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Mon 19th Jan 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King reports like-for-likes up 2% over Christmas and New Year: Greene King has reported like-for-likes up 2% over Christmas and New Year and up 0.6% for the 36 weeks to 11 January 2015. Pub Partners like-for-like net income is up 2.8% and Brewing & Brands own-brewed volume (OBV) growth up 5.2%. Rooney Anand, chief executive officer, said: “Sales were encouraging in our retail business over the important two weeks covering Christmas and the New Year, despite a very tough comparative from last year and softer trading in Scotland, following the introduction of tougher drink-driving laws. Outside of those weeks, trading was more volatile, with the weeks before Christmas slightly down on the previous year and soft trading since the New Year.  This performance was delivered in a continued challenging environment, as highlighted by the most recent Greene King Leisure Tracker, which reported an 8% year-on-year fall in household leisure spending in November. We are delighted that last week Greene King and Spirit Pub Company shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of the proposed transaction between our two companies. This will create the UK’s leading managed pub company and deliver significant shareholder value through material synergy generation and anticipated earnings accretion. The exact timing of the completion of the deal remains uncertain but we are working closely with the Competition and Markets Authority and expect the deal to complete by the end of the first half of 2015.” The company added: “Total sales in Greene King Retail were up 5.9% after 36 weeks, with LFL sales growth of 0.6%. LFL sales in the last six weeks were in line with last year, against growth of 5.0% in the same period last year, and slower trading in Scotland due to a combination of the new drink-driving laws and poorer weather. Excluding Scotland, Retail LFL sales were up 0.6% in the last six weeks. Retail LFL sales in the two weeks over Christmas and the New Year were up 2.0% against growth of 6.4% in the same period last year. We received a record 780,000 Christmas bookings, up 7.0%, with LFL growth of 3.5%. As a consequence, we achieved record Retail sales of £3.4m on Christmas Day, including a record single site trading day of £15.5k at our Farmhouse Inn in Castleford. We also saw sales of Prosecco grow 78% over the two key weeks of the period, indicating that value remains a key consideration for customers. Our best performing brands over the last six weeks were Metropolitan, reflecting the ongoing strength of the London market, and our more food-led brands including Farmhouse Inns.  After 36 weeks, LFL net income at Pub Partners was up 2.8%. All the key licensee health measures remain strong and anecdotal evidence from licensees has been positive regarding festive trading, particularly around food sales. Brewing & Brands own-brewed volume was up 5.2% after 36 weeks with growth of 3.7% over the last six weeks. Growth continues to be driven by our take home and export channels, and by Old Speckled Hen, the UK’s leading premium ale brand.”

Industry News:

Peter Backman to present at Propel Multi Club Conference in March: Horizons managing director Peter Backman is to present at the next Propel Multi Conference on Thursday 12 March, held at the Lancaster Hotel, London. Backman will investigate the key trends in the UK foodservice market, including menu trends and discounting – and looks ahead to the rest of 2015 and beyond. Operators of multi-site companies can book up to two free places by emailing

BBPA chief executive writes to MPs urging beer duty cut: British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds has written to MPs, urging them to support a Parliamentary motion urging a cut in beer duty in the Budget on 18 March. Early Day Motion 625 has been tabled by campaigning MP Andrew Griffiths, and already has the support of 44 MPs from no less than six parties in Parliament. The EDM urges the government to consider a further cut in beer duty in the 2015 Budget, “which would secure pub jobs, help keep pub pints affordable and support Britain’s much-loved pubs.” Simmonds is also urging BBPA members, and all those who would like to see a third, historic cut in beer duty, to write to their MPs urging them to support the measure. She said: “Andrew Griffiths campaigns tirelessly for Britain’s beer and pubs, and we should all urge our MPs to support his Early Day Motion. I hope as many MPs as possible will join calls for a third beer duty cut in this year’s Budget. We can create new jobs and boost the economy, as well as keeping a pint in the pub as affordable as we can.”
Record-breaking number of teams through to Toque d’Or regional heats: After an unprecedented number of colleges entered the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or, with 140 teams from 75 colleges registered to enter the competition, a record-breaking 36 college teams are now through to the regional heats, which take place in February. Each team will be competing for one of the six places at the finals in March. Neil Stephens, managing director of Nestlé Professional UK and Eire, praising the quality and creativity of entries, said: “The incredible number of entries seen this year pays testament to the value that colleges now place on competing within Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or. We’re seeing a growing movement by employers in their awareness of the advantages of recruiting a ‘Toque’ candidate and many of our past students have gone on to work with the finest establishments in the UK, with past contestants working with the Fat Duck, Whatley Manor, Mosimanns, The Lanesborough and L’Ortolan, to name but a few.”

