Story of the Day:
Pod to be sold in pre-pack administration after shareholders fail to approve Azzurri Group offer: Pod, the 22-strong, London-based healthy eating operator, is to be sold in a pre-pack administration after its shareholders failed to approve a £2.7m sale to Azzurri Group, Propel understands. It is believed RSM has been appointed to sell the trade and assets of Pod through an accelerated process. It is thought Azzurri Group still leads the way to buy the company, although Propel understands there are other interested parties. It is believed the deadline for bids has closed and a sale of the business could be concluded by Friday (21 June). The sale comes after Pod shareholders failed to approve the board’s proposal to sell the business to Azzurri Group. At least 75% of Pod shareholders were required to approve the offer by Monday (17 June), which would have seen them receive 5p per share. One shareholder told Propel: “There has been a shareholder revolt at the derisory offer made to us by the board.” Pod’s board warned when it circulated details of the Azzurri Group offer to shareholders last week that the company was likely to go into administration if it was not accepted. The circular accompanying the letter stated: “As you may be aware, the company has been in financial difficulty for a while – it was loss-making in 2017 and, although in 2018 it was Ebitda positive, it was not able to cover maintenance capex and debt repayments. The introduction of a new management team saw an upturn in the trends during the latter half of 2017 and the first three quarters of 2018, but the company has not been able to raise funds for new investment and has suffered difficult trading conditions. Against this background, the board sought buyers for the company and appointed RSM earlier in the year for this purpose. RSM marketed the company and business widely and attracted a significant level of interest. In total, about 60 interested parties contacted RSM and three credible offers were received. The board strongly believes the offer is the best of the offers received from both a value and deliverability perspective. The board would like to emphasise to shareholders, in the absence of new investment funds, the likely alternative to accepting the offer is an administration or other form of insolvency process and, as such, the board believes the offer is the best available for all of the company’s stakeholders.” RSM has declined to comment.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com
WhatsApp to take legal action on non-personal use: Sector companies are being warned by WhatsApp they will face legal action if they use the platform for professional purposes outside its WhatsApp Business service. The platform is used widely across the sector as a communication tool as many employees don’t have company email addresses. WhatsApp has updated its policy on the unauthorised usage of WhatsApp primarily to target anyone using it for bulk or automated messaging, which are violations of its terms of service. However, WhatsApp is also tightening up on the use of the service for business or commercial reasons outside its WhatsApp Business offering. The new policy states: “WhatsApp will take legal action against those [...] that violate our terms of service, such as [...] non-personal use, even if that determination is based on information solely available to us off our platform.” WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Business earlier this year, which is aimed at small business owners to make it easier for them to communicate with customers and manage their orders. It is free to download.
Morty & Bob’s set for further growth after securing investment: Cafe and bar concept Morty & Bob’s is set for further growth after securing new investment from Edition Capital, the backer of Incipio Group, Propel has learned. The concept, which is the brainchild of Charlie Phillips and Jesse Bliss, has secured a £650,000 investment from Edition. Morty & Bob’s opened a site at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross last year having closed its original site in Hackney. The new funding will help it open a site in October inside the newly refurbished food court opposite the Apple store in Westfield White City. It is also thought additional sites have been identified for this year and beyond. Formed in 2013 as a street food stall appearing at festivals and food markets across the UK, the business matured to pop-up sites in Soho and west London before settling on permanent sites in Hackney and Coal Drops Yard. The latter site offers the brand’s grilled cheese toasties, salads and weekend brunches alongside hot sandwiches. The Coal Drops Yard site heralded a new era for Morty & Bob’s, with an upgraded evening offer of small plates, bar snacks, cocktails, wine and beer. The concept is named after Phillips’ grandfathers.
