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Exclusive: Black Sheep Coffee acquires eight Taylor St Baristas cafes


Black Sheep CoffeeLondon-based independent coffee shop Black Sheep Coffee has acquired eight Taylor St Baristas cafes, Propel has learned. Black Sheep Coffee is understood to have acquired the leases and it is thought some of the cafes will continue to trade under the Taylor St Baristas banner with Taylor St Baristas supplying coffee and training to the outlets.

Gabriel Shohet, co-founder of Black Sheep Coffee, said: “We are pleased with the acquisition and are excited to welcome all Taylor Street staff as part of the Black Sheep family that every day is growing bigger and stronger. The Tolley siblings have built an incredible company over the years and we look forward to working closely together through this exciting time!”

Nick Tolley, co-founder of Taylor St Baristas, added: “Taylor St takes great pride in the quality of our cafe experience. With Black Sheep we feel our shops are in the best hands possible, and we’re very excited to be working with it to continue to deliver the kind of cafe experience our customers have long come to expect.” Propel understands the deal is part of Taylor St Baristas change of direction that is seeing it shift away from being exclusively a “cafe business” to more of a “coffee business”.

Last year, Taylor St Baristas signed a global partnership with Sodexo to supply coffee and training to the company and it is understood this is the type of business Taylor St Baristas wants to focus on in the future. Despite the change, it is thought Taylor St Baristas will continue to open cafes in the future, albeit flagship cafes that are designed to showcase the brand and its offering. Nick Tolley founded Taylor St Baristas in 2006 with his brother Andrew and sister Laura, inspired by the “sort of good coffee we took for granted back home in Australia”.

The siblings also founded the Harris + Hoole coffee chain, which they sold to Tesco in 2016 and is now owned by Caffe Nero. The deal means Black Sheep Coffee now operates 33 sites in London and Manchester under the brand. It also operates a “friend-of-a-friend” franchise in Manila in the Philippines. Last month, it raised £13m in a new funding round to support its growth ambitions.

The funding will allow Black Sheep Coffee to continue its global expansion, with the aim of growing its existing number of sites from 34 to 70 by the end of 2019.The brand has achieved 25% like-for-like sales growth across the past two quarters. It has also increased annualised turnover by 56% between the fourth quarter of 2018 and first quarter of 2019 from £8.5 to £13.3m and aims to reach £25m annualised turnover by the end of the year.

Byron reports cover growth as it eyes major refurbishment programme

Byron has launched a new menu as it diversifies its offerRecent trading at better burger brand Byron has been positive, with the business experiencing cover growth during the past few months, Propel has learned. The positive momentum for the company, which appointed Simon Wilkinson as chief executive earlier this year, follows its commencement of a complete overhaul of its offer through design, menu, service and experience, including a recently launched menu with new vegan and vegetarian options.

The announcement also comes ahead of what is believed will be a major investment to refurbish the group’s estate and reposition the brand, design and logo. The first site to feature the new look will open in November. Propel understands the business has also continued to strengthen its head office team, recently appointing Anna Muraska, formerly of Casual Dining Group, as head of marketing.

Sophie Michell joined the company in June as food director, followed by David Pepper, while Michael Toon will join the company as finance director in October. It’s thought the company is also looking to recruit a dedicated delivery and digital manager. The company is believed to be budgeting for a £1.5m reduction in its central cost base for its current trading year on the back of a flattened operational structure.

The moves are part of a transition to change the business’ culture and commercial focus and come at a time when the company, which underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) last year, is understood to have filed its accounts for the year to the end of June 2018. The accounts will show turnover in the year was £82.8m, down from £88m in 2017, driven by the closure of 16 restaurants during the period. Ebitda for the period stood at £0.5m.

However, there was circa £42m of exceptional costs, largely non-cash and accounting, which were mostly driven by the CVA. It’s thought the accounts were delayed while waiting for Wilkinson to start his role and PwC to see his plans for the business. It’s understood the business has subsequently been given a clean audit. It is also understood the company has no bank debt and a healthy balance sheet thanks to a cash injection of £10.2m provided by backers including Three Hills Partners at the start of the year.

Other News:

Vinoteca will open its sixth and largest site in Bloomberg’s new European headquarters in OctoberA handful of private equity groups are bidding to acquire a stake in wine bar and restaurant concept Vinoteca. Propel has learned up to four investment firms are bidding to invest in the five-strong business, which was founded by Brett Woonton, Charlie Young and Elena Ares in 2005. The interested parties are believed to include Foresight, which currently backs Mowgli and 200 Degrees; Gresham (Pho and Rockfish); and BGF (Giggling Squid, Mission Mars and Camino among others).

Earlier this year Propel revealed Vinoteca, which will open its first bar restaurant outside London as part of the Paradise development in Birmingham city centre in early 2020, had appointed Dow Schofield Watts London to advise on funding options. Sector investor Paul Campbell acquired a stake in the then two-strong business at the end of 2012. Young and Woonton, who met 18 years ago when they worked at Liberty Wines, opened the first Vinoteca in Farringdon before expanding to sites in Marylebone, Chiswick, King’s Cross and the City.

Earlier this year the company reported strong sales growth in 2018/19, with total sales in the year to the end of March 2019 up 5.8% to £7.57m. The business saw good overall like-for-like sales growth in the year, particularly at its venues in King’s Cross and Bloomberg’s headquarters in the City. Managing director Young told Propel at the time: “We are delighted with the performance last year, particularly at King’s Cross and Bloomberg. We are incredibly excited about our plans to open at the Paradise scheme in Birmingham. Vinoteca is increasingly the wet-led tenant of choice in these prestigious developments.”

SSP Group, the UK-based operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has reported a good Third Quarter to 30 June and made further progress on its strategic initiatives.

The company stated: “Total group revenue increased by 9.2% on a constant currency basis, comprising like-for-like sales growth of 2.0% and net contract gains of 7.2%. At actual exchange rates, total group revenues for the period increased 10.3% year-on-year. In the UK, like-for-like sales growth was in line with our expectations, with stronger like-for-like sales growth in the air sector compared to rail. In Continental Europe, like-for-like sales continued to be held back by slower passenger growth in the Nordic countries and the impact of airport redevelopment activity in this region and in Spain.

In North America, like-for-like sales growth was driven by increasing passenger numbers, although some of our airports have been impacted by the grounding of Boeing Max 737 aircraft and the transfer of passengers away from our terminals. In the Rest of the World, like for like sales growth has been mixed, with good performances in Egypt and the Middle East slightly offset, as anticipated, by the cessation of operations at Jet Airways in India and slower growth in China. Looking forward to the rest of the year, we anticipate like-for-like sales growth for the group to be around 2%.

Net contract gains were good, driven by Continental Europe and North America, where the mobilisation of new contracts has been slightly ahead of schedule. Looking forward, we expect net gains in the full year to be slightly ahead of our expectations at around 5%, and as usual they will be accompanied by pre-opening costs. For the nine month period from 1 October 2018 to 30 June 2019, total group revenues increased by 7.6%, including like-for-like sales growth of 2.0%, net contract gains of 5.2% and the acquisition impact of Stockheim of 0.4%.

