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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 21st Apr 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Coffer Peach Tracker – pubs and restaurants see 0.6% rise in like-for-likes in March: Britain’s managed pub and restaurant operators are experiencing a sales slowdown at the start of 2016, latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker have shown. Collective like-for-like sales for March were up just 0.6% on the same month last year, and come on the back of zero growth in February. “It’s a generally flat market out there, and the March numbers will be particularly disappointing as they include Easter weekend trading, which fell in April last year,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM and UBS. “Although the weather over the four-day holiday depressed sales overall, Easter still normally provides a boost to the eating and drinking-out market, no matter how poor the weather. Sentiment in the market is that 2016 will be a tougher year than last. Optimism levels are still positive, but down on this time last year, and we are already seeing a cutback in site openings among a number of operators. It will be interesting to see if confidence among both consumers and operators picks up once the uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum is out of the way.” Restaurants chains performed marginally better than managed pub groups over the month, with collective like-for-likes up 1% against 0.4%. Regionally, like-for-likes grew 0.8% outside London and 0.4% inside the M25, compared with March 2015 – a reversal of the trend seen in February when London performed better. Total sales for the month among the 32 companies in the Tracker cohort were up 4.9% on 2015, reflecting the effect of new openings over the past year. The underlying annual trend showed sector like-for-likes running at 1.3% up for the 12 months to the end of March, with little difference between London and the rest of the country. David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: “Operators have for some months now endeavoured to expand outside of the central London core to avoid spiralling high rents and prices being sought within the capital. This has increased rental values in provincial markets. The acceleration of many excellent brands into these regions has enhanced customer demand and trade, and this is reflected in the latest figures. In our opinion, this trend will continue as we see a far greater reluctance in the central London core to pay major premiums especially for licensed premises. We feel that there is a strong possibility that more opportunities will become available in all markets across the UK and particularly central London.” Adam Spencer, associate director at RSM, added: “Another month of sub-1% like-for-like growth figures will be giving investors in the UK eating and drinking out sector pause for thought. Couple this with the EU referendum vote, which is now only two months away, and we are expecting a notable slowdown in sector activity, with investment decisions being postponed until the outcome of the referendum is known.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference and summer party open for bookings, Simon Brigg to present: The Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday, 7 July at the Oxford Belfry, just off the M40, is now open for bookings. The event features a full-day conference followed by Propel’s summer party, which this year includes an early evening paint-balling expedition followed by a barbecue and karaoke at the hotel. Simon Brigg, co-founder of five-strong Porky’s BBQ, talks about how the company was founded, its Memphis-focused differentiation in the barbecue market, its BQ lab, London expansion, plans to go portable and develop sauce and clothing ranges, and tips on crowdfunding in the wake of its £650,000 Crowdcube campaign. Operators of multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can claim up to two free places by emailing Jo Charity on
New benefit for Propel Premium subscribers: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive a new benefit this week – a copy of the Propel Blue Book guide to sector turnover and profitability. The Blue Book lists and ranks 200 sector companies by turnover, profitability and profit conversion. It also provides a five-year overview of profitability and directors’ salaries. Meanwhile, the next audio recording, to be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (22 April), will feature Just Eat’s chief operating officer Adrian Blair giving his overview of the company’s progress and the takeaway market. Operators, drinks companies, law firms, accountants, distributors and marketing firms are among the first companies that have signed up to receive the Propel Premium subscription service. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers will be able to receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. Subscribers will also receive a copy of the Propel database of 500 multi-site companies, which will be updated every six months, and receive a digital version of Propel Quarterly magazine a week before publication. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email 
Street food pop-up pergola to occupy roof of former BBC Television Centre car park: A pop-up street food destination will be sited on the roof of the former BBC Television Centre car park in White City, London. Pergola on the Roof will run for 14 weeks starting in May and feature food stalls and seating arranged around a central bar, the Evening Standard reports. Fitzrovia’s Italian and Spanish restaurant Salt Yard will operate a charcuterie bar, Islington’s Le Coq will offer seasonal rotisserie, and Chelsea’s Rabbit will serve its signature wild and foraged small plates. Better burger brand Patty & Bun will also make a four-week appearance. The 170-foot high space will seat 400 diners and feature a hanging garden as well as scenic views over west London. Pergola on the Roof is the brainchild of the team behind Feast food festivals and rotating residency space Market Yard in nearby Shepherd’s Bush. Pergola on the Roof will open from 6pm to 11pm Wednesdays to Fridays, midday to 11pm on Saturdays, and midday to 9.30pm on Sundays. It will run from Thursday, 26 May until Sunday, 28 August.
