Story of the Day:
PizzaExpress Future Express programme ‘exceeding expectations’: Zoe Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress, has told Propel the performance of the initial group of restaurants it has refurbished under its “Future Express” programme has exceeded expectations. She said: “We are pleased with the performance of these sites, which have exceeded our initial expectations. It is still early days and we continue to learn by testing various markets in the UK and elements within the Future Express programme. We have about 15 further refurbishments lined up before Christmas and will take stock and plan 2020 accordingly.” The reopening of the group’s Langham Place restaurant earlier this year kick-started its Future Express programme in which it is “creating more sociable pizzerias and a more inviting dining environment” with, for example, a greater focus on its kitchens, a refreshed customer service approach and new uniforms. Late last year the company launched the Pasta Project, a new virtual brand in partnership with Deliveroo in China. Asked about making a similar move in the UK, Bowley said: “The core brand continues to deliver steady growth through delivery and we have already tested a standalone vegan offering, which is gaining traction. With virtual brands we continue to learn from our international markets and clearly will explore any attractive opportunities.” On Za, the group’s grab-and-go concept that launched earlier this year, Bowley said the company had learned a lot but wouldn’t commit to opening further sites under the format. She said: “Za has been well received by customers and from early research we have learned a lot and continue to refine the offering for 2019 to help inform our thinking as we plan for 2020.” Bowley was talking to Propel on the back of the brand’s half-year results. Underlying like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland for the 26 weeks ending 30 June 2019 were down 0.2%, with sales up 0.5%. The company said its focus in the UK was on upgrading existing sites rather than new openings in the UK, with further development of the Future Express programme.
Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh to ask what’s stopping the UK from producing global hospitality brands in latest Premium Opinion:
Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh will look into what’s stopping the UK from producing global hospitality brands in the latest Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (30 August) at 5pm. Propel insights editor Mark Wingett
, meanwhile, will write about Robin Rowland stepping down at YO!
following a 20-year association with the brand and look at what might come next for the industry stalwart, while readers can also enjoy the latest sector rumours and rumblings via 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 email@example.com
Trade bodies join forces to call for government action on business rates: Trade bodies have joined forces to call for government action on business rates. UKHospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association, alongside several other organisations including the British Retail Consortium and British Chambers of Commerce, have co-signed a letter calling for the Treasury Committee to prioritise the completion of its inquiry into the impact of rates. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The UK’s business rates system is unfit for purpose and has directly contributed to decline on our high streets. Hospitality businesses have been hammered by a broken system that no longer reflects the realities of business in the 21st century. Hard-pressed businesses were promised a full review of the system in the 2017 Conservative Party general election manifesto, which has not been fulfilled. We need decisive action, outlined in the Queen’s Speech, to overhaul the system as a priority.” UKHospitality has also called on the government to act decisively to support hospitality and tourism in its spending review. As well as addressing business rates, UKHospitality said the government should increase promotion of the UK as a destination of choice and commit to developing rural transport infrastructure. Regarding skills and training, UKHospitality said the future hospitality workforce could be secured if the government cut the SME contribution to apprenticeship training to zero and increased the Apprenticeship Levy top-up from government to 25%; invested in college education, particularly in hospitality, catering and tourism; matched industry resources to promote careers in hospitality; and expanded marketing for the settled status scheme to encourage greater take-up. UKHospitality also urged the government to invest heavily in border arrangements to ensure trade of goods into and out of the UK was as smooth as possible and ensure tariffs on food and drink products were minimised.
UK Hospitality Index 2019 – survey open until end of August:
Operators still have a few days left to take part in the haysmacintyre UK Hospitality Index, the foremost financial benchmarking study for pubs, bars and restaurants, which covers trading, capital and funding data, and views from operators on everything from Brexit to the latest trends. If you would like to complete this year’s survey, which takes less than 15 minutes, click here
. All entries are treated anonymously and the summary report will be shared with all contributors in October enabling them to benchmark their operations against others in the sector and hear from peers on their forecasts for the trading year ahead. The survey will remain open until Saturday (31 August).
