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Thu 18th Apr 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Morso targeting outlying areas of London as it looks to build 20-plus estate: Pasta and grappa concept Morso is aiming to build a 20-plus estate, targeting outlying communities of London, Propel has learned. Morso has just gone public on its £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support its next stage of growth to open two sites in 2019. It is offering 11.90% equity in exchange for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.89m. Having opened its first site in St John's Wood in June last year following a series of pop-ups, Morso is looking to add two more sites in north west London. Areas being target are believed to include Hampstead, Belsize Park and Primrose Hill. Propel understands Morso is looking to grow to ten sites by the end of 2021 and will then reassess its plans for expansion. The company is believed to be aiming to build clusters of sites in outlying areas of each corner of London, with locations such as Blackheath, Dulwich and White City among its potential targets. The plan is to focus on communities outside of zones one and two, securing secondary, non-prime sites. It is thought the third stage of growth would also see the company open its first franchise locations. Having built a 20-plus estate over the next ten years or so, it is believed the company would seek an exit with a trade sale. Commercial director Barak Peled said: "Our restaurant is in one of the quietest roads in St John's Wood but we are fully booked two or three weeks ahead and we are seeing some of our customers dine with us twice a week." Of the crowdfunding campaign, Peled said: "It's more than just being about raising the money – it's about letting customers and communities become part of our business. We don't really want to go down the private equity route at least for now because we want to be in control of our growth." The concept is the brainchild of former Jamie’s Italian and Carluccio’s chef Paolo Vernetti who, along with Vanessa Vaz, Peled and Barry McCaughley, has created a concept that combines fresh pasta and small Italian bites with grappa-based cocktails. Last year Morso appointed former Intertain chief operating officer and current East Coast Concepts managing director Simon Kaye as non-executive director to support its growth plans. So far, the company has raised £92,820 from 31 investors with 29 days of the crowdfunding campaign remaining.

Industry News:

Propel summer conference and party open for bookings, Daniel Spinath to present, two free places for operators: The Propel Multi Club summer conference and party has opened for bookings. It takes place on Thursday, 27 June at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40. The conference will be followed by the summer party, with an evening barbecue, the Big Fat Quiz and the legendary sounds of DJ Big Lee. Daniel Spinath, founder of Crepeaffaire, will talk about the genesis, development and future potential of his brand, backing from BGF, airport locations and franchising the brand. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing Jo Charity at Rooms (bed and breakfast) are also available at £125 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing Jo.

James Hacon to look at benefits of building sector alumni programme in Propel Premium article: James Hacon, founder of Think Hospitality, will discuss the benefits of building an industry alumni programme to help address the sector's challenges in recruitment and retention in an article that will be sent to Premium subscribers on Thursday (18 April) at 5pm. Subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Thursday in which Des Gunewardena, chief executive and chairman of restaurant operator D&D London, talks to Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott about the lessons of leadership he has picked up in his career in the sector. 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, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. 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 
Hospitality industry shrinks gender pay gap to 2.8%: Analysis by UKHospitality has highlighted the sector has continued to take great strides to tackle gender pay inequality and promote inclusivity. Gender pay gap figures show hospitality, out of 85 sectors, is the fifth closest to parity, with a gap of 2.8%. Last year, hospitality ranked 15th with a gap of 4%. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The continued shrinking of the gender pay gap in the hospitality sector is incredibly positive news. It highlights the forward-thinking and inclusive attitude of our sector and the hard work employers have done to provide opportunities, irrespective of people’s gender. We are truly passionate about providing opportunities and meaningful career progression. The figures confirm our message that, within hospitality, there are no barriers to progression. To be the fifth closest to parity is excellent and I am sure hospitality businesses will continue to build on this and shrink the gap even further. To move from 15th last year to fifth this year shows we, as a sector, are not content to sit idle and are actively working hard to promote equality."

