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Wed 15th Jul 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Bulk of Bistrot Pierre business acquired through pre-pack administration: The bulk of the Bistrot Pierre business has been acquired by a new company through a pre-pack administration, Propel has learned. Named after the year the company was founded, Bistrot Pierre 1994 is backed by the brand’s chairman, John Derkach, and chief executive Nick White together with existing backer Livingbridge and NatWest. The new company has acquired 19 of the 25 Bistrot Pierre sites – located in the north, Midlands, Wales and South Coast. The business will be headquartered in Nottingham with a central kitchen in Oakham. The deal, which will see the group’s sites in Bath, Cardiff, Harrogate, Leicester, Middlesbrough and Sheffield close, will see 681 of Bistrot Pierre’s 803 employees re-employed, with 674 of them returning from furlough. White told Propel: “Our goal has always been to protect as many jobs as possible and ensure this great brand can continue to serve its many loyal customers. The next few months will be challenging but we’re committed to delivering an outstanding experience for our customers and working with all stakeholders to create a positive future for Bistrot Pierre.” The company has already reopened its restaurants in Derby, Eastbourne, Plymouth, Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Torquay and Weston-super-Mare. Its sites in Altrincham, Birmingham, Coventry, Ilkley, Kidderminster, Mere Green, Nottingham, Preston, Southport and Stockton Heath will open by the end of July. The company’s Welsh restaurants, in Mumbles (which is already open for takeaway) and Newport, will open on Thursday, 13 August. The company had been working with adviser KPMG on its options, with a sales process generating interest from serial sector investor Luke Johnson and London-based investment firm Inspirit Capital. Propel understands TriSpan and RCapital also ran the rule over the business. Livingbridge invested £9.8m in Bistrot Pierre in 2015.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Colliers produces report in response to sector challenges: The weakness in the casual dining market had already seen rents fall on average by about 20% since 2017-18. Now, the covid-19 pandemic is expected to reduce casual dining spend in the UK by more than £20bn this year. This is triggering a fundamental restructuring of the sector and the property market it serves. Operators have found themselves with overheads that are too high, margins that are too low and a target market that is nervous about a return to eating out. The government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme is timely. However, rents must inevitably fall and the sector has to target new and sustainable profit margins. In response, Colliers has produced a report that looks at the sector’s trajectory prior to the pandemic and how it can begin to “right-size” itself in the face of new customer attitudes and economic realities. It looks at where rents may be headed, the role independent operators can play in filling the voids left by the chains, and how landlords can collaborate with operators for mutual benefit. Click here to read the full report. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Gumbrell – Christmas will prove pivotal for pub sector: Kris Gumbrell, chief executive of Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, has said Christmas will prove pivotal for the sector. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Gumbrell said emphasising the third-space credentials of pubs could be an opportunity for the business. He said: “Christmas is going to be pivotal because the government wants us to protect the jobs of everybody so we can benefit from the jobs retention grants at the end of January. We need a good Christmas like we’ve never needed a good Christmas before to flesh out the coffers. We have the VAT cut until the end of January as well so Christmas is going to be very important. With the amount of home-working there currently is you don’t have that esprit de corps in the offices of people organising the Christmas party this year. How do you galvanise that? Do our Christmas bookings this year become more community based where neighbours have got to know each other really well? Will we see the rise of the community group Christmas bookings and, in turn, see them replace the workplace Christmas bookings? I don’t know the answer but we need to be mindful of it. The consumer has changed and home-working will be important, which will hopefully mean we can spread trade back further through the week because there’s less pressure on commuting. That could be a huge opportunity for us. We’re about to launch an initiative around third-space working so we can get people into our sites during the day. All the sites have plug sockets, USP chargers and zoned areas with different levels of music and we’ll have a package in place to allow people to work more in our venues.” Gumbrell will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Wednesday (15 July). Meanwhile, readers can support independent sector journalism and get their news 12 hours early (at 7pm each night) with a Propel Premium subscription. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Mandatory face coverings won’t apply to pubs and restaurants, says environment secretary: Environment secretary George Eustice has said the mandatory use of face coverings in England will apply to “all shops” but not pubs and restaurants. He told Sky News: “We’re not, for instance, mandating the wearing of masks in pubs and restaurants because obviously people have got to eat. We’ve been evolving the measures as we come out of lock-down and strengthening the guidance progressively on masks, making it mandatory first on public transport and now we’re going to that next step to make it mandatory in retail environments.” Face coverings will become mandatory in shops in England on Friday, 24 July with the threat of a £100 fine for those who refuse to wear one.

