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Story of the Day:

Restaurant Group chief financial officer steps down

Barry NightingaleThe Restaurant Group has announced that Barry Nightingale, chief financial officer, will step down from the board and leave the company with immediate effect. He had been with the company for less than year. The board has commenced a search for a new Chief Financial Officer and will update the market in due course. Debbie Hewitt, chairman, said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Barry for the valuable contribution that he has made over the past year, as we began the company’s turnaround process, which continues to progress well. We wish him all the best for the future.” The Company will next provide a trading update on 26 May 2017, the date of the company’s 2017 AGM. Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French stated: “No reason for his departure is given but we note his appointment pre-dated that of chief executive Andy McCue who has been building his own top team. Therefore we do not view his departure as concerning but we expect the share price will react adversely given he has only been in post since June 2016 and there has been significant instability at the top of the group since Andrew Page’s departure in August 2014. There is no update on current trading which we interpret to mean remains in line with market expectations although the group will update alongside its AGM on 26 May. The chairman does however state that the turnaround process continues to progress well. The stock trades on a 2017E adj EV/Ebitdar of 7.8x and a P/E of 15.6x and yields 4.8%. We would take advantage of any weakens as an attractive buying opportunity as we see signs of some of the industry pressures abating.”

Derby Brewing Co nearly doubles equity offer in £500,000 crowdfunding campaign

Derby Brewing Co Brew TeamDerby-based brewer and retailer Derby Brewing Co has nearly doubled its equity offer as it looks to raise £500,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support its expansion plans. The family-run company, founded by Trevor Harris in 2004, is now offering a 6.5% stake in the business instead of the original 3.86% in return for the investment. So far, 137 investors have pledged £120,810 with 27 days remaining. The funding would support the expansion of the brewery, the launch of a new craft range and the addition of a new venue to its four-strong estate. The company operates The Tap, a specialist beer and spirit house with more than 75 beers and ciders and more than 70 spirits, in Derby; The Queen’s Head gastro-pub in Little Eaton; smoked food and craft house concept The Greyhound in Derby; and The Kedleston Country House, a bar, restaurant, boutique hotel and wedding venue in Quarndon. Managing director Paul Harris said: “We have all agreed to increase the equity on offer from the outlined 3.86% to 6.5% of the business. As a result the business would subsequently be valued at £7,192,307.60 from the previous £12,459,364 valuation. We believe this offers potential investors even greater value for their investment and further strengthens the opportunity, as based on forecasts we will look to double the value of shareholders shares within three years, with all shareholders being eligible for dividends and rewards depending on their level of investment along the way.” The company expects to generate turnover of £3.6m in its current financial year with Ebitda of £257,000.

Other News:

Hotel Chocolat Group, the premium British chocolatier and omni-channel retailer, has announced the appointment of Greg Hodder as non-executive director with effect from 1 May 2017. The company stated: “Greg brings with him a wealth of experience from the retail sector, having previously been chief executive of Charles Tyrwhitt. Prior to joining Charles Tyrwhitt, he was chief executive of Direct Wines. Greg is currently a Non-executive Director of Majestic Wine.” Greg Hodder said: “I have always been a great fan of Hotel Chocolat and I can see that the business has some fantastic opportunities for continued profitable growth. I am delighted to be joining the board.” Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive, added: “Having someone with Greg’s experience and track record is a great fit for us at this stage of our growth.”

Chapel Down has reported year on year sales up 25% to £10.233m (2015: £8.179m) in the year to 31 December 2016. Chapel Down wine sales were up 22% to £6.791m (2015: £5.564m). Beer and Cider sales in the associate company Curious Drinks were up 32% to £3.442m (2015: £2.614m). Wine gross profit was up 30% at £2.888m (2015: £2.229m). Beer and Cider gross profit in the associate company Curious Drinks was up 39% at £1.099m (2015: £0.789m). It stated: “Continuing Ebitda (was) up 72% to £750k (2015: £435k) as we continue to reinvest in our brands, infrastructure and supply. The associate company Curious Drinks Ltd raised funds of £1.736m (equating to a 9.79% economic stake) valuing the business at £17.74m. Your company also continued to build its most important assets – its brands – through innovative and well executed marketing, high profile sponsorships and publicity and a differentiated and creative approach to all our activities. In addition to being cited as one of the London Stock Exchange’s 1000 companies to inspire Britain, we also joined the Walpole Group of luxury brands and retained our official CoolBrand status. Prior to 4 April 2016 Curious Drinks was a 100% owned subsidiary of Chapel Down Group. In April 2016, Curious Drinks raised funds of £1.736m for a 9.79% economic share and a 50.21% share of the voting rights in the business with Chapel Down Group retaining the remaining 90.21% economic interest and the remaining 49.79% share of the voting rights. The ‘post money’ valuation of the Curious Drinks business was £17.736m. The sale of the 50.21% share of voting rights means there was a “deemed disposal” resulting in a gain on disposal for Chapel Down Group of £467,000 as well as Curious Drinks being accounted for as an associate from 4th April 2016 onwards.” Chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “Chapel Down has enjoyed another excellent year of growth. In a highly competitive trading environment your company has continued to invest in the value of its brands, its vineyards and winery and its people as we build a healthy, sustainable and innovative drinks company with an exciting future both at home in the UK and in sophisticated drinks markets abroad. With sales growth of 25% across the combined businesses – sales up 22% on wine and up 32% on beer and cider in our associate company – we are investing the proceeds to build the business whilst delivering growth of 72% in continued adjusted Ebitda at £750,000 (2015: £435,000). English wines, which are now being internationally recognised for their consistent excellence, have been the bedrock of our business. Demand is continuing to rise and we are developing a very strong brand to ensure we continue to maximise the potential that is being created through the consumer and trade excitement around cool climate wines. With distribution in Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Majestic, as well as hundreds of bars and restaurants serviced by our merchant partners, Chapel Down is able to capitalize on the increased excitement. We have recently seen the launch of Chapel Down in the USA to both critical and public acclaim with initial sales at twice our anticipated level. The potential for export in sophisticated wine markets is exciting. Our investment in Great British events and institutions is helping to bring our brand to a broader International consumer. The London Symphony Orchestra, The Donmar, Royal Opera House, The Boat Races and Royal Ascot are more than just great events to be at. They are perfect compliments for our brand: Exciting, English and aspirational. With the further development of our widely acclaimed Kits Coty super-premium range, we are also ensuring that the quality standards are kept high. We have also built a long term supply of world class fruit and invested further in our modern and efficient winery to ensure that the quality and value we can deliver to the market will be second to none. We directly planted a further 40 acres of new vineyards in 2016 and we now own and/or manage some 233 acres of vined land and continue to have long term contracts with our high quality group of contracted growers. We’ve added a further 55 acres of contracted vineyards to this list which enables us to source from a wider geographic area and offset some localized risks of adverse weather events. “Craft” beers are growing very fast, driven by more flavoursome beers that are the antidote to bland international brands that have become overly dominant. There is a vibrancy and excitement to the UK beer market, fuelled by spectacular success in the USA which is spreading internationally. With sales growth of 32% this year, in our associate company Curious Drinks Ltd, we are extremely well positioned to benefit from the boom. We have a unique and distinctive proposition rather than just a cool design, amusing name or extreme flavour. In order to make the most of the opportunity, the Company decided to raise further funds to allow the development of an exciting new brewery in the centre of Ashford on a highly visible freehold site adjacent to the international railway station. Once again, we have exceeded our own high expectations via crowd-funding, raising £1.736m and we will be building during 2017 and 2018 to further develop our UK and international business and the brand. With hundreds of pubs and bars stocking the beer and national availability through Majestic and Waitrose, further growth in sales and brand awarenesss will help to maximize the value of the business. Whilst we have continued to win awards and plaudits for our wines and beers, we have also developed our tourism and hospitality experience at the Tenterden site and whilst we will be extending that expertise to our new brewery, we will be developing the facilities further at Tenterden too. Our new Wine Sanctuary will be an industry leading tourism facility for the 50,000 visitors who come to Tenterden to learn more about our wines.”

