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Boston Tea Party eyes expansion after reporting Ebitda up 60%

Boston Tea Party

All-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party has said it will look to add four or five sites a year during the next three years as it reported a record year of growth.

Ebitda increased 60% year-on-year, while sales rose 7.1% during the period despite no venue launches. The figures come 16 months after Boston Tea Party became the first cafe chain to ban single-use coffee cups.

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Gordon to step down from Chiktopia role:
Alastair Gordon is to step down as managing director of better chicken concept Chiktopia to set up his own consultancy working alongside startups and young businesses, Propel has learned.

Gordon has been at Chiktopia since January 2019, working with founders Mark Lilley and Dan Einzig. As managing director, it was Gordon’s role to work alongside the founders to bring the Chiktopia vision to life and grow the brand’s culture, values and team.

To read the rest of this story and the whole of our latest Morning Briefing, CLICK HERE

Ralph Findlay, Chief Executive, Marston'sMarston’s, the brewer and pub operator, this morning announced that it saw a 1.0% increase in total managed and franchise like-for-like sales growth for the 16 weeks to 18 January 2020, which the company said reflected continued growth in drinks sales offset by weaker food sales.

The Ralph Findlay-led business said that trading over the Christmas fortnight was strong, with like-for-like sales growth of 4.5%, which compensated for more subdued trading in the first three weeks of December as a consequence of poor weather. The company said that costs have generally been in line with the guidance it provided at its preliminary results in November.

However, it added that the recently announced 6.2% increase in the National Minimum Wage from April is higher than anticipated, and will increase second half year costs by a further c£2-3 million. In terms of its drinks arm, Marston’s Beer Company, it said that volumes were slightly behind last year reflecting a “weaker performance in the off-trade in December, particularly with lager sales”. The company added that excluding lager, volumes were in line with last year. It said: “Given the margin profile of the off-trade, despite the volume decline, earnings are in line with our expectations.” The company has previously set out its intention to reduce borrowings by £200m by 2023, with the intention to generate annual net cashflow of at least £50m after dividends by that time.

The company said: “We are focussed on achieving this target as quickly as possible, principally through the acceleration of our disposal programme. In the year to date, we have completed or exchanged on £60 million of disposals. Having originally targeted £40 million of disposal proceeds, we increased that to £70 million in November 2019 and today further increase the target to £85-90 million.”

Findlay (pictured) said: “Marston’s has delivered a creditable performance in a challenging market. Trading in the key Christmas fortnight was good and has remained solid since which is encouraging. Our balanced pub portfolio enables us to perform well in the context of current market dynamics and our market-leading Beer Company has continued to increase market share in both the on and the off trade in the period.

“We are making excellent progress on our debt reduction strategy, well ahead of the original 2023 target. Looking forward, greater clarity on the political agenda should positively impact consumer confidence. Overall the economic environment for the consumer looks encouraging with low unemployment and healthy wage growth providing us with increasing confidence that the market will grow in 2020.”

Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant (QSR) chain in the US, has begun a search for its UK debut site with a focus on Greater London, Propel has learned.

The company, which operates more than 6,000 sites worldwide, has appointed property agent Savills to seek possible sites in locations including – but not limited to – Brixton, Camden, Ealing, Hounslow, Lewisham, Wandsworth and Wimbledon. Propel understands the company is interested in opening drive-thrus, dine-in restaurants and units in food courts, the high street and shopping centre schemes, with sites holding between 40 and 125 covers.

Last year Propel revealed Wendy’s was planning a return to the UK with an opening in the “next 12 to 18 months”. Speaking at an investor day for the brand, chief executive Todd Penegor said the business would “kick-start a broader expansion plan across Europe with the launch of some company-owned sites in the UK”. The company said it had carried out extensive research into the UK market, questioning more than 3,000 British consumers about what they thought of the Wendy’s brand.

Wendy’s head of US development and international president Abigail Pringle told investors the company saw Europe as an “exciting new frontier”, with the UK its “beach head for European expansion”. She said: “We believe the UK has a growing QSR hamburger segment and has great growth ahead of it. We see a clear opportunity for a challenger brand in the UK, with a clear consumer need only we can fulfil. We have already secured development partners and marketing partnerships that are excited and ready to go.”

It’s thought the company will follow a hybrid strategy for its UK expansion, with a mixture of company-owned restaurants and multiple franchisees. The second phase of the brand’s expansion will see it launch in “priority anchor markets in Europe”. The group attempted to break into the UK market before the end of the last millennium but surrendered ten leases in 2000.

Just’s proposed c£5.9bn acquisition of Just Eat, which was signed off by European authorities two weeks ago, is to be reviewed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), forcing the timetable for the transaction to be revised.

The CMA confirmed it was to launch an investigation into the proposed acquisition. It said it was considering whether the deal will result in a “substantial lessening of competition” in the respective market. The CMA invites comments on the transaction from any interested party by the deadline of 6 February.

