Story of the Day:
JD Wetherspoon to put 16 pubs on the market: JD Wetherspoon is to put 16 pubs on the market, Propel has learned. The sites will all be available on an individual basis and marketed through joint agents Savills and CBRE. The pubs are The Brun Lea in Burnley (Lloyds); The Friar Penketh in Warrington; The Bourtree in Hawick; The Cross Keys in Peebles; Chapel an Gansblydhen in Bodmin (Lloyds); St George’s Hall in Redfield; The Isaac Merritt in Paignton; The Dee Hotel in West Kirkby; The Last Plantagenet in Leicester; The Rhinoceros in Rotherham; The Alexander Bain in Wick; The Pennsylvanian in Rickmansworth; The Time Piece in Dewsbury; The Butler’s Bell in Stafford; The Vulcan in Coatbridge; and The Queens Hotel in Newport. Staff at all the sites have been informed, with the pubs continuing to trade. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told Propel: “Wetherspoon does, on occasion, put some of its pubs up for sale. It is a commercial decision by the company to do so.” In recent years, Wetherspoon has put a number of pub packages on the market, including 33 in 2016 and 20 in 2015. The company has also been concentrating on buying the freeholds of pubs where it was a tenant. At its second-quarter trading update in January, the company said it had spent £56m on such purchases in the current financial year. At the time, chairman Tim Martin told Propel that with interest rates remaining historically low, it would continue with the strategy. He said: “For the past 15 years we’ve spent money buying back shares but now, as we own half of the shares in the business, there’s a limit to what we can do there. We’re a very mature company now. We think buying the freeholds makes good business sense in the long run.” Wetherspoon will report its interim results on Friday (15 March).
Propel Premium subscribers to receive video of Stonegate chairman Ian Payne interviewed by Mark Wingett:
Propel Premium subscribers will receive a 30-minute video on Friday (15 March) in which Stonegate Pub Company chairman Ian Payne is interviewed by Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Payne sets out his thoughts on how the pub has evolved, which products the company is stockpiling ahead of Brexit, and his views on JD Wetherspoon, among a host of other subjects. 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, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
UK’s ‘first dedicated hospitality festival’ to return in August: The UK’s “first dedicated hospitality festival” is returning for a second year, in August. PX+ Festival will again take place at Duchess Farms in Sawbridgeworth, Essex, from Saturday, 17 August to Monday, 19 August. Created by a team of hospitality professionals, the event will bring together 3,000 chefs, farmers, bakers, butchers, makers, suppliers and producers, giving the industry the chance to "create, share, discuss and celebrate". Chefs making an appearance will include Clare Smyth, who launched her debut restaurant, Core By Clare Smyth, in Notting Hill in 2017; and Doug McMaster, co-founder of Brighton’s zero-waste restaurant Silo. Chefs, sommeliers and front-of-house teams will come together to host dining experiences at the PX+ Table and Crop Circle Table with a barbecue and live music. This year, visitors will also find a new Secret Table, which will create dinners for up to ten guests. Sustainability will be a thread woven into the festival as it aims to be plastic-free and zero-waste. For more details, visit www.pxplusfestival.com
UberEats launches dark kitchens: UberEats has launched dark kitchens in Paris as part of its ongoing battle with food delivery rivals. Deliveroo launched the delivery-only dark kitchen concept in London and Paris in 2017. UberEats has opened a test kitchen in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Ouen. The San Francisco-based firm has partnered with Parisian startup Kitch’n Box to open its first shared kitchen, which serves about 11 restaurants in Saint-Ouen. According to a person familiar with the plans, the company intends to expand the programme to other markets, possibly the US and/or Latin America, if the trial proves a success. An UberEats spokesman told Finance: “We are currently working with a small number of restaurants in Saint-Ouen to help them experiment with delivery-only business models from a shared commercial kitchen space.” Since its launch in London more than two years ago, UberEats has tripled its headcount in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to almost 1,000 staff. Last month, former Uber boss Travis Kalanick raided his old company for staff as part of a multimillion-dollar plan to build a worldwide network of food delivery kitchens. He is though to be looking to expand his new venture, CloudKitchens, from its US base into Asia and Europe. CloudKitchens buys or leases sites, often in less popular areas of towns and cities, in which to fit out kitchens. The company also develops software to help restaurateurs manage back-office systems and integrate with food delivery platforms.
