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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 24th Dec 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing
This is the last Propel newsletter of 2019. We would like to take this opportunity to wish our readers a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year

Story of the Day:

Lion Capital sells circa 10% stake in Loungers following investor demand: Lion Capital has sold circa 10% of its 39% stake in cafe bar brand Loungers due to investor demand. Lion Capital has sold nine million shares in Loungers at a price of 210p per share. The shares were offered by way of an accelerated bookbuild with Liberum Capital and Peel Hunt acting as bookrunners. The remainder of Loungers' shares held by Lion Capital are subject to a three-month lock-up. Following the sale, Lion Capital holds a stake of roughly 28.9% in Loungers, which was not a party to the placing and did not receive any proceeds. Meanwhile, Loungers will open a Cosy Club in Nottingham next month – the biggest for the brand to date. The company is turning the former Victoria Club casino into a 21,000 square foot Cosy Club set over three floors. The venue is due to open on Wednesday, 29 January. Amber Wood, managing director for The Cosy Club brand, told The Business Desk: “We’re thrilled to be opening our biggest Cosy Club so far, and we’re looking forward to bringing some delicious food and quirky style to Nottingham. It’s a great city and we are confident the locals will love it.” Loungers operates circa 160 sites under the Lounges and Cosy Club brands. Earlier this month the company reported sales increased 22.0% to £79.8m in the 24 weeks to 6 October, compared with £65.4m the previous year. Like-for-like sales grew 5.4%. Adjusted Ebitda was up 25.6% to £14.7m, compared with £11.7m the year before. Adjusted profit before tax was £2.6m, compared with a pre-tax loss of £4.3m the previous year. The company is on track to deliver 25 site openings this financial year and going forward.

Industry News:

Turning Data Into Strategy & Action Masterclass open for bookings: Propel has launched the Turning Data Into Strategy & Action Masterclass in partnership with hospitality data consultancy DataHawks, with the event open for bookings. The masterclass will take place on Tuesday, 25 February at Chartered Accountants Hall, One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. The event will look at why operators should be using data and address some of the common myths and language that surrounds it. Attendees will also learn how to use data to drive sales and long-term loyalty without sacrificing margin or brand credibility. DataHawks founder Victoria Searl will talk about building and optimising customer journeys, finding new customers and leads, and measuring the impact and effectiveness of offline marketing. Searl will reveal how to prepare for the unexpected by using data and tech; improve the impact and effectiveness of discounts, offers and rewards; retain revenue when closing sites; and what data to collect and why. Meanwhile Dan Brookman, chief executive of Airship CRM, will also talk about knowing and understanding your customers to drive personalisation and conversion. The event will be followed by drinks at The Tokenhouse in Moorgate. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email

Hotel market remains subdued in UK and US but Europe sees improvement: The hotel market remained subdued in the UK and US during November while growth improved in Europe. The UK saw revpar growth of 0.4% during the month compared with growth of 1.1% the previous year and 0.7% in the year to date, according to Morgan Stanley’s latest Global Hotel Revpar Tracker. Room rates grew 0.1%versus a 1.4% decline in October while occupancy was up 0.3% versus a 1.1% drop in October. In London, revpar grew 1.8% in November compared with a 0.4% drop in October and an increase in 8.1% in September. Room rate growth of 2.0% was offset by a 0.2% decline in occupancy. Regional revpar fell 0.7% in November versus a 4.0% fall in October and 1.3% drop in September, with occupancy growth of 0.6% offset by 1.3% decline in room rate. The midscale and economy segment, in which Whitbread’s Premier Inn operates, saw revpar fall 0.7% in November compared with a 2.9% drop in October and a fall of 1.2% in September, with occupancy growth of 0.6% and a 1.3% decline in room rate. European revpar grew 3.2% in November compared with 2.9% the previous year. The revpar increase was driven by room rate growth of 2.8% versus 0.3% in October, while occupancy grew 0.4% (0.1% in October). The US saw revpar grow to 1.3% in November compared with 0.9% the previous year while in the Asia-Pacific region revpar fell 2.6% in November compared with a 1.0% drop the year before.

Springboard Charity heads back to West End next month for pantomime: The Springboard Charity is heading back to the West End next month to stage its fourth pantomime – an industry revamp of Snow White. The pantomime will be performed at the Leicester Square Theatre from 29 to 31 January. The project, which follows previous productions Aladdin, Springderella and Dick Whittington, aims to raise funds to help young people achieve their potential and support people into employment within the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. Springboard, which marks its 30th anniversary next year, said the pantomime would be about “celebrating what makes hospitality great”. For tickets and details of the cast, click here.

