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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 9th Aug 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

The Alchemist reports turnover passes £40m, receiving landlord approaches as it builds pipeline: The Alchemist, the 16-strong Simon Potts-led bar and restaurant concept, has reported turnover increased 19% to £41,031,836 for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £34,482,511 the previous year. Operating profit was up to £1,741,574, compared with £1,626,526 the year before. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £205,372, compared with £298,984 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The Alchemist, which has been backed by private equity firm Palatine since 2015, said several landlords have approached the company as it builds its pipeline for 2020 and beyond. Last month, the company secured a site in Cheltenham to add to its portfolio. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “It has been another successful year of growth. Our strategy of expansion in London alongside further regional city openings has continued, with new venues opening in London's Theatre District and Old Street (May 2019), alongside the first Welsh Alchemist in Cardiff. Moving into next year, we have secured venues in Birmingham, at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, and two London sites, at Canary Wharf and Embassy Gardens. We have been approached by several landlords keen to partner with us as we build our pipeline of new venues for 2020 and onwards. Sales have grown 19% year-on-year, gross profit has been maintained, and operating cash conversion remains strong at 111%. With financing already in place for the next venue openings and beyond, the business is in a strong financial position. In the year ahead, we will continue to invest in our infrastructure, with the continued roll-out of energy-saving technology to reduce our impact on the environment, and a programme of investment into our digital customer journey. We are incredibly thankful to our teams and our industry partners and look forward to continuing to delight our guests in the coming year.” In June, Potts said the company was on track to hit revenue of £50m at the end of the new financial year. 

Industry News:

James Hacon to look at future viability of the food hall model in latest Premium column: James Hacon, managing director of Think Hospitality, will look at the future viability of the food hall model as part of the latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (9 August) at 5pm. Jon Midmer, of global executive search firm JMA, will explore the value of escapes and escapism, and the role hospitality plays; while Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at what the end of the Giggling Squid sales process means for the wider sector. Subscribers can also read about the latest industry whispers in Premium Diary. 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, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. 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

Savills reveals robust pipeline of activity in place after ‘resilient’ half-year: Savills has said it has a robust pipeline of activity in place for the second half of 2019 after posting a “resilient” set of half-year results. For the six months to 30 June 2019, the company reported revenue increased 16% to £847.0m, compared with £727.9m the previous year. UK revenue increased 8% to £303.6m, compared with £280.5m the year before. Meanwhile, revenue in the Asia Pacific region was up 19% to £298.4m, North America rose 31% to £131.7m, and continental Europe and the Middle East was up 17% to £113.3m. Group operating profit increased to £26.1m, compared with £23.8m the year before but pre-tax profit fell 7% to £24.7m, compared with £26.7m the previous year. At an underlying level, the figure was down 9% to £38.4m, compared with £42.4m the year before. Savills said this reflected the expected decline in a number of transactional markets and increased weighting towards the company's less transactional businesses. Chief executive Mark Ridley said: “Given the lag effect of significant investment in recruitment in the preceding period and facing some challenging transactional market conditions, we had anticipated a slight decline in profit for the first half of 2019. The group has delivered a resilient first-half performance, reflecting both the robustness and geographic diversity of our market positions generally, and the strength of our less transactional businesses.” Ridley noted in a number of markets – particularly the UK and Hong Kong – political and economic uncertainty had “considerably reduced the volume of real estate trading activity in recent months”, adding occupier demand still remained strong. He added: “Despite this environment, we have a robust pipeline of activity for the second half and we currently continue to anticipate our performance for the full-year will be in line with the board's expectations.” 

Plant-based diet can fight climate change, says UN: Switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change, UN experts have said. A major report on land use and climate change said the west's high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming. But scientists and officials stopped short of explicitly calling on everyone to become vegan or vegetarian. They said more people could be fed using less land if individuals cut down on eating meat. The document, prepared by 107 scientists for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said if land is used more effectively, it could store more of the carbon emitted by humans. The document was finalised following discussions held in Geneva, Switzerland. Professor Pete Smith, an environmental scientist from Aberdeen University, told the BBC: “We're not telling people to stop eating meat. In some places people have no other choice. But it's obvious in the west we're eating far too much.” The report called for vigorous action to halt soil damage and desertification – both of which contribute to climate change.

