Story of the Day:
Pie & Pint Inns seeks pub company partner to grow: Essex-based pub operator Pie & Pint Inns is looking to partner with a bigger pub company in a bid to grow the three-strong brand, Propel has learned. Pie & Pints Inns founder Gary Downham said the company has a model that is ready to roll out with the right support. The plan involves a partnership with Downham, who launched the private-owned company in 2008, remaining on the board to help the business grow. He said the company had a “three-point attack” to cover all trading situations – country dining, town and city – and its Café Crust concept, which is the breakfast offer Downham said could also be rolled out as a separate venture “in the style of Panera Bread”. The company has also recently launched Regional Town and Country – its lodge-style rooms at The Cherry Tree in Stambridge, which is already taking bookings for next summer. Downham told Propel: “In the world of finding sites and finance it becomes near impossible to grow a business under your own steam to take it to the next base it deserves and a bigger brother is often needed. I see an existing managed house company bringing us into its business where it has undeveloped sites that would tick the box, cash to invest and a suitable head office that could support growth. All the existing management and staff would stay on to help a future partner to grow. We would also welcome a partner that could develop Regional Town and Country into the offer to give even more strength to the brand.” Downham said the company had been on the verge of working with Punch, which prior to its sale was interested in rolling it out as a managed pub operation. Downham said he believed the company, which turns over £3.5m a year, was an attractive prospect for partners. He added: “We are debt free. We have a simple, fresh food offer that could be easily replicated to roll out, an outside kitchen to cover demand growth and our own in-house accountant and cask ale brand, for example. We also have a partnership with Porsche cars GB to install Porsche-branded electric car points at all sites. A future partner would have a great business model that is turnkey and ready to roll out.” As well as The Cherry Tree, Pie & Pint Inns operates The Castle in Great Leighs and The Hare in Roxwell.
Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Michael Saunders to present, two free places for operators:
The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 14 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Bibendum chief executive Michael Saunders
will talk about the key steps in returning the company to health after being saved from the Conviviality administration by C&C Group 18 months ago. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Stenning to look at whether restaurants are evolving quickly enough in latest Premium column:
Leading sector analyst Simon Stenning will look at whether restaurants are evolving quickly enough in the latest opinion piece that will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (13 September) at 5pm. Propel insights editor Mark Wingett, meanwhile, will look at whether we should sometimes avoid the “noise of the new” and appreciate those less celebrated brands, while Premium Diary will take a peek into the industry rumour mill. 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
Technology key to improving sector productivity but red tape hampering efforts: More than 90% of sector leaders think technology is important to improving productivity but red tape is hampering efforts, according to the fifth edition of Future Shock, produced by UKHospitality, CGA and partners. The report stated technology was unlikely to become a substitute for key competencies such as customer care and food and drink quality in such a people-focused industry but would be crucial in boosting productivity. However, the report said while productivity levels in hospitality were “healthy and improving” – up about 2.5% between 2007 and 2017 – businesses continue to be held back by red tape. The report stated: “The increase in productivity has coincided with a boom in both investment and growth within the sector. A booming business has the ability to make gains while having the available capital to invest in technology and training that support productivity improvements. Politicians would do well to recognise conditions for growth are critical to gains in productivity.” The report said in relation to food there had been an “unprecedented” level of activity from government during the past nine months such as calorie and allergen labelling. The report added: “There needs to be a balance between what is required to keep our customers safe and secure and what businesses are already doing themselves without the need for masses more regulation.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Businesses need flexibility if they are to thrive, some don’t have the room in which to work.” Karl Chessell, director of food and retail at CGA, added: “Hospitality is sometimes perceived as less efficient than other industries but this report makes clear we are collectively much more productive than we might think – and getting better all the time. The sector is also productive in ways no metric can demonstrate, with a valuable social currency that makes a positive difference to people’s lives.”
