Story of the Day:
M Restaurants boss to introduce £10 per hour starting wage, urges other sector businesses to follow suit: M Restaurants will introduce a starting wage for all employees at £10 per hour, with founder Martin Williams urging other sector businesses to follow suit. The rate, which will come into force on Friday, 1 March, is higher than the National Minimum Wage, which is £8.21 an hour for those aged 25 and above. The £10 starting wage is seen as a basic requirement by Williams, who said: “I remember working as a kitchen porter and barman in hotels and restaurants many years ago and thinking ‘I love the job but the money is so much better in other industries’. It’s time for all hospitality employers to follow our policy at M Restaurants and unite in making our industry the most attractive employment option possible. You see press coverage where the headline is a high-profile hospitality leader quibbling about whether their staff are scraping together the living wage and arguing about whether ‘poverty wages’ is a fair description of the recompense they offer. Next thing you see, hospitality staff are striking and I feel shame for the industry as a whole. In a Brexit context, the industry faces a chronic staff shortage as the country no longer attracts the amazing talent from Europe and beyond we used to take for granted. As an industry, we should use the current environment as a catalyst to make hospitality an attractive option to a limited workforce and change our reputation as a low-pay industry.” The move comes after operations director Andre Mannini implemented M Restaurants’ M-indful Days initiative last year. The programme promotes mental health in the workplace, with all employees entitled to four M-indful Days per year in addition to their holiday allowance and access to Spill, an independent counselling app. M Restaurants also aims to support the industry in other ways such as its Young Chef of the Year competition, which will return for a third year this summer with a judging panel featuring Adam Handling, Tom Sellers, James Knappett and William Sitwell.
Social Strategy In A Day open for bookings:
Social Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has launched and is open for bookings. The event features all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure, broaden their reach and ensure their digital marketing really delivers. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop, which will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event takes place on Thursday, 4 April at One Moorgate Place in London. Insights will include how to drive business via social media; which social media activity works best for each generation; the key to successful storytelling; and the latest findings in consumer psychology and how they can benefit your social media communications. There will also be tips on how to improve your food and drink photography and rebuild trust on social media in the wake of fake news, alongside insights on key apps, how to make the most of Instagram and Facebook, and how to make your social spend count. Those who book tickets can submit questions ahead of the event for the Digital Blonde team to answer in special “20 questions in 20 minutes” sessions. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Propel insights editor Mark Wingett to give his views on deals that could happen in the sector:
Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will give his views on the M&A activity that could happen in the sector as part of his next article for Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (22 February). He will also continue his outline of what he believes lies ahead for the sector’s big pub operators and look at the curious case of the Wasabi investment process. Propel Premium subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday featuring Ei Group chief executive Simon Townsend talking about how the company was galvanised to meet the challenges of a completely new business model. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,300 multi-site companies, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email email@example.com
Loungers appoints new property director: Cafe bar group Loungers has appointed Rob Walls as property director, Propel has learned. Walls joins the company from Halfords, where he was head of property with responsibility for in excess of 800 sites. He has overall responsibility for the property function at Loungers, with Raj Manek moving to the new role of property acquisitions director, where he will support Walls in finding new sites. Loungers chief executive Nick Collins told Propel: “We are delighted to welcome Rob, who brings a vast amount of experience to the team as we continue growing the business.” Loungers, which is backed by Lion Capital, operates 142 sites under the Lounges and Cosy Club brands. Collins said the company had in excess of 30 sites in the pipeline, including plans for a Lounge in Eccleshall Road, Sheffield, and a Cosy Club in Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Collins said the company would look to continue growing at its current rate of 25 sites a year.