US operators that offer innovative drinks range will ‘reap the reward’ as category continues to outpace foodservice: US operators that offer a range of innovative drink options will “reap the rewards” as growth in the beverage category continues to outpace foodservice, according to insights firm Technomic. Its Away-from-Home Beverage report showed 40% of consumers would not purchase any drink or would leave a venue if their preferred choice were not available. Overall, the out-of-home drinks category has grown about 4.1% over the past few years, slightly above foodservice. David Henkes, principal at Technomic, said: “Drink growth has outpaced that of foodservice within the past few years thanks to innovative options such as nitro coffee, plant-based milk and other alternative beverages entering this space. Although challenges such as third-party delivery are encroaching on drink occasions, the category has a lot of opportunities available through offering a wide variety of innovative drink options to guests.”

Crowdcube launches new identity aimed at stressing benefits of crowdfunding: Crowdcube has unveiled its new “Funding the Wonderful” rebrand, which aims to shine a light on ambitious businesses wanting to leave a mark on the world. It said the rebrand highlighted the commercial benefits of turning businesses’ supporters into shareholders, including increased engagement, loyalty, advocacy and spending. “The reasons Europe’s top entrepreneurs use Crowdcube have evolved as people increasingly search for businesses they can believe in,” Luke Lang, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Crowdcube said. “They don’t just want to buy from a business, they want to buy into it. Funding the wonderful is about fuelling the next generation of businesses who want to leave their mark on the world and bring their customers on that journey.” Crowdcube will support the rebrand with a television campaign in 2020.

Second cross-industry returners programme to take place: A second programme designed to get people to return to the hospitality, travel and leisure sector is to take place. Comeback To HTL – part of Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure 2020 (WiH2020) – is an industry-wide initiative that aims to rally hospitality, travel and leisure employers around the objectives of making the sector attractive to returners by fostering a culture of inclusivity and supporting more flexible working practices, resulting in greater diversity in leadership positions. Following its first programme in June, a second will take place on Wednesday, 2 October and has been designed to upskill participants. They will be put in front of sector companies such as Casual Dining Group and PizzaExpress, which will offer support and share advice on many areas, including how to improve CV writing, refresh interview skills, and manage conflicting priorities to allow for a seamless return to work. Returners will also benefit from an unlimited online peer support group. WiH2020 founder and chair Tea Colaianni said: “Our Comeback to HTL programme will facilitate talent managers and HR professionals unlock a new talent pool beyond traditional recruitment channels.” The initiative aligns with WiH2020’s drive to strengthen the talent pipeline across the sector and help to reduce the gender pay gap. For more information, visit

Operators come together to support first Team Margot Pinkspiration Week: Operators came together to lend their support to the first Team Margot Pinkspiration Week. Pub, bar and casual dining operators, including All Our Bars, Arc Inspirations, Beds and Bars, Casual Dining Group, Cirrus Inns, Fuller’s, Glendola Leisure, New World Trading Company and Yummy Pubs, joined the charity awareness week by serving pink drinks, offering pink food items and wearing pink clothes. Unlike most charity initiatives, Pinkspiration Week doesn’t aim to raise money but encourages people to register as stem cell and bone marrow donors. The campaign links to the Team Margot Atlantic Row, when a team of four fathers will take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December. Their aim is to encourage 1.5 million new registrations to correspond with the number of strokes it will take them to complete the 3,000-mile journey under the banner “We Row, You Register”. Team Margot was founded by industry entrepreneur Yaser Martini in 2015 in memory of his daughter Margot and to honour her legacy after she lost her battle with blood cancer aged two. Martini said: “It's fantastic to have had such a strong response from the operators who committed to it, the teams who activated it in their pubs and bars and the customers who engaged with it. There is no other industry like it.” Anyone who is in general good health and aged between 17 and 55 can join the register via a simple swab test.