McMullen continuing to see ‘strong’ sales as it reports full-year turnover up to £87m: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen has continued to see “strong” sales in its current financial year as it reported another full year of growth. The company said its strategy to reinvest in its estate was continuing to drive profit performance against a challenging cost base. Propel understands that while the invested estate has continued to drive the majority of growth being seen in the current financial year, performance in the uninvested estate has also been positive. The announcement comes as McMullen reported turnover for the year ending 29 September 2018 increased to £87.0m, compared with £80.8m the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up 5% to £14.1m, compared with £13.4m the year before. Like-for-like sales in its managed division rose 2.8%, with wet sales increasing 4.6% and food sales up 0.2%. Total sales in the managed division increased 8.6%, with wet sales up 8.5% and food sales 8.8%. In the tenanted division, total income from wet sales and rent rose 5.2% but, because of a “number of costs”, performance was broadly flat. Chairman Charles Brims said: “We continue to invest to progress – investment and growth are mutually dependent. Over the year we have maintained investment in our pubs such as the White Swan in Pimlico, which was taken into management. We have also acquired and reopened a formerly closed pub in Great Notley and built The Princess Charlotte in Colchester. Alongside this investment in property and customer experience, we have also continued investment in the working conditions and training of our valued team members. The long hot summer was a material benefit to most of the diverse estate, with the community houses also benefiting from England’s run in the Fifa World Cup.” At the end of 2018, McMullen opened new-build pub The King’s Reach in Biggleswade creating 40 jobs and the potential to contribute “more than £500,000 in taxes each year to the Exchequer”. The pipeline for 2019 should see three previously acquired pubs coming into McMullen management and at least one new-build, with the company developing a waterside pub at Campbell Wharf in Milton Keynes, as reported last month. Joint managing director Tom McMullen said: “We are aware a large amount of people rely on our business to be successful. Our customers deserve continual improvements to the offer. Our team members look to us to provide for their career aspirations and livelihood. Our suppliers, some of whom we have traded with for more than 100 years, rely on our stability and trustworthiness for their own success and the Treasury continues to be the biggest beneficiary of our business. All these expectations can only be met to the extent McMullen’s continues to be successful and grows.”
Domino’s set to name successor for chief executive David Wild: Domino’s Pizza Group is in advanced talks to replace its chief executive, David Wild, amid unrest among its British franchisees and a disappointing recent share price performance. Andrew Rennie, chief executive for Europe at Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, has been identified as the leading candidate to take over from Wild at the helm of the London-listed company. Sources told Sky News Rennie’s appointment was “not yet guaranteed” but could be finalised “within the next few weeks”. Wild’s departure has been on the cards since March, when it emerged Domino’s Pizza Group was undertaking detailed succession planning for its three top board members. Wild has run Domino’s since 2014. Last month, The Sunday Times said franchisees were conducting an audit of how the company spent its advertising budget. It has also reported relations between the company and the Domino’s Franchisee Association had deteriorated to such an extent its members were boycotting opening new stores during the first half of 2019.
Le Pain Quotidien reports pre-tax loss in ‘tough year’: Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand Le Pain Quotidien has reported turnover fell 4.0% to £37,955,443 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £39,528,269 the previous year. It reported a pre-tax loss of £711,200 compared with a profit of £1,211,235 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin fell to 13.8% compared with 16.1% the previous year, which “highlighted the tough trading conditions”. Le Pain Quotidien paid no dividend to its Belgian parent company. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “It was a challenging year, with the company facing the continued challenging trading conditions the whole of the UK high street is seeing, with reduced footfall and increased cost pressures.” Staff numbers reduced from 895 to 806 during the year.
Adam Marshall to launch rooftop bar and restaurant: Grand Union co-founder Adam Marshall is to open a rooftop bar and restaurant in west London. Marshall, who sold Grand Union in 2017 to Draft House and Young’s in two separate deals, is opening Skylark Roof Garden on Saturday, 6 July at the Paddington Central scheme. The 180-capacity venue will be on the tenth floor of the Kingdom Street building, which also houses his street food and karaoke restaurant Huckster, which launched last year. The menu at Skylark Roof Garden will include fresh burratina di Puglia with heritage tomatoes and basil and hazelnut pesto; and homemade aubergine and sweet Romana pepper lasagne with saffron potato fondant. There will also be cocktails, wine, beer and spirits.