Company News:

Taylor Street Baristas coffee bond to close today having raised £1.7m: The nine-strong coffee shop chain Taylor Street Baristas, led by Richard Shaer, is set to close its mini-bond offer today. It sought to raise a £1.5m minimum through an 8% yield bond – a total of £1,701,500 has been raised from 485 investors. The company’s unaudited accounts show turnover of £3,337,000 from nine shops in the most recent year, with shop pre-central overhead Ebida of £278,000 and actual Ebitda of £110,000, producing an overall loss of £276,000. Like-for-like sales rose by 14% between April and September this year.

Leading restaurateur to quit Northern Ireland: Leading Northern Ireland restaurateur Emma Bricknell is to quit the province and move to Ibiza to escape ‘red tape and social attitudes’. Bricknell, who operates two Made in Belfast restaurants in Belfast and chicken fast-food operation Le Coop, has complained that doing business in Northern Ireland is getting more difficult. She told The Belfast Telegraph: “It’s just beaten the life out of me. You can’t move a licence, you can’t get a bar licence. Politicians are just useless and you just need to dissolve Stormont and put Dublin or London in charge. The US flight has stopped – you can’t fly to Sweden, Berlin or Italy. How does anyone get anywhere? There’s no rail link from the airport. We are a laughing stock to the rest of the UK and the Republic.” The move by Bricknell comes a week after food critic Jay Rayner praised Belfast’s food scene. “Over the past three or four years, the thing that struck me is just how passionate people in Belfast are about their city’s food scene,” he said. He named Ox, James St South, Mourne Seafood Bar and Coppi as outstanding restaurants.

Jamie’s Italian secures flagship London site: Agent Shelley Sandzer has secured a new 6,000 sq ft flagship site for Jamie’s Italian at More London, Tooley Street. The agent acted on behalf of Hilton Hotels in the deal, which sees the popular restaurant led by Jamie Oliver, open underneath the Hilton in Spring 2015. The flagship site will be split over the ground floor level of the Hilton Hotel. It takes the total number of restaurants under the core brand to 36. Further UK expansion plans for Jamie’s Italian are to be limited this year, in order to focus on an international rollout and an alternative Trattoria format for the brand. 

New World Trading Company plans new Liverpool venue: New World Trading Company is planning to open a new bar and restaurant in Liverpool One, in the style of Manchester’s Oast House. The company already operates Smugglers Cove on the Albert Dock. The Oast House was moved brick-by-brick from its original site in Kent. The 16th-century structure was used to roast hops in its original location, and was moved in a painstaking process to Spinningfields in Manchester. Chris Hill, managing director of New World Trading Company, said: “Following the success of The Smugglers Cove we are delighted to open a second New World Trading Company venue in Liverpool. Based in Liverpool One, The Beach House will be a very unique bar and restaurant.”

Italian restaurant twins seek third Newport outlet: Twins Pasquale and Sergio Cinotti, who run two restaurants and an ice-cream parlour under the Gemelli’s name in Newport, South Wales, are looking to open a fine-dining outlet in a Grade II listed Victorian building in the town, last used as a nursing home. The Cinottis opened their first restaurant in 1996 and expanded in 2013 with the addition of a large restaurant and ice-cream parlour at Spytty retail park. Now, the pair hope to turn Rothbury House, in Stow Park Circle, into a fine dining outlet and have submitted an application seeking permission for a change of use from nursing home to restaurant with letting rooms. According to plans drawn up by KW Dorrington Architectural Services, the proposed restaurant will cater for the top-end of the culinary field, while the rear outbuildings will include an area for making cakes to be predominantly consumed in Gemelli’s Restaurants.

