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Tue 17th Jun 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

CGA Brand Track names UK’s top brands: Loch Fyne is the brand delivering the highest levels of customer satisfaction in eating out, with Mitchells & Butlers’ Crown Carveries best for value and Jamie’s Italian for service. Those are among the findings from new rankings drawn from CGA Peach’s BrandTrack survey of consumer opinion, which provide sharp insights into public perceptions of the UK’s leading casual dining restaurant and pub brands. Loch Fyne, the casual fish concept owned by the pub owner and brewer Greene King, is the clear leader at the top of BrandTrack’s top 40 chart for overall customer satisfaction, with nearly nine in ten customers very satisfied or satisfied with a meal there. Completing the top five are Mitchells & Butlers’ Browns, Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian, the Latin American concept Las Iguanas and Carluccio’s. Loch Fyne also tops BrandTrack’s separate chart for satisfaction on food quality, with Jamie’s Italian again just behind, while Oliver’s fast-growing brand takes top spot on the chart for good service. But a sister list for satisfaction around value for money paints a different picture, with M&B’s Crown Carveries leading a top five that also includes fellow carvery concept Toby, the all-you-can-eat brands Cosmo and Red Hot World Buffet, and the pub chain JD Wetherspoon. Cosmo is the highest new entry on BrandTrack’s overall chart, while Giraffe, now owned by Tesco, is the biggest climber. Other notable risers include Ember Inns, Toby and YO! Sushi. Satisfaction ratings in eating out are generally high, with the majority of brands leaving 80% of customers either very satisfied or satisfied, while good service is the biggest single driver of customer satisfaction. CGA Peach’s vice-president, Peter Martin, said: “Customer satisfaction is the key to loyalty, with service and food quality the main drivers of high satisfaction scores. These fascinating charts reveal the brands that are turning it. The eating-out scene has never been more diverse, and from budget buffets to premium concepts, many are delivering impressive satisfaction. But with competition so fierce, there is always more to do, and our charts show the brands that everyone can learn from and those that need to raise their game.” Top Ten Brands for customer satisfaction were: Loch Fyne (56% very satisfied), Browns (46%), Jamie’s Italian (45%), Las Iguanas (45%), Carluccio’s (43%), Wagamama (43%), Cosmo (43%), Red Hot World Buffet (42%), Miller & Carter (42%) and Zizzi (42%).
   

Industry News:

Government unveils plan to make pre-pack administrations fairer: Recommendations that are designed to try to make sure businesses and customers get a better deal from pre-pack administrations have been announced by the Business Minister, Jenny Willott. The proposals come after an independent review by Teresa Graham, an expert in better regulation, launched in July last year. The review identified concerns that these particular types of sales of failed businesses were not always transparent or fair and were not delivering the best outcomes for customers and small businesses affected when companies went bust. Recommendations include: creating a “pre-pack pool” where details of a proposed sale to a connected party can be shown to an independent person prior to the sale taking place, to increase transparency and give greater confidence to creditors that the deal has undergone independent scrutiny; requesting connected parties to complete a “viability review” for the new company to improve its chances of success; requiring valuations to be carried out by a valuer who holds professional indemnity insurance, to increase confidence that the sale is for a fair price; and ensuring proper marketing is undertaken in order to maximise sale proceeds. Graham said: “My review of pre-pack administrations over the last nine months shows that they have a unique place in the insolvency market. However, there must be major changes in the way they are administered. I believe my proposals, implemented as a complete package, will lead to real improvements in pre-packs. I hope the insolvency industry, as well as all those in business, will embrace these measures, as it is in everyone’s interest that they are successful. I believe they will lead to real improvements in transparency and scrutiny.”
   
First dedicated show for the pub trade is unveiled: The first dedicated trade show for the pub industry has been unveiled. The event organiser SME London is to launch a stand-along show called Pub15, the result of 18 months of in-depth research and planning. It will take place at the Olympia exhibition centre in West London over two days from 18-19 February 2015. SME London’s events include the Independent Hotel Show, Art 14, Vodafone London Fashion Weekend and Feast. Pub 15 will feature more than 150 suppliers, handpicked and invited to exhibit and from a wide range of sectors including design and interiors, premium spirits and wine, craft brewers and beer, technology, food and drink, and bar and kitchen, as well as business support services including marketing and brand awareness, staff recruitment and training. There will also be free business advice sessions, one-to-one workshops and a “thought leadership” seminar programme. Tim Etchells, chief executive of SME London and a former publican, said: “The UK pub industry is thriving. It employs over one million people and we are entering the new future of pubs. A highly innovative sector, UK pubs effectively invented the ‘gastro pub’ and are continuing to innovate and reintroduce the role of the pub as a vital community hub.”
   
