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Hush wins landmark court case against landlord over new lease option

Hush Collection - Jamie Barber & Ed StandringHush Collection, the London restaurant group, which includes the Cabana, Hush and Haché brands, has won a landmark court victory against a landlord over an option on a new lease for its Hush Mayfair site.
 
Jamie Barber (pictured left), executive chairman of Hush Collection, said the ruling was a victory for “all UK hospitality businesses”.
 
He said: “Edward Standring [chief executive of Hush Collection] (pictured right) and I are delighted and overwhelmingly relieved that Hush’s presence in Lancashire Court has been secured into the next decade and beyond. Geoffrey Moore and I founded Hush 22 years ago, and we have been an exemplary tenant throughout that time becoming an institution and creating an oasis in the middle of Mayfair.
 
It is extremely disappointing that a landlord like Royal London Asset Management (RLAM) chose to take commercial advantage of covid by terminating our option for a new lease because of a ‘late payment’ two years ago in the midst of lockdown just days before a rent concession was documented. Thankfully, the court has found in our favour. No one from RLAM has communicated with us at all about the case since covid, and so this process has felt faceless and, in some ways, quite sinister. But for us, it is a big deal!
 
This is a victory for all UK hospitality, for restaurant, bar and retail operators still recovering from covid scars, that have faced unconscionable practices by landlords.”
 
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Nick Collins, chief executive of LoungersNick Collins (pictured), chief executive of café bar operator Loungers, has told Propel the 226-strong-group’s site pipeline is in really good shape and new openings “continue to generate above average levels of sales and above average levels of Ebitda”.

The Lounge and Cosy Club operator, which opened its latest site – Carlo Lounge in the West Sussex town of East Grinstead – earlier this week, has so far opened 16 of the 30 sites it plans to open across its latest financial year. In the 24 weeks ended 2 October 2022, the group’s capex was £15m including £11.2m on new sites and £1.6m on maintenance. The company said fit-out costs have crept up (Lounge average £750,000, Cosy Clubs now £1.1m) but landlord contributions and rental terms remain better than ever.

Collins said: “Expansion opportunities are still coming through from ex-retail sites and former banks. The pipeline is in really good shape. The new sites that are opening continue to generate above average levels of sales and above average levels of Ebitda. We continue to be out on the road one day every two or three weeks looking at new opportunities. And we’re excited about what we can do in the next 12 to 18 months.

From a design perspective, as the estate grows, we are opening better and better sites. We have never adopted a cookie-cutter approach and the focus on each site’s individual design has never been stronger. Our in-house design and construction approach to fitting-out sites is an important factor in achieving the local feel of our sites and also provides us flexibility and cost efficiency. Our levels of capex have nudged higher in this inflationary environment, and we continue to work hard to mitigate these pressures.”

The first Brightside location is scheduled to open on the A38, south of Exeter, in February 2023, with a further two to open in early FY24. In time, Loungers believes there is scope to develop a truly national brand. Collins said the company has had “more incoming calls from developers, from operators, from the big groups” in terms of opportunities for the new roadside concept. He said: “It’s definitely the case that we’re still finding our way from a pipeline perspective.

We don’t quite know what the pipeline will look like in 12-24 months’ time. We’re really focused on getting these first three or four sites open and demonstrating how they trade and demonstrating why we have such confidence in the model and the opportunity.”

 