White Rabbit Fund’s Chris Miller to give Home Grown’s next Rock Star talk: Chris Miller, founder of White Rabbit Fund and investor in Kricket, Lina Stores and Kym’s, will be the next to speak in the series of Rock Star talks hosted at business members’ club Home Grown in Marylebone. Open to members and non-members, the talk will see Miller in conversation with Mark McCulloch, of Supersonic Inc and the Supersonic Marketing podcast. Miller will talk about how he started out, the highs and lows of the hospitality business and more at the event on Thursday, 5 September. The event will take place from 7pm to 9pm, with tickets and more information available on the Home Grown website. Home Grown was launched in April by the team behind London luxury members’ club Home House.
Collins – keeping rent to revenue ratio below 6% ‘critical’ to Loungers’ success: Nick Collins, chief executive of cafe bar brand Loungers, has told Propel the company’s policy of keeping its rent to revenue ratio below 6% has been “critical” to its success as it continues to grow the business. Speaking following Loungers’ maiden full-year results having floated on the stock market in April, Collins said while other operators had been looking to secure rent reductions in the face of increased cost pressures, its policy not to “overpay” for sites meant it hadn’t had to go down that path. “We have seen some shift in landlord behaviour over the past 12 to 24 months and we’ve certainly seen more opportunity when it comes to sites,” said Collins. “There is still competition for sites but we have stuck to our policy of keeping rent to below 6% of sales and that has played a critical part in our success. We also have the benefit of not operating in central London where rent levels have been historically high and we will continue with our strategy of looking to open in smaller locations – and we believe there are still plenty of options for us out there. We’ve not looked to seek rent reductions and don’t see the need to do so because we are comfortable with the levels we are paying because of that discipline.” Collins said the company wasn’t looking to make acquisitions to speed its pipeline, which remained strong, but added: “Never say never.” He added: “In the past four years we’ve opened in excess of 20 sites annually and it’s a case of keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve said before there’s potential for 400 Lounges and 100 Cosy Clubs so there’s still plenty of runway for us out there without thinking about acquisitions or introducing a third brand. From a management perspective we want to make sure the culture of the business is maintained.” Loungers is currently looking at its drink offer and while Collins said it was “too early to go into detail”, he said the review extended across the entire range and it was looking to enhance its premium offer. He added: “A fundamental part of our success is we have an all-day offer and all dayparts are in growth. We’ve seen good growth in vegan and vegetarian dishes, for example.” Reflecting on the full-year results, where like-for-like sales increased 6.9%, Collins said: “It is a fantastic achievement and testament to our teams, who didn’t allow themselves to get distracted during the initial public offering process and kept everything on track. It’s business as usual – we won’t rest on our laurels and will keep innovating. That’s what we need to do if we want to maintain this level of growth. We’ll keep looking to identify those trends that might be prevalent in two or three years’ time.”