Company News:

German food delivery service Eatclever eyes UK expansion: German food delivery service Eatclever, which launched in the UK earlier this year, is looking to expand further across London and into the regions, Propel has learned. The concept, which was founded in 2015, is owned by Hamburg-based Clever Food concepts (CFC), which is Europe's biggest virtual restaurant chain. With a similar business model to Uber or Airbnb, CFC does not own restaurants but cooperates with existing independent restaurants that produce and deliver the dishes under their brands. Eatclever currently operates more than 100 locations across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and with its proposed expansion in the UK, CFC plans to grow its operations to 150 by the end of 2019. Founded by Mohamed Chahin, Marco Langhoff And Robin Himmels, the focus is on healthy and nutritional concepts, freshly prepared and delivered by local suppliers. Eatclever generated more than €5m in sales in 2018 and is targeting €10m this year. Chahin told Propel: “We started in 2015 and basically invented the concept of virtual restaurant brands using existing restaurants' kitchen and labour. This allowed us to expand to 70-plus cities pretty fast. In March, we decided to enter the UK market and 43 days later we delivered our first order, in Twickenham. Since then we've grown to four sites in London, with several more all over the UK already signed up. Even chains in the UK are showing interest in our virtual restaurant brand because everyone is trying to keep up with the fast-moving market. We expect to enter new cities in the next couple of months and within the near future, we will be available in most mid-sized cities in the UK as well, just like we are in Germany.”

Team behind Burger & Lobster to open Mediterranean concept: The team behind Burger & Lobster and Goodmans is set to launch a Mediterranean restaurant concept, in London’s Sloane Square, Propel understands. Called Wild Tavern, the new venture is described as an informal neighbourhood restaurant serving premium Mediterranean food. The focus will be around fish, sharing plates, small dishes and homemade freshly baked bread. Burger & Lobster currently operates nine sites in London and seven overseas. The company also operates three Goodman restaurants, two Zelman Meats and the Beast restaurant in the capital. It closed its Smack Lobster Roll site in Soho’s Dean Street, turning the concept into a delivery-only brand.

Former Sumosan Twiga marketing manager to open debut restaurant: Victoria Paltina, formerly marketing manager at Belgravia-based Japanese restaurant Sumosan Twiga, is to launch her debut venture. Paltina, who has also worked at Mayfair restaurant Bocconcino, is launching Haya in Notting Hill, which takes its inspiration from her visits to Tel Aviv. The all-day venue will open in Kensington Park Road next month. The two-floored restaurant will have a ground floor dining room with an open kitchen, while downstairs there will be a large white marble sharing table. Head chef Oren King, who has worked at Roka and most recently Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, is from Tel Aviv and his menu will include spiced lamb cutlets with honey yoghurt, and zaatar duck breast and freekeh risotto. Drinks will include cold-pressed juice and coffee along with Israeli wine and cocktails. Paltina said: “Haya means a lot to me – this is my middle name and is translated as ‘life’ in Hebrew. The word encompasses everything that I envision the restaurant to be – lively, social and familiar. Having family spread all around the world allowed me to live and grow up between cities including Moscow, New York, London and Tel Aviv, so Haya takes inspiration from all of them and represents the best of each.”

Fuller's chief executive sells shares: Fuller's chief executive Simon Emeny has sold 26,493 shares of the company’s stock. The stock was sold at an average price of £10.70, for a total value of £283,475.10. 

Former executive chef at Soho House plans debut London site: Esra Muslu, the former executive chef at Soho House Istanbul, has lined up a debut site for her new restaurant concept, Zahter. Propel understands Muslu is set to open the venue at the former Choccywoccydoodah site in Soho’s Foubert’s Place. Last year, Muslu told Eater her new restaurant would be above 40 covers and “have a Middle Eastern menu with a twist”. Zahter previously appeared as a pop-up at Carousel in Marylebone.

Coffee social enterprise Change Please opens cafe within International Quarter London workspace: Coffee social enterprise Change Please has opened a cafe within the Workable shared workspace at the International Quarter London development in Stratford. Change Please was launched in 2015, providing jobs, training, and access to housing for those in the local homeless community. Starting with a single coffee cart in Covent Garden, it now operates at 14 locations across London and puts all profits into helping to alleviate homelessness. Workable offers a range of individual and group workspaces, break-out areas, meeting rooms and event space to support flexible working. International Quarter London is a £2.4bn joint venture development between Lendlease and LCR to create a new neighbourhood with homes, offices, and a mix of shops. Change Please managing director Julian Burnham said: “We believe the coffee industry has the power to change lives – since launching in 2015 we have helped more than 175 people with support or training and 72 with employment as baristas. Partnerships with companies such as Lendlease provide a huge boost to our efforts.” Andrew Tobin, project director of International Quarter London for Lendlease, added: “Workable at International Quarter London is the perfect opportunity to partner with Change Please, and we are proud it will be the cafe operators at our new shared workspace.” Nash Bond and CF Commercial represented International Quarter London while Change Please dealt direct.

