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Fri 11th Oct 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Firezza and Santa Maria founders partner to launch pizza pub concept in east London: Firezza founder Edin Basic is joining forces with Santa Maria founders Angelo Ambrosio and Pasquale Chionchio to launch a pizza pub concept, Propel has learned. The move comes after Basic, who sold Firezza to PizzaExpress in 2016, took on the lease of Fuller’s The Red Lion pub in Ealing last year from Ambrosio and Chionchio. The pub is next to the original Santa Maria site and Basic worked with Ambrosio and Chionchio informally to create a service-focused pub restaurant at the site in St Mary’s Road with live music and jazz performances. Now they are officially going into partnership with the launch of new concept A Slice Of Blue. The debut site is set to open in east London towards the end of next month. Basic, Ambrosio and Chionchio have taken over The Elephants Head bar in Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, and are currently refurbishing the premises. It will reopen as A Slice Of Blue @ Elephants Head. Further details are being kept under wraps until nearer the opening. Basic told Propel: “After taking over the lease from Angelo and Pasquale at The Red Lion last year and, on the back of that success, we have now decided to go into partnership together and launch A Slice Of Blue. We're looking forward to opening the first site.” In February, Basic launched Neapolitan pizza concept Mano in Norway. Basic said the debut site, in the south western city of Stravanger, was performing well and he was looking to open a second site in the country, in Oslo. Basic founded Firezza in 2001 before selling the business to PizzaExpress having built it to 22 sites including its first sit-down restaurant, in Soho. PizzaExpress subsequently sold the Firezza brand and its assets to Net Gold Star, led by Darsana Patel, in November 2017.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at what’s next for PizzaExpress in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at what comes next for PizzaExpress in his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (11 October) at 5pm. Meanwhile, Premium Diary will look at the latest industry whispers. 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 grown to 1,500 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

Fish and non-alcoholic drink prices spike again: Fish and non-alcoholic drinks prices have spiked once more, according to the latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index. The change to Icelandic fishing quotas has had an adverse effect on the availability of cod and haddock, which has caused the price of fish to rise. In June 2016, the fish and seafood category of the index was at 95 points but supply and currency issues have sent it skywards, rising 72% to 164 points in August 2019. The shortening of the Icelandic quotas and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit at the end of October mean inflation in the category is likely to remain high for some time. Elsewhere, the mineral water, soft drinks and juice category has also spiked. The index recorded an all-time year-on-year inflation rate high of 36% in August and prices have now jumped by 72% since December 2017. Factors contributing to the steep rise in non-alcoholic beverage costs include the government’s sugar tax, changes in consumers’ tastes and a turn towards more expensive eco-friendly packaging. Fiona Speakman, CGA client director of food, said: “With the terms of Brexit and its impact on the foodservice sector still unclear, we can expect more turbulence in prices during the rest of 2019.”

Robinsons partners with Drynks Unlimited to launch UK’s first alcohol-free still: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has partnered with Drynks Unlimited to launch the UK’s first alcohol-free still, at its brewery in Stockport, Greater Manchester. Drynks Unlimited has invested £1m in the kit, which uses vacuum technology that can produce 75,000 bottles a day of the company’s 0% ABV beer and cider brand, Smashed. There are only 20 stills of its kind in the world, with the technology connecting to Robinsons’ craft brewing kit. The CVD process removes alcohol from craft drinks “without affecting the flavour and aroma”. Robinsons marketing director David Bremner said: “We are proud to partner with Drynks Unlimited and build its innovative CVD plant in our brewery. Our no and low-alcohol sales are up 51% this year and this trend is set to continue.” Richard Clark, founder and managing director of Drynks Unlimited, added: “The last 0.5% of alcohol is the hardest part to remove. That’s why the majority of ‘alcohol-free’ drinks on the market are low alcohol (0.5% or above). We have worked closely with Robinsons to install, test and run this revolutionary piece of brewing kit.” 

BBPA reveals award winners: Brakspear, Craft Union Pub Company, Adnams, Carlsberg UK and outgoing British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds scooped the honours at this year’s BBPA annual awards held in London. Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear won the pub champion award for its support programme for tenants and lessees and initiatives to help its pubs strengthen their position in the community. Ei Group’s Craft Union Pub Company picked up the heart of the community award for its commitment to charity. Carlsberg UK received the beer champion award for its rebrew and relaunch of Carlsberg Danish Pilsner, while Suffolk brewer and retailer Adnams scooped the sustainability award in recognition of its commitment to putting the environment at the heart of its business. Meanwhile, Simmonds won the chairman’s award in recognition of her ten years as BBPA chief executive, a role she steps down from this week.

