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Mon 22nd Oct 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Charlie Gilkes – it’s terrifying how few people are applying for jobs, Fogg’s thriving due to ‘open-ended’ concept: Inception Group founder Charlie Gilkes has said recruitment is the company’s greatest challenge as its brands continue to grow. Gilkes founded the company with Duncan Stirling in 2009 and it now has an annual turnover of more than £20m with six core brands and 11 sites due to open in 2019, all in London. Speaking at the Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by UKHospitality and Propel, he told delegates: “It’s terrifying how few people are applying for jobs. We now have someone in the business heading up talent so we can nurture people and work on retention. We’ve also got to get our team to adapt to growth. We’ve never grown at this rate before – from opening one venue a year, we’re opening four this year.” Mr Fogg’s was Inception’s first foray into the West End and has been the concept that has shown the most potential for growth. There are five sites in London with the brand branching out to a “female version” – Mrs Fogg’s – which will open soon in Broadgate as the group’s first City of London site. The debut Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair has become a “great contributor of profit to the whole group”. Gilkes said: “Because of the travel theme, it’s such an open-ended concept. We’re trying to build a collection rather than a chain.” Gilkes also talked about Squirrel, a healthy eating concept launched in South Kensington two years ago that sits outside Inception Group and which he and Stirling run with their wives. He said: “With healthy food I always felt like I was being dragged to the doctor and I wanted to do something a bit more fun. It’s profitable – just – I learned selling vodka has better margins than avocados. Our dressings have a real following and this is something we might consider branching out and selling as a separate item in the future.” Regarding other headwinds, Gilkes said: “There are licensing pressures with all the developing going on in London. Since opening Bunga Bunga there have been some large residential developments built near us and we have to work hard to happily co-exist. Competition is also fierce in London, we’re not just competing with local operators we’re competing with people from around the world who want a flagship site in London. However, the tide is turning and we’re seeing premiums coming down.”

Industry News:

Next three Propel conferences open for bookings: The next three Propel conferences are open for bookings. The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is a full-day event that will take place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel in St Paul’s, London. To see the speaker schedule, click here. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places. Propel and Think Hospitality will launch a new event, the Experiential Leisure Conference, on Friday, 9 November. The half-day event will take place at One Moorgate Place, London. To see the speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. Meanwhile, the People and Training Conference, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) in association with Propel, will take place at Bafta Piccadilly on Tuesday, 20 November. To see the speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £65 plus VAT for operators who are BII members and BIIAB members and £200 plus VAT for operators who are non-BII members. Supplier tickets are £95 plus VAT for BII members and BIIAB members and £245 plus VAT for all other organisations. To book tickets for any of the events, email Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

High-street assets flourish as Allsop auction raises almost £100m: Auction house Allsop has reported its October sale was the largest of the year as it raised almost £100m. The company said the figure of £97.3m “demonstrated the depth of private investor demand at a testing time for capital markets everywhere”. A total of 180 lots were sold, with 21 lots achieving more than £1m. High-street assets made up 80% of the lots offered, proving the weight of money available from the private portfolio investor for correctly priced assets, Allsop said. A total of £21.7m of bank investments were sold throughout the UK and the range of yields, with a 5% spread, was wider than normal reflecting the “sophistication of the investors and their local knowledge”. Partner and auctioneer George Walker said: “To raise almost £100m demonstrates the depth of private investor demand at a testing time for capital markets everywhere. Buyers are being selective and correct pricing remains key to achieving a sale. Interestingly, our buyers’ survey showed a large increase in the number of new buyers in the room and, encouragingly, nine out of ten buyers are looking to buy again in the next 12 months.”