Tax fraud charges against a high profile restaurant and bar owner have been thrown out of court by a judge. The accusations against Frank Dowling, who ran three venues in the O2 arena in London as part of a £20m-year turnover business, were dismissed at Southwark Crown Court. The 48-year-old, who opened his first bar in 2003, was acquitted when the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence after a four-year investigation into allegedly undeclared VAT and PAYE. US-born Dowling said he is now considering legal action against companies and organisations that have been proved of wrongdoing. He said: “I am delighted these charges have been thrown out by the judge. They were ill-founded, ill-conceived and just plain wrong.” The original accusations were made by individuals to forward their own commercial interests and accepted by authorities although they had proof to the contrary he claimed. Dowling added: “Me and my family have been through hell as they tried everything they could to ruin me. It has been devastating for my business interests as many third parties decided to treat me as guilty and sought illegal and immoral means to seek commercial advantage, but the truth is out there for everyone to see now. There’s a feeling of relief that it is over but also anger at what they have put me through and how much money has been wasted.” Dowling, who was brought up in New York, started his working life in construction then went on to London working on the property development project at Canary Wharf. His first bar was opened in Greenwich in 2003 and he became the first restaurateur to sign a lease for a venue at the O2 Arena and subsequently built up a portfolio of venues under the banner of the Inc Group, which grew to 23 restaurants, pubs and bars across the capital and Leeds, and Bristol.

KFCKFC is looking to strengthen its pipeline and is on the look out for more than 400 new sites across the UK. The company is paying finders fees of £20,000 for recognised drive-thru introductions and £12,500 for food court and restaurant sites. Its key target is London, where it wants to open 124 sites, followed by the north (106) and the south east (59). It said it was looking for development opportunities in a variety of locations, including retail parks, shopping centres, train stations and high streets and will consider freehold, leasehold or long leasehold sites. It currently has 43 sites under contract, including in Chippenham, Hemel Hempstead, Stourport and Workington. The company said: “KFC UK currently trades from more than 850 locations, from Inverness to Penzance and Canterbury to Galway, and there is ample scope to develop a further 400 locations thanks to the strength of the brand and the differentiated consumer offer.” Meanwhile, KFC is now offering delivery via its app and website from 30 of its branches in Greater London through Just Eat with more being added over the next 12 months. Just Eat UK managing director Graham Corfield told the Metro: “We’re thrilled to welcome KFC to the Just Eat platform, offering our customers in London an even wider choice of food than ever before. We’re adding KFC restaurants every week, meaning more customers will be able to enjoy KFC’s world-famous chicken at the click of a button in their area very soon.”

Whitbread-owned Beefeater has launched a new daytime saver menu. The menu, which is available from Monday to Saturday between noon and 6.30pm except on bank holidays, includes five dishes at £5 – the open chicken sandwich, beer-battered fish and chips, roasted vegetable linguine, a quarter-pound beef steak burger and a six-ounce chargrilled gammon steak. Beefeater is also offering its best value steak and chips for £6. Customers can also choose from a selection of starters and desserts from £2.79 each.

Rosa Thai CafeRosa’s Thai Cafe, the London Thai restaurant brand, has relaunched its site in Westfield Stratford as Rosa’s Thai Market Kitchen, a new concept focusing on customisable, market-style dining. The relaunched site will place an emphasis on fast service. Responding to customer feedback asking for more bespoke food options, the counter-dining system will now allow customers to order from a range of customisable dishes, including old Tom Yum soup, Massaman curry and Pad Thai noodles. Fresh and healthy salads are now served in a “build-your-own” fashion, with diners able to choose between chargrilled mixed vegetables, crunchy papaya salad or lemongrass salad, topped with satay chicken, grilled prawns or boiled eggs and finished with a choice of salad sauces, including spicy mint, creamy roasted chilli, and spicy tamarind. The new concept was created in partnership with Rebel Agency, which consulted on all aspects on the project, from rebrand to site layout. The relaunch follows the opening of the eighth branch of Rosa’s Thai Cafe in Brixton last month, with further openings scheduled for West Hampstead, Seven Dials and One Tower Bridge. Co-founders Saiphin and Alex Moore have also opened Saiphin’s Thai Kitchen in London Fields, a new Thai food concept positioned as a complementary rather than competing brand to Rosa’s, providing the local area with a delivery and takeaway-focused service.