At actual exchange rates, total group revenue increased by 8.3% year on year. Looking forward to the full year, our expectations remain unchanged and whilst a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets and to create further shareholder value.”

Asahi UKAnheuser-Busch InBev has agreed to divest Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), its Australian subsidiary, to Asahi Group Holdings, for 16bn AUD, equivalent to approximately 11.3 billion dollars, in enterprise value. The transaction represents an implied multiple of 14.9x 2018 normalised Ebitda. As part of this transaction, AB InBev will grant Asahi Group Holdings, rights to commercialise the portfolio of AB InBev’s global and international brands in Australia.

The company stated: “The divestiture of CUB, once completed, will help AB InBev to accelerate its expansion into other fast-growing markets in the APAC region and globally. It will also allow the company to create additional shareholder value by optimising its business at an attractive price while further deleveraging its balance sheet and strengthening its position for growth opportunities.

“In addition, AB InBev continues to believe in the strategic rationale of a potential offering of a minority stake of Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Limited (Budweiser APAC), excluding Australia, provided that it can be completed at the right valuation.”

Carlos Brito, chief executive of AB InBev, said: “We continue to see great potential for our business in APAC and the region remains a growth engine within our company. With our unparalleled portfolio of brands, strong commercial plans and talented people, we are uniquely positioned to capture opportunities for growth across the APAC region.”

Substantially all of the proceeds from the divestiture of the Australian business will be used by the company to pay down debt. AB InBev’s commitment to reach a net debt to Ebitda target ratio of below 4x by the end of 2020 is not dependent on the completion of this transaction. Asahi Group Holdings has committed financing in place and the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including but not limited to regulatory approvals in Australia. The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of 2020.

Arc Inspirations, ManahattaArc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has reported like-for-like sales were up 69% at its sports-led sites during the Cricket World Cup. During the tournament the company screened the action at several key sites, including the Manahatta and Box bars in Headingley.

For the England versus New Zealand World Cup final on Sunday (14 July), The Box in Leeds city centre saw sales up 180% compared with the previous week and up 162% for the England versus Australia semi-final the Thursday before.

Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “The Cricket World Cup was a great boost for us and we’re proud to be at the heart of the action bringing people together to enjoy the drama of top-quality sport. Being in the centre of Leeds, lunchtime trade at The Box was booming every time England played. Off the back of England’s dramatic win, we look forward to welcoming back customers to watch the upcoming Ashes series in our bars, which includes the third test at Headingley in late August.”

Costa Coffee is trialling delivery with DeliverooDeliveroo has launched a food procurement service that offers “big savings on raw ingredients”. The service allows restaurants to buy ingredients and supplies at reduced prices via bespoke deals negotiated by Deliveroo.

The move follows a year-long trial in the UK that, the company claims, has saved restaurants more than 20% on ingredients bills, with smaller independents saving up to 40%. Deliveroo has established a dedicated team for the service at its London headquarters.

Deliveroo said by creating efficiency within the supply chain, “suppliers would be able to access more restaurants”. The company said several hundred of its restaurant partners were already using the scheme, while it expects that number to reach 5,000 by the end of the year. The programme will also be live by the end of the year in France, Spain and United Arab Emirates.

Deliveroo vice-president of new business Ajay Lakhwani said: “Food procurement is an exciting new service that will cut costs while raising the quality of ingredients. By using our size to negotiate great prices, we can simplify the procurement process and help independents and chains make big savings.”

Stonegate has struck a deal to buy circa 4,000-strong Ei Group for 285p a share. The new-look business will be led by Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom with his Ei Group counterpart Simon Townsend and its entire board stepping down.

Until now, Stonegate has been an entirely managed company, with 765 sites. As well as Ei Group’s 357 managed pubs and 61 managed investment sites, which it aims to grow to between 460 and 470 combined by the end of the financial year, Stonegate will create new divisions to incorporate Ei Group’s 3,555 leased and tenanted sites and its commercial properties business. Stonegate has committed to investing in both these elements.

Longbottom told Propel that Ei Group was a company it had admired for “some time”. He said: “It changed its strategy in 2015 and we’ve watched its progress with interest since, especially the success it has had with its managed estate, which it has been growing steadily and developing, including through the joint-venture model. We are darn good at buying businesses and investing in them and this is an exciting opportunity for us, both in terms of the 4,000 sites and the people being brought into the business. Stonegate will have three divisions and the business will be led by me and (chairman) Ian (Payne). While we are a managed operator currently, we know the leased and tenanted business very well through my time at Greene King and Ian’s at Laurel. We look forward to meeting these licensees in due course.”

The acquisition, which is due to complete in the first quarter of next year, will be looked at by the Competition and Markets Authority. However, Longbottom said he was confident the deal would be approved. Stonegate has agreed to dispose of up to 100 sites and believes this would be enough to secure clearance.

Longbottom said it was too early to decide how the set-up would affect Ei Group’s headquarters in Solihull and its own base in Luton, but added it would be “business as usual” during the next seven to eight months while the acquisition completes.

In terms of potential further acquisitions, Longbottom said: “Our priority will be on integrating 4,000 pubs and getting to know the Ei Group business better – but never say never.”

Townsend told Propel: “I am so proud of what this business and the teams in it have achieved in executing a complex, not without risk, strategy to get us to the point where we have a price that values the group, the people and pubs on a significant premium. Being a wholly managed operator, Stonegate has better expertise in that field than we have to grow that business. Saying that, it was important to us we got the commitment Stonegate has given to protect and invest in the tenanted and commercial properties businesses.

“While this is a bitter-sweet moment for me in that I will be leaving, there is still plenty of work to be done before the acquisition completes next year. Therefore, I’m concentrating on us continuing to grow our like-for-like sales and Ebitda, which in the first half of the year grew for the first time in a decade. I can only think about what comes next when the deal completes.”

Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the proposed acquisition in his latest piece, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (19 July) at 5pm.

Plastic StrawsBosses from Greggs, Burger King and Starbucks will hold talks with environment secretary Michael Gove amid growing concerns a series of recycling initiatives will impose unsustainable costs on an already embattled sector.

Executives from six of the UK’s largest food retailers including Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside, Burger King UK chief financial officer Tim Doubleday and Starbucks EMEA president Martin Brok will meet Gove on Thursday (18 July) to discuss his proposals for a wide-ranging deposit return scheme. In a speech at Kew Gardens earlier this week, Gove said he favoured an “all-in model” that would include glass bottles to “give consumers the greatest possible incentive to recycle”.

The meeting, which will be attended by several executives from the British Retail Consortium, is expected to see industry players offer support for more comprehensive plans to protect the environment. However, industry figures will argue retailers can’t bear the financial burden that would result from Gove’s proposed model, reports Sky News.

The scheme is aimed at cutting the three billion plastic drinks bottles a year that are currently incinerated, sent to landfill or left littering Britain. Retailers have pleaded with the government to act urgently to cut costs through reforming business rates amid a growing crisis on the country’s high streets.

Tattu co-founder Adam JonesContemporary Chinese restaurant group Tattu has started working with advisors to map plans for growth, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded in 2015 by brothers Adam (pictured) and Drew Jones, is understood to be working with advisor Clearwater International on options that could include bringing in a strategic partner to help it with plans for expansion in the UK and overseas, with the US a possible destination.