Retail dining experience is behind the Japanese experience: Industry consultant Adam Hyman has argued that the dining experience to be found in UK retail stores is still behind the experience to be found in Japan. He said: “More retailers in Britain are using restaurants and in-store dining to improve the experience – and hopefully loyalty – of their customers. The latest is John Lewis, which is seeing two restaurants open in its main shop on Oxford Street. Just up the road, Selfridges is working with Eataly. A recent visit to Japan showed me that we are still a long way behind the in-store dining in that country, especially when it comes to luxury brands. The likes of Nicole’s at Nicole Farhi’s shop on Old Bond Street should be reintroduced here: it makes for a better experience.”
   
Starbucks offers to pay US workers’ college fees: Starbucks will pay college fees for its workers in the United States to complete a bachelor’s degree online, in a tie-up with Arizona State University. US employees of the firm who work at least 20 hours a week are eligible for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Starbucks staff who are successfully enrolled will receive partial tuition for the first two years, and full tuition for their final two years. The annual fee for online courses at the university can exceed $10,000. After they have completed their bachelor’s degree, the employees are not obliged to return to employment with Starbucks.
   
Restaurant-led Spinningfields development goes on the market: Allied London has put much of the retail and leisure space at Spinningfields on the market with a guide price of £25m. The sale includes 80,000 sq ft of units on one side of The Avenue, 3 and 4 Hardman Square and at the Left Bank building. Tenants include Giraffe, Pret A Manger and Carluccio’s, contributing to an annual rent roll of £1.6m. The developer has long since sold off the buildings to different investors but bought back the retail space in 2012 on a long lease. Chief executive Michael Ingall said: “We purchased the retail space in 2012 and have worked hard to deliver our strategy of transforming the area from retail-led to a leading leisure and restaurant-led offering for Manchester.” The sale is being handled by Robin Coady of the London-based company Coady Supple. He said; “It’s going to be something which the institutions are going to be pretty interested in, and the reaction we’ve had has been pretty good so far. The estate is doing well and the turnover at some restaurants is pretty spectacular. Revenue from the shops and restaurants has grown from £20m to £50m in four years.”
   
Food and drinks businesses now account for 20% of market town’s outlets: New openings of restaurants and cafes in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk means that foodservice outlets now account for almost 20% of town centre businesses. Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town centre business group Ourburystedmunds, said the town was enjoying a “food and drink revival”. There are now almost 90 restaurants, cafes and bars in the town centre, which is the highest number since before the recession. Cordell said: “When I arrived three years ago, there were something like 50 places where you could buy a cup of coffee, and it’s now approaching 90.”
   

Company News:

Nick Batram – Orchid acquisition could deliver a M&B share re-rating: Peel Hunt’s leisure analyst Nick Batram has argued that yesterday’s acquisition of the majority of the Orchid estate by Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) could deliver a significant opportunity for a share-re-rating. He said: “The price paid for Orchid looks relatively full, but should deliver M&B a positive return, both in terms of earnings and above WACC. An opportunity to accelerate EPS should be welcomed, as the current pace of recovery has been relatively pedestrian (from a top-line perspective). If management can deliver the expected returns (and hopefully more) and is able to rejoin the dividend list, then the opportunity for a re-rating is significant. The acquisition of Orchid could be the catalyst that ultimately triggers a re-rating. Thus far, recovery at M&B has been built on margin improvement rather than top-line growth – Orchid could potentially deliver both. However, M&B has proved that patience is required and, without the dividend to reward this, there is no rush to buy.” Douglas Jack, of Numis Securities, said: “We believe the deal is a good one for M&B, at a price it can comfortably afford. We are upgrading our forecasts by 1% for 2014E and 6% for both 2015E and 2016E. This reflects M&B’s low (1%) financing cost for the transaction, good synergy potential (for which the £6m estimate is conservative in our view) and an expectation that M&B’s expansion programme will be unaffected by this transaction. M&B has paid a full price (12.7x ebitda; 9.9x Ebitda post announced synergies) for Orchid, but the deal works for M&B due to the 1% financing cost, potential synergies and re-branding opportunities. In addition to integrating Orchid, M&B must now target stronger like-for-like sales in its own estate and ensure a speedy resumption in the dividend.”
   
