Exclusive – bidders circle Casual Dining Group: A number of parties are bidding to acquire all or part of Casual Dining Group (CDG), the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas operator, as the company’s advisers continue to push for a deal for the whole business. Propel understands Aurelius Group, the German investment group that came close to rescuing Jamie’s Italian, is interested in acquiring the Bella Italia and Café Rouge brands. Propel also understands TriSpan, backer of Rosa’s Thai and Thunderbird Fried Chicken, and private equity firm Endless are both bidding to secure Las Iguanas. CDG has been working with AlixPartners to progress a sale process that was announced in mid-May and aimed at finding a new investor for the group. It is understood bids are still being considered for the entire business. Interest in the James Spragg-led business comes just after it filed a notice of intent to appoint an administrator ahead of a restructuring process, with all options being considered including company voluntary arrangements for individual brands and a possible administration for one. It’s thought such a restructuring process would still have to be part of any deal, with an administration process possibly on the cards as early as the end of this week. It’s thought that process would lead to a reduction in the size of the group’s estate, which is currently about 250 strong. Before the lock-down, CDG’s performance was understood to have improved, with Las Iguanas in growth and Bella Italia posting “solid” numbers. It was understood Café Rouge had also started this year in growth following a period of underperformance.
Wagamama to use sliding screens as it trials dine-in at four sites as part of phased reopening: Wagamama, owned by The Restaurant Group, plans to initially reopen four restaurants for dine-in using sliding screens to keep diners safe. The screens will sit on rollers and move the full length of the restaurant’s benches to separate parties. The screens will be trialled at the Royal Festival Hall in central London, which will reopen on Saturday (4 July), followed by the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Stevenage and Swindon from Monday (6 July). The restaurants will also operate social-distancing queues, disposable menus and cashless payment. The name and phone number of at least one person in the group will be taken for contact-tracing purposes. If the initial test and learn sites prove successful, Wagamama plans to have 18 restaurants open by the end of July. A next phase of reopening, on 20 July, includes outlets in Bluewater, Cheshire Oaks and Exeter with sites in Chelmsford, Lincoln and Wimbledon among those scheduled to follow a week later. Wagamama said the staged plan would hopefully see all restaurants open by early September. The return to dine-in was guided by a survey of Wagamama customers. Chief executive Emma Woods said: “The main question we have been working on as a team is how can our guests feel safe but still have a communal Wagamama experience sitting on our benches? The team has applied our philosophy of kaizen – good change – to this challenge and I’m delighted we have found a design solution that provides social distancing for our guests in a way that’s true to the design ethos of the brand.”