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7Bone7Bone Burger Co, which last month secured new investment after concluding a restructure, was acquired out of administration for £311,067, Propel understands. Last month, Propel revealed 7Bone had undergone a pre-pack administration, which had included the closure of two sites. The restructure left the business with ten trading sites and the backing of a new entity led by Kings Park Capital. An administrator’s report laid out the issues the business faced. It stated during the summer of 2022 the group began to experience significant cash flow pressures. It said: “This was due to a number of reasons including, but not limited to, the forced closure of the group’s profitable Southampton site in June 2022 due to a fire; the unusually hot summer of 2022, which resulted in weaker than forecast trading; and the general headwinds facing the hospitality sector.” This led to a circa £3m funding gap. When it came to exploring options for the business, more than 170 parties were approached. The report stated: “Subsequently, two offers were received for the business and majority of the assets of the group, including the company, but neither offer was capable of completion on a solvent basis.” The business was subsequently acquired out of administration for £311,067, which comprised £111,067 in cash, and an additional £200,000 in relation to the intellectual property owned by the company that will be paid by way of a credit bid mechanism – whereby the purchaser’s secured debt will reduce by the £200,000. After the restructure, co-founder Matt Mollicone told Propel: “We have now concluded a restructure through a pre-pack admin. All ten trading sites remain open (with the two we temporarily closed now permanent closures), and 181 employees remain with the business. We are also looking/hoping to reopen a site in Southampton in the next few months following the fire we unfortunately had in the original site.”

ETM Group co-founder Ed MartinETM Group, which operates 12 premium bars, pubs and restaurants in central London, has secured more than £11m in funding from ThinCats. ETM will use the funds to refinance the entirety of its bank loans as well as providing “suitable working capital headroom to underpin further organic growth”. Founded in 2000, ETM operates sites including the sports-focused concepts Greenwood and Redwood, as well as food-led pubs and restaurants such as The Jugged Hare and The Botanist Sloane Square. Despite a challenging period for the sector, ETM said it had navigated its way through successive lockdowns, with solid trading “largely down to the experience of the management team and the strength of its brands” and it was in “a great position to build on an already impressive portfolio”. For the year to 27 February 2022, the business reported turnover of £21.6m (2021: £6.8m) and a return to “healthy Ebitda profitability”. Ed Martin (pictured), co-founder and chief executive of ETM, said: “We remain optimistic about growth for the sector and are grateful to the ThinCats team for its support and commitment. This funding ensures we can continue to offer lasting experiences for our customers in unique and exciting venues in beautiful settings across the capital.” Dave Sherrington, regional head of sales at ThinCats, added: “ETM has an incredible collection of venues, recognisable brands that have fantastic reputations in London. We also believe in the management team and its ability to thrive in uncertain times, which is why we have backed it.”

The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) leisure and concessions division has secured a UK debut for Dubai-based artisan café, bakery and deli concept Jones the Grocer, with a double opening at Heathrow airport slated for next year. The partnership will see a Jones the Grocer and Jones the Grocer Express open in Terminal 2 in 2023, with The Jones the Grocer site, featuring more than 170 covers, set to be its largest airport store in the world and first in the UK. Comprising more than 5,900 square feet in the terminal’s international departure lounge, it will serve craft beer, wine and cocktails alongside artisan cheese and meat boards as well as sharing plates. An island bao bar will serve savoury buns and noodle bowls, while an Italian pizza oven and pasta bar will be part of the offer. Jones the Grocer Express, located immediately in front of Jones the Grocer, will be a grab-and-go concept offering pastries, pies, sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads, alongside smoothies, leaf tea, and a selection of hot and cold drinks. The openings will mark a strategic phase in Jones the Grocer’s expansion. Yunib Siddiqui, chief executive of Jones the Grocer, said: “Winning this award demonstrates TRG’s commitment, passion and belief in Jones the Grocer as a world-class brand, as well as its desire to bring the best in food retail to the UK airport travel space.” Mark Chambers, chief executive of leisure and concessions at TRG, added: “We are delighted to have won this large concession award in partnership with Jones the Grocer, an excellent brand bringing a vast range of quality food options to passengers at Heathrow airport. Our agreement with Jones the Grocer is testament to our team’s ability to identify exciting brands worldwide and introduce new concepts to the travelling public.”