Company News:

Hill – the summer had its challenges, but NWTC on track for record Christmas: Chris Hill, chief executive of Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company, has told Propel this summer had its challenges for the business, but better trading in the last quarter has it on track for a record Christmas. Hill was talking after the company reported a 15% rise in revenue to £51.8m for the year to 31 March 2019, with adjusted operating profit (Ebitda) of £5.2m (FY18: £5.2m). Sales growth during the year was driven by successful new openings while the company also invested in its central infrastructure in preparation for further site expansion. Commenting on trading since then, Hill told Propel: “The summer had its challenges, driven in the main by wetter weather than in 2018 – but we have seen a much better trading environment in the last quarter, culminating in what looks set to be a record Christmas. There are many standout performers, but in particular the Houses business, along with The Smugglers Cove, has had an exceptional year so far. The newest Florist site in Watford has also been an incredible success.” The company will hit the 30-site mark by the end of June next year, with The Botanist openings in Cardiff (February), Lincoln (May) and Preston (June) already secured. Hill said: “I hope to have three further openings in 2020, and expect to announce these sites in the first two weeks of January. We have also secured two sites for 2021. In this mix, there will be at least two new Florist sites, with the remainder likely to be The Botanist. No new brands on the table as yet, but you never know – I do also fancy opening more Houses and Smugglers Coves.” Hill said the main opportunity for the business was its pipeline of openings. He said: “We have been working incredibly hard at this for a number of years now, and we have some amazing sites to open. Operationally, we are set up to continue to take our brands to new towns and cities, as well as introducing our new brands to areas we have traded in so far with The Botanist. The challenge, as always, is to constantly innovate in the sites, to make sure we stay ahead, day-in-day-out.” In terms of entering the delivery market, Hill said: “We continue to watch it but there are no plans as yet.”

Pret A Manger appoints Ellwood as global technology strategy director: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned chain, has appointed Gary Ellwood, formerly of Office Deport and Phones4U, as its new global technology strategy director. Ellwood, who was chief technology officer at Office Depot and Phones4U, will join Pret on Monday, 6 January. Most recently, Ellwood was working at the Sopra Steria Group as commercials sector chief technology director. Earlier this year, Pret began trialling a number of digital innovations at its site in London’s Houndsditch. The trial includes digital labelling on shelves and a payment solution via a new app that allows consumers to select products and pay without going to the till. The new app also has an order-ahead feature, while the venue offers self-service tills and has coffee machines placed near the tills to help order pick-up. Beacon technology on the tables is also being trialled in the store. The move sparks the beginning of Pret’s digital journey, with chief executive Pano Christou telling the Operation Directors’ Conference, organised by Propel in September, that the company was learning from Panera Bread, which is also backed by JAB Holdings, to gain a “one-to-one view with the customer”. He admitted this could see the brand introduce its first loyalty programme and explore payment innovation, including digital tickets.

Costa Coffee signs franchise partnership to relaunch brand in Bahrain: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has agreed a franchise partnership with Al Zayani Investments Group to relaunch the brand in Bahrain. The newly established Al Zayani Investments food and beverage arm – Al Zayani Foods – has been granted exclusive development rights to Costa Coffee in the country. The first store under the new partnership will open before the end of the month at City Centre Bahrain with Al Zayani Foods planning to build sites across the country. Nawaf Khalid, chairman of Al Zayani Investments Group and Al Zayani Foods, said: “Costa Coffee, which operates almost 4,000 stores across 32 countries, believes everyone deserves great coffee and it is our endeavour to live up to that promise. We share the same values – to put the customer at the heart of everything we do. These shared ideas and commitment to quality are the foundation of our partnership, and the reason we look forward to an enduring, and mutually inspiring relationship. This is an exciting time for Al Zayani and we are looking forward to relaunching the Costa Coffee brand in Bahrain.” Costa Coffee international franchise director Tom Edgar added: “This marks another exciting new chapter for Costa Coffee in the Middle East. Our vision is to inspire the world to love great coffee and in Al Zayani Investments Group we have an innovative and exciting partner that will help us unlock the next phase of growth in the Middle East, bringing further investment and job creation to a growing market.”

