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Mon 9th Aug 2021 - Nightcap reports strong trading and pipeline progress
Nightcap reports strong trading and pipeline progress: Nightcap, the hospitality group formed by investors Sarah Willingham and Michael Toxvaerd to back the UK bar and late-night sector, has reported excellent progress in building a significant pipeline of new bar site openings, amid strong trading. The group, which operates Adventure Bar Group and London Cocktail Club, has secured a new site in Bristol, which it expects to open before the end of the calendar year, and is at various stages of legal negotiations on a further five properties, across several of its brands. The developments follow the group’s two acquisitions earlier this year and previously announced plans to significantly expand the number of sites Nightcap operates during the next two-to-three years, as the UK economy emerges from the pandemic and the hospitality industry rebuilds. It also comes amid a strong period of trading for the group, with Nightcap’s bars continuing to perform ahead of management’s expectations since the lifting of operating restrictions on 19 July (2021), and at a time when the company has put in place robust operating procedures to ensure that all of its bars remain open and appropriately staffed throughout. The company has signed a lease for a new London Cocktail Club on Corn Street in the centre of Bristol. The venue covers an area of approximately 3,500sq ft, with a 2.30am license Thursday-to-Saturday, and has an unrestricted guest capacity of over 300. Nightcap expects to launch the site before the end of the calendar year. It will become LCC’s second site in Bristol, with the business currently operating a site in the Clifton part of the city. Propel understands that the brand is also in talks on a site in Reading. Chief executive Sarah Willingham said: “I am delighted to announce the first of several new sites for London Cocktail Club. After the strong trading update announced in June and continued strong trading since the easing of restrictions, the group is starting to deliver on its national roll-out strategy and continues to look to capitalise on the pent-up demand from consumers and the availability of excellent properties across the UK.” Of current trading, Willingham said the group was buoyed by the performance of all of Nightcap’s bars and was particularly pleased with the performance of Luna Springs in Birmingham, an outdoor bar, food and entertainment space, which is now operating with a capacity of more than 1,000 guests. Its first major event, which took place on 24 July, was fully booked and more events are scheduled for the summer and autumn, including cinema evenings, themed parties and festivals. Willingham added: “Across our bars, it’s clear that since we were able to reopen earlier this year, guests have been making up for lost time, with perhaps an elevated appreciation for our fantastic drinks served in fun and safe environments by brilliant hosts. We’re especially delighted with our progress in Birmingham, with both Luna Springs and Tonight Josephine trading brilliantly, which is very encouraging as we make significant progress on our plans to expand this business nationally.” With a background in the sector and strong track record as an investor, Willingham established Nightcap with Toxvaerd to help bar and late-night entrepreneurs and businesses recapitalise balance sheets, and to access growth funding as the UK hospitality and leisure sector emerges from the pandemic, and guests return to venues. Nightcap listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange in January, a process that coincided with its first acquisition, of London Cocktail Club. In May, the company secured its second purchase, acquiring Adventure Bar Group, which operates the Tonight Josephine, Bar Elba and Luna Springs brands. Willingham said: “Our mission and the reason for establishing Nightcap has not changed. We want to grow London Cocktail Club and Adventure Bar Group, especially beyond London. Our immediate focus will be on supporting these businesses and helping them thrive. We will also look to find more great businesses with strong and motivated leadership teams, where we can help to release their growth potential.” 

Insights editor Mark Wingett’s Ones to Watch to appear in Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability this Friday for Premium subscribers: The next edition of the Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability for Premium subscribers, to be published at midday on Friday 13 August and produced in association with Mapal Group, will feature Mark Winget’s pick of the company well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. His first pick of companies are: Gordon Ramsay, Chopstix, Barworks, Pizza Union, Boston Tea Party, Junkyard Golf, Rockfish, Chipotle UK and Amber Taverns. The Blue Book features 352 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £29.6bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month – on the second Friday of the month – provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Last Friday (30 July), Propel premium subscribers received the updated database of multi-site companies for July, which is produced in association with Virgate. The latest edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database included 71new companies, operating 477 sites between them, and increases the total number of companies on the database to 1,951. Subscribers received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 12,094-word report on the businesses added during July. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. It is updated at the end of every month. Subscribers also received a new database on Friday (30 July). The New Companies Database, produced in association with StarStock, focuses on the newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated at the end of every month. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Domino’s Pizza exits last European business: Domino’s Pizza Group has reached agreement to sell the group’s entire shareholding in Domino’s Pizza GmbH (“Domino’s Switzerland”) for a consideration of approximately £200,000 on a debt-free, cash-free basis with a normalised level of working capital. The transaction is expected to complete by the end of August 2021. The disposal of Domino’s Switzerland is the final part of DPG’s planned exit from all directly operated international markets and allows management to focus on its core UK and Ireland operations, as announced by the company in October 2019.

