Rumours spread about potential sale of Brunning & Price

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Speculation mounting: Brunning & Price operates about 80 sites across England and Wales (credit: getty/Poike)
Speculation mounting: Brunning & Price operates about 80 sites across England and Wales (credit: getty/Poike)

Related tags Finance Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

Speculation is mounting about the possibility of The Restaurant Group (TRG) putting its Brunning & Price brand on the market.

Brunning & Price history

Formed in 1989 by founders Jerry Brunning and Graham Price, the first official Brunning & Price site was launched in Chester, the Old Harkers Arms, which remains an institution in the city to this day.

Having grown the business, mostly around the north-west area, to around 14 sites, the owners saw the opportunity to take the business to the next level and in 2007 sold their shares to The Restaurant Group.

Since then, TRG has grown the estate to around 80 sites, predominantly in the north-west and north Wales, alongside operations in the south.

Brunning & Price is one of TRG’s most successful brands, operating about 80 pubs across England and Wales, alongside its other chains of restaurants which include Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s.

According to The Times​, shares in TRG were in demand after Hong Kong-based shareholder Oasis Management Company, which has a 6.5% stake in the business, claimed there had been “strategic stagnation” by the board and called on it to “realign its priorities”, saying it had presided over “one of the worst-performing share prices of any UK leisure company”.

Wipe out debt

According to financial analyst Peel Hunt, TRG’s pubs division, which includes Brunning & Price’s estate, could be worth £230m and that would be enough to wipe out TRG’s £184 of debt.

Peel Hunt noted: “Per the company’s last presentation, Brunning & Price’s average new site EBITDA is £350,000 to £600,000. However, that is new sites. Part of the estate, such as Brubeckers, is less profitable. At site level, a £300k average for the entire pubs division is sensible for 2023 estimations and possibly £350,000 as energy costs come down.”

Private equity firms

The Times​ industry commentator Dominic Walsh said a number of private equity firms were believed to be running the rule over the business and added a City source claimed David Campbell, chief executive of Wagamama from 2013 to 2017, the year before its acquisition by TRG, had been sounded out by at least one suitor about becoming involved in a break-up of TRG.

During the pandemic, Andy Hornby, TRG chief executive since 2019, closed about 150 sites restaurants from its previous number of 650 in the UK and 65 overseas but, according to Walsh, some analysts believe he should go further and sell off what is seen as the less attractive leisure division, comprising mainly of Frankie & Benny’s outlets but also argue the pubs division shares very little with Japanese-style noodle bar Wagamama.

The Morning Advertiser reported in 2021, Brunning & Price was set to possibly double its estate size from 55​.

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