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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 30th Jan 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Domino’s Pizza reveals Just Eat trial as part of UK growth plans, dismisses suggestions store base is nearing maturity: Domino’s Pizza Group chief executive David Wild has outlined the opportunities for growth in the UK and dismissed suggestions the store base is nearing maturity. Speaking at the company’s capital markets day, Wild also revealed the company, which has reaffirmed its target of growing from its current 1,100 stores to 1,600 in the UK, had started a trial with Just Eat as it attempted to reach younger consumers. The trial started with 20 stores and is now being increased to 100 as the company continues to “explore the opportunity” but is doing so carefully so it doesn’t “dilute profits”. Wild said: “There is a misconception aggregators will erode our market position. Research shows customers who order pizza make their choice based on brand reputation and we are the clear number one. Pizza remains the clear favourite takeaway food making up 28% of the delivered food market so that also gives us confidence. Saying that, we recognise younger consumers are using aggregators. Aggregators can help us reach new customers, hence the trial with Just Eat. At the moment we are still working on getting the right offer because of the commission associated with working with Just Eat. There’s no rush – we will do it in the right way. As a brand we have plenty of room to grow in terms of like-for-likes and investment in the estate.” Wild also illustrated how fortressing was benefiting the company, which carried out a record 130 store refits in 2018. Fortressing involves adding more stores to existing markets in an effort to cut delivery times and be closer to customers, which in theory keeps out competition. In Exeter, the company increased the number of stores from one to three in 2014-15. Since then, Domino’s Pizza has seen sales more than double in the Devon city, from £2.4m to £5m, with average sale per address up 59.4%. Delivery time has also fallen from 28 minutes to 26.2 minutes. Meanwhile, the number of stores in Nottingham increased from six to ten between 2013 and 2015. Sales have since increased 76.8% in the city, with average sale per address rising 51.3%. Wild said: “This clearly shows the benefit of this strategy to the company and our franchisees.” The company’s average sale per address in the UK is 90p. However, Wild revealed there are huge variations with the figure being 19p in its weakest territory and £2.90 in the best areas. Wild said getting all its UK stores to the company average would add an extra £220m in sales, while hitting the top figure would add an extra £2m in revenue. Wild also moved to address “common misconceptions” about the company. He said: “The UK store base is nowhere near maturity. We see big market share opportunities. The higher average sale per address is offsetting lower address counts. While the competition is closing sites, we’re continuing to add them. We haven’t closed a store in three years and only shut 13 in the past decade. Contrary to perceptions, returns for our franchisees remain market leading. The best thing you can do with your money as a Domino’s franchisee to make more money is open another one.” With regards to reports 11 of the largest Domino’s franchisees had threatened to “declare war” on the company if they weren’t handed a greater share of profits and would refuse to open new stores, Wild said: “I have seen the letter from the franchisees and I would certainly not describe it as an ultimatum.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators, Nathan Wall to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 7 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Nathan Wall, operations director of Managed Investments at Ei Group, will talk about the company’s progress with its managed investment scheme that has seen the company partner with 12 sector companies and entrepreneurs in joint ventures to develop pubs. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Feed It Back launches module that integrates social media comments: Guest feedback service Feed It Back has launched a module that integrates social media comments posted on an operators’ Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages into its platform. The innovation, which was developed in partnership with customer focus groups, allows businesses to access “richer insights and improves accountability and efficiency for responding to posts”. Key trends from the posts are fully integrated with feedback from surveys and reviews on TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google, providing operators with a data set to help them understand what is driving positive and negative reviews about their business. The new module will also streamline operations by providing accountability and a single platform to deal with positive and negative comments across multiple social channels and review platforms. A bespoke feature will also flag up posts generating significant engagement. Chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Operationally, hospitality is incredibly busy so identifying areas we can streamline processes and give time back to teams is always a primary focus. With this new innovation, we are not only achieving that but also increasing the richness of data we provide operators so they can truly understand how the customer feels about their brand and what levers they need to pull to improve their offer.” The module is immediately available to existing Feed It Back customers.

