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The Caterer

Alan Jackson

12 May 2005
Alan Jackson

Overall ranking: 16

Restaurateurs ranking: 3

Snapshot

Alan Jackson is the executive chairman of The Restaurant Group (TRG), which was known as City Centre Restaurants until January 2004.

Its concessions division runs 36 outlets in five airports and two railway stations and also has three franchised branches (an Eat sandwich bar and two O'Neill's pubs).

Career guide

Jackson, who is 60, worked for Whitbread for 18 years between 1973 and 1991. As managing director of its restaurant division, Jackson created and developed the Beefeater, Travel Inn, and TGI Friday's brands.

He founded the Inn Business Group in 1995 and grew it to 688 sites before selling it to pub operator Punch in 1999 for £69m. Jackson then chaired the Oriental Restaurant Group until its sale to Noble House in 2000.

He became executive chairman of TRG in March 2001 at the invitation of then chief executive Andrew Guy.

What we think

Jackson and group managing director Andrew Page have turned TRG around from an unfocused company in poor financial shape into stock market darlings in the past three years.

In 2001, the group offloaded its struggling Deep Pan Pizza, OK Diner and Wok Wok chains and switched its focus from the competitive high street to the more robust leisure park and concessions sectors. It has since refreshed the Chiquito and Caffé Uno brands.

The changes brought record pre-tax profits for the year to 31 December 2004, up 28% to £24.7m on sales of £255.4m. They included improved profits at all high street brands except Est Est Est.

TRG was the only restaurant group to make the top 10 pub and restaurant sector in the peer-reviewed Britain's Most Admired Companies 2004 rankings. It was graded sixth in the sector-specific table and 105th in the pan-industry top 220.

It plans to expand to 300 sites by the end of 2006 and has 25-30 new openings earmarked for 2005, primarily in leisure park sites. It also intends to expand its concessions business and its fledgling franchise operation.

The group is also moving to a more casual 'grab-and-go' format in the high street, backed by the roll-out of the Bite sandwich bar, Pip juice bar and Est Presso coffee bar concepts it developed for BAA.

The refocused group is now seeking new brands since its friendly £168m takeover of Ask Central was rudely interrupted in January 2004 by a £223m bid from the owners of Nando's and PizzaExpress.

In March 2005, it bought a 40% stake in Living Ventures, which Jackson also chairs and which operates 11 Living Room restaurant/bars, two Prohibition bars and two Bar & Grill restaurants. The deal, which gives TRG the option to buy the remaining 60% in 2008, involves Living Ventures buying and redefining TGR's 19 ailing Est Est Est restaurants.

Late last year, TGR was also given the option of regaining control of Deep Pan Pizza after the group failed to meet outstanding payments.

Jackson is also the non-executive chairman of brewer Charles Wells and a non-executive director De Vere plc and Regent Inns.

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