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Tue 16th Oct 2012 - Breaking News
Prolific restaurateur and businesswoman Edwina Lilley passes away: Fourth Hospitality founder and restaurateur Edwina Lilley passed away yesterday aged 54. Edwina was a prolific entrepreneur, who together with her husband Derek, founded multiple restaurant chains plus the leading trade magazine for the dining-out sector before going on to establish the Fourth Hospitality business, a specialist software provider to the leisure and hospitality sector, which was last year acquired for in excess of £50m. Ben Hood, CEO, 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.” After a long and successful career in the restaurant industry, Edwina and Derek founded Fourth in 2000, recognising that there was a better way to streamline restaurant processes and optimise profits through cloud–based technology. Their careers as restaurant entrepreneurs began in 1980 when they opened Chompers in the village of Parkgate, Cheshire. They followed this with additional openings, including the first Est Est Est restaurant in 1988. They built the Est Est Est business into a successful chain before selling a majority stake to City Centre Restaurants (now The Restaurant Group) in 1993. They quickly followed their first hit by establishing The Individual Restaurant Company (IRC), which spawned a collection of popular eateries including the Piccolino and The Restaurant Bar & Grill chains. IRC was sold to the management team in 2004. Edwina and Derek also created the award-winning trade magazine Restaurant and its affiliated, annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a high-profile index of the finest eateries on the planet as voted for by leading chefs and critics. 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, whether it was running restaurants or indeed creating fantastic magazines like Restaurant.” Edwina’s expertise and knowledge in running restaurants and restaurant businesses led to her spotting an opportunity to create what are now the most widely-used back-office systems for the industry. It was this vision which led to the creation of Fourth Hospitality – a software business for operators, by operators. The award-winning company she and Derek created 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. Industry commentator and consultant Peter Martin, of Peach Factory, said: “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 complimentary US business with a particular 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.”

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