Investment firms press fast food giants to ‘urgently’ improve supply chain sustainability: A coalition of investment firms have urged six of the world’s largest quick service brands to take more action to tackle sustainability within their supply chains. The group of more than 80 investors have penned an open letter to Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Wendy’s, KFC parent firm Yum! Brands, and Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International calling on them to publish detailed targets on tackling issues such as deforestation and water stress. Large-scale deforestation, fires and human rights abuses in Argentina and Paraguay have been linked to meat producers across the globe. These issues, compounded by ethical and human health concerns surrounding the meat, dairy and seafood sectors, have served to place the sustainability of food systems under the public spotlight. Alice Evans, co-head of responsible investing at BMO Global Asset Management, told Edie: “Far-sighted investors cannot ignore the headwinds the meat and dairy sector faces – increased environmental regulation, rising consumer demand for plant-based food, and fears over water pollution from intensive farms are all ingredients in the rising threat to the long-term value of the fast food multinationals.”

Company News:

PizzaExpress hits 300-site milestone in Deliveroo partnership: PizzaExpress has launched its 300th live delivery site in its partnership with Deliveroo. The company said the partnership would remain an “important element” of the PizzaExpress growth strategy. As part of the collaboration, PizzaExpress managing director Zoe Bowley and Deliveroo chief executive Will Shu spent an afternoon exploring how the partnership operates at ground level, providing valuable insights into what makes it tick. Bowley said: “It is really important to me to spend time with our restaurant teams and understand the invaluable work they do. It was great to experience this with Will and see first-hand how orders are fulfilled through delivery. It’s critical we continually evolve the experiences we create for our customers, both dine-in and delivery, to ensure our processes are seamless for our customers and teams and the pizzas are as our customers expect. Our focus remains on enabling customers to enjoy their favourite pizza wherever and whenever they want one so Deliveroo continues to play a vital role in our business. Thanks to Will for being such a sport and demonstrating some impressive flaring skills too!” PizzaExpress said its recent launch of a vegan menu had been a “great success” within restaurant, retail and delivery, with the Vegan Giardiniera currently its fourth best-selling pizza on Deliveroo behind traditional favourites Margherita, American and American Hot. 

Piano Works Group reports record Christmas with sales of £1.6m: The Piano Works Group, which operates two late-night live music venues in Farringdon and the West End, has reported a record Christmas with sales of £1.64m for the five weeks to 23 December. Like-for-like sales at The Piano Works Farringdon saw an increase of 9% for the year, while the new West End Piano Works – previously Studio 88 – delivered sales of £683,000, averaging £137,000 per week. Alan Lorrimer, founder and managing director of The Piano Works Group, said: “We are delighted with the group’s performance over the festive period – delivering record sales of more than £1.6m for the week ending 23 December. Through the launch of The Piano Works West End, a strong food offer, and some excellent hires within our sales team, we have been able to optimise sales across both venues. Our inspired, hard-working operational team delivered a fantastic offer that surprised us all. We are optimistic for 2019 and hope to see a very positive first quarter with some excellent forward bookings and events in the pipeline.”

Kettlebell Kitchen goes into liquidation: Manchester-based healthy eating concept Kettlebell Kitchen has gone into liquidation. The company, which has three branches around the city, confirmed it had ceased trading because a number of its stores had become unprofitable. Kettlebell has been in financial difficulty for more than six months. In May, Lancashire-based Soulmate Food was bought out of administration by Kettlebell Kitchen, saving 20 jobs. Keep-fit enthusiast Carley Jones founded Kettlebell Kitchen in Ancoats two years ago. The Salford and First Street stores have closed but the Ancoats store remains open, reports The Manchester Evening News. Insolvency practitioner Fortis has been appointed to oversee the closures. A statement from Kettlebell Kitchen said: “The company is entering liquidation due to a number of stores trading unprofitably, impacting cash flow and ultimately having a material negative effect on the rest of the business. The company had secured funding previously to meet wage payments and it was hoped the same would be possible on this occasion. Regrettably it was not possible and the company deeply regrets the effect this may have on staff and creditors. The company is Carley’s passion and she is devastated by events, which have spiralled beyond her control. The company has faced financial difficulty for more than half a year now and Carley has done all she can to keep staff employed and protected from those issues.” Last week, Kettlebed Kitchen opened a site in Newcastle. It is owned by a separate entity and is unaffected by the liquidation process.

