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Thu 21st Sep 2017 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Small casual dining brands expanding six times faster than bigger names: Small casual dining brands are expanding six times faster than bigger names in the sector, the latest Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach has revealed. Amid a broadly flat market for new openings and sales, restaurant groups with fewer than 25 sites achieved a 32% increase in premises in the past three years, compared with 7.6% for companies with more than 100 sites. Groups with between 25 and 99 sites increased their numbers by 47.7% during the period, more than six times the rate of large operators. The report said the figures were proof of the number of fresh and dynamic brands hitting the mainstream casual dining sector, naming Wahaca, Honest Burgers and Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho among companies expanding rapidly in the small-operator category, and Fulham Shore’s Franco Manca and Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas in the medium-sized sector. The report added that while some big operators such as Nando’s and Wagamama had continued to roll out venues, others had been scaling back openings. The disparity between new and established brands is particularly apparent in London, where medium-sized operators increased their number of licensed premises by 67.8% in the past three years, while large operators have seen a 4.3% fall. Overall, Britain had 122,916 licensed premises at June – 0.3% fewer than in June 2016. The bulk of net closures have been drink-led pubs and restaurants with only one site. There was a 1.8% net increase in restaurant openings in the past 12 months. CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “Our latest Market Growth Monitor reveals a casual dining sector in flux. Britain has a better and wider range of eating-out options than ever before, and dynamic new entrants to the market are simultaneously adding to the diversity and making life tougher for longer-established operators. Consumers still enjoy their big brands but the emergence of so many disruptive concepts is making it harder to secure their loyalty.” AlixPartners managing director Paul Hemming added: “The last 12 months have left the industry battling unprecedented levels of competition, unrelenting price pressures and an evolving retail market. As a result, casual dining chains have seen relatively little new investment activity, with many operators focusing on trimming tail sites from their estates instead. But despite these negative headwinds, small and growing innovative businesses continue to thrive across the country. Tired offerings that fail to evolve will have a limited shelf life but for emerging operators with a differentiated, consistent product, there will still be ample room to blossom.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Swingers founders to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 1 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Jeremy Simmonds and Matt Grech-Smith, founders of the Institute of Competitive Socialising brand Swingers, which combines crazy golf, high-quality bars and street food in the City of London with a second site opening in early 2018, will talk about their brand, its USPs, future plans and their thinking behind the Institute of Competitive Socialising. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Average price for pint of bitter in Britain’s pubs breaks £3 barrier: The average price of a pint of bitter in Britain’s pubs has broken through the £3 barrier for the first time, with a 6p rise from last year to £3.05, according to the Annual Statistical Handbook published by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) today (Thursday, 21 September). The association said the figure fuelled concerns over Treasury plans to raise beer duty for a second time this year in the November Budget. Bitter’s 2017 price rise was the biggest since 2014, while the price of a pint of lager rose even more, by 10p to £3.58. Despite the increase, beer remains pub-goers’ drink of choice, accounting for 54.3% of alcohol sales in the on-trade in 2016, down from 55% in the previous year, making it particularly sensitive to beer tax hikes, the BBPA said. UK beer duty is 60% higher than in 2000 and among the highest in the EU. Britain has also seen a major leap in the number of breweries, which topped 2,000 for the first time in 2016 at 2,250, with 1,750 UK brewers launching since 2000. New figures show the UK’s average consumption of 67 litres per head is below the EU average (72 litres). BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We cannot afford another beer duty hike in the November Budget if we are to keep a pint in the pub affordable for British beer drinkers. However, a wealth of other data shows that with the right policies the beer and pub industry, which supports 900,000 jobs, can continue to help grow the economy, creating jobs and more opportunities.”

