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Fri 20th Apr 2018 - Update: Pizza Hut sale completes, Lebanese chain makes UK debut, £2.3bn coffee opportunity
Pizza Hut UK management completes buy-out: Pizza Hut’s UK bosses have taken control of the restaurant brand in a deal estimated to be worth £100m. Rutland Partners, which bought the UK franchise from US owners Yum! Brands in 2012 for £60m, has sold the business to its boss Jens Hofma, with the private equity group exiting the casual dining sector altogether. Hofma has funded the deal with the help of Pricoa Capital Group and pledged to keep growing the company despite tough conditions across the sector. A perfect storm of cost pressures from rising business rates and wages has combined with an oversupply of restaurants and more cautious consumer spending. Hofma, who has run the business since Rutland’s involvement, will aim to grow the 260-strong estate. The first UK restaurant was launched in 1973. Hofma said with the restaurant refurbishment programme now almost complete, the new ownership structure would look to open new sites if it found the right locations. He said: “As we take control of the next stage, our mission remains unchanged – to be the most loved place to eat and work.” The latest available accounts for the company show revenue rose to £232m in the year to 4 December 2016, up from £225m the year before. A rise in operating costs and a one-off charge to pay consultants meant pre-tax profits dropped a third to £5.2m.

Lebanese restaurant chain makes UK debut with launch of three London sites: Lebanese restaurant chain Paramount Lebanese Kitchen has launched its brand in the UK with the opening of three restaurants in London. The company, which specialises in providing a “fresh, healthy and authentic Lebanese dining experience”, has opened the doors of its flagship UK restaurant in Gloucester Road, acquired by Simon Carson, of SC&Co retained property agents. At the same time, it has opened outlets in London Street in Paddington, and Coldharbour Lane, Brixton. Founded in Ontario in 1997, Paramount has more than 60 locations across Canada, the US and Middle East. It provides traditional Lebanese food that is 100% halal. Plans are under way to open an additional 26 locations globally, with further expansion across the UK and Europe, as well as in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The chain is expected to have more than 80 restaurants worldwide by the end of the year. Founder and chief executive Mohamed Fakih said: “We are delighted to be bringing the Paramount experience to London. With the opening of these three restaurants, which marks the start of our planned expansion in the UK and Europe, guests will appreciate the quality and authentic cuisine Paramount has to offer. The UK is an exciting new opportunity for us and our aim is to bring a unique Lebanese dining experience to guests who may not yet have had the chance to experience Middle Eastern cuisine in the Paramount environment.”

Operators missing out on £2.3bn lactose-intolerant coffee opportunity: Operators are missing out on a £2.3bn opportunity, according to a study that found more than four-fifths (81%) of lactose-intolerant coffee drinkers would purchase hot drinks 20 times more every month if there was a wider choice. A survey of lactose-intolerant UK adults by foodservice business Arla Pro found almost eight in ten would be more loyal to a coffee shop if it offered a lactose-free option, a figure rising to 84% for under-35s and 91% for 35 to 44-year-olds. Respondents said the milk or milk alternative in their coffee was important to the taste (96%), texture (91%) and appearance (82%) of their drinks. Almost 60% admitted they drank their coffee black out of necessity rather than preference. The data also showed plant-based milk alternatives didn’t always satisfy lactose-intolerant coffee drinkers. With an average hot drink spend of £2.83 per visit and an estimated 8% of the adult population identifying as lactose-intolerant, the figures equate to a potential monthly spend of more than £195m, the company said. Arla Pro channel manager Catriona Mantle said: “Serving a high-quality cup of lactose-free coffee has the potential to give a coffee operator the edge over a competitor as it will help them capture a small army of loyal coffee drinkers.”

Ceru to open second London site, in Soho: EIS-backed Levantine casual dining concept Ceru has opened its second London site. Ceru was founded by husband-and-wife team Barry and Patricia Hilton in 2014, launching a flagship restaurant in Sydney before opening a UK version in South Kensington in December 2016. The Hiltons will open a second site in the capital in D’Arblay Street, Soho, next month. The 2,000 square foot, 65-cover site will include a chef’s table, dedicated cocktail bar and retractable terrace windows. Interiors will feature a glass wall, wood-panelling and a combination of high stools and low-level banquettes. Moroccan ceramics will include handcrafted pendant lamps, fabric-lined walls and a palm tree. Sharing plates will include classic mezze, grilled meat, salad and desserts with signature dishes including slow-roasted lamb shoulder, zucchini and feta fritters, apple, mint and pomegranate salad, and dark-chocolate mousse with sour cherry and pistachio. The drinks list will feature Levantine wine, champagne, beer, cocktails and homemade lemonade. Barry Hilton said: “The last three years have been an incredible journey and learning curve. The brand format is now proven and we are excited to open our second site. We know there’s a strong appetite for healthy, fresh and nutritious Middle Eastern cuisine and we’re confident our style of cooking and accessible pricing will be a big hit in Soho.”

‘Disappointing’ government bid to cut plastic waste could ‘add to sector pressures’: The government’s bid to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England could add to the industry’s mounting pressures, UKHospitality has said. The government’s move follows a number of voluntary initiatives by operators to cut waste and pollution, while any legislation could lead to a “sense of confusion with overlapping government policy”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is disappointing the government seems intent on a legislative approach as the industry has already made good progress in reducing waste through voluntary measures. It is undeniable this serious issue needs tackling but anything of this gravitas needs to be considered and executed effectively and realistically. This looks set to introduce yet another burden on hospitality margins, with any additional cost coming on top of already high business rates and employment costs. There is a large amount of government policy already being proposed in this particular area – deposit schemes, packaging reforms, and plastic taxes – and with the move for an outright ban there is a sense of confusion with overlapping government policy, regardless of the wider effects on UK businesses.” UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping will hold their Unpack The Future Of Hospitality event on Thursday, 10 May covering sustainability issues. “The hospitality industry must do more to address the issue and provide solutions, share best practice and pledge to do more,” Nicholls said.

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