Alain Ducasse opens coffee boutique at Coal Drops Yard: Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse has opened his first permanent coffee boutique in London. Ducasse has launched Le Café at the new Coal Drops Yard shopping and restaurant district in King’s Cross. Adjacent to Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, the boutique retail store and coffee bar serves a range of blends and single-origin coffees roasted at the newly opened La Manufacture De Café Alain Ducasse in Paris. The range features two signature blends made of beans from Brazil, Laos and Ethiopia for espresso or Burundi, Congo and Ethiopia for filter coffee; three single-origin coffees each from Kenya, Costa Rica and Ethiopia; and three “cru d’exception” coffees sourced in limited supply from Yemen, Panama and La Réunion. Le Café also offers cappuccinos, cold-brew coffee on tap and an infused cascara drink served as iced tea, hot tea or “whisky style”. Alongside the drinks, there are chocolates from Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, while madeleines are baked on-site. Ducasse said: “With Le Café, our ambition is to build a chain of excellence in which every link counts, from the tree to the cup. I am delighted to bring this new experience to London and, as a chef, give this craft a uniquely personal outlook.”

BrewDog to bring Draft House to Scotland with Aberdeen launch: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to open the first Draft House site in Scotland, in Aberdeen. It will be the second Draft House site to open under BrewDog’s ownership since it acquired the business from founder Charlie McVeigh in March last year. BrewDog stated: “We welcomed the Draft House team into the BrewDog family in 2018 and are stoked to announce the first site in Scotland will be on our home turf in Aberdeen! Our new Draft House pub in the heart of Aberdeen will be a cosy and intimate space, offering traditional food and roast dinners. We are now hiring the full team.” BrewDog opened its first site under the Draft House format in November, in Farringdon, central London. The site in Charterhouse Street was part of the six-strong Grand Union business Draft House acquired in 2017. The Draft House brand currently consists of 13 sites.

Paris-based Italian trattoria brand Big Mamma to make UK debut, in Shoreditch: Paris-based Italian restaurant brand Big Mamma is to make its UK debut by opening a site in Shoreditch, east London. Big Mamma, which operates six trattorias in Paris and one in Lille, will launch Gloria in Great Eastern Street at a site formerly occupied by Red’s True Barbecue. The venue will feature a main dining room inspired by the isle of Capri, with marble from Carrara and mirrored ceilings. There will also be a “secret 1980s-inspired dining room” downstairs that will open until 2am. All ingredients will be sourced direct from Italy, while dishes are likely to include Cacio e Pepe in a parmesan cheese wheel, ten-level lasagne and profiterole Napolitana, Hot Dinners reports. As well as its trattorias, Big Mamma operates cocktail bar Popolare, Italian speakeasy No Entry and food hall La Felicitá, all in Paris.

Sussex-based Gingerman to open fifth site, in April: Sussex-based restaurant group Gingerman will open its fifth site, in April. The company, owned by directors Ben and Pamela McKellar, will become the first tenant of the new Hanningtons Estate development in Brighton. The company operates The Gingerman, The Ginger Pig, The Ginger Fox and The Ginger Dog, which are all in Brighton, Hove or Albourne. However, the company has broken from its naming convention for the first time by calling the new 50-seat, tapas-style cafe bar the Flint House, which will feature a rooftop terrace. Ben McKellar told The Argus: “People can expect a different experience. We plan to do a tapas-style restaurant but not necessarily with a Spanish feel.” Development work to restore the Hanningtons Estate began in February 2017. The original Hanningtons department store in North Street was founded in 1808 and stood as a landmark in the city until its sale to Regina Estates in 2000. The store closed a year later.

KFC secures Queensway site as part of London expansion for new urban-format store: KFC has signed for a new location in Queensway as part of an almost 100-strong London requirement for its new urban-format store. The company has acquired a 1,412 square foot unit previously occupied by Tuk Tuk Noodle in a deal brokered by agents CDG Leisure. Emma Wright, of CDG Leisure, who is overseeing the search for further sites, said: “This large requirement is testament to the ongoing appeal of KFC and the strength of its brand. This is a great location for the operator, which is popular with tourists and locals.” In September 2016, KFC published plans for 537 target sites across the country, including London Zones 1 to 3.

Signorelli opens at Stratford scheme for second site: East London bakery Signorelli has opened a site at the new International Quarter London development in Stratford. Signorelli has taken a 1,146 square foot space in Endeavour Square – a new public space at the heart of International Quarter London. It is a second site for Signorelli, with owner Alberto Rosmini opening a debut venue in East Village, Stratford, three years ago. Rosmini said: “We are keen to continue our growth within this fast-developing area and we’re privileged to bring our ‘made in E20’ artisan products to International Quarter London.” Italian restaurant Figo, founded by Tony Manconi, the man behind Bella Vita in Hackney’s Broadway Market, will open soon. The two venues will join recently opened ramen specialist Tonkotsu and Pret A Manger at International Quarter London, which is a £2.4bn joint venture between Lendlease and LCR.

