Story of the Day:
Bill’s begins working with advisers on discussions with landlords: Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group, has begun working with adviser KPMG on the future shape of its estate, Propel has learned. It is thought KPMG’s work with the 78-strong business is at a very early stage and is examining discussions with the company’s landlords about the group’s future rental terms. However, the fact that it is working with advisers will add to speculation the group will look to shed some of its existing estate. In August, Propel revealed Bill’s was set to close parts of its estate. One industry source suggested the number of closures could be more than 20, including Glasgow, the group’s only site in Scotland; Worcester and some in central London. The company has so far reopened 52 sites across the UK, with a further four set to reopen this month. However, it has yet to put a date on when it will open the doors on its remaining 22 sites. Venues in High Wycombe and Muswell Hill will reopen on Friday (4 September) and those in Camberley and Hammersmith on Friday, 18 September. That leaves sites in locations including High Street Kensington, Glasgow, Ealing, Taunton and Oxford still closed. It’s thought the business has already restructured its head office team and made cuts to its regional teams and marketing, learning and development functions. A Bill’s spokesman told Propel last month: “The restaurants are going to open gradually, some sooner than others. There’s no update in regard to any closures.” The company has been streamlining its management team during the past year, with a number of positions now shared with its sister business, The Ivy Collection, which is also backed by Caring. In January, the business announced Baton Berisha, managing director of The Ivy Collection, would take on management of Bill’s after executive chairman David Campbell and managing director Sarah Hills left the company. The Ivy Collection chief financial officer Jonathan Peters took over finance duties at Bill’s in February. Caring has invested significant funds in refurbishing the Bill’s estate during the past two years, repositioned the concept as a bar and kitchen, and moved away from the all-day grocer positioning on which the brand was founded. The move led to an uplift in sales. Both Bill’s and KPMG declined to comment.
Host of operators sign up for Social Media for Profit:
A host of operators and brands have signed up for this year’s Social Media for Profit event, which will be held virtually on the afternoon of Tuesday, 15 September. Companies attending include Greene King
, Hakkasan Group
, Giggling Squid
, The Chesterford Group
, Boston Tea Party
, Signature Pubs
, Bone Daddies
, Incipio Group
, Blind Tiger Inns
, Aspirational Pub Co
, True North Brew Co
, Twisted Bars
, Horwood House Hotel
. Bookings will close on Friday (4 September). Mark McCulloch, who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing digital and social media experience including senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO!
, will host the social media boot camp. The event will provide insights into how to build sales and brands using social media to help operators bounce back following lock-down. McCulloch will be joined by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social
. With almost ten years of social media experience, Battisby is a Facebook-accredited trainer and will bring the latest algorithm-busting insights. For the full agenda, click here
. Tickets are £99 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £149 plus VAT for operators and £199 plus VAT for suppliers. To book
, email email@example.com
Pesto owner – extending Eat Out To Help Out without government support is ‘commercial suicide’: Neil Gatt, owner of Italian restaurant business Pesto and founder of La Tasca, has told Propel extending the Eat Out To Help Out scheme without government support is “commercial suicide”. Pesto has become the latest business to confirm it will not continue the discount scheme, joining Hawksmoor, the Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept; and Grace Regan, founder of SpiceBox, among others. Gatt said Pesto, which operates 11 restaurants throughout the north west and Midlands, had enjoyed a significant uplift in sales during August as a direct result of the scheme, but was still saying “no” to an extension. Gatt said: “Having sold La Tasca in 2001, I watched a business I created go through a number of different ownerships and, with them, a series of mistakes that, ultimately, led to its downfall. When the 2008 financial crisis happened, La Tasca had a knee-jerk reaction and embarked on a programme of mass discounting, including such offers as ‘all you can eat for a tenner’ and ‘50% off’. These kinds of offers attracted the wrong sort of clientele, alienated loyal customers and, ultimately, sealed the brand’s fate, never to recover. Launching into a self-funded Eat Out To Help Out scheme would equate to the same thing, it’s a strategy that great brands such as Pesto should steer clear of in my opinion.” La Tasca now operates three sites, which were acquired by Independent Spanish Restaurant Company from Casual Dining Group (CDG) in February this year. CDG bought the then 41-strong La Tasca in summer 2015 from Icelandic bank Kaupthing in a deal valued at £25m. At the time, it also operated five restaurants in the US. The two remaining La Tasca sites in the US were not part of the deal with Independent Spanish Restaurant Company.
