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Thu 5th Jul 2018 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

BDO – attractive returns to put wet-led operators on radar of more investors in next 12 months: Wet-led pub operators are expected to be on the radar of investors in the next 12 months as more take note of the attractive returns available in the sector, according to a new report. BDO mergers and acquisitions director Tom Barnard has predicted groups such as ETM, Drake & Morgan, New World Trading Company (NWTC), The Alchemist, and Brewhouse & Kitchen are all likely to receive “regular knocks on the door”. Similarly, operators such as White Brasserie Co, Peach Pub Company, Upham Group, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, and Seafood Pub Company were also likely to be “on the radar for investors”. Looking ahead to the next 12 months in the latest BDO restaurants and bars report, he said: “High-quality pub businesses are always in demand due to the strong returns available when groups get it right. A clear difference in the pub sector compared with the casual dining world is the existence of a much broader and varied trade buyer pool, which provides for a number of merger and acquisitions strategies. The large and regional brewers are all likely to be in action looking to further boost their distribution capability through acquisition, with mergers and acquisitions likely centred on acquiring quality freeholds in geographically appropriate areas. Fuller’s, BrewDog and Young’s have all actively acquired or made positive statements about their appetite. BrewDog had been rumoured to be running the rule over numerous London pub groups in an attempt to grow its distribution capability before settling on Draft House. Watch out for further acquisitions from the 'Punks' over the next 12 months. We expect well-capitalised groups such as City Pub Group; Vine Acquisitions, backed by Patron; and Stonegate, backed by TDR, to continue actively looking to acquire in the space to deliver growth for their investors. Equally, there continues to be strong private equity interest in the sector for quality operators with differentiated propositions who are able to demonstrate the ability to scale and deliver strong returns. There are a number of exciting, fast-growing managed pub and bar groups that are likely to be on investors’ radars over the next 12 to 18 months, presenting the possibility of a wave of consolidation in the managed pub arena. Well-known groups such as ETM, Drake & Morgan, NWTC, The Alchemist, and Brewhouse & Kitchen are all likely to receive regular knocks on the door. Similarly, strong operators such as White Brasserie Co, Peach Pub Company, Upham Group, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, and Seafood Pub Company are also likely to be on the radar for investors given their high-quality, authentic pub offerings. Moving into the summer, the improved weather and a prolonged England World Cup campaign should hopefully provide strong trading conditions for many pub businesses.”

Industry News:

Propel launches Women’s Entrepreneur Conference: Propel has partnered with Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott to launch the sector’s first conference featuring an all-female line-up of company leaders. The event takes place on Tuesday, 4 September at One Moorgate Place, London. Speakers will be Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers (“How to ascertain if your business idea is genius or madness”); Mowgli founder Nisha Katona (“From barrister to bunny chow: why risk it all for restaurants?”); Sophie Bathgate, of Sophie’s Steakhouse (“What I would do differently next time”); Artizian founder Alison Frith (“How to market a startup”); Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars founder Mary Mclaughlin (“Growing an idea from startup to sustainable”); Eve Bugler, founder of BabaBoom (“How to keep the joy when it’s all on your shoulders”); Jane O’Riordan, founder of The Dynamo (“The importance of patience”); Sally Jackson, owner of The Pink Pig Farm (“The ten hardest lessons I’ve learned”); Christine Winton, of Siam Eatery (“Can you have work-life balance when you start a business?”); Vanessa Hall, co-founder of Jack & Alice (“The importance of staying true to your values when you start and expand your business”); and Laura Harper-Hinton, co-founder of Caravan (“Why people are key to your success”). Elliott said: “Female entrepreneurs are making an enormous contribution to the hospitality sector – but we need even more of them. The conference is intended as a showcase of some of the sector’s best female entrepreneurs and to encourage even more of them to take the plunge.” Propel managing director Paul Charity added: “If our sector is to truly serve its market, we need more companies led at senior levels by women. We hope companies send their brightest female talent to the conference to pick up inspiration and develop their entrepreneurial talent.” Tickets are £195 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers, £245 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691.