Leeds-based street food cafe Manjit’s Kitchen secures second site following crowdfunding campaign: Leeds-based street food cafe Manjit’s Kitchen has secured a second site in the city after raising £40,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Owners Manjit Kaur and Michael Jameson have operated a cafe in Kirkgate Market’s food hall since 2016 after operating from a converted horsebox at festivals and other outdoor events. The concept offers Indian vegetarian street food and has won a BBC Food And Farming award. Manjit’s Kitchen will now open a restaurant in Kirkstall Road in the summer, which will allow the concept to offer dishes into the evening. Kaur and Jameson told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “As we are based in the market, the cafe closes at 5pm. We have therefore built the cafe on lunchtime trade only. We have learned a lot running the cafe and we’re ready to take this learning forward. We always wanted to do things in the evening so we can’t wait to have a space where we can serve food and drink to our customers into the night. There are a lot of things starting to happen in Kirkstall Road. The Cardigan Arms is back in full effect and there are loads of other independent food businesses opening.”

Boxpark seeking street food vendors: Boxpark is looking for street food vendors for its Wembley, Croydon and Shoreditch sites. Rent will be from £20,000 per annum based on a 12-month lease. Boxpark stated: “Are you a fantastic street food vendor? We’re currently considering applicants for units at Boxpark Wembley, Croydon and Shoreditch. If you think you fit the bill, send us a full proposal including details on what you’ve been doing and where you’ve been doing it along with images of your products and branding.”

Las Iguanas to open in Bracknell: Las Iguanas, the South American-inspired restaurant brand owned by Casual Dining Group, is to open a site in Bracknell, Berkshire. The restaurant will open at The Lexicon – part of the £240m regeneration scheme of the town centre – in late March. Las Iguanas operations director Ashley Crawshaw told In Your Area: “We know there has been some speculation about our arrival in Bracknell so we are thrilled to finally confirm we are coming to the town centre.” Rob Morris, general manager at The Lexicon, added: “Our customers have been asking for something different and Las Iguanas’ Latin American cuisine fits this demand perfectly.” Las Iguanas will open in Eagle Lane to join other operators at The Lexicon including Bill’s, Carluccio’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Nando’s, PizzaExpress and TGI Friday’s.

Chopstix doubles up in Nottingham: Noodle brand Chopstix has doubled up in Nottingham. The company has opened a site at the Intu Victoria Centre. The opening, which is within the revamped Clocktower dining area, is part of the brand’s expansion across the UK during the next 12 months. Last year Chopstix, whose other Nottingham site is in Clumber Street, secured a new £2m bank facility from Metro Bank to support its expansion plans. Chopstix managing director Jon Lake told The Business Desk: “Thanks to the great support of the people of Nottingham in Clumber Street, we are delighted to open our second site in the city and look forward to welcoming new and existing customers. It is obvious the people of Nottingham know their noodles.” Chopstix has more than 70 stores across the group, more than 25 of them within high-footfall shopping centres.

Istanbul-based Yeni Lokanta founders to open Soho restaurant next week: The founders of Istanbul-based restaurant Yeni Lokanta are to launch a venue in London next week. Cem Bilge and Civan Er will open Yeni in Beak Street, Soho, on Monday, 4 February. The pair launched Yeni Lokanta in Turkey in 2013, with Er’s menu infusing “modern sensibility with ingredients and dishes that could only come together in Istanbul”. Inspiration will be taken from the koftes and street food stalls of the city’s markets, including traditional meyhanes where seasonal fish and vegetables will be served alongside wine and raki. Yeni will bring the original restaurant’s signature style to London, with dishes such as Antep sausages with borlotti bean puree, and line-caught bass with raki and feta. Larger plates, such as oven-roasted ribs with isot pepper on sourdough and octopus with “salty fingers”, will be prepared on a Josper grill. Er said: “It is exciting and humbling to be able to bring Yeni to the city where my professional journey began.”

