Story of the Day:

Young’s appoints interim chief financial officer

London pub retailer Young’s has appointed Daniel Quint as interim chief financial officer. The appointment comes after Steve Robinson resigned and left the business last month to pursue other interests. Young’s stated: “Daniel is an experienced private and public company chief financial officer with more than ten years’ board-level experience. From 2015 to 2018 he was chief financial officer at SPIE UK, a leading energy, safety and environmental solutions provider, and from 2010 to 2015 he was finance director for the UK, Middle East and Africa at Robert Walters, a global recruitment consultancy. Daniel has a strong entrepreneurial background and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Daniel joins Young’s on an interim basis while the company’s board is progressing with the process to appoint a permanent chief financial officer. Daniel is not a member of the company’s board.” Chief executive Patrick Dardis said: “I am pleased to welcome Daniel to Young’s – he brings with him the necessary skills and experience to lead our finance function while we progress the search for a permanent chief financial officer.”

Domino’s unveils target to grow 60% by 2025 with focus on largest international markets

Dominos pizzaDomino’s Pizza has unveiled plans to grow 60% in the next six years, with a target of 9,700 new stores by 2025. The company, which has 15,300 stores globally, said the majority of the expansion – more than 6,500 outlets – would occur in its largest international markets. The target almost doubles the company’s growth rate of 5,260 stores in the past six years. Domino’s has also projected $25bn in annual sales globally by 2025 – a number that doubles the pizza chain’s fiscal 2017 sales of $12.25bn, with domestic and international like-for-like sales both growing 3% to 6% in the next three to five years. Speaking at the company’s investor relations day, chief executive Richard Allison said: “The reason we want to achieve that goal is it creates a virtuous cycle in our business, and that starts with winning in every neighbourhood in every market. You don’t get to be dominant number one in the world without being dominant in every neighbourhood.” Domino’s said it planned to increase the number of restaurants in the same markets as a strategy for strengthening dominance and forcing out competitors. The company plans to continue investing in customer-facing and back-of-house technology, including a next-generation point-of-sales system. It added its loyalty programme had 20 million “active” users in 2018, which includes members who have ordered from Domino’s at least once in the past six months.

Other News:

Premier Inn LogoMorgan Stanley analyst Jamie Rollo has outlined five reasons to stay positive about Whitbread following its third-quarter trading update. He said: “We remain positive on the shares. 1. We expect Whitbread to announce a £2.9bn cash return at its 13 February investor day, including the £0.5bn share buyback just commenced. This is equivalent to a significant 33% of market capital, technically share price supportive as well as limiting downside if we see a further market sell-off or Brexit de-rating. 2. Whitbread is a resilient hotel operator, both in terms of concept (budget hotels are less cyclical and benefit from trading down), operating model (mostly owned Ebitda, which has high margins, stable margins over the past decade), and balance sheet (we assume it de-leverages to about one times basic net debt:Ebitda, giving interest cover at 15 times). 3. Premier Inn is one of the world’s strongest hoteliers from an investment standpoint, and we cannot think of another asset-heavy listed hotelier enjoying its KPIs on occupancy (about 80%), TripAdvisor (average score of 4.5), direct distribution mix (97%), unit expansion (6%), and real estate backing (65% freehold tenure mix). 4. Germany could cause a valuation re-rating if the company can get to a more material position here (currently we estimate it will generate £20m Ebit in three years, 3% of the group), given this is a structurally more attractive market than the UK (branded budget share 5% versus 23% UK). 5. The company’s £5bn-plus real estate backing is about 80% of EV, implying the theoretical operating company is trading on two times to three times Ebitda. We also note the share price barely moved, suggesting either the bad news is already priced in, or that some investors may be thinking that bad news is good news if it leads to more activist pressure, or that the technical cash return support is working. We think there could be a potential positive surprise at the capital markets day in two areas. First, the company could announce a bold ambition in Germany, where it currently has a pipeline of 6,000 rooms (which will take it to the fifth largest branded budget hotelier from until recently zero presence), well below where it is in the UK (75,000). Given the German market is larger than the UK, and more fragmented, a medium-term target of 10,000 to 20,000 rooms seems achievable, but a long-term ambition could be a multiple of this. Second, while we expect the company to defend its unique and predominantly freehold strategy (easier to expand than via franchising, and owning preferable to leasing due to control over product/investment, potential for capital gains, higher margins, cheaper funding, easier to churn), the company could provide more information to help investors value the real estate. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect this to include a commitment to an annual revaluation (last done three years ago), reporting an internal operating company rent, doing more small sale and leasebacks, or even proposing an option to sell enough UK assets to reinvest in a German property-backed hotelier if a large deal were to become available. Either of these could help the ‘price discovery’ process the share price is going through as investors work out how to value such a unique hotel operator.”

