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Fri 8th Dec 2017 - Update: Charles Wells, Texture Restaurant Group, Tim Hortons, Domino's, Hollywood Bowl et al
Craig Mayes to leave Charles Wells: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells has announced Craig Mayes will step down from his role as director of managed houses by the end of the year. Following the joint venture with Little Gems and after ten years with Charles Wells, the company said Mayes had decided to move on to his next venture and would leave Charles Wells this month. The three managed pub operations reporting to Mayes will report to chief executive Justin Phillimore. Benjamin Smith will take on the leadership of Pizza Pots and Pints, Ariane Lapegue will continue to run Charles Wells France, while Apostrophe pubs will report into Steve Wilkins. Phillimore said: “I would like to thank Craig for his enormous enthusiasm and hard work in driving the growth of our Apostrophe, Pizza Pots and Pints, and French managed operations over the past three years and, prior to that, our leased and tenanted pub business. I wish him every success.”

Italy-based operator launches £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to enter UK market with London opening: Italy-based operator Miccone, which specialises in the bread it is named after, has launched a £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to launch in the UK by opening a site in London. Founder Giuseppe Dabbene has been testing the concept in the capital by operating a food truck that sells savoury and sweet miccone. Now he is raising the funds to open a permanent site and is offering a 20% equity stake in return for the investment. The pitch states: “In 2014 we opened our first store in Pavia in Italy (€680,000 revenue in three years, €58,840 Ebitda). We feel this is the right time to expand into the UK market, where 22% of British adults choose Italian food for eating out. London has been important to us for testing Miccone thanks to the great success and audience response we had with our food truck. Now our mission is to open our first site in London to make this niche Italian traditional food known to an international audience. Our savoury miccone is stuffed with cold cuts and cheese or other international ingredients. All this is matched by wine and craft beer. The sweet version is combined with jam and honey. From leftover miccone bread we create our bread cake. All of this is matched by high-quality coffee, which we roast in-store.”

Texture Restaurant Group promotes Clement Robert to food and beverage director as group operations director departs: London-based Texture Restaurant Group has promoted Clement Robert to food and beverage director. Robert joined the company, which operates Michelin-starred restaurant Texture and 28°-50° Wine Workshop and Kitchen, in 2015, becoming group head sommelier and wine buyer. He will take over the responsibilities of group operations director Sid Clark, who is leaving the group to pursue new challenges at the end of this year. Robert’s new duties will include running all aspects of the business and working closely with chef-patron Aggi Sverrisson to develop 28°-50°’s food and wine offering. Hailing from Normandy, Clement trained as a sommelier at Michelin-starred restaurant La Licorne in the Loire. He graduated with a sommelier degree in 2005 before moving to England the following year. By 2008 he had worked his way up to head sommelier at the Hotel Du Vin in Cambridge. In 2009, he won the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ International Young Sommelier of the Year competition before being named 2013’s UK Sommelier of the Year. In 2015, he achieved the trade’s highest accolade, master sommelier. Sverrisson said: “We are delighted to see Clement take on a new position. His extensive experience and industry knowledge will bring perspective and expertise to this exciting new role.” Robert added: “I am looking forward to stepping into the role of food and beverage director, maintaining Texture’s Michelin-starred status, and strengthening 28°-50°’s excellent reputation.”

Tim Hortons to open fourth Scottish site, in Hamilton next week: Tim Hortons, the Canadian cafe and bake shop owned by Restaurant Brands, is to open its fourth site in Scotland, this time in Hamilton, on Tuesday (12 December). SK Group is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons and the Hamilton opening continues its nationwide expansion plan. The first Tim Hortons UK venue opened in Argyle Street, Glasgow, in early June and the brand has since added two sites in the city – at the Silverburn shopping centre and Strathkelvin Retail Park. It has also opened a restaurant in Cardiff. Earlier this week, Tim Hortons revealed it would open its debut UK drive-thru and first site in England in Manchester, with a further four sites in the pipeline – in Warrington, Bury, Altrincham and Sale. Kevin Hydes, chief finance and commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “We’re thrilled to announce we’re opening in Hamilton following the success of our Glasgow openings. Every restaurant we’ve opened so far has been met with off-the-chart excitement levels!” Hamilton is the fourth-largest town in Scotland (population 53,200). Tim Hortons is planning up to 100 UK sites. The company was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where “everyone would feel at home”.

