McCain Banner

Story of the Day:

Giggling Squid set to appoint advisors to consider its options

GigglingSquidGiggling Squid, the Thai tapas brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard and backed by Business Growth Fund (BGF), is set to appoint advisors as it considers its options for the next stage of its growth, Propel has learned. The 30-strong group, which the Laurillard’s founded in Hove in 2009, is believed to be set to appoint advisory firm GCA Altium to oversee the process, which is expected to lead to BGF exiting the business, in which it has a 29% stake. BGF invested £6.4m in the then 13-strong Giggling Squid. The Laurillards own about 67%, whilst management, including chairman Simon Kossoff, owns the rest. It is thought a private equity deal is the most likely avenue for the company, but that an IPO could also be explored, with a sale to a trade buyer the least likely outcome, with the Laurillards believed to want to continue to grow the business. In the year to 31 March 2018, Giggling Squid lifted underlying earnings before one-offs by 54% to £3.28m, with turnover up 29% to £23.7m. It is thought that company’s current run-rate Ebitda is north of £5m, with the business valued at £45m-£50m. Average weekly sales across its estate are thought to north of £20,000. Andy Laurillard stated last year that he believes the company can reach the 50-site mark over the next three years. The company has sites already secured for openings later this year in Oxford and Leamington Spa, with a number of further sites under negotiation. Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will give his views on Giggling Squid in his Propel Premium opinion article to be sent out this afternoon. He will also give his views on the large managed pub companies and the departure of The Restaurant Group chief executive Andy McCue as part of his next piece for Premium subscribers, which will also be sent out on Friday. 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, and regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email to sign up.

Just Eat reports 500 millionth UK order

Just EatJust Eat announces that it has achieved its 500 millionth UK order. The company stated: “This significant landmark demonstrates Just Eat’s continued growth and performance in the UK market and reinforces its position as the leading online food delivery app in the UK. The 500 millionth order comes as Just Eat continues to build its world class marketplace while rolling out targeted delivery services across the UK to create a unique hybrid service that matches demand with delivery capacity. This will help Just Eat to increase its overall customer base in the UK and serve even more brilliant food moments.The achievement reflects the fact that food delivery is rapidly becoming the norm. Since processing its first order in April 2006, Just Eat has pioneered the sector and grown to over 30,000 restaurant partners nationwide serving more than 100 cuisines. Having taken eight years to achieve 100 million orders, Just Eat has reached 500 million orders just ten months after hitting 400 million, using its technology to provide excellent service and benefits to customers and restaurants alike. This equates to four orders per second over the past ten months. The milestone highlights that Just Eat is strongly positioned to capitalise on the significant £83 billion plus market opportunity in food delivery in the markets where it operates, with the UK an important part of its international network offering customers across 13 countries the widest possible choice to enjoy their favourite takeaway experience.” Graham Corfield, UK managing director of Just Eat, said: “Reaching the half a billion order milestone in the UK is a massive achievement for this business. It’s testament to our commitment to be the food app that offers whatever you’re craving – from your local independent Chinese or Indian takeaway to ordering in from much-loved branded restaurants such as KFC and Burger King. Our rapid growth is also a result of the true partnership we’ve forged with our restaurant partners, supporting them to ensure these high street heroes thrive. As online food delivery rapidly becomes the norm, Just Eat is well positioned to continue championing all the restaurants we work with and delivering for the nation.”

Other News:

Patisserie Valerie's new larger site at Centre:MKPatisserie Holdings has completed the sale of Baker & Spice to the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs for a total consideration of £2.5m. The company stated: “This follows the announcement of the Patisserie Valerie and Philpotts disposals, which were sold in separate transactions for a combined consideration of £13m. The remaining assets, which were not included in the three separate transactions, will be realised during the administrations. As previously announced, following the loss of its nominated adviser and the appointment of administrators, the company is provisionally scheduled for cancellation with effect from 7:00am on 25 February 2019. In the circumstances no objection will be made to such cancellation and it is expected that this will proceed at the appointed time. Note, the three separate disposals involved the sale of assets held across a number of entities within the Patisserie Valerie group, as detailed below: Patisserie Valerie sale – assets held in: Patisserie Holdings plc; Patisserie Valerie Holdings Limited; Patisserie Acquisition Limited; Stonebeach Limited; and, Flour Power City Limited; Philpotts sale – assets held in Philpotts Limited; Baker & Spice sale – assets held in Stonebeach Limited and Spice Bakery Limited.”

The Restaurant Group is facing calls to quickly find a successor for chief executive Andy McCue, the architect of the company’s controversial takeover of Wagamama, who has stepped down due to “extenuating personal circumstances”. The FTSE 250 company’s shares dropped more than 10% in the wake of yesterday’s announcement. “They could do a lot worse than appoint Jane Holbrook as chief executive,” said Keith Ashworth-Lord, investment director at Sanford DeLand Asset Management.