A takeover battle between and Prosus for Just Eat ended earlier this month, after Just Eat shareholders accepted the former’s bid, which would create the takeaway delivery sector’s biggest firms. However, the deal will now face scrutiny from the CMA. The Amsterdam-based announced after the close of trading yesterday that it understood that the regulator intends unexpectedly to conduct a targeted investigation focused on assessing whether would, absent the Just Eat transaction, have re-entered the UK market.

The Dutch firm said its previous foray into the UK market was “unsuccessful” and only raised £76,000 in annual revenues before it closed in 2016. It confirmed that it “did not have the intention to re-enter the UK market absent the transaction with Just Eat” and said it is confident it can secure clearance for the deal. said together with its advisers it will work with the UK monopoly regulator to respond to any questions it may have and is confident that merger clearance will be obtained.

Under CMA rules, Just Eat and Takeaway could still close their deal during the investigation. But the two companies are expected to face an “enforcement order” that would stop them from being integrated while under review. This morning said that in light of the possible CMA investigation, the company had revised the expected timetable for the deal, effectively delaying it by one week. It said the combined company will be re-named “Just Eat N.V.” on 31 January 2020, and the shares will trade under the ticker “JET” on the London Stock Exchange, and will continue to trade under the ticker “TKWY” on Euronext Amsterdam. Trading in the company’s shares will commence under the new name Just Eat with effect from 3 February 2020.

At the end of last year, the CMA launched an in-depth investigation into Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo after the two companies decided against offering concessions to get the deal over the line. The CMA had raised concerns over the $575m (£437m) investment at the start of December, saying it could potentially limit competition and push up prices in the online food delivery and grocery market.

ChilangoA group of investors in the mini bonds offered by Chilango have decided to cash out their investments, rather than wait to see if the company would pay out in the future.

At the end of last year, those that took part in the Chilango’s ‘burrito bond’ fundraise between October 2018 and April 2019, which raised £3.7m, were given the option of either receiving 10p in every £1 they invested or swapping their mini-bond debts for debt-like shares, which promised returns sometime in the future.

Now according to recently filed documents related to Chilango’s Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), 14 bondholders who collectively invested £47,500 in the company’s mini-bonds voted to cash out their holdings for a total of just £4,750.

Emails sent out to some creditors on 30 December revealed enough of the firm’s shareholders had voted in favour of Chilango’s proposal to transfer the company’s mini-bond debt into a new form of equity. It meant investors in its 8% burrito bonds no longer faced the prospect of automatically losing 90p in every £1 they invested without any say, but the new debt-like shares they could be left with still does not guarantee them the returns they signed up for. A letter previously sent to bondholders told them the preferred equity “will attract an 8% annual dividend going forward”, which will be paid “when the directors consider it appropriate”, and “if there is available cash”.

At the start of this month, Chilango’s CVA proposals were approved after receiving the support of the vast majority of the group’s creditors and shareholders, with 84% voting in favour of the arrangement for Mucho Mas Limited (the primary trading entity) and 98.6% voting in favour of the Chilango Bonds arrangement. This included 75% of Chilango’s landlords. The shareholders also approved, by a near 90% vote, the creation of a preferred share class.

As part of the CVA proposal, the company will also exit leases for unopened sites in Bristol, Leeds and Brighton, plus its former site in Camden, now sublet to German Doner Kebab. It also proposes to cut rents by 40% at its sites in London’s Leather Lane, Birmingham and Boxpark Croydon. The steps are part of the company’s plans to get a grip on its finances and its £6.9m debt pile.

Royal Foresters – Oakman InnsOakman Inns and Restaurants, led by Peter Borg-Neal, has secured the first tranche of funds in the £10m fund-raise it launched at the end of 2019.

Propel understands the 24-strong business has raised £2.5m in three weeks from existing investors as its looks to open four sites. As part of the fund-raise investors can buy equity or earn 7.5% per annum with a preference share product, which is tax efficient, or a 10% rolled-up bond.

It’s understood the company, which has generated like-for-like growth of 5.5% during the past four and a half years, is looking at a valuation multiple of between ten to 14 times for its freehold estate, while its leasehold estate is valued at a six to ten times multiple. It is also forecasting turnover of circa £98.5m for its financial year 2023/24, with company Ebitda forecast to reach £18.4m.

Mature sites at the business, which has debt of about £40m, are currently generating Ebitda of £335,000.

Punch Pubs & Co has completed the acquisition of seven pubs from Heartstone Inns for an undisclosed sum. The package of pubs is spread across the south west of England and comprises The Cricketers, The Diggers Rest, The King Alfred, The Owl, The Pelican, The Bathurst Arms and The Talbot. Heartstone, which is led by co-founder James Birch, will continue to operate its remaining eight pubs.

