Star Pubs & Bars

Story of the Day:

Deep Blue takes over Harry Ramsden estate

Deep Blue Restaurants, PortsmouthDeep Blue Restaurants has acquired fellow fish and chip brand Harry Ramsden from Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG). The transaction sees Deep Blue take over the entire estate of the 90-year-old Harry Ramsden brand debt free, which consists of 34 sites across the UK, Ireland and Malaysia. BRG will retain an interest in the enlarged business.

Deep Blue founder and chief executive James Low said: “We are delighted with this transaction, which has accelerated our growth to make us the largest player in the market by a considerable margin. Our immediate focus will be on the integration of the business into the Deep Blue organisation. Our amalgamation with Harry Ramsden is a key milestone in our development but we remain committed to exploiting the unparalleled opportunities within the sector for further expansion.”

BRG chief executive Tom Crowley said: “This is an important strategic move for BRG and one that enables us to simplify our future business and allows us to focus on the opportunities for our core brands – Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, Fishworks and the roll out of Slim Chickens – while retaining an ongoing interest in the fish and chip sector.”

Last month Harry Ramsden partnered with Mecca Bingo to roll out its offering to more than 70 locations across the UK through its Proudly Serving Harry Ramsden concept. It also launched The Laughing Fish By Harry Ramsden concept earlier this year with franchise partner Resorts World Genting Malaysia. Before the deal, Deep Blue Restaurants operated circa 35 sites in the UK.

Paul Newby to step down as Pubs Code Adjudicator

Paul NewbyPaul Newby (pictured) will step down as Pubs Code Adjudicator in April next year at the end of his four-year term. Newby said: “There is still substantial work to be done to achieve Parliament’s aims embodied in the Pubs Code, notably a speedy and accessible right for tenants to go free-of-tie via the Market Rent Only option, if that is right for them. However, there has been significant progress and I expect to see this continue across all aspects of the legislation based on the solid foundations that have been laid during this formative period.” CAMRA national chairman Nik Antona said: “As the first person to hold the role of Pubs Code Adjudicator, we recognise the challenge of the new legislation and awful track record of behaviour by pub companies that Paul Newby took on when he was appointed. He and his deputy, Fiona Dickie, have made progress pushing pub companies to waive confidentiality on decision notices so pub tenants finally have access to vital information when in disputes with their pubco. Unfortunately, it is clear the Pubs Code is failing. It needs immediate reform to allow Mr Newby’s successor to deliver on the intended aims of the code and finally get a fair deal for tenants. We hope this will be an outcome of the current Statutory Review.”

Other News:

Bird Chicken & WafflesBird, the fried chicken & waffles chain, has sold a majority stake to the Crown Partnership, as part of a pre-pack administration. As part of the deal, the group’s Shoreditch restaurant closed on 12 August, when administrator BM Advisory was appointed. Co-founder and managing director Paul Hemings said: “We are thrilled to have secured a better future for the brand and our amazing team. We look forward to working with Crown and being supported by their depth of experience.” Crown Partnership is a diversified hospitality and catering business, founded by Russell Morgan more than 40 years ago. Hemings added that after experiencing a number of funding pressures, the company is proud that the trading success, the team and the potential for the brand “have been valued” and they were excited the “future for us has just become much clearer”. Bird hopes to open a long-awaited site in Brixton later this year. Last month, Hemings said the five-strong business had its bank overdraft withdrawn only weeks before its Canary Wharf opening in late 2018, which had resulted in a knock-on effect throughout the business. Hemings told Propel last month: “We had to take on funding we didn’t really want to replace it and then the bottom fell out of the banking sector, at least for restaurants. We have had positive like-for-like sales for the past two years straight, every month. The restaurants are performing well and growing. We’ve had these issues recently but we’re not in the position where nothing is working – far from it.”

Pure. LogoHealthy food-to-go group Pure has appointed Said Takhamt as chief operating officer in a newly created role. He will join ten-year-old Pure in the autumn following roles in operations and development at Pret A Manger, Itsu, EAT and Cojean. Takhamt began his career as general manager at Pret A Manger, working his way up to international head of operations focusing initially on the London business and then across the UK, France and the US. He oversaw Pret’s expansion into airports, seeing it flourish at Stansted, Heathrow’s T5 and Gatwick among others. While at Itsu he led expansion across new territories in cafes, regional stores and airport businesses, while his EAT experience involved leading the rebrand strategy and rebuilding the operational business model. This saw him use his travel hub expertise at Madrid airport and Paris’ Gare Du Nord. Pure chief executive Spencer Craig said: “We are truly delighted to bring Said and his expertise on board at this very exciting time in the business. We believe his skills will help grow the Pure business as it continues to expand across London and into major travel locations. His wealth of unrivalled experience makes him perfectly placed to take on this challenging new role.” Takhamt will be responsible for running day-to-day operations at Pure’s 21 sites and additions as the business expands further in 2020. He will also be responsible for all recruitment, learning, training and development.

The number of pubs in London remained stable between 2017 and 2018 after falling by more than a quarter since 2001, new research by City Hall has shown. The figures, published by mayor of London Sadiq Khan, identified 3,540 pubs in the capital in March 2018 – an increase of ten from 2017.

In total, 11 boroughs saw an increase in pubs, with numbers staying the same in nine but falling in 13. The boroughs to see an increase were Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Hackney, Harrow, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. The number of small pubs in London more than halved between 2001 and 2018 but the new figures show small and large pubs alike have increased between 2017 and 2018 in the capital and there are now more large pubs in London than there were in 2001.

Employment across the pub sector also remained stable between 2017 and 2018, at 46,000 jobs, but a large proportion continue to be paid below the London Living Wage, Khan said. The traditional London pub remains a key part of life in the city and, according to a City Hall survey, almost three-quarters (74%) of Londoners think pubs are important for the city’s cultural heritage, with more than two-fifths (45%) visiting one at least once a month.

The main reasons to visit a London pub were to socialise with friends (68%) and eat (27%). Pubs are also an important tourist attraction, with more than half (54%) of international visitors visiting a pub during their stay in London. The mayor said he was doing “everything within his powers” to support the pub trade and London’s cultural venues, including tough new planning rules in his draft London Plan and establishing a world-first Culture At Risk Office to support pubs at risk of closure.

Last month Khan revealed the number of grass-roots music venues in the capital had risen in the past year and the number of LGBTQ+ venues remained stable for a second year running following a decade of decline for both. He said: “London pubs have been a key part of our capital’s heritage for generations, helping to unite Londoners and acting as a vital hub in the community. I’m encouraged by these results but with pressure from rates, rent and development, it’s crucial the government and local authorities give them their full support too.”

Pure. LogoHealthy food-to-go group Pure has appointed Said Takhamt as chief operating officer in a newly created role. He will join ten-year-old Pure in the autumn following roles in operations and development at Pret A Manger, Itsu, EAT and Cojean. Takhamt began his career as general manager at Pret A Manger, working his way up to international head of operations focusing initially on the London business and then across the UK, France and the US. He oversaw Pret’s expansion into airports, seeing it flourish at Stansted, Heathrow’s T5 and Gatwick among others. While at Itsu he led expansion across new territories in cafes, regional stores and airport businesses, while his EAT experience involved leading the rebrand strategy and rebuilding the operational business model. This saw him use his travel hub expertise at Madrid airport and Paris’ Gare Du Nord. Pure chief executive Spencer Craig said: “We are truly delighted to bring Said and his expertise on board at this very exciting time in the business. We believe his skills will help grow the Pure business as it continues to expand across London and into major travel locations. His wealth of unrivalled experience makes him perfectly placed to take on this challenging new role.” Takhamt will be responsible for running day-to-day operations at Pure’s 21 sites and additions as the business expands further in 2020. He will also be responsible for all recruitment, learning, training and development.

