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Post recession scramble reignites restaurant deal activity

22 September 2010 by

The market for restaurant mergers and acquisitions has reignited but doesn't mark a return to the golden age of deals, according to experts.

A blaze of activity last week was headlined by Nando's owner Capricorn Ventures's £30m purchase of Clapham House Group, which has 53 Gourmet Burger Kitchens and six Real Greeks. Clapham House's directors cited a lack of available funding for future expansion as a major reason for the sale.

The demise of high street chain Ha Ha Bar & Grill was also confirmed, with pub operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) swooping for it in a £19.5m deal. M&B plans to convert the 22 leasehold sites predominately to its All Bar One and Browns formats. It comes after Ha Ha owner Bay Restaurant Group withdrew La Tasca from the market having failed to attract significant enough bids.

Former PizzaExpress chairman Luke Johnson added six-strong Japanese restaurant business Feng Sushi to his investment portfolio, a week after he took a controlling stake in Ego Restaurants. And PizzaExpress, which is backed by Cinven, acquired its international restaurant arm from former brand owners TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures.

Simon Chaplin, a director at property agents Christie & Co, said: "What we're seeing is operators and investors taking the opportunity to join up some of their investments and achieve further economies of scale.

"However, there are only so many big groups within the restaurant sector, so beyond this I'd expect to see a return to the smaller deals of recent months."

Mark Sheenan, managing director of the corporate M&A advisory business at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: "More deals will be done in the next 12 months than the last, but this doesn't herald a return to the heady days of the restaurant deals market in 2006-07."

However, both cited the £90.3m bid for Carluccio's by Landmark as significant, with Sheenan saying that in terms of expectation, it would make many think again about the value of their businesses.

TOPTABLE TO BE ACQUIRED BY US RIVAL

UK restaurant reservation website Toptable is to be bought by US firm OpenTable for $55m (£35.2m), it was announced last week.

OpenTable provides free online reservations for diners and guest management systems for restaurants. Toptable.com, founded in 2000, handles nearly three million bookings across the UK and Europe each year and had revenues of £6.3m for the fiscal year 2009, with net income of £750,000.

Nando's owner buys Gourmet Burger Kitchen operator Clapham House Group in £30m deal >>](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/09/17/335114/nandos-owner-buys-gourmet-burger-kitchen-operator-clapham-house-group-in-30m-deal.htm)

[All Bar One owner buys Ha Ha Bar & Grill from Bay Restaurant Group for £19.5m >>](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/09/17/335112/all-bar-one-owner-buys-ha-ha-bar.htm)

[Luke Johnson buys restaurant and takeaway chain Feng Sushi >>](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/09/21/335141/Luke-Johnson-buys-restaurant-and-takeaway-chain-Feng.htm)

By Chris Druce

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