Stonegate announces multimillion-pound support package for Ei publicans:Stonegate Pub Company has announced a multimillion-pound support package for licensees within the recently acquired Ei Publican Partnerships leased and tenanted business. The company, which completed its circa £3bn acquisition of Ei Group at the start of March, said all tied publicans operating on substantive agreements that are not in receipt of government grants would receive a three-month rent credit for the period April to June. To further support those publicans who are entitled to grants of between £10,000 and £25,000, and to enable them to “restart their business with confidence and ease cash flow”, trade credits of either 75% or 50% of the value of three months’ rent will be provided. Publicans in receipt of the £25,000 government grant will receive 50% trade credit for stock purchases. Those in receipt of the £10,000 government grant will receive 75% trade credit for stock purchases. In addition, tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rentals are cancelled for the same period regardless of a publican’s entitlement to grants. May’s planned price rise on tied products delivered to pubs has also been postponed until further notice. Stonegate said the support plan follows a detailed analysis across a representative sample of pubs and consultation with publicans to establish how the company could “best continue to support business partners through these unprecedented times”. It said: “Working within the spirit of the requirements of the Pubs Code adjudicator, the support is intended to provide an appropriate level of financial assistance to help Ei publicans through these turbulent times. The rateable value methodology applied in calculating government grants was used for the basis of the analysis.” Nick Light, managing director of Ei Publican Partnerships, said more than 80% of publicans who qualify for a grant have now received this payment.
TRG to buy back five Food & Fuel sites: The Restaurant Group (TRG) is set to buy back five of the former Food & Fuel sites it placed into administration in March, Propel has learned. It is understood TRG has exchanged on a deal to buy the package, including The Queens in Crouch End, and the two Coco Momo sites in Kensington and Marylebone. It is thought a further party is in advanced talks to take a further package of four ex-Food & Fuel sites, which includes the Sporting Page in Chelsea and The Queens Head in Holborn. TRG acquired the then 11-strong Food & Fuel in September 2018 for £14.9m, stating the deal gave its pubs arm a presence in London, on which it hoped to build. Karen Jones, the executive chair of Prezzo, who co-founded Food & Fuel in 2006, was thought to have also run the rule over a handful of her former sites, of which she is understood to still own the freeholds. Propel understands TRG was keen to keep a number of the Food & Fuel sites but there was no guarantee that would happen after having to place the business into administration. Food & Fuel comprised leasehold pubs and cafe bars predominately in affluent London neighbourhoods, providing a premium offering tailored to local markets. At the time of its acquisition by TRG, the business comprised eight gastro-pubs, one sports pub and two cafe bars under the Coco Momo name. After acquiring the business, TRG added the former Cafe Rouge site on the Strand-On-The-Green to the Food & Fuel portfolio, reopening the site under the name The Steam Packet last year. Earlier this year TRG appointed restructuring firm RSM as administrator to Food & Fuel.
Miers – we are ready to come out of the blocks when we can: Wahaca co-founder Thomasina Miers has said the Mexican restaurant brand is “ready to come out of the blocks” when it is allowed to reopen again. Speaking to Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Miers highlighted delivery as one avenue the 25-strong business will look to ramp up. She said: “We had just started to dabble in delivery before we shut the restaurants. We had done it for about three months across four of our restaurants. It was going really well. Despite launching 12 years ago we have always moved incredibly slowly because my biggest fear is that we lose our food quality. Lots of people grew twice as fast as us, getting to 50, 60, 70 sites and we just have 25, and I feel the delivery side is just the same. One way of looking at it is we were behind the curve for taking quite a long time but the result of that is we have had a great reception to our delivery offer. So, I feel now when we open in this brave new world – whatever it is going to be – we will be able to do lots of stuff like that, which we have already been testing.” Miers, who is backing Jonathan Downey’s #NationalTimeOut campaign, said longer-term the situation with rents and rates has to change. She said: “The rents before this happened, some of them were pretty astronomical, but operating on restaurants that are 40% to 50% busy, there will be so many people going bust. We are talking about a lot of jobs, if you think conservatively half the restaurants could hit the wall, that’s feeding half the amount of people they are supposed to on full rents and rates, that’s basically two million jobs at risk, that’s two million lives and the families they support. That’s a carnage for society. Even before this crisis there were casualties on the high street, the level of rents and rates was crazy. I think that will self-adjust in any case now.” Miers will share more of her thoughts in the video, which will be released on Friday (15 May).
