The Vegetarian Butcher

Leon co-founder John Vincent backing new Thai venture Burning Rose

Leon co-founder John VincentLeon co-founder John Vincent (pictured) has partnered with Australian entrepreneur Dennis Turner and former Deliveroo global head of restaurant strategy Cengiz Rahmioglu to launch a Thai-focused concept called Burning Rose, Propel has learned. The debut site launched this week for delivery and takeout on the former Dirty Burger site in Balham’s Chestnut Grove. Vincent previously worked with Turner, who co-founded Thai food group Aylmer Aaharn with chef David Thompson, on the short-lived Tuk Shop concept, while Rahmioglu spent almost four years at Leon as its strategy director.
While Tuk Shop was more of a grab-and-go model, Burning Rose is aimed more at the fast-casual/casual dining category. The menu at Burning Rose, which Rahmioglu said was aimed at an average spend per head of £13 to £15, is overseen by Matthew Albert, previously head chef of the highly acclaimed Nahm Restaurant in London, when it became the first Thai restaurant in the world to be awarded a Michelin star, and more recently headed the openings of the award-winning restaurant Long Chim in various global locations for the group.
Rahmioglu, who will oversee the day-to-day running of the new venture, told Propel: “If you look at Thai cuisine in the UK today, more than 80% of restaurants are run by independents and in a lot of high-delivery demand areas, there are very few Thai restaurants, so the opportunity as I see it is how can we bring Thai food to more people and introduce more people to Thai food. How can we reach these customers with the right model? Our menu is very focused and we have a smaller range of dishes that we can deliver to a very high quality, consistently.”

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Peter Borg-NealThe Oakman Group, which was recently rebranded following its acquisition of six Seafood Pub Company sites, has reported like-for-like sales up 34.3% in the first full week of trading versus the same week in 2019. Total sales were up 51.5% versus the same week in 2019. In addition, the company has announced the acquisition of The Grand Junction Arms near Tring from The Punch Pub Group.

Oakman Group’s executive chairman Peter Borg-Neal (pictured) said: “These sales are way above our expectations, particularly given that the Like-For-Likes are against Easter 2019. This success is testament to a superb job by Dermot King and his team with respect to our pre-opening training and our investment in our outside spaces. Average sales across the Oakman Inn brand were well in excess of £40k net last week – although we did see huge polarisation across the estate driven by the size and amenity of the respective outdoor spaces.

Our newly acquired Seafood Pubs will not open until May, nor will The Woburn. However, we did see a great start from the newly acquired Grand Junction Arms in Tring. We are planning to expand and develop it shortly and, given that it achieved sales of £38k last week from a standing start, we are very optimistic about what we can achieve with the site. We have also commenced work this week on our sites in both Buckingham and Wokingham which will open in September.”

Chief executive Dermot King, added: “Whilst it is difficult to make direct comparisons, given the locational and spatial advantages our sites enjoy, we have clearly outperformed the wider market which was 21% down on like-for-like sales. These numbers represent a remarkable performance by our teams. Given that we have only been allowed to trade for four of the last 13 months – and with the constant threat of being told to stop trading or follow new regulations – they have come through some tough times.

They have been brilliant in, not only serving our customers but, also, reinstating all our covid bio-security measures that mainly exceed government requirements. In the majority of cases, our local authorities have been very supportive, and we are taking a vigorous stance with those who are being unhelpful.” King believes that, despite the medical authorities’ increasingly aggressive stance against the hospitality industry, the public’s appetite for a sociable, responsible and relaxing time with friends and family has not diminished.

