The sale of the seven A-Z restaurants in central London has sparked "significant interest" from both chain restaurants and individual operators.
|Zafferano: no comment from Giorgio Locatelli on the extent of his interest|
Administrator BDO Stoy Hayward said enquiries were coming from all over the country, both for individual sites and for the whole group. One name that has emerged as a likely bidder is Luke Johnson, an investment executive at Risk Capital Partners, current chairman of Signature Restaurants and former chairman of PizzaExpress.
Claudio Pulze, joint founder of the group, has teamed up with ex-Café Med owner Simon Binder to bid for the entire group. Knight Frank, which is acting for the partnership, said a successful bid might be followed by the sale of certain parts of the group.
The Chez Nico chain is also interested. "We're very interested in a couple of sites, but so are a lot of people," said managing director Fergio Rebecchi.
One property agent believed that few small entrepreneurs would have the resources to bid for even one of the high-profile and "extremely lucrative" restaurants. But this doesn't seem to have deterred them. "I'm sure every restaurant in London is having a look," said one industry insider.
Both Giorgio Locatelli and Gordon Ramsay are thought to be tempted by their former A-Z stamping grounds - Zafferano and Aubergine respectively. However, Locatelli declined to comment and a spokeswoman for Ramsay said he hadn't, as yet, put in an offer.
One out-of-towner eyeing up A-Z is NW Hotels and Leisure, which owns St Michael's Manor hotel and D'Arcy's restaurant in St Albans, Hertfordshire. A spokesman said the owner was looking at "other D'Arcy's-type projects".
A-Z boss Guiliano Lotto is also considering options to regain the restaurants.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 18 November 2004