Goodbody – we remain cautious on level of net debt at Marston’s: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said he remains cautious on the level of net debt at Marston’s after the company announced it has secured £70m in additional liquidity by increasing its bank facility. With this 180-day facility, the government support on employee cost and deferred rent and rates relief, Marson’s said it believed it would meet it its obligations for the financial year, even if pubs remain closed. The group has also agreed amendments on its covenants on its bank debt for September 2020 and March 2021 and the meeting with bondholders on the securitised debt will take place on 29 May as previously announced. Marston’s will not pay a dividend for financial year 2020 and future dividends will be reviewed “when normalised trading resumes”. Ruddy said: “Marston had £1.4bn of net debt at FY19, made up of £745m of securitised debt, £335m of bank debt, circa £40m of cash and circa £350m of finance leases and lease related borrowings. Within the securitisation, the group has circa £75m of debt service required this year and an undrawn £120m revolving credit facility so bondholders will continue to be paid. Although it is good to hear Marston’s has raised this £70m facility, which gives it sufficient liquidity to meet obligations beyond the end of the financial year, we remain cautious on the level of net debt. Marston’s had started to plan to reduce debt levels prior to this crisis, which was a positive development for equity holders, however the current crisis unfortunately has thrown this off course.”
Greene King signs up tied Pub Partners for BII membership: Brewer and retailer Greene King has announced it is paying for its tied tenants in its Pub Partners business to become members of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII). The support package applies to all Greene King’s tied pubs that are not on a short-term agreement, meaning about 800 pubs will now be signed up. The initial support is in place for two years and will be reviewed annually afterwards by Pub Partners. Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton said: “Paying for our partners to have membership of the BII was a decision we’ve been considering for a while and now more than ever our tenants need access to as much professional support and advice as possible. Since this crisis began we were able to immediately defer all collection of rent payments while pubs are closed, agree to replace our customers’ out-of-date and unopened kegs and casks for free, and provide direct financial support in the form of appropriate rent concessions to pubs that aren’t able to access government grants. We are also now looking at what further financial support we can provide when pubs reopen.” The BII is currently processing the list of Greene King Pub Partners pubs and will be contacting individual licensees to introduce the membership package.
Costa reopens further 46 sites: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has reopened another 46 sites across the UK for delivery and drive-thru. The company has reopened 31 drive-thru outlets and another 15 stores for takeaway only. It comes after Costa initially reopened four sites on 24 April, in Manchester, Bristol and Mansfield – two of which were delivery only and two drive-thru. Last weekend the business reopened a further 29 sites, comprising 12 delivery only – through UberEats – and 17 drive-thru outlets.
Ex-Polpo FD joins Whistle Punks: Axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks has appointed Stephanie Trigwell, formerly of Polpo, as its new finance director. Trigwell spent almost two years at the Russell Norman and Richard Beatty-founded concept, before leaving near the end of 2017. She also spent two years as head of finance EMEA at Cath Kidson and before that was head of UK finance at Mothercare for two-and-a-half years. Prior to that she was head of retail operations finance at Dixons Stores Group. John Nimmons and Jools Whitehorn launched Whistle Punks in 2016, and it now has sites in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. Earlier this year Propel revealed Whistle Punks, which is backed by Edition Capital, was in talks to take space at 1 Finsbury Avenue for what will be its debut central London site and second in the capital. Last year the company secured £1.5m of new investment from Edition.
Honest Burgers reopens more than half its estate for delivery: Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers has now reopened more than half of its estate, including six of its seven regional sites, for delivery. The company currently has 21 of its 37 sites reopened for delivery, including its Deliveroo Editions site in Swiss Cottage, and its restaurants in Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Reading. It also hopes to add a further kitchen at the Editions site in Canary Wharf. The group is also in talks to take space at the Foodstars kitchen site in Colindale. Honest Burgers will not be doing click-and-collect or takeaway in the short-term. At the start of this month, co-founder Phil Eeles told Propel: “We want to keep hold of our guys and as employers we have a responsibility to start helping move the wheels of the economy too. We will reopen the sites that will generate the most profit. But profit for us right now is about getting revenue into the business to ensure we don’t have to do anything drastic when the government support falls away. It will also hopefully ensure we protect the people that make up our business.”
Friska launches at-home meal boxes offer: Healthy eating brand Friska has launched an “at-home” meal box offer in its home city of Bristol. Delivered to customer’s doors, the boxes comprise enjoy-at-home meals for four and for two people, which come with rice, slaw and dressing. There’s also a range of soup, plus groceries and coffee. The business, which is backed by YFM Equity Partners, is delivering in Bristol on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to postcodes BS1 to BS9. Orders for the next day must be placed by 11am the previous working day. The minimum order is £20. Griff Holland and Ed Brown founded Friska in 2009, and currently has 11 sites.
