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Mon 18th Nov 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Azzurri sees full-year like-for-like growth across entire business, transformational year for Coco di Mama: Azzurri Group, the owner of ASK Italian, Zizzi, Coco di Mama and Radio Alice, has reported a 7% increase in group sales to £299.4m for the year ended 30 June 2019, with like-for-like sales growth across all four brands. The Bridgepoint-backed business said full-year adjusted Ebitda increased 3% from £37m to £38.1m, but “effective management of cost pressures across the casual dining sector” were reflected in the slightly lower Ebitda margin of 12.7% compared with 13.2% the previous year. The Steve Holmes-led business said its performance in the year was driven by new openings in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and China, plus continued investment in refurbishments. It opened ten sites in the year and carried out 29 refurbishments. Internationally, it opened its first site in China, a Zizzi, in Shanghai, and a third site, again under the Zizzi brand, in Ireland. Holmes said it had been a transformational year for its Italian food-to-good concept Coco di Mama, with the acquisition of 13 Pod sites. Of the three Pod sites converted to Coco di Mama since the end of the financial year, he said they were all trading ahead of expectations. Holmes said: “We built on last year’s momentum as a leading operator in the Italian casual dining sector and expanded our presence in the food-to-go market. I am pleased over the past year all four brands grew like-for-like sales and increased their Ebitda and we have made good progress in rolling-out new restaurants. Cost pressures in the UK remain an ongoing challenge for the sector, and although Azzurri is not immune, the group has made adjusted Ebitda improvement and continued to trade well through these difficult conditions. We remain conscious of the current cost environment and continue to take a thoughtful approach to increased operational efficiencies. We have invested significantly in our estate both in the UK and internationally, with a further £20m of capital expenditure this year. Our number of sites now totals 311, with further estate expansion of ten openings, including Zizzi’s third site in Ireland and first site opened in Shanghai. We are pleased with early trading and customer feedback has been positive at these new restaurants. We have also completed 29 refurbishments to ensure we continue to appeal to customers and drive footfall to our restaurants.” Holmes said it was a milestone year for Zizzi, which celebrating its 20th anniversary. He said: “The business delivered growth in both sales and profit and we are pleased the proposition continues to resonate with customers in the UK and now in China too. Our Zizzi restaurants have seen the vast majority of our investment with 17 restaurants undergoing transformation this year. This year was also important as it marked the reopening of our Salisbury restaurant and we have been delighted with the positive response.” Holmes said ASK Italian made good progress in the year in terms of both sales and profit. He said: “The business continued to attract new customers with a combination of outstanding service and truly authentic Italian dishes. We are constantly evolving our menus to create new customer favourites. Our focus on delighting customers meant in 2019 we were the fastest growing brand in the CGA Brand Tracking Index of the biggest casual dining brands in the UK.” He said it had been “a transformational year for Coco di Mama, with solid profit progression and strong returns on our investment”. He said: “Customers continue to love our hero products of made-to-order pasta and speciality coffee, as well as new categories such as gelato and ‘black ice’ lattes. We opened two stores in the year and were delighted to acquire 13 Pod sites, which set us up well for accelerated growth in the future. We have a robust pipeline of new stores to convert into Coco di Mama over the next year and are excited about our prospects for this business.” Holmes said the past year had been “all about building brand awareness and increasing footfall” for its three-strong Radio Alice concept. He said: “We are pleased to have opened a third restaurant in London this year, which is located in the heart of Canary Wharf. Against the continuing challenges in the UK, we have an exciting pipeline of conversions and refurbishments ahead and are focused on expanding our presence, particularly in the food-to-go market.” Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the immediate future direction of the Azzurri Group business in a piece that will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers at 3pm today (Monday, 18 November). 
 

