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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 22nd Mar 2022 - Portobello Starboard acquires five pubs from City Pub Group for £16.2m
Portobello Starboard acquires five pubs from City Pub Group for £16.2m: Portobello Starboard, the new acquisition platform backed by private equity firm Zetland Capital and operated by Portobello Brewery, has acquired five pubs from City Pub Group, for a total consideration of £16.2m. The Mark Crowther-chaired business has exchanged contracts with City Pub Group to acquire three pubs in Brighton – the Lion & Lobster, the Walrus and the Brighton Beach Club – plus the Inn On the Beach on Hayling Island, and the Travellers Friend in Woodford Green, Essex. Separately, Portobello has also completed the acquisition of the Grand Victorian pub in Worthing from Dominion Hospitality, an affiliate of Stellex Capital Management. The Victorian, 18-bedroom freehold pub with rooms dates to 1898 and is located opposite Worthing’s central station. Portobello said it was planning an extensive refurbishment programme for the pub as well as development of the adjoining disused nightclub to create a flagship site with 36 en-suite bedrooms later this year, bringing the total number of bedrooms across its estate to 58. Crowther told Propel: “We are delighted to announce these acquisitions as we progress our strategy of acquiring predominantly freehold managed pubs across London and the South East. The south coast sites will give us scale in that geography whilst also growing our London presence. We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues into the Portobello family, whilst bringing our award-winning beers to the customers of these new pubs.” City Pub Group said the five pubs being sold to Portobello had a net book value of approximately £17.1m as at April 2022 and recorded unaudited aggregate site Ebitda of £700k for the year ended 26 December 2021. The transaction is expected to complete on or around 11 April 2022, subject to successful lease assignment of the Brighton Beach Club. Separately, the company has sold The London Road Brewhouse, a freehold pub in Southampton for £900k, to an undisclosed business. This sale was completed on 18 March 2022. The disposal of the six pubs in two separate transactions was for a total cash consideration of approximately £17.1m. City Pub Group, which owns and operates 46 premium pubs across Southern England and Wales and a further four development sites, said the proceeds from the disposals will be used to invest and expand the business in other geographies across the UK. Clive Watson, chairman of City Pub Group, said: “We have achieved a good price for these assets. The capital realised makes us debt free and in an excellent position to take advantage of the current market dislocation to further premiumise our estate and deliver long term growth through selected acquisition.” Propel revealed last November that Portobello Starboard had acquired 12 freehold pubs, located across the London villages and suburbs, taking its estate to 15 sites, as part of plans to build a business with more than 80 pubs. Last year, Portobello, which is led by managing director Richard Stringer, opened its first pub outside of London, the Hart House in the Hampshire commuter town of Fleet. The City Pub Group sale to Portobello was brokered by James Grimes at AG&G. 

Host of hotel companies set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A host of hotel companies are among the 69 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 1 April, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features UK budget hotel operator Sleeperz, which currently operates four sites in Cardiff, Dundee and Newcastle along with a Cityroomz site in Edinburgh. Also added this month is Royal London Lancaster Hotel Group, which is owned by Jatuporn Sihanatkathakul, and operates the Royal London Lancaster hotel, The Landmark London in Marylebone, K West Hotel & Spa in Shepherd’s Bush, the 15 Basil Street apartments in Knightsbridge and two hotels in Thailand. In addition, hotel management and development company 4C Hotel Group, which is led by Al-karim Nathoo, and currently operates eight sites, will be featured. Also included is Brook Hotels, which is chaired by Umesh Ummat, and has sites in Chester, Colchester, Oakham and Sutton Coldfield. Premium subscribers will also receive a 5,100-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and 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. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the eighth edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 8 April, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The eighth edition also includes a 15,500-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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 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.

Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin criticises logic of 20% VAT on food: Wetherspoon has criticised the government proposal to increase VAT to 20% in respect of food in pubs, restaurants and cafes in April. Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: “It doesn’t make economic sense that food bought in pubs, restaurants and cafes attracts VAT of 20%, when food is VAT-free in supermarkets. Pubs, restaurants and cafes form integral parts of high streets, whereas supermarkets are often in edge-of-town or out-of-town locations. Favouring supermarkets over pubs is bad for high streets and town centres. It is also an accepted principle of taxation that it should be fair and equitable, treating businesses that sell similar products in a similar way. Tax discrimination creates economic distortions. Supermarkets have clearly used their favourable tax treatment to subsidise the price of beer, wine and spirts over recent decades. Pubs, restaurants and cafes play an important role in the social fabric of the nation, as well as generating employment and vast amounts of taxes for the Treasury. The hospitality industry understands that governments need tax – but there should be a sensible rebalancing, so that all businesses selling similar products are treated in the same way.”

Gordon Ramsay – the pandemic has closed crap restaurants: The celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has said it is good that the covid-19 pandemic wiped the slate clean of “crap” restaurants. In an interview with the former shadow chancellor Ed Balls in Radio Times, Ramsay argues that while the past two years have been “devastating” for the restaurant industry, the upside is “the crap’s gone”. Promoting his new BBC One primetime show, Gordon Ramsay’s Future FoodStars, in which 12 food and drink entrepreneurs vie to go into business with Ramsay, he said the pandemic had taught everyone in the industry to “raise their game”. Asked by Balls if business was returning to the hospitality industry, Ramsay said: “The business was on its knees, but it’s getting better. It’s been devastating the last two years. Landlords don’t say, ‘Take a holiday for two years’. But I think what has been evident for all of us is the crap’s gone.” Pressed if he was referring to particular chains, Ramsay said: “Well, just in a prime position and taking advantage because they’re in a great location, and they’ve got the footfall. But now we’ve wiped the slate clean, which is good. Customers have got so much smarter in the last two years. They know a lot more about food than they ever have done and have been making their own sourdough, so it’s taught everyone [in the restaurant industry] to raise their game. It’s wiped the arrogance from the industry.”

Pubs given longer hours for Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: Pubs are set to get later closing times to celebrate the Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee weekend. Revellers will get extra hours at the bar thanks to Her Majesty’s long-serving reign. Celebrations in England and Wales can go on for an extra two hours, with licensing rules being relaxed for three nights in June. The change will extend licensing hours from 11pm to 1am the following day on June 2, 3 and 4, Home Office minister Kit Malthouse said in a written statement to Parliament. He said a licensing hours order, made under Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, will “celebrate the longest reigning monarch in the United Kingdom”. He said an impact assessment is being prepared and will be published alongside the order. Among the events planned to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne are a live concert featuring some of the world’s biggest stars, a service of thanksgiving and a day at the races. On Sunday, June 5, the Platinum Jubilee Pageant will be staged in London and feature more than 5,000 people from across the UK and Commonwealth.

Tortilla lines up Northern Ireland debut: Tortilla is set to open its first Northern Ireland food outlet in Belfast city centre. The fast-casual Californian-style Mexican restaurant chain has applied for planning permission to convert a former retail unit in the Cornmarket area into a new dining experience. The proposal for the unit at Arthur Square seeks to establish a takeaway restaurant with 50 covers on the ground floor, creating around 20 jobs. It currently has around 50 restaurants in Britain along with ten outlets across Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The company went public in September 2021 and now has a market capitalisation of around £64 million. The unit at Arthur Square, which was last used as a pop-up location for Google, has been vacant since October 2020. It was previously occupied by the Hotter shoe franchise.

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