EAT, the sandwich chain previously linked with Waitrose, has been sold.

Lyceum Capital takes over a controlling stake from fellow private equity group Penta Capital. The chain’s founders, Faith and Niall MacArthur, retain what they called a “substantial” stake in the business, which has annual sales of around £85m.

“This deal will be the catalyst for an expansion programme that will see us extend our reach throughout the UK,” said Niall MacArthur. He said EAT planned to double in size over “the next few years”, creating up to 1,500 jobs.

Lyceum chairman Philip Buscombe added: “With its established presence and its leading product ranges, EAT. is ideally positioned to capitalise on the gradual recovery in consumer confidence, particularly in London, and the continuing shift to branded eating-out or food-to-go in the sub-£10 meal sector.

News of the sale comes after EAT was last year touted as a potential takeover target for Waitrose.

Since then, Sainsbury’s has unveiled plans to open 1,000 standalone sandwich shops under the Fresh Kitchen banner. A trial store opened last month on Fleet Street in central London.

Read more
Sainsbury’s to open 1,000 sandwich shops (7 February 2011)
Sainsbury’s moves into sandwich shops with Fresh Kitchen debut (13 January 2011)
Why would Price see a sarnie chain as good enough to Eat? (analysis; 3 April 2010)
Waitrose eyes £100m sandwich maker Eat (29 March 2010)