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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 30th Jun 2023 - Update: Gino D’Acampo restaurant chain goes bust with over £5m debt, Mowgli, Merlin Entertainments, Nightcap
The Sun – Gino D’Acampo’s restaurant chain shuts down with £5.4m debt: A Gino D’Acampo restaurant chain has gone bust with over £5m debt. The Sun reports that liquidators have launched an in-depth investigation, costing a mammoth £150,000, which will look into the conduct of major stakeholders and why company books have gone missing. Mystery surrounds why IRG – formerly known as Gino D’Acampo Worldwide Restaurants Ltd – ended up owing millions after being declared solvent last year. Investigations are ongoing to figure out why a creditor for Gino D’Acampo Ltd has suddenly appeared and is owed nearly £5.4m from the company. Last April, the company, owned by the chef and his wife Jessica declared itself solvent and two directors signed a declaration stating that it had no creditors. The liquidators have now launched an expensive and painstaking investigation, which will look at areas such as why this debt has only come to light now, the conduct of major stakeholders, and the “whereabouts of the company books and records”. The company’s major shareholders are the chef, who owns 10%, and Individual Restaurants Group Ltd, which acquired a 75% stake in 2019 for an undisclosed sum. According to the latest report filed at Companies House, the liquidators’ estimated fees will total £275,276 – £149,459 for the “investigations” – which reflects the “time spent by us and our staff in dealing with the company’s affairs”. The newspaper said that D’Acampo’s PR and the Individual Restaurants Group press office have been approached for comment twice and have not responded so far.

Updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies released today, 16 businesses being added: A total of 16 new multi-site companies, operating 99 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released today (Friday, 30 June), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional pub operators, growing restaurant brands, and expanding franchise operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 1,300-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 2,869 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 7 July, 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 2,000-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. In this week’s Propel Premium, which will be sent to subscribers today at 5pm, he talks to St Austell Brewery chief executive Kevin Georgel about the company’s three phases to growth, pays tribute to outgoing Young’s chairman Stephen Goodyear and continues his interview with Five Guys UK chief executive John Eckbert.

Katona – We have to be brave enough as leaders to ask the questions; to hear what our teams really think: Nisha Katona, founder of Mowgli, Indian street food concept, has said that business leaders have to be brave enough “to ask the questions; to hear what our teams really think”. Writing in The Times, Katona said: “It is incumbent on us to build businesses that create a workplace worthy of our loved ones and most importantly audit the environment that we aspire to create. It is no use creating a policy of contentment and failing to measure the truth of its success or not. At Mowgli we intend our people to feel ‘purposeful, nourished and fulfilled’ but these are just words unless our people can testify that they actually feel that way. We have to be brave enough as leaders to ask the questions; to hear what our teams really think. To do this we conduct quarterly ‘contentment assessments’ to dispassionately assess how our people really feel. These are informal chats with every single member of our team with three simple questions. Are you happy? If not, what is making you unhappy? How do you want your career to develop? It is conducted at a cost to the business. This in my view is a cost that is a hundredfold repaid by our lack of staff turnover, by our absence of litigation and retraining costs. The mantra we follow is ‘grace, intelligence and graft’. Every person we employ, every decision we make, has to be imbued with those three things. The grace of gentle circumspection, emotional intelligence and running towards where the work is. And me? Leading the business. I have to check myself regarding grace. I need to always remember that for an employee to explain an oversight is not them being defensive; that those junior to me can know better and can breathe fresh life into a business with their bold candour; that to make decisions about your employees’ roles or their working environment without their input is like redecorating a daughter’s bedroom without talking to her about it. The encouraging truth is that happier employees work harder and longer. Work actually becomes a hobby.”

