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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 13th Sep 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Rolling 12-month sales down 15% but managed pubs, bars and restaurants report 5% growth in August against 2019 levels: Mounting consumer confidence and staycations helped Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups to lift sales above pre-covid-19 levels in August, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker has revealed. The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, showed total sales were 5% ahead of August 2019. It is the first month of year-on-year growth since hospitality reopened from mid-April. Total sales were also up 35% on August 2020, when the majority of venues were open after Britain’s first lockdown and the government’s Eat Out To Help Out initiative was running. For the fourth month in a row, managed restaurant groups outperformed the market, with total sales up by 7% on August 2019. Pubs recorded 3% growth, with pub restaurants (up 6%) faring better than drink-led sites (up 1%). Bars enjoyed a surge in sales following the easing of restrictions on the late-night sector, finishing August 21% up on 2019. Businesses benefited from a first full month of restriction-free trading in August, as well as the easing of safety concerns among diners and drinkers. Widespread “staycations” during the school holidays contributed to a strong August for regions beyond London, with sales outside the M25 up by 9%. London continued to be impacted by the absence of many office workers and tourists, and sales within the M25 were down by 7% on August 2019. On a longer 12-month measure, covid continues to take a toll on groups’ trading. The Tracker showed rolling 12-month sales to the end of August 2021 were down by 15% on the 12 months to August 2020 – a period that included the UK’s first national lockdown. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “August was a particularly impressive performance given the severe operational pressures that many businesses are working under, including staff shortages, supply problems and rising costs. Sales growth is testament to the resilience and adaptability of the hospitality industry and consumers’ ongoing enthusiasm for restaurants, pubs and bars.”
 

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers offered conference summary: Propel Premium readers are being offered a video summary of last week's Propel Multi-Club Conference, prepared by Flow Training by Mapal Group. The summary distils the key points made by the event’s 18 speakers. They included Yasha Estraikh, associate partner at leading investment firm Piper, which has worked with Loungers, Flat Iron, Turtle Bay, Hickory’s Smokehouse and Be At One; Zonal group product director Alison Vasey; Tim Wilks, founder of Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept; Azzurri Group chief executive Steve Holmes; Junkyard Golf managing director Sam Jones; Honest Burgers co-founder Phil Eeles; WatchHouse founder and chief executive Roland Horne; Darrell Connell, partner at sector investor Imbiba; PizzaExpress group chief executive David Campbell; and Boom: Battle Bar chief executive Elliott Shuttleworth. Panel sessions featured Maragume Udon chief executive Keith Bird; The Bok Shop co-founder Jamie O’Mara; Maray co-founder Tom White; Lime Squeezy Thai Kitchen founder Pranee Laurillard; Kevin Charity, founder of Coaching Inn Group; Oliver Thain, founder of Cambscuisine; Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh; and sector health and alcohol commentator Paul Chase. Premium subscribers also receive three exclusive databases each month, 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.
 
Vaccine passports ditched in England: Plans to introduce vaccine passports in England for nightclubs and other crowded venues have been scrapped in the latest of the government’s coronavirus U-turns. Health secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC of the decision on Sunday (12 September), just days after ministers had defended the policy to sceptical MPs. Prime minister Boris Johnson had previously announced members of the public would be required to show proof they have had two doses of a covid-19 vaccine in order to gain entry to clubs and other large-scale events in England. Javid said: “It's fair to say, I think, most people probably instinctively don't like the idea. I've never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity.” But the idea would nevertheless be kept “in reserve as a potential option,” he said. Earlier this month, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said passports were necessary to keep large venues open, prompting outrage from the hospitality industry. The Night Time Industries Association warned the plans could have crippled the industry and seen nightclubs facing discrimination cases. The industry body has welcomed the U-turn, saying it hoped businesses could now plan with some certainty and start to rebuild the sector and regain customers’ confidence. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Very welcome confirmation from the health secretary that vaccine passports will not be going ahead, listening to our concerns about impact on jobs, businesses and customers as well as scientific concerns about efficacy. We will continue to ensure our venues and events are safe and mitigate risk.” Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, added: “The plans were untenable and illogical and there were multiple factors that would have been discriminatory and legally questionable. As a sector, we can now move forward, without hesitation or vague regulations.” The decision means covid measures in England will again deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on the introduction of covid passports was passed in the Scottish parliament last week, while a decision is expected in Wales this week. Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position within Northern Ireland.