Lollipop to launch London’s first naked pop-up restaurant: Lollipop – the company behind last year’s Breaking Bad-inspired bar ABQ – is set to open pop-up restaurant The Bunyadi, in which naked diners will be welcome. The candlelit venue will have no electric lights, while phones will be banned. Dishes will be cooked in wood-flame grills and served on handmade clay crockery with edible cutlery. Lollipop founder Seb Lyall told The Spirits Business: “We believe people should get the chance to enjoy and experience a night out without impurities: no chemicals, no artificial colours, no electricity, no gas, no phone and even no clothes if they wish. The idea is to experience true liberation.” Gowns, changing rooms and lockers will be provided at the 42-cover restaurant, which will open for three months from June. Lollipop claimed more than 3,700 people had already signed up to the waiting list. Bunyadi is a Hindi word meaning fundamental, base and natural.
Wagamama employee who filmed himself snorting cocaine in company T-shirt loses unfair dismissal case: A Wagamama employee who took a Snapchat video of himself snorting cocaine, while wearing a T-shirt from the Dublin restaurant in which he worked, has lost his claim for unfair dismissal. James Boyle lost his job at Wagamama’s in Dublin city centre in 2014, where he had been working as a waiter. The Employment Appeals Tribunal was told Boyle sent a Snapchat, a 25-second video made using a mobile phone which disappears once played, to friends and work colleagues, reports the Irish Times. It showed him taking cocaine in a bathroom and wearing his T-shirt with the Wagamama logo on it. The tribunal said it was to his credit he accepted he sent the Snapchat, although there was disagreement about whether it was taken in the restaurant. Wagamama believed it was taken in the restaurant during his shift. Boyle was called to a meeting and told he could resign, with “some dignity and some privacy and a reference”, or go through a disciplinary process. The tribunal said it accepted Boyle’s employer was concerned he was taking drugs at all, never mind at work. It said the meeting was not conducted in a proper manner with regard to normal practices. While the tribunal did not approve of the choice of action, between resignation and disciplinary procedure, put to Boyle, it accepted the employer’s motivation was to protect the claimant. 

McDonald’s trials two new Big Mac sizes: McDonald’s is testing two new versions of its most famous burger – The Big Mac – in Columbus, Ohio, and Dallas/Fort Worth, according to Columbus Business First. The larger Grand Mac would upgrade the traditional Big Mac to a third pound of beef, two pieces of cheese and a larger bun, while The Mac Jr would be reduced to a single patty and is designed to be eaten on the go. The Big Mac was developed by a franchisee in 1967 and rolled out across all venues the following year, evolving into McDonald’s signature burger. Different versions of the Big Mac are more common in international markets but in recent months McDonald’s has been more willing to cross lines in an effort to reinvigorate sales. Last year, the company introduced all-day breakfast, something it had long resisted, and which McDonald’s credited with a 5.7% like-for-like sales rise in the fourth quarter. That came after improvements were made to the Egg McMuffin, which the company said led to higher sales of the sandwich even before all-day breakfast began. McDonald’s executives have long hinted they could look at changes to other products. “We’re working on every item on our core menu,” McDonald’s USA president Mike Andres said at an investor conference in March. 