Nominations invited for Wireless Social Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Which female entrepreneur has most impressed you in the past year? Propel is inviting nominations for the Wireless Social Entrepreneur of the Year, which will be presented on Tuesday, 4 September at the end of the Women’s Entrepreneur Conference. Readers are invited to sent their nominations to Propel managing director Paul Charity at paul.charity@propelinfo.com

UKHospitality backs Grimsey Review and calls on government to honour commitment to review business rates system: UKHospitality has backed the second review by former Wickes and Iceland chief executive Bill Grimsey and reiterated its call for the government to honour its manifesto commitment to review the business rates system. Grimsey Review 2 states high streets must stop relying on retail and recommends an overhaul of the business rates system and a ban on out-of-town developments. In his report, Grimsey said town centres should focus on alternatives to retail such as leisure, entertainment, education, arts and commercial office space. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The bricks-and-mortar businesses, particularly customer-focused venues, are increasingly paying the price for a digital economy that does not pay its fair share of taxes and is under-regulated. Hospitality is the third-largest private sector employer in the UK, double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined. It has played a key part in helping the economy through tough times. Our venues are at the heart of communities across Britain but are increasingly at threat from a plethora of property and employment costs. Eating and drinking venues are the heartbeat of high streets and town centres but are being disproportionately hit by business rates. We have already seen about 6,000 job losses in hospitality this year and it’s no coincidence. Unless action is taken, that figure will keep rising.” Grimsey said in his report: “There is no confidence in business rates. It is accelerating shop closures in many towns and is an outdated and unfair tax. There has been too much timid tinkering in the margins by Westminster and local government.” Meanwhile, UKHospitality has warned any increases to PPL’s Specially Featured Entertainment (SFE) tariff would place a considerable burden on venues and limit their ability to offer recorded music. PPL has begun formally consulting on a revised SFE tariff, which would apply to a range of businesses in the hospitality sector. Nicholls said: “We see no reason why there should be a need to fundamentally change the SFE tariff and increase costs for businesses already struggling against a swathe of taxes.”

Company News:

Greene King plans 100 redundancies, 25 jobs created: Brewer and retailer Greene King has announced a proposed restructure of its office teams based in Bury St Edmunds and Burton-upon-Trent. It is understood about 100 roles in total are at risk across the two locations, although 25 roles will be created as part of the proposal in addition to vacancies available. A Greene King spokesman said: “The industry in which we operate is facing considerable cost pressures – and we are not immune. We need to focus on supporting our pubs and believe the proposed structure will deliver a simpler, more effective way of working and at the same time reduce costs. We are working hard to minimise the number of redundancies and are supporting any colleague who is at risk of redundancy by trying to find an alternative role in the business. This decision has not been taken lightly but is critical to ensure Greene King is sustainable and fit for the future.”

Easycoffee secures £10m investment to roll out vending machines: Easycoffee has secured £10m investment from Stellar Asset Management to roll out 800 vending machines nationally in the next year. Easycoffee has grown rapidly since it launched in 2016 and recently installed its 50th vending machine, matched by serving its millionth cup of coffee in its eight stores. The investment from Stellar Asset Management more than triples the amount secured in earlier capital-raising rounds. Easycoffee chief executive Nathan Lowry said: “We are excited to move forward with our ambitious growth plans thanks to this significant investment. Vending is a highly profitable business driven by brand recognition. This investment is an endorsement that the Easycoffee brand, like its sister brand Easyjet, stands for a quality product and service at a value price.” Jonathan Gain, of Stellar, added: “Stellar is delighted with this deal. We are committed to offering our investors maximum investment diversification and Easycoffee will sit alongside our other qualifying business activities including renewable energy, and managing and operating hotels. We are looking forward to working with Nathan and the team and the exciting growth opportunities in this market.” In May, Lowry told Propel he expects the company to open 30 to 40 sites in the next 12 months as part of plans to grow the value-led concept to 200 outlets. The company has signed seven development deals including in London and the south east, the north west, East Midlands and Scotland as it prepares to ramp up expansion of the eight-strong portfolio. 

Leon reports full-year like-for-likes up 0.9% as turnover passes £55m: Healthy fast food brand Leon has reported like-for-like sales increased 0.9% for the year to 31 December 2017. The company has experienced eight months of “strong” like-for-like growth with like-for-like sales up 10.1% in the first half of 2018. Turnover for the year to 31 December 2017 was up to £56,285,800 compared with £42,129,860 the previous year, while adjusted Ebitda rose to £3.6m from £3.5m the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £1,829,270, compared with £321,584 the previous year. During the period Leon opened five company-owned sites, taking the total to 39, while there were four franchise openings, taking the total number to 13. Leon raised £7m in new equity to progress international restaurant openings and strengthen the balance sheet. It welcomed new investor Spice Private Equity as a significant part of the transaction. Management is continuing to make “considered but ambitious” international growth plans for Leon in Europe and the US, where its first restaurant will open in Washington DC later this summer, alongside UK expansion. The company has increased the percentage of plant-based menu items from 36% in spring 2016 to 48% in spring 2018. In the past six months, the company has seen a 755% increase in customers using reusable coffee cups where it offers a 35p discount. It is also running a trial for metal cutlery to be used by eat-in customers at its Ludgate Circus site as it works to reduce waste. In his report accompanying the accounts, co-founder John Vincent said: “Strong cash flow and the equity raised during 2017 enable the board to continue planning for growth, both in the UK and internationally. It is the board’s intention to continue development of the business with a view to helping more people live well and eat well; continued focus on the well-being and development of our family members; more innovation in our naturally fast food category; continuing UK expansion; trialling in the US market; and more focus on profitability in the face of ongoing inflationary challenges.”

