Propel Morning Briefing Mast Head CPL Learning Link Paul's Twitter Link Hobgoblin Banner
Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 9th Jan 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Salt launches restaurant division headed by Handley Amos and Neil Rankin, reveals host of projects: Salt, the partnership and experience agency specialising in food and drink, has launched a restaurant division headed by Handley Amos and Neil Rankin. Amos, who previously led Benugo, has been appointed managing director of The Pepper Collective while Rankin, who has opened more than a dozen restaurants including Temper, Pitt Cue, Bad Egg and most recently Simplicity Burger, has been appointed creative director. As well as providing its partners with investment opportunities and financial backing, The Pepper Collective also provides operational support. Salt chief executive Andrew Fishwick said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have brought together two legends of our industry to head up our new restaurant division.” Having worked with Rankin to launch Simplicity Burger in London’s Brick Lane in November, The Pepper Collective revealed it was working on a number of other projects. It has partnered with Tom Brown, who is a protégé of Nathan Outlaw and behind Cornerstone in Hackney Wick, on a new venture and is assisting in the launch of Veda Baby, an Ayurvedic offering from author and chef Jasmine Hemsley that will open in Soho in the spring. The Pepper Collective is also helping chef Gizzi Erskine and nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson open a permanent site for their plant-based fast food concept Filth in the West End in the spring, which will be followed by a national roll-out. Meanwhile, the collective is partnering with performance coach and wellness expert Harry Jamieson to open sites for his Pillar concept in three major cities this summer. Michelin-starred chef Alyn Williams will also work with The Pepper Collective on a new concept that will offer fine dining in a pub with rooms, while the division will launch live music venue and late-night cocktail bar Fifty Carnaby in Soho this summer and is working with healthy chip shop concept Root, with the first three sites identified under a franchised roll-out model. Meanwhile, the collective is collaborating with Italian restaurateur Antonio Civita to grow Panino Giusto in the UK, with eight sites opening nationally in the next three years, while it will partner with chef Rob Roy Cameron on a 50-cover restaurant opening in the autumn. The Pepper Collective will also look to develop its meat-free range of products and catering division.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at year ahead and star performers of past decade in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the year ahead and some of the star performers of the past decade in his latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (10 January). Meanwhile, Premium Diary will look at the latest industry rumbles and rumours. 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 Mark Wingett. Subscribers 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

New Scottish short-term letting powers ‘long overdue’: The Scottish government’s move to allow councils to implement a licensing scheme for short-term lets from spring 2021 is welcome but “long overdue”, UKHospitality has said. Executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “We are pleased to see the Scottish Government look to bring in long-overdue registration and powers to control the massive and uncompetitive growth in largely unregulated short-term letting. The recent boom in short-term lets has brought with it increased choice for customers but a plethora of problems for residents and a raft of debatable business practices. Too many businesses have had an unfair advantage compared with hotels and other accommodation businesses, escaping business taxes and sometimes operating without important safeguards in place. This undermines hospitality businesses that have already been hammered by rising costs in recent years. We are pleased to see these businesses won’t be exempt from any tourist tax and we await further details on how the proposed taxation will proceed and note the requirement for planning change of use for whole properties for short-term lets.”

Pub20 unveils speaker line-up: City Pub Company executive chairman Clive Watson and Temper chef patron Neil Rankin will be among the speakers at Pub20, the only dedicated show for the UK pub industry, which returns to London’s Olympia on Tuesday, 4 February and Wednesday, 5 February. The free event will feature talks, presentations and demonstrations across four stages. Watson will take part in a discussion with Brewhouse & Kitchen founder Kris Gumbrell on how pubs are evolving to keep up with modern pub-goers, while another panel will reveal how to champion, inspire and engage female leaders. Meanwhile, Oakman Inns and Restaurants chief executive Peter Borg-Neal, Darwin & Wallace managing director Mel Marriott and Sandy Jarvis, operations director of The Culpeper, will discuss ten ways pubs can become more sustainable. Others talks will feature Pub Is The Hub chief executive John Longden and Inception Group founder Charlie Gilkes, among others. For the full line-up or to register, visit

