M Restaurants founder hints at CAU swoop: The founder of M Restaurants, former Gaucho managing director Martin Williams, has hinted at a potential swoop for the struggling CAU brand. Gaucho has confirmed it is exploring options for the 22-strong Argentinian-inspired restaurant CAU brand. This includes a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that would require the approval of landlords and other creditors. Propel understands CAU has seen double-digit sales decline that has accelerated in recent months but it has continued to open further sites. Williams has said he would “look again at the opportunities that arise in the coming weeks,” having made a previous proposition to Gaucho last year. Williams, who was managing director of Gaucho until 2014 when he left to set up M Restaurants, told City AM: “Late last year we heard the company was struggling and approached the owners with a solution that we thought would help the CAU and Gaucho chains while providing a great expansion platform for the M brand. Sadly this didn’t work out, but we will look again at the opportunities that arise in the coming weeks.” Gaucho was acquired by private equity firm Equistone in 2016 for £100m. Gaucho was founded in 1976 by Dutch entrepreneur Zeev Godik, while sister chain CAU was founded in 2011 as a more casual version of the brand. Gaucho appointed a new top team recently with former Maplin boss Oliver Meakin taking over from Godik in January and former Asda chief executive Paul Mason taking over as chairman in November, replacing Luke Johnson.
 
Firezza was making almost £3m pre-tax loss when sold by PizzaExpress:Upscale pizza delivery business Firezza was making a pre-tax profit loss of nearly £3m when it was offloaded by PizzaExpress in November last year, newly filed accounts have revealed. The business generated turnover of £7,092,000 in 2017 compared with £6,972,000 the previous year. It made a pre-tax loss of £2,812,000 compared with a loss of £2,091,000 the year before. The figures were revealed in accounts for PizzaExpress filed at Companies House. PizzaExpress acquired Firezza, the 22-strong pizza delivery and takeaway business, in February 2016 before disposing of the company on 5 November 2017. The sale did not include the Firezza dine-in restaurant in Soho. As previously reported earlier this month, PizzaExpress saw like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland return to growth as they increased 0.4% in the year ended 31 December 2017 compared with a fall of 0.9% the previous year. Group turnover grew by 6.3% to £534.2m compared with £509.7m the previous year. Group like-for-like sales increased 1.4%.
McDonald’s UK – ‘we have delivered to more than one million customers already’: McDonald’s UK chief financial officer John Park has reported the company has served delivery to more than one million customers since it launched the service less than a year ago. Park told Financial Director: “We talk to our customers regularly and last year there was a clear demand from people in cities across the UK – from London to Edinburgh – they wanted to be able to enjoy our food delivered straight to their doors. We responded with agility by launching a tie-up with UberEats last June. It’s going from strength to strength and we’ve already served more than one million unique customers, from just 270 trial restaurants. Most businesses would say they are customer-focused or customer-led. At McDonald’s, we are utterly obsessed with understanding what our customers want from us. The key message we hear is they don’t want a different McDonald’s, they want a better McDonald’s. That means great tasting food served by great people in great new restaurant surroundings. Grounding everything in what the customer wants keeps us stable. From there, we can respond with agility to specific challenges.”
Eataly posts turnover and Ebitda growth: Eataly, the largest Italian food hall chain in the world, has reported consolidated turnover reached €465m in 2017, an increase of 20% compared with 2016, thanks to the strong performance of the stores and to the opening of sites. The company, which is set to open a site in London’s Bishopsgate in 2020, opened sites in Boston, Trieste, Moscow, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Stockholm. “2017 was a very important year,” said executive chairman Andrea Guerra. “(We have) many shops to open, many shops to bring up to speed, while at the same time planning the evolution and development of a young, very dynamic, and future-oriented company. Among the milestones of 2017, the most important were the opening of the first shop on the west coast of the US, in Los Angeles, and the opening of the world biggest Italian food-themed park in Bologna last November – FICO Eataly World – that has already reached a million visitors in the first months of its life.” In Italy, growth was 7% while in the US it reached 48%, also thanks to the contribution of new stores. The gross operating margin (adjusted Ebitda) reached €25m – net debt reduced to €51m at the same time. In 2017, almost 33 million visitors entered Eataly shops, which served about 30,000 meals a day. The first three months of 2018 showed a revenue increase of 19.6%. Guerra added: “Our unique business model has allowed us to bring excitement to one of the world’s most mature industries – food. We think we have ten years of continuous growth potential ahead. To do this, Eataly must find the right places to open our stores; innovate and enhance the experience of our consumers both in our stores and online; find fantastic producers, breeders, and farmers to carry forward the philosophy of ‘good, clean, and fair’; and as always grow, shape and reshape the organisation of our company.”
