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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 20th Jun 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks secures investment as it eyes growth: Urban axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks has secured new investment from Edition Capital, the backer of Incipio Group, to aid growth, Propel has learned. Whistle Punks, which offers the opportunity to throw axes for fun, currently operates sites in London, Manchester and Birmingham and has secured £1.5m of new investment from Edition Capital that will enable the business to expand across the UK as the popularity of alternative sports and experiential leisure continues to rise. The company, which was founded by John Nimmons and Jools Whitehorn in 2016, plans to open a site in Bristol this summer with a further venue in London planned to launch before the end of the year. The business has applied to Bristol City Council to open a site in in All Saints Street that was formerly occupied by nightclub Panache, which closed in 2011. Whistle Punks sees groups take part in axe-throwing tournaments guided by throwing coaches. Participants rack up the highest score by hitting bull’s-eyes while socialising between rounds. Earlier this year, Edition Capital invested £5m in Incipio to help it open six sites in the next 18 months. Earlier this week, events caterer Social Pantry announced it had secured £1.1m of funding from Edition Capital to aid growth. The company operates seven sites across the city, including Social Pantry Café in Battersea, Soane’s Kitchen at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, and Crane’s Kitchen in Peckham. Edition Capital has also invested in restaurant and bar concept Little Door & Co and Little Lion Entertainment, the company behind The Crystal Maze Live experience.

Industry News:

Women’s Entrepreneur Conference speaker line-up announced, open for bookings: The line-up for this year’s Women’s Entrepreneur Conference has been revealed. Building on last year’s debut event, the sector’s first conference to feature an all-female line-up of company leaders, more sector-leading female entrepreneurs will share their stories and expertise alongside two panel sessions. Propel has partnered with Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott for the full-day event, which takes place on Thursday, 12 September at One Moorgate Place, London, and is open for bookings – for men as well as women. The event will also see the winner named of the Wireless Social Women’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Speakers will be Bartlett Mitchell founder Wendy Bartlett (“Pear pips to a tree”); West Brewery founder Petra Wetzel (“How the west was won”); Chai by Mira founder Mira Manek (“Having zen and zeal”); Filmore & Union founder Adele Ashley (“Lessons learnt from a life of being an entrepreneur”); Tonkotsu founder Emma Reynolds (“Tales of the unexpected: my life in a startup”); Giggling Squid founder Pranee Laurillard (“Believe in what you think is the right thing to do”); sushi expert and KellyDeli head of food product innovation Silla Bjerrum (“How to set up a business, take a new investor on board and exit hard”); Stanley Pubs founder Amanda Pritchett (“A tale of six pubs. Keep it simple and tell the story”); Seafood Pub Company founder Joycelyn Neve (“Head versus heart decision-making”); and Prezzo executive chairman Karen Jones (“A journey through hospitality”). The first panel session, entitled “Lessons for women setting up a business from scratch”, will feature Kanishka Holdings managing director Tina English, Livelyhood chief executive and owner Sarah Wall, Oatopia owner Tamar Coleman, and The Chilli Pickle founder Dawn Sperring. The second panel session, entitled “What I would do differently next time”, will feature Bombay Burrito owner Maria Savage, Farmer Copleys owner Heather Copley, Goldfinger Factory founder Marie Cudennec, Hola Guacamole owner Margarita Garcia, and Yum Bun founder Lisa Meyer. Elliott said: “Female entrepreneurs are making an enormous contribution to the hospitality sector – but we still need more of them and hopefully this will encourage more women to take the plunge.” Propel managing director Paul Charity added: “Progress is being made but the sector is still dominated by men at senior level. We hope companies send their brightest female talent to the conference to pick up inspiration. It’s also a great opportunity for male colleagues to gain insight into female entrepreneurial skills.” Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers and £345 plus VAT for others. They can be booked by emailing or calling her on 01444 817691

