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Fri 30th Jun 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

UK restaurant owners missing out on average £45,000 a year in R&D tax relief: Three in five UK restaurant and gastro-pub owners who change menus regularly and experiment with new dishes have never heard of research and development (R&D) tax relief, missing out on an average benefit of more than £45,000, according to new research. Tax relief specialist Catax said its Censuswide survey of 500 bosses revealed eateries that constantly look for new ways to prepare and cook food were perfect candidates for R&D claims. Catax added that even when restaurants had claimed R&D, almost half (46%) of owners and managers thought the tax relief was restricted to technology, drug and science companies and not to businesses in their own sector. With more than half (55%) of respondents saying they had spent time and money “developing a new product over the past two years”, most restaurant owners could be due a sizeable tax windfall. However, almost half (48%) of UK restaurant owners also mistakenly believe that for a claim to be made, any eligible R&D activity must be successful – for example, an experimental meal makes it on to the menu. Catax gave an example of one restaurant client who received R&D tax relief against the cost of developing a new process for removing skin on wild sea trout, while another received relief for testing the ageing process of beef and density of its marinade. Catax chief executive Mark Tighe said: “Not enough restaurant and gastro-pub owners are aware that a big part of what they do – experimenting with new recipes and food preparation techniques to differentiate themselves – will often be eligible for R&D tax relief. What’s more, they don’t even need to sell the recipes they are experimenting with or use the cooking or preparation methods they trial. What matters is the time and money spent trying to do something new and innovate. Importantly, cash can also be realised in as little as eight weeks for reinvestment in future food experimentation.” R&D tax relief only applies to those businesses liable for corporation tax.

Industry News:

Tim Martin to speak at Propel Multi-Club summer conference, two free places for operators: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin is to speak at the Propel Multi-Club summer conference on Thursday, 6 July. Martin will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about strategic priorities, VAT and regulatory issues. The Propel Multi-Club summer conference and evening party is now open for bookings. The event takes place at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40, and operators can claim two free places by emailing Jo Charity on jo.charity@propelinfo.com. The speaker line-up for the morning session is NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant, Morar Consulting chief executive Roger Perowne, David Bruce, co-founder of Firkin Pubs, The Capital Pub Company and The City Pub companies and currently chairman of The West Berkshire Brewery, and Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain, who operate escape rooms business Tick Tock Unlocked. Speaking after lunch are Marston’s Revere Pub Company managing director Colin Sadler and The Breakfast Club co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton. The final session features Tahoka commercial director Simon Blackbourne, Mowgli owner Nish Katona, and Rupert Clevely, managing director of Ei Group’s managed expert joint venture Hippo Inns.

British and Irish Lions test match provides 240% uplift in beer sales: Pubs that screened the first British and Irish Lions test match against the All Blacks on Saturday (24 June) saw a 240% uplift in beer sales versus sites that didn’t show the match, according to analysis by beer quality and waste management systems company Vianet and sports pub app MatchPint. The game in New Zealand kicked off at 8.35am UK time, with many sports pubs opening early. Data powered by Vianet’s iDraught system revealed overall beer volumes in sports venues were up 4% on the same period last year, with the average sports pub pouring 415 pints on the day. This is a significant statistic when compared with the same Saturday the previous year, which featured a bumper line-up of sport including Euro 2016 matches and international rugby. The MatchPint platforms revealed 58,000 searches for the Lions match, making it the fourth most searched for sporting event of the year behind three pay-per-view boxing nights. Vianet product manager Mark Fester said: “With the morning kick-offs for these matches in the UK, there is a real opportunity for pubs to get customers in early and keep them in the venue once the final whistle has blown.” The last two tests in the series kick-off at 8.35am UK time this Saturday (1 July) and at the same time on Saturday, 8 July.

Company News:

Firezza sees operating losses increase in first full year under PizzaExpress ownership: Firezza, the 22-strong pizza delivery and takeaway business, has reported increased operating losses in its first full year under the ownership of PizzaExpress. The company, founded by Edin Basic in 2001, saw turnover fall to £6,687,000 for the year ending 1 January 2017, compared with £7,587,000 for the year ending 29 February 2016. Operating losses rose to £1,745,000, compared with a loss of £520,000 in the previous period. The company stated: “During the period the company continued to grow through the opening of five new restaurants and increasing sales at existing sites. During the 44-week period ended 1 January 2017, when excluding the extra eight weeks in the 52 weeks to 29 February 2016 (on a pro-rata basis), turnover grew 4.2%. During the prior period, the company implemented a change in its operational structure and the related costs of this have led to an operating loss of £1,745,000 (2016: £520,000) for the period. As at 1 January 2017, the company was in a net liability position of £1,505,000 (2016: net asset position of £231,000) and a cash position of £203,000 (2016: £326,000)." PizzaExpress acquired Firezza in February last year.

