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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 18th Jun 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector like-for-likes bounce back in May as sun shines on pubs but not restaurants: Hot weather in May helped boost trade in Britain’s pubs but hit restaurant sales, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Overall, the country’s managed pub, bar and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales up 1.4% compared with the previous year and bounced back following the 1.2% fall in April. While managed pubs saw like-for-likes jump 3.5% for the month, with drink-led outlets doing best, casual dining brands saw like-for-like sales drop 2.1% compared with the same period last year. “It’s a familiar story,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “When the sun shines people head for the pub or, more precisely, the pub garden. In contrast, restaurants do better when it’s dull and damp. Weather remains the biggest factor when it comes to sales in the out-of-home market. That’s the way it is.” London did marginally better than the rest of the country, with like-for-like sales up 1.6% compared with 1.4% for outside the M25, with the difference between pubs and restaurants mirroring the national picture. “The effect of the royal wedding on trade is hard to judge but, if anything, it may have depressed sales with many people staying home to watch it on the television,” said Martin. “The good news is overall the sector saw an uplift in trading in May, which contrasts with the 1.2% fall in April. The public continues to go out to eat and drink and confidence among operators is also returning, if not yet to pre-Brexit levels.” Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “It’s always easy to blame the weather but it was a long wait until May, when the pub sector got the benefits of some sunshine. Better weather and a World Cup with a record 32 teams should see very strong trading for many pub businesses over the coming period. Restaurants and food-led pubs may have a tougher summer to add to the pressures they are under. In the longer term, we see competition for casual dining chains becoming a little less intense as poorer-performing units are closed.” Martin added: “The shake-out of sites in the casual dining sector seems to be helping by reducing the threat of oversupply and deals are also being done in the market, showing investors also want to be involved in pubs, bars and restaurants.” Underlying like-for-like growth for the 39 companies in the tracker cohort, which represents large and small groups, is still subdued, running at only 0.6% for the 12 months to the end of May but up from 0.4% at the end of April. Total sales growth across the cohort, which includes the effect of new openings, was 4.5% in May, reflecting continuing if slower brand roll-outs and running at 3.8% for the 12 months to the end of the month.

Industry News:  

Independent restaurant operators finding ‘growth and opportunity’: Independent restaurant operators are finding growth and opportunity despite the “casual dining crunch”, according to an industry round table. Hosted by agents Christie & Co and City of London-based solicitors Goodman Derrick, operators highlighted three key sector themes – technology, consumer trends and funding. Operators said they had widely adopted contactless card payments, with one noting an uptick in covers of more than 30% due to improved efficiency. Online click-and-collect services are also popular, allowing businesses to pre-prepare meals ahead of customer pick-up. Social media was highlighted as a valuable tool to gain free marketing and engage with the customer base, with many operators highlighting online trends such as veganism, fitness lifestyle, and Instagrammable food or decor. Some said it was common to be approached by bloggers offering to promote their business in exchange for free meals. Operators said the search by millennials for experiential elements and their move away from generic chains had put independents in a strong position. Regarding funding, private equity backing was criticised for pitfalls such as accelerated growth that stopped a business growing organically and at a sustainable pace. However, they were not averse to that form of funding as long as restaurants maintained their identity and quality and didn’t become oversaturated. They said opening sites rapidly and without proper research was part of the downfall of many casual dining chains. Operators praised crowdfunding for the connection it nurtured between a business and its supporters but said it could lead to uncertainty for future buyers or investors. The key takeaway from the event was consumer demand remained as strong as ever but supply needed to be well placed to ensure success. Christie & Co head of pubs and restaurants Simon Chaplin said: “Focused, independent operators are finding growth and opportunity. The event was well attended by those looking to share their experiences, with most relieved to find they are not alone in their optimism.” Goodman Derrick hospitality lawyer James Daglish added: “It is clear the so-called casual dining crunch is not hitting all operators and certainly not well-balanced businesses that are responding to demand, especially from millennials. I left with the impression some chain closures will provide opportunities to high-quality, nimble businesses.”

