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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 20th Feb 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pret brings further batch of EAT sites to market: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holding-backed group, has placed a further batch of EAT sites on the market, Propel has learned. The company, which acquired the 84-strong EAT business last year for almost £60m, placed 16 EAT units on the market, including 13 in London, last August. Propel understands property agent Brasier Freeth has been appointed to market a further eight sites, including the brand’s venue in Bluewater, Kent. London sites in Old Broad Street, Cornhill, Cannon Street, Cheapside, Aldersgate Street, Great Eastern Street and Avery Road are also being marketed. A number of the original 16 sites that were marketed are under offer, including the ones in Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn and Farringdon Street. Earlier this month Propel revealed Pret aims to complete the conversion of former EAT sites to its fledgling Veggie Pret concept in the next few months. The chain’s portfolio will feature 14 Veggie Pret sites by halfway through 2020, including eight EAT conversions. The company has so far converted three former EAT sites to Veggie Pret – in Broadway, Canary Wharf and Fenchurch Street. It has also lined up conversions in St Mary Axe, Cardinal Place and King William Street. Before acquiring EAT, Pret had opened Veggie Pret sites in London’s Broadwick Street, Exmouth Market, Great Eastern Street and in Deansgate, Manchester. Now the company has fully evaluated the EAT estate, it is unlikely to convert as many sites to Veggie Pret as initially expected. Pret is also converting a number of EAT sites to its core brand.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at what 2020 holds for competitive socialising and late-night sector in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will take a look at what 2020 holds for competitive socialising and the late-night sector in his latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (21 February). Meanwhile, Premium Diary will delve into the latest sector rumblings. 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 columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses. Propel has launched its new-look Premium Club, where readers can save money by receiving a pair of free tickets to one of four conferences in 2020. Subscribers will be able to choose to use a pair of free tickets to one of the following conferences – The Delivery Conference (Tuesday, 21 April), The Finance and Investment Conference (Thursday, 14 May), The Casual Dining Summit (Monday, 12 October) or The New Concept Conference (Monday, 19 October). The normal cost of two tickets to these events is £490 plus VAT for operators and £690 plus VAT for suppliers. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email

Wireless Social strengthens board with key industry appointments: Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social has strengthened its board with the appointment of key industry figures. The company, which last month received a £1m investment from Imbiba, the specialist investor in the UK leisure and hospitality sector, has appointed existing non-executive director Clive Consterdine as chairman. Meanwhile, Emma Causer has joined as chief customer officer. Sam Bourke, ETM Group sales and marketing director, and Nick Telson, co-founder of DesignMyNight, have been appointed non-executive directors and join long-standing non-executive director Ann Elliott, founder of Elliotts. Imbiba will be represented on the board by Andrew Stones, who joined last year after managing the sale of cocktail bar brand Be At One to Stonegate Pub Company. Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross said: “We are entering the most exciting chapter in the history of Wireless Social. With such a breadth of skills and knowledge gained from working in the sector, their combined experience will help Wireless Social to innovate, grow and solve even more problems for our customers.”

Tipjar completes first funding round: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has completed its first round of funding, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded by BrewDog retail director James Brown in 2018, closed the round at £200,000 for a 15% share in the company, giving it a resulting enterprise value of more than £1.3m. On completion of the first round of funding, Tipjar will continue to heavily invest in advancing its technology as well as appointing Ben Thomas as chief executive and Anita Bodis as business development manager. Rosa’s Thai co-founder Alex Moore, who recently purchased Mesa Latina (Ceviche and Andina), and Paul Stancer, former head of innovation at online payment provider World Remit, were both seed investors and have reinvested in the recently completed friends and family round. Brown said: “I am delighted to confirm we have closed the first round of investment. We are committed to investing these funds into further developing our technology and building a platform that’s a global leader in tip collection and distribution. Our goal is to grow this idea of revolutionising the way our industry collects and handles tips into a fully fledged fintech solution for hospitality businesses and workers.” Moore, who is also chairman of Tipjar, said: “As well as investing in our technology we are growing our team, which includes appointing Ben as chief executive and Anita as business development manager to help onboard more restaurants and bars on to Tipjar.” The Tipjar system enables customers to give cashless tips while simultaneously “empowering transparent team-controlled distribution between workers”. It is currently live in restaurants across the UK including Red’s True Barbecue, Crate Brewery, Howlin’ Hops, Libertine Burger Group, The Piano Works, Rola Wala and Honest Burgers.