NTIA backs Global Nighttime Recovery Plan to ensure the music doesn’t stop: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) is pledging its support to the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan (GNRP) in a bid to save nightclubs, which are unable to operate currently. GNRP’s second stage was unveiled on Wednesday (2 September) under the banner “The future of dancefloors”, which focuses on the survival and future of nightclubs. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “We, as a sector, should be driving the agenda for reopening dance floors, focusing on safety, viability and an evolved customer experience.” The themes in the plan include survival, safety, innovation and inclusivity, explored through global case studies, industry insights and existing resources; creative businesses model pivots to maintain revenue while the clubbing experience is impossible; responsible virus transmission mitigation tactics to make clubbing safe; innovative virtual reality experiments; and a tool to help venues and promoters analyse inclusivity during the pandemic and beyond. Meanwhile, Cannock-based nightclub Silk’s, thought to be the oldest running independent nightclub in the UK, is to shut for good after the impact of coronavirus. The nightclub, originally called Snoopy’s and founded in 1972 by local entrepreneur Alan Murray, has played host to some huge names in music in the past including the Bay City Rollers and Ben E King. Scott Murray, speaking on behalf of the Murray family, said it had been planning to reopen the venue following lock-down with a huge refurbishment, creating more than 100 jobs, but the coronavirus pandemic had destroyed the plans. The government has given no indication as to when nightclubs will reopen. Scott Murray told the Express & Star it was impossible for the Mill Street venue to reopen in the current climate and a “devastating” decision was made to shut for good. The family is now looking at seeking planning permission for luxury apartments to be built at the site. Alan Murray owned and operated the nightclub until his death in 2018. The venue had been managed by his son Martin and, more recently, by Paddy Ryan.
UK footfall enjoys biggest Sunday jump since sector reopening: Footfall on UK streets has gathered pace and enjoyed the biggest leap in Sunday week-to-week footfall since the sector reopened, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The figures look at footfall in UK regions compared with a pre lock-down average base week in February. They showed footfall on Sunday (30 August) was up circa ten percentage points on the previous week – its biggest rise since the beginning of July when hospitality venues were allowed to reopen – and down 33% overall on February’s levels. The stand-out figures during the past week showed footfall in Liverpool on Sunday was 13% behind pre-lock-down footfall figures, with a 25% jump on the previous week. Edinburgh footfall fell slightly for the first time in a few weeks while footfall in London’s West End was in slight growth, with it nearing 55% down on February’s figures. After having a few weeks of minimal growth, Glasgow saw more people out and about at the weekend, with 8% week-on-week growth on Saturday (29 August) and 10% on Sunday.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Almost one in five of customers will return to restaurants not visited before Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Some 18% of diners who used the Eat Out To Help Out initiative will return to restaurants they would not have otherwise visited without the incentive. Research from Barclaycard Payments also showed spending in UK restaurants and fast food outlets was up 34.2% on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August, compared with the same days in July. The data also found the number of transactions grew by 33.7%. However, the average transaction value on Mondays to Wednesdays remained fairly stable, rising from £11.85 in July to £11.91 in August, but this also took into account the £10 discount per person so customers ordered more food and non-alcoholic drinks for a similar spend total. Wednesdays were found to be the most popular day to use the government-backed initiative as spending grew 39.7% month-on-month. Sundays remained the most popular day to eat out despite not being included in the scheme. Barclaycard Payments chief executive Rob Cameron said: “Consumer feedback has also been very encouraging, with almost one in five (19%) planning to continue dining out more often to support the industry, and a similar number saying that they will return to restaurants they would not have visited otherwise. Restaurants across the UK will be looking to maintain this boost in trade, especially with the Christmas period now in sight.”
