Neil Riding, the former managing director of TGI Friday’s UK and Beefeater Restaurants, has been appointed managing director of Caffe Nero, the c.470-strong coffee chain, M&C Report understands. The chain, which is led and majority owned by founder Gerry Ford, has been seeking a new managing director since the end of last year, after Jonathan Hart stepped down to become chief executive of Thorntons, the high street chocolatier. Riding, who M&C Report revealed was a frontrunner for the role in August, was previously chief operating officer at Safestore, the AIM-Listed self-storage company. Before joining Safestore he spent three years at Whitbread as managing director of its Beefeater restaurants. Prior to that he was managing director of TGI Friday’s UK for three years. Earlier this month, the group reported a 4.8% rise in underlying profits for the year to 31 May 2011. The company also reiterated that it believed there was potential in the UK market for at least 600 Caffe Nero stores and plans to open approximately 50 sites over the next year. It expanded into Turkey in 2007 and the Middle East in 2009 and is currently reviewing other international opportunities. The group refinanced its £140m debt at the start of the year, which valued the chain at £350m.