SCPE backs Korea-based Italian bistro

It’s the firm’s second investment in an Asian restaurant chain in two weeks

Standard Chartered Private Equity, the buyout arm of global banking corporation Standard Chartered, has led a $48 million investment in Korean restaurant chain Mad for Garlic, an Italian wine bistro.

The size of SCPE’s stake in the restaurant chain was not disclosed. SCPE did not respond to a request for further comment at press time.

Mad for Garlic, launched by multi-brand dining service provider Sun At Food in 2001, emphasises the use of garlic as the main ingredient in its dishes. Its menu includes more than 40 food items and more than 100 varieties of wines and drinks, according to SCPE.

There are currently 29 Mad for Garlic restaurants in Korea, and four across Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. The chain’s intention is to expand the network further throughout Korea as well as overseas, including in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Taiwan.

In a statement, Taeyub Kim, managing director and head of Korea at SCPE, said Mad for Garlic was “fast growing”, catering to “the increasingly discerning food palettes of people in Asia”.

Sun At Food, formerly a restaurant business division of Seoul Tower Hotel, operates five own brands, including Mad for Garlic, Sichuan House, Morac, Bistro Seoul and Porkcook. It also operates two franchised brands, Celeb de Tomato and Tony Roma’s.

SCPE’s investment in Mad for Garlic is its second in an Asian restaurant chain in two weeks. Earlier this month the firm announced it had acquired a minority stake in Vietnamese restaurant chain operator Golden Gate Joint Stock Company, which operates 67 restaurants under 11 concepts across Vietnam, for $35 million.

According to the firm, SCPE currently has more than $800 million of investments in Korea. In June the firm invested $60 million in AJ Networks, the largest shareholder of KOSPI-listed AJ Rent A Car, which claims to be Korea’s second largest car rental business. AJ Networks, an equipment rental service, offers products such as office IT equipment, pallets, aerial lifts and construction equipment.

Earlier this month SCPE also made a $35 million equity investment to acquire a minority stake in Al Jazeera Agricultural Company, a poultry and chicken feed producer and distributor in Jordan. The firm also teamed up with private investment firm Tiger Group Investments to make a joint $95 million investment in Greathorse Chemical, a Singapore-based operator of small- to mid-sized chemical tanker vessels.