New York City approves extension of third-party delivery cap: New York City officials have expanded a temporary cap on third-party delivery fees until restaurants can operate at 100% indoor capacity. Outdoor dining has been permitted in the city since 22 June, but with no set date for indoor dining being allowed again, the council has decided to extend the cap as restaurants continue to be dependent on off-premises orders. In May, New York City leaders capped third-party delivery commissions at 20%, which includes fees tied to delivery (15%) and marketing services (5%) on the app. The cap was set to expire on Friday, 18 September, but will now continue until 90 days after restaurants are allowed to reopen to indoor dining at 100% capacity. Last month, Grubhub tried to fight back on the proposed extension by launching a campaign directing New York diners to protest what the company is calling a “food delivery tax” on consumers. The company, which plans to merge with Just Eat Takeaway.com, maintains consumers pay higher fees when restaurant commission caps are lowered. Other cities and counties that have temporarily capped commission fees include Clark County, which includes Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Seattle; San Francisco and Washington DC.
PCA issues new factsheet for tied pub tenants on BDMs and CCOs: The Pubs Code adjudicator (PCA) has rolled out a new factsheet to help tied pub tenants deal with their business development managers (BDMs) and code compliance officers (CCOs). The PCA said tenants must be aware of the responsibilities required by these, key, but separate roles, especially during covid-19. BDMs include anyone who represents the pub company in negotiations with the tenant around rental events, repairs or business planning. CCOs are employed by pub companies to verify compliance with the code and to be available to tenants to answer any related query.
Liverpool Hospitality partnership to certify sector employees: Liverpool Hospitality will join City & Guilds to help workers in the sector gain international certification for their skills and experience. The project will allow employers to register any of their hospitality staff for certification, including those facing redundancy. The skills certification will be offered free of charge to all participating employers and their staff, thanks to funding from the Liverpool Combined Authority and Liverpool Hospitality. Liverpool Hospitality chairman Marcus Magee said: “We are delighted to give employers and their staff across the city region the opportunity to get their skills globally recognised. Our innovative concept will be a game-changer for skills development, and we look forward sharing our experience with the industry in the rest of the country and beyond.”
Job of the day:
COREcruitment is supporting a food and beverage business as it seeks to add an experienced accountant to its team. Based in west London, the position will pay up to £32,000 initially, and will require the incoming candidate to be AAT qualified and have a finance degree. The incoming account will be responsible for monthly reporting of management accounts and reconciliation and allocation of all revenue streams. They will ensure invoiced debt is collected and food and beverage are correctly costed and the impact on the P&L is fully understood. This position would suit a creative and collaborative worker, working alongside operations teams to optimise opportunities and minimise costs. As well as management accounting experience, the ideal candidate will have high numeric and analytical skills, excellent knowledge of Excel, the ability to analyse and evaluate information, excellent inter personal skills and knowledge of statutory accounting principles. Anyone interested can email Oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
East Coast Concepts acquired out of administration: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts has been acquired through a pre-pack administration by an investment group, led by Naveen Handa of leisure company The Cairn Group, Propel has learned. The deal for the five-strong business protects more than 250 jobs and its existing Neighbourhood and Victors sites will continue to trade as normal. The Handa-led group said the deal for East Coast Concepts was a “strategic acquisition to enhance their premium restaurant and bar offering”. Propel revealed in July that East Coast Concept, which is led by John Hammond and operates sites in Hale, Alderley Edge, Liverpool, Leeds and Oxford, was working with FRP Corporate Finance, with options thought to include securing a further equity injection. It is thought a competitive bidding process was subsequently generated. Propel understands the Handa-led vehicle has committed £1m post-investment in the business to safeguard it against any further “sector shocks” and will look to aid its expansion plans going forward. Handa also recently led a consortium to become the new joint venture partners for London and UK franchisees of Vapiano Restaurants. Ben Woolrych and Anthony Collier of FRP were appointed as joint administrators of Victors Restaurants and East Coast Concepts on 1 September 2020. On appointment, the joint administrators completed the pre-pack sale of the business and assets to the investment group. Hammond, managing director at East Coast Concepts, said: “Since opening our doors in 2012, every member of the business has worked hard to establish strong brands and create an experience that our guests love. We have significantly exceeded sales and profit targets since reopening while delivering an industry-leading net promoter score, with 25% year-on-year growth in the final week in August, including the bank holiday weekend. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for the business and will enable us to embark on the next phase of growth, with an investor that really sees the value in the brands we have created.” Handa added: “We are delighted to have been able to secure the long-term future of East Coast Concepts, and its much-loved Neighbourhood and Victors brands, as well as the jobs of over 250 staff throughout the sites and head office. Moving forward, we see great potential for premium, experiential and well-differentiated brands, and will be focused on supporting the existing management team, while investing in the brands and its people to help realise the exciting growth potential.”
