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Wed 25th Sep 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ten Entertainment Group securing ‘substantial’ rent reductions on former retail sites, starts further food trials: Duncan Garrood, chief executive of bowling and family entertainment centre operator Ten Entertainment Group, has told Propel the company is securing “substantial” rent reductions on sites formerly occupied by retail companies as it looks to strengthen its pipeline. The company has secured its first repurposed venue – at the Printworks in Manchester – while it is in negotiations on three further sites that were also retail-led. Speaking following the company’s first-half results, Garrood said the fact Ten Entertainment Group could offer landlords security by signing long-term leases and driving footfall was allowing the business to negotiate “very favourable terms”. He added: “While we are still interested in acquiring bowling sites, we are seeing former retail units with a large amount of space become available. These are in attractive locations such as the Printworks in Manchester. Although we have to pay a premium for such a site, the level of rent we’re paying is not the same level as the previous tenant. I won’t go into precise figures but it’s substantially less. We are a cash-generating business making a long-term commitment and we’re a big driver of footfall. I think that’s why landlords are choosing us over tenants that are prepared to pay more.” Ten Entertainment Group has now rolled out its upgraded nacho offer to all its sites, while it began further food trials this week. Ten sites have extended their menus by introducing halal and more vegan options. New menu items include a southern fried chicken salad and a variety of burgers. Garrood said: “While we’re looking to improve our food, the offer will remain bowling friendly in that it will be quick and easy to prepare and eat.” Ten Entertainment Group has now acquired a 50% stake in escape room business Houdini, which it operates four rooms with at its Southampton site. Garrood said about two-thirds of its 45-strong estate had space to add escape rooms and it was looking to roll them out as widely as possible. The family friendly Hyperbowl concept, which is based around an interactive bumper system, has now been extended to three sites and Garrood said about 10% of the games being played at those venues were in that format. He added: “We are seeing good feedback from customers and the price is the same as regular bowling so we hope to generate an increased frequency of playing by families. The initial signs are promising.” Of its performance, Garrood said: “We have managed to increase sales, margins and profit and our underlying like-for-like sales growth is between 5% and 6%. On top of that, we continue to innovate as we look to improve the experience for our customers.”  

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive updated multi-site companies list featuring 1,500 businesses plus Wendy Bartlett video: Subscribers to Propel Premium will receive an updated version of the database of multi-site companies this week. Another 100 businesses have been added to the list, taking the total to 1,500. The database features information such as number of sites, type of operation and key people at the business. Meanwhile, subscribers will receive a 30-minute video on Friday (27 September) in which Bartlett Mitchell founder Wendy Bartlett talks about growing a business from “pear pips to a tree”. 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 insights editor Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Europe’s hotel industry reports growth in all key performance metrics for August: Europe’s hotel industry has reported year-on-year growth in the three key performance metrics during August, according to the latest data from STR. The overall European market saw revpar rise 1.4% year-on-year to €92.25 (£81.49), while average daily rate increased 1.0% to €118.70 and occupancy inched up 0.4% to 77.7%. Data focused on two cities – Tel Aviv and Athens. Absolute occupancy and revpar levels were the highest for an August in Tel Aviv since 2015. Occupancy increased 7.5% year-on-year to 73.9%, while revpar rose 4.7% to ILS705.47 and average daily rate fell 2.6% to ILS954.83. STR analysts noted demand (+8.8%) significantly outgrew supply (+1.2%) in year-on-year comparisons. In Athens, the absolute levels for each of the three key performance metrics were the highest for an August since 2004. Occupancy increased 10.7% year-on-year to 81.4%, average daily rate was up 23.4% to €160.22, and revpar rose 36.6% to €130.41. STR analysts said a rise in popularity among US and Asian travellers along with new non-stop airline routes had helped demand in the market. Overall, the summer months in Athens have been particularly strong compared with recent years.