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Domino’s Pizza Group has reported trading in the first quarter to 28 March has been strong, with exceptional trading over the new year period, resulting in UK and Ireland system sales of £371.3m, up 18.7% on the first quarter of last year which was largely unaffected by the impact of covid-19. Like-for-like system sales, excluding splits, were up 18.5% maintaining our performance momentum. The company stated: “The sales performance of our delivery business has been particularly good, more than offsetting the lower sales within our lockdown-impacted collection business. At an order count level, we have seen delivery growth of 6.8% in the quarter with collection reporting some recovery, now trading at 65% of 2019 levels. In line with our planned exit from wholly-owned and directly operated international markets, we announced in March that we have agreed terms for the disposal of our discontinued businesses in Sweden and Iceland, which we expect to complete by the end of May.” Dominic Paul, chief executive officer said: “We are pleased with the strong performance of the business in the first quarter of the year. The investments we are making to deliver our multi-year strategic plan give us confidence in our ability to capitalise on the opportunities which lie ahead as the nation begins to emerge from the covid-19 lockdown restrictions. With management focused on our core UK and Ireland business, we are working to fulfil our vision of being the UK and Ireland’s favourite food delivery and collection business. I look forward to sharing an update on our progress at our half year results.”

Zoe Bowley, Managing Director, UK & IRE. PizzaExpressPizzaExpress is to recruit 1,000 new employees as it prepares to reopen its restaurants over May and June. The nationwide recruitment campaign across the group’s 360 UK eateries will include 300 posts under the government’s Kickstart initiative. The company reopened 118 restaurants for al fresco dining on 12 April, and it said that their “gardens and terraces are busy during periods of good weather”. A further 24 PizzaExpress restaurants in England will reopen for al-fresco dining on 29 April. Restrictions will start to be lifted in Scotland to allow indoor dining from 26 April. All 360 PizzaExpress pizzerias in the UK will reopen for indoor dining in May in line with local government guidance, and customer numbers are expected to increase further as social distancing measures are due to be relaxed on 21 June. Zoe Bowley (pictured), PizzaExpress’s managing director, said: “We’re expecting millions of people to flock back to restaurants as restrictions are eased, so we are delighted to be in a position to be able to recruit a thousand new team members to help us serve customers at PizzaExpress. We are also very pleased to support the Kickstart initiative. Our restaurants have been the beating heart of our local communities and neighbourhoods for decades. As well as helping locals to get together with friends and family, we support 360 local economies across the UK as an employer for anyone looking for a fun, flexible and rewarding career. Our pizzerias are a great place to work, and our teams love welcoming new colleagues. After all the challenges and uncertainties of the last year, we’re very excited to be open and recruiting again.” The new recruitment drive follows a challenging year for the business which, in the wake of the pandemic, closed 73 outlets via a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). The closures resulted in the loss of 1,100 jobs while a further 1,300 redundancies were announced as part of cost-cutting measures.

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Kent-based brewer and pub retailer Shepherd Neame, has said that on the back of the company being able to reopen more than 200 pub gardens and seeing more than 50% of those trading in line or significantly ahead of last year, he hopes the business will return to profitability in June. On Wednesday (21 April), the company reported a rise in bottled beer volume growth by 25.7% and tight cost control had restricted underlying monthly cash burn to circa £1.5m to £2m while its pub estate was closed. Neame told Propel: “The early signs have been good. Of the more than 200 pubs we have been able to reopen, 50% are trading in line or significantly ahead of the same period last year. Consumers are much more confident, more relaxed and there is plenty of goodwill for pubs. On that basis and that April will see us incorporate significant start-up costs, which will be a challenge, I expect us to be cash neutral in May but, come June and the reopening of the rest of our estate on 17 May, I hope we will be profitable again.” Neame said although drinks sales had far outweighed food sales, there were signs over the weekend the latter was starting to “pick up”. He also believes the company will be in the best shape possible to look at opportunities if and when they come up next year. He told Propel: “Our first focus will, of course, be getting all our people back and all our pubs reopened. Then we will have to look at our investment programme across the estate, which should be the focus for much of the rest of the year. However, with the profile of our estate, the strength of our balance sheets and the backing of our licensees and banks, we will be in a good position to look at opportunities that come up, and I think there will be a lot of opportunity. What we need first is some stabilisation and predictability in the trading landscape, and although the early signs are encouraging, one swallow does not make a spring.”