Barons Pub Company reports turnover and profit boost: Surrey-based Barons Pub Company has reported turnover rose to £9,686,654 for the year ending 30 September 2016, compared with £8,133,926 the year before. Pre-tax profit jumped to £269,046, compared with £96,568 the previous year. The company had 270 employees at the end of the period, compared with 229 the year before. In January, the company acquired its seventh site and first outside its Surrey heartland, The Black Boy in Reading. Its Surrey sites are The Cricketers in Horsell, The Star in Leatherhead, The Horseshoe in Warlingham, the Crown & Cushion in Backwater, the Rose & Crown in Thorpe, and The Bletchingley Arms in Bletchingley.

Heavitree Brewery reports pre-tax profit rises 10.49%: Heavitree Brewery, the Exeter-based tenanted pub operator, has reported revenue increased to £3,351,000 for the six months to 30 April 2017, compared with £3,312,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up 10.49% to £558,000, compared with £505,000 the year before. Chairman Nicholas Tucker said: “The group has increased operating profit against the corresponding period last year by 10.79% to £698,000. This has been achieved by increases in all areas of contribution, apart from machine income. There were no property sales during the period under review but three houses were being actively marketed for sale. Those houses are The Crown & Sceptre in Newton St Cyres, The Bell Inn in Cullompton, and the Pen & Quill in Taunton. The Pen & Quill has been sold since the closure of the half-year period and a book loss has been mostly absorbed by the impairment that was shown in last year’s accounts. Also, since the end of the period under review, The King’s Arms in Strete has been added to the list of those pubs being marketed for sale. The Dartmoor Halfway in Bickington opened in May after a total refurbishment completed in partnership with Buccaneer Inns, which has taken the tenancy of this new pub. Trading has started well. The directors have resolved to pay an interim dividend of 3.675p per ordinary share and ‘A’ limited voting ordinary shares (2016: 3.675p). The dividend will be paid on 4 August 2017 to shareholders on the register at the close of business on 21 July 2017. The quality of our houses and operators means we are well set up to take advantage of good trading conditions in the second half of the financial year but also to remain resilient to the effects of the immense uncertainties 2017 continues to deliver.”

Fuller’s chief executive sees remuneration fall to £1.1m as bonus pay almost halves: Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny saw his remuneration fall to £1.1m for the year ending 1 April 2017 as his bonus pay almost halved, the company’s annual report has revealed. Emeny received a total of £1,097,000 consisting of £419,000 salary and fees, £25,000 in taxable benefits, £133,000 annual bonus, £446,000 in long-term incentive payments, and £74,000 pension. This was a fall from the previous year when Emeny was paid a total of £1,417,000, which included an annual bonus of £263,000. Finance director James Douglas saw his remuneration fall to £759,000, compared with £1,049,000 the previous year. This consisted of £291,000 salary and fees, £23,000 in taxable benefits, £75,000 bonus, £319,000 in long-term incentive payments, and £51,000 pension. Fuller’s Beer Company managing director Simon Dodd, who was appointed in August, received a total of £246,000, which included a pro-rata bonus payment of £36,000. Emeny saw his salary increase to £430,000 on 1 June, while Douglas’ rose to £295,000 and Dodd’s to £200,000.

Hawthorn Leisure to move former JD Wetherspoon pub in new direction after reinvention falters: Hawthorn Leisure has closed a former JD Wetherspoon pub in Sheffield “until all options have been explored”. Stone & Taps, which opened on the site of the former Swim Inn pub, had been trading for fewer than six months prior to its closure. It was one of 11 pubs bought by Hawthorn Leisure from JD Wetherspoon but the company said the pub now needed to move in a “new direction”. A Hawthorn Leisure spokesperson said: “After assessing recent trading, we have determined the pub in Glossop Road needs a new direction. Its future is undecided at this point and will remain closed until all options have been explored and a conclusion has been reached on achieving the best potential for the site.” Stone & Taps launched on Thursday, 2 February following a refurbishment and featuring a new menu.

