Hawksmoor, the City steakhouse with restaurants in Covent Garden and Spitalfields, is enticing bids after hitting the market as it seeks investment to roll out new locations.
According to one source with knowledge of the matter, Graphite Capital is just one private equity firm currently mulling an offer.
A second source said that Hawksmoor would rather clinch growth capital backing instead of selling off a majority stake.
Graphite declined to comment. A call to Hawksmoor’s communications rep was not answered at the time of writing.
The steak and cocktails restaurant was created by Will Beckett and Huw Gott, who debuted the concept at its Commercial Street site.
The food entrepreneurs went on to sell the Marquees Tavern pub in Islington in 2008 for £175,000, freeing up the time and finances to put into Hawksmoor, which set up shop near Covent Garden in 2010.
A third site at Guildhall, in the City, positioned the burgeoning chain to cater to more lucrative clientele eighteen months ago, while a fourth near Regent Street took over from former proprietor and Japanese concept Senkai in November.
According to its 2011 results, Underdog Restaurants, the group that holds Hawksmoor, turned over £10.6m and made pre-tax profits of £1.2m.
Graphite Capital found success with Wagamama, buying the noodle bar in 1996 when it had just two sites. By the time it sold the business on to Duke Street two years ago it was worth £215m.
The firm currently owns Rex Restaurant Associates, parent company of deluxe café-restaurant The Wolseley on London’s Piccadilly, which it bought for £21m in April last year.
Fellow private equity firms have been putting their money into the restaurant sector in recent weeks. Lloyds in-house buyout team LDC took control of D&D Restaurants in April. The group owns Coq d’Argent in the City, Quaglino’s in Mayfair, the Bluebird in Chelsea and Plateau in Canary Wharf.
Richard Caring is also looking for a buyer for his French bistro Côte. A £100m deal recently looked close to failure when bidders were put off by the price tag and question marks surrounding Caring’s future involvement in the business once sold.
Bridgepoint, which is expected to make a handsome return from its investment in Pret a Manger, was more recently rumoured to be in exclusive talks over Côte.