Jamie Rollo – World Cup may only provide small boost for pubs but comes at time industry struggling to generate like-for-like growth: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has said the Fifa World Cup might only provide a small boost for pub operators but has come at a time when most of the industry is struggling to generate like-for-like sales growth. Looking at the impact of the World Cup on pub trading, Rollo said: “Major football tournaments, such as the World Cup and European Championships, are usually positive for operators of wet-led pub estates that show sport, such as Greene King, although negative for more food-led operators, such as Mitchells & Butlers. The event is being hosted in Russia, which may provide an incremental boost as the time zone (three hours ahead of the UK) will mean most games will be at 3pm, 4pm or 7pm, potentially driving longer-duration pub visits. In our coverage universe, Greene King should be a net beneficiary given half its pubs are ‘locals’, although other wet-led pub operators we don’t follow, including Fuller’s and Ei Group, could see a boost. In 2016, Greene King’s managed business achieved like-for-like sales growth of 2.8% in the eight-week main portion of the European tournament (350 basis points better than the previous few months), although this was also flattered by better weather. Weather has also been relatively favourable in recent weeks. Comparatively, the 2014 World Cup was a relative disappointment against tough comparisons from the prior year. JD Wetherspoon has guided for a neutral impact overall from the tournament and we expect the tournament to be a small negative for more food-led operators such as Mitchells & Butlers. While the boost may only be small on a full-year basis, the industry is mostly struggling to generate any like-for-like sales growth (we assume minus 0.5% for Greene King for its FY19 year ending April), every 1% on like-for-like sales for Greene King is an estimated 5% to earnings per share. Greene King reports full-year results in two weeks and, while we are positive ahead of the results, the shares have done surprisingly well in recent weeks already.”
Gatwick airport to add North Terminal mezzanine housing restaurants: Gatwick airport is to add a mezzanine at its North Terminal departure lounge to accommodate new restaurants. The move is part of the airport’s £1.1bn, five-year plan to support growth and enhance the airport experience for passengers. The airport plans to spend £266m in 2018-19 alone as it predicts passenger numbers will increase to almost 53 million by 2023. Other plans include redevelopment of hotel capacity, while completion of the South Terminal long-stay car park decking project will provide an additional 1,200 car parking spaces. Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “By committing to spend another £1.11bn, Gatwick can continue to grow sustainably, attract new airlines and offer more global connections while providing an excellent service to passengers.”
VisitEngland and AA update common standards for accommodation: VisitEngland and the AA have agreed updated common standards and criteria for hotels and self-catering accommodation in the UK. The revised guidelines will ensure “consistent standards” for official star-rated venues across the UK. The revised scheme follows customer and industry feedback and focuses on the quality of experiences with less emphasis on facilities. VisitEngland director Andrew Stokes said: “We know people value quality and guaranteeing that a star rating in Inverness or Swansea brings with it the same benefits as one in Cornwall or Belfast will encourage visitors to further explore the accommodation on offer. These refreshed common standards ensure the wonderful range of quality accommodation across our nations and regions continues to meet the high expectations of visitors.” AA hotel and hospitality services managing director Simon Numphud added: “We have seen a growing diversity of accommodation combined by increasing customer expectations. It was important the quality standards were fully updated.”
Crowdcube reports drop in revenue, losses mount: Crowdcube has reported revenue declined 5% to £4.7m in the year to 30 September 2017. The company stated: "The number of completed pitches declined resulting in a 5% decrease in revenue overall. During the year, the average size of a completed pitch increased, which, together with a slight increase in the effective commission charged, drove a 19% increase in the average revenue generated per completed pitch." There was an operating loss of £4,626,683 compared with an operating loss of £5,393,109 the year before. Accumulated losses since 2013 are £16m and the company's net cash position is £5,466,951 (2016: £8,685,482). The first quarter of 2018 saw double the number of pitches on Crowdcube than the quarterly average for 2017. However, the company is exploring “potential funding opportunities”. 