CAU submits plans for largest restaurant to date: CAU has submitted planning proposals to Liverpool council to open its largest UK restaurant to date. The company, which operates nine restaurants in the UK and one in Amsterdam, revealed its plans to open in Liverpool last year. But before it becomes the latest restaurant on Liverpool’s Castle Street it needs planning consent for internal alterations to the ground floor of the Queen Insurance Buildings, where it would be based. A spokesman for the restaurant business, which is set to open its ninth branch in the UK in Wilmslow next month, said: “We have been keen to expand to the north since last year, and are really excited to be opening our largest site to date on Castle Street, in the city centre. Liverpool is a thriving, buzzy, diverse and energetic city, which we know CAU will fit straight into.”

Turtle Bay opens second London restaurant: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean-themed restaurant backed by Piper Private Equity, has opened its second London site, this time in Walthamstow’s The Scene development at Cleveland Place. Turtle Bay was founded in 2010 and currently has 13 restaurants across the UK – the brand made its London debut last year in Ealing.

Zaks seeks fourth outlet in Thetford: Zaks, the American diner chain founded in Norfolk in 1976, is seeking a fourth outlet, in Thetford. The chain, which currently has two outlets in Norwich and one in Poringland, will take over the former Bridge pub in Castle Street, Thetford, later this year if plans are approved. Chris Carr, chief operating officer for Zaks, said it was hoped the restaurant would be open by Easter. He said: “We are really excited about bringing Zaks to Thetford. This is the first new Zaks for ten years and we are certain Thetford is the perfect place to open. We will definitely draw from our existing restaurants look and feel, but will be looking to give Zaks Thetford Diner its own special identity and unique features.” The site has been bought by Zaks parent company Timewell Properties, and the restaurant will be tenants. 

‘Open brewery’ hits Crowdcube fund-raising target: A new open brewery business, Ubrew, founded by Matthew Denham and Wilf Horsfall, has hit its crowdfunding target on Crowdcube, raising £75,000 in return for 10% of its equity – it is overfunded with pledges of £80,420 from 109 investors with six days of fund-raising to go. The pitch says: “Ubrew is an open brewery, where you brew the beer. Simply put, that means you join as a member, turn up, and brew your own beers with our professional equipment and a community of like-minded beer lovers. Ubrew has achieved over £12,000 in pre-sales prior to launch, secured a 2,650 sq ft property for the brewery on the Bermondsey Beer Mile [in South London] and has over 60 group memberships. UK craft beer sales have reached £225m with growth of 79% in 12 months. [The business has] a monthly recurring income of over £2,500 prior to launch. In late November, [we] re-launched presales through our website, achieving over £2,000 in new sales.”
Team behind acclaimed Cardiff Potted Pig to open second site: The team behind Cardiff’s acclaimed Potted Pig are opening a second restaurant on Llandaff High Street in the spring. The restaurant will be called Porro and be serving Italian food. Head chef/co-owner Tom Furlong told WalesOnline: “We are very excited to be opening our second restaurant in Llandaff in early 2015. Since opening The Potted Pig in 2011 we have seen the Cardiff food scene flourish, and we are looking forward to bringing our Italian dining to Llandaff High Street.” The new restaurant will seat approximately 60 diners, and will include an exclusive room available for private dining and larger parties to hire. Opened in 2011, The Potted Pig made its home in a former bank vault underneath the city and became part of a new generation of restaurants putting Cardiff on the culinary map. Little over a year after it launched, it was recognised in the National Restaurant Awards as one of the top 100 restaurants in the UK and has been featured in the Good Food Guide.

