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Thu 11th Apr 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Leon plans up to 30 openings in next 12 months: Natural fast food brand Leon is planning to open up to 30 sites in the next 12 months, Propel has learned. Leon is looking to open between ten and 15 company-owned outlets and a “similar number” with its franchise partners as it continues to see “huge demand” for new restaurants, especially in London. The announcement comes as the company opens its first out-of-town shopping centre site, at Cheshire Oaks. Forthcoming restaurants include Leon Dublin, which will open on Wednesday, 8 May in the Temple Bar cultural quarter, with a second Dublin site arriving later this year. These are the first of 20 planned for Ireland in an ambitious franchise plan to create 600 jobs nationally. In London, a long-awaited location will open on the main thoroughfare of Notting Hill Gate on Monday, 20 May, while Leon has signed for a site at the Southbank Place development. Internationally, Leon will open in Basel, Switzerland, in the autumn followed by more Swiss city sites. Leon’s US expansion carries on apace too, with Washington DC’s second restaurant welcoming its first customers later this year. Property and development director Adam Blaker said: “We are excited to open in Cheshire Oaks. It’s such a promising location because it marks our continued expansion throughout the UK and further north, bringing our brand of naturally fast food to more people. We’ve got a huge demand for new sites, especially within London. Within the next 12 months we expect to open ten to 15 of our own restaurants and a similar number from our franchise partners, in the UK and internationally.”

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at CDG’s results and City Pub Group’s new staff bonus scheme in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at Casual Dining Group’s results as part of his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (12 April) at 5pm. He will also offer his views on City Pub Group’s new staff bonus scheme and what’s next for the first wave of salad bar chains. Subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday in which KAM Media founder and director Katy Moses reports the findings of exclusive research on the behavioural characteristics of Generation Z. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular video recordings of key speakers. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

PCA reveals frustration at delay in publishing award findings because of ‘commercially sensitive’ information: The Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) has revealed its frustration at the delay in publishing award findings because of arguments over “potentially commercial and sensitive information”. The PCA said such claims should not be allowed to “undermine the principle of transparency” and must allow the industry to see the “whole picture”. The announcement comes as the PCA published its latest arbitration awards. It said putting the arguments and behaviours of pub-owning businesses in the public domain was helping everyone who operated under the Pubs Code and tied pub tenants in particular to gain an equal understanding of decisions being made and what the code requires. It said publication of awards was also facilitating the increased use of alternative arbitrators to resolve cases more swiftly. However, the PCA said it had found it “extremely difficult” in some cases to obtain the consent of the pub-owning business. It said there had been “lengthy and time-consuming” discussions with some parties over what information should be redacted because it was considered “personally or commercially sensitive”. The PCA said this had not only delayed the publication of individual awards but held up publication plans as a whole. PCA Paul Newby said: “We must be able to publish our findings on the conduct and positions of the parties throughout the whole case so the industry can have a complete picture of what constitutes compliance. Transparency by way of publication is the surest way to stop pub-owning businesses from arbitrating the same arguments over and over again.” 

Starbucks funds new programme to boost paper cup recycling across UK: Starbucks is funding a new programme aimed at scaling up paper cup recycling across the UK. The company has partnered with environmental charity Hubbub to launch The Cup Fund. It will support at least ten large-scale recycling programmes, offering grants of between £50,000 and £100,000. The ability to recycle paper cups has increased in the past two years and there is now enough capacity in the UK to recycle all paper cups. However, because cups have a plastic lining that stops hot drinks from leaking, they need to be collected separately from other paper goods. As a result, specific cup recycling points are required. The Cup Fund invites applications from a range of organisations that want to increase infrastructure but lack funding. As well as financial funding, Hubbub will provide guidance and advice to the winning programmes to help them deliver infrastructure with long-term benefits. The programme is financed by Starbucks, which introduced a 5p charge on paper cups in 2018, with all proceeds donated to Hubbub. The in-store charge has seen reusable cup use increase from 1.8% nationwide to more than 5%, while cup recycling is also offered in more than 350 stores across Britain. Jaz Rabadia, Starbucks UK senior manager of energy and sustainability, said: “Being part of The Cup Fund with Hubbub is a significant step in the way we’re trying to reduce the impact of paper cups taken outside our stores.”