Easycoffee chief executive Nathan Lowry (left) with Easygroup founder Sir Stelios Haji-IoannouCafe bar operator EasyCoffee, part of the EasyGroup family of brands, has raised more than £3.5m in private equity to open 24 coffee shops this year, Propel has learned. Founded by chief executive Nathan Lowry and EasyJet entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou (both pictured) in 2016, the business plans to have a mix of 200 franchise and corporate-operated sites open within two to three years. In 2018 and 2017 it secured capital of £3m and £2m respectively. EasyCoffee, which currently has ten units trading, specialises in a value coffee offer “15% to 25% cheaper than the major high-street brands” plus a dine-in proposition. New sites will infill near existing areas of operation, including London suburbs, Medway, and Blackpool and the north west. Franchisees have also been recruited to operate new outlets in Leicester and Manchester. “The plan is to have at least 40 sites open by the end of this year,” Lowry told Propel, adding that finding sites was becoming easier and cheaper with rents falling by an average of 10% and landlords willing to sign rent-free periods and deals. He said: “We are still on target to get to 200 in the next two to three years. Rates are my biggest bugbear and need to come down accordingly with what’s happening on the high street.” A team of ten sales people has also been appointed to roll out EasyCoffee’s vending offer to convenience stores, filling stations and roadside propositions, with ten to 12 machines installed each week. In July 2018, the company secured £10m investment from Stellar Asset Management to roll out 800 vending machines nationally over 12 months. “We are really happy with the growth we’re seeing,” said Lowry, who added the retail model resonated with customers looking for a “value offer”.

The Coffer Peach Business Tracker, the sales barometer for the UK’s leading managed pub, bar and restaurant groups, has hit the 50-partner milestone by adding Punch to its ranks. The Tracker launched in 2009 with 12 major pub and restaurant groups participating. It now covers more than 8,500 sites with combined annual sales of £9.54bn – or 47% of the sector. Last year the Tracker, which is produced by insights firm CGA in association with RSM and The Coffer Group, expanded its reach by adding 11 partners including Ei Group’s Bermondsey Pub Company, Bill’s, Coaching Inns Group, McMullen & Sons, Mowgli, Polpo, Punch Taverns, Revolution Bars Group and Rileys Sports Bars. CGA plans to further enhance the Tracker during 2019 by adding a wider range of managed pubs, bars and restaurant groups. Headline Tracker results are published to the wider market and media every month, although participants also receive weekly sales reports. CGA vice-president Peter Martin, who established the Tracker, said: “We set out to provide businesses across the out-of-home eating and drinking sector with the data they need to benchmark their performance, respond to trends and grow their sales. Through the ups and downs of pubs, bars and restaurants, the Tracker has served as a reliable and insightful measure of trading patterns and it will be an important source of intelligence as the sector deals with opportunities and challenges in the years ahead.”

Pint Shop in BirminghamPint Shop, the award-winning Cambridge beer house, is to close its Oxford site on Saturday (16 February). Co-founder Richard Holmes said the company had “thrown everything” at the site to make it work but added the other Pint Shops, in Cambridge and Birmingham, were “thriving and very much open”, while he continues to seek “new opportunities” for the brand. Holmes said: “We have loved being part of the Oxford scene for two and a half years but, sadly, despite throwing everything at it we just can’t make the numbers work. On a more positive note, our Birmingham site is now four months old and early signs are super positive. Our plan for the immediate future is to solidify Birmingham, brush ourselves down and look for new opportunities.” Holmes and Benny Peverelli launched Pint Shop in Cambridge in 2013, starting expansion three years later by opening the Oxford site. Birmingham Pint Shop opened in October 2018. The brand operates under the banner “meat, bread, beer”.

Crowdfunding platform Growthdeck has launched its own £2.5m fund-raise. The company is seeking a minimum investment from interested parties of £5,000, with equity stakes ranging from 15% to 25%. The minimum campaign target is £1.5m with a maximum of £2.5m. The fund-raise is due to end on Friday, 1 March. The pitch states: “Growthdeck is three years old. We have learned so much in that time, from establishing and fine-tuning our proposition and identifying the investors that value how we work to building trust with a rapidly expanding network of introducers, experts and entrepreneurs. After raising almost £15m for 15 companies, we now see signs of growth that indicate we are approaching a tipping point from which our business will begin to truly fulfil its considerable potential. To allow us to scale up our business, we are now seeking up to £2.5m of new equity capital. This opportunity is EIS-qualifying, meaning investors receive 30% income tax relief on the cost of their investment. In addition to buying Growthdeck shares, investors will also be granted virtually free shares in each company for which we raise funds. During the next three to four years, Growthdeck shareholders can expect to build a portfolio of dozens of stakes in our companies at almost no cost. This fund-raise should be our last and will enable Growthdeck to establish itself as the pre-eminent private investor network in the UK and, ultimately, beyond.” Gary Robins, director and head of business development, added: “Existing Growthdeck shareholders and management have already contributed a significant amount towards our fund-raising target. It demonstrates the strong belief everyone has in the potential of our business and our ambitious growth plans.”