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive Richard Hodgson video in first of exclusive series on how to succeed in the casual dining market: Propel Premium subscribers will receive their first video on Monday (18 November) featuring some of the sector’s top casual dining operators talking about their progress in the current challenging market. The videos feature a wide spectrum of company leaders and entrepreneurs from across the industry talking about the strategies they have put in place to make sure their businesses have been able to survive, thrive, evolve or pivot. The first features YO! chief executive Richard Hodgson, who explains the group’s move away from being a pure restaurant-focused business to becoming a global multi-format, multi-channel company and why others should explore the same route. With growth in all dayparts – breakfast, lunch and dinner – pretty much static, Hodgson explains how YO! is evolving to play a different game, tap into the increased demand of snacking and get its food in front of a wider audience. He also discusses how the company has right-sized its restaurant business and its strategies for keeping staff motivated. Videos will send out each day at 5pm and 2pm on a Friday. 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, and regular columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com.

BBPA publishes manifesto with key asks of next government: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has published its manifesto for beer and pubs, outlining what the next government should do to help the industry thrive ahead of the general election. It includes urging the new government to back the Long Live The Local campaign by implementing a real-term cut in beer duty during the course of the next parliament. The manifesto asks the new government to address the unfairness of the business rates system, recognise the growing cost burden on pub businesses, and not add further burdensome regulation to the beer and pub sector. The manifesto also calls for the new government to provide greater flexibility to promote and market lower-strength beer and enable a trading relationship with the European Union that would allow the seamless movement of beer. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Pubs and brewing are not only vital to the UK economy but also to our culture and way of life. The next government must recognise this and work to create an environment in which they can thrive. Our manifesto sets out what the next government can and should do to support our sector. I hope candidates in all parties recognise the importance of brewing and pubs in the communities they seek to serve and help promote these policies our sector urgently needs.”
  
Jamie Rollo – pubs the best-performing sub-sector following ‘four dismal years’: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has said after “four dismal years” pubs are the best-performing sub-sector, while he has made Mitchells & Butlers his pick of the shares. He said: “Most UK-listed pub companies have enjoyed a re-rating this year, moving on average from 8.4 times to 9.9 times on a next 12 months consensus EV/Ebitda, resulting in an average year-to-date share price increase of 51%. After four dismal years it looks like pubs will be the best-performing sub-sector in our coverage. Admittedly this has mostly been driven by the takeovers of Ei Group and Greene King, which demonstrated private equity and overseas real estate owner interest in the sector. Still, trading has been reasonably solid, with sector like-for-likes up 1% this year and margins performing generally as expected. Against this backdrop we continue to rate Mitchells & Butlers ‘Overweight’. Its multiple remains the lowest of its peer group even adjusting for its pension deficit, yet it has delivered one of the strongest like-for-likes sales performances (up 3.6% for the first 51 weeks of FY19) with stable margins and modest earnings per share upgrades, while it has one of the highest freehold tenure mixes. Even though the shares have performed well this year, 8.4 times EV/Ebitda isn’t demanding for an asset-backed business – and this is falling 0.6 times per annum given deleverage – it is trading 0.86 times net asset value versus its long-run average of 1.0 times (and falling by 0.05 times per annum), and EV/pub of £2.2m is in line with its long-run average despite its pubs being more profitable (and we forecast EV/pub falling 5% per annum). The company reports FY19 this week and we remain positive.”
 
New York City Council expands third-party delivery sector investigation: New York City Council has expanded its investigation of the third-party delivery sector. This summer, Grubhub was the target of a class-action lawsuit filed by a restaurant operator who claimed the delivery company charged restaurants for calls made through the app, even when they failed to result in orders. The council also hosted a hearing to explore the effect of delivery app fees and policies on New York restaurants. The authority has now demanded Grubhub hire a third-party evaluator to review and refund all erroneous fees collected from restaurants for phone orders. Grubhub has agreed to set up a cross-functional task force to review the phone order process but through an in-house team, not the outside party the council requested, reports Nation's Restaurant News. Grubhub has also agreed to review all phone orders going back 120 days but the council insisted it expanded beyond that. The council stated: “All erroneous phone order charges must be refunded – whether they happened 20 or 200 days ago. The council is taking a 360-degree inquiry on this sector overall. We have turned a corner from the fact-finding stage to looking for ways we can improve some of the issues we have uncovered.”

