Private equity firm snaps up top catering provider

Rhubarb at Sky Garden

Midmarket private equity firm Livingbridge has acquired foodservice operator rhubarb, the first investment from its new £660m fund.

Originally established in 1996 as an events business, rhubarb expanded its activities in 2003 to include the operation of lease and concession contracts at iconic, high footfall locations, initially by providing high-end catering at Ascot Racecourse.

Today, the company operates long term contracts at venues including the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, the Royal Albert Hall and events at the Goodwood Estate.

It also provides bespoke catering solutions at around 600 events per year for a broad range of clients, from high profile charity galas for 2,000 guests to small, intimate dinners in country venues.

Most recently, it announced it will open an all-day restaurant in the new Centre Point development towards the end of 2017.

With offices in London and Surrey, the firm now employs 250 full-time members of staff alongside over 900 temporary staff.

rhubarb is the first investment from the Livingbridge 6 fund, which completed fundraising in September 2016 which targets companies with enterprise values typically between £20m and £125m.

The investment in rhubarb is also Livingbridge’s third in the food and drink sector having invested in Pho, the Vietnamese fast casual restaurant in 2012, and Bistrot Pierre, the regional French bistrot group in 2015.

The investment from Livingbridge, which will see former owner ECI realise a 3x return, will help rhubarb’s continued growth across the UK and internationally with the overall aim of doubling in size in the next four years.

In addition, Richard Prosser, who has private equity expertise within the global leisure, travel and tourism industries, will be joining as chairman on completion of the deal.

Benoit Broch, director at Livingbridge said: “rhubarb’s management team have done a fantastic job in growing the business over recent years, securing a number of high profile contracts and creating a premium, differentiated brand that is highly valued by consumers and businesses alike. The company has long-term contracts at some fantastic locations and a strong pipeline of future growth opportunities and we are very much looking forward to helping them expand their offering both throughout the UK and overseas.”

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