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Mon 6th Jan 2020 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

YO! to launch trial of new kiosk brand Panku with Asda: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to further ramp up its retail sector presence with the trial of a new kiosk concept with Asda, Propel has learned. The company is to trial kiosks under the new Panku brand, which has been developed through its Taiko Foods arm, in ten Asda stores from the beginning of next month. YO! is currently rolling out To Go! Kiosks into 50 Tesco stores. At the same time, the FT reports that starting this month, Sainsbury’s is set to offer sushi by YO! alongside its own range in more than 300 stores. A YO! spokesperson told Propel: “We are excited to be partnering with Asda to trial manned kiosks under our Panku brand. The kiosks will launch in an initial ten stores in February, building on the successful rollout of our YO! manned kiosks in 50 Tesco stores throughout the UK. The development of the YO! group’s supermarket offer in the UK is an integral part of our mission to introduce more people to sushi and fresh Japanese food.” The manned To Go! kiosks offer made-to-order sushi as well as sharing platters and ready-meal versions of YO! dishes. YO!, which was acquired by Mayfair Equity Partners in November 2015, launched a standalone YO! To Go in Manchester last year as part of its return to the grab-and-go market. The kiosk uses interactive technology to allow customers to build their own meals by choosing from different-sized dishes and bases. The company said the Manchester Piccadilly launch would pave the way for “further openings in other key cities across the UK from early 2020”. In April 2018, YO! acquired Taiko Foods, the first company to produce sushi for a supermarket, and supplier to Waitrose.

Industry News:

Propel and Elliotts launch second Leadership Summit: Propel is launching the second Leadership Summit, which will see a select group of the sector’s most experienced bosses share their expertise on leadership. The full-day event, in partnership with Elliotts, will take place on Wednesday, 12 February at One Moorgate Place, London and is open for bookings. Ken McMeikan, Moto chief executive, will talk about creating a winning culture and making a difference to society; Alexa Reid, Noble Organisation managing director, will set out her approach to empowering individuals to create a cohesive team; Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom co-founder, will present on creating culture at Dishoom; Chris Jowsey, Admiral Taverns chief executive, will set out his thoughts on the importance of being open in a changing world; Emma Woods, Wagamama chief executive, will talk about the role of leadership in innovation; Jonathan Arana Morton, The Breakfast Club co-founder, talks about taking the legwork out of leadership; Jonathan Recanti, Farmer J co-founder, explains the importance of starting with a great idea; Alistair Darby, SA Brain chief executive, will provide leadership lessons from a Playbarn; Penny Manuel, Soho Coffee managing director, argues that women make better leaders than men; and Shane Kavanagh, Crussh chief executive, will set out the leadership lessons learnt from extensive change. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With the industry facing such challenging times, effective leadership has never been more important. This is an unmissable opportunity to learn from high-profile leaders in our sector.” Prices are £295 plus VAT for Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email:

Company promises to ban stag and hen parties at nightclub prepped for former Jamie’s Italian site in Brighton: A company hoping to open a nightclub business have offered to ban stag and hen parties from their proposed Brighton site as they try to persuade councillors to grant them a drinks licence. Nemabil wants to open a club called the Toy Shop at the site of the former Jamie’s Italian, in Black Lion Street, in The Lanes. But its application for a licence has been opposed by a neighbouring business, Sussex Police and the Brighton and Hove City Council licensing team. Nemabil wants a seven-day licence, staying open until 2am on Thursdays and Sundays and until 3am on Friday and Saturdays. But the club would be in an area designated a “cumulative impact area” by the council and subject to extra licensing restrictions. A spokesman for Nemabil said: “Having seen the carnage in Brighton city centre, we understand why there is a restriction on new licences and why strict glassware conditions are required for existing licences. However, if Brighton wants to raise the quality and public perception of the night-time economy as well as reduce the strain on the emergency services in the medium to long term, we believe it needs to do some reshaping of the demographic it attracts as a whole.”