Company News:

Bone Daddies founder Ross Shonhan launches debut international restaurant: Ross Shonhan, founder of Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies, has launched his first international restaurant, in Dubai. A separate entity to the Bone Daddies Group, Shonhan has opened Netsu, a warayaki-style Japanese steakhouse. Netsu, which means “heat” in Japanese, is part of the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira hotel, which opened in February. The restaurant offers authentic Japanese food in a contemporary setting. Netsu’s chefs finish food with dry straw after cooking on charcoal, giving it a flavour reminiscent of campfire cooking. Aside from the warayaki-style grill, the Netsu menu features sushi, sashimi and a range of Japanese sharing dishes. Drinks include cocktails, craft beer, a wine list offering more than 70 labels and sake. Shonan said: “I have had a relationship with Mandarin Oriental for almost a decade. When it first approached me about the Dubai project it wasn’t only timely, it was also a great location for my first foray into international expansion. Netsu’s warayaki-style Japanese cuisine is not only a first for Dubai but it’s also the largest warayaki outside Japan.” Shonhan operates six Bone Daddies sites, two Flesh & Buns venues and fusion restaurant Shackfuyu, all in London.

Horn takes acting UK chief executive role at Nando’s: Nando’s has appointed Maria Horn, who has been its compass director since April 2016, as acting chief executive UK and Ireland. Horn joined the circa 400-strong company from Whitbread in September 2014 as people director and for the past three years has overseen growth and evolution of the brand’s culture as compass director. Horn spent eight years at Whitbread, most recently as group talent and leadership development director. Nando’s is currently recruiting a chief executive for its UK and Ireland business after Rob Papps was promoted to group chief executive of the circa 1,200-strong international restaurant chain. Papps had been managing director of Nando’s UK and Ireland for eight years and been with the peri-peri chicken operator for 20 years in total. He took over last month from Andrew Lynch, former group chief executive of SSP. Lynch, who joined Nando’s in 2014 as group chief executive, became its chairman.

Turtle Bay to roll out brunch offer: Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay is to roll out a brunch offer following the trial of new opening times and menu at its two Bristol sites during February. The Piper-backed business launched the Caribbean brunch menu on weekdays at its Bristol Broad Quay restaurant and on Saturdays and Sundays at Turtle Bay Cheltenham Road. The offer starts at 10am on weekdays and 9am at weekends. Propel understands the company has applied to vary its licence at sites including Guildford, Exeter, Bath and Brixton to incorporate the new menu and opening times. The brunch menu includes roti rolls and numerous takes on egg-led dishes such as Big Kingston Grill Down – jerk bacon and sausage, curried chickpea, roast tomato and a choice of scallion scrambled eggs or chilli fried eggs on sourdough toast. 

Surrey-based operators outline plans for ten-strong estate in ten years as they take on second Star Pubs & Bars site: Surrey-based operators Steve Orme and James Thomson have outlined plans for a ten-strong estate in the next decade after taking on their second site with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. Orme and Thomson, who run The Red Lion in Shepperton, have added the Golden Grove in nearby Chertsey to their portfolio, while a third site is in the pipeline. Previously run as an Italian restaurant and bar, they have turned the Golden Grove back into a traditional country pub, creating 20 jobs. The bar at the St Ann’s Hill pub has been extended while a separate dining area seats 60 with table service. The 150-capacity garden has had a facelift while there are plans for a vegetable and herb garden that would supply a kitchen offering traditional British pub food. Orme said: “The Golden Grove is in a great location. What it needed was the heart and soul put back into it to create a pub people in the area would love. Our plan is to build a group of ten pubs in ten years. We already have another one lined up with Star for later in the year.” Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director Dugald Macer added: “We are delighted James and Steve have taken on the Golden Grove. They are experienced operators who have been hugely successful at The Red Lion.”

York Roast Co plans crowdfunding campaign to support next stage of growth as it continues refurbishment programme: Street food business The York Roast Co is planning a crowdfunding campaign to support its next stage of growth, Propel has learned. It is understood the proposals are in the early stages but the family-led company sees it as the best way to support its expansion plans as it looks to grow into new UK cities. The company is currently focusing on its ongoing rebranding programme that is seeing its five sites being updated. Its site in York’s Stonegate was the first to undergo the revamp last year, followed by Shrewsbury and Chester, while its flagship outlet in York – in Low Petergate – has just reopened following a two-week closure. The 45-cover venue has been overhauled with a new exterior featuring hand-painted gold-and-black signage complete with the latest branding. The kitchen has been extended on the ground floor to provide more space for staff to prep orders, allowing them to keep up with the high volume of orders. Its remaining site in Salisbury is also set for a revamp. The company is known for its YorkyPud Wrap.