UK economy shrinks 19.1% in three months to May: The UK economy shrank 19.1% in the three months to May and a record 20.4% in April, according to new data produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, figures showed 1.8% growth of economic output during May compared with April. The ONS’ monthly analysis for economic output in May showed that, as in April, there was “severe disruption” in the food and hospitality sectors because of the government-enforced closure of pubs, restaurants and cafes. Accommodation services continued to decline in May, whereas food and beverage showed a small pick-up thanks to an increase in restaurant and takeaway activity. However, output from pubs and bars continued to decline with a reported turnover of £40m for pubs and bars in May compared with £1.96bn in May 2019. Speaking on Sky News, chancellor Rishi Sunak said the country had moved through the “acute” phase of the crisis but the shape of the recovery wouldn’t be known “for a while”.

UK footfall continues to rise but still down more than 50% compared with before lock-down: UK footfall has continued to rise during the past week, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. On Saturday (11 July), footfall was up 5% on the previous week and 10% on Sunday, with all major cities in growth. However, it still sits at more than 50% below February’s levels. Wireless Social said the increase was aided by the reopening of outside hospitality areas in Scotland – Edinburgh saw the most growth with 7% on Saturday and 12% on Sunday – but are still about 70% below what was being seen in February. Glasgow’s footfall grew but at a slower rate and is still down about 80% compared with the February average. Cardiff increased slightly but is still down about 70% on February’s levels. Wireless Social said it expected to see a bigger jump now hospitality venues in Wales had started to reopen. Meanwhile, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool now sit at circa 50% below the average in February, while Leeds, Manchester and York are about 60% below pre-lock-down levels and Newcastle at roughly 65%. For London business areas there was again slow growth, with the West End taking the lead and being 60% behind pre-March figures. The London “villages” are tracking at about 30% behind where footfall was five months ago but Wireless Social pointed out the majority of people were still working at home.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Brits retain appetite for pub return: Brits haven’t lost their appetite for pubs during lock-down, according to research by Greene King. The brewer and retailer’s survey of more than 25,000 customers showed more than two-thirds (70%) saw visiting their local pub as a top priority following lock-down, ahead of visiting family and friends (69%). Regarding how respondents found the experience, almost all (99%) said they felt safe visiting the pub, while 98% would feel comfortable returning in the future. Almost all (97%) respondents agreed visiting pubs made them feel life was “getting back to normal”. Greene King began reopening its pubs on 6 July, with all venues adhering to the company’s Pub Safe scheme. The research showed despite new safety measures, 86% of respondents felt the pub they visited retained the atmosphere they had hoped for. Karen Bosher, managing director Premium, Urban and Venture brands at Greene King, said: “It is fantastic to see people were keen to visit their local and even better they felt safe doing so and enjoyed the experience.”

US national restaurant chains ‘largely recovered’, says study: National restaurant chains in the US have largely recovered from the detrimental effects of plummeting consumer spending during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research. The study by Bank of America of credit card spending from March to the beginning of July showed at the start of the period consumer spending at large restaurant companies compared with the rest of the industry were neck and neck at 5% to 6% year-on-year. However by mid-April, although the entire industry was seeing negative year-on-year sales, the spending gap between large and small restaurant companies had widened to almost 35%. By 4 July, spending at large restaurant chains was positive for the first time, which Bank of America largely attributes to the fact the US holiday was on a weekend. But even though small restaurant companies and independent business sales have steadily improved since sales hit rock bottom at the end of March, on 4 July weekend consumer spending was still circa 20% down compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, the gap between large and small restaurant spending was hovering at more than 25%. Bank of America analysts stated in the report: “Casual dining and quick casual have been hit harder by a shift to social distancing, which explains some of the gap between big companies and other restaurants in the data. This analysis is supported by Datassential, which reported while consumers are starting to feel ‘cautious’ rather than ‘hopeless’ about returning to restaurants, they’re most likely to feel safe at those sites with drive-thrus and outdoor seating – features associated with chains rather than independent restaurants.”