Chesser – the public has re-found its love for pubs but expectations have increased: Clive Chesser, chief executive of Punch Pubs, has said he thinks there has been a re-found love of the great British pub from guests during the crisis, but “their expectations and what they demand in terms of value and quality has risen”. Talking to Propel in the company’s The Filly pub in the New Forest, Chesser said pubs have raised their game and are “well-placed to flourish” and fight back strongly against the casual dining brands, which “ate our lunch for 20 years”. He said: “I don’t think we will see significant failure in the tied leased and tenanted sector because all of the large pub companies have supported their publicans really strongly throughout the pandemic, providing £285m in reduced or cancelled rent. The managed businesses have come out the other side also with their strong financial backing. I would have more concern for the independent sector, which has maybe a lower threshold for dealing with the crisis. We are seeing a reduction in supply of casual dining restaurants, which will help the food-led pub sector to regain some market share. Casual dining brands ate our lunch for 20 years but pubs have improved their capability, value and consistency, so I think they will fight back strongly. I don’t expect to see a mass reduction in the number of pubs. I think there has been a re-found love of the great British pub from guests, but I also think their expectation and what they demand in terms of value and quality has risen. We are seeing premiumisation in guest behaviour; they will be more demanding, but pubs have raised their game and are well-placed to flourish.” Chesser said the company’s circa 250-strong management partnerships businesses has “traded ahead of 2019 since we reopened, consistently, helped by food”. He added: “Our leased and tenanted business (circa 990 pubs) is trading slightly down on 2019. Food continues to outperform drink as has been the case since we reopened in April. A food-led pub such as this one (The Filly) was generating sales in the mid £30,000s last week – well ahead of its investment target. Trade has been strong, but it’s not consistent. There are segments of pubs that are well behind 2019 that don’t have the luxury of gardens and are more urban based. Drink-led pubs are obviously finding it hard, so it is still a challenge there. We are not complacent but overall, we have been really pleased with how our pubs have reopened and re-established themselves, and we are cautiously optimistic we will see that continue into Christmas and into next year. The wet trade is still behind where we believe it will get to, and I would like to see that rebuild between now and Christmas.”

F&B industry leader tells restaurants to get used to permanent supply shortages: UK restaurants should expect permanent shortages of products, according to the chief executive of the Food & Drink Federation. Ian Wright told the Institute for Government’s panel on supply chain disruption the food and drink sector was short of about half a million workers. And while the nation would not run out of food, the trade chief warned the days when customers could expect every product to be available at restaurants were long gone. Wright said: “That’s over, and I don’t think it’s coming back. The result of the labour shortages is the just-in-time system that has sustained supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants so that food has arrived on shelves or in kitchens just when you need it, is no longer working, and I don’t think it will work again. We are now in for permanent shortages.” The sector is short of an eighth of its desired workforce thanks to overseas workers returning home during the pandemic and staff opting for different lifestyles post-lockdown, said Wright, with HGV drivers leaving the sector to take on “Amazon and Tesco distribution jobs”. He added: “They’re nice jobs, they don’t require you to get up at 4am and they’re better paid.” Wright’s concerns come as retail and hospitality businesses have pleaded with the government to intervene over a shortfall of some 100,000 drivers, which has resulted in empty shelves and unavailable menus.
 