Chopstix secures new £5m debt facility, appoints finance director: Chopstix, the UK’s fastest-growing Asian quick service restaurant company, is set for further expansion across the UK after securing a new £5m debt facility from Metro Bank, Propel has learned. The new funding follows a £2m bank facility the company secured from Metro Bank to support its plans last year, which has helped the expansion of Chopstix across the UK as it looks to add to its growing number of sites in shopping centres, high streets and travel hubs. At the same time, the company has appointed Mark Carrick as finance director. Carrick will join the business in October from Comptoir Group, where he has been chief financial officer since July 2018. Before that he was director of operational finance at bowling alley operator Ten Entertainment Group and held a number of senior finance positions at several hospitality operators. Carrick will replace Michael Toon, who will leave Chopstix later this year to join Byron. Chopstix managing director Jon Lake said: “The continuing support of Metro Bank further underlines the strides we are making at Chopstix in a challenging market. We will continue to look at opportunities to further grow our national reach over the coming 18 months. We are, of course, sad to see Michael leave and thank him for his contribution to Chopstix over the past year and a half. At the same time it’s great to welcome Mark to the team. With his experience added to the existing management team and a new debt facility in place, Chopstix is in a good place to further grow over the coming years and cement its place as the UK’s leading Asian quick service restaurant brand.” Mark Stokes, commercial banking managing director at Metro Bank, added: “We are delighted to have been able to support Chopstix with a sophisticated funding package as it continues to progress its nationwide expansion. We look forward to working with Chopstix over the years as it continues to make its mark in the fast food industry.” Chopstix, which also owns the Yangtze brand, operates close to 40 company-owned sites in the UK under its eponymous brand, plus a number of franchise units. Since the start of 2019, the company has opened sites under its core brand in Intu Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol Cribbs Causeway, Glasgow and Earl’s Court. Its most recent site opened in Southampton’s Westquay scheme at the weekend.
Old Rope Walks acquires fourth Liverpool site: Liverpool-based pub group Old Rope Walks has acquired its fourth site in the city. The company has taken on the Roscoe Arms, which belongs to Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The Oldham Street property is set to undergo a £750,000 refurbishment during the next 11 weeks, which will see the venue renamed The Butterfly & The Grasshopper and reopen in mid-November. The investment will transform the building, expanding the pub across three floors to include a ground-floor bar and dining area, and a top-floor gin and cocktail bar. The new name is inspired by William Roscoe’s poem The Butterfly’s Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast. Old Rope Walks director Mike Girling told the Liverpool Echo: “I discovered the poem many years ago. It’s beautiful and I’ve wanted to celebrate it in a pub or bar since. This is the perfect opportunity because of the connection with William Roscoe. The renaissance of this part of the city is not before time, and it’s fantastic to be able to contribute to it.” Phil McWilliam, area manager for Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Mike is well-known in the city for his brilliant pubs and bars and we’re delighted to be working with him on his new venture.” Old Rope Walks also operates Dovedale Towers, Newington Temple and The Lodge. It also ran the Tavern On The Green but the pub closed in June when the lease ended.
Bistrot Pierre lines up Worthing site: Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, is lining up a site in Worthing, West Sussex. Worthing Borough Council has struck a long-term agreement with developer Nextcolour to convert a seafront shelter opposite West Buildings into a “contemporary, vibrant destination restaurant”. It would have space for 110 diners and a first-floor terrace with a retractable roof for another 60. Nextcolour’s planning application states: “This proposal aims to provide Worthing with a contemporary, vibrant destination restaurant with wonderful sea views. The restaurant will bring increased activity to the seafront and promenade.” As well as the first-floor terrace, an outside area will provide ground-floor seating and full-length sliding windows around the building would give sea and beach views along Marine Parade, reports the Worthing Herald. The 24-strong Bistrot Pierre will open its next site later this year by the Wish Tower Napoleonic fort on Eastbourne seafront. The company has also launched a virtual delivery brand called Birds, Buns and Bowls.
Honest Burgers continues like-for-like sales growth: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed chain, has continued to see an increase in like-for-like sales growth for the first six months of its current financial year, Propel has learned. The company, which will open its latest site on Monday (2 September) in Cardiff, is set to file its full-year accounts to the end of January 2019 this Friday (30 August). In March, Propel revealed for the period the company had seen an increase in sales from £22.3m to £30.7m, a rise in group Ebitda from £2.9m to £4.2m and restaurant Ebitda of £6.8m. Like-for-like sales for the year increased 7.9%. Propel understands the company’s like-for-like sales for the first six months of the current year increased on last year’s numbers, mainly driven by restaurant covers. The 34-strong group expects to open six to seven sites in its current financial year. Last month it secured the former Gow’s restaurant in Old Broad Street in the City of London for an opening later this year. Positive sales growth in the year to the end of January 2019 was boosted by strong like-for-like sales and the opening of five restaurants, including in Holborn, Piccadilly, Waterloo and Bristol.
