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Tue 26th Nov 2013 - Bill's, Crowdcube, Giraffe, Oakman Inns, Wagamama

Story of the Day:

Crowdcube claims 78% of UK crowd-funding market: Crowd-funding website Crowdcube has claimed to have captured 78% of the UK crowd-funding market, raising £16m of the £20m invested this way so far in the UK. A total of 23 of the 70 companies that have raised funding through Crowdcube, or one third, have come from the food and drink sector. The company stated: “We recently funded our 50th business of this year, averaging a healthy five funded pitches per month for 2013, whilst last week we also welcomed our 50,000th registered investor to the Crowdcube family. A total of £11.7m has been raised so far in 2013. We now routinely process in excess of 1,000 investments per month, and repeat investors regularly represent 60% of all investments each month. This last figure is really encouraging as it demonstrates a real appetite for Crowdcube investors to back multiple businesses listed on Crowdcube and shows the level of sophistication; investors are wisely building portfolios to spread risk rather than having all their eggs in a single basket. This is quite a milestone for an industry that started as recently as 2011 and has just received the nod from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which announced its thoughts on what the future might look from a regulation perspective, without causing an outcry of disdain or dissatisfaction from the key players.”

Industry News:

ALMR National Restaurant Association Study Tour to Chicago open to bookings: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2014 Chicago Study Tour is now open for bookings. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training, takes place between Thursday 15 May and Monday 19 May. The ALMR launched its first study tour trip to the NRA show in 2012, with the trip led by Propel Morning Briefing managing director Paul Charity. The NRA draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, all seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions; involves a tour of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. The group is staying at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, e-mail

Pete Brown – I’ve been impressed by Thwaites and Brain’s craft beer: Pete Brown, one of the UK’s foremost beer writers, has praised Thwaites and SA Brain for the quality of their craft beers. In his blog, he wrote: “I’ve been hugely impressed over the last year or two with craft beer offerings from brewers such as Thwaites and Brain’s. Many of their beers are as good as any from a typical micro – in some cases better, as these are breweries with technical expertise, laboratory facilities and so on. They may not push the boundaries as much as a BrewDog or a Wild Beer Co, but craft beer doesn’t always have to push the boundaries. If a large UK regional brewery is making good, interesting, flavourful beer, then any debate as to whether it is ‘craft’ or not is political rather than being about the beer itself.”

Paul lines up opening in third US city: French bakery chain Paul is to open in Boston, Massachusetts, its third US city, where it plans four openings. Paul has nearly 600 locations in 29 countries. In 2011, the chain opened its first US bakeries in Washington DC and later expanded to Miami. Paul said it will open seven more shops in the region by 2017. In the UK, the company launched its first site in Covent Garden in 2000 and is embarking on a plan to evolve its sites, all in London, to a larger footprint. Overall transaction value reduced by 1.4% in 2012 compared to 2011. Turnover for the year to 31 December 2012 rose from £22,675,402 to £23,366,832. However, the company’s operating losses rose sharply to £1,243,581 from £462,583 the year before.

63,000 square feet Eataly to open in Chicago, opens in Dubai: Foodservice phenomenon Eataly will open in Chicago’s River North area early next month and occupy 63,000 square feet, 13,000 more square feet than its New York site, allowing room for a mozzarella maker, a super-sized bakery and a fried-food bar – plus eight restaurants with a combined 500 covers. The restaurants are: Baffo (high-end Italian with 50 seats), Pesce (fish-centric with 60 seats), La Birreria (brewpub with 50 seats), La Carne (meat-centric restaurant especially for Chicago with 64 seats), Il Fritto (everything fried), La Piazza (mozzarella, formaggio, and Salumi plus crudo bars with 120 seats), La Pizza and La Pasta (pizza and pasta with 114 seats) and Le Verdure (veggie-centric with 52 seats). Eataly, which turns over $80m per annum at its New York site, has also opened at the Dubai Mall. With 50 staff in the kitchen – including five key chefs flown in from Italy – Eataly opened its doors with 2,000-square-metres of trading space, about half the size of its The New York site.