Company News:

Inn Collection Group appoints new CFO, strengthens leadership team: The Inn Collection Group, which is backed by Alchemy Partners, has appointed Claire Burgess as its new chief finance officer. Burgess succeeds Ian Stein, who will step down from the board in May. A former lead advisor with KPMG’s corporate finance team in Leeds, Burgess has held senior key growth roles in the US. She set up white marble producers TBGS Holdings and JB Processing in Alabama and was part of the senior management team at construction design and manufacturing giant Blox. Burgess said: “I am excited to be joining The Inn Collection Group and share its buy-and-build growth strategy vision. I want us to be able to grow the business efficiently and effectively while preserving our ‘pubs with rooms’ identity, which is what the group does so well. It’s about growing at a rate that makes a difference, not growth for growth sake." The Inn Collection Group has further added to its leadership team with new appointments, including property and development manager Graeme Wood and finance controller Chris Sheldon and has promoted Chris Moor to southern operations manager and Richard Moore to group development chef. Managing director Sean Donkin said: “I am delighted to welcome Claire to the team. Her experience, drive and character will make a significant contribution to our growth plans. Along with our newly strengthened leadership team and with strong revenue investments in place, we are on track to continue building our portfolio with sites that fit our blueprint of pubs with rooms, providing high-quality accommodation, service, food and beverage.” Earlier this year, the ten-strong Inn Collection Group secured £10m from OakNorth as it plans to more than double its portfolio to 21 sites by 2022. The group said it would continue to seek development opportunities to grow its portfolio in the Lake District and Yorkshire as well as the north east of England.

GC Mallen makes £4.8m profit on former Ei Group pub acquired three-and-a-half years ago: Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has acquired the Horse & Groom in the village of Wilmington from multi-site operator GC Mallen for circa £5.5m – industry sources indicate GC Mallen acquired it from Ei Group three-and-a-half years ago for circa £700,000, meaning a £4.8m profit on the site. All staff have been retained. Shepherd Neame director of pub operations Nigel Bunting said: “We’re delighted to have acquired the Horse & Groom – it’s a fantastic pub, with a great reputation for fresh, locally sourced, food in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. As such, it fits perfectly with our portfolio of high-quality destination pubs, and we look forward to building on its excellent reputation.” Garry Mallen said: “It’s been a wonderful three-and-a-half years working with (general manager) Paul Giles, and Laura Parnell, head chef, and I can't think of a better fit than Shepherd Neame for this great pub." Shepherd Neame operates 322 sites in London and the south east. Last week, it acquired The Compton Cross in Soho from Marmalade Pub Company, the managed investments partnership between Ei Group and The Marylebone Leisure Group.

Dodo Pub Company targeting up to 15 sites as it prepares to open fourth venue: Dodo Pub Company has revealed it plans to open up to 15 sites as it prepares to open its fourth venue. The company will reopen The Somerset Arms in Marston Road, Oxford, as The Up in Arms on Friday (19 April). It has been renamed in homage to the community’s five-year campaign to save their local. It is modelled on sister pubs The Rusty Bicycle and The Rickety Press, both in Oxford, and The Bottle of Sauce, in Cheltenham, offering a range of beer and other drinks as well as pizza, burgers, cakes and fresh coffee. Almost £500,000 has been invested in the building to bring it back into use. The bar has been moved, a dining area has been created and a new kitchen installed. The Missing Bean coffee company will also sell hot drinks from a hatch directly on to the street. Dodo Pub Company co-founder Leo Johnson told the Oxford Mail it is looking to expand further and has "one or two" options in Oxfordshire. Johnson said the company was seeking to open ten to 15 pubs across the Home Counties with rescuing rundown and unloved pubs at the heart of its plans.

Pepe's Piri Piri Grill reveals 20 planning applications in place for Scottish sites: Flame-grilled chicken chain Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill currently has 20 planning applications in place for sites in Scotland as it looks to grow across the country. The company revealed the details as it lodged proposals to open a venue on the edge of Perth city centre with Perth and Kinross Council. It has earmarked the former Farmfoods store on the corner of Crieff Road for the restaurant. Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill's Scottish portfolio consists of restaurants in Falkirk and Rosyth, as well as three branches in Glasgow. Head of operations Abbas Khan told The Courier: “We've already got 89 stores in the UK. Five of them are in Scotland, but we have planning documents submitted for another 20, from Motherwell to Edinburgh. It’s an exciting time and it will be good for Perth."

