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Mon 23rd Jul 2018 - Stonegate buys 15 Novus sites, and Be At One
Stonegate buys 15 Novus sites, and Be At One: Novus Leisure, the operator of a portfolio of 41 bars, clubs and restaurants predominantly in London’s West End and City, has entered into agreement and exchanged contracts to sell 15 of its venues to Stonegate Pub Company for an undisclosed sum. These include Bar Soho, Sway and Forge. It is anticipated that the disposal will complete by the end of the year. The company stated: “Since 2014, Novus has achieved strong growth across both its venue sites and particularly its premium bars following significant investment in proposition and people. The sale of the 15 venues and the transfer of the teams in those sites to Stonegate is the first step in the divestment of the whole of its venue business, consisting of ten further sites including the iconic Tiger Tiger London. Following the divestment of the entire venue business of Novus, a core portfolio will remain. It will include ten Balls Brothers, The Sterling at The Gherkin and the three new Tank and Paddle sites. These will provide a strong platform in the London premium bar/ restaurant sector from which Novus can focus and grow. These core sites continue to perform very strongly.” Toby Smith, chief executive of Novus, said: “The pivotal decision to divest our venue business and the disposal of 15 of these sites to Stonegate is a transformational step for Novus. Once concentrated on its core operations, Novus will be a premium bar/ restaurant operator with excellent prospects for expansion. Stonegate is an excellent home for the high-quality venues they are buying and we wish them every success for the future.” Novus was advised on the transaction by Sapient Corporate Finance. Stonegate Pub Company has also agreed to acquire Be At One Limited (“Be At One”), for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is expected to complete later today. The company stated: “Be At One is the leading, specialist cocktail bar operator with 33 bars in prime high street town and city locations with 17 sites in London and representation throughout the UK including in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Reading and Cardiff. Established in 1998 with its first bar in Battersea Rise, the Be At One brand is synonymous with high quality cocktails, excellent service and a great party atmosphere. As such, Be At One is highly complementary with Stonegate’s drink-led prowess and growing managed, high street bar portfolio. Stonegate plans to operate Be At One as a standalone, eighth format with its wider portfolio of c.700 predominantly high street pubs and bars. All of the operational management team and head office staff will be retained. The three original founding directors – Rhys Oldfield, Steve Locke and Leigh Miller – will step away from the business upon completion of the deal. Be At One has ambitious expansion plans with a strong pipeline of new sites in place. Following a recent opening in Soho, a new site is due to open in Chelmsford later this month, as well as a second Be At One cocktail bar in Birmingham in August. Stonegate plans to continue to expand Be At One in future, as well as investing in the existing estate.” Simon Longbottom, chief executive of Stonegate, said: “These are both excellent acquisitions for Stonegate which are right in our sweet-spot. Be At One is a business we know well and have admired for some time. This acquisition is a great cultural fit with our existing portfolio and Be At One’s strong association with the delivery of premium cocktails in high street locations, capitalising on the growing trend of premiumisation, further consolidates Stonegate’s leading position in this market segment. We see excellent potential to continue to grow the business, investing in the brand and its people and look forward to learning from Be At One’s legendary cocktail theatre and market-leading customer service skills. In addition, the Novus sites which being acquired comprise a portfolio of high quality assets which will further establish our leading credentials in London. Stonegate has a proven track record of success in identifying, unlocking value and ultimately delivering higher returns from the pub and bar assets which we acquire and we are excited about the opportunity which these acquisitions present as we continue to build the UK’s leading high street, managed pub and bar business. We look forward to welcoming the Be At One team and colleagues who will be joining Stonegate from Novus into the enlarged group.” 

Escape Hunt signs deal to open Dr Who-themed escape rooms: Escape Hunt, the global provider of the live “Escape the Room” experiences, has signed a five year exclusive licence agreement with BBC Studios to create Doctor Who-themed escape rooms in the UK. The company stated: “Under the terms of the agreement with BBC Studios, Escape Hunt will open the first of the rooms in December 2018 to follow the autumn launch of the new television series. The intention is to roll out Doctor Who themed rooms across the UK over the next three years. This IP content deal with BBC Studios helps to further differentiate Escape Hunt from its competitors and assist in its strategy of being the premier brand in the escape rooms sector. The company believes that using branded content in its escape rooms broadens their appeal both to the public and to corporate clients and will help to drive footfall and brand awareness. Escape Hunt has developed a range of industry-leading themed escape rooms for the UK roll out which commenced this spring. Within just four months of opening, all three of its new sites in Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds were featured in the top two TripAdvisor “fun and games” attractions in their respective cities, which bears testimony to the quality of games created by the company’s in house design studio. The company has been delighted by its customers’ reaction to the business thus far, with 98% five star TripAdvisor reviews received, alongside comments suggesting that Escape Hunt is redefining the industry and providing the absolute best customer experience.” Richard Harpham, Escape Hunt chief executive, said: “Following the success of our original Escape Hunt games, we are thrilled to be partnering with BBC Studios to create Doctor Who – The Live Escape Game. Going on an Escape Hunt is all about stepping into and experiencing new worlds so strength in different genres is absolutely key to our content strategy. Doctor Who represents the very best in British action adventure and has a loyal and dedicated fanbase that spans all generations. We look forward to bringing the show to life for all fans in its first ever live escape game experience at Escape Hunt venues across the UK.” The company added: “The company has deliberately held back on building games in all available rooms to leave capacity for rooms for our new strategic partner which will launch from the end of 2018. Now the consumer experience has become established with weekend and peak occupancy often nearing 100%, Escape Hunt is starting to market weekday capacity to corporates. The announcement in March also referred to the company’s plan to open a further five sites in the coming months. At that time, management was carrying out an extensive evaluation of set-build contractors and the company has now identified a number of contractors with the required skills and competencies. After an initial delay, the company is now able to proceed at pace and is pleased to announce it will be opening its next three sites in the coming weeks and another two in the last quarter of the year to bring the total number of sites to nine. While the company remains strategically on track, the revised opening schedule coupled with holding back spare rooms will impact on current year performance. With the games studio now established in London, Escape Hunt is closing its office in Bangkok at the end of July.”

Chapel Down hires Selina Emeny as non-executive director, Paul Brett steps down: Chapel Down Group, the NEX listed English wine and drinks producer, has announced that Selina Emeny has been appointed to the board as a Non-Executive Director with immediate effect. Chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “Selina joins the board at a very exciting time for the business. She brings with her not only drive, energy and enthusiasm for our brands but also, as international group counsel at Live Nation Entertainment, Selina will add a highly strategic, commercially creative, practical, no-nonsense approach and will fit in very well with a fantastic board. We are humbled and delighted that she has agreed to join us on our journey.” Following the recent sale of his shares, Paul Brett has resigned as a non-executive director from the board with immediate effect. Thompson said: “Paul Brett has been a wonderful investor – consistently backing the company and management over the last 17 years, 12 of them as chairman and never sold a share. He’s been there for the business and the team through all situations and so I am delighted that Paul has been able to realise a good return on his investment to allow him to make a difference with his philanthropic projects.”

Women’s Entrepreneur Conference open for bookings: 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, which is open for bookings, 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 by women at senior levels. We hope companies send their brightest female talent to the conference to pick up inspiration and develop their entrepreneurial talent. We also believe it’s a great opportunity for male colleagues to gain insights into female entrepreneurial skills.” 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.

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