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Fri 6th Mar 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Domino’s – new management team will play crucial role in franchisee talks that are ‘best done away from public arena’: Domino’s Pizza has said its discussions with franchisees to resolve their ongoing dispute were “best done away from the public arena and without external commentary”. The strained relationship with the parent company has seen some franchisees refuse to open more sites. Domino’s said because the new management team would play a “crucial” part in the process, it refused to put a timescale on talks. Speaking at an analysts’ presentation following the company’s full-year results, interim chairman Ian Bull said the appointment of a new chairman and chief executive would take “some time” because the company was seeking “A-grade players”. He added: “We are making progress and that’s being done with decisive action such as exiting the international business. Improving the relationship with franchisees is critical to the success of the business but this is best done away from the public arena and without external commentary. The new chairman and chief executive will play a crucial role in those discussions. We need to make sure we find the right people. That mantra exists for everything we’re going to do. We are going to find A-grade players – and that takes time.” Chief executive David Wild added: “The new management team will also be the primary driver of the company’s strategy. We won’t put a timeline on that process – people can draw their own conclusions.” Average store Ebitda for UK franchisees was £145,100, with average store Ebitda margin of 14.1%. Despite cost pressures, Wild said as far as he was aware no franchisees were in danger of going bust. The company opened 34 sites in the UK and Ireland during the year, with 62% of those launched by franchisees with 20 stores or fewer. Domino’s said of its three largest franchisees, one of them opened two sites. Average weekly unit sales of new stores were 16% higher than 2018. Wild said London remained an “underpenetrated opportunity” with only 15% of its estate in the capital, which accounted for 25% of UK consumer spend. He said 11 of the 36 stores in London had been affected by splits since 2018. One new corporate store is planned for 2020 as the company enters a period of estate consolidation. Wild said the difference in costs of opening in London was being driven by lease premiums, which weren’t normally more than £150,000. Wild added sales growth continued to be driven by digital revenue. Its app has had 26.6 million downloads overall, including 4.1 million in 2019 – more than four times its two biggest rivals. Although some of its national advertising fund hadn’t been spent, Wild said there were no plans to refund franchisees. However, he applauded their initiatives that had helped to drive sales at local level.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at investment market and succession plays in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the investment market and succession plays in his latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (6 March). Meanwhile,  Premium Diary will delve into the latest sector rumblings. 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. Propel has launched its new-look Premium Club, where readers can save money by receiving a pair of free tickets to one of four conferences in 2020. Subscribers will be able to choose to use a pair of free tickets to one of the following conferences – The Delivery Conference (Tuesday, 21 April), The Finance and Investment Conference (Thursday, 14 May), The Casual Dining Summit (Monday, 12 October) or The New Concept Conference (Monday, 19 October). The normal cost of two tickets to these events is £490 plus VAT for operators and £690 plus VAT for suppliers. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Coffee shop sales rise 27% in past four years, set to top £4bn in 2020: Coffee shop sales increased 27% between 2015 and 2019 and are set to top £4bn this year, according to new research by Mintel. However, while coffee shop sales continue to thrive annual growth has slowed from 9% in 2015, when the market was worth £3bn, to 3% in 2019 when it was £3.9bn. The survey of 2,000 internet users aged 16 and above found more than one-quarter (26%) buy hot drinks from quick service chains such as McDonald’s, while more than one-fifth (22%) buy from a supermarket or store cafe such as Tesco or Ikea. Less than one-fifth (16%) of respondents buy their hot drinks from traditional cafes, while 19% hadn’t bought a hot drink outside the home in the past three months. Coffee (80%) is by far the most popular hot drink purchased out of home although tea has had a resurgence, with 43% of respondents drinking tea out of home compared with 39% a year ago. Millennials are leading the upsurge, with half of respondents aged 20 to 39 drinking tea out of home compared with 40% of those aged 55 to 73. Almost three-fifths (57%) of respondents think coffee shops should charge customers a fee for using disposable coffee cups, with 82% agreeing more people should use reusable coffee cups. Two-thirds (67%) think it’s worth paying more for coffee from shops that pay fair wages to coffee farmers. Mintel senior foodservice analyst Trish Caddy said: “Coffee shops have enjoyed robust growth in the past five years. Continued growth is being boosted by more high-street coffee shop brands expanding in the retail, travel and leisure sectors. However, the market continues to face tough competition from non-specialists such as fast food outlets and supermarkets – a situation that’s unlikely to ease as non-specialists continue focusing on price and convenience. With more food outlets selling low-cost coffee, coffee shops without strong food offerings will fall behind.”