Crate Brewery passes £750,000 mark in crowdfunding campaign as Meantime co-founder invests £130,000: London-based Crate Brewery has passed the £750,000 mark in its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after receiving a £130,000 investment from Meantime Brewing Company co-founder Lars Huser. Huser has also agreed to become a non-executive director of Crate, focusing on the financial and strategic development of the business. Crate was originally aiming to raise £500,000 to fund a major refurbishment of its Hackney Wick home that will also see zero-waste Brighton restaurant Silo move to the capital. Crate’s founders, brothers Tom and Jess Seaton and Neil Hinchley, were offering 4.21% equity in return for the £500,000 investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £12m. So far, 1,124 investors have pledged £751,770, and the campaign continues to overfund with four days remaining. Part of the refurbishment of its home in The White Building will see the team develop a restaurant space with Silo founder Doug McMaster, who will also host workshops in a new space next to the restaurant alongside talks on food, beer, art and culture. Tom Seaton said: "We’ve had a big investment come in. Lars Huser, co-founder of Meantime Brewing Company, has invested £130,000, helping us reach our second target! The extra funds raised will go towards a canning line to develop the brewing process. Lars has also accepted a role at Crate as a non-executive director, focusing on the financial and strategic development of the business. We are excited to have so much experience joining the team and helping us reach our goals of growing Crate." Crate achieved £3.95m turnover in FY2018 with Ebitda of £88,000.

Kitty Cafe to open third site, in Birmingham: Cat cafe concept Kitty Cafe is to open its third site, in Birmingham. Owner Kate Charles-Richards is opening the venue next month at the Grand Central shopping centre. It will feature 30 rescued cats that will roam free among guests and are available for adoption. The food menu includes pizza, paninis, wraps and salads along with a range of mocktails, tea and coffee. Charles-Richards launched the concept in Nottingham in 2015, before adding a second site, in Leeds, two years later. Charles-Richards told Birmingham Live: "Kitty Cafe Birmingham will follow our other locations with large quirky spaces, lots of colour and, of course, a bespoke-built cat playground. The majority of the 30 cats in Birmingham will be rescued and will be rehabilitated and re-homed. Not only are our cats spoilt, but we also spoil our customers too. Kitty Cafe is the ultimate location for relaxation, family time and an all-round good time with a difference – all in the knowledge that your visit is helping cats find their forever homes."

McManus Pub Company back as owner of Northampton site: McManus Pub Company is back as owner of a Northampton pub. The company previously owned the Wig & Pen, in St Giles Street, between 1992 and 1997, before it was taken over by Richard Gordon, who reopened the venue in 2010. Now McManus Pub Company has taken over the property again. Owner Paul McManus told the Northampton Chronicle: "All the staff are staying on and we look forward to working with them to make the Wig & Pen thrive at being a great pub for food, ales, live sport and entertainment." McManus Pub Company is also hoping to reopen the Shipmans pub in the town by next year. It was taken over by the company in 2015 and is currently being refurbished. It was built in 1790 by the Shipman family and is a three-storey building that is grade two-listed.

Burger King looks to entice younger consumers with ‘Whopper Day’ campaign: Burger King has held a "Whopper Day" as it looks to “reignite the nation’s love” for the burger, particularly among younger consumers. The campaign was supported by two 20-second television adverts, which showed customers being turned away from Burger King outlets when they tried to order anything else – and a large-scale print and out-of-home campaign, as well as activity across social and in-store, where menu boards only featured the Whopper. Burger King also gave away free Whoppers through its Burger King UK app and via Deliveroo. Burger King UK marketing manager Katie Evans told Marketing Week: “We were excited to treat the nation to our iconic Whopper. The Whopper is Burger King’s pride and joy, and for one day only we thought everyone deserved to get involved, tuck in and savour that flame-grilled goodness on us. Burger fans had no choice, but in a good way. Hope they understood. After all, Burger King is not called home of the cheeseburger.”