Chilango passes halfway mark for Burrito Bond: Chilango has passed its halfway mark on its “Burrito Bond” yesterday with £502,500 raised from 136 investors through the crowd-funding website Crowdcube, equating to an average of almost £3,700 each. Five days after the bond was first opened to subscribers, an average of £100,000 a day has been raised, which means that the minimum figure has been reached and whatever happens the bond will be issued. The company intends using the money to help open new branches. It returns 8% a year to investors for five years.
   
Spirit Pub Company’s Flaming Grill brand debuts crowd-sourced burger: A crowd-sourced burger has made it debut on the menu at Spirit Pub Company’s Flaming Grill brand. It was designed by Gosport customer Caroline Stafford. Her Champion Burger is now featured on menus in more than 100 Flaming Grill pubs after it came out top from almost 800 entries in the pub restaurant chain’s Build-a-Burger competition to create its first ever burger designed by customers. Her creation is dedicated to the England football squad and consists of a beef burger, a chicken burger, one rasher of bacon, mozzarella-covered crispy onion rings, pepperoni, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce, all served in a ciabatta bun. It took the top spot after competing against five other finalists in a Facebook vote where customers crowned Stafford’s creation the winner. The burger is available now as part of the Flaming Grill Burger Festival. Stafford won a family meal at her local Flaming Grill and £500 in cash.
    
Brains set to open third new coffee shop of 2014: The Welsh brewer and pub operator SA Brains is set to open its third new coffee shop of 2014, with a site in the seaside town of Southsea, Hampshire. The Coffee#1 branch will open at 39 Palmerston Road, on Thursday, 19 June. It comes after the opening of the chain’s 40th site, in Newbury, Berkshire, last month. Chief executive Scott Waddington has argued that the brand has potential to expand way beyond 100 sites. “Fifty sites is our first milestone and inevitably we will look at the following five years that will take it beyond 100,” he said.
   
Tesco opens latest Decks carvery in Cleethorpes: The supermarket chain Tesco is opening its latest Decks carvery restaurant at its Cleethorpes site this Friday, 20 June, creating 30 jobs. The in-store restaurant will primarily be a carvery offering “retail-based casual dining concept serving up a slice of home and the best of British food.” The restaurant will feature three decks; breakfast, roasts and pastry, all self-service. The general manager of the restaurant, Mike Walker, said: “It seeks to satisfy our renewed interest in our own produce as well as the rejuvenation of quintessentially British eating customs – specifically the full English breakfast, the Sunday roast and tea for two.” The opening of the restaurant is part of a multi-million pound revamp at the store, which includes a dry cleaners and a new community room. The first Decks opened at the Tesco Extra at Coventry Arena in August, and the brand is now up to around seven outlets, with restaurants at Tesco stores in Newport, Broadstairs, Slough, Lincoln and Liverpool.
   
Large-store format for Pret A Manger’s 39th Manhattan: Pret A Manger is to open its 39th branch in Manhattan, New York this month, a sandwich shop at 600 Lexington Avenue in Midtown East, after the chain signed a lease for a 2,577 sq ft storefront at the tower bordering East 52nd Street. A spokesman for the agent said: “Pret has a long-established presence in Midtown, with its high density of offices and professionals. The corner presence at 600 Lexington is in line with the brand’s expansion plan and provides a large store format to accommodate Pret’s various sit-down and on-the-go customers.” Pret A Manger opened its first outlet in the United States in 2001 and has expanded to Boston, Chicago and Washington.
   
Wahaca confirms Cardiff opening: Mexican street food brand Wahaca has confirmed it will open its first site outside of the south east at St David’s in Cardiff. The company has signed a 20-year lease for 5,500 square foot site, over two floors, at St David’s shopping centre. Founder Thomasina Miers said: “Cardiff is a young, vibrant city with a fantastic concentration of retail and leisure. We’re delighted to be opening our first regional restaurant and are confident that the people of Cardiff will love our fresh, sustainable Mexican offer.”
   
Enterprise Inns searches for local heroes: Enterprise Inns pubs across the UK are being urged to apply for up to £10,000 of funding to invest in a project to boost community spirit. The Enterprise Community Heroes Awards recognise and reward publicans who have gone the extra mile to benefit local people, while celebrating the significant role that pubs play in communities. It is part of an ongoing commitment from Enterprise which has earmarked more than £1 million over ten years for the project. Head of marketing at Enterprise, James Armitage, said: “Our publicans across the country recognise that running a great pub means more than pulling a good pint and serving quality food – and many of them are going out of their way to put their pub at the heart of their communities. This is our way of thanking them for their efforts by helping to significantly boost their initiatives and benefit customers in their communities.” To apply, Enterprise publicans need to visit the dedicated website, enterpriseinns.com/ech, and answer five short questions describing how they have made a difference in their community, ahead of the closing date on 8 August 2014. A panel of judges will select the regional winners to receive £5,000. The overall national winner is set to receive double the benefit with a £10,000 prize fund set aside.
   