Five Guys launches ‘curb side’ pick-up option in the UK: Five Guys, the US better burger brand, has launched a “curb side” pick-up option at selected sites across its circa 100-strong UK estate, Propel has learned. The John Eckbert-led company has launched the option at 14 of its sites across the country, including those in Leicester, Nottingham, Cheshire Oaks, Gloucester Quays and Milton Keynes. Earlier this summer, Pizza Hut Delivery UK extended its kerbside pick-up option to more of its circa 400 sites, Propel has learned. A trial of kerbside collection was launched in May from the group’s sites in Blackburn, Colchester Turner Rise, Durham, London Park Royal, Trafford Retail Park and Worcester Shrub Hill. Consumers order online and, when they arrive at the restaurant, open their car boot for staff to deposit their order.
Wadworth introduces own discount scheme for managed pubs: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth has introduced its own Eat Out To Help Out scheme following the success it had with the government initiative in August. All managed pubs will be offering 20% off food between Monday and Wednesday throughout September with no spend limit on the discount. Six pubs have also added two alcoholic drink deals with £1 off a pint of Wadworth ale or £5 off a bottle of wine. Nick Young, operations director for the managed pub estate, said: “We had a great August seeing so many new people coming to the pubs with Eat Out To Help Out and we wanted to encourage guests to keep coming back. By offering a ‘no spend limit’ on food, we’ve been able to enhance the offer to suit our customers going forward.”
David Gough joins Boxpark as COO: Boxpark has appointed David Gough as its chief operating officer to lead company strategy, Propel has learned. The former operations director at Fuller’s brand the Stable will also oversee all commercial aspects of the business, enhance the customer experience, and focus on training and employee development. Gough said: “I’ve been a huge fan of Boxpark for a number of years so it really is a privilege to come on board and join the team. This is an exciting opportunity for me to use my experience on a thriving brand that is on the cusp of a transformational stage in its growth. Despite the struggles facing the hospitality industry, I’m looking forward to bringing Boxpark’s vision to life and building a solid strategy to achieve our goals.” Boxpark chief executive and founder Roger Wade added: “As we focus on our growth strategy, David will be instrumental in ensuring everything is in place and that we are meeting our commercial objectives.” Gough has also previously worked for Good Company Inns, Olivo Restaurants and PizzaExpress. Last month, Boxpark appointed Simon Bishop as property director to drive the company’s development plans during the next five years.
Creams reports year-on-year sales up 35% in August: Dessert parlour operator Creams has reported year-on-year sales were up almost 35% in August with help from the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The brand, which operates 90 sites, reported a record-breaking 430,000 covers throughout the month on Eat Out To Help Out days – an average of 33,000 covers per day. Creams has decided to run an additional offer throughout September to November, giving customers 25% off everything from Monday to Wednesday at select stores. Co-founder Adam Mani said: “It’s been a challenging few months, but the response to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a real morale boost for the Creams team. Now, more than ever, people need a little sweet relief and a touch of escapism, and I think that’s exactly what we provide at Creams, and that’s the reason our sales have been so exceptionally strong.”