Networking group launches to champion people development and attraction of sector: A new networking group has been created to provide those in the sector leading staff development to get together to share ideas and insight. Beers and Peers has been formed by Carly Pickering, East London Pub Co training and development manager; Hayley Connor, head of people and learning at Brewhouse & Kitchen; Jenny Aspray, head of people at Busaba; Lee Melton, head of learning and development at Coaching Inn Group; and Giordana Annibal, recruitment manager at Brewhouse & Kitchen. The group gets together to discuss emerging concepts within the fields of talent, people and culture, and also connect over a drink. It uses a workshop format to provide peers with a voice and a chance to have their say. The group has held two events so far and is now planning to launch Hospitality Impact, which aims to implement some of the ideas generated from the workshops. Two projects have been defined – a campaign to re-educate parents and change perceptions on hospitality careers and another aiming to attract the over-50s market to work in the sector.

Industry technology and marketing service providers discuss collaboration: Hospitality technology and marketing service providers gathered to share best practice at the second Friends Of Wireless Social Dinner. The event, hosted by Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social, took place at Imbiba-backed Camm & Hooper's Six Storeys venue in Soho. Attendees also brainstormed about innovative new solutions for the sector. Delegates included representatives from Acteol, Airship, Astro IT, Charge It, Checkfer, CPL, Datahawks, Diary Detox, Eagle Eye, Elliotts, Feed It Back, Fishbowl, Fleet Street Communications, Fourth, Imbiba, KAM Media, Kobas, Loke, ME:MO, Propeller, ResDiary, Startle, Sproutsend, Think Hospitality, We are Spectacular, Wi5, Yapster Yumpingo, and Zonal. Wireless Social sales director Sam Brown thanked guests for their support in a breakout year for the company, acknowledging the role they’ve all played in its recent growth. Chief executive Julian Ross said: “We hold this event because I genuinely believe the sector needs and deserves an eco-systems of suppliers, which are all speaking with each other with a common goal of creating solutions that are greater than the sum of the parts. We’ve invited everyone to spend the evening together and to look forward to 2020 with what we can achieve in partnership to support the sector.”
 

Company News:

Rosa’s Thai founders hope to grow Ceviche after acquiring it out of administration: Alex and Saiphin Moore, the founders of Rosa’s Thai Cafe, plan on growing Ceviche, the Peruvian-inspired business, they have acquired out of administration. The Moores, which sold a majority stake in Rosa’s to private equity firm TriSpan last summer, have acquired the original Ceviche site in Frith Street in Soho, Andina in Shoreditch and Casita Andina in Great Windmill Street, also in Soho. Ceviche Old Street, Ceviche Notting Hill and Andina bakery, also in Notting Hill, closed earlier this month. The Moores bought the Ceviche business out of administration in a management-led buy-out deal through Atomex – the turnaround company they set up by last year. Alex Moore told Propel the plan was to run the business as was until after the festive period, before looking to engage with previous shareholders, which included Michael Acton Smith, the founder of Moshi Monsters; and Alex Chesterman, the founder of Zoopla; who had their stakes wiped out through the administration process, to see if they wanted to get involved again. Propel understands the Moores started talking to Ceviche founder Martin Morales last year about where the business needed to go and also about possibly investing in the business. Morales, who founded Ceviche in 2012, will remain an ambassador for the brand, but will have no day-to-day involvement in the business. The company will continue to be led by managing director Raquel Oliveira, who also becomes a shareholder in the business. Her role will be to stabilise and drive the business in its new chapter with the support of the Moores. She said: “I am incredibly grateful for having the support of Alex and Saiphin in helping save our beautiful restaurants and our team's employment. I’m looking forward to working alongside them and creating a strong company once again.” Group head chef Daniel Ribeiro and group operations manager Alessio Bascherini also remain with the business. Alex Moore told Propel: “There is fundamentally a good business there, but it may have lost sight of what made it a success in the first place. We think there is potential to grow the business but first we will run it up to and over the festive period. We will then talk to its previous shareholders about whether they want to re-invest and go from there. It is tough being a founder of a business and we sympathise with what Martin has gone through.” Moore said Ceviche would be run separate from his other business interests and that they had decided to temporarily close their Hoh Sek Noodles venture, which launched earlier this year in St Katharine’s Dock. Last month, Morales told Propel he was hopeful of securing the business’ future after filing a notice of intention to appoint administrators. Morales, who used to work alongside Steve Jobs at Apple, was working with advisory firm RSM on an accelerated sale of Ceviche. The move came after what Morales described as an “incredibly tough" past 18 months for the business. Morales said of the buy-out: “It’s with a heavy heart that I step away from the business I created and love dearly, but know I am leaving it in Raquel’s very capable hands. She’s been with me on this journey from day one, and has so much passion for both Ceviche and Andina brands. I’m excited about what lies ahead and I am sure with Alex and Saiphin’s support, she can help grow the business, despite the challenging and uncertain economic times we are currently in.”