Starbucks ditches refills in US and Canada to counter coronavirus, restricts staff travel plans: Starbucks has announced its baristas will no longer make drinks in customer-provided vessels in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus (covid-19). The temporary measure has come into effect at all Starbucks stores in the US and Canada. Customers usually receive a ten-cent discount off any drink for bringing in their own vessel. However, customers may still get the discount if they order a drink “for here” in store-provided ceramic mugs, while drinks are still being offered in plastic and paper to-go cups. The company has also decided to forgo a physical shareholders’ meeting in the US in favour of a virtual one because of the “emerging public health impact” of covid-19. Starbucks said its stores in the US and Canada had also increased cleaning and sanitising and restricted its employees’ domestic and international travel plans until the end of March. Rossann Williams, executive vice-president of Starbucks’ business in North America, said in a statement: “We will continue to stay close to our partners and local health officials and we’re optimistic this will be a temporary situation.”

Company News:

Cote reports sales and Ebitda growth: Cote, the 96-strong French brasserie chain, has reported revenue increased 7% to £156.6m for the year ending 28 July 2019 compared with £146.3m the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda was up to £18.4m, compared with £17.9m the year before. Cote made a pre-tax profit of £5.5m, compared with £4.7m the year before. Five Cote sites opened in the year and four were closed following a portfolio review. In his report accompanying the accounts, chief financial officer Strahan Wilson said: “In light of the current trading environment the directors are satisfied with the performance of the business. In a year that has seen widespread closures across the sector, the directors are pleased Cote continues to deliver sales and Ebitda growth. Unit economics remain strong and having opened five restaurants this year, the directors remain committed to investing in future openings. A portfolio site review was undertaken and two restaurants were identified as not meeting expectations, which consequently have been impaired. Two further restaurants were also closed during the reported period. The group is continuing to focus on its expansion within the UK for the foreseeable future.” 

Bone Daddies founder Ross Shonhan to leave business: Ross Shonhan, founder of Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies, is leaving the business. Bone Daddies has grown to six London restaurants since its launch in Soho in 2012. The group also operates two Flesh & Buns venues and fusion restaurant Shackfuyu in the capital. Shonhan has stepped away to “pursue other interests”, with business partner Demetri Tomazos continuing to lead the business. Last year Shonhan launched his first international restaurant, in Dubai. A separate entity to the Bone Daddies Group, Shonhan opened Netsu, a warayaki-style Japanese steakhouse, at the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira hotel. Shonhan said: “I am lucky to have had such amazing and supportive partners who have helped build the business. I am highly privileged to have worked with such a brilliant team that has evolved and they now hold so many key positions in the business. The future of the business is in great hands and I look forward to watching management continue to grow it in ways I could only have dreamt of in 2012. I think there are few occasions when business partners part ways positively and with goodwill. I am proud that while I’m leaving the business, my partners and teams will remain great friends.” Tomasz added: “It has been a privilege to work with Ross and watch his dream become a reality. We are indeed fortunate we will still have access to Ross’ creative skills during a transition period and will ensure the brand he has created will continue to be operated with the same passion, dedication and high-levels of execution that has secured Bone Daddies’ position as one of the market leaders in Japanese-inspired food. We wish Ross all the best with his new endeavours and are confident our friendship and his legacy will continue to play a large role in Bone Daddies.”

