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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 16th Aug 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

YO! returning to Dublin with new Kitchen concept: Global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group YO! is returning to Dublin, where it will open a second site for its non-belt, full-service restaurant concept YO! Kitchen. The first YO! Kitchen is set to launch in Westfield White City in London next month and Propel has learned a second site will follow at Dundrum in Dublin later in the autumn. The new menu at the sites will feature dishes such as katsu curry arancini, Japanese corndog and salmon kushi katsu. YO! closed its Dublin restaurant a few years ago, leaving it with no sites in the Republic of Ireland, although it operates a venue in Belfast. In April, YO! announced it would launch a site with no conveyor belt at the new Westfield White City site to “broaden the brand’s appeal”. At the time chief executive Richard Hodgson said the change would be “probably the biggest thing that’s happened to YO! since it was founded”, while removing the belt would enable the chain to highlight the quality of its food and that it’s “no longer only a sushi concept”. Earlier this week YO! enlisted agency Pablo to communicate to customers how much it has diversified its menus and product range. The company has also revealed it will open another YO! To Go concessions with Tesco in Lincoln. It is currently trialling the counters at two Tesco stores – in Surrey and Bournemouth.

Industry News:

Ian Fitzgerald to talk about the importance of passionate teachers and trainers in latest Premium column: Ian Fitzgerald, managing director of Rick Stein Group, will talk about the importance of passionate teachers and trainers as part of our latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (16 August) at 5pm. We Brought Beer founder James Hickson, meanwhile, will reflect on how much the craft beer scene has changed in the past five years. 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

UKHospitality – Highland Council consultation on tourist tax astonishing: UKHospitality has reacted with astonishment at the Highland Council’s consultation on a tourist tax and called on it to avoid any measures that would threaten Scotland’s hospitality sector. UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “It is astonishing the Highland Council is using public money to consult on a tourist tax just before the Scottish government launches a national consultation on the same issue. The council’s interest in squeezing businesses at a time when costs are continually rising is very disappointing. Margins for employers are already shrinking and we are facing a level of political uncertainty that is near unprecedented. To even consider heaping more costs on businesses that are vital to the economic success of the Highlands at this time is ridiculous. The timing of the consultation is also dubious. Schools have returned following the summer break so the views of Scottish families who holiday in the Highlands and will bear the cost of any tourist tax on future holidays may not be heard. We hope the council reconsiders its approach and avoids pursuing any measures that would threaten Scotland’s hospitality businesses.”

Molson Coors to remove plastic from Carling and Coors Light brands in UK: Molson Coors is removing plastic packaging from its Carling and Coors Light brands in the UK and Ireland. It will replace plastic film wrap on large multi-packs with 100% recyclable card by the end of March 2020. By the end of March 2021 it will remove plastic rings from Carling and Coors Light cans, switching to 100% recyclable cardboard sleeves. Molson Coors is investing about £7.5m in the next two years to implement the changes as part of new global packaging goals that aim for 100% of its packaging to be reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025. The company announced the goals in its annual sustainability report. Molson Coors chief executive Mark Hunter said. “Plastic waste poses a clear environmental challenge and, as a consumer-packaged goods company, we play an important role in helping to solve the global waste crisis.”

Company News:

Wagamama opens delivery-only kitchen in Hackney: Wagamama, owned by The Restaurant Group (TRG), has opened a delivery-only kitchen in London Fields, Propel has learned. The brand has taken space at the Railway Arches in Mentmore Terrace. The company opened a dark kitchen to prepare takeaway food and alcoholic drinks for delivery only at the start of this month, despite objections from local residents. Wagamama is working with UberEats and Just Eat through the delivery-only kitchen. On acquiring Wagamama last year, TRG pledged to invest in more delivery-only kitchens. It said it recognised delivery as a significant area of opportunity, particularly as Wagamama was already one of the top brands on Deliveroo. Wagamama launched in a Deliveroo Editions site in Battersea last year. At the same time, Wagamama is understood to be in talks on a site near Fenchurch Street for its new grab-and-go concept Mamago after passing up on a former Starbucks site in Coleman Street. The brand is also set to strengthen its London presence with an opening in Old Street. Propel understands the Emma Woods-led group will open a restaurant at The Bower mixed-use development later this year. TRG, which acquired Wagamama for £559m last year, said it would continue to roll out Wagamama in the UK accelerated by converting some of its leisure division sites.