UK’s ‘wellness tourism’ sector to grow 7.5% a year to hit 1.2 billion trips by 2022: The UK’s “wellness tourism” sector is forecast to grow 7.5% a year to hit 1.2 billion trips by 2022, according to a new study by Abta. The figure is higher than the predicted 6.4% growth for overall tourism during the period. On the back of the research, travel platform Expedia Group said domestic and international visitors were increasingly seeking UK locations that were famed for their natural beauty, with more than two million UK holidaymakers planning to take a wellness trip in the next 12 months. Areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Cotswolds, Lake District and Scottish Highlands all recorded near 25% year-on-year increases in tourism demand in 2019. Expedia's data also underlined high growth in demand for countryside walks, spa retreats and other relaxing pursuits, with accommodation providers in south west England seeing an almost 20% year-on-year growth in demand. Bath enjoyed a 15% increase in demand in 2019, compared with the previous year, while the counties of Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset all experienced double-digit year-on-year growth. Expedia Group director of market management Daniel Scharbert said: “Wellness tourism has become increasingly popular with the UK, ranking in the top ten wellness tourism markets globally. As travellers prioritise wellness in their everyday lives, even while travelling, this market is set to become even more valuable.”

Job of the week: COREcruitment’s executive search team is currently supporting a premium casual dining business as it goes through a period of transformation and change. With a reputation for fresh, seasonal produce and great service, the business is looking to appoint a passionate operations director with premium dining experience. Ideally, candidates will also have extensive group-level experience and a good understanding of brand development. The role will cover the south west region and offers a salary up to £120,000 basic pay plus an accompanying package. For those interested in discussing the details further, email with an up-to-date CV or profile.

Company News:

Charterhouse Leisure went into administration with losses of £4m: Charterhouse Leisure went into administration with losses of £4m – with its trading position expected to worsen, a new report has revealed. A statement of administrators proposal by Stephen Grant and Matthew Waghorn, of Wilkins Kennedy, revealed the Coal Grill & Bar operator had struggled with declining footfall and sales at its restaurants before Sunshine Capital took control in 2018. The report showed Charterhouse Leisure incurred pre-tax losses of £507,000 on turnover of £11.6m for the year ending 25 February 2017. The following year losses increased to £941,000 on turnover of £11.3m. Total losses carried forward at this time stood at £3.66m. The report also showed the company made a loss in the period to November 2019 of £393,000 on turnover of £6.3m, with revenue forecast to fall in 2020 and 2021. In July 2019, the directors took steps to restructure the group to limit the impact the poor-performing sites were having on the company’s cash flow. These included phasing out the head office function, beginning negotiations with landlords, and launching various marketing, sales and loyalty schemes to try to increase footfall and sales. Unfortunately the measures failed to have an impact on the group’s financial position quickly enough and a winding-up petition was presented against the company in August in relation to its VAT liability. The company subsequently went into administration. The report showed 21 parties initially expressed an interest in the business. A sales memorandum was subsequently issued to 14 of them but only two of the parties expressed an interest in progressing a deal. One of these was Sunshine Capital owner Sumit Chadha, who bought the Coal Grill & Bar sites in Basingstoke, Gloucester Quays, Bristol and Exeter as well as Seven Shed in Bristol. The report revealed the total paid was £164,000. The Coal Grill & Bar restaurants in Swindon, Telford and Sheffield were closed. The report showed Chadha is the company's only secured creditor having been granted a legal charge on 2 January in relation to £30,000 he injected into the company to discharge the liability owed to Barclays. Unsecured creditors claims stood at almost £3.7m, while preferential creditors claims in terms of the 89 staff made redundant following the three restaurant closures have yet to be fully established.   

Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland chief marketing officer steps down after only six months: Emily Somers has stepped down as chief marketing officer at Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland after only six months in the role, Propel has learned. It’s understood Domino’s will announce a replacement for Somers, who joined Domino’s in August, in “due course”. Somers, who replaced Tony Holdaway when he left to join furniture retailer Dreams, was previously UK vice-president of marketing and food development at McDonald’s but left the company in November 2018 to set up a brand consultancy. A Domino’s spokeswoman said: “Emily has decided to leave Domino’s and we wish her the very best of luck for the future.” Domino’s is also continuing to hunt for a chairman to replace Stephen Hemsley, who was ousted last year. Ian Bull, who was promoted from senior independent director to interim chairman, is seen as a likely permanent candidate. Meanwhile, the search for a chief executive to replace David Wild has been postponed until the hunt for a chairman has been concluded.

North west burrito business eyes expansion after trademark issue forces name change: A north west-based burrito bar business is eyeing expansion after relaunching under a new name. Formerly known as Changos Burrito, the business has changed its name to Listo Burrito following a trademark issue. The business, which was founded by Roger Taylor in 2013, operates in Liverpool’s Dale Street and has restaurants in Manchester’s Oxford Street and at University of Manchester Students’ Union. Taylor said he was exploring opportunities for new sites around the north west at students’ union sites as well as the delivery market. On the back of the relaunch in early January, the business saw sales increase 5% year-on-year last month. Taylor said: “Our burritos are booming. The relaunch was a huge success with queues lining the streets on opening week. Despite it being a short month for us because of the refurbishment and relaunch, we were thrilled to see our sales were actually higher than the same time last year. It’s important people know we’ve only changed our name due to trademark reasons. Nothing else about our operation has changed other than a slight ‘facelift’. Last year we launched our app, which has helped us engage with our customers by offering loyalty points, free items and access to discounts and deals. We’re currently approaching 10,000 downloads, which we’re really pleased with.”

Ego to make Welsh debut with Penarth opening: 3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler, has lined up its latest Ego site as part of its joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers (M&B). The opening in Penarth, South Glamorgan, will mark the concept’s first site in Wales. Propel has learned the company will open Ego at The Schooner in April at a former Harvester site. The group will open its next, and 21st site, The Pomeroy in White Lion Road, Amersham, on Thursday, 5 March. It will be the ninth site under the M&B partnership, while it’s understood the company is also in talks on a site in Essex. Horler told Propel last year that M&B sites converted to Ego were seeing an average 80% uplift in sales. He said the business was aiming to add another two sites in the first quarter of 2020. M&B formed the partnership in August 2018 when it bought sector investor Luke Johnson’s minority share in 3Sixty.

Tinseltown opens two London sites: US-style diner Tinseltown, the group led by Suhail Hasan, has opened two sites in London, either side of the Thames. The group has opened sites at Units 1 and 2 at Boxpark Croydon and another in Holloway Road, north London, taking its eponymous brand’s estate to nine sites, seven in London plus venues in Leicester and Birmingham. Tinseltown opened its first restaurant in Farringdon, central London, in 1996. Last year it launched virtual delivery brands Tikka Twins, which is a fusion Indian concept, and King Of Wings, which focuses on chicken wings. Both operate from each of the group’s London sites. King Of Wings is also operating out of the Karma Kitchen site in The Oval mixed-use space in east London.