Yummy Pub Co sells Stoke Newington lease as it looks to focus growth on freehold acquisitions: Yummy Pub Co, led by Anthony Pender, Jason Rowlands and Tim Foster, has sold the lease of The Clarence in Stoke Newington, east London, to Wells & Co licensee Robert Webster Shaw. Webster Shaw operates another Wells & Co leased business in London – The Anchor & Hope in Waterloo – and has business interests in the Canton Arms and The Magdalen Arms, both in Oxford. Built in 1860, The Clarence had been operated by Yummy Pub Co since December 2015, when the company restored its original name. The venue features a lounge bar and dining area on the ground floor, and a bar, private function room and beer cellar on the lower ground floor. There is also a first-floor function room and second-floor owners’ accommodation. Pender said: “We can now focus our continued growth through freehold acquisition.” Christie & Co director Stewart Harkness, who handled the sale, added: “This has been a great opportunity for the purchaser to add to his portfolio and shows the pub market is still strong when we’re looking to sell quality pubs.” Yummy Pub Co’s estate now consists of London pubs The Somers Town Coffee House, near Euston; the Gorringe Park in Tooting; and The Victoria in Mile End as well as The Wiremill, near Lingfield in Surrey, which was the company’s first freehold purchase, in February 2019.

Chestnut Group expands into Norfolk for 11th site: East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group has acquired the Globe Inn in Wells-next-the-Sea from Stephen and Antonia Bournes for its 11th site and first in Norfolk. The Globe Inn comprises a pub, a restaurant focusing on local and seasonal produce, and 19 en-suite bedrooms ranging from single rooms to self-catering suites. Chestnut founder Philip Turner said: “We are really excited to welcome the Globe Inn into the Chestnut Collection. Having been looking to extend our East Anglian footprint into Norfolk for the past two years, we were extremely pleased to discover The Globe Inn with its great location, successful business, and talented team all sharing our vision and values to champion the best of the region. I always enjoy visiting the area, which is fast becoming a go-to destination.” The Bournes added: “The decision to hand the ownership over to Chestnut is a natural one. We look forward to working closely with them in the transition period.” Chestnut Group will reopen The Three Blackbirds in the Suffolk village of Woodditton on Saturday, 14 March following a two-year rebuild in the wake of a devastating fire. The pub near Newmarket will offer 100 covers across its restaurant, bar, terrace and private dining rooms. The reopening will also see the launch of The Barn, which will offer nine bedrooms to the rear of the property.

Fuller’s announces share buyback programme to help meet employee reward obligations: Premium pubs and hotels business Fuller’s has announced a share buyback programme to help meet future obligations arising from share-based rewards to employees. Fuller’s stated: “The company announces its intention to utilise part of its general authority to make on-market purchases of ordinary shares, with the objective of putting shares into treasury for use in meeting future obligations arising from share-based rewards to employees. The programme is irrevocable and non-discretionary and purchases may be made during closed periods. The company has appointed Numis Securities to manage the programme on its behalf.”

Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken eyes eighth site in Bristol: South west-based operator Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken is to open its ninth site in total and eighth in the Bristol area. The company will launch at Yate Shopping Centre at the unit formerly occupied by Chinese takeaway franchise Hotcha, which went into administration more than two years ago. Miss Millie’s restaurant will have seating inside for 40 customers as well as a takeaway service, with the opening creating 25 jobs. Work to convert the unit is due to start this month. Centre manager Andrew Lowrey told the Gazette: “It is great to welcome Miss Millie’s to the centre – it’s a well-established local brand. Having a variety of restaurants is an essential part of the shopping centre’s portfolio and Miss Millie’s will bring the bonus of takeaway options and a 40-seater sit-down restaurant. The premises is in a high-profile location and has a history as a takeaway outlet.” Earlier this week Miss Millie’s announced it would move its only restaurant outside Bristol to a larger site. The venue in Weston-super-Mare will move from Locking Road to a former Co-operative Bank branch on the corner of Alexandra Parade and Regent Street. Harry Latham, who with Ray Allen opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken store outside North America in 1965, founded Miss Millie’s in 1988. The company, which is still run by the Latham family, closed its two venues in Cardiff in 2018.