Luke Johnson – 'my biggest mistakes have been selling too early': Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued his mistakes in business have been selling assets too early. In his Sunday Times column, he wrote: "My biggest business mistakes have been selling assets too early. The most successful capitalists know the greatest rewards come from compounding gains over the long run. Indeed, one of the wisest pieces of investment advice is to ‘run your winners’. Yet there are always reasons to break this rule. A brilliant recent article entitled The Psychology of Money, by Morgan Housel, explains the phenomenon succinctly. For most individuals, making investment plans stretching many years into the future is difficult, since life doesn’t proceed as one expects. People change jobs, homes, cities, get married, have children, inherit, become ill. Any of these big events can interrupt the magic of compounding your investments – because personal circumstances dictate you need to sell a home, a portfolio, a business – and that can kill returns. Another grave danger to compounding is boredom. I am certainly guilty of this weakness. I have sold great companies simply because I had owned them a long time. An example was Integrated Dental Holdings, a business I co-founded. After ten years and an eventual big gain, it felt like a good time to exit – in fact, the business was poised to grow dramatically in value for at least five more years. Cynicism is also a threat to compounding. I have seen many investments go wrong after five years or so, especially in fickle industries such as hospitality. When my then colleagues persuaded me to sell the restaurant operator Strada, I thought its tremendous early expansion would not be maintained. Yet for the next two years, it boomed, under the stewardship of my ex-colleagues, who remained heavily involved. Interestingly, Strada did fall out of fashion, but not until some years after my premature exit."

Company News:

Heineken doubles investment in UK pub estate to record £44m, 1,000 jobs created: Heineken UK has revealed it will invest a record £44m in Star Pubs & Bars during 2018 and create 1,000 jobs. The investment is more than double last year’s figure of £20m and brings the company’s total expenditure on pubs to almost £140m during the past five years. About a quarter of Star’s 2,900 pubs will benefit from the investment programme, which includes 140 major capex projects with an average spend of £170,000 per site. The investments are being tailored to ensure each pub’s proposition is relevant to its community. Heineken UK managing director David Forde said: “We are passionate supporters of the Great British pub and believe well-invested pubs run by skilled and motivated operators will continue to prosper. We believe our commitment to investment and understanding of consumer trends will help our licensees’ businesses to keep growing and ensure the pub remains at the heart of British life for generations to come.” Secretary of state for business Greg Clark added: “Pubs are at the heart of communities and play a vital role in local economies. This record investment by Heineken and its creation of 1,000 British jobs is another significant vote of confidence in the UK economy.”

Just Eat-backed CityMunch hits £150,000 crowdfunding target: London-based startup CityMunch, which aims to fill restaurants at quieter times of the day and has received investment from Just Eat, has hit its £150,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to fund expansion. The company, which launched in February 2016 and has 250 restaurant brands on its books including Busaba and Hummus Brothers, is offering an 8% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 150 investors have pledged £150,656 and the campaign is “overfunding”. Since launch, CityMunch said it had sent more than 50,000 people through the doors of its restaurant partners – it is now live in London, Bristol and Manchester. Previously, chief executive Robert Lynch told Propel: “Our growth in the past year has shown real-time offers can be a massive help to restaurants facing tough headwinds. This funding round will enable us to expand our reach and develop the product into a powerful tool for maximising our clients’ business potential.” The pitch states: “Our primary focus is continuing our rapid growth. Our future plans – including predictive analytics, offer automation, third-party partnerships and customer feedback – all depend on significant scale to reach their full potential. Much of our fund-raising proceeds will be invested in business development and marketing to expand our presence in our existing cities and achieve this scale. Realising this next stage of growth will allow us to raise a more substantial further round of investment at a valuation that makes sense for the business.” In February last year, CityMunch raised more than £186,000 on Seedrs.
Cambodian restaurant given glowing review by Jay Rayner opens second site: Greater Manchester-based Cambodian eatery Angkor Soul, which was given a glowing review by restaurant critic Jay Rayner, has opened a second site, in Altrincham. Angkor Soul, described by Rayner as a “little diamond” when he reviewed its Marple restaurant for The Observer newspaper in October, is the only Cambodian restaurant outside London. Owner Sok Woodward has now opened a second site in Ashley Road, Altrincham, which was previously occupied by Italian restaurant Scalini. Within three years of its Marple launch Angkor Soul, which also has a vinyl record shop in the basement, was booked out for months in advance. Woodward told Altrincham Today: “I am a bit nervous coming to Altrincham because it’s a bigger place and there is more competition but I’m very happy and excited.” The menu, which uses lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and garlic as a base, proved a hit with Rayner. He wrote: “It’s always the grilled pork dumplings, which leak stock with each bite, alongside a few pickles. And then the crispy chicken wings, which seem to have Sichuan peppercorns in the batter and which make my lips tingle and my heart sing. Plus a little bowl of chilli oil for dipping. That’s lunch done for £11 or £12.50 with a tip. God it’s good.”