Mosaic completes separate deals on three London sites: Mosaic Pub and Dining has added three London sites to its portfolio after completing separate deals this week, Propel has learned. It means the Mosaic companies, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, have grown to 24 sites and increased their portfolio by 50% in the past six months. Mosaic has acquired The Admiral Hardy in Greenwich after agreeing a new lease with landlord Greenwich Hospital. Watson told Propel the College Approach site had been in the pipeline for more than a year and would now undergo a major refurbishment before reopening. He said: “It is a great area because it has all the demographics – shoppers, locals, tourists, students and workers.” Mosaic has also bought Jam Circus in Brockley from Antic, the Downing-backed London pub operator led by Anthony Thomas. Watson said following a “major revamp” the site in Brockley Road would reopen in June. Mosaic has also completed on the freehold purchase of The Royal Oak in New Malden from brewer and retailer Greene King. Watson said the site in Coombe Road, which has a function room upstairs, would reopen in late March as a traditional community pub with its classic features retained and enhanced. Following the deals, Watson said the company would enter a period of consolidation, although he didn’t rule out a couple more deals later this year. He added: “We have grown considerably, particularly over the past six months, and we need to manage that growth or chaos descends. We’re currently working on a major systems project to support our expansion, while our growth means we will have greater synergies that will help with supplier negotiations all the way down the P&L.” Paul Tallantyre, of Davis Coffer Lyons, is believed to have acted on the Greenwich deal.
Red’s True Barbecue sees ‘significant potential’ for BrewDog partnership: James Douglas, founder of smokehouse brand Red’s True Barbecue, has told Propel he sees “significant potential” for its partnership with Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog. As previously revealed by Propel, Red’s True Barbecue has established a long-term residency at BrewDog’s bar in Friar Lane, Leicester, and Douglas said if successful it would look to roll out the partnership to other BrewDog sites. The brewer has paired eight of its beers with Red’s 11-strong menu of smokehouse staples such as burgers, pulled pork, brisket, ribs and wings. The relationship between the companies began in 2016 when Red’s starting delivering dishes to BrewDog bars in Leeds. The Leicester collaboration is the brewer’s first kitchen residency outside the Yorkshire city. Douglas, who founded Red’s True Barbecue with Scott Munro, told Propel: “BrewDog is a powerhouse and we’re delighted to extend this partnership. Beer and barbecue go beautifully together and there are so many similarities between the two businesses. We see this as having significant potential and being a real avenue for growth. We serve about 60,000 people a month across our seven restaurants and we hope it will lead to BrewDog customers who have never been to Red’s coming to try us out and vice-versa. We only started talking about doing something two months ago so we’ve managed to get it off the ground quickly. If this is successful, we will certainly look to roll out the partnership to other BrewDog sites.” BrewDog Leicester general manager Toni Klas added: “Barbecue and beer is a match made in heaven. I’m glad the people of Leicester can now experience Red’s authentic low ‘n’ slow food at our bar. We’ve worked hard to pair our beer with the food in a way that draws out new and surprising flavours. We couldn’t be more excited for this partnership.” Last month, BrewDog opened its first bar of 2019, in Carlisle, bringing its network of bars to 67 worldwide with at least 19 more set to open this year.
SSP to make changes to annual bonus plan for new chief executive as shareholders revolt over remuneration policy and re-election of chairman: SSP, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has said it will make changes to the proposed bonus plan for its incoming chief executive following a shareholder revolt. At the company’s annual general meeting, more than one-third (33.61%) opposed the remuneration policy because of concerns about the bonus plan for Simon Smith, who will replace Kate Swann as group chief executive in July. Meanwhile, more than one-third voted against the re-election of chairman Vagn Sørensen at the annual general meeting following continued concerns about his external board appointments. Despite the opposition, both resolutions were passed as they only required 50% approval. SSP stated: “Based on input we have received in the weeks immediately preceding the annual general meeting, we understand some of our shareholders are concerned about the operation and disclosure of the annual bonus plan. We plan to amend our approach to the operation of the annual bonus for Simon Smith following his appointment as chief executive on 1 June 2019, such that his annual bonus will be determined by the financial performance of the group and his personal performance against objectives, the details of which will be provided in our 2019 annual report. The board and senior management team strongly believe Vagn is a valuable and effective independent chairman, a view supported by 65.78% of shareholders voting at the meeting. Vagn’s knowledge of the business and extensive experience brings many benefits to the group and his time commitment, availability and attention to his role as chairman have never been called into question by his other board appointments. Following the vote, the board and chairman will again review his portfolio of appointments with a view to considering how we can address concerns raised by our shareholders. As part of that process, the board will continue its ongoing engagement with shareholders on this matter.”
