Story of the Day:
Hostmore eyeing seven new openings a year, Scotland and north east outperforming FY19, trialling live music: Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays and the 63rd+1st concept in the UK, is looking to organically grow by circa seven sites annually but is still keen on acquiring disruptor brands seeking investment capital. Chief executive Robert B Cook said the company’s pipeline is strong, with multiple sites for each brand being considered. He said the rent cost to revenue for the group’s FY22 sites was projected to be circa 4.9%. The company is looking at maintenance capex of circa 1.25%-1.75% of sales per year, with new site capex of circa £750,000 to £1.25m per store for Fridays and 63rd+1st sites, against around £300,000 to £400,000 per Fridays and Go store – the first of which opens on Wednesday (16 March), in Dundee. In terms of possible acquisition of complimentary fledgling brands, Cook said the March quarter end has material risk for underfunded businesses due to combination of the rent moratorium ending, the VAT rate change, and the business rates discount expiring, which could throw up opportunities for the company. He said: “Looking for someone or something out there that's got a level of store volume, well spread geographically – so it's proved itself in say Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and London – which is in need of capital to grow. We are not specifically looking at a particular genre of food, but something that is smart, disruptive, and not in what I would call the cluttered space. Something fledgling in size and in a different sub-genre versus the typical protagonists.” In terms of trading in the year to 2 January 2022, the business saw its 31 retail park-based sites outperform FY19, while its city centre sites (15) and its three stadium venues were quieter. It said trading also differed between regions, with Scotland and the north east, where it has 16 sites, outperforming FY19, while its sites in the north (15) and southern (14) regions “have been quieter”. Cook also revealed the company had started a trial of live music at four of its sites – Leicester Square, London; Royal Exchange, Manchester; Newport and Newcastle – from Wednesdays to Saturdays. He said: “The one thing that customers are never going to come back for is less and I think the customer is looking for more experience. We are trialling live music in four of our venues to see what that does in terms of keeping dwell time and keeping people from not leaving restaurants to go out on to the circuit. The results of that have been really pleasing and quite encouraging. I think what the guest is looking for – and presentation on the plate is going to be really important and particularly the consistency of that – but also that extra experience outside just simply coming to dine.”
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Next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector losses now outstripping profits almost ten times over:
The full damage done to the industry by the pandemic is highlighted in the latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book with losses now outstripping profits in the sector almost ten times over. The Blue Book, which is updated monthly, shows 350 companies making a combined loss of £7.6bn compared with 198 companies in profit – making a combined £828.9m. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (18 March). The 548 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured have a total turnover of £25.9bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month and has had 12 companies added to the latest edition, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive the New Openings Database
, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database
, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to a new database early next month. The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database
will be an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and be updated every two months. The first edition will feature more than 100 companies, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. The first edition provides almost 25,000 words of content. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to upgrade your subscription
. 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.
Yapster creates operational excellence mini video series, Mark McFadyen to feature: Yapster has created a mini video series focused entirely on operational excellence as part of its Take the Lead Series. In the second episode, chief executive Rob Liddiard talks to Mark McFadyen, formerly of Greene King, Spirit Group and Scottish & Newcastle and now group operations director at Brewhouse & Kitchen. McFadyen shares his thoughts on the importance of authentic leadership, having a relentless focus on teambuilding, clarity of purpose – and how much easier it is to pull everything together if your business has a genuinely compelling and differentiated customer proposition. The video will be sent at 9am today (Tuesday, 15 March).