Amazon eyes growth in alcohol sales: A senior Amazon executive, Bram Duchovnay, has reported that the online retailer sees enormous potential in global alcohol sales. Duchovnay, director and category leader at, told the inaugural Wine Vision trade show in London that the online trader is “building a destination for wine shoppers”. “We’re very early in the alcohol business, so there’s a tonne of stuff we don’t know now,” Duchovnay said. Amazon plans to develop ‘storefronts’ across different alcohol categories. Duchovnay said Amazon was encouraged by the potential of online alcohol demand, claiming that 62% of UK internet users who search for information about alcohol online are Amazon customers. Furthermore, 25% of Amazon shoppers are Champagne drinkers, and the company claims Amazon users are 41% more likely than YouTube users to buy alcohol online.

Wembley Designer Outlet attracts 350,000 shoppers in four weeks: The new London Designer Outlet has attracted 350,000 shoppers to Wembley in the four weeks since its launch, developer Quintain said yesterday. Chief executive Max James said 83% of the rental value of the centre has been let. James said the first four days alone saw 85,000 visitors, enough to fill the national stadium nearby: “There has not been an offering like it in London for such a long time. The brands we have got there are repeat brands. It is positioned not so much at the tourist market – this is an outlet for Londoners.”

Company News:

Three Giraffes opening before Christmas: Giraffe opened a site at the flagship Tesco Extra site in Cheshunt yesterday and will open two more before Christmas – in Abingdon on 2 December and Twickenham on 9 December. Russel Joffe, managing director and co-founder of Giraffe, said: “Our first Tesco site, which opened in Watford this August, has been a huge success, performing above expectations at every level and we hope that these new openings will follow suit.” The Cheshunt site has 5,258 square feet of space with 192-covers. The Abingdon site, with 3,434 square feet of space, is situated in a fully renovated corner of the red-brick Tesco Extra and has 134-covers, 30 of which are outside. The smallest of the new sites at 2,599 square feet, the 121-cover restaurant is located at the front of Tesco Extra Twickenham with the main entrance opening to the car park. 

Bill’s to open two more before Christmas: Bill’s, the restaurant business owned by Richard Caring, will open two more sites before Christmas to add to its existing 27 sites. It will open in The Parade, Leamington Spa on 2 December and Clink Street, close to Borough Market, on 9 December.

Newman Street Tavern operators open third site: Truffle Hunting, the business that operates The Newman Street Tavern and The Henry Root, has re-opened West London gastropub The Princess Victoria. Originally the Shepherd’s Bush tram stop, later an imposing Victorian gin palace, The Princess Victoria now offers a dining room, bar, wine shop and private events space. Truffle Hunting is run by Nigel Sutcliffe, Jerome Armit and James Maclean.

Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners buy skiing business: Luke Johnson’s private equity firm Risk Capital Partner has bought Neilson Active Holidays, the Thomas Cook skiing, beach club and sailing business, for £9.15m. Thomas Cook has owned the business since 1999 and last year reported a profit of just under £1m.

Almost Famous to open second Manchester site this week: Better burger concept Almost Famous is to open a site in Manchester, at the Great Northern Warehouse off Deansgate this Thursday (28 November). The original Almost Famous on the High Street in the Northern Quarter has been closed since a fire in June – but is expected to re-open in mid-December. The new Manchester venue was already being planned before fire struck. The new site includes a reception area and bar as well as a much larger dining space. Almost Famous launched a site in Liverpool earlier this year. 

Oakman Inns and Restaurants to open flagship site tomorrow: Oakman Inns and Restaurants will open its flagship Crown and Thistle site in Abingdon, Oxfordshire tomorrow (27 November) after a £1.8m refurbishment. Peter Borg-Neal, Oakman Inns chief executive, described the challenge of restoring the inn as “frightening” with the estimated cost having risen from an initial £1.3m. He told a local newspaper: “This is the largest investment the group has made to date. The building is so old, with substantial alterations made down the years, that a lot of effort will be needed to do it the right way.” The Crown and Thistle is a modern interpretation of a traditional coaching inn, with 18 luxury en-suite bedrooms and a converted barn function room.