Signature Pubs to launch £4m brewery and bar in Edinburgh Grassmarket this month: Edinburgh-based Signature Pub Group is to launch a bar and brewery in the city’s historic Grassmarket this month following a £4m investment. The former Robertson Memorial Church is being transformed into Cold Town House, which will feature a brewery, bar, restaurant and rooftop terrace. The venue will offer live entertainment, screened sport and eight 500-litre tanks of brewery-fresh beer. Signature Group launched the Cold Town Beer brand last year. The opening of Cold Town House will mark the return of brewing to the Grassmarket, a tradition dating to the 16th century. The first floor will house the brewery, featuring floor-to-ceiling glass walls for visitors to view the brewing process, while booth seating and rotating windows will allow for a “fully immersive, sensory experience”. Cold Town House will also feature an open fire pit, a photo booth and live performances from comedians and musicians. The food offering will focus on stone-baked pizza cooked in an oven custom-made in Naples. The roof terrace will offer uninterrupted views of Edinburgh Castle as well as a ski gondola and drinks served from a vintage Citroen van. Signature Pubs owner Nic Wood said: “We launched Cold Town Beer in 2018 and it has gained a loyal following – we’re thrilled by the progress. We’re looking forward to being able to share the Cold Town magic with everyone in this incredible new venue. Cold Town House is something new for Edinburgh and we’re excited to bring this iconic building back to life as well as restore the Grassmarket’s history of brewing beer.” Signature Pub Group currently operates 24 sites in Scotland.
Leasehold of Peyote restaurant in Mayfair sells for £365,000 following administration: The leasehold of Mayfair-based Mexican restaurant Peyote, which shut last year after the company behind it went into administration, has been sold for £365,000, a new report has revealed. A progress report on Aurelia (Restaurant), trading as Peyote, by joint administrators Paul Cooper and Paul Appleton, of David Rubin & Partners, showed the leasehold was sold to an “unconnected third party” at the start of this month. Following the appointment of administrators in July last year agent LSH marketed the restaurant’s leasehold, receiving “significant interest”. Cooper said: “I am pleased to advise creditors the sale of the company’s interest in the leasehold property has completed.” The administrators said the sale should allow for a distribution to creditors. Aurelia had no secured creditor. So far, there has been a preferential claim from the Redundancy Payments Office for £17,339. There are also likely to be preferential claims from 21 employees who are owed the balance of their holiday pay, which has yet to be calculated. The administrators expect this to be paid in full. At the time of the report, the administrators had received claims from 22 unsecured creditors, totalling £295,456. Restaurateur Arjun Waney and businessman Tarun Mahroti launched Peyote in Cork Street in November 2013 with the aim to offer a “unique and refined modern interpretation of traditional Mexican food”.
Norwich coffee shop concept to offer franchise as it opens flagship site in city hotel: The founder of Norwich-based coffee shop Alchemista is hoping to roll out the concept nationally under franchise and will open a “coffee lab” in a new 50-bedroom boutique hotel he is launching in the city. Dennis Bacon, who also owns 38 St Giles Street bed and breakfast, was granted permission in March 2018 for a hotel and spa in the old bus station ticket office in Surrey Street. Bacon will open a flagship Alchemista branch on the ground floor featuring an enhanced food offering alongside signature coffee and coffee cocktails. The Alchemista franchise will be launched at Union Coffee in London on Monday (4 March) by the board of directors as part of plans to “disrupt” the UK coffee market. Anna Ramsay, marketing director for the hotel and Alchemista expansion, told Norwich Evening News: “Alchemista has been so well received in Norwich. We are excited to launch the brand as a UK franchise and see the second site open in the city.” Alchemista’s debut site opened in St Gregorys Alley in September 2017. Bacon said he was in advanced talks with a “four-star brand, well known across the UK” to operate his hotel. The building will also house a restaurant beside Alchemista on the ground floor, with the 50 bedrooms on the second and third storeys.
