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Fri 24th Jan 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Wendy’s targets London as it starts search for debut UK site: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant (QSR) chain in the US, has begun a search for its UK debut site with a focus on Greater London, Propel has learned. The company, which operates more than 6,000 sites worldwide, has appointed property agent Savills to seek possible sites in locations including – but not limited to – Brixton, Camden, Ealing, Hounslow, Lewisham, Wandsworth and Wimbledon. Propel understands the company is interested in opening drive-thrus, dine-in restaurants and units in food courts, the high street and shopping centre schemes, with sites holding between 40 and 125 covers. Last year Propel revealed Wendy’s was planning a return to the UK with an opening in the “next 12 to 18 months”. Speaking at an investor day for the brand, chief executive Todd Penegor said the business would “kick-start a broader expansion plan across Europe with the launch of some company-owned sites in the UK”. The company said it had carried out extensive research into the UK market, questioning more than 3,000 British consumers about what they thought of the Wendy’s brand. Wendy’s head of US development and international president Abigail Pringle told investors the company saw Europe as an “exciting new frontier”, with the UK its “beach head for European expansion”. She said: “We believe the UK has a growing QSR hamburger segment and has great growth ahead of it. We see a clear opportunity for a challenger brand in the UK, with a clear consumer need only we can fulfil. We have already secured development partners and marketing partnerships that are excited and ready to go.” It’s thought the company will follow a hybrid strategy for its UK expansion, with a mixture of company-owned restaurants and multiple franchisees. The second phase of the brand’s expansion will see it launch in “priority anchor markets in Europe”. The group attempted to break into the UK market before the end of the last millennium but surrendered ten leases in 2000.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at what this year could hold for main restaurant sector players in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at what this year could hold for the main restaurant sector players in his latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (24 January). Paul Viner, founder of Intelligent Goat, will also ask whether companies can do more with less, while Premium Diary will look at the latest industry 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

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Simon French to present, two free places for operators: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2020 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 5 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Simon French, of boutique management advisory and research firm Bixteth Partners, will look at major trends affecting the sector and predict what lies ahead. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Stay In A Pub launches late-rooms offer: Stay In A Pub, which was launched by operators and trade bodies to promote pub accommodation, has launched a late-rooms offer on its website to fill empty rooms at quieter times of the year. The move follows the organisation securing circa £750,000 in angel investment in October to boost marketing. Empty rooms means loss of profit for pubs, with an average room rate of between £76 and £100 and 80% of consumers saying they eat and drink in a pub where they stay. Stay In A Pub will promote late deals to its 10,000-strong mailing list and through social media. Founder director Paul Nunny said pub accommodation was gaining traction as customers were seeing them as better value and offering more atmosphere than hotels – and sometimes higher-quality food. Nunny added: “The sector is heavily investing in accommodation, as seen by the recent purchase by Fuller’s of Cotswold. We need to encourage consumers to enjoy the pub experience with an overnight stay. The Late Pub Rooms promotion will encourage them to discover great pubs to stay in. We also hope it will prompt pubs to offer discounts in quieter periods – as currently only 51% do!” In October, Stay In A Pub appointed former Capita managing director Charles Cryer as chief executive and Harry Hill, one of the principal backers of Rightmove, as non-executive chairman. Stay In A Pub is a sister company of Cask Marque and features more than 1,700 pubs.

Welsh plans to grow visitor economy ‘dynamic and positive’: The Welsh government’s five-year plan to grow the country’s visitor economy is dynamic and positive news, according to UKHospitality executive director for Wales David Chapman. He added: “The Welsh government’s proactive and constructive approach should give Wales’ world-class tourism and hospitality sectors the boost they deserve. We look forward to playing an active and enthusiastic part in the further development of sustainable tourism solutions that promote Wales, its assets and heritage.”

Company News: 

Boston Tea Party eyes expansion after reporting Ebitda up 60%: All-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party has said it will look to add four or five sites a year during the next three years as it reported a record year of growth. Ebitda increased 60% year-on-year, while sales rose 7.1% during the period despite no venue launches. The figures come 16 months after Boston Tea Party became the first cafe chain to ban single-use coffee cups. Chief executive and co-owner Sam Roberts said: “These financial results reflect the success of our company purpose of making things better for customers, people and the planet. Our customers have seen significant improvements in speed of service and product innovation. Our teams have benefited from a 50% staff discount, new management training and barista programmes, and the launch of our digital rewards platform. We introduced National Making Things Better Day following the cup ban. It sees us make a further pledge to our planet every year.” Roberts said Boston Tea Party’s determination to recruit on “shared values” had led to a reduction in team turnover and a “more prominent employer brand”. He added: “This is reflected in our ability to attract Paul Hooker as operations director and Julie Centracchio as finance director, along with a host of other talent joining the team.” Centracchio said: “This has given us the perfect platform to ramp up our expansion. We are looking for new sites to add four to five cafes a year to the family during the next three years.” Boston Tea Party operates circa 24 outlets in the south west and west of England. Propel understands the company is looking to open an outlet in the Westbourne area of Bournemouth after submitting an application to take over a disused NatWest branch in Poole Road.

