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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 18th Apr 2024 - Update: WatchHouse, Deliveroo, Loungers, Rank Group et al
WatchHouse to launch new crowdfunding campaign, plans more New York sites and US roastery: Specialty coffee concept WatchHouse is to launch its final crowdfunding campaign as it looks to open further sites in New York and a roastery in Brooklyn. The business, which opened its first international site, in New York, earlier this month, is set to launch the new crowdfund campaign through Crowdcube, with no target for how much it is looking to raise announced as yet. It comes after the business, which currently operates 17 sites in the UK, completed a $10m (£7.9m) Series A fundraising round in December to continue the company’s rapid growth in the UK and US over the next 36 months. On the new crowdfunding campaign, Watchhouse founder and chief executive Roland Horne said: “Since we last spoke in 2022, Watchhouse has rapidly expanded, opening a further eight new houses, including our first international house on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and now building on the successes of those launches in the UK and US, we're going to build a state of the art roastery and bakery space here in Brooklyn, to serve our houses in New York City and a new bakery adjoined to our roastery in London Bridge. Q1 2024 saw a remarkable 120% growth compared to the last time we spoke in 2022. Our community has surged to over 80,000 members, adding new brand fans on both sides of the pond. This is our last EIS opportunity for guests to join us on our journey before we are too large for this scheme. So, we are opening up this round to join us as we aim to add a further five houses across New York and London this year. Let's take modern coffee global together.” The company said that it had increased its top-line revenue from £7.8m in 2022 to £16.6m (ARR) 2024. Last month, WatchHouse opened in London’s Canary Wharf, in Cabot Place. The company has further openings lined up in the capital over the next six months. It will open in Marble Arch next month, in Hampstead Heath in June, in Fitzrovia in July and a further site in Canary Wharf in August.

Next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality to feature 65 updated entries and seven new companies, released tomorrow: The next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality will feature 65 updated entries and seven new companies when it is released to Premium Club members tomorrow (Friday, 19 April), at midday. This month’s edition includes 865 companies and more than 233,000 words of content. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. All Premium Clubs members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators that are Premium Club members are also able to send up to four members of staff to each of our four Multi-Club Conferences for free. Premium Club members receive their daily Propel Info newsletter 11 hours earlier than standard subscribers, at 7pm the evening before. They also receive videos of presentations at eight Propel conference events two weeks after they are held. This represents around 100 videos of industry insight over the course of the year. Premium Club members will be sent a dedicated monthly newsletter that will highlight key updates in the sector and direct subscribers to all the vital content their membership offers. Premium Club members also receive exclusive opinion columns every Friday at 5pm, which include the thoughts of Propel group editor Mark Wingett and a host of industry leaders from across the sector. A Premium Club subscription costs an annual sum of £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or supplier. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com today to sign up.

Deliveroo reports 6% lfl growth in UK & Ireland in first quarter, orders flat in and line with overall market growth: Deliveroo has reported 6% like-for-like growth in the UK & Ireland in first quarter of 2024 and said orders are flat, in line with overall market growth. It said its gross transactional value (GTV) growth here was 6% year-on-year, compared to 7% in the fourth quarter of 2023, “in the context of a more stable but still uncertain consumer environment”. Orders returned to growth, with a 2% increase year-on-year, while GTV per order was up 4% in constant currency. Internationally, GTV growth accelerated to 6% year-on-year in constant currency (1% in the fourth quarter of 2023), with orders up 4%.  The improvement in GTV growth rate was driven by France, the UAE and Hong Kong, with Italy remaining strong. It reported group revenue growth of 2% in constant currency (1% in the fourth quarter of 2023). It said revenue take rate (% of GTV) decreased year-on-year but was flat sequentially versus the fourth quarter of 2023. GTV growth (in constant currency) is anticipated to be in the range of 5-9% in 2024, with adjusted Ebitda expected to be in the range of £110-130m and free cash flow expected to be positive for the full year 2024. Will Shu, founder and chief executive of Deliveroo, said: “I am pleased with the start we have made to this year, building on the strong progress in 2023. The team has been relentlessly focussed on delivering service and value for money, helping drive a return to order growth and continued growth in GTV. We made particularly strong progress in international markets during the quarter, with notable improvements in France, UAE and Hong Kong, and continued strength in Italy. In the UK and Ireland, while the consumer environment remains stable but uncertain, our commitment to offering fair prices and a flawless consumer experience is building strong foundations for the future and will continue to differentiate our business. I’m excited about building the best consumer experience possible and am confident in our ability to drive profitable growth and sustainable cash generation.”
 