McDonald’s to add 12 restaurants in Ireland by end of 2014: McDonald’s is to add a dozen sites in the Irish Republic to its existing estate of 85 by the end of 2014. Its latest opening, a new 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant on Dublin’s Southside, has created 60 jobs. James Perry, the owner of the restaurant, said: “We’ve great confidence in where Ireland is going. I think that things are starting to look brighter, there’s definitely a change in the confidence, and we want to be part of that growth.” The company claims to be the third largest multinational employer in Ireland, with more than 4,500 employees.
   
Wetherspoon to open pub in DH Lawrence birthplace Eastwood next week: JD Wetherspoon will open a new pub in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the birthplace of DH Lawrence, next week (Tuesday 24 June). The Lady Chatterley will provide 40 new jobs for the area. Based at the old G&M Motors car dealership, one of the pub’s features will be a painting of DH Lawrence, who wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by Norma Galley, an artist who was born in Eastwood. The pub was given the go-ahead in June last year. Eddie Gershon, a spokesman for Wetherspoon, said: “Wetherspoon has enjoyed great success in the region and is always keen to open its pubs in new areas. Eastwood is a perfect example of this.”
   
Epic Group withdraws Aberdeen nightclub plan: The owner of an Aberdeen nightclub has withdrawn plans to have bouncy castles, bucking broncos and hot-tubs at the venue. The Epic Group, which also owns The Priory in the city, had applied to Aberdeen City Council for the entertainment features to be permitted at Pearl Lounge on Dee Street. The plans were scheduled to go before Aberdeen Council’s licensing board today, Tuesday, but a spokesman told local media the plans have been put on hold. He said: “We got the risk assessment done and have decided to wait and see how other places fare first.” Similar plans are still afoot for a second Aberdeen premises, however. Korova, on Bridge Street, has applied for permission for a hot tub and rodeo equipment, including a bucking bronco, and a decision was deferred from a previous meeting until next week’s licensing board. Both applications have attracted objections from the police.
   
Greene King gets green light for Chorley new-build: Green King has won planning consent for a new-build pub restaurant in Chorley, Lancashire. The plan is to build a Greene King pub and restaurant, with an outdoor play area, at Bishopton Crescent, at the junction of Buckshaw Avenue and Ordnance Road, Buckshaw Village. Euxton parish councillor Aidy Riggott told the planning meeting a family pub, a second primary school, a grass football and cricket pitch were “pieces of the jigsaw puzzle outstanding” in the village. He said: “The application suggests in excess of 70 jobs will be created with a good mix of full and part time opportunities.” Meanwhile, Greene King is reported to have spent £1m buying a plot of land next to the AJ Bell Stadium in Barton upon Irwell, Salford, home to Sale Sharks and Salford Red Devils, for a new-build pub site.
   
Nando’s lines up former Blockbuster site in Huntingdon: Nando’s is set to open in a former Blockbuster site on the Huntingdon Towerfields leisure site in Cambridgeshire, creating 40 jobs. The owner of the site, Legal and General, has put in a planning application to extend the Blockbuster unit, giving it the space needed to accommodate the kitchens and dining space, and for a change of use from retail to restaurant/cafe. The extension would add another 108 sq m to the 190 sq m already available. A report by Maddox & Associates, on behalf of Legal and General, said: “Nando’s has agreed terms to occupy the unit once completed, subject to gaining planning permission.” Meanwhile, Nando’s will open in Horsham, West Sussex on Wednesday, 16 July. A planning application was approved last year and workers have been preparing the town centre site in recent weeks. The East Street building is part of the old King’s Head Hotel. The King’s Head closed down in 2004, with Ask Italian opening on part of the site in 2012.
   
Frankie & Benny’s secures Durham site: The Restaurant Group has signed up to open a Frankie & Benny’s on the £35m Dalton Park leisure development in Murton, County Durham. It will move into a unit under the soon-to-be-built seven-screen Cineworld cinema. There is also space for two more restaurants. They will join KFC and the supermarket chain Morrisons on phase two of the site, as well as a pub to be run by an as-yet unnamed operator. A company is in talks to run the pub, but the park’s developers have not revealed which one.
   
