Neil Perry's latest fine diner, Jade Temple, is closing after less than a year in business

Neil Perry and Rockpool Dining Group CEO Thomas Pash

The private equity-owned Rockpool Dining Group’s dream of a $1 billion IPO appears to be fading fast with the group closing another of its high profile venues, the Asian fine diner Jade Temple, in Sydney, after just a year in business.

The restaurant will close tomorrow night and be converted into a function space. The site was previously home to Neil Perry’s flagship Rockpool — later calling it Eleven Bridge Street before he sold the business to UPG, which became Rockpool Dining Group (RDG), two years ago.

“As beautiful and refined as Jade Temple is, the restaurant didn’t resonate with diners the way we thought it would. The restaurant will transform into a dedicated private event destination,” a spokesperson said.

Struggling in the face of some unfavourable reviews, Perry attempted to shift Jade Temple’s focus from Cantonese to more pan-Asian flavours.

But with Dan Hong’s 240-seat Merivale venture, Mr. Wong, just around the corner offering similar fare, it appears the challenge was too great for a site now heading into its fourth iteration in two years.

The closure follows the demise of two high-profile Melbourne CBD ventures late last year — Fratelli Fresh and The Cut in The Alfred building. The historic former site of Mietta’s is now a function space.

The business, under American CEO Thomas Pash, has been attempting to scale rapidly, with an eye to floating the business for its owners, Quandrant Private Equity. The vast majority of RDG’s assets are in NSW.

Last month it opened The Bavarian Beerhaüs at Brisbane’s RNA Showgrounds. It also spun off Perry’s Burger Project with a premium version, called Black Label, on the site of another struggling fast food spin off, Sake Jr, in Sydney’s CBD.

The group says Burger Project is a key focus as it seeks to expand. There are now 11 sites, including the Black Label version, with seven around Sydney, three in Melbourne and one in Brisbane, with another Queensland site close at Southbank currently closed for “enhancements”.

The business has plans to open 11 new venues this year, including four in the next two months. They are a beerhouse, The Bavarian in Cheltenham in suburban Melbourne, another in Sydney’s Bondi Junction, and a Sake Japanese and Fratelli Fresh at Manly Wharf.

RDG believes it can open more than 100 The Bavarian restaurants across the country. There are currently 15.

In late April, the group said it signed 15 new leases in the previous 90 days amid plans to open 15-20 new venues annually.

But amid that growth there have been failures and closures, along with the loss of key personnel from the Rockpool era.

Twelve months ago, the group, which bills itself as “Australia’s largest dining and restaurant group”, was boasting revenue of $350 million.

In April, Thomas Pash said the Group expects FY17-18 sales of $300-330 million and an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) range of $35-40 million.

The company says that represents more than 30% year-over-year top line growth and 40% year-over-year EBITDA growth.

“We’ve never been in better shape as a business,” he said in April.

“Our size has led to improved economies of scale, operational leverage, efficiencies and excellence, and to substantial margin improvement.”

Pash is also predicting a compound annual growth rate of 20-30% in FY18-19 and forward and says the business is still on target to achieve its five-year goal of becoming the country’s first $1 billion restaurant group by FY20/21.

Today Pash said RDG’s sales will be $350 million for FY17-18.

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