Warrington-headquartered brewer eyes ‘promising year’ as turnover and profits rise: Warrington-headquartered brewer and packaging company Thomas Hardy Holdings has said its prospects for 2018 “look promising” as it reported a turnover and profit boost. The company is behind Thomas Hardy Packaging, Thomas Hardy Burtonwood and Thomas Hardy Kendal. The Burtonwood Brewery was built in 1990 on an 11-acre site recently expanded to allow for brewing, fermenting and processing international lager. The company’s packaging plant in Kendal comprises a high-speed line with mixing and blending facilities for alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages and soft drinks. For the year ending 30 September 2017, the company saw turnover increase to £18,071,000 compared with £14,511,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £2,732,000 compared with £1,399,000 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The enhanced profit performance comes from an increase in volumes produced from existing and new customers and follows significant capital investment made in the current facilities over recent years. The capital investment programme continued during the year with an additional £1,491,000 being spent across the group. The prospects for 2018 look promising with volumes expected to be in line with the current year. The balance sheet continues to improve its strong position and includes cash reserves of £5,626,000, which leaves the directors with a number of options to supplement the business further in the future where the opportunity allows.”
City Pub Group opens first site in Wales: City Pub Group, the owner and operator of an estate of premium pubs, has made its debut in Wales. The company has reopened the former Cayo Arms in Cardiff as The Pontcanna Inn. The pub in Cathedral Road offers 90 covers inside and 200 more outside along with ten en-suite bedrooms. City Pub Group operations manager Jim Charlton told Wales Online: “We wanted a fresh start for local residents after the Cayo declined in recent years.” He said the company was looking to add more venues in South Wales to its portfolio. Last month City Pub Group, which has 44 sites in its portfolio, reported total sales were up 23% in the first 18 weeks of its financial year.
Utopian Brewing launches £350,000 crowdfunding campaign: Utopian Brewing, chaired by Faucet Inn founder Steve Cox, has launched a £350,000 crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube, offering 19.07% of its equity in return for investment. The company stated: “We have spent months in research and planning. This funding will enable us to build out our 3,500-litre brewhouse with sufficient vessels to produce more than 8,000 hectolitres per annum. We will aim to install sufficient infrastructure and have space to add vessels later to increase production to more than 15,000 hectolitres per annum. All of our ingredients will be sourced from UK producers. There are more than 30 British hop varieties and a vast array of malts and cereals ensuring we can make a varied range of distinctive products. To assist our sustainability ambitions, our proposed site benefits from a natural water source and access to cattle waste, a suitable feed source for anaerobic digestion, which will contribute to power generation along with potential solar panels. We aim to sell draught product to pubs and bars locally and through national distribution. We have provisionally agreed to supply for 15 sites and we believe our industry contacts will give us a head start in rapidly adding new outlets. We plan for a packaged product to be added as soon as possible for both online and retail sales."
REL Capital to invest in Frank Lampard's pub: REL Capital, headed by Andy Scott, is to invest £200,000 in Frank Lampard's pub, The Pig's Ear in Chelsea, where it acquired the leasehold interest in May. The venue, in Old Church Street, is Chelsea's oldest pub. REL exited the pubs and bars sector after its 1 Leicester Square “super club” was developed for hotel use in 2015. It also sold regional sites in Guildford, Watford and Crawley to focus on other portfolio businesses, including the development of ten Hawthorn freehold development sites, and growing its central London entertainments business Contraband Events. REL has taken on Ian Newman, former head of property at Carluccio’s and Ivy Group, to spearhead its acquisitions. It has two further sites in legals and is actively looking for opportunities in the bar group and central London pub, bar and late-night sectors.
