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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 8th Oct 2021 - Update: Brighton Pier Group, Tortilla, Revolution, Tomahawk, Albion & East, Mildreds
Brighton Pier Group reports strong summer and £5m insurance pay-out: Brighton Pier Group has reported business interruption insurance claims totalling £5 million have been recently settled with its insurers. Payments on account of £4.1 million have been received to date and the remaining £0.9 million was received yesterday. These claims relate to losses incurred to the end of June 2021. Earnings for FY 21 are expected to be £2 million higher than market expectations on the back of the confirmation of these insurance receipts. The company stated: “The first 13 weeks of the new financial year have started strongly. Due to the summer weather, school vacations and the August bank holiday weekend, these summer weeks have historically contributed a significant proportion of the group’s annual sales and earnings. This year’s key trading period has been boosted by pent-up demand and disposable incomes that built up during lockdown, significant increases in domestic holidays, a temporarily reduced rate of VAT and rates relief by way of government support and the addition of the newly acquired Lightwater Valley theme park. Collectively, these factors have provided a unique opportunity for the business to maximise revenue and earnings and to complete the integration of Lightwater Valley into the group. With many of the indoor and outdoor restrictions lifted, Brighton Palace Pier, the group’s mini golf sites and its food-led bars were able to re-open from 17 May. Furthermore, the group’s acquisition of Lightwater Valley theme park completed on 17 June and then, for the first time in 16 months, the group’s remaining late-night bars opened from 19 July 2021. With all four divisions mostly opened throughout, the group is pleased to report total net sales for the 13-week period of £15.9 million. This is 145% over the same period in 2020, and 44% ahead of the same (pre-covid) period in 2019 (or 30% ahead of 2019 if benefit from the temporary VAT concession is excluded). Like for like sales at the Pier were up 47% on 2020 and up 14% on 2019; across the golf sites they were up 119% on 2020 and up 30% on 2019; and, in respect of the latter ten weeks of the period during which the Bars division was fully open, its sales were up 36% up on 2019, with most venues closed in 2020. Combined with trading from the newly acquired Lightwater Valley business, these results have significantly exceeded the group’s expectations. As a result of the strong summer trading performance, the board expects revenue and earnings for the 52 weeks to 26 June 2022 to be significantly ahead of market expectations.” Chief executive Anne Ackord said: “The sales over this important 13-week trading period have been very strong across all divisions. I am particularly pleased at the contribution Lightwater Valley has made to the group’s results and to see all our bars back open and performing so well after such a long period of closure. It is also good to be able to report a new record, with the final bank holiday week of this summer being the first time in the Pier’s history that it has achieved gross sales in excess of £1 million over a single week. Lastly, I want to thank everyone who works in the group for their contribution to these outstanding results.”

21 new companies to be added to Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, will include 427 companies, an increase of 21 companies compared with the September edition. The 427 companies produce total turnover of £30bn – 208 are in profit and 219 are reporting a loss. The next edition of the Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday, 15 October at midday. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produce in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. In this week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (8 October) at 5pm, Lavender Bank Partners Geof Collyer analyses the Financial Reporting Council’s 65-page report on Grant Thornton’s performance in regards to auditing the former AIM-listed Patisserie Valerie; while Mark Wingett looks back at the week just gone, including the sudden departure of PizzaExpress group chief executive David Campbell, the Conservative Party conference, the Tortilla initial public offering and a positive update from Revolution Bars Group. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. To subscribe, email
Tortilla to launch on AIM this morning: Tortilla Mexican Grill, the largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant group in the UK, will commence on AIM at 8.00am today. The company has a 62-strong restaurant estate, comprising 50 owned and 12 franchised locations across the UK and Middle East, as well an exclusive nationwide partnership with Deliveroo and its growing estate of cloud kitchens. The company stated: “Tortilla is strongly positioned to capitalise on significant growth opportunities to accelerate its growth strategy through the roll-out of new sites, franchising opportunities, cloud kitchens, strategic partnerships, and carefully selected international opportunities.” A fundraising has produced proceeds of £5m for the company and £23m for selling shareholders. At the Placing Price, the company’s market capitalisation is approximately £70 million. Chief executive Richard Morris said: “Joining AIM marks a very exciting milestone in Tortilla’s growth journey and we’re thrilled to be welcoming our new shareholders to the Tortilla family. Underpinned by our fresh, high quality and great value food, as well as our multichannel order strategy, we are very excited to drive forward Tortilla’s long-term growth strategy and achieve the Tortilla brand’s significant potential across the UK and internationally.”

