Caring eyes new openings, lines up former La Brasserie site in South Kensington: Serial sector investor Richard Caring has lined up at least three new openings, including plans to open on the former La Brasserie site in London’s South Kensington, Propel has learned. Caring, who backs Caprice Holdings, the Ivy Collection and Bill’s, is believed to have secured the La Brasserie site in Brompton Road, which closed in 2017, for a yet unspecified, new restaurant project. Propel has learned he has also secured the former Le Pain Quotidien site next door to the Ivy Chelsea Garden in the Kings Road, to open an Ivy Asia. Caring currently operates two Ivy Asia sites in St Paul’s and Manchester and is thought to be looking at further opportunities to expand the concept, either as standalone sites or adjacent to existing Ivy Collection restaurants. Propel understands Caring is also closing in on announcing what he plans to launch on the ex-Porsche Garage site in Mount Street, Mayfair. He is still working on plans to reopen the former Princess Garden of Mayfair site in North Audley Street, which he acquired in 2016. It had previously been earmarked for a Caprice Café concept but may now become another Ivy Asia.
Douglas Jack – forecasts adjusted for Loungers over lockdown but no negative impact on long-term valuation and growth: Peel Hunt Leisure analyst Douglas Jack has adjusted forecasts for Loungers to reflect the third lockdown in England, which Peel Hunt assumes will end on 31 March, but believes it will have “no negative impact” on the business’ long-term valuation and growth prospects. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 270p, Jack said: “Loungers’ 25.1% like-for-like sales growth in the first half of its financial year was materially ahead of the sector. This converted to £53.5m of first half sales from just 12 trading weeks versus £79.8m of revenue from 24 trading weeks in the first half of 2020. However, we are adjusting our forecasts to assume just £24m of revenue in the second half. This reflects four weeks of 5% like-for-like sales growth in the early part of the second half, as the restrictions intensified; 16 weeks of full closure (November 2020 and January to March 2021); five weeks of heavily restricted trade in December and early January; and three weeks of disrupted trading in early April. We forecast £49m less sales to cause an £11m drop in Ebitda (IAS 17) after factoring in Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme compensation, lower purchasing costs, additional government grants and extra savings under lockdown. It equates to £0.5m Ebitda over the full year. Alternatively, first half Ebitda: £8.2m; five weeks of trading in the early part of the second half: £1.9m Ebitda; 16 weeks of full closure: £(7.4)m Ebitda; and seven weeks of heavily restricted trade: £(2.2)m.” On expansion, Jack said forecasts now assume Loungers would open six sites this financial year, with three sites opening in April. He added: “The main impact of the third lockdown is to increase net debt forecasts. Our 2022E average sales forecast is similar to 2019’s level despite the subsequent growth in like-for-like sales and the very high quality of new sites. We believe Loungers’ organic expansion model should continue to generate high returns, with margins offering material upside over the long term. The shares are trading well below their peak of 270p in February, since when we believe the company’s medium-term trading prospects have strengthened.”
Hard Rock acquires casino premises licence from The Ritz Club in London:Entertainment and hospitality brand Hard Rock International has acquired the casino premises licence from The Ritz Club in London. The deal will allow Hard Rock to seek out and establish a new casino premises in the capital, “continuing Hard Rock’s expansion into major cities around the world”. Hard Rock International chairman Jim Allen said: “We look forward to expanding our brand offerings within London and bringing our award-winning hospitality, gaming and entertainment to the birthplace of Hard Rock.” The move is expected to see “the creation of a casino that will complement the other company offerings in international gateway cities such as Florida, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and many more”. The Ritz Club – which opened in 1998 – and hosted celebrities including Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Bill Clinton, announced in June last year it would not reopen after lockdown.
Five former Authentic Alehouses sites put up for sale again: Five former Authentic Alehouses sites have been put up for sale again. Authentic Alehouses, which went into administration in 2019, was taken over by Simon Bonney and Michael Kiely, of Quantuma, who were appointed on 6 March 2019. The portfolio of five sites has been put on the market through property agent Christie & Co after being re-instructed to do so. Previously operated under management and trading under the Authentic Alehouses brand, the five freehold properties are broadly located within a “corridor” along the M62, ranging from Driffield in East Yorkshire, to Barnoldswick in Lancashire. Four of the properties – The Albert Hotel, Ponty Tavern, Wakey Tavern and the Countess of Rosse – are substantial, traditional public houses, while The Fountain Inn is a smaller site located in a rural location. The properties are equipped for use as a public house with letting rooms and/or dining rooms. A mixture of manager’s accommodation and letting rooms are also featured on the sites. Neil Morgan, senior director in Christie & Co’s corporate hospitality team is leading the sale. He said: “The properties have been well maintained and we anticipate strong interest in these particular assets that are priced at a level that is likely to attract numerous prospective buyers.”