Piper-backed Hickory’s secures Shrewsbury site: Hickory’s Smokehouse, which is backed by Piper, has secured a site in Shrewsbury. The company has agreed to take the lease from landlord Morris Property for a premises that houses Waterfront nightclub in Victoria Quay, which fronts the river Severn. The first Hickory’s Smokehouse opened in Chester in 2010 after founder Neil McDonnell extensively researched the American barbecue and smokehouse sector. The team behind Hickory’s has been operating in Chester for almost 20 years with Barlounge and its award-winning steakhouse Upstairs At The Grill. There are now ten Hickory’s Smokehouse restaurants in the north west and Midlands – the most recent opening in Poynton last month. The Shrewsbury site will offer 170 covers and a large bar, with 80 staff recruited ahead of an opening in early December. Hickory’s managing director John Welsh said: “The opportunity to come to Shrewsbury excites us all. There are some great plans for the town. We’re working closely with Shropshire Council’s economic growth unit and genuinely want to play our part. It’s a stunning location.” Cllr Steve Charmley added: “We believe having Hickory’s in Shrewsbury will be the catalyst for further development of Victoria Quay.” Hickory’s recently took the lease of the Boddington Arms in Wilmslow, Manchester. Planning processes are taking place with an opening expected in early 2020. McDonnell said: “It is incredibly exciting to open these Hickory’s restaurants. We’ve carefully chosen all the areas – places rich in history and character with thriving communities. We have all been humbled by the welcome we’ve received. Next year is a big year for us too, with Barlounge celebrating its 20th year and Hickory’s Chester reaching its first decade.”

Greene King strengthens operations team at Metropolitan Pub Company: Greene King is strengthening the operations team of its 70-strong gastro-pub business Metropolitan Pub Company by appointing Michael Horan as business unit director. Horan is operations director for Loch Fyne and will retain his current responsibilities. Metropolitan Pub Company operates mainly in the London area and recently launched new concept Darts Club at The Alexandra in Clapham and The Old Tea Warehouse in Aldgate. Karen Bosher, Greene King local pubs director, said: “Metropolitan has amazing pubs in great locations and is going from strength to strength. Michael brings broad experience across a wide range of formats and extensive food expertise to help us with the next phase of growth.” Horan joined Greene King in 2018 and has a wide range of hospitality experience including being operations director at YO! 

Incipio Group to launch first in-house restaurant at The Prince: Incipio Group, which received £5m from entertainment and leisure investor Edition Capital earlier this year to open six sites in 18 months, is to launch its first in-house restaurant at The Prince in West Brompton. Wildcard Kitchen will open at the venue in Lillie Road, which Incipio launched in November 2017. Until now, The Prince’s four restaurants have been concessions. Incipio describes Wildcard Kitchen as sourcing the “best British produce to create the most flavour-packed dishes inspired from around the world”. An advert for chef positions states: “With an adaptable menu and one-off specials, Wildcard goes all-in for taste.” Earlier this month Incipio launched Lost In Brixton, a 440-capacity bar in a hidden corner of Brixton Village. Using technology from the Tablesnapper platform, guests can order food from restaurant traders in Brixton Village and Market Row. Customers scan a QR code on their table, order food from the restaurant listed, pay online and receive their food from a runner – making Lost the world’s first kitchen-less restaurant. Since 2015, Incipio Group has specialised in creating large social venues focusing on food and drink, transforming sites to provide “fashionable and out-of-the ordinary drinking and dining experiences”. Its other sites are Pergola Olympia, a rooftop venue with three restaurants and two bars overlooking Kensington Olympia; Pergola Paddington, an 850-capacity two-tiered space in the heart of Paddington; and W12 Studios in White City, which offers live music and a monthly rotating restaurant line-up. The company is set to launch a new late-night venue in Kensington in October. Part of the funding secured from Edition Capital, which values the business at £20.5m, is being used for a large-scale site in Wimbledon with further venues planned for Mayfair and Putney. Next year Incipio Group will open its first site outside London, in Birmingham.

Dirty Martini reports like-for-like sales up 12%: Cocktail bar group Dirty Martini, which is owned by CG Restaurants & Bars, has reported a 12% increase in like-for-like sales across the 13 weeks to 28 July 2019. London and regional sites all delivered an increase, with London up 6.6% and regional markets up 19.4%. July was particularly strong, with the group showing like-for-like sales up 23.8%. The company said the figures were driven by planned refurbishments at key London sites in St Paul’s and Bishopsgate, producing a 21.6% increase, a focus on late-night atmosphere and entertainment, which increased sales after 10pm by 14.2%, and more than 2,000 covers generated by Dirty Martini’s popular Summer Bottomless Brunch offer. Chief executive Scott Matthews said: “Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham continue to go from strength to strength as they enter their second-year of trading, which we see following all new openings. We were also pleased to see a strong increase across our existing London sites. Our continued focus on delivering a premium experience across multiple dayparts, from mid-afternoon to late night, continues to be well received by our customers.” He added: “It is encouraging to see July continue the upward trend giving us a high level of confidence in our ongoing expansion programme as we target new sites in Liverpool and Newcastle and invest in our existing estate with refurbishments scheduled for Cardiff and Hanover Square.” Dirty Martini currently operates 11 bars – seven in London and others in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester. 