Bradford Brewery appoints head brewer: Bradford Brewery, which is due to launch next month after the restoration of a historic disused industrial building off Westgate, Bradford, has now appointed a head brewer, Steve Crump. He has been head brewer at Wharfe Bank Brewery, Pool-in-Wharfedale for the past two years, and previously worked as a microbiologist for the government’s Food and Environment Research Agency. He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining Bradford Brewery, as the head brewer’s job comes with the opportunity to put my own stamp on an exciting new venture.” Bradford Brewery’s managing director, Matthew Halliday, said the company had seen some “fantastic” applicants for the job but “in the end, we were bowled over by Steve’s obvious love for beer and brewing, his knowledge and understanding of the industry and his thirst to contribute to something new.” The ten-barrel brewery will have an initial production capacity of 16,000 pints a week. The £400,000 brewery project, which includes a pub, The Brewfactory, is part-funded by a grant from Bradford Council Growth Zone, and has also secured £300,000 of angel investment through Envestors North.
‘Frustrated and disappointed’ Wetherspoon pulls out of Alnwick Corn Exchange deal: A ‘frustrated and disappointed’ JD Wetherspoon has pulled out of a £2m scheme to convert the Grade II listed former Corn Exchange in Alnwick, Northumberland to a pub, in a row over the siting of a glass and bin storage area. In an email to Northumberland County Council quoted by The Northumberland Gazette, Wetherspoon’s senior manager, Simon Barratt, wrote: “Our proposal was to make use of some of the scrub land/hard standing which is being used as an informal car park. In return for being allowed to use this area (for the bin store), we offered to provide the county council, and essentially the people of Alnwick, with a fully surfaced, marked car park covering the whole area, not just the area we would need to operate. This would come at a substantial cost to us, but we felt this was the right thing to do … for the town as a whole. It is my understanding that our proposition has been opposed due to [the council’s Highways Department’s] objections about the perceived loss of parking spaces. I struggle to comprehend this position as the area in question is currently an uneven surface without marked bays. From our perspective, we feel that the council has refused consent to locate a bin store within our site boundary while we have a different department at the same council telling us that our proposed alternative is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that without a resolution to this proposal, JD Wetherspoon must terminate our interest in Alnwick and our attempts to restore this derelict listed building after spending tens of thousands of pounds and not securing our consents.” A council spokeswoman told The Gazette: “Officers are committed to working with Wetherspoon and the site owner to ensure the building is brought back into use.” A Wetherspoon spokesman responded: “As of the moment, we have stopped our interest in the site. But, if the council takes steps to try to resolve the issues and wishes to speak to us, we’ll be happy to meet them.” The row is the second to hit the proposed development: in September Wetherspoon and Northumberland Council were at loggerheads over the hours the proposed pub’s beer garden could stay open.

Damson Restaurant Group drops plans for Deansgate site after Hawksmoor arrival: Steve Pilling’s Damson Restaurant Group has abandoned plans to open a 6,000 sq ft, 150-cover venue under the name Mr Pilling’s Roast Restaurant & Oyster Bar in the Courthouse, Deansgate, Manchester, over the imminent arrival of the first Hawksmoor outlet outside London in the same building. Instead the prime city-centre site has apparently gone back on the market at a premium of £250,000. Pilling’s restaurant, originally announced back in 2011, with a planned opening in 2012, was due to serve “classic British roasts, cuts of meat, pies and puddings” with a large fish section. However, the project was apparently delayed by problems with the landlord and contractors and other difficulties. Then in July last year it was announced that Hawksmoor would be making its regional debut in Manchester with a 7,824 sq ft split-level restaurant at the Courthouse, while the previous month Handmade Burger opened at the Courthouse scheme, almost two years after it announced it was taking a 15-year lease on a 2,000 sq ft unit. Now Pilling’s site is being advertised by the Manchester chartered surveyors Bradys, with the note: “Our clients wish to sell the company established to take this lease, which has not traded. This SPV took a lease from April 2014 for 25 years at a rent of £130,000 per annum subject to reviews every five years. The service charge is £1.50 per sq ft with a 2.5% per annum cap for the first five years. There is a loan owed to the landlord of £335,000 in respect to the fitting-out works. Our clients are inviting offers in excess of £250,000 for a sale of the company. The purchaser will also be required to take over the loan or repay it on completion.” Pilling, whose restaurant company runs two outlets under the Damson name, The Liquorice bar on King Street in Manchester and The Red Lion gastropub in Stockport, among other venues, told The Manchester Confidential website: “We’re currently weighing up our options with the site. Once Hawksmoor were announced we obviously had to change our original plans, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re abandoning the site, we’re currently mulling over a few different ideas for the space.”