Loungers continues rapid site rollout with an opening every ten days in 2024: Cafe bar operator Loungers said it has continued its rapid site rollout with an opening every ten days so far in 2024. The operator of the Lounge, Cosy Club and Brightside brands said several new openings since its last update on 29 January brings the current total to 257 sites. In the past three months, the group opened new Lounges in Bromsgrove (Verraco Lounge), Chepstow (Pontio Lounge), Macclesfield (Panadero Lounge), Westwood Cross (Riparo Lounge), Bracknell (Pineto Lounge), Ilkley (Vitello Lounge), Sidcup (Sarto Lounge) and Yeovil (Barolo Lounge). With each new Lounge site, nearly £1m is invested into the local high street and an average of 30 new jobs are created. Alex Reilley, chairman and co-founder of Loungers, said: “With a new site opening every ten days so far this year across a wide variety of locations in the UK, Loungers continues to go from strength to strength with a fantastic pipeline ahead. We still firmly believe that there is scope for over 600 Lounges and are more excited than ever about the future of this business.” Propel revealed earlier this month that Loungers had hired Kate Eastwood, formerly of Fuller’s and Revolution Bars Group, as the new managing director of its Lounge concept. At the same time, current Lounge managing director Justin Carter was promoted to the new role of group managing director of Loungers.
 
Rank Group lfl revenue up 6% in first quarter: The Rank Group, which owns Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos, has reported its like-for-like revenue grew 6% in the first quarter of 2024. In a trading update for the third quarter of its financial year, the three months ended 31 March 2024, it said like-for-like net gaming revenue (NGR) was up 6% to £182.3m, with both the venues and digital channels growing by 6% on a like-for-like basis. Grosvenor venues grew like-for-like NGR 3% to £80m, with a 5% growth in visit numbers. With this being the seasonally quieter period, average weekly NGR in the quarter was £6.2m, up 2% on the prior year and down 2% on the second quarter. Mecca venues like-for-like NGR grew by 12% to £37.3m in the quarter, driven by a 5% increase in customer visits and a 7% increase in spend per visit, particularly benefitting from strong trading over the Mother's Day and Easter weekends. Digital NGR grew by 6% in the quarter to £55m, with UK growth of 4% and Spanish growth of 20%. In the UK, Mecca performed strongly, with NGR up 21%. Grosvenor grew by just 1%, impacted by a weaker gaming margin with some big customer wins.  Planned reductions in marketing investment led to a 13% reduction in NGR for the group’s other UK digital brands, with improvements in the return on investment delivered in March and continuing into the fourth quarter. In Spain, the Yo brands continued to deliver strong NGR growth. Rank has also entered an agreement to sell its holding in Passion Gaming, an Indian online rummy business, for a nominal consideration. The disposal is expected to complete in the coming weeks. Chief executive John O’Reilly said performance has continued to improve in April, and the group expects like-for-like operating profit for the year ending 30 June 2024 to be in line with expectations. “We continue to make good progress across both our venues and online businesses, with Q3 trading very much in line with the board’s expectations,” he added. “Performance continues to improve, and we have the very important land-based reforms from the government’s White Paper to look forward to, which we hope to start implementing in the coming months.”

Bank of England governor forecasts another big drop in inflation: The Bank of England’s governor last night forecast another big drop in inflation after it fell to the lowest level since September 2021. Slower rises in food prices helped the Consumer Prices Index drop to 3.2% last month from 3.4% in February. And Andrew Bailey told fellow bankers in Washington that the gauge is likely to see a steep fall when April’s figures are published, reports the Daily Mail. “I expect the next month’s data will show quite a strong drop because of the impact of changes in energy pricing,” he said during a conference hosted by the Institute of International Finance. His optimism is certain to increase speculation that Britain could move ahead of the US by cutting interest rates from the current level of 5.25% sooner rather than later. UK inflation is now below the rate in the US for the first time since 2022. Meanwhile,the government’s £20bn national insurance tax cut risks worsening the country’s public finances, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said, as it projected an increase in the UK’s debt burden over the next five years. In its latest assessment of debt levels across the world economy, the IMF said the UK’s public debt ratio would rise until the end of the decade to 98% of GDP by 2029, reports The Times. The IMF’s calculations for the UK’s gross and net debt are lower than measures produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility, but the international body’s calculations show debt will keep rising in every calendar year after 2024. The IMF has repeatedly warned the UK against tax cuts that reduce government revenues and limit the room to spend on improving public services. In its annual Fiscal Monitor report published today, it singled out the decision to cut the national insurance rate from 12p to 8p this year, which will cost the Treasury an estimated £20bn. “Recent policy changes, such as a significant cut to the national insurance contribution in the United Kingdom, although part-funded by well-conceived revenue-raising measures, could worsen the debt trajectory in the medium term,” the IMF said. 