Florida bar owners follow Texas by suing governor over covid restrictions: Florida bar owners have followed those in Texas by suing over restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus. A group of bar owners has sued Florida governor Ron DeSantis, seeking to overturn the state’s order to shut bars while keeping restaurant bars open. On 26 June, an order was issued stopping venues that received more than 50% of their gross revenue from the sale of alcohol from serving on-site. On behalf of the bar owners, attorney John Dill told Nation’s Restaurant News: “My clients are in favour of reducing the spread of coronavirus but can’t understand why serving a certain amount of food is the deciding factor on who can stay open and who cannot.” Dill said the group was seeking a temporary injunction against Florida’s government from enforcing the order and a declaratory judgment that the order is unconstitutional. DeSantis said buying alcohol would remain a to-go-only option at Florida bars for the foreseeable future as coronavirus cases continued to spike. Earlier this month bar owners in Texas sued governor Greg Abbott, accusing him of violating the state’s constitution by ordering bars to reclose. Texas bars reopened with limited capacity on 22 May, while Florida bars reopened on 5 June with 50% capacity. Other states have pulled back on bar and restaurant reopenings. California governor Gavin Newsom ordered bars in seven counties to reclose because of the rising number of cases. Areas in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have also suspended reopening.

Cornish landlord installs electric fence to ‘ensure social distancing at the bar’: Johnny McFadden, landlord of The Star Inn in St Just, Cornwall, a St Austell Brewery pub, has installed an electric fence in front of his bar after getting fed up with a lack of social distancing. McFadden told Cornwall Live: “Everybody who enters my pub tries to get served by the bar, which is right by the doorway. I didn’t know what to do so I put in an electric fence. We’re in a rural community. Everybody knows what an electric fence is. It keeps the sheep away and it keeps the people away.” McFadden insisted the fence was usually switched off but warned: “It can be turned on.” A St Austell Brewery spokesman said: “Our tenant is a cattle farmer as well as a publican. He didn’t have any rope to hand to keep the front of the bar clear so he installed an electric fence as a joke. The fence wasn’t switched on or intended as a serious social distancing measure – it was tongue in cheek. As a tenancy, The Star Inn is in charge of its own day-to-day operations but we are talking to Johnny about his plans to replace the fence with a more traditional safety measure.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a small franchise that operates a successful brand. To support the business owner in their plans for expansion COREcruitment is looking to speak to passionate heads of operations from the quick service food retail market. The business currently has 12 stores with room to acquire more. The head of operations will take charge of day-to-day operations, profitability, brand alignment and customer service. Based in London, this position will pay up to £60,000 plus bonus. Anyone interested in finding out more should email Sonny@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Hakkasan secures new $110m loan and negotiates rent agreements: UK-based restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group has secured a new $110m loan with its parent company and “negotiated rental agreements with several landlords” to help it deal with the impact of coronavirus. Hakkasan also revealed its US subsidiary had terminated 90% of staff and temporarily reduced base compensation for the remainder, although they continue to receive medical benefits. It said it would look to rehire employees depending on the phased reopening of venues. Planned capital expenditures have been delayed “indefinitely”, while non-essential contracts have been cancelled or amended. The company provided the update in its accounts for the year ending 31 December 2019 but said it was “too early” to know the full impact on the company’s financial position. It said it had reopened its London restaurants for takeaway and delivery and launched a pop­up version of its Mexican-based Casa Calavera restaurant for delivery. In addition, various managed restaurant venues across the globe have been offering delivery to alleviate lost revenues that, Hakkasan said, had an impact on the group’s management fee revenue. The company stated: “On 13 April 2020, the group amended and restated various loan agreements with Aabar Investments PJS (the parent company) with an effective date of 1 January 2020. The outstanding shareholder loans at 31 December 2019 were rolled into one agreement, with Hakkasan as the borrower. The amended agreement consists of two loans – a term facility with an initial principal amount of $88.4m at a rate of 3.5% plus LIBOR and a revolving facility with an initial principal amount of $22m at a rate of 2.5% plus LIBOR. The group can draw up to $58.1m on the revolving facility, which was extended an additional $36.0m. The final maturity date of both loans is 31 October 2031. As of the date through which the financial statements were issued (on 25 June), the group has taken one draw of $4.0m on the revolving facility at 11 June 2020. In February this year, the group closed an owned Yauatcha brand restaurant in Houston, Texas, and relinquished the lease, which meant it recorded a loss on disposal of about $0.5m. The group also entered into a termination agreement with an owner-partner to close a managed Ling Ling brand restaurant in Greece. The settlement totalled $0.6m, which included past due fees as well as a one-time termination payment. In April, the company closed an owned Hakkasan brand restaurant and the supporting satellite office in Shanghai, China, which are represented by the subsidiary Hakkasan Shanghai. The group also decided not to reopen two of its owned restaurants – Hakkasan NY in New York City and Hakkasan SF in San Francisco.” The company, which now operates 37 sites, reported turnover of $283.9m for the year ending 31 December 2018 compared with $152.4m for the six months ending 31 December 2018 when the company changed its accounting period. Operating losses stood at $25.3m at the year end from a loss of $3.4m the previous year. Pre-tax losses were $36.6m, compared with $4.4m the year before. The company said restaurant revenue fell primarily due to a reduction in food and beverage sales at owned venues, a majority of which was attributable to venues in London (minus 7%), Shanghai (minus 11%) and the US (minus 7%). Nightlife venues also saw a reduction in overall sales, while management fee revenue decreased 27% year-on-year because of the sale of certain management contracts for seven restaurants, two bar lounges and one day club, all of them in Las Vegas. During the year, a partner also decided to close an underperforming managed restaurant in Mexico.