Mary Willcock to become next Brunning & Price managing director: Mary Willcock, the highly regarded managing director of Stonegate’s Slug & Lettuce brand, is to take over from founder Graham Price as managing director of Restaurant Group’s gastro-brand Brunning & Price next February. Price will continue in an advisory role. TRG chief executive Andrew Page said: “We are delighted to be able to appoint someone of Mary’s calibre to oversee the next stage of Brunning & Price’s development. We have a strong pipeline in place and ambition to take this business further forward over the coming years. Graham has done a superb job as the managing director of our pub restaurants business and he hands over a business with a very bright future.” The Slug & Lettuce brand has enjoyed three years of double-digit sales growth – and Stonegate would like to double current estate size.

JD Wetherspoon buys back shares: JD Wetherspoon has bought back 40,019 shares. Highest price paid was 699p and the lowest price paid was 692p. The purchase represented an average price of 694.1p per share – shares acquired will be cancelled. Following this purchase, the total number of voting rights in JD Wetherspoon is 125,813,277.

Newquay nightclubs in administration or up for sale: The company that runs two of Newquay’s longest-standing night-time venues, Saly nightclub and Bar Help, has gone into administration. Lyndon Harrison, chairman of Newquay Association of Licensed Premises (NALP), said the number of venues in the resort had been dropping for some years and that the loss of such a “substantial” business in Newquay should send “alarm bells ringing”. Salt nightclub, on Beach Road, opened in spring this year following refurbishment. Meanwhile, The Chy Bar and Koola Club, also on Beach Road, is for sale for the first time in 30 years. It has an asking price of £1,595,000 and includes a 400-person capacity nightclub, the Koola Club, as well as a restaurant, outside terrace and inside seating bar area with kitchen.

Jamie’s Italian franchisee looks to Sydney suburb for fourth site: The Pacific Restaurant Group, which holds the Jamie’s Italian restaurant franchise for Australia and New Zealand, is eyeing Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, for its next Jamie’s Italian opening. The group is looking at a site on the corner of Church and Macquarie Street, and managing director Adam Heathcote has confirmed interest in this Western Sydney suburb. “It’s very early days, but we have had a meeting with the council,” Heathcote said. The first Jamie’s Italian opened in Sydney in 2011, followed by a Jamie’s Italian in Perth and Canberra this year.

Banglo owners set open Smokehouse in Bath: The owners of a bar and restaurant in Bath gutted in a fire earlier this year are to open a new business – in the pub next door. Banglo owner Robbie Tack and his fellow directors are opening a smokehouse in The Green Park Tavern. The business – called GPT Smokehouse – is scheduled to open on 6 December. The Green Park Tavern closed in August. Banglo was destroyed by fire in May.

Franks opens third Northampton site: The owner of Franks Steakhouse and Franks Hamburger House in Northampton’s Wellingborough Road has opened a third branch – Franks Hamburger House in Station Road, Northampton. Owner Tom Hewer said his latest venture gives the opportunity to appeal to a different market, be more family friendly, offer burgers, steaks and Sunday lunches as well as breakfast at the weekend. There is also a barbeque area.

Stonegate Pub Company fast-tracks 27 managers to GM in a year: A total of 27 deputy managers have been promoted to general managers in just one year at Stonegate Pub Company as a result of the company’s Accelerator training programme. Accelerator, which is now one year-old, was devised by Stonegate as part of its award-winning ‘Albert’s Theory of Progression’ suite of training programmes. It aims to develop and coach experienced deputy managers to take the next step to be successful general managers. Three, four-month programmes have been completed in the last year with a fourth well underway.

Spirit names its top general manager: Spirit Pub Company has recognised 20 of its most outstanding employees from across its operations and support centre at its annual Best Awards. Taking the top accolade of General Manager of the Year was Dritan Qosja, general manager of London Taylor Walker pub, the Stanhope in Kensington. Dritan was recognised for achieving consistent phenomenal sales growth over the past four years, and also took the title of Metropolitan Sector General Manager of the Year.