Tart looks to raise £250,000 for third site and central kitchen: London bakery brand Tart, founded by Adam Harrison and Jason Smith, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs to raise £250,000 in return for 10.4% of its equity. The first store in Clapham opened three years ago and was followed by a second, in East Dulwich, which “is trading well since opening five months ago”. The business is looking to accelerate growth through new store openings and the addition of a central production kitchen. The company stated: “(We) secured £75,000 on Seedrs in 2014, which, along with founders’ capital, opened Clapham. Our oversubscribed second round brought in £225,000 in 2016 to open East Dulwich. Clapham’s net sales grew from £262,000 in 2015 to £372,000 (42%) in 2016 and £393,000 (5.6%) in 2017. East Dulwich is currently trading at 27% behind Clapham, but is also currently 24% ahead of where Clapham was when it first opened (based on monthly revenue figures). Given East Dulwich has nearly 50% more capacity than Clapham, we expect the former’s sales to surpass Clapham this year.” Board advisor is Faisal Haque, co-founder of Wrap It Up! and Dropper – he has been mentoring Tart since mid-2015.
Paddock Inns acquires site from Woodward & Falconer off £2m asking price: The Celtic Arms at Northop Country Park, near Mold, has been sold in an off-market deal to Paddock Inns by pub operator Woodward & Falconer in a transaction brokered by Tim Martin, of Fleurets’ Manchester office. Paddock Inns is headed by Nathan Jordan and Jose Lourenco, who currently operate the Plough Inn at Eaton in Congleton, Cheshire. The Celtic Arms was developed by Woodward & Falconer in 2014 when it converted the old golf club at Northop Country Park into a “destination food house”. Woodward & Falconer was founded by Jeremy Woodward and Duncan Falconer and they now retain an interest in only one site, having previously sold four pubs to Hydes Brewery in 2015. These sales have allowed Falconer the opportunity to pursue his new career as a commercial pilot. Woodward said: “We are very proud of what we have created and we are pleased Nathan and Jose will bring their energy and vision to the next chapter for the Celtic Arms.” Martin said: “We marketed the pub discreetly, seeking offers in excess of £2,000,000 and it was during discussions with Paddock Inns that it became clear the Celtic Arms would be the perfect fit for them.”
Starbucks to make Italy debut in September: Starbucks will open its first site in Italy in September. The Milan branch, housed in a historic former post office in Piazza Cordusio, will be the company’s largest outlet in Europe when it opens, employing about 150 workers. “We’re coming here with humility and respect, to show what we’ve learned,” executive chairman Howard Schulz said at a conference in Milan this week.
BrewDog opens first brewpub, in Tower Hill: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its first brewpub – in London’s Tower Hill. BrewDog Tower Hill is the company’s largest standalone bar and features a ten-hectolitre brewing kit, making it the only place in the UK outside its headquarters in Ellon, Scotland, to be making BrewDog beers. Located in a neo-gothic building a stone’s throw from the Tower of London, at 8,500 square feet, BrewDog Tower Hill has a capacity for more than 500 people. The bar features 25 beers on tap, three deli fridges for takeaway beers, an automated growler filling system, an arcade games area with three shuffleboards and an outdoor seating area. Exclusive beers brewed with the ten-hectolitre brewing kit will permanently be on offer at the bar and will also be distributed across BrewDog’s eight-strong network of bars in London. Tower Hill is also the first BrewDog bar to serve breakfast and brunch daily in addition to its pizza, burgers and wings menu. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “This iconic area of London needed a suitable statement of a BrewDog bar to match. The brewpub will not only serve the freshest BrewDog beer in London, but will allow our brewers to get creative and experimental with small-batch beers. This is the first of many BrewDog brewpubs and a vote of confidence for London’s position as one of the craft beer capitals of the world.”
