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London-Born Thai Restaurant Chain Is Sold to American Investors [Updated]

Rosa’s Thai Cafe has sold a majority shareholding to U.S. private equity company Tri Span this week

Successful London restaurant chain Rosa’s Thai looks to expand its restaurant outside the capital
Rosa’s Thai Cafe has grown slowly and has proven itself a success story in the mid-market
Rosa's Thai Cafe [Official Photo]

Updated — 6.6.2018: a statement was issued today (Wednesday) confirming that Rosa’s has sold a majority share of its restaurant group to the American private equity company Tri Span’s “dedicated restaurant platform,” Rising Stars. Details of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Rosa’s managing director Gavin Adair will lead the group “in its next phase of growth,” supported by Robin Rowland, former Yo Sushi CEO and Tri Span’s European operating partner, who will join the board as a non-executive chairman.

Founders Alex and Saiphin Moore will remain involved in the business, “respectively focusing on the group’s culture and innovation and driving food quality,” the spokesperson said.

The London-born restaurant chain, Rosa’s Thai Cafe, is reportedly close to selling a majority shareholding to an American-based private equity firm called Tri Span this week. According to a report in the Sunday Times, the chain which was founded and is owned by husband- and-wife team Saiphin and Alex Moore, will remain involved in the company part-time, as minority shareholders, as the brand looks to expand outside of London.

The first restaurant by the Moore’s opened on Hanbury Street, near Spitalfields in east London in 2008. The pair, who had met in Hong Kong 17 years ago, had borrowed money to open the original on the site of an old greasy spoon; following its success, they sold their home in Hong Kong to open the second restaurant on Dean Street, in Soho, in March 2010. The Rosa’s group now stands at 13 sites across the capital. Saiphin Moore has authored two cookbooks: Rosa’s Thai Cafe, in 2015; and published The Vegetarian Cookbook at the end of last month.

New York-based Tri Span appears to be buying restaurant groups across the world: In April, it bought the New York-based Rosa Mexicano and in October last year made a “significant” investment in the Miami-based Yardbird Southern Table & Bar.

Although the details of the deal are unknown at this stage, the Sunday Times reports that the company posted sales of £8.2 million and “core earnings” of £1.4 million last year.

Representatives for the group would not comment on the weekend’s reports but said that a formal announcement would be made later this week.

Rosa’s, as small-sized chain, has also proved a success story at a time when many other (bigger) British restaurant chains are failing. Commenting on the comparative successes of “mini chains” for Eater last September, Josh Barrie wrote that “[Rosa’s] is typical of what seems to succeed in London in 2017: an image of authenticity blanketed in provenance, casualness and comparative affordability.”

Its managing director Gavin Adair told Eater then: “Smaller chains are benefiting from the flexibility they have to meet ever increasing consumer expectations, and their desire to experience something different. Whether someone thinks of you as a chain or an independent is ultimately much less important than the experience they have when they dine with you.

“And you can keep each site ‘independent’, not just through design but through product and vibe, the latter driven by the team. At Rosa’s many restaurants have specials exclusive to that site but only where a head chef is from a particular region or has a particular skill.”

Perhaps it is this that has kept Rosa’s both fresh and an attractive business proposition. Last November, the group announced that it would transform its Soho site into “Rosa’s Thai Veggie,” which followed the group’s aim to “showcase a more diverse selection of Thai food in their restaurants.” At the Seven Dials site the menu is northern Thai-specific; noodle specials at Carnaby and a north eastern (Isaan) menu in Victoria.