Chameleon Bar & Dining puts freehold estate on the market: Chameleon Bar & Dining has put its three remaining freehold pubs on the market after more than 17 years of trading. The pubs are The Keys and Greaves Park Bar & Dining, both in Lancaster, and The Halfway House in Baildon, near Leeds. The pubs are available individually or as a group. Alistair Arkley, who has been chairman of Chameleon Bar & Dining since the company was founded by Phil Strong in 2000, said: “Phil decided to retire a couple of years ago and my colleague Barry Whitehead and I feel we have reached the stage where we would rather spend time with our growing number of grandchildren – the time is right to sell the business. We are very pleased with the work of our managing director Marc Craddock, whose experience will be valuable in leading our team through the sale process.” Noel Moffitt, head of brokerage for pubs at Christie & Co, which is handling the sale, added: “The team has worked very hard to build trade but the time has come for Alistair and Barry to step down and leave the door open for buyers to further build on their success.” Chameleon Bar & Dining will retain its tied leasehold venue Haworth Old Hall in Haworth.

Unsecured creditors of Grillstock expected to receive ‘nominal’ dividend: Unsecured creditors of American-style barbecue restaurant Grillstock, which went into administration last year before being bought by a new company, are expected to receive a “nominal” dividend, a new document has revealed. A progress report filed at Companies House by administrators Gareth Roberts and Paul Ellison, of KRE Corporate Recovery, showed unsecured creditor claims of £862,307. Five-strong Grillstock went into administration following the issue of a winding-up petition by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Grillstock owed £258,723 in VAT and £187,107 in PAYE and did not have the necessary funds to pay. As well as the money owed to HMRC, trade and expense creditors are owed £416,477. Secured creditor NatWest, which is owed £199,932, has so far received £14,000 and it is not expected to receive the full amount. Meanwhile, employees and former staff who are owed an estimated £14,000 are expected to receive the full amount and will be paid in the next three months. Grillstock was sold out of administration to a new company, Hedrick, which includes some of the business’ former directors, for a total consideration of £92,000. The sale was for the Bristol, Bath and Leicester restaurants and a market stall in Bristol. It did not include the company’s Walthamstow restaurant, which was subsequently closed. Hedrick has since decided not to take on the Bath premises and the property has been returned to the landlord.

Saltaire Brewery managing director acquires 20% stake in business: Saltaire Brewery managing director Ewen Gordon has acquired a 20% stake in the business. After working at the West Yorkshire-based brewery for four years, Gordon became managing director in 2015, helping to drive the company’s five-year growth plan. To recognise his contribution to the business Tony Gartland, who founded the brewery in 2005, has sold 20% of his shares. Gartland told Insider Media: “Ewen has shown great commitment to Saltaire Brewery and produced fantastic results during his time leading our ongoing investment programme. I’m pleased to celebrate his contribution with this sale so he can share in our long-term growth and future success.” Gordon added: “It is an honour to own a significant part of Saltaire Brewery and I’m proud of how far we’ve come in recent years. This is an incredibly exciting period for the business as we’re about to enter a new era – watch this space.” The Shipley-based brewery has grown its team during the first half of 2018, taking on eight new starters across sales, marketing, the brewhouse and brewery tap. In May, the company was awarded accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation in recognition of its efforts to ensure all staff earned the real living wage.