Barrel & Stone opens first standalone retail site as NEC makes street food push: Barrel & Stone, the plug-in, high-quality pizza solution, has opened its first standalone retail site. The store has opened at The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham and will be operated by in-house caterers Amadeus as a franchise operation. It offers visitors to the complex freshly prepared stone-baked pizza, craft beer, gelato and artisan coffee. It is the first time Barrel & Stone has launched a standalone retail unit, with the brand usually seen in pubs and hotels around the UK within its network of Barrel & Stone “pizza premises”. Barrel & Stone managing director Russell Hardiman told The Business Desk: “We are pleased to work with Amadeus and launch our first standalone retail unit at the NEC. People visiting the venue can enjoy a quality, authentic Italian offering.” Kane Bridgman, general manager for Amadeus at the NEC, said: “The introduction of Barrel & Stone is just the beginning of our ambitious development plans to bring a wider range of authentic street food to the NEC in the coming months.”

TRG gets go-ahead to convert Garfunkels in Bath to Brunning & Price: The Restaurant Group (TRG) has been given the go-ahead for the £1m conversion of its Garfunkels restaurant in Bath to its Brunning & Price pub brand. Bath and North East Somerset Council has granted permission to transform the Grande Parade venue despite objections from nearby residents. TRG plans to open the refurbished premises until 11.30pm, Sunday to Wednesday, and 12.30am Thursday to Saturday. The outside area would be clear of customers by 10.30pm, reports Somerset Live. Representing TRG, lawyer Claire Eames said: “The company will spend in the region of £1m – a significant investment in Bath – on furnishing and an upgraded kitchen and lighting. We’ve made no secret of the fact Garfunkels needs re-energising.”

Danny Meyer firm invests $15m in Dig Inn: New York City-based, fast-casual restaurant Dig Inn has received $15m from Enlightened Hospitality Investments, the investment arm of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. The firm is the majority investor in a $20m fund-raising round. As part of the deal, Meyer will take a seat on the executive board of Dig Inn and act as adviser to the 26-strong, vegetable-focused concept, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Dig Inn founder Adam Eskin said: “Union Square Hospitality Group has the incredible capability of scaling a brand and, with what we want to do in terms of culinary training and putting real food in the hands of the people, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better partner.” Eskin said he plans to use the funding to further expand the Dig Inn brand, with ten new sites in the New York City and Boston area this year. He also plans to venture outside those markets for the first time with an undisclosed number of locations in 2020. Dig Inn’s plans also include a sit-down restaurant in New York City’s West Village this autumn – the brand’s first venture outside the fast-casual service model. Meyer said: “Dig Inn is working to bring unprecedented and lasting change to our food system and we’re proud to partner with them.”

Chicken & Blues founders to launch burger concept: The founders of Dorset-based Chicken & Blues are to launch a burger concept. Joshua Simons and Steve Crawford will open Brenda’s Burgers in Bournemouth at the end of May. The “retro-American” eatery with a 1950s style will open in the suburb of Winton offering burgers, hotdogs, shakes, desserts and beer. The restaurant in Wimborne Road will also have a private space with its own bar. Simons told the Bournemouth Echo: “The concept is friendly, colourful, casual and quick service. It will be family friendly and relaxed. We’re staying away from greasy, dirty burgers, which have become the trend – we’re going for a cleaner burger.” Simons said Brenda’s Burgers would have a similar brand philosophy to Chicken & Blues and focus on a “relatively simple” menu with good-value, quality local produce and efficient service. Chicken & Blues opened in Boscombe in 2013 and has added branches in Ashley Cross and Winton.

The Cornish Bakery acquires Hastings site: The Cornish Bakery has acquired a site in Hastings, East Sussex. The Cornwall-based company has acquired the lease of Lathams Brasserie in George Street for an undisclosed sum in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. The main trading area is split across two levels and can accommodate 55 covers in total with a second seating area and terrace on the first floor. The Cornish Bakery operates 42 sites across the UK and one in Gibraltar, with plans to continue expansion.

Tiptree eyes Costa Coffee site in Southwold for first tea room outside Essex: Jam-maker Tiptree plans to open its 11th tea room and first outside Essex. Wilkin & Sons, which owns the Tiptree brand, is eyeing a Costa Coffee site in Southwold, Suffolk. The company has applied to East Suffolk Council to convert the property in High Street, reports Essex Live. According to planning documents, the tea room would be on the ground floor and basement. Tiptree’s tea room menu features jacket potatoes, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Drinks include Tiptree tea, speciality coffee, Tiptree fruit juice, wine, prosecco, local ale and Tiptree gin. The tea room would also feature a small gift shop selling alcoholic drinks, jam and preserves. The franchise owner of the Costa Coffee store has decided to leave Southwold, the planning documents state.

