A new bidder has entered the market to buy the 45-strong Côte brasserie chain from restaurant entrepreneur Richard Caring.
It is believed that CBPE Capital has become the front runner to acquire the chain, after Bridgepoint, the owner of sandwich chain Pret A Manager, had previously been tipped to buy Côte, according to The Sunday Times.
However, it is understood that Bridgepoint could still come back with a counter offer.
CBPE has invested in a range of healthcare, financial and chemical companies. Its previous foray into the leisure sector has involved ten-pin bowling alleys and caravan parks, but Côte would be its first restaurant investment.
Côte was founded by Andy Bassadone and Chris Benians, the former management team of Strada, in 2007, with funding from Caring, who made his fortune in the clothing industry.