The group operates sites in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, with the latter 160-cover restaurant opening earlier this year. It is currently on-site on a fourth restaurant, in Edinburgh. After the success of its initial three openings, it is understood the business has received a number of enquiries from landlords to join and anchor schemes across the UK. Tattu launched in Manchester in 2015 with a second site opening in Leeds city centre in June 2017.

The Birmingham restaurant opened in The Grand development in Barwick Street. The ground-floor space hosts a bar and private dining rooms while there is a main restaurant downstairs. Speaking to Propel last year, Jones said: “Every restaurant we open is unique and at this stage we are keeping growth in-house – we’re not going to develop into a chain. Obviously the next step is to head south and we would love to open in London if we can find the right opportunity as there’s a market for our style of food. After Manchester, most of our bookings – about 25% – come from London, most likely from people coming to Manchester or Leeds for business.”

Youngs logoYoung’s has hired Simon Dodd as a director in the newly created role of chief operating officer. The company stated: “Simon has a wealth of experience, having spent more than a decade working in the pub and brewing sector. Most recently, Simon was a director of Fuller’s and managing director of their beer company, having previously been operations director of their premium city pubs division.

Prior to joining Fuller’s, Simon was at the Orchid Pub Company where he held the role of chief operating officer following his promotion from the position of commercial director. Simon will join the board of Young’s on 2 September 2019, reporting to Patrick Dardis.” Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to attract someone of Simon’s calibre and experience to take on this new role. I am confident that the extensive experience, knowledge and relevant skills that Simon has built up over his career will make a significant and positive difference to Young’s.”

Philip Turner founder of the Chestnut GroupPhilip Turner, founder of East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group, has told Propel there are plenty of opportunities in its heartland as the company acquired its tenth site. The Chestnut Group has bought The Crown in Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, from Richard Sunderland for an undisclosed sum.

The traditional inn features 11 bedrooms and a restaurant offering a daily fish board menu with five or six fresh fish and seafood dishes. Turner said nothing would change for the foreseeable future but the company was looking at ways to enhance the offer such as adding further bedrooms.

He added: “I have ten places around the region I’m looking at and the area where The Crown is near is at the top of that ten. I had known about the property for a long time but didn’t think it would necessarily be an acquisition opportunity. However, the opportunity came to us and we moved quickly to secure it. It’s a fantastic property and we want to protect everything about it.”

Turner said the company would continue to invest in its existing estate to make sure it “didn’t get left behind”. This includes refurbishing The Eight Bells in Saffron Waldron, which will reopen on Monday (22 July), while the Black Lion in Long Melford has been repositioned with new branding and a new menu. Meanwhile, The Weeping Willow in Barrow has been given more of an “urban feel”.

Regarding The Crown deal, Sunderland said: “It has been a remarkable journey over the past 16 years and we are extremely proud of all we have achieved with The Crown. The decision to hand the ownership over to The Chestnut Group is a natural one and we look forward to working closely with them in the transition period to ensure the best outcome for our colleagues and guests.” Turner founded The Chestnut Group in 2012.

Roxy Ball Room, the Leeds-based, competitive socialising concept, has appointed advisors to review its options as it looks to secure new investment, Propel has learned. The seven-strong business, which is run under the Roxy Leisure company and led by Matthew Jones, is believed to be working with local advisory firm Sedulo to assess options that could include the sale of a stake in the business.

It’s thought private equity firms have already shown an interest in the business as they look to tap into the competitive socialising trend. The concept, which offers pool, arcade games, ping pong and shuffleboard, currently operates three sites in Leeds, two in Liverpool and one each in Manchester and Nottingham.

The company aims to open two sites a year, with a second site in Manchester previously mooted. Earlier this year, the company launched karaoke concept The Loop in Leeds after acquiring The Pit in the city’s Merrion Street from Arc Inspirations. The Loop features retro arcade machines, prosecco pong, beer pong and five private karaoke booths. It also previously operated a site in Huddersfield.

Last year, Jones Bar Group became a separate entity from sister company Roxy Leisure and relaunched as Concept Taverns, which focuses on a “fast-growing estate of freehold Yorkshire pubs”. Concept Taverns is led by managing director Ben Jones and operations director Ben Warren, while Matthew Jones became managing director of Roxy Leisure supported by operations director John Crowe.

Caravan is to launch new restaurant concept Vardo in Chelsea in early autumnLondon-based restaurant and coffee-roasting concept Caravan is to launch new concept Vardo in Chelsea in early autumn. It will be the brand’s first west London site, with the restaurant housed in a new three-storey stone and glass pavilion in Duke of York Square, beside the Saatchi Gallery. The circular structure will offer 360-degree ceiling-to-floor windows that fully retract into the floor to allow a “seamless indoor to outdoor experience”.

Vardo is named after a Romani travelling wagon of the 1800s, with the ethos of “no boundaries” as the wagons “travel the globe collecting produce and spices along the way”. The all-day menu will focus on “back to basics” using low and slow cooking techniques.

Dishes will include charred aubergine with saffron buttermilk dressing, and lamb cutlets with green harissa and tahini. Active Partners-backed Caravan operates five London sites – in King’s Cross, the City, Exmouth Market, Bankside and Fitzrovia. Last month, Caravan appointed Jane O’Riordan, former group strategy director at Nando’s, as chairman. O’Riordan has also been chairman of Turtle Bay and Flight Club.

Franco MancaFulham Shore chairman David Page has told Propel he is able to secure better deals with landlords having broadened the number of sites it is negotiating on to 30 with the aim to open ten. The tactic has resulted in the Franco Manca and The Real Greek operator being able to take on properties with as much as a 30% fall in rent when it is re-let. Speaking following Fulham Shore’s full-year-results in which the company reported revenue growth of 17% to £64.0m and headline Ebitda up to £7.4m, Page said the key to the performance was “getting four things right – food, price, staff and how much you pay for property”.

Like-for-like sales at Franco Manca have been up 5% over the past six months, Page said, while The Real Greek had been at a similar level until recently when it came up against last year’s comparable of 10%. “As you can imagine that’s quite difficult to carry on but we’re still on budget,” he added.

When it came to securing new sites, Page said: “To be opening ten a year, you’ve got to be fully negotiating on 20 to 30 to put yourself in the strongest position with landlords so we’ve broadened the number of sites we’re negotiating on. We then narrow it down to the four or five we like the look of and, if we can’t get the rent level we want, they don’t make the cut. It seems simple but too many operators have thrown money at property in recent years and are now paying the price. For restaurants, it’s about getting four things right – food, price, staff and how much you pay for property. Sometimes we only get three out of four but some operators haven’t got any of those things right and aren’t doing so well.”

Page said the company also negotiates its own forward-looking deals with suppliers over a two or three-year period, which allowed it to pay low prices and keep menu prices low. Fulham Shore is accelerating its opening rate with plans for about ten sites this year, which will be financed through its own cash as Page said the company didn’t want to take on bank debt. Three Franco Manca sites have opened since the year end – in Greenwich, Birmingham and Exeter – while two more are being built, in Leeds and Edinburgh, which will open this month and August respectively.