Licensing update: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners produces a useful monthly summary of topical issues. To access the latest, click here

Company News:

Mission Mars reports 8% Christmas period like-for-like growth: North west-based bar and restaurant operator Mission Mars has reported like-for-like sales were up 8% in the six weeks between 25 November 2019 and 5 January 2020, with total revenue up 23.1% to £4.9m. Total revenue benefited from Albert’s Schenke and Rudy’s Pizzeria openings in Liverpool and Birmingham respectively since December 2018. The performance followed a strong December in 2018, with like-for-like sales rising 7.0%. Like-for-like organic growth was driven by record sales in Albert’s Schloss and Albert Hall, with the venues delivering a combined 11.8% growth. Rudy’s Pizzeria sites in Manchester and Liverpool also delivered strong organic growth in the period of 20.6%. Given the way the Christmas period fell, with New Year’s Eve in the second quarter, management believe a 14-week period from 30 September 2019 to 5 January 2020 provides a better benchmark for underlying performance. Total revenue increased 28.4% to £11.1m during this period. Like-for like sales during the 14 weeks to 5 January 2020 were up 6.4%. Chief executive Roy Ellis said: “Christmas covers in the trading period increased to 94,000 from 74,000 in the prior year. Of this, pre-booked covers totalled 64,000, an increase of 22% from the prior year. New site performance was particularly pleasing, with Albert’s Schenke, Rudy’s Birmingham and Rudy’s Castle Street all exceeding internal targets. Rudy’s Castle Street has seen positive like-for-likes for the past seven weeks and delivered growth of 17.0%. Strong trading in the year to date gives us confidence that Schloss, Rudy’s and Schenke are likely to trade extremely well in all parts of the UK. We continue to search for the best locations to continue our growth.”

Greggs reveals staff payout details: Greggs has revealed details of its £7m payment to staff following a “phenomenal year” that included 9.2% like-for-like sales growth. The 19,000 Greggs staff who have been with the chain since 31 March will get a £300 windfall at the end of January, while the remaining 6,000 will get £75 for each quarter they have worked for the company. The one-off payment will be on top of the profit-sharing scheme Greggs already offers its staff. The company said growth had been helped by sales of the “now iconic” vegan sausage roll and strong demand for traditional snacks. The company recently launched a vegan steak bake and vegan doughnut. Greggs reported total sales rose 13.5% (2018: 7.2%) in the 52 weeks to 29 December 2019. Company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up 9.2% (2018: 2.9%). Full year underlying profit before tax is expected to be slightly higher than previous expectations. Shareholders received a £35m special dividend in October. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Our record financial performance in 2019 has enabled us to enhance returns to shareholders. We will also make a special additional payment to all our colleagues across the business who have worked so hard to deliver this success in what has been a phenomenal year. With strong momentum in the business there are clear opportunities for further growth as we begin to invest in new ways to make Greggs more accessible and convenient for customers.”

Sayers the Bakers went into administration following four years of continued losses: North west-based independent retail bakery Sayers the Bakers and sister brand Poundbakery went into administration after four years of continued losses. A statement of administrators’ proposal by Sarah O’Toole and Jason Bell, of Grant Thornton, revealed that while the focus of Sayers the Bakers’ management in 2019 was to restore the business to a profitable position, unaudited accounts for the year to 30 September 2019 showed a pre-tax loss of £753,000. This followed reported pre-tax losses of £970,000 in the 12 months to 30 September 2018 after losses of £176,000 in the same period ending 2017 and £303,000 in 2016. The report stated: “While the group had the support of a range of stakeholders it was unable to attract additional funding to bridge to a position of profitability. Inevitably, continued losses led to increased pressure on cash. January is typically the poorest month for trading for the group and the directors therefore considered that without additional funding the business couldn’t continue beyond December 2019.” As previously reported Karen Wood acquired the business’ assets and formed a new company, Sayers and Poundbakery, which is run by the former management team led by Mark James and David Silvester. The administrators’ report showed two offers were received, with Wood paying circa £230,000 to buy the business. Operating since 1912, the £50m-turnover business employed more than 1,500 people at 167 Sayers, Poundbakery and Poundcafe stores and its manufacturing and distribution centres in Bolton. The new company took on the bakery and distribution centre in Bolton and the majority of bakeries in northern England, North Wales and Yorkshire. The shops continue to be branded as Sayers the Bakers and Poundbakery.