YO! appoints Thewlis as operations director for retail: YO! Sushi, the Richard Hodgson-led group, has promoted Jo Thewlis to the role of operations director – retail as it looks to ramp up its presence in the retail sector. Thewlis has spent the past 18 months as head of central operations at the Mayfair Equity Partners-backed group. Before that she spent three and a half years at Tesco Family Dining. Her promotion comes as YO! launched its first product range into the supermarket sector last month. The range comprises seven sauces, condiments and mayonnaise, which launched in select Tesco stores in 100g pouches, 150g glass bottles and 250ml squeezy bottles on 12 May. A further retail roll-out will take place in the autumn. Earlier this year, Propel revealed the company had extended the concessions side of its operation after launching a trial within health and leisure business David Lloyd Clubs. The group launched units in five David Lloyd sites in the UK – Beckenham, Cheadle, Hatfield, Milton Keynes and Leeds. The trial is part of the company’s focus on developing opportunities with retailers and health clubs. Late last year, YO! agreed a deal with Tesco to pilot YO! To Go counters at two UK stores – in Surrey and Bournemouth.
Jason Atherton opens debut theatre bar: Chef Jason Atherton has launched his first theatre bar. Atherton and his business The Social Company have launched Pavlova’s within the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. The 20-cover bar is in partnership with the theatre’s owner Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Pavlova’s is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, whose statue stands on top of the theatre. The bar has a strong gin focus with a hidden gin cupboard storing 38 varieties from around the world. There are also cocktails, coffee, wine, draft beer and other spirits. A selection of snacks is on offer, including paninis, charcuterie and cheese. Atherton said: “The Victoria Palace Theatre is a stunning building and we’re honoured to now be a part of its long-standing history.” Sir Cameron added: “When I restored and extended the Victoria Palace Theatre, I planned to open part of the building as a bar available to the general public, not just theatre-goers. I wanted to partner with one of London's most brilliant restaurateurs – and to my mind Jason Atherton is top of the bill, so I was thrilled when Jason agreed to create Pavlova's.”
Greggs signs up to Just Eat: Food-to-go retailer Greggs has signed up with Just Eat to deliver its products in London, Glasgow and Newcastle. Greggs signed up with Deliveroo at the end of last year to deliver in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Newcastle. The company launched its first home delivery trial, with UberEats, in Newcastle last year before also trialling with Deliveroo. Earlier this year, the company started trialling click and collect at lunchtimes as it looks to build on its breakfast pilot scheme. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said the aim was to roll out click and collect for breakfast and lunch to about 100 sites this year. Whiteside said talks were continuing with Deliveroo and UberEats about delivery, while the company is working on improving its hot food options to make them more appealing to customers, particularly in the evening.
Chef owner Anna Hansen leaves The Modern Pantry: Chef owner Anna Hansen has stepped down from The Modern Pantry, the modern European restaurant she founded in London’s Clerkenwell ten years ago. Robert Mcleary, who joined The Modern Pantry shortly after it opened in 2008 and has been head chef for the past five years, will become executive chef of the restaurant. Hansen said: “I have no doubt the future is still bright for the restaurant and the next ten years will be just as exciting as the last. I’m moving on to explore other opportunities and feel very comfortable leaving The Modern Pantry in the extremely capable hands of my good friend Robert. He has been with me since the beginning and knows the business inside out.” D&D London chief executive and chairman Des Gunewardena, who co-owns The Modern Pantry, added: “Anna is a uniquely talented chef and businesswoman and should be proud of what she has created. I wish her the best of luck in her future projects, which I’m sure will be huge successes.”
BrewDog doubles up in Manchester with first bar to feature dedicated beer school: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its second site in Manchester. Set across two floors at the city’s business school, Outpost Manchester is also BrewDog’s second UK brewpub and its first bar to feature a dedicated beer school. The Oxford Road venue is the company’s 90th bar worldwide and offers 24 kegged beers on tap alongside a BrewDog menu of burgers, hotdogs, wings and breakfast. Limited edition beer will be brewed on-site, while the venue will serve espresso coffee from beans roasted at BrewDog’s Ellon brewery. The BrewDog Beer School experience will include a brewery tour and beer tasting. Co-founder James Watt said: “We see BrewDog Outpost Manchester as the next step in the craft beer revolution. We’ll give visitors a chance to delve deeper into our world with a selection of on-site limited edition brews and the dedicated beer school.” BrewDog recently passed the £3m milestone in its latest Equity for Punks crowdfunding campaign. The company is looking to raise an initial £7m with a stretch goal of £50m.