Mosaic launches darts bar, in Birmingham: Mosaic Pub and Dining has launched a darts bar in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The Mosaic companies, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, has opened 180 Club in St Paul’s Square. It houses six oches, including a private room, and is able to host 14 players per oche. The launch follows the group’s acquisition of The Rectory last September alongside two other Birmingham pubs for a total of £1.3m. Aiming to attract a new demographic to darts, 180 Club also offers sharer cocktails and New York-style snacks. McDonald previously said: “This is a new concept for Birmingham as well as Mosaic Pub and Dining but we know this underground darts experience will work and we’re proud Birmingham is going to be our pioneer city. The concept is simple. We’re making darts cool, bringing the fast-paced competitive nature of the sport into the 21st century and giving consumers a great experience." 180 Club adds to Mosaic Pub and Dining’s other venues in the city – The Button Factory, The Distillery, Frederick Street Townhouse, Queens Arms, and The Florence. Earlier this year, Mosaic Pub and Dining added three London sites to its portfolio, taking its total to 24.

McGinty Group adds Aberdeen pub to portfolio: Aberdeen-based McGinty Group has acquired a new city pub. The company has bought The Grill in Union Street. It offers scores of beer, rum and gin and 600 types of whiskies from around the world. McGinty Group had pledged to leave the “Aberdeen institution” unchanged, taking it over to run as it is and retaining its character. All current staff will be retained. The family-run business was placed on the market last month, with a price of almost £1m, after its owners announced their intention to retire. The Grill first opened as a restaurant in 1870 before being converted to a pub at the turn of the 20th century. McGinty Group director Allan Henderson told The Press & Journal: “It was always a venue that we had respectfully admired, so when the rare opportunity arose, it seemed like the perfect fit for our business. We look forward to continuing its success, while adding another iconic venue to our growing portfolio of outlets.” The group owns a series of sites around Aberdeen, including McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, The Stag, No 10 Bar & Restaurant, Ferryhill House Hotel, The Fourmile and The Silver Darling. It also recently bought two floors of the former Esslemont and Macintosh department store building in Union Street and plans a bar and restaurant on the ground floor and a pizzeria above.

Morty & Bob's opens 'grown-up' second site, at Coals Drop Yard: Morty & Bob’s has opened its second site, at the Coal Drops Yard development in King's Cross. Owner Charlie Phillips said he has opened a "grown-up version" of his Hackney restaurant. The new venue offers the brand's grilled cheese toasties, salads and weekend brunches alongside all-day hot sandwiches. Much like its Hackney site, industrial brick walls, low lighting and potted plants provide the decor. But Coals Drop Yard heralds a new era for Morty & Bob’s with an upgraded evening offer of small plates, bar snacks as well as crafted cocktails, wine and beer. The concept is named after Phillips' two grandfathers.

Cleethorpes-based operator to open Mexican and Cuban street food bar restaurant for second site: Cleethorpes-based operator Jax Hussain is to open a Mexican and Cuban street food bar restaurant for his second site in the Lincolnshire town. Hussain will launch Havana Cabana in Sea View Street on Friday (19 April). It will offer more than 250 rums and tequilas with Hussain hoping to double that number by the end of the year. Separated into a ground-floor bar and upstairs restaurant, the aim of the venue is to bring a “slice of city life” to Cleethorpes. Hussain told Grimsby Live: “Havana Cabana will be like nothing Cleethorpes has seen before. We are positive it will become the most Instagrammable venue in the whole of north east Lincolnshire and possibly the north east of England.” Havana Cabana is opposite Hussain’s other venue, Arthur’s Bar, which opened last year.

Former Ricker Restaurants executive chef opens tarte flambée restaurant: Former Ricker Restaurants executive chef Neil Witney has launched a restaurant specialising in tarte flambée, a dish that originates in Alsace in eastern France. Witney has opened Flamboree in Old Street, London. He is aiming to give the dish, which is a bit like pizza except the dough has no yeast and is rolled very thinly, a contemporary spin, with both classic and more adventurous toppings. The menu includes Ma’Classique – Dingley Dell smoky bacon lardons, crème fraiche, red onions, Emmental, and herb aioli – and The Royal Levantine – roasted peppers and aubergines, crème fraiche, feta, tahini, pomegranate pearls and molasses, and za’atar. As well as the tarte flambée, there is raclette, salads, and a few desserts, such as the sweet flam topped with marshmallow, dark chocolate sauce, and ice cream. The drinks menu includes a number of Alsace wines as well as its own range of beer brewed in conjunction with London’s Reunion Brewery, reports Hot Dinners. 