Signature Group launches latest Edinburgh site: Edinburgh-based Signature Group has launched its latest site in the city – McLarens On The Corner. The concept in Morningside Road features a restaurant, bar and events space spread across three floors and offers all-day dining and cocktails. The ground floor offers coffee and cakes and features a children’s play area, while the first floor celebrates provenance with a local produce map highlighting the catch of the day and the location of the beef farms where the restaurant’s steaks are sourced. The Loft is a quiet space in which to work or drink cocktails. The venue’s name has been inspired by former Edinburgh lord provost Duncan McLaren, who restored Edinburgh’s finances after the city went bankrupt. Signature Group owner Nic Wood said: “We are proud to opened McLarens On The Corner after many months of planning, designing, research and renovation. The community here is proud of its area so it’s great to bring them something new. Having lived here myself, I wanted to bring some of the research I’ve seen across North America to Morningside. We hope McLarens can become a hub for the surrounding area.” Wood launched Signature Group in 2003. It operates 21 bars, restaurants and hotels in Scotland and employs more than 700 staff. In 2018, the company launched small-batch brewery Cold Town and paid £8.4m to acquire seven sites from bar and restaurant operator Speratus Group.

Burger Priest to open in Ipswich: Burger Priest, the church-themed burger restaurant concept launched by Bar Sport founder Scott Murray, is to open a site in Ipswich. A restaurant is set to launch inside the Buttermarket Shopping Centre at the unit next to cafe bar brand Loungers’ Cosy Club, the Ipswich Star reports. All Burger Priest burgers are made with 100% Aberdeen Angus beef, with popular options on the menu including the High Priest Burger (with melted Monterrey Jack cheese) and the Altar Burger (sweet-cured bacon and smoked cheese). The Burger Priest operates franchises including sites in Cambridge, Harlow, Stafford and Swindon. In January, the company said it would launch a venue at Bell Court in Stratford-upon-Avon after agreeing a deal with owner Blue Coast Capital. Burger Priest Ipswich will have room for 40 diners and offer outdoor seating. The brand’s restaurants feature seating in the form of church pews, while diners select their meals from hymn-board menus.

Venue Group launches music, drinks and street food concept in King’s Cross: Venue Group, which is headed by Ben Lovett of folk rock band Mumford & Sons, has launched music, drinks and street food concept Goods Way in King’s Cross. The 600-capacity site features live music venue Lafayette, American-style bar Sweetwater and The Courtyard, a covered area featuring food traders. The trading line-up features New York-based Sushi On Jones, which is making its London debut. Described as the city’s first “alfresco omakase bar”, the brand offers 12-piece sushi menus with a 30-minute turnaround. Natasha Cooke and Lucy Pedder, of Cooking Collective, which operates nut-free restaurant Lupins in London Bridge, have also opened Pomelo at Goods Way serving “British tapas” such as crab thermidor croquettes. Joining them are a third site for vegan fried chicken concept Temple of Seitan, Mexican brand Breddos Tacos, the joint venture between Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney, and Gleneagles owner Ennismore, which has a site in Clerkenwell as well as kiosks at two Swingers venues and Flat Iron Square in Bermondsey. The Duck Truck, which also operates in Spitalfields and recently opened its first restaurant, in Cambridge, completes the line-up. Venue Group launched its debut live music venue, Omeara, in Southwark in late 2016 and took over the running of the wider development of Flat Iron Square in Southwark a year later. 