Investors increasingly eyeing licensed sector due to attractive yields, appetite for UK alternative investments remains high: Investors are increasingly targeting the licensed sector because of attractive yields as the appetite for UK alternative investments remains high. Christie & Co’s latest report on alternative investments in the UK showed leased pubs had a yield of 6% to 7% for prime and a much wider spread of 6.5% to 9% for secondary investment. Managed pubs demonstrated a yield of 4.5% to 5.5% for prime and 6.5% to 7.5% for secondary investments. The report said managed houses presented the highest-quality pub stock in the UK, shown by the compressed yields and high demand against a short supply. Many operators are embarking on sale and leaseback agreements due to attractive yields, with some as low as 2.5%. Meanwhile, leased and tenanted pubs are increasingly popular at both ends of the market with a range of investors seeking strong covenants, which are achieving good yields. Restaurant investments have seen yields pull back from their peak due to recent high-profile causal dining casualties and a general downturn on the high street, with the market showing yields of 4.8% to 5.5% for prime and 5.5% to 9% for secondary assets. Christie & Co director Ramzi Qattan added: “Based on recent transactions we are seeing strong interest in the leased and tenanted sector in particular – from new entrants and those expanding existing portfolios.”
New York mayor files lawsuit against Chipotle over perceived work schedule violations: New York mayor Bill de Blasio has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle Mexican Grill, accusing the company of widespread violations of the city’s two-year-old Fair Workweek Law. The mayor’s office said Chipotle was failing to provide employees with work schedules two weeks in advance and obtain consent and pay premiums for last-minute schedule changes, as required by city law. It’s the first lawsuit filed against a corporate-owned quick service company since the law came into effect two years ago. Chipotle chief reputation officer Laurie Schalow told Nation’s Restaurant News: “Chipotle has been working co-operatively with the city to ensure we have systems and processes in place to comply with the law, so we believe the filing of charges was unnecessary. Regardless, we will continue to co-operate with the city and we are addressing any prior non-compliance concerns.” New York City’s Fair Workweek Law became effective in November 2017, with the intention to prevent quick service and retail employers from issuing unpredictable working schedules to employees.
Wagamama appoints director to oversee international expansion, Hornby acquires shares: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned brand, has appointed Daniel Blasco Fernandez to oversee its international expansion. Blasco Fernandez joined Wagamama as director of international franchise earlier this summer. He previously worked for franchise operator Grupo Vips, which operates Wagamama in Spain and Portugal, for 15 years. He takes over from Brian Johnston, who stepped down as Wagamama’s international managing director earlier this summer. Johnston oversaw the expansion of Wagamama outside the US. During the past few years he has put franchise deals in place for the brand to make its debut in Italy, France and Spain. It currently operates 57 franchises sites around the world. Meanwhile, new TRG chief executive Andy Hornby has acquired shares worth circa £300,000 in the Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s operator. Hornby bought 232,471 shares at a price of 128.40p each, totalling £298,493. His stake following the purchase was not given. Hornby took over as chief executive of TRG at the beginning of last month. Last week TRG reported like-for-like sales rose 4% in the 26 weeks to 30 June 2019. Group like-for-like sales were up 3.7% for the first 34 weeks of the financial year, benefiting from soft comparatives in the prior year.
Fernandez-Versini bringing Cosy Box to London as pop-up prepares to go permanent: Jean Bernard Fernandez-Versini has told Propel he is “really excited” to bring his Cosy Box concept to London next year. The restaurateur is set is to make his Cannes Film Festival pop-up permanent, with a first site launching in New Delhi, followed by Bombay, London and Los Angeles. The New Delhi Cosy Box will open next year, with a £2m refurbishment “well under way”. The 300-cover venue will offer fine dining and host DJs and events. Fernandez-Versini has partnered with AA Hospitality owner and founder Akshay Anand to launch the venue. Anand said: “The Indian hospitality market has evolved significantly and we will see more and more international concepts launched here.” However, Fernandez-Versini told Propel he was also looking forward to opening in London. He said: “London is where I live and I’m really excited to bring the Cosy Box concept here towards the end of 2020. I’ve carried out a lot of research and know Cosy Box will offer something nobody else does at the moment – a perfect mix between elegant and trendy, somewhere you can have a quiet, quality dinner but also a place you can stay later and have a fun night. We have delayed our plans for London slightly because of Brexit but that hasn’t put me off opening in London. I am just cautious and would rather take my time and make it rock to its best. We have been doing pop-ups for the past decade but we’re shifting gears now, evolving the concept and creating permanent venues.”