Vincent – we need to keep all options open: Leon co-founder and chief executive John Vincent has told Propel the natural fast food brand has agreed new rental terms with many of its landlords but, “given the uncertainty of what is going on” it needed to “keep all options open”. Vincent was responding to a question from Propel regarding whether the company may have to explore a restructure. Leon appointed consultancy firm Quantuma in early June to help it engage with its landlords and push to change to a turnover-based rent model. Vincent told Propel: “Quantuma is principally employed to work on getting to a win-win solution with landlords. Many have already agreed new terms and we are constructively working with the remainder ahead of the critical end of September rent quarter date. Given the uncertainty of what’s going on we need to keep all options open but anticipate most landlords will come to the table.” Earlier this week Leon reopened seated areas in nine of its sites and also reopened its sites in Stansted airport and at Beaconsfield and Strensham service stations. Last week Propel revealed that Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, had appointed advisers as it looked to step up conversations with landlords and explore possible restructuring options. It follows the news rival Pret will undergo a restructure that will see 30 of its UK sites close permanently. Earlier this month Propel revealed Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts and backed by Capdesia, was looking to secure new investment that could include a sale of the business. The company appointed restructuring adviser KPMG in May to explore a full range of strategic options, which now include seeking new investment partners or a purchaser for the business alongside raising funds from existing investors.

Giggling Squid appoints Nick Backhouse as chairman: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, has appointed Nick Backhouse as non-executive chairman with immediate effect. Backhouse is currently a senior independent director at Hollywood Bowl Group and Loungers. He was formerly senior independent director at Guardian Media Group, while other non-executive roles have included All3Media and Marston’s. Backhouse has also been deputy chief executive of David Lloyd Leisure Group; group finance director of NCP; and chief financial officer of Laurel Pub Company. He replaces former Carluccio’s chief executive Simon Kossoff, who stepped down as Giggling Squid chairman last August after four years in the role. Backhouse said: “Over the past few months I’ve had the chance to speak with many people in the Giggling Squid family and I’m impressed not only by what the brand has achieved to date but also by its resilience and potential. I look forward to bringing my experience to support its continued success.” Andy Laurillard said: “We are delighted to welcome Nick to the company. His knowledge and expertise, particularly in the multi-site leisure sector, is hard to match and we’re thrilled he has decided to join us as we move forward from the most challenging period in hospitality.” Meanwhile, the company has promoted Vikas Agarwal to chief commercial officer from head of food, a move that sees him join the board. The group reopened all its 35 sites for dine-in earlier this month apart from Leicester because of local lock-down restrictions. Last month it secured its immediate future after obtaining a £5m loan through Barclays.

Young’s to start phased reopening programme with six pubs this week: London pub retailer Young’s is to begin the phased reopening of its managed house estate on Friday (17 July). The Patrick Dardis-led business will reopen six pubs – The Adam & Eve in Fitzrovia; The Red Barn in Lingfield; The Northcote near Clapham Junction; the Leather Bottle in Earlsfield; the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and the Clock House in East Dulwich. The company said a phased reopening would give the business a chance to trial its service cycle and fully-integrated “on tap” app. Young’s previously said it was eyeing reopening its pubs on Monday, 3 August although some larger pubs with gardens could open in mid-July. Late last month the company reported the completion of an equity issue raising gross proceeds of £88.4m.