Company News:

Punch to focus on expanding Mighty Local concept, identifies 120 sites for conversion to retail division: Punch is to focus on expanding its Mighty Local community drinks-led pub concept as it looks to roll-out the format across the country. Chief executive Duncan Garrood told Propel following its half-year results yesterday (Wednesday, 20 April), growth of Mighty Local, which has fewer than 20 sites, would be one of the key priorities in the second half of the financial year for the company. He said the concept was seeing positive results with the Flying Scotsman in Newcastle, which was converted to a Mighty Local in December, tripling its sales, while the Woolcomber in Kettering, Northamptonshire, had seen a 40% uplift. Garrood added: “Our Mighty Local pubs focus on drinks and entertainment. They are performing well and I can see us continuing to roll-out the concept throughout the country.” Sites within Punch’s Falcon estate, which operates under a retail agreement basis, had seen food sales grow to 30% of total turnover, Garrood said. Previously, this was “either nothing or a very small amount”. He added: “We also did a very successful campaign on spirits with our Falcon pubs. They make up about 2% of the total estate but the campaign resulted in 25% of group sales in spirits coming from those pubs.” As well as plans to grow the Falcon division to 100 by the end of the financial year in August, Garrood said the company had identified another 120 pubs that could be converted while one-third of all new lettings would be retail contracts. It has also formed a Mercury pub division to manage lower profitable sites under a reduced cost operating model, which has seen the company slow down its rate of disposals. This consists of 739 pubs made up of 499 of its “non-core” sites and 240 that have been transferred from its core division. Garrood said: “We had a number of pubs called ‘non-core’ but we didn’t like to call them that. We manage these pubs in a different way. It’s more intense, more hands on, with frequent visits and smaller investment. These pubs are not for sale. They are growing like-for-like sales. For example, we invested £7,000 in the Stag Inn in Huddersfield and saw an 80% uplift in sales and £4,000 in the Arkle in Morley, Leeds, which has had a 50% uplift.” Garrood said the company was “encouraged” by the performance of its Brewed & Baked licensed coffee shop in East Lothian, Scotland. He felt it was a format that could be introduced in areas “where there was a lot of pub competition” because it had more of a daytime offering and added the company was working on possible locations for the concept. He added its new Harry Ramsden’s site in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, had been getting good reviews on TripAdvisor with another venue to follow “very shortly”. Punch has also secured a second site with former Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey that would open towards the end of the year as well as a seventh venue for its Champs sports bar format. Garrood said: “We are continuing to grow the business and are particularly pleased to see like-for-like sales growth continuing. It shows the quality of our estate and I’m encouraged by what we have been doing so far.” (See further down the newsletter for analyst comment). 

Bar Sport founder to launch burger restaurant concept in Wolverhampton in May: Scott Murray, the man behind the Bar Sport franchise, will launch new restaurant concept Burger Priest in Wolverhampton in May. The new restaurant will open on the site of a former Pizza Hut in Victoria Street on Thursday, 12 May, following a £250,000 investment, creating 30 jobs. The decor is based on a church with diners seated on pews, while the toilet booths are confession boxes. Burger Priest, which will also offer a takeaway service, will serve a wide range of burgers, all made with 100% Aberdeen Angus beef. The burgers will be handmade on site and served in a gluten-free brioche bun with salad and hand-cut chips. The venue will also offer milkshakes made with organic ice-cream, craft beers and organic wines. Murray told The Business Desk: “We want our burger experience to be the best and are confident it will be a great success. It is certainly unique and will get everyone talking.” The company already has one eye on growth, with plans for restaurants in Edinburgh and London later this year. Murray said: “We will then look to roll it out in other areas of the country as a franchise. It certainly is a concept we have got great confidence in.”

Enterprise Inns enhances executive team with group property director appointment: Enterprise Inns has enhanced its executive team by appointing Julia Poulson as its new group property director. Poulson, who will join Enterprise in August, has more than 25 years of property market experience, including in her current role at Domino’s Pizza and with Mitchells & Butlers. Enterprise said a key aspect of her role would be to help implement its strategic plans, leading the rapid expansion of the company’s commercial property portfolio and overseeing investment in its leased, tenanted estate and growing managed house businesses. Poulson is currently property director for Domino’s Pizza where she is responsible for an estate of more than 900 stores and new store expansion. Prior to joining Domino’s, she was head of acquisitions and head of business franchise at Mitchells & Butlers. Enterprise chief executive Simon Townsend said: “We are delighted that Julia will be joining us. Her appointment completes the enhancement of our executive team as we focus on implementing the strategy we laid out for the business a year ago. The development of our commercial property estate and the investment in our portfolio of pub businesses are key elements of our strategic plan and Julia will play an important role in helping us realise our ambitions across the group.”