Starbucks Drive ThruProperty investor LXi REIT has agreed to provide forward funding for 13 Starbucks and Costa drive-thrus across the UK for a combined consideration of £23.4m. LXi won’t develop the sites or assume development risk and is forward funding each property on a fixed-price basis. The building works are due to complete in the third quarter of 2019. The drive-thrus are in Barry, Blackpool, Cambourne, Canvey Island, Cardiff, Carmarthen, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Northampton, Nottingham, Peterborough, Preston, Redditch and Stoke. The acquisitions are being funded through LXi’s new Scottish Widows loan. LXi REIT Advisors partner Simon Lee told Insider Media: “This transaction provides our investors with rare access to the strong Starbucks and Costa covenants in scale and the individually granular lot sizes, forward-funding structure and off-market nature of the purchase have delivered a highly attractive yield, coupled with RPI-linked rental uplifts and capital growth potential.”

London-based Bar 6 Group is to open a third site for its Palm Springs concept Near & Far, in Camden. The company said the flagship site, which will open on Friday, 15 March, would take Near & Far to the “next level”. The 180-capacity venue in Chalk Farm Road will be set over four floors and feature a lounge, two bars and a covered roof terrace. The cocktail menu will be inspired by world travels while the kitchen will serve Mexican street food from Elote, a concept created by former Caravan head chef Alex Hutton. Bar 6 Group operates Near & Far venues at Peckham Levels and the Angel as well as The Good Mixer in Camden and Magic Roundabout in Old Street. Creative director Sarah Holgate said: “Starting from an outdoor site in the middle of a roundabout and moving on to our third Near & Far location feels like a dream. We’ll have the space and flexibility to give Camden a new injection of energy providing casual drinkers and diners with an experience like no other in the area.”

Alison Brittain, chief executive of WhitbreadWhitbread is now targeting more than 110,000 hotel rooms in the UK and has said it will look at streamlining the number of restaurant brands in its portfolio. At its capital markets day, chief executive Alison Brittain (pictured) said the size and level of fragmentation in the market meant there was an “even more attractive runway of growth” beyond its target of 85,000 rooms by 2020. Whitbread also revealed plans to double the size of the business in the UK and Germany, with potential for more than 170,000 rooms. Brittain said: “The Premier Inn proposition targets the largest part of the market – the domestic, short-stay, business and leisure traveller – and this market continues to grow. Premier Inn has consistently won market share from independents by adding new capacity, which delivers a consistently superior experience and excellent value for money. Given the size of the market and level of fragmentation, Whitbread sees potential for at least 110,000 rooms in the UK. Whitbread’s unique model enables end-to-end control over the hotel network, all aspects of the customer experience and site-level operations.” Brittain said the company was looking at potentially streamlining is restaurant brand portfolio, given it was now about having a value-for-money offer. She said: “We are happy with the performance of our steak-led brands, Bar + Block and Beefeater, but given the change in focus of our offer, we are looking at reducing the number of other brands.” Through its Premier Inn, hub by Premier Inn and new ZIP by Premier Inn formats, Whitbread currently has more than 74,000 rooms in the UK with 14,000 in the pipeline. Brittain said the company would reach its 110,000-room target by adding new hotels and expanding existing sites, while it was also exploring taking its ten-strong hub by Premier Inn business outside London and Edinburgh to other regional cities. She said the ZIP by Premier Inn concept, where rooms are half the size of a traditional hotel, would capture an “underserved segment of the market”. The 138-room debut site, in Cardiff, will open in a few weeks while a second site has been secured, in Southampton. Brittain said she saw potential for other locations on the outskirts of regional city centres across the UK. In Germany, where Whitbread first invested in 2016, the company has 2,000 rooms with a committed pipeline of 8,000 more including its first acquisition in Germany, which is due to complete in February 2020. Brittain said the company would accelerate its expansion to at least 60,000 rooms through organic growth and further bolt-on acquisitions. She added: “Whitbread sees significant long-term potential to replicate the success of Premier Inn in the UK. Germany is where the UK market was 15 years ago.” Brittain said the company was also targeting a further £220m in savings having delivered more than £150m in the past three years. This included £120m of operating cost savings and £100m of capital cost savings during the next three years. Brittain said this would allow Whitbread to return at least £2.5bn to shareholders, as previously reported. Whitbread began an initial share buyback programme in January, which seeks to repurchase up to £500m of shares by the end of April. Following that, Whitbread intends to pursue a tender offer to repurchase shares to a maximum of £2bn.

