Fourth Hospitality founder and restaurant entrepreneur Edwina Lilley dies aged 54

16 October 2012 by
Fourth Hospitality founder and restaurant entrepreneur Edwina Lilley dies aged 54

Entrepreneur Edwina Lilley, the founder of specialist software provider Fourth Hospitality and multiple restaurant chains, has died after a short illness, aged 54.

Lilley and her husband Derek founded Fourth in 2000 after they recognised that there was a better way to streamline the restaurant process and optimise profits through cloud-based technology. The firm now employs more than 250 people with business centres in London, Cheshire and New York. Its systems are now used in 22 countries by more than 1,000 companies.

But the pair started out running restaurants. Their first business was Chompers in the village of Parkgate in Cheshire, which they followed up with additional openings, including the first Est Est Est restaurant in 1988.

They built Est Est Est into a successful chain before selling a majority stake to City Centre Restaurants (now The Restaurant Group) in 1993. They followed this up by establishing the Individual Restaurant Company (IRC) which spawned brands including Piccolino and The Restaurant Bar & Grill chains. IRC was sold to the management team in 2004.

Edwina and Derek also created trade magazine Restaurant, and its affiliated World's 50 Best Restaurants, an index of the best restaurants on the planet.

Ben Hood, chief executive of Fourth Hospitality, said: "We're deeply shocked by this terribly sad and sudden news. Edwina was one of life's very special and precious people - a complete force of a nature with relentless energy. Everything about Fourth was hers and we are blessed to have been able to work with her. She was a massive influence on me as a person and on my career as well as being my great friend. We are all absolutely devastated and she will be missed by so many."

Charles Reed, group managing director of William Reed Business Media, which now owns and publishes Restaurant, said: "She was such a great personality with so much commitment and passion for the businesses she built up with Derek. She was a remarkably talented individual who always seemed to succeed."

Industry commentator and consultant Peter Martin of Peach Factory, added: "Edwina was an extraordinary person, someone who had a real impact on the restaurant market. Her obsession with quality and the scale of her ambition were remarkable. As a business person, she had amazing attention to detail, a passion for getting things right and a determination to succeed, whether it was running restaurants, magazines or technology companies."

While they remained significant shareholders, Edwina and Derek sold a stake in Fourth Hospitality in March 2011 to private equity firm ECI Partners, in a process that valued the business at more than £50 million. The business recently completed the purchase of Adaco, a complementary US company with a specialism in the hotels market and operations in more than 50 countries around the world.

Hood added: "Edwina leaves an extraordinary legacy. She had the vision for this business to be a global player in the hospitality market, and it is fitting that shortly before this extremely sad and untimely news, we were able to conclude our expansion into the US.

"Our thoughts are with Derek, and their sons Sam and Max, and the Lilley family, during this very difficult time."

By Neil Gerrard

E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.

If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to jobs

Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with jobs

Blogs on ]( Catch up with more news and gossip on all Caterer's blogs
[E-newsletters]([ For the latest hospitality news, sign up for our E-newsletters
The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking