D&D London has said a future IPO is not on the cards, despite reports several years ago that it was on the verge of a £100m flotation.
Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, told MCA that “we are not thinking of doing an IPO”. He also said there was no current talk of an exit for private equity group LDC, which bought a controlling stake in D&D Restaurants in 2013, for c£50m.
“LDC is not thinking of exiting. We are just trying to expand the business, growth profits and when the time is right I’m sure that we will do a transaction but we are not actively looking at anything at the moment,” he added.
Gunewardena said that since opening Bluebird in New York, and announcing plans for its second, D&D had received “a lot of approaches” in New York and the West Coast, but he said they would need to bed in Bluebird New York before committing to additional opportunities in the States.
He said the group had also received a lot of interest in the concept from overseas, and while he says that its preferred way of growing is by owning its own businesses, outside its core markets of the UK and US he would consider franchise opportunities in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East.
He said the business was also considering a rollout of its Bluebird café concept, following the successful opening of its first at Television Centre White City in April, in London and other parts of the UK, but it is not looking to do to the same with Bluebird restaurants.
“We are working on that concept and once we are happy with it, we will look at doing other Bluebird cafes,” he said.
He also confirmed that the group D&D London had considered the potential acquisition of Gaucho, but said it is not actively looking to acquire other businesses. “Gaucho was presented to us as an opportunity and we felt that we might be able to do something with it, so yes we looked at it but not because we were out looking to buy businesses.”
The business, which currently has five sites outside London, in the UK - four sites in Leeds and one in Manchester, is actively exploring other locations in the UK, and “is about to go into legals on another project in another city of the UK”. Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as Dublin, are all of interest in terms of locations, he said. “We know that we can create viable and successful restaurants in cities outside London.”
While the business is preparing itself for a no-deal Brexit, he said that it still sees London and the UK as key to its growth and a powerful economy long term, whatever the shape of Brexit. “We know how to do business over here, so I do think we would stop investing in the UK, but in our situation it would be silly not to be planning, just in case things are not good, to do stuff in other parts of the world,” he said.
Earlier this week the business reported like-for-like (lfl) sales growth for the year to 31 March 2018 of 1%, which Gunewardena said was “the lowest like-for-like sales growth that I can remember”. However after a positive summer of trading, lfl sales in the year to date are up 4%. “This year has felt really different,” he said, and after a return to a more normal trading period, the positive momentum is continuing with lfls last week up 5%, he added.
“Even though the news flow can hardly be worse […] what we are seeing is our customers, both in the City and the West End, are continuing to lead their normal lives and spend money,” he said.