Tax Equality Day a ‘timely reminder of targeted tax burdens’: Tax Equality Day is a timely reminder of how pubs are being disproportionately hit by VAT, trade bodies have said. JD Wetherspoon was one pub company to cut food and drink prices yesterday (Wednesday, 20 September) across its portfolio to highlight the benefit a VAT reduction would have on the hospitality industry. Currently, all food in pubs is subject to 20% VAT compared with supermarkets, which benefit from zero VAT on the vast majority of food products. Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “In a week when Moody’s said rising costs and a softening of consumer confidence were resulting in an industry stress test, Tax Equality Day is a timely reminder of how much of that cost burden comes from tax and the boost that would come from targeted tax cuts. Our latest Benchmarking Report shows the chancellor’s decision to significantly increase pub taxes – business rates and alcohol duty – together with rising labour costs has pushed the amount the average pub pays in tax to almost 40%. That threatens investment in jobs, growth and communities and jeopardises the sector’s record of generating one-in-six new jobs at a time when we can ill afford it. We know from past experience a cut in VAT is the single most effective tool in staunching a consumer spending downturn in the face of rising inflation.” CAMRA chief executive Tim Page said: “Pubs act as cornerstones of their local communities, bringing people together as well as creating local jobs and investment. They have traditionally played a key role in our society as a whole, breaking down barriers and helping to define British culture.”

UK hotel boom to continue into 2018 but pace of growth ‘unsustainable’: A weaker pound will help the UK’s hotel boom continue into 2018 but the pace of growth is “unsustainable”, according to PwC’s latest Hotels Forecast. UK hotels have enjoyed record trading so far in 2017, underpinned by a boom in overseas leisure travel. However, PwC forecasts a slower pace of growth in 2018 as the stimulus of the weak pound starts to weaken and new supply kicks in, with 7,000 new rooms expected to be added in London alone next year. The company also highlighted global political volatility, an expected deceleration in UK economic growth and continued Brexit uncertainty as barriers to growth. London’s hotel market has enjoyed occupancy growth of 2.6%, average daily rate gains of 6.3%, and 9% revpar growth compared with the same period last year. Overseas tourism has been boosted by North American visitors, with results still “remarkable” against a backdrop of an uncertain corporate and consumer outlook, recent terrorist attacks, and high levels of openings. Regionally, the report highlighted Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast as benefiting most from the exchange rate, all pushing revpar into double-digit growth. Edinburgh and Belfast have seen average daily rate gains of 14.8% and 13% respectively, while Cardiff’s hosting of the Champions League Final in June helped lift occupancy and rates and pushed revpar to almost 11% growth in the first half of the year. Plymouth, Sheffield, Glasgow, York and Liverpool also saw robust growth. PwC said it still forecasts growth in 2018 but expects the inbound holiday boost from the weak pound to slow. It stated: “Inbound business travel trends are also reported down. New hotel room openings are running very high, with continued increase in new branded budget supply and competition from alternative accommodation choices. Overall, we think the current pace of hotel performance growth is not sustainable through the second half of the year and into 2018.”

Just Eat partners with Make It Cheaper to save restaurants money on energy bills: Online food ordering firm Just Eat has partnered with business energy intermediary Make It Cheaper to save restaurants money on energy bills. Just Eat partners with more than 26,000 restaurants in the UK, while Make It Cheaper said it had helped more than 45,000 companies save on their gas and electricity bills since 2007. Just Eat director of restaurant services Robin Clark told BDaily: “As well as saving restaurants and small businesses hundreds of pounds on energy bills, our collaboration with (Make it Cheaper) will also provide our partners with access to an exclusive green energy offering via (clean energy platform) Squeaky Energy. We know we can do a huge amount more together to help small businesses and are excited about what’s to come.”