Mark Wingett to look at Wahaca furore in Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the latest furore to hit Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca and whether the business can bounce back again in his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (21 June) at 5pm. Wahaca came under fire this week over its “walk-out policy”, which it has since updated, after waiting staff were discovered to be paying the bills of runaway diners. It comes after Wahaca was hit by an outbreak of norovirus in 2016 during which hundreds of staff and diners fell ill. Subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday in which Oakman Inns and Restaurants founder and chief executive Peter Borg-Neal talks about growing the company through new financing routes and partnerships and adapting to the economic climate. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular video recordings of key speakers. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Company News:

CDG rebrands Café Rouge delivery concept: Casual Dining Group (CDG), the James Spragg-led company, has rebranded one of two delivery concepts attached to its Café Rouge brand, Propel has learned. The company has rebranded its Chef & Rooster concept as Wonder Chicken after a revamp of the chicken-focused virtual brand’s menu. A CDG spokesman told Propel: “We are committed to innovating, trialling and evolving all our offers to meet the changing wants and needs of consumers. As such, when we revamped the menu for our chicken-focused delivery concept Chef & Rooster, the second delivery brand operating from Café Rouge sites, we also took the decision to rebrand the concept as Wonder Chicken.” CDG also operates virtual brand Stack & Grill out of its Café Rouge estate. CDG has also rolled out virtual brand Blazing Bird across about 40 of its Las Iguanas sites and launched a further brand – Bang Bang Burritos – out of a similar number of restaurants. It also operates virtual delivery brand Mac N Shack out of some of its Bella Italia restaurants.

Knight steps down from Jamie’s: Jon Knight has stepped down from Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group after being chief executive of Jamie’s Italian for the past two and a half years. It was thought Knight may have reverted to his former role of managing director of the high-profile chef’s international restaurants operation, which he had successfully run for a year before moving to chief executive of the entire group. Knight, who is former chief executive of Al Khayyat Investments’ retail division in Dubai, took over as chief executive from Simon Blagden and oversaw the company’s CVA at the start of 2018. Despite Knight’s significant efforts the business fell into administration earlier this year leading to the closure of all UK-based Jamie’s Italian sites apart from three at Gatwick airport, which have since been acquired by SSP. Oliver still owns the international restaurant franchise business.

Caffe Concerto sees full-year turnover top £27m: Caffe Concerto, the London-based premium cafe operator, saw turnover for the year to August 2018 climb 9.3% to £27.4m. New accounts for its parent company, the privately owned Lux Management & Investments Group, show full-year pre-tax profits fell slightly from £1.9m to £1.6m on the back of further investment in the company’s estate. Gross profit stood at £13.3m, up from £12.5m the previous year. The company said it was “pleased with growth achieved during a period where the economic outlook was uncertain, the effects of Brexit were being digested and there was competition from rivals”. The group operates 19 sites in the UK – 18 in London and one in Birmingham – plus four in the Middle East. It recently reopened its High Street Kensington site following a £1.2m refurbishment. The group recently rolled out its Cafe De Pierre bistro brand into ten former Patisserie Valerie units within Debenhams department stores.

Vegan concept Go Falafel eyes expansion across UK as it opens fifth site, in Liverpool: North west-based vegan concept Go Falafel is eyeing expansion to cities across the UK after opening its fifth site, in Liverpool. Go Falafel, which offers a 100% vegan menu including falafel wraps, salad, fresh juice and smoothies, has opened in Richmond Street. The business has taken a 15-year lease on the site, which is spread across 470 square feet on the ground floor and 425 square feet in the basement. Go Falafel has three locations in Manchester and one in Preston. Director Rajab Shamallakh told The Business Desk: “We are thrilled to have opened our concept in Liverpool. We first opened in Manchester in 2012 and currently plan to expand to every city in the UK. These days the public is a lot more health-conscious and switched on in terms of nutrition so our varied vegan menu will meet the needs of people who lead a healthy or plant-based lifestyle.” Hitchcock Wright & Partners acted for the landlord, while Mason Owen acted on behalf of Go Falafel on the Liverpool deal.