Company News:

Portobello Pub Company acquires City of London site for second venue as it eyes next stage of growth: Portobello Pub Company has acquired the Hack & Hop in the City of London for its second site only seven weeks after completing on its first venue – King & Co in Clapham. Managing director Richard Stringer said: “We are delighted to welcome Hack & Hop into our young family. It’s a warm and friendly, traditional, beer-led City pub with a loyal following and a strong team, all of whom have found a warm welcome with Portobello. We will enhance the range of craft beer with our own core line-up of Notting Helles and London Pilsner but hope to work with existing brewery suppliers to maintain the reputation Stan and his team has earned. I look forward to a very active Christmas quarter developing our offer in our two pubs and stabilising the business before looking to our next stage of growth in the new year.” Fleurets advised on the sale of the Hack & Hop. Former We Are Bar chief executive Richard Stringer launched Portobello Pub Company with Portobello Brewing Company founder Rob Jenkins. Last month Jenkins told Propel: “With lots of activity at the brewery and looking to the next stage of our growth, it feels like the right time to grow a quality pub estate.” 

Judy Joo lines up Westfield London launch for new concept: Chef Judy Joo is to launch Korean concept Seoul Bird at Westfield London, Propel has learned. The concept, which is expected to open at the White City shopping centre’s new food court, is understood to be backed by Dubai entrepreneur Mohamed Abdulsalam Al Rafi. It’s thought there are plans to roll out the concept, with a further site at Centre Point mooted. Joo left the business she founded, Jinjuu, earlier this summer after launching the Korean street food concept in Kingly Street, Soho, five years ago. She said: “I have loved being part of it and the team is all very talented so I have no doubt it will continue bringing the best of Korean food to London. I am really looking forward to my next chapter and will announce new plans in the near future and launch my new cookbook, Korean Soul Food, at the beginning of October.” Jinjuu grew to three sites, including one in Mayfair, but only the original in Soho remains. Davis Coffer Lyons is advising on the F&B lettings at Westfield London. Al Rafi, whose father founded the MTAF conglomerate in the Gulf, acquired a 15% stake in Chelsea-based residential property developer Northacre in 2009.

Ellen Chow’s latest venture to replace GBK in Soho: Ellen Chow, founder of Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant Rasa Sayang in Chinatown, is to launch a new venture at the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Soho’s Frith Street. It is understood Chow, who also owns Lobos Tapas sites in London Bridge and Soho plus south east Asian restaurant Shan Shui in Bicester Village, is set to open an as-yet-unnamed Singaporean concept on the site. Sammy Weinbaum, of CDG Leisure, acted on the deal.

Tinseltown launches virtual delivery brands and explores franchise route for both: US-style diner Tinseltown, the seven-strong group led by Suhail Hasan, has launched two virtual delivery brands it is also looking to franchise out, Propel has learned. Tikka Twins is a fusion Indian brand, while King Of Wings focuses on chicken wings. Both are available as a franchise or virtual brand and are currently operating out of the group’s five London sites and its other venues, in Birmingham and Leicester. King Of Wings is also operating out of the Karma Kitchen site in The Oval, E2. Tinseltown opened its first restaurant in Farringdon, central London, in 1996.

Brother Marcus to open third and largest site, at Spitalfields Market: Balham-based brunch brand Brother Marcus is to open its third and largest site, at Spitalfields Market in November. Founded by Alex Large, Arthur Campbell and Tasos Gaitanos, Brother Marcus focuses on eastern Mediterranean cuisine. The venue in Crispin Place will be lined with banquette seating, with larger tables for groups, and feature flagstone flooring and wicker lampshades. A large bread oven will bake pide bread, while there will be a dedicated salad counter for those on the clock. The pergola-covered courtyard will feature hanging plants, festoon lighting and heaters, while the outdoors counter will serve fresh coffee, in-house pastries and salad to go, turning into a cocktail bar in the evening. A Brother Marcus spokesman said: “We can’t wait to open in Spitalfields where we’re looking forward to joining a thriving food scene. Our new home will feel slightly elevated and refined. Brother Marcus is growing up.” The debut Brother Marcus opened in Balham, with a second site launching in Islington in June 2018. Stonebrook London acted on the Spitalfields Market deal. 

