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Mon 2nd Mar 2020 - SA Brain puts 40 pubs on market, Benito’s Hat undergoes further restructure
SA Brain puts 40 pubs on the market, one-quarter of estate: Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain has put 40 pubs on the market – one-quarter of its estate – as part of a three-year plan to “significantly grow the profitability” of the business and “secure its future”. The company described the pubs, mainly in Cardiff, as not “core” to its business. The Cardiff office of agent Avison Young has been tasked with selling the sites. An SA Brain spokeswoman said: “We have a three-year plan to significantly grow the profitability of our business and future-proof it for the benefit of generations to come. We are executing this plan and momentum is building with encouraging progress being made against our key priorities. However, we still face uncertain economic times as our withdrawal from the EU is negotiated and costs, especially the National Living Wage, are set to increase well ahead of inflation. As a result, after a thorough review, we have identified around 40 pubs – both managed and partnership – which are not core to our business. We have engaged the team at Avison Young in Cardiff to sell these over the coming months. We have briefed all the teams in the selected pubs. The proceeds of these sales will enable us to improve the quality of the rest of our estate and repay some of the facilities provided to us by our bank partners, HSBC and Lloyds. Regrettably, we will require fewer people to provide services to our pub estate once the sales are completed so we will reorganise our support centre to create a leaner and more agile business. We shall manage this difficult process with respect and care, recognising the loyalty and commitment of all our colleagues. We will carry out these changes over the coming months to ensure we have sufficient time to make proper provisions for any colleagues affected and to minimise the impact of these changes.” SA Brain recently moved into its new Dragon Brewery in Cardiff Bay.

Benito’s Hat undergoes further restructure, estate halved: Benito’s Hat, the Mexican restaurant brand that underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) last summer, has undergone a further restructure that has seen more than half of its eight-strong estate close, Propel has learned. During the weekend the group’s sites in St Albans, Bromley, King’s Cross, Covent Garden and at the O2 closed. The brand’s sites in Oxford Circus, Farringdon and Oxford Westgate remain open and trading. Propel understands the business has been working with Begbies Traynor on its options, which include seeking further investment or a sale of the business. It is thought expressions of interest were sought by 6 February, with offers sought by 13 February. Propel understands the business, which generates full-year revenue of circa £4.5m, was being offered on an “accelerated sales basis”, which raised the possibility if no buyer or new investment came forward the business would have to be placed into administration. Propel understands up to ten expressions of interest were shown in parts or all of the business. One of these is thought to have been from the company’s chief executive Mike Pearson. It’s thought Pearson’s bid is backed by Subway franchisees Martin Graves and Gabriel Moreno Carrillo. An announcement on the future of the remaining trading sites and the business is due imminently. Propel understands despite the CVA process, trading at a number of the brand’s sites has remained challenging, including more recent openings in St Albans and at The O2. However, it is thought the business is forecast to return to positive Ebitda this year. The then Calculus Capital-backed company’s CVA received support from 93% of creditors, which the business said was testament to their “belief in our plan”. The company had already taken corrective action last year, closing poorly performing stores in Leicester’s Highcross scheme and its original site in Goodge Street. Ben Fordham and Felipe Fuentes Cruz founded Benito’s Hat in London in 2008. Fordham stepped back from the business at the end of 2017.

Smith and Radix step down from Coffeesmiths Collective: Toby Smith and Bharti Radix, chief executive and chief financial officer of Coffeesmiths Collective, have stepped down from the business, after less than a year with the company. A spokesman for Coffeesmiths Collective, which runs coffee chains including the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (DoCaSA) and Filmore & Union, told Propel: “Following a period of rapid expansion and growth, the board of Coffeesmiths Collective has made the decision to enter a period of consolidation and complete a review of its portfolio.” Smith, former chief executive of Novus and Stonegate Pub Company, and Radix, ex-finance director of Draft House, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group and Petersham Nurseries, both joined the speciality coffee shop operator and roaster in April 2019. Since then, the group has acquired ten Filmore & Union sites out of administration, Yorkshire-based Spring Espresso, London-based The CoffeeWorks Project business, and Taylor St Baristas’ operations in the UK and US. Coffeesmiths Collective moved to a new head office in Clerkenwell at the end of last year, where it opened its first coffee academy. Propel also understands chief operating officer Mark Ellis, who spent more than ten years at Starbucks and more than five at McDonald’s, left the business before the end of last year. It’s thought further announcements regarding the management team at the business, which is chaired in the UK by Darcy Willson-Rymer, former managing director of Starbucks UK and Ireland and current chief executive of convenience store chain Costcutter, later this week. Propel insights editor Mark Wingett commented: “There is a real sense the swift exit of the highly-rated Smith and Radix is a case of the brochure they were shown when joining the business not living up to what it promised. After acquiring so many different businesses spread across the UK, the company was always going to need a period of consolidation to put in place systems that would bring efficiencies across its eclectic estate. You wonder whether the business has been finding it harder than it imagined to digest such a number of underperforming brands acquired in such a short space of time? Smith looked the ideal person to lead that consolidation play across multiple brands and formats, something he was adept at doing at Stonegate and latterly Novus. With the industry remaining in a state of flux and further consolidation forecast in the pub sector, I doubt he will be out of the sector for long. The worrying thing for Coffeesmiths Collective is whether it has bitten off more than it can currently chew, while more challenges could be brewing for its eclectic estate.”

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