Caravan is to run coffee counters at a number of sites operated by co-working company The Office GroupLaura Harper-Hinton, chief executive of London-based restaurant, bar and coffee-roasting concept Caravan, has told Propel the company is looking to participate in more collaborations to help “champion the industry”. Caravan has just begun a partnership with co-working company The Office Group to supply a bespoke single-origin coffee. The partnership will also include running coffee counters at six of its locations and Harper-Hinton said she was keen to run similar ventures. She is also exploring the possibility of Caravan hosting supper clubs for Devi’s, a Silk Road-inspired vegan and vegetarian concept that combines Mediterranean, North African, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Harper-Hinton has begun mentoring Devi’s founder Tanya Gohil after the pair featured on BBC show My Million Pound Menu. While Gohil failed to attract the investment she was looking for, Harper-Hinton was impressed enough by Gohil and her concept to make the alternative offer. Harper-Hinton said: “Tanya is so passionate and talented in everything she does and realises running a street food stall is quite different to opening a bricks and mortar restaurant. She’s also into her food writing and supper clubs. One of the things we are talking about is running a couple of supper clubs in our restaurants. We’d love to invite Tanya in to gain insight and experience of what it’s like in a busy restaurant. We’re interested in more collaborations – for me it’s about championing the industry and women in the sector, collaborating with the next generation and the most exciting, creative, boundary pushers out there – especially with consumers now wanting more of an experiential and conscious dining experience. This is one of the ways of doing that.” Harper-Hinton said current trading at five-strong Caravan was “fantastic”, with like-for-like sales up about 10%. She added: “It is tough out there but we have a team of fantastic people and I refuse to be sucked into any negativity! Keeping up the positivity and momentum is very important to us as a business. The coffee segment is crowded but more people are making the transition to craft coffee. That’s a growing market in the UK and I think it’s something that once people get a taste for it, it’s difficult to go back.” Regarding potential expansion, Harper-Hinton said: “We are looking at a couple of things. We’re keen to keep growing but at a sensible pace, while making sure we’re picking the right sites – as we have done.”

EAT logoAndrew Walker, chief executive of food-to-go chain EAT, has told Propel a sale of the circa 100-strong business is “not imminent” despite the company’s backer appointing advisors to review its options. Horizon Capital, previously known as Lyceum Capital, acquired a stake in EAT eight years ago and, as reported by Sky News, has appointed corporate advisory firm Spayne Lindsay. Walker said no deal process had begun and at present a timetable for such a process starting would come nearer the end of this year. He said: “We are working with Spayne Lindsay but at present no sale process is part of that work – that may change as we come closer to the year end.” Walker joined the business in 2016 and has overseen a refresh of the group’s offer and design, leading to ten months of like-for-like sales growth. The group’s new-look stores have also generated an average 15% year-on-year sales increase. Walker said the company was focused on the continued roll-out of its new look  and its pipeline of international openings. It recently launched a site in Gare du Nord station in Paris, with an opening in Malaga airport set for the end of this month. The brand also has two openings at Barcelona airport – Terminals 1 and 2 – due this spring. The company will make its debut in the Middle East later this year, at Bahrain airport.

Artist impression of the back bar area of the new All Star Lanes next generation concept opening at Westfield LondonBowling alley business All Star Lanes has appointed Graham Cook as managing director and hired a new group finance director, Propel has learned. Cook took over the role of interim managing director in September in the wake of Christian Rose’s departure earlier that summer. Cook has been with the five-strong company since July 2016, including a stint as director of guest proposition. The company has also hired Meera Depala as group finance editor. Depala was previously head of finance at 85 Piccadilly and London Union. Previous to that she was financial controller at cocktail bar brand Be At One. Rose’s departure came as the company, which is backed by a number of high-net-worth individuals, was taken off the market. The business had appointed advisors BDO to assess options to fund its next stage of growth. It is thought that despite interest from trade players and private equity, All Star Lanes’ backers decided to hold on to the business for the foreseeable future.

Five GuysBetter burger brand Five Guys has secured a further four sites for its UK pipeline as it targets 11 openings in the country this year, Propel has learned. The company, which secured a £100m banking facility from Goldman Sachs last summer to support expansion plans in the UK and Europe, has lined up openings in Braintree, Bromley, Cambridge’s Market Street and at the Drake Circus scheme in Plymouth. It is also set to open a flagship site in Barcelona, which will be the group’s 14th in Spain. The company, which operates circa 80 sites in the UK, has also appointed Paul Hamilton as head of brand for Europe. Hamilton was previously managing partner at creative brand agency Will London.