Scottish restaurants could be forced to show how many calories in meals: Calorie labelling on restaurant and takeaway menus in Scotland could become mandatory under measures being proposed by ministers, who argue it could help tackle obesity. Children’s menus could also have to abide by a “code of practice” to ensure healthy food options are available when families eat out. Scotland’s public health minister Maree Todd said the measures, part of a strategy called the Out of Home Action Plan, aim to “reduce health inequalities and support people to live longer healthier lives”. Launching a public consultation on the proposals, Todd said: “We know by giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals, empowers people to make healthier decisions when eating out, or ordering in. This plan proposes bold measures on how we can work with the food industry to create sustainable change to reduce harm to people’s health caused by poor diet and excess weight.” Food Standards Scotland chair Ross Finnie added: “We welcome news the Scottish government is making commitments to progress actions with the ‘out of home’ sector, which are essential steps needed to improve the food environment to one that enables healthier choices. While we recognise there has been a significant disruption during the pandemic, the rise in takeaway and delivery services means it is critical we work with the sector to take steps that support a healthy diet and healthy weight.”

UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub sue New York City over new law on restaurant charges: A group of food delivery companies – including UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub – have teamed up to sue the City of New York over legislation that would impose a permanent cap on the commissions they can charge restaurants. The companies have filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing the new law. New York City Council approved legislation last month that seeks to limit the amount the apps can charge restaurants to 15% of food orders for delivery and 5% for advertising and other non-delivery services. Food delivery companies must also obtain operating licences that are valid for two years, according to the new law. The companies said in the lawsuit: “Those permanent price controls will harm not only plaintiffs, but also the revitalisation of the very local restaurants that the city claims to serve.” They also argued the “extraordinary measure” was unconstitutional, as “it interferes with freely negotiated contracts between platforms and restaurants by changing and dictating the economic terms on which a dynamic industry operates”. As a result of the new law, the companies warned they could have to rewrite their contracts with restaurants and raise fees for consumers. They also cautioned it could harm delivery workers’ ability to make money. This follows the delivery companies suing in San Francisco after the west coast city also decided to introduce a permanent 15% cap on commissions.
 
Grant Thornton facing £4m fine over Patisserie Valerie collapse: The former auditor of Patisserie Valerie is facing a £4m fine almost three years after the cafe company collapsed in one of Britain's biggest recent accounting scandals. Sky News reported Grant Thornton is in advanced discussions with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) about a settlement that could be finalised as soon as this month. A source close to the firm said a fine of about £4m had been raised during recent correspondence with the audit regulator, although the details and timing were subject to change. If confirmed, it is likely to be the biggest financial penalty imposed by the FRC on an accountancy firm outside the big four of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC. It was unclear whether any other sanctions would be imposed on Grant Thornton or any individuals as part of the FRC settlement. It was also unclear whether the roughly £4m penalty would be discounted to take into account the firm's co-operation with the probe. Grant Thornton is also facing a £200m damages claim from FRP Advisory, Patisserie Holdings' liquidator, for what was described as its “negligent” oversight of the company's books. In response to the FRP lawsuit, Grant Thornton said earlier this year: “We will continue to rigorously defend the claim. As set out in our defence, Patisserie Valerie is a case that involves sustained and collusive fraud, including widespread deception of the auditors and ignores the failings of the board and management who were primarily responsible for the group's accounts and the running of the business.”
 

Company News:

Parent company of JKS Restaurants secures new growth capital during crisis: Yum Midco, the parent company of the Sethi family-led JKS Restaurants, agreed deals with new investors to provide growth capital in exchange for a share of equity over the past year, Propel has learned. In accounts filed at Companies House this weekend, the company said: “In November 2020 and August 2021, separate deals were agreed with new investors to provide growth capital in exchange for a share of equity. At the date of signing of these accounts, £1.7m has been received. These funds have been used to fund new sites across 2021 and support the working capital requirements of the group.” The company, which backs the Bao and Hopper concepts and the Michelin-starred Kitchen Table, Lyles and Sabor, secured a new £5m facility through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with its existing bankers, Barclays, last June. Capital and interest repayments begin in this month with a final repayment date of 25 June 2026. This loan is cross guaranteed across all companies within the group. In May, JKS Restaurant Holdings acquired 18.75% of shares in Lyle's Restaurants from director and co-founder John Ogier, who stepped away from the business. The company said: “2020 sales across the group were 39% lower than in 2019, due to the impact of covid-19 related government restrictions. New revenue streams, rent concessions, government support, in conjunction with additional fundraising and cost reductions, have and will continue to allow the group to maintain positive cash levels and meet its liabilities as they fall due throughout the pandemic. Management expect covid-19 will continue to have an impact on the group's performance throughout 2021. The group now has an agile business model that can adapt quickly to the various government restrictions, with extensive delivery and retail propositions in place when restaurants are required to close. With most restrictions being recently lifted, restaurant revenues are beginning to return to profitable levels.” The company said it had a pipeline of sites already in place for the remainder of 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Locke – there is every opportunity to do the same thing with Lockes as we did with Be At One: Steve Locke, co-founder of Be At One, the cocktail bar chain acquired by Stonegate in 2018 for circa £50m, has told Propel there is every opportunity to do the same thing with Lockes, the bar venture based in London’s Covent Garden he launched in September 2019. Locke co-founded the Be At One business in 1998 with Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller, and sold it to Stonegate after it had grown to 33 sites. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Locke, who is also interim managing director of The Breakfast Club, said: “I would love Lockes to be the same size as Be At One, although maybe there are differences in how the businesses are perceived. With Lockes we have lengthened the offer a bit, to make it a more all-day concept, as well as a late-night concept. One of the things I learned with Be At One was it was so targeted at a small part of trade in the day, and so with Lockes I wanted to elongate that, and to be able to squeeze more out of these sites.” In terms of learnings from Be At One that Locke is taking into Lockes and The Breakfast Club, he said: “An important thing for an industry like ours is getting real bang for every labour buck. That is not about cutting your labour to within an inch of its life, it’s about making sure every pound of labour you put in generates a certain pound of revenue. That’s what we were very good at with Be At One, and we are getting pretty good at with Breakfast Club and at Lockes. We also managed to keep our establishment costs – like rent and rates – at a certain level. We would never let rent be more than 7% of revenue. Will London come back, will Covent Garden come back? Well, London has been here for a 1,000 years, the West End is going nowhere. I am a big believer in London and I am looking to open more sites in the West End. It has had a bit of a kicking but I play the long game. Most of the best sites I have had tended to take time, so you have to be patient with it, grind it out and hopefully outrun everyone else. And don’t compromise.”

Fulham Shore builds opening pipeline: Fulham Shore, the owner of the Franco Manca and the Real Greek brand, has further built its openings pipeline, including at least two new sites in Manchester. The David Page-chaired business, which is looking to open ten sites in its current financial year, is understood to have lined up two new openings in Manchester for pizza concept Franco Manca. The business, which opened a Franco Manca site in the city’s Mosley Street in 2019, has submitted plans to occupy the ground floor of the former Boots building in King Street. Fulham Shore has also lodged an application to open in Wilmslow Road, Didsbury. Meanwhile, the group has applied to open a Franco Manca in Canterbury, on a former Costa unit at the junction of Guildhall Street in the Kent city. In an update last week, the business said: “So far, during the group’s current financial year ending March 2022, we have opened two Franco Manca and, most recently, our 20th The Real Greek in Norwich. This Chantry Place location has opened with strong trading. This takes the total number of restaurants operated by the group to 75. Since 17 August 2021, fitting out works have commenced on two new Franco Manca pizzeria, in Blackheath Village and in Baker Street in London. Meanwhile, 15 more potential sites are in solicitors’ hands for both Franco Manca and The Real Greek.” The business also tweeted: “We are coming – found a site in Peterborough – looking in Lincoln and Newcastle.” Propel understands Fulham Shore is also in talks on sites for the Real Greek in Bluewater and Manchester’s Trafford Centre. Last month, the listed company announced plans to open a further 150 Franco Manca and The Real Greek restaurants both in the UK and overseas.