Six by Nico to make London debut this month for seventh site: Six by Nico, the restaurant concept led by Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone, has revealed it will make its London debut on Tuesday, 31 March. The 80-cover venue will open at the former Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi site in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia. The opening will create 40 jobs. The Six by Nico concept is based on a revolving culinary hub as Simeone and his team “reinvent the wheel” every six weeks by serving a new six-course tasting menu, each one with a different theme. As is traditional, the first menu at the Fitzrovia restaurant will be themed The Chippie. Simeone said: “Most people are familiar with the tastes and scents of their local chip shop and we want to take the idea of the everyday chippie menu and reinvent it to create a playful food experience guests will recognise and be amazed by.” The debut Six by Nico launched in Glasgow – now home to two restaurants – in 2017 followed by openings in Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool. Simeone launched his first restaurant, 111 by Nico, in Glasgow in 2011. He also operates a gastro-pub in the city’s Great Western Road.

Grind and Soho House sign global coffee partnership: Coffee and cocktail brand Grind has signed an agreement to become exclusive UK coffee supplier to international hotel group and private members’ club Soho House & Co. Bespoke Grind x Soho House coffee blends – designed in collaboration with Soho House and roasted at Grind’s London roastery – will be served in every cup of coffee at Soho House’s members’ clubs, hotels and restaurants in the UK. The partnership will also bring Grind’s compostable Nespresso pods, in a bespoke Grind x Soho House tin, to all Soho House hotel rooms worldwide. Grind founder David Abrahamovitch said: “I was a Soho House member for years before I founded Grind and to me it has always set the bar as the leading hospitality brand in the world and been a huge source of inspiration. It’s a vote of confidence in everything we’ve built to bring Grind coffee to Soho House members and our coffee pods to its hotel guests around the world.” Soho House & Co drinking director Tom Kerr added: “Like Soho House, Grind was born in London and was the obvious choice for a coffee partner.” Founded in Shoreditch in 2011, Grind serves more than two million cups of coffee each year across its 11 London sites. The company launched its Grind At Home range last year, featuring the UK’s first entirely compostable coffee pods.

Ego heads south as it opens in Amersham for 21st site: 3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler, has opened a site in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, as part of its joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers (M&B). The Pomeroy in White Lion Road has reopened to become the 21st Ego site in total and ninth under the M&B partnership. It is Ego’s most southerly venue to date, while the group is also believed to be in talks on a site in Essex. Last year Horler told Propel M&B sites converted to Ego were seeing an average 80% uplift in sales. M&B formed the partnership in August 2018 when it bought sector investor Luke Johnson’s minority share in 3Sixty.

Black and White Hospitality to open second Marco Pierre White site in Wales: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, is to open a venue in Swansea this summer for its second site in Wales. Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill will open at waterside venue The J-Shed to replace Mediterranean-style restaurant La Parrilla, which closed in January. The move follows a deal between Black and White Hospitality and business partners Steve Lewis and David Bellis, who have acquired the property. Black and White Hospitality chairman and chief executive Nick Taplin said: “This will be Marco’s second restaurant in Wales. The Steakhouse fits perfectly with The J-Shed and will attract more people to enjoy food and drink on Swansea’s burgeoning waterside. This is an amazing opportunity for everyone and we look forward to our second – but not last – restaurant in Wales.” Lewis added: “This is great news for the city and regeneration of the area. It’s a hugely exciting addition that will offer a first-class drinking and dining experience.” Bellis said: “The arrival of Marco’s steakhouse will further reinforce Swansea as an up and coming food and drink destination.” Earlier this week Black and White Hospitality announced it would launch a new concept, Mr White’s Ale & Steakhouse, as one of two venues it will open in Chester. 

Scottish whisky distillery raises more than £1.7m: Scottish whisky distillery Nc’nean has raised more than £1.7m in a new funding round from a crowdfunding campaign and private investors to help accelerate its growth plans. The company exceeded its £1m funding target in little more than a week after launching the campaign on investment platform Seedrs. Further funding was injected from existing and new private investors. The funds will go towards supporting the launch of its first whisky this year; continued growth of its Botanical Spirit, which the company describes as a “mix between whisky and gin”; and buying bottling equipment and supporting further portfolio expansion. Annabel Thomas and Derek Lewis founded Nc’nean in 2013. Thomas said: “Since inception we have strived to drive change in the whisky industry through experimental spirits and sustainable production. 2020 will be our most exciting year to date as we introduce our whisky to the world for the first time and continue to grow our business.”