Southport-based bar operator opens third site: Southport-based bar operator Matty James has opened his third site in the Merseyside town. James has launched Level 1 in Waverley Street. The bar has a games floor with cartoon characters sprayed on the walls. James, who also owns La Moose and Nocturnal, told Lancashire Live: “It’s unlike anything seen in Southport before. We’ve got table tennis, beer pong, a foosball table and all sorts of games consoles such as PlayStation 4, Xbox and Nintendo.”

Muffin Break opens first of trio of August openings: Muffin Break has opened the first of a trio of sites launching this month. The Foodco business has opened its latest site, at The Dolphin shopping centre in Poole for its first outlet in Dorset. The 80-cover cafe is located in the former Druckers Patisserie unit. Meanwhile, Muffin Break will open sites in Hastings, East Sussex; and Colchester, Essex; on Thursday, 29 August. Muffin Break opened its first UK site in 2002 and operates circa 70 outlets, which are a mix of company-owned and franchise stores. 

Warwickshire-based burger concept to open second site: Warwickshire-based burger concept Libertine Burger is to open its second site. Founder Charles Harris is building on his current restaurant in Leamington Spa with an opening at The Swan Centre in Rugby. The new venue will be located within the Chapel Street dining quarter. Harris said: “After the success of our Leamington Spa restaurant, which opened a year ago, Rugby was the next obvious step. We can’t wait to bring our particular brand of burgers, shakes and beer to the people of Rugby, in what is starting to look like a very exciting development for the town.” Joint letting agents at The Swan Centre are Hartnell Taylor Cook, Harris Lamb and Space. James Woodard, director of retail agency at Hartnell Taylor Cook, said: “The arrival of Libertine is exciting for both the scheme and the town, as this sort of modern operator will galvanise the existing mix of pubs and restaurants. Indeed, at The Swan Centre we are starting to create a new casual restaurant hub for the town, with discussions progressing with operators from other complementary food sectors attracted to the town’s strong demographics and the gap in the market for quality independent operations.”

Midlands-based Indian street kitchen and bar concept to open second site this autumn: Midlands-based Indian street kitchen and bar concept Indico is to open its second site this autumn. Owner Faheem Badur is adding to his venue in Parkgate Shopping Centre in Shirley with a site at the Mailbox in Birmingham, after agreeing a deal with the complex's owner, Milligan. Indico’s menu is inspired by the north Indian street food scene and features chaats and curries. The interior at the Mailbox venue will, like its sister site, feature customised artwork and graffiti. Badur said: “We opened our first restaurant three years ago and since then have made a name for ourselves for serving high-quality Indian street food in a unique, artistic atmosphere. We’ve grown in popularity quicker than we thought possible, making now the ideal time for our next venture. Quality, authenticity and overall service is at the heart of everything we do and we feel a real connection with the Mailbox in this respect.” Melanie Taylor, head of retailer relations at Milligan, added: “Indico’s award-winning food and drink is the perfect accompaniment to the Mailbox’s wide range of restaurants and bars.” The Mailbox reopened in 2015 following a £50m refurbishment and is a mix of restaurants, retail outlets and offices. Shelley Sandzer, Nash Bond and Avison Young are leasing agents for the Mailbox.
Historic South Downs pub with rooms goes on market for in excess of £2.5m: A historic South Downs pub with rooms has been put up for sale for in excess of £2.5m. The grade II-listed Fox Goes Free, near Goodwood, in West Sussex, is being marketed by agent Christie & Co. The 400-year-old pub, which was the location of the inaugural meeting of the WI in November 1915, has been owned by Sue and David Coxon since 2004. In addition to five boutique bedrooms, there are seven dining areas, including the landscaped garden, providing a total of 225 covers. Sue Coxon said: “There is enormous potential in the business going forward, which is best demonstrated by the current performance, particularly during the summer months when takings can double trade, which clearly demonstrates the headroom on capacity on both wet and food sales across the rest of the year.”