San Carlo to open site in Qatar this week: Manchester restaurant company San Carlo is opening a new site in Doha, Qatar, this week. Cicchetti Doha will be the fourth of its kind – after venues in London’s Piccadilly and Covent Garden, and King Street West in Manchester. The 150-cover restaurant is set in a 14-metre high building featuring hand-carved marble and an Angelo Po show kitchen. Marcello Distefano, managing director of San Carlo Group, said: “We have been working incredibly hard with suppliers to make sure we have the right ingredients. Italian cooking is simple; it’s about letting the quality of the produce shine through. We source the highest quality and that is what makes all the difference. We are very excited about our latest venture and look forward to expanding the Cicchetti brand into this region. The Doha restaurant scene has been growing very fast over the past few years, but we believe we are bringing something a little different, something extra special, in terms of both menu and design.”
Starbucks extends partnership with European franchisee AmRest to grow German market: AmRest Holdings, Starbucks’ exclusive licensed partner in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and soon Slovakia, has signed an agreement to acquire the brand’s stores in Germany. The partnership, expected to take effect in late May, will mean AmRest has the licence to operate and develop the Starbucks brand further in the country. Since entering Germany in 2002 with two stores in Berlin, Starbucks has expanded to 158 outlets across the country. The 144 company stores, plus 14 sites owned by licensees New Vision, SSP Germany and Marche, makes Germany the largest market for Starbucks in continental Europe. Kris Engskov, president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We’ve built an impressive business in Germany over the past 14 years, employing nearly 2,000 partners across the market. But we know Germany could be a much bigger market for us and we have ambitious growth plans to be where our customers live, work and travel. We are proud to expand our partnership with AmRest, who are recognised across Europe as one of the most entrepreneurial, people-focused companies in food retail, and have been remarkably successful in bringing the Starbucks experience to these important markets.” AmRest has been a Starbucks partner since 2008, when it opened its first store in the Czech Republic. Since then, AmRest has operated Starbucks stores in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and recently added Slovakia, where the first store is planned to open by the middle of the year. Currently, AmRest operates 103 Starbucks stores, a portfolio to which the 144 stores in Germany will be added. 
The Ivy bids to open Bath city centre brasserie, second UK venue outside London: The group behind The Ivy in London has lodged plans to convert a grade II-listed building in Bath city centre into The Ivy Bath Brasserie. Planning agent Pegasus Group has submitted full planning and listed-building applications on behalf of a property development firm connected to Richard Caring-backed Caprice Holdings, which owns The Ivy. Caprice Holdings submitted plans for a new venue in Bristol in 2015, with approval granted last February. The south west restaurants will be the group’s first in the UK outside London – it also operates venues in Dubai and New York, Insider Media reports. The Bath site forms part of the Somersetshire Buildings, built in 1783 in Milsom Street. If consent is granted by Bath and North East Somerset Council, The Ivy Bath Brasserie would create 70 jobs. The ground and first floors would feature dining areas, with a kitchen in the basement and staff facilities on the upper two levels. It would open until 11pm, with extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
Jones Bar Group set to open third Roxy Ball Room in Huddersfield: Leeds-based Jones Bar Group is set to open the third site of its ping pong and pool concept Roxy Ball Room in Huddersfield. The company, set up by brothers Matthew and Ben Jones, is opening the bar in Zetland Street next month, creating 30 jobs. The Huddersfield site will have four pool tables and four ping pong tables. Launched in 2013, Roxy Ball Room offers gaming as well as cocktails, beer and food, including fresh dough pizza and home-made hamburgers. Matthew Jones told The Business Desk: “Being Yorkshire born and bred we visit Huddersfield regularly on a night out and love how vibrant it is. We believe Roxy Ball Room will fit in perfectly and offer something new to the community.” The company has ten sites, including its two other Roxy Ball Rooms in Leeds and Liverpool.

CAU rolls out new Zapper beacon technology across UK estate: Mobile payment and data insights platform Zapper, whose app is deployed in more than 1,000 restaurants, bars and pubs across the UK, has created a new Z-Beacon Bluetooth technology. The new system allows businesses to directly communicate with customers and Zapper users via mobile phones within a local radius. Argentinian-inspired steakhouse CAU has been trialling the new technology. CAU head of marketing Charley Springall said: “Zapper is great as it complements our beliefs whilst simply speeding up payment at the end of the meal. More importantly our customers have embraced the app – so much so, we have rolled out the Zapper solution and its Z-Beacon technology to all 17 UK sites.” Z-Beacon performs multiple tasks, including sending alerts to Zapper users on events or products and sending bespoke offers to reward customers before they’ve even left a venue. Zapper UK director of business development James Sykes-Hagen said: “This is the ideal tool to directly engage with current customers and attract new ones.”