North west-based multiple operator Blind Tiger Inns has taken the lease on The Talbot in Euxton, Chorley, with Star Pubs & Bars and is investing in a joint £320,000 refurbishment of the pub that is due to reopen in late May. The move takes Blind Tiger Inns’ estate to 12 pubs. All are leases and 11 are with Star Pubs & Bars. The investment in The Talbot will build on its past as a popular community pub creating a “quality local” with an upgraded sports offer, new menu and extended events calendar. Inside, the 1970s pub will be completely upgraded in a contemporary style to make it attractive to the whole community. The kitchen will be replaced and a new menu introduced featuring pizzas and burgers as well as traditional British pub grub. A barista quality coffee machine is being installed and the pub’s opening hours extended to 11am to enable it to serve morning coffee. The large lounge will be revamped with booth and high-level seating to cater for different groups of customers. The sports bar will be extended and 12 new screens installed. Lawson Mountstevens, managing director for Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Blind Tiger Inns is a highly experienced operator in the community pub sector and has a great local knowledge of the Chorley area and the opportunities it presents. The investment in The Talbot will enable it to adapt to the community’s changing needs and expectations and to thrive for the long term.” Blind Tiger Inns’ estate is made up of well-invested high street and estate community pubs with value offers and a sports and entertainment focus. Looking to the future, the company is committed to leased pubs. Managing director Chris Tulloch said: “The model is a good one – it enables us to expand without tying up significant capital and has proved profitable and cash generative for us. If the right opportunity presents itself, we’re interested in expanding further and have the capacity to grow to 20 sites with our existing infrastructure. We’ll consider sites with and without capital expenditure planned where we can add value within a two-hour drive of Chorley.”

Greene King’s tenanted division Pub Partners has expanded the range of its food service to tenanted and leased pubs within its estate. Since its launch last year the service has been taken up by about 150 sites and now a set of new menus have been launched including a premium option for the first time. Leveraging expertise and buying scale from the pub retailer and brewer’s managed retail estate, Greene King Pub Partners launched Pub Partners Food and Supplies service in the spring of 2016 in partnership with logistics company Kuehne + Nagel. The service provides licensees with a ready-to-go food offer and is designed for operators whose business could benefit from the addition of food. Operators using the service receive an easy to execute menu, free delivery of the necessary products, crockery, all allergen information and marketing support including menus. Greene King tenants could already opt for either a “value” or “mainstream” package, both with a range of price points and now a “premium” selection of dishes has been added to the mix. The menus are refreshed in terms of both design and content every six months with the latest version of the “mainstream” offer including a healthy choice section as well as a “chef recommends” area. Licensees also save money on waste disposal, as Kuehne + Nagel takes away food waste and other recyclables at no cost to the operator, while there is also training and marketing support available. Clive Chesser, managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, said: “The response from our pubs to the food supply service has been phenomenal with the numbers taking it up increasing all the time. Using the skills from our retail development kitchen, we have specifically designed the products and menu to be quick and easy to deliver. Many of our licensees using the scheme have already seen a significant margin increase. We have made the service as flexible as possible so that licensee can opt for select dishes to create their own bespoke menu if they wish or just go with our wholesale supply option. For pubs serving food, we look to take away as much of the hard work as possible. The new option is an exciting development that provides even more choice and reflects the fact customers are increasingly looking for a more premium experience.”

Pizza Pilgrims, co-founded by Thom and James Elliot, will open its sixth London site, in West India Quay, next month. Besides the brothers’ award-winning Neapolitan pizzas, the venue in Hertsmere Road, which opens on Monday, 8 May, will offer a “pizza playground”, with a Nintendo linked to a large television, a huge table football catering for 22 players, an outdoor bowls court and an al fresco dining spot for 70 people. Signature pizzas such as Portobello mushroom and truffle will be joined by the Friggitoria, which has so far only been available in Pizza Pilgrims’ Carnaby site. Last month, the company opened its fifth London site and first bring-your-own-beer venue – in Shoreditch High Street. Pizza Pilgrims also has an opening lined up in Waterloo, while its other sites are in Covent Garden, Soho, and Exmouth Market. It also has a residency at crazy golf concept Swingers in the City. All restaurants offer a takeaway service, while Pizza Pilgrims also operates a Piaggio Ape van called Conchetta at outdoor events.

BrewDog TapsScottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its 16th international bar, this time in Estonia. The new venue has opened in the capital, Tallinn, in the heart of the city between the old town and the 10th century harbour. The site, which is one of the first dedicated craft beer bars in the country, has been built inside a restored Estonian grain elevator, previously used for storing grains in the 1900s. The interior has four preserved grain hoppers that hang from the ceiling. BrewDog Tallinn offers beer from 13 taps, alongside a range of global craft beer, cider and spirits. Tallinn marks the next stage in BrewDog’s European expansion, starting with a flagship Paris location. Following Tallinn, BrewDog will be opening a second site in Edinburgh as well as a third site in Glasgow within the coming months. Plans are also in place to establish a separate distribution network in Germany to grow its presence and promote craft beer across the continent. BrewDog now exports to more than 60 countries globally. Earlier this month, BrewDog sold a 22% stake to US private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners for £213m, giving BrewDog an enterprise value of £1bn. Co-founder James Watt said: “We nearly doubled our UK sales last year, which gives us a solid platform to expand our international reach even further. We’ve been building our presence on the continent since day one and by adding Tallinn to our list of European bars we’re reaching even more craft beer fans in the Baltic states.”

