Luke Johnson acquires major stake in Lussmanns: Sector investor Luke Johnson has taken a stake Hertfordshire-based Lussmanns Fish & Grill, becoming a major shareholder and joining the board of directors. It is the third major investment in less than a month by Johnson, following on from the acquisition of Brighton Pier through Eclectic Bar Group, now renamed Brighton Pier Group, and the purchase of a minority stake in Gaucho Group. Lussmanns, led by Andrei Lussmann, is opening a fourth site in Hitchin in June and planning a fifth restaurant later this year. The company stated: “The well-known entrepreneur and chairman of private equity house Risk Capital Partners brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his impressive portfolio of hospitality businesses, which currently includes Gaucho, Patisserie Holdings, Bread (Gail’s Artisan Bakery), Feng Sushi, 3Sixty Restaurants, Genuine Dining, Draft House, Grand Union and Small Batch Coffee. Previously chairman of PizzaExpress, where Lussmann gained much of his own early experience in hospitality, Johnson grew the business from 12 restaurants to over 150. He started Signature Restaurants, which owned The Ivy, J.Sheekey and Le Caprice, as well as the Belgo chain, and developed the Strada restaurant concept from scratch through to 30 sites before selling the business.” Lussmann said: “Luke Johnson is well known in the restaurant world and his involvement signals a more ambitious approach to making sustainable dining a commercial reality on today’s high street. His depth of insight, commercial nous and capital will support Lussmanns in its ever evolving journey. I am personally delighted by his arrival and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that we shall face together.” Johnson said: “I love Andrei’s restaurants, and think they offer affordable neighbourhood dining at its best. I’m glad to be partnering with him in this venture.” Lussmanns will open in Sun Street, Hitchin, in June. Lussmann said he targeted Hitchin for the next opening because people there travelled to its existing eateries in Hertford, Harpenden and St Albans. He told the Hertfordshire Mercury earlier this year: “We thought the demographic and audience in Hitchin would very much enjoy and like what we offer.” The Hitchin fish and grill restaurant will be the only Lussmanns to feature a diners’ bar. Lussmann said he had plans for a fifth “classy but classless” restaurant in Hertfordshire, 14 years after launching the brand in a now defunct site in North Kensington. Lussmann said: “We moved to Hertfordshire and ever since then, we have continued to grow. During the recession, we were at our best ever. People come back to what they appreciate. We have grown purposefully slowly.” Giles Coren, food critic for The Times, described Lussmanns as “everything a modern local restaurant should be” and rated the brand eight out of ten. It won UK Sustainable Small Restaurant Group of the Year at the SRA Awards in 2014 and 2015.
Casual Dining Group hires Shelley Sandzer for London rent review work: Agent Shelley Sandzer has been hired by Casual Dining Group to act on rent reviews and lease renewals for all sites within the M25 Greater London area. This includes about 60 sites across the group’s full roster of brands: Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Las Iguanas, La Tasca, Belgo, and Huxleys. The announcement follows the recent appointment of Shelley Sandzer by Carluccio’s to act on rent reviews and lease renewals across its 98 site portfolio. Victoria Oates, director of the professional services team at Shelley Sandzer, said: “This instruction from Casual Dining Group continues the great momentum behind Shelley Sandzer and the professional team for 2016. We have a long and trusted track record working in this specialist sector and we continue to build on that. We are delighted to be appointed by Casual Dining Group and will be supporting their portfolio in the capital with our in-depth knowledge of the London market.” Matthew Ainger, director of estates at Casual Dining Group, added: “Managing our portfolio of brands within London required an experienced specialist team and we felt that Shelley Sandzer fit the brief perfectly. We were particularly impressed by the strong results they delivered whilst providing professional services for Belgo and Strada over a ten-year period and the close relationships built during that time. We look forward to that same drive and personal approach brought by Shelley Sandzer as we work with them on developing our London portfolio.” Casual Dining Group reported like-for-like sales were up 3.4% in the first quarter of 2016, with total sales up 17.8%. The company has 30 new sites due to open before Christmas this year and a further 37 in the pipeline.