More than half of chefs have added vegan options to their menu this year: More than half (51%) of chefs have added vegan options to their menus this year up from 31% in 2017, according to research by business insights company Foodable Labs. The research also found more than three-fifths (62%) of “food influencers” such as bloggers are looking for more plant-based delivery options. Foodable said more than four-fifths (88%) of food influencers engaged with plant-based content by chefs, with 61% sharing it with their own audiences. Furthermore, almost two-fifths (39%) of those then engaged with the chef’s content. Social media sites such as Instagram are fuelling interest in vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets. Last month, natural fast food brand Leon became one of many brands to recently launch an autumn menu with a focus on vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Thatchers boss urges tax cut on cider: Martin Thatcher, managing director of Somerset-based cider-maker Thatchers, has urged the government to cut duty on cider to boost the industry. He is calling for a 2p-a-pint cut on ciders up to 6.9% ABV. He told The Sunday Times: “Our main competitor is beer and there were a number of years where cider duty continued up and beer duty was held. That has caused us a real issue.” The government is expected to raise duty on high strength “white” cider in next week’s Budget. Last month, Thatchers submitted plans for a new cider mill as it looks to expand production. The company has undergone significant growth in recent years, with production rising from 12 million litres in 2009 to 66 million litres in 2017. The company believes it will need to produce a further nine million litres in 2019 to keep pace with current demand. Meanwhile, Dunkerton Organic Cider owner Julian Dunkerton has said he wants to return to help revive his high-street brand Superdry. Dunkerton left the company’s board in March but warned the retailer had gone on “completely the wrong path”. He added: “I left a brilliant business and a brilliant brand. It’s just taken a wrong direction.” 

Company News:

Villandry had accumulated losses of £7.3m when it went into administration, creditors owed £8.2m: Villandry, the restaurant chain run by the former Le Pain Quotidien director Philippe Le Roux, had accumulated losses of £7.3m when it went into administration after “consistent and significant operating losses” in recent years, a new document has revealed. A statement of proposals by administrators Martha Thompson and Sarah Rayment, of BDO, filed at Companies House, showed creditors were owed £8.2m. The report revealed Villandry’s financial position “significantly worsened” after it was issued with a notice to terminate its lease at its Bicester Village site in April 2017, which provided almost half the company’s turnover. The administrators said increased rent, business rates and labour costs as well as increased competition also contributed to the operating losses. Accounts showed for the year ending March 2016 turnover was £10,295,505 with a loss after tax of £683,564. In March 2017, the company had turnover of £10,378,839 but the loss after tax had more than doubled, to £1,482,459. Accumulated losses at this point stood at £7,338,980. The report revealed secured creditor Santander is owed £1.1m. Any distribution will be dependent on a sale of the company’s assets and restaurant leases. However, the administrators predicted there would be a “significant shortfall”. Unsecured creditors are owed an estimated £7,147,000, with £651,000 of claims received to date. Based on current information, the administrators said there would be insufficient funds to make a distribution. The report revealed after exiting the Bicester Village premises, Le Roux made efforts to reduce costs and “did not take a salary for more than a year”. He subsequently decided to sell the leasehold interest in its Great Portland Street restaurant and retain its site at St James’s. A lease premium of £650,000 was agreed for the Great Portland premises. However, one of the landlords refused to give consent to the proposed change of use and the deal subsequently collapsed. Le Roux subsequently sought investment in the business but none was received and as a result the company went into administration. Le Roux acquired Villandry in 2011 with backing from big City of London names including Finsbury PR chief Roland Rudd, BAE Systems chairman Sir Roger Carr and former Standard Chartered chairman Lord Davies.