Maxwell’s to open second Joe’s Southern Kitchen and Bar: Maxwell’s Restaurant Group is to open a second site for its American concept Joe’s Southern Kitchen and Bar in London. It is due to launch the new venue, with a basement bar called Jailbird, in Kentish Town, north London, in March after opening the first in Covent Garden in 2013. Spread over two floors and occupying the former site of Kentish Canteen, the new Joe’s in Kentish Town Road will feature a 90-cover ground floor restaurant and an outside 20-cover barbecue and dining space. Restaurant operations manager Jim Robertson said: “After the success of Joe’s in Covent Garden, we decided it was time to open up our kitchen to more Londoners and a new venue in Kentish Town was an obvious choice for us. The restaurant scene in NW5 is about to explode and we want to be a part of it.”

HRH Group shuts Room restaurant in Manchester: HRH Group, which runs pubs, restaurants and hotels in and around Harrogate in Yorkshire, has shut its Manchester outpost, the prestigious Room Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, housed in a Victorian Gothic building in King Street. According to the Manchester Confidential website, staff did not learn that they had lost their jobs until they turned up to work. A former employee of the restaurant who, along with a number of colleagues, chose to leave the restaurant in recent months, told the website: “The Harrogate head office simply did not have a clue about the Manchester restaurant scene. When they did make a small refurb investment it just wasn’t enough to compete. The former general manager and the staff had been keeping that place going for years, without them the place would have failed ages ago. Once the manager was moved to Harrogate, it all went downhill and staff started jumping ship.” The restaurant, at the former premises of Manchester’s Reform Club, the city headquarters for the Liberal Party, was housed in the dining room of the club with its huge oak ceiling. After the closure of the club in 1988, it became the Reform restaurant, a hang-out for celebrities such as the Beckhams, Take That and the Spice Girls, before becoming The Hurricane bar and, later, Room. It was described as “one of the most spectacular restaurants in Manchester with its eclectic mix of antiques and retro furniture” and had room for up to 120 diners, with up to 80 at the bar. 

Rooster’s becomes a micro-canner: Rooster’s Brewing Co is to launch a range of beers in 330ml cans, having recently invested in a canning machine to become Yorkshire’s first micro-canner and one of only a small number in the UK. Owned and operated by Ian Fozard and his two sons, Tom and Oliver, Rooster’s was founded by Sean Franklin in 1993, who blazed a trail with his pioneering use of American hops in the early 1990s. The move into the canned beer market comes as part of a year of significant investment that has already seen new vessels and equipment installed, as well as an enlarged cold store. Tom Fozard added: “We’re delighted with these new products. There is a new wave of high quality canned beers entering the UK market, primarily from the US and, as a result, cans are becoming an increasingly popular option for consumers of quality, independently brewed beer. We’re now at the forefront of this beer revolution.” Rooster’s three canned beers are Yankee (the brewery’s flagship beer), Fort Smith (an American-style pale ale) and Baby-Faced Assassin (an India Pale Ale). 