Springboard Charity heading to West End for second pantomime: The Springboard Charity is heading to the West End to stage its second pantomime – an industry revamp of Aladdin. The pantomime will be performed at the Arts Theatre in Soho from 30 January to 2 February. The project, which follows the staging of Springderella last year, aims to raise funds to help young people achieve their potential and support people into employment within the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. Springboard said the pantomime would be about celebrating what makes hospitality great, with the script tailored to include “plenty of winks at the wonderful world of service with a smile”. The charity will host a launch party on Friday, 6 October at The Curtain Hotel in Shoreditch, east London, where people can meet last year’s cast and the team behind the panto. For more information, email geoffreyr@springboarduk.org.uk. For details on the casting process and tickets, visit springboarduk.net/panto

Company News:

The Good Egg returns to Crowdcube to raise £500,000 for second site, in Soho: Street food restaurant The Good Egg has returned to crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to raise £500,000 as it seeks to open a second site, in Soho. Founder Joel Abraham opened his first venue in 2015 in Stoke Newington after raising £182,000 from investors. The restaurant serves more than 1,200 customers a week. Now he has returned to the crowdfunding platform to raise £500,000 in return for an 18.18% equity stake as he aims to bring the all-day neighbourhood “Montreal deli meets Israeli street food offer” to Soho’s Kingly Court. The pitch states: “We serve up colourful Jewish deli and Israeli-inspired brunches, bagels, pitas and small plates, with a dinner menu designed to get guests sharing, all alongside a drinks menu of classic American cocktails, craft beer and natural wine. We carefully source ingredients from sustainable producers whose ethos is in line with our own. From serving our brunch favourite shakshuka at sell-out markets, pop-ups and residencies all over London, we felt London was crying out for an all-day neighbourhood Montreal deli meets Israeli street food offer. We’ve cooked for the prime minister, catered weekly for Twitter’s London headquarters, and crowdfunded on Crowdcube to finance the fit-out of our first restaurant, with a plan to open two more within five years. We’ve now secured a 100-plus-seater site in the West End to feature a bakery and retail area that serves Israeli-inspired baked goods and extended brunch and dinner menus for eat-in, takeaway and delivery. Funds raised will be used for capex and pre-opening costs for our second restaurant site. This represents the realisation of a dream, fulfilling many aspects of the business we have had on hold in site one, such as our extended bakery offer. Commercial finance facilities are also in place. We know the industry has recently attracted, and is capable of attracting, exits and our own exit-strategy modelling is based on medium-to-long-term opportunities accordingly. We plan an exit in three years when the group has three restaurants.”

Shepherd Neame boss ‘very much alive’ to further acquisitions, expects rate of disposals to slow: Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame has told Propel the company is “very much alive” to further acquisitions as it enters a period of natural consolidation. The company acquired 14 pubs in the past year and has a 327-strong estate. Neame said: “I think we are in a period of natural consolidation because acquiring 14 pubs takes a lot of doing. We are very much alive to acquisition opportunities but we are not the sort of business to take on high leverage. We are very cash generative. Two-thirds of our pub estate is in Kent, while we have more than 100 outside the county such as in London, Surrey and West Sussex. We will look to continue investing in our existing pubs in our Kent heartland while adding to our estate outside the county, where many of our acquisitions are being made.” The company has sold 49 sites in the past five years and while Neame said he expected there to be further disposals he did not see them continuing at that rate. He added: “We’ve markedly improved the quality of the estate and gone from having pubs in small, outlying villages to making sure we have sites in unique locations with high footfall.” Neame said the company would continue to invest and improve its current estate and three pubs in Kent were lined up for £1m-plus refurbishments this year – The Spitfire in West Malling, The Anchor in Yalding and the Earls in Maidstone. He added: “We invested £8.3m of capital and £2.4m of revenue in the estate in the financial year and I certainly see us sustaining that level this year. Five years ago that figure was £6.1m in total so you’re looking at nearly double the amount.” Neame added that while it was “inevitable” the company would have fewer tenanted sites over time, it would continue investing in that side of the business. This week it opened the Dover Castle in the village of Teynham, near Faversham, having invested £450,000. The company now has roughly 500 bedrooms across the estate and Neame said it would continue to add accommodation where the opportunity arose, although he pointed out it was often difficult to do so in many of the historic buildings the company occupied. He added: “We’ve made some great acquisitions and worked hard to upgrade the quality and profile of the business, on the managed and tenanted side, and made record levels of investment. It’s been a very pleasing year but we are not complacent. We are very proud of what the team has achieved but we are always looking to improve the experience for our customers.”