Honi Poké's vegan bowlsThe number of vegan restaurants in Britain has increased 55% in the past year to 48, according to new research. The findings by the Local Data Company showed the majority of new businesses are in London, where there are 18. However, growth can be found in every region apart from north east England and Scotland. Outside London, the research showed Yorkshire and the Humber region has the most vegan restaurants, with 12. LDC stated: “Further to the increase in vegan restaurants, it is evident supermarkets, restaurants and other food operators are innovating their menus to cater for these new markets as veganism emerges into the mainstream. Brands are under enormous pressure to innovate and stand out to survive so the influx of vegan-friendly dishes may come as no surprise as retailers aim to get an edge over competitors. Offering this cuisine not only opens up a new market of consumers and jumps on a national trend but also gives retailers an opportunity to show customers they care about the environment. The detrimental impact of meat production on the environment has been widely publicised in recent times, and retailers who want to speak to the ethically minded generation can show they also care about sustainability. We predict many more years of growth for this healthy, nutritious and meat-free way of eating.” Operators have looked to take advantage of the growing vegan trend including food-on-the-go retailer Greggs, which earlier this month launched a vegan sausage roll, while Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi recently introduced the high street’s first four-cheese vegan pizza, the Quattro No-Maggio. Pret A Manager now has four Veggie Pret sites having launched the concept as a pop-up in Soho in June 2016, while London-based healthy food and juice brand Crussh has turned its Soho site into a vegan store this month as it explores the model’s viability.

Richoux Group, the owner and operator of Richoux, Friendly Phil’s, Villagio and The Broadwick restaurants, has announced the proposed cancellation of admission of its ordinary shares to trading on AIM and re-registration as a private limited company, conditional on approval by shareholders. The company stated: “The directors have conducted a review of the benefits and drawbacks to the company and its shareholders in retaining its quotation on AIM, and believe the cancellation is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders as a whole. In reaching this conclusion, the directors have considered the following key factors. Whilst trading for the group remains in line with market expectations, the board has concluded material growth in revenue is unlikely to be achieved in the longer term under its current business model, and may require additional funding in future, whether from existing shareholders or externally, to achieve material growth. Following consultation, the board expects the company is unlikely to receive material support from potential providers of capital or additional financing to support the company as it is currently structured. In order to put the company in a position whereby providers of finance may be more inclined to advance funds, the board believes that a material reduction in central overhead is required. Given the board’s view the company is unlikely to attract material investment from third-party investors over the foreseeable future, the considerable cost, management time and the legal and regulatory burden associated with maintaining the company’s admission to trading on AIM are, in the directors’ opinion, materially disproportionate to the benefits to the company. The shareholding structure of the company is such that it has a limited free float and liquidity in the ordinary shares, with the consequence the AIM quotation does not offer investors the opportunity to trade in meaningful volumes or with frequency within an active market. By way of example of this, only approximately 1.5% of total current shares in issue were traded on AIM over the 12 months to 31 December 2018. The directors have concluded the cancellation will enable the company to reduce significantly administrative costs, enabling Richoux to continue trading as a private company, possibly without the requirement for external funding while the company focuses on improving its estate. Following careful consideration, and having consulted with the company’s nominated adviser, the directors have concluded it is in the best interests of the company and shareholders to seek the proposed cancellation at the earliest opportunity.” At least 75% of shareholders must vote in favour at a general meeting on Wednesday, 6 February for the proposal to be approved. Richoux Group expects the last day of trading on AIM to be on Thursday, 14 February. The company currently operates 14 restaurants.

Patisserie Valerie's new larger site at Centre:MKPatisserie Holdings has announced deputy chairman and non-executive director Lee Ginsberg has resigned. The company said Ginsberg had left with immediate effect to focus on his other commitments. On Wednesday (16 January), Patisserie Holdings revealed its financial position was worse than initially feared and said it had appointed KPMG to look at “all options” for the business. It said the balance sheet had been “significantly manipulated”, including ledgers containing thousands of false entries. As a result, the company said the cash flow and profitability of the business had been overstated in the past and was materially below that announced in its last trading update in October. That stated the company had a net debt position of £9.8m, rather than the £28m of net cash announced at the end of March. The company also said at the time it expected sales of about £120m and Ebitda of £12m for the year to September 2019. Since evidence of the “black hole” was uncovered and an emergency fund-raising took place to save the business, the company has appointed a new chief executive, interim chief financial officer, non-executive director, commercial director and production director among other management appointments.

From left: Inn Collection Group operations director Paul Brown, Richard Wearmouth, chair of Advance Northumberland, and Katy McIntosh, of Advance Northumberland, at the Amble InnThe Inn Collection Group, which is owned by Alchemy Partners, has opened a £4m new-build pub with rooms in Northumberland. The company has opened 30-bedroom The Amble Inn in Amble. The property, which has a 150-seat restaurant and bar with additional terraces, was purpose-built by Northumberland County Council’s development company Advance Northumberland, which appointed Inn Collection Group as operators. The Inn Collection Group operations manager Paul Brown (left of picture) said: “The Amble Inn fills a long-standing gap for year-round, affordable accommodation of this type as well as providing people with a fantastic new environment to eat and drink in.” The Amble Inn was awarded a £448,500 grant from the Rural Growth Network’s Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund. The opening of The Amble Inn brings The Inn Collection Group’s portfolio to nine trading properties with more than 270 bedrooms in Northumberland, County Durham, North Yorkshire and the Lake District, with further expansion in the pipeline. Earlier this month, the company secured a £10m loan from OakNorth to fund expansion to 21 sites by 2022.

Michelin-starred restaurant JSW in Petersfield, Hampshire, has been put up for sale. The venue has been owned and operated by chef patron Jake Saul Watkins for 18 years, 15 of them with a Michelin star. The grade II-listed property is a 17th century former coaching inn and offers flexible trade areas, four letting bedrooms, a courtyard and large car park. The freehold is being marketed through agents Fleurets with a guide price of £1.25m. Alternatively, there may be an opportunity for lower cost entry via a new free-of-tie lease, with terms to be negotiated. Watkins said: “After 18 fantastic years I will be swapping my whites to concentrate on other business interests. It is with a heavy heart I decided to move on from JSW, mainly because it is still a fantastically profitable business!”

SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has announced independent non-executive director Denis Hennequin has decided not to stand for re-election at the company’s annual general meeting next month. Chairman Vagn Sørensen said: “We would like to thank Denis for his input since joining the board shortly before the initial public offering in 2014. He has brought great experience and insight to the board and we wish him well for the future.”

Warrington-based G&J Distillers, which is owned by Quintessential Brands, will open a gin distillery and bar in Manchester city centre this autumn. The venue will focus on the company’s Thomas Dakin gin brand and feature a distillery on the ground floor with three copper stills and a gin academy upstairs, where visitors will learn about the gin-making process and produce their own gin and labels. The first floor will also feature a 40-capacity gig venue – the Thomas Dakin Amicable Club – showcasing local talent. A specialist gin bar will seat about 50 people and offer premium drinks, gin-based cocktails and bar snacks. G&J Distillers hopes to attract 60,000 visitors a year to the attraction, which will be in Lloyd’s House in Lloyd Street. Thomas Dakin director David Hume told the Manchester Evening News: “With this new distillery we’re going to break new ground in craft gin distilling and champion Manchester’s great craft heritage.” Thomas Dakin is named after the man who refined English gin in 1761 and set the benchmark for what would go on to become one of the world’s most popular spirits.

CineworldCineworld has announced Alicja Kornasiewicz will succeed Anthony Bloom as chairman in 2020. Kornasiewicz, who has been a non-executive director since 2015, has become deputy chairman with immediate effect. She will step up into the role of chairman at the conclusion of the company’s annual general meeting in 2020. Bloom will step down having served as chairman for almost 25 years, dating to the formation of the company. Cineworld stated: “Alicja joined the board in 2015 as an independent non-executive director, and has played an extremely valuable role. She has had a distinguished career in business, finance, politics, and on regulatory bodies, having worked in management roles at UniCredit and Morgan Stanley, as chairman of the supervisory board of Bank Pekao SA, and as a member of the Polish parliament after the first free elections in 1989. Alicja has also served as secretary of state for the Ministry of the State Treasury of the Republic of Poland, has a PhD in economics, and is a qualified auditor.” Nomination committee chairman Rick Senat said: “We conducted a thorough process and evaluated a wide range of candidates. Alicja was the outstanding one, and we believe she will be an excellent successor to Anthony Bloom as chairman of the board in 2020.” Kornasiewicz added: “I consider it an honour to accept the position of deputy chairman and, in due course, chairman of this very successful company, which has such an exciting future ahead of it. Anthony has made a major contribution to the development of Cineworld since day one, and I look forward to working closely with him to ensure a seamless transition following the 2020 annual general meeting.” Bloom added: “Alicja has made a significant contribution to the board since joining it in 2015, and her experience and background will undoubtedly be an asset to the company going forward. I fully support her appointment.” Meanwhile, Everyman has appointed Streisan Bevan as an independent non-executive director. Bevan has more than 20 years digital marketing and innovation experience within the technology sector, having worked at Facebook, and Microsoft. She has spent the past ten years at Facebook UK, in a variety of senior roles across both commercial and technology focused teams.

City Pub Group chairman Clive WatsonCity Pub Company executive chairman Clive Watson has told Propel this will be the last pub venture he’ll lead but he foresees many years’ growth ahead. Watson, who has been involved in the sector for about 30 years and previously sold Capital Pub Company to Greene King, said expansion would continue through measured growth. With City Pub Group on target to hit 75 sites by June 2021, Watson is eyeing phase two of expansion – and the 100-site mark – in the wake of its initial public offering. Speaking following the company’s full-year trading update, he said: “We had 33 pubs when we floated in November 2017 and will have 48 operating by autumn this year – so that’s good growth. We set the target of 75 sites but it doesn’t mean that’s the finishing line. Once we get there we can start looking at that 100-site mark. This will be the last pub venture I lead so it has got to be the best it can be. We’ve got a business model that works and can go on for many years. We are constantly getting offers for sites. We’re being very selective with acquisitions but we’ve got the headroom and financial firepower to manage that growth.” Watson, who increased his shareholding in City Pub Company to 4.37% after buying 40,000 more shares on Wednesday (16 January), said the company was eyeing its first move into the experiential sector at the former JD Wetherspoon-owned Tivoli pub, which will reopen in Cambridge this year. However, Watson said there would be no mass roll-out of the format. He said: “It’s a big site outside the city centre and we think we need something beyond a normal pub to draw people in, particularly students. We’re looking at a few things such as crazy golf as we think it will work well but it’s still at an early stage.” Watson said the company would continue to look to add rooms to the estate as they provide a “different dynamic to the business”. The company expects to have 100 bedrooms by the autumn and Watson hopes about 10% of group revenue will come from accommodation – or “rooms above the inn” as he prefers to call them – in the next three to four years. The company saw like-for-like sales increase 1.6% in the year, with total turnover up 22% to £45.6m. Like-for-likes over the festive period were up 7%. Watson said: “I am particularly pleased with the sales trend we’ve seen towards the end of the year, which has set us up nicely for the new financial year.” Watson also said he “slept the best in almost two and a half years” following the government’s defeat over its Brexit deal. He said: “For the first time since 23 June 2016 there is a realistic chance we are going to remain in the EU. If that happens the value of the pound will go up and the cost of food and drink will go down, which will be a big boost to the economy. People voted to leave because they thought they were going to get a better deal. At the moment no-one has come up with one and what we have on the table is a good one. I think we are rowing back to “remain”, although there’s still a chance of us crashing out so we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Justin Phillimore, CEO Charles Wells of BedfordBedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells saw UK like-for-likes increase 4% in December, with its French estate up 7.5% during the month. Chief executive Justin Phillimore (pictured) told Propel the company was confident of delivering good growth again in the new financial year having this week reported a turnover and profit boost for the year ending 30 September 2018. Turnover on its continuing operations increased 8.6% to £43m, with profit before tax up 226.9% to £4.6m. Phillimore said the company aimed to open about six sites a year for its six-strong Pizza, Pots and Pints concept in the UK and three or four annually in France, where it is about to open its 14th pub. While Phillimore said the company was looking to grow Pizza, Pots and Pints and its French portfolio to 20 sites each by 2020, the current pipeline suggested those targets would be exceeded. Phillimore added it would begin converting three of the four sites bought from the Orange Tree Group later this year. The venues in Nottingham, Loughborough and Leicester are being run under their current format while Charles Wells “gets to understand the trading environment” given it is a new market for the company. Phillimore said Nottingham would be the first conversion. The remaining site – Kelso in Loughborough – will remain a late-night bar. Phillimore added: “The past year has been about making sure we have the systems and teams in place for expansion and we feel we can now add pubs to the estate at a reasonable rate, if we can find them – that’s the challenge. If we can do further small group acquisitions, we will.”