Ozone Coffee to double up in London: Ozone Coffee Roasters will open its second cafe in the UK, in Bethnal Green, east London, in early October. The company, which has operated a roastery and all-day dining space in Shoreditch for the past seven years, plans to launch a venue in Pritchard’s Street, off Hackney Road. Established in New Zealand in 1998, the company still operates two sites in its homeland plus a coffee roasting and brewing operation beneath its Shoreditch cafe. The company stated: “Designed for the bruncher, first dater, creative worker, family catchup-er, meeting shaker, dog walker, holidaymaker, local morning walker or all of the above, our new space is for everyone. We are humbled to join this east London community and can’t wait to welcome you all.”
Lucky Onion to add Hollow Bottom to growing group: Cotswolds hotel and restaurant group The Lucky Onion is set to add to its Cotswolds-based estate of pubs. Propel understands the company, owned by Julian Dunkerton, the entrepreneur behind high-street brand Superdry and Dunkertons Organic Cider, is set to take over The Hollow Bottom pub in Guiting Power. The pub, which closed last month, is at the heart of the local horse-racing community and is within walking distance of Grange Hill Farm, where leading trainers Nigel Twiston-Davies and Fergal O’Brien are based. The Lucky Onion was recently granted permission by Stroud District Council to transform The Crown Inn in Minchinhampton. The ground-floor pub, which has been shut for six years, is being refurbished while the first and second floors are being converted into flats, reports Punchline Gloucester. The Lucky Onion acquired the grade II-listed pub last year. The company is also refurbishing the George Hotel in Cheltenham and owns five other sites in the Cotswolds.
Saudi Arabia-based cafe concept Bafarat comes to Soho for second site: Saudi Arabia-based upscale cafe concept Bafarat has headed to London to launch its second site. The brand was established in Jeddah in 1952 by the late Omar Ahmed Bafarat and was known for importing herbs, spices and coffee from around the world. This resulted in the opening of Bafarat cafe in the city in 2016. Now the concept has opened in Soho’s Warwick Street offering Arabic-style coffee and custom-made French desserts and pastries created by Thomas Alphonsine, previously of chocolatier Callebaut. An open counter offers desserts such as pistachio eclairs and raspberry tart. A five-course interactive dessert-tasting menu is also available, with Alphonsine guiding guests through every element, explaining the provenance and attention to detail behind each dish. The decor includes a custom-made counter top featuring large chunks of marble to look like shards of caramelised sugar, while feature walls resemble cake icing and table bases are in the shape of a cookie cutter.
Derbyshire-based holiday park operator sees losses widen as turnover remains flat: Derbyshire-based holiday park operator Forest Holidays has reported turnover remained flat at £36.7m for the year ending 28 February 2019. Underlying adjusted Ebitda was down to £9.3m, compared with £10.3m the year before. The company saw pre-tax losses increase to £4m following “significant” one-off cost increases, compared with £1.4m the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Forest Holidays, which is part-owned by the Forestry Commission and backed by private equity firm LDC, has sites in Beddgelert in Snowdonia; Blackwood Forest in Hampshire; Cropton and Keldy in North Yorkshire; Deerpark in Cornwall; Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire; Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire; Thorpe Forest in Norfolk; and Ardgartan Argyll and Strathyre, both in Scotland. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are pleased to report a stable performance despite challenging trading conditions arising from wider economic, political uncertainty during the year and significant one-off cost increases. June 2019 saw the opening of our tenth location, in Beddgelert in the Snowdonia National Park. Beddgelert has performed very well, exceeding budgeted expectations delivered through strong performance in occupancy and rate per night achieved. In addition, investment in an estate-wide upgrade of cabins has been completed and a considerable proportion of profit continues to be reinvested into the maintenance, development and improvement of the estate and customer offer on an annual basis.” Occupancy levels were maintained at 2018’s 91%, while the group is due to open its 11th location in autumn 2020.