Siblings who worked in sales management at Carlsberg and Heineken buy brewery: Brothers Joe and Jimmy Brouder, who have worked for brewing giants Carlsberg and Heineken as well as Keighley-based brewer and retailer Timothy Taylor’s, have bought the Vale Brewery in Buckinghamshire. Joe has previously been sales development manager at Carlsberg, regional sales manager at Timothy Taylor’s, customer development executive at Britvic and general manager at Hertfordshire’s Oak Taverns. Jimmy, meanwhile, was regional sales manager at Heineken and business development manager at the company’s Star Pubs & Bars business. Since co-founding sales and marketing agency 2EM in January 2019 they have worked with many breweries to increase their sales and profitability, but now have one of their own. Vale is a long-established, award-winning brewery, which was founded by Phil and Mark Stevens in 1995. Joe told Propel: “We have been aware of the excellent beer produced by Vale Brewery for many years, I used to serve it in a pub I ran more than a decade ago. When the opportunity arose to purchase the business from Phil and Mark, I could see the potential in the short, medium and long term for the beers, and in the business as a whole.” Jimmy said: “We have lots of experience working with clients to grow the sales of drinks brands as an agency partner, but we are thrilled to be directly involved in this business as the owners. In addition, we have an excellent group of shareholders with lots of relevant industry experience, led by our chair Simon Douglas, the former chief executive of Luminar Leisure.”

White Rabbit launches academy to tackle staffing crisis and get chefs back in kitchen: Hospitality development group White Rabbit Projects has teamed up with Leiths School of Food and Wine to introduce a new chef training scheme, Propel has learned. The White Rabbit Academy will invite budding chefs that are being supported by Leiths’ £750,000 scheme launched earlier this year to offer free or part-funded places on its online professional courses to train alongside White Rabbit Projects’ skilled kitchen staff at one of four hotel properties around the UK. It will also provide a fully funded spot on Leiths’ 24-week skills course, which is set to get under way next month for eight successful applicants. Following their graduation, one of the newly qualified chefs will be offered a fully funded two-week placement at a White Rabbit Projects-backed restaurant of their choosing, such as Kricket, Lina Stores and Island Poké. All graduates will have the opportunity to be hired as chef de parties and join the White Rabbit Projects family of restaurants. White Rabbit Projects founder Chris Miller said: “The hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit throughout covid-19, and unfortunately as a combined result with Brexit, despite lockdown lifting and restaurants returning to ‘normal’, we’ve continued to experience a nationwide staff shortage. It is the responsibility of restaurant owners to remind chefs of the excitement and passion that comes with working in a professional kitchen and add value to their careers with additional training and mental health schemes. We’re delighted to work with Leiths to provide best-in-class training, and the opportunity for budding chefs to join our family of restaurants.” Former Soho House Group commercial director Miller set up White Rabbit Projects in 2016 as support partners in creating bespoke hospitality experiences, and has opened 35 restaurants to date.
 
Simon Rimmer – I almost went bankrupt because I ‘got cocky’ with restaurant opening: Television chef and restaurateur Simon Rimmer said he and his family risked going bankrupt because he “got cocky” opening a new restaurant site in the wrong place. He described the period when he and his wife opened two new venues within 18 months as “the worst of times” after The Viking pub in West Kirby, Wirral, was forced to close and he entered into a race with the bank to sell before foreclosure. Speaking on White Wine Question Time podcast, the Sunday Brunch host was asked by Kate Thornton if opening the third venue was the result of an educated risk. Rimmer said: “I think [also] just a level of arrogance that I don't think I ever felt I had, but clearly did because I thought: ‘Yeah we can do this.’ When we opened site two, [it] started really well. So we thought let's do site three [The Viking]. Almost the minute we opened site three we knew we got the location wrong. We took a gamble. We thought where we opened was really going to fly and it didn't, it didn't ever take off. We thought we were invincible. And we weren't, we actually weren't good enough to do it. At the time, my daughter Flo was probably about 12 months old. And it was a race as to whether we could sell one of the businesses or the bank was going to foreclose on us. And we were three days from the bank foreclosing on us. And so we were on the brink of being a young family, and actually losing everything. Talking about it actually makes me feel anxious. I remember promising that day that I would never ever allow that to happen again. I'm a risk taker. I'm a self-employed entrepreneur, so of course, I'm a risk taker. But I thought, right, I'm never ever going to allow that to happen again.”
 