Punch chief executive Clive Chesser said: “We are pleased to welcome these seven wonderful pubs into the Punch family and look forward to working together with our new publicans and their teams. We would like to thank Heartstone Inns, which has been working closely with us to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.

“We have plans to invest in all seven pubs during 2020, providing them with industry-leading support to allow them to flourish while ensuring they continue to operate at the very heart of their communities. We will provide further updates as these plans progress but in the meantime the pubs remain open and trading as usual.”

Birch said: “We are delighted to have sold seven of our pubs to Punch. As a result, we can continue to develop and expand our remaining estate of large, food-led, managed pubs. We would like to thank our transferring staff for their loyalty and hard work and wish them, their customers and Punch the very best for the future.”

The pubs were acquired as a package from Heartstone in a deal brokered by Neil Morgan, of Christie & Co. Punch currently owns and operates circa 1,250 pubs across England, Scotland and Wales. It plans to invest more than £34m in its people and pubs during the next year.

In November Punch, which is owned by Patron Capital and May Capital, told Propel it had identified three distinct routes through which it could grow its estate alongside a major investment programme for its existing portfolio. The Burton-based company is looking at single-site acquisitions; acquiring smaller pub groups that would act as strategic bolt-ons; or buying a larger group of tenanted pubs.

Tim MartinJD Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson has said the 6.2% increase in the National Living Wage (NLW) came as a surprise and the company is debating its next move in terms of raising staff pay.

Wetherspoon has the same pay rate for over-18s and pays above the NLW, which will increase from £8.21 an hour to £8.72 for over-25s in April. Hutson told analysts following the company’s second-quarter trading update on Wednesday (22 January) it had budgeted for a circa 5% increase.

He said whether the company implemented a circa 6% or 5% increase was a “topic of debate at the moment”. Wetherspoon has about 42,000 employees. Hutson said the company hadn’t changed its outlook on the back of its planned higher capex spend, which includes about £80m on new pubs and extensions, as “the short-term impact isn’t positive in year one but hopefully positive thereafter”.

Although like-for-like sales have slowed, Hutson said they were still going at a good level to help its long-term investments. Of the £200m capex over the next four years announced at the end of 2019, Hutson said this would go into the estate on things such as coffee machines, staff rooms, beer gardens and extensions as well as opening pubs.

Most of the openings planned will be in areas where Wetherspoon doesn’t trade, with the company having previously “over-expanded in smaller towns”. Hutson said the company had seen no “discernable change in customer sentiment” in recent weeks. He said: “Trade has been broadly steady during the first six months of the year and, while the company would be pleased if things picked up from a consumer perspective, management isn’t expecting it.”

The winners of this year’s Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Awards, staged by Propel and Think Hospitality, have been revealed. More than 150 entries were judged by a 20-strong panel of industry and agency leaders.

The winners were recognised for their success in marketing and innovation in the foodservice sector at an awards ceremony at the Café de Paris in Piccadilly on Wednesday (22 January).

The winners were Innovator Of The Year: Luisa Fernandez (formerly of YO!); Marketer Of The Year: Hannah Squirrell (Greggs); Future Marketing Leader Of The Year: Katarzyna Makowska (Burger King CEE, AmRest); Innovation Of The Year: Tipjar (helping tipped workers earn more) with Saved By Robots; Integrated Campaign Of The Year: ETM Group (“The Call of The Wild” at The Jugged Hare) with Wildfire Creative; Launch Campaign Of The Year: Signature Pubs (Cold Town House launch); Digital Campaign Of The Year: Inception Group (Cahoots); Best Use Of Video: Cahoots (winners), Mitchells & Butlers’ Toby Carvery Royal Navy (highly commended); Best Use Of Technology: Vita Mojo; Best Use Of Social Media: Cavalier Communications (Duck and Rice); Best New Or Improved Visual Identity: Carluccio’s Fresca Project with Irving & Co (winner), Frankie & Benny’s (highly commended); Best New Website: Park Chinois (with Verb) and Best Use Of Research, Insight & Data: Las Iguanas (Project DNA) with Feed It Back.

Think Hospitality managing director James Hacon said: “In our third edition of the awards we had our best response yet, the biggest and best brands and most exciting new concepts have entered and the calibre just keeps going up. It’s incredible to see how much talent we have in our sector and great to give these innovations and campaigns the exposure they deserve.”

Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “These awards fill a vital gap in the sector, recognising the amazingly creative work that is driving the sector. Congratulations to all our winners.” The awards rounded off the second Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit. The two-day event featured more than 70 speakers offering a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs.

London-based, pan-Asian tapas concept Tootoomoo is to explore a franchise route for further expansion in the UK. Propel understands the business, which was founded by Philip McGuinness, has started working with Seed Consulting to find suitable franchisees.

A Tootoomoo restaurant can operate from kiosks as small as 200 square feet up to 2,500 square foot restaurants and operate eat-in, click-and-collect and delivery services. The brand operates from secondary real estate with rent always less than 10% of sales, which has historically allowed each restaurant to pay back its investment on average in two years.