The refurbished Wagamama restaurant at the St David's shopping centre in CardiffThe Restaurant Group (TRG) has promoted Nick Shelmerdine to the role of managing director (delivery) as its looks to gain further market share in the sector, Propel has learned. Shelmerdine has been promoted to the new role to allow TRG to build a “winning position in the rapidly growing delivery sector”. He joined the company in June 2017 as transformation director, becoming director of operational excellence later that year and helping to build TRG’s delivery and collection channel and develop a new team focused on operational excellence in the casual dining division. When setting out the reasons behind its acquisition of Wagamama, TRG said it believed delivery represented a “significant area of opportunity”, adding that Wagamama was “already one of the top brands” on Deliveroo. It said the enlarged group would be “well positioned to invest behind structural growth in the delivery space including through delivery-only kitchens – where Wagamama has an early-mover advantage – in digital capabilities and in online brands”.

A surge in international visitors, particularly from the Far East, resulted in UK hotels enjoying growth throughout 2018, according to new data from Expedia Group. Analysis shows global interest in “destination UK” has remained strong, with major cities and regions across the UK experiencing significant double-digit growth. This growth has been driven in part by visitors from the Far East, with demand from Chinese travellers rising almost 160% year-on-year in 2018. This was supported by further increases in demand from visitors from Malaysia (45% year-on-year), Japan and Thailand (both 30%) and Korea (20%). Demand remained buoyant from the traditionally strong markets of Germany, Canada, Australia and France, and was further fuelled by visitors from fast-growing markets such as Italy, Ireland and Spain, with all registering significant double-digit, year-on-year increases. Furthermore, there was notable growth in travellers from South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina. While London saw positive growth of almost 15% year-on-year, other UK cities also witnessed increased visitor numbers. International and domestic demand for Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff grew 15%, with Edinburgh and Glasgow both experiencing 10% year-on-year growth. Edinburgh kept its spot as the second most popular destination by market share after London for tourists visiting the UK. From a regional demand perspective, the biggest year-on-year growth was experienced in Essex, East Anglia, West Midlands, North Wales, Lake District and Cumbria. Meanwhile Cornwall, Devon and the Scottish Highlands saw an uplift in average daily rate in what was generally a flat market for the category. Expedia Group director of market management Irene Roberts said: “The significant rise in demand from valuable Far East visitors is great news for hoteliers. Lengthier booking windows and increased on-property spend enable them to focus their time on maximising bookings during shoulder periods.”

The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen in Liverpool, which has been bought by Mission Mars from Bistro QuiMission Mars, the north west-based operator behind Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, has acquired The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen (pictured) in Liverpool from Bistro Qui. The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen was sold on a leasehold basis off an asking price of £750,000 through agents Christie & Co. The venue becomes the 12th site for Mission Mars and second in Liverpool. The 170-cover venue occupies the ground and lower ground floors of the grade II-listed Casartelli Building at the junction of Duke Street and Hanover Street. Bistro Qui owner Mark Friend, who sought to sell the business as part of a portfolio rationalisation, said: “We wish the new owner every success with The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen and we’re sure it can take this site to a new level.”

Cabana, the Brazilian barbecue group founded by Jamie Barber and David Ponte, will make its international debut later this year, in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. Propel has learned the company, which currently operates eight restaurants in the UK, has signed a franchise deal with Saudi Arabian hospitality company Al Hokair to launch the brand in the Middle East. The first site under the agreement will open near the end of September in Riyadh. Barber told Propel no figure had been put on how many sites the two companies might open together but both felt there could be more opportunities for the brand in Saudi Arabia. After closing three sites last year – in Islington, Brixton and Newcastle – Barber said the company had also spent the last 12 months rebalancing the Cabana offer. He said: “There was obviously a significant bias towards meat but we have rebalanced that to incorporate more vegan and vegetarian dishes and taken a more flexitarian approach. It has paid off and we have seen an uplift in performance.”

More than four-fifths (82%) of UK diners would “dump” a restaurant brand following one bad experience, according to a new survey by guest experience management expert HGEM. However, the survey suggests operators should seek opportunities surrounding social media, with (three-fifths) 60% of millennials stating they fall in love with a brand through Instagram. The platform massively outscored social media rivals Facebook (17%), YouTube (5%), Twitter (4%) and Snapchat (3%). HGEM suggested operators should focus marketing efforts on Instagram when targeting millennials, while traditional forms of marketing such as magazine advertising (32%) and emails (25%) remain the preference of baby boomers. The study also revealed customers value brands that focus on “honesty”, “reliability” and “willingness to go above and beyond” twice as much as brands that focus on being “fun” and “social”. Almost three-quarters (72%) of customers also believe a single team member has the power to influence their decision to like a restaurant brand or not, indicating operators should focus on training staff to “understand the impact their role has on the customer experience”. Almost one-third (30%) of respondents are willing to overlook bad restaurant reviews for a brand they are already invested in. HGEM founding director Sally Whelan said: “While an individual’s reasons to fall in love with a brand are not always obvious, the survey clearly demonstrates the importance of customer experience in the process. A positive experience can drive loyalty and strong brand engagement, driving repeat visits and sales. Front-of-house teams are often the key to unlocking the hearts and minds of customers. Operators should make the most of this influence by introducing effective staff training and reward schemes.”