Cost of food could rise by up to 15% this year: Ronald Kers, chief executive of 2 Sisters, which owns Boporan Restaurant Group, has warned the cost of food could rise by up to 15% this year. Kers said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, two of the world’s biggest wheat producers, is expected to affect prices, while the price of gas, used to heat greenhouses and to make fertiliser, has soared too. He also told the BBC’s Today programme the business had already been forced to pay 50% more for chicken it receives from farms. Kers said the longer the war drags on, “fundamentally, it means as a country, we may need to start importing less and producing more ourselves”. Kers also suggested Brexit had made matters worse due to a bigger administrative burden for farmers and less alignment on rules with European food companies. Meanwhile, David Wright, managing director of flour milling company GR Wright & Sons, said cost increases would “inevitably” be passed on to consumers. The firm, which has almost half of the market share for the UK’s bread mixes, said it was already struggling with soaring inflation before the Ukraine conflict, with costs jumping by 30% between September and December. “Now we have a similar increase, but instead of it taking four months, it has taken two weeks,” Wright told BBC Breakfast. “The price is so high so quickly that if you don’t put the price of flour up, businesses will go out of business – it’s as simple as that.”
Lord – UK’s night-time economy faces a ‘new period of darkness’: Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has said the UK's night-time economy faces a “new period of darkness” amid the cost-of-living crisis. Speaking ahead of the chancellor's spring statement next Wednesday (23 March), Lord expressed “overwhelming concern” for the sector, which has been battling shortfalls attributed to pandemic lockdowns, and a weakened investment market in the sector post-pandemic. He said: "The current cost of inflation and economic instability has exacerbated the financial pressures on operators in the night-time economy, the majority of whom are already devastated by two years of low trading and who are struggling to overcome covid-related debt. We are seeing difficulties across the board, from supply chain logistics, price rises in produce and ingredients and surging energy costs, which will only increase over the coming months. We can say with certainty that these unavoidable pressures will have huge, business-defining impacts on our hospitality sector." The spring statement has been eagerly anticipated by the sector's leaders, many of whom, including UKHospitality and the Night Time Industries Association, have called for an extension to the current VAT reduction to aid beleaguered operators. Hospitality firms currently benefit from a reduction to 12.5% of VAT on food, soft drinks, accommodation, theatre tickets and other items to ease pandemic pressures, however this rate will return to its previous rate of 20% at the start of April. Lord said: "I applaud the businesses and operators across the sector who are already trying to mitigate the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. I have heard of many who are currently absorbing costs to avoid increasing prices for consumers, but this is not sustainable in the long term. The chancellor's spring statement is an opportunity to calm nerves in the sector and provide confidence. I am hoping to see a range of measures announced, including an extension to the current lower rate of VAT, in order to provide reassurance to an already bruised sector.”
SMEs claims of being frozen out of interest protection scheme compensation to be heard by High Court: The High Court will examine claims the Treasury intervened on behalf of banks to freeze out thousands of victims of mis-selling from compensation. Victims and campaigners filed a judicial review on Friday (11 March) of the City regulator’s allegedly irrational handling of the interest rate swaps redress, after crowdfunding the legal costs. It challenges the regulator’s decision to exclude thousands of businesses from the compensation scheme, allegedly at the behest of the Treasury, and its refusal to reconsider – despite an independent review finding the regulator was wrong. Sold as protection against the risk of rising interest rates, swaps left small businesses with disastrously high costs when rates fell, according to The Times. Lenders failed to explain the risks associated with the products, and mis-selling was found in 90% of cases. While banks paid out more than £2.2bn in compensation, a cap introduced in 2013 stopped small and medium-sized enterprises that had taken out a product worth more than £10m from claiming redress. The all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking has crowdfunded about £100,000 to help finance a challenge to the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) handling of the scheme, with its backers including business owners who feel they were unfairly excluded. The claimants are also concerned the change was made “at the behest of the banks and HM Treasury, following inadequate consultation with relevant stakeholders and without undertaking proper impact assessments”. The FCA said it was “sympathetic to those small business customers who suffered financial loss and anxiety” but believed the exclusion, and its decision not to revisit it, was reasonable. It added: “We are aware of the application by the all-party parliamentary group for permission to judicially review our decision and will be opposing it.”