Herman ze German to open first UK site outside London, in Birmingham next month: Sausage specialist Herman ze German is to open its first UK site outside London and fifth in total, in Birmingham next month. The 42-cover, 700 square foot site will launch in Grand Central on Monday, 1 April offering the brand’s authentic German sausages sourced from the Black Forest. The Herman ze German menu includes currywurst and schnitzel with a choice of toppings alongside German beer such as Fruh, Kolsch, Erdinger and Schneiderweisse. Herman Ze German co-founders Azadeh Falakshahi and Florian Frey said: “With its line-up of leading retailers and restaurateurs and location near New Street Station, Grand Central was the obvious choice for our first site outside London.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Grand Central landlord Hammerson, added: “Herman Ze German will be a great addition to Grand Central’s already strong restaurant line-up. The fact the brand has chosen Grand Central and Birmingham for its first site outside London is a real vote of confidence in the city.” Herman ze German’s London sites are in Charing Cross, Fitzrovia, Soho and White City.
Humble Grape passes £560,000 milestone in crowdfunding campaign to accelerate growth: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, has passed the £560,000 milestone in its campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to accelerate growth by opening one to two sites a year. The company is offering 3.23% equity in return for the investment, giving it a pre-money valuation of £12m. So far, 212 investors have pledged £565,268 and the campaign is “overfunding”. Humble Grape will use funds to open a fifth, flagship site in Canary Wharf in June followed by a “further one to two sites each year”. Dawson said the campaign, the company’s third EIS equity investment round, would close in the “next few days”. He said: “I expected this campaign to be much tougher than our previous ones. However, it seems the numbers speak for themselves and investors are keen to support a brand that is thriving despite adverse market conditions. Humble Grape is a brand that has been largely shaped by its customers. This, I believe, is the reason it has continued to grow and be successful. Despite some unfavourable market conditions, we have resolutely remained true to our core company values – offering fantastic-quality, good-value wine and food that has been sourced sustainably and ethically. This crowdfunding campaign will allow more customers to invest in our expansion plans. I want Humble Grape to belong to the people who believe in what we are doing.” Dawson founded Humble Grape in 2009, running pop-ups around London. In 2014, Humble Grape raised £535,000 to take the brand to the high street. It now operates wine bars and shops in Battersea, Fleet Street, Islington and Liverpool Street. In 2017, the company raised almost £1.3m on Seedrs.
Malhotra Group reports leisure division turnover falls: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group has reported turnover in its leisure division fell to £9,375,425 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £9,815,056 the previous year. Total group turnover increased to £33,299,338 compared with £32,178,493 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Pre-tax profit was down slightly to £4,508,073, compared with £4,551,390 the year before. The company also operates in the care home and property sectors. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “We are pleased to report during the year we achieved an improvement in our annual turnover to £33.3m (2017: £32.2m). Operating profit increased by £0.1m to £5.9m. Shareholders’ funds in the year also increased, by £4.4m to £61.0m. Staff numbers also increased in the year, by 30. We are delighted to again report all three divisions contributed positively to this overall performance showing that a well-diversified and well-invested stock of care homes, leisure sites and geographically spread investment properties remains key to the continuing success of our business. We continue to invest in a significant capital expansion programme across both care and leisure sectors to improve the quality of services across our businesses and develop new business opportunities. We have continued to acquire sites, create jobs and have a strong development pipeline.”