Doma Hospitality to enter fast casual market with ‘better for you’ pizza concept: Doma Hospitality, part of BHL Global, which operates The Stafford London and Game Bird restaurant, Sicilian restaurant Norma London, and Michelin-starred Northcote in Lancashire, is to enter the fast casual market by launching “better for you” pizza concept Gallio. The brand will launch from a south east London kitchen in mid-August as delivery only, with plans to open a full-service restaurant in central London and three more delivery kitchens by the end of 2021. Gallio will be inspired by the Mediterranean and also offer sharing bowls, salads and desserts. The menu has been developed in collaboration with Ben Tish, chef and culinary director of The Stafford London and Norma. Dough will be made using a mix of ancient grains, sea salt, natural yeast, extra virgin olive oil and filtered water. Each batch will be prepared daily and left to prove for 36 hours before being turned into thin and crispy 12-inch bases. Toppings will focus on Mediterranean flavours such as spiced lamb, labneh, rose harissa and pickled chilli, while a seasonally changing special will begin with red prawn, grezzina courgettes, red chilli and wild fennel. Salads will include vegan quinoa with green lentils, spinach, avocado, spring onions, mint and parsley. Bowls will include beetroot borani with yogurt, dill, dates, feta and walnuts. The two desserts will be a sweet pizza and a bitter chocolate almond cake alongside Hackney Gelato ice cream. Gallio operations director Chantal Nell said: “We are passionate about provenance and quality and can’t wait to bring a slice of Mediterranean sunshine to Londoners.” Gallio will offer delivery within a radius that will include Lambeth, Waterloo, Elephant and Castle, Vauxhall, South Bank and Southwark.

Bill’s appoints operations director: Bill’s, the 78-strong Richard Caring-backed group, has appointed Joel Claustre, formerly of Searcys, as operations director, Propel has learned. Claustre joins Bill’s after 16 years with Searcys, where he was retail operations director and latterly beverage ambassador and account director. He joins Bill’s as it gears up to reopen circa 30 sites in England on Friday (17 July) after reopening its first six restaurants last week. Safety measures will include thermal cameras for temperature checks on arrival and new seating arrangements in line with social distancing guidelines. Each restaurant has also implemented tracking software that logs employees’ temperature readings over a seven-day rolling period.

Bob & Berts reopens three-quarters of estate following funding boost: Northern Ireland-based coffee company Bob & Berts has reopened almost three-quarters of its cafes across Northern Ireland and Scotland after navigating the pandemic with the help of financial support. Founded in Portstewart in 2013, the company operates 20 stores – 15 in Northern Ireland – and employs more than 400 staff. During lock-down it secured funding from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and additional support measures from Ulster Bank. Bob & Berts has invested some of the funding in social distancing and hygiene measures across its estate. David Ferguson, co-owner of the business with his brother-in-law Colin McClean, said: “Turning the tap back on across all our stores is a huge undertaking and has incurred significant costs. The support Ulster Bank has provided has ensured the business is in a good place to reopen and has allowed us to resume in-store trading quickly and efficiently.”

The Coconut Tree to start phased reopening next week: Sri Lankan restaurant group The Coconut Tree is to start a phased reopening of its six-strong estate from next week. The group will reopen its Cardiff restaurant – its only venue in Wales – on Wednesday, 22 July. In line with guidelines set out by the Welsh government, this will be outdoors-only until Monday, 3 August. Customers will be able to use the restaurant’s outdoor seating in Mill Lane or order dishes via mobile ordering platform Yoello to be delivered to a designated dining area the local authority has created in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. The Coconut Tree in Bournemouth will reopen on Friday, 24 July followed by both Bristol sites – in Gloucester Road and the Bristol Triangle – on 29 July. Bristol Triangle will initially offer a takeaway service only. The Oxford restaurant will reopen on Friday, 31 July and the Cheltenham restaurant on 3 August. Brand director Anna Garrod said: “We have been working on some new recipes during lock-down and can’t think of a better way to reveal them than with a Sri Lankan feast in the grounds of Cardiff Castle!” The Coconut Tree also confirmed it would take part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme during August. Last month The Coconut Tree secured a £60,000 loan from not-for-profit company SWIG Finance, supported by Triodos Bank and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, to safeguard 160 jobs and sustain the business during the coronavirus crisis. 

Honest rolls out burger kits nationwide: Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers has rolled out its Honest At Home burger kits for delivery nationwide. The company originally made a limited number of kits during lock-down as part of a charity fund-raise. Each kit includes four chuck steak and rib cap patties, four Cheddar slices, four dry-cured smoked bacon rashers and four buns along with relish, pickles and salt seasoning. The kits are available from 9am to 1pm, Sunday to Thursday, and cost £30, including delivery. Kits are delivered two days after ordering and should be consumed the day they arrive. Honest Burgers co-founder Tom Barton said: “Online retail for restaurants was born through lock-down and the support we’ve seen from our customers has been mind-blowing. Thanks again to all those who’ve helped our industry get through these tough few months.” Honest Burgers operates 37 UK restaurants and its own butchery. 