Epic Pub Company’s administrator puts three pubs on market: Epic Pub Company’s administrator, FRP Advisory, has put three pubs on the market through agent Fleurets. The Golden Ball in Maidenhead offers a large car park and garden and is available as a freehold site with a guide price of £950,000 excluding VAT. Another pub – 185 Watling St Pub & Kitchen in Towcester – features an open plan dining room with a theatre kitchen and extensive courtyard terrace. It is also freehold with a guide price of £900,000. The Imperial Arms is a Victorian pub in Chelsea’s King’s Road and features multiple trading areas and a courtyard garden. It is available as a leasehold assignment with offers invited. Tom Cormie, of Fleurets, said: “All three sites have experienced high levels of investment in recent years and are well presented throughout. They represent an excellent opportunity to acquire high-quality fitted assets.” Epic Pub Company appointed FRP Advisory as administrator last week. 

Murdin joins Costa as programme director: David Murdin, formerly of Whitbread and Debenhams, has joined Coca-Cola-owned coffee chain Costa as programme director. Murdin joins Costa after stepping down earlier this summer as Debenhams’ managing director – restaurants. Murdin spent almost two years at the retailer, overseeing growth of partnerships with third-party food and beverage operators including Franco Manca, Insomnia, Nando’s and The Real Greek, plus own-brands such as Loaf & Bloom. Murdin spent six years at Whitbread, first as marketing director for its restaurants and then chief operating officer for brand developments, including the launch of Bar + Block. He was previously marketing director for Sky Sports and Sky News.

Former Petersham Nurseries chef director and gastro-pub owner team up to launch Shoreditch venture: Former Petersham Nurseries chef director Damian Clisby and Nick Gibson, owner of Islington gastro-pub The Drapers Arms, are to launch a joint venture in Shoreditch. Their new concept, Emile, will focus on “robust, rewarding food with a Mediterranean influence accompanied by great wine”. The 40-cover venue, named after Clisby’s grandfather, will launch a six-month residency on Thursday, 10 October at 26 Curtain Road, which formerly housed the debut site for Scandinavian restaurant chain Rök. Likely dishes on the daily changing menu include venison loin with cabbage, plum and thyme, and pork rib with anchovy and capers. The wine list will focus on old world varieties. Gibson said: “We have been chatting for a while about doing something that would combine Damian’s love of cooking with my passion for wine and our shared love of hospitality. Emile is exactly that and we look forward to seeing how it evolves.” Clisby added: “I have been wanting to get back to doing what I love – hands-on cooking rather than overseeing large kitchens and brigades. Emile gives me the perfect opportunity.”

Tonkotsu to open in Shoreditch next month for 12th site: Tonkotsu, the Emma Reynolds and Ken Yamada-founded ramen restaurant group, is to open in Shoreditch, east London, at the end of October for its 12th site. The move follows the brand’s latest launch, at Market Peckham during the weekend. The 50-cover Shoreditch site will open in a new building in New Inn Yard. It will feature patterned tiles, polished concrete, wood accents and a light installation made from 1,600 recycled Tonkotsu chopsticks. Alongside Tonkotsu’s signature homemade noodle ramen, gyoza and Japanese appetisers, the drinks list will include sake specially made for the restaurant and a custom pale ale by Magic Rock Brewing. Yamada and Reynolds launched Tonkotsu in Soho in 2012. It currently operates nine restaurants in the capital and two Selfridges concessions, in Birmingham and London’s Oxford Street. Tonkotsu secured new investment from YFM Equity Partners, which also backs healthy eating brand Friska, in June. YFM invested £5m for a minority stake in Tonkotsu.

Greene King signs up to national food waste pledges: Greene King has signed up to two national pledges that aim to cut food waste. The pub company and brewer has signed up to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap (FWRR) – managed by resource efficiency expert WRAP and industry charity IGD – and the government’s Step Up To The Plate pledge. Under the FWRR, Greene King will set a reduction target while working with suppliers to help them reduce their own food waste. The company will also work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make customers aware of the changes they can make to cut food waste. In March, Greene King became the first pub company to launch a partnership with Too Good To Go, an app that allows people to purchase leftover meals from its Farmhouse Inns and Pub & Carvery venues for a discount at the end of the day. Chief commercial officer Phil Thomas said: “We have long been advocates of reducing our food waste and signing these two pledges demonstrates our ongoing commitment to making further changes.” 