Whitbread to open 84-bedroom Premier Inn at Fareham shopping centre: Whitbread-owned Premier Inn is to open an 84-bedroom hotel at Fareham Shopping Centre in Fareham, Hampshire. Roubaix Group, which bought the centre in 2015, has been granted permission by Fareham Borough Council for the hotel, which has been pre-let to Premier Inn on a new 25-year lease. It will be built on top of existing retail units facing Osborn Road – bedrooms will be arranged over three upper storeys with restaurant and reception space between the upper accommodation levels and the ground-floor retail. Work is scheduled to start in late 2017 with the hotel, which will create about 40 jobs, expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019. Premier Inn head of acquisitions for London, south and east Derek Griffin said: “Fareham town centre is a location where we’ve been wanting to invest for some time. This application is a really effective way to bring a new Premier Inn right into the heart of the town centre and we’re looking forward to getting going with the scheme and opening our doors for guests as soon as possible.” Roubaix Group managing director Chris Beckerman added: “This is great news for Fareham and paves the way for valuable investment into the shopping centre and the town as a whole. The scheme also demonstrates our capability to purchase good-quality assets and release added value through effective asset management.”

Numis Securities – Greene King’s managed pub margins ‘disappointing’: Numis Securities leisure analyst Tim Barrett has branded Greene King’s managed pub margins “disappointing”. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 670p, Barrett said: “In FY17 managed like-for-like sales growth was 1.5%, compared with 1.1% in weeks one to 40, which implies an acceleration in the final quarter to more than 2% (third quarter was circa 0.8%). Management suggests a later Easter and favourable weather helped the fourth quarter. Managed margins fell by 70 basis points to 17.0%, reflecting cost pressures and ‘investment in value, service and quality’. The full £35m of synergies from Spirit were delivered one year ahead of target, meaning an additional £5m effectively fell into FY17. The margin fall was more pronounced in the second half (minus 90 basis points) indicative of the weighting cost pressures (National Minimum Wage in October). However, the rate increase (£7m from April) and 4% increase in National Living Wage (NLW) only impacted the final month. Pub Partners (the tenanted business) outperformed, growing like-for-like net income by 5.0%, the fastest increase for several years and reflecting increased premiumisation (repositioning pubs from value to mainstream). To date, licensee interest in the Market Rent Only option has been very limited (27 applications, none taken). Unusually, trading post-year end has not been quantified. Greene King suggests trading is as expected ‘bearing in mind the tough comparatives from last year’. Cost inflation has now been quantified at circa £60m, of which Greene King aims to mitigate circa £40m to £45m. Previous cost guidance (circa £20m) did not factor-in input inflation or non NLW-related wage growth. The market is likely to be surprised by the size of the increment, although the targeted cost savings at 3% of pub company cost base are ambitious. Our FY18 forecasts assume 1% like-for-like sales growth and margins (minus 90 basis points). The resulting forecast (profit before tax £268m) is 4% below consensus. In the absence of like-for-like momentum (or higher cost mitigation) we do not expect Greene King to grow earnings per share for at least two years. Greene King’s share price has performed broadly in line with the market over the past three months, notwithstanding difficult trading and concerns on the cost outlook. We are cautious as the company now has the largest managed pub estate in the UK, clearly making it vulnerable to the twin impacts of wage inflation and higher business rates. Greene King trades on an FY18 price-to-earnings ratio of 10.0 times (11.1 times cash) and dividend yield of 4.8%.

Stonegate Pub Company to launch Yates’s in Solihull next week: Stonegate Pub Company is to open a venue for its Yates’s brand in Solihull town centre next week following a £450,000 investment. The venue will open in Poplar Road on Sunday, 9 July on the site of the Assembly Rooms, a former Victorian town hall. A new bar has been installed offering cocktails, beer, cider and spirits alongside food deals and a dance floor and seating area. The venue will operate vodka nights on Thursdays, Friday Night Social (aimed at the after-work crowd), and two-for-one cocktails on Saturdays from Yates’s Candy Shop range. There will also be Sunday roasts, while live sports will be screened too. Yates’s will open daily from 9am to midnight and until 3am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Yates’s general manager Adrian Martinelli said: “It’s a great time for us to launch a Yates’s in Solihull and one we think will fit extremely well in the town.” Stonegate Pub Company operates more than 690 pubs split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Common Room and Venues) and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, and Classic Inns).