Ei Group expands programme aimed at encouraging school leavers to join pub trade: Ei Group has expanded its programme that aims to inspire young people to enter the pub trade in England and Wales. Pub Pros, now in its second year, is a work-readiness programme run by education enrichment organisation Stride Learning. It aims to inform and inspire school leavers about careers in the pub trade while building employability skills such as teamwork, leadership, assertiveness and critical thinking. The number of schools and pubs taking part this year has doubled to 12 with the programme’s geographical reach also growing, with pubs from Hull to Exeter taking part. For the first time, Ei Group head office will also take part in Pub Pros, in partnership with Solihull College. The programme sees up to 30 pupils from each school take part in a series of three half-day workshops including a meet-the-publican session followed by an in-pub taster day this summer. Also new for this year is an alternative programme, Pub Pathways, which is a one-day workshop. Ei Group commercial director Paul Harbottle said: “Working in a pub or the wider hospitality sector is often overlooked as a potential career choice for young people. However, following last year’s successful Pub Pros programme, I am confident this will continue to change perceptions with even more students and publicans getting involved this year." British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “Ei Group pioneered work with Stride, which is a great example of partnership work at a local level and it is good to see this continue. The BBPA is working with Stride too, which we see as the sort of initiative we need to develop further for the skills element of the tourism sector deal that has been announced in principle by the government.”

Concept Leisure shuts Stockton restaurant and bar less than year after launch: Concept Leisure, the north east-based operator behind cocktail bar The Nuthatch, has shut its Finkle & Green restaurant and bar in Stockton. The company opened the venue in Finkle Street in April last year at a site previously occupied by Mexican restaurant Mohujo’s. The property underwent a six-figure refurbishment prior to Finkle & Green’s arrival. The landlord of the building, Jomast, confirmed the restaurant had closed and it is looking for a new operator, reports Teesside Live. Concept Leisure operates two Nuthatch sites, in Middlesbrough and Stockton.

Sichuanese concept JinLi launches second London restaurant, at new Chinatown development: Sichuanese restaurant JinLi has opened its second London site, at new Chinatown development Central Cross. JinLi was one of the first restaurants to sign for the 48,000 square foot, mixed-use development at the eastern gateway to Chinatown London. JinLi, whose debut restaurant in nearby Leicester Street won the best in England category at the Golden Chopsticks Awards in 2018, has opened a 150-cover, 4,300 square foot restaurant offering modern Sichuan dishes with traditional core elements. The menu includes sliced pork with sizzling rice crust and JinLi fragrant rabbit. New dishes and recipes will be developed every six months. The interiors feature fittings and tableware imported from China and a digital menu. JinLi owner Yi Fei said: “This Chinatown London location offers innovative and exclusive new dishes with the aim of playing a big role in redefining London’s Sichuanese culinary landscape.” Julia Wilkinson, head of group restaurant strategy at Shaftesbury, said: “JinLi Chinatown opening its second site within Chinatown London is a great achievement for the brand and makes us immensely proud as a landlord. For it to choose to continue its evolution within the destination, highlights Chinatown London as an iconic and authentic landmark that brands want to be a part of.”  

Rhubarb to launch Vivi as Centre Point’s flagship restaurant next month: Food experience brand and events caterer Rhubarb is to launch Vivi as the flagship restaurant at London’s Centre Point next month. The venue will begin its soft launch at the development in New Oxford Street on Friday, 22 February offering a “nostalgia-themed menu in digital art surroundings”. The menu will include retro dishes such as soufflé, cauliflower cheese croquettes, chicken kiev, arctic roll, jelly and custard, and Victoria sponge. The 16,000 square foot space will be split into four areas including a bar with its own snacks menu, dining room, a “liquid lounge” for juice, smoothies, power shakes and superfood shots, and a viewing gallery. Rhubarb operates outlets in more than 60 venues across London and the Home Counties, including the Royal Albert Hall, Heathrow airport, Royal Ascot racecourse and the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex. It also operates a number of restaurants and bars, with its first international site due to open at Hudson Yards, New York, in March. Centre Point features 82 apartments and a square surrounded by restaurants and shops.

US fitness brand Body by Simone secures debut UK studio: US fitness brand Body by Simone has secured its debut UK studio. The revolutionary exercise method, created by fitness guru Simone De La Rue, will land in Delancey Street, London, on Saturday (2 February). It will be the first time the fitness concept has launched outside the US following success in its Los Angeles and New York studios. The Body by Simone technique, which combines a combination of dance routines, interval training and toning exercises, has achieved global recognition and strong celebrity following. The launch follows sold-out pop-up classes in London, Ireland and Australia as well as the launch of the Body by Simone app, which uses artificial intelligence technology to create customised work-outs and nutrition plans based on each user’s goals. Shelley Sandzer acted for Body by Simone in the deal. Casey Philips, partner at Shelley Sandzer, said: “Simone is immensely popular with a host of British A-list celebrities and actors who have demanded she open a studio in London.”

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