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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 2nd Dec 2021 - Update: Anand – we’re taking a half billion bet on the pub industry
Anand – we’re taking a half billion bet on the pub industry: Ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand has said his new vehicle RedCat is taking “a half billion bet on the pub industry”, as it moves toward owning 100 pubs since its launch in February. Launched with £200m of backing from Oaktree Capital and as much as £300m of bank debt, the investment vehicle has already acquired 92 pubs. By the end of the month it should be raising its bat to a rapid century. He told The Times: “We’re taking a half billion bet on the pub industry. Some people have called it a brave move, some have called it a vanity project. But I’m a huge believer in the sector. Pubs have survived the Black Death, two world wars, a credit crunch and in my humble opinion they will survive covid.” Despite the speed with which he has been deploying the cash – he is believed to have spent about a third of the £500m so far – he is adamant he is not trying to create a huge pub company. “We’re not trying to rebuild Greene King,” he said. “We want to be small, nimble and entrepreneurial.” Responding to those who have suggested he is adopting a scattergun approach, buying assets that have little in common, he admitted: “There’s no fixed playbook. We don’t focus on one particular type of asset.” The current RedCat estate is 40% rural, 40% suburban and 20% urban, while 45% of sales are from accommodation, 30% from food and 25% from drink. “Our acquisitions are very opportunistic,” he said. Anand’s aim is to build up the business to about 250 pubs in five years. In addition to the 92 he has completed on since its inception, he has 12 more being scrutinised by lawyers and expects to sign most of them by Christmas. Flexibility is also the watchword when it comes to exiting the investment. “We can be super-flexible,” he said. “We can sell the whole thing, lock stock and barrel or we can sell its constituent parts separately.” He added: “Prices have probably got a little firmer for the vendor than they were six months ago but let’s see how things pan out over Christmas. During the notoriously lean months of January, February and March, I would hope there would be a few more assets we can persuade owners to part with.”

Propel Premium Advent Video Calendar, Dorothy Purdew OBE to feature: Propel has launched its Premium Advent Video Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. The second video, which will be sent at 9am today (Thursday, 2 December), features Dorothy Purdew OBE, who is the lady behind the Champneys brand and at the forefront of change in the spa industry. She talks about how she started the business in 1981, built it into the success it is today and remains as passionate and excited about the future now as she did 40 years ago. Premium subscribers will also receive the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday (3 December), at midday. The database will show the details of 366 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (26 November). The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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 group editor Mark Wingett. 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

Gaming cafe Geek Retreat to continue expansion with Milton Keynes opening: Geek Retreat – a cafe that offers free-to-play consoles and board games alongside its food offerings – is set to open its 26th site. The brand will open in Xscape in Milton Keynes on Sunday, 11 December, with a menu including burgers, milkshakes and American sweets and treats. Describing itself as a “geek culture” retailer, gaming cafe and events hub, Geek Retreat will have Wiis and PlayStations available for customers to use as well as an in-store shop. Opening for the first time in Glasgow in 2013, Geek Retreat has since spread to towns and cities including London, Oxford, Exeter, Bournemouth, Southampton, Leicester, Ipswich, Northampton, Nottingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Last year, Geek Retreat chief executive Peter Dobson told the BBC that through a franchise model, he planned to open 100 stores over the next two years.

Host RHM acquires Taunton hotel: Hospitality management operator Host RHM has bought the three-storey Royal Ashton Hotel in Taunton. The 37-bedroom site has undergone an extensive refurbishment programme since it was acquired by the previous owner, East Meets South West, in 2016. The sale marks a first independent hotel purchase in the area for Host RHM, which was founded in 2013 by Kevin McCarthy and Duncan McCarthy, who both have long careers in redeveloping hotels and resorts internationally. The current team of staff will remain in place at the hotel. Tim Jones, chief executive officer at Host RHM, said: “This is an exciting step forward for Host RHM and demonstrates our commitment to the local area, and is the start of a new portfolio of high-performing hotels. Drawing on our vast experience and knowledge, we’re looking forward to applying our innovative, people-driven approach to the Royal Ashton Hotel, and working with the team and the local supply chain to further maximise its full potential.” Christie & Co acted on the sale.

Boxpark reveals plans for rooftop garden at Shoreditch site: Boxpark has revealed plans for a new rooftop garden at its Shoreditch site. The company describes its new proposals as inspired by the “overwhelming customer demand for urban gardens and access to green space”. The plans, submitted to Hackney Council, feature a spacious seating area surrounded by plants. Matthew McMillan, head of development at Boxpark, told the Hackney Gazette: “[Shoreditch] is significantly underprovided for with outdoor green spaces and parks compared with the rest of the capital. After we all have spent so long stuck indoors over the past 18 months, we want to provide a beautiful new rooftop garden experience at the heart of the city.”

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