Edinburgh-based Civerinos Food Club opens ‘pizza pub’ for third site: Edinburgh-based Civerinos Food Club has opened its third site. The company has launched “pizza pub” The High Dive at a site in St Leonard’s Street that formerly housed Old Montague Bar. The all-day offer includes breakfast pizza alongside its traditional Civerinos Slice pizzas, reports Scottish Field. Civerinos also operates an eponymous restaurant in Hunter Square and Civerinos Slice in Forrest Road.

Manchester-based brunch cafe to open second site: Manchester cafe concept Federal, which offers brunch dishes inspired by Australia and New Zealand, is to open its second site in the city. The company will launch the venue in Deansgate on Friday (12 April). The outlet will be double the size of Federal’s Northern Quarter cafe in Nicholas Croft, which has “attracted hour-long queues outside”. The new site will have 35 covers and a larger kitchen. Federal dishes include French toast, smashed avocado on sourdough, acai bowls, corn fritters and banana bread with mascarpone. Owner and managing director Claudio Ribeiro told Manchester Evening News: “We had so many people since we opened four years ago asking when we were going to open a second, we had no choice but to start looking around. After a couple of sites we liked the look of, this one came along and we knew it was perfect.” Ribeiro founded Federal in 2014 with business partner Jon Perry, who brought over the brunch culture of his native New Zealand.

Gusto doubles vegan and vegetarian offer with new menu: Italian casual dining group Gusto has doubled its vegan and vegetarian offer with the launch of its spring and summer menu. The additions mean vegan dishes now account for 25% of the menu. New vegan and vegetarian dishes include goats’ cheese gnudi with aged balsamic and beetroot, and heritage tomato panzanella salad. Alongside 23 new dishes the menu also sees Gusto launch its own-branded Italian wine and prosecco. Managing director Matt Snell said: “We have combined extensive guest feedback, wider macro trends, and our own research and expertise to create an array of contemporary dishes, wine and cocktails that aim to drive our elegantly Italian brand proposition forward. This is a continuation of our strategy launched last year to weave a subtle Italian narrative back into the brand, albeit with a Gusto twist.”

Derby-based micro-pub operators get go-ahead for second site: Derby-based Hanging Sword Taverns Group has been given the go-ahead to launch its second micro-pub. Chris and Karen O’Brien opened The Last Post, which is housed in a former post office in Uttoxeter Old Road, in 2014. Now they have had their application to convert an empty unit in Wardwick approved by the city council. The micro-pub would have total floor space of only 77 square metres and sell real ale, cider and premium spirits, reports Derbyshire Live.

Michelin-trained chef to launch plant-based concept in Leicestershire this month: Bindu Patel, who has worked in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants Gymkhana and Trishna, is to launch a plant-based concept in Leicestershire this month. Patel will open Sanctua in London Road, Oadby, on Saturday, 27 April in premises formerly occupied by Indian restaurant Geetas Krupa. The 40-cover venue will offer a 100% plant-based, regularly changing menu using “wonky” fruit and vegetables, organic where possible, to reduce food waste. Dishes will include wild mushroom, lentil and spinach pie with Guinness and mushrooms, while there will be a platter of the week featuring a selection of eastern, Indian, Mexican or Italian dishes. Drinks will include vegan wine and beer alongside non-alcoholic offerings such as lemon and ginger turmeric sherbet shots. Patel told Leicestershire Live: “Everything will be made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Whatever is in season or fresh that week, we’ll use.”

MasterChef champion to open debut restaurant next month, in Worthing: MasterChef champion Kenny Tutt is to launch his debut restaurant in Worthing, West Sussex, next month. The venture – Pitch – will open in Tutt’s home town on Friday, 24 May and feature a workshop in which herbs and botanical ingredients will be grown. For the menu Tutt, who won the competition last year, will draw on inspiration from the Sussex countryside and childhood memories while using local suppliers. The restaurant in Warwick Street will span two floors and include a private dining room. The top floor will house a cookery school, which will open later in the year. Tutt told the Worthing Herald: “It is a dream come true to have my own place in my home town and I can’t wait to share my cooking with everyone.”