Knoops secures third London site: Hot chocolate shop Knoops has secured its third London site – and fourth in total – in Chelsea. The company will open the outlet in Kings Road in March. Knoops offers a range of chocolate drinks – the chocolate used ranges from 28% to 100% cocoa and there are a mix of single origins and blends. For those feeling creative, the “Knoopology” process allows customers to choose from circa 20 different chocolates (13 of which are vegan), five different milks, and various flavour options including herbs, spice and fruits. Owner Jens Knoop opened the original site in Rye, East Sussex, in 2013 before adding a site in Clapham Junction in March last year just prior to the lockdown. He then launched a site in Kensington in October. Knoops also offers a retail range featuring a variety of chocolate flakes and coffees available from its online shop.
Peel Hunt – Whitbread can emerge as long-term winner from pandemic, German expansion an ‘exciting growth story’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has argued Whitbread can emerge from the pandemic as a long-term winner while its German expansion provides an “exciting growth story”. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 3,100p following Whitbread’s third-quarter trading update, Jones said: “UK occupancy levels fluctuated in the period: from 58% in September, driven by domestic tourist demand, to 35% in a disrupted November. This performance is a reflection of the changing restrictions through the period. We have lowered our FY21E revenue decline assumption to down 73% (from down 70%) and changed our government support assumptions – the net result keeps our FY21E forecast unchanged. Having previously forecast Germany breaking even in 2022E, we now forecast a loss before tax of £35m for Germany. After adjusting for UK government support we tweak our FY22E loss before tax forecast from £112m to £123m. Total UK market share in the quarter increased 4.1 percentage points to 11.4%. This was up from the 10.8% market share the company reported with the interims. This reflects sector challenges weighing more heavily on independents and smaller brands than on Premier Inn. We note it is easier for Whitbread to gain market share when, as now, it has no capacity constraints, in contrast to pre-covid-19, when it was trading with very high levels of midweek occupancy. At 31 December the group had net cash of £40m (pre-IFRS16), £815m of gross cash and £1.2bn of undrawn facilities. This implies a cash outflow during the period in line with guidance. This, coupled with the recent news Whitbread is asking its landlords for a temporary 50% reduction on its rent bill, confirms there is ample liquidity for the group until trading improves. The key for Whitbread will be the speed at which leisure and blue collar business travellers get back on the road. When society begins to open again, Whitbread will be able to price competitively and market heavily to continue taking market share. The German expansion provides for an exciting growth story and a chance for real value creation.”
Itsu launches new vegan offer as it aims to make 50% of menu plant-based: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Julian Metcalfe, has launched a new vegan offer as it strives to make 50% of its menu plant-based. Recent data from Itsu showed almost half (46%) of its products sold on delivery and more than a third (35%) in store were plant-based dishes. In response, Itsu has launched a new vegan menu that includes chilli miso soup with wholegrain brown rice and ginger greens; and the vegan teriyaki gyoza. Meanwhile, its meatless meatballs are 60% bigger and served on a bed of wholegrain brown rice and seasonal greens, drizzled with sticky teriyaki sauce and spicy ssamjang. Itsu said it plans to continuing adding further vegan dishes throughout 2021.
Greene King takes anti-racist stance by renaming four pubs: Brewer and retailer Greene King is moving to rename four pubs in its estate where the existing names have racist connotations, and will shortly be holding community votes on new names. It is renaming three pubs currently called The Black Boy – in Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Shinfield – as well as the Black’s Head in Wirksworth. The renaming of these four pubs is part of Greene King’s inclusion and diversity strategy to champion equality and diversity within the company. The decision to change the name follows detailed consultation with a range of stakeholders and thorough research of the pubs’ histories. While the pub name “Black Boy” exists throughout the country, there is not a consensus on its origins and many of those consulted felt the name to be offensive and discriminatory. Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “It is important to acknowledge our history but just as important to work proactively to eradicate racism in our society today. We have looked at pub deeds, consulted with colleagues and while the origins of these pub names are obscure what is clear is there is a perception that they are linked with racism today and we want to make this positive change for the better.” In 2020, Greene King pledged to significantly invest in initiatives to support more young people from ethnic backgrounds to begin a career in hospitality.