Clarke and Boxer appoint group beverage director: Andrew Clarke and Jackson Boxer, the pair behind a trio of London restaurants, have appointed Albert Blaize as group beverage director. Blaize, who was previously head of wine at The Mandrake in Fitzrovia, will oversee the bar and wine offering across the group’s two established restaurants, St Leonards and Brunswick House, and the newly opened Orasay in Notting Hill. His primary focus will be the bar at St Leonards, where he will also be curating a series of wine-focused evenings showcasing lesser known regions and producers. He will also be introducing a weekly food and wine pairing session on Tuesdays at St Leonards, where guests can bring their own bottle with a reduced corkage fee. Blaize will also continue to develop and grow the wine list at Brunswick House and Orasay. Blaize said: "It's wonderful to be able to join the team at such an exciting time, with some of London’s most loved restaurants and anticipated new projects under one roof. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity we have to craft St Leonards into a real destination for rare wine by the glass."

Caffe Nero partners with Fever-Tree for espresso and tonic summer serves: Caffe Nero has partnered with Fever-Tree, the supplier of premium carbonated mixers, to create two new summer serves. The espresso and tonic is a lead serve on the new summer drinks menu and comes in two flavours – original espresso and tonic with Fever-Tree Indian tonic water, and the ultimate espresso and tonic with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water and ginger syrup. The tonic is poured over ice and topped with a double shot of fresh espresso, which is added slowly to create a two-toned ombré effect and finished with a slice of lemon. Marcus Denison-Smith, head of UK marketing at Caffe Nero, said: “We wanted to create an exciting drink that maintained the premium quality of our coffee and brought a surprising delight to our customers.” Saskia Meyer, UK marketing director at Fever-Tree added: “Innovation has always been at the heart of Fever-Tree, so we’re excited to showcase the versatility of our mixers by partnering with Caffe Nero.”

Everards champions pub partners at Make A Difference awards: Leicestershire-based brewer and pub retailer Everards has championed its pub partners at its Make A Difference awards. The company recognised the efforts of independent owners in its 175-strong estate that have gone above and beyond to make a difference to their pub and communities. This could be through innovative events, money raised for charities and local causes as well as new experiences for their customers. This year, 14 pubs were awarded a Make A Difference award during the event at Leicester Racecourse. These winners will join the Everards team on a trip to Florence, Italy, later in the year as a thank you. Chairman Richard Everard said: "It was a pleasure to host everyone, crown our 14 winners and celebrate such successful businesses. We are proud of every one of our pubs and it’s great to be able to recognise the hard work the business owners all put in throughout the year. It’s really nice to see everyone come together under one roof – it's like a big family gathering." 

Bea Vo replaces Boondocks with soul food concept: Soul Food Enterprises, which is led by Bea Vo and operates US-inspired restaurants Stax and Famous Flames in London, has replaced its Boondocks diner in City Road near the Old Street roundabout with new concept Harlem Soul. The soul food restaurant offers “American urban cuisine” such as burgers, wings, jackfruit tacos, soft shell crab, buttermilk chicken and waffles in maple syrup. Desserts include cheesecake and brownies, while the drinks list features freakshakes, craft beer and cocktails. Set across two floors, the lower bar opens late with DJs and live soul acts. Vo, who also founded Bea’s in Bloomsbury, opened Stax Diner in Carnaby in 2015. She opened Boondocks, which offered chicken and waffles, a year later and wings concept Famous Flames in Camden Market in February 2017.

Splendid Hospitality Group acquires Stanwell hotel: Splendid Hospitality Group has acquired The Stanwell Hotel in the Middlesex village of Stanwell. The company has bought the 53-bedroom property, which is near Heathrow airport, and features a restaurant and function space. The addition brings Splendid Hospitality’s portfolio of hotels to 20 properties across the UK. Chief executive Stuart Bailey said: “We are delighted to welcome the Stanwell Hotel and its team to the Splendid family. This acquisition further cements our foothold at Heathrow airport and surrounding business parks. The hotel will continue to operate independently as the Stanwell Hotel until we agree the appropriate brand option for the next phase of the hotels’ transition.” Splendid Hospitality Group also operates the five-strong Absurd Bird brand and 40 KFC restaurants.

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