Junkyard Golf gets go-ahead for Newcastle site: Crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Newcastle. The company has been granted permission by the city council for the change of use of units one and two at 30-42 Newgate Street. The application covers the conversion of the building’s ground and first floors, with a combined floor area of 16,000 square feet. The indoor crazy golf course would be on the ground floor together with a storage area and toilets. The first floor would be used for serving drinks and food as well as additional storage, toilets and an office, reports Insider Media. Junkyard Golf operates sites in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Oxford. Chris Legh, Bart Murphy, Lyndon Higginson and Mat Lake launched the concept as a pop-up in Manchester in 2015.

Bettys & Taylors to begin phased reopening of cafes this month: Family-owned Bettys & Taylors Group will begin a phased reopening of its cafes at the end of this month. The company’s Harrogate outlet in Parliament Street will return on Monday, 27 July along with its Northallerton site. This will be followed by its cafe at RHS Harlow Carr in Beckwithshaw and its Ilkley outlet on Monday, 3 August. In York, the Stonegate cafe will stay closed for eat-in but still serve takeaway, while the York St Helen’s Square venue will reopen on 3 August. Customers will have to book ahead and provide contact details for the NHS test and trace system. Bettys & Taylors said there would be a reduced menu to begin with that would be expanded in August but traditional afternoon tea would still be served.

Super 8 starts reopening plan with Smoking Goat: Super 8 Restaurants, which is led by Brian Hannon and Ben Chapman and operates three London venues, has started to reopen its estate. Smoking Goat, the Thai barbecue restaurant and bar in Shoreditch, is the first to reopen and offers new dishes created by Chapman during lock-down using lobster and crab to support the UK’s fishermen. The new dishes are krua curry of lobster and celtuce – a “complex dry red curry with lots of char aroma from a hot wok” – and curried whole Cornish crab. Super 8’s other restaurants will reopen this month. Brat, the Basque-inspired concept in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Tomos Parry, will reopen in Redchurch Street on Wednesday, 22 July. Kiln, which is also influenced by the cuisine of northern Thailand, will reopen in Soho two days later. Brat also launched a residency at in the outdoor space at events hub Climpson’s Arch in Hackney on Monday (13 July). In 2019, Super 8 Restaurants ranked 31st on The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list. The company buys many of its ingredients from Cornwall and butchers animals in-house. Sales grew to £7.2m last year.

James Cochran offers franchise opportunity for pubs: Great British Menu winner James Cochran, who co-owns Islington restaurant 12:51, is looking to franchise his lock-down business, Around The Cluck, so pubs can benefit from the government’s VAT cut and kick-start scheme. Cochran said in the three months of lock-down his fried chicken concept was seeing 200 orders a week, initially Thursday to Sunday, which had meant the difference between “12:51 surviving or being another casualty of covid-19”. The franchise scheme would offer a full set-up with the pub’s kitchen manager, a week’s training in Islington with Cochran and his team, and three days’ training ahead of launch day. It would also offer a full set-up with his own suppliers at fair prices, four seasonal menu changes to keep the offering fresh, PR support and mystery shopping quality checks. Cochran’s in-house design team would also offer full branding, menus and templates to use online as well as tutorial videos. As an investment for their time and resources, Cochran would take a 10% cut of their total monthly earnings during the six-month contract. He said: “My signature fried chicken propelled me to winning Great British Menu and ensured 12:51 is still around. I hope it can provide a safety blanket for businesses around the country, especially now times are tight.”

Fletchergate Industries launches seventh Nottingham venue at former Jamie’s Italian: Fletchergate Industries, which is behind Nottingham venues The Hockley Arts Club and Das Kino, has launched its seventh venue in the city. Magic Garden bar has opened at the former Jamie’s Italian in Low Pavement in the city centre. Fletchergate has made the most of the grade II-listed Georgian building’s garden for the “post-covid world” as the space features Chinese lanterns, glitter balls, ribbons and bunting. The site has been empty since the sudden closure of Jamie’s Italian in May 2019, when the chain went into administration. General manager Jamie Barnes told Nottingham Live: “As you come into the outdoor space, it’s like watching kids on Christmas morning – people’s faces light up. It’s such a good space.” Tables and chairs have been spaced out for social distancing, with room for 196 people in total. Magic Garden offers cocktails, beer, cider and spirits alongside pizza and chips. Ordering is done via an app. Fletchergate Industries’ other venues are Penny Lane, The Walrus, The Bowery Club and Pom Pom nightclub.