Kbox Global launches vegan concept in partnership with Asda: Kbox Global, the host kitchen business, has entered into a trial with supermarket operator Asda to trial a vegan butcher counter concept called Veelicious. Situated in Asda’s Watford store, the counter opened earlier this month, as part of a six-month trial to coincide with Veganuary and will have a consistent vegan butcher offering – including facon, bean burgers, and meat-free meatballs. With prices starting from 75p, Veelicious will serve a range of meat-free alternatives such as mock lamb and vegan “black pudding”, as well as a small selection of vegan cheese, ready-to-eat meal kits and vegan staples, such as chutney and base cooking sauces. Asda chief strategy officer Preyash Thakrar said: “The demand for vegan products is on the rise and we have seen a surge in people seeking out ways to easily enjoy a plant-based lifestyle. We recognised the importance of helping our customers with their Veganuary journey, which includes partnering with Kbox to trial Veelicious in our Watford store. Veelicious will be a ‘test and learn’ trial to help us understand what resonates with customers to enable us to enhance our plant-based proposition.” Salima Vellani, founder and chief executive of Kbox Global, added: “Our partnership with Asda to launch the UK’s first vegan butcher is an exciting joint venture that recognises growing demand for plant-based brands, from meat eaters and vegans alike. Veganism is now a mainstream, healthy and environmentally sustainable way for anyone to eat.”
Bando Belly soul food restaurant to launch this week: Soul food fusion start-up Bando Belly will open for delivery on Friday (15 January). The Peckham Levels business from Naz Ramamdan and Alex Situnayake will serve food inspired by the food cultures of America, the Caribbean, south east Asia and south London. Diners can expect dishes such as Caramel Bae crispy crab burger – crispy jumbo soft shell crab with Old Bay slaw and chilli caramel; Philly Banh Mi Cheesesteaks – Trini chickpea Bara taco with curry chickpeas and smacked cucumber; and battered and fried oreos served with sweet milk sauce. Situnayake, who is also behind ice pop brand Wavey Ice, said: “We wanted to create a bold and culturally relevant brand to disrupt the traditionally Euro-centric and often whitewashed London food scene. Bando Belly is a nod to everything that inspires us about London – including all the nitty gritty parts. We don’t sell natural wine and pizza – we make food that we’ve grown up with and dishes we’ve enjoyed on our journey to where we are now.” Food can be ordered from the Rye Lane, south London, venue via Deliveroo or for pick-up through Instagram.
Everyman working with landlords to secure further rent concessions: Cinema operator Everyman is working with landlords to secure further rent concessions as it again concentrates on reducing capital expenditure and operating costs to a minimum. The company said changes to covid-19 restrictions since its last update has caused it to be “slightly less optimistic” about trading than it had been in late September. At the end of 2020, the group had net debt of £8.5m, with the continued support of its providers. Chief executive Paul Wise said: “While the pandemic continues to severely impact our business and industry, we have a strong balance sheet, an exciting incoming chief executive in Alex Scrimgeour, supportive staff, customers and shareholders. We remain optimistic for the coming year post-lockdown and continue to have confidence in people’s appetite to socialise and to be entertained; we believe we will be in a strong position once it is safe to welcome back our customers and teams.”
Craft beer bottle shop venture launches in Loughton: New Breed Bottle Shop, a retailer of craft beer, small batch spirits, and wine, has opened in Loughton, Essex. The independent venture, based in High Road, is a long-term personal dream of friends Neil Datta and Mikey O’Kane. New Breed Bottle Shop offers a curated mix of beer, ale and lager on tap to be taken away by a reusable glass bottle or “growler”. In a bid to encourage more sustainable practices, customers can bring back and reuse the growlers for refills. The beer on offer will rotate on a regular basis and will boast more than 200 varieties from all over the UK. Customers can also create their own gift boxes by choosing any six beers to take away in a branded recyclable gift box. New Breed Bottle Shop also sells a curated selection of natural, low intervention, and biodynamic wine as well as a range of spirits. O’Kane said: “We want to deliver something new at accessible prices but with a big point of difference. Explore, taste, talk, take away – it’s that simple.” Customers can also order online with nationwide delivery available.
Nico Simeone launches Six by Nico Masterclasses: Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone has launched Six by Nico Masterclasses. Each Masterclass box contains all the ingredients necessary to make two new dishes, along with half a bottle of wine for each recipe. There are three restaurant-inspired dishes every week to choose from and Simeone will be on hand to guide people through all the steps courtesy of his online video lessons on the Six by Nico Masterclasses’ private YouTube channel. Simeone said: “Unfortunately, because of the ever-changing constraints that we are unable to open our restaurants, my team and I have adapted and curated a new culinary venture, Six by Nico Masterclasses. It’s our most immersive project to date and an exciting time for our team and a fresh fun experience for our Six by Nico community to learn and build the best possible recipe book imaginable from home.” Masterclasses offers a local delivery service within a strict five-mile radius of Six by Nico restaurants in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool or a takeaway/pick-up service from their restaurant locations.