A further site will open in Manchester in September, while Page hopes to have signed on “another three or four” in the next six weeks. As well as expanding north, Fulham Shore will continue to open restaurants in London with an opening in Spitalfields Market and talks taking place on a site near the Tower of London. Asked about the potential for Franco Manca in the capital, Page said: “PizzaExpress has 75 sites in London and we have 36 so we think there’s enough blank space to double what we’ve got.” Page also revealed the company was recently pipped by The Ivy Collection to a site in Cardiff, which would have been its debut Welsh venue.

Looking ahead, Page said: “It is going to be more of the same. We’ll carry on opening restaurants with the cash we’re generating and keep reinvigorating our menu.”

San Carlo Group has reported like-for-likes are up 2% in its current financial year, with total sales increasing 12% as the group aims to return to profitability. The company, which operates the San Carlo and Fumo restaurants, said profit has climbed 87% so far in the current financial year.

The announcement comes as the company saw full-year turnover pass the £50m mark, although “investment in new sites and difficult trading conditions” led to the business slipping to a loss. Revenue was up 8% to £53,943,097 for the year ending 30 September 2018, compared with £49,946,472 the year before.

However, pre-tax profits slipped to £3,745 compared with £1,278,435 the previous year, while the company reported an overall loss for the year of £133,678 compared with a profit of £941,449 the year before. The company opened four sites during the year including its first San Carlo in London, in Regent Street. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group has recorded a loss in the year, which can be attributed to investments in new sites as well as difficult trading conditions due to Brexit and large rent and rates increases.

However, the directors (pictured chairman Carlo Distefano, left, and managing director Marcello Distefano) are confident the implementation of new processes and adapting to new market conditions will allow the business to return to profitability. The directors are confident the brands are performing well in the market place and are looking for new opportunities in the UK and globally. At the year end, the group had shareholders’ funds of £7,358,120 including distributable reserves of £6,543,120. Given the continued capital expenditure on the existing estate and new sites the directors believe the group’s position to be satisfactory.”

The first San Carlo restaurant was opened by Carlo Distefano in Birmingham in 1992 and now has venues in London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leicester and Bristol. The group also operates Fumo, Cicchetti, Signor Sassi, Bottega, Gran Café and Flying Pizza-branded restaurants across the UK, as well as eateries in Qatar, Bangkok, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Last month it was revealed San Carlo would open its first airport location, in Manchester.

Scott Russell, founder of Paddy & Scott’s, will feature in the next 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (19 July). Russell reveals how ethical trade and sustainability has played a key role in the brand’s expansion.

Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett.

An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

London operator Simmons Bars has reported its underlying business is trading “very well”, with like-for-like sales up 16.4% year to date and total sales up more than 36%. The announcement follows Simmons’ launch of its largest venue to date, in Soho. The company said it had seen like-for-like sales up 29.7% in the past week, achieving a 68.4% year-on-year sales uplift.

Simmons Bars said it had traded positively through the good weather so far and achieved more than 20% consecutive like-for-like sales for the past four weeks, with a 50% uplift in total sales. The 350-capacity Soho bar is at 203 Wardour Street, which previously housed Stringfellows and Dirty Harry’s, and will feature a raised DJ booth and a dance floor surrounded by waltzer-style booths and a fairground sign.

The venue will open until 4am, Thursday to Saturday, and offer a 150-capacity private space for hire. The site is the first of three that Simmons Bars will open this summer, with a venue at the former Graphic site in Golden Square, near Piccadilly Circus, launching in mid-August and another opening at Eastcheap, next to Monument tube station, shortly afterwards. The three openings will take the group to 16 sites with plans to open four to five more a year during the next few years.

Chief executive Nick Campbell, who founded the company in 2013, told Propel: “We are very excited about the new set of sites, with Oxford Street (203 Wardour Street) our largest yet.”

London bar and restaurant operator Novus has entered into agreement and exchanged contracts to sell three of its Balls Brothers venues to Mosaic Pub and Dining for an undisclosed sum.

The venues are Balls Brothers Minster Exchange, Austin Friars and Shoe Lane.

The deal is expected to complete by the end of August. Mosaic Pub and Dining has also purchased the Balls Brothers brand, inheriting a 160-year history it will look to evolve.

The deal takes Mosaic Pub and Dining’s portfolio to 28 sites. Balls Brothers had been part of Novus since 2009.

Novus chief executive Sharon Badelek said: “We are pleased to hand the legacy of Balls Brothers over to such an exceptional operator. The process has been smooth and professional and we wish Mosaic and our transferring team every success.”

James Watson, joint chief executive of Mosaic Pub and Dining, added: “We are delighted to have concluded this deal with Novus, who have been fantastic throughout, and be part of the famous Balls Brothers history, which we will continue to enhance. We are confident these three well-established, high-quality sites will help to further establish Mosaic as one of London’s fastest-growing independent premium operators.”

The deal leaves Novus with three Balls Brothers sites, including The Sterling, and a Tank & Paddle venue in Heddon Street, Mayfair. Novus closed the Late-Night London website about six months ago.

Last month, Shoreditch Bar Group bought the remainder of Novus’ late-night business for an undisclosed sum. The deal incorporated five sites – Tiger Tiger London, Tiger Tiger Cardiff, Piccadilly Institute, Ruby Blue and Zoo Bar as well as the Novus head office.

Nominations for the 2019 UKHospitality Dusk ‘til Dawn Awards, the annual celebration of the UK’s late-night bar and nightclub sector, are now open. Nominations can be submitted online for the following categories Late-Night Food; Late-Night Drink; Late-Night Entertainment; Best Service and Team; Best Promotional and Marketing Activity; Best Late-Night Bar; Best Late-Night Club and Best Late-Night Company.

Nominations will close on Wednesday, 28 August when a judging panel of leading suppliers and industry figures will shortlist three companies in each category with finalists revealed on Tuesday, 3 September. The winners will be announced on 16 October at London’s Troxy.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured at last year’s event) said: “Whether wine bars, nightclubs, live music venues or restaurants, late-night venues are some of the most exciting venues on the high street. The apex of a night out, these are the places we go to celebrate with friends and enjoy ourselves. They are consistently at the cutting edge of hospitality and home to some of the best concepts, food, drink and entertainment. UKHospitality’s Dusk ‘til Dawn Awards is a celebration of all the great work by the late-night hospitality sector. It is a chance to recognise the best talent in an extremely talented field. Make sure you nominate your favourite venues and the most deserving teams who make our nights out truly fantastic.”

To nominate, click here

Honest Burgers founders Tom Barton and Philip EelesHonest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed chain, is set to add to its central London estate after securing another site in the City, Propel has learned.

The company, which recently opened in Tooley Street, London Bridge, has secured the former Gow’s restaurant in Old Broad Street for an opening later this year. The company will open its 34th site at the end of this month, in Liverpool, with another regional opening to follow in Cardiff.

In February, Propel reported Honest Burgers saw turnover break the £30m mark for the year ending 31 January 2019, with like-for-like sales up 7.9%. Founders Philip Eeles and Tom Barton (pictured) opened the company’s debut site in Brixton, south London, in 2011.

