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Grill on Alley group buys Heathcote’s stock

Exclusive interview with Tim Bacon as Living Ventures buys Grado, London Road and three Olive Presses

Published on November 8th 2010.

Grill on Alley group buys Heathcote’s stock

Here's some big food and drink news, from a fine, straight to the point press release.

‘Cheshire based Restaurant and bar group Living Ventures today announced the acquisition of 5 restaurants from the Heathcote’s group for an undisclosed sum.

Part of central Manchester will become a Living Ventures village. Within a few metres of each other there will be Grill on the Alley, Olive Press, the soon-to-open bar and restaurant The Alchemist, and the new up-market, top dining destination Australasia. Manchester could do a lot worse.

‘The deal sees three of the Olive Press branded restaurants in Cheadle Hulme, Liverpool and Manchester city centre, moving over to Living Ventures. Grado also in Manchester and a site in Alderley Edge will also be operated by the group in the deal announced today. Living Ventures will take over with immediate effect.

'Living Ventures was founded in 1999 by entrepreneurs Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts who have developed a number of successful high street brands since then including The Living Room which was sold in 2007.’

Tim Bacon, Managing Director, told Confidential exclusively that, “Whenever we see a good opportunity we're interested. The Heathcotes premises represented a really nice group of locations. The aim now is to do what we try to do with all our restaurants and make each business feel individual.

"Four of the sites will go into existing brands," he continued. "We like Grado, there's something which feels right about it, so we'll watch and look at that one. There's a natural fit with Gusto and Olive Press. Olive Press will remain the intellectual property of Paul, so the ones we've acquired will change. London Road at Alderley Edge will become a very modern British take on the Blackhouse steak and seafood model and may change to Grill on the Edge."

Are there more acquisitions in the pipeline we asked?

"As I've said, we'll always keep an eye out for a good opportunity," he replied.

Tim Bacon

Paul Heathcote

The sale completes the long retreat from his expanded restaurant chain by Paul Heathcote.

Born in Bolton in 1960, Heathcote opened his first restaurant at Longridge, east of Preston, at 29, and quickly gained Michelin stars – financing the operation by selling his house and taking out a £30,000 overdraft.

A champion of British food and local sourcing he became a media figure with regular television appearances and then spread his business across the north. Earlier this year his last remaining Simply Heathcotes in Liverpool closed.

Heathcote says: "I am looking forward to running a smaller more focused family restaurant business.

"There is every chance that I will look to re-brand the Preston restaurant in the New Year but a final decision has yet to be made. Tim Bacon is a very good operator and has had great success in growing his two brands - Gusto and Blackhouse Grill - so I know the restaurants are in good hands. The deal will allow me to concentrate on gaining recognition for a small group of restaurants. I have high ambitions for my original restaurant and the new Clitheroe one which opens next week.”

Meanwhile it would appear that Bacon and Roberts are empire building.

Given their track record for slick, well-run, attractive and exciting venues (click here)it will be very interesting to see what they do with the Heathcotes stock they have bought.

Certainly part of central Manchester will become a Living Ventures village. Within a few metres of each other there will be Grill on the Alley, Olive Press, the soon-to-open bar and restaurant The Alchemist, and the new up-market, top dining destination Australasia. Manchester could do a lot worse.

Back in June Confidential interviewed Tim Bacon (click here)of Living Ventures. He was asked what motivates him.

Boredom, he said. Seems like Bacon will have a lot to keep him interested.

When we learn of how he’s going to tweak and change the Heathcotes premises, we’ll let you know.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousNovember 5th 2010.

Now thats the official press release, whats the gossip behind it?

Becki HNovember 5th 2010.

Can I still use my Heathcotes Reward Card as I have £20+ point on there!! If not I best get spending them before they change over!

RestaurantuerNovember 5th 2010.

Didn't Paul Heathcote have an exclusive deal on London Road with the council that meant he was the only one to be able to run the license on that premises? Now by selling it does that mean it will be forced to close?

ellpollolocoNovember 5th 2010.

I am sure there was due diligence prior to sale.

Hot GossipNovember 5th 2010.

I head Heathcoate lost the chain to Bacon in a late night, high stakes poker game held in the kitchens of Pearl City in Chinatown. Heathcoate attempted to immediately renege on the deal making allegations that Bacon had used secret camera equipment hidden inside a char siu bun to see Heathcoate's hand. After the Triad's got involved, all was settled however Heathcoate will never prepare his mis en place so swiftly again.

restaurateurNovember 5th 2010.

Or maybe we are currently in the due diligence period as none of the staff knew anything last week and there would have been a few Blackhouse Grill secret agents mooching around. Also whilst I am in a character assinating mode Longridge was up for sale last year but PH seems to have switched his allegiances back to Michelin aspirations. I think the recession has hit PH like a rock but good on him for proactively trying to get his house in order. Shame about London Road being sucked up into a Grill though, I thought it was the best South Manchester restaurant if you didn't want to go all out in the Alderley Edge Hotel.

matNovember 5th 2010.

Good hopefully living ventures will turn it around we ate there last week and it was appalling . Hale Grill is always fantastic and grill on the alley in manchester

AnonymousNovember 5th 2010.

Went where Mat? Olive Press or Grado?

KittyCatNovember 6th 2010.

So what is going to happen to the Cheadle Hulme location?

Peed off!November 6th 2010.

Staff at the olive press botlon were told on tuesday that they were possably loosing their jobs!! How nice of Paul heathcote to do this to them just before xmas! I think bolton should know that they are loosing a fine restaurant!!!

ellpollolocoNovember 8th 2010.

Went to London Road twice in the first year it opened and both times it was crap. Looking forward to a change of ownership.

gailqbJanuary 17th 2011.

Review of the "new" Grado here:

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 17th 2011.

Cheeky GailQB - we like to write our own reviews. But if you want to talk to me about something on Manchester Confidential, then please contact me on jonathans@manchesterconfidential.com

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