Three restaurant brands set for Intu Watford: Three leading restaurant brands have signed to open in the new £150m extension of the Intu Watford shopping centre. TGI Friday’s is taking a 7,375 square foot unit, while Thai Leisure Group street food brand Thaikhun and YO! Sushi have taken 4,025 square foot and 1,990 square foot units respectively. When fully built, the extension to the shopping centre will create a 1.4 million square foot retail and leisure destination, housing up to 16 shops, ten restaurants and a nine-screen IMAX cinema. Work began on the site in late 2015. The joint agents for Intu Watford are Lunson Mitchenall and CWM.
Revolution Bars Group launches biggest menu overhaul in recent years, with two variants: Revolution Bars Group has launched new food menus at all 52 Revolution sites – the biggest menu overhaul the brand has seen in recent years, with 15 new dishes now available on the menu. These new menus have been created to appeal across Revolution’s broad customer base, and after undertaking considerable customer research two variants of the menu have been introduced, to best suit different geographic demographics. For the city centre bars, the focus is more on the casual dining dishes these locations demand, alongside New York bistro-style options, including a duck confit served with burnt orange and black garlic sauce and a pecan, pear salad on the side. The launch of these menus has been supported by a comprehensive integrated marketing campaign, including a huge burger giveaway; with more than 6,000 up for grabs by customers keen to take on the Motherclucker, or try another of Revolution’s burgers, for themselves. For those in city centre locations there have also been opportunities to try the menu for free if booking a table in advance. Mark Rush, head of food innovation at Revolution Bars Group, said: “Food is a huge part of our offering and generates a considerable portion of our turnover, so it is vital that we get the menu right for our customers across the country. We decided to launch two new menus after noting that those in different geographical locations have different demands when eating out; the feedback so far has been very positive. On the day of the launch members from our support centre visited each Revolution site in the country, to ensure the teams there knew that someone was on hand to help with any queries they may have had. This proved very beneficial, and gave the head office team a greater appreciation of the hard work staff do on site.”
True North Brew Co submits plans for cafe/bar in part of historic Sheffield library: Sheffield-based bar group True North Brew Co has submitted plans for a new site in part of a historic library in the city. The company has applied to the city council to convert part of Walkley Library, which is based in a grade II-listed property built in 1904, on the corner of South Road and Walkley Road. It wants to add a two-storey extension behind the main building that would be occupied by a kitchen and staff facilities. This would serve the proposed change of use of part of the library to form a 2,260 square foot cafe/bar, creating about 25 jobs. The front of the property, which is currently in use as the children’s section of the library, would be kept. As part of the proposals, the building would be sold to True North Brew Co with the library element leased back to the council, reports Insider Media. A design and access statement submitted to the council said: “This building is of great importance and character. It is in need of maintenance and the volunteer group currently running the library service does not have the funds to carry out the repairs. This will only continue its decline and it should be enhanced and preserved. True North Brew Co has a proven track record of turning around properties of this type and retaining them as a heritage asset for the local communities in which they are situated.”
Former Walkabout site in Wolverhampton to be transformed into new bar, restaurant and nightclub concept: The former Walkabout site in Wolverhampton is set to be transformed into a new bar, restaurant and nightclub concept. The Aussie-themed bar, operated by Intertain, closed last year and the building in Queen Street has been taken on by entrepreneur Abdul Natlib under a deal brokered by agents Bond Wolfe. Natlib has signed a ten-year lease on the 6,810 square foot grade II-listed building, which is known as The Stone House. The building will be refurbished before reopening next month as bar, restaurant and nightclub concept The Court. Bond Wolfe managing director James Mattin told The Business Desk: “We are very pleased that it will be given a new lease of life. It is in a great location, bang in the centre, and, with the right appeal, should surely be well capable of becoming a popular and profitable business once more.”

