Smollensky's sold to private equity firm for £6.5m

20 September 2007 by
Smollensky's sold to private equity firm for £6.5m

Smollensky's, the grill restaurant chain famous for its 21-year flagship on London's Strand, has been sold to a private equity firm for £6.5m, Caterer has learnt.

The operator, which has nine sites in London and the South-east, has been snapped up by the Grill Group, a holding company backed by private equity house Octopus.

The move follows Smollensky's appointment of corporate restructuring specialist Kroll to "look at a way forward" after a period of financial struggle. It has been forced to close its Twickenham, Oxford and Wapping outlets in the past 12 months.

The Grill Group has been newly created to take on Smollensky's. It also owns the Shire Group, a holding company that operates the five-strong Pastiche bistro chain in the Midlands and five Le Frog bistros in the North-west, under the stewardship of chief executive officer Paul Lilley.

Lilley insisted that Smollensky's was still fundamentally a good business, describing the takeover as "sensible".

"You look at its sites in Canary Wharf and on the Strand, where it has been for 21 years, and think it is a good suite of sites for the London market," he told Caterer. "This is a very solid nucleus. Furthermore, the brand name has some value because it's well-known."

Lilley, who provided consultancy for Aberdeen Steak House when it went into receivership in 2002, added that with the Grill Group now turning over £14m a year there was the potential for further acquisition activity but said he wanted to concentrate on growing all three brands organically.

Sandra Thomson, the turnaround consultant who joined Smollensky's as chief executive in 2004, has now left the company.

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By Christopher Walton

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