The Est Est Est restaurant brand is set to disappear from UK high streets after the owners of parent group Living Ventures (LV) took back control of their business following the £28m sale of the Living Room group.
Last month's disposal of the 13-strong Living Room business to hospitality operator Ultimate Leisure has enabled Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts to wrest control of their remaining restaurants back from shareholders.
The pair had been constrained by an agreement struck in 2005 with Frankie & Benny's owner the Restaurant Group (TRG), which saw them acquire Est but surrender control of LV. Under that deal, TRG received a 40% stake in LV, a say in its running and the option - which has now ended - to buy it outright in 2008. And although TRG remains a 38% shareholder in LV, it no longer has a say in its running.
Bacon said the deal with Ultimate had seen all parties benefit, but privately he is believed to have been frustrated by TRG's refusal to roll out any more restaurant sites, which saw the previously solid new openings programme grind to a halt. "We plan to return to growth of 4-5 new units a year," he told Caterer. "We're going to take the business forward again."
LV now owns 10 Est Est Est restaurants and five Blackhouse Grills, with plans for up to 15 of each ultimately.
The company, which has already reinvented four Ests with a new contemporary design and improvements to the menu, will unveil a new name for the chain within the next couple of months at its Didsbury outlet in Greater Manchester before converting the remainder.
By Chris Druce
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