Five Guys and Chucs investor looks to raise £60m in latest fundraising round: Pembroke VCT, which is part of the Oakley Group, a privately owned asset management and advisory group founded by serial entrepreneur Peter Dubens, has launched a new share offer to raise up to £60m (an initial £40m, with an over-allotment facility for a further £20m). Over the past few years, Pembroke has invested in Five Guys, Chucs Bar & Grill, Chilango, Sourced Market and Pasta Evangelists. The company said the additional funds will allow it to support the growth of its existing portfolio, including its current hospitality investments, and take advantage of a “healthy pipeline of prospective investment opportunities”. The group comprises private equity, venture capital and corporate finance operations, and has €4bn under management. It invests in a diversified portfolio of smaller, mainly unquoted companies operating in sectors the team knows well, and where it can use its experience to add value, including hospitality.
 
Patty & Bun appoints Marta Velez as chief operating officer: Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman, has appointed Marta Velez, formerly of Itsu and Black Sheep Coffee, as its new chief operating officer. Velez joins the ten-strong Patty & Bun after more than three and a half years as operations director at Black Sheep Coffee. Previous to that, she spent six and a half years at Itsu, most recently as the brand’s head of talent. Patty & Bun operates eight sites under its eponymous brand in London, plus one in Brighton. Earlier this year, it opened the first standalone site for Sidechick, its delivery-only, chicken focused, concept, in James Street, Marylebone, next door to its existing Patty & Bun site. In 2019, Patty & Bun “tested the water” by operating chicken concept Jefferies as part of the summer line-up at The Prince and at Pergola Olympia, which are both operated by Incipio Group. Propel understands Patty & Bun is in advanced talks on a further site for Sidechick in the capital.
 
Pret A Manger boss reports uplift in city centre sales: Pret a Manger boss Pano Christou has reported employees returning to offices last week drove a 15% sales uplift in city centres in just seven days. He said the first full week after the school holidays had been the “acid test” to gauge the scale of workers returning to areas such as the City of London after a switch to remote working over the pandemic. Christou said sales in city centres had now returned to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Christou said he had also seen a “significant step up” at Pret's airport shops after travel restrictions for vaccinated passengers were eased. He said: “Things have really continued to build since ‘Freedom Day’ in July. We are optimistic and confident this demand will continue to build throughout the rest of the year.” He added sales outside London had recovered fastest and were already exceeding pre-pandemic levels at some shops. Christou said: “Suburban locations have continued to stay very strong. Where we are in regional towns, things are pretty much back to normal.”
 
Puttshack resumes UK expansion with Watford opening: Indoor mini golf experience Puttshack is to open its newest UK site, in Watford in time for Christmas. Following the successful reopening of its Bank, White City, and Lakeside venues earlier this year, the announcement of the new Watford site marks the start of the company’s resumed expansion in the UK. The 21,600 square foot site based in the Atria Watford shopping centre will feature four nine-hole mini golf courses using Puttshack’s technology, which combines automatic tracking with game scoring through the golf ball. Puttshack UK managing director Hugh Knowles said: “The opening of our newest Puttshack site in Watford is an exciting step forward for us as part of our wider business growth plans.” The business has also been progressing its expansion in the US this year, including signing a new lease in Scottsdale as well as announcing upcoming openings in Oak Brook (Chicago), Miami, Boston, Houston and Nashville.
 