Mosaic extends discount scheme after Eat Out To Help Out sales boost: Mosaic Pub and Dining saw sales rise on Mondays to Wednesdays by almost 100% versus July, thanks largely to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. And the 30-strong pub collective, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, is extending the 50% discount between Mondays and Wednesdays throughout September and, “possibly, beyond” at most of its sites. Watson told Propel he hoped there would be an additional boost to early-week sales from extending the scheme with participating pubs adding new dishes to their offers, such as lobster burger and truffle tortellini, in a bid to entice those “seeking fine dining food at entry level prices”.
Hubbox to return to openings programme after sales boost: Hubbox, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, is to return to its openings programme, with three sites set to open over the next year, after reporting a 34% increase in like-for-like sales in August. The eight-strong company has, this week, restarting the fit-out of what will be its ninth site in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff, which was halted due to lock-down, and will be open by 24 October. It will open its tenth site, next spring, in Cheltenham’s The Brewery development. It will follow this up with a planned opening at Plymouth’s Royal William Yard scheme next summer. The company opened six of its eight restaurants (excluding Gunwharf Quays and Pentewan Sand) in May and June for takeaway. Boon told Propel: “In the case of Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth, we did delivery and introduced a click-and-collect online system. The click and collect was also introduced in St Ives and Truro. Sales were very positive and the service was very well received. By the end of June, takeaway/delivery sales were 33% of full prior year sales. A new online booking system was also introduced in the lead up to full reopening. In July, like-for-like sales were up 1%.” During this period, the company also secured £700,000 from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through Lloyds. The company, which reopened all its sites for dine-in in July and participated in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, also introduced an order-and-pay feature through its existing app. Boon said: “Our customer response to all of our covid-19 measures has been very positive and we worked hard to get the blend between safety and a hospitable atmosphere right. Use of the app has increased from 10% to 70% of all transactions. August was a record month for the business with like-for-like sales up 34% and total net sales of £1.5m, including the bank holiday, which was the best trading day yet. We couldn’t have achieved that without the help of our teams who couldn’t wait to get back to work and have been brilliant. We haven’t extended the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and although it has only been a couple of days without that incentive, we haven’t seen a drop off in trade, which is encouraging.”
Inception Group launches app as company comes fully out of hibernation: Inception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s, has launched an app. Users are able to make bookings, order to their table and find exclusive offers. Following the gradual reopening of its venues, the company is now being brought out of full hibernation. To mark the occasion, Inception Group is offering £10 off the total bill per person, including drinks, when they dine any night of the week throughout September at the original Bunga Bunga in Battersea. Inception Group, which operates 11 sites, was founded in 2009 by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling.
MeatLiquor to reopen remaining closed site, not extending discount offer: MeatLiquor will reopen its King’s Cross site on Monday, 14 September, but has said it will not be extending the discount scheme out of its own pocket. The King’s Cross, site is the 11th and final location of the Scott Collins-led concept to reopen. Meanwhile, it will introduce a five-strong additional cocktail list, each costing £5, from Monday (7 September).
Former Cyclone Leisure Group director acquires second site: Stuart Young, former director of Cyclone Leisure Group, has added a second site to his Northumberland Pub Co portfolio. The company, which owns The Blackbird in Ponteland, has acquired The Northumberland Arms in Felton. The former coaching inn, which was originally built in 1820, has been refurbished and features a new outdoor dining and drinking. The venue – which offers six en-suite rooms – serves a variety of dishes made by a team of AA Rosette and Michelin experienced chefs, who use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Young said he had been looking to add to his hospitality portfolio since selling his interest in Cyclone Leisure Group last year, which owns San Lorenzo Gosforth and Washington, along with the former Union Rooms in Newcastle.
