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Wed 28th Aug 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

YO! to extend Tesco partnership to further 40 stores: YO!, the global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to extend its YO! To Go trial with Tesco, after a successful two-store pilot. Propel understands the Richard Hodgson-led business plans to open YO! To Go counters in up to 40 Tesco stores across the UK by the end of next February, with the first of these to come on line as early as the start of next month. Hodgson told Propel: “We’re delighted to be extending our partnership with Tesco as part of our mission to introduce more people to sushi and fresh Japanese food. Developing our YO! To Go proposition is an integral part of our multi-channel strategy to drive availability and engagement with more consumers. Tesco, as the largest supermarket group in the UK, is the perfect partner as we look to do this.” Late last year, YO! agreed a deal with Tesco to pilot YO! To Go counters at two UK stores – in Surrey and Bournemouth. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that YO! was 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 learned a second site will follow at Dundrum in Dublin later in the autumn. Meanwhile, YO! will open a restaurant in Bath this autumn. The venue will launch at vaults 1-3 in Brunel Square after the brand closed its restaurant in Milsom Place in the city in October

Industry News:

Social Media for Profit Masterclass with all-new content open for bookings: The third Social Media for Profit Masterclass with all-new content is open for bookings. The event takes place on the afternoon of Friday, 20 September at One Moorgate Place in London. Mark McCulloch, who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing digital and social media experience that includes senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO! Sushi, will host the social media boot camp that will provide insights into how to build sales and brands using social media. McCulloch will be joined by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social. With almost ten years of social media experience, Battisby is a Facebook-accredited trainer and will bring the latest algorithm-busting insights. She will show the best way to use Instagram to tell a good story to drive bookings and the do’s and don’ts of working with influencers to best champion your brand. Battisby will also take you through the five key steps to ensure your social media adverts are working successfully, including targeting and budget. McCulloch will talk about the hot trends and tips for 2020, including channels, content, what the great and the good are doing and some untapped areas operators may be neglecting. He will also look at growing a business’ reach and creating more content by making all employees in-house influencers as well as structuring your social media team and budget. Meanwhile, with the rise of smart speaker users in the UK, Geraint John, founder and managing director of Move Digital, will look at building your voice-marketing strategy to reach customers and leave competitors behind. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. To book a place, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Company News:

Deltic seeks sites in Cambridge, Plymouth and Southampton: Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs, is looking to source venues in Cambridge, Plymouth and Southampton, Propel has learned. Deltic Group has appointed agent Fleurets to find sites in the three cities. Deltic Group is seeking sites within city centres, near a student population with a target demographic of 18 to 30 years old. The company will consider new leases, assignments or freehold purchases. Sites must be part of an existing food and beverage circuit and a minimum of 12,000 square feet with a 3am licence. They must have D2 planning status or the possibility of achieving that. A spokesman for The Deltic Group said: “We are always looking for great venues that allow us to bring our exciting offer to customers across the UK.” Tom Cormie, of Fleurets, who is seeking the sites on behalf of Deltic Group, said: “Deltic Group is a dynamic, innovative and highly competent nationwide operator. It provides excellent covenant strength for landlords and helps to drive footfall.” Deltic Group already operates Ballare and Vinyl in Cambridge, Pryzm and its Bar & Beyond and Steinbeck & Shaw concept in Plymouth, and Oceana in Southampton.

Puttshack further strengthens senior team ahead of expansion: Puttshack, the Social Entertainment Ventures-operated mini-golf concept, has further strengthened its management team as the business gears up for growth. On Monday (26 August), Propel learned Roberto Moretti had been appointed chief operating officer in the UK after stepping down as chief executive of Italian casual dining brand Vapiano UK after less than a year with the business. Puttshack chief executive Joe Vrankin has now revealed the company has also appointed Logan Powell as chief financial officer and Sophie Evans as marketing director. Powell joins from Copper Beech Capital, a private investment office in the US. He will relocate to the UK to be based in the Puttshack London office, with Sophie Evans joining following senior marketing roles at Be At One and Novus. Vrankin said: “We are committed to connecting technology with tradition and creating unprecedented experiences for our guests. I’m really excited these three incredibly talented executives are part of the team and embrace these core values. ” Moretti said: “I am incredibly excited to be joining Puttshack, an interactive, cutting-edge concept with exciting growth plans, supported by a high-calibre, committed team. I believe we have the ability to become a sustainable and internationally envied leader in the experiential market.” The appointments follow the recent launch of Puttshack’s second site, at Intu Lakeside in Essex, with another set to open at No 1 Poultry in the City of London this autumn following the completion of a £27m equity raise last month with lead investor Promethean Investment. A further site is planned at Intu Watford. Vrankin has told Propel he sees potential for 50 Puttshack sites in the UK and 300 in the US. 