Bourne Leisure reports first loss in more than a decade: Bourne Leisure, the UK company behind Butlin’s holiday parks, slumped to its first pre-tax loss in more than a decade last year after the pandemic forced the operator to close its sites and refund customers. In accounts filed this week, Bourne reported sales more than halved to £506.8m in 2020, leaving it with a pre-tax loss of £151.6m. That compares with the profit of £145.7m the group made in 2019. The company, which also owns Haven caravan parks and the adult-only Warner Leisure Hotels, said it received £60.5m from the UK government’s furlough scheme in the period to support its 14,000 employees. Bourne added it had also been hit by higher borrowing and refinancing costs. The accounts show the group cut annual capital expenditure in half and did not pay any dividends as it reduced costs to manage the fallout from the pandemic.
 
Jeremy Clarkson plans restaurant at Cotswolds farm: Jeremy Clarkson has told locals around his Cotswold farm that he plans to build a 60-seat restaurant and undercut local gastropubs. The Grand Tour host said he will sell his own beef and produce at the 100-acre site in Oxfordshire in order to counter the flood of cheap meat in the market after the UK's trade deals with Australia and Canada. He hopes to price out pubs in the area by selling “cheaper hearty meals at about half the cost”. Locals at the meeting said the star is planning to convert the disused lambing shed on his farm Diddly Squat – named as such because it made no money – and use it for a kitchen serving meals for £30-a-head. 

Tim Hortons set for Northamptonshire debut: Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons will open its first Northamptonshire outlet this winter. The new restaurant will be based at the Riverside Retail Park, off the A45 on the outskirts of Northampton town centre. The opening will create about 50 jobs – part of its plan to create more than 2,000 across the country and bring Tim Hortons restaurants to every major UK town and city by 2022. The brand already boasts 32 sites across the UK, and last week announced a new restaurant in Ipswich would also open later this year. It has plans for branches in Boldon, Wolverhampton and Lakeside Essex too, as well as drive-thru sites in Aintree, Oldham and Warrington. Founded by former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Tim Horton in 1964, the company has more than 4,000 locations worldwide and opened its first British branch in Glasgow in June 2017, with SK Group leading the UK rollout. 
 
Energy drinks firm secures private equity investment deal: Manchester-based zero sugar, energy drink business Sneak has received investment from London-based private equity firm True. The undisclosed deal has seen True acquire a majority stake in Sneak. The deal will help supercharge international expansion, build out Sneak’s distribution channels and support the business as it “continues to disrupt the traditional energy drink market with its creative approach to marketing and e-commerce”. Sneak, which was founded in 2018 by experienced consumer entrepreneurs Will Peirce and Jonny Teeling, is the product of many years of working together having founded a number of successful direct-to-consumer brands within the health and well-being space. Sneak has grown sales by more than 200% annually in the past three years and is expected to generate £30m in revenue next year. Its powdered energy formula comes in tubs and sachets, as well as pre-mixed cans. Teeling said: “Will and I are delighted to have found an investment partner that slots in so naturally to our company.” True co-founder and Sneak board member Paul Cocker added: “Jonny and Will have done a fantastic job of bringing a clean, differentiated energy drink to market and creating a brand that resonates with Sneak’s core customer base of next generation gamers and creatives. We are looking forward to utilising our digital expertise and our international network across grocery and retail.” True was advised by Stephens, Jones Day and PwC. Sneak was advised by Spayne Lindsay & Co, Addleshaw Goddard and KPMG.
 