Pub Invest Group to launch Bavarian bierhaus concept in Liverpool after acquiring former Walkabout site: Liverpool-based Pub Invest Group has acquired a former Walkabout site in the city to house a Bavarian bierhaus concept. The company will launch Einstein at the Concert Square venue, which closed last year. The 1,200-capacity venue will open this month creating more than 90 jobs and will be set across several floors featuring three bars and an outdoor balcony. Einstein will open from 11am to 3am daily and offer a variety of entertainment including live music and cabaret sets. General manager Ken Myton told the Liverpool Echo: “Einstein will bring something completely different to Concert Square – from our design concept to our vast range of beers.” Pub Invest Group operates the McCooley’s brand alongside other venues in the city such as Boston Pool Loft and Sgt Peppers. The company’s website states it operates more than 30 sites across the north west.
Jamie’s Italian to go back to its roots with tenth anniversary menu: Jamie’s Italian is to mark its tenth anniversary by launching a summer menu on Wednesday, 23 May that takes the brand back to its Italian roots. New dishes include a seafood linguine, lobster ravioli and lamb pappardelle. Chief executive Jon Knight said: “The new summer menu at Jamie’s Italian reflects everything that is core to our brand – delicious new Italian dishes, impeccably sourced to Jamie’s very high standards, all with a distinctive Jamie twist. We’ve still got some of the all-time global favourites such as our prawn linguine and a new selection of dishes that Jamie has developed with all of the chef team. Jamie has been right at the heart of the new menu and he’s also driven our new look and feel menu. We’ve simplified everything and our new look is clean and elegant with some bright, fun touches. We’re also introducing a new vegetarian and vegan menu and of course our kids’ menu remains the most popular and nutritionally balanced on the high street. I believe these two new menus offer high-street diners a real point of difference – tasty Italian food that has the best provenance and quality credentials.” The Jamie’s Italian specials boards will also be showcasing new dishes over the coming months, as developed by Oliver and shared through his social media channels with recipes arriving in all of the restaurants straight from Oliver’s test kitchen.
Bourgee director behind new Colenzo’s concept: One of the directors of Bourgee is behind the new restaurant concept Colenzo’s that has opened in two of the sites that were closed after the steak-lobster lounge concept went into administration. Dominique Tropeano, who is also behind Colchester Zoo, has reopened the sites in Chelmsford and Southend under Colenzo’s. Tropeano and his family bought Colchester Zoo in 1983 for £285,000 and it has since been transformed into a 24-hectare site that attracts more than a million visitors each year, reports Essex Live. Tropeano has branched out into the restaurant industry in recent years and was one of the directors of Bourgee when it was founded in 2015, alongside his son Anthony Tropeano, chef Mark Baumann and entrepreneur James Welling. Bourgee announced it had gone into administration in April this year, and its branches in Chelmsford, Southend and Bury St Edmunds were closed. Colenzo’s offers steak, lobster, burgers, tapas, wine and cocktails. It is set to undergo a refit and have a new menu in the coming months. Tropeano also bought The Great House restaurant in Lavenham in January. Welling and Baumann have said they will open new sites this summer that will be wholly owned by the duo. The Bourgee Bites – Bar – Luxe Lounge at London Southend Airport will continue trading under Welling and Baumann’s ownership.
Bristol-based pub operator opens second Ei Group site: Bristol-based pub operator Mike Hoare has opened his second site. Hoare has taken on the Grapevine Brasserie in St James Place following a £250,000 joint investment with Ei Publican Partnerships, the leased and tenanted business of Ei Group. Hoare will run the site with his son Mitch, who have invested £50,000 to part fund a refurbishment that includes a renovated garden area. Hoare also operates another Ei Publican Partnerships’ site – The Foresters in Downend, Bristol. He said: “Running pubs is something I have always been passionate about. The pub is so much more than just somewhere to go for a drink, or a bite to eat, it’s the beating heart of the community and I’m delighted that my son is following in the family footsteps and opening this site alongside me.” Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager Carol Reid added: “We knew Mike had a fantastic reputation among locals at The Foresters pub, so when he and his son approached us with interest in the site it was an easy decision for us to make.”