PizzaExpress’ owners keep lenders waiting over rescue plan: The Chinese owners of PizzaExpress are reportedly refusing to engage with a group of lenders vying to rescue the ailing restaurant chain. The owners of £200m of junior ranking bonds have hatched a plan to shore up PizzaExpress’ debt-laden balance sheet, City sources said. Their scheme involves raising fresh capital to buy out senior ranking bonds of £465m and writing off their own debt. In return, the ownership consortium led by Hony Capital would give up control of PizzaExpress by handing shares to the lenders, while also agreeing to write off shareholder loans totalling £500m.It is understood the deal is subject to Hony giving bondholders access to PizzaExpress’ books and records. Repeated approaches to Hony over the past few weeks have been met with silence, however, sources told The Sunday Telegraph. The impasse has emerged after senior bondholders wrote to the PizzaExpress board, which is dominated by Hony and co-owners Jin Jiang and Bank of China, saying they were willing to inject extra money to secure the future of the business. Hony bought PizzaExpress in 2014 for £900m despite growing concerns about overcrowding in the casual dining market. The chain has racked up big losses as cost headwinds and sluggish consumer sentiment has hit the sector hard. Hony sprung a surprise earlier this month by offering to buy £80m of the £200m of junior ranking bonds at a heavy discount, signalling the equity in the business was worthless. Such a buy-back plan, however, increasingly appears doomed as many bondholders have taken out credit default swaps – effectively betting it won’t be able to come to a consensual deal and default on its debt. Ratings agency S&P last week projected PizzaExpress’ enterprise value was £342m, far less than its £1.1bn debt pile.

Bistrot Pierre launches cafe bar concept as it hits 25-site mark with Eastbourne venue: Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, has opened its 25th site, which features a new cafe bar concept. The company has opened the venue in Eastbourne, East Sussex – 25 years after launching in Nottingham. The Wish Tower site in King Edward’s Parade has been redeveloped by Bistrot Pierre to create a restaurant, café bar and outdoor terrace. The new restaurant has created 65 jobs and seats more than 150 diners. The cafe bar area serves a range of brunch dishes, open-grilled sandwiches, baguettes, burgers and small plates. Co-founder Rob Beacham said: “We wanted to reflect our beautiful new coastal location in our menus and interior design. For the first time, we’ve developed a tailor-made fish menu with a local fish supplier. A cafe bar is a new concept for us. Being by the coast lent itself perfectly to this offering. After 25 years in business, we’ve learnt a lot. We’re continuing to innovate and respond to local markets, opening fantastic sites across the UK. We’re now looking forward to a busy Christmas – and welcoming new diners to our Eastbourne restaurant.” Last month, the company launched an improved loyalty app – Club Bistrot Pierre.