Family-run theme park operator reports turnover and profit boost: Family-run, three-strong theme park operator Gulliver’s Kingdom has reported turnover increased 8% to £5,506,251 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £5,087,417 the previous year. Accounts for Weavers Close filed at Companies House also showed operating profit rose to £716,261, compared with £554,621 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £731,531, compared with £556,045 the previous year. Ray Phillips opened Gulliver’s Kingdom in Derbyshire in 1978, with sister sites in Warrington and Milton Keynes opening in 1989 and 1999 respectively. Development is continuing on a site in Rotherham that is set to open in 2020.

Las Iguanas launches autumn menu and updated app: Las Iguanas, the Latin American restaurant and bar group owned by Casual Dining Group, has launched an autumn menu and updated its app. The app now features pay at table and new loyalty tiers – bronze, silver and gold – that give users monthly perks and free offers. The autumn menu includes tequeño – a Venezuelan street snack consisting of cheese-filled fried bread sticks served with chipotle butter – and tapas items such as pisco pork belly with smoked sweet potato and amarillo puree. The peanut and prawn maracanã has returned to the menu, while plant-based Bahian jackfruit curry is one of 15 new dishes on the menu. There are also new cocktails, including the Flamingo-A-Go-Go.

Tattu to make Scotland debut next month for fourth site: Contemporary Chinese restaurant group Tattu is to open its first Scottish venue and fourth in total, in Edinburgh city centre next month. A three-week soft launch will begin at the St Andrews Square venue on Friday, 18 October ahead of an official opening on Friday, 8 November. Occupying the ground floor and basement of the newly refurbished Mint Building in West Register Street, the space takes inspiration from the city’s “historic and contemporary characteristics”. Tattu will serve its signature Chinese-inspired cuisine alongside a number of exclusive dishes developed for Edinburgh by executive chef Andrew Lassetter. Tattu managing director Adam Jones said: “The build of our fourth Tattu has been an extremely rewarding process and we’re bringing the final elements together to create a concept we hope will excite guests.” The opening will create 80 jobs. Brothers Adam and Drew Jones launched the first Tattu restaurant in Manchester in 2015, with sites following in Leeds in 2017 and Birmingham in February this year. The company currently employs 270 staff.

Rutland lakeside hotel on market for £10m: The Barnsdale Hall Hotel in Rutland has been put up for sale with a guide price of £10m. Knight Frank is marketing the lakeside resort set in 55 acres of gardens and grounds on behalf of trustees. The hotel features 66 bedrooms, 31 lodges, 18 apartments, 11 function suites, four bars and restaurants, leisure and spa facilities, a swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, an air-conditioned studio and gym, and a spa. Knight Frank partner Matthew Smith said: “Over the years Barnsdale Hall Hotel has been transformed into a thriving resort business with income derived from the private leisure, wedding, events and corporate markets. Under the current ownership, 49 timeshare lodges and apartments have been developed. All leases expire in August 2028 and vacant possession will revert to the incumbent freeholder giving them an additional 113 bedrooms from which to generate additional revenue and reposition the business. The site also has planning permission to construct an additional 36 guest bedrooms and nine staff bedrooms.”

Malhotra Group opens £1.5m five-in-one venue in Newcastle’s Grey Street: Newcastle-based operator Malhotra Group has opened a £1.5m venue in the city centre following three years of planning. Combined bar, restaurant and nightclub Leila Lily’s has launched in Grey Street at the former Living Room site, creating 50 jobs. The venue, named after operations director Atul Malhotra’s daughter, covers two floors of the property, which also houses The Grey Street Hotel and All About You Spa. Decorated with a floral theme, the venue features a “living garden” and bespoke fittings and fixtures. The venue’s bar and restaurant sit at street level, while the basement houses Studio 54-style club lounge 212@Leila Lily’s. Malhotra Group head of operations Simon Wright said: “The concept behind Leila Lily’s is opulence. We are aiming this at a sophisticated clientele – it’s where they can drink cocktails after work and enjoy a superb meal. They can then dance the night away and, if they really want to end the evening in style, stay overnight in our Grey Street Hotel and be pampered in the spa. It provides five experiences in one place – and nowhere else offers that.”