Black Sheep Brewery reports turnover rise, plans further investment and expansion: Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery has reported a second successive year of profits and increased turnover. The company delivered turnover of £19.3m for its financial year ending 31 March 2019, up from £18.5m in 2018. Operating profit was £254,000, a slight fall from £260,000 in 2018. During the year, Black Sheep acquired and fully integrated York Brewery and four of its outlets in York and Leeds. It also acquired Leeds-based bar and restaurant Kith & Kin to expand the portfolio of pubs operated by its newly created retail division, Black Sheep Retail, to five. The brewer continued to innovate its range of beer, with about 15% of its production coming from beers that “hadn’t been brewed two years ago”. The financial period also saw Simon Adams appointed group finance director, bringing private equity and AIM-listed experience. Black Sheep said further investment was being made to build a packaging plant on its site in Masham, with the company having already invested £200,000 in capital equipment for the plant in addition to grant funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership. The facility will enable Black Sheep to bring its can, keg and bottle-packaging operations in-house, which would “not only bring a significant reduction in costs but also increase flexibility to supply customers”. The brewery also secured listings with supermarkets including Morrisons and Tesco. Black Sheep Brewery chairman Andy Slee said: “Our diversification into pub ownership and to develop packaging capabilities to supplement our core brewing activity is proving to be a positive strategy. Brewing continues to be a challenging industry, exemplified by the suffocating levels of beer duty we pay, accounting for 40% of our turnover. However, we remain agile and proactive through the development of new products and programmes of investment that will enable the brewery to continue to move forward. Working with our loyal shareholders and pursuing new routes to fund-raising for the business, we are committed to the fast pace of change we are delivering at Black Sheep Brewery, which will ensure we bolster our position as an iconic Yorkshire brand and innovative and creative brewer.”

The Real Greek to open on Tower Bridge: Fulham Shore-owned business The Real Greek is set to further increase its presence in central London, Propel has learned. The sister brand of Franco Manca has secured a site in Bridgemaster’s House, which is part of Tower Bridge. The site will become the 18th opening for the brand. Earlier this month, Propel revealed The Real Greek was converting a former The Diner site at 397 The Strand for what will become its 17th opening. The site is on the southern edge of Covent Garden. The Real Greek already has a site in the north east corner of Covent Garden, where Long Acre meets Bow Street. Fulham Shore opened its 50th Franco Manca last week in Edinburgh, a first site for the brand in Scotland.

The Naked Deli set for Scottish debut: Newcastle-based The Naked Deli is to open its first outlet in Scotland. The company launched in Newcastle in 2014 and has since expanded to five sites across the north east after securing £2.5m of backing from investment company Foresight Group in 2018. The Naked Deli is preparing to launch at Glasgow airport in September, creating 15 jobs, with further openings planned for the next 12 months. Chris Jones, founder and chief executive at The Naked Deli, told Insider Media: “I have always been health-conscious and keen on keeping in shape and often found myself frustrated at the lack of options for healthy eating around the areas I worked. I realised there was a gap in the market for a healthy food provider, and the idea for The Naked Deli was born.”

KFC trials vegan nuggets and wings in US following meatless burger success in UK: KFC is trialling vegan versions of its nuggets and boneless wings in the US. The trial follows the recent test of a vegan burger in select KFC branches in the UK. The products are made using ingredients supplied by plant-based company Beyond Meat. The pilot is taking place at a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, as KFC “evaluates a broader test or potential national roll-out”. KFC US president and chief concept officer Kevin Hochman said: “KFC Beyond Fried Chicken is so delicious, our customers will find it difficult to tell it’s plant-based.” Beyond Meat founder and chief executive Ethan Brown told Plant-Based News: “KFC is an iconic part of American culture and a brand that I, like so many consumers, grew up with. To be able to bring Beyond Fried Chicken to market speaks to our collective ability to meet the consumer where they are and accompany them on their journey.” The test follows KFC’s recent UK trial of the Imposter Burger, a Quorn fillet coated in Original Recipe herbs and spices, lettuce, and vegan mayo. The burger, which was sold in a limited number of stores, racked up sales about 500% higher than an average new KFC sandwich, the company said. Earlier this week, high-street baker Greggs announced it was working on vegan versions of its best-selling products, including steak bakes, pasties and doughnuts, as it looks to repeat the runaway success of its vegan sausage roll.