Gordon to step down from Chiktopia role: Alastair Gordon is to step down as managing director of better chicken concept Chiktopia to set up his own consultancy working alongside startups and young businesses, Propel has learned. Gordon has been at Chiktopia since January 2019, working with founders Mark Lilley and Dan Einzig. As managing director, it was Gordon’s role to work alongside the founders to bring the Chiktopia vision to life and grow the brand’s culture, values and team. Gordon joined from Ole & Steen after more than three and a half years as UK operations director as the company looked to launch its premium, bakery-led restaurants in the UK. During his time at Ole & Steen he opened ten sites in two years, with all sites profitable, and built his team from just himself to 350 employees. Before that he was a regional director at Jamie’s Italian for more than five years, overseeing 12 restaurants and more than 700 staff. He has also held roles at Vapiano, Laurel Pub Company, Loch Fyne and Fuller’s. Gordon told Propel: “Chiktopia is a brand I’m immensely proud of and I’ve loved being part of the team to bring it to life during the past year. The opportunity to work alongside Dan and Mark has been a great experience both professionally and personally. I know Chiktopia will continue to go from strength to strength as more and more guests fall in love with the delicious food, those shakes and the people. I would like to thank the board for the opportunity.” In October, Casual Dining Group chairman and former Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand stepped down from the board of Chiktopia as non-executive director. Chiktopia opened its debut site, at Intu Lakeside in Essex, in the summer. The brand uses technology to offer a counter-less restaurant with 100% kiosk and app ordering. 

Stonegate acquires Manchester club, Spratt joins City Bars & Taverns team: Stonegate Pub Company has added to its Venues division by acquiring the Kiki nightclub and bar in Manchester, Propel understands. The Simon Longbottom-led business is set to invest circa £500,000 to transform the Gay Village venue. The building, which also housed basement house club Void, will reopen next month as one of Stonegate’s LGBTQ+ sites in its Venues division. It will be renamed The Brewers, with the current team transferring over. A Stonegate spokesman told Propel: “With a new look and events programme we know the city’s LBGTQ+ community will love a variety of club nights, while entertainment will take place upstairs throughout the week. The Void room will become Club Brewers, with a regular schedule of drag, comedy, burlesque and cabaret shows. A £500,000 investment will transform this venue and our team can’t wait to unveil it.” Propel has also learned Nolan Spratt, formerly of SA Brain and Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), has joined the operational team at Stonegate’s City Bars & Taverns arm. Spratt spent three years as director of managed houses at SA Brain and almost ten years at M&B, including three as retail director for Ember Inns. Last week the Competition and Markets Authority invited comments on Stonegate’s proposal to sell 42 sites to address concerns over its £3bn acquisition of Ei Group. 

Oakman Inns raises first tranche in £10m fund-raising round: Oakman Inns and Restaurants, led by Peter Borg-Neal, has secured the first tranche of funds in the £10m fund-raise it launched at the end of 2019. Propel understands the 24-strong business has raised £2.5m in three weeks from existing investors as its looks to open four sites. As part of the fund-raise investors can buy equity or earn 7.5% per annum with a preference share product, which is tax efficient, or a 10% rolled-up bond. It’s understood the company, which has generated like-for-like growth of 5.5% during the past four and a half years, is looking at a valuation multiple of between ten to 14 times for its freehold estate, while its leasehold estate is valued at a six to ten times multiple. It is also forecasting turnover of circa £98.5m for its financial year 2023/24, with company Ebitda forecast to reach £18.4m. Mature sites at the business, which has debt of about £40m, are currently generating Ebitda of £335,000.

Cote lines up triple opening: French brasserie Cote is to open at least three sites before the end of its current financial year to July, Propel has learned. The company has secured sites in St John’s Wood, Solihull and Henley. The Henley site will open on Monday, 23 March at a unit occupied by Monsoon and Accessorize on the corner of Hart Street and Bell Street. It will be the brand’s 97th restaurant. That will be followed by an opening at the former Richoux site in Circus Road in St John’s Wood. The Alex Scrimgeour-led business also plans to transform a former bank branch in Solihull High Street. The three-storey building has been empty since Royal Bank of Scotland, which used the ground and first floors, left in July 2018. Propel understands the company, which is backed by BC Partners, is in advanced talks on a further site it plans to open before July and hopes to add another two sites to its pipeline before the end of 2020.