The Horse & Groom, WarehamDorset-based pub operator Max Lacy has acquired his second site and is looking to expand his portfolio further. Lacy, who runs The Black Horse in Wimborne, has bought The Horse & Groom in Wareham off a guide price of £295,000 through agent Christie & Co. The grade II-listed building has been closed for several months and the pub will be refurbished before the search begins for a publican to take on a new lease. Richard Wood, business agent in Christie & Co’s Winchester office, said, “It is always good to be involved in a sale through which a pub reopens, especially when it’s going to be in the hands of a well known and successful pub landlord such as Max Lacy.” Lacy acquired The Black Horse through Christie & Co and Propel understands he is looking to add further sites to his portfolio.

Tonic maker Fever-Tree has overtaken Britvic as the UK’s most valuable soft drinks firm after a very strong stock market run. Supportive remarks from analysts at Berenberg helped the 12-year-old company’s shares flow 1.7% higher to 1,594p, valuing it at more than £1.8bn, despite profits of just £34m last year. It floated in 2014 at 134p a share. Britvic, maker of Robinsons squash and Tango fizzy drinks and whose annual profits top £150m, is worth £1.75bn after a small share price fall. Rivals, Irn-Bru maker AG Barr and Vimto owner Nichols are valued at just over £700m.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) will release its latest title – Historic Coaching Inns of the Great North Road – on Monday (24 April). Known as “the Route 66 of Britain”, the Great North Road is part of British folklore, serving as the main route between London and Scotland for many centuries. The coaching inns along it are part of the nation’s living history, providing accommodation, stabling for horses and replacement mounts for many famous people, including Charles Dickens and JB Priestley. The guide takes readers on a journey from London to Edinburgh from the days of mail coaches and highwaymen right through to the modern age. It includes overview maps showing key roads for each section of the route, practical information including recommendations for local visits, and quirky anecdotes to convey the history and legends of the Great North Road. Author and beer writer Roger Protz said: “The Great North Road is part of British folklore, which is still alive today thanks to the survival of these magnificent coaching inns. Travellers can use this guide to retrace old routes and enjoy some of Britain’s most fascinating traditional pubs while learning about the history and culture that is draped along this iconic road.”

wagamama, SpainWagamama has opened its first restaurant in Spain, in the Salamanca district of the capital, Madrid. Meanwhile, chief executive David Campbell and founder Alan Yau have also written to staff to mark the company’s impending 25th anniversary on Saturday (22 April). Wagamama Madrid will seat 180 covers within a space of 335 square metres, with the interior benefiting from expansive natural light thanks to its large windows overlooking Calle Serrano. The opening in Spain is the result of the agreement signed in July 2016 between Wagamama and Spanish franchise operator, Grupo Vips, which will operate the brand exclusively across Spain and Portugal. Grupo Vips plans to roll-out the Wagamama brand to more than 20 locations across Spain and Portugal in the next five years, and will open a second Wagamama in Madrid in June. Alvaro Salafranco, managing director Wagamama Spain and Portugal, said: “We are incredibly excited to bring the global leader of pan-Asian cuisine to Spain. Wagamama has 25 years of experience and success and continues to be as appealing and relevant today as in 1992. Our portfolio of brands is enhanced with Wagamama, a concept that responds perfectly to the current consumer demands for transparency, brand personality, quality and freshness, healthful and nutritious foods, in a modern and casual environment.” Beyond Iberia, Wagamama plans to open new restaurants in an additional three countries by the end of 2017. In a note to staff today (Thursday, 20 April), Campbell said: “The opening in Madrid marked our 20th global market, and Italy and France will follow soon. Our UK and US expansion also continues at pace; in the US a second site in New York’s East Village is under construction, as is a flagship site in Boston’s thriving Seaport. In our home market of the UK we are now 124 restaurants strong, with a new UK northern flagship in Edinburgh opening just last week. Our UK success has been the envy of the industry, with many awards, and like-for-like performance that has now significantly outpaced the UK market for 152 consecutive weeks, which I think is unprecedented. This last week I was asked to speak in September at a big hospitality event with the title: ‘New Life for a Pioneer Brand: Building Success from Success, The European Fast Casual Leader Returns’. I didn’t write the title, but I love it and I think speaks of all that the Wagamama family has achieved. As you know ‘kaizen’, which doesn’t have an English equivalent word but is essentially ‘continuous improvement’ or ‘good change’, sits at the heart of everything we do. It pushes us to find better ways in all that we do. We’re restless spirits, and forever looking to make things better. Kaizen has been a part of Wagamama since we started 25 years ago. In the intervening period, I am sure there are times when we have been good at kaizen, and less good, but I have no doubt that the renaissance of the Wagamama is due to embracing the founding principles of the company. And there are very few international brands that can say that. Today, all of you deserve every bit of credit for all that has been achieved – so thank you to everyone in our family of almost 7,000 around the globe. However there is on person, on our 25th anniversary, I want to single out for thanks and is the culinary genius – then and now – who created and founded Wagamama, Alan Yau. Without him, we would not be where we are today. Thank you, Alan. So, today, I cannot think of any more fitting way to end this thank you (to you) than with a few words Alan has asked me to pass on. It starts with a quote and then he continues with a few comments. ‘Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence… One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one single (and, I am told, quite ugly) black bird,’ wrote Nassim Nicholas Taleb. As the theory goes, the Black Swan represents an event that comes as a surprise, creating an extreme impact that can only be rationalised by hindsight, as if it could have been expected all along. This is how I see the achievement of Wagamama, of course with the benefit of 25 years of hindsight – it jolted the status quo to establish a lasting legacy. Here’s to continuing to grow that legacy, and continuing to create an iconic global brand. Happy 25th everyone!”