Ivy Collection opens St Albans site at former Brasserie Blanc: The Ivy Collection has opened its venue in St Albans, Hertfordshire, at the former Brasserie Blanc site it acquired in January. The Ivy St Albans Brasserie has opened in Verulam Road with the site including a 12-seater “semi-private” dining space. At the time of the acquisition, a Brasserie Blanc spokeswoman labelled the offer for the site as “very attractive”, with the undisclosed fee “invested into the expansion programme”. Last week, The Ivy Collection opened its first coastal site, in Brighton. The Ivy brand is expanding rapidly across the UK, with other recent brasserie openings in Birmingham, Cheltenham, Guildford, York and King’s Cross. Further launches are lined up for Dublin, Leeds, Norwich and Winchester.
Merlin Entertainments completes $400m note offering: Merlin Entertainments has completed its offering of $400m 5.75% of US dollar-denominated senior notes due in 2026. The company stated: “The notes were offered in a private placement and there will be no public offering of the notes. Proceeds were used to repay the two term loans, and reduce the drawing on the revolving credit facility, referred to in the announcement of 19 April 2018. Following the transaction, Merlin’s facilities are therefore as follows – £600m multi-currency revolving credit facility maturing in April 2023, €700m of notes maturing in March 2022 and $400m of notes maturing in May 2026.” Merlin Entertainments chief financial officer Anne-Francoise Nesmes said: “We are pleased to announce the successful completion of the refinancing, which included our debut US bond offering. Our new financing structure improves our cash efficiency and extends our debt maturity profile, with our overall financing costs unchanged. We welcome the support that we have received from both the bond and bank markets, reflecting continued investor confidence in our business.”
Hawthorn Leisure kicks off World Cup preparations with manager roadshow: Hawthorn Leisure, the 312-strong pub company formed in 2013, has hosted its first World Cup Roadshow to support its managers and maximise trade opportunities ahead of the upcoming games in Russia. Hosted by Hawthorn Leisure business development managers, attendees joined a number of seminars – including the “30 Minute Makeover”, where groups dressed an area of the pub using props and created a World Cup back bar display, before being given feedback and helpful tips. With an estimated 20% of football fans planning to watch the World Cup in pubs this summer, the sessions highlighted the opportunities within the industry and offered support with social media, loyalty and merchandising in pubs. Bringing together both new and experienced managers, the roadshow allowed the Hawthorn Leisure team to share previous experiences and highlight any concerns before the World Cup kicks off on Thursday, 14 June. Head of marketing Jennie Tucker said: “Roadshows are a great way for us to engage with managers and they provide a real opportunity to get the team prepared and excited for the upcoming games. The World Cup offers a huge opportunity for pub operators to attract extra trade and we are confident all our managers and partners will do a great job.”
Harry Ramsden’s unveils menu with ‘new generation of customer in mind’:Fish and chip chain Harry Ramsden’s, owned by Boparan Restaurant Group, is marking its 90th year with a menu designed with a “new generation of customer in mind”. As well as the introduction of Harry’s fish and chips in the largest portion size ever, there are new items including Sri Lankan fish curry, cajun fishbites and seabass fillets served with pesto. New dessert options include doughnut sandwiches, Eton mess, mango knickerbocker glory and the super sundae sharing plate. Harry Ramsden’s brand director Sam Wignell said: “We have literally spiced up our menu and can now offer fish dishes in a newer and more innovative way because we understand there can be a marked difference in taste between the generations.”
Camerons launches new bar concept following refurbishment of managed Scarborough pub: Camerons Brewery has opened its latest bar concept, Sanctuary, following the rebranding and refurbishment of one of its managed pubs in Scarborough. The company has invested more than £300,000 revamping the Blue Lounge in St Nicholas Street. It has an eclectic range of lager, beer and cider and includes four cask ales as well as two rotating craft keg beer lines. In addition, the venue offers a range of premium wines and spirits plus a new cocktail menu. Sanctuary serves food daily, which includes a range of classic pub dishes and international cuisine. Jim Bentley, retail managed house director for Cameron Brewery, said: “We’ve been so pleased to be investing in a new concept for our Scarborough venue. The Blue Lounge was a key venue in our pub group, but we felt the time was right to revamp the look and offer at the site.” Camerons Brewery operates more than 70 pubs.