Yard Sale Pizza, the restaurant and delivery concept that includes sector investor Paul Campbell as non-executive director, is to open its fifth London site, in Hackney Road. The venue will be the brand’s largest when it launches in September at a two-floor space near Hoxton station.

The store will open from midday for the first time so the brand can cater to local workers and deliver as far as Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Hoxton and London Fields. The venue will feature a new calzone menu with cured meat, vegetarian and vegan options alongside Yard Sale’s signature pizzas such as the Holy Pepperoni and the New Porker.

The brand also offers cheese and Marmite garlic bread and Happy Endings ice cream sandwiches alongside local London beer and wine from Borough Wines. The ground floor will feature high seating, leather booths and an open kitchen, while the downstairs room will house a small bar and 32-cover hireable space.

The walls of both floors will be adorned with neon signs and Yard Sale merchandise. Yard Sale Pizza, which is led by co-founder Johnnie Tate, opened its debut restaurant in Clapton in 2014 before opening sister sites in Finsbury Park, Walthamstow and Leytonstone.

Hotel ChocolatHotel Chocolat Group, the British chocolatier and omni-channel retailer, has reported revenue for the 52 weeks to 30 June was £132 million, an increase of 14% compared to the 52 weeks ended 1 July 2018.

Management expects that profit before tax for FY19 will be in line with market expectations. The company stated: “Operationally, the group opened 16 Hotel Chocolat locations in the year contributing 5% to group sales year-on-year. Two of the new openings were in the USA. In addition to the above openings, the group entered into a joint venture in Japan which opened two locations in Tokyo. Trading since FY19 continues to be in line with management’s expectations.”

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, said: “I’m really pleased with our performance this year, delivering strong growth across all parts of the Hotel Chocolat multi-channel, direct-to-consumer model. New activities in the year included openings in the US and Japan; the launch of the Velvetiser – our in-home drinking chocolate system; and the introduction of our VIP ME rewards card scheme, all of which present substantial future growth opportunities. Our pace of innovation is relentless. In our drinks and ices range we are seeing the most prolific new product Instagramming in our history, with Billionaire’s Sundaes, Choc Shakes and Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Lollies generating lots of excitement.”

Just EatGraham Corfield, UK managing director of online food delivery business Just Eat, has told Propel the company is aiming for the “majority” of the 30,000 restaurants and takeaways on its platform to have at least a three-star hygiene rating by the end of the year. Corfield said the number of restaurants that had taken advantage of its £1m food hygiene and safety improvement programme so far was in the “low hundreds”.

Corfield spoke to Propel as Just Eat began publishing the official food hygiene rating of every restaurant listed on its platform. The company is the first online delivery business to make the move, which means customers have direct access to the latest Food Standard Agency (FSA) hygiene information. It also displays the date of the last inspection. The nationwide publication of restaurants’ official FSA ratings follows a trial of the initiative in more than 600 restaurants in Northern Ireland last year.

In February, Just Eat announced its food hygiene and safety improvement programme in partnership with global food safety business NSF to improve standards among restaurants with ratings lower than three. Just Eat removed all zero-rated restaurants from the platform, which Corfield said was less than 1%, and introduced a new policy whereby all new restaurant sign-ups require a minimum food hygiene rating of three.

He said: “We have seen restaurants with a zero or one-star rating go up to five as a result of the programme. It’s early days and the onus is on the restaurants to want to improve. What’s clear is customers want to see food hygiene ratings and will vote with their knives, forks or chopsticks if they aren’t satisfied. Part of this is about helping restaurants that don’t understand the legislation and need hand-holding through it. The other reason we’re doing this is to improve standards across the industry. We’re working at pace and aim to have the majority at three or above by the end of 2019. Then we will regroup and do some customer-focus groups to look at the benefits of the scheme and how we can improve it.”

Corfield admitted it could be a challenge to get local authorities to reinspect restaurants but added he was working with councils to make sure they were carried out as quickly as possible. It is stated on a restaurant’s page if it is awaiting reinspection. Meanwhile, restaurants that are new to the platform or have changed ownership are given an “awaiting inspection” note.

The Alchemist general viewThe Alchemist, the 16-strong Simon Potts-led bar and restaurant concept, is looking to open a cluster of sites in the south west after securing a site in Cheltenham, Propel has learned. The company, which recently secured the remaining Smollensky’s site in Reuters Plaza, Canary Wharf, has secured a 4,539 square foot site in the town’s Brewery Quarter for an opening next May.

Potts told Propel: “I am really pleased to have acquired the Cheltenham site, it’s a lovely part of the world with plenty of key calendar events driving guests in. Following our success in Cardiff over our first trading year in the city and with a second Birmingham venue opening next month, it’s a strategic move to consolidate an important geographical region for us. Bristol has long been on our target location list and I hope to tie something up there in the next few months to tie the south west together.”

The company had previously been linked to a site in Bristol’s Queens Road that formerly housed Rise Records. The business, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, has further openings lined up in Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth and Embassy Gardens, London. The Canary Wharf and Embassy Gardens openings will take its estate in the capital to five sites.

The company has been backed by Palatine since May 2015 and has seen turnover increase four-fold from £11.3m at the time of the investment to the £50m forecast in the year to March 2020. In March, Potts told Propel the company had enjoyed a “brilliant start” to 2019, with overall like-for-likes up 3.6%. Smollensky’s was owned by We Are Bar Group. Its sister site in the Strand closed earlier this year.

Sukho Group has lodged plans to open a fourth site for its Thai street food concept Zaap, in York. The company has applied to the city council to transform the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Lendal, reports York Press. Sukho Group operates Zaap restaurants in Leeds, Newcastle and Nottingham. The company also runs three Sukhothai restaurants in Leeds and one in Harrogate. The Gourmet Burger Kitchen branch shut earlier this year, having opened in 2007.

The Devonshire Arms in Hartington, Buxton, which has been taken on by Coastal & Country Inns for its fifth siteCoastal & Country Inns, led by Chris Hannon, is to operate The Devonshire Arms in Hartington, Buxton, following a £620,000 investment by pub owner Punch. It will be the fifth Coastal & Country Inns site and first with Punch. Renovations to the grade II-listed building include relocating the toilets to the upper floor to create more space in the main bar and refurbishing the pub’s three letting rooms.

The garden has been overhauled with disused outbuildings replaced by wood-framed, covered booths and a giant chessboard, while a large ash tree in the centre has new fixed seating surrounding the trunk and festoon lighting.

Punch managing director Andy Spencer said: “The Devonshire is one of our biggest investments to date and we’re incredibly pleased with the new look. Matching this fantastic pub with Chris, who brings a wealth of experience and expertise, will ensure the pub’s long-term success.” Hannon added: “We look forward to putting The Devonshire back on the map.” Punch owns and operates 1,300 pubs in England, Scotland and Wales and is investing £32m in its estate in the next year.

A dish from Australian food and beverage brand Butcher and the FarmerAustralian brand Butcher and the Farmer is to make its UK debut, at the O2 Arena in London. The farm-to-table shared dining concept was created by Steve Flood and Will Stewart, who won competitive cooking television show My Kitchen Rules in 2015. The brand operates a site in Sydney with two others “opening soon”.