Red Engine strengthens senior team: Red Engine, the team behind Flight Club and Electric Shuffle, has appointed Jen Wragg as sales director. Wragg joins from Be At One, where she spent three and a half years and managed sales at more than 40 sites, overseeing the launch of 11 venues. Red Engine has further strengthened its senior team by promoting Juliette Keyte to marketing director. Keyte was one of Flight Club’s first employees and has helped the company grow to seven venues across two brands in four years. Last year Red Engine launched its second brand – Electric Shuffle – and opened Flight Club sites in Islington and Birmingham. Co-founder and chief executive Steve Moore said: “Jen’s proven record of sales success will be invaluable as we plan the next stage of our expansion and continue to maximise the potential of our existing brands and venues. In Juliette we’re delighted to have one of our own take on a fresh challenge. She has been an invaluable part of our growth since day one.” Wragg added: “Flight Club is one of the most high-profile concept bars in the UK, while Electric Shuffle is already giving Canary Wharf’s nightlife a much-needed jolt. It’s a thrill to be involved in driving these successes to even greater heights.” Keyte said: “It’s been the experience of a lifetime working with Steve and the team. There’s so much more to achieve and I’ll be focused on ensuring our marketing strategy delivers on the promise.”

JD Wetherspoon trials build your own breakfast offer: JD Wetherspoon is trialling a build your own breakfast offer. The option is available at 100 pubs and allows diners to customise their breakfast through the Wetherspoon app. The breakfast deal features sausages (with a vegan version available), bacon, eggs, hash brown, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. Hash brown, tomato, bacon and mushrooms come in portions of two, while egg, toast and sausage are available in single portions. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told Propel: “We are always looking at innovative ways to give our customers the best possible experience when visiting one of our pubs. Our breakfasts are extremely popular and the build your own breakfast is something we believe will appeal to our customers. At present it is being trialled at 100 Wetherspoon pubs across the UK and we’ll decide in due course whether to extend this option to all 875 pubs.”

Lussmans to move into Carluccio’s Oxford site for first venue outside Hertfordshire heartland: Lussmanns Fish & Grill, the independent brasserie group backed by investor Luke Johnson, is moving into Carluccio’s Oxford site for its first venue outside its Hertfordshire heartland and sixth in total. Carluccio’s will close the restaurant in Little Clarendon Street on Sunday (12 January) and is searching for larger premises in the city that can accommodate its Fresca redesign. A spokesman told the Oxford Mail: “After careful evaluation we have taken the difficult but strategic decision to close Carluccio’s Oxford. The site no longer fits our portfolio as we require larger sites to accommodate our new style of restaurant with updated interiors, different zones and elevated product offer. We have assigned our lease to Lussmans Fish & Grill, with the team having been offered positions at the new restaurant. We hope to return to Oxford soon in a larger space.” In December, Carluccio’s told Propel it had seen sales uplifts of between 15% and 35% from sites refurbished with its Fresca design. Meanwhile Lussmanns has been seeking sites outside Hertfordshire since May. Its restaurants are in Harpenden, Hertford, Hitchin, St Albans and Tring.