More than £1m of new government pledged to support community pubs: More than £1m of new government money will be made available for community pubs, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced. The funding will help an estimated 100 new groups to take ownership of and save their local or support their essential community services based in pubs in rural and remote areas. Secretary of State for Communities Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “This new funding will boost the number of community-owned pubs and pub-based community services. It will offer sustainability and create valuable new jobs in the process, both in our great pubs and within our great communities.” The £1.15m fund will support community pubs through two key programmes. £650,000 will be allocated to the second More Than a Pub programme. More Than a Pub provides small grants and specialist advice for community groups at the start of their journey to community ownership. It also supports groups later in the process who require specialist professional advice with larger grants and loans to help with business planning, conveyancing, architectural help or financial advice. £500,000 will be allocated to Pub is The Hub to enable a range of projects providing new, pub-based community services from post offices and shops to libraries and allotments.

Pret A Manger adds vegan croissants to its offer: Pret A Manger will this week become the first major high street coffee chain in the UK to sell vegan croissants. Its new croissant product uses margarine and sunflower oil to recreate the buttery, light texture of the traditional French pastry. Pret sells more than 20 million croissants every year, and following months of development and customer requests, its food development team created a vegan recipe for the breakfast staple, traditionally made with 55% French butter. Costing from £1.70, the “very berry” croissant – filled with a jam-style berry compote and dusted with sugar – will go on sale in all 389 branches from 7 January. It will join the traditional plain, almond, jam and chocolate versions. Hannah Dolan, Pret’s global head of food innovation, said the new product would appeal to customers participating in Veganuary – embracing a plant-based diet for the whole of January – as well as those seeking to reduce their dairy consumption or keen to try something new. “Over the past couple of years we’ve worked hard to introduce new vegan and veggie options,” she said. “We knew from talking to our customers that it was time to bring more choices to the breakfast menu. The very berry croissant is just the beginning – we are looking forward to sharing more plant-based innovations with customers in 2020.”

Company News:

Chilango chief executives to step down, as CVA proposal set to go through: Eric Partaker and Dan Houghton, who co-founded Chilango in 2007, are set to step down as co-chief executives of the Mexican restaurant brand, which is set to see its Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) proposal voted through tomorrow (6 January). Propel understands that Partaker and Houghton realised earlier this summer that the business would need to carry out some cost cutting and made the call to make their roles as co-chief executives redundant and hire a new managing director. Houghton’s notice period ended on 31 December, whilst Partaker is to step down once the new managing director is settled in. The process of hiring the managing director is believed to be at an early stage. Houghton and Partaker will both remain as non-executive director of and major shareholders in Chilango. It is thought that Houghton is set to explore interim head of data roles going forward, with a first role already close to being announced. A report in the FT over the weekend suggested that Houghton and Partaker had “agreed to step down following pressure from investors”. However, Propel understands that there was no agreement with or pressure from investors for the founders to step down from the business, and that their decision to resign was included in the CVA proposal’s cost cutting measures and was declared at a shareholder general meeting just before Christmas. Propel also understands that shareholders had raised concerns about the size of the company’s head office including salaries of the chief executives. It is understood that shareholders have backed the CVA proposal to transfer the company’s debt into preferred shares in order for it to go ahead. Under the plans, shareholders will receive an 8% annual dividend that will accrue, but will only be paid if Chilango is sold or if its management approve a payment. As part of the CVA proposal, the company will also exit leases for unopened sites in Bristol, Leeds and Brighton, plus its former site in Camden, now sublet to German Doner Kebab. It also proposes to cut rents by 40% at its sites in London’s Leather Lane, Birmingham and Boxpark Croydon. These steps are part of the company’s plans to get a grip on its finances and its £6.9m debt pile. An official statement on the future of the business is expected to be released tomorrow.

Potato firm Albert Bartlett adds to Spudulike estate: Albert Bartlett, which provides more than 20% of the UK’s fresh potatoes, has re-opened two further Spudulike sites, taking its estate to ten. Last October, the global potato firm, which was founded in 1948, reopened eight Spudulike sites – in Livingston, Manchester, York, Glasgow, Greenhithe, Norwich, Bridgend and Leeds, after the business had fallen into administration closing 37 sites in process. Albert Bartlett has now re-opened the sites in Plymouth’s Drake Circus and in the East Midlands Designer Outlet. Spudulike’s 37-strong estate closed last summer after a buyer withdrew from a pre-package administration deal for the business at the last minute. The Spudulike Group operated three trading companies – T&G Fast Food Developments, Courts Quality Foods and Spud-U-Like.

