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Fri 6th May 2016 - Update: Wetherspoon, Pret, £2.8m pub sale, BrewKitchen, Sticks 'n' Sushi et al
Historic Clerkenwell pub acquired for £2.8m: The Coach & Horses pub in Clerkenwell, central London, has been acquired by private equity firm Ducalian Capital for £2.8m. The deal, which was brokered by agents AG&G and MBC (Mayfair), will give new life to a previously closed pub and continues a tradition for the Ray Street site that goes back to at least 1790, when a publican was first recorded living there. Ducalian plans a complete refurbishment of the pub, which has a footprint of more than 1,000 square feet on a site of more than 1,100 square feet. Locally listed and in the Clerkenwell Green Conservation Area, the Coach & Horses has, unsurprisingly, a lot of history behind it. Lenin, Benjamin Franklin, George Gissing and Charles Dickens may all have drunk there – Fagin’s lair in Oliver Twist was a few yards round the corner from the pub. The River Fleet also runs in a pipe by the front door. “It’s a strong market and good sites are subject to fierce competition, Ducalian Capital therefore acted quickly to tie up the purchase,” said AG&G’s Michael Penfold. “It’s easy to see the attractions of the Coach & Horses. It’s a short walk to Farringdon Station, from 2018 passengers will be able to interchange between Crossrail, Thameslink and Underground services which will bring thousands of people into the area. It’s also near Chancery Lane underground station (Central Line) and the immediate area has become very fashionable for media and technology businesses, providing a substantial base for lunchtime and evening trade.” Fleurets acted for the vendor.

Savills sells Southampton pub to Wetherspoon: Agent Savills, on behalf a private client, has sold the Red Lion pub in Bitterne, Southampton, to JD Wetherspoon for £650,000. The two-storey pub is located in the centre of Bitterne close to the main retail parade with occupiers including Sainsbury’s, Poundland, Natwest and Iceland. JD Wetherspoon plans to extensively redevelop the site. Adam Bullas, director at Savills, said: “We’re pleased with the sale of the Red Lion, which benefits from a prominent position in Bitterne. JD Wetherspoon currently has no representation across the River Itchen on the east side of Southampton and therefore see the potential to generate healthy returns in this location.”

Pret A Manger opens first campus-based store: Pret A Manger has launched its first campus-based store – at the University of Exeter – its second site in the city. The store offers organic coffee and handmade natural food, including sandwiches, salads, wraps, baguettes and hot options – all made fresh daily in the on-site kitchen. Seven of the staff are University of Exeter students. Pret A Manger group director of food Caroline Cromar told the Express & Echo: “This is an exciting new area for Pret and one we hope will have a real impact on the students living and studying on campus. We know it can be difficult to prepare fresh meals every day when living away from home.” The move comes after students asked for more food and drink options on campus. Phil Attwell, director of campus services at the university, said: “The new outlet will help to further expand the offering of fresh, healthy foods available to our staff and students.” Early sales reveal the organic latte has been the store’s most popular drink, with the chicken caesar and bacon baguette the most popular food item.

Whitbread expands Germany foothold with two new Premier Inn sites: Whitbread has secured two new Premier Inn sites in Germany – in Leipzig and Hamburg, which reinforces the momentum of its expansion into the German market. Whitbread has now secured four Premier Inn sites and 760 bedrooms in Germany as it targets six to eight hotels open and trading by 2020. The two new sites to open in 2018 are in prime, connected city-centre locations – Leipzig, Brühl with circa 180 bedrooms and Hamburg with circa 180 bedrooms. Mark Anderson, managing director commercial, property, said: “Our two most recent German acquisitions mark another important chapter in our Premier Inn Germany growth story. Since announcing our expansion into the German hotel market in 2014 we have secured 760 bedrooms, using our proven Premier Inn formula to focus on the best, connected city locations. Building on the encouraging performance of our recently-opened Frankfurt hotel and strong growth figures announced last week, we’re aiming for more sites to build on our solid foothold on the buoyant German market and fuel our expansion.” In October last year, Premier Inn completed a deal on a new 200-bedroom site in Munich, due to open in late 2018. On 26 April, Whitbread announced its full-year results showing Premier Inn sales increased 12% on the previous year.

Downing establishes new partnership to relaunch Scottish country house hotel: Investment firm Downing, which has investments of circa £100m in the licensed leisure sector, has formed a new partnership to acquire a Scottish country house hotel. Downing’s investment partners in the venture are the management team of Arnold Schnegg, chief executive, James Hawksworth, finance director, and Joe McMahon, who previously built up the Hallmark Hotels group. The new partnership, Dunkeld House Hotel, completed its acquisition of Dunkeld House – set within a 280-acre Highland Perthshire estate – from the Hilton Group on Thursday, 5 May. The new owners said they would invest a significant sum in a full refurbishment programme to be carried out during the next 12 months. Downing investment director Mark Gross said: “We are excited to be building a long-term relationship with Arnold, James and Joe, who have a proven track record in delivering similar refurbishment and operational improvement projects.” Schnegg said: “Our strategy to refurbish, operationally improve and reposition the hotel is in line with the strategy we delivered under the Hallmark Hotels banner. We have been working with Downing for over a year and considering a number of acquisition opportunities. I hope this will be the first of many success stories as we look to build a group of managed hotels.”

