Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Graham Turner, Tragus

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Graham Turner, Tragus

Overall ranking: 22 (ranked 7 in 2010)

Restaurateur ranking: 7 (ranked 2 in 2010)

Graham Turner - Snapshot

As chief executive of Tragus, Graham Turner oversees a significant restaurant empire that, since being founded in 2002, has grown to comprise more than 287 sites trading as Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Strada. It serves 21 million meals every year and employs 7,300 people. Tragus is backed by the world's largest private equity company, Blackstone, which owns Hilton Worldwide, Center Parcs and London Eye owner Merlin Entertainments, giving it considerable financial muscle.

Having lost out in a bidding war for Spanish tapas chain La Tasca in 2007, the company instead paid £140m in May of that year to acquire Italian restaurant chain Strada. Sales in the year to May 2010 rose to £277.3m with underlying profits (EBITDA) up 7.8% to £47.6m.

Graham Turner - Career guide

Graham Turner is a chartered accountant with a background in property and service companies, where he gained valuable experience in fundraising and mergers and acquisitions.

He served as managing director of the Unique Pub Company, which was created by Punch chief executive Giles Thorley in 1998 and sold to Enterprise Inns in early 2004. Turner was part of the team that grew the business from 2,600 to 4,000 venues.

He joined Tragus as chief executive in January 2005 when new owner, Legal & General Ventures, acquired the group and installed a new management team. In 2008 Turner was named chairman of the British Hospitality Association's national restaurants group.

In 2010, Tragus entered the concessions business with nine CenterParcs and five airports sites. This move seems to be gathering momentum with the announcement in March 2011 that it is to roll out a mini version of its flagship Café Rouge brand in train stations across the country following a successful pilot that opened at Euston station last month. Café Rouge Express has just 50 seats and a take-away format.

Last financial year, the company also opened 15 restaurants and plans to open a further 20 this year.

It was recently announced [May 2011] that Tragus will sell 12 restaurants, including several branches of Cafe Rouge and Strada. The company said the outlets no longer formed part of its core development plans and their disposal was part of a longer-term growth strategy.

Graham Turner - What we think Inevitably Tragus is linked with any significant deal in the marketplace, so it's not surprising that it has made several bids for other restaurant groups in the past few years. In 2010, Robert Tchenguiz put the Bay Restaurant Group up for sale, with Tragus a potential buyer. Having lost out to Tchenguiz in its 2007 bid for La Tasca it was thought Turner might fancy a second bite of the cherry.

In 2010, Tragus made a bid for Paramount Restaurants, whose creditors were undertaking a fire sale. In the end the company sold 28 non-core restaurants between several operators, including Tragus.

Graham Turner's ranking in the 2010 100 >>

Tragus profits up despite like-for-like sales fall >>

Tragus to sell 12 Cafe Rouge and Strada sites >>

BHA celebrates its expanded reach and unveils its 2010 Awards >>

Tragus Group website >>

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