La Nonna to open in Brixton this month for third site: Fresh pasta concept La Nonna is to open its third site in London, in Brixton this month. As reveled by Propel in February, the concept, which is the brainchild of chefs Eduardo Wansbrough and Daniele Pino (ex-Chiltern Firehouse and Galvin), is opening a site in Market Row. The 650 square foot, 38-cover, restaurant, which opens on Wednesday, 29 September, will also be selling La Nonna's DIY fresh pasta kits alongside Italian delicacies such as cheese and cured meat. Pino’s menu will include Roman carbonara and the creamy mushroom and truffle paired with a selection of natural and organic wine championing Italian producers, alongside a selection of Italian aperitifs and digestifs. Pino said: “Since 2017, London has been enjoying my family’s recipes and it is a dream come true to bring our fantastic pasta dishes to our own restaurant in Brixton’s Market Row.” La Nonna operates sites in Flat Iron Square and Boxpark Shoreditch. Wansbrough and Pino also operate a site under Spanish concept Edu, in London Bridge. Will Biggart, of Torridon, acted for La Nonna while Dominic Tixerant, of Bruce Gillingham Pollard, represented the landlord on the Brixton deal.
 
Carter and Leach confirm permanent Manteca site: Chefs Chris Leach and David Carter have confirmed the opening of their first bricks-and-mortar site for their pop-up pasta concept Manteca. As revealed by Propel in July, Manteca’s new permanent home will be at a former PizzaExpress site in Shoreditch and follows a series of successful residencies in central London. Initially operated as a pop-up in Mayfair in the summer of 2019, Manteca launched its first restaurant residency later that same year in Soho. Focusing on handmade pasta and fire-cooked meat, the concept is inspired by Leach’s travels through Rome and Naples, and the new site will include a subterranean hanging room for all their in-house butchery and salumi. Leach said: “While we’ve loved our residencies around London, it’s exciting to open our very own restaurant in Shoreditch, which finally brings Manteca to life in the way I’ve always imagined. The hanging room is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and will give us the space to make and cure more salumi than ever, and to be quite experimental in what we do.” Leach, who has worked as a chef at Petersham Nurseries and Kitty Fisher’s, joined forces with Smokestak founder Carter in 2019 to launch Manteca. Carter is no stranger to Shoreditch, having opened his first bricks-and-mortar site for Smokestak there in 2016, around the same time that Leach worked as head chef role at Sager + Wilde in nearby Bethnal Green. Nick Garston, of the Found Agency, acted on the Shoreditch deal. 

One Hundreds Knights team unveil new dining concept Blk Sheep Baa & Grill: A new dining concept from the team behind the Three Eagles is to launch in the Wrexham area this autumn. Following recent news that hospitality and leisure operator One Hundred Knights would be adding to their existing group of venues in the autumn, the latest addition to the portfolio has now been revealed. Blk Sheep Baa & Grill, a new restaurant concept from the group, will aim to deliver “a new generation of British casual-dining, serving contemporary British food and drinks that appeal to a broad catchment of diners, in fun and relaxed surroundings”. The exact location and opening date for this new venture led by One Hundred Knights directors Matt Jones and Adam Gaunt-Evans is yet to be announced, but the pair are keen to explain their vision as momentum towards opening builds. Gaunt-Evans said: “Our philosophy for Blk Sheep Baa & Grill is based on delivering the best of home-grown produce to our customers. British cooking, serving up value for money and eating pleasure around a table with loved ones will play an integral part in both the style of our cooking and our customer ethos.” Jones added: “We have been fortunate enough to experience major success in the hospitality sector since the inception of Tyn Dwr Hall and the Three Eagles. We’ve taken many learnings and used the experiences we’ve had since 2016 to create the vision and direction for the Blk Sheep brand. Our aim with the launch of this brand is to become a leading casual dining operator in the north west, with a high-performing portfolio of multiple Baa & Grill sites.”

A correction: In a story last month, titled “AMT Coffee to rebrand as Change Please, looks to double estate by 2024”, we wrote: "Alistair McCallum-Toppin, who was the company’s managing director, founded AMT Coffee in 1993 with his brothers Allan and Angus.” We are happy to correct that Alistair McCallum-Toppin remains the company’s managing director but he was not working at the time of the article, with Paolo Peretti holding the role of interim managing director of AMT Coffee. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

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