London-based micro-brewer hits crowdfunding stretch goal of £310,000: London-based micro-brewer The Park Brewery has hit its stretch target of £310,000 in its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company extended its target to £310,000 after hitting its initial target of £175,000. Explain the increased target, The Park Brewery stated: “We’ve been back over the figures and, after careful consideration, we’ve decided on one last push to £300,000. The kit we originally budgeted for was basic and very manual. This extra money will provide us with a more automated system, which will ease that pressure physically and make The Park Brewery a better place to work and speed production to keep up with sales. We will be able to recruit a sales person sooner so we can focus more on growing the company. We can ramp up our marketing and PR spend to speed sales and get out to more pubs and outlets.” The company was founded in autumn 2014 by husband-and-wife team Josh and Frankie Kearns with an initial £5,000 set-up producing just 200 litres a brew. Struggling to keep up with demand, the Kearns injected £30,000 and expanded capacity mid-2015 to 600 litres, brewing three times a week to keep up with sales. The brewery is at full capacity.
Stockton-based bar operator unveils plans for outdoor ‘destination’: Stockton-based bar operator and property developer John Taylor has unveiled plans for an outdoor “destination” for the north east town. Taylor is planning to create the space, which will feature shipping containers and covered areas for alfresco drinking and street food, in Prince Regent Street. Regent Garden will be built on a former car sales premises, while an accountant’s office next door will be transformed into The Glasshouse, a bar with an all-glass extension and retractable roof. Taylor, who owns Dr Inks, Looking Glass, Thirsty Souls and The Vault, said he plans to take the “best bits” he has found from bars across the country. Work is due to start soon ahead of an opening in early 2019. Taylor, who is also director at property developer Parker Barras, told Gazette Live: “It will be a real destination venue. With everything that’s going on in Stockton I think it will be fantastic. It will be a place for drinks with a garden and under-cover spaces that will consist of pods to the rear. There will also be a street food element. We are putting our money where our mouth is, we are committing to Stockton.”
Bar Soba to move to new Leeds home next month: Scotland-based cocktail and pan-Asian street food concept Bar Soba, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, has found a new home in Leeds. The company closed its site in Merrion Street in March and it has been taken over by Jones Bar Group for its Roxy Ball Room concept. Now Bar Soba is moving to the former Bem Brazil premises in Greek Street next month, creating 40 jobs. It is investing £500,000 revamping the building, which will feature an 11-metre long cocktail bar downstairs and a 60-cover restaurant on the first floor. Group marketing manager Gillian Soutar told BDaily: “We had an amazing three years on Merrion Street and our Greek Street venue will see us remix Bar Soba Leeds to bring our guests an even better drinking, dining and dancing experience." Bar Soba received a £3m investment from the BGF in 2016 for expansion. It operates three sites in Glasgow and one each in Edinburgh and Derby. Last week, it scrapped plans to open in the former Cabin Club in Liverpool, although the city “remains on the agenda for expansion”.
Fuller’s reopens Hammersmith pub as ‘Frontier Hero’ site: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has reopened its Distillers pub in Hammersmith following a refurbishment that places Frontier lager at its heart. Frontier is now delivered straight from two large tanks, which have replaced the traditional kegs. The Frontier tanks each hold five hectolitres (the equivalent of ten kegs or 880 pints). The Distillers, which is in Fulham Palace Road, has been refreshed and injected with colour. A new back bar has also been built. General manager Andrew Donbavand said: “The Distillers is looking brilliant after its recent refurbishment and it is especially exciting to be named as a Frontier Hero site. This is another step in the evolution of The Distillers as a craft beer haven.” Frontier brand manager Matt Bassant added: “Frontier has seen fantastic growth since its launch in 2015, proving popular as a lager not only in the pub but also at events around the UK.”
Chicken Cottage reveals plans for Crystal Palace site: Halal fast food company Chicken Cottage has revealed plans for a restaurant in Crystal Palace, south London. The Croydon-based business is moving into a vacant unit in Westow Hill. The Chicken Cottage logo has already been erected inside the restaurant. A spokeswoman told the Croydon Advertiser: “Further details on this store will be posted on our website and Facebook pages in due course.” Chicken Cottage opened its first site in Wembley, north west London, in 1994 and has almost 80 restaurants in the UK. It also has outlets in Belgium, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Nigeria and Pakistan.
