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Sat 1st Aug 2020 - Epiris completes deal for Casual Dining Group, to become The Big Table
Epiris completes deal for Casual Dining Group, to become The Big Table: UK-based private equity firm Epiris has completed a deal to acquire Casual Dining Group (CDG), the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge, which will now be known as The Big Table. Epiris, which previously invested in TGI Friday’s and Parkdean Resorts, is backing the existing CDG management team, led by chief executive James Spragg. The new Big Table moniker is a reference to an internal culture programme at the former CDG business that championed “togetherness, diversity and inclusivity among all members of its business”. In a process handled by AlixPartners, the business formerly known as CDG was acquired from administration, preserving more than 4,000 jobs across the UK and more than 150 restaurants. Epiris said it has “invested significant cash into the business to help spark a rapid unlocking of the group’s operations”, with its restaurant businesses starting to reopen across the UK next week. It has also made a further commitment for future funding. The new business will carry no external debt. The management team, led by Spragg, with Adrian Walker as chief financial officer, will look to build on the “robust financial performance it was delivering before the covid-19 pandemic hit”. The group plans to open as many restaurants as possible during August – in time to get behind the UK government’s national Eat Out To Help Out initiative. Spragg said: “This is a very positive outcome for the business. We are delighted to have concluded this process and to be working with such experienced and knowledgeable investors. We inevitably emerge from this process as a leaner business, and one that is now equipped to navigate the challenges the industry faces, safeguarding thousands of jobs. This has been an extremely difficult and unsettling time for our teams and we’re pleased to now be planning to reopen our doors and refocus our attention on what we do best, creating great experiences for our guests.” Ian Wood, partner at Epiris, added: “In common with most of the sector, The Big Table’s restaurants have been closed since late March. We will work with James and his team to reopen the restaurants, bringing more than 4,000 people off furlough to enable customers to enjoy dining out again. This transaction will enable the business to trade through the uncertain months ahead and invest in its three strong brands to deliver an even better experience for their customers.” Clare Kennedy, of AlixPartners, said: “We received a significant level of interest in the group, which is a testament to the strength of its management team, the affection in which its brands are held by the public and the quality of its people. We are extremely pleased to have been able to help the group find a new investment partner with such strong industry credentials and we wish both parties and everybody who works at The Big Table all the very best for a successful future.” Propel revealed earlier this month Epiris would commit £43m of funding for the former CDG business if a deal was successful. It’s understood that figure would include significant levels of cash commitment for the next 12 months to manage the impact covid-19 continues to have on footfall and revenue, and then to support and grow the group by refurbishing sites. The new company would only have debt owed to Epiris and this debt would have no contractual cash interest payments and would be repayable in seven years. Epiris, which was also a bidder to acquire Azzurri Group, was understood to be negotiating with landlords on revised lease terms ahead of completing a deal. Earlier this week, Propel revealed Rooney Anand, the former chief executive of Greene King, was to step down as chairman of CDG. Anand, who took up the role at the start of 2019, follows CDG’s previous backer KKR out of the business.

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