NewRiver has said it is looking at pub opportunities within its shopping centres after opening its debut site. The Keg & Kitchen has opened at The Ridings shopping centre, Wakefield, operated by Hawthorn Leisure. NewRiver said early trading performance has been encouraging and other opportunities across the wider portfolio were under review. NewRiver reported its Hawthorn Leisure portfolio saw like-for-like Ebitda per pub increase 0.8% in the company’s third quarter and was up 4.3% in the two weeks to 31 December 2018. Beer volumes were up 10.2% in the two weeks to 31 December 2018. Pub occupancy remained high at 98.9% (September 2018: 98.6%). NewRiver owns 671 pubs, accounting for 22% of total portfolio. The integration of Hawthorn Leisure will be completed by the end of the month as targeted. NewRiver will then benefit from £2m of the £3m synergies identified at the time of acquisition, includes £1.7m announced in the first half secured through supply contract renegotiations and further £0.3m unlocked in the third quarter. The remaining £1m will follow in FY20. NewRiver chief executive Allan Lockhart said: “NewRiver has had a solid third quarter as evidenced by the robust operating metrics across our retail and pub portfolios. The integration of Hawthorn Leisure is on track to complete later this month, and we have made excellent progress towards realising the £3m of synergies identified at the time of acquisition, as well as leveraging Hawthorn Leisure’s pub operating expertise across our wider retail portfolio. NewRiver’s portfolio of wet-led community pubs now accounts for more than 20% of our total assets, adding further diversification to our income streams.”

Terminal 3 of Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport, where SSP is opening six restaurantsSSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has reported like-for-like sales increased 2.5% for the 13 weeks to 31 December 2018 with total group revenue up 7.7%. The company stated: “The trends in like-for-like sales growth in the first quarter of the year were similar to those seen last year in the UK, North America and the rest of the world. Like-for-like sales growth in continental Europe was impacted by the recent protests in France towards the end of the quarter and by redevelopment activity at some of our sites. Looking forward to the full year, our expectation for like-for-like sales growth for the group remains unchanged, at between 2% and 3%. Net contract gains at 3.8% were slightly ahead of our expectations and were driven by significant contributions from North America and the rest of the world. Looking forward to the rest of FY2019, our latest expectation is for net gains to be a little ahead of our previous guidance of circa 3%, largely a reflection of new contract wins in the first quarter, particularly in North America. The new financial year has started well and the pipeline of new contracts is encouraging. While a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to be well placed to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets.”

Everyman has secured a new £30m banking facility to support its growth and updated on its pipeline as it reported trading in 2018 continued to be in line with market expectations. In a trading update for the 53 weeks to 3 January, the company stated: “Everyman now operates 26 venues, with four new venues opened in the final quarter of the financial year (Altrincham, Crystal Palace, Glasgow and Liverpool). The total number of screens now operated by the group is 84 (2017: 69). Together with York, which was opened in the first half of the year, this brings the total number of venues opened in 2018 to five. The group also continues to source exciting opportunities for future investment. Since the interim results, which were published on 5 September 2018, lease agreements have been signed for four venues in Manchester, Clitheroe, Northallerton and Plymouth. Including these, the company has commitments in place to open a further 14 venues by 2022, with seven openings expected in 2019 – Horsham, Newcastle, Clitheroe, Manchester, London Broadgate, Cardiff, and Wokingham. The directors are confident of being able to grow the existing pipeline beyond the new sites which are already committed and expected to go live in 2020. To help achieve this, the company is pleased to announce on 16 January it agreed to a new loan facility of £30m, provided by Barclays Bank and Santander UK. This replaces the previous £20m facility signed by the company on 10 March 2017 with Barclays Bank. This new facility has a term of five years and supports growth opportunities for the group. The directors maintain a positive outlook for the cinema industry and for the company in 2019. Audiences continue to enjoy film, and specifically the Everyman experience.”