Tootoomoo currently operates restaurants in Islington, Crouch End, Highgate and Whetstone.

Shake ShackUS better burger brand Shake Shack has appointed Sophie Street, formerly of Bill’s and The Ivy Collection, as UK head of property.

Street was formerly head of estates and acquisitions at Bill’s and before that was acquisitions manager at Richard Caring-backed The Ivy Collection.

She joins Shake Shack as it looks to add to its 12-strong UK estate. The company opened its latest UK site at Brent Cross shopping centre in north west London before Christmas. The venue offers Shake Shack’s signature 100% Aberdeen Angus burgers, griddled flat-top hotdogs, frozen custard and crispy crinkle-cut fries, alongside beer and wine.

Since the original Shack opened in New York in 2004, the company has expanded to more than 260 sites in the US and more than 80 internationally. In October, The Restaurant Group Concessions and Diverse Dining opened the first Shake Shack in a UK airport, at Gatwick.

Four restaurants operated by Coal Grill & Bar have been sold in a pre-pack deal after parent company Charterhouse Leisure went into administration. The company, which is backed by Sunshine Capital, has appointed Stephen Grant and Matthew Waghorn, of Wilkins Kennedy, to oversee the administration.

As part of a company restructure, the Coal Grill & Bar restaurants in Swindon, Telford and Sheffield have closed while the Basingstoke, Gloucester Quays, Bristol and Exeter sites have been sold.

Coal Grill & Bar managing director Andy Vine told Business Live: “The Coal Grill & Bar restaurant group went through a company restructure in order to protect as many jobs as possible by continuing to trade in a challenging economic climate. Unfortunately there were some Coal Grill & Bar restaurants where we were unable to secure the trading terms that would allow us to continue operating.

“The restaurants in Basingstoke, Gloucester Quays, Bristol and Exeter have been purchased and the teams in those restaurants have continued trading without interruption. We look forward to the next chapter for Coal. Our food philosophy has always been to enjoy fresh ingredients and big flavours – our menu evolution will develop seasonally with a focus on healthy eating and provenance.”

Charterhouse Leisure also operates Severn Shed in Bristol, which has been sold as part of the company restructure and continues to trade as normal. Latest accounts at Companies House show Charterhouse Leisure made a pre-tax loss of £941,000 on turnover of £11.3m for the year ending 28 February 2018. Restaurant Ebitda was £1.3m, with group Ebitda of £668,000. Like-for-like sales in the year were up 1.2%.

The beer batter in Brunning & Price's fish and chip dish is now gluten freeBrunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand owned by The Restaurant Group, has acquired The Rake in the Cheshire village of Little Stanney. The grade II-listed pub operated under Greene King’s Hungry Horse brand but has been sold to Brunning & Price, with the Rake Lane site set to undergo a refurbishment.

The plans, submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council, include the addition of seven bedrooms and an enhanced garden terrace. It will be the fourth of Brunning & Price’s circa 70 sites to offer accommodation. The Rake was a country house in the 17th century before being turned into a pub and restaurant.

A Greene King spokeswoman told Propel: “From time to time we have to make the difficult decision to sell a pub and, after much consideration, we decided to put The Rake on the market. We’re pleased to have been able to reach an agreement with Brunning & Price to purchase The Rake so the pub can reopen to the community in the near future.”

Chick-fil-AChick-fil-A, the largest chicken and third-largest US fast food restaurant chain, has quietly shut its only Scottish outlet. Chick-Fil-A opened in the food court at Macdonald Aviemore Resort in October but the move attracted criticism amid a row over the brand’s donations to anti-LGBT groups. A petition to have the eatery removed from the hotel attracted more than 1,200 signatures.

A brief statement posted on the resort’s website reads: “Our pop-up restaurant Chick-fil-A closed on Saturday, 18 January.” The move follows a similar backlash that led Chick-fil-A to announce in October its debut UK site, which opened at the Oracle shopping centre in Reading that same month, wouldn’t operate beyond its six-month pilot period.

According to US news website Think Progress, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated millions of dollars to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Salvation Army in 2017. Chick-fil-A also closes its sites on Sundays because of founder Truett Cathy’s Christian faith. Cathy founded the business in 1946 and the company, which operates circa 2,400 sites across North America, reported $10.46bn in sales last year.

In November, Chick-fil-A made changes to its charity policy. It announced a $9m commitment to charity organisations with a focus on education, homelessness and hunger. The company said at the time commitments to The Salvation Army and Fellowship Of Christian Athletes had been “fulfilled” and would not be renewed.

SSO has partnered with German television chef Steffen Henssler and his brother Peter to launch Ahoi Steffen Henssler at FrankfurtSSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has reported like-for-like sales increased 1.2% for the 13 weeks to 31 December 2019, with total group revenue up 7.5%.