PubLove, the hostel-pub company founded in 2007 by Ben Stackhouse, has reported its Burger Craft Kitchens have seen 26% like-for-like sales growth while its hostels have delivered average occupancy of 92% across the last 12 months. The company is predicting a bumper Christmas to top off what has been a record year. With six sites across London, PubLove this week unveiled its Christmas Pudding Burger, which will spearhead its food offer through December. “The Burger Craft brand is just going from strength to strength as we become known for the best burgers in the capital,” said Stackhouse. “We’ve seen really healthy growth and much of it is down to brilliant food at really good value.” He also believes value sits at the heart of its 400-plus beds across the estate, which are running ahead of pre-pandemic levels for their highest occupancy and room rates on record: “We continue to defy the market,” Stackhouse said. “We’ve seen a particularly solid overseas visitor and student business – the audience is definitely out there. We are finding they not only stay with us, but then want to spend time in the pubs and enjoy our food. If we doubled our bed nights, we could fill them.” The Christmas Pudding Burger comes with charcoaled buns, Cumberland sausage patties, smoked streaky Somerset bacon, Christmas pudding chutney and a Wensleydale custard. Meanwhile, festive drinks feature the Holy Negroni made with Sacred Christmas pudding gin, English spiced vermouth, rosehip cup and dried orange; and a gingerbread espresso martini.

Julian MetcalfeItsu, the healthy Asian food chain, has opened its debut site in France, in Paris. The site is at 4 Avenue du Président Wilson. The opening is part of the franchise agreement the Julian Metcalfe-led (pictured) business signed with Groupe Betrand earlier this summer, which will see Itsu restaurants open across France. The 2,093 square-foot, 67-cover site marks the start of the plan to expand to 50 restaurants in five years, with three new stores set to open by the end of 2023. The company said the Paris opening is the next step on a journey to expand further into Europe, with a launch in Germany understood to be under consideration. Groupe Betrand, founded in 1997 by Olivier Betrand, is a multi-brand restaurant operator with a projected turnover of €2.2bn this year. Metcalfe said: “Groupe Bertrand has an incredible wealth of experience opening restaurants for some of the largest fast-food chains in the world. Its passion and commitment to quality, healthy food at an affordable price, cements Olivier Bertrand as a perfect partner to help make Itsu available to more people in more places across France.” Bertrand added: “The desire to eat healthily has increased in recent years and Itsu’s high standards and quality offering is certain to bring something new to the people of France over the next few years.” The move into France is part of Itsu’s expansion of its franchising model launched last year when it opened its first European restaurant in partnership with Autogrill in Brussels. The brand currently operates 78 franchised and owned restaurants in the UK and EU, with its franchise operation, now totalling nine sites. Itsu is also set to open a second site with the Savvi Dining Group, its franchise for the Midlands, in Nottingham. Propel understands Savvi, which is led by Ghanshyam Ramparia, the co-owner of the Temple of Seitan concept and a Costa Coffee franchisee, will open an Itsu in the Clocktower Dining Quarter at Victoria Centre, in the new year. Last year, Savvi opened its first Itsu site, at Leicester’s Fosse Park Shopping Centre. Ramparia was born and raised in Leicester and has operated business concepts and franchises in the area for more than 25 years.

Jon Lake, managing director of ChopstixJon Lake (pictured), managing director at fast-growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix, said he expects to have commitments for 150 new stores by end of 2022 as the company “accelerates” into franchising. Speaking at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference, Lake said: “We’re two thirds company-owned and about a third franchising, and we’ll probably see that change quite markedly over the next 18-24 months as we accelerate into franchising more. What we saw two years ago as we came out of the first stage of the pandemic was the loosening up of the property market. We felt that we could take advantage of that and started to build up a property pipeline. At the same time, we started to engage more with new franchise partners with the plan being to continue the equity stores growth and build up the franchise pipeline. It means we’ve used the last two years to really turbo charge the equity store growth and whilst we still see opportunities in the equity store estate, the vast majority of new stores will likely come through franchising. By the end of the year, we will probably have commitments for 150 new stores over the next five years from our franchise partners alone.” Lake said capex has gone up “probably 20-30%” over the last six to 12 months, and while the company “can manage that to a degree”, it is looking at several cost-saving measures. Lake said: “You also have to look at ways you can innovate alongside your partners – we had a franchise partner open in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a 2,000 square-foot unit which was probably slightly too big for a Chopstix. We agreed with the partner for them to co-locate another complementary brand and so they opened a Planet Doughnut alongside. We remain the main focus, but the franchise partner can sweat the asset better.”