Tenpin in CardiffTen Entertainment Group, the UK’s second-largest ten-pin bowling operator, has reported like-for-like sales increased 2.7% for the year ending 30 December 2018. Total sales were up 7.5% to £76,350,000. Four sites were acquired during the year and one underperforming site closed during the period.The company said good progress had been made during the year with the expansion of the estate and the pipeline of opportunities remained strong for the coming year. It added expectations for FY18 group adjusted Ebitda remained unchanged. Newly appointed chief executive Duncan Garrood said: “I am pleased to have joined a business that delivered good sales growth in the last financial year. I have been very impressed by the quality of the people throughout the business, their focus on high standards of customer service and their commercial acumen. I am excited for the year ahead and look forward to driving a number of our key strategies such as our focus on digital, innovation and an enhanced customer experience.” Chairman Nick Basing added: “I am very pleased with this performance, the seventh consecutive year of like-for-like sales growth, despite the headwinds of the extreme summer conditions. It demonstrates the fast-growing and substantial ‘experiential’ segment of leisure in which we operate, with a largely invested, well proven, and technology enabled proposition for families and millennials, provides us with confidence during the current economic and politically uncertain times. We continue to find opportunities to expand our footprint and successfully apply our business model when making acquisitions. We look forward to a strong year of growth ahead.”

Holiday park operator Dream Lodge Group has collapsed into administration, potentially leaving investors millions of pounds out of pocket. Some 80 jobs have been lost across the company’s eight sites, whose parent company Walsham Chalet Park have called in Deloitte, reports The Telegraph. Investors were promised personal use of the holiday parks as well as either fixed rental income or a guaranteed profit after three years. Fears were raised in October when “guaranteed return” payments failed to arrive and the company missed a deadline to file its annual accounts. The Telegraph subsequently revealed KPMG had been appointed to assess the company’s financial options. Deloitte joint administrator Richard Hawes said two-thirds of Dream Lodge’s 121-strong workforce were made redundant immediately after it was “no longer possible to continue to operate the business in its existing format”. No further details were provided about the financial difficulties encountered by the company. In its October 2016 financial statements, the last set filed, Walsham Chalet amassed debts of more than £17m. Nearly £8m of that was listed as accruals and deferred income, which includes amounts owed to investors. The company had bank loans totalling about £6m from NatWest secured against its land, buildings and other assets, according to the same accounts. Hawes said Deloitte was exploring “all options – with the priority being to secure a sale of the business or its constituent parts”. He added: “Where at all possible, while a sale is explored, all lodge parks will remain operational.”

Domino'sDomino’s Pizza Eurasia, exclusive master franchisee of the Domino’s Pizza brand in Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, has reported group system sales growth of 30.9% for the year ending 31 December 2018. Turkish systems sales were up 14.0% while Russian system sales grew 81.8%. Azerbaijan and Georgia saw system sales growth of 80.2%. The company reported group online system sales growth of 59.6%. Turkish online system sales were up 36.4% and Russian online system sales increased 112.8%. Chief executive Aslan Saranga said: “We are extremely pleased to announce another year of strong top line performance. Along with the robust like-for-like performance, we have been continuously adding to our store count reaching 724 total stores for the group at the end of 2018. The franchising and geographical expansion efforts in Russia have been a strong testament to our business model – we are now in 12 cities outside of Greater Moscow and our franchise store mix has reached 44% from a standing start two years ago. We are also well on our way to eliminating our Turkish net debt and exposure to the associated high local interest rate as at the end of 2018. On the technology side, the new website launched in Turkey is experiencing higher conversion rates and the new Russian website will go live imminently. We also launched the GPS Tracker ad campaign nationwide in Turkey. We continue to adapt our offering to remain competitive; launching new pizzas and side dishes in both our main markets in the new year in addition to introducing a new pricing scheme in Turkey to help combat the high inflation operating environment. The Board remains confident in its growth strategy and expects the full year adjusted Ebitda for 2018 to be in line with expectations.”

Redcomb Pubs has reopened The Old Manor in Potters Bar following a major refurbishmentLast year may have been the turning point for British pubs, according to the latest report by agents Christie & Co, while independent and smaller restaurant operators can be “cautiously optimistic” in 2019 as “innovation, new concepts and technology come to the fore”. In its Business Outlook 2019 report, Christie & Co said more people were employed in the sector than ever, increasing the value of the UK pub to the national economy. The number of UK pubs has declined by about 28% since 1989 but survivors have not only absorbed trade from the pubs that closed but generated new business. The report said those pubs and bars were leading the sector and attracting private equity companies and a wider range of operators, as reflected in Christie & Co’s transactional activity in 2018. Average prices increased 2.7% on the previous year and the report predicted 2019 would generate “modest opportunity for value growth, driven by trading performance”. The report highlighted opportunities for operators to differentiate themselves and navigate obstacles such as introducing lettings rooms, mitigating costs by buying British goods and embracing emerging trends. Rising operational costs continue to challenge the sector, with overheads now averaging 52.5% of net revenue, up 3% in two years. The report identified wage inflation and property costs as key pressures and predicts further margin erosion during the year with limited opportunity to pass costs on to customers. Neil Morgan, managing director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, said: “As a result of the decline in pub numbers, improved trading performance and increased average prices, interest is expected to remain strong and investors can look forward to increased opportunity in the pub sector. Freehold ownership remains a long-term aspiration for many operators and we can look forward to strong performance across the sector in 2019, especially within the private pub market.” The report also said independent and smaller restaurant operators could be “cautiously optimistic” in 2019 as “innovation, new concepts and technology come to the fore, strengthening the sector as a whole”. However, the report suggested further high-street casualties were “inevitable”, with Christie & Co expecting at least “three larger corporate operators” to resort to company voluntary arrangements in the first half of 2019. Movement in average prices in the restaurant sector were down 1.3% on the previous year. Christie & Co head of restaurants Simon Chaplin said: “The troubles being felt by many of the larger brands is not just down to cost pressures but reflects the general change in consumer tastes. Many are looking for an experience, which can be an interesting menu, venue or added entertainment. Independent operators are more able to fine-tune their offer to fit changing habits. Landlords are also seeing this and looking to encourage such operators by offering ever-improving lease terms.”