Harcourt Inns to open sixth London site, in Notting Hill next month: Harcourt Inns, the venture from former Racine chef patron Henry Harris and James McCulloch, owner of The Harcourt in Marylebone, is to open its sixth London pub, in Notting Hill next month. The KPH (Kensington Park Hotel), which is renowned for hosting singer Tom Jones’ first London gig, will consist of a ground-floor pub and first-floor dining room, with live music to remain a feature. The kitchen at the venue in Ladbroke Grove will be led by former St John chef Ruairidh Summers, with Harris creating a Parisian bistro-style menu meeting influences from the Montreal food scene while championing unusual cuts of meat. The pub will offer 12 draught beers and three cask ales alongside old-world wine and classic cocktails. Seven letting rooms at the top of the pub are set to reopen later this year. Harcourt Inns also operates The Crown in Chiswick, Three Cranes in the City, The Coach in Clerkenwell and The Hero Of Maida in Maida Vale. Earlier this month crowdfunding platform Downing Crowd raised £1m through a bond offer to support Maida Vale Leisure’s fit-out of bedrooms at The Hero Of Maida and repay finance on the west London gastro-pub.
Barry steps down from Bar Soba: Chris Barry has stepped down as operations director of BGF-backed Bar Soba, Propel understands. Barry, formerly of YO! Sushi, had been overseeing the day-to-day running of Bar Soba since founder Brad Stevens stepped away from the business last February. The Scotland-based cocktail and pan-Asian street food concept currently operates four sites – two in Glasgow and one each in Edinburgh and Leeds. Bar Soba received a £3m investment from the BGF in 2016 for expansion. Last year it scrapped plans to open in the former Cabin Club in Liverpool and closed a site in Derby less than a year after opening. The company appointed David Ladd, formerly of Copper Dog Whisky and Cameron’s Brewery, as chief executive last summer.
Papa John’s commits $80m to franchisee relief and brand building: Papa John’s is putting another $80m towards financial assistance for its franchisees as well as investment in marketing the brand. The company announced last year it would cut royalties and other fees charged to franchisees in response to flagging sales in the wake of public disputes between management and Papa John’s founder and former chairman and chief executive John Schnatter. Papa John’s has committed to extending that assistance through 2020 in the form of lower royalties as well as “royalty-based service incentives and targeted relief”, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Papa John’s president and chief executive Steve Ritchie said corporate investment in the brand and support of franchisees was “crucial to its future”. In the agreement with franchisees, Papa John’s also committed to making investments in marketing, beginning in the third quarter.
Black Storm Brewery makes third acquisition: Whitley Bay-based craft ale brewer and retailer Black Storm Brewery has made its third acquisition. The company has bought Black Hill Brewery in Chester-le-Street. The brewery deal comes as Black Storm Brewery reported substantial growth in its on and off-trade business arms. This includes its first supermarket listing with the Co-op earlier in the year, alongside the company’s acquisition of the Autumn Brewing Co, a gluten-free micro-brewery, in September 2018. Founder Paul Hughes told BDaily: “Since we launched Black Storm in December 2017, we have been working with Hadrian Border Brewery to develop the quality and consistency of our beer, perfecting our core range and experimenting with flavours. We are now in the perfect position to scale up our output and ambition, which our own brewery will allow us to do.” Black Storm Brewery also operates micro-pub Drop Everything And Drink in Newcastle and Storm Cellar bottle shop and tasting room in Whitley Bay.
East Midlands-based doughnut concept opens Nottingham site, set for Lincoln: East Midlands-based doughnut concept Doughnotts has opened a flagship store in Nottingham and is set to expand into Lincoln. Founders Wade Smith and Megan Scadden have opened the site in King Street. Darran Severn, of FHP Property Consultants, who secured the site, told The Business Desk: “The new store is excellent for grab and go but also provides seating on the first floor for customers. Following the successful opening of the Nottingham store, we have agreed terms for a unit in Lincoln and further details will be announced soon.” Doughnotts also has sites in Derby and Leicester and sells its doughnuts in various outlets in the region.