Raffles Restaurant Group gives Library an overhaul: Raffles Restaurant Group has closed its Library Bar and Grill in Guildhall Hill, Norwich for five days, for a makeover the company hopes will make it attractive across a greater number of dayparts. Jayne Raffles, director of Raffles Restaurants, which runs two other outlets in the city, Pinocchio’s and St Benedict’s, said the new look would include a new bar area and flooring, sofa-style seating and a mezzanine floor. The aim was to attract business people looking for a quick and convenient place to meet as well as those keen to drop in for a light bite while out and about in the city centre. She said: “After nine years it definitely needs a freshen up. We wanted to make it a lot lighter and a better space, and more welcoming, not necessarily to have a full-course meal, but also tapas style food. We are looking to make it a business hub and more of an all-day environment.”
Pizza Hut to offer gluten-free pizza: Pizza Hut is to offer certified gluten-free pizza at about a third of its restaurants in the United States later this month. From 26 January, 2,400 of the chain’s more than 7,800 US outlets will offer cheese and pepperoni with marinara sauce on gluten-free pizza crusts. The pizza and its preparation procedures are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group, according to Pizza Hut’s US website, which says that the crust will be stored in separate containers on separate refrigerator shelves, and the cheese, marinara sauce and pepperoni will be “stored in a gluten-free designated kit”. Pizza Hut is the first US quick-service chain to introduce pizza certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group. The pizzas will be baked on parchment paper to avoid contamination, and employees making the pizza will wear gloves and use designated gluten-free pizza cutters to slice the pizzas, which will be ten inches wide and sliced into six pieces. The pizza, which will be priced at $9.99, can also be made with additional items “for those simply looking to reduce gluten in their diets,” according to Pizza Hut’s website. Many US chains have introduced gluten-free items in recent years, including Dunkin’ Donuts, while Domino’s Pizza rolled out gluten-free pizza in the US in 2012.

Trust Inns loses fight to reopen Glasgow pub shut after claims that customers were using drugs: Trust Inns, the pub operator owned by Trevor Hemmings and led by Lynne D’Arcy, has lost a court appeal to allow a pub in Glasgow, shut after police complaints over drug use and disorder, to reopen. The Trust Inns-owned Scotch in Summerston, Glasgow, had its licensed revoked by Glasgow Licensing Board in 2013 after a formal police request to terminate its right to trade. A police report to the board said officers had made scores of visits to the pub over an 18 month period. Police said there were five incidents of public disorder and five occasions where staff had not co-operated with detectives who were investigating crime in the area. The report said: “It is the Chief Constable’s position that the premises is operating in a manner likely to cause serious harm to the public by allowing the continued use of controlled drugs within the premises. The management of the premises have been spoken to over a considerable period of time and made fully aware of ongoing issues in respect of drug misuse within their premises. The premises have taken little by way of steps to resolve the issue.” Trust Inns went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh to lodge an appeal, claiming that the licensing board acted illegally by failed to disclose to the company details of a report that contained evidence that illegal acts were being committed there. However, in a written judgment, the Court said the report only contained uncontroversial information, and the appeal was therefore refused.

Council refuses New River Retail permission for Co-op store at ex-Marston’s pub: New River Retail’s £1m plan for a Co-operative store to be built next to The Haden Cross Inn in Halesowen Road in Cradley Heath, in the West Midlands, one of more than 200 it acquired from Marston’s, has been refused by planning officers at Sandwell Council. New River Retail said the proposals had been designed to help safeguard the pub’s future. The number of parking spaces at the pub would have been reduced from 30 to five, and a double garage would have been demolished to help make way for the new store, along with cycle storage, plant and bin storage areas. The Co-op would have had eight parking spaces. However, the application was rejected on the grounds of overdevelopment and a lack of parking. The Friends of Haden Cross Inn group, which led opposition to the planning application, has now submitted an application to get the pub recognised as an “asset of community value”, meaning it to be offered to the community if put up for sale.
Starbucks knocked back (again) over “super-logo” in Aberystwyth: Starbucks have been refused plans for a “super-logo” on the side of its coffee shop in Aberystwyth. The company had previously scrapped the design for a “super graphic” before it opened after complaints from councillors and residents that it was far too large. However, the company recently reapplied to have the large sign painted on the outside wall of the coffee shop at the top of Great Darkgate Street. The application, which went before Ceredigion council’s development control committee, has been refused again after recommendation for refusal by council planning officers, who argued that it would “cause harm to the visual character of the area”. Starbucks, which created 20 jobs after moving it to the site of the former Dolphin fish and chip restaurant which closed in June 2013, previously changed its plans after “taking on board local concerns”. A Ceredigion Council spokeswoman said: “The proposed sign would neither preserve nor enhance the character and appearance of the Aberystwyth conservation area. It is the opinion that the proposal would cause harm to the visual character of the area.”

