One of Britain’s most prolific pubs entrepreneurs will unveil the latest in a string of corporate deals on Friday when her Food & Fuel group is sold to the owner of Garfunkel’s.
Sky News has learnt that Karen Jones, the former chief executive of Spirit, has struck a £15m agreement to sell the business she founded in 2006 to Restaurant Group, the London-listed company.
Ms Jones, the chairman of Food & Fuel, is best-known for her tenure at Spirit and its sale to Punch Taverns in 2006 amid a glut of megadeals in Britain’s pubs industry.
Her current business is more modest in size, comprising about a dozen sites in affluent London locations.
Coffer Corporate Leisure, an advisory firm, is understood to have been handling the sale of Food & Fuel on behalf of Ms Jones and her fellow shareholders.
Its sale to Restaurant Group will reflect its new owner’s efforts to seek areas of growth during a challenging period for the UK’s casual dining sector.
As well as Garfunkel’s, Restaurant Group owns Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Brunning & Price, a unit focused on largely rural pubs.
The company endured a difficult time under its previous management team, with a series of profit warnings culminating in a boardroom overhaul.
Under Debbie Hewitt, its chairman, and Andy McCue, a former Paddy Power executive who was appointed as CEO two years ago, Restaurant Group’s performance has stabilised.
It has focused on growing its concessions division, which trades from more than 60 outlets, largely in UK airports, as well as its pub operations.
One source said the acquisition of Food & Fuel reflected a “cautious optimism” about the outlook for the business.
Restaurant Group, which in total has more than 500 sites, is due to report first-half results on Friday, which are expected to reflect the difficulties created by the ‘Beast from the East’ weather system that hit much of the UK earlier in the year.
A number of casual dining chains, including Byron, Carluccio’s, Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo and Gaucho, have either called in administrators or been forced to shed significant numbers of sites – and jobs – this year.
Restaurant Group declined to comment on the purchase of Food & Fuel on Thursday.