Brasserie Blanc opens Fulham Reach and Bournemouth sites to reach 20 venues: Brasserie Blanc, the French restaurant group led by Raymond Blanc, has opened its 19th and 20th sites, in Fulham Reach, west London, and Bournemouth respectively. The Fulham Reach brasserie is in the former Haig Distillery in the new St George residential and leisure development on the Thames waterfront near Hammersmith Bridge. The venue spans 3,175 square feet offering 120 covers and an additional 50 on the terrace. Brasserie Blanc, the restaurant division of Brasserie Bar Co, signed a 20-year lease on the unit and spent more than £1m on its fit-out. The Bournemouth site is the first Brasserie Blanc venue in a hotel – in the Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott Hotel, which overlooks Poole Bay. The restaurant spans 3,500 square feet and offers 108 covers across four interconnecting dining rooms, a 70-cover bar and 42 covers on a terrace. Chief executive Mark Derry said the partnership marked the beginning of a new stage in its evolution as it sought further opportunities in the hotel sector. Earlier this week, Brasserie Bar Co also announced plans to roll-out 24 pubs and employ a further 700 staff by 2022 after securing £20m investment from OakNorth Bank.

McDonald’s to launch Capital radio sponsorship as part of festival-goer focus: McDonald’s is to become daytime sponsor of London radio station CapitalFM as it targets 16 to 24-year-olds. The ten-week partnership will include experiential activity at summer festivals. McDonald’s is making its presence visible to younger music-lovers as part of its “good times” campaign launched last year. The campaign starts this week ahead of next week’s Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time event at London’s Hyde Park, which will feature Justin Bieber. The campaign will finish with Fusion Festival in Liverpool in September. The activity also includes thermally-activated ads promoting McDonald’s Galaxy McFlurry and Flake McFlurry menu items that will run on SoundCloud and Deezer platforms when there is sunny weather and high temperatures across the majority of the UK. Emily Somers, vice-president of marketing and food development at McDonald’s UK, told Campaign: “Our ‘good times’ campaign is all about recognising the feel-good moments that occur at McDonald’s across the UK and amplifying these to make them even bigger and better.” Earlier this month, McDonald’s ended its Olympic Games sponsorship deal three years early to “focus on different priorities”. 

Fishbowl appoints new chief executive: Fishbowl, the leading provider of a marketing analytics platform to the restaurant industry, has appointed Jim Soss as chief executive. Soss has more than 20 years’ experience in digital marketing, big data and analytics, having served as senior vice-president and general manager for Responses at the time of its $1.5bn acquisition by Oracle. He is also former chief executive of data management and technology company Red Aril, and has worked at digital marketing and data companies Acxiom, Infogroup and YuMe. Fishbowl, which was acquired by private equity firm Symphony Technology Group earlier this year, has more than 70,000 restaurants among its users. Symphony Technology Group managing director Marc Bala said: “Jim has an outstanding track record of strong leadership. His exceptional expertise in the digital marketing and analytics domain, strong client focus, and proven experience in driving growth and innovation uniquely qualifies him to successfully lead Fishbowl into the future.”

Seafood specialists The Oystermen to open permanent site in Covent Garden next week: The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen, which recently finished an extended ten-month residency in South Kensington’s The Sampler, is to open a permanent home in Covent Garden next week. The 26-cover restaurant and oyster bar will open in Henrietta Street on Tuesday, 4 July featuring seafood from the “four corners of the British Isles”, including scorched mackerel with pickled cucumber and signature dish spicy curried clam chowder. The wine list has been created to complement the seafood alongside craft ale that includes Everyday Oyster Stout, brewed in collaboration with Canopy Beer Co. Oysters will be served raw from the bar or grilled with toppings such as The Oystermen’s own barbecue sauce, while the venue will also operate a “bubbles and oysters” happy hour. The Oystermen concept was launched in 2014 by Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton. Lovell said: “We’ve always been committed to finding a permanent home to bring our friendly and fresh seafood concept to the wider London audience.”