Merlin Entertainments FY revenues up 59% to circa £2bn: Merlin Entertainments bounced back into the black last year and returned to its pre-pandemic growth levels as tourists returned to its attractions. The world’s second biggest attractions operator said it received 56.4 million visitors last year, up from 35.2 million in 2021, while revenues jumped by 59% to £2bn. The accommodation revenues brought in by its 5,500 themed rooms were up 55%. Its Ebitda increased 84% to £692m, while at the pre-tax level it swung from a loss of £84m to a profit of £136m. Merlin’s three divisions all reported strong year-on-year revenue, led by an 83% increase from its Midway division, which includes the brands Sea Life and Madame Tussauds. The performance was driven by domestic visitors and the return of international tourists to London. Alongside its full-year results, Merlin reported a 30% increase in revenue over the first three months of this year. This was due to robust consumer demand, higher spending per head, the return of international tourism and a recovery in Asia. Over the next couple of years Merlin is opening three Legoland theme parks in China – in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Sichuan – plus two Peppa Pig theme parks, in Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas and Günzburg in Germany. Merlin has 140 attractions, 23 hotels and six holiday villages in 25 countries across four continents. Despite the strong recovery of international tourism in London in particular, Scott O’Neil, who became chief executive in November, said: “In 2022 Merlin returned to the pre-pandemic trajectory of growth, as we welcomed 56 million guests into our 140+ attractions in the 24 countries across the globe in which we operate. The resilience, commitment, and talent of our 30,000+ employees shone through the recovery and continue to be the backbone of our success. Combining Merlin’s global operational excellence and the world-class creative execution of our Merlin Magic Makers with the growing roster of iconic brands we are trusted to bring to life, including Lego, Jumanji, Ferrari, Marvel, Peppa Pig, and Gruffalo & Friends, continues to drive our strategy. We are working ambitiously to build more meaningful businesses and increase our presence for tourists in the most important cities in the world. The diversification of our attractions as resorts continues to evolve, our accommodation portfolio of nearly 5,500 rooms is proving to be a sustainable advantage in extending the stay of our guests. Although international tourism numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels at different rates, domestic travellers seeking more connection and experiences with family and friends continue to enjoy the immersive and joyful escapism of our city attractions, resort theme parks, and Legolands through day visits, overnight, and short break stays. Accommodation revenue was up approximately 55% in 2022, as guests chose to stay in our creative offerings, including treehouses, castles, and log cabins from California to London, and we are confident our themed accommodation will be popular at our flagship Legoland Resort being built in Shanghai. Since joining Merlin at the end of 2022, I have had the pleasure of visiting most of our attractions around the world and am increasingly excited and more confident than ever in our leadership depth, ambition, strategy and focus to continue to make more memories, bring more happiness and spread joy to people in more places than anyone else in the world.”

Nightcap grants share options to a number of its employees: Nightcap, the operator of The Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group, Barrio Familia and the Dirty Martini group of bars, has announced it has granted a total of 1,160,000 share options to a number of its employees. The options have been granted pursuant to Nightcap’s existing share option plans, and include grants under the Company Share Option Plan (CSOP) and the grant of unapproved options. All of the options have been granted on the same terms. At the same time, 1,000,000 options have been granted to Adam Dilks, group people director, who is a person discharging managerial responsibilities. The other 160,000 options have been granted to group employees. The company said: “All of the options have been granted with an exercise price of 11.00 pence, which represents the closing mid-market share price on 29 June 2023. The options will become exercisable from the third anniversary of the grants until the tenth anniversary of the date of the grant, but will only be exercisable subject to the group achieving Ebitda profitability targets based on the audited accounts in the prior accounting year at the time of exercise. Following these option grants, Nightcap’s entire option pool is now equivalent to 11.3% of the company’s issued ordinary share capital.” Earlier this month, the company entered into an agreement to acquire the ten-strong Dirty Martini business, plus Tuttons British Brasserie in London’s Covent Garden, for a consideration of up to £4.65m. The acquisition, which is made up of £4.15m in cash on completion and a further £500,000 payable based on certain conditions being met, is being undertaken as part of a pre-pack administration process of Dirty Martini’s parent companies.

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