Ex-Duck and Waffle executive chef and House Café Company boss to open Bermondsey bar restaurant: Former Duck and Waffle executive chef Tom Cenci and House Café Company boss Adam White are to open a bar restaurant in Bermondsey. They will relaunch House Café venue Village East as the Loyal Tavern on Friday, 6 September offering seasonal menus and cheese toasties for late-night snacks. The former textile factory’s interiors have been given a makeover to offer 100 covers, two bars and a private dining room. Cenci’s menu will be produce-led with dishes such as Cornish mackerel with apple, pine nut and truffle; venison tartar with beef dripping; and daily specials such as rib of retired dairy cow or gurnard with crab bisque, carrot and seaweed. Antonio Del Monte, formerly of The Ned, will run the bar offering natural, new world British and international wine to pair with the menu. Wine flights are available to order in three different measurements alongside a broad beer selection. House Café Company operates Rail House Cafe in Victoria and Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia. 

McDonald’s hires Andi Peters to highlight delivery service in debut borough: McDonald’s has hired television personality Andi Peters to highlight its debut delivery service with UberEats in the borough of Woolwich. McDonald’s made its UK debut in 1974, opening a restaurant in Woolwich’s Powis Street. Good Morning Britain presenter Peters has been delivering McDonald’s orders to customers in the borough. Peters regularly surprised homeowners on their doorsteps for This Morning. During one drop a customer opened the door wearing only his underwear, leaving Peters on the doorstep while he got dressed.

Whitbread opens hub by Premier Inn in City of London: Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn hotel brands, has opened a hub by Premier Inn “compact” hotel at St Swithins Lane in the City of London. The 61-bedroom hotel is the eighth hub in London Zones 1 and 2 and takes the brand to 11 sites, with three in Edinburgh, to total more than 1,565 rooms since launching in 2013. Developed by Whitbread at a former bank branch, the new hub by Premier Inn is two minutes’ walk from Bank tube station. Alex Flach, UK development director at Whitbread, said: “Hub by Premier Inn has huge potential. The brand is popular with customers and enables us to gain a presence in the most central and connected locations. The latest opening at Bank is indicative of the quality locations we want for hub and how flexible we can be to acquire and develop the best sites. We’re actively looking for opportunities to grow the brand.” A further six hub hotels with more than 975 rooms in total are on-site, in planning or in the secured development pipeline in London. In February, Whitbread announced it was seeking to expand hub by Premier Inn to key cities in the UK and Ireland as it grows Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn to 110,000 bedrooms in total. The hub by Premier Inn in Bank is a further example of the continuing trend towards compact hotels in UK cities. According to research by property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton, one in five of all hotel rooms opened in 2018 were for “compact” hotels, with London a particular hot spot. Whitbread is scheduled to open two more hub by Premier Inns in London by spring 2020 – an 89-bedroom hotel next to West Brompton tube station and a 110-bedroom site in Berwick Street, Soho.

Colicci to open health-focused cafe in St James’s Park next month: Colicci, which serves single-origin coffee, freshly baked cakes from its own bakery and ice cream, is to open a health-focused cafe in London’s St James’s Park next month. The move is part of the multimillion-pound contract the company secured with The Royal Parks charity in April 2018 to open 20 kiosks across its eight London parks. Storey’s Gate Café will open on Monday, 9 September offering a wide range of vegan and vegetarian options. Breakfast and brunch dishes will include an acai bowl topped with seasonal berries, coconut shavings, cacao nibs, goji berries, chia seeds and pecans, while lunch dishes will include soft chilli cheese on sourdough alongside soup, juice, smoothies, coffee and gelato. The building will draw inspiration from the park’s autumnal colours. Founded in 1982 by Ernie and Josephine Colicci, the family business has grown from a single ice cream van to more than 30 fixed sites in London parks. The company launched a dedicated bakery in 2014.

