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Fri 4th Jan 2019 - Update: Whitbread launches UK’s first battery-powered hotel, Goodbody on Wagamama, AB InBev
Whitbread launches UK’s first battery-powered hotel: Whitbread has launched the UK’s first battery-powered hotel, at a Premier Inn site in Edinburgh. The company has installed a five-tonne battery at The Gyle in Edinburgh Park. It will charge from the national grid in off-peak periods and power the 200-bedroom site for several hours each day, saving the hotel £20,000 a year on its energy bill. It is able to power the hotel, including the restaurant, for up to three hours after a two-hour charge. Whitbread said the trial of the battery storage technology would help its commitment to halve its carbon emissions by 2025. Whitbread’s head of energy and environment Cian Hatton said: “Batteries are of course everyday items, more commonly associated with powering small household goods like the television remote control, so it’s incredibly exciting to launch the UK’s first battery-powered hotel – an innovation that will save money, ensure security of supply and support the transition to a more flexible grid.” Electricity company E.ON has supplied and installed the technology at the hotel and will be remotely managing the battery’s workload and efficiency from its energy management centre in Glasgow. Customer accounts director Richard Oakley, said: “Premier Inn is showing how hotel chains and large power users can further save money, reduce their carbon footprint and support the development of a lower-carbon, smarter energy grid in the UK.”

Goodbody – Wagamama’s second quarter results will help validate TRG’s view about strength of brand: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said Wagamama’s second quarter results will help validate new owners The Restaurant Group’s view about the strength of the brand and should in time give comfort on the acquisition multiple paid. Ruddy said: “The group showed good top-line growth of 15.4% to £81.5m in the quarter consisting of 12% like-for-like growth in the UK, 7% in the US and new openings. The UK like-for-like figure is the strongest quarterly growth rate since FY15/16 and is impressive considering it is lapping a 7.1% comparator. Group revenue increased by 13.7% in the first half overall with UK like-for-like sales growth of 10%. The US business also showed good top-line growth in the first half of 15.6% with like-for-like sales growth and the international franchised business increased revenues from £1.6m to £1.9m in the half. Gross profit increased by 9.5% year-on-year in the first half with gross margin down circa 150 basis points leading to 9.9% adjusted Ebitda growth for the half year (adjusted Ebitda margin down 50 basis points to 14.6%). As previously highlighted margins were lower in the first quarter, which was attributed to investment and National Living Wage/business rates. However, adjusted Ebitda growth was 18.7% year-on-year in the second half to £13.2m, with adjusted Ebitda margins increasing to 16.4% from 15.9% year-on-year. This is encouraging given the quantum of cost headwinds in the UK and helps to offset concerns that top-line growth is being driven by delivery, which is hurting margins. The group opened five restaurants in the UK in the first half meaning the group now has 134 sites in the UK, five in the US and 59 international franchised restaurants. Capex reduced slightly in the first half to £17.2m due to a lower level of new site expenditure. It completed 14 refurbishments in the first half. Overall, this is a good update from Wagamama and helps validate The Restaurant Group management’s view this is a strong growth business that should in time help to give comfort on the acquisition multiple paid. A total of 44 Wagamama restaurants achieved a record week in the second quarter, and although this is likely flattered by delivery it provides evidence the brand remains strong and is resonating well with consumers.” The Restaurant Group paid £559m for Wagamama, a multiple of 13.2x EV/Ebitda. 

Gizzi Erskine’s Filth pops up in Shoreditch: Chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine and nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson have launched a three-month pop-up for their plant-based fast food concept Filth. The duo have opened the venue within Soho House’s Dirty Burger site in Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch. They have been developing the concept for 18 months, working towards making “nutritionally rich and environmentally friendly food that still tastes indulgent”, including a pop-up at the Tate Modern. The menu includes the Filth Burger, which is completely plant-based but “tastes like a classic cheeseburger”. It is made from black beans, black quinoa, soy mince and a blend of umami paste, and sandwiched in between a beetroot and sesame bun. It and is served with crispy fried onions, beetroot ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, romaine lettuce and cucumber pickles. The drinks include a selection of four plant-based thick shakes. 

AB InBev makes changes to UK and Ireland senior management team: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has reshuffled its UK and Ireland senior management team as part of organisational changes designed to capture future growth for the business. Jerry Maguire, currently off-trade sales director, will take the role of zone revenue management and sales intelligence director for Europe. Martin Yntema, currently country director for the Netherlands will replace Maguire. Nic Bartholomeeusen, currently finance and strategic planning director for the UK and Ireland, will take over as country director for the Netherlands. Oliver Devon, currently head of commercial within the finance and strategic planning team will take over Bartholomeeusen’s role. These changes follow the appointment of Paula Lindenberg as the new president for AB InBev UK and Ireland, announced in August last year. Jason Warner, who headed up the UK business for three years, has taken on the role of zone president for Europe. Lindenberg said: “Both Jerry and Nic have delivered fantastic results in recent years, as our UK business has grown by double digits, and I wish them all the best in their new roles within Europe. I’m also thrilled to be welcoming new talent in Martin and Oliver to the team. Next year will be important in maintaining momentum across our business.”

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