Le Pain QuotidienBelgian restaurant and boulangerie brand Le Pain Quotidien has reported turnover increased 11% to £38,192,273 for the year ending 31 December 2016 compared with £34,276,593 the previous year. The company saw pre-tax profit fall to £906,665 compared with £986,745 the year before, according to accounts filed with Companies House. It opened three stores during the period to take the total number of sites to 28. Gross profit margin fell to 19.6% compared with 20.15% the previous year, which was “within expectations”. A dividend of £543,166 was paid to its Belgian parent company, down from £611,191 the year before. The company increased staff numbers to 775 compared with 716 the previous year. Meanwhile, Le Pain Quotidien has also had its UK restaurants certified carbon neutral by the climate advisory organisation CO2logic. Le Pain Quotidien has reduced carbon emissions by retrofitting all lighting in its restaurants with LED lights, cutting light-energy consumption by 80%. The company said it had also made strides in using more efficient refrigeration, cooking and cooling operations to make its carbon footprint as small as possible. Its decor is made with recycled wood material, coffee cups and bags are made of compostable material and each restaurant has a strict wastage recycling procedure. The company said its goal is to go carbon neutral globally by 2020. Chief executive Vincent Herbert said: “We want to be part of the growing community that addresses climate change by reducing our climate impact – and this is just the beginning.”

Chris GerardInnventure, the gastro-pub operator led by former Mitchells & Butlers executive Chris Gerard (pictured), is considering developing business models that are “substantially less people sensitive” as labour costs become an “increasing worry”. The company also said further investment into new sites is on “idle” with the leisure market remaining overheated. Innventure saw turnover fall 2% to £6,458,903 for the year ending 25 June 2016 compared with £6,560,549 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Pre-tax profit dropped to £77,855 compared with £625,642 the year before. Gross profit margin fell to 34.8% compared with 38.6% the previous year. The company stated: “The business remains at six sites with sales of £6.46m, a decline year-on-year of 2%. The business has invested both capital and revenue to develop an extension of trading at the Cambridge business now called dArrys Liquor Loft and Restaurant and has refurbished the Broadway Hotel. The business incurred exceptional revenue costs closing the Cambridge business and the Broadway Hotel. These costs have impacted on the bottom line, as has the increased cost of operating a directly managed business, and labour costs are becoming an increasing worry. Further investment into new sites is on ‘idle’ as the leisure property market presently remains overheated. The businesses costs are facing external legislative inflationary pressures while the business has limited room for inflated prices. The effect of Brexit and availability of labour remains unclear. What is however already apparent is the shortage of quality skilled caterers. The living wage combined with the labour shortage described above and new pension costs are expected to substantially inflate the costs of doing business going forward as will the 2017 rate revaluation – strategies all seemingly set to penalise successful fresh food businesses. In 2017 the business will consider developing business models that are substantially less people sensitive.”

Creditors at Weston Castle, the north west-based multiple operator, will be paid a minimum dividend of 52p in the pound after voting in favour of a Company Voluntary Arrangement. Documents filed at Companies House showed HM Revenue & Customs is owed £950,000 and director Lesley Humphrys £105,200. The arrangement has been put in place by Bolton-based Stuart Rathmall Insolvency after both creditors and Weston Castle shareholders voted in favour. The report stated: “The arrangement shall not be capable of successful completion until all unsecured, non-preferential creditors claiming in the arrangement have received a minimum dividend of 52p in the pound. The company is to make no fewer than 60 monthly voluntary contributions of not less than £10,500 in year one, £11,500 in year two, £12,500 in year three, £13,500 in year four and £14,500 in year five during the term of the arrangement.” In 2015, Weston Castle had an estate of 36 pubs, including seven sites with Heineken-owned star Pubs & Bars. Former managing director Chris Tulloch stepped down from the board in January this year.

Former Liberty chief financial officer Paul Harris is to open a new dining concept inspired by cuisines and flavours from around the world with meatballs at its heart. Harris is launching Curveball on Wednesday, 26 April in Balham, south London, with Hannah Pemberton, author of recipe blog The Kitchen Alchemist. The venue in Hildreth Street will have 26 covers upstairs, 12 covers in the downstairs bar as well as al fresco dining. The menu will highlight the “versatile and eclectic flavours of world cuisine in the humble meatball”. Dishes will include The Mothership – beef chuck and parmesan meatballs in a four-hour short-rib ragu, and the Wizard of Oz – beetroot and tahini vegballs, with lime avocado crema, popped seeds, pomegranate and freekeh. A bespoke cocktail and wine list will complement the menu. Pemberton said: “Meatballs are eaten the world over – from Middle Eastern koftas to Indonesian bakso. Paul and I wanted to create a restaurant that highlighted their versatility and not stick to traditional flavours. Food is how we travel – it’s why we travel. And it brings people together. That’s why we set up Curveball. To combine those experiences and flavours, and to share them and our obsession for food with others.” Harris has 15 years of senior level operational experience including opening restaurants within department stores Liberty and Selfridges.

Ahi PokéLondon-based BVC Group is to start expansion of Ahi Poké, the restaurant serving Hawaiian raw fish dish poké, by opening its second site, at the Nova development in Victoria. The concept, which is the brainchild of Jeremy Coste, Gabriel Cohen-Elia and David Bellaiche, who are behind Mayfair’s North Audley Cantine and wine bar Chez Chow, launched Ahi Poké in Fitzrovia last summer. Now the trio are bringing the restaurant to the Nova development in June and represents the first step in a wider expansion plan to roll-out the concept. Just like its sibling, Ahi Poké Victoria will be decorated in pastel hues and be built from sustainable materials including reclaimed driftwood. It will feature both indoor and outdoor seating areas although it will be primarily a takeaway location. All poké bowls are made to order and can be customised as diners choose their favourite base (rice, quinoa, kale), protein (sustainably sourced salmon, ahi tuna and shrimp, or marinated mushrooms), as well as sauce and topping. Daily and weekly specials will also be featured, alongside a selection of premium non-alcoholic drinks, and Earl Grey pineapple or milk chocolate cookies for dessert. To fit the brand’s sustainable ethos, all orders will be served in compostable containers.