Gary Usher eyes further crowdfunding campaign for Leeds site following successful Manchester fund-raise, rules out London move: Gary Usher, owner of Elite Bistros, has told Propel he is eyeing another crowdfunding campaign for a seventh site, in Leeds, but has ruled out bringing the brand to London. The announcement came as Usher, who aimed to raise £100,000 in 100 hours for his sixth venue, in Manchester, hit the target of his current fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter within 11 hours. So far, 1,227 investors have pledged £107,871 with three days of the campaign remaining. Usher’s latest venture, Kala, will launch on Wednesday, 1 May in Manchester city centre after Usher secured the necessary funds to complete the project having admitted previously he had “messed up the numbers”. But with the finishing line for the 55-cover bistro, which will open in King Street and feature a separate 15-cover bar, in sight, Usher has already turned his attention to his next project. He is currently in discussions with landlords over a site in Leeds and is looking at another round of crowdfunding to bring the project to fruition. Usher said despite having embarked on five successful fund-raises for his various ventures, the chef admits he is never overconfident of receiving the necessary backing. He said: “I am overwhelmed that people continue to support me. I don’t understand why they do, if I’m honest – it’s a lot of money. Now we’ve hit the target, I won’t be pushing the campaign any more. Although it’s still open, I believe in only asking for what you need and don’t do stretch targets – that’s moving the goal-posts in my view. We could do with more, if I’m honest, but this will give me enough working capital to be able to pay the tradesmen. I’m working on a site in Leeds in the background. I looked at a site in Hackney three months ago but, thinking about it, London’s not for us. It’s a difficult place to open and we’ve got a good little thing going up north.” Usher launched his debut site, Sticky Walnut, in Chester in 2011 and has since added Burnt Truffle in Heswall, Hispi in Manchester, Wreckfish in Liverpool and Pinion in Prescott.
Bristol-based Season & Taste to launch Mexican restaurant this week for fifth site in city: Bristol-based hospitality group Season & Taste is to launch a Mexican restaurant on Thursday (14 March) for its fifth site in the city. Husband-and-wife team and Season & Taste founders Kieran and Imogen Waite will open Mesa + Mezcal at a former MeatLiquor site in Stokes Croft that was more recently occupied by deli Corner 77. Mesa + Mezcal’s menu will include botanas (small snacks), masa (based on maize dough), crudo (raw dishes), asado (larger dishes grilled or oven-roasted), and traditional sides. Drinks will focus on mezcal, served straight in tasting flights or mixed into cocktails, Bristol Live reports. There will also be wine and house craft beer Masa, made in partnership with Bristol brewer Good Chemistry Brewing. Season & Taste’s other sites are tapas restaurant Bravas, cafe Bakers & Co, taco bar Cargo Cantina and seafood restaurant Gambas.
Goodbody expects to reduce Domino’s Pizza UK openings target to 30 sites given ongoing conflict with franchisees: Goodbody leisure analyst Rachel Fox has said it expects to reduce its Domino’s Pizza openings target in the UK from 50 to 30 in 2019 given the ongoing conflict with franchisees. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares following the company’s full-year results, Fox said: “Given management guidance at the time of the fourth quarter update in January, there are few surprises in the headline numbers. Group system sales came in at £1,260m, up 7% year-on-year. Ebit came in at £96.9m. Within this, UK and Republic of Ireland Ebit was £101m, while international (including German joint venture) was down £4.1m. Underlying profit before tax came in at £93.4m, down 3% year-on-year, slightly behind our recently reduced forecast of £93.9m. In terms of outlook, the statement notes it expects UK openings to be lower than 2018 given the ongoing franchisee discussions. The statement notes the inflationary environment has contributed to a period of more intense commercial discussions with franchisees, which have continued into the new year. It expects continued growth in the UK and the group has also reiterated its target for international to break even. As expected, no colour was given on current trading. Overall, it is somewhat disappointing profit before tax came in below the guidance given at the end of January (£93.4m versus low end of consensus £93.9m). The ongoing conflict with the franchisees doesn’t appear to be closer to a resolution and at this point in time we expect to reduce our FY19 UK store openings target down from 50 to 30. We also continue to remain sceptical around the ability of the international business to break even given profitability continues to trend in the wrong direction (£4.1m loss versus guidance in January of £3m to £4m loss). We expect to reduce our FY19 profit before tax by circa 1.5% to circa £97m.”
