Two former PizzaExpress directors could be poised to buy the Tootsies and Ma Potter's restaurant chains.
John Metcalf and Glen Tomlinson are between them chief executive and chairman of Urban Dining, an AIM-listed company that has been set up with the aim of snapping up small restaurant chains.
On Friday Urban Dining asked the London Stock Exchange to suspend trading in its shares pending the outcome of "advanced negotiations" to buy a restaurant group.
If successful, the talks would lead to a reverse takeover of the acquisition target.
City speculation has pointed the finger firmly at Tootsies, a 22-strong chain of burger-based restaurants launched in 1979.
Ma Potter's, a chain of 12 "chargrill" restaurants and two coffee shops founded 12 years ago is thought to be another target, with Urban Dining likely to launch a £30m share issue to fund the two acquisitions.
Urban Dining was not commenting on the speculation but it is well known in City circles that it was set up with the intention of acquiring restaurant chains.
These would normally be businesses with about 15 to 20 outlets that could then be expanded into chains of about 80 to 100 restaurants.
by Nic Paton
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