Alex Reilley, LoungersLoungers founder Alex Reilley will feature in the next 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (15 February). Reilley talks about the adaptations involved in growing a business from one site to more than 100, celebrating success and the art of succession. Premium subscribers receive regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences. Other videos have featured sector investor Luke Johnson; Ceviche founder Martin Morales; City Pub Company founder Clive Watson; brand strategist Ian Dunstall; Chozen Noodle chief executive Matthew Kirby; Coaching Inn Group founder Kevin Charity; consultant James Hacon; Imbiba partner Darrel Connell; Sticks ‘n’ Sushi group chief operating officer Andreas Karlsson; Mowgli founder Nisha Katona; haysmacintyre partner Andrew Ball; Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones; Swingers co-founder Matt Grech-Smith; Morar HPI deputy managing director Martin Dinkele; John Upton, former managing director of Leon and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli; and David Singleton, area vice-president, franchise operations and development EMEA/south Asia at Hard Rock International. 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 and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. His next piece will give his views on what lies ahead for the sector’s big pub operators. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We plan to compile an invaluable library of senior leaders and advisors offering insights and advice, a resource Premium readers can tap into.” An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Heavitree Brewery, the Exeter-based tenanted pub operator, has reported turnover increased £315,000 to £7,614,000 for the year ending 31 October 2018. Group operating profit was down £146,000 to £1,632,000. During the year, The King of Prussia in Bovey Tracey, the Kings Arms in Strete, The Crown & Sceptre in Newton St Cyres and a block of four flats in Exeter were all sold. The total book profit realised on the sale of these sites was £814,000. Chairman Nicholas Tucker said: “Despite the political uncertainty the country is facing the quality of our houses and the tenants and leaseholders who operate them and the dedicated support they receive from all our staff at head office, have combined to help deliver this year’s strong set of results.”

By ChloePlant-based brand By Chloe (pictured) and Mexican restaurant brand Benito’s Hat are among a new wave of seven operators set to open at O2’s Icon outlet this spring. AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners recently launched the 210,000 square foot Icon development. The seven traders will take the total number of bars and restaurants at the O2 to 34. By Chloe will open a 5,400 square foot restaurant with a 1,500 square foot garden for its third London site, while Benito’s Hat will open its fourth site in the capital. Chinese hot pot chain Hai Di Lao will open its second European restaurant following an announced opening in Piccadilly Circus as part of a 20-site plan for London. Hai Di Lao will open an 8,200 square foot restaurant with a 2,800 square foot mezzanine in May. Seafood restaurant Hook will open its second London site, while Beer+Burger will open its fifth site in the capital offering its six signature burgers and craft beer. Meanwhile, former NASCAR racing driver Matt Harris will open a third site for his concept Thunderbird Fried Chicken, which received investment from private equity firm TriSpan last month. The seventh brand is Scarlet, which will offer authentic Indian street food. O2 leasing director Marion Dillon said: “These latest additions bring an exciting food theatre to our line-up at The O2.” Davis Coffer Lyons and Lunson Mitchenall are food and beverage leasing agents for the O2.

Century Club, the private members’ club in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, is considering options for its next stage of growth following offers and expressions of interest from a number of parties, Propel has learned. The club, which launched in 2001, is understood to have retained Dow Schofield Watts (London) to provide strategic advice. The club is spread over four floors and boasts “unrivalled views of central London” alongside dedicated events spaces and other member areas, which all benefit from an in-house food and drinks offering. Century’s freeholder and operator stated: “The club represents a unique opportunity to build on operations at a site encompassing 20,000 square feet of Shaftesbury Avenue, including Soho’s largest roof terrace. Any decision on the future operation of the club will hinge on operational excellence, with the interests of members and staff critical to any transaction. The location, fabric of the building and late licence offer potential for the club to be repositioned as one of the premier private members’ spaces in the capital.”