Mowgli appoints Worth as operations director: Indian street food concept Mowgli, which is backed by Foresight Group, has further strengthened its management by appointing Lucy Worth as operations director, Propel has learned. Worth left Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group earlier this year, where she had been operations director for less than 12 months. Before that she was operations director at Byron for more than four years and operations manager at Gondola Group for three and a half years. Mowgli, which recently launched in Cardiff, will open its tenth site later this month, in Leicester’s St Martin’s Square. The group is also set to open a venue in Bristol in October after acquiring the PizzaExpress restaurant in Corn Street, while outlets in Preston and Newcastle are also in the pipeline.
Qatar-based dessert concept secures Covent Garden site for UK debut, plans five venues: Qatar-based dessert concept Apple Butter is to make its UK debut. Adara Group will open the first venue in Covent Garden after securing the former Balans Soho Society site in Monmouth Street. Apple Butter, which is based in Doha and specialises in homemade desserts, speciality coffee, and gourmet salads and sandwiches, will open the Covent Garden site before Christmas as the first of five outlets planned. Restaurant Property advised Adara Group on the purchase of the Monmouth Street site. The 1,882 square foot site has an annual rent of £175,000, with a six-figure premium and a lease that runs until 2028. Restaurant Property founding director David Rawlinson said: “Acting as sole agent, we are proud to secure this prime Covent Garden site for our client. This is the first of five sites it will open.”
Administrators confirm no pay-out for creditors of Square Pie: Administrators of gourmet pie company Square Pie, which operated five restaurants before going into administration last year, have confirmed creditors won’t receive a dividend. A progress report filed at Companies House by administrators Ben Leith and William Wright, of KPMG, revealed there were insufficient funds to pay unsecured creditors, who were owed £2,109,620. Trade and expense creditors were owed £2,074,968 and employees £34,652. Preferential creditors’ claims, made up of employees’ wage arrears, totalled £13,137 and because of insufficient funds no dividend will be paid. As previously reported, HSBC and Santander held fixed and floating charges over Square Pie’s assets but neither party were owed money on the administrators’ appointment. Leith and Wright said the administration had now closed and Square Pie would be dissolved. Following KPMG’s appointment last year the grocery business was acquired in a pre-pack sale for £100,000 by new company Beat Foods, which Square Pie founder Martin Dewey had a 25% stake in. An initial offer for the leasehold of the restaurants was subsequently withdrawn and, following the sale of the grocery business, the five restaurants – four in London and one in Birmingham – were closed.
Caffe Nero makes biggest food offer investment to date with menu shake-up: Caffe Nero has made the biggest investment in its food offer to date as it shakes up its menu. The company, which was founded by Gerry Ford in 1997, has reported 22 consecutive quarters of sales growth and said the food transformation programme would further “establish the brand’s premium nature and drive business performance”. The new deli menu, which consists of 14 items, supports growing customer demand for more inspiring, healthier and relevant food options, Caffe Nero said. The menu includes salad bowls, artisan sausage rolls, gourmet deli sandwiches and cakes. Will Stratton-Morris, chief executive of Caffe Nero UK, said: “Our new menu launch is part of our ongoing strategy to continuously drive the differentiation of Caffe Nero. We have worked hard to transform our food offer so it reflects the already premium and speciality quality of our coffee, our bespoke in-store environment and superior service. This is the biggest investment we have ever put into our food offering and we’re confident 18 months of development, extensive research, customer trials and consultations across the UK have been honed into a fantastic menu.” The deli options will complement Caffe Nero’s more traditional food offering, which remains on the menu. The full deli range is available in more than 200 stores and will roll out across the rest of the 680-strong estate in the next few months.
