She singles out Ramsay in particular, saying television programmes such as Hell's Kitchen and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares has "turned his bad-boy act into a gravy-train" because of his "willingness to be a bastard". - Sunday Times, 22 October

W&D to take Sky Sport out of pubs
Two thirds of Wolverhampton & Dudley's 2,352 pubs could become football free by next July in order to make them more family friendly. The pub operator has already taken Sky out of 100 pubs. The chain believe encouraging families will drive up food spend post smoking ban. - Mail on Sunday, 22 October

Hedge fund boost holding in Gondola Holdings
The London-based activist hedge fund Boussard & Gavaudan has built up a 20% stake in Gondola Holdings, the owner of Pizza Express, which has received a £560m takeover offer from buyout firm Cinven. The hedge-fund group is thought to be planning to use the stake, worth £110m, to force Cinven to raise its offer. - Sunday Times, 22 October

Restaurtaur sells up to go truffle farming
A restaurateur is cashing in on the soaring demand and sky-high prices for truffles by setting up a dedicated farm backed by investors from around the world. Dick Pyle sold his share of the Hilaire restaurant in central London five years ago and used the proceeds to buy land in Gascony, France. He is now converting that to a truffle farm by planting oak trees, which individual investors can buy. - Independent on Sunday, 22 October

Whitbread to give £400m back to shareholders
Whitbread is expected to announce plans to return about £400m to shareholders when it publishes its financial results this week. The group has yet to decide what form the return will take. Whitbread chief executive Alan Parker will pay for the return from the proceeds of the £99m sale of the company's Pizza Hut business, and the £497m disposal of its pub-restaurant estate. - Sunday Times, 22 October

By Bob Gledhill

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