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Fri 8th Apr 2022 - Update: Minor on Corbin & King dispute, Nightcap, Hollywood Bowl
New Wolseley owner accuses co-founder of causing ‘last resort’ sale: The Thai hotel group that won full control of London’s Wolseley and Delaunay restaurants last week has accused co-founder Jeremy King of refusing its offer to recapitalise the business, leaving it with no option but to launch a ‘last resort’ sale. Minor Hotel Group became outright owners of Corbin & King last Friday after a fraught late-night auction. Minor said that King appointed insolvency practitioners to value the business early in the pandemic without Minor’s knowledge, a move confirmed by a person close to Corbin & King’s board. At the time, Minor owned 74% of the company. Minor told the FT it had forgiven £38m of loans to Corbin & King for 20 months as it tried to persuade King to agree to a recapitalisation that involved King relinquishing some of his operational control. It said it put Corbin & King into administration in January as a measure of ‘last resort’ after failing to reach any agreement. “We tried to work out many solutions but [King] continuously refused,” Dillip Rajakarier, Minor’s chief executive said in an interview. “He didn’t want to accept cash,” from Minor to recapitalise the business, Rajakarier added. Jeremy King did not respond to requests for comment. Rajakarier said he had the “utmost respect for Jeremy” and he hoped customers would continue to support Corbin & King. But King’s departure has caused widespread disappointment among staff and in the London industry. One waiter described the change in ownership as “disheartening”, while another said teams were “walking on eggshells”. Rajakarier said that Minor had given King “pretty much a free hand” when it first invested but King’s insistence that the company should continue to invest in new sites during the pandemic when Minor was looking to cut costs across its business, prompted a series of disputes. “London was in a shutdown…for us it was important for the business to survive that we needed to control the cash flow,” Rajakarier said. Corbin & King currently has three sites under development in London, which should be finished this year, Minor said. Following their completion and once the business was “stable”, Rajakarier said Minor planned a targeted rollout of Corbin & King brands in markets such as New York and Hong Kong. “The restaurants are very iconic and we have to make sure the restaurants stay iconic . . . you can’t have ten or 15 Wolseley’s. It’s not like a fast-food chain.”

Next edition of The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, 19,100-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers today (Friday, 8 April) at midday. It will show the details of 384 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. The database 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, and a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The next edition of the database features expanding hotel and leisure concepts, niche cuisine, regional restaurant and pub operators and growing experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 19,100-word report on the new additions to the database. 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 last Friday (1 April). The database contained 69 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,407. The 496 sites run by those 69 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 64,884 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 5,000-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. There is also 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. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to a new database next Thursday (14 April). 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 more than 27,000 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com 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. 

Nightcap confirms Birmingham open for The Cocktail Club: Nightcap, the owner of The Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group and the Barrio Familia group of bars, has confirmed it will open a flagship site for The Cocktail Club in Birmingham later this year. The company said that after the successful openings of larger The Cocktail Club venues in Reading and Bristol over the last few months, the group will now open a flagship site at 31 Temple Street, as revealed by Propel last November. This new ground floor site covers an area of approximately 4,600 sq ft, split into three bar areas, with a 2am license Monday to Sunday and an unrestricted capacity of 450. The Cocktail Club’s new opening will be the third brand from within the group to open in Birmingham, alongside Adventure Bar Group’s Tonight Josephine brand and its large outdoor space, Luna Springs. This represents the sixth new lease for The Cocktail Club since Nightcap acquired it last year, taking it to a total of sixteen sites. Nightcap now has 31 sites within its estate and a further 25 premises under offer or in legal negotiations for all of its brands and continues to see favourable market conditions for site acquisitions across the country. Sarah Willingham, chief executive of Nightcap, said: “From the outset we felt that The Cocktail Club format had the opportunity to successfully operate larger sites. Both Reading and Bristol exceeded our maturity net sales targets within their first three months of operation and we are confident that Birmingham will continue that trajectory with an even larger site. We are continuing our expansion programme as scheduled and just as with the prime areas of London and Cardiff, we are excited to open multiple formats within prime areas of Birmingham, which is one of our main target cities for all of our brands.”

Hollywood Bowl reports 26.8% H1 like-for-like revenue growth: Hollywood Bowl, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has reported a 26.8% increase in like-for-like sales for the six months ended 31 March 2022. The company said that its first half revenues stood £91.3m, up 659.4% vs FY2021 (£12m), with a 36.3% rise in total revenue growth compared to FY2019. It said that four of its top five record revenue months were achieved in the period. The company said: “The group’s strong performance was driven by the ongoing demand for high-quality and affordable experiential leisure. As previously reported, the group started the financial year very well and despite a small impact from Omicron midway through the period, trading in February and March continued to be strong as customers sought out great value for money experiences. The group anticipates that its full year performance will be ahead of current market expectations. The group continues to drive returns through investment in the quality of the estate via the accelerated new centre openings strategy and the active refurbishment programme. Three refurbishments in Glasgow, Birmingham and Shrewsbury were completed in the first half with at least three further refurbishments planned for the remainder of the current financial year. Two new centres opened in the first half – Hollywood Bowl Resorts World, Birmingham and Puttstars, Harrow – with two further centres on track to open in the second half.” The company said that the strong, sustained financial performance and significant cash generation from its operations since reopening, means that the board intends to reinstate a dividend. Stephen Burns, chief executive, said: “We have had an excellent start to the financial year, as a return to more normal operating conditions combined with strong demand and our customer-focused strategy, led to impressive sales growth and profits. We have continued to invest in our customer experience and in the growth and quality of our portfolio of bowling and mini-golf centres. We remain confident in the enduring consumer demand for fun-filled, experiential leisure activities that offer great value for money. The group’s strong balance sheet supports our ability to invest in our organic growth strategy and to pursue further expansionary opportunities.”

Job of the week: Award-winning hospitality, leisure and events group Boxpark has two job opportunities within its marketing department. The business is seeking an experienced head of marketing with an events and music background who can deliver strategic and impactful marketing campaigns from conception to completion. Responsibilities will include planning and delivering monthly and seasonal campaigns, managing and developing Boxpark’s Black Card digital loyalty programme, developing a CRM strategy and overseeing all digital, social, and PR campaigns. In addition, Boxpark is looking for a digital marketing manager with a hospitality, entertainment or sports background who can manage all digital channels and data analytics, drive email marketing campaigns, and develop SEO and pay-per-click strategies. This is a specialist role, and the ideal candidate will have experience using marketing automation tools, CRM software and CMS platforms. Boxpark is a fast-growing, ambitious company and candidates must be able to work flexibly in a dynamic, start-up style environment. For further information, and to apply, click here.

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