The brand has selected The Icon Outlet at The O2 as the first step in its international expansion and will take a 6,996 square foot space having agreed a deal with AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners. The 266-cover restaurant is set to open in September. In addition, international bubble tea operator CoCo is taking a 430 square foot unit for its second London site. Building on its Soho outlet, the O2 venue will open next month. Meanwhile, luxury gelato brand Snowflake has taken a 700 square foot space for its seventh site in the capital.

Marion Dillon, leasing director for the O2 and Icon Outlet, said: “Securing the international debut for Butcher and the Farmer at the O2 highlights our appeal and trend-led food and beverage offering. Joining leading brands CoCo and Snowflake, Butcher and the Farmer will enrich our diverse mix of international cuisine.”

Lunson Mitchenall and Davis Coffer Lyons are the F&B agents for the O2, while CBRE and CWM are the retail leasing agents. Butcher and the Farmer represented themselves, TK Retail acted on behalf of CoCo and CWM also represented Snowflake.

Adam ByattBrown’s Hotel in Mayfair has appointed Adam Byatt, chef owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Trinity, as chef director of food and beverage. Byatt (pictured) will start his role on Monday, 9 September and replace chef Heinz Beck, who leaves Brown’s at the end of this month.

A hotel since 1837 and home to the capital’s first public dining room, Brown’s will “embrace the ongoing evolution of British cuisine” with a new menu that celebrates contemporary British cooking complemented by European influences. Byatt will continue his role at Trinity and Upstairs At Trinity alongside his other Clapham restaurant, Bistro Union.

A Brown’s spokesman said: “Byatt is a true lover of food, authenticity and an ambassador of British ingredients and quality. Byatt and Brown’s possess a natural synergy and we look forward to an exciting culinary journey ahead.”

Sector managed like-for-likes were up 1.4% in June as restaurants recovered but pubs suffered a hangover from last year’s heatwave and football fever, according to the latest Coffer Peach Tracker. Restaurant group like-for-likes were up 6.1%, while pubs and bars saw a 1.2% decline. Regionally, market performance inside and outside London was broadly in line, with like-for-likes up 1.8% and 1.3% respectively. In pubs and bars, drink sales took a bigger hit than food over the month, down 2.2% against a 1.2% fall in meals. Restaurants recorded a 2.9% increase in covers over the month.

“It’s all down to football and the weather,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “Last June, pub and bar groups saw sales jump 2.8%, largely thanks to the mini-heatwave at home and England’s good showing in the Fifa World Cup, while restaurants suffered a 1.8% decline. This June the roles have reversed, with more sedate conditions favouring eating rather than drinking out. It demonstrates how outside factors still influence trading patterns. The underlying good news is the market overall still grew, if modestly, by 1.4%, despite all the current political uncertainty, predictions of tumbling consumer confidence and flat trading in May.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “These are encouraging numbers. Last June, the World Cup gave an overall boost despite restaurants suffering and to beat those numbers on a net basis shows some much-needed positivity. It’s tough out there but the hospitality sector is showing some much-needed resilience.”

Total sales across the 50 companies in the Tracker, which include the effect of net new openings since this time last year, were ahead 3.7% compared with last June. Underlying like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which represents large and small groups, was running at 1.6% for the 12 months to the end of June.

The site of the new Hop Stuff Brewery taproom in GreenwichHop Stuff Brewery shareholders have been wiped out after the assets were bought by Molson Coors in a pre-pack administration deal. It comes after Hop Stuff Brewery, which has raised more than £1.5m from crowdfunding investors, ran into financial difficulties earlier this year. The company was forced to cease production at its new brewery after a dispute with HMRC that subsequently led to the landlord seizing the premises after Hop Stuff Brewery was late with a rental payment. Since then, founder James Yeomans has been working with KPMG “to establish a solution to this challenge that best suits the group’s future”.

Updating on those plans, Yeomans said: “As you know Hop Stuff Brewery has been experiencing financial difficulties in the recent months. Unfortunately, due to the cash position of the business weighing heavily on the business, Hop Stuff Brewery and each of its subsidiaries entered into administration on Friday (12 July) with the appointment of Neil Gostelow and Will Wright, of KPMG, as joint administrators. I’m pleased to say we were able to secure an asset sale to Molson Coors Brewing Company as part of a pre-packaged administration process, which includes our brewery, brand and taprooms and the transfer of all staff to Molson Coors. Due to our financial position, this was the best possible option for our people and the future of our beers, or we faced the whole business going into liquidation.

“Unfortunately, a full sale of the shareholding of the company was commercially unviable and so I truly regret to have to confirm that there will be no returns to investors. I am so sorry. I wanted so much to turn the passion you have for Hop Stuff Brewery into a financial win for you and I am absolutely gutted that hasn’t happened. I want to thank you so much for your belief in us. You have helped to build this business and I want to make sure that you continue to feel a part of it. For my part, I am absolutely committed to protecting the ethos of Hop Stuff and our brands and I am completely confident Molson Coors shares that commitment. In Molson Coors we’ve found a partner who believes wholeheartedly craft beer should be accessible, inclusive and of exceptionally high and consistent quality.

“With their support and guidance, we are going to be able to start brewing again and be able to supply our customers in London. Hop Stuff beers won’t disappear. I would completely understand if you wanted to wash your hands of us, but I very much hope you don’t. If you’d like to remain a part of our journey, together with Molson Coors, we will be launching a Hop Stuff Collective for original investors who would like to stay involved. Members of the collective will receive exclusive access to key events throughout the year, a product subscription, discounts and be invited to be part of new product development through quarterly tastings and innovation sessions at the brewery. While not the hoped-for outcome, I hope you agree the Hop Stuff Collective will be a tribute to the important role you have played in our business and a unique opportunity to help us build on that legacy.”

Hop Stuff Brewery was founded in 2013 following a crowdfunding campaign, and subsequently raised £750,000 in 2016 and £780,000 in 2018 via Crowdcube to support its growth ambitions.

