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Mon 5th Jun 2017 - Comptoir reports more difficult trading
Comptoir reports more difficult trading: Comptoir Group, which currently operates 23 restaurants, ten of which opened in the last eight months, and two franchise locations, has reported, overall, the past two months have seen a continuation of the difficult trading it reported at the time of its preliminary results in April. The company stated: “While the business saw improved sales figures over the Easter weekend and half-term holidays, unfortunately much of this benefit was subsequently lost in the final two weeks of the month. In May, the company also experienced an unexpected decline in like-for-like sales and profit at certain mature restaurants, particularly in retail-led locations and at its higher-spend restaurants, Levant and Kenza. In addition, although the group as a whole is seeing a progression in sales, a number of the restaurants opened in 2016 remain behind expectations in terms of their anticipated maturity trading curve. Like many of its peers in the sector, the company is experiencing upward pressure on costs, including incremental wage costs and related taxes (Apprenticeship Levy), higher food and drink costs (driven by depreciation in sterling versus the euro) and increases in rent and business rates. Together with the softening in consumer spending, these factors have had a significant impact on restaurant profitability and visibility over short-term trading trends. The company has taken steps to limit the increase in central overheads. The directors believe the Comptoir brand continues to have a strong appeal to consumers and landlords and there remains considerable potential for expansion in the UK. The company still expects to open three more restaurants before the end of 2017 – Comptoir Reading, Comptoir Oxford and Shawa Oxford – together with a first international franchise operation in the Netherlands with HMSHost. Lastly, the directors confirm they expect to raise £2.7m (gross) from the sale and leaseback of the freehold of its central processing unit in north London. The net proceeds will be used to fund the remaining new openings for 2017 and strengthen the group’s working capital position. A further announcement on the sale and leaseback will be made in due course.”

Harbour & Jones merges with CH&Co Group: Harbour & Jones, the independent caterer, has merged with CH&Co Group in a move that “enhances the group’s diverse portfolio of specialist businesses and strengthens its position across the hospitality market, and particularly in education and the London region”. The merger increases the group’s turnover to £265m and it will now provide catering at more than 700 sites across the UK and Ireland, employing more than 6,000 people. Harbour & Jones founders and managing partners, Patrick Harbour and Nathan Jones, will continue in their roles as managing partners and the business and its brands, H+J, Fare, Tonic, Principals and Upfront, will maintain the names for that “they are known and respected”. The companies said as the catering market continues to be increasingly competitive and challenging, compounded by global political influences, merging the resources and expertise of these two companies will extend the reach of both in the business and industry, leisure, heritage, events, and education sectors, allowing them to continue to vigorously compete and grow. “The deal is the right fit for both companies,” said CH&Co Group’s chief executive Bill Toner. “Harbour & Jones and CH&Co Group are both dynamic businesses enjoying sustained growth. By combining our assets, knowledge, skills and expertise we will increase our strength to compete across the board, which is a very exciting prospect. CH&Co Group is a collection of small businesses with their own distinct characters and specialisms. We’ve undertaken a number of mergers in recent years and have proven that being part of a larger company doesn’t dilute a business’ personality or personal touch. Quite the opposite in fact, it gives each one access to the group’s robust resources, systems and support to allow them to continually innovate and vigorously compete. We’re thrilled to have Harbour & Jones join the CH&Co Group family and we look forward to realising the opportunities this merger creates for the business, our clients and our teams.” Harbour said: “For our clients and our teams it’s very much business as usual. We’ll continue to deliver the great food and service for which we have become known but behind the scenes we’ll be looking at how we can all pool our creativity and our verve to strengthen all the businesses within the newly-expanded CH&Co family. I’m looking forward to working with our new colleagues in the merged business and excited by the opportunities it will bring for all of us.” Jones added: “It’s been clear from the outset that CH&Co Group is a great fit for Harbour & Jones. The merger also makes sense on a cultural level. Both businesses are made up of well-established, high-calibre brands with strong values. We’re driven by a desire to deliver delicious, innovative food and great service, and to uphold our strong reputation for looking after people.”

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