Soho Coffee Co opens second Bullring site, strengthens central London presence: Artisan food-led coffee company Soho Coffee Co has opened its second site in Birmingham, while Propel understands the company is set to strengthen its presence in central London. The new Birmingham site has launched in Upper Mall West in the Bullring shopping centre, with windows opening on to St Martin’s Walk. It joins Soho Coffee Co's existing site at the Bullring, inside Debenhams. The new store offers hot and cold dishes from breakfast through to the evening, alongside signature, triple-certificated coffee and vegan smoothies. Meanwhile, Propel understands the company will open a site in Threadneedle Street in the City of London in September. Soho Coffee Co opened its first store in 1999 and now has more than 40 sites in the UK and internationally.

Liquidators appointed for Inigo Foods: Australian-Japanese sushi hand-roll concept Inigo has been placed into liquidation. The concept, which late last year failed to raise £350,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to roll out kiosks across London, closed its one permanent site in the City of London earlier this summer. Liquidators at Kingston Smith & Partners have been appointed to oversee the business interests of the company, which also supplied a number of corporate clients via BaxterStorey and Searcys.

Panera Bread partners with third-party delivery firms but will maintain own driver fleet: US-based bakery and cafe chain Panera Bread, owned by JAB Holdings, has partnered with third-party delivery companies DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats in the US. However, Panera will maintain its own driver fleet, which has offered in-house delivery since 2016, for “quality control” and to “cut costs”. Panera said third-party delivery through the three major companies would be available at a majority of the 1,600 units that already offer delivery in the US – more than two-thirds of the brand’s total units. Delivery sales currently represent about 7% of total revenue for the St Louis-based brand. Panera had been one of the few major restaurant chains not tempted by the growing popularity of third-party delivery apps. Dan Wegiel, executive vice-president and chief growth and strategy officer at Panera, told Nation’s Restaurant News: “I think the business has evolved for both Panera and third-party players. Delivery became our primary growth driver and continues to grow in parallel with third party. We found out we are actually the number-one brand searched on these properties, even though we weren’t listed.” Wegiel said third-party delivery would enable the company to “lean into an untapped demographic” – suburban dinnertime delivery. Panera will gain access to customer data a few months after third-party delivery launches this month. Wegiel said the company wanted to keep control of the delivery process and only use in-house drivers. He said: “We want our drivers to represent the last mile. Your order flows directly into our central system and shows up like any other Panera order.” Wegiel also confirmed there would be no service fee, while the delivery fee would match the fee for internal delivery orders. Panera operates circa 2,130 bakery cafes in 48 US states and Ontario, Canada.

Hartnett confirms third Café Murano site to open, in Bermondsey: Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett has confirmed she will open a third site under her Café Murano brand, in Bermondsey, south east London. Propel revealed in June that Hartnett would open at the site in Bermondsey Street that was formerly occupied by restaurant Zucca, which closed at the end of 2015. Hartnett opened the first Café Murano in November 2013 at a site in St James’s Street formerly run by her mentor, Gordon Ramsay. A second Café Murano followed in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, serving “simple and seasonal” Italian food with a shop next to the restaurant selling pasta and sauce to take away. Zucca was run by former River Café chef Sam Harris. It opened in 2010 and served a “progressive interpretation” of traditional Italian food.

Online food delivery business Lean Lunch hits target in £120,000 crowdfunding campaign: Online food delivery business Lean Lunch, which aims to “improve well-being for people and the planet”, has hit the target in its £120,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Launched by Sat and Charlotte Mann, Lean Lunch delivers chef-prepared, sustainably packaged food to city centre offices by cargo bike. The company now aims to scale up and is offering 11.32% equity in return for the £120,000 investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £940,000. So far, 159 investors have pledged £123,000 and the campaign is “overfunding”. The pitch states: “In the first quarter of 2019 we’ve produced 10,530 meals, doubling the first quarter of 2018. Our vision is to scale the business to become the de-facto provider of nutritious, sustainable food for workplaces in every city we operate in.”

Patara places Suda site on the market: Fine Thai dining group Patara has placed its casual dining restaurant Suda in Berners Street, Fitzrovia, on the market. The site, which is being marketed by agent Restaurant Property, has been closed for refurbishment for a number of weeks. Earlier this year Propel revealed the company had appointed Rebecca Boland, formerly of Azumi and Harrods, as managing director. Patara, which is backed by Minor International, operates six restaurants in London under its eponymous name – in Hampstead, Soho, Oxford Circus, Knightsbridge, South Kensington and Wimbledon. It also operates restaurants in Singapore, Vienna, Geneva, Beijing and Bangkok.