Kew Green staff head to Hong Kong for knowledge-sharing exercise: Kew Green Hotels is to hold its annual general managers’ meeting in Hong Kong this year. The company opened a satellite office in Hong Kong early this year and took on management of seven HK CTS hotels in Beijing, Macau and Hong Kong. The three-day conference will give general managers an opportunity to network with new colleagues and gain an insight into international operations and Chinese culture in general. The knowledge-sharing exercise is the second between Kew Green and HK CTS following a meeting in London in February. Representatives from Kew Green’s sales, revenue, property management and HR teams will also attend. Chief executive Alex Pritchard said: “Our relationship with HK CTS has allowed us to activate a number of exciting concepts and we look forward to continuing to learn from one another.” Kew Green Hotels was founded in 2001 and operates more than 50 hotels, the majority operated under franchise agreements with leading hotel brands. It also manages the Richmond Hill Hotel in west London and The Grand in Brighton.

Former Chiltern Firehouse chef launches Camden cantina concept: Former Chiltern Firehouse chef Lee Andrews has launched Gabeto Cantina in Camden. The cantina concept has opened in The Stables Market in Chalk Farm Road offering the “best of British brasserie dining”. The former Victorian stable block has been transformed into an all-day bar and restaurant featuring daytime work space, casual and formal eating areas, a cocktail bar, and a large outdoor terrace. An industrial-style spiral staircase leads to the first-floor restaurant, where dining booths and eclectic furniture are fused with “period features and gallery art”, including murals created by artist John Bulley. The a la carte menu includes wood-fired meat dishes and a seafood section, while there are also grab-and-go, breakfast, bar, and brunch menus. There are separate upstairs and downstairs drinks menus, offering wine, craft beer and cocktails from in-house mixologist Tony Safqui.

Scottish ice cream manufacturer Crolla’s to open Dundee gelateria for fifth site: Crolla’s Gelato, the gelateria arm of The Crolla Ice Cream Company, one of Scotland’s oldest ice cream manufacturers, is to open a parlor in Dundee for its fifth site. The company, which has branches in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester and Preston, will open a site in Arbroath Road on Monday, 21 August creating 14 jobs. The store will be operated by an independent franchisee at a small retail park close to the Scott Fyffe roundabout. Peter Crolla, fifth-generation owner of the Crolla’s business, said Dundee would be a “perfect fit” for the chain, which also lists sites on its website as “opening soon” in Edinburgh, London, Llandudno and Nottingham. Crolla told The Tele: “Dundee is a very busy city with new developments opening all the time. With the new waterfront and city developments, this is be a perfect fit. We are looking to grow the brand into the fast-growing market of ice cream shops. As a wholesale company, we have a supply chain ready to go.”

Bristol-based bar and restaurant Brace & Browns starts expansion with second city site: Bristol-based bar and restaurant Brace & Browns has started expansion by launching a second site in the city. Owner David Brown has opened Harbour & Browns at the Cargo 2 shipping container development in Wapping Wharf. The new venue is a “fancier and younger” cocktail bar and restaurant compared with the debut venue, which opened in Whiteladies Road in 2011. The venue is housed in three shipping containers, with a galley kitchen separated from the dining room by a purpose-designed wooden unit comprising a cocktail bar and coffee machine. Harbour & Browns offers bottomless brunch at select weekends with bookable two-hour slots advertised on social media only. Brown told the Bristol Post: “Wapping Wharf is such a cool concept. It’s become a real hub of Bristol living. It embodies everything that makes this city so brilliant, its innovative design, amazing food, stunning location, great people and very good times. Being part of Wapping Wharf was too big an opportunity to turn down.”

AB InBev-backed planning startup extends £250,000 crowdfunding campaign: Planning startup PlanSnap, which is backed by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), has extended its £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to develop the product. The company, founded by Louise Doherty, who has worked for YO! Sushi and Britain’s Beer Alliance, is offering a 7.69% equity stake in return for the investment. So far it has raised £203,810 from 271 investors with 19 days remaining. PlanSnap is a social planning app that gets everyone to agree on the details of a plan in a few taps – even if users’ friends don’t have the app. The pitch states: “For brands grappling with the consumer shift towards ‘experiences, not things’, PlanSnap allows them to be a taste-maker by suggesting the best plans and a utility to make their customers’ plans actually happen. PlanSnap works with brands, retailers and media partners to sell ‘planning as a service’ and sponsorship. In the third quarter of this year, PlanSnap plans to move from beta to full launch, with ‘planning as a service’ functionality piloted in the fourth quarter and launched in the first quarter of 2018. The funds will be used to hire a data scientist and a designer to make PlanSnap smarter and faster, and for marketing and business development. PlanSnap has raised £130,000 from Fubra, Techstars and ZX Ventures (AB InBev’s venture arm). In the 12 months to 31 March 2017, PlanSnap turned over £28,000 with Betide of minus £103,900.”