London-based Peruvian restaurant concept Señor Ceviche is set to start expanding by opening its second site, in Fitzrovia. Founder Harry Edmeades is opening the new venue in Charlotte Street next month, introducing several new dishes, an exclusive brunch offering, and an underground pisco bar. The restaurant’s design will echo Lima’s grand colonial architecture, embracing the “colourful, artistic and youthful character” of the Barranco District of Peru’s capital. The menu includes favourites served at its existing Carnaby site as well as new dishes such as barbecued scallops with aji amarillo and pisco butter; and yellowfin tuna with yuzu tigers milk, wasabi and miso. Exclusive to Charlotte Street, the weekend brunch offering will include sweet potato waffle with crispy lamb shoulder and huacatay salsa; and Peruvian sausage with root vegetable hash, corn bread and onsen egg. Downstairs, a cocktail bar will showcase the Peruvian spirit of pisco alongside cocktails such as pisco with lime, Thai basil, jasmine and plum sake. Edmeades said: “Having launched as a pop-up four years ago, and being one of the original brands to bring Peruvian food to the UK, we are delighted to be opening our second restaurant. Charlotte Street is one of London’s iconic dining destinations, and we are thrilled to be bringing our exciting and diverse Peruvian offering to such a fantastic foodie hub.”

Award-winning Indian restaurant The Chilli Pickle, which is raising £700,000 on crowdfunding platform Growthdeck to fund the roll-out of four new sites in the south of England, has reported it is “on track” to achieve record trading this month. The existing 115-cover restaurant in Jubilee Street generates more than £2.2m in revenue annually. Owners Alun and Dawn Sperring are offering a 23% equity stake in the business in return for the £700,000 investment. So far, 20 investors have pledged £487,000. Investors have been told a sale of the business is expected in mid-2021, with five sites generating £1.3m Ebitda before central costs with the eventual buyer assumed to pay nine times site Ebitda. Investors in The Chilli Pickle are offered the prospect of a 5.3 times money return – 57.5% internal rate of return (IRR) – increasing to 7.6 times (65.8% IRR) after taking account of initial 30% income tax relief. The pitch states: “It is planned to open four new 80 to 120-cover restaurants in south east market towns over the next three years. The first new site is planned to be a new-build unit in the centre of a market town. The Chilli Pickle is finalising design plans to fit-out a 95-cover restaurant at a total cost of circa £700,000, of which circa 40% will be funded by the landlord. The Chilli Pickle expects to open this site in June/July. The Chilli Pickle is considering Tunbridge Wells, Worthing, Winchester, Hastings and Oxford as possible locations for the additional three new sites.”

Red Oak Taverns - The Cressy Arms, DartfordExperienced operators Mark and Deana Lewins have taken on The Cressy Arms in Dartford, Kent, which is owned by Red Oak Taverns. The company and the Lewins, who have run a variety of pubs for the past eight years, have completed a six-figure refurbishment of the pub. It was named after HMS Cressy, an armoured cruiser built for the Royal Navy in about 1900. The Cressy Arms is home to the local darts and pool team and next door to the Dartford Fishing Club. The new decor pays homage to its regulars – quirky sports related framed prints adorn the walls along with a variety of lake fishing paraphernalia, along with subtle references to HMS Cressy. Red Oak Taverns director Mark Grunnell said: “We are very pleased to welcome Mark and Deana to Red Oak Taverns. The fact they are an experienced couple and know the area well gives me great confidence the new and improved Cressy Arms will be a fantastic asset and the hub of the local community. Over the past six years, we have built our portfolio from 32 to 170 outlets and we are now on the acquisition trail, having transformed many rundown pubs back into thriving concerns in the heart of their communities.”

Derby Brewing Co Brew TeamDerby Brewing Company has revealed it was offered more than £300,000 in funding before it launched its £500,000 crowdfunding drive. The company has raised more than £100,000 in two days since it launched the campaign on Crowdcube. The company revealed more than £300,000 was also pledged from interested parties prior to the funding page going live. Derby Brewing Co announced its intention to pitch for investment at the start of this month. It has released 3.86% of the business to raise funds to support the launch of a new range, along with funding export growth and the development of new sites and the refurbishment of existing ones. The family-run firm, which was founded in 2004, owns The Tap and The Greyhound in the city centre; The Queen’s Head in Little Eaton; and the boutique hotel, bar and restaurant Kedleston Country House in Quarndon. Managing director Paul Harris said: “Since we first started telling our customers about the crowdfunding campaign the support and interest shown in becoming a shareholder has been overwhelming. The campaign will be live on the Crowdcube website for 30 days but, given the level of interest shown already, we are advising people to get on board early.”

The PM Group of Hotels, a consortium with a hotel portfolio spanning the UK, India, the Caribbean and North Africa, has bought the Henson Hotel in Blackpool off a guide price of £599,000. PM Group has acquired the 45-bedroom hotel from David and Susan Jones in a deal brokered by agent Fleurets. PM Group director Tim Teo said: “We are delighted to open our portfolio in Blackpool starting with the Henson Hotel. The Henson is a landmark for us – we currently have 400 hotels under revenue management but we have plans to add many more properties under the direct management model that we believe will give our portfolio a better balance. Blackpool is an amazing destination that still has huge potential for hoteliers with a modern approach. We bring a 21st century outlook combined with traditional values and look forward to being part of the local business community in Blackpool. The business will run as usual, with no break in service.”

US comfort food restaurant Dirty Bones will launch its fourth site in London this month, bringing its signature design style combined with old school hip-hop, soul and funk to Soho. The 1,600 square foot 60-cover restaurant and bar in Denman Street, which opens on Saturday, 29 April, will take inspiration from the post-industrial chic look championed by loft apartments in New York City’s Brooklyn borough. The décor will include bespoke neon lighting fixtures, intentionally mismatched furniture and timber-concrete flooring and an antique floor-to-ceiling bookcase. The Soho menu will showcase dishes such as the slow n’ low pork belly ribs marinated in Dr Pepper and burnt onion and ale barbecue sauce, as well as an all-new rotating selection of grass-fed British rib-eye steak. A selection of cold pressed juices and creative hot drinks will be available alongside cocktails. Dirty Bones’ other sites are in Kensington, Carnaby and Shoreditch.