Great British Menu finalist to open long-awaited second restaurant, in Liverpool next week: Great British Menu finalist Ellis Barrie will open his long-awaited second restaurant, in Liverpool next Saturday (12 September). Barrie, who was a finalist in the BBC2 show in 2018, and older brother Liam are launching Lerpwl at the Royal Albert Dock. The restaurant, in the former premises of circus-themed dinner concept Circo, was due to open earlier this year and is named after the Welsh name for Liverpool. Pronounced “Ler-pool”, it recognises the personal links the brothers share between their home city of Liverpool and north Wales. The 80-capacity restaurant is split across two levels. The main space downstairs wraps around an open kitchen while a secluded cocktail Bar called Margot’s, named after Liam Barrie’s daughter, is at the back of the venue. There is also kitchen-side seating at the Oyster bar. There will be two menus – à la carte and a second that is more relaxed – that will change with the seasons. Upstairs is a private dining area called Albert’s, named after Ellis’s son. The space with a private bar can seat up to 30, while at the top of the stairs is a DJ booth. The Barries opened their debut restaurant, Marram Grass, in Anglesey in 2011.
Bancone to reopen flagship Covent Garden restaurant on Tuesday: Bancone, the all-day fresh pasta concept led by Will Ellner and backed by David Ramsey, will reopen its flagship site in Covent Garden on Tuesday (8 September). The venue in William IV Street will have social distancing measures in place in line with its other site that has welcomed back customers – in Golden Square, Soho. To mark the Covent Garden reopening, head chef Stefano Cilia has created two new dishes – braised octopus, avocado, red pepper, shallot, lime and coriander as a starter, followed by king prawn bucatini with confit tomato, garlic and chilli. Additionally, for September, Bancone is offering a “Tuesdays and Wednesdays deal” – a set menu for £20 per person.
Curzon teams up with LabTech to unveil pop-up cinema at Camden Market: Boutique cinema chain Curzon will host a pop-up cinema for a fortnight at London’s Camden Market this month. The open-air cinema will operate daily from Wednesday, 16 September, with a capacity for 150 people, at landlord LabTech’s North Yard and promises visitors exclusive screenings of films yet to hit the UK. The cinema will use deckchairs and have black carpet throughout. It will stand alongside restaurant openings including plant-based sustainable burger chain Neat Burger and The Indian Alley. Curzon chief executive Philip Knatchbull said: “We are thrilled to open our first open-air cinema post-lock-down. It is an opportunity for us to welcome visitors back in a safe and secure environment complemented by Camden Market’s iconic food and beverage offer.” LabTech retail commercial director Maggie Milosavljevic added: “Camden Market continues to lead the way in putting London back on the map for locals and visitors to enjoy different food, drinks, retail and leisure experiences post-lock-down.” LabTech dealt direct and Curzon represented itself.
Focus Hotels boosted by lure of staycations: Focus Hotels has claimed staycations are playing a “pivotal role” in its recovery from covid-19. The independent hotel management company has invested in the creation of dedicated staycation sections on the websites of some of the properties it manages to entice more Brits to holiday in the UK. Focus Hotels chief executive Peter Cashman said: “There’s no doubt the increased interest in staycations is playing a pivotal role in our ability to recover from having been shut for many months.” Hotel Colessio, in Stirling, has enjoyed a 91% occupancy rate in August, which is the same as August 2019. Focus Hotels manages more than 1,700 rooms across the UK.
Tayer and Elementary reopens with new food residency and drinks offer: All-day cafe bar Tayer and Elementary reopened on Wednesday (2 September) with new drinks and a food residency from Kitchen FM. The front bar – Elementary – will serve drinks such as “One Sip Martinis” and a pale ale from Partizan Brewing, reports Hot Dinners. There is also a new terrace bar at the site in Old Street, east London, and a bottle shop will be in operation too. Meanwhile, French chefs Fabien Spagnolo and Max Truel of Kitchen FM will offer dishes such as pig’s head croquette with kimchi and oyster mayo. The back bar – Tayer – is expected to reopen in October.
Various Eateries clarification: In Wednesday’s (2 September) Propel Breaking News – Various Eateries IPO to take advantage of the “tectonic shift in the hospitality industry” – the source of the information was stated as the company’s placing and admission to AIM document. Propel would like to clarify it was in fact opinions and information from a broker’s note from WHIreland and apologises for any confusion or inconvenience caused.