Manchester live music bar Jimmy’s to start expansion, at former Liverpool nightclub: Manchester live music bar Jimmy’s is to start expansion by opening a second site, at former Liverpool venue the Cabin Club. The nightclub in Bold Street, which was associated with Beatle George Harrison, closed in 2015 but Jimmy’s has agreed a deal with agent CBRE to take 8,000 square feet on the basement, ground and first floors. Jimmy’s has signed a 15-year lease, with the venue undergoing a refit to reopen in the summer. George Craig, who founded Jimmy’s with brother and fellow musician Jimmy, said: “Liverpool’s musical heritage needs no introduction but there’s a clear gap in the market for a venue with our programming focus. Nobody blends indie music with beer and entertainment like we do. We’ll have great music seven nights a week in the basement, a buzzing bar and restaurant on the ground floor, and additional bar, dining and events space on the first. Liverpool is gonna love this.” Harrison wrote Don’t Bother Me after being harassed by press on his way into the Cabin Club in 1963.

Sidmouth-based cafe operator opens wine bar for second site: Sidmouth-based cafe operator Sarah Mallett has opened a wine bar in the Devon town for her second site. Mallett, who owns Sarah Jane’s cafe, has launched Blues Wine Bar in Fore Street at a site formerly occupied by The Rendezvous restaurant. Before that, the property was Browns Wine Bar and Mallett hopes to recreate its success by adding live music and an expanding menu. She told the Sidmouth Herald: “I like the whole history of Browns – there are lots of fond memories and we would like to recreate that. The menu is growing and we’re looking at what customers want and what we’re able to do. At Sarah Jane’s people come in for their main meal of the day but at Blues it’s people who work hard all week and come in to let their hair down. They are happy to spend an evening and take their time.”

Oxfordshire-based brewery launches £250,000 crowdfunding campaign to double capacity and add taproom: Oxfordshire-based Chadlington Brewery has launched a £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to double capacity and build a taproom and visitors’ centre. The company is offering 7.35% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £3,150,000. The pitch states: “In 2016 we set out to create The Oxford Beer and an environmentally aware brewery using Oxfordshire spring water in the heart of the Cotswolds. We tested the market with small-contract batch brews, hand-labelling bottles and delivering in a mini. Sales tripled to £46,917 in 2018 (operating loss of £154,624), we built our brewery and outlets supplied increased to more than 100. In 2019 we plan to start exporting to key markets for the brand and double our production capacity. We also plan to build our taproom next to the brewhouse. This will enable us to become a key attraction, driving additional revenues and customer experience.”

Castle Rock enhances green credentials with electric car charging points: Castle Rock Brewery, the Nottingham-based brewer and pub company, has introduced electric car charging points at two of its sites in the city after partnering with Alfa Power. Vicki Saxby, Castle Rock Brewery operations director, said: “We have been working to reduce our ecological footprint for many years. The addition of charging facilities to the Embankment and the Poppy and Pint is a commitment to a collective future where electric vehicles are the norm.” Alfa Power business development director Zuber Patel added: “We are happy to be working with such a forward-thinking organisation that is keen to contribute towards corporate social responsibility while providing an additional service to the people of Nottingham.”

Safestay reports Ebitda boost as it narrows losses: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has reported adjusted Ebitda increased to £3.4m for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £3.2m the previous year. Like-for-like sales in mainland Europe were up 8%, while group like-for-likes rose 1%. UK like-for-likes were down 1% due to the disruption from adding 73 beds to the Elephant and Castle site, which was completed in January. Significant improvements in operating margins led to profit before tax from UK hostels increasing 14% to £1.76m, compared with £1.55m the year before. Group loss before tax reduced to £0.6m, compared with £0.86m the previous year. Three properties were added during the year and 575 beds, in Barcelona, Brussels and Vienna. As previously reported, revenue increased 39% to £14.6m, compared with £10.5m the previous year. The company raised £10.36m in December to fund expansion. Chairman Larry Lipman said: “2018 was a positive year for the business and I am confident 2019 will deliver continued growth. The portfolio is maturing and shows benefits gained from economies of scale, geographic spread and group-wide automation. This, together with continuing global demand for the modern hostel experience, means we are well placed to sell an increasing number of bed nights in 2019 and add further destination cities to our portfolio.”

Derbyshire-based brewery goes on market: Derbyshire-based Ashover Brewery has been put up for sale. The company started production in 2007 in an old stable block in Clay Cross and has developed a core of eight real ales. Its turnover has increased 131% during the past three years while its customer return rate stands at 95%. Its distribution covers the East Midlands and 180 outlets while it moved to a 3,000 square foot leasehold premises in 2015, reports Insider Media. Knightsbridge, which is marketing the business, said: “The sale includes highly valuable assets.” 

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