Escape Hunt – Doctor WhoExperts have predicted a sharp rise in the popularity of escape rooms in 2019, fuelled by the emerging trend of “intellectual property-approved” immersive experiences. Tom Parslow, founder of escape room SaaS software company Buzzshot, said the officially supported Sherlock: The Game Is Now and Doctor Who escape rooms – both launching in the UK in early 2019 – would bring brand-approved immersive experiences further into the mainstream, opening up the industry for wider investment and providing fertile ground for entrepreneurs. Parslow said: “The few intellectual property-approved escape rooms in North America (notably a Mission Impossible room) haven’t lived up to the brand promise, a likely reason why media companies have been slow to connect with the opportunity. I’m confident that won’t be the case with Sherlock: The Game Is Now – it has lifted the global escape room bar to another level.” Officially launching at the end of January, the 100-minute game sees teams of four to six people play detective in a new case that features original content from the show. Industry commentator Ken Ferguson, who founded The Logic Escapes Me website and who has documented the evolution of European escape rooms since 2013, is equally bullish about opportunities across the industry. He said: “Sherlock: The Game Is Now is the most eagerly awaited game in the history of escape rooms. With the inevitable success of this themed immersive experience, we’re likely to see a rapid increase in the number of officially licensed rooms of well-known entertainment brands opening worldwide.”

Auction house Allsop has reported property supply tightened in 2018 with investors seeking investments that might prove resilient to uncertainties surrounding high street retailing. Allsop said A-grade assets saw average yields remain steady at 6%, underlying the sector’s long-term appeal. Demand for £1m-plus lot sizes was at its greatest since 2014 and increased 5% compared with 2017. Sales volumes in London and the south east recovered during 2018, returning to the four-year average of 48%. Allsop’s auctions in 2018 raised a total of £518m, down from £623m the previous year. The average lot size fell to £601,000 from £665,000. Allsop stated: “2018 has proved a challenging year with fewer lots offered and total sales easing by 17%, most of this adjustment being seen over the second half of the year. Investors sought areas of the market that might prove resilient to the current uncertainties in high-street retailing. Premises used for convenience stores, medical and dental practices, motor trade, funeral parlours and care homes were all sought after. Clearly investors are still prepared to pay for good-quality retail investments while, for properties let on shorter leases in secondary/tertiary locations, demand and yields continue to weaken, reflecting the increasing risk of owning such assets. Supply of property across all sectors has tightened, as predicted, as continued political uncertainty dogs the market. Demand, though, has remained strong.” Allsop said supply would continue to tighten in 2019, while properties in more secondary and tertiary locations or further from London were likely to continue to weaken where rental values were under increasing pressure. However, with the continuing period of historically low interest rates Allsop said real estate continued to be an “attractive investment” while demand continued “unabated for correctly priced stock”.

Pure, the healthy food-to-go concept, has reported sales of its vegan and vegetarian range increased 30% this month. The announcement comes as Pure released research showing almost three-fifths (57%) of Londoners have been eating more vegetarian and vegan food since the start of the year. Slightly more women (58%) said they had been eating more vegetarian food in January compared with men (56%), while almost two-thirds (64%) of under-35s said it was their aim for January. Pure co-founder Edward Bentley said: “Sales of our most popular vegetarian and vegan soups, pastas and hot boxes have grown by more than 30% in January. It is incredible to see so many people embracing a plant-based lifestyle.” Founded in 2009 by Bentley and Spencer Craig, Pure operates 17 shops in London. Whitbread acquired a 51% stake in the company in 2016 and it has “several” more openings planned before the end of 2019, including at the Broadway Centre in Hammersmith.

Mayfair restaurant Wild Honey has been put up for sale, Propel has learned. The site in St George Street is being advertised on Restaurant Property’s website. Premium offers are being invited for the 2,267 square foot space, which has a rent of £103,000 per annum. Chef Anthony Demetre and Will Smith launched Wild Honey in October 2007 as a sister restaurant to Arbutus in Soho. It won a Michelin star within a year of opening but lost it in 2016. In the same year, Demetre and Smith sold Arbutus and Smith moved to Scotland to pursue private ventures. Demetre now runs Wild Honey as an independent solo business. Its menu showcases classic French techniques matched with British seasonal ingredients.