Liverpool bank to be converted into five-star luxury hotel: The former Martins bank building in Water Street, Liverpool is to be transformed into the city’s first luxury five-star hotel. The 138-bedroom hotel will include two restaurants, three bars, a spa and conference and banqueting rooms. The reception, bars and restaurants will retain many of the bank’s original features including the marble floors and giant columns. The main dining area will be within the horseshoe-shaped tellers’ counter. The other restaurant will provide a “fine dining experience”. The plans for the conversion of the Grade II listed building were backed by the city council earlier this year after £1.5m was allocated to the project by LEP’s Growing Places Fund. The name of the chain that will run the hotel has yet to be disclosed, for legal reasons, but it is said to be an internationally recognised five-star brand. Building work is set to start this autumn, with the hotel set to open next autumn.
   
Restaurateur to expand with Bradford site: A successful restaurateur hopes to turn the empty pavilion in Bradford’s award-winning City Park into a cafe and restaurant. Bradford entrepreneur Zulfi Hussain is hoping to invest £250,000 into the business, creating at least 12 jobs. The council-owned building, just feet from the Mirror Pool, is described by the authority as having “what must be one of the best city-centre outlooks in the country”. Now it could become a restaurant and takeaway, called The Pavilion, if the idea gets planners’ approval. Hussain, the co-owner of the Indian restaurant Deeva in Farsley, Leeds, said: “I am very excited. This is a great opportunity, not just for me, but for Bradford.”
   
Jamie Oliver faces backlash from Australian farmers over levy: Jamie Oliver is facing a backlash from farmers over an advertising campaign by the Australian supermarket chain Woolworths. Vegetable growers in the country have appealed to the chef after the grocery chain introduced a levy of 40 cents per crate on their produce in order to pay for Oliver’s endorsement. The Australian horticultural body Ausveg has written to Oliver about the farmers’ concerns, asking for him to organise refunds from Woolworths to farmers who have paid the levy. “For Woolworths to ask hard-working Australian growers to stump up this additional money is unreasonable, unfair and un-Australian,” the organisation said in a statement. “Mr Oliver seems like a reasonable man, and he has done some good work in raising awareness about the need to eat healthy food, and this appeal to him is to try and stop growers from being unnecessarily squeezed.”
   
Mitchells & Butlers opens new-build Toby Carvery: Mitchells & Butlers has opened a new-build Toby Carvery at Notley Park, near Braintree, Essex, creating 50 jobs. The branch is off the A120 next to a Holiday Inn Express Hotel. The 4,000 sq foot restaurant can cater for up to 130 people.
    
Former Northern Ireland football star to open Majorca restaurant: The former Northern Ireland footballer Gerry Armstrong, who scored the winning goal against Spain in the side’s 1982 World Cup performance, is to open a new bar and restaurant in the Portals Nous area of Majorca. His wife Deborah and best friend Lisa Millar will be running the new site, which is called Hermanas Portals (Portals Sisters). While Armstrong is still actively working and will be commentating for ESPN during the World Cup in Brazil, the new business venture is part of the plan for his eventual retirement. PR director Cathy Martin said: “The new bar restaurant will be a casual dining place and the plan is for Lisa to manage the bar while Deborah will be overseeing the kitchen. Opening the bar and restaurant in Majorca was definitely part of the retirement plan for the Armstrong family, even though Gerry will continue to work for Sky Sports.”
   
McDonald’s freehold to be sold with a £2.3m guide price: The freehold of a property in Orpington, Kent let to McDonald’s is to be auctioned by Allsop on Tuesday 8 July. The drive-through restaurant is in Sevenoaks Way and McDonald’s has a lease until 2032 and pays a rent of £105,000 a year. A rent review is due in 2017.
   
Meantime wins export potential award: Meantime Brewing Company of Greenwich is one of three London regional winners of the HSBC Global Connections initiative. It was one of two winners in the SME category for companies with a turnover of up to £30m. Meantime will now go on to compete in the national final, along with 12 other businesses from across the UK. The HSBC Global Connections initiative is designed to help UK businesses venture beyond their home territories and take their products and services into the growth markets of the future. The winning businesses recently joined other regional finalists from across the UK on an HSBC “International Exchange” visit to Turkey, where they gained an insight into the opportunities to trade with that market and develop links with local businesses. Nick Miller, chief executive at Meantime Brewing, said: “This recognition is testament to the hard work our team have put in over a number of years. It will offer a great profile for our company and the brand. I see the funding helping us to invest more heavily in resourcing our export plan, which will target countries on every continent.”
   
