Sweet pounds 7m of notes for Pitcher & Piano player

A former Rolls-Royce aero-engineer netted pounds 7m yesterday when his chain of seven Pitcher & Piano theme bars was sold for pounds 20m to Marston, Thompson & Eveshed, the regional brewer and pub group.

Crispin Tweddel, 49, started the Pitcher & Piano chain as a single bar in Fulham West London in 1986. Yesterday Marstons said the bars would provide a retail brand to match its Pedigree ale.

Marstons hopes to double the number of Pitcher & Piano bars to 14 with outlets in Islington, Newcastle Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh.

The deal underlines the high value of themed or branded pubs and restaurants. It follows a similar bout of corporate cheque-waving last week when Greene King paid nearly pounds 200m for the Magic Pub Company, a group of nearly 300 pubs founded by Michael Cannon.

Mr Tweddel has made his fortune via the Piper Trust, his investment vehicle which also owns Cranks wholefood restaurants. The trust's venture capital group also owns a stake in the Sofa Workshops furniture chain and Pied a Terre, a group of fashionable shoe shops. He will stay on as chairman of Pitcher & Piano.

The Pitcher & Piano is aimed at trendy 18-35-year-olds with a relatively high disposable income. With an emphasis on quality design and a high level of comfort, the bars include stripped wood floors, waitress service food, sofas and the obligatory grand piano. Mr Tweddell, 48, who used to work at the Fitch and Wolff Olins design consultancies, says he hatched the idea as a way of moving away from the notion of the old-fashioned boozer. "We could see people were not happy with what was on offer. Men went to pubs and women went to wine bars. The bars were intended as a kind of home from home with a simple selections of drinks. None of this palaver with wine lists."

The venture proved a terrific success, riding on the back of the yuppie boom but continuing to prosper thorough the recession. In the year to June 1995 the chain made profits of pounds 830,000 on sales of pounds 5.4m. This year it expects to make pounds 1m profit on sales of pounds 7.7m.

Mr Tweddell is already dreaming up his next venture. Called Dream and Do, it will be a gardening catalogue with telephone-based ordering. He hopes to get the concept off the ground next year.

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