Crussh Dessert line upCrussh, the London-based healthy food and juice brand, has launched its spring menu, which features its largest vegan range yet. The new vegan options, which make up 17 of the 30 new menu items, include carrot and sultana overnight oats, health pots, gluten-free vegan desserts such as key lime pie and choc avo mousse, and homemade energy balls. As well as the expanded vegan range, the spring menu also features a number of high protein products such as the banana and almond butter protein bagel, and the jerk chicken protein health pot. Crussh is continuing to evolve its brand identity and design, both in store and online, following the opening of its new look site in New Street Square in November. Head of marketing Helen Jones said: “We’ve always had a strong range of vegetarian and vegan products at Crussh but with the recent popularity of Veganuary and with more than half a million people in the UK now following a vegan diet, it felt like the right time to further strengthen our offering.”

Sky is offering pubs across the UK a range of prizes and free promotional packs to help them make the most of a summer of live sport. Over the coming months, Sky Sports will broadcast its “Summer Six” events, some of the world’s biggest sporting spectacles, giving operators the opportunity to draw in the crowds across the entire summer. The Sky “Summer Six” includes the British and Irish Lions rugby tour to New Zealand, cricket’s ICC Champions Trophy, coverage of all Home Nations football games in the June World Cup qualifiers, and the British Open golf championship. Sky Sports customers can claim a free summer POS kit while stocks last. The remaining giveaways, which include a 12-month Sky subscription and HD televisions, will be made available throughout April, May and early June via, Sky’s customer portal for landlords. Sky Business managing director David Rey said: “This is a win-win for landlords who can look forward to showing their customers the best sport on offer while enjoying a whole host of bonuses to help them drive trade over the summer period.”

Sadiq KhanThe number of London pubs has fallen by a quarter – an average loss of 81 pubs per year – in the past 15 years, according to figures released by London mayor Sadiq Khan. The number of pubs in 2016 fell 25% to 3,615 from 4,835 pubs in 2001. Barking and Dagenham has lost more than half its pubs (56%) while Newham and Croydon have lost 52% and 45% respectively. Hackney is the only borough that did not report an overall loss with an increase of 3% since 2001. The decline of the number of pubs in the capital was blamed on issues including rises in business rates, conflicts with residents and developers and the relaxation of permitted development rights in 2015, which allows certain types of development to go ahead without planning permission. Khan is working with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and night tsar Amy Lamé to undertake an annual audit to keep a track of pub closures and lay out plans to reduce closures in the capital. Khan said: “The great British pub is at the heart the capital’s culture. From traditional workingmen’s clubs to cutting-edge micro-breweries, London’s locals are as diverse and eclectic as the people who frequent them. That’s why I’m shocked at the rate of closure highlighted by these statistics, and why we have partnered with CAMRA to ensure we can track the number of pubs open in the capital and redouble our efforts to stem the rate of closures. From the outset of my mayoralty, I’ve made safeguarding and growing the night-time economy a key priority and this simply isn’t possible without a thriving pub scene. Together with my night tsar, Amy Lamé, we will do all we can to protect pubs across London.” Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the mayor acknowledging the vital contribution being made by pubs and confirm his support for the sector. Pubs, bars and late-night venues are an essential part of the UK’s culture and they play an indispensible economic role; this is abundantly evident in the capital. The mayor’s report recognises the unique role that pubs play and highlights the challenges being faced by these businesses.”

Japan Centre founder Tak Tokumine is to open a flagship Japanese food hall in London in September, in Panton Street. The flagship food hall will combine a range of specialist food rooms, with all of the traditional departments of a “depachika” (the Japanese word for a basement food hall), set around a central 100 seat dine-in courtyard. Tokumine said: “I am very proud to announce the launch of the new Japan Centre flagship store in Panton Street. This central location off Leicester Square will be the new home for all things Japanese in London with our Japanese take on the shop, dine and experience concept. I’m very excited to be opening the doors this autumn.” The new site will consist of a main food hall, three different “specialist” rooms, a central courtyard eating area, open kitchens and a “beautiful Japanese entrance experience”. The first specialist room will be The Tea Room, where customers will be able to order tea by the gram, browse and sample different teas guided by knowledgeable staff all within a calm relaxed area made from light birch elements and fresh planting. The Sake Room will allow customers to browse, sample and purchase from the wide range of sake available with sake experts available to help with any queries. Decoration will include light Japanese woods and sake barrel-inspired fittings to create a sense of a traditional Japanese sake shop. Lastly, The Miso Room will serve fresh miso, where customers can not only sample and learn about the different uses of miso in cooking but will be able to weigh their own and purchase hard to find, small producer products. Large Japanese barrels of miso give this room a real authentic shopping experience with a cosy and rich atmosphere communicated through bespoke design elements. The main open and bright food hall will offer a wide range of fresh, dry and packed goods with a large selection of daily ingredients Japan Centre is known for, from dashi and soy sauce, to seaweed and freshly milled rice for all of your Japanese cooking needs. This will be supported by an aromatic Japanese bakery, fruit and vegetable stalls, fresh sashimi fish and meat counters and an authentic homeware section to include books, magazines, ceramics, wagashi, gifts and a gift wrap area. There will be a demo kitchen as part of the space where customers can see live demonstrations using ingredients from Japan Centre and a traditional yatai stall as part of the entrance experience. Customers will have the option of take out from the main sozai deli counter from a wide selection of freshly prepared favourites including ramen, hand pulled udon, Japanese curry, and a wide variety of gyoza and tempura. Customers can also dine in the central courtyard which will be the new eating destination for London, perfect for quick bites, or longer lunches and dinner. In February, Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in authentic Hakata cuisine and was founded by Tokumine, received an investment from Toridoll Holdings Corporation, operator of 1,000 restaurants globally, most notably Japan’s udon restaurant group Marugame Seimen. Shoryu Ramen’s parent company Shoryu Holdings had turnover of £7,243,651 (2014: £4,881,636) in the year ending 31 December 2015 and made a profit before tax of £446,046 (2014: £530,004). Toridoll has acquired 40%, valued at just under £7m, of shares in Shoryu Holdings and aims to expand Shoryu’s restaurant estate. Launched in 2012, Shoryu Ramen has nine sites with its London restaurants in Regent Street, Broadgate Circle, Soho, Kingly Court, Covent Garden and Westfield Stratford City, as well as Shoryu Go, a dedicated tonkotsu ramen take-out bar in Air Street. Sites outside the capital are Shoryu Manchester and an international outpost in the Japanese town of Hakata.