Chik’n appoints Jon Green as managing director: Chik’n, the fried chicken concept from the team behind Chick ‘n’ Sours, has appointed Jon Green, formerly of Prezzo, as its new managing director, Propel has learned. Green joins the David Wolanski and Carl Clarke-led concept after spending a year and a half as restaurant support director at the Karen Jones-led Prezzo. He was previously country manager – UK for Godiva Chocolatier, and also spent seven years at PizzaExpress. Chik’n, which is backed by Sir Charles Dunstone and Active Partners, opened its second site earlier this year in Wardour Street, Soho. The “2.0 version” of Chik’n was described by its founders as a chance to reinvigorate the concept after it almost failed. The concept was launched more than two years ago in Baker Street. Sister concept Chick ‘n’ Sours recently opened its fourth site in Spitalfields, on the former L’Ami Malo site in Artillery Passage.

Mission Mars secures Leeds site for pizza concept Rudy’s: Neapolitan pizza concept Rudy’s, which is owned by Mission Mars, the north west-based operator behind Albert’s Schloss, will open a fifth site early next year, in Leeds. The company, which opened its latest site in Birmingham this summer, has secured the recently closed Evans Cycles unit in the city’s New Station Street, and is currently fitting out the property. Rudy’s opened its debut site in Ancoats, Manchester, in 2015 and has since added a site in the city’s Peter Street and a venue in Liverpool. Rudy’s makes its dough on-site each day, taking 24 hours to double ferment and 60 seconds to cook. The business was acquired by Mission Mars in 2017. 

Dinner by Heston in Melbourne enters voluntary liquidation: Dinner by Heston in the Crown Casino complex in Melbourne, Australia, has entered voluntary liquidation. It follows a failure to comply with a statutory request by the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to calculate and pay back payments for staff. The restaurant is owned by Tipsy Cake and uses Heston Blumenthal’s name under licence but is not owned by him. FWO Sandra Parker said in a statement: “Tipsy Cake was aware a significant amount of wages and entitlements were owing to many workers who had been underpaid. The circumstances of this matter are disappointing. The FWO will liaise with the provisional liquidator and other relevant stakeholders in order to assist the employees to recover their entitlements.” BRI Ferrier has been appointed the provisional liquidators and is seeking to run the business as normal. Dinner by Heston is a restaurant concept by Blumenthal. The first site opened in London’s Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park in 2011.

Happy Lamb Hot Pot eyes Birmingham launch: Chinese chain Happy Lamb Hot Pot, which made its UK debut earlier this year in London, is planning an opening in Birmingham. Propel understands the business, which originated in Mongolia and has sites across the US and Canada, has applied to open in the former Le Truc site in Ladywell Walk, in Birmingham city centre. Earlier this year the company opened its first UK restaurant in The Office Group building in Bloomsbury Way, London. The concept offers meat, fish and vegetables to dunk in a pot, with cuts of meat such as pork belly, lamb shoulder and offal. Combination platters on offer in the US include a seafood version (white fish, squid, scallops and whole shrimp) and a vegetarian version featuring spinach, lettuce, daikon wedges and mini corn on the cob. There are four soup bases – “milky” bone marrow broth; spicy bone marrow broth; a half-and-half pot featuring a combination of those; and a pickled cabbage broth.

Scotland's first ghost kitchens launch: Scotland's first ghost kitchens have opened, in Edinburgh, for businesses making food exclusively for delivery. Investment company SRA Ventures, owned by Shaf Rasul, has launched Crowd Kitchens in the former Shapes warehouse in Sighthill. There are 12 kitchens available to rent by the hour or day. Rasul said: “Crowd Kitchens has been a project of mine that has been bubbling away for a while. I've seen how this type of business partnership between restaurants and delivery apps has been growing in places such as America and China and I'm certain it will be a success here too.”

JD Wetherspoon agrees deal to come to Wickford: JD Wetherspoon is set to open a pub in Wickford, Essex (population: 33,000). The company has agreed terms with Basildon Council to build on the old Market site, at the end of Market Lane, off High Street. The site was retained by the council following the development by the local authority of a new surgery. Council leader Cllr Gavin Callaghan said: “This has been a long time in the making but the council has been working hard to ensure we have the best deal for Wickford residents. This is great news for the community. Wetherspoon provides good value on both food and drink and is a well-established brand. We were clear we wanted this site developed in a way that benefited the community and I look forward to seeing a detailed planning application coming forward in the new year.”