BrewKitchen to close Sheffield restaurant Rhubarb and Mustard, head chef launches £200,000 crowdfunding campaign to launch own venture: BrewKitchen, the partnership between Richard Smith and Thornbridge Brewery, is to close its Rhubarb and Mustard restaurant in Sheffield. The company has decided to shut the Ecclesall Road site, which was revamped last year, and is expected to put it on the market later this month. The unit occupied by Rhubarb and Mustard has gone through several guises. In 2009 it opened as Spice Market Cafe, changed to Relish and then became Smith & Baker. Smith told the Sheffield Telegraph the decision to close came “after some enjoyable and rewarding years”, and would be focusing on its other venues, among them Graze Inn, the Cricket Inn and the Rose Garden Cafe in Graves Park. He added staff would be offered the chance of jobs elsewhere within BrewKitchen. As a result its head chef Danny Foster has launched a £200,000 crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to open his own restaurant. Foster’s four-year-old daughter Gracie died last October after contracting meningococcal septicaemia, and half of the profits from the planned venture – to be called Gracie’s Coffee Bar and Restaurant in her memory – will support good causes that help youngsters and families, including the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity. He is aiming to raise the money to cover start-up costs, rent for the first six months, refurbishment and equipment, as well as staff wages for the first business quarter. Potential sites for the restaurant have been identified and Foster believes if the plan comes to fruition and is successful, the model could be replicated. 

Sticks ‘n’ Sushi opens Cambridge city centre restaurant, first site outside London: Sticks ‘n’ Sushi UK, which has sites in Wimbledon, Covent Garden, Greenwich and Canary Wharf, has opened its first restaurant outside the capital, in Cambridge city centre. Decor at the new venue in Wheeler Street, on the site of the Old Reading Room, includes an original wrought iron winding staircase in the Old Reference Room, which is now an open plan kitchen with surround seating. The 108-cover restaurant also features a central bar and a mix of single and sharing tables. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi UK has launched a new menu to coincide with the opening, including an extended range of sticks from the open coal grill, more vegetarian options, and new sashimi salads and sushi delicacies. The company will open a sixth UK site at Nova in Victoria in October, and another in Oxford next year. Founder and chief executive Kim Rahbek Hansen said: “We are delighted to see another 50 new members joining our growing team in the UK and I couldn’t be prouder of our beautiful new restaurant in Cambridge.” Danish restaurant group Sticks ‘n’ Sushi will open its first site in Germany this winter and, by the end of this calendar year, will operate 19 restaurants in three countries. 

The Ivy secures Bristol site for first venue outside London: The group behind The Ivy in London is set to open its first UK venue outside of London after agreeing a letting at a former banking hall in Bristol. It is set to open its latest venture this summer after agreeing a 20-year lease at the property, which dates to 1788. West Country Properties, advised by Savills, has let 44 Caledonia Place in Clifton to Troia UK Restaurants, which trades as The Ivy. Planning permission for the restaurant was granted in February. Chris O’Mahony, retail and leisure director at Savills in Bristol, told Insider Media: “We’re delighted that prestigious restaurant The Ivy has chosen to open its first restaurant outside of London in Clifton. The property at Caledonia Place not only provides an excellent Bristol location but also a unique space that complements The Ivy brand.” The Ivy was represented by Teague & Capital. Last month, Pegasus Group, on behalf of Troia UK Restaurants, submitted plans to convert a grade II-listed building in Milsom Street, Bath, into the Ivy Bath Brasserie, creating 70 jobs.

Thai Leisure Group opens Thaikhun venue in Guildford, first site south of London: Thai Leisure Group (TLG) has opened a Thaikhun venue in Guildford, the first site for the street food brand south of London and eighth in the UK. The 3,690 square foot site in Friary Street has an open kitchen and outdoor dining area, which features artefacts from Thailand. The 124-cover restaurant has created more than 40 jobs and is part of TLG’s expansion plans to open five Thaikhun sites in the south of England in 2016. A company spokesman said: “This continued investment allows TLG to continue to play a pivotal role in the changing face of the UK’s Thai restaurant industry.” Thaikhun managing director Ian Leigh said: “Maeklong Railway Market, the inspiration for this restaurant, is a really buzzing area and we have tried to capture that drama. By combining authentically traditional Thai street food and a really interactive dining experience, we hope to inspire dreams or memories of exploring Thailand.” In February, TLG said it was looking to open eight to ten restaurants in 2016 via its newly formed openings division. TLG has 15 restaurants across its four core brands – Thaikhun, Chaophraya, ChaoBaby and Yee Rah – and is jointly owned by Thai chef Kim Kaewkraikhot and British entrepreneur Martin Stead. Thaikhun’s other sites are in Aberdeen, Cambridge, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford.

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