Brunning & Price to relaunch Malvern gastro-pub next month: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand owned by The Restaurant Group, is to reopen The Plough & Harrow in Guarlford, Worcestershire, next month. The company will relaunch the venue on Wednesday, 18 September, almost a year to the day it bought the pub from Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth. The old house and historic pub have been joined with the addition of a garden room that will look out on to a stone patio, lawns and a wildflower meadow beyond. There will also be a 20-cover private dining room upstairs with a private balcony offering views across the Malvern Hills. A spokesman for Brunning & Price told the Malvern Gazette the pub had a management team in place and was now looking to recruit 50 staff. Brunning & Price operates more than 70 pub restaurants.
Hull-based restaurant Jude’s starts expansion by launching site inside historic pub: Hull-based restaurant Jude’s has started expansion by opening a second site in the city. The restaurant in Holderness Road has launched a venue at The Plotting Room inside 16th century pub Ye Olde White Harte in Old Town. The venue’s a la carte menu offers British fusion dishes such as guinea fowl, king scallops and wild mushroom fricassee, while the restaurant will offer a bar menu for pub customers. Jude’s co-owner Emma Margetts told Hull Live: “The pub is so well known, we thought it would be a great place to serve our British fusion style of food. There will be a bar menu with sandwiches and burgers as well as popular main courses, and an a la carte menu for people who want more of a dining experience.” The Plotting Room is infamous for being the space in which plotters decided to refuse King Charles I entry to Hull in 1642, triggering the English Civil War.
Ei Publican Partnerships roadshow to showcase new support systems: Ei Publican Partnerships’ annual roadshow, eilive, will return in October and showcase two new support systems designed to enhance pub businesses. The Food Menu Portal has been developed to help publicans optimise their food offering and boost profitability while ensuring they conform to food safety and allergen laws. It will enable publicans to design their own menu using recipes and dishes based on their kitchen equipment and suggests the number of dishes appropriate for their market segment. There will also be demonstrations of Property Universe, a new system designed to allow publicans to raise their own repair jobs and monitor their progress from beginning to end. Also new at eilive this year will be a theatre holding business-building demonstrations from partners such as Pernod Ricard, Diageo, Molson Coors, Heineken, Sky and digital experts Yext, hosted by television presenter Mark Durden-Smith. More than 140 suppliers are set to exhibit at three shows – at Doncaster Racecourse on 8 October, Olympia London on 15 October and Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol on 17 October. Ei Publican Partnerships managing director Nick Light said: “Eilive is a great opportunity to learn about all the latest innovations and trends in the industry.”
Edinburgh-based restaurant operator secures second site: Edinburgh-based restaurant operator Ruori Stewart has secured his second site in the city. Stewart, who owns contemporary European restaurant The Apartment in Barclay Place, has acquired Mexican-themed Pancho Villa’s in the Old Town in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. Stewart has purchased a new lease and plans to trade the restaurant as “The Apartment pop-up” until the property undergoes refurbishment to prepare for a new concept.
Waterworld Leisure Group launches UK’s ‘tallest and fastest’ rides as part of £12m expansion of Staffordshire park: Waterworld Leisure Group has launched four super rides it claims are the “tallest and fastest” in the UK as the centrepiece of a £12m expansion of its Stoke-on-Trent water park. The new rides in the Tornado Alley zone, which tower up to 16.5 metres, are Thunderbolt, Cyclone, Stormchaser and Hurricane. Work is also under way on a two-storey extension that will house a spa, indoor running track, children’s soft play area, and Adventure Island Mini Golf attraction – Waterworld Leisure Group acquired the brand in a £20m investment deal in September 2017. Waterworld owner Mo Chaudry told The Business Desk: “The opening of these rides marks the end of a mammoth construction project and the first stage of a huge new era for Waterworld. We also intend to expand the upper decks and use some of the space to provide food and beverage areas with seating so up to 1,500 people can enjoy seeing the action in the waterpark in a relaxed environment. This all adds up to the biggest single investment in Waterworld’s 30-year history.” Chaudry has been masterminding the growth of Waterworld since 1999, when he took over the previously loss-making operation from The Rank Group. Waterworld attracts more than 350,000 visitors a year, with the expansion expected to lift that figure above 500,000.
