The Restaurant Group (TRG) is in talks to acquire Peach Pub Company, the Midlands-based, multiple pub operator, MCA has learnt.

TRG, which earlier this month acquired the London-based Food & Fuel business in a c£15m deal, is understood to have moved ahead of competition from Vine Acquisitions, the backers of Punch, and Core Capital, the backers of Brasserie Bar Co, to lead the race for the 20-strong Peach, although a deal is far from being agreed. It is thought that TRG values Peach, which was founded by Lee Cash, Hamish Stoddart and Jo Eames in 2002, at c£25m.

Like Food & Fuel, which comprises eight gastropubs, one sports pub and two café bars, it is thought that if successful, TRG would also look to incorporate Peach into its c65-strong pub arm – Brunning & Price.

The move for Peach comes as TRG explores further growth opportunities for its pubs and transport hub concession businesses, as the casual dining part of the company, which operates the Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands, continues to struggle.

Acquiring Peach would help Brunning & Price further bridge its two main trading geographies in the North West and South East.

Earlier this year, Brunning & Price also acquired Ribble Valley Inns, the north of England-based operator of four pubs, for an undisclosed sum.

MCA revealed in February that Peach had appointed BDO to help assess its funding options.

Speaking at the time, Stoddart said: “Our aim is to raise enough equity to allow existing shareholders to realise some of their share value and to have access to equity as well as debt to grow the business.”

Last month, Peach reported like-for-like sales increased 2.4% for the year ending 7 January 2018.

The company said it had emerged from a challenging trading year in fighting form, delivering continued sales and profit growth.

It said it remained resilient in the face of mounting pressures from business rates, National Minimum Wage increases, and inflation.

Turnover rose £600,000 to £25.6m, while group normal operations EBITDA in the 52-week period was £2.2m (2016: £2.5m), with group EBITDA up £39,000 on the year before to £2.05m.

TRG declined to comment on its interest in Peach.