Giggling Squid co-founder Andy Laurillard has confirmed the Thai restaurant group has appointed advisors to assess its next stage of growth, which is likely to involve finding a new private equity partner.

Laurillard told MCA the business was keeping a close eye on Loungers and its potential IPO, but suggested Giggling Squid at a third of the size may be too small to float.

He dismissed the potential for a third option – a trade acquisition – arguing there was little interest or financial power for such a move.

Giggling Squid has been backed by the BGF - which has a 29% stake - for the last three years, and it is now seeking an exit, having supported the concept from 13 to 30 sites.

GCA Altium has been appointed to advise, with discussions in their early stages.

Timetables and the exact share of equity being offered up are not yet clear, though it is hoped it will happen this year.

Meanwhile Laurillard said the group had a property prospectus with a target list of some 50 sites, with a third in the south, a third in London suburbs, and a third in the midlands.

Targets include Fulham, Kensington and Clapham; Cambridge, Winchester and Exeter; and Shrewsbury, Solihull and Leicester.

On the next steps for Giggling Squid, Laurillard told MCA: “I think there are some very exciting partners out there from a private equity point of view.

“BGF have done very well out of us, and are looking to exit, so we’re looking for our next partner

“We are watching what Loungers are doing quite closely. I think we are a bit small to IPO – we’re about a third the size of Loungers – so it doesn’t quite feel like the right place. But we’ll look at it, take the temperature of the market, see if there’s any appetite, and what PE interest shapes up like, then make a decision later in the year.

“I don’t think there’s any trade interest – none of them have got any money. Trade has never really crossed our mind as a route.”

The managing director, who wants to stay on at business, said the concept continued to trade ahead of the wider market due its differentiation.

He said: “Why are we different from others? We haven’t got 100s of others doing exactly the same thing on the high street. We’re doing something quite difficult, quite different and hard to copy. A lot of propositions aren’t that hard to copy, and you have PE rolling out their business plans. I don’t think anything is going to change in a hurry.

“We just need to keep on carefully choosing sites. Rents are a lot easier to navigate now, we’re in a much better position relative to where we were. That opens up interesting opportunities all over the place.

“There aren’t many people buying restaurants with good covenants. In some ways it’s going to be easier over the next few years than it has been for the last three.

“The obvious thing to do is to edge outwards – we’ve been looking at Birmingham suburbs and a bit more in the M25. We are not going to jump into central London, but there’s certainly an opportunity to break into adjacent ground – not new ground altogether.

“We are looking at a number of things in the Midlands, as far up as Nottingham and Leicester. We won’t be going to Liverpool or Manchester just yet.”