Hard Rock to launch Oxford Street hotel in April: Hard Rock International and London-based owner-operator Glh Hotels are to launch Hard Rock Hotel London in the heart of the capital this spring. The venue will launch on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane on Tuesday, 30 April. Hard Rock Hotel London will offer 900 rooms and suites, two bars and a 370-cover Hard Rock Cafe. Ian Fletcher, general manager of Hard Rock Hotel London, said: “Hard Rock is a world-class institution where contemporary style and comfort meets rock star service. This building has stood at the intersection of British music and fashion since the 1930s and when we open in April, it’s sure to become a go-to London hot spot once again.” In November, the company announced it would open a flagship Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus. The 19,000 square foot, multi-level cafe will open in the Criterion building showcasing an open kitchen concept. Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton opened the first Hard Rock Cafe in Old Park Lane, London, in 1971. Hard Rock International operates 185 cafes, 27 hotels and 12 casinos in 74 countries.
Domino’s Pizza reports global sales up 6.5% in fourth quarter, 10.6% for full year: Domino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 6.5% in its fourth quarter and 10.6% for the full year ending 30 December 2018. Like-for-like sales were up 5.6% in the US and 6.6% for the full year. In the international division, like-for-like sales rose 2.4% in the quarter and 3.5% for the full year. The quarter marked the 100th consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 31st consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased to £1,082,135,000, compared with £891,509,000 the previous year. The company added 560 stores during the period – 435 internationally and 125 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter were up 25.4% to $2.62. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “I am pleased with our fourth quarter, which capped a very strong 2018 for Domino’s. Our long-game approach, driven by fundamentals and the finest franchisee base in quick service restaurants across the globe, continues to pace the industry – and we are excited to execute our global strategy in 2019 and beyond.”
Restaurant offering experiences based on DC Comics universe to launch in London: A restaurant inspired by the DC Comics universe is set to open in the heart of London. Mash Steakhouse in Brewer Street, Soho, is earmarked for redevelopment into a restaurant “rooted in the DC Multiverse”. Planning documents sent to the Soho Society state: “The proposed design continues use of the space as a high-end restaurant. It will be rooted within the DC Multiverse, taking visitors on a culinary adventure through the many fictional universes famous for superheroes such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.” The main dining room would be divided into five spaces including lounge bar Pennyworth’s, named after Batman’s butler, and a dining area with 1930s-style entertainment called the Iceberg Lounge. There would also be fine dining experience the North Nave and an immersive dining experience, the South Nave, with diners enclosed by mirrored glass structures reminiscent of a dome. Another space, Arkham, based on the psychiatric hospital in Batman, would offer street food. The restaurant would offer 317 covers in total, reports Eater London. The building is owned by the Crown Estate, which has identified “a high-end restaurateur” to implement the concept.
McDonald’s creates animated digital books: McDonald’s has created a series of children’s digital books featuring animations and sound effects that bring Cressida Cowell’s novels to life. The read-along software is available on the Global Happy Meal app and has been developed alongside Cowell’s series for McDonald’s, Treetop Twins Adventures. The stories will be available in 80 markets and 43 languages. The software has been developed by R/GA London. Creative director Ben Lloyd told Campaign: “It was important to elevate the enjoyment of reading for kids and reimagine how books are experienced today. By making reading fun and creating an immersive reading experience for the whole family, we’ve helped instil a lifelong love of reading for kids and inspired millions of families around the world to read and enjoy moments together.” The 12-book series has been published by Hachette Children’s Group. Cowell is best known for her series of books How To Train Your Dragon, with a third movie currently on show in UK cinemas.