CAMRAThere was a rare agreement across the political divide in Parliament on Wednesday (16 January), when MPs from across the spectrum called for meaningful reform of business rates during a Parliamentary debate on the future of Britain’s pubs. The debate, which was secured by St Albans MP Anne Main, saw MPs share examples of UK pubs that have been lost or are under threat because of business rates. Main said 30 of the 50 pubs in St Albans had seen a rates rise that had left them needing to sell “about 180,000 more pints per year to cover those increases”. She told fellow MPs: “CAMRA, which is based in my constituency, recently provided a comprehensive submission to the chancellor ahead of the Budget in September. It has called for a full review of the business rates system with regard to pubs. It maintains the current system is unfit for purpose and a review is needed to tackle the unfair penalisation of property-based businesses such as pubs, especially given the vastly reduced levels of taxation paid by online retailers.” CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer said: “It is great to see MPs from across the political divide come together to recognise pubs are a force for good. It’s clear MPs want fundamental reform of our outdated and unfair business rates system. I’d urge the government to listen carefully to unified calls from backbenchers and the pub industry to safeguard the long-term future of the Great British Pub.”

Lee Wooyung, who operates CheeMC in Southwark and GoGo Pocha in Waterloo, is to launch a new concept for his third Korean restaurant in London. Unimini will open in Eastcheap specialising in Korean and Japanese lunch boxes. Customers will be able to choose rice or noodles and build their box using ingredients such as kimchi, meat, vegetables and sashimi, with a “huge variety of possible combinations”. Wooyung said: “This concept will extend our business to meet the growing demand for good takeaway options in central London. Hungry tourists and workers will be able to eat quickly and for excellent value while being able to construct their bento boxes in a way that is completely tailored to them.” Tom Crosthwaite, of CDG Leisure, who acted on behalf of the previous tenant, said: “Unimini will fit well in this area of the City, which is developing rapidly in terms of retail and leisure. With the operator’s expertise in Korean cuisine, the restaurant is guaranteed to be a welcome addition to the lunchtime offer.”

Acai Berry in King's RoadBrazilian superfood brand Acai Berry has opened its fourth London site. Founders Marcus Carmo and Renato Damiano have launched the superfood bar in King’s Road, Chelsea, focusing on acai – a staple in Brazilian and US daily diets – in bowls and as snacks or smoothies. It also offers protein balls, brownies and organic coffee. The venue is the brand’s largest yet, while menu additions include the Tropical Funky, served for two people inside a fresh pineapple bowl and filled with acai, fresh strawberries, kiwi fruit and organic coconut flakes; and Kale Kick (acai, organic coconut water, fresh kale and banana). Carmo said: “We are glad our customers have embraced our brand. Renato and I have enjoyed this incredibly delicious superfood all our lives in Brazil and we wanted to share it with the UK. It is a lifestyle thing. If you have a desire to be healthy and fit and the best version of yourself, you’ll love acai.” The brand began as a stall in Brick Lane and has grown to permanent sites in Argyll Street, Carnaby Street and Oxford Circus, while it also operates a pop-up bar in Ibiza.

Adventure Leisure is eyeing a Deltic Group site in Basildon, Essex, for its adventure golf brand Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf. Adventure Leisure has submitted plans to Basildon Council to convert Chicago’s at Festival Leisure Park. The plan includes two nine-hole crazy golf courses, a bar, restaurant and mezzanine. Deltic Group planned to close Chicago’s in December but changed its mind to “take advantage of the Christmas and New Year party season”. The company told Propel the future of Chicago’s had still to be confirmed and insisted it was business as usual for now. Adventure Leisure operates eight Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf sites, including Cheltenham and Milton Keynes.

The Four Elms in Cardiff won the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year awardThe Four Elms in Cardiff has won the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year award at a ceremony in the House of Commons. The pub was picked from 14 regional winners and was highlighted as an “exceptional community pub that represents the important role pubs play within their locality”. The competition was launched last summer by Toby Perkins MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pub Group, and attracted more than 100 entries. Fresh from the Brexit deal vote, MPs gathered to make a live vote for the winning pub. Perkins said: “The quality of the entries was outstanding and we have a worthy winner in The Four Elms – a business that had the edge in a strong field.” British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “The quality of beer and food on offer at all pubs that entered was second to none.”

Cutter & Squidge, the sister-owned Soho bakery, is to start expansion by opening a second site, in the City of London. The boutique will open at The Royal Exchange in Threadneedle Street on Monday, 11 February offering the brand’s freshly baked cakes, “biskies”, brownies, macarons, cake truffles, cookies and afternoon tea. All items will be made from natural ingredients with a “less is best” approach to fat and sugar. The drinks list will focus on coffee and the brand’s signature rainbow tea lattes. Cutter & Squidge said it already catered to a number of City-based customers through its online and delivery services, while the new site would allow the company to extend its click-and-collect service. Cutter & Squidge co-owner Annabel Lui said: “I started my career working in the City but always dreamt of following my true childhood passion of owning a bakery with my sister, Emily. We made that happen and now, on the fifth anniversary of our first market stall, to return to the City as a baker not a banker feels like a huge milestone.”