Hull-based Shoot The Bull heads to York for fifth site, eyes further expansion: Hull-based bar and restaurant company Shoot The Bull is to open its fifth site, in York, while it is eyeing further expansion. The company has expanded outside its home city after securing the former Wagyu Bar & Grill site in Low Petergate. The property is undergoing a refurbishment before reopening as The Old House before the end of the month. The venue will offer circa 100 covers and include a courtyard at the rear and a private dining room on the first floor. Shoot The Bull director Mark Rodgers told The York Press: “The Old House will be a traditional bar and restaurant serving craft beer and a classic British menu. We have a gastro-pub of the same name in Hull and, when we learned the restaurant was closing, we decided it fitted our brand.” Rodgers said Shoot The Bull, which operates three other venues in Hull, also plans to open sites in Leeds and Manchester. Wagyu Bar & Grill closed the site just before Christmas – nine months after its launch – along with its other site, in Harrogate. 

Midlands-based franchisee opens eighth Papa John’s site: Midlands-based franchisee Amit Abhol has opened his eighth Papa John’s site, this time in Solihull. The venue has launched in Stretford Road in the Shirley area. Abhol joined the company in June 2017 from a rival firm in Northern Ireland, where he worked his way up from taking phone orders to regional operations director in 15 years. He said: “I made the move to Papa John’s as it offered the opportunity to run multiple stores. The Shirley store is in a great location and we anticipate high footfall.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and has more than 400 stores in the UK.

Oxford-based wine bar heads to London after securing Ignite Group site: Oxford-based Sandy’s Piano & Wine Bar is heading to London for its second site. The business, which was founded by the Sanbach family, will open the venue in Chelsea after it secured the Eclipse Bar site at 158 Old Brompton Road. The venue is operated by Ignite Group, which was founded by Matt Hermer and also has Eclipse Bars in Barcelona and Istanbul. Sandy’s Piano & Wine Bar opened its debut site in Oxford’s King Edward Street in August 2017. CDG Leisure acted on the Old Brompton Road deal. Hermer launched the Eclipse cocktail bar concept in 1998. 

McDonald’s expands Beyond Meat burger trial: McDonald’s has expanded its pilot of plant-based meat burgers using the Beyond Meat patty to 52 restaurants in Canada. The move is an expansion of the plant-based burger trial McDonald’s launched in 28 Canadian restaurants in October. Earlier this week Beyond Meat’s major rival, Impossible Foods, told Reuters it was no longer trying to win a deal to supply McDonald’s with plant-based burgers as it couldn’t “produce enough” of its imitation meat. Silicon Valley-based Impossible Foods teamed up with Burger King last year to launch its soy-based Impossible Whopper in the US. Impossible Foods is now working to more than double production instead of trying to win a deal the size of McDonald’s, Impossible chief executive Pat Brown said. Meanwhile, London-headquartered startup THIS, which makes pea and soy-based products, has raised £4.7m in a funding round led by London-based Backed and including Five Seasons Ventures and Seedcamp. Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman founded THIS in 2018 after exiting burger chain Chosen Bun. The latest investment will be used towards a new research and development centre and hiring more staff.

Deliveroo to open technology headquarters in Edinburgh: Deliveroo is set to expand its technology offering by creating a hub in Edinburgh. The move follows the company’s acquisition of software design and development firm Cultivate in August. The team will move from Edinburgh’s technology incubator CodeBase to a new headquarters in the city in April, creating 70 jobs in 2020 alone, including software engineers, product managers, data scientists and designers. The team will work on global projects while the hub will eventually house other areas of the company’s technical organisation, including teams focused on consumers, riders and restaurants. Deliveroo vice-president of engineering Dan Winn said: “This is the company’s first UK tech office outside London. Edinburgh is one of the UK’s fastest-growing tech hubs, with access to an excellent talent pool of highly skilled people and university graduates. We are excited to build on Cultivate’s expertise to develop cutting-edge products and services from our new office.”

Stew & Oyster shuts Otley site: Leeds-based bar group Stew & Oyster has closed its site in Otley. The company has shut the premises in The Old Grammar School building in Manor Square after three years. Posting on its Facebook page, the company wrote: “We would like to thank all those who have supported us and hope you will visit our other sites.” Stew & Oyster opened Calls Landing in Leeds in 2009 before adding two further sites in the city – Boston Spa and Oakwood. It also has venues in Malton and Sheffield.