Lefar Group buys Holiday Inn Express site: Family-run hotel business Lefar Group has bought the three-star Holiday Inn Express Ealing. The Holiday Inn Express Ealing began trading in November 2015 and is operated under a 20-year-term franchise agreement with IHG Hotels. The property comprises 80 en-suite bedrooms, spread across four floors. There is also a reception area, bar and dining area as well as a lobby and meeting/conference rooms. In addition, planning consent for an additional 28 rooms has been approved. The new owner, Lefar Group, is operated by the Kazemi family. The family are experienced hoteliers who own several hotels in London and a number of commercial businesses internationally. They plan to build the additional rooms and continue to operate under the IHG brand. Andrew Evangelou, director and head of London hotels in property agent’s Christie & Co’s hospitality team handled the sale and said: “Following the launch of this impressive hotel to market, we received a tremendous level of interest. Despite facing real market challenges throughout 2020, we are delighted to announce the successful completion of this sale, which underlines how London hotels are still very much in high demand.”
Team behind Chiswick pizzeria and deli to open wine bar concept in Marylebone:The team behind Chiswick pizzeria and deli, The Italians, is opening a bistro and wine bar in Marylebone. The Devonshire Street venue is currently operating as a specialist wine shop and deli due to the current lockdown with plans for a full launch when restrictions are lifted. An all-Italian wine list leads the way with fresh focaccia baked in-store daily. Customers can also buy a selection of meat, cheese and fresh produce. Founder Massimo Lopez said: “We had been excited to open our first wine bar concept in Marylebone but in light of the restrictions we have had to adapt and change our plans.”
Diageo appoints new chief financial officer: Diageo has said its finance head of six years, Kathryn Mikells, will leave at the end of June and named Lavanya Chandrashekar, chief financial officer of its North American operations, as her successor. Chandrashekar, who joined Diageo in July 2018, has held roles in snack maker Mondelēz International and consumer goods company Procter & Gamble. Mikells, who joined Diageo from equipment manufacturing and software company Xerox in November 2015, and Chandrasheka will undertake a full handover prior to the change. Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes said: “I am immensely grateful for the leadership role Kathryn has played in making Diageo a consistent top-tier performer. She has made a significant contribution to Diageo’s improved performance trajectory, including her leadership of a substantial global productivity programme and her critical role in active management of our brand portfolio through our acquisition and disposal activities. Lavanya brings a breadth of international experience, has an exceptional grasp of consumer products value creation and world-class experience of effective cost management. I am confident she will be a huge asset to the Diageo executive team and board.”
Baz & Fred pizzeria to open second site next month: Pizza specialist Baz & Fred is to double up by opening a site in Brixton Village next month. After picking up glowing reviews for their pizzas in the south west of England, Harry Henriques and Fred Hicks opened a permanent residence in street food market Flat Iron Square, London, and will now move into south London’s Brixton close to the railway station. The chefs will be opening in the unit that used to be Studio 73’s picture framing business. There will be room for 18 inside and 26 eating outside while there will also be a takeaway hatch. Baz & Fred’s website said: “Baz and Fred have been making pizzas since 2012. Championing both the revolutionary Chadwick pizza oven and the rotating wood-fired oven, they spin the most delectable dough and cook their pizzas to perfection.”
Derbyshire brewer secures £150,000 loan to ramp up production: Ripley-based Pentrich Brewing Co has secured a £150,000 loan to help expand its production of beer. The business will use the funding, which was provided by the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) through First Enterprise – Enterprise Loans, to invest in new equipment and make both keg and canned beer in addition to its existing range of cask beer. Pentrich Brewing Co was founded in November 2015 by Joe Noble and Ryan Cummings. Noble said: “We’ve built a strong, recognisable brand as well as a base of really loyal customers. However, we were operating at maximum capacity and, in order to grow, we needed to seek extra help. We’re, therefore, excited to put the funding to good use, starting by investing in better equipment. This will enable us to make both keg and canned beer in addition to our existing range of cask beer, which will significantly aid our expansion and has helped us diversify during the covid-19 pandemic.” Kamran Hassan, business development manager at First Enterprise – Enterprise Loans, added: “Joe and Ryan started thanks to a passion for good-quality beer but it’s turned into so much more than a hobby business. With a local reputation for producing great cask beer, the brand has a massive amount of potential.”