Thwaites adds two pubs to estate: Brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has acquired two pubs in Lancashire – The Pendle Inn in Barley and the Hare & Hounds in Foulridge. The sale of both properties was handled by agent Fleurets. Set at the foot of Pendle Hill, The Pendle Inn was built in the 1930s and is popular with walkers, cyclists, groups, families and the community. It is a traditional village inn comprising a bar, snug, games room and 60-cover dining room. There are also six letting rooms with potential for further development. Rick Bailey, executive chairman at Daniel Thwaites, said: “The Pendle Inn is a beautiful country pub in a walker’s paradise. It has developed a great reputation and has just come through a very successful and busy Christmas period. We love the area and are excited about taking it forward and building on its already excellent reputation. The Pendle Inn’s location makes it ideal to join our growing family of outstanding properties in great locations.” The business will continue to trade as normal with the team transferring into Daniel Thwaites, which operates about 250 pubs, inns, hotels and spas in the UK. Vendor of the Pendle Inn, Joanne Lowcock, said: “I am really pleased a local company has purchased the property and I’m sure it will be in good hands.” Daniel Thwaites has acquired the Hare & Hounds from administrators at FRP Advisory. The property has five en-suite letting rooms and offers 60 covers. Thwaites is already familiar with the Lancashire village, where it also owns the New Inn.

YO! signs to supply Co-op’s latest ‘on-the-go’ concept site: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, has agreed a deal to supply Co-op at its on-the-go concept in London’s Moorgate. The Co-op said the store catered to the growing trend for consumers shopping for fresh food “on the go” and includes more than ten YO! products including vegan sushi, chicken katsu bites, crispy salmon rolls and salmon deluxe sushi packs. The store also includes a free water refill station, a fresh orange juice machine and the retailer’s new vegan range, GRO, alongside coffee, an in-store bakery, sandwiches and hot food. A YO! spokeswoman said: “We are pleased to partner with Co-op to provide pre-packed YO!-branded sushi at its new food store in Moorgate. To Go is an integral part of our goal to increase the availability of fresh, Japanese food and we have been working hard to achieve this through retail partnerships such as with Co-op and the opening of our first dedicated YO! To Go site in Manchester Piccadilly station last year.” Co-op food-to-go concessions buyer Emily Young said: “The aim is to further elevate our sushi proposition for customers in search of more authentic products, bridging the gap between our core sushi offer and sushi counters in the market.” Propel understands the tie up between YO! and Co-op will just cover the Moorgate site for now. YO! will launch its YO! To Go range in more than 300 Sainsbury’s stores this month following the roll-out of YO! manned kiosks in 50 Tesco stores.

Wingmans to make central London debut with Soho launch: Chicken concept Wingmans is to make its central London debut with an opening in Soho. Propel has learned the business, which is the brainchild of Ben Ford and David Turofsky, has secured the former Belgo site in Old Compton Street. Belgo owner Casual Dining Group closed the site earlier this month. Wingmans opened its debut bricks and mortar site in Kilburn, north London, in June 2018 under the banner Authentic Wingmans Wingery offering a new, expanded menu and a bar with a late licence. The site formerly housed gastro-pub Kilburn Ironworks. The concept has operated at a number of festivals and events including Glastonbury, Winter Wonderland and Notting Hill Carnival and won the best buffalo wings category at London Wingfest. Stonebrook London and AG&G acted on the Soho deal.

Natural Kitchen secures flagship Bishopsgate site: London-based deli and cafe concept Natural Kitchen has secured a flagship site in Bishopsgate. Propel understands the Justin Green-led business has secured a 5,000 square foot site on the ground floor of the 100 Bishopsgate scheme for an opening this year. It will become the group’s tenth site overall. The company opened its latest site, at St Katharine Docks, in summer 2018 after taking over the former Tom’s Kitchen site. Stonebrook London acted on the Bishopsgate deal.