MJR Group acquired by Australian counterpart: Live music venue operator and events promoter The MJR Group has been snapped up by Australian counterpart TEG. The MJR Group, which has its headquarters in Bristol, promotes and operates more than 2,000 shows a year and has toured acts including 50 Cent, Sia, Hans Zimmer and Culture Club. The company owns and operates four venues including TramShed in Cardiff and The Mill in Birmingham, and also has stakes in six other sites, in Sheffield, Southampton, Reading and Leeds. It also operates the Propaganda brand across the UK. The MJR Group’s three partners, chief executive and head of UK Richard Buck; head of Australia and New Zealand Scott Mesiti; and head of UK venues and Propaganda Dan Ickowitz-Seidler, will remain with TEG. The MJR Group’s operations will be incorporated into TEG’s global offering, with The MJR Group’s UK operations to be renamed TEG UK. Buck said: “We are excited by this venture and the enhanced business opportunities brought by TEG. We’ve worked hard to scale the business over the past five years and this next step in our evolution will further strengthen our position in the market.” TEG chief executive Geoff Jones added: “TEG is already Asia-Pacific’s leading ticketing, live entertainment and technology business and this acquisition marks a significant step towards TEG becoming a global live entertainment powerhouse. The MJR Group is a great fit for TEG. It has strong management talent and a clever live entertainment model to which TEG can add ticketing, analytics and digital capability. The MJR Group also brings significant additions to our venue portfolio.”

Glasgow rejects plans for Edinburgh-based Ting Thai Caravan to open third Scottish site: Ting Thai Caravan, which operates two restaurants in Edinburgh, has had its plans rejected to open a site in Glasgow. The company applied to transform a site in Byres Road formerly occupied by music, film and book shop Fopp. However, Glasgow City Council rejected the move citing an “unacceptable loss of a Class 1 retail unit to the detriment of the retail character and function” of that part of the city. The decision also referred to “failure to maintain an appropriate balance and diversity of uses” in the area, Glasgow Live reports. Ting and Ae Tapparat launched Ting Thai Caravan at Edinburgh Festival in 2012, offering authentic Thai street food. They secured a restaurant in the university quarter shortly after and opened a second bar restaurant, Saboteur, in September 2017.

Barton Grange Group reports turnover and profit boost aided by new leisure venue: Barton Grange Group has reported an increase in turnover and pre-tax profit, boosted by the opening of a new leisure venue. The company oversees a host of operations, including Barton Grange Hotel, Barton Grange Garden Centre, a nursery division, Barton Grange Landscapes and the Flower Bowl – a 67,000 square foot leisure venue comprising a crazy golf course, a curling rink, tenpin bowling, three cinemas and two restaurants – that cost £10.3m and opened in August 2018. For the year to 31 January 2019, the company reported turnover rose to £24,095,013, compared with £21,192,255 the previous year. Revenue from Flower Bowl in its first five months of operation totalled £2,093,796. The activity levels at Flower Bowl have been exceeding the company’s second-year projections and are therefore considered to be “very pleasing”. Activity levels at the Barton Grange Hotel were “disappointingly lower than the previous year”. However, tight control of margins and operating overheads produced a net result only “slightly lower” than 2017. Turnover at the hotel was down to £2,253,787, compared with £2,494,927 the year before. The garden centre business, which accounts for the majority of the group’s revenue, enjoyed a “significant rise” in net profitability on the back of improved margins and controlled operating overheads. Group pre-tax profit was up to £1,693,986 compared with £1,376,770 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are pleased to report another respectable year. Trading levels in the current year have been largely in line with expectations and contain no surprises.”

Events company to open bar and nightclub concept in Dunstable: Events company Our Next Event (ONE) is to open a bar and nightclub concept in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, on Saturday (31 August). The company, known for staging sold-out parties around the south east with brands such as PierJam, Cafe Mambo and Garage Nation, will launch BOX3 on the Grove Park development following an extensive refurbishment. The venue will host internationally acclaimed DJs and feature a new VIP area and gin garden offering craft beer, cocktails and stone-baked pizza alongside antipasti. ONE director Oliver Ibrahim said: “I originally set up the unit a decade ago as a cocktail bar and club and ran it for a few years and, by the end of 2012, I handed it over to a different operator. I’ve since reacquired the space for refurbishment and relaunch.”