Brighton-based wine bar L’Atelier Du Vin opens second site: Brighton-based wine bar L’Atelier Du Vin has opened a second site in the city. Steve Pineau launched L’Atelier Du Vin in St George’s Place and has now opened a second bar at a site in Dyke Road that was formerly occupied by burger restaurant Coggings & Co. The new L’Atelier Du Vin will offer 800 bottles of wine alongside cheese, charcuterie and classic French dishes such as beef bourguignon. Both venues feature a wooden bar built by Pineau with drawers along the front and copper pennies lining its surface. Pineau will also launch a L’Atelier Du Vin members’ club. Pineau, originally from Brittany, told The Argus: “This area of Brighton, the Seven Dials, will really like what we do. I think it’s a great location. We have a bigger range of wine on offer than in St George’s Place. The space is also bigger, we can have about 50 seated inside and another 45 outside.”
Edrington-Beam Suntory UK reports turnover and profit boost: Scotland-based spirits company Edrington-Beam Suntory UK has reported a boost in revenue and profit. Turnover increased 9% to £679.8m in the year to 31 March 2019, while pre-tax profit before exceptional items was up 4% to £196.6m. There was strong sales growth for its malt whiskies, The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and Naked Grouse, as well as Brugal rum. However, there was a decline of 8% in sales for The Famous Grouse. Edrington attributed the brand’s sales dip to the “continued challenging trading environment for blended scotch” but added it grew market share in a number of key markets, including the UK, Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, France and Portugal. The group’s overall brand investment, which included advertising and promotional expenditure, rose 7% during the year to £137.3m. Chief executive Scott McCroskie said: “With the exception of a flat result in Europe, where the growth in our super premium brands was offset by the decline in standard, we experienced contribution growth in all our other regions as global demand for super premium spirits brands remained strong. The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, south east Asia and the US, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits.”
Elior rolls out pizza delivery service for universities and B&I sector: Contract caterer Elior UK is rolling out its pizza delivery service. Having trialled Cheatah at the University of Roehampton in London and Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth, it will be rolled out to further UK universities and business sector sites. The concept delivers a range of pizzas, sides, dips, desserts and drinks direct to campus halls as well as offering a collection service at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth. At the University of Roehampton, more than 5,000 pizzas have been sold since Cheetah launched in September, while at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth evening sales have doubled since Cheatah’s introduction and sales increased 45% year-on-year in April. Matthew Joblin, Elior offer development, said: “We created Cheatah so our customers could enjoy freshly cooked, high-quality and affordable meals on demand. Working with chefs and nutritionists, we developed a menu focusing on best-seller combinations from the high street.”
Heineken cuts sugar in cider brands and adds calorie and nutritional information to packaging: Heineken is cutting sugar in its cider brands and adding calorie and nutritional information to packaging. The company has created a new recipe for Bulmers Original that features 100% British apples and contains 30% less sugar. The sugar content of Old Mout has also been cut by 30%, Heineken said, with sugar being reduced through “natural techniques without adding artificial sweeteners”. Heineken UK marketing director Cindy Tervoort said: “We know UK consumers are thinking more about what they consume and where it has come from. We have already made changes to our beer and now our entire cider range will give consumers calorie and ingredient information to help them make informed choices. We hope this move will inspire the rest of the cider industry.” Heineken harvests about 30% of apples grown in the UK and has invested £58m in its Herefordshire cider operations in the past two years.
Liverpool-based Lucky Penny Consultancy to launch debut bar restaurant: Liverpool-based hospitality consultancy Lucky Penny is set to open its own bar restaurant in the city. Abditory is due to open in Queen Avenue in October. The name is a 17th century word meaning a “place to hide oneself or valuables” and refers to Queen Avenue being a slightly hidden part of the city. The venue will focus on cocktails, German draught lager, wine, toasties and deli boards and feature floor-to-ceiling doors and outdoor seating. The bar will be operated by Lucky Penny managing director Steven Burgess and Josh Moore, who together founded events company Camp and Furnace. Burgess said: “Everything in Abditory will mean something to us – from the names of drinks and the soundtrack to toastie fillings. We couldn’t be more excited about having our own place in the city centre.”