Inn Collection Group acquires Helmsley hotel for 13th site: The Inn Collection Group has acquired The Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley, near York, for its 13th site. The venue is more than 500 years old and retains architectural styles from the Tudor, Elizabethan and Georgian periods. The 45-bedroom hotel also offers four themed parlour rooms, a restaurant, tea room, patisserie and walled gardens. Sean Donkin, managing director of The Inn Collection Group, said: “A full investment project is planned, which will treat the building with the sensitivity it deserves. Helmsley has long been a target opportunity and The Black Swan is a landmark site.” David Lee, regional director of Christie & Co, which brokered the deal, added: “This is a truly iconic hotel and we’re sure the new owners will elevate its status even further. The sale further illustrates the demand for hotels of this magnitude across Yorkshire and the wider north east region.” Earlier this month, The Inn Collection Group acquired 17th century coaching inn The Pheasant Inn in Cumbria as part of its “buy and build” expansion plans. The company recently opened its debut venue in the Lake District as the group looks to more than double its portfolio of freehold pubs with rooms by 2022.

Healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte to open third London site, in Parsons Green: Healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte is to open its third London site, in Parsons Green. The 50-cover restaurant will open in New Kings Road in early March offering a new breakfast menu that will include organic coffee and a fresh juice bar. Additions to the main menu will include croquettes and cheese and charcuterie boards, while all dishes will be available to eat in or take away. Cocotte focuses on free-range chicken marinated in herbs and spices for 24 hours before being cooked on a rotisserie spit. Chef Romain Bourrillon, who has worked in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, launched Cocotte in Notting Hill in April 2016, opening a second site, in Shoreditch, two years later. Cocotte also operates delivery-only kitchens in Battersea and Islington.

Salon and Levan team to launch Larry’s in Peckham: The team behind Brixton restaurant Salon is to open a second site in Peckham, in March. Nicholas Balfe, Mark Gurney and Matt Bushnell will launch Larry’s in Blenheim Grove, next door to “new-wave” restaurant Levan they opened in November 2018. Larry’s will be inspired by New York’s corner bars, diners and cafes and offer coffee and fresh pastries for breakfast, deli-style sandwiches for lunch and sharing plates for dinner. Just like its neighbour, Larry’s is named after 1970s dance music pioneer Larry Levan. Larry’s will only offer two wines of each colour alongside two cocktails and one beer, while the centrepiece will be a marble bench used for pastries and baked goods in the morning, rolling pasta in the afternoon, and communal dining in the evening. Balfe said: “We have cherry-picked everything we love about eating in New York and combined them into the kind of place we would want in our neighbourhood.” Gurney added: “It is a naughty little brother – relaxed and informal.”  

Distill Ventures appoints Gareth Bath as European MD: Independent drinks accelerator Distill Ventures has appointed Gareth Bath as European managing director. Bath stepped down as managing director of Chapel Down Group’s beer and cider division late last year after joining the company in October 2017 from his role as managing director of Curious Brewing. Before that, Bath was managing director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog after stepping up from his position as sales director. Bath will develop the profiles of Distill Ventures’ portfolio firms with key industry stakeholders and manage day-to-day operations of the company’s London-based team. Distill Ventures chief executive and co-founder Frank Lampen said: “We are thrilled to welcome Gareth to the team. We’re confident he will deliver on our ambitious portfolio-growth plans across the alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories.” Bath added: “Distill Ventures has quickly developed a reputation for building some of the most innovative brands in the industry.”

Everards seeks partner to transform Histon pub into new food and drinks space: Brewer and retailer Everards is seeking a partner to transform the Rose & Crown in Histon, near Cambridge, into an “exciting food and drinks space”. The Rose & Crown is a 450-year-old, timber-framed former farmhouse that became a pub in the 1840s. Everards is now seeking an independent business owner with a “great vision to bring a new and exciting food and drink offer to Histon”. Everards business relationship manager Gareth Smith said: “The building is a great size and lends itself to be an all-day cafe or pub-style business. We have drawn up plans to showcase this opportunity but we’re seeking a business owner to bring their own ideas and work with us to transform this building into the right venue for their vision and the community.” Everards has teamed up with independent business owners before, developing a pizzeria, cafes and a bakery. Everards Meadows, the company’s £30m development in Leicestershire, will house a food and drinks venue as well as its brewery. The site, which sits in 70 acres of green space, also houses a coffee house and cycle store. The company also owns more than 175 pubs across the Midlands, all run as independent businesses. Last month Everards appointed Emma Roderick, formerly of Molson Coors, as operations director – pubs. 