All-day concept The Breakfast Club has taken over the Polpetto site owned by Polpo in Berwick Street, Soho, with the aim to open in September, Propel has learned. Polpo, which has gone through a company voluntary arrangement, has placed its Berwick Street and Notting Hill venues on the market. A letter to creditors earlier this year reported an offer of £160,000 had been made for the Berwick Street site but the company received professional advice suggesting a price of circa £250,000 should be obtainable. Polpo has forecast a return to profit in 2020. It estimates sales of £10,286,000 and a net loss of £174,000 in 2019. For 2020 it forecasts net sales of £10,389,000 and a net profit of £286,000 and for 2021 it forecasts sales of £10,493,000 and a net profit of £280,000. At the start of this year, Breakfast Club founder Jonathan Arana-Morton told Propel he couldn’t be more optimistic about its future following a “misleading” report the company had been handed a last-minute lifeline by its bank. The Breakfast Club breached part of its banking covenant with Santander last year, which has agreed to waive the defaults, The Sunday Telegraph reported. However, Arana-Morton told Propel improvements to the financial performance during the past year led Santander to address the covenants and they were now at a level “most banks would lend to if we were to seek funding now”. Arana-Morton said: “In truth it was not a last-minute lifeline Santander gave us. The business is in a healthy state with ten of our 11 sites making a profit, more than £2m in site Ebitda and an offer guests are still willing to queue for, which in the current market is pretty good going.”

Loungers' Establo Lounge site in Rustington, West SussexPeel Hunt analyst Douglas Jack has said Loungers, the listed operator of neighbourhood cafe-bar restaurants trading under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, is “carrying powerful momentum into 2020E” with the company’s final results due on Wednesday (28 August). Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 285p, Jack said: “We expect the final results to be in line but with strong trends that point to very attractive, self-financed growth in 2020E. Like-for-like sales were last reported to be up 7.7% in the 24 weeks to 24 March 2019. We expect like-for-like sales to have remained strong in early 2020E, helped by April’s menu price increases (including trading-up opportunities). Our 285p target price reflects the pace of equity value growth we expect from like-for-like trading and expansion over the next year. Like-for-like sales rose 6.9% in the year to 21 April, with second-half like-for-like sales up 7.3% by our estimates despite the 2019E financial year not including all the Easter weekend. This continues an improving like-for-like sales trajectory, from 5.5% in 2017 to 6.0% in 2018, with like-for-like volume growth averaging 4% per annum over this three-year period. Ebitda margins (post pre-opening and central costs) have also been on a rising trajectory, from 9.7% in 2016 to 11.8% in 2017 and 12.1% in 2018, reflecting like-for-like sales growth and increasing scale economies. Our 2019E forecast allows for a higher depreciation charge rate, a 20 basis point fall in Ebitda margins and a 30 basis point fall in Ebit margins. The company’s price increases have averaged 1.8% per annum for drink and 2.5% for food during the past four years. However, by our estimates summer menu prices increased 2.1% for drinks and 2.9% for food versus the recent winter menus. As this represents only six months, there should be a larger price component to like-for-like sales in 2020E, with a follow-on benefit to gross margins. Like-for-like sales should also benefit from the introduction of the Big Lounge Breakfast, at £11.95 versus £7.65 for a Lounge Breakfast. We believe a lot of customers took advantage of this trading-up opportunity during the trial stage. The Big Lounge Breakfast has only been available in all outlets since the beginning of the new financial year. Last year 25 sites opened – 22 Lounges and three Cosy Clubs – taking the estate to 146 sites. We expect this year’s expansion to be weighted – ten in the first half, 15 in the second half. Propel reported one recent opening, in King’s Lynn, may have set a new Lounge opening-week record. 2020E will be the company’s first full financial year as a PLC into which it carries strong like-for-like sales and pricing momentum. It also has great scope to drive down costs over the medium term through centralising distribution, contract retendering and introducing differentiated pricing. We believe recent market-driven share price weakness has created an excellent buying opportunity.”

Burger & Lobster – lobster nuggets Burger & Lobster is to launch lobster nuggets on its menu to satisfy “late-night, posh-nosh nugget cravings”, while it is expanding its delivery-only concept Smack. Spicy Atlantic Lobster Nuggets will appear on menus on Tuesday (27 August) in all the brand’s restaurants but will only be available from 8pm. Diners will be able to order six nuggets for £15.95 containing lobster sustainably sourced from the coasts of Nova Scotia and coated in a spicy batter. The dish can be paired with a fresh lemon dip or truffle mayo and is also available for delivery. In June, the company turned its lobster roll concept Smack in Soho’s Dean Street into a delivery-only brand. The company will launch a second Smack site, in the City of London, on Monday (26 August). The company told Propel it would launch more virtual Smack restaurants during the “coming months”, although no dates had been set. A Burger & Lobster spokeswoman said: “We are also working with Deliveroo to expand our reach further within London using Editions and then, ultimately, other key areas that have an undersupply of the luscious lobster meat in our buttery brioche rolls.” Burger & Lobster launched in Mayfair in 2011 and now operates nine sites in London, two in New York and one each in Bangkok, Dubai, Genting and Kuwait City.

Giraffe Giraffe, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Group, has launched a children’s menu that focuses on balanced nutrition following guidance from the Soil Association and Public Health England (PHE). Each meal offers at least two portions of vegetables, with other initiatives including default broccoli instead of fries and petit pois instead of baked beans. Drinks sizes have changed to 150ml and are served in colourful reusable plastic cups, while the brand now offers children’s-size cutlery. Giraffe said the new cutlery encouraged development and dexterity, with NHS guidance emphasising the importance of self-feeding for children aged six months to seven years old. Giraffe has also partnered with Schleich toys to offer free “love me for life” animal figurines with each children’s meal. Giraffe Restaurants chief executive Tom Crowley said: “Families have always been an important part of Giraffe and we’re partnering with PHE and the Soil Association to make sure we’re offering healthy options for kids.” Rob Percival, head of policy at the Soil Association, added: “It is important for families to trust restaurants to offer healthy options.” Giraffe operates 45 sites globally. Last week Propel Diary revealed the brand broke a milestone of £1m in sales from its TRG Concessions-operated Giraffe, Giraffe Stop! and Wondertree estate in a single week.

PastorcitoHarts Group has continued the expansion of Pastorcito, the market taqueria offshoot of its Mexican concept El Pastor, by opening a second site in London, at Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle. Pastorcito launched at Arcade Food Theatre on the ground floor of Centre Point last month. The concept offers a short menu of tacos using house-made heirloom corn tortillas and Super Gringa wheat wraps. Pastorcito at Mercato Metropolitano also offers frozen margaritas, Mexican beer, tequila and mescal, while dishes include the signature Al Pastor taco (24-hour marinated pork shoulder, caramelised pineapple, guacamole taquero, white onion and coriander). Harts Group founders Sam and James Hart and Crispin Somerville said they “seized the opportunity” to collaborate with the team at Mercato Metropolitano to bring Pastorcito to a “new audience and location with a shared commitment to all that is natural, sustainable and accessible”. Somerville said: “In the past months we have focused on upping tortilla production without compromising quality, which we now believe are our best yet. The case is the same with our daily-produced braises and fresh salsa. This has enabled us to set up Pastor trompos and market taquerias delivering the real deal directly from the stand to guests’ hands while maintaining a consistently excellent product across our various venues. We got on board straight away with the values at Mercato Metropolitano and the vibe is always brilliant. We’re excited to be here.” Mercato Metropolitano founder and chief executive Andrea Rasca said: “We believe in an inclusive, collaborative and balanced business model. This is delivered by working with true food artisans who care about responsible supply chains that respect farmers and communities and who create nutritious menus from sustainable, high-quality ingredients. The team at Pastorcito has the same passion for these values as we have. The more people who understand these fundamental values, the quicker we’ll adopt a more sustainable food system.”

Legoland Windsor – MerlinMerlin Entertainments has made two senior appointments to lead the development of its global brands. Ash Tailor has joined as global brand director for Legoland, responsible for global marketing and brand development of Legoland Parks and Legoland Discovery Centres with oversight of brand strategy, product development and customer engagement. He will also be the principal Merlin relationship partner with Lego Group. He joins Merlin from drinks company Britvic, where he was global category director. Matthew Williams has been appointed global brand director of Midway Attractions, responsible for setting and implementing brand strategies across the SeaLife, Dungeons and Eye brands. He will also manage Midway’s global partnerships. Williams joins from Costa Coffee, where he was global brand and insight director. The appointments are effective from mid-September and both will report to Mark Fisher, chief development officer. Fisher said: “Matthew and Ash bring enormous brand-building knowledge and marketing know-how which, with their great energy and customer obsession, will help us consistently deliver amazing experiences for our guests.” In July, Merlin Entertainments accepted a £4.8bn bid from a consortium led by the Danish billionaire owners of Lego.

