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Thu 22nd Sep 2022 - Update: Comptoir update, Adnams H1 update, new non-exec at Tortilla, Various Eateries CFO steps down
Comptoir Group sees trading improve but cautious about the immediate-term outlook: Comptoir Group, the Comptoir Libanais operator, has said it has seen trade continue to improve “week to week” but said it was “cautious about the immediate-term outlook”. The total revenue for the group for the six-month period ended 3 July 2022 was £14.5m (Restated H1 2021 £5.6m), while adjusted Ebitda stood at £3.4m (H1 2021 £1.6m) driven by “strong trading and strong cost control across the business”. Pre-tax profit for the period stood at £946k (H1 2019: £1.2m loss). The company currently owns and operates 21 restaurants, with a further five franchise restaurants. During the period, it closed one site, but envisages there will be no more closures across the group this year. Beatrice Lafon, non-executive chair, said: “I am pleased to announce that the first half of 2022 continued 2021’s positive trajectory, with strong sales and profit across the estate. The results highlight the group’s resilience against the backdrop of challenges faced by the hospitality sector over the last few years, including the cumulative and ongoing effects of Brexit, covid, and the war in Ukraine, which continue to weigh on costs, labour availability and consumer footfall. Comptoir Group has a strong balance sheet, good cash reserves, a tight cost control culture, a stable of strong brands, a growing digital channel and a new board. Added to this is our unique position in the sector, celebrating Middle Eastern Cuisine and hospitality. The family ethos that pervades the Comptoir team ensures we consistently deliver that Comptoir hospitality, all of which will enable the group to innovate and return to growth as opportunities present themselves. We are cautious about the immediate-term outlook as we expect the macroeconomic environment to worsen in the months ahead. Rising energy costs and general inflationary pressures are likely to further impact both our costs and our customers’ disposable income, however we are optimistic about the longer-term prospects for the business.” The company said there is an opportunity for it to add to its site pipeline thanks to the reduction in competition for premium sites, coupled with “our strong relationships with our current landlords”. Accordingly, the group intends to invest in not only Comptoir Libanais but also expand its QSR Shawa brand. It said: “As well as managed site growth, we continue to expand our footprint with our franchise partners and during the period we reopened our Dubai restaurant as well as a new site in Stansted Airport.” Interim chief executive Jean Michel Orieux said: “Trading has continued to improve week to week and the overall outperformance of the group is encouraging. The board has confidence in the prospects for the remainder of the year and into 2023. We have seen performance improve in our London sites, which naturally remained impacted by the lower number of office workers and tourists. The regional sites continue to perform well. More importantly, all 21 sites are making a positive contribution at the profit level since reopening. The group has a strong base to continue to operate from as we return to a new normal, and we look to grow faster in the near future.”

Several healthy eating concepts included in fourth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, released on Friday: Several healthy eating concepts are among the 15 new franchisors expanding in the UK and abroad featured in the fourth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (23 September), at midday. The fourth edition will feature 155 companies and almost 70,000 words of content, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. Among them is Icelandic superfood bar concept Ísey Skyr Bar, which has a presence in Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Estonia and is looking to expand to the UK. Also featured is Romanian lifestyle-based healthy food concept Salad Box, which was founded in 2011 and has grown to more than 70 outlets in 21 countries, including the UK. Grounded Kitchen, the Midlands-based restaurant founded in Leicester in 2017, which focuses on flexitarian, vegan, vegetarian and plant-free options and now has ten sites, is also featured. Premium subscribers also receive access to The New Openings Database; the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group. Premium subscribers will also be given exclusive access to the recording of the Propel Multi-Club summer conference on Friday, at 9am. 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 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. They 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.

Tortilla appoints Francesca Tiritiello as non-exec director: Tortilla, the largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant group in the UK, has appointed Francesca Tiritiello as a new independent non-executive director with effect from 20 September. The company said that Tiritiello brings a wealth of business development, franchise, finance and M&A experience and she has been involved in the successful expansion of many branded businesses across the European QSR market, across both advisory and senior finance positions. She is currently a partner and co-founder of Kikkirossi, a European boutique advisory firm specialising in international franchise and brand development. Previously, she has held a number of director and chief financial officer roles in European hospitality businesses, including eight years at Yum! Brands Inc., the owner and operator of household names including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, where she held European chief financial officer and commercial director positions. She will take over as chair of the company’s Remuneration Committee from Laurence Keen. At the same time, Keen has been appointed as a senior independent director (SID) of the business. Emma Woods, chair of Tortilla, said: “We are really delighted that Francesca will be joining the board of Tortilla. She brings huge insight in successfully operating, developing and franchising restaurant brands across markets, and I have no doubt that her experience will prove invaluable during this period of exciting growth for Tortilla, both in the UK and internationally as we look to expand in line with our long-term growth strategy. I am also particularly pleased to be able to strengthen the diversity of the Tortilla board with such a talented woman.” Tiritiello said: “I am very pleased to be joining the board of Tortilla. The group has an outstanding brand, a strong proposition and a really exciting opportunity to expand both across the UK and internationally. I look forward to working alongside the senior team and contributing my experience and insight to support the business in achieving its significant growth potential.”