Pret A Manger to ‘push ahead with float plans’ despite Jollibee interest: Pret A Manger intends to push ahead with its plans for a possible float on the New York Stock Exchange despite the prospect of a multibillion-dollar takeover by Filipino fast food business Jollibee. On Monday (18 September) it was reported Jollibee, known as the “McDonald’s of the Philippines”, had been in talks with advisors about a possible Pret deal. However, City AM reports that Jollibee and Pret have not been in contact with each other. Any offer would value Pret at more than $1bn based on 2016 core earnings of more than £93m. However, it is thought the company’s value would be higher if it floated successfully on the New York Stock Exchange. Jollibee, with a market value of $5.2bn, operates the largest foodservice network in the Philippines with 2,700 restaurant outlets, including its eponymous chain of fast-food stores. In May, Pret A Manger owner Bridgepoint hired JP Morgan and Jefferies to explore a possible flotation in the US. Bridgepoint told City AM it does not comment on market speculation, while Jollibee could not be reached for comment. Earlier this week, Propel learned Pret A Manger will open its third Veggie Pret site, at an undisclosed London location in October.

TRG Concessions partners with mobile ordering app Grab to launch Heathrow pre-order service: TRG Concessions, part of The Restaurant Group, has partnered with US-based mobile ordering app Grab to launch a restaurant pre-order service at Heathrow. TRG Concessions has launched the service across seven of its brands at the airport – Giraffe, Giraffe STOP, Wondertree, Comptoir Libanais, the Prince of Wales, The Market Gardener and The Curator – allowing users to pre-order, check turnaround time and collect from their chosen restaurant. By downloading the Heathrow Airport Guide app, passengers can select and pay for their dish before collecting ahead of their flight. Each restaurant features a dedicated point for orders via a tablet, which allows staff to communicate directly with the customer. Grab serves 20 airports in the US, with Heathrow the first UK airport to trial the app. TRG Concessions managing director Nick Ayerst said: “Partnering with Grab and Heathrow allows us to incorporate industry-leading technology and innovation into our foodservice operations.” Heathrow head of food and beverage Ben Crowley added: “This enhances the takeaway offer our restaurants provide and allows passengers to enjoy a range of dining options at 30,000 feet.” Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recently reopened his Heathrow restaurant Plane Food and launched Plane Food Grab & Go, a pre-prepared offering passengers can take away to enjoy on their flight.

All Our Bars reopens Greene King pub in Bracknell following £500,000 refurbishment: All Our Bars, led by Paul Wigham, has reopened Greene King pub The Boot in Bracknell, Berkshire, following a £500,000 refurbishment. The pub in Park Road had been closed since the end of April. Wigham said: “The designers have come up with some amazing ideas that really show what a beautiful building this is. It’s looking superb. Once again it has been a brilliant experience working with our partners Greene King, who have been hugely supportive throughout a long renovation process. This is a true retail/pubco partnership that transcends many of the industry issues that are making headlines for the wrong reasons. We look forward to continuing our partnership into the future.” Customers can use new beach huts for alfresco dining during warm weather, while a more formal area is available to hire for functions and private meetings.

Urban Pubs and Bars to open 13th site next week, first central London venue: Urban Pubs and Bars, led by Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap, will open its 13th site – and first in central London – next week. The company will launch The Punch Tavern in Fleet Street on Thursday, 28 September. The grade II-listed building was previously a 19th century “gin palace” and the site is full of period features and nods to its Victorian heritage. The venue will focus on classic cocktails and a selection of gin, whiskey and wine, while retaining its “traditional London boozer feel” and offering a gastro-pub menu. The Punch Tavern is the latest acquisition in as many months for Urban Pubs & Bars following bar restaurant Neighbour and basement cocktail bar Jukes in Kentish Town and Paradise By Way Of Kensal Green. Meanwhile, two of its current estate – The Whippet Inn in Kensal Rise and Wheatsheaf in Tooting Bec – have undergone extensive refurbishments. Pring and Heap sold Realpubs to Greene King in 2011 for £53.1m.