Dominion Hospitality sells Kent pub with rooms to private investor: Dominion Hospitality, which owns and operates hotels and pubs in the south of England under its Relax and Historic Innz brands, has sold The Roebuck Inn in Harrietsham, Kent, to a private investor for £475,000. The grade II-listed venue in West Street provides 8,030 square feet of space consisting of a 95-cover pub on the ground floor and ten letting rooms on the two floors above. Adam Bullas, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills Southampton, which brokered the deal, said: “We are delighted to secure the sale of The Roebuck Inn, which benefits from a large trading space with traditional features. It is a popular location with potential to increase revenues through its food offering.” Earlier this month Dominion Hospitality said it had seen positive trading in its current financial year, driven by “good” like-for-like food and drink sales. Chairman Ted Kennedy told Propel the company had disposed of four properties during the year, with one to complete that had heads-of terms issued. It leaves the business with 17 core properties with 300-plus bedrooms and planning permission for circa 50 more. 

Loch Fyne launches loyalty app: Greene King-owned Loch Fyne Restaurant + Bar has launched a loyalty app across its 21-strong estate. The app is part of the brand’s new digital loyalty scheme, which allows customers to collect a stamp each time they spend £12 or more during a visit. Stamps can be redeemed against menu items such as main meals, drinks and desserts. The card-based Loch Fyne Friends discount card will be transitioned into an in-app QR code, which will digitally track customer visits and unlock rewards. Loch Fyne managing director Michael Horan said: “The primary objective of the app is to bring the brand into the digital age, migrating the Friends loyalty card into an app-based mechanic, which will open a dynamic channel of communication for us to engage with customers and share personalised loyalty offers. We know our customers are looking for increased convenience when dining out and we hope our guests benefit from the app.” Meanwhile, Greene King will support the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund on Australia Day – Sunday (26 January). The company will donate 10p from every pint of Fosters or Ice Breaker sold in its Local Pubs.

Joule’s appoints operations director: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, has appointed John Auld as operations director. Auld has taken “holistic ownership” of pub operations and will develop Joule’s franchised business model. He was formerly at Punch. The company acquired its first hotel, the 12-bedroom Swan At Forton in Newport, Shropshire, in December, while work continues on its first new-build pub, which is due to open in Stone, Staffordshire, in November. Earlier this month Joule’s said it would focus its efforts on growing its circa 40-strong tap estate as it reported a boost in pre-tax profit. Turnover was up to £7.4m for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £7.3m the previous year. Adjusted operating profit increased 6.9% to £2.04m from £1.91m the year before. Pre-tax profit rose to £921,000 from £605,000 the previous year. 

Whitbread opens first London hub by Premier Inn outside Zone 1: Whitbread has opened its first London hub by Premier Inn outside Zone 1. The 89-bedroom hotel in Lillie Road, West Brompton, is part of Whitbread’s plans to expand its network of hub by Premier Inns to “urban village” locations in the UK. Derek Griffin, Whitbread head of acquisitions in London and the south, said: “Our hub by Premier Inns are performing well across our network of sites in London and Edinburgh and we’re confident the brand will trade just as well in urban village locations like West Brompton.” Whitbread has committed to a 30-year lease on the hotel, which increases its network of hub by Premier Inns to nine London locations with five more on-site or in planning.

Former Dishoom ‘drinks guy’ to open Shoreditch cocktail bar in Neil Rankin collaboration: Carl Brown, who was known as “the drinks guy” at seven-strong Indian restaurant group Dishoom, is set to open a cocktail bar below Neil Rankin’s Simplicity Burger in Brick Lane, Shoreditch. Tincture will launch on Friday, 7 February offering seasonal cocktails from two menus – the Modern Apothecary and Alternative Speakeasy, which will feature mocktails. Brown told Hot Dinners: “Neil and I share the same ethos and the chance to work with such an innovative chef is humbling. Sustainability is key to Tincture – working to use every part of each ingredient.” Earlier this month, partnership and experience agency Salt launched a restaurant division headed by Rankin and Handley Amos.

Spirits brand British Honey buys London Distillery Company: Honey and spirits-infused brand The British Honey Company (BHC) has acquired organic distiller The London Distillery Company (LDC) as part of an “ambitious growth strategy for 2020”. Launched in the Cotswolds in 2014, BHC produces fruit and honey infused-spirits under the Keepr’s brand. Its range spans eight gins, four vodkas, two rums, two bourbons and a whiskey, which will be ready in 2022. Founded in 1807 and re-established in 2011, LDC produces Dodd’s Gin and Kew Organic Spirits and the first whiskeys made in London for more than a century. LDC exports to more than 20 markets around the world. BHC founder and chief executive Michael Williams said: “The London Distillery Company’s sustainable approach and award-winning Dodd’s Small Batch Honey Gin attracted our interest. The combined business will offer an enhanced range of products while expanding into a new customer base, which includes major supermarkets. We are excited to merge the businesses as we seek new ways to expand our offering and increase sales through additional channels in the UK and around the world.”

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