The company has also announced the acquisition of Station Food, a subsidiary of Germany’s national railway company Deutsche Bahn AG, which will add 28 new food and beverage units at railway stations in Germany to its portfolio.

The deal includes food courts at Berlin, Cologne and Karlsruhe railway stations, which feature international brands such as Burger King, Costa Coffee and Pret A Manger, as well as a wide range of local concepts such as currywurst specialist Curry 36 and seafood restaurant Gosch Sylt.

The move marks the latest acquisition by SSP in Germany and follows on from the group’s purchase and integration of travel catering business Stockheim in 2018.

SSP stated: “SSP has had a good start to the new financial year with further encouraging progress on its strategic initiatives and unchanged profit expectations for the full year. Overall like-for-like sales growth was in line with our expectations, with the external headwinds noted in the second half of last year continuing, as anticipated, into the first quarter of this year. Like-for-like sales growth in the UK and North America remained robust, driven by increasing passenger numbers.

“Like-for-like sales in continental Europe have been affected by the transport strikes across France during December. Like-for-like sales growth in the rest of the world included, as expected, a full quarter’s impact of the disruption in Hong Kong, but benefited from an improving trend in India. Looking forward to the full year, our expectation for like-for-like sales growth for the group remains unchanged, at just below 2%.

“Net contract gains remained strong in the first quarter, at 6.3%, driven by the significant new contract openings last year, including in continental Europe, at Montparnasse Railway station, the new motorway service stations in Germany and the Starbucks units in railway stations across the Netherlands; in North America, at Seattle, Oakland and LaGuardia airports; and in the rest of the world, at Cebu airport in the Philippines and Bangalore airport in India.

“The pipeline of new contracts remains encouraging. Following the recent announcement of the acquisition of Red Rock’s operations in Perth and Melbourne Airports in Australia, we are today announcing the proposed acquisition of Station Food in Germany. Once fully operational in 2021, Station Food will add 28 new food and beverage units at railway stations in Germany and is expected to contribute approximately £10m to SSP’s revenue in 2020.

“Including this acquisition, our expectations for net gains for the full year have increased to about 5%. Looking forward to the full year, we remain confident of delivering another year of strong growth, in line with our expectations. 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.”

Chesterford GroupThe Chesterford Group has promoted Paul Goodgame to managing director as it gears up for its next stage of growth, Propel has learned. Goodgame, who is currently operations director, will take up the role on 1 April, with current managing director James Lipscombe moving to chief executive.

The reshuffle comes as the 40-strong chain, which operates Churchill’s, Fishnchickn, Bankers Fish & Chips and virtual brand Serial Griller, continues to see growth, with like-for-like sales understood to be up 9% year-on-year and a string of openings planned for the next 12 months. These include a Bankers Fish & Chips in Eastbourne and a Fishnchickn in Milton Keynes, while the company is believed to be in negotiations on another outlet in the Essex area.

Lipscombe, who has been managing director for eight years, will focus on new business, sales and marketing, and creating more opportunities for the business. He said: “I am incredibly proud of Paul’s achievements and it proves if you have the talent, passion, ambition, work ethic and entrepreneurial ability, anything is possible in our business. To be able to promote somebody who started as a team member into the managing director position is something we are all very proud of and, once again, proves how passionate we are about developing the people within our business.”

Goodgame added: “Having worked for the company for 26 years I couldn’t be more proud of becoming managing director. When I started my career with The Chesterford Group this is something I could have only dreamed of and to be given the opportunity by James and the board to continue to develop our fantastic business is something I relish. I’m excited to be entrusted with the development of the business as we enter our next phase of growth.”

Mitre Hotel in Hampton CourtHector Ross, former chief operating officer of gastro-pub operator Bel & the Dragon, has launched a hotel venture. Ross has joined forces with Erica Sugai to form Signet Hotel Group, which has acquired its first site.

The company has bought the freehold of the Mitre Hotel in Hampton Court, which has been under family ownership for almost 30 years. The hotel, which occupies a riverside location next to Hampton Court Palace, was jointly marketed by Fleurets and Christie & Co.

Dating to at least 1666, the property was originally used as ancillary accommodation for the palace and was rebuilt in the mid-18th century. It currently offers 36 en-suite bedrooms plus a bar, restaurant and events facilities, all overlooking the Thames.

Paul Hardwick, head of hotels at Fleurets, said: “With my colleague James Davies and joint agent Alex Campbell, of Christie & Co, we were able to use our combined experience in the market to source and approach an exclusive purchaser list. We are proud to be involved in the sale of such an iconic property and look forward to seeing it evolve after the investment Signet Hotel Group has planned.”

Ross left Bel & the Dragon when it was acquired by premium pubs and hotels business Fuller’s for £18.5m in June 2018.