McDonald’s rolls out extended breakfast hours to all UK restaurants: McDonald’s is to roll-out extended breakfast hours to all its UK and Ireland restaurants. The company currently serves breakfast in most of its sites until 10.30am. But from Wednesday (20 November), breakfast will be available in all its outlets until 11am. It comes after a successful trial in 122 restaurants earlier this year. Michelle Graham-Clare, vice president food and marketing at McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “We all understand the pain of missing out on a McMuffin by a matter of minutes. We have listened to our customers’ pleas and are delighted to extend breakfast serving time until 11am.”

Greggs boss switches to vegan diet: Roger Whiteside, chief executive of food-to-go retailer Greggs, has revealed he has switched to a vegan diet. Whiteside said he took the decision to make changes in his diet after watching a Netflix documentary called The Gamechangers. Speaking at the North East Business Awards, where he was crowned executive of the year, he said: “If you’d asked me three weeks ago which sausage roll I preferred I would have said the original sausage roll, but I’m now attempting to live on a vegan diet. I was encouraged to watch a film on Netflix called The Gamechangers – I watched it and thought this is interesting. Obviously there are arguments based around animal welfare and the environment, but this was all about the health benefits, and I thought I should give it a go. Avoiding meat is easy. The problem is avoiding dairy, avoiding milk and cheese is almost impossible. It would be okay if I had time to cook, but I don’t, so I have to have things that are quick and easy.” Whiteside said he’s currently making his way through Greggs’ vegan range, which the firm is looking to expand. He took on the top job at Greggs seven years ago, but he said there was still a lot of work to do. He added: “We’ve spent all that time transforming the business in all sorts of ways, obviously refocusing the business away from traditional bakery to the growing food-on-the-go market. But really all that time has been spent on getting to the start line and what comes next for Greggs is to build on that platform to become truly multi-channel in a digital age. We’ve already started investing in these new channels – delivery of food, click and collect food, drive-thru lanes, food to order – all of those things are there to be developed by Greggs now.”

Old Chang Kee secures former Benito’s Hat restaurant in Fitzrovia for second UK site: Singaporean snack and street food brand Old Chang Kee has secured its second UK site. The company will open the 1,200 square foot outlet in Goodge Street, Fitzrovia, in December in the premises previously occupied by Mexican brand Benito’s Hat following the deal brokered by agent Shelley Sandzer. Old Chang Kee, which is known for its curry puffs, will offer fast casual dining from the new eatery, which is larger than its existing Covent Garden site and can cater to up to 30 customers. The interior will be inspired by a typical Singaporean kopitiam – an old-style Asian coffee shop – and feature displays of old Singaporean paraphernalia, storytelling the heritage of the brand’s food. Established in 1956, Old Chang Kee has more than 100 outlets across the group, including in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia. Sandra Leong, director of Old Chang Kee UK, said: “We are thrilled to bring another slice of Singapore to London, with our second opening. Our curry puffs have been well received since we opened last year in Covent Garden. Our grab-and-go Singapore hawker meals such as curry chicken and laksa have also proven to be very popular with working and student crowds, so this new location will allow us to introduce our food to more London foodies.” Tony Levine, leasing agent at Shelley Sandzer, added: “Old Chang Kee’s offer is incredibly popular with a diverse audience and Goodge Street is the ideal spot for its expansion.”

SpiceBox to close fund-raising round at end of month: SpiceBox, the vegan curry house concept, will close its fund-raising round on crowdfunding platform Seedrs at the end of the month after surging past its initial £275,000 target. The campaign, which launched on 7 October, has so far raised in excess of £330,000. The concept, which opened its first site at the end of January in Walthamstow, is offering 8.4% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of almost £3m. The business hit its initial target, with 71 investors pledging £278,086, within six hours of launch, and the campaign is now “overfunding”. It will use the new funds to open a second site. Chief executive Grace Regan, who founded SpiceBox after turning her home into an Indian takeaway, said her strategy was to focus on market towns outside the M25, offering a curry house that puts a modern spin on classics they’re used to. “London is a very crowded market and the rents are ridiculously expensive”, said Regan. “We see more opportunity on high streets in towns outside London and we’re passionate about breathing life back into the provincial UK high street.”