Ei Publican Partnerships and Booker Wholesale reach 4,000th customer milestone: Ei Group’s leased and tenanted division Ei Publican Partnerships and Booker Wholesale have helped 4,000 publicans boost their food offering following the launch of their partnership two years ago. Ei Publican Partnerships said the milestone demonstrated its “ongoing commitment to supporting and developing its publicans with guidance on making the most of their food offering”. Ei Group head of food Paul Farr said: “Since joining Ei Group, one of my areas of focus has been to bolster our food offering by ensuring our publicans are up to speed with the latest trends. Our unique segmentation tool enables us to analyse the local area in detail and create a retail offer that best suits the community and, with the help of Booker’s customer-driven culture and personalised offer, we have been able to support our publicans to unlock the potential of their pubs and provide what their local communities want.” The partnership with Booker Wholesale enables publicans to personalise menu packages by choosing from a variety of food items, utensils, disposables and cleaning and hygiene products, as well as recipes that outline the cost-per-portion, suggested prices, and gross profit calculations. The partnership between the companies also includes a scheme that saw Ei publicans recycle more than 312,735 litres of cooking oil last year.

Laine Pub Company enlists Kafoodle to support menu management: Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company has signed up labelling and allergen compliance experts Kafoodle to support menu management across its London estate. The Laine Pub Company said Kafoodle would encourage its chefs and managers to better understand and promote low-calorie and superfood dishes as well as effectively manage allergen compliance. Chris Cannarile, the company’s newly appointed F&B operations manager, said: “We want our pub menus to cater for customers with a host of dietary needs and therefore look to provide the best range of options possible. Dishes such as quinoa burgers, superfoods and summer salads are popular with customers and our work with Kafoodle will allow us to build on this range. Kafoodle simplifies and streamlines the process of ensuring staff and customers understand the nutritional and allergen content of the dishes we serve.” Kafoodle is a cloud-based technology that allows communication of allergen and nutritional information from kitchen to front-of-house staff and ultimately to customers. Consumers can also search for outlets serving dishes that meet their dietary requirements using the free Kafoodle app. 

Krispy Kreme in double South Yorkshire opening: Krispy Kreme has opened two sites in South Yorkshire, in Sheffield city centre and Doncaster. The store has opened at The Moor shopping centre in Sheffield with the site featuring a dedicated seating area. The company has also launched a store at the Frenchgate Centre in Doncaster. Krispy Kreme operations director Neil Williamson told The Star: “We’re really excited to finally open in Sheffield. The reception we’ve received so far has been fantastic, it’s going to be a good one.” Krispy Kreme operates stores in 31 countries, with development agreements in several others. There are more than 80 Krispy Kreme stores across Britain, including one other site in Sheffield, in the Meadowhall shopping complex.

Northern Ireland-based Around Noon acquires London’s Chef in a Box as platform for further expansion: Northern Ireland-headquartered food-to-go manufacturer Around Noon has acquired Chef in a Box, a London-based sandwich and snack manufacturer with customers in the corporate sector. Around Noon said the acquisition from Donegal Investment Group would enable it to gain a strong foothold in Greater London and provide a platform for further UK expansion. The food-to-go market in the UK is estimated to be worth more than £16bn. The deal will enable Around Noon to access Chef in a Box’s manufacturing, sales and distribution infrastructure, as well as its high-end client-base. Around Noon chairman Howard Farquhar said: “Food-to-go is a high-growth category and we see London as a very significant opportunity for us, as well as a platform for further UK expansion, including other potential acquisitions.” Around Noon was founded more than 25 years ago and employs more than 300 staff. It supplies sandwiches, wraps, salads and fruit pots under its Scribbles brand. It also markets bakery items from its in-house operation Sweet Things, which it acquired last year, and cold-pressed juices. Around Noon was advised by Andy Miller, of Sentio Partners, and Amy Wright, of 3volution, in the deal.

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