Pizza Union Pizza Union, the London-based fledgling operator, has secured its fifth site in the capital, near Old Street. The company has secured a site at 145 City Road, which is a 40-storey residential building to the north of Old Street’s Silicon roundabout. The brand hopes to open the restaurant by the end of November. Pizza Union operates sites in Aldgate, Dalston, King’s Cross and Spitalfields. Its most recent opening was in Dalston at the end of 2017.

The introduction of mandatory calorie labelling would place significant burdens on Scottish hospitality businesses, UKHospitality has warned. Food Standards Scotland has recommended the Scottish government introduces mandatory labelling for all out-of-home food businesses. UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “We are supportive of efforts to promote healthier attitudes to food and drink and Scotland’s hospitality businesses have been leading the way. Many businesses have already taken action to reformulate menus, reduce calories and increase the level of choice and transparency for customers. Businesses have done this already on a voluntary basis and customers are now better informed than ever. Introducing mandatory labelling is potentially a retrograde step that would cause significant problems for some businesses. Smaller businesses would struggle to cope with an inflexible one-size-fits-all approach. A blanket introduction of mandatory labelling would represent a considerable additional cost for businesses already facing tightening margins at a time of unprecedented political uncertainty. It would also represent a considerable burden for those venues that change their menus regularly, some on a daily basis, to incorporate locally sourced produce, seasonal ingredients and specials. Small and medium-sized businesses might also find their ability to innovate, particularly when tackling food waste, severely restricted. The end result is it’s likely prices would go up and investment go down, with much less choice for customers. Any mandatory polices introduced solely in Scotland would also cause inconsistencies and additional burdens for businesses that operate UK-wide. We need consistency in the rules to avoid unnecessary pressure and potential for confusion.” Selina to open in Birmingham this autumn: Hospitality group Selina is to open a site in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter this autumn. Selina Birmingham will feature 39 rooms, suites and shared rooms and incorporate a lobby space, dedicated wellness area, coffee shop and Latin-American restaurant and wine bar. It will be the second UK location for the Latin American startup. “We are thrilled to bring our concept to one of the most exciting cities in the UK and in such a thriving neighbourhood,” said Erwin de Jong Oliveira, Selina’s head of country UK. “We wanted to blend Selina’s Latin American roots with local talent, history and culture and we can’t wait to open our doors and provide a new hub for the community.”

Ei Group and Cask Marque, the industry watchdog for quality beer, have partnered to launch eight British ale trails to drive footfall. In total, 56 Ei Group pubs are spread across the trails in York, Huddersfield, Manchester, Cheltenham, Bristol, Twickenham, Fulham and City of London. All venues are Cask Marque-accredited and within walking distance of one another on each trail. The pubs feature on Cask Marque’s app and drinkers can claim a free gift for each trail completed. Paul Harbottle, group commercial director at Ei Group, said: “Having Ei Group pubs in these ale trails means our publicans have the opportunity to attract drinkers searching for quality beer and the chance to showcase their offer to new customers.” Meanwhile, Ei Group will open its £1.4m Craft Union pub in Wakefield, Yorkshire, next month, which will also feature a group-wide support hub. The former bank will reopen on Thursday, 19 September hosting Craft Union Pub Company’s support team as well as training and meeting facilities for use by the whole of Ei Group. The Pub Support Hub scheme will create 20 jobs. The Craft Union support team is currently based in Preston. Stonegate Pub Company acquired Ei Group for £3bn in July subject to the deal being approved by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Searcys, 30 Euston Square, herb-gardenSearcys has launched a rooftop herb garden and vegetable patch at its 30 Euston Square events space in central London. The garden will provide chefs at the grade II-listed conference venue with fresh ingredients and will be “curated to fit kitchen requirements”. During the winter months the garden will provide beetroot, kale and Brussels sprouts, with the move part of the venue’s sustainability pledge to source ingredients as locally as possible. The herb garden will supply fresh rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme, while the terrace beds will offer a source of ingredients for homemade butter and flavoured water. 30 Euston Square executive chef Daniel Broughton said: “We are really proud of our sourcing and want to show our customers we care about where our food comes from as much as they do.”


Casual Dining GroupCasual Dining Group (CDG) has rolled out a suite of financial services for employees including on-demand pay across all its brands. The company stated: “The move demonstrates the company’s commitment to attract and retain the best people in the industry – as well as safeguard its employees against possible mental health issues caused by financial distress due to significant unforeseen expenses – by introducing an innovative range of financial welfare tools. An on-demand pay function along with real-time financial education has been rolled out across all our brands with immediate effect. It has been facilitated through Wagestream in partnership with Fourth, allowing employees to access the money they have earned until that point ahead of payday for just a £1.75 transaction fee. Thanks to the integration with Fourth and Wagestream, all payments are deducted from the normal fortnightly or monthly pay cycles, meaning there’s no impact to the payroll process. The move gives all CDG employees the flexibility to pay for sudden and unforeseen expenses such as a broken-down car or unexpected bill out of their own wages without needing to borrow money through credit cards. CDG has also introduced Salary Finance, a service that helps people get out of debt and into savings with a suite of products such as affordable loans, simple savings directly from salary, and financial education. Salary Finance and CDG working together will provide quick, easy and confidential access to robust financial support when their employees need it.” Claire Clarke, CDG group human resources director, said: “Attracting and retaining the best employees in the industry is an ongoing battle for all businesses. Despite facing a number of industry headwinds we’re focused on continually improving the support, training and services we offer our employees and this latest introduction of Wagestream and Salary Finance is just one extension of that. Generationally and culturally, what people demand from the workplace has changed. It’s no longer enough to offer a competitive wage, you need to create a meaningful environment that promotes positivity and progression to improve staff retention. Through our work with Wagestream and Salary Finance we are able to promote and provide a suite of financial services and training to our employees, should they need it, which gives them the tools and information they need to confidently tackle a number of financial scenarios.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPATotal CO2 emissions from the UK’s brewing industry fell 42% between 2008 and 2018, a reduction of 202,952 tonnes, according to research by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). The research also found the energy used to brew a pint of beer in the UK is 20% less than it was in 2008. The water required to brew one hectolitre of beer has also reduced, to an average of 3.5HL. Separate Environment Agency data acquired by the BBPA also found UK breweries recover and reuse 98% of their waste. The research is published in a new report – Brewing Green: A Greener Future For British Beer & Pubs – and comes as the UK’s brewing and pub sectors begin setting their next sustainability targets to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. All pub operators surveyed for the report said cutting food waste and improving energy efficiency was “important” or “very important”. All respondents have trained staff on how to reduce food waste, with 86% offering smaller portion sizes to customers, while more than four-fifths (83%) use insulated cellars in their pubs to reduce energy consumption. More than two-thirds (71%) of operators have installed smart meters. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds (pictured) said: “Britain’s brewing and pub sectors are among the oldest and most revered in the world. To maintain this reputation we must brew our beer and serve our pub-goers in a sustainable way. From reducing emissions to lowering waste, Britain’s breweries and pubs are determined to be world leaders in environmental sustainability and meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”

200 DegreesNottingham-based coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has opened its second site in Birmingham and tenth in total. The 65-seater coffee shop has launched in Lower Temple Street, close to Birmingham New Street station, creating 20 jobs. Located in the former Midland Hotel, the 1,830 square foot shop retains many period features as well as a split bar for takeaway services. The move follows the brand’s coffee shop and barista school, which opened in Colmore Row in Birmingham’s business district in 2016. Tom Vincent, co-founder and director of 200 Degrees, said: “The decision to open a second coffee shop in Birmingham was an easy one. Its location near Birmingham New Street is ideal. Birmingham is only the second location in which we’ve opened a second coffee shop and we’ve installed a split service area to serve busy commuters and time-starved workers quickly.” Vincent and Rob Darby founded 200 Degrees in 2012. It also operates coffee shops in Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Leicester, Cardiff, Lincoln and Liverpool, and a roast house in Nottingham. The company plans further openings this year.