Le Bab team to launch Kebab Queen concept in Covent Garden next month: Manu Canales, former sous chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche, and partners Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet will launch Kebab Queen in Covent Garden next month. The team, who are behind modern, European-influenced kebab concepts Le Bab and Maison Bab, will launch their “most adventurous and ambitious opening” in early April. Canales has created a seven-course tasting menu for the site, with dishes cooked on a wood-fired grill and plated on a heated Dekton countertop. The menu will include foie gras kebabito; doner risotto; chargrilled shish kebab of monkfish; rum-aged spit-roast duck; and freshly baked, sticky milk buns filled with caramelised cream and topped with crème fraiche sorbet. The decor will include leather-clad stools, stainless steel walls, pastel pink curtains and a pink-tiled concrete floor. Canales said: “Kebab Queen is the pinnacle of our project. We’re creatively pairing Middle Eastern flavours with meticulous and classic technique – but we want diners to relax and get stuck in. It’s about combining the intense flavours of high-end dining with the communal, elbow-to-elbow fun of the kebab shop.” Le Bab launched in Soho in 2016, while Maison Bab opened in the Mercers Walk development in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, last September. Simon Taylor, property director at The Mercers’ Company added: “Following the launch last year, Maison Bab has proved extremely popular with visitors and is a key footfall generator for the estate, so we are extremely excited to see what the team has in store for its new opening of Kebab Queen."
Yard & Coop opens third site, in Leeds: Fried chicken concept Yard & Coop, owned by former Revolution Bars Group employees Carl and Laura Morris, has opened its third site, in Leeds. Yard & Coop has launched the 120-cover venue in York Place in the former home of Miah’s Kitchen, creating 30 jobs. As with Yard & Coop’s other restaurants, in Liverpool and Manchester, the Leeds site sources all its chicken from a farm in Shropshire. The Morris’ founded Yard & Coop in 2015 with a debut site in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. In December 2016, the company expanded with a second venue at the Liverpool ONE shopping and leisure complex.
German Doner Kebab opens second Scottish site, in Glasgow: German Doner Kebab (GDK), which is owned by the Glasgow-based Sarwar family, has opened a restaurant in the city for the brand’s second site in Scotland. The restaurant has opened at the former Odeon Cinema site in Renfield Street. GDK operates 33 sites in the UK, with its other Scottish site in Dundee. Its next planned opening is also in Scotland, in Edinburgh, with other sites “coming soon” in Oldham, Plymouth and Preston. In August, GDK told Propel its eventual target for the UK is 300 sites. The Sarwars operate one of the UK’s largest wholesalers and have a network of more than 550 stores among a wide-ranging business portfolio estimated to be worth more than £350m. Athif Sarwar, eldest son of former Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar, is at the helm. The Sarwars became master franchisees for GDK in the UK and Ireland in 2016. GDK was founded in Berlin and now operates 70 outlets worldwide, with more planned for Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the US this year. The Sarwars said the company was looking to launch between 800 and 1,000 restaurants in North America in the next ten years.
Fuller’s appoints former Zizzi boss Helen Jones as independent non-executive director: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has appointed Helen Jones as an independent non-executive director with immediate effect. Jones currently sits on the boards of restaurant group Vapiano and motor accessories and cycling business Halfords Group. She was group executive director at Caffe Nero, with responsibility for strengthening the brand’s operational management. Before that, she was managing director of Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi. Jones was also responsible for the UK launch and European roll-out of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and is still involved as vice-chairman of the board. She said: “Three of my aunts ran tenanted pubs in Yorkshire so there was a strong attraction to Fuller’s. I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a great company that is undergoing an enormous change and I’m looking forward to playing my part in the next chapter in the Fuller’s story.” Chairman Michael Turner said: “Helen brings with her a wealth of knowledge in the retail and hospitality sectors combined with real entrepreneurial flair – that combination makes her an exciting addition to our board. She is also an experienced non-executive director and I and my fellow directors look forward to working with her in the future.”