Kaspa’s franchisee UK Desserts secures funding for four new sites, plans 20 by 2020: Essex-based UK Desserts is set to expand its Kaspa’s dessert franchise after securing £700,000 funding from HSBC. The company plans to open a further four restaurants during the next 12 months, creating 100 jobs. UK Desserts opened its first Kaspa’s in Braintree last December and is now using funding from HSBC to purchase equipment and fit-out four new stores, the first of which recently opened in Lincoln. This adds to UK Desserts’ own funding for each new store, with the company planning to open 20 sites by the end of 2020. UK Desserts managing director Deepak Patel said: “In partnership with HSBC, we’re in a strong position to build a network of Kaspa’s franchises. Our Braintree store has been really well received by the locals and we’re looking forward to bringing at least five more Kaspa’s stores to the country by the end of 2018.” David Skipp, HSBC area director for business banking in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk, added: “Deepak has a proven track record, successfully managing and growing a number of franchises in the past, while the dessert-only restaurant market continues to grow. We look forward to supporting the team as it rolls out further Kaspa’s stores in major towns and cities across the south and Midlands.” Kaspa’s is a chain of dessert parlours offering hot and cold desserts including ice cream, gelato, waffles, crepes, milkshakes, smoothies and sundaes.

Robert De Niro scraps Covent Garden hotel plans: Hollywood star Robert De Niro has scrapped plans to launch a boutique hotel in Covent Garden. The actor gained planning permission to open the Wellington Hotel two years ago. The 83-bedroom hotel would also have featured a spa, members’ club and restaurant. De Niro was set to be joint operator of the project alongside BD Hotels, which was founded by real estate gurus Ira Drukier and Richard Born. Together they run The Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan’s fashionable Tribeca district. However, BD Hotels told the Evening Standard the scheme would now not go ahead. Drukier said a “changing economic picture” had made the project “marginal”. He added: “If the economics were to change, we would be very happy to move forward.” The hotel was due to take up an entire block on the Strand side of Covent Garden across six Victorian and early 20th century buildings. Covent Garden’s main landlord, Capco, said: “We have not reached satisfactory commercial terms with BD Hotels. The Wellington is a unique investment opportunity and we are reviewing our plans, which include proposals for office and retail space.” Iconic West End restaurant Joe Allen was forced to relocate when the hotel plans were announced.

The Athenian to open seventh site, in Tooting Market: Greek street food restaurant The Athenian is to open its seventh site this month, in Tooting Market, south London. Founders Efthymios Vasilakis and Neofytos Christodoulou will continue the tradition of naming each venue after an Athens neighbourhood, with the Tooting outlet being called Petroupoli. Its design will be inspired by a typical Greek urban market. The restaurant, which will open on Thursday, 19 July, will offer Greek street food dishes as well as Hellenic craft beer, wine and speciality soft drinks. Efthymios and Neofytos launched The Athenian in 2014 as a small street food venture offering freshly made souvlaki. They now have opened venues in White City, Victoria, Shoreditch, Elephant & Castle, Southbank Market and Bristol and look set to expand even further throughout 2018 and 2019.

East London entrepreneur takes on two Leyton pubs: Ronnie Finch, who operates The Duke in Wanstead, has partnered with investors and landlords to add Leyton neighbourhood pubs The Coach & Horses and The Leytonstone Tavern to his portfolio. Dating to 1863, The Coach & Horses has been a long-standing landmark in Leyton High Road. Finch, who is also startup director of Danish wholesale bakery The Bread Station in London Fields, is refurbishing the pub ahead of its relaunch this month, bringing in former Caprice Holdings and Mark Hix chef Steve Wilson to lead the kitchen. The exterior has been restored, while worn decor and interiors have been replaced with traditional pub textiles. The 240-cover, 3,500 square foot venue will feature a horseshoe bar leading into a dining and events area complete with an additional bar, seating and a stage. The walls have been stripped back, while the revamped beer garden will accommodate 70 covers. Wilson’s menu will focus on affordable classic British dishes, while the drinks list will include a number of beers from east London brewers. Finch said: “We want to keep The Coach & Horses as a neighbourhood pub with good food, good drinks, friendly staff and a strong events programme that caters for all. The Leytonstone Tavern is still in the early stages of refurbishment and I look forward to sharing more news on this later in the summer.”

Aberdeen-based PB Devco gets go-ahead for prohibition-themed bar at former Restaurant Group site: Aberdeen-based operator PB Devco has been given the go-ahead for a 1920s-themed “prohibition era” bar at a former The Restaurant Group site. PB Devco, which has nine sites in the city, has had its application approved by the city council to convert the property in Union Street. The building was previously home to The Filling Station, which The Restaurant Group shut in August 2016 when it closed 33 underperforming sites. PB Devco will reopen the venue as Vovem. The basement will be turned into a bar, known as 21 Crimes, while the upstairs space will remain a restaurant. Vovem will open from 11am to 1am, Monday to Wednesday, to 2am on Thursday and Sunday, and 3am on Friday and Saturday. PB Devco operations director Paul Clarkson told the Press and Journal he hoped it would open by the autumn.