TonkotsuTonkotsu, the Emma Reynolds and Ken Yamada-founded ramen restaurant group, is to open its 11th site, in Peckham Market next month. Located in the market’s new workspace, the 50-cover restaurant will offer its signature homemade noodle ramen, gyoza and Japanese appetisers alongside craft beer, sake and cocktails. The venue will feature an open kitchen and bar, with hand-painted murals by artist Mr Christa. Tonkotsu managing director Stephen Evans said: “Peckham, with its rich cultural history and diverse mix of creatives and makers, is the perfect place for our real ramen. We are thrilled to be part of the market workspace and look forward to opening our doors in mid-September.” Yamada and Reynolds launched Tonkotsu in Soho in 2012. It currently operates nine sites in London and a ramen bar in Selfridges Birmingham, with plans to launch in Shoreditch in October. Tonkotsu secured new investment from YFM Equity Partners, which also backs healthy eating brand Friska, in June. YFM invested £5m for a minority stake in Tonkotsu. At the time the company said it hoped to add a further three sites next year.

WingstopUS chicken brand Wingstop has said it will open two further sites in London following the launch of its second restaurant in the capital, in Dalston in late September. The company, which made its UK debut last year in Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End, has secured the La Petite Bretagne site in Kingsland High Street. The new 80-cover restaurant will offer the brand’s signature wings flavours including lemon and pepper, spicy Korean, Brazilian citrus pepper, mango habanero and garlic Parmesan, with “new spicy menu innovations to be announced in the coming weeks”. Wingstop has more than 1,000 restaurants internationally. In 2017 the company entered an agreement with Lemon Pepper Holdings to launch and roll out in the UK. The plan is to grow to 75 sites in the next 12 years. CDG Leisure acted on behalf of Wingstop UK on the Dalston deal.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels has reported losses narrowed to £46,629 in the year to 30 December 2018, compared with £861,666 the year before when there was an impairment loss of £708,873. Turnover rose to £14,642,634 compared with £14,406,392 the year before. The company stated: “The group’s operating results for the period reflect mixed trading conditions combined with continued reinvestment in hotels and associated disruption to trade. The group has announced the sale of The Royal Clarence Hotel. Following extensive damage to the property caused by a fire on 28 October 2016, which started in a neighbouring building but spread throughout The Royal Clarence Hotel, significant works have been completed to protect and restore the site’s historic fabric and, as enabling works are concluded, it will now be offered for sale.” The company’s insurance agreed a final settlement of £22,315,000 to compensate for the loss of the Royal Clarence to fire.

Italian casual dining group The new Gusto website has reported its new loyalty web app secured more than 10,000 sign-ups in its first ten days. The 18-strong group’s new platform, Gusto Gold Rewards, uses technology developed by Google and offers the functionality of a native app without needing to download it from an app store. Members of the scheme can earn 5% cash back on every food and drink purchase, while Gusto can directly target customers with discounts in response to their buying habits. Members also receive discounts from partner brands. Developed by Manchester-based digital agency Cube3, the app heralds a new direction for Gusto’s brand strategy – moving away from catch-all discounts to hyper-targeted promotions. Gusto marketing director James Newman said: “The market remains incredibly competitive and more than ever we need to be agile in our marketing. Gusto Gold Rewards gives us a single customer viewpoint enabling us to deliver sharper, more relevant and timely communications and promotions, while its technology makes it future proof and offers a super-slick customer experience for the end-user.”

Greene King LogoAt the end of December 2015, Greene King reported that it was shipping 50,000 cases of India pale ale to China following a surge in demand after President Xi Jinping drank a pint of the beer with the then Prime Minister David Cameron on his state visit to the UK. The Suffolk brewer and pub operator said demand for IPA from China had increased by 1,600% after Xi’s visit to Greene King’s pub The Plough at Cadsden in October. Twelve months on, Chinese investor, SinoFortune Investment, which was attracted to the pub following the President’s visit, acquired the pub with plans to expand the iconic British concept overseas. Three years on, Hong Kong’s richest family is to buy the 220-year-old pub and beer company for £2.7bn (£4.6bn including debt), or £1m for every one of the company’s 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels. Of course that only tells part of the story.

Rewinding to the end of 2016, the deal for the Plough at Cadsden, wasn’t the only pub transaction at that time involving Greene King and a Chinese-owned company. CKA Group, which is owned by Li Ka-shing, a 91-year-old multibillionaire, quietly – compared to the deal for The Plough – acquired 162 pubs let to Greene King from US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, in deal valued at circa £400m. CKA, which already has stakes in UK brands including Superdrug and telecoms firm Three, has already had its interest in the UK’s pub sector piqued and it is believed has been looking for an opportunity to make a bigger play in the sector ever since, with some suggestions it had previously run the rule over the Ei Group.

The timing of the deal, which I understand has been bubbling under for over three months, can be seen as cute, especially with the wider issues being faced by both Britain (Brexit uncertainties) and China (pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong). For the Hong Kong-based CKA, the deal for Greene King might be seen in some quarters as “getting more cash out of the country”. However, it is already one of the biggest overseas investor in the UK, and must be constantly looking at ways to diversify its property portfolio further. Depressed share prices combined with a depressed currency are providing those with the benefit of a long-term outlook unexpected opportunities to acquire established asset backed UK businesses. As one analyst put it: “the deal appears to demonstrate an appetite to deploy a very large volume of capital into a company with a significant holding of UK real estate, despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit.”

As I have said many times before, the UK’s largest pub groups have been undervalued by the City for too long. CKA’s bid for Greene King is 91% of the pub company’s all-time price high of 930p (December 2015) and 850p is broadly Net Asset Value, as was Stonegate’s recent bid for Ei Group. Unlike that proposed deal, it is hard to see anyone else coming in to muddy the waters – £2.7bn is a big ticket for the equity, a 51% premium on the sharp ice at the close of last week.

So what are CKA getting for its money? It gets a fairly new management team led by new chief executive Nick Mackenzie, a business where underlying performance is improving and a company that arguably has the best cash flows of all the pub groups. The company has also stabilised its brewery profits, and the cash flows, as with those of Pub Partners, have been recycled into the retail space and/or used to pay the dividend. There will of course be plenty for Mackenzie and his team to tweak, but the need for a major strategic review is not there. There remains significant benefits to come from the Spirit deal. His key thing, in the short to medium term, is to ensure that these are delivered. It sounds like the new owners will back him to do that.

Reading the statement, CKA wants to keep Greene King whole, so it will be a case of business as usual for the time being. Freeholds is where the focus will be. The market has long waited for Greene King to shed some of its leased estate but you would imagine CKA will look to assess that part of its business first before any packages came on the market. Of course CKA could look at further consolidation opportunities. George Colin Magnus, chairman designate of CK Bidco, which is the CK Asset vehicle that has agreed to acquire Greene King, said: “CKA’s strategy is to look for businesses with stable and resilient characteristics and strong cash flow-generating capabilities. The UK pub and brewing sector shares these characteristics and we believe this sector will continue to be an important part of British culture and the eating and drinking out market in the long run. Greene King, being a leading integrated pub retailer and brewer with strong real estate backing, is well positioned to capture the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Already this year Fuller’s has sold its brewing arm to Asahi; Ei Group has agreed to be taken over by Stonegate; and the Danish billionaire family that controls the Lego toy firm, with other investors, has agreed to pay £4.8bn for Merlin. Bids for the UK’s leading, large hospitality and leisure groups are becoming almost a monthly occurrence and there will surely be more to come. The premium being paid for Greene King means the multiple is a heady 10.0x Ebitda and one that would be hard to turn down for other asset backed pub companies. With freeholds being the strongest pull for overseas investors, Mitchells & Butlers obviously comes under the main focus but any suitor would have deal with awkward shareholders and full business securitisation. Marston’s seems like the obvious next target and you wonder whether both Stonegate and CKA already looked in its direction, especially with its asset portfolio and significant, and growing, distribution arm. Is it time to dust off those Greene King/Marston’s merger theses again? Marston’s, M&B and JDW all saw their shares uptick on the Greene King news, which is again a positive for a sector enjoying its moment in the sun as its casual dining cousins continue to suffer. (A penny for the thoughts of Mackenzie’s predecessor Rooney Anand, the chairman of the Casual Dining Group, which arguably could do with its own CKA Group coming along).