Adnams – the first half of 2022 was a period of stabilisation and consolidation: Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Adnams has said that the first half of 2022 was a period of stabilisation and consolidation for the business, and it remains cautious on the outlook for its full year. Chairman Jonathan Adnams OBE said: “In so many respects the nation limped into 2022 as the pandemic subsided and the economy took its first tentative steps towards recovery. So, it was for pubs and bars as they looked forward to a year where they were able to trade normally and without restriction. For the company this has led to the first half of 2022 being a period of stabilisation and consolidation of our position following two years of disrupted trading. I am pleased to report sales of £30m in the first half of the year, up by £9m from 2021. This gives rise to a £2.4m improvement in our operating loss at (£0.7m) vs (£3.1m) last year. Cashflow remains strong and we have repaid all outstanding monies owed to HMRC and are no longer in receipt of any government support schemes. We refinanced in January and maintained our facility with Barclays to £20m. This comprises a £10m term loan, £7m revolving credit facility and a £3m overdraft. The business also retains the ability to call down a further £3m facility. During the first six months of the year, we saw the on-trade recover some of its lost ground at the expense of the off-trade, although we believe it will be some time yet before it returns to pre-pandemic levels. In this period, we have seen the behaviour of customers in rural and coastal pubs also change. They are visiting and eating much earlier in the evening and consequently going home much earlier. Later in the evening pubs are much quieter than pre-pandemic and we are seeing pub visits even more weighted towards the end of the week and weekends. This leads to some pubs still operating restricted opening hours, time alone will tell if this becomes normal practice. Our managed estate, comprising mainly of hotels and larger pubs with rooms, have continued to fare well and benefit from the staycation phenomenon. The media reporting of disruption at airports and ports has led many of our customers to retain a UK break in their repertoires and this has benefitted us. Our leased and tenanted pubs, many of which are in tourist locations, have also benefitted from this development. Covid lockdowns were ongoing in the first half of 2021 and as a result we still had many leased and tenanted pubs on a support package of cancelled, reduced, or minimal rents. These have all been fully restored in the first six months of 2022 and it is very gratifying that all our pubs made it through the most difficult set of circumstances. Our outlook for the full year remains cautious. Our long-term investments in sustainability and sustainable production have served us well. However, we are not completely immune from what is going on in the wider world. We are a relatively large consumer of energy, water, and raw materials in our manufacturing business and like others across our industry we are currently seeing only upward pressure on global energy and cereal prices, packaging and fuel costs and interest rates. As I write this report, the governor of the Bank of England is talking very candidly about the likelihood of a long recession and the global geopolitical situation remains very concerning. We also face pressure on wages as the costs of living for staff and their travel to work costs substantially increase. Much of this is also true for our leased and tenanted pub estate, and we will be working closely with them in the coming months to ensure the wider Adnams organisation successfully navigates its way through these troubling economic times. This situation is really the last thing our industry needed after the previous two years, and we are highly conscious as to how much cost can realistically be passed directly through to the customer before a visit to the pub becomes too expensive. As ever we shall approach the issues with cool heads and our values front of mind as we navigate our way through this latest set of challenges underpinned by a strong brand, loyal customers and committed teams.”

Various Eateries CFO Oli Williams to step down: Various Eateries, the Coppa Club operator, has announced that Oli Williams has confirmed he is to step down as its chief financial officer and a director with effect from 11 November 2022 to pursue other opportunities. James Darwent will replace him as chief financial officer on an interim basis (a non-board position), starting with the company on 26 September 2022. It said that to ensure a smooth transition, Williams will continue to work alongside Darwent for the remainder of his time at the company. The company said: “In a career spanning over 15 years, James has held senior finance roles in private equity-backed businesses with a particular focus on retail and hospitality including group finance director at award-winning global restaurant business Azumi, global head of finance at international retail brand AllSaints, and finance director at leading UK restaurant company, The Big Table Group. James is experienced in financial and management reporting and has played an important role in implementing a variety of corporate strategies with a view to delivering growth in shareholder value.” The company has commenced a formal search process for a permanent chief financial officer and said it provide an update at the appropriate time. Andy Bassadone, executive chairman of Various Eateries, said: “Oli has played an important role in the development of the business over the last few years. First in helping us prepare for and make the transition to becoming a listed company, secondly in his decisive management of the challenges posed by covid, and thirdly in putting the right systems and processes in place to enable us to scale and meet our growth ambitions for years to come. On behalf of the board and our colleagues, I would like to thank him for his contribution. At the same time, the board and I would like to welcome James to the team. He brings a wealth of knowledge and relevant experience with him which will help facilitate the future progress of the business. I look forward to working with James as we continue to execute on our expansion strategy.” Williams said: “Since I joined Various Eateries, the company has made significant progress, despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic, and is now primed to deliver on its expansion plans. It has been a privilege to lead the finance team over the past four years – through our IPO and in rising to the challenges in the period that followed – and I will look back on my time at the business fondly. The company has a host of opportunities and a bright long-term future ahead of it.”

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