Milton Pubs and Taverns puts 26 sites on market: Milton Pubs and Taverns, the company formed by real estate investment firm Aprirose when it acquired 73 pubs from Mitchells & Butlers last year, has put 26 sites on the market, Propel has learned. The company has instructed agents Fleurets to market the properties, which are available as a package or on an individual basis. The sites are located across England and Wales in a mix of town centre, suburban, countryside and main road locations, with the majority freehold or long leasehold. Propel understands Milton Pubs and Taverns wants to trim its estate and has decided to sell a number of bottom-end sites. The pubs are Bell Inn in Coventry; Bentley Wood Farm in Burnley; Cherry Tree in Melton Mowbray; Fair View Inn in Rochdale; Fox in Cambridge; Game Cock Inn in Blackburn; Halfway House in Connahs Quay; Haver Arms in Haverhill; Jubilee in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire; Langroyd Hall in Colne, Lancashire; Linden Tree in Swansea; Miles Arms in Avonmouth; Millhouse in Worksop; Nelson Inn in Harrogate; North Camp in Farnborough; Old Trooper in Christleton, Cheshire; Olde Bull Inn in Newport; Prince of Wales in Solihull; Princess Alice in Thamesmead, south east London; Royal Oak in Bolton; Shield & Dagger in Whitchurch; Sun Inn in Bingley; True Briton in Leeds; Vale Royal in Wigan; Village Inn in Swindon; and Wheatsheaf in Camberley.

Martin Williams – Gaucho not the healthiest but there’s a lot of love for the brand: M Restaurants founder Martin Williams, who is working with Gaucho to “drive the next stage of development” following its recent financial woes, has said the company is “not the healthiest” but there remains a “lot of love for the brand”. Williams’ plans to revitalise Gaucho include encouraging vegans to the chain and a refurbishment of all 16 restaurants will help as its brown-and-white cowhide chairs have become synonymous with the brand. Williams told The Sunday Times: “It has become a caricature of itself. A vegan doesn’t want to sit on cowhide.” He added: “Gaucho is not in the healthiest state but there’s still a lot of love for the brand. The business just hasn’t been as well controlled as it should have been.” Gaucho is set to emerge this week from a restructuring that saw it go into administration and enter a company voluntary arrangement. Williams has drawn up a list of problems – the wine list is too short, steak too pricy and all Gaucho restaurants look the same. Since returning, he has cut the price of classic dishes by 15%, added a lunchtime deal and brought in a new management team. He said: “We’re going back to the principle that you can go into Gaucho, have a glass of wine and two courses for £30 and leave.” In the future, Williams said he envisaged a Gaucho hotel and a possible merger with his own restaurant group. 

Corbin & King adjusts hiring policy to increase number of over-50s in front and back of house: Jeremy King, co-founder of London-based restaurant group Corbin & King, has altered the company’s hiring policy to encourage older people to apply for front and back-of-house roles. King and fellow founder Chris Corbin have introduced a policy that could bring the advantage of a more stable workforce in an industry that traditionally suffers high staff turnover. King told the Sunday Telegraph: “You can’t train attitude and we want people who are friendly and can bring a certain confidence and experience to the table.” Currently, over-50s only account for 5.8% of Corbin & King’s workforce. However, it aims to raise that figure to 30% in the next few years, matching the average for the UK workforce. King said: “We want a broad age range working in our establishments. Young people can invigorate the workplace and older people can bring a wealth of experience to it and provide an example to their more junior colleagues. We’re not discriminating on age grounds, we are just helping people to feel they can work for us and often that’s all they need.” Last month, Corbin & King confirmed it is to open a site in St John’s Wood, north west London, its ninth venue in the capital. Soutine will open towards the end of this year or in early 2019 at a former Carluccio’s site in High Street. 

Whitbread launches weekend set menu for Beefeater brand: Whitbread has launched a weekend set menu for its Beefeater brand. The Weekend Set Menu is available after 6pm, Friday to Sunday, excluding bank holidays. Starters include grilled vegetables and houmous, and buttermilk chicken goujons. Mains meals include steak, burgers and beer-battered haddock and chips, while all puddings are suitable for vegetarians and include a vegan gin-fizz sorbet and salted toffee apple crumble. Customers can get two courses for £15.99 and three courses for £18.99. Prices don’t include drinks or side orders. Terms and conditions show the menu is unavailable between 22 November 2018 and 2 January 2019 and is “subject to availability”.