The Ivy Collection to open first site outside UK this month, in Dublin: The Ivy Collection will open its first site outside the UK this month, in Dublin. The company will open the brasserie in Dawson Street on Tuesday, 24 July. Located in the new One Molesworth building, up to 150 will be seated in the restaurant, with 24 in the bar. A private dining room, the Jonathan Swift Room, will seat up to 32 guests. The menu will include locally inspired dishes such as Dungarvan oysters, while the drinks list will feature local cocktails, Irish whiskey and Guinness. The decor will also be customised to give a local flavour, with topographical prints and plans of Dublin and Dublin Bay from 1850 mixed with artwork inspired by the region and pieces depicting music, Trinity College, horse racing and brewing, reports the Irish Times. The Ivy brand is expanding rapidly across the UK, with other recent brasserie openings in Birmingham, Cheltenham, Guildford, York and King’s Cross, London. Further launches are lined up for Leeds, Norwich and Winchester.

Fine dining chef launches pizza restaurant concept in Sudbury: Chef Chris Sharman has launched a pizza restaurant concept in Sudbury, Suffolk, and wants it to be “one of 50”. Sharman has opened Dough & Co in North Street with Thomas Zuj, who has years of experience in the hospitality industry and will manage the business. The venue features a wood-fired oven. Sharman told the East Anglian Daily Times: “I have been a fine dining chef for about 14 years but want to do something everyone eats – and I want it to be the best. I started a year ago with an event-catering business and got such a good reception I made a plan for 50 restaurants within five years. This is the first one but I’m already looking at other sites such as Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Chelmsford and possibly Colchester.” The menu features The Classic One (tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil), The Fancy One (dry-aged Parma ham, shredded asparagus and rocket), and signature pizzas such as The Funghi One (oyster, chestnut, enoki mushrooms and truffle oil).

Mad Squirrel passes 50% mark in £250,000 crowdfunding campaign to expand craft beer shop estate: Hertfordshire-based brewer and retailer Mad Squirrel has passed the halfway mark in its £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand its craft beer shop estate. Last month the company, founded by Greg Blesson and Jason Duncan-Anderson, increased its equity offer to 2.95% from the original 1.93%. So far, 187 investors have pledged £130,300 with 11 days remaining. Mad Squirrel recently secured its sixth site, in Harpenden, and aims to add another this year with plans for three more by 2020. The pitch states: “We recently installed a state-of-the-art brewery and have shown 180% growth in three years. We operate five Mad Squirrel craft beer outlets in commuter belt towns, with moving annual total revenues up 45%. Our taprooms have built a positive reputation for great beer and education. This has created cordial relationships with the authorities. Our strategy of opening more wet-led Mad Squirrel taprooms focuses on current consumer trends for great beer and value for money. Market insights show food-biased outlets are experiencing a decline in revenues compared with wet-led outlets showing a renaissance.” Mad Squirrel, then trading as Red Squirrel Group, raised more than £665,000 on Crowdcube in 2016 to expand its brewery and craft beer shop estate.

Manjaros lodges plans for eighth site, in Huddersfield: Manjaros, which combines Caribbean and African cuisine, has lodged plans for its eighth site, in Huddersfield. Owner Rafiq Ali has applied to Kirklees Council to open the venue at a site in Firth Street formerly occupied by Ox & Bone restaurant, reports the Huddersfield Examiner. Manjaros’ most popular dish is parmesan chicken, with a number of other parmesan choices on the menu alongside grilled dishes, skewers, burgers, platters, pizza and wraps. Ali launched Manjaros in Middlesbrough and has subsequently opened restaurants in Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle. Ox & Bone closed in April having launched in the town in 2013.

TGI Friday’s revamps app and introduces new menu: TGI Friday’s has revamped its app and introduced a new menu. The app has a host of new features including rewards, table bookings and easy payments. Guests scan their receipt via the app and every pound spent earns them a stripe. Each £50 spent allows users to “level up”, starting as a “mover” before progressing to a “shaker”, a “rocker” and, finally, a “roller”, with new rewards unlocked at each stage. From September, guests will also be able to collect their own Friday’s pins to unlock additional free offers. Digital marketing manager Ebonie Dunstan said: “We want our digital guest experience to be as enjoyable and seamless as possible.” Meanwhile, TGI Friday’s has refreshed its menu with new dishes including Californian chicken tacos, the nachos burger and the Kookie Monster shake. Head of food and drink Terry McDowell said: “We have kept all the Friday’s legends we know our guests love – as well as our vegan and vegetarian options that proved popular on our last menu – but bolstered the line-up with new dishes we’re confident will become Friday’s classics in their own right.”