Propel has partnered with the UK’s leading thinker and teacher on multi-site foodservice management Professor Chris Edger and Tony Hughes, cited by many current industry leaders as the most influential figure in their career, to launch the Inspirational Leadership Masterclass. Edger and Hughes will draw on their book, eMotion – how leaders mobilise positive feelings in super-performing teams, to outline the “ten moments of emotional truth” of leadership that separate the best from the rest. The event takes place in the Chartered Accountants Hall at One Moorgate Place, London, on Thursday, 8 June and Edger and Hughes will explain their book’s key proposition – that focusing on mobilising positive emotions lies at the heart of inspirational leadership. Nick Miller, former chief executive of Meantime Brewery, will outline what he believes are the ten critical ways to inspire people to achieve extraordinary performance in good times and bad. Leading brands consultant Ian Dunstall will outline how inspirational leaders set up and evolve a brand that’s loved by both employees and guests. David Singleton, vice-president of hospitality at Al Tayer Group, will outline how he instilled desire in workers to join his teams and gave them the confidence to perform and the aspiration to develop. Gary Topiol, managing director EMEA of Nudge Rewards, will outline the new technologies and interventions that will transform employee recognition and communication processes during the next ten years. Gary Harris has been deputy chairman of British Rowing for almost 20 years – a period of unprecedented success – and will outline the ten key insights into coaching outstanding performances from teams and individuals. Writer and lecturer Dr Nollaig Heffernan, co-designer of the ILM72 psychometric test, will outline the key components that underpin mental toughness for inspirational leaders and how to incorporate them to overcome everyday stress and challenges. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers, while tickets for Propel Premium subscribers are £245 plus VAT. To book, email or call 01444 817691.

A host of UK operators have signed up to attend the US Restaurant Franchise Forum, with attendance free courtesy of CPL Training, which has become headline sponsor of the event. Attendees include Boparan Restaurant Holdings, Star Pubs & Bars, Square Pie, Papa John’s, Hasty Tasty Foods, TGI Friday’s, Chozen, Fulham Shore, Beds and Bars, Yummy Collection, The MSG Group, SSP, Young’s, Pret A Manger, Distinct Group, Black Truffle, Burton Inns, HMS Partnership, Hungerdog, BRGR Co, Triangle Pub Company, and Black and White Hospitality. The half-day event, which takes place on Friday, 28 April at One Moorgate Place in London, will see leading US operators present to their UK counterparts about franchise opportunities in Britain. CPL Training chief executive Dan Davies said: “We are delighted to sponsor this important seminar to allow operators to attend for free.” The five high-profile US foodservice franchisors to present at the event have been confirmed as Panda Express, the largest Chinese quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain in the US, with 1,800 sites; Little Caesars, which is the third-largest pizza QSR restaurant chain in the US, with 4,250 sites; Wingstop, the fastest-growing US QSR chicken brand, with 1,000 sites; Wienerschnitzel, the largest hotdog QSR brand in the US, with 350 locations; and fast-emerging Indian QSR/fast-casual brand Chutney’s Indian Grill. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing

The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is open for bookings. Speakers will include Darren Tristano, president of insights firm Technomic, who will look at the key criteria US investment firms are applying in the US foodservice market and make his pick of the most interesting emerging US brands. Andrew Ball, partner at sector accountants haysmacintyre, will set out the most tax-efficient ways to offer investment in a company – and how to involve employees in a business by creating an employee shareholder scheme. Meanwhile, Andy Laurillard, founder of Thai restaurant brand Giggling Squid, which attracted investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015, will talk about the process of preparing to attract investment, his experience of talking to potential investors and the difference the Business Growth Fund investment has made to Giggling Squid.. Click here to see the full programme. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 11 May at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers, while tickets for Propel Premium subscribers are £245 plus VAT. To book, email or call 01444 817691.

Subscribers to Propel Premium are to receive a new benefit – a £50 discount on tickets to Propel’s Masterclass series of events in 2017. The series includes The Advanced Social Media Masterclass, The Leadership Masterclass, the Finance and Investment Masterclass, and the Multi-site Management Masterclass. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers also receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. On 1 March, Propel Premium subscribers will also receive an updated version of the Propel database of multi-site companies, which will add another 200 companies to the existing database of 700 to hit the 900 mark. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email

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Finance Conference 2017

Finance & Investment Conference 2017

Thursday, 11 May 2017, 1 Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA

A full day conference focusing on investment, equity release, the property market and working with investors for success.

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Propel Multi Club March 2017

Propel Multi Club

9th March 2017

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US Restaurant Franchise Forum Heading

US Restaurant Franchise Forum

Friday, 28th April, at One Moorgate Place, London

Propel has partnered with World Franchise Associates to launch the US Restaurant Franchise Forum. The event, which takes place on Friday, 28 April at One Moorgate Place in London, will see leading US operators present to their UK counterparts about franchise opportunities in Britain.

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Propel Quarterly Spring 2017


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