Multi-purpose space featuring food market and cinema to launch in Catford next month: Cultural infrastructure developer Really Local Group is to open a multi-purpose space featuring a food market in Catford, south London, next month. The company will launch Catford Mews, a 23,000 square foot community hub, on Wednesday, 25 September. The development will feature a three-screen cinema, food market, cafe, bar, live entertainment venue and, eventually, co-working areas and exhibition spaces. The food market will include stalls from traders in the neighbourhood, while the full-service bar will offer local produce including its own Catford Mews beer from nearby Brockley Brewery. The cinema will offer 220 seats in total, while a stage with live performance equipment will be on offer to local artists, groups and schools. Really Local Group founder Preston Benson said: “It is my aim to make Catford Mews the envy of south London.”
Black and White Hospitality receives royal recognition for workplace training programme: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to eight restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, received the Princess Royal Training Award (PRTA) for its onboarding and brand engagement training programme. Established by global skills development body City & Guilds Group and now in its fourth year, the PRTA recognises employers with outstanding training and development programmes that have had a direct impact on business performance. Those businesses chosen will receive their awards from HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony in London in October. Set up by Nick Taplin and Pierre White in 2013, Black and White Hospitality operates close to 50 franchised venues across the UK. Taplin said: “This has been an incredible journey and to receive this award is testament to the commitment and dedication of the whole Black and White team. We’re in the business of selling a night out and staff training forms a vital element of achieving that.”
OYO takes on largest UK property so far, in Sheffield: OYO, the fast-growing hotel brand, has secured its largest UK property so far. The company has leased Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel from London Town Group. The purpose-built river-front hotel offers 112 rooms in central Sheffield. OYO operates more than 8,500 hotels in 230 cities. London Town Group founder and managing director Koolesh Shah said: “We are delighted to work with OYO as an early adopter of the brand in the UK. The company’s growth is fuelled by its success in China, with a presence in 337 cities and more than 500,000 rooms and we are pleased to offer OYO this opportunity in the UK. We feel our Sheffield Metropolitan hotel is a perfect fit.” London Town Group owns and operates hotels in the UK including franchises with major hotel groups and high-street brands.
Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth launches environmentally focused F&B consultancy: Michelin starred chef Nigel Haworth, co-founder of the Northcote brand and creator of Obsession food festival, has joined forces with wife Kathrine to launch a consultancy service with sustainability at its heart. The hospitality package will combine the Haworths’ expertise in food and interior design. Kathrine Haworth graduated with first-class honours in sustainable construction in 2010 before embarking on a range of renovation and restoration projects. She will combine her skills with her husband’s renown for championing local, organic, seasonal produce to deliver an “environmentally focused offering in F&B consultancy”. Nigel Haworth said: “This collaboration makes so much sense, bringing together our strengths and creativity. We’re looking forward to making an impact on some exciting schemes.” Kathrine Haworth added: “We offer a really joined up, holistic approach to projects – combining Nigel’s extensive knowledge in the hospitality industry and my approach to innovative, best practices in construction and interior design.”
David Lloyd correction: In Wednesday’s (28 August) Propel Morning Briefing we reported David Lloyd Clubs had lodged plans for new leisure venture Adrenaline World at the PEAK development in Chesterfield. We would like to clarify it is David Lloyd himself who is behind the project and David Lloyd Clubs is not associated in any way. We apologise for the error.