Pitcher – We are well behind on Christmas party bookings: The boss of Revolution Bars Group says that Christmas party bookings are well behind where they would normally be because so many people are working from home for at least part of the time. Rob Pitcher, chief executive, told The Times that its bookings were mainly for parties of 20 or 30 people rather than 200. “Christmas is the key period for us, but we’re well behind on corporate bookings,” he said. “It is gathering pace but we’re well short of where we’d normally be at this stage.” However, shares in Revolution rose by 2¾p, or 11.8%, to 25¼p, after it reported that trading was “well ahead of the company’s expectations” and strong sales were more than covering rising costs. Pitcher said that despite the strong performance, he was cautious about rising utility bills, carbon dioxide costs and labour issues. “Our sales may be strong but there’s only so much we can do before we have to raise our prices. As things stand, we’ll probably push up prices by 5% to 10% this side of Christmas, in line with what other people are doing.”

Britons eat 20% less meat than a decade ago: Daily meat consumption has fallen by almost a fifth on average per person in the UK in the past decade, research has found. The Times reports that, according to a study by the University of Oxford people have reduced the amount of red and processed meat they eat while slightly increasing their consumption of chicken. The findings suggest consumers are already beginning to change their eating habits in line with recommendations about reducing the carbon footprint of their diets and cutting consumption of unhealthy food. The Oxford team analysed data from the government-funded National Diet and Nutrition Survey, a long-running project that involves 1,000 people keeping diaries of what they eat. They found average daily meat consumption in the UK decreased between 2008-09 and 2018-19 by 17% or 17.4g per person, down from 103.7g to 86.3g. This included a reduction of 13.7g of red meat from 37.4g to 23.7g and 7g of processed meat from 33.8g to 26.8g. Consumption of white meat over the period increased by 3.2g, from 32.5g to 35.7g. The proportion of individuals who identified as vegetarian or vegan rose from 2% to 5% over the same period. People born after 1999 were the only age bracket to increase their consumption of meat over the period despite being the lowest consumers in the first seven survey years. Cristina Stewart, who led the study published in The Lancet Planetary Health, said meat consumption was also decreasing in many other high-income countries but average global per capita consumption was increasing. She said the average person in the UK remained “a long way from consuming a healthy sustainable diet”.

Albion & East secures site in Ealing for sixth bar: Albion & East, the Imbiba-backed, London-based bar business, is to open its sixth site in the capital, next year, at The Filmworks scheme in Ealing, Propel has learned. The new 5,000 sq ft site will open in March 2022 featuring the company’s “signature all-day and late-night offer”. Teatro Hall will have a coal-fired pizza oven, in-house baking and a brand-new Urban Distillery & Tasting Room, where customers can create their own gin, bottle it and wax-seal with personalised labels. The Tasting Room will also host gin blending masterclasses, gin tastings and a bottle shop. Teatro Hall will serve the local neighbourhood with coffee, brunch and hot-desking by day, and cocktails, events and DJs by night. Albion & East operates Martello Hall in Hackney, Canova Hall & Cattivo in Brixton, Serata Hall in Old Street and Allora Hall in Crouch End. Sarah Weir, founder and managing director, said: “We are so excited to find the perfect site in such a buzzing, West London neighbourhood. To create a ‘Hall’ in such an iconic building, the site of an old cinema which has been empty for many years, is a privilege. The chance to bring this beautiful building back to life is a very special step in our journey.”

