David Page

12 May 2005
David Page

Overall ranking: 45

Restaurateurs ranking: 12


David Page is a restaurant entrepreneur whose expertise lies in the chain format. He cut his teeth with PizzaExpress, which grew profitably from 23 branches to more than 350 under his stewardship. He is now seeking to repeat this success with the three restaurant brands acquired by his latest venture, Clapham House Group, of which he is chairman.

Career guide

A trained teacher, Page started his restaurant career as a dishwasher at a franchised PizzaExpress restaurant but by 1976 he was managing director of the brand's largest and most successful franchise group.

Page played a major role in PizzaExpress's flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 1993, when his franchise group merged with the newly-listed company. He rose from managing director to chief executive (in 1996) and chairman (in 1998). Page led a management buy-out bid in late 2002, but was outbid by Capricorn Ventures International and TDR Capital in June 2003.

What we think

Page quickly proved his mettle as PizzaExpress's largest and most profitable franchisee. He was also instrumental in PizzaExpress's successful flotation through the reverse takeover of the publicly-listed Star Computer Group and the pizza chain remained a stock market darling for nearly 10 years.

But by 2002, PizzaExpress's winning offer of authentic, thin-base pizzas after the 180-year-old Neopolitan style was coming under increasing pressure from upcoming rivals such as Ask. As profits started to fall and the share price plummeted to around 245p, the company was besieged by takeover approaches.

The most high-profile offers came from past and present directors. All, however, lost out to a consortium headed by Nando's owner Capricorn Ventures International.

Undeterred, Page linked up with PizzaExpress finance director Paul Campbell to create Clapham House Group, which he describes as an incubator for new chains who will benefit from the cash injection and economies of scale that Clapham House can provide. "We are a support vehicle for existing management and are an alternative to venture capital," he told Chain Leader magazine in early 2005.

Focusing on the full-service, mid-spend casual dining market, Page examined all styles of popular cuisine except pizza and pasta, which he felt was dominated by four players - led, of course, by PizzaExpress. He opted for a three-strong Greek chain, a company with one Indian restaurant and five home delivery units, and a burger company with six restaurants.

In 2004, Page founded Clerkenwell Ventures, an investment vehicle for high-growth leisure businesses, including hotel management contracts and health and fitness clubs. He also has a stake in Urban Dining, a restaurant company set up by former PizzaExpress directors Glen Tomlinson and John Metcalfe.

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