Speaking of its own pub investment in December 2016, SinoFortune Investment, which acquired the Plough in Cadsdenwith plans to expand the iconic British concept across China, said: “The English pub concept is growing very fast in China, and it’s the best way culturally to link people from different countries and build friendships.” It never did take off as they imagined it would, indeed one local visitor to the Plough told TripAdvisor that the pub had lost its “mojo” under the new ownership. You’d expect CKA and Greene King not to make the same mistake.

Vanessa Hall,

Vanessa Hall is in the running to become chief executive of restaurant group Vapiano after Cornelius Everke announced he would resign for personal reasons on Saturday, 31 August. Everke’s employment has been terminated by mutual consent and the company’s supervisory board intends to appoint current chairman Hall in the interim to replace him. Hall’s new position relies on her being reappointed to the supervisory board in the company’s annual general meeting but she has declared she is prepared to run the company until at least the end of April 2020. The supervisory board said it would immediately initiate a structured process for the appointment of a new chief executive in which Hall would “also be considered as a candidate for long-term succession”. The board said it would also extend Lutz Scharpe’s term as chief financial offer to June 2023. Everke became chief operating officer in May 2018 to manage the rapid growth of the fast casual restaurant concept in international markets. Following the resignation of Jochen Halfmann, he assumed responsibility as chief executive in December 2018, where he contributed to the company’s completion of its refinancing and strategic repositioning and led Vapiano into its current phase of “implementing optimisation measures on the basis of a restructuring concept validated by an independent expert”. Everke said he deemed Vapiano to be “well positioned in the current strategic transition phase”, but at the same time he had come to the conclusion he would be unable to “contribute as planned his specific experience and competence in the field of expanding international markets for the benefit of the company in the foreseeable future”. He said: “We have set the course for Vapiano’s successful future. I wish the company and Vanessa Hall, with whom I have worked well and trustingly together, every success.” Hinrich Stahl, vice-chairman of Vapiano’s supervisory board, said: “I would like to thank Cornelius Everke for his services, in particular in the intense recent phase. We are happy Vanessa has declared her readiness to lead the company as chief executive and have great confidence she, Lutz Scharpe and Johann Stohner, who joined as chief transformation officer on 1 July, will successfully shape the future.” Vapiano operates 233 restaurants in 33 countries.

Reubens in Baker StreetRestaurateur Lee Landau, who operates kosher venues across London under his Jewish restaurant vehicle S Group, has acquired Reubens in Baker Street. S Group’s portfolio consists of three sites for healthy cafe concept Soyo, in Golders Green, Edgware and Borehamwood; four venues for pizza and milkshake concept Pizaza, in Hendon, Golders Green, Edgware and Borehamwood; a delicatessen in Hampstead serving modern Middle Eastern cuisine; and Pita, a Middle Eastern street food store in Golders Green. The group said it had further sites under development it plans to launch in the “coming months”. Agent Davis Coffer Lyons was instructed to sell Reubens, the last kosher restaurant operating in the West End, after it closed in June following 46 years due to a family bereavement. The 3,376 square foot site has been sold on a new A3 lease, quoting rental offers in the region of £125,000 per annum exclusive. The restaurant is arranged over the ground and basement floors of a four-storey terraced Victorian building. S Group intends to give the iconic venue a face-lift and develop a restaurant downstairs at a later date. Landau said: “We are thrilled to give Reubens another lease of life while maintaining the integrity of this well-loved institution.” Jonathan Moradoff, director, agency and leasing at Davis Coffer Lyons, added: “Lee has a highly regarded reputation in kosher cuisine, which puts him in a fantastic position to capitalise on the following Reubens has established over so many decades.”

PunchRobin Belither, operations director at Greene King’s Metropolitan Pub Company division, is to join the operations team at Punch. Belither, an expert in retail and managed operations, joined Metropolitan Pub Company in March 2013 as operations manager, moving up to his present position in February this year. Before that he worked for ETM Group, which he joined from River Cottage in Devon in June 2010. Punch chief executive Clive Chesser said: “This is a really exciting time for Punch and we are looking forward to the future as we continue to build a bold and dynamic business. I’m looking forward to welcoming Robin to the team. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the hospitality sector, which will help us further deliver our plans, adding significant value to our publicans running pubs across the UK.”

Darwin & Wallace has launched healthy food takeaway initiative "Cluck & Collect"Darwin & Wallace, the “collection of independent sustainable bars located in quintessential London villages”, has announced the name of its eighth location. No 35 Mackenzie Walk will open on the waterfront in Canary Wharf in October. Mel Marriott, managing director and founder of Darwin & Wallace, said: “Our eighth site is at a tremendous waterside location in the heart of Canary Wharf and marks another exciting chapter as we move east, continuing our aspiration to create uniquely designed bars with a home from home aesthetic that forms the perfect backdrop for socialising from morning coffee to nightcap and everything in between. We are proud to have been invited to become part of Canary Wharf life and look forward to opening in the autumn.” Regarding the drinks offering, Darwin & Wallace brand manager Jessica Closs said: “It is a fantastic time to be in the business of food and drink. Our guests are becoming more and more astute and the diversification in all categories, in particular softs and low ABV, is proving exciting. Sustainable choices, syrups and purees made in-house where possible, seasonal refreshes and brands with a great story are just a few of the things we look forward to sharing with our new Canary Wharf neighbourhood.”

Bar & Nightclub ConferenceThis year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by UKHospitality and Propel, is open for bookings. The event takes place on Wednesday, 16 October at The Troxy in Commercial Road, London. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, chairman of the Mayor’s Night-time Commission and a panel member of the government’s cultural cities inquiry, will provide an update on political and regulatory developments such as PPL price increases that are affecting the bar and nightclub sector. Karl Chessell, business unit director at CGA, will reveal details of new research on usage, areas of growth, and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. Paul Hayes, sales director at Design My Night, which operates in 13 UK cities, will provide an overview of where customer demand is strongest in the bar and nightclub market, key leisure trends and growth areas as consumers seek richer, more immersive experiences. James Scott, director of insights at Bibendum, will examine the key drinks trends in the UK bar and nightclub sector, looking at growth opportunities and gaps in the market. London Cocktail Club founder JJ Goodman will talk about the founding and evolution of his business, trading in London, staff training, and evolving cocktails and other products. Arc Inspirations founder Martin Wolstencroft will give his views on the evolution of bars and reveal how the company has modernised the sports bar offer with its Box concept. Peter Marks, chief executive of bar and nightclub company Deltic, will talk about the company’s investment plans, brand evolution, shifting dynamics of the late-night market and the growing importance of entertainment, digital capability and pre-booked sales. Propel managing director Paul Charity will talk to Aaron Mellor, founder of Tokyo Industries, about the ever-increasing importance of creating immersive experiences in the bar and nightclub sector, his ground-breaking Boogie Wonderland in Ibiza, the development of his boutique dance festival Lost Village, and operating a nightclub in Los Angeles. Mitchells & Butlers divisional director Susan Chappell will talk about evolution, product offer, staff training and marketing at its bar brand All Bar One, which is 25 years old this year. Leading licensing barrister Philip Kolvin QC will provide a personal perspective on the key legal issues and developments bar and nightclub operators face in the current climate. Kate Nicholls will talk to Sacha Lord, owner of the Warehouse project, about his career in the sector and his work as Manchester night-time tsar and also host a panel featuring Institute of Licensing chairman Lord Smith, Rockpoint Leisure founder Dan Davies, East Coast Concepts managing director Simon Kaye and Chase Consultancy principal Paul Chase about the trading, economic and regulatory issues the sector faces. The conference will be followed by the Dusk ’til Dawn awards. Tickets are £139+VAT for operators who are UKHospitality members and £195+VAT for non-UKHospitality members. Supplier tickets are £185+VAT for UKHospitality supplier members and £285+VAT for suppliers who are not UKHospitality members. Tickets can be booked by emailing Anne Steele at