Taiyaki concept Yaki Yaki to open in Covent Garden: Yaki Yaki, a new concept inspired by Japanese taiyaki waffles, is set to open in London’s Covent Garden. The new concept, which will open at 4 New Row, is the brainchild of Lucy Abdullah and Jaff Lakhani. Abdullah is a trained chef having qualified in 2015 from Leiths School of Food & Wine. She also runs chef and consultancy business Magnum & Larder. Yaki Yaki will offer a variety of sweet and savoury fillings along with soft serve ice cream and freakshakes. DCL is thought to have acted on the deal.
Burger King adds Black Angus burger to menu: Burger King has added a new burger to its UK menu – the Black Angus. Marketed as the most premium item on its menu, Burger King has “scoured the entire country high and low for the best beef Britain has on offer”. The result is a burger made from 100% British and Irish Black Angus beef with a marbled texture. The gourmet edition of the classic features smoky barbecue sauce, Emmental cheese, crispy bacon, freshly sliced onions and lettuce in a brioche bun. The burger costs £7.49 including fries and a drink. Soco Nunez de Cela, head of brand and marketing communications at Burger King UK Group, told the Mirror: “We wanted to develop our premium menu to offer another delicious burger. The Black Angus offers everything a burger-lover is looking for – flavour, texture and quality – and we’re proud to bring this product to the UK market.”
Cambridgeshire-based operator reopens gastro-pub previously run by MasterChef finalist for second site: Cambridgeshire-based operator Nilesh Misquitta has reopened a gastro-pub previously run by MasterChef runner-up Alex Rushmer for his second site. Misquitta has taken over The Hole In The Wall in Little Wilbraham, which has been closed for almost two years following Rushmer’s departure. Misquitta, who owns the Elm Tree Inn near Wisbech, is a former chef on the QE2. He told the Cambridge Independent: “The first time I came to see the place, I fell in love with it and the area. That was the first factor in deciding to come here. I just needed to work hard to bring it back to life. It’s in a lovely area and is a lovely building if you like something old, which I do. I haven’t gone for fine dining, I have just kept the menu simple to start with. It has been a success for me before.” Rushmer, who was runner-up in MasterChef in 2010, closed The Hole In The Wall in June 2017 after six years, when he decided not to renew the lease. He has since teamed up with chef Lawrence Butler and will launch Vanderlyle restaurant in Cambridge this spring.
Indo-Chinese concept Fatt Pundit opens in Soho: Indo-Chinese concept Fatt Pundit has launched in Berwick Street, Soho. The name is a combination of common Chinese surname Fatt and Indian word “pundit”, which means scholar. The 60-cover restaurant features exposed concrete walls, street signs and murals. Indo-Chinese cuisine was created when Hakka people migrated to India from the Chinese province of Canton, combining traditional Chinese cooking techniques with the spices of India. Fatt Pundit’s signature dish is momos (Tibetan spicy dumplings with added meat and vegetarian fillings accompanied by chutney). The restaurant features a momo station at the front, while other signature dishes include shredded chilli venison, and stir-fried cod and bream curry. The drinks list focuses on cocktails inspired by Indian fruit vendors.
The Works down to two as it shuts Chelmsford site: Husband-and-wife team Roger and Elaine Bolton have closed the Chelmsford site of their fast-casual urban-style restaurant The Works after less than a year. The Boltons opened the venue in the redeveloped Next building in Springfield Road in May 2018. However, they have decided to shut the venue for commercial reasons with their High Wycombe and Aylesbury restaurants continuing to trade. Roger Bolton told Essex Live: “We have been having challenges in the business. The people we have had in have been amazing, there just haven’t been enough of them. Saturdays are very busy but the commercial reality is there hasn’t been enough spread across the week. We are an independent, family business and we don’t have a bucket of cash behind us. We thought we had something unique that was different to the rest in Chelmsford. It has worked well with our other two restaurants but it hasn’t been enough in Chelmsford.” The Works offers artisan ice cream made in front of customers alongside crepes, waffles, hot drinks, desserts, milkshakes, smoothies, cocktails, beer and a range of sparkling, red and white wine.