Bettys & Taylors chairman to step down: Family-owned Bettys & Taylors Group has announced Lesley Wild will step down as chairman after more than 40 years with the business. Wild will retire in March to be succeeded by Clare Morrow, a non-executive director who joined the business in 2014. Wild told Insider Media: “Leading this business has been my life’s work and joy. I’ve taken delight in watching the business grow, not only in terms of prosperity but also reputation. Last year our centenary proved the perfect reminder of how far we’ve come. The past few years has seen my focus shift to ensuring we have the right leadership in place to take us through the transition from a family leader like me to a new non-family chairman of the board. We’ve an experienced board I have complete faith in and I’m sure the leadership of this business is in safe hands.” Bettys & Taylors was founded in 1919 and is into its fourth generation of family shareholders. Based in Harrogate, Bettys & Taylors comprises six Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, tea and coffee merchants Taylors of Harrogate, Bettys Cookery School and its online business. The company reported record turnover of £208.1m in its most recent financial results, covering the year ending 31 October 2018.

Beavertown reports sales up 53%: London-based brewer Beavertown, which sold a minority stake to Heineken in 2018, has reported turnover increased 53% to £19.6m for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £12.7m the year before. Ebitda fell slightly to £1.2m from £1.7m because of “continued investment in personnel for future growth and relatively higher costs of supply”. Pre-tax profit was down to £702,000 from £1.2m the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company has increased its supply capacity, allowing sales to increase 53%. The directors view is demand will continue to outstrip supply through 2019-20.”

Numis re-rates M&B shares but cost pressures remain: Numis leisure analyst Tim Barrett has re-rated Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) shares but said “cost pressures remain”. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 436p ahead of its first quarter trading update on Thursday (9 January), Barrett said: “M&B was one of the few pub restaurant companies showing profit growth in 2019, with Ebit up 5% based on 3.5% like-for-like sales growth. The resulting ten basis points margin accretion was the first increase since 2015 and materially better than the 30 basis points average decline for the managed pub peers. In a sector beset by cost pressures M&B has managed to use like-for-like sales growth and cost mitigation to move the business forward, albeit only slightly. All of M&B’s brands achieved like-for-like sales growth in FY19, with the total of 3.5% being circa two percentage points ahead of the Coffer Peach Tracker. In part this reflects capex (the move to six to seven-year refurbishments), with ongoing premiumisation of the estate. Notably, volumes were broadly flat (drinks down 1%, food 0%) suggesting the rapid decreases in value-food brands have reached stability. In FY19, M&B reported £60m of external inflation, the largest contributor being wages (up £25m or 4%). M&B successfully mitigated £25m of inflation resulting in net growth of 2% in the cost base. For FY20 the labour environment is likely to deteriorate – the government recently announced a 6.2% increase in the National Living Wage (NLW) from April, as well as a reduction in the NLW age from 25 to 21 in the next four years (a further 6% increase for the relevant cohort). Given like-for-likes were only 1.4% in the first seven weeks of FY20 we assume a normalisation to 2.5% for the year as a whole, with a resulting ten basis points margin hit and risk to the downside. M&B’s policy of funding scheduled debt amortisation from free cash flow has meant no dividend has been paid since 2017. This has helped net debt to decrease from £2.0bn to £1.8bn in two years, leaving net debt/Ebitda at 3.6 times pre-IFRS16 or 4.3 times post. We expect free cash flow to remain strong, funding FY20’s £95m amortisation but note a 50% payout ratio, standard elsewhere in the sector, would result in an annual distribution of £83m (4% yield at the current share price). M&B now trades on a CY20 price-to earnings ratio of 11.8 times, 1.2 times tangible net asset value and a free cash flow yield of 6.7% (including the pension deficit in the denominator). We see limited scope for the re-rating to continue and expect regulated costs, such as wages, to weigh on earnings in the near term.”