Restaurant imageUK restaurant numbers have fallen for the sixth quarter in a row, the new edition of the Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners has revealed. Independent operators have borne the brunt of the closures, with group-owned restaurants proving more resilient despite some major brand failures. The quarterly survey of the country’s supply of licensed premises reports a 3.4% drop in restaurant numbers in the 12 months to June 2019 – an average of about 18 net closures a week. For group-owned restaurants, defined as businesses with more than one site, the reduction in numbers was smaller, at 1.2%, reflecting the fact some groups, especially small to medium-sized operations, continue to open sites. In a new review of cuisine types, the Market Growth Monitor shows the Italian, Indian and Chinese sectors have recorded the most net closures in the past 12 months. The number of group-owned restaurants specialising in Italian food fell 3.2% after site closures and some high-profile business restructuring – with the collapse of Jamie’s Italian the most prominent casualty. “The trend suggests more market contraction could follow,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA. However, many other cuisine types have been in strong growth. CGA research reveals Middle Eastern, Turkish and Caribbean sectors all have at least 60% more restaurants than they did five years ago, while the number of vegetarian restaurants has increased more than a third in only 12 months. AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “The rapid growth of restaurants focused on certain cuisine types highlights how they can quickly find favour in response to the fast-changing tastes of British diners. The Asian-led part of the restaurant market is of particular interest to investors. It is popular with consumers and there is a comparative lack of chains with national scale, making it ripe for further M&A activity. We would expect private equity to be increasingly active in this segment of the market in response to this consumer-led demand. However, overall market pressures can still result in valuations and terms falling short of sellers’ expectations. This was shown by the owners of Thai restaurant brand Giggling Squid choosing not to sell at the current time after its recent marketing process.” Across the licensed sector as a whole, Britain’s number of premises dropped 2.4% in the 12 months to June 2019 to less than 117,000, with the rate of closures of pubs and bars lower than the market average at 2.0%. The report also indicates a further drop in leased pub sites. The number of wet-led leased pubs fell 25% in the five years to June 2019 to less than 13,000 – partly a reflection of moves by major pub companies to switch to directly managed sites and a switch to food.

The BattleaxesThe acquisition by Country Pub Group, owned by young hospitality entrepreneur Matthew Lowe, of two pubs owned by Flatcappers – The Battleaxes in Wraxall and The Castle Inn in Bradford-on-Avon – provided an exit from Flatcappers for Loungers founders Alex Reilley, Jake Bishop and David Reid. Writing in his Propel Premium Diary, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett wrote: “The deal sees the three founders of Loungers – Alex Reilley, David Reid and Jake Bishop – leave the business they co-founded with former Bibendum manager Pierre Woodford. The Loungers founders had owned more than a third of the West Country-based pub company.” On how Loungers itself is doing, he added: “Loungers, the listed operator of neighbourhood cafe-bar restaurants trading under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, will provide the market with its full-year trading update at the end of this month, with the wider sector hoping the Nick Collins-led group can once again provide much-needed positivity. If the group’s latest opening is anything to go by, there are no worries it will do just that. Earlier this month the company invested about £700,000 in opening Poco Lounge in the centre of King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Diary is currently on holiday nearby and can report the site is proving very popular in its new community. How popular? Diary hears the site is on track to set a new Lounge opening week record. Not bad for a company that opened its 150th site earlier this year.”

Mitie Group has entered into an agreement to sell its Gather & Gather catering and hospitality business for a consideration of up to £85 million in cash (on a debt-free, cash-free basis). As part of the deal, Mitie and CH&CO will enter into a strategic partnership ensuring that the Gather & Gather catering offer remains exclusive to Mitie’s clients. The company stated: “The decision to sell Mitie Catering follows a strategic review of Mitie’s business, focusing in particular on how to ensure that Mitie’s clients benefit from the very best in catering choice and competitive pricing. This concluded that Mitie Catering’s long-term future would be better served by being part of a larger specialist catering group, rather than being self-delivered by Mitie. As a Royal Warrant holder for the provision of catering services to Her Majesty The Queen and other prestigious clients, CH&CO possesses the expertise and scale to enhance the range of catering services that Mitie provides. The staff and senior management team of Mitie Catering, including managing director, Allister Richards, will transfer to CH&CO and will continue to run the business. Whilst Catering services will remain an important part of Mitie’s service offering to its customers, under the strategic partnership with CH&CO, Mitie will no longer be self-delivering this service. Mitie already works with a number of expert partners to deliver other specialist services, ensuring that service quality and innovation are maintained for its customers. This disposal continues Mitie’s strategy of focusing and simplifying the group’s operations. The proceeds of the sale will be used to further strengthen Mitie’s balance sheet and reinvest in Mitie’s core business.” Phil Bentley, chief executive, Mitie Group, said: “Mitie’s strategy is to invest in our core technology-led facilities management services – such as security, cleaning and engineering services – where we have a leading market position. Gather & Gather is a niche player in the £4 billion UK contract catering market. By teaming up with CH&CO at this time, we believe this ensures the best choice and competitive pricing for our clients, whilst releasing funds for reinvestment and strengthening our balance sheet. The Gather & Gather management team will continue to lead the business and we look forward to working with them on delivering their unique offering to our existing clients and on future IFM opportunities.” Mitie Catering is a leader in contemporary contract workplace dining, hospitality and event catering services in the UK and Ireland, employing over 3,600 people at over 330 sites across the UK and Ireland. Bill Toner, chief executive, CH&CO, said: “This acquisition is a key part of our growth strategy and represents a great opportunity for Mitie, Gather & Gather and CH&CO. We are very excited about the future growth potential for our business in our strategic partnership with Mitie – we bring scale and catering expertise; Mitie brings an extensive client list and innovation, and we both share a reputation for great customer service. The sharing of best practice will drive an even better service for our clients, and the enlarged CH&CO group creates unparalleled opportunities for growth.” The Consideration comprises an initial consideration of £73m payable in cash at completion, and a deferred consideration of up to £12m. Half of the deferred consideration of £12m is payable within 12 months of completion and half is payable within four years of completion subject to the achievement of certain performance milestones. For the financial year ended 31 March 2019, Mitie Catering reported audited revenues of £136.1m and operating profit before other items of £5.2m. The operating profit contribution before other items and internal group recharges of Mitie was £8.3m for the same period. CH&CO will report annual revenues of nearly £300m for financial year ending 31 December 2018.

Sukho Group, the parent company of the Sukhothai and Zaap Thai restaurant brands, has undergone a partial management buyout. The deal sees the current management team joining founders Gerrard Marks and Yupha (Ban) Kaewkraikhot as shareholders. It will be the first time the management team has taken a shareholding in the Sukhothai and Zaap Thai operator, with the founders to remain active on the board. The deal was also supported by an included fund-raise via HSBC. Marks, chief executive of Sukhothai Group, said: “We have amazing people at Sukhothai and Zaap and it’s great to give the management team the chance to play an even bigger part in the success of the business.” Marc Hutchinson, of BDO’s northern mergers and acquisitions team, which advised on the deal, said: “Sukhothai Group continues to go from strength to strength, with Zaap representing a genuinely original and exciting concept for restaurant-goers in the region.” Sukho Group recently had plans approved to open a fourth site for Zaap Thai, in York. The company will now transform the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Lendal with the opening next month creating 30 jobs. Sukho Group operates Zaap restaurants in Leeds, Newcastle and Nottingham and three Sukhothai restaurants in Leeds and one in Harrogate.

Inception Group, which operates an eclectic collection of London bars and restaurants including Mr Fogg’s, Bunga Bunga and Cahoots, will open its latest site in London, in Soho’s Kingly Street in October. The Ticket Hall & Control Room will be spread across two floors and open opposite the original Cahoots. The company has been operating a pop-up – Casa Bonita – on the former Cinnamon Soho site since the start of the year. The original Cahoots, designed to resemble a 1940s underground station, launched in Kingly Court in 2015. Earlier this year Propel revealed Inception Group had appointed advisers as it looks to assess its growth options. The 11-strong, London-based business, which was founded in 2009 by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, appointed advisory firm Tamweel Capital to aid the process, although it is understood the company is in “no rush” to make a decision on its growth plans.