Company News:

Lean Lunch receives £300,000 investment from food entrepreneur one month after failed £120,000 crowdfunding campaign: Online food delivery business Lean Lunch, which aims to “improve well-being for people and the planet”, has received a £300,000 investment less than a month after failing in its bid to raise £120,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Rob Whitehead, who has built and sold food businesses, has made the investment in return for a minority stake in the business. Lean Lunch founder Sat Mann told Insider Media: “It was evident after spending time with Rob that he was the ideal investor for us. He is local with significant experience in the food industry and, most importantly, he really believes in the idea. Rob is joining the board to help advise on our strategy for growth and act as a valuable sounding board on an ongoing basis. We’re on course to deliver 100% organic growth in 2019 and ready to scale. This investment will allow us to realise our ambitions for growth.” Whitehead added: “I met Sat and his team just once and tasted his food just once – but once was enough, I was hooked. I knew straight away I wanted to help Sat with a bit of funding and support to take Lean Lunch as far as we can.” The investment comes after Lean Lunch, which was launched by Mann in 2017, failed in its bid to raise £120,000 on Crowdcube after seeing some larger investments cancelled in the final week of the campaign. 

Largest US fast casual seafood concept Slapfish makes UK debut: Slapfish, the largest fast casual seafood restaurant brand in the US, has opened its debut UK site. The “modern seafood shack” has launched in Kentish Town Road in Camden, north London. The menu includes lobster taquitos, shrimp ceviche, lobster grilled cheese, two-handed fish taco, and chowder fries. Slapfish is in the process of applying for an alcohol licence for the premises, reports Hot Dinners. US celebrity chef Andrew Gruel founded the “boat to plate” concept in California in 2011, serving from a food truck. The brand now operates more than 20 restaurants across the US.

Five Guys lines up Bath opening, brand to reach 100 UK sites before year end: US better burger brand Five Guys has lined up an opening in Bath as the company remains on track to open its 100th UK site by the end of the year. Propel understands the 97-strong firm has lined up an opening next year in a unit at the redeveloped Saw Close in Bath city centre that was set to be taken by rival Byron. The company is on track to open 14 sites in the UK this year, with a further ten openings earmarked for 2020. Before the end of the year, Five Guys will open restaurants at Resorts World Birmingham, the Drake’s Circus scheme in Plymouth and in Market Street, Cambridge, to reach the 100-store milestone in the UK. The company recently opened in Ashford Designer Village in Gloucester Quays and Cathedral Square, Worcester. As revealed by Propel earlier this summer, Five Guys has also secured the Coppa Club site overlooking St Paul’s cathedral for an opening and is believed to be currently working on a further three deals in the capital. 

Department Of Coffee and Social Affairs appoints Cato as operations director: Department Of Coffee and Social Affairs (DoCaSA), part of Coffeesmiths Collective, has appointed Gemma Cato, formerly of Franco Manca and PizzaExpress, as operations director. Cato spent more than three and a half years as operations manager at Fulham Shore-owned Franco Manca having previously been area manager at PizzaExpress for more than six years. Coffeesmiths Collective, the Toby Smith-led business, runs various coffee chains including DoCaSA and Filmore & Union. At the end of August, the company acquired Taylor St Baristas’ operations in the UK and the US.

Mediterranean-inspired concept to launch in Fitzrovia at Senor Ceviche site: Athens-born restaurateur Jenny Pagoni is to launch a concept in Fitzrovia, central London, inspired by food and wine from the Mediterranean. Pagoni will open Ampeli, which means “vineyard” in Greek, after securing the Senor Ceviche site in Charlotte Street through agent Restaurant Property. The site is 1,347 square feet and comes with a rent of £110,000 per annum with a lease on assignment from Senor Ceviche that runs until 2032. Expected to open in December, Ampeli will focus on Greek food while exploring cuisine from the wider eastern Mediterranean region including Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Israel. The drinks list will be solely Greek. Head chef Oren Goldfeld has extensive experience in Middle Eastern cuisine having worked in Israel and in the UK for Yotam Ottolenghi, Neil Rankin, and the Brother Marcus Group. Restaurant Property surveyor Gabriella Sether, who acted for Pagoni, said: “Charlotte Street is the leisure hub of Fitzrovia, especially with Facebook’s headquarters nearby, and Ampeli will be a great addition.” Shelley Sandzer acted for Senor Ceviche on the deal. Founder Harry Edmeades opened the Fitzrovia site in June 2017 having launched Senor Ceviche three years earlier in Carnaby, where the concept continues to operate.

