Swiss buyout firm Spice Private Equity has agreed to invest £25 million to acquire a ‘significant' minority stake in UK-based restaurant chain LEON and become the company’s largest shareholder. Active Private Equity, which has backed LEON since 2004, will also participate in the new fundraising. Currently operating in the UK and the Netherlands, LEON plans to use the financing to continue its international expansion.
While different in size, the company and its funding history are in many ways reminiscent of Pret A Manger, a British sandwich and coffee chain bought by Bridgepoint in 2008 for €500 million. Earlier this month, Bridgepoint reportedly
appointed investment banks to prepare for Pret’s potential US listing, which could be worth up to £1.5 billion. That's a path Spice would no doubt be eager to imitate.
The LEON deal is also indicative of a vibrant restaurants and bars sector in Europe, with PE's appetite for the space continuing to grow. Buyout frequency in the industry
has increased steadily since 2011, per PitchBook data, with well-known high-street brands such as Yo! Sushi and Wagamama among the notable names to attract private-market capital. And this year’s deal flow is already on track to approach 2016’s record high.
Completed PE deals in Europe's restaurant and bars industry
The majority of the 196 deals closed in the space since the start of 2010—about 55%—have occurred in the UK, with France (17%) checking in second. Italy, Spain and Germany are the only other nations to account for more than 3% of the total. TDR Capital has been the most prolific investor in the industry over that same span, completing nine transactions, followed by the Business Growth Fund, with seven.
Also of note: So far in 2017, restaurants and bars deals in Europe are accounting for a larger percentage of global investment in the sector than at any point
in the past six years.