Ohannes Burger opens second UK site: Ohannes Burger, the gourmet burger restaurant with 16 restaurants across Turkey, has opened its second UK site. The franchise made its debut in Britain in November last year with a branch in Arnold on the outskirts of Nottingham. Now it has added a site in Long Row in Nottingham city centre to its portfolio after transforming the former Maryland Chicken takeaway premises. In order to operate within government guidelines, the store has opened initially on a click-and-collect basis as well as delivery through UberEats. FHP Property Consultants secured the letting on behalf of the private landlord. Ohannes is looking to expand its UK stores further into the East Midlands over the coming years.
Adam Handling launches delivery and collection service: Chef Adam Handling has launched a food delivery and collection service. Hame – the Scottish word for home – offers some of the dishes from his restaurants – The Frog Hoxton, Frog by Adam Handling and Adam Handling Chelsea, and a few he has developed while cooking at home during lock-down. Rather than providing hot dishes, the food from Hame will arrive fully prepared, ready for cooking and plating at home, complete with recipes and full step-by-step video instructions. Handling said: “ I’ve been asked on countless occasions to launch a food delivery service and I’ve replied in the same way every time ‘I would honestly love to but my food just won’t travel well’. So, we’ve come up with a way that I think is going to work perfectly.” Hame is available Thursdays to Sundays and orders must be made 48 hours ahead of the preferred delivery or collection date. Delivery is available within a ten-mile radius of Frog by Adam Handling, although it will try to accommodate other requests.
East London-based brewer launches contactless mobile beer delivery: East London-based Forest Road Brewing Company has launched a contactless mobile beer service for locals missing their pub pints during lock-down. The independent company is offering three of its own brewed beers from on board the Pint Mobile – a converted Citroën Berlingo – and is currently delivering within a three-mile radius from E8, but looking to expand that very soon. Owner Pete Brown said: “We have all of these kegs that are still fresh and tasting great, so I thought if people can’t get to the kegs, let’s bring the kegs to them!” All beers are £5 a pint including a branded glass to keep or customers can bring their own glass for a refill. The Pint Mobile carries 150 pints on board and a couple of cases of Forest Road cans and bottles. Founded five years ago, Forest Road supplies beer to many bars and restaurants, including Soho House Group, and is currently commissioning its own brewery.
Former England rugby captain Phil Vickery launches food offering: Former England rugby captain and World Cup winner Phil Vickery has launched a food offering called No.3, which looks to provide high-quality cuisine that customers can collect and eat at home. Having initially planned to open a restaurant in Cheltenham this month, the former Celebrity MasterChef winner was forced to rethink the business model in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Vickery and his team have launched the offering – named in honour of the prop’s playing days – as a call and collect service, with an online order option coming soon. Customers pre-order 24 hours in advance between 9am and noon. Collections are made between midday and 3pm from Wednesday to Saturday from Brickhampton Court Golf Complex in Churchdown, Gloucestershire. The initial menu including traditional dishes such as cottage pie, red wine sow braised beef and parmesan crusted chicken breast. Vickery said: “I want to offer good, tasty, wholesome food, supplemented by people coming together, having fun, sharing conversations and generally feeling good, all while eating genuinely delicious meals. Of course, at present, this social element isn’t possible, but we can still provide a fantastic taste experience for people to enjoy.”
Michelin-starred restaurant Benares and Three Cheers Pub Co provide meals to NHS staff: Michelin-starred restaurant Benares has provided 3,000 hot meals to NHS staff. The Mayfair-based venue is working in partnership with London-based financial company Market Financial Solutions to jointly donate funds to cover the costs of the meals. For every takeaway order it receives from its paying customers, Benares also donates one meal to NHS workers in its local area. Benares is delivering meals to Hammersmith, Charing Cross, Chelsea & Westminster and St Mary’s (Paddington) hospitals as well as local NHS medical centres in Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Victoria. Meanwhile, Three Cheers Pub Co, led by Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, has joined forces with non-profit organisation Open Kitchens to help feed elderly and vulnerable residents as well as NHS staff. The company is reopening the kitchen at The Rosendale in Dulwich with the aim of providing a minimum of 1,200 meals. The kitchen will be staffed by Three Cheers Pub Co members team who have volunteered their time free-of-charge to support the project. It aims to initially raise £3,000 to provide the meals, which will be delivered for free by Open Kitchens.