Norfolk operators put King’s Lynn boutique hotel on market for £1.9m:Norfolk operators Anthony and Jeannette Goodrich have put their boutique hotel in King’s Lynn up for sale for £1.9m. The Goodrichs have instructed agent Christie & Co to sell the Bank House boutique hotel, brasserie and bar to concentrate on their other business – the Rose & Crown pub in the village of Snettisham. Bank House comprises 12 en-suite bedrooms, bar and dining areas for more than 150 covers, and an external decking area adjacent to the River Great Ouse with seating for a further 60 covers. Anthony Goodrich said: “We are very proud of what we have achieved at Bank House in building it up to be the place to eat, drink, and stay in King’s Lynn, and believe it has terrific potential for growth, benefitting from the town’s ongoing regeneration programme, and the exciting waterfront development proposals currently being drawn up.”
Indoor adventure golf concept to open second site, in Manchester: Discovery Adventure Golf, a partnership between former Goldman Sachs entrepreneur Elizabeth Stanway and experienced leisure operator Chris Richards, is to start expansion of its indoor Treetop Adventure Golf concept with a second site, in Manchester. The venue will open on the second floor of The Printworks and feature two Amazon-themed, 18-hole courses – the Ancient Explorer and Tropical Trail. There will also be an Amazon village bar and cafe offering a Brazilian-style menu, including tropical-themed cocktails and hand-made street food pizza. Stanway told Intergame: “We can’t wait to bring our mini-golf experience, inspired by Brazil and the Amazon rainforest, to The Printworks and the centre of Manchester.” Treetop Adventure Golf opened its debut site at St David’s shopping centre in Cardiff in 2015.
Douglas Jack – we forecast unchanged Ei Group profit-before-tax of £57m:Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast unchanged profit before tax (PBT) of £57m for Ei Group at its interim results. He said: “For the interim results, due on Tuesday (15 May), we forecast PBT to be unchanged at £57m based on slightly positive like-for-like net income growth in tenanted/leased and strong managed like-for-like sales largely offsetting lost Ebit from a slowing disposal programme. Debt reduction is the main attraction; the challenge is to keep growing drink margins, the principal driver of like-for-like net income since 2012. Pub Partnerships’ like-for-like net income grew by 0.5% in the first quarter versus a 1.6% comparable. This slight slowdown was due to December’s snow and slightly softer trading conditions in January; also against a 1.6% comparable, trading conditions were even tougher in the second quarter due to even colder weather in February and March. This could challenge the company’s run of positive like-for-like net income, which has extended to 18 consecutive quarters. The recent trend has been stable like-for-like rent and growing product sales, driven by price and better buying terms. We believe Market Rent Only negotiations are holding back rental growth, whereas product growth is benefiting from positive premium drink trends, and tied licensees extending their buying range, taking advantage of Ei Group’s bulk purchasing power, which has benefited from managed estate growth. In the managed estate, like-for-like sales grew by 6.8% in the first quarter (outpacing the pubs constituent of the Coffer Peach Business Tracker: +1.4%) aided by the estate being wet-led and freshly invested. Sector trends are also supportive – the wet-led pubs sector overtook food-led pubs in relation to growth in drink sales per outlet in the fourth quarter of 2017, and this trend continued in the first quarter of 2018. In the commercial leased estate, like-for-like net income was up 4.6% in the first quarter. Despite the unhelpful second quarter weather, we expect to hold our 2018E forecast, which assumes 0.5% like-for-like net income growth and 2.6% average profit growth in Pub Partnerships after tail-end disposals (in 2017, 224 pubs were sold: we forecast 175 in 2018E). They also assume 1.9% growth in managed like-for-like sales. Comparables will toughen in the third quarter (which should benefit from the World Cup) and soften in the fourth quarter. In 2018E, we forecast Ebitda falling by 0.7%, outpaced by net debt falling by 4.1% despite £20m of forecast share buybacks, creating almost 20% annual growth in equity value. The shares trade at a material discount to the 280p/share net asset value; we believe a de-merger of the commercial leased estate into a REIT in 2020/21 should help to close the gap.”
River Cottage has expansion plans approved: Plans to expand the River Cottage property made famous by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with a 16-bedroom guesthouse, cookery school, events space and lounge have been given the go-ahead. The expansion, approved by East Devon District Council, will enable a further 25 employees to be taken on at the property near Axminster. The site brings in 20,000 visitors a year with hopes this will rise to 30,000 once the work is complete, reports Insider Media. The council’s report stated: “The proposed development would support a successful and notable business that would benefit the wider local economy through the supply chain and by raising the quality of the tourism and business offer. It would also afford educational opportunities for the local population and has the potential to establish further future economic development.”