The Burger Priest signs for fourth site, in Cambridge: The Burger Priest, the church-themed burger restaurant concept launched by Bar Sport founder Scott Murray, has signed to open a site at The Grafton shopping centre in Cambridge. The Burger Priest is one of three restaurant brands set to open as part of landlord Legal & General’s new focus on the food offer at the shopping centre, which has just undergone a multimillion-pound refurbishment. The Burger Priest and local Turkish concept Skewer have been allocated units in the shopping centre, while Asian street-food brand Chi will operate in the revamped Food Social area. The three brands join Alsace-inspired concept Amélie Flam-kuche and Italian cafe bar La Piazza by Signorelli at the revamped space, with openings by Gail’s Bakery and street food franchise The Duck Truck scheduled for later this year. Legal & General fund manager Tom Williams told Insider Media: “The food offering at The Grafton has been a priority for us since the completion of the multimillion-pound refurbishment and we’re delighted to welcome three top-quality and authentic brands to our food quarter.” The Burger Priest currently operates sites in Harlow and Swindon and will open its third restaurant, at Intu Potteries in Stoke, this month.
CombiniCo closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £240,000: Scotland-based, Korean-inspired fast casual brand CombiniCo, which is backed by Salt Yard Group co-founder Sanja Moll, has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £240,000. Founded last year by former University of St Andrews students Alex Longson and Juno Lee, CombiniCo operates two sites – one of which is a concession – in the Scottish town. The company was originally looking to raise £200,000 to open a flagship site in Edinburgh and develop a range of organic bottled tea. It offered 9.09% equity for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2m. Now the campaign has closed with 312 investors pledging £242,490. The pitch stated: “During its first year the store generated more than £500,000 sales and £76,000 profit from what is a 20 square metre space with six seats. We have sold more than 70,000 of our signature BiniBowls.”
Black Country Ales adds Stourbridge pub to portfolio: Dudley-based brewer Black Country Ales has expanded its portfolio of pubs after purchasing the Seven Stars in Stourbridge. The company plans to invest significantly in a refurbishment having acquired the site in a deal brokered by agent James A Baker. Black Country Ales is searching for an operator to run the pub, which it hopes to reopen in time for Christmas. The Seven Stars will eventually feature at least 15 hand-pumps serving a range of Black Country Ales’ own beer. There will also be a variety of guest ales available, along with a range of pub snacks. Graham Manwaring, head of pubs at Black Country Ales, said: “The classic Victorian inn has been a very popular part of Stourbridge’s drinking scene for many years. Work has already begun on a sensitive refurbishment of the pub and will include a significant spend to return the Seven Stars to its former pomp.” Black Country Ales has more than 30 pubs throughout the West Midlands and Shropshire.
Healthy bowl concept Atis to launch in Old Street next month: Healthy bowl concept Atis is to launch in Old Street, east London, next month. The concept will open at The Atlas Building in City Road on Monday, 7 October offering made-to-order salad and warm bowls, breakfast, coffee and health drinks. Bowls will include the Asian-inspired Emperor and the Indian-inspired Dahl-ing. Drinks will include kombucha on tap, alcohol-free beer and cold-pressed juice. Atis is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Eleanor Warder and Phil Honer. Warder said: “We have strived to create a modern and stylish space where people can come for a break outside their working day and know they can get a bowl of food that will be full of flavour, healthy and nutritious. The idea came from wanting to fill a need for a grab and go in London where the food, space and experience were all in line with each other – premium, modern and refreshing”.