Beds and Bars venue Belushi’s in Hammersmith, a sports bar and party venue in the heart of west London, has undergone a £650,000 refurbishment as part of a wider plan to premiumise the brand’s offering across London. The company stated: “The Hammersmith branch is the final Belushi’s in London to be refurbished following investments in our sites in Camden, Greenwich, Shepherd’s Bush and London Bridge to take our brand and customer experience to the next level, one bar at a time. Our vision was to create an integrated venue offering ultimate sports entertainment alongside great-value food and drink and a late-night party atmosphere. Following the month-long refurbishment our bar is flaunting a fresh new look on the inside and out with a more premium food and drink offering as well as daily entertainment with a focus on nightly events and sports. After dinner service we remove tables to create a dance floor enhanced by a high-tech lighting system. With the aim to modernise and elevate our venue into the ultimate late-night party and sports bar, we’ve added special features to enhance a sports fans’ experience, including the addition of London’s first pull-out stadium seating, a giant high-definition projector and investment in premium technology and audio with 20 high-definition televisions. Our new booths have also been fitted with PlayStation 4s to create an e-gaming element. As the Premier League kicks off, we look forward to showing customers old and new what we have created.”

YO! Sushi has launched a “DNA dining experience” in partnership with genetic testing company DNAFitGlobal multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group YO! is returning to Dublin, where it will open a second site for its non-belt, full-service restaurant concept YO! Kitchen. The first YO! Kitchen is set to launch in Westfield White City in London next month and Propel has learned a second site will follow at Dundrum in Dublin later in the autumn. The new menu at the sites will feature dishes such as katsu curry arancini, Japanese corndog and salmon kushi katsu. YO! closed its Dublin restaurant a few years ago, leaving it with no sites in the Republic of Ireland, although it operates a venue in Belfast. In April, YO! announced it would launch a site with no conveyor belt at the new Westfield White City site to “broaden the brand’s appeal”. At the time chief executive Richard Hodgson said the change would be “probably the biggest thing that’s happened to YO! since it was founded”, while removing the belt would enable the chain to highlight the quality of its food and that it’s “no longer only a sushi concept”. Earlier this week YO! enlisted agency Pablo to communicate to customers how much it has diversified its menus and product range. The company has also revealed it will open another YO! To Go concessions with Tesco in Lincoln. It is currently trialling the counters at two Tesco stores – in Surrey and Bournemouth.

Jamie Barber has acquired the five-strong London estate of Cabana, the Brazilian barbecue group he founded with David Ponte, through his Hush vehicle. Cabana was placed on the market last month. Will Wright and Steve Absolom, of KPMG’s restructuring practice, were appointed joint administrators to Cabana Restaurants Limited (“Cabana”) on Friday (16 August).

The premium casual dining brand takes inspiration from the street food of Brazil and operates seven sites in the UK, five of them in London, and employs 224 staff. Immediately following the appointment of the joint administrators, the five London sites and assets were sold to Hush. In total, 156 employees have been transferred with immediate effect. The two underperforming restaurants in Southampton and Manchester are not part of the sale and will close immediately. The London sites will continue to trade as Cabana and operate alongside the company’s Hache group of restaurants and the original Hush in Mayfair.

Barber told Propel: “It’s very sad to see the closure of two restaurants in Southampton and Manchester. However, we have acquired all of Cabana’s restaurants in London and protected more than 150 jobs with a package of funding that allows investment into the estate. The trading environment continues to be challenging and despite significant progress Cabana made last year, it has become clear that its long-term future is best served as part of a larger group. The acquisition, which had the support of our shareholders, is an important strategic step for both brands.”

Wright said: “Following a thorough marketing process we are pleased to have been able to conclude a sale of the business.”

Absolom added: “While it is always pleasing to preserve a significant number of jobs, sadly a number of redundancies are to be made at the restaurants in Manchester and Southampton. Over the coming days our priority is to ensure all employees who have been affected by redundancy receive the information and guidance they need in order to claim monies owed from the Redundancy Payments Office.”

Cabana closed three sites last year – in Islington, Brixton and Newcastle – and shuttered its site at the Trinity Centre in Leeds last month after deciding not to renew the lease. Propel understands the company spent last year doing a lot of “heavy lifting”, including speaking to landlords and rebalancing its offer to ensure the business was more robust.

Wagamama logoWagamama, owned by The Restaurant Group (TRG), has opened a delivery-only kitchen in London Fields, Propel has learned. The brand has taken space at the Railway Arches in Mentmore Terrace.

The company opened a dark kitchen to prepare takeaway food and alcoholic drinks for delivery only at the start of this month, despite objections from local residents. Wagamama is working with UberEats and Just Eat through the delivery-only kitchen.

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 near Fenchurch Street 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.

Hickory’s Smokehouse, which is backed by Piper, has secured a site in Shrewsbury. The company has agreed to take the lease from landlord Morris Property for a premises that houses Waterfront nightclub in Victoria Quay, which fronts the river Severn. The first Hickory’s Smokehouse opened in Chester in 2010 after founder Neil McDonnell extensively researched the American barbecue and smokehouse sector. The team behind Hickory’s has been operating in Chester for almost 20 years with Barlounge and its award-winning steakhouse Upstairs At The Grill. There are now ten Hickory’s Smokehouse restaurants in the north west and Midlands – the most recent opening in Poynton last month. The Shrewsbury site will offer 170 covers and a large bar, with 80 staff recruited ahead of an opening in early December. Hickory’s managing director John Welsh said: “The opportunity to come to Shrewsbury excites us all. There are some great plans for the town. We’re working closely with Shropshire Council’s economic growth unit and genuinely want to play our part. It’s a stunning location.” Cllr Steve Charmley added: “We believe having Hickory’s in Shrewsbury will be the catalyst for further development of Victoria Quay.” Hickory’s recently took the lease of the Boddington Arms in Wilmslow, Manchester. Planning processes are taking place with an opening expected in early 2020. McDonnell said: “It is incredibly exciting to open these Hickory’s restaurants. We’ve carefully chosen all the areas – places rich in history and character with thriving communities. We have all been humbled by the welcome we’ve received. Next year is a big year for us too, with Barlounge celebrating its 20th year and Hickory’s Chester reaching its first decade.”

Red Oak Taverns has completed the acquisition of an 18-strong package of leased and tenanted pubs from Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth for an undisclosed sum and plans a £1m investment in the new sites. In May, Propel revealed Wadworth had put 24 of its tenanted pubs on the market through agent Christie & Co – nine pubs on an individual basis and 15 as part of a package.

Red Oak secured exclusivity over 18 pubs in the portfolio. The pubs are all located in the south and south west and strengthen the strong regional bias of Red Oak’s existing estate, which now comprises 179 pubs. Red Oak Taverns co-founder Mark Grunnell said: “We are delighted to have secured this quality portfolio of pubs from Wadworth. We believe the pubs and licensees will benefit from Red Oak’s flexible approach to operating leased and tenanted pubs and from the £1m of investment we have planned for the acquired portfolio. Our focus has already turned to building the strong relationships with our new tenant partners required to preserve the sustainability of these great British assets and the invaluable contribution they make to our communities.”

He added: “Approaching the eighth anniversary of our formation, we are still in our infancy and planning for the long term. We have built a strong platform, have a clear strategy and look forward to growing our business substantially over the coming years.”

Wadworth chief executive Chris Welham said: “We are delighted to confirm a sale has been agreed to Red Oak Taverns. The sale has involved all parties working closely together to cause minimal disturbance to the tenants and their businesses.”

Simon Chaplin, senior director at Christie & Co, added: “This is further proof of the continuing strength in the pubs market as the sale attracted interest from numerous parties looking to acquire these assets.” Grunnell founded Red Oak Taverns with Aaron Brown in 2011. Wadworth operates more than 150 pubs.

Greene King is strengthening the operations team of its 70-strong gastro-pub business Metropolitan Pub Company by appointing Michael Horan as business unit director. Horan is operations director for Loch Fyne and will retain his current responsibilities. Metropolitan Pub Company operates mainly in the London area and recently launched new concept Darts Club at The Alexandra in Clapham and The Old Tea Warehouse in Aldgate. Karen Bosher, Greene King local pubs director, said: “Metropolitan has amazing pubs in great locations and is going from strength to strength. Michael brings broad experience across a wide range of formats and extensive food expertise to help us with the next phase of growth.” Horan joined Greene King in 2018 and has a wide range of hospitality experience including being operations director at YO!

