Tragus Group

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Tragus Holdings Ltd.
Industry Hospitality
Founded 2002
Headquarters London, England
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Charles Gurassa, Chairman
Steve Richards, CEO
Products Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Belgo
Revenue £277.4 million (2010/11)[1]
£41.2 million (2010/11))[2]
Number of employees

Tragus is no longer a trading business. It was previously a UK limited company operating over 295 restaurants under the Café Rouge, Belgo, and Bella Italia brands. It was backed by The Blackstone Group private equity firm.[3]

In March 2015, they purchased the Las Iguanas and La Tasca chains, and were renamed the Casual Dining Group.


Tragus Holdings was formed in 2002[4] when Whitbread sold-off 153 failing restaurants from its Pelican and BrightReasons divisions, shortly after writing their value down by £147m.[5] At the time, the two restaurant divisions comprised the Café Rouge, Bella Pasta, Mamma Amalfi, Abbaye, Leadenhall Wine Bar and Oriel brands.

A £25m[6] management buy-in by Tragus Holdings was funded by £11m from venture capitalist speculators ECI group.[7] Tragus Holdings was led by Chief Executive Finlay Scott, formerly head of the Aroma café chain and Whitecross Dental Care. The team included Gavin Williams, managing director of Bella Pasta, and Harry Morley, former finance director of Whitecross Dental Care.

In January 2005, Tragus' directors sold the company to Legal & General Ventures for £90m-£95m.[8] The sale made them around £18m profit. The chairman, discredited former LSE CEO Gavin Casey, received £2m.[9] Legal & General Ventures installed a new management team which included appointing new Chief Executive Graham Turner (formerly Managing Director of the Unique Pub Company).[10]

In December 2006, Tragus was bought by Blackstone Group for £267m. By that time, the business had grown to 163 restaurants.[11]

The group expanded rapidly in 2007 with the purchase of Ma Potters restaurant company in February for £14.15m,[12] and the Strada chain in May - which included five Belgo and Bierodrome restaurants - for £140m,[13] In July, Tragus signed a deal with Center Parcs to operate a number of restaurants in the leisure village operator's UK sites.[14]

In August 2007, they announced plans for a new restaurant concept - Huxley's Bar & Kitchen - to open in the new Heathrow Terminal 5 in March 2008,[15] bringing the total number of restaurants to over 230.

In April 2012 it was announced that Graham Turner would step down from the role of Chief Executive at Tragus. John Derkach, formerly managing director of the Costa Coffee chain took up the position in August 2012.[16]


Tragus has over 300 sites across the country and serves over 21 million meals every year.[17] It operates the brands Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Belgo, Ortega, La Salle, Potters, Huxley's, Oriel Grand Brasserie and Amalfi - with offerings ranging from pizza and pasta to French classics.


In the 2010 Web Awards, Tragus picked up the award for their Tragus Careers recruitment website.[18]

In 2007, Tragus were awarded Leisure Operator of the Year in Property Week Retail+Leisure Property Awards.[19]

Tipping and minimum wage[edit]

In 2009 Tragus was the subject of newspaper reports highlighting the practice of several UK restaurant chains using customer tips to meet minimum wage laws for waiters/waitresses. The company's business model was said to depend on paying servers as little as £2.50 an hour, with the rest coming as tips.[20] The company reportedly instructed restaurant managers to pressure servers to avoid encouraging customers to give tips in cash, which would not count as part of wages, and was threatening to sack employees who failed to produce a sufficient volume of card-based gratuities. They were discovered (via "mystery diners") informing customers of the company's policy.[21] When the practice became unlawful on 1 October 2009, Tragus reviewed and updated its policies to ensure that all tips, after a 10% deduction for administrative and other costs paid by credit or debit card, are distributed through the payroll system to restaurant staff via a Tronc system. All restaurant employees are now paid tips in addition to their pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage.[22]


  1. ^ "Annual Review". Retrieved 21 November 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ "Annual Review". Retrieved 21 November 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ "Tragus Group Company profile". 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Tragus Holdings - Company Profile". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Osborne, Alistair. "Cafe Rouge buy-in team nets £18m". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "Whitbread sells restaurant groups". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Smiddy, Oliver. "Case study: Tragus satisfies hunger for returns". eFinancial News. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "LGV buys Tragus for more than £90m". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Osborne, Alistair. "Cafe Rouge buy-in team nets £18m". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  10. ^ "Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Graham Turner, Tragus". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Druce, Chris. "Café Rouge owner Tragus bought by Blackstone Group". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  12. ^ "Tragus buys Ma Potters restaurant company". Big Hospitality. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  13. ^ Jones, Marc. "Cafe Rouge owner Tragus swallows Strada". Reuters. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Walton, Christopher. "Bella Italia and Café Rouge owner Tragus signs deal with Center Parcs". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  15. ^ Kühn, Kerstin. "Tragus to open new restaurant at Terminal 5". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "Costa boss Derkach moves to head up Tragus". Peach Report. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  17. ^ "2010/11 Year End Results - Sales growth despite challenging economic environment" (PDF). Retrieved 21 November 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  18. ^ "Yo! Sushi takes top spot at the Web Awards". Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  19. ^ "Time, Gentlemen, please". Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  20. ^ Jamie Elliott, "Tip off: waiters still paid minimum wage out of your service charge", Guardian 7 June 2009
  21. ^ Jamie Elliott, "Cafe waiters fear the axe over cash tips", Guardian, 28 June 2009
  22. ^ "Tips & Service Charge". Retrieved 26 March 2013.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)