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Sun 20th Jul 2014 - TGI Friday’s owners mull £200m sale of UK arm
TGI Friday’s owners mull £200m sale of UK arm: The new private equity owners of TGI Friday’s are in the early stages of considering a sale of its British arm. The company, which has more than 900 sites around the world, was bought by a pair of US private equity firms for $800m (£468m) in May. Now the pair, Sentinel Capital and TriArtisan Partners, are looking to sell the 60-strong UK arm of TGI’s, according to the Daily Telegraph. The UK business, where chief executive Karen Forrester has led a revival in fortunes, reported Ebitda of £19.9m in 2013, which could mean it is worth around £200m, allowing the firm’s new owners to recoup around 40% of their outlay. It is thought that the owners have held a beauty parade of banks to lead a potential sale and are likely to appoint advisers in the coming weeks. The company was part of Carlson – the hospitality company that also owns the Radisson hotel chain – for nearly 40 years until its sale earlier this year. But the UK arm was only bought by Carlson six years ago, having previously been run by Whitbread. Under managing director Karen Forrester, the UK business has been modernised. The company grew turnover to £166.8m in the 53 weeks to 30 December 2013, from £147.7m the year before. Ebitda climbed to £19.9m from £17.2m the year before. Sales rose 3.6% on a like-for-like basis. The company finished the period with a cash position of £11.8m. Pre-tax profit was £11,788,000 compared to £10,893,000 the year before. Five new sites were opened in the period “which are performing in excess of expectations and the company is actively seeking new sites”. The latest profit increase at TGI Friday’s in the UK paved the way for an increase in new openings in 2014. The company will create 700 new jobs this year to add to its existing 2,540 staff with seven new openings. The firm recently launched a new concept restaurant – Friday’s Fast Track – that aims to serve customers within ten minutes of ordering at railway stations and other transport hubs. The first Fast Track opened at Manchester Piccadilly station in June. The outlet serves food within a restaurant environment tailored to the needs of busy travellers, with power points, Wi-Fi, and individual seating. The move into fast-paced high-footfall transport hubs is part of Forrester’s vision to double the number of Friday’s in the UK to 120 by 2020, with around eight openings a year planned. The company said Manchester Piccadilly provides the perfect location, with a footfall of 24 million passengers a year, an average user age below 40, and an average passenger dwell time of nearly half an hour. Horizon’s “Ones to Watch” report suggested that “quality food on the go” will be a key growth area in the UK eating-out market, with new concepts emerging in places such as transport hubs, as consumers increasingly want to eat when they want, where they want. The new Friday’s outlet is in the station’s upper concourse. It has an open-plan kitchen that will offer people walking past the restaurant a glimpse of the food as it is cooked, including the new handcrafted burger range and what the company calls “classic American-inspired breakfasts with a Friday’s twist”, including waffles, maple bacon and Jack Daniel’s-candied sausages. Forrester has also previously told Propel that a planned TGI Friday’s in Brighton’s Laines area later this year, in a former Post Office building, will allow the company to push the boundaries with the brand. She said: “By nature of its location it gives us a chance to push the boundaries even further – it will be a bit more sophisticated, a bit more bohemian, a bit more eclectic. We are going to develop the social sharing platform further, more tapas, more sharing food, even more sophisticated cocktails and grills.” Forrester revealed that open kitchens are now a standard feature of new TGI Friday’s openings. An opening in Norwich featured a fully open kitchen. She said: “It’s literally fully open on four sides, where the chefs can actually hand food out to our guests. The front window actually looks into the kitchen, so as guests are walking into our restaurants they can stop and look at chefs preparing their food.”
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