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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 1st Feb 2022 - Update: Corbin & King, The Butcher makes UK debut, AG Barr, Gareth Bale
King – I was told a year ago that unless I conceded to their want to franchise, I would go bust within two weeks: Jeremy King, co-founder of London-based restaurant group Corbin & King, has continued his war of words with leading shareholder Minor International, by saying that the Thai firm told him the business would “go bust within two weeks” unless “I conceded to their want to franchise”. Corbin & King went into administration last week after a falling out between its management team, led by co-founder King, and its majority shareholder, the Thai hotel giant Minor. King has accused Minor of trying to “seize control of the company” and said it was “under siege”. In an interview with the Evening Standard, King admits Minor’s push for them to accept cash injections, but denies it was needed. “Looking at our 2021 figures, we traded month-by-month better than we’ve ever done, for the months we were allowed to operate. We went through the whole of the pandemic without any extra support other than government furlough,” says King, who alleges Minor refused to sign off on him applying to the government to use the CBILS scheme. He said: “Minor said: ‘Oh, you’re in terrible trouble financially’ – we said, ‘No, we’re not. We’re absolutely fine.’ And we’ve proven it. I was told a year ago that unless I conceded to their want to franchise, I would go bust within two weeks.” The cash injection is characterised by King as another play for control, as Minor looked to franchise. The offer was for £4m, on the condition he give up his control. “And then I’d be a puppet, and they could do whatever they wanted throughout the world. So I said absolutely not.” Things came to a head after King unsuccessfully filed for a legal moratorium as a means of protecting his group. Then, he says, “last week, out of the blue, we got a notice that we had to repay the £33.25 million within a day, within 24 hours. It wasn’t going to happen…” The administration move that hit the headlines followed swiftly afterwards, as did Minor’s press release that implied King was on his uppers. It is underway now: King estimates it will be resolved “within the month”. US investment fund Knighthead Capital Management has indicated that it would be willing to refinance all the outstanding loans. Knighthead and King have been in talks for “I’d guess, as long as nine months”, says King.

Several London-based hotels to feature in the sixth edition of The New Openings Database, 26,100-word report included: A number of London-based hotels will be featured in the sixth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock. The database will show the details of 495 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (4 February), at midday. The database, which is published monthly, shows the details of which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location. There will also be a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. This edition of the database features CitizenM London Victoria, which will be launched early this year by Amsterdam-based hotel operator CitizenM, and Hyatt Regency London Stratfordand Hyatt House London Stratford, part of Hyatt hotel group, which will open in the second quarter of this year. Also included this month is Lore Group’s One Hundred Shoreditch hotel, which will open next month, boasting six restaurants, 258 bedrooms and suites. Premium subscribers will also receive a 26,100-word report on the new additions to the database and access to two other databases. The Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (28 January). The database contained 87 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed to 2,293. The 918 sites run by those 87 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 63,489 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 6,500-word report on the new businesses added. 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 single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription

The Butcher launches first UK restaurant in Manchester: Gourmet burger bar The Butcher which claims to serve “the world’s best burgers” is opening its first UK restaurant in Manchester. The Butcher has become a foodie hotspot after launching in Amsterdam, Berlin and Ibiza, and has now revealed it will open as part of a huge new entertainment venue inside the Manchester Arndale Centre. The Manchester Evening News reports that the award-winning burger restaurant, which opens in Manchester this week, aims to bring a “haute couture” spin on the fast food classic, with burgers hand crafted and prepared to each order. Bosses say its butchers in the kitchen work “exclusively with the best quality meat, to the selection of herbs, the freshest vegetables, the unique signature sauces, right down to the homemade buns; The Butcher stands for quality and is committed to serving the world’s best burgers”. The Manchester restaurant is inside the huge new Urban Playground site on the upper mall floor near the Selfridges entrance to Manchester Arndale, which is set to be fully unveiled to the public later this week. The Butcher restaurant will boast a number of its signature classics including “The Angus” beef burger (£8.45) and “The Ugly” (£8.70) which comes with avocado and jalapeno. Yossi Eliyahoo, founder and co-owner of The Entourage Group, which owns the brand, said: “As a creative concept developer, I envision and feel the places I design before they actually exist. We knew that the UK was the next stop for our international expansion plans, and Manchester truly is a global hotspot. A city that is constantly evolving with many exciting happenings that command worldwide attention. This is the perfect city for our first UK concept, and it had to be The Butcher that we launched – it’s fast, it’s sleek, it’s modern, but quality is never compromised.” In 2018, Eliyahoo spoke about opening 20 UK franchise sites under The Butcher brand in the UK in the next five years. The brand currently operates nine sites in Europe.

AG Barr reports strong trading ahead of pre-covid levels: AG Barr, the owner of Irn-Bru, Rubicon and Funkin, has reported its revenue for the year to 30 January 2022 is expected to be circa £267m, a 17.5% increase compared to the prior year (2020/21: £227.0m). The company said: “This is marginally ahead of the revised guidance issued in November 2021 and exceeds the pre-pandemic revenue performance of 2019/20 (£255.7m) which also included circa £21m of Rockstar brand revenue. This strong trading performance was achieved despite the unexpected and increased UK government restrictions related to the Omicron covid variant, and further emphasises the quality and resilience of our brands, business model and people. While government restrictions have impacted consumer behaviour across the year, both our Barr Soft Drinks and Funkin business units have traded well, particularly during the periods when restrictions were eased. The inflationary pressures highlighted in our November 2021 update have materialised as expected, particularly across packaging and energy linked commodities. We have initiated several cost control actions to reduce the impact of these rising costs and have adjusted our pricing with customers where appropriate. With the published rate of inflation in the UK now above 5%, the highest level for 20 years, we will continue to seek opportunities across the coming year to offset the impact on our business. Operating margin before exceptional items for the financial year is expected to be around 15.6% (2020/21: 14.8%), delivering profit before tax and exceptional items marginally ahead of our November 2021 guidance. Our business has remained strongly cash generative throughout the year and we expect to end the financial year with circa £66m of net cash following the completion of our previously announced equity investment in MOMA Foods Limited.” Roger White, chief executive, said: “We are delighted with both the resilience our business has demonstrated and the growth we have delivered. We have remained fully operational throughout the year, producing high quality products and providing strong business support to all of our customers. We have delivered an excellent financial performance against a volatile backdrop, whilst at the same time delivering on our strategic priorities, with particularly encouraging progress made across our No Time To Waste environmental sustainability programme. We plan to further invest in our business in 2022/23 and remain confident in our ability to deliver continued growth in both revenue and profit in the coming year.”

Gareth Bale to open mini-golf concept in Cardiff in March for second sector venture: Football star Gareth Bale’s mini-golf bar and restaurant project will open in Cardiff in March. Par 59 will be based at the 23,000 square-foot site of the former Liquid/Life nightclub in St Mary Street. The venue, which will create 45 jobs, will eventually have three nine-hole courses and a billiards room. The concept is the result of a partnership between Bale’s company, Elevens Group, and Welsh independent entertainment brand The Depot. Phase one – which will open on Friday, 18 March – will include 4,000 square feet of bar space and two nine-hole courses. Street food trader Dirty Bird is creating a new dine-in menu especially for the venue. Called Dirtie Birdie, it will serve up a custom-designed menu of buttermilk fried chicken dishes, along with vegan options, for up to 164 covers at a time. Par 59 marks a second step into the hospitality sector for Welsh international Bale following the opening of Elevens Bar & Grill in Cardiff in 2017.

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