Glasgow-based Paesano Pizza to launch pasta concept for third city site: Glasgow-based pizzeria brand Paesano Pizza has submitted plans to launch a pasta concept inside an iconic city centre building. If the plans are approved the restaurant, Sugo, would open in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Herald Building featuring an open-plan design similar to Paesano’s pizzerias in Miller Street and Great Western Road, Glasgow Live reports. A statement submitted to Glasgow City Council states: “Access to the basement area would be via a spiral staircase. The restaurant would have open-plan preparation and cooking areas. Pasta would be made on-site daily, with customers able to see the production process as they dine. This proposal would ensure the city has access to a new and exciting dining experience and in the process ensure the security of its architectural heritage.” The listed building in Mitchell Street first opened in 1895 as a newspaper office.
P Franco team opens Peg for third Hackney site: The team behind P Franco wine shop and bar in Lower Clapton Road and wine bar and restaurant Bright in Westgate Street, both in Hackney, have launched a third site in the east London borough. Peg has opened at a site in Morning Lane formerly occupied by Legs restaurant. The kitchen is led by former Bright chef Byron Fini, while the venue offers an all-counter dining and drinking space, Hot Dinners reports. The team behind the project – Will Gleave and Phil Bracey – also operate natural wine company Noble Fine Liquor, which sells bottles at Broadway Market and online. Legs opened in May 2016 but closed in September last year. It was launched by chef Magnus Reid – founder of CREAM and Rooftop Café – and backed by technology industry veteran Andy Kanter.
Vita Mojo rolls out new restaurant operating system across sector: Healthy quick-service concept Vita Mojo, which raised £3.2m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in June 2017 to aid expansion, is further rolling out its new cloud-based operating system. The company has developed Vita Mojo Operating System at its three cashier-less and digital-only restaurants and has implemented it across other brands including healthy Asian takeaway concept Wokit. The operating system includes an option to include pre-ordering websites and apps, self-serve kiosks and an EPOS platform. The technology also links directly to kitchen operations to centralise orders on display screens and a food assembly system, while real-time analytics powered by artificial intelligence provide live feedback and information. The system also links customer segmentation, real-time behaviour tracking, feedback, and integrated referral and loyalty schemes. Vita Mojo chief executive and co-founder Nick Popovici said: “We have been developing the operating system in our own restaurants – our live research and development centres – and achieved some amazing results – 92% of our meals are personalised, 45% are pre-ordered online and it takes just 45 seconds on average to make a meal.” Popovici and Stefan Catoiu founded Vita Mojo in 2016. The company is backed by global caterer Elior Group.
Edinburgh-based cafe and bakery opens second site, hints at further expansion: Edinburgh-based cafe and bakery Loudons has opened its second site in the city – and hinted at further expansion. The family-run company has invested seven figures in the outlet in the New Waverley development in New Street Square. The venue accommodates 137 covers, while the opening has created 40 jobs. Most items on the menu are hand-made on-site. The homemade ethos applies to all elements of Loudons, including the architecture, interior design and joinery. Founder Chris Loudon said: “This expansion is an exciting chapter for our business and a bold step to bring the best breakfast, brunch and lunch to even more diners in Edinburgh. New Waverley is the next significant stage in our mission to serve brilliant food for all and we are excited about developing our expansion plans for the business in the coming months.” Loudons’ debut site opened in Fountainbridge in 2011.