The new bar and restaurant at the Alderley Edge Hotel, which is the first phase of a £2.5m refurbishment by JW LeesNorth west brewer and retailer JW Lees has reported turnover increased 10.7% to a record £78,385,739 for the year to 31 March 2019, compared with £70,773,078 the previous year. Like-for-like sales in the 39-strong managed estate were up 1.9% with total sales in the division growing 14.2% as it saw the benefit of recent acquisitions and refurbishments. The 103-strong Pub Partnership estate saw like-for-like net income growth of 2.1% with average Ebitda per pub up 4.5%, reflecting the improved quality of its pubs, which are now all on a strict five-year refurbishment cycle. Underlying Ebitda was up 41.8% to a company record of £10.3m, compared with £7.3m the previous year. Group operating profit increased 59.8% to £7.2m, compared with £4.5m the year before, with pre-tax profit up 51.1% to £6.8m, compared with £4.5m the previous year. During the year the company invested £5.5m in capital expenditure; compared with £15.5m the year before and includes the acquisition at the end of March of The Goshawk in Mouldsworth, Cheshire. During the year the company completed its investment in the new Boilerhouse small-batch brewery, which is already operating at full capacity and is allowing the company to brew ten-barrel brews. Since the year-end, JW Lees has exchanged contracts with Redrow Homes and been granted planning permission for a new-build site at Woodford Garden Village. Tony Spencer retired at the company’s annual general meeting today (Friday, 12 July) as director of operations – hotels and inns after four years with JW Lees and has been succeeded by David Grosfils. Meanwhile, Mission Mars founder Roy Ellis has stepped down as an external advisor after five years and has been succeeded by solicitor Jim Tully, a partner at Manchester law firm Slater Heelis. JW Lees managing director William Lees-Jones said: “We always planned for 2019 to be a great year for JW Lees after two years of significant capex and associated closures of larger properties such as the Alderley Edge Hotel (pictured). We remain totally committed to our model of running managed houses, pub partnerships and free trade and have now grown our hotels and inns business to 291 bedrooms. We are encouraged to report JW Lees beer volumes increased by 2.3% and we are looking forward to more beer innovation through our new small-batch brewery, The Boilerhouse. We also hope the government will listen to concerns that brewers such as JW Lees have raised about the need to reform Progressive Beer Duty to allow brewers like us to compete on a fair playing field in the free market. Our strategy remains unchanged and we will continue to grow JW Lees, with the brewery at the heart of the business, developing our people to be the best that they can be and growing the business in a balanced manner adding new hotels, inns and pubs to our estate. We have had a slow start to 2019, with retail sales down 1.2% in the first 14 weeks of the year but it was always going to be tough going compared with last summer’s heatwave and the optimism Gareth Southgate and the England team inspired by getting to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia.” Alongside its 142 pubs, inns and hotels, JW Lees operates a growing free trade and national accounts business.

Spanish restaurant group Iberica is undergoing a strategic review involving streamlining head office and improving staff retention as it aims to cut costs, Propel has learned. Chief executive Marcos Fernandez Pardo said the company was now going through a period of consolidation before looking at expanding into Europe. Pardo added the group’s eight restaurants were still continuing to see good growth with turnover in the current financial year up 6% and average spend also up. He was also confident Iberica will return to the sort of profit levels it was seeing three or four years ago – circa £1.2m – after losses increased in the previous financial year. Iberica is now focusing on pushing Ebitda to the £1.2m mark in the next 12 months. Pardo said one of the mistakes Iberica made was trying to adapt to the northern market when it opened in Manchester and Leeds instead of trying to be itself. “We do BMWs, we don’t do Fords, but that’s what we tried to do when we first opened outside London a few years ago,” said Pardo. “But we realised our mistake and are focused on doing what we do best – serving great Spanish food in a wonderful environment and we are focusing on improving our quality. We have had a bit of a perfect storm. We are looking to streamline our head office to reduce the overall cost base for the business and also exploring how we can better retain our staff. We are looking at everything on that side – from training to staff perks. Once we have done that we will look at opening more restaurants but they will be in Europe rather than the UK.” Pardo spoke to Propel as Iberica reported turnover was flat at £11.9m for the year ending 30 September 2018. Operating losses increased to £809,378, compared with £466,072 the previous year while pre-tax losses were up to £989,378, compared with £654,902 the year before. Ebitda was down to £35,000, compared with £325,000 the previous year. Restaurant Ebitda fell to £1,451,000, compared with £1,701,000 the year before. Pardo said in his report accompanying the accounts: “It has been well publicised the past 12 to 24 months have been challenging for the restaurant business in the UK, which had expanded at an unprecedented rate over recent years and now faces the pressure of oversupply and significant cost increases resulting in several high-profile companies deciding to restructure. Iberica has not been immune to these pressures, particularly outside London where it has also had to adapt to different market conditions.”

Aaron MellorTokyo Industries, the bar and nightclub operator led by Aaron Mellor (pictured), has joined a management buyout team for Ibiza-based FM radio station Openlab, Propel has learned. Founded in 2013 by Robert Miles, the radio station was conceived specifically to showcase innovative yet accessible music set to a visual art backdrop championing some of the world’s most exciting producers, DJs, artists, designers, architects and visual artists. The station ceased with the passing of Miles in 2017 but Tokyo Industries and a management buyout team of original founders have purchased the station and its 106.4 FM frequency and are back on-air in Ibiza and Formentera. Mellor said: “Openlab is the perfect ambient soundscape while driving around the amazing scenic island of Ibiza. The idea is to expand the FM relaunch with a global online creative arts platform, while adding physical event spaces and studios based in Berlin, Ibiza and Los Angeles. The aim is to develop Openlab as a creative accelerator for music, art and architecture in both digital and physical experiential spaces. Working as a disrupter to traditional fixed format venues and developing a more art and architecture-based music connection.” Openlab is available online or by downloading the app. A Smart TV visual wallpaper app will soon be added. Tokyo Industries operates 36 music venues in the UK, with international sites in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Ibiza, Dubai and Croatia. The company recently acquired Red’s True Barbecue to complement its portfolio.

The Restaurant Group (TRG) has added a further burger delivery concept thought its Frankie & Benny’s brand, Propel has learned. The group has begun to roll out Stacks, which comes with the slogan – “Stack it up, pack it in and we’ll begin”, and offers eight types of burger, including chicken katsu, buffalo blue and smoky beet, priced between £5 and £8. Last year, TRG launched virtual brands Burger Burger and Kick Ass Burrito through its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito concepts respectively. Earlier this year, Propel revealed it had added a further two virtual brands to its portfolio. Through Chiquito it now offers the Cornstar Tacos virtual brand in circa 40 sites, while the new Birdbox brand, which focuses on chicken and burgers, is available through Frankie & Benny’s. In May, the company launched a new delivery brand called Pyjama Hotel out of the Foodstars unit in Battersea. Pyjama Hotel describes itself as offering “a festival of Indian flavours, bringing colourful, vibrant, Indian favourites and new dishes to your door”.

Heston BlumenthalChef Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant business posted increased losses in its latest financial results as it works through an “efficiency and development programme”. The group, which owns the three Michelin star The Fat Duck, saw pre-tax losses increase to £1.8m, compared to a loss of £974,000 the previous year. Turnover in the period was down to £12.4m, compared with £12.7m the year before while operating losses doubled from £1m to £2m. Gross profit was down slightly to £8.7m from £8.8m the previous year. Blumenthal’s restaurant business also includes Dinner in London and Melbourne and gastro-pub the Hind’s Head. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The board is of the opinion that the loss for the year is a consequence of the current period of transition of the group’s business. The group has started working through a business efficiency and development programme that is focused on additional income from new business, increasing the profitability of existing operations, reducing working capital needs, and overhead cost saving projects. For the financial year ending 2019, the group expects much better results.”