Bar concept Black RockWhisky bar concept Black Rock, which operates sites in Shoreditch and Bristol, has signed as the first wet-led offer at Republic, a next-generation office campus in east London. Black Rock will open as part of the first phase of the 600,000 square foot development by Trilogy Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management.

Black Rock has signed for 2,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of the Import Building. As well as a traditional bar, Black Rock will feature a central table cut from a single oak tree trunk.

The table features carved ageing channels lined with different types of oak to impart flavours to the whiskies stored in them. Guests can view the whisky being aged through a glass table top and dispense it through taps. The table at Republic will be 30% larger than the one at Black Rock’s site in Shoreditch, which opened in 2016.

Black Rock founder Thomas Aske said: “We are delighted to expand the Black Rock brand in such an amazing space.” Laurence Jones, head of asset management at Trilogy Real Estate, added: “Black Rock further fuels the night-time economy on-site, offering another choice for those who want to network, celebrate or wind down outside working hours.”

Republic already houses a coffee shop from The Gentlemen Baristas. The Export Building, the second phase of the campus’ redevelopment, will provide another 120,000 square feet of workspace when it launches in the spring.

CF Commercial acted as agent on behalf of Trilogy Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management.

Flight Club general viewSocial Entertainment Ventures (SEV), the operator of various experiential leisure concepts in the UK and US, has reported it delivered strong growth for the four weeks to 29 December with total revenue up 16.5% on the previous year and like-for-like growth of 7.5%.

The company, which opened Flight Club Boston under licence in the middle of last month, said that all three of its US venues performed well over the holiday period with AceBounce, SEV’s US sister brand to Bounce, in Chicago the standout performer with like-for-like growth of 20%.

The Toby Harris-led business said that Flight Club in Chicago also performed strongly with double-digit revenue growth whilst both Bounce venues in London achieved growth versus the same period in 2018. The strong festive trading completed a solid first quarter’s trading of SEV’s new financial year, and comes on the back of the group achieving 23% revenue growth in the previous financial year ending September 2019.

Group revenue for that year was $23.4m (£18m). As of next month, SEV will have fully spun off Puttshack, having completed a “very successful” three-year contract incubating and launching the concept. During the period of SEV’s management three Puttshack venues have opened in the UK at Westfield, Lakeside and Bank, with the company reporting that all are trading well. SEV said it remained a highly supportive shareholder of the concept.

SEV launches its next new concept, Hijingo, in March 2020 in London’s Worship Street and plans to open four venues in total during the year, including two more Flight Clubs in the US. SEV said it expected to double that number of openings to eight in 2021, with at least five of those in the US.

Harris, SEV chief executive, said: “We’re pleased with trading over the holiday period on both sides of the Atlantic and generally with the progress we’ve made over the last 12 months. Our US team is now well set to ramp up growth this year and beyond so we can take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented to us across North America.”

In November, SEV secured a $20m growth fund to aid its expansion plans in Britain and internationally. Acropolis Capital, a family investment office with experience in leisure and hospitality in both Europe and the US, led the funding round.

Gordon RamsayGordon Ramsay is set to launch a concept roll-out in the UK. Propel revealed last year Ramsay had formed a joint venture with Lion Capital to ramp up his presence in the US.

The deal will see Lion Capital, which formerly backed Wagamama and Loungers, invest $100m in five concepts during the next five years. Propel understands one new concept will be Ramsay’s Kitchen, with Los Angeles mooted as the first destination.

At the time it was thought Ramsay would team up with Lion or another private equity firm to set up a similar joint venture in the UK. Propel understands this has moved closer to fruition and could see Ramsay launch multiple sites across several concepts in the UK.

It’s thought Bread Street Kitchen would be the main growth concept but other concepts such as Street Burger/Pizza could also play a part. Propel also understands the chef hasn’t ruled out opening one or two more Lucky Cat restaurants in the UK, with an international launch for the Asian-focused concept on the cards too.

Mother CluckerButtermilk-fried chicken specialist Mother Clucker has headed to west London for its latest site and is exploring franchise opportunities, Propel has learned.

Mother Clucker has opened a 50-cover restaurant – its largest to date – in White City, at the White City Place development. The launch adds to sites at Flat Iron Square in London Bridge; Truman’s Brewery in Brick Lane; BackYard Cinema in Wandsworth; Clerkenwell, where Loughton-based Wing Shack is operating a pop-up; and at Stansted airport in partnership with transport hub foodservice specialist SSP. It also operates out of the Deliveroo Editions kitchen in Whitechapel.

Ross Curnow, who founded Mother Clucker in 2013, said the White City site showed the company’s intention to continue growing despite the challenging market. He said: “We are stoked to be in the west of London. We have a great community here already, the offices of White City Place are filled with awesome people! We’re thrilled to continue to open more owner-operated sites as well as exploring franchises and delivery in 2020.”

The group is chaired by John Upton, former managing director of natural fast food brand Leon and ex-member of McDonald’s UK leadership team.