Plant-based restaurant group Mildreds to open in Covent Garden’s St Martin’s Lane: Plant-based restaurant group Mildreds is to further expand in central London, with an opening in Covent Garden, Propel has learned. The Sam Anstey-led business has secured the ex-Steak & Co site in St Martin’s Lane for an opening next February. Mildreds currently operates sites under its eponymous concept in Soho, Dalston, Camden and King’s Cross. The company is set to open a new concept called Mallow in London’s Borough Market this autumn. The one-off concept in Cathedral Street, will serve “great value, fresh, colourful and internationally inspired plant-based food and drinks”. London-based Steak & Co still operates sites in Garrick Street, Piccadilly Circus, Gloucester Road and Leicester Square. Distrkt acted on the St Martin’s Lane and Borough deals.

Tomahawk Steakhouse to open in Harrogate: North east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston has acquired a 12th site for his Tomahawk Steakhouse brand, in Harrogate. Eggleston has secured the former Bistrot Pierre unit in the town’s Cheltenham Parade for his core brand, for an opening next January. Earlier this year the company opened its first site in the North West, on the former Bistrot Pierre site in Stockton Heath, Cheshire. Last December, Tomahawk Steakhouse made its London debut with an opening in the premises previously occupied by Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Hoxton. Eggleston’s company also operates Brazilian concept Rio in Jesmond, as well as two takeaway stores, in Jesmond and Yarm. In July, the company secured a third site for its Pollo by Tomahawk concept, which specialises in chicken and shawarma, at Xscape Yorkshire in Castleford.

Hollywood Bowl reports exceptional summer holiday trading: Hollywood Bowl Group has reported 29% like-for-like revenue growth since reopening on 17 May compared to FY19. Total revenue has been £61.3m since reopening on 17 May, with a total of £74.6m for FY21 (FY20: £79.5m). The company reported exceptional trading through the school summer holiday period, including record total revenue levels of £20.1m in August (+50% like-for-like vs August 2019). The company stated: “Management has made further progress with the new centre roll out, starting construction at Resorts World Birmingham (Hollywood Bowl) and Harrow (Puttstars). The group remains on track to deliver its target of 14-18 new centres by 2024. The group’s ongoing investment programme continued with the second half refurbishments of Stevenage, Basildon and Cheltenham centres (with ROI expected to be in line with the group’s pre-pandemic target levels of 33%), the further roll out of Pins on Strings into six centres, the estate wide deployment of the group’s new scoring system and a new CRM platform.” Chief executive Stephen Burns said: “I am delighted at the pace and strength of our recovery since reopening. It has been fantastic to welcome our customers back in record numbers, and to see families and friends enjoying their time in our bowling and mini-golf centres once again. I would particularly like to thank our team members who have demonstrated great resilience and enthusiasm despite the challenges of the last year and continue to provide safe and enjoyable experiences for our customers. We took a number of actions to ensure that the group was in as strong as possible position to reopen, and our balance sheet strength is allowing us to accelerate our proven strategy of delivering growth from investing in new and existing centres and customer-led innovation.” 

Matt Maloney steps down from Just Eat management board: Just Eat has announced that Matt Maloney has decided to step down as member of the company’s management board, effective 1 December 2021, to pursue other opportunities. As the founder of Grubhub, Matt Maloney joined the company’s management board following the completion of the acquisition of Grubhub on 15 June 2021. Matt has been instrumental in growing Grubhub to its current size. Jitse Groen, chief executive of Just Eat, said: “Great entrepreneurs like Matt start businesses that touch the lives of millions of people. He has built a magnificent company and helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the US. We are sorry to see him leave the company and wish him the best in his future endeavours.”

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