Giggling Squid Sells Minority Stake to Bgf for £6.4m

Giggling Squid, the popular UK Thai restaurant group is to accelerate its expansion plans following a £6.4m investment from BGF (Business Growth Fund), the UK's leading provider of growth capital to small and mid-sized businesses.

Giggling Squid, which has a portfolio of 13 sites across the South of England and the Midlands, will use the BGF capital to open more branches of its family of successful restaurants. Giggling Squid intends to break new ground and enter the London suburbs inside the M25, building on its new site in Esher set to open on Thursday next week.

BGF has taken a significant minority equity stake in the business and has introduced Simon Kossoff, Chairman and former CEO of Carluccio's, to the company. Simon has joined the board as non-executive Chairman and Jon Simon, Investor at BGF, also joins the board.

Giggling Squid serves fresh, rustic Thai cuisine at lunch and dinner and also offers takeaway services.

Headquartered in Guildford, the business is run by husband-and-wife team Andy and Pranee Laurillard. They opened the first Giggling Squid in Hove, followed by further restaurants in Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Henley, Reigate and Stratford. Giggling Squid's reputation and loyal customer base soon began to grow.

Over the past two years the pace of growth has accelerated, with three openings in 2014 and a further four so far this year – in Bristol, Salisbury, Billericay and Guildford. Building works are under way on new restaurants in Bury St Edmunds, Berkhamsted and Warwick, whilst Esher will launch on 19th November. The company has also just completed on a site in Farnham.

Andy and Pranee's background in marketing and brand strategy has helped them to drive the success of the Giggling Squid brand. Pranee started her career as an advertising creative at international creative agency Lintas. Andy began his career in 1996 at Unilever, before a spell at Coca Cola and a subsequent five year period as head of brand strategy and innovation at TUI Travel.

Until now, Giggling Squid's expansion has been funded through cash flow and bank borrowings. BGF's £6.4m investment will provide further capital to accelerate the growth plan across the South and nationally. The business employs around 300 staff across its thirteen sites and is expected to generate revenue in excess of £12m this year. A further 1,000 jobs nationally are expected to be created as a result of the company's expansion over the next four years.

Andy Laurillard commented:

“This is a really important step for Giggling Squid as we look to expand our brand across the country. We are now well funded and in a strong position for growth. This is a growing, dynamic company and it is an exciting time for Giggling Squid and for all of our employees. Thai cuisine is an underserved segment of the market and we have the opportunity to create a truly national brand providing great Thai food. It's a good time to be part of that story.”

Jon Simon added:

“We first met Andy and Pranee in 2013 and were impressed with the quality of the offering and their vision for Giggling Squid. We kept in regular contact and keenly followed their progress. We are excited to now have the opportunity to invest in this established casual dining brand, with a strong track record of organic growth and a compelling expansion story."

Will Baxter, Director Corporate Finance, Head of Restaurants & Bars at Grant Thornton added:

"This deal sees the coming together of a hugely talented team at Giggling Squid and an investor which thoroughly understands the strength of the brand and the extent of the growth opportunity facing the business.  I look forward to seeing the business go from strength to strength over the coming years and wish the founders, Andy and Pranee Laurillard, an exciting and rewarding journey with their new partners."

The investment means that Giggling Squid can confidently increase its growth rate to stay on target to expand to 50-70 sites within 5-7 years.

Substantial enhancements to the training and development programmes will see a major focus on identifying and developing internal talent.

The funding will allow the company to strengthen the head office support team, with the hiring of finance, marketing, HR and operations teams a priority.

Andy will now prioritise on building the central team, whilst overseeing the roll out of new sites as Pranee will dedicate herself on maintaining food quality and leading menu innovation.

“Ultimately, we remain a food led business and Simon Kossoff's appointment as chairman is a real coup for us,” said Pranee, adding, “We have massive respect for his achievements at Carluccio's, a brand we see as having played a central role in redefining the quality customers now expect from high street restaurants.

“We intend to redefine the quality of Thai dining across the country's market towns and Simon is a great person to have advising us on delivering this,” she said.

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