Harrogate-based restaurant doubles up with opening at former Ham & Friends site in Leeds: Harrogate-based restaurant Stuzzi has opened its second site, in Leeds. Owners Nick Harvey, Tom Pierson and James Waters have launched the venue in a former Ham & Friends site in Merrion Street that most recently housed New York-style beer and sports bar Lucky Number Seven. Stuzzi, which is listed in the Waitrose-sponsored Good Food Guide 2019, is an all-day restaurant, deli, cafe and wine bar offering authentic Italian produce. Harvey, Pierson and Waters based their Harrogate venture, which opened in 2014, on the Salvo’s restaurant in Headingley, reports the Yorkshire Post. Ham & Friends vacated the unit in March 2018 having been open for a year after parent company Friends of Ham went into administration.
Curtice Brothers launches organic mayonnaise: Curtice Brothers, led by former Vapiano executive board member Mario C Bauer and Sticks ‘n’ Sushi UK boss Andreas Karlsson, has launched an organic mayonnaise to accompany its award-winning ketchup. Curtice Brothers Organic Mayonnaise is available in 60g jars and is made in Italy using free-range eggs. Hoxton Hotels is one of the first partners to introduce the mayonnaise to its sites across Europe. Curtice Brothers Organic Ketchup is cooked in Tuscany and is already on offer at 200 hotels and restaurants in 11 countries. Bauer told Propel the company was working on a new sauce for this summer’s barbecue season. Simeon and Edgar Curtice founded Curtice Brothers in 1868 in Rochester, New York, but the name was abandoned in the 1940s. Bauer revived the brand in early 2014.
Adil Group submits plans for Taco Bell drive-thru in Greenock for third Scottish site: The Adil Group, a franchisee that operates the only Scottish site for Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell with a further six in the pipeline for 2019, has submitted plans to launch a drive-thru in Greenock, near Glasgow. If Inverclyde Council approves the plans, building work on the drive-thru would start at the Waterfront Retail Park, off Customhouse Way, this summer. Planning permission for a restaurant at the site was secured in 2015 and renewed last year, the Greenock Telegraph reports. The drive-thru would be the third Taco Bell site in Scotland after The Adil Group announced it would open a second site in Glasgow little more than a year after the brand opened its first Scottish venue, in the city’s Sauchiehall Street. Taco Bell’s UK portfolio has expanded rapidly to more than 30 sites. Taco Bell general manager of Europe Jorge Torres has said the brand could have more than 200 restaurants operating in the UK within the next five years if the market’s appetite for the brand “takes off in the way I expect”. He said: “During the next five years my dream would be to get to 200 restaurants in the UK. I think there is so much potential.” Originally launched in the US, there are more than 425 Taco Bell outlets across 27 markets outside its home market, with the company aiming to expand the brand’s international presence to 9,000 restaurants by 2022.
Cheshire-based ice cream manufacturer opens second retail site: Cheshire-based ice cream manufacturer Snugbury’s has opened its second retail site. The company, run by sisters Hannah, Cleo and Kitty Sadler, has launched Snugbury’s By The River in Chester. The cafe-style ice cream shop also offers homemade sandwiches, cakes and hot puddings. Hannah Sadler told Cheshire Live: “Our aim is to have a small selection of really tasty food, great coffee and, of course, our famous ice cream.” The family-owned brand’s other retail site is in a converted barn by a canal-side walking trail in Nantwich.
Bibendum and Gilbeys announce partnership: UK distributor Bibendum, owned by C&C Group, and Irish wine merchant Gilbeys have announced the launch of a new partnership. The link-up, which will begin on Friday, 1 March, will coincide with Bibendum’s launch in Northern Ireland with a new and exclusive range. Dating to the 1850s, Gilbeys is the largest wine distributor in Ireland. Gilbeys sales director Duncan Millar said: “Bibendum’s portfolio offers a huge variety of wine from around the world, with countries of origin that aren’t easily sourced in Ireland. This partnership with Bibendum will increase our business in Ireland, potentially doubling our wine sales over the next three years.” Bibendum chief executive Michael Saunders added: “The Gilbeys brand is iconic in Ireland and we are thrilled to be able to work with it to bring some of our best-loved wine to the market. Feedback from on-trade customers tells us they want even more choice and diversity.”