Mojo Bars operator set to open in Sheffield: Voodoo Doll, the group behind Mojo bars, is set to open a site in Sheffield. The company has lodged plans with the city council to open within the former National Union of Mineworkers headquarters in Barker’s Pool, which has been redeveloped. The company launched its first Mojo bar in Leeds in 1996 followed by sites in Harrogate, Manchester, Nottingham, Harrogate and Liverpool. Last month Voodoo Doll reported a 10.77% year-on-year increase in turnover for its fourth quarter – October to December 2019.

Laine Brew Co launches BeerKat in Ealing for second retail site: Laine Brew Co, the beer division of Brighton-based pub and brewing company Laine, which is backed by Patron Capital, has launched its second retail site. Taproom and bottle shop BeerKat has opened in Ealing Broadway, west London, and follows the launch of a bottle shop in Brighton last year. The former estate agents opposite Ealing Broadway station offers the full range of Laine Brew Co’s craft beer on draught alongside seasonals and specials from guest breweries. BeerKat also offers freshly made sourdough pizza, live entertainment, and Laine Pub Co’s full range of clothing and merchandise. Sales director Matthew McAloone said: “We are excited to bring Laine beer and good times to Ealing in a format that started as a fun craft pop-up in Holloway. BeerKat is the right environment to showcase our entire range of beer and we’re also pleased to host many favourites from our friends’ breweries.” Laine chief executive Gavin George added: “The rapid volume growth seen in our beer business during the past two years is testament to the quality and accessibility of the core range being produced at our Sussex brewery. Under head brewer Will Brooke-Smith, Laine’s brew team is producing exciting specials in our Hackney brew lab, which I’m looking forward to seeing. The constantly rotating beer choice, fresh pizza and fun entertainment make the BeerKat taproom and bottle shop a fantastic addition to the Ealing pub and bar scene.” 

Firezza and Santa Maria founders launch pizza pub concept in east London: Firezza founder Edin Basic and Santa Maria founders Angelo Ambrosio and Pasquale Chionchio have launched a pizza pub concept in east London. As revealed by Propel in October, they have taken over The Elephants Head in Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, and reopened it as a new concept, A Slice Of Blue. The move comes after Basic took on the lease of Fuller’s The Red Lion in Ealing last year from Ambrosio and Chionchio. The pub is next to the original Santa Maria site and the trio created a pub restaurant at the site in St Mary’s Road featuring live jazz. Basic told Propel: “On the back of that success we decided to go into partnership and launch A Slice Of Blue. We are all music lovers and it’s a big part of our lives. We want to create a place for us as well as our customers. We’re looking to showcase up-and-coming DJs and other musical talent and complement it with a good pizza offering.” Basic launched Neapolitan pizza concept Mano in Norway last year and told Propel he was looking to open a second site in the country, in Oslo. Basic founded Firezza in 2001 before selling the business to PizzaExpress having built it to 22 sites. PizzaExpress sold the Firezza brand and its assets to Net Gold Star, led by Darsana Patel, in November 2017.

Bespoke Inns to turn former petrol station into fourth Derbyshire pub: Derbyshire-based independent pub group Bespoke Inns is set to launch its fourth pub in the county after acquiring a former petrol station in Mickleover. The site near Uttoxeter Road has been “an eyesore for more than a decade” and Bespoke Inns plans to transform it into a 150-cover bar and restaurant. The new venue will offer a function suite for parties, meetings and weddings, with the opening creating up to 70 jobs. Work to transform the site is due to start in the next two months ahead of an opening in time for Christmas. The company’s other pubs are The Dragon in Willington, The Boot in Repton and Harpur’s Of Melbourne in Melbourne. Bespoke Inns director Lee Carvell told Derbyshire Live: “Mickleover is a superb area for us, lots of the residents are customers of ours already and know the high quality and standards we offer.” Operations manager Claire Blincoe said: “This will take us in a different direction to anything we have previously launched, which is hugely exciting for us as a company. We have seen a gap in the market we intend to fill with this venue. The community is important to us, so much so we’ll look to interact with Mickleover residents throughout the redevelopment process.”