Patty & Bun to open two sites before year-end: Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman, plans to open two sites in London by the end of the year. The group, which operates eight venues under its core brand, is set to take over the Breddos Tacos site in Kingly Street, Soho, with an opening planned for late November. The move will be followed by a return to Liverpool Street. The company opened its second site in Liverpool Street but had to close it for more than a year because of a redevelopment. It now plans to reopen at a larger site in Liverpool Street in December. The company also operates concessions in the two London-based Swingers sites, plus three with Incipio Group. The sale of the Kingly Street site would leave Ennismore-backed Breddos Tacos with one venue – in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell.

Stack & Still opens third site as it marks first anniversary: Glasgow-based operators Paul Reynolds and Graham Swankie have opened a third site for their pancake house concept Stack & Still. The venue has opened at the Glasgow Fort shopping centre – a year after the debut site launched. Having opened the inaugural outlet in West George Street in October 2018, a second was added at the Silverburn shopping centre in July. Reynolds said: “It has been a crazy year for Stack & Still and we’re delighted to open our third branch as we celebrate the anniversary of our first flagship city centre restaurant. We are excited to open our latest branch in the east of the city. It’s safe to say Glaswegians have embraced Stack & Still and we hope to continue our expansion across Scotland.” Phil Goodman, centre director at Glasgow Fort, added: “Stack & Still will be a welcome addition to the growing range of brands at Glasgow Fort. It offers a great menu, with something a little different to the dining options we have here already.”

Bottles & Battles founders to open second site for Italian wine bar concept, in Chelsea: Franco Mancini and Daniele Marano, founders of wine merchant Bottles & Battles in Mercato Metropolitano in Borough, are to launch a second site for their Italian wine bar concept, Bottles. The pair, who have teamed up with pop-up restaurant Sood for the venture, will open the venue in Chelsea early next month. The venue in Draycott Avenue will add to the debut site in Spitalfields Market, which opened in July 2018. The Bottles concept focuses on regional Italian wine made by independent producers and small farms alongside Italian small plates. The Chelsea site will also offer fresh juice, light lunches and an aperitivo menu influenced by “classic Italian tipples”. The glass-fronted, 50-cover wine bar will feature a timber wine wall with guests able to buy their favourite bottles, while the dining room will be downstairs.

Sir Terence Conran to launch British restaurant and bar in Shoreditch next week: Sir Terence Conran is to launch a contemporary British restaurant and bar in Shoreditch, east London. Sir Terence and Richard McLellan, former chef at the Typing Room and Michelin-starred Alyn Williams’ restaurant in Mayfair, will open Wilder Restaurant & Bar next Wednesday (16 October) at Boundary London in Redchurch Street. There will be a 60-cover restaurant with an additional 40 covers in the bar and a private dining room for 12. Wilder will utilise the flavours from “natural and considered British ingredients” to create “elegant dishes and a relaxed dining experience for guests”. McLellan’s menu will evolve in line with the seasons and focus on sustainability. He regularly visits Barton Court, Sir Terence’s Georgian retreat in the English countryside, to source ingredients from the 145-acre estate, including trout, crayfish and watercress. Sir Terence founded Conran Restaurants, which is now known as D&D London following a management buyout in 2006 by Des Gunewardena and David Loewi. Sir Terence subsequently founded Prescott & Conran with Peter Prescott, while his other ventures include Bibendum in South Kensington with Claude Bosi.

Welcome Break appoints commercial director: Welcome Break, the roadside services operator owned by Applegreen, has appointed Martyn Brett-Lee, formerly of Merlin Entertainments and Odeon Cinemas, as commercial director. Brett-Lee joins Welcome Break after more than two years as commercial director at Merlin. Before that he was group head of operational transformation at Odeon Cinemas for a year. The Welcome Break portfolio comprises 34 motorway service areas, three trunk road service areas and 29 hotels (23 at service areas and six standalone). In June, Applegreen said trading for the overall group had been in line with expectations for the first five months of 2019. It said the performance of Welcome Break had been “satisfactory” despite more challenging trading conditions in 2019 as “ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit had an impact on consumer sentiment”.

Wells & Co to open second Pizza, Pots & Pints in Oxford this month: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co will open a second site in Oxford for its Pizza, Pots & Pints managed pub concept this month. The company will launch The Holly Bush in Bridge Street on Thursday, 24 October having acquired the site last year. The pub, which had been closed since 2013, is nearing the end of its refurbishment after the city council approved the plans earlier this year, reports The Oxford Times. Pizza, Pots & Pints offers smaller, community-based pubs with informal dining. The concept was introduced by Charles Wells in 2015 at The Salisbury Arms in Cambridge and expanded to include The Oxford Blue in Oxford, which opened last year. It currently has ten sites with plans to grow to 25 in the next two to three years. Last month Wells & Co announced Justin Phillimore would step down as chief executive at the end of the year. Peter Wells will step into the new role of group managing director in January 2020, making him the fifth generation of the Wells family to lead the company.