Mark McCulloch, one of the UK food and drink sector’s leading marketers, has launched premium brand and marketing consultancy Supersonic Inc. Launch clients for the Brighton and London-based consultancy include Bill’s Restaurants, Roadchef and The Ciderologist. Supersonic Inc will offer one-to-one strategy advice and consultancy across a range of key marketing disciplines including brand, marketing, digital, social and employee engagement. McCulloch said: “I have started Supersonic Inc as a portfolio business where I can offer an up-close and personal consultancy with non-executive-style advice. I will also grow my personal brand through speaking, e-learning and broadcasting as creating content is the number-one way to succeed for any business. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and got itchy feet to start all over again.” While McCulloch will step back from day-to-day operations at WE ARE Spectacular, he will remain a shareholder and adviser to the business he has led for the past six years as founder and chief executive. He said: “We grew WE ARE Spectacular to a £1m-plus agency, which is what I set out to do. As Chris Evans said when he left Radio 2, once you have scaled your mountain, you have to find a new mountain to climb.” McCulloch cut his teeth at and has held senior in-house marketing roles at Barclaycard, YO! Sushi and Pret A Manger. He added: “The name Supersonic refers to something clients have said I add – being a rocket booster for their business. It’s also a nod to Oasis and all those hours I spent as a teenager playing Sonic the Hedgehog.” Contact McCulloch on or @Supersonic_Inc on Twitter and Instagram.

Independent Suffolk coffee shop operator and wholesaler Paddy & Scott’s has added another venue to its portfolio, in Haverhill, near Cambridge. The coffee shop has opened as part of a £1.5m overhaul of Haverhill leisure centre. Paddy & Scott’s supplies coffee to Abbeycroft Leisure’s nine not-for-profit leisure centres, which are based across Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Abbeycroft’s ongoing refurbishment programme will see each leisure centre feature a Paddy & Scott’s coffee shop. Paddy & Scott’s chief executive Scott Russell said: “We train our baristas to produce perfectly brewed coffee in a fast-paced environment, which makes our coffee shops a perfect fit for leisure centre guests.” Russell launched the Paddy & Scott’s business from the boot of his car in 2007.

HacheHache, the burger concept owned by Hush Brasserie, is to open at a former CAU site in Kingston-upon-Thames, Propel has learned. The site, the brand’s seventh, will reopen at the end of March under the name Hache Riverside Social. Hush Brasserie founder Jamie Barber told Propel the site would be the brand’s largest yet and would incorporate an all-day offer for the first time, alongside a roastery. Barber said: “It is a beautiful site. We had a look at a number of CAU sites but this one stood out. We want take our time expanding and, unless something amazing presents itself in terms of a new site opportunity, this will be our only opening this year.” Hush Brasserie, led by Cabana co-founder Barber, former Richoux Group managing director Ed Standring, and ex-Wagamama chief executive Ian Neill, acquired Hache in September 2016 from founders Berry and Suzie Casey. It also operates the original Hush restaurant in Mayfair.

Cornwall-based events company The Wyldes has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for phase two of the development of its 10,000-capacity concert venue. The company was offering 4.76% equity in return for a £250,000 investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £5m. In total, 248 investors pledged £291,170 and the campaign has now closed. The 150-acre, eponymous venue near Bude overlooks an area of outstanding beauty and has hosted more than 50,000 visitors. Founded in 2008, the venue hosts its own festival and has seen a “6,313% increase in annual ticket sales between 2006 and 2018”. The pitch states: “The Wyldes has three permanent stages, eight bars, catering facilities, and a team and infrastructure in place. We are producing two or three large-scale, music-based events per year during summer and we’re ready to improve our infrastructure and assets to bring a larger, more diverse range of increased-capacity shows throughout all seasons. These improvements will also increase the profitability of each event by reducing hire costs and enabling new revenue streams, including options for luxury accommodation on-site.”

The White Rose pub in Leeming Bar, North YorkshireNorth of England-based hotel group Shepherd Cox has sold the White Rose Hotel in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire. Kevin Procter, who owns Procters Coaches, has acquired the closed pub off an asking price of £380,000 through agents Christie & Co. The White Rose features a bar, pool room and dining conservatory with 15 guest bedrooms in an extension. Shepherd Cox director Nick Carlile said: “We purchased the site as part of a package deal but it quickly became evident it didn’t fit our business model.” Procter added: “Being local, I was keen to protect the future of the pub. We now have plans to refurbish and reopen the White Rose, creating something the town can be proud of.”

Only A Pavement Away, the charity that works with operators to help ex-offenders find employment in the hospitality industry, has announced its inaugural conference. Co-hosted with Think Hospitality, the event will take place at The H Club in London on Tuesday, 19 March and cover issues such as the challenges operators face when employing vulnerable people, how to be a great employer, tips for overcoming the recruitment challenge, and how to put your best foot forward with employer branding. The event will include speakers from Five Guys, The Ivy Collection, Young’s, Coaching Inn Group, Yummy Collection, Malmaison, Brewhouse & Kitchen, and Sodexo. Operators can apply for two free tickets to the event on a first come, first served basis by emailing

