THE owner of Bathstore is in exclusive talks to take control of restaurant chain Pizza Hut, it was reported yesterday.
Leeds-based turnaround specialist Endless is in discussions with Yum Brands – the US owner of Pizza Hut – over a franchise deal for the 340-strong restaurant group, according to The Sunday Times.
Endless is thought to be the last remaining bidder for Pizza Hut after two potential buyers pulled out.
Private equity firms Risk Capital Partners, run by former PizzaExpress owner Luke Johnson, and Rutland Partners had previously been on a three-strong shortlist of bidders.
Yum Brands, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell, put Pizza Hut up for sale earlier this year.
But it will retain the rights to the Pizza Hut brand and is not including the delivery service in the deal.
Yum’s decision comes nearly six years after it took full control of Pizza Hut UK, when it bought the 50% stake it did not already own from Whitbread for £112m.
Pizza Hut has suffered poor financial performance for years as the wider economic woes have taken their toll on the group, which employs about 16,000 people across the restaurants and delivery service.
But the group said it has begun to turn sales around, with growth of 3% year-on-year over the last six months of 2011 after an overhaul focused on food, customer service and the dining experience.
A deal with Endless would mark the buyout firm’s second high-profile acquisition in as many months after it bought high-street bathroom retailer Bathstore for £15m in May.
Pizza Hut was not immediately available for comment.