Brend Hotels sees costs hit profits: Brend Hotels, which operates a portfolio of three and four-star hotels in Devon and Cornwall, has reported turnover increased 0.5% to £38.5m for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £38.3m the previous year. The company saw pre-tax profit fall to £59,000 from £430,000 the year before. Gross profit margin fell to 36% from 38% the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “We are pleased to report an increase in turnover of 0.5%. However, profitability has been affected by increased wages and costs in the year. Wages, utilities and commissions will need to be closely monitored in the future to maintain current profitability.” The business was founded by butcher Percy Brend in 1955 and operates 11 hotels including Saunton Sands in Braunton, The Imperial in Barnstaple and the Carlyon Bay Hotel in St Austell.

Yapster partners with Purple Cubed: Mobile messaging app Yapster has partnered with employee engagement consultancy Purple Cubed. The move will allow shared users to access people engagement platform Talent Toolbox through the Yapster app. Users will be able to chat about their progress, have formal career reviews, track and measure their performance, and manage their goals and aspirations. Yapster co-founder and chief executive Rob Liddiard said: “Providing digital solutions that improve the daily lives of team members is key to staff engagement and retention. By creating what is essentially a ‘one-stop shop’, employees will have seamless access to a range of tools they need to do their job effectively, from communication to career progression.”

Apex relaunches London Wall Hotel featuring new dining concept: Apex has relaunched its London Wall Hotel in the City to feature a new dining concept following a multimillion-pound refurbishment. Off The Wall Bar & Grill takes inspiration from the land, sea and field to offer diverse dishes from a Josper grill and oven. The concept will be rolled out to other hotels in the Apex portfolio and is part of the company’s £15m refurbishment programme, which has seen its Edinburgh, Dundee and other London hotels upgraded. General manager Aliaksandra Jos said: “The restaurant is impressive and we look forward to welcoming visitors to our new and enhanced dining offering.” Headquartered in Edinburgh, Apex operates ten hotels in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Bath.

Benugo wins London Zoo deal: Benugo, the operator of deli cafes and catering in high-profile venues such as the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, has won a competitive tender to secure a ten-year partnership with ZSL London Zoo. Benugo’s offering will be available daily from 10am to 4pm and include plant-based burgers, a grill station, hand-made pizza and a deli counter. The menu will include Camden Hells beer-battered haddock, a miso salmon baguette, and butternut with garlic mushroom and baby spinach. Benugo co-founder Ben Warner said: “I love bringing my family to connect with nature and be inspired by the incredible wildlife we share our planet with. I am excited to partner with such an iconic London landmark.” ZSL London Zoo chief operating officer Kathryn England added: “When visiting the zoo’s 19,000 animals we want to make sure our guests are well fed.” In September, Benugo reported turnover rose 3% to £116,096,000 for the year ending 28 December 2018, compared with £112,738,000 the previous year. London Zoo attracts more than one million visitors a year.

Hotel management operator LGH completes first stage of technology upgrade: Hotel management operator LGH has completed the first stage of its hospitality technology upgrade following its formation in 2018. Zonal’s EPoS and hand-held ordering devices have been installed in 20 of LGH’s restaurants and bars across its 55-strong estate, which includes high-street brands Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. LGH operations director David Morgan said: “When we set up the business we recognised we would need to invest in technology to keep pace with competitors. Feedback from our teams has been positive, especially from those using the hand-held devices as it has given them the ability to deliver a quick, seamless service and great guest experience.”

Return to Archive Click Here to Return to the Archive Listing
Punch Taverns Link
Return to Archive Click Here to Return to the Archive Listing
Propel Premium
Jameson Banner
Fentimans Banner
Trail Banner
Transition Banner
Knorr Banner
Propel Banner
Jacuna Banner
Molson Coors Banner
Transition Banner
Amstel Banner
Zonal Banner
Toggle Banner
Bizimply Banner
Zonal Banner
Heineken Banner
Taylors of Harrogate Banner
Sky Banner
Hello Beer Banner
John Gaunt Banner
COREcruitment Banner
KAM Media Banner
Access Banner
Startle Banner
Veneers Banner
Just Eat Banner
Yapster Banner
Punch Taverns Link Punch Taverns Link
Pepper Banner