Parques Reunidos launches Nickelodeon Adventure at Intu Lakeside: Spanish operator Parques Reunidos has opened children’s indoor adventure experience Nickelodeon Adventure in the 175,000 square foot, leisure-led extension at Intu Lakeside in Essex. The first of its kind in the UK, Nickelodeon Adventure spans 50,000 square feet and includes four themed play zones featuring key Nickelodeon cartoon characters such as PAW Patrol, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob SquarePants. It also features a cafe, 4D cinema, private-hire party suites, and a gift store. The opening follows a multimillion-pound investment by Parques Reunidos, with Nickelodeon Adventure one of four major leisure anchors at Intu Lakeside’s £72m development, alongside Puttshack, Flipout and Hollywood Bowl. Parques Reunidos UK director James Eels said: “We identified a gap in the market for a family-themed indoor leisure attraction in this region. Nickelodeon has developed a unique and highly themed visitors’ attraction and we can’t wait to see the reactions of our guests as they step into Nickelodeon’s cartoons and meet their favourite characters. Our aim is to attract a new range of visitors who will shop and play in one location, whatever the weather.” Intu regional managing director Kate Grant added: “Intu Lakeside’s leisure development has created new opportunities for brands such as Nickelodeon Adventure Park to flourish. We’ve transformed one of the country’s most popular shopping centres into a major retail and leisure destination.”

Smith & Western plans Horsham relocation: Smith & Western, the south east-based US-style restaurant chain, has lodged plans to relocate its Horsham site to a more central location in the West Sussex town. The seven-strong group has applied to open in the closed Steamer Trading unit in East Street. Smith & Western currently operates a site in North Parade, just outside Horsham town centre. However, plans were submitted last year to demolish the restaurant and replace it with 23 flats. The group, which is owned by the Sandford family, opened its latest site in early 2019 at the Addlestone One regeneration scheme in Addlestone, Surrey. The company had been in talks to open a site at Turk’s Yard next to the Thames in Kingston. The chain also operates restaurants in Boxhill, Crawley, Chichester, Lingfield and Tunbridge Wells.

Norwich-based coffee company opens third cafe: Norwich-based coffee company Kofra has opened its third cafe. Owner José Guzman has launched the outlet in the former Les Garrigues Deli in Upper St Giles Street. The new venue replaces the branch in Unthank Road that closed at the end of last month, reports the Eastern Daily Press. Alongside its new branch, Kofra also has a cafe in Onley Street and at the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts on the University of East Anglia’s campus. Kofra offers a range of specially crafted coffee, pastries and other delicacies. It has also launched a lunch menu, which includes gluten-free options.

Great Northern Group to launch Waterside Bar + Kitchen concept on Saturday: Nottingham independent bar company Great Northern Group will launch its Waterside Bar + Kitchen concept on Saturday (22 February), creating 24 jobs. The venue is part of the Waterside Apartment complex overlooking Trent Bridge in West Bridgford and has undergone a £500,000 refurbishment. Great Northern Group has worked with long-time associate Matt Shelton to develop a brand with a nautical flavour that offers a new menu and a wider range of drinks. Great Northern Group managing director Dave Willans said: “Waterside is about appealing to a more diverse group of people. We’ve innovated with this bar, working with flavours from around the globe and presenting our main menu in a way that’s easy to choose between styles of food and size of plate. A third of our main menu is plant-based and we have vegan and gluten-free options for breakfast, brunch, pizza and light lunch. We’ve booked in some specialist dining and gin-tasting nights in the new dining room. Our bar will also see a few familiar brands but will mainly feature 20 gins and a huge range of spirits, cocktails and ten vegan-friendly wines.”