Red Dog Saloon founder to launch Indian-inspired, charcoal barbecue concept in Nottingham next month: Tom Brooke, founder of Red Dog Saloon and Louie’s Hot Chicken, is to launch an Indian-inspired, charcoal barbecue concept in Nottingham next month. The 70-cover Burra Khana will open on Thursday, 12 September inspired by the streets of Delhi and Jaipur and countries such as Persia, Turkey and Lebanon. Small plates will include taley aloo ki chaat, a fried fresh potato in green peppers, tomato and spices on a bed of iceberg lettuce. All bread will be freshly made. Middle Eastern dishes will include skewers cooked on a charcoal pit and a jumbo king prawn kebab marinated in a yogurt-based paste and cooked in a clay oven. Drinks will include signature cocktails and Masala chai tea. Brooke said: “The name Burra Khana comes from Hindi and means ‘great entertainment or feast’, hence the menu is based on conviviality.” 

Paul Heathcote opens high-end restaurant in Bolton’s Albert Halls: Michelin-starred chef Paul Heathcote has opened a high-end restaurant in Bolton’s Albert Halls as the final piece of the venue’s £6.5m refurbishment. The Northern offers 88 covers and takes over what was previously a staff canteen inside the grade II-listed town hall after the chef’s catering company, Heathcote & Co, signed a ten-year partnership last year. The open kitchen and bar is connected to a larger prep kitchen, where Heathcote and his team also cater for functions. Domino tables lend the room an old-school pub character set against stained glass windows. The menu follows a similar ethos, with classic British dishes such as potted salmon and crumpet loaf, and steamed Lancashire cheese and cauliflower pudding with mash and greens. A further 20 to 30 covers will be added in the hall outside the restaurant where The Northern will begin serving afternoon tea in the autumn. Heathcote told the Manchester Evening News: “There are some great shows going on at the Albert Halls, some big names, and the idea is to hold people for longer in the town centre. That’s the council’s ambition and we hope we can drive more traffic by producing great food and great service in a different environment. I’ve lived in Bolton, my family still all live here, so doing something that can be part of the start of its growth again is great.” Heathcote closed the last of his 12 restaurants in 2016. He held two Michelin stars at his Longridge Restaurant in Preston.

Cantonese roast meat concept Three Uncles opens debut restaurant, in Liverpool Street: Cantonese roast meat concept Three Uncles has opened its debut restaurant, in London’s Liverpool Street. Three Uncles has launched at a site in Devonshire Row formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant chain Poncho 8. Three Uncles’ menu includes chopped-to-order siu mei alongside pak choi and steamed jasmine rice. As well as a selection of hot and cold grab-and-go specials, it also offers Hainan chicken rice, lo mien noodles and dim sum. Three Uncles is also thought to be opening at Nag’s Head Market in Holloway – the dedicated street food space from Simone Moroni, managing director of Italian craft beer pub concept The Italian Job, reports Hot Dinners. Poncho 8 currently operates two sites – in Paddington and St Paul’s.

Apex begins £1.4m refurbishment programme at Dundee hotel: Edinburgh-based Apex Hotels has begun work on a £1.4m refurbishment programme at Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa in Dundee. During the coming months the hotel’s public spaces – including Metro Bar & Brasserie, reception and conference areas, and Yu Spa – will be transformed. The investment comes less than a year after the completion of a £2.4m project that saw all 151 bedrooms and suites at the four-star quayside hotel refurbished. The full programme of improvements is set to complete in the new year, with the hotel operating throughout the period. Since late 2017, Apex Hotels has invested about £12m in refurbishment works across its ten UK hotels.

Yorkshire-based bar operator opens 600-capacity dining venue at Halifax listed building: Yorkshire-based bar operator Alibi has opened 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, following a £450,000 refurbishment, has created a main bar with private booth seating, a separate cocktail bar and a courtyard. The 3,400 square foot site accommodates 420 people inside and 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.

Hollywood Bowl invests £200,000 in Washington rebrand: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, has completed its latest investment with the £200,000 rebrand and redevelopment of the former AMF Bowling site in Washington, County Durham. The 26-lane centre has been redesigned to feature new furnishings, contemporary American decor and exclusive VIP lanes. The Hollywood Diner serves gourmet burgers, hotdogs, thick shakes served in retro milk bottles and desserts as well as speciality house cocktails. In addition, the centre’s amusement area has been revamped. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns said: “Our rebranded Washington centre has undergone an extensive transformation and we’re extremely happy with the excellent feedback we’ve received so far. Washington centre is a great example of a new-generation Hollywood Bowl.” The company operates 60 centres under the Hollywood Bowl and AMF Bowling brands.

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