Freshii opens fifth site in Ireland in partnership with Applegreen: Canadian-based health brand Freshii has opened its fifth site in Ireland in partnership with independent petrol forecourt retailer Applegreen. Freshii has opened the venue at Rathcoole on the N7. Applegreen operates Freshii outlets in Applegreen Midway on the M7, at Enfield on the M4 westbound, and two outlets on the M1 at Lusk (north and southbound). Freshii offers tossed salads, hot bowls, burritos, poké bowls, healthy wraps, soup, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and frozen yogurt. Freshii Ireland chief executive Dave O’Donoghue said: “More and more people are becoming dashboard diners as they are eating meals on the go so it’s important for them to have healthy options on a journey. We opened our first Freshii in Applegreen Lusk two years ago and we’re thrilled it has surpassed everyone’s expectations.”

Drinks supplier One Point launches crowdfunding campaign for further expansion: Drinks supplier One Point Supplies has launched a fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowd2Fund to grow the business. The company sources trade essentials in a model that “cuts out the middleman”. The company has launched a £106,000 fund-raise and so far 132 investors have pledged £24,000 with 27 days remaining. The pitch states: “One Point Supplies serves a wide range of beer, wine, spirits and specialist cocktail ingredients to a variety of businesses in the hospitality, entertainment and retail sector. We stock all the big names in one place to make wholesale transaction as smooth a process as possible for our clients. Our prices are some of the best out there since minimal overheads allow us to keep costs low but profit margins high. What makes us stand out from our competition is our flexibility. Our major competitors are the national suppliers who aren’t able to offer the bespoke services a smaller business like us can. We work directly with brands to cut out the middleman and go beyond our trade duties to offer additional support for establishments because we value the importance of strong working relationships. We pride ourselves on being able to cater for all needs so if a client requires something missing from our stock, we will go out of our way to source and supply it to them. We came to Crowd2Fund a year ago for funds to enable our expansion. Following this success, we’re returning to raise money that will allow us to continue to grow our business.”

Loungers launches Barnstaple site: Cafe bar group Loungers, which is backed by Lion Capital, has opened a site in Barnstaple, Devon. Tarko Lounge has launched at the new-look Green Lanes shopping centre. The venue occupies a new unit at the revamped entrance to the complex. Simon West, assistant director of Rockspring Property Investment Managers, which manages the centre, told Devon Live: “Having invested considerable capital into modernising the principal entrance to Green Lanes, we are delighted to have attracted an operator of the calibre of Loungers to front the shopping centre.” On Monday (2 July) Loungers opened its first site in Essex, in Witham. The company operates almost 130 venues under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands and is on track to reach 140 sites by the end of 2018. Loungers was founded by friends Dave Reid, Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop in 2002.

Pizza Hut scales back in Exeter: Pizza Hut is to close one of its Exeter restaurants. The company is shutting the branch in Russell Way in the Digby area of the city after an evaluation of the business by bosses. Job losses are to be kept at a minimum, Pizza Hut said, with team members currently in talks to be relocated to other restaurants in and around Exeter. A spokesman told Devon Live: “We continually evaluate the location of our restaurants to ensure they are in the best possible areas to meet consumer demand and have decided to close our restaurant in Digby in Exeter. Customers can still enjoy their favourite pizza at our restaurant four miles away in Exe Bridges Retail Park, which is open as usual.” An official closing date has yet to be confirmed.

Quality Chop House launches Clerkenwell wine bar: London-based Quality Chop House has launched a wine bar at its Clerkenwell cafe site. In February, the company took over a wine shop next to The Quality Chop House in Farringdon Road to launch a sit-down cafe for its fourth site. Now it has added a wine bar – Quality Wines – to the venue, which offers more than 200 varieties to take away or drink in. Gus Gluck, formerly of wine bar, restaurant and wine shop Vinoteca, is in charge of the wine list, while snacks come from Quality Chop House chef Sean Searly. The Quality Chop House team also operates the Portland and Clipstone restaurants, both in Fitzrovia.

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