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Fri 5th Jan 2018 - Update: Halewood results, Friska site closure, Humble Grape
Halewood Wines and Spirits report turnover and profit growth as it invests in craft producers: Halewood Wine and Spirits has reported turnover grew to £216.7m in the year to 1 July 2017, up from £214.6m the year before. Ebitda rose to £10,735,000 from £7,573,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit climbed to £4,862,000 from £2,070,000 the year before. The company said: “The group strategy of developing a premium range of artisanal craft spirits and beer alongside continued investment in brand marketing, route-to-market distribution and vertical integration has delivered revenue and profit growth. The group’s investment in production capability and acquisitions, especially distilling, brewing and sourcing has stimulated development of higher quality liquids to create strong brand provenance and a point-of-difference. Key acquisitions include Hawkshead Brewery, City of London Distillery and Sadler’s Ales. The group has continued to delist low margin and non-profitable lines, rationalised brands and product ranges, moving from a volume focus to a margin-driven branded business.” The company closed its Willow Water plant in November 2017 to allow expansion of its newly acquired Hawkshead Brewery. In August 2017, Halewood bought a further 20% of the shares in the City of London Distillery, taking it to ownership of 80% of shares. The company plans to open a new distillery in Scotland in 2018.

Friska closes Birmingham site to focus on Manchester growth: Friska founders Ed Brown and Griff Holland have announced the closure of their Birmingham site in Brindley Place. The unit was the first site in Birmingham for the quick service restaurant (QSR) company and was opened ‘with much optimism’ in February 2016, they reported. The company stated: “However, despite a great reputation as a breakfast and lunch time venue, Friska has struggled to establish itself in an area which seems to be more of a natural home to full service restaurant operators and bars like CAU, Wagamama and Slug & Lettuce. This, coupled with a lack of a solid property pipeline within Birmingham, has forced the founders to close the site and refocus their energy on Manchester as their target cluster city for 2018. Despite the difficult decision being made, the founders fully expect to be back in Birmingham in the not too distant future.” Co-founder Ed Brown who leads on the commercial side of things, said: “Birmingham is a tremendously vibrant and growing city and despite Brindley Place’s underperformance we fully expect to be back in city in the not too distant future.” Co-founder Griff Holland added: “We cannot speak more highly of our team and the reputation they have built since opening. Making this call has been the toughest decision we’ve had to make and our main focus is on supporting the team while they look for new employment opportunities. Recruitment is always a challenge and I’d encourage any hospitality brands in Birmingham to get in touch with me personally if they are looking for great people to join their teams. Our Brindley Place team really would be an asset to any company within the hospitality sector.” Despite the difficult start to the year, Friska is planning its second Manchester site which will be opening in St Peters Square in March 2018.

Humble Grape to launch City wine bar next month for fourth London site: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, is to open a wine bar in the City of London next month for its fourth site in the capital. The venue is due to open in Devonshire Row on Thursday, 1 February offering 30 wines by the glass and a further 400 by the bottle from a larger, evolving list. The venue will also feature a “winemaker wall”, which will reveal where the wines originate from and stories behind the vineyards, Hot Dinners reports. The food menu by executive head chef Kishen Raheja will feature small plates focusing on ethically sourced, seasonal ingredients such as cuttlefish stew with chorizo, fennel and creme fraiche, and duck confit with clementine. There will also be cheese from north London-based Wildes Cheese, while fish will be delivered straight from the dayboats. The venue will seat 54 people over two floors with wine also available to purchase to take away. Humble Grape’s other sites are in Fleet Street, Battersea and Islington. In May, the company raised almost £1.3m for expansion on crowdfunding platform Seedrs.

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