Starbucks to close Bolton town centre cafe as company ‘changes the structure of its UK business’: Starbucks is to close its site in Bolton town centre as it “looks to change the structure of its UK business”. The store, which was one of the first venues to open in Market Place shopping centre 11 years ago, will close on Sunday, 25 August. Despite a “really good couple of years with sales”, Starbucks has decided to close the cafe as part of its “long-term strategy”. Market Place manager Nikki Wilson-Cook told Bolton News: “We have been informed Starbucks is changing the structure of its UK business and has decided to close its shop at Market Place.” Store manager Timothy Firth said: “We have a lot of staff who have been here since the day it opened and some have been here for seven or eight years. We were shocked because we’ve had a really good couple of years with sales but it comes down to the long-term future of the company.” Some staff will transfer to Starbucks stores in Bolton and Manchester. A “memory wall” has been set up in the store to allow customers to write thank you messages.

Brixton-based wine bar operator to turn laundry into bistro and bar: Melanie Brown, who operates wine bar New Zealand Wine Cellar in Pop Brixton, is to transform a former laundry in Coldharbour Lane into a two-storey all-day bistro and bar. The Laundry will launch in the autumn at the former Walton Lodge Laundry. The building was a working laundry for almost 120 years before closing in 2014. The Laundry’s restaurant will span two floors, with a bar upstairs offering counter dining and banquettes and two private dining rooms downstairs. It will also feature a large terrace for alfresco dining. The space will open at 8am for breakfast through to dinner, will serve weekend brunches and has applied for a late licence, Hot Dinners reports. Brown has also worked as a chef at The Providores in Marylebone, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, and at wine bar and restaurant concept Vinoteca. 

Radisson Hotel Group becomes stakeholder in The London Resort: Radisson Hotel Group has struck a partnership with the developers behind a Kent theme park. Radisson will become a stakeholder in The London Resort, a 535-acre destination set to open in 2024. PY Gerbeau, chief executive of London Resort Company Holdings, said: “Radisson Hotel Group’s commitment to the resort represents a significant milestone.” The 430-bedroom Radisson hotel will provide visitors with a base from which to explore. The hotel will also feature a bar, restaurant, meeting and events spaces, spa and swimming pool. Elie Younes, executive vice-president and chief development officer of Radisson Hotel Group, added: “We are delighted to be part of such an iconic project that’s breaking new ground and bringing together an exciting mix of global brands. We strive to create memorable experiences for our guests and this is the perfect opportunity to do just that.” The London Resort also has partnerships with Paramount Picture Corporation and will feature a theme park, water park, cinema, theatre and restaurants.

Dishoom to publish debut cookbook: Indian restaurant Dishoom is to publish its debut cookbook next month. From Bombay With Love, written by Dishoom founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar and chef Naved Nasir, will be released on Thursday, 5 September featuring more than 100 recipes for the brand’s Bombay comfort food, including its bacon naan roll, okra fries and jackfruit biryani alongside coolers and cocktails. A spokesman said: “This cookery book and its equally beautiful photography will transport you to Dishoom’s most treasured corners of Bombay.” Earlier this week, Dishoom reported it had paid £15.5m in dividends since 2017. The company saw turnover rise 26.3% to £44.98m in the year to 30 December 2018. Adjusted Ebitda was £4.33m (2017: £2.25m). Profit before tax was £2.28m (2017: £870,000). Adjusted Ebitda margin was 9.6%, compared with 6.3% the year before. Dishoom operates five London restaurants and one each in Edinburgh and Manchester. Read our exclusive interview with Shamil and Kavi Thakrar in the next edition of Propel Quarterly magazine, which will be published in early September

Snackbar launches permanent site, in Dalston: Snackbar, the pop-up concept by Freddie Janssen and former Nuala chef Anais Van Manen, has opened a permanent site in east London. Janssen and Van Manen have taken over the former Farmshop Cafe in Dalston Lane, beside Dalston Junction station. The 30-cover cafe offers “globally inspired seasonal sandwiches, salads, rice bowls and snacks”. The venue also offers two floors of co-working space. Janssen and Van Manen are working in partnership with urban farming hub FARM:shop. Using the farm’s indoor allotments and a polytunnel, the cafe grows its own vegetables, herbs and mushrooms. In June, Jansen and Van Manen raised more than £20,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to support the project. Snackbar first set up shop in 2016 and has held residencies at Borough Market, The Laughing Heart and Legs.