Four Hundred Rabbits to open brunch-focused venue for fourth site: South London-based sourdough pizza and craft beer restaurant concept Four Hundred Rabbits is to launch a brunch-focused concept for its fourth site. The company is taking over the grade II-listed, art-deco cafe at Brockwell Lido next month. But unlike its Crystal Palace, Nunhead and West Norwood, it’s ditching the pizza and running with a brunch-focused menu, reports Hot Dinners. Dishes will include Portuguese eggs or green shakshuka with Four Hundred Rabbits sourdough bread, and smoked salmon with goats curd and capers. The drinks menu will also be brunch focused with cold-pressed juice and soda. Four Hundred Rabbits will then start to extend the opening hours next year and include an evening service. That'll include dishes cooked in the wood-fired oven, alongside craft beer and wine.

Hall steps down as Hawksmoor marketing director: Former Casual Dining Group (CDG) brand and marketing director Georgia Hall has stepped down from the Graphite Capital-backed steak restaurant group Hawksmoor after less than a year, to return to growing her consultancy business. Hall, a former head of brand at YO! and Chelsea Football Club, joined Hawksmoor following a brief stint as brand and marketing director at Social Entertainment Ventures. She spent two and a half years at CDG. It is understood she has particularly been helping Hawksmoor with the run up to its debut international opening in New York, which is to open soon. Last week Propel revealed former Gaucho Group marketing director Matt Ford had joined the high-end steak brand as head of marketing. Ford spent four and a half years in his role at Gaucho, leaving the business last year as part of changes made by Gaucho’s then administrators, Deloitte UK. He previously worked for Gaucho for more than ten years as group sales and marketing manager before joining Maxwell’s Restaurant Group. He spent less than a year there before rejoining Gaucho. Since the start of this year he has been running his own business, FourD Marketing Consultancy.

Jollibee submits plans for debut Midlands site: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, has submitted plans to open its first site in the Midlands. Bee World UK, part of Jollibee Foods Corporation, has lodged plans to transform the former Select clothing shop in Haymarket Towers in Humberstone Gate, Leicester, to one of its sites. Jollibee, which has more than 1,000 sites around the world, made its UK debut at a former Wagamama unit in Earl’s Court, London, in October 2018. Last month, it was revealed the company had submitted plans to open a site in Liverpool’s Whitechapel, in a former Lush store. When Jollibee made its UK debut, the company said it was targeting 25 sites in the region. The brand, which offers single plates combining fried chicken, spaghetti, and beef with gravy and rice, has plans for rapid expansion across Europe. Jollibee Foods Corporation is a $5.2bn market cap company headquartered in Manila. It operates 14 brands across 4,300 outlets worldwide and is the sixth-largest foodservice company in the US by virtue of its controlling stake in Smashburger. In September 2017 it made a $1bn approach for Pret A Manger. The company’s flagship brand is Jollibee itself, which has 1,200 stores.

Douglas Jack cuts Fuller's profit before tax forecasts by 20%-plus after transition costs warning: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has cut his profit before tax forecast at Fuller's by 20%-plus after the premium pubs and hotels business warned its transition costs are higher than expected. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 950p, Jack said: “We are cutting our forecasts in 2020E from £42.6m to £31.3m (26%); 2021E from £44.0m to £35.2m (20%); and 2022E from £46.0m to £37.2m (20%). This downgrade is taking place a month before the new chief financial officer's maiden interim results. The 2020 downgrade breaks down as follows – £3.4m of central overhead that was allocated to the brewing division has not been avoided; a £3m downgrade to managed pub Ebit, although like-for-like sales are up 2.3% over the first 32 weeks; only £1m, rather than the previously forecast £3m, of interest saving from the brewery disposal and subsequent return of capital to shareholders/pension; with the balance being ongoing costs/disruption associated with the transitional services agreement for the brewery (ending in April 2020) and the migration to a new enterprise resource planning system. Our revised target price of 950p puts the company on an EV/ Ebitda of 12.0 times April 2020E and 10.8 times April 2021E. In comparison, the shares have averaged 11.4 times EV/Ebitda over the past ten years. In our view, from this new profit base, the company should have good scope to grow profits strongly, aided by cautious assumptions, a strong balance sheet and improved focus (solely) on its pubs once the transition agreement ends. The company should set out how it plans to achieve this at the 12 December interim results. Until then, our recommendation is ‘Hold’.”