Smoothie FactoryUS Juice bar brand Smoothie Factory, which made its UK debut earlier this year with an opening in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, will open its first English stores in the first quarter of 2023. The American franchise brand, which has more than 120 stores in 20 countries, is lining up a couple of London stores – one in the east of the city and one in the west. It will also be looking to open a second Northern Ireland site early next year, this time a kiosk, as it works towards an eventual target of 25 UK sites, as reported by Propel last month. “We are looking for further expansion throughout the UK and Ireland and have a number of interested parties already,” Andrew McQueen, managing director of Smoothie Factory UK and Ireland, told Propel. “We believe our model can work in any major city in the UK and Ireland, but shopping centres would be a particularly good fit. Great Britain will be rolled out through our master franchise partner, but there are still investment options for regions, cities and individual stores available within that area. Ireland is available to a master franchise partner, and we’re looking for a strong business or individual with previous food and beverage experience to launch the brand into the Republic. They’ll be required to open a minimum of five stores within five years, including one ‘model’ outlet (store or kiosk), after which they’ll be able to sub franchise. Phase one objectives were to stand up the model store, secure a master agreement for Great Britain and another for Ireland. Phase two will be supporting our master franchise partners to open a minimum of 15 stores – five in Northern Ireland, five in the rest of the UK and five in Ireland – by 2026.”

Stange & Co, which operates venues in Merseyside and North Wales, has reported turnover increased to £10,722,758 for the year ending 28 February 2022 compared with £4,327,325 the year before. However, turnover remained below the £11,804,014 for the year ending 28 February 2020 – the last full year before the pandemic. Ebitda increased to £1.72m from a loss of £502,000 the previous year and was also up on 2020 (£1.1m). The business, which is chaired by Brunning & Price co-founder Graham Price, made a pre-tax profit of £1,120,882 compared with £57,635 the year before (2020: £693,000). Two of its pubs – The Ship in Parkgate and the Glengower in Aberystwyth – were refurbished during the period. Although the closures impacted revenue by £700,000 and £200,000 and Ebitda by £310,000 and £97,000 respectively, the venues have traded “strongly ahead of expectations” since reopening in April this year. Its latest site, the Ring O’Bells in West Kirby, is set to open in the spring with work now taking its place on the property, which will become its tenth venue. The group said it was on a variable rate for gas and a “very favourable” fixed rate for electricity until 2025. No dividend was paid (2021: nil). The business received £467,337 through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (2021: £2,094,039). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “We have made good strides in repayment of our borrowings through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (£601,236 outstanding at year end on first loan and £200,000 on second loan). During the year we built up a healthy cash surplus. The decision was taken to invest this in the two refurbishments rather than early repayment of loans. This was based on the strength of trading coming out of the pandemic and the very favourable terms the loans were arranged on. Both projects were funded fully via cash.”

PizzaExpress has unveiled its new brand proposition at its restaurant in London’s Oxford CircusPizzaExpress has begun rolling out Bagasse bases to be used in all of its pizza boxes delivering the brand’s thinner, crispier 14-inch Romana pizzas. The bases have been extensively tested, on average increasing the temperature retention of a Romana pizza by five degrees Celsius. PizzaExpress has pledged to be a net zero company by 2040, and the base was developed with its sustainability ambitions in mind. The material used for the insert is the waste product of farmed wheat, is compostable and can be disposed of with food waste. The product is unique to PizzaExpress and is the first of its kind to roll out. Jane Treasure, director of food and beverages at PizzaExpress, said: “However customers choose to enjoy a pizza – dining in, from a supermarket or for delivery – we want the taste and experience to reflect the care and passion that’s gone into creating it. As a team, we’re going to continue to innovate to ensure we’re responding to the growing demand for quality delivery.”