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias opens debut London restaurant: Michelin-starred chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias has opened his debut London restaurant. Sanchez-Iglesias has launched Decimo on the tenth floor of The Standard London hotel in King’s Cross offering 114 covers and panoramic views of the capital. The restaurant is accessible via an elevator in Euston Road and includes a standalone bar offering food and two private dining rooms. The menu features ceviche, tacos, and meat and seafood cooked over open fire. Dishes include jamon croquetas, caviar-topped tortilla, and rib of beef. There is an a la carte service and two chef’s tasting menus, while the drinks list includes agave, mescal, raicilla and low-intervention wine from Spain and Latin America. Sanchez-Iglesias said: “Decimo is all about bringing Spanish and Mexican food together – the combination of my Spanish roots and fascination with Mexico.” The hotel in Argyle Street is Standard International’s first outside the US and sixth in total. It also features two restaurants by executive chef Adam Rawson. Standard International chief executive Amar Lalvani added: “Peter is one of the most talented young chefs. We immediately saw eye to eye on how we could create something genuine, welcoming, social and fun.” Sanchez-Iglesias achieved Michelin stars for both his Bristol restaurants – Casamia and Paco Tapas.

Independent dessert shop opens second site: Independent dessert shop Melt Desserts has opened its second site. The company has added to its outlet in Blackburn with a venue in Thornaby-on-Tees in North Yorkshire. Melt Desserts has opened in The Pavilion Shopping Centre after agreeing a five-year lease with landlord LCP. Melt Desserts offers ice cream, waffles and seasonal treats. Julian Diamond, retail director at LCP, said: “Since we acquired The Pavilion Shopping Centre earlier this year, we’ve been working hard to invest in what is an important retail offer for shoppers. Welcoming a new, independent retailer is good news because it adds to the vibrancy and diversity of the centre.”

TRG and Chipotle sign European chicken welfare commitment: The Restaurant Group and Chipotle have signed the European Chicken Commitment (ECC) as they look to apply higher animal welfare standards to its European supply chain by 2026. The ECC requires companies to commit to a range of key standards by 2026, including using higher welfare chicken breeds, reducing stock density, enriching the environments birds live in, providing natural light and using more humane processes. Both companies will see their supply chains audited by an independent body to ensure they are meeting requirements.

Greene King rejoins BBPA after ten-year hiatus: Brewer and retailer Greene King has rejoined the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) after a ten-year hiatus. As part of its membership to the BBPA, Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie will sit on the board of the trade association. The BBPA’s members account for about 90% of beer brewed in Britain and own about 20,000 of the nation’s pubs. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We are delighted to have Greene King back on board as a member and for Nick Mackenzie to be joining our board. As passionate supporters of the beer and pub trade, I know Greene King will play a key role in helping us campaign for the well-being of the sector.” Mackenzie added: “We look forward to working with the BBPA and its members to support its important work on the many challenges the sector faces and to ensure it has a bright future.”

The Lowry invests in restaurant and bar as it updates on progress since £53m acquisition: The Lowry Hotel, a five-star hotel in Salford, Greater Manchester, revealed it has almost completed the refurbishment of its restaurant and bar as part of an update of its progress since being acquired for £53m. In its first full year since being bought by Singapore-based CDL Hospitality Trusts, the hotel saw £13.0m turnover for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £9.1m for the previous eight months. Ebitda in the period was £1.6m, compared with £1.9m in the previous eight months. Operating profit was £1.6m compared with £1.9m in the eight months before, while pre-tax profit was £759,000 compared with £1.1m in the previous eight months. Occupancy decreased from the prior period by 3%, while the average daily rate also fell 3%. Revpar decreased 6% compared with the prior period. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The hotel experienced growth in the corporate sector and group leisure business and general transient leisure continued with a strong pace of demand despite the challenges faced by the city following the Manchester bombing in May 2017. There’s now a comprehensive programme to refurbish the restaurant and bar space on the first floor, which will be complete by the end of autumn.” The 165-bedroom hotel opened in Dearmans Place in 2001. CDL Hospitality Trusts acquired the hotel in May 2017.