YO! Sushi has launched a “DNA dining experience” in partnership with genetic testing company DNAFitYO! Sushi has launched a “DNA dining experience” in partnership with genetic testing company DNAFit. YO! Dinner, YO! Way has been launched on the back of a report by YO! Sushi and foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory that bids to predict how food will look in ten years’ time and the trends and “tribes” that will contribute to change. YO! Sushi said it had become the first nationwide restaurant chain to bring the DNA trend to the high street in response to rising demand for personalised, genetic-based nutrition. YO! Dinner, YO! Way offers diners a home DNA test before they are sent a breakdown of their needs, food sensitivities and diet plan based on the results. If selected from those who submit their email address, diners will also receive a “personalised plate plan” – a list of YO! Sushi dishes that best meet their genetic requirements. From analysing DNA, DNAFit can uncover whether a person unknowingly suffers from lactose-intolerance or requires more omega 3 in their diet, for example. YO! Sushi marketing director Luisa Fernandez said: “We wanted to help diners find out how their body ticks and the best nutrients and ingredients to feed it with. DNA dining is just the start of food personalisation and we’re excited to bring it to the mainstream.” DNAFit chief executive Avi Lasarow added: “There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to diet and nutrition, and it is excellent to see YO! embrace the potential of a DNA-guided menu. We know personalisation is becoming increasingly important to so many decisions we make each day as consumers and YO! Dinner, YO! Way will get diners one step closer to living their best possible life.”

The Coach House – Buzzworks Holdings first site outside of AyrshireScottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings has reported a 9% increase in turnover, from £14.8m to £16.2m, for the year ending 29 April 2018. Buzzworks, which operates 11 venues in Ayrshire and the east of Scotland, also reported pre-tax profits “continued to be positive”, while the company invested £1.8m during the period on new venues, refurbishments and staff development. During the year Buzzworks opened its first site outside Ayrshire, in Bridge of Weir, with a £1m investment seeing the company open its fifth House-branded restaurant and bar, The Coach House, creating 40 jobs. It also secured its second venue outside Ayrshire – Scotts Port Edgar Marina. Closer to home, Buzzworks invested £400,000 to refurbish its flagship House venue The Tree House in Ayr and buy an adjacent property to create the T Bar. There was a 6% increase in employee numbers during the period, from 438 in 2017 to 466 in 2018. Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair said: “Now with two sites in the east and further negotiations on sites 13, 14 and 15, we are forging ahead with our planned growth strategy with the focus on making 2019 even more successful. Our staff define us and are integral to creating the foundations of a successful hospitality business. So much so we have spent more than £100,000 in the past year to introduce industry-leading work-life balance initiatives for our people, including decreasing the working week without decreasing pay and paying overtime for every hour worked or time in lieu. We have also increased our training initiatives to encourage personal growth and development for everyone within the company.” Last month, Buzzworks Holdings announced it would evolve its Elliots bar and restaurant in Prestwick into new concept Vic’s & The Vine, which will open near Easter.

Social Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has launched and is open for bookings. The event features all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure, broaden their reach and ensure their digital marketing really delivers. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop, which will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event takes place on Thursday, 4 April at One Moorgate Place in London. Sessions will include how to drive business via social media, how activity works for different generations, the power and empathy in great storytelling, and marketing and what it takes to be a trusted brand on social media. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing

Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will give his views on the prospects for Greene King, Marston’s, City Pub Company, Fuller’s, Young’s and Mitchells & Butlers in his regular opinion article, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (15 February). Propel Premium subscribers 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, regular videos featuring insights from industry executives, and discounts to attend Propel conferences and events. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email to sign up or call her on 01444 817691. Mark can be contacted at

The full speaker schedule has been revealed for the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019, which is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 7 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. The speaker line-up is Graeme Smith, co-head of financial advisory services at AlixPartners; Mark Ashley, author of Be Better Than Yesterday and former director of retail operations at Geronimo; JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin; Nathan Wall, operations director of Managed Investments at Ei Group; Alastair Scott, co-founder of food-led operator Malvern Inns and Catton Hospitality; Ted Kennedy, owner of Pebble Hotels and veteran operator of pub assets; Martin Hayes, co-founder of Craft Beer Co; Ian Payne, chairman of Stonegate Pub Company; Joe Grossman, founder of the nine-strong Patty & Bun brand; and James Hacon, British Takeaway Award judge and founder of Think HospitalityMulti-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Star Pubs & Bars

BII NITAs 2018

BII NITAs Awards

20th November 2018

To view the pictures CLICK HERE


Upgrade Propel Premium and receive:

 The Morning Briefing 12 hours earlier

• Discount on tickets to Masterclass events

• Database of 1,100 multi-site companies

• Digital version of our Propel Quarterly early

• Video recordings of leading sector executives

To find out more CLICK HERE

Propel Quarterly Winter 2018

Propel Quarterly

The must read sector business analysis and intelligence magazine

To read our latest magazine CLICK HERE