Mason swaps Prezzo for Pizza Hut: Mark Mason has stepped down from TPG Capital-backed Prezzo to join takeaway and delivery operator Pizza Hut UK & Europe as supply chain director, Propel has learned. Mason joined the then 285-strong Prezzo in 2016 after three years as procurement director at Adelie Foods Group. Before that he spent two years at franchise operator Alshaya, including a stint as a category manager for the group’s casual dining division. He has also had stints at Compass Group and Tesco. Earlier this week Propel revealed Darrell Wade had stepped down as chief commercial officer at Prezzo to join motorway services operator Roadchef. Last spring, Prezzo shut 94 of its 300 restaurants in the UK as part of a restructure under a company voluntary arrangement. In November it reported an operating loss of £65m for 2017 and restructured its debts, while its main backer wrote off two-thirds of its investment. The company now has 186 restaurants.

St Austell secures its first pub in Wiltshire: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has secured its first pub in Wiltshire after acquiring the Red Lion Inn in Cricklade. The pub, which dates to the early 1600s, will become part of St Austell Brewery’s tenanted estate. The Red Lion Inn features five en-suite bedrooms and a micro-brewery, the Hop Kettle Brewing Company. New tenants Donna and Matt Jepson have taken on management of the pub. Steve Worrall, St Austell Brewery retail director, said: “As a business we have an ongoing acquisition strategy to strengthen our award-winning estate of pubs and hotels across the south west and beyond. We’re delighted to have the Red Lion as the latest addition to our collection of pubs. The location of the property is important. Following the acquisition of Bath Ales, we now have a base from which we can look at new geographical areas that have previously been too far away for us to service efficiently. With more than 160 years’ experience of championing the pub as the focal point of the community, we look forward to maintaining the character of the Red Lion while developing its offering in partnership with Donna and Matt.” St Austell Brewery owns 179 pubs, inns and hotels across its tenanted and managed divisions.

James and Kirkton step down from Coppa Club: Tom James and Isabella Kirkton have stepped down from Coppa Club, Propel understands. They have joined Harbour Hotels Group and Qoot, the UK operator of RedFarm and By Chloe, respectively. James, who was previously a regional director at Jamie’s Italian, joined Hugh Osmond-owned Strada in July 2015 as operations director before becoming director of operations of both Strada and new concept Coppa Club. He joins Harbour, which operates boutique hotels across the south of England, as regional director. Kirkton had been with Coppa Club for four years, most recently as head of marketing. She joins Qoot as sales and marketing director. The company also operates The Lebanese Bakery and Dominique Ansel Bakery in the UK.

MJMK looks to double up with Casa do Frango: London-based hospitality company MJMK has set its sights on opening a second restaurant for its Algarvian piri-piri concept Casa do Frango. Propel understands the business, led by Marco Mendes and Jake Kasumov, hopes to open a further site under the concept, which it launched near London Bridge last year, in King John Court, Shoreditch. Earlier this week it was announced the business would open Casita do Frango, a smaller version of Casa do Frango, at Arcade Kitchen Theatre – a food hall launching at Centre Point in London’s New Oxford Street next month. In August, MJMK opened neighbourhood pub The Belrose in Belsize Park. It also owns and operates S11 bar and health food cafe Homegrown, both in Brixton.

Caprice Holdings launches Sloane Street Deli: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, has launched Sloane Street Deli in Knightsbridge. The opening comes after the company shut its Mount Street Deli in Mayfair last month when the lease on the site ended. The new Sloane Street venue, housed in the former Thomas Pink shirtwear shop, offers a menu billed as “classic deli dishes with Asian-inspired twists” including smoked burrata salad with bull’s head tomato, balsamic vinegar and rocket alongside poké bowls and sushi rolls. Sloane Street Deli is only open until 6pm but there are plans to open in the evening when it will become more of a wine bar, reports Hot Dinners. 