Nando’s to sell squeezy bottles of Perinaise sauce in selected supermarkets: Nando’s has announced it will sell squeezy bottles of its Perinaise sauce in selected supermarkets, starting this month. Currently, Nando’s sells small tubs of the famous sauce at its restaurants, but the 265ml bottles will be on sale in Asda, Ocado, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s from an undisclosed date this month, Metro reports. The supermarkets have already started to advertise the sauce. Tesco’s website states: “Nando’s Perinaise is a delicious blend of mayonnaise and peri peri, an especially fiery little African bird’s eye chilli that evokes a level of passion that is inversely proportionate to its size. Possibly the world’s smallest chilli, it generates the world’s warmest reaction, and is the famous ingredient that has made Nando’s chilli sauce so successful across the world.”

New British barbecue concept MeatUp to launch in Wandsworth in June: New casual, all-day restaurant and bar concept MeatUp will launch in Wandsworth, south west London, in June bringing a “new flavour of British barbecue”. Owner Sachin Kanna – previously of Raffles and Libertine – said the concept was “born out of a love for hosting parties” with “food made with the best ingredients and well-made drinks”. The distinctively British menu will feature premium-aged steaks, lobster, shellfish, ribs, burgers and rotisserie chicken, alongside lighter options. The late-night bar will also feature live music and DJs alongside an extensive prosecco list sourced from Bibendum, a selection of craft beers from Meantime Brewery, and classic cocktails. The decor has been designed by Keane Designs (Burger & Lobster, Manchester House). The venue in Old York Road will have a dining room with kitchen counter seating and communal dining (50 covers), a bar area with counter top seating (37 covers) and outside seating (six covers).
All you can eat world buffet concept Day’s to open Poole venue, third UK site: All you can eat world buffet concept Day’s Restaurant will launch a venue in Poole, Dorset, on Sunday (24 April)– its third UK site. The new venue in Tower Park will offer a selection of 150 dishes for lunch and at least 250 dishes for dinner, ranging from vegetarian dishes, curry, Thai food, Chinese food, seafood, sushi, barbecue, tandoori and pizza, as well as desserts, cakes, sweets, ice cream and chocolate fountains. Live music and alcohol is also available under terms of the licence, the Daily Echo reports. The new venue is on the site of the former Georgie Porgies Buffet World, which closed in November 2013. It will open from 11am to 10.30pm from Sundays to Thursdays, and 11am to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The first Day’s venue opened at the site of a former cinema in East Street, Brighton, with the company opening a second venue in Bournemouth town centre in 2012.

Gourmet grilled cheese sandwich concept Pickle & Toast to open in Soho in May: Pickle & Toast, a new gourmet grilled cheese sandwich concept, will open in Soho on Thursday, 19 May. The all-day venue in Wardour Street will offer “the finest Poilâne sourdough bread, a special blend of artisan British cheeses and plenty of old-school New York grilling expertise”. Each sandwich is grilled to order with extra fillings such as ham hock and Dijon mustard, or spinach and truffled mushrooms. Pickle & Toast will also offer dill pickles, speciality beers, micro-roast coffee and whole leaf teas. The venue will also be open for breakfast, serving omelettes, croissants and homemade Cumberland sausage, plus breakfast grilled cheeses and freshly baked pastries. Pickle & Toast is the brainchild of London-born brothers Sanjay and Rajeeve Ahuja. Rajeeve said: “Living in New York for 18 years I loved how food is all about pride and generosity, even at the most humble diners. Pickle & Toast is about combining that New York abundance with the fine produce we have here in the UK to create a relaxed restaurant where delicious, wholesome food is for everyone – freshly prepared all day, to eat in or takeaway.”
Bath-based bakery and coffee house concept Mokoko secures third site with Bristol deal: Bath-based bakery and coffee house concept Mokoko has secured its third site, this time in Bristol. The company has agreed a ten-year lease to take 1,600 square foot of space at the new Wapping Wharf development, with the venue expected to open in June. It will include an open-plan bakery where visitors will be able to watch everything from bread to home-made cakes baked in front of them, as well as a speciality coffee offering. Jake Harris, founder and managing director of Mokoko, told Insider Media: “We are thrilled to be joining the new Wapping Wharf community. When we heard about this new quarter at the very heart of the cultural and leisure hub of the city, and with a strong focus on independent food and drink, we knew it would be the perfect fit for us.” Stuart Hatton, director at Umberslade, the developer behind Wapping Wharf, added: “Mokoko is going to be a brilliant addition to the Wapping Wharf quarter and fits in perfectly with our vision to create an exciting, new neighbourhood offering a real community vibe and brimming with independent retailers.” Mokoko currently has two sites in Bath.
