Phoenix to roll out Thai restaurant chain

The UK mid-market private equity firm, Phoenix Equity Partners, is banking on an aggressive roll out of a Thai restaurant chain to take the group from three to 30 sites. Phoenix says now is a good time to be buying properties.

Phoenix Equity Partners is backing Alan Yau, the founder of Thai restaurant group Busaba Eathai, in an aggressive expansion of the business over the next few years. 

Phoenix is investing alongside Yau in a transaction which values the business at £21.5 million ($42.7 million; €27.1 million).  As part of the transaction, Phoenix will provide substantial additional funds to enable the business to open 20 to 30 new restaurants across the UK over the next five years.

Hugh Lenon, Phoenix’s managing partner, said: “We are not going to make a large capital return by running three restaurants. We are planning a big expansion and now is a good time to be buying properties.”

Yau opened the first restaurant in 1999 in central London, and has subsequently opened two further restaurants in London’s West End.  He is also the founder of restaurants Hakkasan, Yauatcha and noodle bar chain Wagamama, which is also in private equity ownership under Lion Capital.

Yau will remain as both director and a major shareholder and the existing management team will continue with the business.

Stephen Gee will become chairman of Busaba.  He is also the current chairman of Gaucho Group and Carluccio’s.  Deloitte advised the shareholders of Busaba.  Phoenix’s previous investments in the casual dining sector include Gaucho Group, Mill House Inns and Tootsies. 

Lenon said: “We definitely had an advantage in bidding, because of our reputation in building brands, like Radley, the handbag maker and Jimmy Choo, the shoe designer.”