Creditors of NYC Bar & Grill face being left £1.3m out of pocket: Creditors of NYC Partnership, which operated five New York-themed burger restaurants and bars in Yorkshire under the NYC Bar & Grill brand, are set to be left £1.3m out of pocket, a new report has revealed. A progress report filed at Companies House by administrators Joanne Hammond and Claire Dowson, of Begbies Traynor, showed secured creditor Barclays Bank is owed £580,000. The administrators said on the basis of realisations to date and future realisations, a “nominal” distribution of £10,000 would be made. The report showed unsecured creditors are owed an estimated £700,735. However, the administrators said it was predicted there would be insufficient funds to enable a dividend to be paid. Preferential creditors in the form of former employees are owed £39,615 with regards to outstanding wages and holiday pay. Again, the administrators said there would be insufficient funds to enable payment. As previously reported, the company expanded rapidly in the 18 months prior to going into administration in February and obtained funding to support its growth. However, it encountered problems when the opening of its Darlington site was delayed by three months, which had a significant impact on cash flow. Its sites in Bawtry, Stocksbridge, Doncaster and Hull were closed and staff made redundant prior to entering administration. Following the appointment of the administrators, a pre-pack sale of the business and assets of NYC Partnership was completed, enabling the Darlington venue to continue trading. The report revealed the total consideration paid was £60,000.

London nightclub Chinawhite to open Manchester site: London nightclub Chinawhite is to open a site in Manchester. The original Soho club was frequented by celebrities such as Kate Moss and Prince Harry in its heyday before moving to Fitzrovia, where it was later rebranded as Libertine by Chinawhite. Now its owners are bringing the brand to Manchester, taking over the former Milton Club in Deansgate that closed earlier this year. Work has started to transform the Milton Hall venue, the club’s Instagram account has revealed. In a LinkedIn post, Chinawhite co-founder James Spallone said: “I am delighted to say we are finally on the way to building our next club, Chinawhite Manchester.” The Milton Club’s owners revealed the venue had been sold to an “international club brand” when it closed in March. An opening date has yet to be confirmed for Chinawhite Manchester.

Gordon Ramsay registers burger trademark: Chef Gordon Ramsay has registered a new trademark, sparking rumours he is about to launch a burger concept. Ramsay has registered trademarks for “Great Burger” in the EU and the US, The Mail on Sunday reports. The brands have been registered for “food and drink, restaurant services, cafe, takeaway, bar and catering services”. A number of logos have been registered, with one featuring a Union Jack. The chef operates a Gordon Ramsay Burger restaurant in Las Vegas.

Taco Bell to launch first site in Norfolk with Great Yarmouth opening: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is to open a site in Great Yarmouth, its first venue in Norfolk. The restaurant will open in Regent Road in the town centre in mid-December. Taco Bell will move into a site formerly occupied by jacket potato brand Spud-u-Like. Great Yarmouth town centre manager Jonathan Newman told the Great Yarmouth Mercury: “I am really pleased to see a high-profile international brand such as Taco Bell coming to Great Yarmouth. It is really good for the town. The chain offers people something different and provides them with another takeaway option. It is replacing an empty unit, which is really good news.” Meanwhile, Taco Bell has announced it will open a site in Portsmouth. Franchisee the Cascade Group, which operates Taco Bell sites in Brighton and Hove, Chichester, Poole, Southampton and Woking will open a site in a former gay club in Commercial Road. Taco Bell currently has 27 sites in the UK.