Bar, restaurant and nightclub operator Eden Gardens Entertainment has reported turnover increased to £13,139,337 for the year ending 30 November 2021 compared with £10,398,191 the previous year. The business, which disposed of 18 of its venues in 2019 and now operates four venues, made a pre-tax profit of £408,419 compared with a loss of £275,391 the year before. The business received £608,599 in government grants (2020: £967,962). A dividend of £280,000 was paid (2020: £1,135,000). The company converted its Cargo nightclub in London’s Shoreditch into a restaurant, taproom and cocktail bar, which opened this summer. However, the business revealed turnover has “remained low and not reached the anticipated level”. It said efforts to attract more custom were continuing “by exploring all avenues”.

Train / Rail StrikeUKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has met with Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) general secretary Mick Lynch in an attempt to get the festive train strikes that will prove “devastating” to the sector suspended. It was announced last week industrial action will be held across four 48-hour periods on 13-14 and 16-17 December, and 3-4 and 6-7 January – which UKHospitality has said could cost sector businesses £1.5bn in lost sales and other impacts. “We are here at the Park Plaza Hotel launching the industry catering guide but also, on the back of it, having various meetings with ministers, and with Mick Lynch at the RMT union, to try to push the case for the devastating impact the rail strikes will have on the hospitality sector in the run up to Christmas,” Nicholls said in a video update on Tuesday (29 November). “We’re working flat out to make sure we get all sides around the table, resolve the issues and hopefully get a suspension of those strikes ahead of Christmas so that we don’t cost the hospitality sector £1.5bn of lost revenue.” Meanwhile, a joint letter has been sent by the British Beer & Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping, Night Time Industries Association, Association of Town and City Management and the mayor of the West Midlands to both Lynch and Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail. It said: “It is not our wish to assign blame or responsibility in this dispute, but the longer we go without a resolution, the more uncertainty and damage builds for businesses and their staff. The last three years have been a monumental struggle for the hospitality industry, and this winter was already set to be the toughest yet. The prospect of strikes in such a critical phase of trading only exacerbates this. Make no mistake – businesses will be forced to close as a result of this, and for some, it may be the last time they do so.” It comes as London pub boss Charlie Baker, who operates two Fuller’s pubs through his Epic Taverns business – The George & Vulture in Shoreditch and The Stonemasons Arms in Hammersmith – said he has lost an estimated £200,000 in cancellations since the strikes were announced. “Customers are generally very sorry – we’ve seen parties of up to 150 people cancelled,” he told the BBC. “I totally understand the cost of living is going up, and empathise with the rail workers, but it’s really tough for us too.” Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, was one of several industry leaders to put their name to a letter to Lynch on Friday (25 November) urging for a resolution. He warned staff who rely on hours and tips over the festive could suffer if there is a wave of cancelled bookings. “It’s been a challenging two or three years, and these train strikes are going to impact the hospitality sector, but more importantly, hospitality workers,” he told the BBC. “They will probably have hours cut, see tips significantly reduced if these train strikes still happen.”

Tobias Jackson, co-founder of Adventure Bar Group, which is owned by Nightcap, is to step down from his role with Nightcap. Jackson sold Adventure Bar Group to Nightcap in May 2021. Nightcap stated: “Tobias successfully led his team through the pandemic proving to be both adaptable and extremely resilient. This resulted in a successful sale for him and his shareholders to Nightcap.” Sarah Willingham, chief executive of Nightcap, said: ‘’Tobias has built Adventure Bar Group into an amazing bar group. The past 18 months I have really got to know him and have loved working with him. He is extremely well respected throughout the business and built a wonderful team. He remains an important and supportive shareholder and I very much look forward to seeing him in his next venture.’’ Jackson added: “I’ve had an incredible journey building this business and have worked with some of the best in hospitality. Now is the right time following the pandemic and sale of the business to seek new challenges both within and outside of hospitality. I can’t wait to see Nightcap continue to grow and become the best late-night hospitality company in the UK.”