James Clay and Sons appoints new MD and unveils identity change: Craft beer importer James Clay and Sons has announced James Clay as its new managing director. He takes the helm as the business launches a new brand identity, including an evolution of the company name, having formerly been known as James Clay. James Clay will succeed his father – company founder Ian – who is stepping aside as managing director after more than 40 years. Ian Clay said: “While it feels strange to be stepping aside, now is the right time. I’m really proud of how far the business has come and excited to see what the future holds. James has been with the company for more than ten years and I’ve no doubt his talent, energy and enthusiasm will ensure the business thrives for many years to come.” James Clay said: “While the name, rebrand and my new role are changes, all three are much more about highlighting what hasn’t changed. The name matches that of our family’s 19th century textile business, while many of the visual elements of our new branding are a deliberate nod to our past. Our history and heritage has always been at the heart of what we do, and I know how hard my father worked to maintain the company’s strong northern, family values as the business expanded and evolved. My job, like his before me, is to stay true to them.” Ian Clay will remain a director and part of the leadership team of James Clay and Sons.

Yorkshire-based bar operator to open Halifax site: Yorkshire-based bar operator Alibi is to open an upscale bar and dining venue in a Georgian-listed mansion in Halifax. Alibi has taken over the lease of Somerset House in Rawson Street and is transforming the grade II-listed Georgian former mansion. The £450,000 refurbishment includes the creation of a main bar with private booth seating, separate cocktail bar and courtyard on the ground floor. The venue is set to open later this month, creating 30 jobs. The 3,400 square foot site will accommodate up to 420 people inside and a further 200 in the courtyard. General manager Andy Pritchard said: “Our vision is to offer a premium day-to-night drinks and dining experience in stylish surroundings that will support the town’s growing popularity.” Alibi previously operated a bar at the Sundridge Wells underground retail complex in Bradford but that closed last year.

Carlsberg upgrades 2019 earnings expectations: Carlsberg has upgraded its 2019 earnings expectations due to its strong financial performance in the first six months of the year. The company said this included 4.2% organic net revenue growth, 1.4% organic total volume growth and a strong operating margin improvement. Consequently, it now expects high-single-digit percentage growth in organic operating profit having previously expected mid-single-digit growth. The company will report its interim results on Thursday, 15 August.

Pan-Asian and western fusion restaurant concept secures debut site: Pan-Asian and western fusion restaurant concept Rozu has secured its debut site. Founder Rory May is opening the venue at The Arcadian in Birmingham after agreeing a ten-year lease with LCP, which owns and manages the city centre complex. Extensive refurbishment works at the 2,746 square foot first-floor unit, which is next to Teppanyaki, are being carried out ahead of the 80-cover restaurant opening next month. The venue will also feature an upmarket cocktail lounge. May said: “I’m excited to bring this concept to The Arcadian, bringing even more colour and vibrancy to this popular leisure venue.” The deal means The Arcadian is fully let for the first time in a number of years. Centre manager Jo Kinsella said: “Rozu completes what is a diverse offering and we are confident it complements perfectly the dining options already here.”

Suffolk-based sushi maker signs Aldi deal: Suffolk-based sushi maker Ichiban is rolling out its new product range across Aldi stores after striking a deal with the supermarket company. Ichiban supplies the supermarket with about 40,000 Yumie Sushi Snack packs each week. The new addition to the snack pots includes smoked salmon, vegetable and vegan options. Karen Mitchell, head of commercial at Ichiban, told Insider Media: “We created the Yumie Sushi range at the beginning of the year because we knew there was growing demand in the food industry. People are increasingly aware of ethical and healthier lifestyle choices with a growing number choosing to either follow a plant-based lifestyle or experiment with vegetarian and vegan options. Our partnership with Aldi could prove to be transformational for our business.” Julie Ashfield, managing director of Buying at Aldi, said: “Working with British suppliers has been a key factor in our growth and this is an exciting new partnership. We're seeing huge demand for product innovation such as the Yumie Sushi range.” Ichiban employs 370 people at its site in Stowmarket, where it has been creating sushi for more than ten years.

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