Drinks brand Asterley Bros closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £143,000: London-based drinks brand Asterley Bros has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £143,000. Asterley Bros, which was founded by brothers Rob and Jim Berry, was initially looking to raise £100,000 and offered 9.09% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1m. It has now closed the campaign with 350 investors pledging £143,290. The funds will be used to upgrade facilities, increase capacity, develop products, and support sales and marketing. Founder Rob Berry said: “Sourcing opinion from our supporters has always been key to our development process through beta testing so turning to our fans to help us reach the next stage of our journey seemed the obvious choice. We’re delighted to welcome new members into our family to help us take the brand to the next level.”

Wagamama to double size of restaurant at London Designer Outlet: The Restaurant Group-owned brand Wagamama is to effectively double the size of its restaurant at the London Designer Outlet in Wembley, north west London. Wagamama will expand its outlet by 92% to 4,600 square feet and invest in a rebuild and refit of the restaurant. Nigel Sherwood, managing director UK of Wagamama, said: “We opened our doors at London Designer Outlet in 2013 and have traded strongly since. When the opportunity came to expand, we jumped at it.” Sue Shepherd, general manager at London Designer Outlet, added: “The expansion of Wagamama is testament to the continued success of our restaurants. The casual dining operators here are a real asset and key to the positive guest experience.” London Designer Outlet is managed by Realm and is owned by Quintain, developer of Wembley Park.

Former Petersham Nurseries chef director and gastro-pub owner team up for Shoreditch venture: Former Petersham Nurseries chef director Damian Clisby and Nick Gibson, owner of Islington gastro-pub The Drapers Arms, have launched a joint venture in Shoreditch. Their new concept, Emile, focuses on “robust, rewarding food with a Mediterranean influence accompanied by great wine”. The 40-cover venue, named after Clisby’s grandfather, has launched a six-month residency at 26 Curtain Road, which formerly housed the debut site for Scandinavian restaurant chain Rök. The menu changes daily, while the wine list focuses on old-world varieties.

Fledgling escape rooms business secures debut site: Fledgling escape rooms business Escape Stations has secured its debut site, in Nottingham. Founder Tom Armstrong has signed for the 2,453 square foot basement of Gothic House in Barker Gate in a deal brokered by NG Chartered Surveyors. The space was formerly used as a restaurant. Armstrong told The Business Desk: “We will complement Nottingham’s thriving escape room industry, offering themes, puzzles and adventures for players to enjoy. The initial two rooms will be based around a trial of the Greek gods and a jungle expedition, with more rooms scheduled to open in summer 2020.”

Levy UK extends Northampton Saints catering contract: Catering company Levy UK has extended its contract with Gallagher Premiership rugby club Northampton Saints. Levy UK will now be the official food and hospitality partner at Saints’ Franklin’s Gardens stadium until 2025. Levy UK plans to develop new culinary styles, including more plant-based menus, at concessions and hospitality areas as well as for non-match day events. There will also be an increased choice of food and drinks in the Supporter Village’s newly refurbished food court. Three new converted shipping containers will increase bar and service capacity in the village. Levy UK managing director Jonathan Davies said: “The relationship we have built with Northampton Saints over the past three years has grown significantly and to be able to develop this offer further is an exciting prospect.”

Whitbread agrees deal for Premier Inn in Romford: Whitbread has agreed a deal for a new Premier Inn in Romford, east London. The move is part of a trio of long-let, index-linked acquisitions by real estate investment trust company LXi for £23m in total. LXi has exchanged contracts by way of pre-let forward funding for the acquisition of the Premier Inn. The 85-bedroom hotel has been pre-let to Whitbread on a new unbroken 25-year lease from completion of construction, with five-yearly rental uplifts in line with the Consumer Price Index. LXi has also agreed to acquire a commercial vehicle centre in Birmingham and an Aldi store in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Meanwhile, Whitbread has had plans for a Premier Inn at a former HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) office in Porthmadog given the go-ahead. The 80-bedroom hotel in Britannia Terrace will cover 32,054 square feet, with HMRC relocating to another part of the town. Gwynedd Council has approved the plans, which will create 30 jobs, reports Insider Media.

Poppleston Allen holds top spot in latest legal rankings: The depth of licensing expertise offered by national solicitor Poppleston Allen has been recognised by two legal directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. In The Legal 500, Poppleston Allen was ranked tier one for licensing in both the East Midlands and London. The directory also showed Poppleston Allen had more of its solicitors ranked than any other licensing firm, with a record five of its partners classed in the elite “leading individual” category. Meanwhile, the firm’s gambling team was ranked tier two in London. It is a similar story in Chambers and Partners, which also lists Poppleston Allen as band one for licensing in London and the regions. The company now has eight solicitors ranked in the guide.

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