Carluccio's enhanced design following a Fresca refurbishmentCarluccio’s, the Mark Jones-led chain, is considering the sale of its flagship St Christopher’s Place restaurant in central London, after receiving an unsolicited offer of more than £1m for the site.

Propel understands the site has five years left on its lease to run and Carluccio’s has a right to renew for 20 more years, something the business was expecting to take up.

However, after receiving the unsolicited offer, the company has hired property firm Davis Coffer Lyons to evaluate the site, which is understood to trade very well, in order to get a “fully rounded view” ahead of any lease renewal.

The circa 70-strong Carluccio’s, which underwent a company voluntary arrangement in 2018, has closed a number of sites over the past few weeks as part of actively managing its estate. It recently sold its site in Oxford to Lussmanns, as it was too small for its Fresca remodel programme and was believed to be a loss maker for the business. It has also closed its site in Brighton after Propel understands it received an offer from the landlord, which was too good to refuse.

As previously revealed by Propel, the site has been let to Five Guys, on what is thought to be a new longer lease. In December, Carluccio’s told Propel it had seen sales uplifts of between 15% and 35% from sites refurbished with its Fresca design. The company now has seven Fresca refurbished sites – in Chester, Newcastle, Dawson Street Dublin, Heathrow Terminal 5, Canary Wharf, Bluewater and Richmond. The refurbishment programme was paused for Christmas, and will start again with the new lower capex version at the company’s Waterloo station site this quarter.

The basement restaurant at Linden Stores in Highbury Corner, which is being launched by Oklava co-founder Laura Christie and partner Chris BousteadSimon Chaplin, senior director – corporate pubs and restaurants – at Christie & Co, has told Propel operators have never had a better chance to strike a bargain with landlords.

Speaking following the release of Christie & Co’s Business Outlook 2020 report, Chaplin said the spate of company voluntary arrangements (CVA) in the retail and restaurant sectors, which has led to a number of businesses reducing rent levels at sites, meant this was the perfect time for tenants to negotiate.

“If I was an operator and I knew someone had managed to secure a rent reduction with my landlord through a CVA then I’d certainly be having that conversation,” said Chaplin. “Now is definitely the time for operators to look at the opportunity, whether that be a rent reduction or some other incentive such as a new shop front.”

Chaplin said premiums were still being paid, particularly in central London, to secure prominent sites but said landlords were increasingly offering “significant” financial incentives of their own to attract well established operators.

“We are seeing more landlords pay tenants to take over sites but with longer leases because they don’t want empty properties,” said Chaplin. “They are prepared to take short-term pain and have some rent coming in rather than getting nothing at all.”

Chaplin also argued given the number of site opportunities it was also the perfect time to launch a restaurant chain. He said: “For brands such as Pizza Pilgrims and BabaBoom, I think this is a great time to think about expanding. They could grow quickly in this environment because they are brands that have built up a reputation and are appealing to younger consumers so landlords would love to have them.

“Vegetarian and vegan concepts could also flourish given the growing demand for plant-based food. With restaurants I think it’s a case of out with the old and in with the new. The market has suffered because a lot of restaurant businesses expanded far too quickly. It was about getting to 80 or 100 sites as fast as possible. Why would you do that? The operators in the space that seem to have been able to get it right are Loungers and Five Guys – and they’re still growing.”

In terms of the pub market, Chaplin said he believed the sector would keep thriving in 2020 and continue attracting investors. He added: “Pubs have really upped their game in recent years. They are getting bigger, better, more comfortable and opening for longer. While 20 years ago you wouldn’t have contemplated having breakfast in a pub, now most people wouldn’t think twice.

“They also offer great value and I think that’s part of the reason the restaurant market has suffered. I think we will see further deals in the sector. Companies such as Star Pubs & Bars, Punch and Admiral Taverns are going to keep buying.”

The Jackfruit Italian Hot is the first permanent vegan dish on Zizzi's menuSales of meat-free food in the UK have grown 40% from £582m in 2014 to an estimated £816m in 2019, according to new research by Mintel.

Sales are expected to be in excess of £1.1bn by 2024 while the number of Brits who have eaten meat-free food has risen from 50% in 2017 to 65% in 2019. The researched showed the proportion of meat eaters who have reduced or limited the amount of meat they consume has risen from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019.

Women are more likely than men to have limited or reduced the amount of meat in their diets (42% compared with 36%) – although this rises to 45% among all under-45s. However, there has been no significant increase in the proportion of consumers who say they are vegan since 2018, with those following a vegan diet still only equating to about 1% of the UK population.

Kate Vlietstra, Mintel global food and drink analyst, said: “While the health benefits of eating less meat appear to still be the primary motivation of flexitarian consumers, the environmental impact of the meat industry has also become an important reason for meat avoidance. Generation Z consumers (aged 16 to 24) are leading the charge here, with more than half (54%) of under-25s seeing the reduction of animal products as a good way to lessen humans’ impact on the environment.”