Vittoria Group sets out reopening plans: Edinburgh-based Vittoria Group has set out reopening plans for its six-strong restaurant portfolio. The company will bring Taste Of Italy, La Favorita and Vittoria On The Walk back into operation on Wednesday (15 July). Vittoria On The Bridge and the group’s flagship site, Bertie’s Restaurant & Bar, will reopen on Wednesday, 22 July. Italian restaurant Divino Enoteca will be the final restaurant in the estate to reopen, on Friday, 31 July. The restaurants will offer reduced capacities, which will be monitored continuously in line with Scottish government guidelines. Staff will wear gloves and masks and all surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected between sittings. The company, owned by Tony and Angela Crolla and their sons Alberto and Leandro, marks its 50th anniversary this year. Leandro Crolla told the Edinburgh Evening News: “It has been an uncertain few months for the Scottish hospitality sector but during these trying and challenging times we have been encouraged by the incredible support of our customers. Like many businesses we are adapting and learning every day but count ourselves lucky to have restaurants where social distancing is relatively easy.”

Hampshire-based pub operator takes on Southsea brewpub for third site: Hampshire-based Giles Babb, who runs The Star & Garter in East Dean and the Blue Bell in Emsworth, has taken on his third pub in the county – The Greenwich brewpub in Southsea. Makemake Brewing Company, which operates from the Osborne Road site, will continue to supply beer to the pub as well as Babb’s other premises. However, the landlord intends to change the food menu. Babb told The News: “It has always been a popular venue and is a good opportunity for us. I think one of the biggest things for me was the brewery made the site very attractive. We are reviewing the menu and looking to expand the food offering to a wider demographic. We will no longer be doing pizzas – it seems the area is flooded with pizza offerings. We are looking to invest in the kitchen and eyeing naval history to update the decor.” The Blue Bell was set to reopen on 4 July but the move had to be postponed after a pipe burst in the loft. The Ahoy Fish & Chip van, owned by Babb, is on the site from 5pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Star & Garter will reopen on Friday, 24 July.

McCain profits fall as turnover dips in full year due to potato shortage: Food producer McCain has reported turnover dipped 0.3% to £509.9m for the year ending 30 June 2019, compared with £511.6m the year before. McCain said the decline in sales was because of demand being “actively managed” due to the shortage of potatoes during the year following a poor harvest. Pre-tax profit dropped to £37.0m, compared with £56.8m the previous year, partly because of restructuring costs associated with the investment in its Scarborough facility. Operating profit margin fell to 4.2% from 11.3% the year before, while employee retention year-on-year was 96.9%, compared with 99.8% the year before.

Glasgow-based Platform to turn indoor food hall into Scotland’s largest restaurant and bar: Events and hospitality brand Platform is to transform its indoor food hall beneath Glasgow Central station into Scotland’s largest restaurant and bar. Platform will open in Argyle Street Arches on Friday (17 July) offering street food and 350 seats, even accounting for social distancing guidelines. Glasgow street food traders such as Gallus Pasta, Tiny Dancers and Ginger & Chilli will collaborate to serve “flavours from across the world” in conjunction with Platform owner Scott McCormick. Safety measures will include thermal scanners, ordering apps and increased ventilation within the arches. The menu will be dedicated to street food from Asia, Italy and the US with dishes such as sticky Korean fried chicken bites, homemade pizza and hand-cut pasta. Platform will initially operate Fridays and Saturdays from midday until late as part of a transitional opening. Guests can book a table online for three hours with an option to stay longer. Its bar will offer cocktails and beer alongside Scottish gin, whisky and craft soda. McCormick told Glasgow Live: “Like most businesses we’ve had to evolve and adjust to a new normal and the opportunity to create Scotland’s largest casual dining restaurant and street food kitchen will hopefully be one of the few positives to come out of this pandemic. We’ve spent months planning and creating a new concept we’re extremely proud.”

Japanese restaurant Taka to reopen in Mayfair on Friday with new menu: Restaurateur Andrey Datsenko and sister Anastasia will reopen their Japanese restaurant Taka in London’s Mayfair on Friday (17 July). Having launched a delivery service during lock-down, Taka will offer a la carte and signature tasting menus while adhering to government guidelines. The site in Shepherd Market will feature a new menu by executive chef Taiji Maruyama, which will combine a farm-to-table approach with “shun”, the traditional Japanese concept that food should only be eaten in season and at the peak of its flavour. The menu will focus primarily on sushi and sashimi with the concept revolving around aged tuna and fish from Cornish fishermen together with speciality hot dishes focusing on the “shun” philosophy. There will also be a range of drinks including cocktails, wine, saké, Japanese beer and whiskey, and spirits. A second Taka site is set to open in the premises in Marylebone formerly occupied by Peter Gordon’s The Providores.