Ex-Jamie Oliver restaurant sites have so far sold for circa £2m: The sale of some of the ex-Jamie Oliver restaurant sites, which were placed into administration last year, has so far generated a combined return of circa £2m, according to the latest update from administrator KPMG. The update shows that SSP paid a total consideration of £550,000 for Jamie Oliver’s restaurants at Gatwick Airport. The outlets at the airport – Jamie Oliver’s Diner, Jamie’s Italian and Jamie’s Coffee Lounge – were bought by SSP Group last year, saving 250 jobs. There have also been completed sales of six leases at Leeds, Manchester, London Piccadilly, Victoria, Cambridge and Covent Garden, realising gross lease premiums totalling £1,450,552. The remainder of the Jamie Oliver UK restaurant estate was handed back to landlords. The report also shows that Jamie Oliver Holdings Ltd paid £500,000 for Jamie’s Italian International Ltd. Overseas, there are still about 60 Jamie Oliver restaurants, including 25 Jamie’s Italian, all run by franchisees. In respect of sales of furniture and equipment, £967,694 has been received to date, including £225,000 in respect of the restaurant fixture and fitting at the London Bridge Jamie’s Italian from Adda Hotels. Immediately prior to the administration, Jamie Oliver Holdings Ltd made a voluntary ex-gratia contribution of £1,060,991 to cover employee arrears of Jamie’s Italian Ltd. The report also said that unsecured creditors of Jamie Oliver Restaurants were unlikely to receive a penny from the administration process, while secured creditors will “suffer a significant shortfall in respect of the funding provided”. It said: “Based on current estimates, it is uncertain whether there will be a dividend to unsecured creditors.” The report added that KPMG had reviewed the company’s affairs to establish whether any action could be taken against third parties to “increase recoveries for creditors”, but said “no such action has been identified”. Last year, KPMG closed 22 of the chef’s 25 restaurants after investment could not be secured to keep them trading. 

Reuben brothers enter partnership with Grupo Pacha: Britain’s billionaire Reuben brothers have agreed to a sale-and-leaseback deal to acquire Ibiza’s exclusive El Hotel Pacha from Grupo Pacha and create a partnership to roll-out Pacha Hotels and Restaurants globally. According to Sky News, the Ibizian group will continue to operate the hotel near Marina Botafoch with David and Simon Reuben investing in the existing property as well as developing an adjoining property into another hotel. The Reubens’ hotel interests include The Curtain in Shoreditch and the Experimental Chalet Verbier, which includes the Farm Club and the Palazzo Experimental Venice. They have also recently acquired a luxury hotel in Mykonos and historic property in the centre of Rome.

Patisserie Valerie strengthens management team: Patisserie Valerie has further strengthened management team with the appointments of a people director and marketing director. The company, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, has appointed Kam Bains, formerly of Punch Taverns and InterContinental Hotels Group, as its new marketing director. At the same time, Adam Truelove, who joined the business last September as head of people, has been made people and culture director. He was formerly with Wagamama and Greene King. Last month, the company said it was eyeing a return to the expansion trail as it looks to revamp 30 sites this year as part of the brand’s next step to rebuild its fortunes. The company, which had about 200 outlets, collapsed into administration last January after a £94m black hole was found in its accounts. Causeway subsequently acquired the business and almost 100 sites. Patisserie Valerie managing director Paolo Peretti told the Guardian he plans to spend more than £1m to revamp about 30 cafes and open a handful of new sites in 2020. The brand currently operates 73 cafes after Causeway closed some of the outlets it acquired and there could be further closures if new deals with landlords can’t be agreed as the business seeks a return to profitability.

