Boparan group set to buy Carluccio’s restaurants

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of the Giraffe restaurant business and the founder of 2 Sisters Food Group, is poised to buy nearly half of the Carluccio’s Italian dining chain out of administration, in a deal that will save about 900 jobs.

Boparan Restaurants, which owns the Giraffe, Fishworks and Ed’s Easy Diner chains and the UK franchise for the US fast food chain Slim Chickens, is expected to confirm a deal to take on about 30 Carluccio’s outlets as early as Tuesday.

About 43 further outlets of the ailing chain, which called in administrators from FRP in March, will be permanently shut with the loss of about 1,000 jobs, according to Sky News. All the Carluccio’s outlets are currently closed and its staff on furlough under the government’s coronavirus lockdown rules.

Boparan has been labelled the UK’s “chicken king” owing to his role as the co-owner of 2 Sisters Food Group, which supplies about a third of the chicken on UK supermarket shelves. The company was the subject of parliamentary and food watchdog inquiries in 2017 following a Guardian and ITV News undercover investigation into food standards at a 2 Sisters plant.

The billionaire’s food group, which recently brought in the turnaround expert and former Co-op boss Richard Pennycook as chairman, also includes Fox’s Biscuits. Boparan’s interests also include the turkey producer Bernard Matthews and the upmarket Cinnamon Club restaurant in London, as well as the Boparan Restaurants group, which operates 140 outlets across six chains after closing at least 20 Giraffe outlets in 2019. It previously owned the Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips empire, which it sold off last year.

Boparan is extending his empire as restaurants and pubs have come under increasing pressure during the coronavirus crisis. UK operators have been closed since the end of March and will not be allowed to open to diners until at least 4 July, when the third step in the government’s lockdown easing plan is due to take place, if progress in tackling the virus allows. Even then, businesses are expected to have to operate with strict physical distancing rules, which are likely to cut into profits heavily.

Carluccio’s was founded by the late chef Antonio Carluccio in 1999 and is currently owned by Landmark Group, a Dubai-based retail and hospitality conglomerate.

It called in administrators following a difficult period for casual dining chains after a private-equity fuelled over-expansion ramped up competition before the industry was hit by rising costs and slowing consumer confidence.

In 2018, Carluccio’s landlords backed a restructuring plan in the form of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), an insolvency procedure which allowed it to close about 30 of its restaurants.

The latest Carluccio’s deal comes as Casual Dining Group (CDG), the owner of Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas, which employs about 6,000 people, is also set for a major restructure.

The group, which runs about 250 restaurants, is expected to close outlets and put some parts of the business into administration after hiring the advisory firm AlixPartners to help consider options. The beer, chips and mussels chain Belgo and the group’s smaller chains Huxleys and Oriel are also at risk as part of the restructure. The group sold off its La Tasca tapas brand this year.

A spokesperson for CDG said: “As is widely acknowledged, this is an unprecedented situation for our industry and, like many other companies across the UK, the directors of Casual Dining Group are working closely with our advisers as we consider our next steps.”

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