Homeslice CityLondon-based better pizza brand Homeslice has hired advisors as it carries out a strategic review of its business, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded by Mark Wogan, Alan Wogan and Ry Jessup in 2011, is understood to be working with Will Baxter at Dow Schofield Watts’ London office on the review, which will look at expansion and investment opportunities for the six-strong business. The company, which is thought to have turned over about £5.5m in its last full year, opened its sixth site early this year in James Street, Marylebone. It also operates permanent restaurants in Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, the Bloomberg building and White City, plus a unit at Incipio Group’s The Prince in Earl’s Court. Earlier this year the company hired Werner Botha, formerly of Bill’s and Cote, as head of operations. Homeslice, which offers 20-inch pizzas whole or by the slice, launched with an event at London Fields Brewery and went on to operate at markets and festivals with Kerb, Street Feast and Frieze before taking up residency at King’s Cross Filling Station in 2012. It opened its first restaurant at Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, in early 2013. The Homeslice website states: “The aim was to balance tradition with innovation, offering people our take on the classics alongside more unique flavour combinations. The result was a simple menu of pizza, beer and wine with quality, seasonal produce at its heart, served in a relaxed, friendly space.”

Wagamama has opened its debut site in Norway, at Oslo airportWagamama, owned by The Restaurant Group (TRG), has applied to open a dark kitchen in London Fields, Propel has learned. Propel understands the brand is looking to take space at the Railway Arches in Mentmore Terrace and has applied to open a dark kitchen to prepare takeaway food and alcoholic drinks for delivery only. However, it is believed the plans have received objections from local residents. On acquiring Wagamama last year, TRG pledged to invest in more delivery-only kitchens. It said it recognised delivery as a significant area of opportunity, particularly as Wagamama was already one of the top brands on Deliveroo. Wagamama launched in a Deliveroo Editions site in Battersea last year. At the same time, Wagamama is understood to be in talks on a site in the City for its new grab-and-go concept Mamago after passing up on a former Starbucks site in Coleman Street. The brand is also set to strengthen its London presence with an opening in Old Street. Propel understands the Emma Woods-led group will open a restaurant at The Bower mixed-use development later this year. TRG, which acquired Wagamama for £559m last year, said it would continue to roll out Wagamama in the UK accelerated by converting some of its leisure division sites.

Pre-Booked Sales MasterclassA host of companies have signed up for the Pre-booked Sales Masterclass, which aims to help operators make the most of this increasingly important opportunity. The event takes place on Thursday, 5 September at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Companies attending include Fuller’s, The Deltic Group, TGI Friday’s, Young’s, PizzaExpress, Beds and Bars, McMullens, Gusto, The Coaching Inn Group, The Alchemist, Market Taverns, The Breakfast Club, Urban Pubs and Bars, Inception Group, Montpeliers, Urban Leisure Group, Pizza Pilgrims, Electric Star, Cambscuisine and Fest & Revel.

Propel has partnered with former Novus sales director Rupert Macfarlane, who now runs The Advanced Sales Network, to show how, when implemented correctly, pre-booked sales can transform business performance. He will explore ten steps to pre-booked sales growth, including determining the level of resource required to efficiently achieve reactive and pro-active sales goals; recruiting the best sales people and creating a high-achieving sales team; delivering true sales growth, not cannibalisation; and making pre-booked sales growth “stick”.

Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers and £345 plus VAT for others. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

The National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs), run by the British Institute of Innkeepers (BII), is open for entries – with three new categories added for 2019. The event, organised in partnership with Propel, highlights individuals and businesses in the sector who put their people first. The BII recognises the importance of raising standards and professionalism across the industry as well as sharing best practice in training and people development. Successful NITAs entrants will be those that provide really great training – be they individuals, training organisations or sector companies. Judges will look for examples of those that truly put people at the heart of what they do – investing in their teams, innovating, motivating and striving for training excellence. Three new categories have been added this year – HR Manager of the Year under 30 outlets, HR Manager of the Year 30 outlets and over, and Most Innovative Recruitment Strategy. They join the other categories of Best Managed Training Programme Companies under 50 outlets; Best Managed Training Programme Companies 50 outlets and over; Professional Trainer of the Year; Best Apprenticeship Training Programme; Best Casual Dining Training Programme; Best Training Programme – Leased & Tenanted Companies; and the Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award, which is an industry recognition award. The winner of the Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award will be chosen by a panel led by Keith Knowles (pictured), chief executive and founder of Beds and Bars. The award will identify and recognise an individual who leads by example and can demonstrate people are at the core of what they do. The award is in memory of the late Franca Knowles, who was a multiple winner of NITA awards and passionate about people and training. BII chief executive Mike Clist said: “The NITAs are a key platform that not only help us highlight how vital the training and development of staff is to our industry but, crucially, demonstrate hospitality can offer individuals a rewarding and varied career – it’s so much more than just a job. Our newest categories reflect the advances in recruitment and retention of staff in the industry and the businesses that deliver outstanding mentorship and development for their people.” Entrants have until Friday, 13 September to complete their entries and can enter more than one category. Criteria for each award and registration forms can be found on the NITAs page at www.bii.org. Each category will have a judging panel consisting of industry experts. Finalists will be announced before the end of September and will need to attend the final NITAs judging day at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire on Thursday, 31 October.

Ann ElliottPropel is inviting nominations for the Wireless Social Entrepreneur of the Year, which will be presented on Thursday, 12 September at the end of the Women’s Entrepreneur Conference. Readers are invited to send their nominations to Propel managing director Paul Charity at paul.charity@propelinfo.com. Building on last year’s debut event, the sector’s only conference to feature an all-female line-up of company leaders, more sector-leading female entrepreneurs will share their stories and expertise alongside two panel sessions. Propel has partnered with Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott (pictured) for the full-day event, which will be held at One Moorgate Place, London, and is open for bookings – for men as well as women. Speakers will be Bartlett Mitchell founder Wendy Bartlett, West Brewery founder Petra Wetzel, Chai by Mira founder Mira Manek, Filmore & Union founder Adele Ashley, Tonkotsu founder Emma Reynolds, Giggling Squid founder Pranee Laurillard, sushi expert and KellyDeli head of food product innovation Silla Bjerrum, Stanley Pubs founder Amanda Pritchett, Seafood Pub Company founder Joycelyn Neve, and Prezzo executive chairman Karen Jones. Also taking part are Kanishka Holdings managing director Tina English, Livelyhood chief executive and owner Sarah Wall, Oatopia owner Tamar Coleman, The Chilli Pickle founder Dawn Sperring, Bombay Burrito owner Maria Savage, Farmer Copleys owner Heather Copley, Goldfinger Factory founder Marie Cudennec, Hola Guacamole owner Margarita Garcia, and Yum Bun founder Lisa Meyer. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers and £345 plus VAT for others. They can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691

A host of operators, including Azzurri Group, The Restaurant Group, Gaucho, Chilango, Loungers, PizzaExpress, Brasserie Bar Co, Greene King, Barworks, LT Management and EAT, are among those to sign up for Propel’s Premium service in the past two weeks. More than 200 companies now receive the Premium service from Propel. Meanwhile, Martyn Cornell will offer his views on why the Portman Group’s guidance on strong beer is “misguided” – and the threat it has to British brewers and retailers – in an article to be sent to Premium subscribers on Thursday (7 March) at 5pm. Propel Premium subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday (8 March) of Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King, speaking about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,300 multi-site companies, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Star Pubs – The Eagle

Propel Multi Club June 2019

Propel Multi Club

27th June 2019

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Propel Quarterly Summer 2019

Propel Quarterly

The must read sector business analysis and intelligence magazine

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