Burger King to roll out meat-free Rebel Whopper across UK estate: Burger King has announced that its meat-free Rebel Whopper is to become a permanent addition to the menu in its 500-plus UK restaurants. The Rebel Whopper will be available to purchase in-store exclusively for those with the Burger King app on the 6 and 7 January, before being available nationwide from the 8 January. The Rebel Whopper consists of a flame-grilled, 100% plant-based patty topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and sliced white onions on a toasted sesame seed bun. The patty is made from sustainably-sourced soy and was developed in partnership with the Vegetarian Butcher. Katie Evans, marketing director of Burger King UK, said: “This really is a game changer – we wanted our first plant-based Whopper to replicate the indulgence and flame-grilled taste of the real thing as closely as possible, and we’re thrilled with the result. We’re delighted to satisfy the demand for this highly-anticipated product and finally bring the Rebel to the UK.” Hazel Detsiny, VP Foods, Unilever UK and Ireland said: “We believe that plant-based foods taste just as good as meat-based foods – and the Rebel Whopper is a bold and juicy product that is perfect for meat lovers who want to cut down on meat, without compromising on taste. At The Vegetarian Butcher we offer delicious plant-base alternatives to popular meat dishes including beef, pork, chicken and fish. Powering the Rebel Whopper is a fantastic step towards our goal to become the biggest butcher in the world.”

New franchisee opens first Costa in Bahrain: A new Costa coffee franchisee has opened a first site in Bahrain. A spokesman for Costa Coffee told Propel: “Bahrain has always been an important market for Costa Coffee and we see big opportunity there. Across the Middle East, we run a franchise model where our partners own and operate the stores. We are no longer in contract with the incumbent partner in the Kingdom of Bahrain but are excited about our new partnership with Al Zayani Foods who we recently awarded sole development rights within the Kingdom. Under this new partnership Al Zayani have opened their first store at Bahrain City Centre at the end of December and have ambitious plans for more openings over the year.”

Loungers applies to open in Welwyn Garden City: Cafe bar brand Loungers has applied to open a site under its Lounge concept in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. The Nick Collins-led group has applied to open a site at 17-19 Howardsgate in the town. Oakman Inns had previously been given the go-ahead to transform the former post office site into a bar and restaurant under its Beech House concept. The circa 160-strong Loungers said last month that its new site pipeline remains strong into 2021/22 with its strategy to open 25 new sites per annum. It continues to see potential for more than 400 Lounges and 100 Cosy Clubs across the UK.

The Italian Job opens fourth site: The UK’s first Italian craft beer pub The Italian Job has announced launch of its fourth site, this time in Hackney’s Cadogan Terrace. Existing sites are in Notting Hill and Chiswick in West London and Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle. The concept is focused on Italian craft beers and authentic pizza.

Great Northern Group unveil details of new Waterside Bar + Kitchen concept: Nottingham independent bar company Great Northern Group has unveiled details of its new Waterside Bar + Kitchen concept due to open in mid-February. The new venue will be part of the iconic Waterside Apartment complex overlooking Trent Bridge in West Bridgford. The Bar + Kitchen concept will explore new territory for the company, blending elements from its Copper and Refinery bars in a new all-day concept offering an innovative menu and a much wider range of drinks with weekend DJs and special dining events. Managing director Dave Willans said: “Deciding the name wasn’t the longest creative meeting we’ve ever had and it makes sense to see ourselves as part of the entire redevelopment of Trent Bridge. For the Kitchen we will be bringing a handful of our favourite dishes and our reputation for great service over from our other venues but Waterside is all about appealing to a wider and more diverse group of people. We love to innovate with our bars and everyone is now much more thoughtful about food – ours will be exciting, fresh and primarily locally sourced. We want to embrace flavours from around the globe, experiment with spices and seasoning and make eating at Waterside something exceptional. We will, of course, have vegan options and will also offer a wide range of breakfasts and some light lunches with faster service and very simple pricing. The Waterside is also surrounded by professional sports clubs so will be working closely with nutritionists to develop healthy eating options and will even be able to host specialist dining nights in the new conservatory dining room.”