Udon noodles and tempura restaurant chain Marugame Udon and German Doner Kebab, the flagship concept of Hero Brands, are among five operators that have signed for sites within the entertainment district at The O2 in Greenwich. The Waterfront Partnership, a joint venture between live entertainment company AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners, has let more than 32,000 square feet of space to firms that will open under the roof of The O2 in the coming months. As well as Marugame Udon, which is set to open its second UK site at the complex as a two-floor 3,790 square foot restaurant later in the year, and German Doner Kebab, which is taking a 1,910 square foot unit that will open in the third quarter of 2021, Middle Eastern dining concept Soukra and Kitchen Pizzeria have also agreed deals. Soukra will launch a 9,370 square foot bar, lounge and restaurant across the ground floor, mezzanine and garden space in late 2021. Kitchen Pizzeria will open a 1,400 square foot space, which includes outdoor seating and a takeaway option when The O2 reopens. In addition, and as previously reported by Propel, Boom: Battle Bar (pictured), the adventure bar concept from the team behind adventure park franchise Flip Out, will also open at The O2 this summer. It will take a double unit across two floors, comprising more than 16,000 square feet with an opening planned for summer. Alistair Wood, executive vice-president of real estate and development at AEG Europe, said: “Despite an incredibly challenging pandemic, we have worked very hard to keep our existing brands and to bring in diverse new offerings.” Lunson Mitchenall is the leasing agent on The O2 site.

Jinjuu founder Judy Joo Seoul Bird, the fledgling Korean concept from chef Judy Joo (pictured), is planning to launch in Canary Wharf, Propel understands. The concept, which launched last summer in Westfield London, is believed to be in talks to take the Radio Alice site in Jubilee Place. The concept specialises in crispy, double-fried, Korean-style chicken inspired by Joo’s Korean-American heritage. Chickens are brined for 24 hours before being double fried and served with Asian slaw. Seoul Bird also offers bibimbap bowls (steamed rice with vegetables, pickled daikon, edamame beans, onions and poached egg). Joo left the business she founded, Jinjuu, in 2019, after launching the Korean street food concept in Kingly Street, Soho, six years ago. Jinjuu grew to three sites, including one in Mayfair, but only the original in Soho remains.

Patisserie Valerie, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, has appointed Jenni Hughes-Ward, formerly of and Links of London, as its new finance director, Propel has learned. Hughes-Ward, who spent over two and a half years as finance director at, replaces Richard Purvis, who left the business earlier this year. Purvis joined Patisserie Valerie in summer 2019 from Tulip Food Company, where he spent more than two years as finance director. Last year, Causeway merged Patisserie Valerie and Bakers + Baristas to create a “high-quality patisserie and coffee group” with more than 125 locations in the UK and Ireland. The new entity is led by group chief executive James Fleming. Causeway Capital said the merger would enable both businesses to benefit from shared baking, coffee and customer service resources as well as new product development.

Prezzo, the Cain International-backed restaurant chain, has promoted Dean Challenger to chief operating officer, Propel understands. Last March, Karen Jones-led restaurant chain Prezzo expanded the remit of the finance director Challenger, under the new role of chief services officer. He already had IT, procurement, risk and finance reporting to him, with the new role adding property to his remit. Challenger joined Prezzo in 2019 after 13 years with David Lloyd Leisure, including stints as group financial controller and head of finance. Prezzo was acquired out of administration for circa £5m earlier this year by Cain International, the privately held investment firm operating in Europe and the US. The deal, which was supported by the company’s material secured creditors who held circa £56m of secured debt, saw Cain acquire 156 of the Karen Jones-chaired Prezzo’s 178 sites, with the remaining 22 restaurants closed. The £5.04m deal price comprised cash of £2.64m and debt of £2.4m.

Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Julian Metcalfe, has promoted Ganan Kanagathurai to UK chief executive, Propel has learned. Kanagathurai, formerly of Tesco Ventures, joined Itsu as its UK chief financial officer in 2016. Kanagathurai has also previously held roles at Disney and ABC television, and advised retail technology start-ups in San Francisco. Metcalfe told Propel: “I’m thrilled to say Ganan has been made chief executive of the UK business after five tremendous years as chief financial officer. Itsu awaits the great return to work as lockdown finally ends. We are eternally grateful to our courageous teams and leaders for sticking with us and getting through this awful year. It’s been an honour to support them.” The promotion of Kanagathurai came as Itsu launches a “build your own” feature on its app. The company said it was in response to the “abundance of popular dietary trends and growing appetite for personalised options”, and strengthened the brand’s digital customer experience. Customers can build bespoke hot and cold Itsu dishes – from rice and noodle bowls, right through to sushi boxes – and features more than 1,000 different combinations. The function will also limit contact in store, making it a safer environment for both consumers and restaurant staff. Kanagathurai said: “The function is the next step in Itsu’s journey to further innovation, bringing us closer to becoming the better future for fast food. In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in customer requests to go ‘off menu’. Allowing customers to pepper in more protein, cut the carbs and dial up flavour, reinforces our ethos to ‘eat beautiful’ – whatever way that works for you.”

Small Batch Coffee, the Brighton-based company backed by the former owners of Coffeesmiths Collective, is planning to open a new coffee and dining concept in the city, Propel understands. Small Batch Coffee, which currently operates six sites in Brighton and one in Worthing, has applied to open a Small Batch Bar and Kitchen at 7 Duke Street. The new concept will be centred around “great food, great coffee, great cocktails and great times”. Several businesses run by Coffeesmiths Collective, including Filmore & Union Restaurants, were placed into liquidation, last year. Small Batch Coffee was moved to a newly incorporated company still overseen by a number of former Coffeesmiths Collective directors. Coffeesmiths also operated the likes of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Baker & Spice, Roasted Rituals, Nordic Bakery, La Bottega Milanese, Spring Espresso and CoffeeWorks Project.

James ShaplandJames Shapland (pictured), the co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has lined up a debut site for his new coffee concept Coffi Lab. It is understood the company, which is led by former SA Brain finance director Hannah Gillard, has submitted a planning application to occupy the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Monnow Street, Monmouth, and convert it to a coffee shop and cafe. In line with the growth of Coffee#1, Shapland is seeking sites for the new concept in neighbourhood centres and high street market towns across south Wales and the south west. Coffi Lab, which is working with property adviser EJ Hales to find suitable sites, plans to be “a heart-warming, authentic retail coffee brand in a neighbourhood setting”. Shapland co-founded Coffee#1 in 2000 and went on to grow it to 15 sites across Wales and the south west, with an annual turnover of £5m a year, before selling it for an undisclosed sum to SA Brain in 2011. Caffe Nero paid almost £30m to acquire a majority stake in Coffee#1, which now operates more than 100 sites, in February 2019.

Prask Sutton, founder and chief executive of Wi5 Like-for-like sales were up 57% in the first week of reopening versus pre-lockdown in November, according to data from mobile order and pay company Wi5. Total sales across the week increased 34% on pre-lockdown levels. Wi5 founder and chief executive Prask Sutton (pictured) said: “On the first day of reopening, we saw an enormous 1,106% increase in transactions across our platform compared with last July’s reopening. While there was a rush to return to pubs and restaurants last Monday (12 April) as we predicted, support for the hospitality industry continued throughout the week. Our platform data is hugely encouraging and predicts these figures will grow as consumer confidence increases and restrictions continue to ease. Venues yet to reopen can rest assured consumer demand is there to support them and the industry, as a whole, should be gearing up for a record-breaking busy summer.”
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Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast casual Mexican concept, has appointed Jason Thomas – formerly of Azzurri Group, Shake Shack and Loch Fyne Restaurants – as its new chief operating officer. Thomas was previously a managing director at Zizzi and ASK Italian operator Azzurri. He most recently worked as a business director for AlShaya in the Middle East, and for a year and a half headed up Shake Shack in the UK. He was also previously an operations director at Loch Fyne Restaurants. Tortilla managing director Richard Morris said: “Having worked previously with Jason at Loch Fyne, I know he’s the right cultural fit for the business, and will be able to get stuck into the many exciting projects we have planned for this year and beyond.” The company also confirmed previous Propel reports it was to open in Exeter, in High Street, and Edinburgh, at the St James Place development. The 43-strong group is also set to open in Windsor, in the town’s Peascod Street, and add to its dark kitchen’s estate with an opening in the Deliveroo Editions in Manchester next month. The brand said it was also exploring “several other exciting opportunities to be announced soon”.

Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 23-strong brewpub group, has reported a “very strong” start to trading again. The group opened seven garden sites, and over the six-day week it saw total sales “significantly” exceed both budget and forecast. Compared with sales on the same days in 2019, the group saw growth of 30.2%, despite Good Friday being in this week in that year. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell said: “We have been astonished by the extraordinary levels of trade. Next week we will move to the next phase of reopening with our Poole and Dorchester brewpubs, as well as the company’s largest garden site in Cardiff, which is subject to the more challenging Welsh Assembly rules. We are confident our business, like the rest of the sector, provides a safe and well controlled environment for guests to socialise and re-engage with their communities.” Gumbrell said spend per head has grown, through the brand’s order and pay at table “B&K on Tap” solution. He added 83% of orders last week were placed through a digital channel. In addition to on-premise trading, Brewhouse & Kitchen’s online web shop has been an “early and significant success”. The company’s new online beer masterclass has consistently sold out. Gumbrell said: “We have been overwhelmed by the loyalty and support of our guests, they are working proactively with us, our teams have returned and excited and energised for the challenge and we look forward to opening our entire estate, including our brewpub and hotel in Worthing, on 17 May.”

Albion & East, the Imbiba-backed, London-based bar business, has launched a £350,000 fundraise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to fund its next stage of growth. The four-strong, Sarah Weir-led, business is offering 1.25% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £27.6m. The campaign is now open to selected investors ahead of its public launch in about a week. The business currently operates four bars – Martello Hall in Hackney, Canova Hall and Cattivo in Brixton and Serata Hall in Old Street. A fifth bar, Allora Hall, will open on the former Monkey Nuts site in Crouch End, in May, which will mark the company’s debut in north London. It wants to accelerate growth by acquiring new sites during the next three years, and aims to have a ten-strong estate by the end of 2022. It believes “there has never been a better time to do this because consumer demand is expected to remain high and market supply likely to be reduced”. Propel understands one of these sites is set to open under an “experience-led concept – an urban distillery and tasting room”. It is thought to have a site in the pipeline for this concept, with a target opening in late 2021. It is also thought the funds raised will also go towards the further development of its Tiny Tower Liquor offshoot. Propel revealed last month, Albion & East was set to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support its growth.

Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), the owner and operator of brands including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, Carluccio’s and Slim Chickens, has launched a new virtual delivery brand called Rebel Vegan, Propel has learned. Launched with the tagline: “All plants. No bull”, the new delivery brand is available through the Ed’s Easy Diner sites in Birmingham (Ladywood) and Cheshire Oaks, Giraffe in Cheshunt and the former Carluccio’s unit in Upper Street, Islington. The menu includes vegan burgers priced at £8.49 to £9.49, chicken-less burgers at £8.49 to £8.99, and tenders (barbecue, buffalo or habanero sauce) at £4.99.