Zip World submits plans for first attraction outside Wales: Adventure tourism operator Zip World has submitted plans for its first attraction outside Wales. The company has applied to Liverpool City Council to install two lines between from the top of St Johns Beacon to the summit of the Central Library. Specially designed platforms will be installed that would see people zip about 500 metres across the city centre at about 450 feet above the ground. Scheduled to open in 2021, the attraction would be the first permanent city zip in the UK. Zip World founder and president Sean Taylor said: “This potential new adventure for Liverpool is exciting to Zip World as a company – we’re hopeful the dream of bringing our world-class North Wales adventures to our close neighbours in Liverpool becomes a reality.” Zip World has opened three sites in the Snowdonia mountain range in North Wales since 2013 – Penrhyn Quarry, Slate Caverns and Fforest. The business is also is set to launch an attraction at Tower Colliery in the village of Hirwaun in South Wales’ coal-mining region. Zip World secured investment from LDC early this year to support its growth strategy. The deal was also supported by Zip World’s bank backer, HSBC.

Ten Entertainment Group launches new concept site: Ten Entertainment Group, the bowling and family entertainment centre operator, has launched a new concept site. The 24-lane site at the Coliseum Leisure Park in Cheshire Oaks has been revamped to showcase a range of customer innovations and concepts. The revamp includes the introduction of a Houdini’s escape room, electronic darts machines and an augmented reality climbing wall. The site also features the family-friendly Hyperbowl concept, which is based around an interactive bumper system. A new scoring system with touchpads, featuring food and drink ordering and interactive photographs has been installed, while LED lighting on the lanes allows customers to light up their lane in any colour they choose. The amusement area has been refurbished and a new food menu introduced. The insights gained from the trial concept will be used to help develop future sites such as The Printworks in Manchester, which is due to open in April. Ten Entertainment Group chief commercial officer Graham Blackwell said: “We continue to invest in future technology to deliver the very best experiences for our customers.” 

Merseyside-based operator takes on second Punch pub: Merseyside-based operator Sue Gilbertson has taken on her second pub with Punch. Gilbertson has relaunched The Rocket, in Prescot, following a £240,000 investment. The early 19th century pub, named after the famous Stephenson’s Rocket, which won the Rainhill steam trials in 1829, has been given a new look, including the installation of five televisions showing sport. Punch managing director Andy Spencer said: “This is a significant investment by Punch in a great community pub and we are pleased with the new look created. We are thrilled to be working with Sue and her team and are confident The Rocket will go from strength to strength.” Gilbertson also runs the Dealers Arms in nearby Garston with Punch, which operates 1,200 pubs across England, Scotland and Wales. The company plans to invest £34m in its people and pubs in the next year.

Wagyu Bar & Grill shuts both restaurants: Yorkshire-based restaurant concept Wagyu Bar & Grill has shut its restaurants in York and Harrogate. A sign has appeared at the Harrogate site in Parliament Street – the former Jamie's Italian unit¬ –announcing Wagyu has “ceased trading” after opening in the town in June. The York restaurant in Low Petergate has also shut and its website has been taken offline, reports The Yorkshire Post. Wagyu Bar & Grill served locally reared Wagyu beef in partnership with Warrendale Wagyu, which is based at a family-run farm near Pocklington. Warrendale Farm still supplies meat to a range of other clients and its business is not affected. Wagyu Bar & Grill owners Adrian Hunter and Kevin Pennington were running the sites as the Bloom family, which owns the beef business, felt it did not have enough experience in the restaurant trade.

Craft Dining Rooms to open second Birmingham site, next month: Sam and Emma Morgan, who own Birmingham’s Craft Dining Rooms, are to launch their second site in the city. The Morgans will open Craft English Garden at the ICC on Friday, 10 January. The space will encompass a flora and fauna theme, with hanging planters, floral archways and a foliage wall alongside lounge seating, banquettes and fire pits. The site, which will sit alongside Craft Dining Rooms on the canal-side, will include an outdoor area featuring dining pods for groups of up to 12. The menu will be a modern take on traditional British dishes, while the drinks list will feature British wine and spirits. The cocktail list will embrace an English botanical theme. As previously reported, the Morgans have teamed up with restaurateur Aktar Islam for the launch. Islam opened Michelin-starred Opheem and Legna last year, both in Summer Row, while he recently launched Pulperia in the former CAU premises in Brindleyplace. He is also set to open a rooftop restaurant at a new hotel being built in Nottingham.