Tamatanga to open third site, in Leicester next month: Nottingham-based Indian street food restaurant Tamatanga is to open its third site, in Leicester next month. The company will open the venue on Monday, 1 July at the Highcross shopping centre. Tamatanga will move into one of the new units created in a space formerly occupied by House of Fraser. Operations director Rahul Khurana told Leicestershire Live: “We’re not your average Indian restaurant and like to do things differently. With Leicester already offering such a high level of Indian food it’s important to us we offer something a little out of the ordinary.” As well as its Nottingham restaurant, Tamatanga has a site in Birmingham. Tamatanga’s Leicester venue will join Zara, JD Sports and Treetop Adventure Golf, which have already opened in the former House of Fraser block.

Six by Nico to enter England next month with Manchester debut: Six by Nico, the restaurant concept led by Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone, will make its debut in England next month – in Manchester. Simeone, who opened his third Six by Nico restaurant earlier this year, in Belfast, has confirmed he will launch a venue in the former Roc & Rye unit in Manchester’s Spring Gardens, as revealed by Propel last month. The 250 square foot site is being transformed into a 66-cover restaurant with a wine and spirits bar and open kitchen. Confirming the news on Twitter, Simeone said: “We are very excited to bring an unforgettable culinary experience to Manchester. It was the obvious choice when looking for our first site in England thanks to its thriving food and drink scene. We have been overwhelmed by the success and appeal of our first Six by Nico sites – in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast – and couldn’t be more delighted to bring a new offering and dining experience to the people of Manchester.” The concept is based on a revolving culinary hub as every six weeks Simeone and his team “reinvent the wheel” by serving a new six-course tasting menu, each one themed on a different place, memory or idea.

Somerset-based cafe operator to open second site: Somerset-based cafe operator Oktay Aka is to open a second site in Burnham-on-Sea. Aka will launch Cosy Coffee in Cross Street offering quality coffee and fresh food. The site has been refurbished ahead of an opening next month. Aka, who runs BOS Cafe in High Street, told Burnham on “Cosy Coffee will be different to other cafes in the town. We will sell quality coffee and special drinks plus paninis, sandwiches and cakes. We have spent a lot of time creating comfortable surroundings and seating that will also be different to other cafes.”

Pophams evolves concept for second London site: London-based Pophams Bakery has opened its second site, in Hackney, featuring an evolved concept. Founding director Ollie Gold has launched the 1,710 square foot venue in Richmond Road and expanded on the brand’s offer by adding a dinner service featuring fresh pasta. Diners at the 45-cover site can watch baked goods and pasta being created at a chef’s table. Bakers and baristas have been serving hand-made viennoiserie and coffee from local roasters at the debut Pophams site in Islington since late 2017. Gold said: “Our second artisan bakery heralds the exciting evolution of our concept. Since opening our first site, which we developed from a derelict chemist, we have taken a hands-on approach with all aspects of the business and this has helped us go from strength to strength.”

Des McDonald launches college collaboration in Hackney: Restaurateur Des McDonald has launched a restaurant in collaboration with New City College Hackney in east London. OKN1 connects professionals with student chefs to kick-start their careers. They collaborate in the kitchen to produce brunch, lunch and dinner menus. There is also an all-day bakery counter offering cakes and pastries at the college in Hoxton Street, while OKN1 will host residencies and partner events and features a terrace overlooking the college gardens. McDonald spent 20 years with Caprice Group, the last 12 as managing director and group chief executive, notably overseeing the acquisition and running of Soho House Group and Annabel’s Group. Since branching out on his own in January 2012, he has opened a number of his own restaurants and launched consultancy Des McDonald Associates. The team is working on projects in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Manchester and London, its website states.

North east-based Grill ‘n’ Chill opens second site after securing six-figure funding, hints at further expansion: North east-based Grill ‘n’ Chill has opened its second site after securing a six-figure funding package from Lloyds Bank. The company has opened a 32-cover restaurant in Stannington Grove, Sunderland. Located on the former site of Stannington Fisheries fish and chip shop, the outlet builds on its Seaham eatery that opened in December 2013. Grill ‘n’ Chill director Syed Shah told BDaily: “A second Grill ‘n’ Chill restaurant is a major milestone for us. We regularly see customers queuing at our Seaham restaurant so expanding into a second location feels like a natural step. Thanks to Lloyds we have a new base from which to offer the fresh, great-tasting food we’re known for – and we have our eye on even bigger things in the future.”