Spiritland team to launch cocktails and pizza concept next month for second King’s Cross site: The team behind King’s Cross cafe, bar and radio studio Spiritland is to launch a sister site next month focusing on pizza and cocktails. Happy Face and Supermax will open across two floors of a site in nearby Handyside Street that houses Everyman Cinema. Happy Face pizzeria will be located on the ground floor and offer pizza by day and cocktails in the evening. Alongside pizza made from dough fermented for 72 hours, the menu will include other Italian dishes such as antipasti, gelato and dolci. Supermax will be a late-night, vermouth-led cocktail bar, which will open in the basement inspired by Italian disco, with mirror balls, velvet wall hangings and plenty of Europop on the playlist, Hot Dinners reports. Spiritland was opened in King’s Cross in September 2016 by Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake, founders of comfort food concept Canteen and Merchants Tavern, and music consultant Paul Noble. Spiritland also operates a “headphone bar” in Mayfair, while Canteen operates at the Royal Festival Hall and in Spitalfields.

Asha’s to open third UK site, in Solihull: Asha’s, the Indian restaurant chain owned by Brandasia Group, is to open its third UK site, in Solihull. The company will launch the venue on the top floor of the Touchwood leisure complex in Solihull Shopping Centre. The restaurant, whose neighbours will include Wagamama, Nando’s and Handmade Burger Company, is expected to open just before Christmas, reports the Birmingham Mail. Asha’s, which was created by Bollywood singer and actor Asha Bhosle, has 17 sites in five countries on two continents, including its two UK venues – in Birmingham and Manchester.

Shropshire hotel that entered administration following legionnaires outbreak secures buyer: A Shropshire hotel that went into administration after suffering trading difficulties following an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease has been sold. The outbreak hit The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow in 2017, leading to an investigation by Public Health England (PHE). The 40-bedroom hotel went into administration in August and was closed later that month, resulting in the loss of 16 jobs. But Christie & Co, which was marketing the property with Lambert Smith Hampton, has confirmed an offer has been accepted, reports the Shropshire Star. The sale price or new owner has yet to be revealed but the hotel was put on the market for £2.6m in January by the previous owners before it went into administration. The move followed remedial work carried out on the hotel’s water system in late 2017 following an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease that led to two casualties, one fatal. Earlier this month, a report by the administrators revealed the hotel was set to be sold in April only for the deal to collapse when “further traces of legionella” were discovered during a routine inspection by PHE.

Former Noma chef opens Manchester ‘destination’ restaurant: Former Noma chef Simon Martin has opened a “destination” restaurant in Manchester. He has launched 30-cover Mana in Sawmill Court, Ancoats. Mana offers an “informal dining experience” serving 14 to 20 plates in quick succession to showcase the best of British seasonal produce. Its website states: “Using strictly British produce, the menu changes constantly to enable our creativity and evolution. With an extensive testing and development process, we understand our ingredients and deliver them to you in a way we feel best represents their identity and essence. From October through November, we’ll serve our fall menu focusing predominantly on wild game, early season shellfish and a cornucopia of the forest.” Martin previously said Copenhagen was the only city he would rather eat and drink in than Manchester.

Ivy Collection opens Canary Wharf site: The Ivy Collection has launched its latest site, in London’s Canary Wharf. The Ivy In The Park has opened overlooking the green in Canada Square. The all-day brasserie is open seven days a week with room for almost 150 diners and two large terraces. The Ivy brand is expanding rapidly with recent brasserie openings in Leeds, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Guildford, York and King’s Cross and further launches lined up for Norwich and Winchester. In July it opened its first site outside the UK, in Dublin.

Mighty Claws eyes former Kent tourist attraction for third site: Dinosaur-themed brand Mighty Claws is set to open its third venue, at the site of a former tourist attraction in Kent. Schroder UK Real Estate Fund has submitted plans to extend an existing Nando’s at a site next to Dickens World in Chatham Maritime. The extension would also house Mighty Claws and Gymfinity and create more than 50 jobs at the former attraction, which closed at the end of 2016. Mighty Claws is a dinosaur-themed operator with centres in Colchester and Bournemouth, both with a bespoke theme. The Chatham business would be based around the Victorian era and feature a destination bar and restaurant, two indoor adventure golf courses, a course-side bar and bookable party areas. Meanwhile, Gymfinity would provide gymnastics facilities and classes for children. Nando’s plan is to make use of part of the Dickens World site by building a first-floor extension for toilets and seating, freeing space for more customers on the ground floor. The venture has been recommended for approval by Medway Council’s planning department, Kent Online reports. Council papers state: “The Nando’s restaurant is extremely popular to the extent diners regularly have to queue. To satisfy demand, Nando’s wishes to expand the restaurant.”

