Barburrito cuts London estate as it refocuses operation: Barburrito, the BGF-backed Mexican chain, has exited two of its three London sites, Propel has learned. The circa 20-strong company has exited its sites in Hammersmith and Farringdon, leaving it with a venue at Paddington station. The company recently opened a site with TRG Concessions in Gatwick airport in Sussex and has signed up to launch a site in the Manchester airport extension. Founder and chief executive Morgan Davies told Propel: “Hammersmith and Farringdon were nice sites but, at the end of the day, weren’t suited to our model. In the end, we received good offers to exit and took the opportunity to refocus our operation. All staff have been given the option to relocate and we have strengthened the team at Paddington, which continues to trade well. We are committed to London and will open stores in the capital in due course. In the meantime, it’s great to be operating in two of the capital’s strongest transport hubs. Overall trade remains strong and ahead of sector benchmarks.”
Amber Taverns makes Scottish debut, bulk of acquisitions coming from retail:Community pub operator Amber Taverns has made its debut in Scotland while the bulk of its acquisitions are coming from retail conversions, Propel has learned. Amber Taverns is believed to be focusing its attention on empty retail units as it looks to grow its estate in England, Wales and Scotland, but is also interested in pub package acquisitions. It has increased its geographic spread by opening in Paisley, while at least two more pubs in Scotland are set to follow. Propel understands pre-Christmas openings are planned in Coatbridge and Dumfries, while terms have been agreed on two other Scottish sites, in Kilmarnock and Kirkcaldy, subject to planning and licensing permission. Amber Taverns will also extend its footprint further south, with The Duke opening in Bridgwater next month. It is also understood to be under offer on a site that would extend its south east boundary. The company’s pipeline is believed to be healthy with the majority of acquisitions coming from retail conversions as councils look to fill empty units to revive high streets. Amber Taverns has recently opened pubs in Bradford and Bishop Auckland, both former Poundworld sites. It also recently opened sites in Newark in Nottinghamshire and Waterloo in Merseyside, which were both refurbishments of pubs, as well as Stafford, which was another retail conversion.
Refurbishment programme success puts Bill’s back on expansion trail: David Campbell, chairman of Richard Caring-backed business Bill’s Restaurants, has told Propel the continued success of the company’s refurbishment programme has given the business the confidence to return to the acquisition trail after an almost two-year absence. By September, the 78-strong company had refurbished 27 sites – 40% of its estate. The refurbishments have been directed by founder Bill Collison and remain true to his original principles by reimagining the Bill’s offering across “every aspect of the restaurants’ operation”. By the end of August, the company had completed nine consecutive months performing ahead of the CGA Peach Tracker. For the first three quarters of 2019, like-for-like sales for the total business have been up 8.8% against the same period in 2018 and significantly ahead of this for the refurbished restaurants sub-set. The company said: “Importantly, the momentum in the existing business and refurbished restaurants has seen Ebitda more than double versus the same period in 2018.” The success of the refurbishment programme has meant like-for-like sales growth has been ahead or around 5% for the entire business since the start of the year, reaching as high as a 14% uplift in July. The refurbished estate has seen like-for-like sales growth up by as much as 23% year-on-year. In December 2018, sales were £120.7m for the past 12 months. This year to September they stood at £127.5m. Meanwhile, Ebitda for the 12 months to September has grown from £5.5m to £8.8m. Propel understands Ebitda is set to be more than £10m for the 12 months of 2019. Campbell said given the success of the refurbishment programme, coupled with the business’ overall momentum, the company had decided to roll out the refurbishment programme across the rest of the estate. He told Propel he hoped to have the full estate refurbished by the end of 2020. During the previous financial year the company entered a new debt facility with HSBC that stood at £41.23m, which Propel understands has subsequently been increased to £47.5m. The new funding will help the refurbishment programme and the group’s return to the acquisition trail, with its first new restaurant in about two years to open this month in Spinningfields, Manchester, followed by an opening in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth. Propel understands a third site, at Cheshire Oaks, is also set to be added to the brand’s pipeline. Campbell told Propel: “You can’t make an impact with two or three refurbishments, the changes need to be done at scale. You have to make a decision reasonably early on those that are working or not working.” The company has also consolidated parts of its estate in the past year, including disposal of sites in Battersea and Hoxton. Campbell said: “In this market you have to be flexible and realise some locations that previously worked may have moved away from Bill’s. At the same time, we have received offers that have made sense to accept.” The company reported turnover of £175.0m for the 74 weeks to 30 December 2018 compared with £118.6m for the 52 weeks to July 2017 as the group’s reporting came in line with Caring’s other restaurant businesses. Adjusted Ebitda before pre-opening and exceptional costs during the period was “disappointing” at £9.9m, compared with £13.6m in the previous period, which the company said reflected “well-reported challenges from the macro-economic environment and those specific to the casual dining sector”. The company made a £9.11m loss last year compared with a £3.5m pre-tax profit in 2017. It said the losses related to £10.3m in exceptional items, including £4.1m in impairment and property lease premiums, £2.5m in refurbishment costs and a £1.2m write-off for the abandoned Bill’s-to-go concept, which had the working title Vitesse.
