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Mon 17th Aug 2020 - Osmond: Listing of Various Eateries will provide war chest to expand existing brands and acquire others
Osmond: Listing of Various Eateries will provide war chest to expand existing brands and acquire others: Serial sector investor Hugh Osmond has told Propel that a proposed AIM-listing of his Various Eateries business, will see the company look to “double or triple” the size of its current 11-strong estate, and provide a war chest to acquire smaller groups. Osmond said the plan was for a listing this autumn, which would see the current Various Eateries business, that features the seven-strong Coppa Club brand, valued at circa £50m, including £10m of debt, and raise £25m of new equity. The timing of the listing will depend on talks the company is currently having with its landlords on rental terms. Osmond said he believed that post-covid would be the first time since the early 1990s that well-funded businesses would be able to pick up these type of opportunities – in terms of amount and quality of sites. Osmond told: “I believe the timing is right for the right vehicle to look at these opportunities. It reminds me very much of the market in the early 1990s. A successful listing would allow for the existing management team at Various to be backed to double or triple the size of the estate, with a focus on Coppa Club and our new Tavolino concept, but also to look at opportunities to acquire small groups or fledgling businesses.” Various Eateries is chaired by Strada and Cote co-founder Andy Bassadone, and includes Yishay Malkov, one of the key driving forces behind the development and expansion of The Ivy Collection, as its managing director. Osmond said: “There is no one that has the track record that Andy has had over the past 20 years in developing and rolling out casual dining concepts, from Strada to Cote and Bill’s, whilst Yishay played a major part in the original growth of the Ivy Collection. There is also a great team behind them. We also want to invest in expanding the business in order to provide jobs for the growing pool of talent that will be looking for new roles over the coming months.” As previously revealed by Propel, Coppa Club will open its seventh site this October on the former Strada unit in the Surrey town of Cobham, complete with roof terrace and private igloos. The company recently opened its new Italian restaurant concept Tavolino at its former Strada site in More London. Osmond, who with fellow entrepreneur Luke Johnson took PizzaExpress public, is also gearing up to list a special purpose acquisition company on the New York Stock Exchange in the coming weeks. The listing of Broadstone Acquisition Corp will aim to raise between $300m and $400m and then target a UK company whose balance sheet has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. Osmond, who also founded Punch Taverns, has been subsequently linked with a bid for PizzaExpress, which he took public in 1993 and then expanded it from 12 outlets to 250.

The Guardian turns spotlight on JD Wetherspoon ‘overcrowding’: The Guardian has highlighted concerns that JD Wetherspoon is failing to prevent overcrowding in its pubs. The newspaper stated: “Concerns about poor social distancing by customers in Wetherspoon pubs followed a surge in visitors during recent hot weather and after the publication of A-level results last Thursday. Customers in a south London pub run by the company said they had not been asked to provide personal details, including mobile phone numbers that can be used in the government’s track and trace system. The Guardian found that in one of south London’s most popular pubs with young people, customers were allowed to buy drinks directly from the bar and stood within one metre of others without any intervention by the staff. One customer described the pub as ‘rammed’ and staff were unable to cope with the demand for drinks and food. Young people often gather in Wetherspoon pubs due to their low prices, attracted by large discounts on alcoholic drinks and food prices compared with rival chains. Due to current restrictions on larger venues, some of the pubs are likely among the largest social gatherings in the UK. Anxieties about overcrowding follow a probe by the Daily Record in Scotland showing that several of the firm’s pubs were failing to ask for mobile phone data, leading the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to make it mandatory.” A spokesman for Wetherspoon said: “The absence of music, for example, and high food sales attract all age groups. In the good weather of recent weeks, there may have been a higher than usual number of young people in pubs generally. The company is making strenuous efforts to comply with the regulations around social distancing. Whereas it is not possible to create an entirely risk-free environment, the company will continue to modify and improve its systems in response to covid-19 and will review the procedures at any individual pub which is the subject of complaint.” A spokesman said managers asked customers to write down their personal details and post them in ‘ballot boxes’ in the pub and the company recently added barcodes on tables that can be scanned, allowing customers to participate in the track and trace system. He said: “The combined systems have worked well and 616,192 customers have registered using the system across the entire company across the first five days this week (to 14 August), which equates to one registration per £46.21 of sales, bearing in mind only one member of each group needs to register.”

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