Manchester-based micro-brewer Beatnikz Republic to open Scandi-style cafe bar: Manchester-based brewer Beatnikz Republic, which operates a bar and taproom in the city, is set to open a Scandi-style cafe bar. Lättsam is due to open in Spring Gardens offering artisan coffee, breakfast, brunch dishes such as açai bowls, and sandwiches, salad and soup at lunchtime to eat in or take away. There will also be a menu to accompany after-work drinks from 4pm and a daily changing range of cheesecakes. The bar will offer ten taps of craft beer, mixing Beatnikz’ own brews with guest beers from Scandinavia, alongside natural wine, cocktails and small-batch gin. Beatnikz Republic founder Paul Greetham told Manchester Evening News: “The initial influence for Lättsam came from a love of coffee. Putting the food menu together has been a real joy and then the gin, natural wine and beer have made it a real project of passion. We think Lättsam can add to the dynamic of Manchester’s vibrant coffee, food and beer scene.” Lättsam means easy-going or light-hearted in Swedish. Brewing from beneath the railway arches of Red Bank since 2017, Beatnikz Republic expanded its Manchester presence by opening a bar in Dale Street in late 2018. It also has a taproom at its brewery.

Thorntons to open chocolate-based cafe as part of Belfast relocation: Chocolate retailer Thorntons is to move to larger premises in Belfast city centre to open a new chocolate-based cafe. The new outlet, which will be close to the brand’s existing shop in the Cornmarket area, is due to open on Thursday, 5 March. The company said the new venture would include a “craftery”, where customers can create their own personalised chocolate box and a personalisation station, where messages can be hand iced on products. Thornton’s retail director Sarah Ingram told the Irish News: “We look forward to welcoming Belfast residents to the new store to experience the very best of Thorntons.” The company operates circa 20 cafe sites in the UK.

Former Cosy Club manager to relaunch derelict Leicester pub: Benjamin Le Gros, a former manager at Loungers brand The Cosy Club, has taken on traditional Leicester pub The Bridle Lane Tavern, which has been closed for a number of years. Le Gros will reopen the pub as a “hub for city residents”. He will provide job opportunities for local people by working with not-for-profit company Fedcap Employment, while furniture will be bought in charity shops and the outside walls will display a mural by Leicester graffiti artists. Le Gros told Leicestershire Live: “A pub is more than a boozer these days. It will be a working pub but we want to do business the right way.”

German gym operator to open debut UK site, in Broadgate: German gym operator John Reed has signed for its debut site in the UK, at British Land’s 100 Liverpool Street mixed-use development in Broadgate, central London. John Reed is one of six new brands to sign for 100 Liverpool Street, which takes total retailer occupancy excluding food and drinks brands in the building to 83%, with two units left to fill ahead of the building’s opening this summer. John Reed will open a 22,000 square foot gym spanning two floors. The concept focuses on “cosmopolitan design, great music including live DJs, and a range of challenging fitness exercises suitable for everyone”. Marcus Adam, head of marketing and music at John Reed, said: “With its vibrant music, culture, arts and lifestyle scene, we are excited to bring our fitness concept to the city.” David Lockyer, head of Broadgate for British Land, added: “We have had exceptional leasing success at Broadgate, where the calibre sets the tone for the rest of the campus.” Broadgate will deliver 4.9 million square feet of restaurants, shops and offices. CWM and CBRE advised Broadgate joint owners British Land and GIC on the lettings.

Meininger gets go-ahead for Liverpool hotel: Budget operator Meininger Hotels has been given the go-ahead for a site in Liverpool. The company has been granted permission by the city council to convert empty offices in Union Court. The property will comprise 87 bedrooms across six floors as well as a lobby, reception, guest kitchen, bar, lounge, game zone and breakfast area, reports Insider Media. Meininger Hotels made its UK debut in 2006 with an opening in Hyde Park, London. Plans for a Manchester hotel are also under way, with the venue expected to open at the end of 2021, while Meininger is also eyeing sites in Belfast, Cambridge, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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