Hackers demand £24,000 ransom from Domino’s after stealing data on 600,000 customers: Hackers are demanding a ransom of €30,000 (£24,000) from Domino’s Pizza after they stole the personal data belonging to more than 600,000 French and Belgian customers. The data, including includes the full names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, delivery instructions and even favourite pizza toppings of 592,000 French customers and 58,000 Belgian ones, was apparently stolen during a break-in last week. The official Twitter account for Domino’s France acknowledged: “Domino’s Pizza uses an encryption system for data. However, we suffered a hack by seasoned professionals and it is likely that they could decode the encryption system including passwords.” The hackers, calling themselves Rex Mundi, posted a sample of the stolen data together with a demand for €30,000, or they would publish the full set. In a message posted by Rex Mundi on Twitter before its account was suspended, the group said: “If you’re a @dominos_pizzafr customer, u may want to know that we have offered Domino’s not to publish your data in exchange for €30,000. Domino’s Pizza has until Monday at 8PM CET to pay us. If they do not do so, we will post the entirety of the data in our possession on the internet.” Domino’s, Netherlands spokesperson, Andre ten Wolde, told the newspaper De Standaard that the company would not be paying the ransom and that financial data had not been stolen. A Domino’s UK spokesperson said that Domino’s France and Belgium are not part of the same franchise group as Domino’s Pizza in the UK, which is operated by Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, which holds the “master franchise” for Domino’s Pizza in Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Monaco.
   
Fleurets offers prime Greenwich restaurant site: The property agency Fleurets is offering the leasehold interest of a new river-fronting restaurant unit in Greenwich, South East London. The property is at Ballast Quay/Lassell Street, adjacent to the Cutty Sark pub, a short walk along the river from Greenwich town centre. The 3,732 sq ft ground floor restaurant unit, in a residential development, “provides a great riverside restaurant opportunity which also benefits from a large outdoor seating area,” Fleurets said. A new lease is available on terms to be agreed.
   
Spanish operator unveils Soho opening: Enrique Tomas, the Spanish supplier of high-quality Iberian ham, will open its first UK deli in Soho, London this September. The family-run business, which was founded in Barcelona in 1982, has secured the former Pokit site at 132 Wardour Street. The company currently operates 50 stores in Spain and last year announced plans to open a further 250 sites over the next two years. The split-level 988 sq ft property will include a tapas bar area and offer a large variety of Iberian ham, along with specialist cheeses, wine, champagne and other accompanying delicatessen products. Joshua Rose at Shelley Sandzer, who acted on the deal, said: “Wardour Street is recognised as being one of the busiest streets in Soho and has become a well-established location for food operators, both for large brands and for quirky independents. We look forward to seeing the opening of this great new concept to the market, fresh from Spain”.
   
River Cottage Canteen launches £1m mini-bond: River Cottage Canteen has issued a £1m mini-bond, paying 7% interest, through the crowd-funding website Crowdcube, to enable expansion of the brand to large footfall sites. Launched in 1998 by food writer and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage operates an award-winning cookery school and three Canteens in the South West of England. So far, 26 investors have pledged £252,000. In its prospectus, the company said: “River Cottage Canteen annual sales rose to £4m this year, over 3.5 times 2011 sales of £1.1m. Over this period the group has expanded from one store to three while also building up a head office team to oversee further growth. In this last year the average Canteen produced sales of over £1.3m, with the busiest restaurant achieving just over £1.6m. Each restaurant is on target to pay back opening and design costs within three and four years of trading. The first canteen to open was in Axminster and although only a small town the site has traded at over £1m per annum from its first year of opening. Sales are boosted by the in-store deli and a close working relationship with Park Farm just down the road. The Plymouth Canteen opened in November 2011 and is our largest Canteen, with the added benefit of external seating in the magnificent Royal William Yard. We opened our third Canteen in Bristol at the end of February 2013 and the first year of trading has been very promising with income hitting £1.3m and producing a ROCE for the site of 29%. Our total debt, adjusted for cash in the bank, at the end of March 2014 was £277,000, of which £176,000 is related to short-term loans for each of the existing Canteens and £101,000 of overdraft and cash balances. The River Cottage Bond will enable the Canteen business to grow and will also offset the need for future short-term bank borrowing.”

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