The owner of the Café Rouge and Las Iguanas restaurant chains has asked bidders to submit offers within days as the industry races to adjust to a new trading environment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sky News understands that Casual Dining Group (CDG), which also owns Bella Italia, has set a Monday deadline for takeover bids.
Sources said that a number of parties planned to make offers for Las Iguanas on a standalone basis, with a number of other investors tabling joint bids for Bella Italia and Café Rouge.
Further offers are anticipated for a slimmed-down version of the entire group, according to insiders.
CDG is one of the UK’s largest restaurant operators, trading from roughly 250 outlets and employing about 6,000 people.
It is expected that a significant number of outlets will face permanent closure regardless of the outcome of the sale process.
The company, which is controlled by the private equity giant KKR, has been working with the advisory firm AlixPartners on its restructuring.
Rooney Anand, the former boss of pub and restaurant group Greene King, is its chairman.
CDG’s largest brand, Bella Italia, trades from more than 100 sites, while there are roughly 60 Las Iguanas and Café Rouge restaurants apiece.
Last month, CDG filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators, which has since been extended twice by a judge.
Britain’s restaurant industry has been thrown into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many operators saying they will be unable to reopen on July 4 because social distancing rules will mean they are not economically viable.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a string of restaurant operators, such as Wasabi, Prezzo and Wahaca, have drafted in professional advisers to explore their financing options.
Others, including the burger chain Byron, have decided to kick off formal sale processes, while Carluccio’s and two of The Restaurant Group’s brands – Chiquitos and Frankie & Benny’s – have found themselves unable to avoid insolvency proceedings.
A CDG spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday’s deadline for offers.