Incipio Group, which received £5m from entertainment and leisure investor Edition Capital earlier this year to open six sites in 18 months, is to launch its first in-house restaurant at The Prince in West Brompton. Wildcard Kitchen will open at the venue in Lillie Road, which Incipio launched in November 2017. Until now, The Prince’s four restaurants have been concessions. Incipio describes Wildcard Kitchen as sourcing the “best British produce to create the most flavour-packed dishes inspired from around the world”. An advert for chef positions states: “With an adaptable menu and one-off specials, Wildcard goes all-in for taste.” Earlier this month Incipio launched Lost In Brixton, a 440-capacity bar in a hidden corner of Brixton Village. Using technology from the Tablesnapper platform, guests can order food from restaurant traders in Brixton Village and Market Row. Customers scan a QR code on their table, order food from the restaurant listed, pay online and receive their food from a runner – making Lost the world’s first kitchen-less restaurant. Since 2015, Incipio Group has specialised in creating large social venues focusing on food and drink, transforming sites to provide “fashionable and out-of-the ordinary drinking and dining experiences”. Its other sites are Pergola Olympia, a rooftop venue with three restaurants and two bars overlooking Kensington Olympia; Pergola Paddington, an 850-capacity two-tiered space in the heart of Paddington; and W12 Studios in White City, which offers live music and a monthly rotating restaurant line-up. The company is set to launch a new late-night venue in Kensington in October. Part of the funding secured from Edition Capital, which values the business at £20.5m, is being used for a large-scale site in Wimbledon with further venues planned for Mayfair and Putney. Next year Incipio Group will open its first site outside London, in Birmingham.

Cocktail bar group Dirty Martini, which is owned by CG Restaurants & Bars, has reported a 12% increase in like-for-like sales across the 13 weeks to 28 July 2019. London and regional sites all delivered an increase, with London up 6.6% and regional markets up 19.4%. July was particularly strong, with the group showing like-for-like sales up 23.8%. The company said the figures were driven by planned refurbishments at key London sites in St Paul’s and Bishopsgate, producing a 21.6% increase, a focus on late-night atmosphere and entertainment, which increased sales after 10pm by 14.2%, and more than 2,000 covers generated by Dirty Martini’s popular Summer Bottomless Brunch offer. Chief executive Scott Matthews said: “Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham continue to go from strength to strength as they enter their second-year of trading, which we see following all new openings. We were also pleased to see a strong increase across our existing London sites. Our continued focus on delivering a premium experience across multiple dayparts, from mid-afternoon to late night, continues to be well received by our customers.” He added: “It is encouraging to see July continue the upward trend giving us a high level of confidence in our ongoing expansion programme as we target new sites in Liverpool and Newcastle and invest in our existing estate with refurbishments scheduled for Cardiff and Hanover Square.” Dirty Martini currently operates 11 bars – seven in London and others in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester.

Former Duck and Waffle executive chef Tom Cenci and House Café Company boss Adam White are to open a bar restaurant in Bermondsey. They will relaunch House Café venue Village East as the Loyal Tavern on Friday, 6 September offering seasonal menus and cheese toasties for late-night snacks. The former textile factory’s interiors have been given a makeover to offer 100 covers, two bars and a private dining room. Cenci’s menu will be produce-led with dishes such as Cornish mackerel with apple, pine nut and truffle; venison tartar with beef dripping; and daily specials such as rib of retired dairy cow or gurnard with crab bisque, carrot and seaweed. Antonio Del Monte, formerly of The Ned, will run the bar offering natural, new world British and international wine to pair with the menu. Wine flights are available to order in three different measurements alongside a broad beer selection. House Café Company operates Rail House Cafe in Victoria and Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia.

Artist impression of the new Paul bakery at The Broadway shopping centre in Hammersmith Broadway

Paul UK, the 37-strong French bakery and cafe brand, has reported like-for-like sales rose 3.4% (2017: 2.4%) for the year ended 31 December 2018, with turnover up 7.4% to £38m. Online sales increased by 43.9%. A new concept store, Paul Express, was launched at St Pancras Station, focusing on quick service with a new hot and cold food range. Paul Canary Wharf relocated to a larger unit, selling a wider range of baked goods. The brand’s delivery range was further developed resulting in a partnership with City Pantry to allow Paul to offer a greater platter selection for meetings. As part of the ‘Paul Cares Policy’, Paul increased its reusable cup benefit, from a 25p to a 50p customer discount, as well as removing all plastic straws from the business. The company stated: “Business experienced a positive uplift in second half 2018, which has continued for 2019. Like-for-like turnover is up by 9.5% year to date, with margins showing favourable variances to last year. The company opened a second Paul Express in May on Tottenham Court Road, focusing on grab & go and offering Well Being breakfast and lunch choices. PAUL launched its first mobile payment and loyalty app, allowing customers to collect reward points and receive tailored offers through their phones. The company has saved over 31,000 meals from landfill through its partnership with Too Good To Go, the app that helps to reduce food waste. The brand is in its fourth year of partnering with The Felix Project charity through its Paul Share programme, distributing not only unsold items, but specially baked products such as bread pudding using surplus bread, to the homeless and underprivileged.” Susanne Sauerland, finance director at PAUL UK said: “This is a solid performance by Paul in the light of continued uncertainty within the sector. Our results in the second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 are showing significant increases in like-for-like turnover, primarily due to new product development, improved technology/online sales and, of course, the commitment, passion and capabilities of our team.”

Steve Alton, Vianet

Vianet chairman James Dickson has argued that Steve Alton, who has headed his Smart Zones division, is ideally suited to become the new chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII). He said: “We have no doubt that Steve’s draught beer quality expertise and insight make him ideally suited for his new role and he leaves with our best wishes.” He is being replaced at Vianet by Craig Brocklehurst, currently commercial operations director. Vianet reported trading for the first four months of 2020 financial year has been as anticipated with the group being on course to meet market expectations. The group’s Smart Machines division has successfully concluded negotiations on three long-term contracts with leading vending operators. The combined contracts for 20,000 units will generate in the region of £10 million of revenue over the three to five year contract terms, which further underpins the growth of Smart Machines.

TeaPremium and loose-leaf options are driving tea sales in UK coffee shops, according to World Coffee Portal’s annual analysis of the out-of-home tea segment. Project Tea UK 2019 estimates 3.6 million hot teas are drunk in the UK’s specialised coffee shop segment every week – 4.4% of the average UK coffee shop sales mix. Tea revenues were £302m in 2018, up 11.1% year-on-year, with UK out-of-home tea sales forecast to reach £329m for 2019, an 8.9% rise from the previous year. While UK industry leaders remain positive in their outlook for sales, almost two-fifths (37%) of tea drinkers surveyed perceive tea out of home as “poor value for money”. The report said introducing a premium range of loose-leaf tea could generate “value-driven narratives around provenance, preparation and appreciation”, which could also spark interest from the almost one-third (31%) of respondents who choose loose-leaf tea rather than tea bags. The report said major UK coffee chains such as Coffee#1, Benugo and Boston Tea Party had contributed to the tea premiumisation trend by offering scaled loose-leaf tea. The report also stated operators should seek to expand their tea ranges to boost sales, with more than one-fifth (21%) of respondents purchasing a green, herbal or fruit tea on their last visit. More than two-fifths (42%) of respondents are more likely to buy tea at independent coffee shops versus branded chains (22%) because of a desire to support local businesses and the perception independents offer “greater attention to detail in terms of tea preparation and service”. More than three-fifths (61%) of UK industry leaders surveyed described the short-term sales prospects for out-of-home tea as positive, a 6% reduction on the previous year. More than three-fifths (61%) of respondents said better-quality beverages would encourage them to drink more tea out of home, while an increased menu range would compel 40% to do so. Allegra founder and chief executive Jeffrey Young said: “Tea is yet another category of UK hospitality that’s seeing a shift towards premiumisation. Premium teas provide further opportunities for foodservice operators to increase average spend and increase the breadth of their customer base.”

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

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 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 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 ElliottNominations will close this week 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 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 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

Star Pubs & Bars

Propel Multi Club June 2019

Propel Multi Club

27th June 2019

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Propel Quarterly Summer 2019

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