CPL Online launches mental heath e-learning course: CPL Online, the specialist provider of e-learning, business solutions and interactive services, has launched an e-learning course – Mental Health Support Champion. The course is in association with The Mind Map and comes after CPL Online conducted its own research into mental health in the hospitality workplace, with more than two-fifths (83%) of respondents believing their company would benefit from mental health awareness training and 29% wishing to see more training at work. Martin Hilton, director of learning and education at CPL Online, said: “We feel it’s vital all team members are trained so they can work together to spot the tell-tale signs which, if acted on, can help themselves and others. Ultimately this will improve staff retention levels, morale and productivity by showcasing we can all talk about mental health in a safe environment free of preconceptions.” The interactive course includes videos and useful links.
Tequila Mockingbird opens fourth site, first to serve food: Bar operator Tequila Mockingbird has opened its fourth site, in Brixton. The company has launched the venue in Atlantic Road in the site previously occupied by roast meat sandwich and burger specialist Dip & Flip. While the site remains in line with the concept’s other venues in Clapham, Putney and Tooting – offering cocktails, DJs and late-night dancing – the Brixton outlet is the first to serve food. Dip & Flip is the first kitchen residency. Tequila Mockingbird was founded in 2015 by cousins Jon Bas and Jake Brennan.
Pasta Remoli opens fourth site: London-based casual dining concept Pasta Remoli has opened its fourth site, in Wembley. The company has opened the 50-cover, 100 square metre restaurant, which has a 75 square metre outside area, at Quintain’s £3bn Wembley Park development. The concept promotes “dining in three easy steps”, with customers choosing their homemade pasta and sauce before adding a cheese topping. Using authentic Italian ingredients, the new site also offers seasonal specials, homemade bread, cakes and desserts. Rome-born Simone Remoli moved to London and worked at restaurants such as Barrafina and Bocca di Lupo before launching Pasta Remoli with Francesca Tarquini and Stefano Anfussi. Pasta Remoli’s other sites are in Finsbury Park, Ealing and Westfield Stratford. In July, Remoli said the company was gearing up for “strong but gradual growth” during the next five years.
Speciality coffee shop Kiss the Hippo to open in Fitzrovia this month for second London site: London-based speciality coffee shop Kiss the Hippo is to start expansion by opening a site in Fitzrovia on Wednesday, 25 September. The company, which is led by Can Eren, launched its debut cafe and roastery in Richmond in June 2018. It will now open a central London site in Margaret Street offering breakfast, brunch and lunch to eat in or take away alongside sustainably sourced coffee. Kiss the Hippo Fitzrovia’s menu will include vegan banana cake, mushrooms on sourdough toast, desserts and baked goods such as a cinnamon roll with white chocolate icing. Set across two floors, the venue will feature a minimalist look with “exposed beech accents and Scandinavian-style furniture”. Kiss the Hippo said it is dedicated to supporting the people at every link of its coffee chain – from the “farmers who grow the coffee to the guests who enjoy the final cup”.
Former Sumosan Twiga marketing manager opens debut restaurant: Victoria Paltina, former marketing manager at Belgravia-based Japanese restaurant Sumosan Twiga, has launched her debut venture. Paltina, who has also worked at Mayfair restaurant Bocconcino, has opened Haya in Notting Hill with a focus on Mediterranean sharing plates. The two-storey restaurant in Kensington Park Road features a ground-floor dining room with an open kitchen, while downstairs centres on a large 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 includes spiced lamb cutlets with honey yogurt. Drinks include cold-pressed juice and coffee along with Israeli wine and cocktails. On weekends, Haya’s brunch includes shakshuka and fried polenta cakes. Paltina said: “Haya means a lot to me – it’s my middle name and translates as ‘life’ in Hebrew. The word encompasses everything I envision the restaurant to be – lively, social and familiar.”