Sheffield-based restaurateur starts expansion of Asian restaurant brand Oisoi with second city site: Sheffield-based restaurateur Jay Wang has started expansion of his Asian restaurant brand Oisoi by opening a second site in the city. Oisoi Gathering is the anchor food and beverage tenant at the £66m New Era Square development at St Mary’s Gate. The first-floor restaurant offers dim sum and curry from south east Asia alongside dishes from Hong Kong and China. Wang launched the debut Oisoi in the St Paul’s Place restaurant quarter in the city centre in 2015. His new venue features a 100-cover restaurant, cocktail bar, cafe and patisserie, and a retail section. Wang also runs a Chinese supermarket in the city’s Matilda Street, and Cantonese supermarket and canteen Wa Ding in West One Plaza. He told BDaily: “We are proud to be part of this pioneering development in the city. Sheffield diners are already familiar with our dishes but this restaurant blends quality ingredients with a weekday price. The venue is undeniably more relaxed, with live music also planned.” Apartment-led New Era Square also features “boutique” Chinese retailers, including street food vendors. 

The Duck Truck opens debut restaurant, in Cambridge: The Duck Truck, which operates at London’s Spitalfields and has three franchises around the country, has opened its debut restaurant, in Cambridge. The concept has opened a site at The Grafton Centre, which has allowed The Duck Truck to expand its menu to include buttermilk chicken burgers and wraps, halloumi fries and a 100% plant-based burger. The concept is the brainchild of Ed Farrell, who opened the first Duck Truck in a permanently sited Airstream caravan in Lamb Street, Spitalfields, in 2012. The menu includes rotisserie-cooked crispy duck wraps, crispy duck salads, brioche duck buns, duck breast steaks, confit duck leg and duck fat chips. Farrell said: “Duck is such a misunderstood meat in the UK and my mission is to put duck on everyone’s plate. Ducks are raised with high welfare standards and the meat is so tasty. It’s the healthy option too, less fatty than chicken.” The three franchises are also housed in Airstream caravans. 

Ultracomida opens vermouth and sherry bar for fourth site in Wales: Spanish deli and restaurant operator Ultracomida has opened a vermouth and sherry bar in Cardiff for its fourth site in Wales. Vermut, which is Catalan for vermouth, has opened at a 560 square foot site in Guildhall Place. Modelled on Spanish late-night bars, Vermut offers 30 covers with customers encouraged to perch on bar stools. A menu of “para picar” (things to pick at) has been designed to complement the drinks, along with sharing platters of cured meat, charcuterie and Spanish cheese. Shumana Palit and husband Paul Grimwood founded Ultracomida in 2001 and operate pintxos bar Curado in Cardiff as well as two Ultracomida deli restaurants in Narberth and Aberystwyth. Palit said: “Vermouth has been all the rage with cocktail-centric bartenders and the ABV-conscious for a while but is so versatile. Combine that with our selection of Spanish sherry and wine from Montilla-Moriles, which both pair fantastically well with Spanish tapas, and the combination of simple but good food and drink is what Vermut is all about.”

MasterChef winner Steven Edwards doubles up for London debut: Steven Edwards, who won MasterChef: The Professionals in 2013 and has operated Etch restaurant in Hove since 2017, has made his debut in London. Edwards has taken over Bingham Riverhouse in Richmond and reopened it offering a seasonal British menu. The chef continues to operate Etch alongside his new venture, Steven Edwards At Bingham Riverhouse. Whereas Etch offers a tasting menu only, the riverside venue in Petersham Road features an a la carte menu with dishes such as roast guinea hen with cauliflower cheese and nasturtium. However, the venue offers a weekly Sunday Experience five-course tasting menu, including salt-baked pork rump with pickled pumpkin and apple. Edwards said: “I am so proud of what we’ve achieved in Hove and, with so much more to come there, this feels like the right way to continue to grow our portfolio.” Riverhouse owner Samantha Trinder added: “It was important for us to collaborate with a chef who would fit the British style of this Georgian townhouse. We wanted to continue the youthful vibe of the Riverhouse in a relaxed way and Steven Edwards offers the perfect balance. His cooking, while traditional, offers a fresh, modern and creative feel.” 