Pret A Manger owner facing fresh questions about problems with its loyalty schemes: The owner of Pret A Manger is facing fresh questions about problems with its loyalty schemes after similar complaints were made by customers of its sister company, Krispy Kreme. People using the Krispy Kreme app said they unable to redeem rewards earned through the scheme, reports The Telegraph. Both companies are owned by the German firm JAB Holdings, which bought Pret in 2018 and owns multiple food and coffee chains around the world. Pret faced calls to offer all subscribers to its £30 a month Club Pret scheme compensation after some complained of being “locked out” from its app. Pret changed its app earlier this year so that users must log in every time they wanted to access their membership code, and Krispy Kreme also updated its app in January, the newspaper said. Customers can earn ten “smiles” for every £1 spent in-store, which they can redeem against the value of doughnuts or hot drinks. One user of the Krispy Kreme app posted a review on Google in April saying they kept losing points they had earned. Another customer said the app had lost all of their points and transaction history. Another review, written in March, said the app crashed every time the user tried to log in, and that it made him change his password constantly. Another complained that the app doesn’t recognise passwords and took ten minutes to send a reset link. A spokesman for JAB said individual brands were responsible for their own loyalty schemes and apps. A spokesman for Pret previously told The Telegraph: “A few customers may have experienced technical issues in accessing their new codes while logging into the Pret app. Anyone with problems accessing their new code can contact our customer support team who will be happy to help.” The spokesman later added: “Since we made this change in March, our team have either given refunds or applied the Club Pret discount as normal to any customers who have genuinely struggled to log in.” A spokesman for Krispy Kreme UK & Ireland said: “We’re very proud of the 4.8 star rating we have for our Krispy Kreme Rewards App across both the Android and Apple app stores. This rating is based on thousands of satisfied customer reviews. We’re sorry that some people have experienced problems but we’re not aware of any wider issues. We regularly update our app to ensure it remains compatible with the full range of smartphones used by our customer base.”

UK’s most expensive coffee revealed as £265 offering at Mayfair coffee bar: The UK’s most expensive coffee has been revealed as a £265 offering at a Central London coffee bar. The Telegraph reports that the drink can be bought at Shot – a small, dimly-lit Mayfair coffee bar with marble walls and tables – for the princely sum. It is made using typica beans – a high-quality variety of arabica – from the Nakayama estate in Japan. Despite the high price, those who fork out should expect few frills, with the brew available as an espresso, macchiato, flat white, americano, cappuccino or latte – no different to a standard London coffee shop. Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, a three-time UK barista champion and founder of Colonna Coffee, said it was very unusual for coffee to be grown in Japan, something he speculated had contributed to the extravagant price of this drink. “Hardly anyone grows coffee in Japan,” he said. “It typically grows in the tropics, either side of the equator. It’s very hard to grow in places like Japan and probably needs a lot of help. Rarity is obviously sought-after in coffee, and most of the ‘fancy’ coffee people drink is all arabica. Typica, which is what is used here, is not the most sought-after variety of arabica – I’ve never seen a typica that expensive before – which suggests the value is coming from the fact that it’s grown in Japan.” Mr Colonna-Dashwood said Shot’s Japanese coffee was by far the most expensive he had ever seen, adding that it was quite unusual for such an exclusive variety to be sold in a coffee shop because they tend to be sold in bags as collector items. “You don’t normally see these coffees in a coffee shop. What you’d normally see is a collector or someone buying these coffees,” he added. “I wonder how many cups of these they’ll actually sell.” However, he said there was “definitely more of an audience for premium coffee than ever before”. Another Mayfair coffee shop previously claimed to have “the most expensive cup of coffee in the UK” for £50, with only 15 servings available. Queens of Mayfair was selling coffee made from the award-winning Cup of Excellence from Ethiopia – the world’s most prestigious annual competition and auction for coffee – which it bought at the auction for between £1500-£2,000 a kilo.

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