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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 27th Apr 2023 - Update: TRG under fire from second shareholder, Punch Pubs, Future Fund, The Printworks
Another TRG shareholder intends to vote against the company’s remuneration policy: Irenic Capital Management, which claims to be a “substantial shareholder” of The Restaurant Group (TRG), has said it also intends to vote against the Wagamama-owner’s remuneration policy. Earlier this week, Oasis Management Company, which revealed it had almost doubled its stake in TRG, urged fellow shareholders to vote against chief executive Andy Hornby’s pay package, which it described as “disproportionate” and “unpalatable”. The New York-based Irenic said: “Irenic intends to vote against the remuneration policy. We have already communicated this privately to non-executive chairman Ken Hanna and chief executive Andy Hornby. In place of the current compensation scheme, we have suggested the board adopt a new plan that more closely links compensation to shareholder returns. We believe Mr Hornby is capable of unlocking the substantial value that exists at The Restaurant Group. But unfortunately, the current remuneration plan provides little incentive to do so. In fact, it does the opposite. Under the current remuneration plan, the only direct financial incentive for Mr Hornby is to increase overall profits at the enterprise – irrespective of the capital employed to do so. This encourages ill-advised acquisitions (Barburrito) and provides a disincentive to make the hard but necessary decision to sell non-core assets – and use the proceeds to de-lever. Ultimately, The Restaurant Group should own just Wagamama and focus its efforts on growing that business. We have urged Mr. Hanna and the board to design a remuneration policy that encourages Mr Hornby to get to this end-state as quickly as possible. Should the remuneration committee adopt such a policy in the future, we would support it. The path forward at The Restaurant Group should be clear. Dispose non-core assets, de-lever, and grow Wagamama – a brand that has excellent unit economics and a substantial global runway. Performance of The Restaurant Group’s non-core assets has rebounded from the depths of covid-19 and financing markets are open. There is no reason for further delay in an asset sale program. It is time to get on with it.” Last month, Bloomberg reported that Irenic had private discussions with TRG. The talks reportedly covered the potential divestiture of its pubs and concessions businesses, increasing disclosure around the profitability of Wagamama and reducing corporate costs. 

One day to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, 23 businesses being added: A total of 23 new multi-site companies, operating 181 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released tomorrow (Friday, 28 April) at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional restaurant operators, growing café brands and expanding hotel operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 2,000-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. The database now features 2,832 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 5 May, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 5,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier .The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Punch Pubs adds two sites to its estate, eyes further acquisitions: Punch Pubs & Co has acquired two new community pubs to add to its 1,300-strong portfolio, and said it was “seeking more quality acquisitions, including packages and single-site opportunities”. The company has acquired The Harrows Inn, in the South Staffordshire village of Coven, close to Wolverhampton. It benefits from a vast outdoor space which comfortably seats 160 people. Punch said it plans to enhance this “beautiful-looking pub further by investing in the outdoor trading space with new signage, lighting and a much-needed upgrade to the children’s play area”. The business has also acquired the Cornerhouse in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Punch said it sees “huge potential in this pub that boasts a great range of cask ales and is known to serve a quality pint of beer”. The pub remains open and will undergo investment in September. Punch said it is seeking more quality acquisitions, including packages and single-site opportunities that fit well with its “modern and progressive vision and growth plans”. Punch Pubs, head of estate development and acquisitions, Andrew Cannons, said: “We are so proud to bring these two excellent pubs into our estate. Both pubs have huge potential, and we are confident that under our guardianship, they will continue to thrive at the heart of their communities for many years to come. This is an exciting time for Punch, and we are continuing to look for additional high-quality pubs to add to our existing estate.”

Future Fund that helped start-ups during covid to be wound down: Rishi Sunak’s £1.1 billion Future Fund will be wound down gradually after the government decided further money should not be provided to back the scheme’s most promising companies. The Times reports, the programme, set up during the pandemic and intended to ensure continuity of funding for loss making technology-oriented companies, has become one of Europe’s largest and most eclectic venture capital portfolios. The Treasury has concluded that follow-on funds should not be provided to maintain the size of taxpayers’ stakes when these companies raise further funding, a practice investors use to avoid dilution of their stakes. The state-owned British Business Bank will continue to manage the portfolio, which amounts to equity stakes in 529 businesses and loans to 502 more. The scheme will take several years to wind down and the bank is understood to be optimistic that taxpayers will at least get their money back, but it could be many years before a full performance evaluation can be conducted. Set up in May 2020, it helped 1,190 companies to raise £1.14bn in state loans and each loan had to be match-funded by the private sector. The loans convert to equity stakes at the next eligible funding round. The newspaper said the government has now revealed the identities of 30 more companies whose loans have converted into equity, leaving the taxpayer with shares in businesses including Purezza, a vegan restaurant operator, and Invincibles Studio, a developer of football games for mobile phones. The British Business Bank said that as of the end of March, 49 Future Fund companies had generated “cash realisations”, while 111 had gone bust. The quality of the portfolio will face a stern test in the coming months as more than 500 of the unconverted loans, which came with three-year terms, reach maturity, meaning borrowers facing the prospect of repayment on punitive terms.

British Land unveils London Printworks building makeover plans: British Land has unveiled plans to convert The Printworks nightclub in south London, into a “flexible workspace with a rich cultural offering”. The redevelopment of the former Daily Mail Print Hall includes more than 150,000 square feet of offices alongside “cultural and leisure” uses. After five years at the top of London’s nightlife scene, The Printworks will close next week. Despite a petition garnering over 11,000 signatories, Southwark Council granted permission for the area to be redeveloped. Printworks owner Broadwick Live still has two other London-based venues, Dockywards and the Beams. Both will continue events after the closure of Printworks London.

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