London hotel market continues recovery in February with average daily rate down just 1.6% on pre-pandemic levels: The London hotel market continued its recovery in February with average daily rate down by just 1.6% on pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from STR. The average daily rate stood at £130.79 while revpar was £76.88. Occupancy stood at 58.8%, which was the highest in the market since November 2021 but still 25% below the pre-pandemic comparable from 2019. Daily data showed London’s performance improved especially on weekends, with 26 February producing the highest performance levels for the month where occupancy was 80.8%, average daily rate was £162.33 and revpar £131.18.
Former Fuel Juice Bars and Balls Brothers boss launches app to help compliance with new calories legislation: Chris Sullivan, former chief executive of Fuel Juice Bars and Ball Brothers, and David Lee have unveiled a web-based app to assist compliance with new legislation on calories, which come into force on Wednesday, 6 April. The duo, who are the founders of industry services group Hospitality Insights and Solutions, have developed ifoodi.com as they anticipate the legislation will soon be extended from businesses with more than 250 employees to the whole of the hospitality sector. Lee said: “The demand for nutrition transparency is here to stay, and customers will expect it wherever they eat.” The app will feature a QR code printed on menus, allowing customers to review for themselves the allergens and calories of each item, allowing them to decide which dishes are suitable and safe. Sullivan said this feature is a “game-changer” for operators, adding: “It puts the information directly in the hands of customers to make an informed choice. Unlike paper systems, it is digital and always up to date.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a fitness brand that is looking for a head of marketing and subscriptions to join and lead its marketing team. The position will be responsible for developing, implementing, and managing the marketing and subscriptions strategy working closely with the team to bring the strategy to life, while overseeing the activities and performance of the team by setting individual targets. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, love creative marketing, and believe you have the right skills for this position, then we want to hear from you.” The role is based in Buckinghamshire and the salary is between £70,000 and £80,000. For more information and to apply, email email@example.com
Prezzo estate now standing at 150 with total of 30 sites exited after transfer to Cain International completes: Prezzo’s entire leasehold portfolio has now transferred to new owner, Cain International, with the estate now standing at 150 restaurants. A progress report by administrators Matthew Callaghan, Andrew Johnson and Ali Khaki, of FTI Consulting, showed a total of 30 sites have been exited. During the period of the report – 10 August 2021 to 9 February 2022, 43 lease assignments were completed and one site was vacated. The administrators said as the companies – PRZ Realisations and PRZ Realisations (2) – no longer have any leasehold interests, the administration can now move to closure. The administrators said they continue to recover business rates in relation to various sites, with circa £26,000 being received – all in the first six months of the administration. However, they added after taking advice they do not believe there is a prospect of any recoveries from a business interruption insurance claim. The report stated 213 former employees that were made redundant as a result of the 30 sites that closed, who are owed £205,000, will be paid in full while HM Revenue & Customs is likely to receive £1.5m. Secured creditors, including Barclays Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland, have received £2.4m of the £59.4m, plus interests and costs they are owed and the administrators said no further dividend is expected to be paid. As previously reported, unsecured creditors who are owed about £65m will not receive a distribution while there will be no return to the group’s shareholders “as there will be a material shortfall to the group’s creditors”.
Shoryu Ramen lines up first franchise opening: Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in kyushu cuisine from the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, has lined up a new opening in London’s Kensington. Propel understands the group is to launch a new site under its eponymous brand at 190 Kensington High Street. It is thought the new opening will be the first under its partnership with Ford Consultancy Group, which has been looking to open sites under franchise. Last October, the company, which operates sites in London, Manchester and Oxford under the Shoryu Ramen brand, and the Ichiba food hall concept at Westfield London, unveiled plans for a series of franchise openings across the UK. It partnered with Ford Consultancy Group, which provides specialist services to the hospitality sector, on the initiative and said it was ready to expand across London and further afield. Shoryu Ramen originally sought to launch a franchising programme in 2019, but it was halted as the pandemic forced the group to focus on its own restaurants, delivery kitchens and online DIY ramen kits. Ford Consultancy Group director Dominic Ford said: “As the industry emerges from a very tough period, there is a real appetite to take proven brands and concepts out of the capital and into regional towns and cities, where demand for great food and dining experiences continues to grow.”