The Good Life Eatery opens fourth site, in St John’s Wood: West London-based health food cafe concept The Good Life Eatery has opened its fourth site, in St John’s Wood. The company, founded in 2013 by Yasmine Larizadeh and Shirin Kuoros, has opened the site in High Street, creating 20 jobs, with support of a £250,000 finance package from HSBC. The Good Life Eatery pioneers “clean, healthy eating” using a diverse range of locally sourced food that accommodates every dietary need. Larizadeh said: “HSBC has been instrumental in helping us expand our business across west London. Our new site in St John’s Wood will help us bring healthy and locally sourced goods to even more customers.” Kevin Dewick, HSBC area director at the West End business banking team, added: “HSBC has a long-standing relationship with The Good Life Eatery and we are delighted to be able to support the opening of this fourth site. Seeing such a young business go from strength to strength gives us even more reason to continue championing and supporting its ambitious growth plans.” The Good Life Eatery’s other sites are in Chelsea, Marylebone and Belgravia. 

The Ivy Collection opens first Scottish site: The Ivy Collection has opened its first site in Scotland. Ivy Brasserie has launched in St Andrew Square after the company signed a 25-year lease for the site in the summer. The 130-cover restaurant also features a bar and 20-cover Parisian-style terrace, while the kitchen is overseen by executive chef Sean Burbidge, former head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus. The group, backed by Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, has also lodged a planning application with Glasgow City Council to open a venue in the city’s Buchanan Street as part of its expansion outside London. In recent weeks, The Ivy Collection has been given the go-ahead to open a brasserie in York and an Ivy Cafe in Blackheath, London. The Ivy Collection currently operates ten brasserie sites, with others “opening soon” in Bath, Cheltenham, Guildford, Harrogate and Tunbridge Wells. There are currently four Ivy Cafe sites, all in London. The company has forecast a total of 30 venues by the end of 2018.

Amber Taverns opens 12th Hogarths Gin Palace, in Lancaster: Community pub operator Amber Taverns has opened its 12th Hogarths Gin Palace, this time in Tamworth in the West Midlands. The company has invested £1.4m in the venue in Lower Gungate on the site of the former Oliver’s bar, creating 30 jobs. Hogarths features more than 150 gins as well as an extensive range of cocktails, wine and beer. The venue also offers a full range of premium lagers and cask ales. Amber Taverns operations director Gary Roberts told the Tamworth Herald: “We look forward to complementing some great pubs on the circuit.” The company owns and operates more than 130 pubs and bars across the Midlands, north west, north east and South Wales. It is due to open its next Hogarths Gin Palace in Lancaster in December after acquiring the freehold of a site in George Street that will undergo a £720,000 refurbishment. Last month, the company reported turnover rose 23.5% to £64,951,802 in the year to 5 February 2017 (2016: £52,602,681). Pre-tax profit rose to £8,735,964 from £8,164,643 the year before. Company Ebitda increased to £14,024,000 from £11,002,000 the year before.