Loungers resubmits plans for Llandudno site: Cafe bar brand Loungers has resubmitted plans in its bid to open a site in Llandudno, North Wales. The company saw its application to turn part of the former Marks & Spencer menswear store in Mostyn Street rejected by Conwy Council. Loungers has revised its proposal, which includes an updated plan for the ventilation system. Property director Tom Trenchard told the North Wales Pioneer: “We were enormously disappointed when our initial application was turned down – but that’s all water under the bridge. We’re looking forward to potentially launching one of our bars in Llandudno as we think it’s a great location for us.” Loungers operates more than 160 Lounges and Cosy Clubs in the UK including Torello Lounge in Prestatyn and Clio Lounge in Bangor.

Devon-based cafe and live music concept goes from pop-up to permanent: Devon-based cafe and live music concept Folklore is to go from pop-up to permanent. The concept is the brainchild of Matt Tanner, who has secured the new lease of 22 Mill Street in Chagford in Dartmoor National Park ahead of an opening next month. The venue previously operated as an Indian eaterie and a fine dining restaurant. There are two letting rooms and owners’ accommodation on the upper floors. Tanner said: “Folklore will be a relaxed eating and events space for culinary adventurers, social explorers and little folk alike.” Lloyd Colin, business agent at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, added: “There’s great potential in this space and I’m sure Matt will create a vibrant social environment.”

Peel Hunt downgrades Cineworld shares on back of coronavirus outbreak: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has downgraded Cineworld shares from ‘Buy’ to ‘Hold’ on the back of film release schedule concerns caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Jones said: “On Wednesday (4 March) the producers of the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die, announced its release would be put back to November from April. Films are expensive to produce and with many Asian cinemas closed and the prospect of, at best, reduced audiences elsewhere, other producers of major films may choose to delay releases. Top ten films account for circa 40% of box office revenue in a typical year. Our previous pre-coronavirus position was cinema attendance would maintain its previous gradual declining trend and that would be sufficient for Cineworld to re-equitise as it paid down debt. This now appears unlikely for the balance of this year. Cineworld has a robust debt structure, primarily bonds with, we believe, no problematic covenants. Our first look at profit sensitivity suggests a 20% revenue decline across the group would halve profitability while maintaining a comfortable margin of cash interest cover. Cineworld is in the process of acquiring Cineplex of Canada for US$2.1bn, which will result in a net debt/Ebitda ratio of 4.0 times (based on FY19E pro-forma including targeted synergies). Having reviewed the public documents, we believe it would be difficult for Cineworld not to proceed with the acquisition. The material adverse change clause in the contract specifically excludes outbreaks of disease and other factors that have an impact on the industry generally. Cineworld is due to release its FY19 results on Thursday, 12 March, which will give us an opportunity to review the situation. Ahead of that, we have reduced our recommendation to ‘Hold’ from ‘Buy’ and our target price to 140p from 300p.”

DataHawks launches marketing performance tracker: Industry data consultancy DataHawks has launched a marketing performance tracker. The tracker will allow participating brands to benchmark key marketing metrics against industry or sector averages. Victoria Searl, founder of DataHawks, said: “As marketers we tend to look inwardly, reporting metrics that make sense within our brands, but offer no context as to how we’re doing in relation to the market. The tracker provides marketers and boards a clear view of how they are doing in relation to the rest of the sector, and will surface opportunities for marketing teams to focus on. It’s the first time marketers will have access to the same industry-wide performance context as our operations and finance teams. By completing and returning the template each week you’ll receive an anonymised report by return, benchmarking your chosen metrics.” DataHawks is offering a limited number of free places within the tracker. For more details, email victoria@wearedatahawks.com

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