Gordon Ramsay Group renews partnership with HeathrowChef Gordon Ramsay has added his Street Pizza concept to three of his existing sites, Propel understands. The chef has opened the pizza concept at the Bread Street Kitchen sites in Liverpool and Ealing. He has also added a Street Pizza to his offer at Victoria Place in Woking, where the chef operates a Street Burger site and academy. Ramsay recently opened the first regional site under his Street Pizza concept, in Edinburgh’s Henderson Row. Ramsay will launch a Street Burger site in the Scottish capital, at the St James Quarter scheme, on Friday (2 December). Last week, Ramsay reopened his The Narrow pub site, which is situated on the Thames near Limehouse, east London, under his Bread Street Kitchen concept, with the new name of Bread Street Kitchen on the River.

Time Out LisbonTime Out Group has entered into a management agreement with Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) to open a new Time Out Market in Saudi Arabia. The market will be based in the capital Riyadh, at Diriyah Square, and is expected to open in 2027. This is the company’s eighth management agreement as its global expansion continues, with further locations in advanced negotiations. Time Out Group stated: “As a key anchor of Diriyah Square, Time Out Market will bring Riyadh’s best chefs, restaurateurs and cultural experiences together under one roof, based on editorial curation. It will provide a space and opportunities for award-winning, established and up-and-coming culinary and cultural talents. Located across 95,000 square foot and two levels, there will be 23 kitchens, five beverage serveries, multiple stages, event and exhibition spaces, a demonstration kitchen, kitchen academy and kitchen lab. With approximately 1,650 seats, guests will have a variety of indoor and al fresco dining options.” Under a management agreement, Time Out Market receives a share of revenues and profits (subject to a guaranteed consultancy fee) but does not contribute to the capital cost of the site. Time Out Market co-chief executive (development), Jay Coldren, said: “Time Out has always been at the forefront of urban centres, shining a light on the best of the city. Our Time Out Markets let local culinary and cultural talent showcase their skills, bring people together to connect, create employment opportunities, and provide an open and diverse workplace for the community. Diriyah Square is set to be a landmark, combining history, heritage and culture alongside retail and hospitality – as the country is opening up to tourism and the world, there is a well-established eating out culture that continues to grow and evolving cultural scenes which both locals and visitors are increasingly enjoying. We are looking forward to offering our unique Time Out Market experience, alongside our partners at DGDA.”

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator RM&IRestaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its fifth edition, and tickets are now on sale. The event is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, aiming to build a community, promote the sharing of ideas, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference as the centrepiece of the January event series, taking place on 24 and 25 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The conference will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, diversification of revenue streams and how brands are adapting to the new normal. It is designed for marketing, development and innovation teams, as well as senior executives and investors wanting to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. More than 50 industry and agency leaders take to the stage over two days, representing brands including Gail’s Bakery, Hawksmoor, Burger King UK, Loungers, The Alchemist, Hall & Woodhouse, BrewDog, East Coast Concepts, Press Up Hospitality Group, Krispy Kreme, Mission Mars, Inception Group, New World Trading Company, MJMK, Caprice Holdings, Hakkasan, Gusto Italian, Tattu Restaurants, Red Engine, Vapiano, The Cocktail Club, Hilton, Elior, Lollipop, Flat Earth Pizza, Lego Restaurants, KellyDeli, Cornish Bakery, Chotto Matte, Ping Pong, Nobu, Searcy’s and Six by Nico. Day one themes will be consumer and sector trends, start-ups, concepts and creativity and digital evolution, while day two focuses on purpose and responsible business, strategies for growth and communication and culture. Tickets for operators for the two days are £600 plus VAT and £350 plus VAT for one day. Tickets for suppliers are £950 plus VAT for the two days and £525 plus VAT for one day. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Jo Charity at Propel on jo.charity@propelinfo.com

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