Iconic US roller rink concept plans London launch: Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, the iconic Los Angeles-based business, is planning to launch a site in London, Propel has learned. Founded in 1979 by Ian Ross, the original Flipper’s site operated from 1979 to 1981 and became a “mecca for anyone who wanted to dress up, skate and have a good time”. The business, which now includes Ross’s daughter, the model and actress Liberty Ross, is now looking to build new rinks in the US and in London, and hopes to open in the latter later this year. It said: “We’re building new rinks that will serve as a connection point for all things skating, community, nightlife, hospitality (food and beverage), retail and more. From daytime family skates to high-energy performances with top-tier talent nights, to merch collaborations, we’re building something that has never been done before, but wildly steeped in a bespoke tradition.” The venture is being overseen by Jon Gray, formerly of Station Casinos, Nike and Caesars Entertainment.
Caffe Nero opens first new site in two years: Caffe Nero, the Gerry Ford-led coffee chain, has opened its first new site in the UK, in two years. The company has opened a new site in Canute Place, Knutsford. The new store mixes “original features with contemporary design”. Last week, the company said it was to resume its expansion programme with two new airport stores, and six other sites in its pipeline. It will open new stores in Stansted and Belfast airports in June. The company – which already operates circa 1,000 stories in ten countries, including 620 in the UK – is also “actively considering more new sites to restart its new store openings programme”.
RedCat Pub Company adds award-winning Aylesbury pub to estate: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, has acquired the Broad Leys pub in Buckinghamshire to its estate, Propel has learned. RedCat is understood to have acquired the pub, which is situated near Aylesbury town centre in a building dating back 300 years, in an off-market deal. It comprises a pub and restaurant with seven letting rooms that had been operated by the previous owners for 22 years. Last week, RedCat announced it had acquired the Wynnstay Hotel & Spa in Oswestry, building on its existing estate of more than 1,000 hotel rooms. The hotel will be operated by RedCat’s subsidiary, The Coaching Inn Group, which was acquired last August. The Coaching Inn Group now operates 25 historic coaching inns in market towns across the UK.
Liars Group secures Birmingham site for Crazy Pedro’s concept: Manchester-based The Liars Club Group has secured its first site in the Midlands for its Crazy Pedro’s pizza concept. The company, which already operates two sites in Manchester and one in Liverpool under the concept, will open a Crazy Pedro’s in Birmingham’s Digbeth area this summer. The new pizzeria is taking on a 5,000 square foot site in The Custard Factory development. Crazy Pedro’s is known for its more alternative 16-inch and 24-inch New York-style pizzas. Liars Group also operates New York-style bar brand Cane & Grain and rum-focused cocktail bar The Liars Club in Manchester. Liars Group owner Jobe Ferguson said: “We’ve been eyeing up sites in Birmingham for a while now. When we came across the space at The Custard Factory we knew we had found ‘the one’. We can’t wait to introduce Digbeth and the rest of Birmingham to Crazy Pedro’s and our late-night pizza party concept.”
The Little & Large Pub Company to open third site: South east-based The Little & Large Pub Company is to open its third site, this spring in Lewisham. The Richard Brown-led group is to reopen The Talbot in Brockley. Brown, formerly of Beastro in Manchester, also operates The Running Horses in Mickleham and the Queen’s Head in Dorking. The business is looking to build a “family of treasured locals serving comforting food and drinks in warm and relaxed settings”.