Edinburgh-based Vietnamese restaurant operator to double up: Edinburgh-based operator Nga Nguyen is to open a second Vietnamese restaurant in the city. Nguyen will double up nine years after launching Vietnam House in Grove Street. Her new site will feature more of a focus on pho dishes. Nguyen will launch Pho Viet this month at a site in Dalry Road formerly occupied by restaurant Luv Sushi. Nguyen told the Edinburgh News: “I know Edinburgh people love Vietnamese so we’ve decided to expand. Pho is popular and a very special dish to us. In my country we eat pho for breakfast, lunch and at night, and I see our customers enjoy it in the restaurant.”

Franco Manca to open Exeter site next week: Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned pizza concept, will open its latest site next week, in Exeter. The David Page-led company will open the restaurant on Tuesday (25 June) in the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen premises at the Guildhall Shopping Centre, reports Devon Live. Franco Manca recently opened its 46th site, in Birmingham’s Bennetts Hill. Further sites are lined up at this summer at the Trinity Centre in Leeds, the St Andrew Square development in Edinburgh and in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, which will take it past the 50-site mark. Propel understands the brand is negotiating on or at the planning stage for six further sites.

Huddersfield-based brewer gets government inspector’s go-ahead to open debut craft beer bar: Huddersfield-based Beer Ink Brewery has been given the go-ahead by a government inspector to open its first craft beer bar. The company, founded by Diane Stoppard and son Ryan, saw its bid to convert a vacant cycle shop in the suburb of Lindley rejected by Kirklees Council. The authority refused the application for the site in Acre Street because of noise and highway safety concerns, reports Examiner Live. However, government inspector Rachael Bartlett has overturned the decision, pointing to a petition and online survey that showed significant support for the proposal. She added: “I am also mindful of the economic benefits that would result from the proposal, such as the creation of jobs, bringing a vacant retail unit back into use and supporting the vitality and viability of the district centre.” The Stoppards launched Beer Ink Brewery in 2016 after taking over premises in Lindley formerly occupied by brewer Hand Drawn Monkey, which went into liquidation the previous year.

Nando’s to open restaurant at Paisley retail park: Nando’s is set to open a restaurant at a retail park in Paisley, Renfrewshire. The company is hiring staff ahead of the venue “opening soon” at Phoenix Retail Park. A company spokeswoman told The Gazette: “The cat is out of the bag or, should we say, the chicken. We are opening our doors at Phoenix Retail Park in Paisley soon.” Nando’s operates about 350 restaurants in the UK, with four sites in nearby Glasgow and a fifth opening in the city’s West End soon. Earlier this month the company signed to open a restaurant at British Land’s Drake Circus leisure development in Plymouth city centre, relocating from its site in Old Town Street.

Bath-based coffee shop doubles up with Bristol site: Bath-based coffee shop concept The Colombian Company has doubled up with a site in Bristol. Founder Jhampoll Gutierrez Gomez has opened the venue in the former Chandos Deli premises that shut in Whiteladies Road last month. The Colombian Company celebrates the “best of Columbia’s produce”. Gomez, who grew up surrounded by coffee farms in his native country, imports speciality green coffee beans from small growers that struggle to compete with industrial-scale farms. As well as coffee, The Colombian Company offers cakes, sandwiches and Latin beer, reports Bristol Live. Gomez opened his Bath coffee shop in Abbey Gate Street in November 2017.

Marston’s submits plans for new-build pub and lodge in Shrewsbury: Marston’s has submitted plans for a new-build pub and lodge hotel in Shrewsbury. The company has applied to Shropshire Council to build the development in Oteley Road. Marston’s is planning the pub and restaurant alongside a 39-bedroom hotel, creating up to 50 jobs, reports the Shropshire Star. A planning statement accompanying the application reads: “The lodge hotel focuses on providing accommodation and allowing guests to utilise dining facilities at the adjacent pub restaurant.”

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