Vibration Group launches multimillion-pound venue and events space in Greenwich: Venue Lab, the Vibration Group company behind Printworks London and Landing Forty Two, has launched multimillion-pound events space Magazine London at the Greenwich Peninsula development. The purpose-built venue is the largest of its kind in London and offers 3,205 square metres of industrial-style space for up to 3,000 standing people. The site also features a 7,000-capacity outdoor showground. The project is a collaboration between Vibration Group, caterer Moving Venue and property developer Knight Dragon. Vibration has invested more than £1.2m on the project including the lighting and sound system. Magazine London will host conferences, exhibitions and live events, with 22 events confirmed before the end of the year. Simeon Aldred, group strategy and creative director of Vibration Group, said: “Magazine London is set to become an integral part of the capital’s events landscape. This is a huge milestone for the development of Greenwich Peninsula and to have a new cultural venue here is crucial in adding to the cultural diversity of the area.”
Drinks brand Asterley Bros hits halfway mark in £100,000 crowdfunding campaign within 24 hours: London-based drinks brand Asterley Bros has passed the halfway mark in its £100,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within 24 hours of launch. Asterley Bros, which was founded by brothers Rob and Jim Berry, is offering 9.09% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1m. So far, 93 investors have pledged £56,800 with 28 days of the campaign remaining. Funds will be used to upgrade facilities to increase capacity, develop new products, and support sales and marketing to reach a wider audience. Asterley Bros sells its amaro, vermouth and fernet in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company’s five-year plan is to expand into 20 further export markets including China, Spain and the US and is forecasting 750,000 unit sales and £12m total sales revenues during that period. To support brand development and growth, Asterley Bros recently appointed award-winning bartender Joe Schofield as creative director. Rob Berry said: “The aperitif category is undergoing a renaissance, fuelled by UK consumers’ desires for all things negroni and spritz, so this is the perfect time for us to expand our production and offering.” Asterley Bros will launch its fourth product, Schofield’s Dry Vermouth, next month.
Extra MSA tables plans for £75m ‘new concept’ service station in Cheshire: Extra MSA Group has tabled plans for a £75m motorway service station between Liverpool and Manchester. The company has submitted outline proposals for “new concept” services at Junction 11 of the M62, to the north east of Warrington. The services would include food and beverage outlets together with retail, business and leisure facilities. Extra MSA Group carried out a public consultation on the draft plans earlier this year and held three public exhibitions. Extra MSA Group chief executive Andrew Long told The Business Desk: “We are delighted these proposals are moving forward to the next stage. Extra MSA Warrington will further endorse a new standard for motorway service areas in the UK.” Extra MSA Group has 18 locations across the UK. Its latest “new concept” service area – Leeds Skelton Lake at Junction 45 of the M1 – is being built ahead of a scheduled opening in January.
Tish opens Sicilian restaurant at London boutique hotel: Five-star boutique hotel The Stafford London in Charlotte Street, St James’s, has opened its first independent restaurant under the direction of culinary director Ben Tish, former Salt Yard Group chef director. Norma has been inspired by the food and culture of Sicily and focuses on Moorish influences on the Italian island’s cuisine. The venue is split across three floors, with a restaurant and crudo bar on the ground floor, a cocktail bar above and a private dining space on the top floor. Dishes in the restaurant include taglioni with sardines, fennel, raisins and pine nuts; and whole spiced and roasted mackerel with kale and almond dressing. The drinks list includes Sicilian fortified wine alongside cocktails named after key moments in Sicily’s history. Tish was appointed culinary director of the hotel in January 2018 and oversees its entire food offering, including The Game Bird restaurant, American Bar, Wine Cellar, private dining, suites and in-room dining.
Elior receives royal recognition for employee training programme: Contract caterer Elior UK has achieved the Princess Royal Training Award (PRTA) for its commitment to employee training. 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 next month. Matt Jennings, learning and development business partner at Elior UK, said: “We know our business success depends on engaged and motivated individuals forming expert teams that create exciting food and service for our diverse clients. That is why we continue to create new, interactive learning experiences, inspiring them to be the best they can be.”