Hickory’s Smokehouse to open Southport site for seventh venue: Hickory’s Smokehouse, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, is to open its seventh site, this time in Southport, Merseyside. The all-American restaurant and bar will open at the former Pageant pub in Folkestone Road “before Christmas”, offering Texas-style beef brisket smoked for 16 hours, barbecue-glazed ribs, mega-stacked burgers and cheesy fries. The restaurant will also offer a children’s play area and cinema room, a covered veranda with an open fire-pit and a large bar. Hickory’s Smokehouse owner Neil McDonnell told the Southport Visiter: “Our sister sites across the north west have been embraced wholeheartedly by the local community so we are really excited about opening another site in beautiful Southport.” In June, Hickory’s Smokehouse said it was hunting for sites of 5,000 to 10,000 square feet with a large alfresco space and a minimum of 60 parking spaces. They needed to be within two-and-a-half hours of Chester. McDonnell founded Hickory’s in 2010 and now has sites in Burton Green, Castle Bromwich, Chester, Rhos-on-Sea and West Kirby, with its Wall Heath venue currently being rebuilt following a major fire last year. Piper Private Equity invested £6m in Hickory’s in October 2014.

Ales From Wales launches £500,000 crowdfunding campaign to open Nottingham pub with six bars selling Welsh beer: A £500,000 crowdfunding campaign has been launched to open a pub in Nottingham selling Welsh craft and real ale from six brewers with six separate bars under one roof. David Hawes is looking to raise the funds to secure a site in the city centre for the venture through the Angel Investment Network platform. Hawes intends to roll out the concept, dubbed “Ales From Wales” to other cities in the UK. He said: “We will serve the very best of Welsh beers, lagers and ciders in bottles, cans and cask/keg. With six separate areas each run by/on behalf of a brewery, we will offer unprecedented choice and keep prices down by stocking everything made by the breweries. By having six bars under one roof, if there’s a queue at one bar customers can try alternatives without leaving the premises, keeping profits in-house. I have applied for the trademark “Ales From Wales”. We have had very favourable feedback from potential customers and bar staff. We have a property lined up but urgently require investment to secure it. Our first objective is to open the “go to” venue in Nottingham and promote widely. Once operating successfully we intend to roll out across other cities in the UK as we would be the only Welsh-themed pub chain. We would either run these ourselves or could operate a franchise scheme. We will be looking to hire bar managers responsible for their brewer’s bar area and bar staff to work solely for a single brewer to maintain focus and build a competitive atmosphere among staff as we intend to offer bonuses for achieving sales targets as a group.”

Italian coffee group Lavazza targets UK as it brews plans for 15 cafes: Italian coffee group Lavazza is targeting the UK as it looks to open up to 15 cafes around the world. The family-owned company has opened its first coffee boutique in the centre of Milan. It offers the company’s trademark espresso as well as siphon-brewed and other types of coffee. Vice-president Marco Lavazza told Reuters: “If this first cafe is successful, we will open between ten and 15 stores in the world’s biggest cities in coming years.” He added that the group would focus on Austria, Britain, France, Germany and the US. The site in Milan, near the La Scala opera house, is close to where Starbucks will open its first Italian store next year.

Crussh introduces ‘fit bowls’ as part of hot food expansion: Crussh, the London-based healthy food and juice brand, has introduced “fit bowls” as part of its largest hot food launch to date, which also includes ten new vegan dishes. The fit bowls include at least four of the advised five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. There are also ten new soup flavours, which feature fewer than 250 calories, alongside hot pots, energy pots, a seasonal brambly fruit juice and an autumn spiced super smoothie. Fit bowl flavours include vegan jackfruit tinga and turkey chilli, while soup flavours include bone broth; lentil, kale and quinoa; and Thai pea and edamame. New hot pots include chicken, chickpea and peanut. Last month, Crussh opened its first concession in partnership with Debenhams and lanched a Food & Juice Bar in a Holland & Barrett store, both in London’s Oxford Street. Crussh has 30 outlets across the capital, including a concession at Sainsbury’s in Pimlico.

The Watch House opens its third coffee and cocktail bar in the capital: London-based coffee and cocktail bar concept The Watch House has opened its third site in the city. The venue has opened in Fetter Lane and is the brand’s first site north of the Thames. The concept offers speciality coffee and breakfast from 7am, with grab-and-go options and European tapas-style plates at lunchtime before turning into a cocktail bar at 5pm. The bar also offers bar snacks such as Padron peppers, meat and cheese boards and triple-cheese bon bons with chorizo ailoi. Lunchtime takeaway options include sandwiches, baguettes and salads, plus hot and board specials, Hot Dinners reports. The venue also offers fare from Crosstown Doughnuts and Fatties Bakery. The Watch House is owned by former architect Roland Horne and has sites in Tower Bridge and Bermondsey Street.