European Commission clears Greene King sale: Brewer and retailer Greene King’s £2.7bn acquisition by Hong Kong private developer CK Asset Holdings has been cleared by the European Commission. The move comes after shareholders of both companies approved the deal last week. As a result of the clearance, Greene King said the last day of its shares trading on the stock exchange will be Wednesday, 30 October. The deal values Greene King at £4.6bn including net debt, making it the second largest UK-inbound deal of the year after Blackstone and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board made a £6bn move for Merlin Entertainments. CKA, which announced plans to buy Greene King in August, was founded by 91-year-old Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and is run by his eldest son, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi. Ka-shing announced plans to retire last year but remains a senior adviser at CK Asset Holdings.
Lodge steps down from Casual Dining Group, Ainger promoted to property director: David Lodge has stepped down as property and development director at Casual Dining Group (CDG) after more than four and a half years with the Café Rouge, Las Iguanas and Bella Italia operator, Propel has learned. Lodge joined CDG in early 2015 following eight years as property and development director at Novus. He is currently working with CDG on a consultancy basis. Matt Ainger, who has been director of estates at CDG for the past 11 years, has subsequently been promoted to property director. Earlier this summer Propel revealed CDG had reshaped its leadership team by appointing three brand directors across Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas. Following the appointment of James Spragg as chief executive in May, CDG removed the managing director’s role for its branded businesses in favour of a flatter structure, with brand directors reporting directly to Spragg. The move followed the resignation of Mos Shamel as managing director of Las Iguanas after his 16 years with the brand and the departure of Gareth Lock, who had been chief operating officer across Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo. Internal succession moves saw Lisa Gibbons promoted to brand director of Bella Italia, Julie McEwan promoted to brand director of Las Iguanas, and Greg Gibbons promoted to brand director of Café Rouge.
Barclays – Domino’s decision to exit overseas markets a ‘welcome end to international value destruction’: Barclays leisure analyst Richard Taylor has described the decision by Domino’s Pizza to exit the majority of its overseas business as a “welcome end to international value destruction”. He said: “Investors may focus on the slowing two-year UK like-for-likes but we believe the main focus should be the decision to exit four international markets (excluding Germany) in an ‘orderly manner’. The price achieved will determine how positive this news is but, given we assume losses throughout our forecast period, we welcome this news. In terms of third-quarter trading, UK like-for-like sales growth (ex-splits) was 3%. This compares with first-half like-for-likes of 3.9% and Barclays FY19 forecasts of 4%. Comparables from the third quarter of last year are 2.2% and strengthen in the fourth quarter to 4.5% so this is a sharp slowdown on a two-year basis. A total of 12 stores were opened in the UK and Republic of Ireland in the third quarter (nine in the UK), which is mildly encouraging given there were only seven opened in the UK in the first half, but we don’t believe this signals the end of the dispute with franchisees. Regarding international, the company has conducted a review of the businesses and concluded it isn’t the “best owners” and the board has therefore decided to “exit the markets in an orderly manner”. Barclays’ forecasts are for £10m of losses in FY19. We have previously written the book value of international is circa £107m but we believe this includes losses so may be a poor guide of value. How much value can be generated from loss-making businesses is clearly an area of uncertainty but we note the Iceland business was profitable in FY18 (£4.1 of Ebit), albeit we forecast this to fall to £2m in FY19. A valuation of £20m to £40m could be feasible based on ten times EV/Ebit for Iceland, but persuading buyers to pay a significant sum for loss-making businesses elsewhere may be ambitious.”
Ego grows to 20 with Worcester launch: 3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler, has opened the latest Ego site as part of its joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers (M&B). The launch of Manor Farm in Worcester is the eighth under the partnership and 20th in total. The move follows the transformation of a former Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery to the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and bar concept. M&B formed the partnership in August 2018 when it bought sector investor Luke Johnson’s minority share in 3Sixty. Last month, Horler told Propel M&B sites that had been converted to Ego were seeing an average 80% uplift in sales. He said following the Worcester opening the company would focus on the Christmas period before aiming to add another two sites in the first quarter of 2020.