The Deltic Group chief operations officer Jason ThorndycraftBar and nightclub company The Deltic Group has announced the departure of Jason Thorndycraft as chief operating officer following a management restructure.

Thorndycraft joined the business in 2014 with a remit to modernise the business in what he always said would be a “five-year project to bed in best practices”. Successful initiatives included a “focus on pre-sales, the building and selling of booths and a relentless focus on key dates”. The company said Thorndycraft also brought about other improvements in venue design and layout and a focus on three-roomed venues where economical to do so.

The Deltic Group chief executive Peter Marks said: “I would like to record my huge thanks for Jason’s efforts. He has worked tirelessly and selflessly for our cause and leaves a positive legacy in so many areas that will live on for years. I hope he appears in a role worthy of his achievements and track record in the not too distant future. He certainly remains a friend of the company and those within it.”

Last month Marks told Propel apathy from people staying at home was Deltic’s biggest competition – not fellow operators – while the company would look to invest in some of its more marginal businesses in 2020 once it saw “confidence return to those towns”.

The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2020 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 5 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London.

Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Mark McCullochOperators can map their marketing strategy for 2020 through a video collection that features all sessions from the Social Media for Profit Masterclass. The videos reveal how to build sales and brands using social media and are taken from the social media boot camp hosted by Mark McCulloch (pictured), who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing, digital and social media experience that includes senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO!

McCulloch reveals the hot trends and tips for 2020 and what social media strategists should focus on including channels, content and untapped areas you may be neglecting. He also reveals how businesses can grow their reach by creating a personal brand and using their most senior people to make that brand more human, relevant and accessible.

McCulloch is joined in the video series by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social, who has ten years of social media experience and is a Facebook-accredited trainer. She reveals the best way to use Instagram to drive bookings and the do’s and don’ts of working with influencers. She also reveals how to ensure your social media adverts are working successfully.

Meanwhile, Move Digital founder and managing director Geraint John reveals why voice activation is so important, what it can do for your business, where to start and how to build your voice strategy before you launch a new way to reach your customers that will leave your competitors behind. The full video collection is £295 plus VAT.

To order, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email

Propel has launched the Turning Data Into Strategy & Action Masterclass in partnership with hospitality data consultancy DataHawks, with the event now open for bookings.

The masterclass will take place on Tuesday, 25 February at Chartered Accountants Hall, One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. The event will look at why operators should be using data and address some of the common myths and language that surrounds it. Attendees will also learn how to use data to drive sales and long-term loyalty without sacrificing margin or brand credibility.

The morning session will see Dan Brookman, chief executive of Airship CRM, talk about knowing and understanding your customers to drive personalisation and conversion; and improving the effectiveness and ROI of local marketing. He will also reveal how to leverage sales data to create compelling bundle deals and where to focus marketing spend.

Meanwhile, DataHawks founder Victoria Searl will talk about building and optimising customer journeys, finding new customers and leads, and measuring the impact and effectiveness of offline marketing.

In the afternoon session Searl will reveal how to prepare for the unexpected by using data and tech; improve the impact and effectiveness of discounts, offers and rewards; retain revenue when closing sites; and what data to collect and why. The event will be followed by drinks at The Tokenhouse in Moorgate.

Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email


Leadership SummitPropel is launching the second Leadership Summit, which will see a select group of the sector’s most experienced bosses share their expertise on leadership. The full-day event, in partnership with Elliotts, will take place on Wednesday, 12 February at One Moorgate Place, London and is open for bookings. Ken McMeikan, Moto chief executive, will talk about creating a winning culture and making a difference to society; Alexa Reid, Noble Organisation managing director, will set out her approach to empowering individuals to create a cohesive team; Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom co-founder, will present on creating culture at Dishoom; Chris Jowsey, Admiral Taverns chief executive, will set out his thoughts on the importance of being open in a changing world; Emma Woods, Wagamama chief executive, will talk about the role of leadership in innovation; Jonathan Arana Morton, The Breakfast Club co-founder, talks about taking the legwork out of leadership; Jonathan Recanti, Farmer J co-founder, explains the importance of starting with a great idea; Alistair Darby, SA Brain chief executive, will provide leadership lessons from a Playbarn; Penny Manuel, Soho Coffee managing director, argues that women make better leaders than men; and Shane Kavanagh, Crussh chief executive, will set out the leadership lessons learnt from extensive change. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With the industry facing such challenging times, effective leadership has never been more important. This is an unmissable opportunity to learn from high-profile leaders in our sector.” Prices are £295 plus VAT for Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email:


Pub 20

Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers
from Casual Dining Conference

Honest approach – Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers, talks about how the business has avoided getting caught up in the wider issues the burger category faces and how it has built its culture while bringing experience across its management team.

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BII NITAs 2019

BII NITAs Awards November 2019

26th November 2019

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