Korean debut concept to open in Chinatown: Shaftesbury has announced that bar and restaurant concept, Kiwa Sushi & Grill, has selected Chinatown London’s 1 Gerrard Place for its debut site, set to open later this year. Kiwa Sushi & Grill is a brand-new concept from Fountain Group, a Seoul-based operator. The team behind Fountain Group often visit London, to gather inspiration for new concepts to take back to South Korea. This is the first step into the UK market for the experienced restaurateurs, with Chinatown London viewed as the natural progression into international operation. The restaurant will serve handmade sushi, and robata – a cooking technique using a charcoal grill – with the brand’s unique Korean twist. The offer combines traditional and modern aspects of Far East cuisine, showcasing to Chinatown London’s visitors some of the most popular western elements within eastern dining and drinking. Spanning 5,195 sq ft over two floors, Kiwa Sushi & Grill will have a seated capacity of around 230 covers, creating authentic, modernised, and affordable food and drink, served in a contemporary environment. The Chinatown London space has been designed by Studio Severn Design, with each floor having a distinct style: the ground floor a more bar-focused casual dining space with low lighting and relaxed atmosphere; and the first floor a brighter environment with a skylight, creating an outdoor dining feel. Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director at Shaftesbury, said: “The Fountain Group team have long been inspired by London. They have regularly come here for inspiration to take back to South Korea, much like we do at Shaftesbury, when we undertake research trips to East and Southeast Asia. Their choice of Chinatown London for the international debut of Kiwa Sushi & Grill really showcases just how important and relevant the destination is. Chinatown London sits in the heart of one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting dining scenes, and we are very much looking forward to them opening here later this year.” Jay Park, founder, Kiwa Sushi & Grill, added: “My vision for Kiwa Sushi & Grill is to bring a taste of the western-eastern fusion within modern East Asian dining, and this debut restaurant will symbolise how western culture has been embraced across Asia. In terms of location for this concept, no other place rivals Chinatown London in my eyes; its commitment to celebrating both traditional and developing trends across the Far East cements its unique offering in the capital. Our menu has been designed to be accessible, offering something for everyone, and I am excited to open the doors later this year.” DCL and Shelley Sandzer represented Chinatown London. Kiwa Sushi & Grill dealt direct.

Pubs and clubs that enforce vaccine passports could open fully during covid surges: Nightclubs and concert venues could avoid social distancing rules during future covid surges by agreeing to only admit customers who are double jabbed, under plans being explored by the government. The Telegraph reports that the idea is being looked at as an alternative to changing the law to mandate vaccine passports – a tougher stance that Boris Johnson warned could be adopted next month. Under the latest proposal, venues with large indoor crowds would not be forced to adopt vaccine passports but would be offered incentives to adopt them instead. This could include being able to stay open at full capacity, rather than only being allowed to conduct table service and have no punters at bars, if there is another covid wave. One adviser to a Cabinet minister said the idea was being discussed, saying that there was now momentum inside the government behind some form of covid certification this autumn. A senior source at one music association body stressed that nightclubs and concert venues were more concerned about a return of capacity limits than adopting vaccine passports. “We are absolutely terrified of social distancing coming back in. The thing that will really kill the sector is if they start reintroducing capacity limits,” the source told The Telegraph. “If things get to a point where the government thinks ‘right we need to reintroduce restrictions’ we want them to think about enforced covid certification not capacity limits.”

High-end restaurant plan for the top of Lloyd’s of London: Lloyd’s of London is considering attracting a Michelin-starred restaurant to the top of its famous headquarters as part of a dramatic overhaul of how it uses the building. The Times reports that this year the world’s oldest insurance market launched a review of the internal layout of its base, designed by Lord Rogers of Riverside, the architect, on Lime Street in the City of London. The building was widely acclaimed as an architectural masterpiece when it opened in 1984 and has since been listed. It is known as the “inside-out building” because its lifts are on the outside of the 289ft-high structure. As part of the revamp, Lloyds is considering shrinking the size of its grand underwriting room, where thousands of people meet face-to-face to draw up insurance contracts, to make way for screens so that some people can appear digitally. It is also considering a restaurant that could help to attract clients and give members of the public the opportunity to enjoy views across London from the top of the building. Improved hospitality also could include a food market and a terrace bar. In addition, the insurer is planning to introduce “wellbeing” facilities, potentially adding a gym, changing rooms and quiet spaces for prayer and mindfulness. An easing of planning rules means property owners no longer must gain consent to switch offices or retail space into restaurant or bar areas. A spokesman for Lloyd’s said: “We have embarked on a once-in-a-generation journey to redesign the iconic underwriting room and supporting spaces in the Lloyd’s building. We are currently incorporating the feedback from our consultation and will share the final vision later in 2021 before detailed design commences.”

Employment levels leap after lockdown lifted: Employment jumped to its highest level so far this year in July after the lifting of lockdown restrictions boosted the hospitality industry. The Times reports that HM Revenue & Customs’ payroll data for June found the largest month-on-month increase since the series began in 2014, while the BDO employment index rose 1.57 points to 107.62 in July, from 106.05 in June, lifted by the reopening of pubs and restaurants. The index surveys more than 4,000 respondents from companies employing a combined five million staff. However, the accountancy firm’s inflation index recorded its second highest reading since June 2017, amid pressure on global supply chains and Brexit-related challenges to importing goods and materials. A shortage of labour has contributed further to rising input inflation, as employers are having to pay more to attract staff. That is having an impact on employers’ confidence, BDO found. Despite the relaxation of lockdown in July, its optimism index fell by 0.53 points from June, reaching 111.92 points. However, business confidence as a whole remains relatively healthy and July’s reading represented the second highest score since the series began in 2005. The Bank of England expects consumer prices inflation to reach 4% this year, the highest since December 2011.

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