Michelin-trained chef to open third restaurant, in Somerset: Wiltshire-based Max Barnett, who trained in one and two Michelin-starred restaurants and worked as a private chef for professional footballers, has expanded to Somerset to open his third site. His company, Barnetts, has already converted a 16th century dairy farm at Bowerchalke, Wiltshire, into a fine-dining restaurant and taken over The Queens Head pub in the same village. Now he will open Barnetts At The Old Bank House in High Street, Castle Cary, on Friday, 1 November. The 18th century building has been given a major facelift and will offer three distinct menus. The chef’s table will offer a five-course taster menu with matching wine, while the cheese and wine lounge next door will offer seven Somerset cheeses paired with drinks. Downstairs, the 32-cover Vault Bar will offer “British tapas and cocktails”. All produce will be sourced within a seven-mile radius of the restaurant. Barnett told Somerset Live: “Castle Cary is going to be the next up-and-coming area. A lot of good outlets are coming in and there’s the new train line to London. Barnetts takes older buildings and tries to breathe fresh life into them. With this building dating to the 1720s, it fits perfectly.”
JD Wetherspoon acquires Birmingham pub from Greene King: JD Wetherspoon has confirmed its acquisition of a pub in Birmingham from brewer and retailer Greene King. The Navigation Inn in the Kings Norton area of the city closed last year. However, the 19th century pub in Wharf Road is set for a new lease of life under Wetherspoon. The company is set to lodge a planning application with Birmingham City Council to develop the site and aims to open the pub by July 2020, reports Birmingham Live.
Cafe bar concept Spoke & Stringer starts expansion at former Happy Bird site in Bristol: Bristol-based cafe bar concept Spoke & Stringer has started expansion by opening its second site in the city. Kristian Crews launched Spoke & Stringer five years ago, opening a harbour-side cafe bar in Gasworks Lane that has appeared in the Good Food Guide. Spoke & Stringer’s new site is in Clifton at the site in Whiteladies Road formerly occupied by gourmet fried chicken joint Happy Bird, which closed within a year of its launch. The refurbished site now features a counter clad with Spanish-style tiles, reclaimed tables supported by scaffolding poles, and leather-upholstered stools. Surfboards and bicycles hang from the walls in keeping with Spoke & Stringer’s “ride culture is our lifestyle” mission statement. The menu focuses on healthy options, including build your own superfood bowls and lunchtime dishes such as smoked mackerel kedgeree with basmati rice. Like its sister site, the venue turns into a bar in the evening offering cocktails, wine, beer and cider, Bristol Live reports. Happy Bird, which focuses on ethical produce and has received backing from former Domino’s chief executive Chris Moore, landed in London in July with a residency at Fuller’s pub The Fine Line in the City of London.
Cru Holdings sells only site outside native Inverness: Scotland-based operator Cru Holdings has sold its site in Falkirk – its only venue outside Inverness. The company has completed a deal with fledgling operator Knightsway Inns for High Spirits in Vicar Street. Knightsway Inns was incorporated in August this year, according to Companies House. All staff have been kept on following the sale and High Spirits continues to trade as normal. Cru Holdings managing director Scott Murray told the Falkirk Herald: “We have thoroughly enjoyed working with the community, our customers and, of course, our staff over the past 12 months, which has seen us realise our goal of operating a bar outside our native Inverness. We have learned a lot from this process but ultimately the challenges of a remote operation outweigh the benefits of the operation, and we have had to make the tough decision to withdraw from the area. The unit is trading extremely well and we’re certain the new operators will be able to further build on the success.” Cru Holdings operates Inverness venues Scotch & Rye, Bar One, Prime, Angels’ Share, Dow’s Bar & Bistro and The Keg, as well as travel agency Inverness Travel.
Blackburn-based operators take on second Admiral Taverns pub: Tony and Tom Bromwich, who operate the White Bull in Blackburn, have taken on a second Admiral Taverns site in the Lancashire town. They now run The Adelphi in Railway Road and, as at its sister site, the Bromwichs will turn the venue into a cabaret-style pub and club. Tony Bromwich told the Lancashire Telegraph: “When we saw the size of it and the fact it’s right in the middle of Blackburn town centre, we thought it was just right. Admiral saw what we’d done with the White Bull so we did a survey among customers and have gone for it. This will be something new and different for the town centre’s nightlife.”
