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Fri 9th Feb 2018 - Update: Jamie's Italian CVA gets approval, UK's first pod rooms, Esquires Coffee et al
Jamie’s Italian receives CVA approval from creditors: Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group has had its Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) approved by creditors, which is set to lead to the closure of at least 12 Jamie’s Italian sites. Under the terms of the CVA, the company will close sites in Bath, Bristol, Bluewater, Chelmsford, Greenwich, Harrogate, Kingston-upon-Thames, Milton Keynes, Piccadilly Diner, Reading, St Albans and Threadneedle Street in London. It will also be able to secure rent reductions on the remaining estate. The company said in a statement: “We are pleased to have received overwhelming support from our creditors for our proposal to reshape Jamie’s Italian restaurants. We have a strong brand and are focused on continuing to deliver the levels of service, taste and experience our loyal customers deserve. We are working hard to ensure our estate is fit for the current trading environment and we feel confident this newly shaped business will provide strong opportunities for growth and profitability.” The company previously said the remaining sites in the UK would be unaffected and continue to trade normally. Jamie’s Italian franchises managed through Jamie’s Italian International are also unaffected. The Jamie Oliver Media Group and Jamie Oliver Licensing Group, which are managed and run separately, are also unaffected. The closures come on top of the six Jamie’s Italian closures announced a year ago. Those closures reduced the chain to 36 sites and another has shut since. This resulted in the company reporting a pre-tax loss of £9.9m, compared with a profit of £2.4m the previous year after a one-off hit of £10.9m from the closures. The restaurant company was founded by Oliver and Gennaro Contaldo in Oxford in 2008. It grew rapidly into a chain of more than 60 restaurants worldwide and had plans to expand further. However, it recently began to struggle and AlixPartners was hired in November to draw up a turnaround plan.

St Christopher’s Inns launches UK’s first pod rooms, at London Bridge hostel: St Christopher’s Inns, which is owned by pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, has launched pod rooms at its London Bridge site. The venue is offering tiny capsule bedrooms from £19 that come with bedding, a reading light, and free Wi-Fi and earplugs. Capsule hotels have been a mainstay of large Japanese cities for a while but the company said these were the first in the UK. St Christopher’s Inn Village London Bridge offers 26 pods that feature a black-out blind instead of a door at the entrance, The Sun reports. There are also plugs and USB ports for phones and laptops. If booked directly, guests also get a continental breakfast. Beds cost from £19 in low season and from £34 in high season, while for an extra fee guests can rent lockers, towels, hairdryers and plug adapters. St Christopher’s Inns operates more than 20 hostels across Europe.

Esquires Coffee secures Putney site for new headquarters and 35th UK store, plans 150 additional venues by 2021: Rapidly expanding Esquires Coffee has secured a site in Putney, south west London, for its new headquarters and 35th site in the UK. The company has taken over two units at Riverbank House in Putney Bridge Approach that will also house the brand’s test kitchen with plans to install a coffee roaster. Esquires Coffee founder and UK managing director Doug Williamson said: “We’re entering a new phase for Esquires Coffee, pushing ever further ahead of the ubiquitous brands to deliver a stylised, localised and community-focused experience. In this instance, we’ve purchased a shop from an amazing independent operator, who poured their blood, sweat and tears into their business but ultimately could not compete with the competitive pressures from the big branded chains. We’re proud to protect the indie culture and excited to be able to celebrate the indie spirit in which this shop was founded.” Williamson founded Esquires Coffee in Vancouver in 1993, expanding to the UK in 2000. The company, which operates franchised and non-franchised stores, said it was in talks with several regional developers and plans to open 150 additional sites by 2021. Openings in the pipeline include Bournemouth, Canterbury, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells and Oxford.

Five Points Brewing Company buys Hackney pub that sits on junction it’s named after: Hackney-based Five Points Brewing Company has acquired The Pembury Tavern pub, which sits on the junction the company is named after. The pub has been acquired from Individual Pubs and sits at the five-point junction that links Dalston Lane to Pembury Road, Amhurst Road and Lower Clapton Road. It was built in the 1860s and restored in 2006 following a fire, going on to become a pioneering venue in Hackney’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Five Points Brewing Company was founded five years ago and now produces more than two million pints of beer a year. Ed Mason, co-founder and managing director of Five Points, told the Hackney Gazette: “The Pembury Tavern has pioneered the appreciation of real ale and great beer in Hackney for generations, and we’re really excited to be able to take the reins at this legendary boozer.” Individual Pubs managing director Richard Naisby added: “The Pembury Tavern has been a fantastic pub for us over the years but when we were approached by Five Points about a possible sale, the geographical sense was difficult to ignore. Five Points is based within 100 yards. We are proud to have brought so much to the renaissance of good beer in Hackney.”

ALMR reacts to government employment plan: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has backed steps to address illegal use of unpaid interns but is calling on the government to provide additional clarity. Responding to the government’s Good Work plan, ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “This is a welcome proactive approach from the government in an area many employers and employees feel passionately about. We do not want to see abuse of internships and action to ensure employees are paid should help increase transparency and confidence across businesses. We do, however, need to see more guidance on issues such as work experience, where young people particularly those still at school are being offered short-term placements in businesses, as these can provide a valuable first taste of work. We want to make sure these opportunities are still available and that businesses are fully aware of their responsibilities. We will be working with the minister to ensure information is readily available and communicated to the sector.” The ALMR also responded to government measures to address perceived deficiencies in flexible working practices, saying it had missed an opportunity to overhaul NICs for younger workers that would have benefited workers and businesses looking to invest in staff. Nicholls added: “Any changes to the rate of National Living Wage or Minimum Wage for flexible workers should come as a result of appropriate consultation and assessment by the Low Pay Commission and should reflect economic circumstances and be affordable for businesses.”

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