Restaurant Closed – Economy – Covid Three in four of England’s licensed premises remain closed following the return of outdoor-only service last week, according to latest figures from the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners. A total of 20,832 venues were trading again by Thursday 15 April – 23.2% of England’s 89,953 known licensed sites. Reopenings have been more widespread in the pub sector than restaurants, thanks to the wider availability of beer gardens, patios and other outdoor areas. Four in ten (39.1%) of England’s food pubs have been open, alongside almost one third of community pubs (31.6%) and high street pubs (29.9%). Reopening has been more difficult in the restaurant sector, where outdoor trading space is often limited. Fewer than one in eight (11.8%) sites in the independent-led restaurant segment have opened, though casual dining restaurants (23.5%) have been quicker to return. By region, openings have been spread quite evenly across the country, reaching a high of 24.4% in the central and east, and a low of 21.8% in the north of England. All licensed premises in Scotland and Wales remain closed until later this month. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Three in four venues in England remain closed, and while some may open over the next few weeks, we will have to wait another four weeks until it is feasible for many hospitality venues to reopen again. Until then, operators deserve support from local authorities to make the most of outdoor trading space – not to mention some sunshine.” AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “While reports of strong consumer demand this week are welcome and while operators are driving sales where possible through use of their outside spaces, the stark reality is this trading represents a small proportion of normal revenues and most will be making a loss. Many challenges remain during this reopening phase and the months ahead.”
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London restaurant operator Corbin & King has reported turnover increased beyond £50m in its financial year before the pandemic hit while the first week of reopening had been “better than anticipated”. The company saw turnover of £53.1m for the year ending 31 December 2019, compared with £44.2m for the nine months ending December 2018. The shorter accounting period reflected the alignment of the company’s accounts with parent Minor International, which bought Graphite Capital’s stake in December 2017. Ebitda for the year ending 31 December 2019 stood at £2.7m, compared with £7.5m in the prior period. Operating loss before tax increased from £2m to £3.9m while pre-tax losses were up to £5.4m from £3.1m. A £13.2m loan owed to Minor International, which was payable in May 2020, remains outstanding. In his report accompanying the accounts, co-founder Jeremy King said: “We have taken a number of steps to preserve cash and support trading and these have included but not limited to rent relief and deferral of payments by majority of landlords; suspension of any unnecessary capital expenditure; and launching a new revenue channel, at-home dining. We have been pleased with how the business has performed when restaurants have been allowed to reopen. While it is still too early to predict how the pandemic will affect trading for the remainder of 2021 and beyond, with the combination of the actions taken to combat the effects of the pandemic and support provided from government, suppliers and landlords, the directors have come to a decision the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the period of 12 months from date of approval of these accounts.” The company, which operates eight sites, reopened its Bellanger restaurant in August 2020 and said it had traded successfully when restrictions allowed. As previously reported, work on its new seafood restaurant in Soho – Manzi’s – has been put on hold, with no date confirmed when it will restart. On reopening, King told Propel: “The first week has been better than anticipated and the customers have been doughty in the elements. We are open at Bicester, Bellanger, Soutine, Delaunay Counter and also at the Colbert – both on the terrace and in the Square itself with a different offer. There may not be that much money in them all but it is a wonderful fillip for the staff to be working again.”

New World Trading Company brand The BotanistGraphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) has completed a refinancing of its banking facilities and shareholder loans to raise additional capital. The group, whose brands include The Botanist (pictured), The Florist and The Oast House, also said it expects to continue opening sites at a rate of between five and eight a year. NWTC stated: “The company is funded by a combination of bank loans, shareholder loans and cash from operations. We have communicated and negotiated with our debt providers, trade creditors, landlords and other creditors to ensure their support and to ensure our continued ability to trade and operate as a going concern. The banking facilities and the shareholder loans were refinanced in December 2020 providing an injection of new capital, and the directors now have a reasonable expectation the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. The government stimulus package, including a temporary reduction in the rate of VAT on food and non-alcoholic drinks, the suspension of business rates and the availability of grants to support reopening will also provide headroom in the coming months. When the sites were open between July and November 2020 following the first covid-19 lockdown, trading was strong.” The business provided the update as it reported turnover increased to £55.3m for the year ending 31 March 2020, compared with £51.8m the previous year. Pre-tax losses grew to £37.3m, compared with £5.7m the year before, following an impairment charge of £25.8m against the goodwill of the business. The company opened three sites during the period, taking the total to 29. It is also set to open a venue in Plymouth for its second Club House and is understood to be in talks on sites in Cardiff and Ipswich.

PizzaExpressPizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, has appointed Arslan Sharif, formerly of Costa Coffee, as its first group digital and loyalty director, Propel has learned. Sharif previously held the same role at Costa, where he spent just over three years. At Costa he led the digital, loyalty and data transformation of the coffee chain in the UK, Europe, China, Middle East, US, and Japan across 2,500 retail stores and 10,000 Costa Express machines. He was responsible for Costa’s digitally-led loyalty programme (Coffee Club) with six million customers in the UK. He will now be responsible for the digital, customer and loyalty transformation at PizzaExpress, as it looks to become the leading digital casual dining business in the UK and internationally. Earlier this year, PizzaExpress strengthened its management team with the appointments of Jo Bennett as its new chief business officer, and Shadi Halliwell as its new chief customer officer.

The Alchemist, the 20-strong Simon Potts-led bar and restaurant concept, has completed a refinancing of its banking facilities and shareholder loans to raise additional capital. The refinancing took place last month and the company’s directors said they now have “a reasonable expectation the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”. The company said: “In evaluating the going concern assumption, the directors have prepared cash flow forecasts for the period to 31 March 2022 and compared these, together with a range of severe but plausible sensitivities, to the available bank facilities and the related covenant requirements. The group’s trading locations generated strong results when allowed to open, despite the significant restrictions in place affecting opening hours and capacity. This has given the directors confidence in the group’s forecast turnover, Ebitda and cash when measures are eased in 2021. Sensitivities applied to the forecasts demonstrate sufficient covenant headroom even without any mitigating actions being taken. In addition, the directors are confident the bank and shareholders remain fully supportive of the group.” The group reported turnover stood at £45.9m in the year to 31 March 2020. At the end of that period it held cash or cash equivalents of £5.9m. Pre-tax losses widened from £205,372 to £1.64m. Net liabilities of the group were £4.6m, including long-term shareholder held debt of £18.1m, at the same date. During the period, it opened new sites in Birmingham; at Gunwharf Quays (pictured) in Portsmouth; and three venues in London – at Canary Wharf, Embassy Gardens and Old Street.

Delivery and takeaway sales more than tripled in March versus the same month in 2019, according to the latest Hospitality at Home Tracker from CGA. The monitor of at-home sales showed orders in March were 9% up on February. Along with deliveries and takeaways, the figures also included orders of at-home food and drinks kits that have soared in popularity during lockdown. Sales in March were 346% higher than in the same month in 2019, when the sector was fully operational for eating out. Deliveries have fuelled sector growth, accounting for more than 62% of operators’ sales. Although CGA said orders are expected to reduce as venues start to reopen over the next few weeks, sales are likely to continue to run well ahead of levels seen before the pandemic. Karl Chessell, CGA business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Consumers who have been kept at home for so long have embraced hospitality at home to make up for lost eating and drinking-out experiences, and orders have been a lifeline for many brands while their venues are shut. The big question now is the extent to which habits of lockdown have become engrained in consumers’ behaviour, as venues reopen and they start to return to eating and drinking out. For all brands, understanding the balance between out-of-home and at-home preferences, and adjusting marketing and operational activity accordingly, is going to be a key consideration in the months ahead.”

Propel has launched a campaign called BeatTheVirus to help operators through the coronavirus crisis.

We have teamed up with Propel Multi Club conference series partners to offer the sector their expertise. Partners will offer more general advice and highlight some of the initiatives they are doing.

Companies supporting the BeatTheVirus campaign include Airship, Bums on Seats, CACI, Christie & Co, COREcruitment, CPL Learning, Cynergy Bank, Elliotts, Hastee, haysmacintyre, John Gaunt & Partners, KAM Media, Prestige Purchasing, S4labour, Startle, Ten Kites, The NPD Group, Toggle, Trail, Venners, Wireless Social, Yapster and sector trade body UKHospitality.

Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “It is amazing to see how the industry has come together during this crisis and here at Propel we want to do our bit. This is why we are working with Multi Club partners to offer expert support and advice to our readers and to answer their questions at what is a tough time for everyone.”

Readers can email questions for our experts to Please use BeatTheVirus in the subject line.

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