Chipotle adds debt-free college degrees to staff perks: Chipotle Mexican Grill has added debt-free college degrees to its staff benefits package. The restaurant chain, which has provided more than $20m in tuition assistance to employees in the past two years as part of its Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits programme, will cover 100% tuition costs for 75 different business and technology degrees through a partnership with Guild Education, an educational benefits company. US employees will be eligible for the programme after 120 days with the company and earn degrees from participating non-profit universities. Chipotle chief people officer Marissa Andrada told Retail Wire: “Financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles to our employees achieving their full potential. The programme will help our employees excel in all areas of their lives, in and out of Chipotle.” The Cultivate Education programme sees eligible Chipotle employees reimbursed up to $5,250 a year at a school of their choice. Chipotle said it found employees in the programme were more likely to stay with the company and gain promotion. Management said it promoted more than 13,000 employees last year. Chipotle, which operates more than 2,500 restaurants in the US, Canada, France, Germany and the UK, employs more than 80,000 workers across its business.
Birmingham restaurant investment let to Bistrot Pierre on market for £1.75m: The freehold of a property in Birmingham let to Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, has gone on the market for a guide price of £1.75m. Agent James Baker has brought the freehold investment of the property in Gas Street to market with the price reflecting a net initial yield of circa 6%. The 4,200 square foot building is let to Bistrot Pierre on a 25-year lease with no breaks, 22 years unexpired. It has a current passing rent of £110,000 per annum.
Byron partners with Paddy & Scott’s: Byron, the Simon Wilkinson-led better burger brand, has partnered with ethical coffee supplier Paddy & Scott’s. The roll out of the partnership will begin in Byron’s new-look branded site in High Street Kensington, which will open next month featuring the company’s new brunch offer before it is rolled out across the estate. Wilkinson said: “We are delighted to introduce Paddy and Scott’s into Byron. Our partnership of Lunchbox coffee will fund about 10,000 school meals annually throughout coffee-growing regions. This is the first of many new ethical and sustainable partnerships as we reposition our brand.”
Pizza Hut UK expands vegan menu: Pizza Hut UK has added a plant-based pizza, vegan nuggets and dairy-free cheesecake to its latest menu. The fast-food chain is offering Quorn’s meat-free Southern Fried Nuggets alongside a vegan dessert called I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheesecake. The All About Mushrooms is Pizza Hut’s fifth vegan pizza and features mushrooms, garlic mushrooms and Violife cheese. Pizza Hut has been gradually ramping up its vegan offering. It trialled a plant-based pizza in January to celebrate Veganuary, stating if it sold 10,000 pizzas in the month it would keep the item on the menu. The vegan pizza was ordered 17,700 times. The following month, Pizza Hut brought out a three-course vegan menu, featuring three further plant-based pizzas.
Stonegate to move Manchester Be At One into last Living Room site: Stonegate Pub Company has closed its sole Be At One site in Manchester and will move the brand to a new site in the city. The company has closed the Be At One in Barton Arcade and will relaunch the brand at its sole remaining Living Room site, in Deansgate. After 20 years of trading the debut Living Room closed earlier this year. Stonegate acquired the Living Room brand of 13 sites from Premium Bars & Restaurants in August 2013. During the past six years it has been converting those sites to a number of its other brands and trading formats but the Deansgate site had always been left alone. In 2016 the bar, which has been a haunt for Manchester celebrities and footballers over the years, underwent a major refurbishment. Stonegate currently has 39 Be At One sites, with its Richmond bar closed for refurbishment.
Paul UK launches grab-and-go stews as part of autumn menu: Paul UK, the French bakery and cafe brand, has rolled out its autumn menu featuring a gourmet grab-and-go coq au vin and ratatouille. The two classic French stews, available from the bakery’s hot hold counters, feature alongside three seasonal baguettes – bacon and stilton, roast beef and mustard mayonnaise, and vegan spiced falafel on turmeric bread. The Croque Reuben, Paul’s homage to the American hot sandwich, is also back for the winter months. New lighter options include a vegan artichoke salad and sliced roast beef salad. The autumn baguettes, salads and croque can be found in all shops, while the hot stews are only available from selected bakeries.
Cornwall-based burger restaurant to open second site, in Falmouth this month:Cornwall-based burger restaurant Boo Koos will open its second site, in Falmouth this month. Owners David and Lisa Lemon are transforming a former Prezzo in The Old Post Office in The Moor on the back of the success of their debut venue in Helston. The restaurant in Meneage Street, which employs 30 people, is known for its Texan-style burgers and shakes. The Falmouth restaurant, which is due to open in the last week of October, will take Boo Koos to the “next level”, with 150 covers and 50 full-time staff. David Lemon told Cornwall Live: “The only complaint we seem to get is people saying we’re too small and they can’t get a table. I wanted to keep it at the one really but demand means we have to open another restaurant.”