Safestay to develop 660-bed hostel in Venice through joint venture: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has launched a joint venture with EOS Sicav to develop a 660-bed hostel in Venice. Safestay will acquire 50% of the freehold site for €2.1m (£1.85m) and equally share the development costs. Safestay’s 50% of the site will be satisfied from the group’s cash resources. The site covers 6,000 square metres in Via Fratelli Bandiera, with construction scheduled to begin in 2020 once final licensing is confirmed. Safestay’s share of the development costs are expected to be about €5m and, once complete, Safestay will lease the hostel from the joint-venture partnership and be sole operator. Safestay chairman Larry Lipman said: “We have been working closely with EOS Sicav for some time to achieve this as the potential is clear and the number of similar opportunities are few. This is our second site in Italy following the acquisition of Safestay Pisa earlier this year. Italy is a natural market for us and we continue to look for similar opportunities in other popular Italian cities.” Safestay operates two sites in London and one each in York, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with another ten in mainland Europe – in Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris (under construction), Pisa, Prague, Vienna and three in Barcelona. When all 16 sites are operational, the company will offer 4,200 beds across its estate.

Brothers returns to profit as turnover passes £35m: Cider-maker Brothers Drinks Co has reported turnover increased to £35,404,999 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £25,164,280 the year before. The family run company, now in its 14th generation, made an operating profit of £2,091,375 compared with a loss of £1,989,501 the previous year. It had a pre-tax profit of £2,298,801 compared with a loss of £1,816,543 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “In light of prevailing economic and market conditions the results for the period and the prospects for the future are satisfactory. The company strategy for the coming year is to increase shareholder value through improving productivity and increasing output.” The number of employees during the period rose to 226 from 185 the previous year.

Saké bar concept to launch in Covent Garden next month: Japan-inspired bar Moto is to open in Covent Garden in late October offering independent craft saké and Japanese spirits sourced direct from producers. Moto will offer 25 covers and additional seating at the bar, with the name deriving from the fermentation starter crucial in the initial stages of brewing saké. The food menu will consist of snacks, while the venue will also function as a retail space with guests able to purchase bottles of all the drinks on offer. Each bottle will be accompanied by a tasting card offering suggestions such as food pairing and serving temperature, while Moto will also offer saké flights and classes. Moto founders Brandon Chin and Erika Haigh said: “We have created a menu other Japanese-inspired bars will have to work hard to match. We love this historic and diverse industry and we’re really excited to bring it into the mainstream, educating our customers as much as possible through classes and tasting cards.”

Carluccio’s passes £2m fund-raise milestone for Action Against Hunger: Carluccio’s has passed the £2m milestone in funds raised for humanitarian charity Action Against Hunger. The Italian restaurant group has supported the charity since 2007 and raised the funds through customer and employee-driven initiatives. Funds are currently supporting an Action Against Hunger project in Mali, while Carluccio’s has also supported projects in Liberia, Zambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Senegal. The partnership was started by Carluccio’s founder Antonio Carluccio. Chief executive Mark Jones said: “I am very proud of the difference we have made as a team and the generous contributions of our customers.” Jean-Michel Grand, executive director of Action Against Hunger UK, added: “Thanks to Antonio and Carluccio’s, we are getting one step closer to our goal of a world without hunger.”

FrogPubs wins diversification award: French brewpub company FrogPubs has won the best diversification category at the Ze Awards. Judges highlighted FrogPubs’ corporate and events bookings, which the company has been developing for the past two years. Activities in FrogPubs’ sites include after-work parties, team-building exercises, product launches, and summer and Christmas parties. FrogPubs founder and chief executive Paul Chantler told Propel: “We have all the ingredients in place – technical equipment, team, food and service – to organise all kind of events in our pubs. In 2018, this new segment generated €600,000.” The Ze Awards highlight restaurateurs and restaurants in France.

The One Foundation calls for operators to sign up for world water campaign: The One Foundation is calling for operators to sign up for its campaign that coincides with World Water Day. The Give Water Give Life campaign raises funds to tackle water poverty. Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars can support The One Foundation by adding a suggested donation of £1 to each customer’s bill, although the charity will work with operators to find a “fund-raising mechanism that suits them”. A spokeswoman for The One Foundation said: “Our mission is to support sustainable water and sanitation services to change lives in some of the world’s poorest communities.” The next World Water Day takes place in March 2020. For more details, email

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