Rochester in Kent is the latest historic town to voice opposition to Costa arrival: High street traders in Rochester have voiced opposition to a plan by Costa Coffee to open a shop in historic Rochester High Street. Plans have been submitted to Medway Council for the chain to move into the current premises of Slinders Florist, close to the castle and cathedral. Although the High Street has dozens of outlets selling coffee, this would be the first major chain to move in. Alayne Fysh, owner of Frances Iles Gallery, said: “We already have some excellent coffee shops. We don’t need another one. I think it’s a shame they let Subway and PizzaExpress open. Once the fast food chains get in it is a bit of a slippery slope. They creep in and take over.”

Wagamama opens in Paphos shopping mall, Cyprus: Wagamama is one of a host of brands to open at a new shopping mall in Paphos, Cyprus. Other branded openings include TGI Fridays, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Cinabon, Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero. It’s hoped that the Kings Avenue Mall – a landmark project costing over €110 million – will help kick-start the ailing Paphos economy. It is being touted as a “complete destination” as it has everything under one roof, according to business development manager for the project, Socrates Georghiades.

JD Wetherspoon eyes second Dublin pub: JD Wetherspoon is understood to be eyeing a second Dublin pub, The 40 Foot in Dun Laoghaire after exchanging contracts on The Tonic Bar on Temple Road in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. It expects to complete the €1.5 million first purchase in the next ten days with a view to re-opening the premises by April 2014. The company already runs nine pubs in Northern Ireland.

Former Viceroy Hotels food and beverage director heads to the Highlands: Former Viceroy Hotels director of food and beverage Anthony Weaver, who was previously based in Abu Dhabi, and his partner Christine Weaver have bought The Bellachroy Hotel in the picturesque village of Dervaig, at the head of Loch Cuin on Mull. The village is located between the islands main town of Tobermory and the sandy beach of Calgary Bay. The hotel comprises a popular locals’ public bar, lounge bar, restaurant serving fresh local seafood, together with a breakfast room seating 22. In addition, there are six en suite letting rooms together with owners’ accommodation. Ken Sims, director of agent Christie + Co’s, said: “The sale of Bellachroy Hotel shows there is strong demand for quality inns and hotels on the West Coast, particularly those with good trading performance. These are positive signs that the market is moving forward which can only be good for the future.”

Abokado reports 19% like-for-likes in most recent year: Abokado, the healthy eating concept headed by Mark Lilley and backed by Kings Park Capital, has reported a 55% sales increase to £5,663,070 and a 70% increase in gross profit in the year to 31 March. Total store EBITDA more than doubled and four new stores were opened which took the estate to 14. Total EBITDA before pre-opening costs and exceptional items was £325,000. On a like-for-like basis sales grew by 19% and the net promoter score remained above 70%. New stores outperformed expectations and manager grade turnover was 5% – EBITDA per store increased by 65% on average. The company stated: “Trading in the period since March 2013 has remained very positive, with strong like-for-like sales growth and a constant gross margin despite input price pressure. Since April 2013 we have opened five more stores taking the estate to 19. The lease on a further store has also been signed and a number more are under offer. We continue to invest in our management structure to support the business’s rapid growth.”

OFT ponders Diageo sale offer: The OFT is considering an offer from Diageo to sell most of its Whyte & Mackay business to address competition concerns regarding bottled blended Scotch whisky, arising from its completed acquisition of United Spirits. Chris Walters, OFT chief economist and decision maker in this case, said: “We are now considering Diageo’s offer to sell the bulk of the Whyte & Mackay business with the exception of two malt distilleries, to address our concerns.” While the undertakings in lieu are being considered, the OFT’s duty to refer the merger to the Competition Commission is suspended.