Wetherspoon presses on with new pub in Bristol plan – six years after it started: JD Wetherspoon is still keen to open a pub on Gloucester Road in Bristol despite withdrawing its latest plans. The firm has been trying to secure permission to open a new pub in the disused supermarket between The Anchor and The Royal Oak since 2014. But a total of five applications have been submitted to Bristol City Council and rejected in that time. The main concerns raised in the previous attempts included noise, anti-social behaviour, binge drinking, the size of the development and also the amount of similar premises already in the area. In June last year, a petition was launched to keep Wetherspoon away from Gloucester Road while nearby businesses owners have shared mostly negative views on the pub’s potential arrival. Wetherspoon submitted its latest application on October 14 with a number of changes to the plan. However, just a couple of months later and the planning application has now been withdrawn. A spokesperson for the company said the decision to withdraw the plans was down to planning deadlines rather than a lack of desire to develop the site. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told local media: “Several days before the application target date, the planning officer got in touch with some late comments. He was unwilling to extend the time to deal with these so, rather than face refusal, the application has been withdrawn for a new one to be submitted which addresses these. Wetherspoon is as keen as ever to develop a pub on the site.” The pub operator had reported it will spend more than £2 million and create 50 jobs if planning is approved for the site.

Aberdeen-based operator PB Devco sees pre-tax losses treble following ‘disappointing’ trading: Aberdeen-based operator PB Devco has reported turnover increased to £6.1m for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £5.3m the previous year. The company, which operates eight venues across the city, saw a pre-tax loss of £1.4m, compared with a loss of £415,000 the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are disappointed with the trading results for the year, which is the result of a downturn in the local economy, but are confident the company will return to profitable trading following recent investment in the company’s venues.” The number of employees at the end of the period increased to 174 from 157 the year before.

Number of ‘midlife’ drinkers trying lower strength alcohol drinks increases 15% in two years: More than two-thirds (66%) of “midlife” drinkers – aged 45 to 64 – have drunk, or would try, lower strength alcoholic drinks – an increase of 15% in just two years – according to new research from independent alcohol education charity Drinkaware. Similarly, more than half (51%) of this age group have consumed, or would try, alcohol-free drinks – up from 48% last year. Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “Midlife drinkers often get bad press when it comes to their drinking habits, but this new research tells us that a growing number of men and women in this age group are willing to embrace alternatives. Smart operators will already be acting on these research findings by offering a good selection of no and low alcohol drinks in their pubs, clubs and bars. With the wide range of high-quality drinks including beers, ciders, wines and spirit alternatives now available in this sector, it’s never been easier to put together an appealing selection for customers.”

Brew Monster opens first bar in Cardiff: Cardiff Brewery Brew Monster has opened up its first bar in the middle of Cardiff after crowdfunding more than £100,000. Last year, the brewer, based at the Avondale Business Park, launched a fundraising campaign to raise £50,000 to expand its operation – and smashed its target by more than 200%, raising more than £100,000. This means it has been able to open a new bar in Cardiff’s High Street – just yards from Cardiff Castle. Managing director Glenn White said the brewery wanted to expand the business to expand on its early success with a tap room. “Cardiff is a big market for craft beer in south Wales,” he said. “The tap room worked so well – it was about selling directly to market and cutting out the middleman. It’s (also) a chance for people to come in and learn about our beers. It’s about engaging with our customers as much as possible. Opening this bar allows us to go that step further than we could with the tap room.”

Ei Group launches awards for excellence: Ei Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has opened entries for its annual Ei Group Awards for Excellence, which recognise and celebrate the very best operators from across its business. The scheme returns in 2020 to continue to highlight outstanding publicans and their teams, running successful pubs at the heart of their local communities and demonstrating operational and retail excellence. The awards last year saw The Tap on Tower Street, Harrogate take home the coveted Pub of the Year award after displaying unmatched customer service, exceptionally high retail standards, knowledgeable staff and a fantastic drinks range. This year’s gala awards ceremony will be hosted at Carden Park Hotel in Cheshire on 9 July with the category winners and runners-up shortlisted by a line-up of industry experts. The category winners will scoop a three-day adventure in Italy with wine tasting, and the runners up will enjoy a day at the races with Diageo or an event at the O2 with Budweiser Brewing Group. Publicans can enter the awards via the dedicated website or by nomination from their regional manager.

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