Adam and Sam Kaye

12 May 2005
Adam and Sam Kaye

Overall ranking: 39

Restaurateurs ranking: 9


Career guide

Adam and Sam, now in their early thirties, are the sons of property developer Philip Kaye, who founded the Garfunkel's restaurant chain and has backed both Ask and the Prezzo pizza group founded by his nephew, Jonathan Kaye.

Having identified a gap at the quality end of the pizza and pasta market, the Kaye brothers opened their first Ask restaurant in London's Belsize Park in 1993 to instant success.

In September 1995 the nine-strong group floated on the Alternative Investment Market at 35p a share. The Kayes launched the Zizzi brand in 2000 and opened the first Jo Schmo's in Wimbledon in 2003.

In December 2003, Garfunkel's owner City Centre Restaurants (now The Restaurant Group) tabled a £168m bid for Ask. This friendly takeover, however, was scuppered by a £213m offer early the following year from a consortium comprising Nando's owner Capricorn Ventures and venture capital firm TDR Capital. The deal made Ask a bedfellow to its key rival, PizzaExpress, which the consortium had snapped up in 2003 for £278m.

Adam stayed on as chief executive and Sam as an executive director.

What we think

Ask's phenomenal growth and success has won the Kaye brothers numerous accolades, including Company of the Year in the PricwaterhouseCoopers 1998 AIM awards and the Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Group Restaurateur of the Year award in 1999. It has also made them very wealthy thirtysomethings - the Kayes were ranked 108th in the 2003 Sunday Times Rich List with a combined fortune of £6.8m.

When the Kayes won their Catey in 1999, the then 53-strong chain had established itself as a key player in the pizza market in just six years and it was beginning to pose a major challenge to market leader PizzaExpress.

Not only was the Ask chain profitable - it doubled its pre-tax profits in 1998 to £4.02m - but, as one judge pointed out, "It's also unique that they've managed to combine pizza and pasta in the same concept and thus capture a niche market."

The launch of Zizzi refined the Ask offer by providing a more upmarket, Tuscan-style cuisine based on traditional wood-burning ovens. The Kayes have also dipped a toe into the market for US diner-style grill restaurants with three Jo Schmo's in London (Wimbledon) and Surrey (Kingston and Guildford).

The Ask empire has been growing at a rate of around 25-30 restaurants a year and Adam has said he believes the UK could support up to 350 Ask and Zizzi branches.

The burning question now is whether TDR is planning to offload its investments. Speculation was rife early this year that the consortium was preparing to sell or float PizzaExpress, which is now trading strongly after weathering some tough times in 2001 and 2002.

As back office functions at Ask and PizzaExpress have been merged to drive down costs, TDR has made it clear that it is unlikely to exit the two businesses separately.

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