Giggling Squid reports turnover boost; eight sites in legals: Giggling Squid, the Thai chain led by Andy and Pranee Laurillard with ambitions to become the UK’s first national chain, has reported turnover rose to £4,546,747 in the year to 31 March 2014, up from £2,710,638 the year before. Operating profit was £45,850 compared to £281,950 the year prior. Profit before tax was £4,153 compared to £257,665 the year prior as head office costs rose from 2.4% to 7% of turnover as the company prepared for expansion. There were pre-opening expenses of £251,918 compared to £48,000 the year before. The company stated: “Giggling Restaurants has enjoyed another year of strong growth as we continue our journey toward being the UK’s first national Thai restaurant operator. Substantial new banking facilities with Barclays and a strong new site pipeline make us optimistic of continuing the current growth trajectory into next year and beyond.” Andy Laurillard told Propel the company expects to hit £7.7m turnover in the current financial year with ten sites currently trading, with Ebitda of circa £1.4m and average site Ebitda of 23%. Average return on capital employed is 97%. Currently, eight new sites are in legals or confirmed – the latter category includes a site in Clifton opening on 10 February and Salisbury on 24 March and a site in Chichester subject to the planning process. Laurillard added: “It’s been an exciting 18 months, bringing great neighbourhood Thai restaurants to five new towns, dealing with the flood in Hove and ramping up for further growth. Our investments in systems, processes and people stand us in good stead to improve quality and margins as we grow. We are still having great fun and we hope to up our rate of openings to seven/eight restaurants a year.”

Moody’s assigns Wagamama B2 rating on £150m fund-raising: Ratings agency Moody’s has assigned a B2 rating to a £150m fund-raising by Wagamama’s holding company Mabel Mezzco. The agency stated: “Outside of its UK operations, Wagamama has 34 restaurants across 15 countries, as of December 2014. However, its earnings remain concentrated on its core UK operations, accounting for over 95% of the group’s Ebitda in FY13/14. Its four directly operated US restaurants currently contribute around £1 million to Ebitda and the group’s international franchise operations (30 restaurants) currently do not contribute materially to Ebitda. The growth of the UK casual dining industry in recent years has been supportive of Wagamama’s growth, with Wagamama seeing positive like for like revenue growth for each of the last four quarters to November 2014. Wagamama’s strategy is still for growth in its core UK market, planning to open around 40 new restaurants in the UK in the next three years. Moody’s views Wagamama’s near term liquidity to be adequate. Moody’s anticipates Wagamama will have negative free cash flow of around £6m to £8m over the next 18 months, as it continues to use internally generated cash for the expansionary capex necessary to achieve the rapid growth it is targeting. However, following this refinancing, the group will have around £21 million in cash and a fully undrawn £15 million super senior RCF, maturing in 2019, providing a good initial liquidity cushion. Also, Moody’s acknowledges there is an amount of flexibility in Wagamama’s capex programme, with maintenance capex at around 3% of sales and the majority of the capex relating to discretionary expansion capex. To November 2014, Wagamama reported revenues of £181.1 million and Ebitda (unadjusted) of £26.3 million.”

Vanessa Hall and Steve Cash to take part in Professor Chris Edger’s Multi-Site Management Masterclass: YO! Sushi chief executive Vanessa Hall and former Harvester brand director Steve Cash are to feature in live sessions held within Professor Chris Edger, Multi-Site Management Masterclass, being held in partnership with Propel, on Tuesday 24 February at One Moorgate Place, in the City of London. Professor Edger, who has just published his latest book, Leading at a Distance in Multi-Unit Enterprises, will focus on how area managers can create organic growth through the three-step process of engagement, execution and evolution. Professor Edger currently teaches at City University, Birmingham, where a number of the sector’s leading companies send their general managers to be taught. Darren King, last month’s winner of 2014 ALMR Operations Manager award, graduated from its post-graduate Level 7 Multi-Unit Leadership and Strategy course in 2014 – as did the 2013 ALMR Operations Manager winner Barrie Robinson in 2013. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel, said: “This is a great chance for multi-site companies to refresh their thinking – and the thinking and expertise of key staff – as 2015 gets under way.” Tickets are £295 plus VAT for ALMR members and £345 for non-ALMR members. CLICK HERE for more details or email to book.

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