International investors in Signature Living fly to UK to get money back: International investors in aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living have said they have had to fly to the UK to ask for their money back. Several, from countries across Europe and Asia, were then promised hundreds of thousands of pounds that never materialised, the BBC reports. Signature Living founder Lawrence Kenwright said investors would eventually get their money and “they have to trust me”. Susanne Grampe travelled to Liverpool last month from Germany in a face-to-face attempt to recoup about £110,000 owed to her. She said she invested in the company's football-themed George Best Hotel in Belfast, which has yet to open, and the money was meant to help pay for the care of her elderly parents. The BBC has seen a document, signed by a senior Signature Living executive, appearing to confirm the amount owed and promising to repay her over six weekly payments, starting on 6 November. To date, Grampe said these payments had not been made. Documents and emails showed the company had also recently promised other investors it would pay them, only for these payments not to take place. More than a dozen investors in Signature Living hotels across the UK have told the BBC they were still owed money. Kenwright told the BBC his company was currently unable to repay its investors as “any bit of spare money the company has goes on the building sites”. Signature Living has refurbished a number of high-profile buildings, including Liverpool's Shankly Hotel and the Exchange Hotel in Cardiff. Kenwright said investors would all be paid once the various hotels involved had been completed and sold. Signature Living is now hoping to sell several hotels, including the Titanic-themed 30 James Street Hotel in Liverpool.

Birmingham-based Vietnamese restaurant to open second site, at Resorts World: Birmingham-based independent restaurant Vietnamese Street Kitchen is to open its second site. The family-run business is launching the outlet at Resorts World. It will open on the first floor of the complex, adding to the variety of restaurants, which includes Mitchells & Butlers' Miller & Carter brand, Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi and, most recently, better burger brand Five Guys. Vietnamese Street Kitchen opened its debut site in Brindleyplace earlier this year. Managing director Oliver Ngo told The Business Desk: “We are delighted to be opening a second location so soon. We have seen Birmingham has a real appetite for Vietnamese food and we’re so happy to be expanding our flavours into the wider West Midlands foodie scene.” Ian Bennett, operations director for Resorts World, added: “We’re thrilled to be adding new flavours to our restaurant mix here at Resorts World as well as supporting the expansion of an independent local business.”
 
Stonegate reveals more than half of area managers promoted internally as it welcomes first to complete entire training scheme: Stonegate Pub Company has revealed more than half of its area managers have been promoted internally as it continues to strengthen its home-grown talent. It comes as the company welcomed its first area manager to be appointed after completing all of the company’s internal training programmes through its Albert’s Theory of Progression scheme. Carl Haytree officially started last week, after setting a record-breaking top score for the company’s highest-level qualification, Aspirations. He has taken over 13 sites across the south west. Since applying to take part in the Albert’s Theory of Progression course in 2013, he has now completed Albert’s Accolade, Accelerator and Aspirations programmes. Albert’s Award, the programme aimed at aspiring team leaders, has already seen 324 delegates attend in the first quarter this year, more than double the headcount for the same period in 2018, with the numbers telling a similar story for the deputy manager programme, Albert’s Accolade. The company also said it was seeing engagement in its training programmes increase across the board, year-on-year, especially since the introduction of more online learning modules and testing. 
 
