Deutsche Bank mulls options for Orchid: Deutsche Bank is mulling options for the 230-strong Orchid Pub Company it owns in the wake of offers to buy the company from investors who would like to establish it as a platform for a larger managed pub and bar business. The bank is also considering retaining ownership of the company until 2016 or 2017 as it continues to transform the estate with investment. Rufus Hall, chief executive of Orchid Group, said: “We have made no secret of the current situation – it is only right that the Board and Deutsche Bank weigh our options after a significant period where they have provided tremendous support to the Orchid management and business, allowing us to lead an exciting period of transformation for the group. The very positive news is that all options remain on the table and that this process is something that we undertake from position of complete strength, with the business performing very well, and those venues that have been the subject of capital investment responding very, very encouragingly.” In the meantime, Orchid has launched the next stage of its investment programme. Deutsche Bank has already overseen the investment of £20m across its business in the past 12 months, generating ‘industry-leading returns’ and is now investing several million more amid plans for a rolling capital investment programme. The next phase of the programme will involve significant works at a further 13 businesses in this financial quarter, with more set to follow in the remainder of 2014. The decision to sanction increased investment is a further endorsement of the current strategy and comes in the wake of a significantly positive trading period that saw the operator record its best ever Christmas and January sales figures. The on-going transformation of the Orchid estate, which comprises predominantly freehold property, will see the conversion of more locations to Orchid’s leading Pizza Kitchen Bar pub format, described by one leading industry commentator as “genre-busting”, as well as more dining pubs and pub-restaurants under the All Inns and Carveries banners. The news of increased investment in the Orchid estate also comes amid further accolades for the company. Orchid, which has twice been listed in the Sunday Times (Top 25) Best Big Companies To Work For, recently received gold accreditation from Investors In People and has been shortlisted in three categories of the Publican Awards – for Best Employer, Best Food Operator and Best Concept / Brand (for Pizza Kitchen Bar), the winners of which will be revealed later this month.
Ready meals firm Cook grows sales to £31.9m: Upmarket ready meals firm Cook, which has 70 shops across the UK, has grown sales to £31.9m in its most recent financial year, with like-for-like sales up 7.1%. Co-founder Edward Perry told The Daily Telegraph: “We’ve chosen to grow at a steady pace of 15 to 20% per year so that growth is sustainable. It’s actually 100 times more difficult to scale up a recipe than you might think. It takes a very long time to hone and improve our meals. From prepping ingredients to porters washing everything up, every element of the dish is made by hand. Every single person has to care about what they are doing. If they don’t that where you lose 10 to 15% of quality.”