Greene King appoints Natalia Perez as brand director for Locals & Pub Partners division: Greene King, the Nick Mackenzie-led pub company, has appointed Natalia Perez as the new brand director for its Locals & Pub Partners division. Perez joins the business after 13 years with IHG Hotels & Resorts, including stints as its head of global Crowne Plaza brand and director of brand management Europe for Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and Even Hotels. Prior to that she spent six years at Marriott Hotels International. She replaces Sue Thomas-Taylor, who has retired from the sector, after 20 years with Greene King. Last week, Propel revealed Greene King had appointed Vincent Madden as managing director of its Venture division, which will oversee new investment across some of its accommodation stock. Madden joined Greene King from Arora Hotels, where he has been managing director since the summer of 2019.
Valary secures £9.38m for Leicester hotel acquisition and refurbishment: Hotel company Valary DTL, part of the Valary Hotels Group, which operates three hotels across the Midlands, has secured £9.38m in for the acquisition and refurbishment of the Hilton Leicester. Cynergy Bank provided the funds, taking the total funding across the relationship to almost £24m. The financing supported the acquisition of the Hilton Leicester and strategy to refurbish it into a Doubletree by Hilton. The loan was provided with an initial 18 months interest-only period before capital and interest payments commence over a 23.5-year repayment profile. Rajiv Nathwani, chief executive of Valary’s parent company, Serani Hotels Group, said: “I was delighted to have completed the acquisition of Hilton Leicester. Cynergy Bank has provided priceless support during both the pandemic and on the way out to help us achieve our growth ambitions.” Steve Crosswell, relationship director, Cynergy Bank, added: “Rajiv’s first goal of reaching circa 550 hotel rooms has now been achieved and I look forward to working with him on the refurbishment of the Hilton Leicester into a Doubletree by Hilton, and beyond. The pandemic could have been very difficult for him. However, he swiftly pivoted the business and has traded through the last 18 months extremely well.”
Stint strengthens senior team with new COO and CFO: Student work platform Stint has welcomed further strengthened its senior team with a new chief operating officer and chief financial officer. As the new chief operating officer, Jeremy Rawlinson will focus on leading sales, account management, student acquisition and onboarding, and growth operations. Rawlinson joins from Sonder, a serviced-apartment and hotel operator, where he was UK & Ireland general manager. He was also an early-stage employee at Deliveroo, starting as market launch manager and moving to global director of expansion over the course of his six years there. Mike Anderson has been appointed chief financial officer, where he will be focusing on the financial strategy and business planning at Stint. He joins from his chief financial officer role at Round, the hospitality-focused marketplace app. A chartered accountant with more than 20 years’ asset management experience, Anderson was head of investor relations at both CVC Credit Partners and Pemberton Asset Management Group. The appointments follow that of Jason Atlas as chief technology officer, Mark Harris as chief product officer and Harry Lang as chief marketing officer. Stint’s app connects operators with students looking for short, flexible shifts and currently has more than 125,000 signed up, and has worked with more than 1,000 hospitality businesses.
Wenzel’s to open in Chelmsford as it plans 20 additional UK openings: Bakery brand Wenzel’s is to open a site in Chelmsford this month as it plans 20 additional stores across the UK. The company is launching the outlet in High Street on Thursday, 24 March, reports Essex Live. Wenzel’s is currently expanding in Essex, where it has stores in Southend, Billericay, Brentwood, Hornchurch and Romford, and most recently opened in Basildon in December. Wenzel’s sells sweet and savoury food, including sandwiches, baguettes, paninis and a range of doughnuts. Wenzel's opened its first site in north west London in 1975 and has since grown to more than 80 locations across the UK.
Freehold interest of Worcester Park pub sells in excess of £2m guide price: The freehold interest of the HG Wells, a pub located in Worcester Park, south west London, has been sold to a private individual for in excess of the guide price of £2m. Tavern Propco has sold the property in a deal brokered by Savills. HG Wells is a substantial pub extending circa 5,879 square feet and sits on a large 0.49-acre site. Stuart Stares, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, said: “We are delighted to complete the sale of HG Wells where we received strong interest from both operators and investors. The new owner intends to undertake a full refurbishment prior to reopening.”