 
Hollywood Bowl to make Northern Ireland debut after signing as anchor tenant for £17m Belfast redevelopment: Hollywood Bowl, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, is to make its debut in Northern Ireland after signing as an anchor tenant alongside Cineworld at a £17m redevelopment of The Odyssey leisure complex in Belfast. The Odyssey’s current bowling complex and cinema will remain open alongside The SSE Arena and the W5 discovery centre while the rest of the leisure complex closes in early January. The Odyssey’s mezzanine level will be rebuilt to accommodate new restaurants and bars. The bowling alley will close in late 2020 for a 20-lane refit to reopen under the Hollywood Bowl banner, while Cineworld will take over the cinema for its own Northern Irish debut. Matagorda 2, working alongside The Odyssey Trust Company, will begin construction work on the site at the end of this month ahead of a forecast completion date of late spring 2021. Matagorda 2 consultant Guy Hollis said: “We will reconfigure the site and introduce a new mix of high-quality hospitality, entertainment and leisure offerings, which will bring The Odyssey in line with some of the best one-site leisure destinations in the world.” JLL London and Lisney are marketing units at the redeveloped site. Lisney director Nicky Finnieston said: “With strong anchor tenants secured, there are a number of well-known national restaurant chains entering into the latter stages of negotiations and we hope to be in a position to make further letting announcements in the coming weeks.” Rob Howarth, director of restaurants and leisure at JLL, said: “This is a compelling proposition for leisure operators.”
Premium Indian restaurant brand Copper Chimney makes UK debut: Premium Indian restaurant brand Copper Chimney has made its UK debut, at Westfield London. As revealed by Propel the concept, which was founded by JK Kapur in Bombay in 1972, has taken space at the scheme’s extension, joining Puttshack, All Star Lanes and ETM Group. A spokesman said: “Copper Chimney is an ode to secret recipes and cooking techniques across North India. Copper Chimney serves a flavourful melange of its signature Indian dishes, flavours and ingredients to deliver an unforgettable dining experience.” The company operates 16 restaurants in India.
David Lloyd Clubs secures Birmingham site: Health and leisure business David Lloyd Clubs has secured a site in Birmingham. The company has acquired the venue in Cornwall Street, which will feature Blaze – its high-intensity interval training boutique-style workout class. David Lloyd Clubs has taken 4,908 square foot on a 15-year lease with Landlord Lightwell Leasehold in a deal brokered by joint agents Jackson Criss and Hartnell Taylor Cook. Will Biggart, of Jackson Criss’ restaurant and leisure team, said: “The fitness market is going through a boom time with the boutique market beginning to expand into the regions.”
Growing hotel group Selina strikes £80m deal with UK investment firm to fund expansion: Hospitality group Selina has signed an £80m, five-year partnership with UK-based investment company Cogress to fund expansion. The deal sees Cogress become Selina’s exclusive funding partner with the aim to kick-start the Latin American startup’s expansion into the UK and Portugal. Selina is a venture capital-backed concept that has 128 sites in 19 countries and opts to convert hotels to its brand rather than developing sites from scratch. It also generates a significant portion of its revenue through co-working spaces and renting units to third-party hospitality operators. Cogress chief executive Tal Orly said: “This is the biggest commitment we have made as a lender. The scope of Selina, its growth to date, innovation and resilience of the model, and its potential to change not only the hospitality industry but how we view and use property is reminiscent of Airbnb.” The lender will raise the funds from its community of investors. The first investment opportunity is a portfolio of six venues including Selina’s only current UK hotel, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the conversion of a YMCA in Liverpool into a 324-bedroom site, and an asset in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter that is due to open later this autumn.
Levy UK signs as catering partner for new Brentford stadium: Catering company Levy UK has signed as the official food and hospitality partner for Brentford Community Stadium, which is due to open in summer 2020. Levy UK has won a five-year contract to deliver retail, hospitality and non-match day catering at Brentford Football Club’s 17,250-seat stadium when the club moves from Griffin Park at the start of the 2020/21 season. The venue will also host matches by rugby union club London Irish. The stadium is part of the Brentford East regeneration project, which includes restaurants, shops, 900 homes and a public square. Levy UK will utilise technology to speed service in the stadium, including digital screens and cashless areas. Levy UK managing director Jon Davies said: “We are excited to mobilise a cutting-edge foodservice operation at Brentford FC’s new home. We’ll be rolling out a fan-first approach that will offer a huge variety of choice.” Levy UK operates at a number of other London stadiums including Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, the O2 and Twickenham.