LabTech reopens eco-led Buck Street Market: Camden Market owner LabTech has reopened its eco-led sister development Buck Street Market for 80% of its traders. Rooftop restaurant Ethika, Spirited Craft Drinks and first floor fine-dining concept Wildflower from chef Adrian Martin will open on Saturday (18 July). Buck Street Market consists of 88 recycled shipping containers and hosts Camden’s largest rooftop, spanning 500 square feet. As with Camden Market, safety measures for reopening will include a strict one-way system and directional arrows. Hand-sanitiser stations will be positioned at key points throughout the market. For the foreseeable future, traders will also be expected to adhere to factors in line with government recommendations, including limiting the number of customers entering at any one time; maintaining a strict cleaning regime; and accepting card payments only where possible. The relaunch of Buck Street Market will be followed later in the year by the opening of Hawley Wharf Camden, a 580,000 square foot mixed-scheme development.

London-based hot doughnut bar to go from pop-up to permanent: London-based hot doughnut bar Treats Club is going from pop-up to permanent. Following a series of residencies across the capital, treats bar will open a site at Netil Market in Hackney on Saturday, 25 July. Doughnuts will be cooked to order with flavours such as Biscoff salted caramel and vanilla bean as well as a variety of toppings. There will also be ice cream bars, hot doughnut sundaes and shakes, reports Hot Dinners.

Former City Social executive chef to launch vegetable-centric dining experience at Borough Market: Tomas Lidakevicius, former executive chef at Jason Atherton’s City Social, is to launch a vegetable-centric dining experience at London’s Borough Market on Thursday (16 July). Lidakevicius has teamed up with Turnips, a family run stall at Borough Market for the past 30 years, to “join the disconnect between quality produce and the restaurant experience”. Casual plates and cocktails will be offered in the space where Turnips normally trades, while a five-course tasting menu will be served under the arches with Lidakevicius cooking from a shipping container converted into a kitchen. The menu will be driven by Turnips’ daily delivery of fruit and vegetables. Initial dishes are likely to include Yorkshire beans and peas with 48-hour short rib; and sweet and sour cauliflower with sesame seeds. Turnips With Tomas Lidakevicius will operate from 7pm to 10pm, Thursday to Saturday, and 2.30pm to 8pm on Sundays. Charlie Foster, son of Caroline and Fred Foster, who founded Turnips, said: “The juxtaposition between fine dining and buzzy market atmosphere is second to none and we’re so excited to be working with Tomas. The meal I had at City Social when Tomas was in the kitchen was one of the best I’ve ever had and he shares our vision of joining the disconnect between market produce and restaurant food.”

Crieff Hydro launches adventure park in grounds of Perthshire hotel: Crieff Hydro, the seven-strong Scottish hotel operator led by Stephen Leckie, has launched a £250,000 custom-built adventure park at its 900-acre Perthshire estate. The hotel and its grounds already hosted adventure centre Action Glen, which offers more than 25 outdoor activities, but the new facility – Glen’s Adventure Park – is the biggest of its kind in the region. Glen’s Fort, an eight-metre structure with slides, climbing walls, crawl tunnels, ladders and spider webs, is at the heart of the adventure park, which also features 30m racing zip wires, swings, jumping pillows and peddle karts. A custom-built area for toddlers will be added in the coming months. Action Glen manager Richard Leckie said: “It has been our ambition for some time to create an impressive adventure park at the centre of Action Glen so we’re delighted to finally open our doors and show visitors what we’ve been working on. We are fortunate to have acres of land our guests can explore. After months in lock-down, we’re sure this will be welcome news for families looking for somewhere to visit that will keep the kids entertained.”

Kent-based distillery Copper Rivet to continue producing sanitiser: Kent-based Copper Rivet is to continue producing hand sanitiser alongside its beer and gin. The company is producing about 2,000 bottles a day for local police forces and councils and has produced more than 60,000 500ml bottles so far. Co-founder Steve Russell told Propel: “We make our own spirit from beer and have a science-heavy distilling team. We noticed in February that hand sanitiser was becoming scarce at retail outlets so we asked our team to look into it. Over the next few weeks it became clear there was a big shortage and we thought about how we could help. We’ve decided to continue producing sanitiser alongside our other products when the lock-down ends.” Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has supported the effort by supplying high-strength beer to be turned into sanitiser. Russell, his father Bob and brother Matthew carried out the first distillation at its Chatham base in 2016.

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