Polpo to open dedicated franciacorta and prosecco bar at Harvey Nichols site in Knightsbridge: London-based restaurant company Polpo is to open a dedicated franciacorta and prosecco bar at its site at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. The company, led by Luke Bishop, is adding the bar to its venue that opened in February on the fifth floor of the department store. The bar, which opens on Sunday, 1 May, will serve a wide range of sparkling Italian wines, including Ca’ del Bosco’s Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige – classically produced and nutty in flavour, with hints of apricot, reports The Handbook. The menu will also feature a specially imported prosecco from Dal Bello as well as prosecco-based cocktails such as the “Twinkle” with rosemary-infused vodka, elderflower and Piedmontese 100% Sparkling Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc. Reservations are available from noon to 5pm with tables and seats at the bar kept for walk-ins after that time.
Moonshine Bars opens bierkeller in Victoria, third London venue: Moonshine Bars, which operates The Rose gastro-pub in Chelsea and The Loose Box Bar and Kitchen in Westminster, has opened its third London venue – a German bierkeller in Victoria. The Bavarian-style bierkeller and kitchen, named Munich Cricket Club, will offer German food such as currywurst, schnitzels and sauerkraut, Hot Dinners reports. Dishes include obatzda (a camembert and cream cheese dip served with pretzel sticks), potato dumplings in homemade goulash stew, and slow-roasted pork knuckle with sauerkraut, red cabbage, potato dumplings, mash and gravy. Schnitzels include pork, chicken and aubergine, as well as many other kinds of sausages and sharing plates. Desserts feature apple strudel and Black Forest gateau. As well as nine German and one Belgian beer, cocktails, wine and schnapps are also on offer at the 350-cover site in Victoria Street. 
New speciality craft beer concept Suds and Soda bids to launch shop and bar in Derby: Suds and Soda, a new speciality craft beer concept, is planning to open a shop and bar in Derby. Plans lodged with the city council by Joshua Mellor and Thomas Ainsley, who will also fund the project, comprise a craft beer shop and tasting bar in Friar Gate stocked with products sourced from micro-breweries. It would also sell craft beer online. The property, next door to tapas restaurant Lorentes, is grade II-listed and was formerly used as a cafe and retail space. Friar Gate is also home to Marston’s bar chain Pitcher & Piano, Prezzo, Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi and the Bishop Blaise pub.
Purpose-built breastfeeding cafe concept opens in Nottingham: A new purpose-built breastfeeding cafe concept has opened in Nottingham. Charlotte Purdie, who became a mum in March last year, has launched Milk Lounge after feeling uncomfortable when taking her son Bobby out to coffee shops. The cafe, based in Front Street in the suburb of Arnold, provides a changing room with enough space for pushchairs; feeding room with a small toy corner and an en-suite bathroom; an activity room; and a bottle-warming station. Purdie told the Nottingham Post: “I am excited to be opening this inclusive concept in the UK – a comfortable, clean and great value baby feeding experience offering parents the facilities and support they deserve.” The young mum received funding for the cafe from the Prince’s Trust charity. Business mentor Helen Horner said: “Charlotte is an exceptional young entrepreneur who has demonstrated high levels of business acumen and a real visionary approach to getting the Milk Lounge to be a reality.”
Investors in talks to buy controlling stake in Yum Brands’ China unit: A group of investors comprising sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp (CIC), KKR & Co and Baring Private Equity Asia is in talks to buy a controlling stake in Yum Brands’ China unit, Reuters reports. Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell, plans to spin off its 6,900 China restaurants by the end of 2016. The China unit accounts for about half of its parent’s total sales and is valued at about $10bn (£7bn). Yum initially planned to sell a stake of about 20% in the China operation to anchor investors ahead of a planned listing of the business in New York and possibly Hong Kong. But the deal structure is being reworked as acquiring a minority stake is less appealing for buyout firms, making it difficult for them to secure debt funding to finance the deal. Yum, still the largest fast food chain in China, has been losing ground to McDonald’s as both strive to revive flagging sales in the face of growing competition from local rivals and a slowing economy. Yum said in a statement it was making good progress since it announced the planned separation of Yum and Yum China. CIC, KKR and Baring declined to comment.