Fuller’s re-opens The Pilot in Greenwich after six-figure investment: Fuller’s has re-opened its Greenwich pub The Pilot after a six-figure refurbishment that has doubled the number of bedrooms to ten. The Pilot will remain a traditional pub serving quality cask ales, premium lagers, fine wines and a range of spirits, with a new 50-cover dining area. In addition, a new 12-seater private dining room has been created, complete with audio and TV facilities and its own balcony terrace, usable for both conferences and parties. Managing director of Fuller’s Inns Jonathon Swaine said: “The decision to invest in the pub was largely driven by popularity of the nearby 02 Arena which is one of the biggest venues in the world, and the influx of tourists visiting the famous market, new cable cars and the Cutty Sark. That coupled with the vibrant local community in Greenwich, The Pilot offered us a great opportunity to provide a destination pub and quality hotel in the area.”

Giggling Squid in negotiations on small package of sites: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand led by Andy and Pranee Laurillard with ambitions to become the UK’s first national chain, is in negotiations to buy a small package of four of five sites that could lift estate size to 15 by summer 2014. The company opened its seventh site in Stratford two weeks ago, converting a former Strada. The company took possession of the keys to the former Giraffe in Horsham yesterday and is working on a site in Marlow currently – both sites are scheduled to open in mid-February 2014. Giggling Squid is set open its biggest site so far in Maidstone with 4,500 square feet of space on the ground floor – landlord works are underway with a pre-summer 2014 opening planned. Andy Laurillard told Propel that the company is in negotiations over a package of sites. “We might be at 14 or 15 sites by summer 2014 – although, equally, it might not happen.” Laurillard also reported that like-for-likes are in growth across the estate.

Arran Brewery plans chain of craft beer bars as it launches crowd-funding push: The Arran Brewery has launched a crowd-funding initiative, aiming to raise £4m to upgrade its brewery on Arran, develop two new breweries on the mainland, a brewing school and to open a distillery – and a chain of craft bars. Arran Brewery saw sales of £834,829 in 2012-13, an increase of 15% on the previous year and profit after tax of £66,851, an increase of 30% on the previous year. The company plans to open the Forth and Clyde Brewery on the site of the former Rosebank distillery in Falkirk. In addition, Arran plans to open the Loch Earn Brewery on the site of the former Drummond Hotel in St Fillans next year – a hotel and visitor centre is part of the plan. It also aims to open a micro-distillery and bottling plant at the former Rosebank distillery as the Camelon distillery and enter the craft spirit market producing artisan vodka, gin and, eventually, whisky on the site. The company is also in negotiations over taking a lease on a property in Hope Street, Glasgow which the company intends to open as a craft beer bar called “Arran on Hope Street” – the company will use £600,000 of the £4m raised to open further craft beer bars. Another £600,000 will be spent on the Forth and Clyde Brewery and £1.4m is ear-marked the Cameron Distillery refurbishment and commissioning, including a bottling plant. A conditional grant of £500,000 has been awarded by Historic Scotland in relation to work at the Forth and Clyde Brewery and Cameron Distillery projects. Arran Brewery produced 412,500 litres of beer in 2012, below the 500,000 litres limit needed to claim 50% brewery duty relief. The company stated: “If Arran Brewery had produced 500,000 litres in the calendar year ended 31 December 2012 it would have been liable to pay full duty on its beer production which would have added an estimated cost of 48 per litres to Arran beer production costs. The directors are of the view that if Arran is to increase its volume of beer production beyond 500,000 litres per annum it will need to grow quickly to a scale of production which makes its operations economically viable given the higher rate of duty that will apply.” Managing director of Arran Brewery is Gerard Michaluk, who graduated from Heriot-Watt University and has published two books on marketing practice.

Carluccio’s beats the planner in Harrogate: Carluccio’s is to open a new site in Harrogate after winning a planning battle with the local council. Harrogate Borough Council had refused to give permission for a restaurant and delicatessen at a former Optical Express opticians in James Street. The town’s planners turned down the application on the grounds the site should remain a shop. However, Carluccio’s has won an appeal against the decision. Carluccio’s chief executive Simon Kossoff said: “We believe absolutely that Carluccio’s will bring added vitality and vibrancy to the town centre, not least of all by providing some 35 new jobs. We are very grateful for the local support we have received and look forward to welcoming the people of Harrogate to the new restaurant and food shop sometime in spring 2014.”

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