A waiter serves a customer in a coffee shopTurnover in the UK coffee shop market grew 7.9% in 2018 – representing 20 consecutive years of sales and outlet growth – but economic turbulence caused by Brexit uncertainty continues to impede the sector. Project Cafe UK 2019, Allegra World Coffee Portal’s report on the UK market, has also forecast the UK branded coffee shop market will exceed 10,000 outlets by 2023, displaying five-year compound annual growth rate of 5%. Costa, now owned by Coca-Cola, remains the UK’s biggest branded operator with 2,655 outlets. It is followed by Starbucks and Caffe Nero, with 992 and 683 stores respectively. Branded coffee shops grew their number of outlets by 8.7% in 2018 to reach 8,149 stores. The research revealed the total UK coffee shop market is valued at £10.1bn across 25,483 outlets. Allegra said coffee shops were well placed to capitalise on growing consumer preference for experience-led and digitally-enhanced retail concepts – 45% of industry leaders consider social media to be the most effective form of marketing. However, coffee quality remains the biggest factor behind cafe success, according to industry leaders. In the speciality segment, a burgeoning fifth wave of scaled artisan concepts continues to grow and promote market-wide premiumisation. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs acquired several independent cafe businesses to increase its portfolio to 22 stores in 2018. Meanwhile, London-based Grind continues to develop its travel hub partnership with SSP, while Caravan has expanded its portfolio with private investment firm Active Partners. Reduced consumer confidence contributed to the success of value-focused chains in 2018. Allegra consumer data showed Greggs and McDonald’s are perceived to offer the best value for money, with both brands introducing coffee-focused strategies in 2018. Sustained uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU continued to frustrate the coffee shop industry in 2018. Almost half (49%)of industry leaders indicated Brexit was negatively affecting their business, with 46% remaining neutral and 5% reporting a positive impact. More than two-thirds (69%) agreed it was having a negative impact on consumer confidence, while 87% of industry leaders believe Brexit has damaged the UK economy. Allegra chief executive Jeffrey Young said: “20 years of consecutive growth in terms of outlets, turnover and like-for-like performance is an impressive feat by this robust segment, which has become intrinsic to UK lifestyles. More growth will continue, albeit at a slower pace, as the economy is subjected to myriad pressures, including structural retail change, technological development, changing consumer habits and deep uncertainty on the numerous potential outcomes of Brexit.”

Individual Restaurants' Piccolino site in ManchesterIndividual Restaurants has reported an Ebitda boost and narrowed losses despite a drop in turnover. The company, which operates 30 sites under the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill brands, saw its second-best Ebitda figure on record – increasing to £7.1m for the year ending 31 March 2018 compared with £7m the year before. Turnover fell to £61,849,000, compared with £67,008,053 the previous year. Directors said the decrease was driven by three main factors. The prior year included three sites that had been subsequently disposed of, accounting for £3.04m of the decline. They estimated the severe winter weather had an impact of £0.7m, while the remainder was a result of a general decline in consumer confidence. The company reported pre-tax losses narrowed to £240,877 compared with a loss of £951,553 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross margin was up to 78.4%, compared with 75.3% the previous year. Membership of its customer loyalty programme increased 41% to 1.1 million and 40% of the company’s weekly sales are now generated by members. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “Finance costs in the year increased £0.4m following an increase in banking facilities in the year and the continuing amortisation of associated refinancing costs. The group generated strong cash flows from operations of £2.4m with the free cash flow post finance and interest charges being used to fund the ongoing development capital investment programme. Depreciation in the year was £3.2m and the group incurred operating exceptional costs of £0.6m relating to restructuring costs during the year. The board continues to have great confidence in the trading strength of both brands and has been encouraged by post year-end trading.”

The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 7 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity and reveal the top ten books that have shaped his business philosophy. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Los Angeles Study Tour 2019Propel and UKHospitality are heading to Los Angeles for their next study tour, which has opened for bookings. The visit takes place between Thursday, 16 May and Saturday, 19 May. After successful trips to Chicago, Las Vegas and New York, Propel and UKHospitality have decided to check out LA. The trip features a jam-packed itinerary, including a variety of restaurant and bar tours, where delegates can explore and learn about the hottest concepts in the city. These include visits to the new h Club Los Angeles, McDonald’s original restaurant and museum, and Corporation Food Hall. As well as two bar tours led by James Hacon and Mystery chief executive Dan Einzig, who is based in LA, the trip includes three nights’ stay at the five-star Kimpton La Peer Hotel and three hosted dinners. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to gain valuable insight into the trends and concepts that are shaping LA and leading the way in the US market, which will no doubt provide fresh ideas and inspiration for delegates.” The cost is £2,895 for operators and £3,795 for suppliers. For more information or to book, email Jo Charity at or call 07780 826228.

New Burger King UK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch

Propel is launching the 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 Tuesday, 12 February at One Moorgate Place and is open for bookings. Speakers will include Will Stratton-Morris, chief executive of Caffe Nero, who will talk about building high-performance teams. Alasdair Murdoch (pictured), chief executive of Burger King, speaks about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott will talk to Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D London, about the lessons of leadership he has picked up in his career in the sector. Duncan Garrood, chief executive of Ten Entertainment, will give his views on leadership and the customer experience, while Jo Fleet, managing director of Flat Iron, will talk about empowering people and trust and getting the team to “buy in” through clear communication and vision. Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s, will explain how the company is building the quality and skillsets of its general managers to lead the business out of decline. Simon Townsend, chief executive of Ei Group, will give his views on the challenges of leadership during a period of immense change and Zoe Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress, will give her top ten tips on leadership. Meanwhile, Loungers founder Alex Reilley will talk about the adaptations involved in growing a business from one site to more than 100, celebrating success and the art of succession, while Ann Elliott will give her views on the power of mentoring to grow talent in organisations. 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


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