London-based membership wine bar and restaurant Farley Macallan passes 50% mark in £450,000 crowdfunding campaign to open flagship site: London-based membership wine bar and restaurant Farley Macallan has passed the 50% mark in its £450,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open a flagship site in the capital. The concept, launched by Luke Ramsden in Hackney last year, is offering a 28% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 72 investors have pledged £231,040 with 21 days remaining. The pitch states: “Having opened our first location with just £38,000 and in only nine days and generating revenues of £113,000 in our first year, we believe we have achieved real proof of concept with fantastic reviews from London’s media and customers alike. The funds will be spent on acquiring a new location with launch PR and marketing campaigns planned throughout pre-launch. We are well rehearsed at launching quickly and achieving sales quickly. Our community-led membership is designed to reward customers who use the space regularly and in turn create a core group that is the lifeblood of the community. Memberships offer discounted food and beverage, access to events such as wine tastings, seasonal parties and free room hire fees for private events. We aim to refine the concept over the next five years with a further fund-raising round scheduled in 2020. After that, we will target a sale to take the business nationally and internationally.”

Leon launches autumn menu: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched its new autumn menu, which focuses on “meat as a side”. Leon said a survey had revealed 40% of its customers were making an effort to eat less meat. The menu features three new dishes, including a truffle mushroom burger. Leon will also launch its eighth cookbook, Happy Soups, written by chief executive and co-founder John Vincent, and food journalist and chef Rebecca Seal, on Thursday, 5 October. Vincent, Henry Dimbleby and Allegra McEvedy founded Leon in 2004, which now operates 53 restaurants. Last month, the company sealed a tie-up to expand in Norway and Sweden, with plans to open 20 sites in five years. The push followed a meeting between Vincent and Jens Ulltveit-Moe, whose company Umoe runs more than 360 venues in the region. Ulltveit-Moe took an undisclosed stake in Leon as part of its agreement to open restaurants across Scandinavia. In March, Leon sold a £25m stake to private equity house Spice as part of its efforts to accelerate international expansion.

Ennismore to start expansion of Breddos Tacos brand next month with second London site: Gleneagles owner Ennismore is to start expansion of Mexican street food concept Breddos Tacos – its joint venture with founders Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney – by opening a second London site, in Carnaby next month. The venue will open in Kingly Street on Saturday, 7 October with 84 covers – double the size of the debut Breddos Tacos site that opened in Clerkenwell in December. Unlike its sister, the Carnaby site will offer a breakfast menu, with dishes such as smoked brisket, potatoes, fried egg and hot-sauce tacos. The venue will also feature a late-night downstairs bar offering mezcal and margaritas, while new restaurant dishes include wood-grilled whole octopus with mole amarillo, and crispy pig’s head with burnt habanero, alongside ice-cream tacos. Dudhia and Whitney began Breddos Tacos as a “makeshift taco shack” in a Hackney car park in 2011. Its website states: “Our food is influenced by the hundreds of roadside taquerias and restaurants we have encountered on our travels throughout America and Mexico, while utilising the best of British produce.”