Chapel Down Group beer and cider managing director steps down: Chapel Down Group has announced Gareth Bath is leaving as managing director of its beer and cider division to pursue other interests. Bath joined the company from Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog in October 2017 and oversaw the build of the new brewery and the rebranding of the division to Curious. Chapel Down Group chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “We wish Gareth well in the future and thank him for his help over the past two years in creating this exciting brand. I will take control of the business in the interim as we build going forwards.” Bath added: “It’s been a very exciting journey over the past two years and I’d like to thank everyone at Chapel Down for the experience in building this amazing brand.”

Oklava founders to open bakery and wine concept in place of Kyseri next month: Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie, founders of modern Turkish restaurant Oklava, will open their new bakery and wine concept in place of their Kyseri restaurant in Fitzrovia next month. Kiazim and Christie opened Kyseri in Grafton Way in May 2018, showcasing modern Turkish plates and drawing inspiration from the Kayseri region of the country. Kyseri will be replaced by Oklava Bakery + Wine, which will open on Tuesday, 21 January inspired by Kiazim’s passion for Turkish baking and Christie’s love of wine from the same region. Oklava Bakery + Wine is an evolution of the pair’s three concepts – Kyseri, the original Oklava in Shoreditch, and Oklava at Arcade Food Theatre in Soho. Oklava Bakery + Wine will offer breakfast and Saturday brunch for the first time alongside baked goods, influenced by Kiazim’s Turkish-Cypriot heritage. There will also be a retail and takeaway section selling hot and cold drinks, wine, bread, pastries, sandwiches and salads. 

Nando’s opens third Newcastle site: Nando’s has strengthened its presence in Newcastle with its third site in the city. The company has taken over the Westgate Road site previously occupied by Manchester-based cocktails and carbohydrates concept The Laundrette, which closed in October last year, reports Chronicle Live. Nando’s other Newcastle restaurants are at Intu Eldon Square and The Gate. Last month Nando’s reported sales rose 8.4% to £1.1bn for the year ending 24 February 2019, compared with £969.3m the year before.

Jurys Inn to make changes to F&B offer at Manchester hotel as part of £14m revamp: Jurys Inn is to embark on a £14m revamp of the Midland Hotel in Manchester, including new food and beverage options. The company took over the running of the Peter Street property under its Leonardo Hotels brand in November last year after it was bought by Swedish hotel investment company Pandox and Fattal for £115m. The refurbishment programme will see all of its 312 bedrooms upgraded along with the bars, restaurants and lobby. As part of the improvements, a new bar will be built opposite fine dining restaurant Adam Reid at The French. The hotel’s bistro Mr Cooper’s is to be renamed and revamped with a more casual feel and design. A Leonardo Hotels spokeswoman said: “The most striking change will be a new lobby bar that will be built on the raised section opposite Adam Reid at The French. Currently Mr Cooper’s has more of a dinner-focused menu, but the hotel hopes to have a slightly more casual offering with all-day menu options.” No changes will be made to Adam Reid at The French. Work will begin on the lobby bar and new restaurant in the new year and is expected to be completed by June.

Dereham-based bed and breakfast owners to open pub: Dereham-based bed and breakfast owners Steve Garner and Jane Howard are to open a pub in the Norfolk town. They will launch The Cock in Norwich Street in January focusing on ale and craft beer. The move will see the property return to its former guise having had spells as a tapas bar, bistro and, most recently, a Moroccan restaurant. Marrekech Fusion shut in September after owner Mohammed Guenaoui opted to bring his 23-year career in the restaurant industry to an end. Garner, who runs Glendower Guest Apartments in Commercial Road, told the Eastern Daily Press: “When it was a pub it worked well for a long time. There has been a lot of turnover since then and it has never done amazingly well – but I think it can be successful again.” The Cock first opened in 1795 before becoming Cockers Brasserie in 1999. Since then the venue has housed Lolita’s tapas bar, Cockers Bistro and, in its most recent stint as a pub, The Rusty Tap.

Meininger gets go-ahead for Manchester hotel: German budget hotelier Meininger has been given the go-ahead for a site in Manchester. Working with developer S Harrison, Meininger will build a 12-storey hotel in Great Ancoats Street after being granted permission by the city council. The 212-bedroom hybrid hotel will include private rooms and dormitories and provide 785 beds in total. There would also be a lounge, breakfast room, bar, guest kitchens and a games room. The hotel, which Meininger has negotiated a 20-year lease, is expected to open by January 2022. Meininger is also opening a three-star, 90-bedroom hotel in Liverpool and is eyeing sites in Belfast, Cambridge, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Meininger has 26 hotels in Europe and opened its first UK site in London’s Hyde Park in 2006. It also plans to expand into the US with a hotel in Washington DC.

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