New members’ club with sharing ethos to open in Hammersmith this month: A new members’ club with a sharing ethos is to open in Hammersmith, west London, this month. Kindred will be housed in the three-storey, grade II-listed Bradmore House in Queen Caroline Street. The space will offer an all-day cafe and bar on the ground floor and spaces for co-working, events and dining on the first and top floors. The sharing ethos has inspired the restaurant’s communal dining concept, with the menu from head chef Romulo Silva featuring West Sussex porchetta with candied apples and vegan butternut squash wellington with rainbow chard. Co-founder and director Anna Anderson said: “We recognise community means something different to everyone so we’re so excited to introduce a space that reimagines what community could be like in a modern city for modern people – a place where you can spend your whole day, meet new people, have interesting conversations and eat great food. If we’re doing our job right, Kindred will feel like a home away from home.”
PizzaExpress lines up Bradford site: PizzaExpress is lining up a site in Bradford. The company has lodged an application with the city council to open the restaurant in a unit beneath The Light cinema at The Broadway shopping centre. The application shows the restaurant would have 124 seats inside and 16 outside. The Light cinema opened in May last year and was the second part of The Broadway development. The cinema, which also offers a bar, is on the first floor with the ground floor proposed as a row of cafes, bars and restaurants. However, with the units un-let plans were submitted to allow other types of business to set up, leading Specsavers to relocate its city centre store to one of the units. The Broadway general manager Ian Ward told the Telegraph & Argus: “It is a very exciting time for The Broadway as we can confirm there is interest in a number of units.”
The Ancoats Panda owners to start expansion with second Manchester site: Manchester-based Chinese restaurant The Ancoats Panda is to start expansion by opening a second site in the city. Husband-and-wife team Miguel Hung and Carolina Ho, who operate The Ancoats Panda in Great Ancoats Street, will open Blue-Eyed Panda on the corner of Henry Street and Jersey Street. The 50-cover restaurant will feature brushed concrete floors, wooden tables and chairs, and brightly coloured lampshades, with a small bar in one corner. The couple owned a food court in Venezuela before its economy pushed them to move to the UK. Ho told Manchester Evening News: “We will keep all the familiar Chinese dishes on the menu, such as salt and pepper chicken, crispy chilli beef, and sweet and sour dishes, but we also want to have specials based on the ingredients we can get on the day. There is influence from Venezuela in our cooking. A lot of the food there is quite fusion-style anyway.”
London Stansted airport launches Sky High Sandwich: London Stansted airport has partnered with luxury food outlet Not Always Caviar to create the Sky High Sandwich. Following scientific research at the University of London into the body’s reduced ability to perceive flavours at altitude, the sandwich includes “umami-rich ingredients”. The Sky High Sandwich is being sold exclusively at the Not Always Caviar cafe at London Stansted airport, available as a signature seafood club sandwich (with optional caviar sauce) or a salt beef deli variety. Both sandwiches include an “umami blend spice ingredient”. Professor Barry Smith, director of the University of London’s centre for the study of the senses, said: “Science shows the combination of dry air and low pressure during flights reduces our sensitivity to food aromas. Additionally, the sound of white noise at 80 decibels or above has an impact on the brain’s ability to perceive sweet, salt and sour from the tongue – reducing its intensity by about 10% to 15%. Foods rich in umami provide depth of flavour and boost other basic tastes such as salt, sweet and sour.” London Stansted is investing £600m to deliver the biggest upgrade to the airport since the Lord Norman Foster terminal opened in 1991.
Cineworld non-executive director to step down: Cineworld has announced Julie Southern will step down as a non-executive director at the company's annual general meeting in May. Southern has taken the decision to allow her to manage her increased non-executive commitments. As a result, non-executive director Dean Moore will become chairman of the audit committee while deputy chairman Alicja Kornasiewicz will become chairman of the remuneration committee. Cineworld said it was anticipated a search for a new non-executive director would begin shortly. Chairman Anthony Bloom said: "I would like to thank Julie on behalf of the board for her exceptional contribution to the company since her appointment in 2015. We wish her every success for the future."