Chester-based operators’ second site set to open next month: Chester-based operators Valentina Aviotti and Fabrizio Gobbato’s second site in the city is set to open next month. The husband-and-wife team, who own Italian restaurant Da Noi in Bridge Street, will launch pizza concept Augusto Pizzeria, in Northgate Street, on Thursday, 14 April. Authentic Italian recipes will be cooked by trained pizza chefs including head pizza chef, Giovanni Recchia, who originates from Turin and will be showcasing Neapolitan and Turin favourites alongside more contemporary gourmet pizzas. Gobbato said: “We are over the moon to finally announce the grand unveiling of Augusto Pizzeria. The whole team has been working very hard in the background to make Augusto a reality, and we’re so pleased it’s all finally coming together. Thanks to our talented chefs, we have a fantastic menu that we can’t wait for people to come and try.”
Fulham Shore lines up Lincoln opening for Franco Manca brand: Fulham Shore has applied to turn a former clothes shop in Lincoln into a new branch for its fast-growing Franco Manca pizza concept. Plans have been submitted with the city council for a change of use of the unit, which sits at 294 High Street. Franco Manca chairman, David Page, said: “We love the city, and we are certain the city will love our sourdough pizzas in return.” Last month, Fulham Shore secured the lease for a former PizzaExpress restaurant in Edinburgh for a second Franco Manca site in the city. It is also due to take the brand to a former Cafe Rouge site in Cheltenham later this month, ahead of further launches in Canterbury and Bishop’s Stortford. It has also applied to bring Franco Manco to Wales, via a former Cornish Bakehouse site in Cardiff, and plans are in the pipeline for openings in Esher, Chichester, Salisbury, Liverpool and Lewes too. Fulham Shore currently operates 57 Franco Manca outlets and 21 Real Greeks in the UK, and said in December it had another 21 potential sites in solicitors’ hands for both concepts.
Wagamama eyes Southend restaurant: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned business, is looking to open a site in Southend. The company has lodged a licensing application with Southend Borough Council for the former Bella Italia premises in London Road, reports Essex Live. The building has been empty since the beginning of the pandemic when Bella Italia closed after parent company Casual Dining Group went into administration. Wagamama operates five restaurants in Essex, having opened at the Braintree Shopping & Leisure Park earlier this month.
Joule’s puts Shropshire village pub on market: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s has put the Talbot Inn in the village of Ruyton-XI-Towns, near Shrewsbury, on the market for £375,000. “It is with great sadness that we must bow out now," a statement from Joule's on the pub's Facebook page said. “Having delivered a very well received refurbishment some six years ago, the pub has great inherent charm befitting a pub with more than 300 years of social history within its walls. Following an extensive review, we have decided to offer The Talbot for sale and are we are now seeking a new owner. The pub market has changed quickly, accelerated by pandemic over the last two years. Our view is that the Talbot would be better placed to thrive as a free house with a bespoke overall offer within, which the food offer will be key to success. To achieve this, the brewery will offer investment if required to ensure the pub is open to as many applicants as possible.” The company has a network of suburban and town centre locations where it said its brewery tap offer works better. The pub is being marketed by Sutton Coldfield-based Matthew Phillips Surveyors.
JD Wetherspoon to shut its second pub in Croydon this year: JD Wetherspoon has confirmed it will, later this month, close its second pub in Croydon this year. The Skylark, in South End Road, will shut permanently on Sunday, 27 March, despite a 1,200-signature online petition against its closure. This comes after the Milan Bar, in Croydon town centre, closed on 13 February. Wetherspoon spokesman, Eddie Gershon, told the Evening Standard: “We can confirm Wetherspoon is closing The Skylark pub in Croydon. There will be no redundancies as all staff are being offered jobs at other Wetherspoon pubs. We understand that staff and customers will be disappointed with the news. On occasion, Wetherspoon does close pubs, and this is the case here. We thank the staff for their hard work and excellent service and our customers for their loyalty.”