Douglas Jack – ‘Shepherd Neame has high-value, strongly positioned asset base that can prove resilient to changes in consumer confidence’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said Shepherd Neame has a high-value, strongly positioned asset base that has position to grow its profitability and prove resilient to changes in consumer confidence. Issuing an ‘Add’ note on the shares with a target price of 1,325p, Jack said: “In the year to June, managed like-for-like sales rose 8.1% (8.0% drink, 7.7% food and 10.1% accommodation); tenanted average profits rose 5.6%; and brewing own-brand volumes, excluding contracts, grew 3.9%. During the past four years, managed like-for-like sales have averaged 5.9% (versus 1.4% for the industry) and tenanted like-for-like Ebitdar has averaged 2.7%. Shepherd Neame’s 66 managed outlets and 253 tenanted outlets are well positioned, in our view. A total of 69% are located in Kent, with central London being the second-largest area. Supported by strong investment and improving product range, the estates are oriented to the outperforming premium end of the market and have substantial scope to grow average profits, in our view. In 2017, the company added 13 managed outlets, yet our forecasts cautiously assume just one new managed outlet per annum. Our forecasts also assume managed like-for-like sales slow to 2.0% to 3.5% per annum (with no growth in margins), tenanted like-for-like Ebitdar slows to 1.0%, with brewing sales and profits declining in 2018E and 2019E. Shepherd Neame should benefit from a material improvement in transport links within Kent, which should help drive population growth and property prices in the county. Over the past five years, Kent’s population has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 1.0% (versus 0.6% for the UK) and is forecast to grow at 1.1% per annum over the next five years. For an 87% freehold estate, the net debt/Ebitda ratio, at 3.3 times, is not onerous, in our view. The biggest downside risk to our forecasts is the cost environment does not abate and consumer confidence deteriorates. However, if the sector’s prospects worsen, we would expect most other operators to be more badly affected than Shepherd Neame, which has low gearing (38%) and greater capacity to increase expansion. We are initiating coverage with an ‘Add’ recommendation, expecting the relatively close connection between the share price and net asset value to continue. We forecast Shepherd Neame’s net asset value per share to increase to 1,468p in 2020E."

Stonegate to launch new Yates’s menu this week: Stonegate Pub Company is to launch a new menu across its Yates’s estate on Friday (22 September). The menu will include a revamped selection of feel-good food including Cornish pasty, and cheese and potato pie, which have been added to the Legends section, and an Even Bigger Breakfast meal that has been added to the revamped Big Plates section. New burgers include a Bombay burger (mango chutney-topped southern-fried chicken fillet between two mini naan breads and topped with a chicken tikka bite alongside poppadoms, chips and curry sauce). Another addition is the NY Deli Burger (6oz beef burger with pulled pastrami beef, cheese, gherkins and American mustard), while lighter bites include vegetable coconut curry and Mexican pasta bake, which are both vegetarian. New desserts include chocolate orange marble cake and treacle tart. Yates’s marketing manager Alex Botting said: “We’ve created twists on customer favourites to give them something new and exciting to tuck into.” 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).

BrewDog to take Collabfest overseas: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to take its annual #Collabfest event overseas for the first time. The event, in its fifth year, will take place from Friday, 20 October to Sunday, 22 October and involve BrewDog’s UK bar crews teaming up with a local craft brewer to create and brew a one-off beer. The event culminates in all the new beers being available during the weekend at a select number of BrewDog bars. This year’s event will include teams from Swedish sites in Gothenburg, Malmo, Kungsholmen and Södermalm, as well as Germany’s BrewDog Berlin for the first time.

Bristol-based pop-up Scandinavian restaurant concept to open permanent site in city: Bristol-based pop-up Scandinavian restaurant concept Dela is to open a permanent site in the city this week. Owners Mike Orme and Lara Lindsay will launch the restaurant at the Mivart Studios in Easton on Friday (22 September). They have renovated the studio, using original features of the Victorian former factory to create a space with high ceilings and Scandinavian design influences. The duo have spent two years working towards Dela’s inception, running a number of pop-up events at Harts Bakery. Dela, which means “share” in Swedish, will be an all-day restaurant combining locally grown produce and Scandinavian influences with a seasonal changing menu. Dishes will include Danish sourdough pancakes with a choice of butternut squash, sweet pickled mushrooms, sea bass ceviche and pig’s cheek ragu, reports the Bristol Post.

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