ITALIAN restaurant chain Prezzo has been snapped up by private equity giant Cain International.

The chain was sold as a going concern, meaning it was continuing to trade profitably, by previous private equity owners TPG.

Its 180 sites include branches in Eastleigh, Winchester, Romsey, Fareham, Lyndhurst, Lymington, Ringwood and Port Solent.

Cain said its investment, which includes co-financing by Prezzo’s management team, would support the firm’s ambition to become the “UK’s favourite Italian”.

Rivals including Pizza Express, Pizza Hut and Ask Italian-owner Azzurri Group have undertaken major restructures after restaurants were forced to temporarily close in the face of the pandemic.

Prezzo said it has “outperformed” the sector this year despite Covid-19, with “robust trading” prior to March and between England’s two national lockdowns.

The value of the sale was not disclosed but comes six years after TPG bought the chain for more than £300million.

In 2018, the group underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that saw one third of its sites close and completed a debt-for-equity swap.

Karen Jones, executive chair of Prezzo, said: “Together, we think our shared belief in great hospitality and entrepreneurial approach combined with a restaurant business based in the high streets of the UK, represents a powerful blend for the times we live in.

“As we look forward to this new chapter, I would like to take this opportunity to also thank TPG and our other shareholders for their invaluable support and work over the years.”

Jonathan Goldstein, chief executive and co-founder of Cain International, will join Prezzo’s board following the completion of the deal, expected later this month.

Mr Goldstein said: “We firmly believe that strong hospitality and leisure brands with disciplined leadership will thrive in a post-Covid landscape.

“Prezzo has a clear vision for how to best serve its customers and communities and I am confident that the combination of Cain’s operational and financial expertise, the exceptional management team led by Karen, and the commitment of Prezzo’s entire workforce will enable the business to realise its full potential.

“We are extremely excited about joining the Prezzo family and putting it on a path toward renewed growth.”