Wyn Ellis – Punch is making tangible progress, new strategy ‘starting to bear fruit’: Numis Securities leisure analyst Wyn Ellis has said Punch is making tangible progress and its new strategy is “starting to bear fruit”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 180p following Punch’s half-year results yesterday (Wednesday, 20 April), Ellis said: “(The) interim results, showing profit before tax of £27.3m, are ahead of our £25.6m forecast and investors can take encouragement from tangible progress in a number of key areas. This includes continued underlying growth in the core estate, improved balance sheet strength and confirmation, following the release of the government’s final Market Rent Only (MRO) option proposals, that Punch’s exposure is limited. In our opinion, Punch is becoming a far more attractive equity story and the new strategy, announced in November 2015, is beginning to bear fruit. The core estate reported underlying growth for the third consecutive year. Average profit per pub across the estate grew by 3%, and reported like-for-like net income in the core estate was +1.6% (+0.7% underlying). The strategic disposal programme is now substantially complete (£288m proceeds in the past 18 months) but pubs continue to be sold above book value. The core estate now comprises circa 2,600 pubs, generating 92% of group Ebitda, with a further 700 pubs in the Mercury division (lower profit pubs). The retail division is operating ahead of expectations with 50 pubs open at the end of April and Punch on track to have 100 pubs open by year-end. These pubs (effectively being operated on a franchised basis) are generating pub Ebitda of £90,000 to £110,000 per annum; an uplift of £15,000 to £25,000 per annum (+20%) compared with the tied tenanted and leased model. The government’s final proposals regarding MRO option confirms that Punch’s exposure is marginal; only around 7% of the estate will have ten or more years remaining on their lease at their next rent review. These might be considered the ‘at risk’ pubs, but management expects that the majority of lessees will choose to remain tied. The balance sheet has £235m of net cash with over £50m of operating cash flow (after capex) generated in first half 2016. Nominal debt (all securitised; no bank debt) reduced by £191m in the first half to £1.2bn. Scheduled amortisation payments average just circa £36m per annum over the next five years with the loan-to-value ratio now down to 59%. We are holding full-year forecasts, which assume circa 1% core like-for-like net income growth supported by retail conversions. Based on last year’s external valuation, the property is now valued at some £847m in excess of nominal net debt (382p per share). Given this, minimal cash tax to pay (for circa five years), evidence that the strategy is delivering, and rising earnings quality, we believe the shares are undervalued.”
Propel partners with Professor Chris Edger to launch new Brands Masterclass: Propel has partnered with the UK’s leading thinker and teacher on multi-site foodservice management Professor Chris Edger to launch a new Brands Masterclass to help create and evolve powerful brands. The event takes place on Friday, 10 June in the Chartered Accounts Hall at One Moorgate Place in London. Led by Edger, the all-day masterclass will showcase the advice of contemporary brand experts, who will address each aspect of a foodservice brand’s marketing mix. Each expert will deal with a specific dimension of brand longevity and success, making this programme an absolute must for UK foodservice brand leaders in 2016. The day will be split into three sessions to help delegates ensure their brands are evolved effectively to ensure long-term sustainability and success. Session one will cover leadership, proposition and product and will see Edger drawing on material from his newly-published book, co-written with Tony Hughes, senior independent director of The Restaurant Group, examining the leadership lifecycles of sustainable food brands. The session also features leading brands consultant Ian Dunstall on how to effectively differentiate a brand and its proposition while Chris Gerard, founder of gastro-pub business Innventure, will explain how to create and evolve a compelling food and beverage offer. Session two will cover environment, estate and employer branding with Dan Einzig, founder of leading restaurant and brand design agency Mystery, looking at site design and creating a brand identity while insights firm CACI will explore how operators create a high quality estate. Former Orchid Group chief executive Rufus Hall will talk about creating a people-centric culture and the benefits of having an outstanding team ethos. The final session will look at execution and marketing with Dr Clinton Bantock, associate professor of the Academy of Multi-Unit Leadership, sharing how to achieve operational excellence while James Hacon, managing director of Elliotts, will look at examples of memorable marketing campaigns and the importance of rewarding loyal customers. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book email

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