James Cochran brings Goat to Croydon: Great British Menu winner James Cochran has opened a first permanent site for his Goat concept, at Boxpark Croydon. The concept features dishes such as barbecued Jamaican jerk-spiced shoulder of goat and non-meat options such as jerk-spiced cauliflower in flatbread topped with scotch bonnet jam, tamarind yogurt and ginger beer pickled onions. Cochran launched modern British restaurant 1251 in Islington in August last year after closing his two other restaurants nearby. He won the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2018.

Pub plans 35-bedroom hotel in bid to survive: A Birmingham pub has drawn up plans to create a 35-bedroom hotel to help it continue to trade. Pexbar is behind plans submitted to Birmingham City Council for The York pub in Hall Green. Proposals include transforming the pub and building a predominantly three-storey wing. A statement submitted to the council on behalf of the applicant reads: “The York has been trading for a considerable period of time (pre-1945) and is a well-established drinking and eating venue. However, the pub hasn’t been immune to the significant changes in the leisure sector and general decline in trading. The pub significantly under-trades and without further investment will most likely cease trading. The applicant has considered a number of options to sustain the pub and the most appropriate is considered to be a new hotel wing to diversify the offering at The York and to make internal improvements to the pub to attract more business. The development proposals will not only secure the long-term future of the pub but will result in a number of jobs.” A final decision is expected in the coming months.

Black Sheep Coffee to take over former Patisserie Valerie site in Manchester: Black Sheep Coffee is to take over a former Patisserie Valerie store at a prime location in the centre of Manchester. The Patisserie Valerie store in Deansgate closed earlier this year when the firm went into administration. Gabriel Shohet and Eirik Holth founded Black Sheep in London in 2013. The Deansgate site will be the company’s third branch in the city, with cafes in Piccadilly Place and Spring Gardens. Last month creditors of Patisserie Valerie appointed new administrators to take over from KPMG. FRP Advisory was chosen by creditors that include HMRC and former Patisserie Valerie chairman Luke Johnson. The firm will investigate whether it can pursue legal claims against Grant Thornton, which audited Patisserie Valerie for 12 years but failed to identify suspected manipulation of its accounts.

Growth Partner invests in Spanish gym chain: Growth Partner, the Yorkshire-based investment firm of HomeServe founder Richard Harpin, has invested in a Spanish gym chain. Dr Sergey Miteyko and Leonard Lvovich founded Synergym in 2014, with its first fitness club opening in Malaga. In less than five years they have expanded into other regions, most recently opening their 17th club, in Murcia in February. The chain has more than 40,000 members and a workforce of 170. Growth Partner has taken a minority stake in Synergym and will take an active role in the governance, strategy and future growth of the business in full partnership with the founders. It plans to open ten gyms across Spain in 2019, including Zaragoza, Granada and Barcelona. Gerard Downes, managing partner of Growth Partner, said: “Sergey and Len are hugely experienced and talented operators who have created an exceptional business and have the dedication and vision to lead the Spanish value gym market. We are excited to be on that journey with them.” Lvovich added: “We are delighted to tap into Richard’s experience of growing a substantial international business and working with Growth Partner to accelerate our exciting roll-out plans across Spain.”

Pidgin owners to launch sandwich bar concept at Coal Drops Yard next month: James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, who operate London restaurant Pidgin, are to launch a sandwich bar concept at the Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross next month. Sons + Daughters will offer sandwiches, salad, soft-serve ice cream, cocktails, beer, wine on tap and organic coffee. While they wait to open the restaurant, Sons + Daughters is operating from a van in Granary Square at lunchtimes offering sandwiches, wine, beer, cocktails and snacks. Other operators at Coal Drops Yard include four Harts Brothers sites, two concepts by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, cafe and bar concept Morty & Bob’s, and Redemption Roasters. Ramsden and Herlihy closed Magpie in March. 

Camden Town Brewery scoops four categories at World Beer Awards: Camden Town Brewery, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), has won the most awards for a British brewery at this year’s World Beer Awards. The brewer’s six awards included four category wins and a gold and silver commendation. Its Show Off Juicy Lager won the hoppy pilsner category, while its other winners were Beer 2018 (strong), Gentleman’s Wit (Belgian-style witbier) and Week Nite Any Day Lager (light). Its flagship beer, Camden Hells Lager, won the gold commendation in the classic pilsner category, with Camden Pale Ale receiving a silver in the American-style pale ale class. Founder Jasper Cuppaidge said: “Great beers and a brewery focused on quality and a great experience takes hard work – moments like this make it all worth it.” Cuppaidge founded the company, which has breweries in Kentish Town and Enfield, in 2010. He sold the company to AB InBev in late 2015 for £85m.

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