YO! Sushi to hold free sushi-making sessions: YO! Sushi is to hold free sushi masterclasses at five of its UK sites. Corresponding with International Sushi Day, chefs will show participants how to construct and roll several dishes, with their creations boxed to take away along with a sushi mat, a sushi-making guide, and a 25% discount voucher for YO! Sushi restaurants. The sushi schools will take place at restaurants in St Paul’s and Fulham in London, Birmingham Selfridges, Grainger Street in Newcastle and Cabot Circus in Bristol at 6pm on Monday (18 June).
UK Desserts launches Kaspa’s in Lincoln: UK Desserts, led by Mark Adams and Deepak Patel, has opened a Kaspa’s franchise in the centre of Lincoln. The dessert parlour has launched in Clasketgate following a £500,000 investment that has created 25 jobs. The 154-cover parlour is housed in two combined units underneath Danesgate House. Kaspa’s offers hot and cold desserts including gelato, waffles, crepes, milkshakes, smoothies, coffees and sundaes – all made from Italian ingredients. Patel told Lincolnshire Live: “We have chosen Lincoln as it’s a great, vibrant city. Our brand fits into the demographics and our investment will attract more people into Lincoln city centre. Local investment in the area will help create a great hub and Kaspa’s will fit in well.” Kaspa’s was founded in 2010 and has about 50 sites in the UK. In November, UK Desserts announced it planned to open up to 20 Kaspa’s with a focus on Hertfordshire and Essex.
Marston’s plans approved to build Arbroath hotel and restaurant: Marston’s has had its plans approved to build a hotel and restaurant in Arbroath, Scotland. The company plans to build a 24-bedroom lodge and 150-cover restaurant on the site of the Seaforth Hotel, which was ravaged by fire more than a decade ago. Marston’s hopes to start work as soon as possible on the “eyesore” site in Dundee Road, close to Arbroath Football Club’s stadium. The Seaforth was built as a private house in the 1820s and opened as a hotel in 1934, with a swimming pool and two function rooms that hosted many of the town’s major social events. The building was gutted by a blaze in 2006, forcing demolition of the shell. The western gateway site was later branded an “ulcer” on Arbroath, The Courier reports. Meanwhile, Marston’s has submitted plans to West Berkshire District Council to develop a 150-cover pub restaurant near Basingstoke, Hampshire, which would also include a three-bedroom manager’s apartment, 61-space car park, a garden, terrace and children’s play area.
Devon-based cafe owners to open Greek restaurant in Exeter for second site: Devon-based cafe owners Arti Hazhaj and Alex Bersha are to open a Greek restaurant in Exeter for their second site. The duo will launch the venture next month in South Street on the site of Spanish restaurant El Bocado, which closed earlier this year. They are yet to come up with a name for the restaurant, which will have 50 covers. The pair run Broad Street Cafe in Ottery St Mary and have previously operated a Greek restaurant in Newton Abbot. Hazhaj told Devon Live: “We were going to open the restaurant in Ottery St Mary but when this venue became available we had to take it. There are so many cuisines from all over the world in the city centre but no Greek venues, so it’s great we can add to the amazing variety we have in Exeter.”
Extra MSA unveils design of ‘new concept’ £60m service station on M1: Extra MSA Group has unveiled the design for its £60m “new concept” service station at Junction 45 of the M1 to the east of Leeds. The development, which received approval earlier this year, is now under construction. It will include a food court, business centre, petrol station and 100-bedroom hotel. The food court will feature sweeping, exposed long-span timber beams with an undulating “living green roof” to tie into the landscape and a terraced seating area in landscaped grounds next to Skelton Lake. Extra MSA Group chief executive Andrew Long told The Business Desk: “Our vision is to create an appealing ‘new concept’ facility that will provide an excellent customer experience and wide choice of popular brands and facilities in an attractive and well-landscaped environment.” The service station is expected to open next summer.

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