Jump changes focus of Rotherham site with new inflatable facility: Jump, the urban trampoline brand, has changed the focus of its Rotherham site after securing a £120,000 funding package from HSBC. The funding has been used to refurbish the venue, creating a 14-piece inflatables facility that will be the main focus. The new addition is designed to complement Jump’s sister site at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield, which will continue to focus solely on trampolines. Jump said it expected the overhaul would contribute to a 20% increase in turnover over the coming year. Director Lee Shipley told Insider Media: “Our Rotherham site has been trading since 2015. Earlier this year we felt it was the right time to overhaul our facilities and take a fresh approach to what we offer our family audience. Inflatables are exceptionally popular, both from a fitness and fun perspective, so we have taken a leap with this investment.”

Catering company Amadeus launches ‘speakeasy bar’ at Arena Birmingham: Catering company Amadeus has opened a 1920s-style “speakeasy bar” at Arena Birmingham. Amadeus has launched 60-capacity bar The Garrison in a bid to drive up footfall before events. Nick Cole, Amadeus general manager at Arena Birmingham, told Insider Media: “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience at Arena Birmingham through our innovative food and drink offering. Capitalising on current trends for unusual socialising spaces that provide an experience, we believe our new speakeasy will resonate with our visitors and become a destination where people want to be seen. Arena Birmingham general manager Guy Dunstan added: “Launching a themed bar on the Arena concourse is another exciting development to offer the best experience possible for our customers. This will add a flavour of historic Birmingham in a fun and informal setting, which we are sure customers will enjoy.”

Chester-based nightclub The Live Rooms starts expansion with Wrexham site: Chester-based nightclub The Live Rooms has started expansion by opening a second site, in Wrexham. The 500-capacity venue has opened in Hill Street at a site formerly occupied by live music bar Central Station. The Live Rooms comprises three linked spaces, each offering its “own atmosphere”. The warehouse room features industrial-style interiors and houses a main nightclub space that will also host events and live performances. The former main bar has been transformed into a “chill-out room”, with a 20ft cable drum table, a 200-year-old pulpit and a stained-glass window. The indoor/outdoor room, meanwhile, houses a cocktail and gin bar with artificial grass, a feature brick wall and church benches. Manager Aled Owens told the Daily Post: “The Live Rooms in Chester has proved really successful so we looked at what we could do to recreate that in Wrexham. We’re looking to expand with a larger choice of rooms, drinks and entertainment and a more inclusive offering. We’ve got a variety of different nights and experiences in store such as a hot-tub cinema.”

Darwin Escapes to open multimillion-pound holiday park in Norfolk: North Wales-headquartered Darwin Escapes, the fourth-largest operator of holiday parks in the UK, is to open a multimillion-pound site in Norfolk. The company will launch Norfolk Woods Resort & Spa in Pentney, near King’s Lynn, in January creating 50 jobs. The holiday lodge park will provide self-catering lodges with decking areas and private hot tubs. There will be 80 letting lodges and 38 owners’ lodges available. Other facilities will include a heated swimming pool, a spa, gym, a restaurant and cafe as well as an on-site convenience store. The site was previously known as Pentney Park, a camping and touring caravan park. Darwin Escapes managing director Lindsey Esse told Insider Media: “Norfolk Woods Resort & Spa is the perfect addition to our Darwin Escapes portfolio of holiday parks. We are investing millions of pounds in the location.” Darwin Escapes operates 22 holiday parks throughout the UK.

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