Brexit trade deal must ‘include pathway’ for businesses to plan ahead: A Brexit trade deal must be “brought forward as soon as possible” and include a pathway for businesses to plan their investment and employment decisions, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has said. The announcement follows confirmation sufficient progress has been made in negotiations between the European Union and UK government for parties to start hammering out a trade deal. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Talks will now turn towards a trade deal. This includes an agreement on EU and UK citizens’ rights to work and live in the UK and across the EU, which the ALMR has been pressing for. It is now critical an agreement is brought forward as soon as possible that avoids tariffs on food and drink, and non-tariff barriers to begin to return certainty to businesses. In the short-term, it is vital a transitional phase is agreed and a pathway set out for businesses to plan their investment and employment decisions.”

Domino’s to appoint PwC as auditors in place of Ernst & Young: Domino’s Pizza is set to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as its auditor in place of Ernst & Young. Domino’s stated: “The company announces its intention to appoint PwC as external auditor commencing with the financial year ending on 29 December 2019. The group’s current auditor, Ernst & Young, will continue in its role as external auditor until the completion of the audit for the financial year ending 30 December 2018. The appointment follows a competitive tender process overseen by the audit committee. The board would like to thank each of the other firms who participated in the audit tender process. A formal recommendation regarding the new appointment will be put to shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting.”

Douglas Jack – expect strong trading news flow from Hollywood Bowl and Ten Entertainment during next six months: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said he expects strong trading news flow from bowling operators Hollywood Bowl and Ten Entertainment Group during the next six months. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on Hollywood Bowl’s shares with a target price of 215p ahead of its preliminary results on Monday (11 December), Jack said: “The 3.5% like-for-like sales increase was all volume/spend per head rather than pricing. The pick-up to 5.8% in the second half, versus 1.2% in half-one, largely stemmed from softer comparables (3.2% versus the first half’s 10.4%) and higher rainfall (that benefits bowling businesses) in the fourth quarter. For 2018E we are forecasting just 2.5% like-for-like sales growth; each extra 1% of like-for-like sales equates to a 4% upgrade. Over the long-term we believe there is good potential for the company to grow its average number of customer visits from 1.3 times per annum. This could be achieved through refurbishments, new products, CRM, marketing and promotional activity rewarding more regular attendance. Potentially significant rewards await if Hollywood Bowl and Ten Entertainment can further raise the perception of the bowling sector. We forecast just a 40 basis points increase in Ebit margins in 2017E, even though 50 basis points growth was achieved in the first half when like-for-like sales grew by just 1.2%. Given the like-for-like sales pick-up in the second half (80% to 85% of incremental sales typically flows through to profits) and minimal exposure to labour cost inflation, we believe there is little downside risk to margin forecasts. We believe our forecasts are cautious by anticipating just 100 basis points of Ebit margin growth between 2017E and 2020E, despite a new wave of innovation that includes improving labour scheduling, pins on strings benefits (only a 10% return is in our forecasts) and 2.5% to 3.0% like-for-like sales. Hollywood Bowl’s balance sheet is strong in our view, with net debt/Ebitdar forecast to fall below three times in 2019E. On Monday the company should announce a return of cash to shareholders, possibly through a special dividend. We believe the two leading bowling operators have substantial scope to grow through self-help, increasing their dominance of the sector. They have both met expectations despite trading through a relatively unfavourable, hot and dry year, and both can look forward to easy weather comparables in the year ahead. We expect the trading news flow for both companies to be strong over the next six months.”

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