Soho Soho to dine on the stock market as Chez Gerard goes public

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LONDON'S fashionable lunchers will soon get the chance to invest in the company that runs some of their favourite eateries, writes William Kay.

Groupe Chez Gerard, owner of Chez Gerard, Bertorelli's and Soho Soho (above), is planning to float on the stock market in the spring.

'We will be raising new money to expand the business faster,' says Lawrence Isaacson, who owns all the equity with his co-founder, Neville Abraham.

They have seven restaurants at present, including the partly-owned Chutney Mary in King's Road. That tally could double in the next three years with the help of outside investors.

Mr Abraham and Mr Isaacson are an unlikely pair of restaurateurs. The former was a civil servant for 10 years before becoming a management consultant. With Mr Isaacson, who worked in an advertising agency, and a couple of friends he bought an old banana warehouse in Covent Garden and turned it into the highly successful Cafe des Amis du Vin.

After six years they sold the business to the Kennedy Brookes hotel group for pounds 2.2m and started up again with capital of pounds 400,000.

Groupe Chez Gerard has sailed through the recession, taking sales from pounds 6.9m in 1989-90 to pounds 9.3m in the year ended last June. Profits have grown from pounds 315,000 to around pounds 700,000 in that period.