200 Degrees makes out-of-town debut, at East Midlands designer outlet: Nottingham-based coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has opened its first out-of-town site, at McArthurGlen’s East Midlands Designer Outlet at Junction 28 of the M1. The 80-seater, 1,865 square foot store, the brand’s 11th, features a coffee bar, snug and outdoor seating and serves coffee roasted by the company in Nottingham. As well as coffee, tea, smoothies and milkshakes, 200 Degrees offers deli-style sandwiches, salads, soup, cake and pastries prepared daily on-site to eat in or take away. The outlet also offers the brand's festive menu, which includes a range of spiced hot drinks and soup. 200 Degrees co-founder and director Tom Vincent said: “This is the first out-of-town location for us. For people who know us, there will be a lot that’s familiar and we’re keen to offer a seat to everyone from flagging shoppers and fellow workers to business people looking for a bit of space and some Wi-Fi.” Vincent founded 200 Degrees with Rob Darby in 2012. The company plans to open its 12th site later this year, in Manchester. Last month, the company reported like-for-like sales at its shops were up 11% for the year ending 31 March 2019.
 
Innis & Gunn passes £1m mark in £3m fund-raise for Edinburgh brewery: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has passed the £1m mark in its £3m fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs towards its planned brewery in Edinburgh. The campaign, under the banner This Is Beer Money, is offering 1.96% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of almost £150m. So far, 701 investors have pledged £1,097,141 with 34 days of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “Since we started Innis & Gunn we have dreamed of building a large-scale brewery in Edinburgh, to create a real home for our business, our people and our community. However, building a large-scale brewery is expensive so we wanted to ensure we had enough scale in our business to support the decision. So, for 16 years we brewed with our recipes in other people’s breweries, using our people, materials and yeasts, and instead concentrated on scaling our business and building our brand. After 16 years with this production model we are now ready to realise our dream, and we're building the first large-scale new brewery in the city for more than 150 years. In doing so we’ll cement Innis & Gunn’s place in Edinburgh’s modern beer landscape and leave an enduring legacy.” The company previously said it aimed to apply for planning permission for the brewery in the “final quarter of this year and become operational in early 2021”. Innis & Gunn raised £2.37m on Crowdcube from more than 1,900 investors in late 2016. In the three years since, Innis & Gunn has increased turnover to more than £25m. The brand also successfully relaunched its pubs as Taprooms this year, with takings up 30%. The concept will be rolled out across the UK with two new sites each year for the next three years.

Safestay acquires Berlin hotel: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has acquired the Hotel Auberge in central Berlin for €1.2m. Currently operating as a 32-bedroom hotel, the property will be converted to a 150-bedroom Safestay hostel, which will be completed during the first quarter of 2020. The site – Safestay's 18th – will be operated under an 11-year lease and the acquisition is being financed by existing cash resources. Chairman Larry Lipman said: “Berlin is a key tourist city. Acquiring existing leaseholds enables us to expand our reach more rapidly throughout Europe and gives us operating platforms that are immediately cash accretive. It also complements recent freehold acquisitions in Pisa, Glasgow and Venice. The business has good momentum across all fronts. Our pipeline of new sites is strong with further transactions likely to complete in the near term and the advantages of our increased scale showing in the performance of the operating business.” The Berlin acquisition is the company's fifth in five months and is on track to meet its target of having 20 hostels by 2020. 
  
Brothers reports 44% increase in like-for-like sales of toffee apple cider: Cider maker Brothers Drinks Co has reported a 44% uplift in like-for-like sales of its toffee apple cider during the past month. The company expects further growth for the flavour through its presence at UK winter markets and increased consumer demand for seasonal flavours and mulled ciders over the colder festive period. The brand will have a presence at more than 75 events, including Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, which attracts three million visitors each year. Nicola Randall, senior marketing manager at Brothers Drinks Co, said: “Despite summer being predominantly thought of as the main driver for cider sales, the winter period provides a huge opportunity for operators. According to industry figures, we expect about 27% of total cider volumes to be sold within the last 12 weeks of the year, demonstrating the growth available to operators during the colder months.”

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