Patrick Dardis – potential sale of tenanted business on agenda for almost five years but now is the right time to test the water:Patrick Dardis, chief executive of London pub retailer Young’s, has told Propel a potential sale of its tenanted business has been on the agenda for almost five years, but the market was “now right” to test the water. Dardis said if a sale of the 63-strong Ram Pub Company did go ahead, “every penny” would be ploughed into either the existing business or towards potential acquisitions – and not used to pay down debt. Speaking following the company’s preliminary results, Dardis said: “We look at the strategy every year and a possible sale of the tenanted business has always been on the agenda. It’s a fantastic little business but it’s a declining area in terms of site growth. However, these are prized assets that would sit at the top of most tenanted pub company businesses and, following a review of everything, we feel now is the time to test the water. If we do a deal, and that is an ‘if’ because we don’t need to, it will add further firepower to invest in our existing estate and potential acquisitions.” Dardis said while the business, as a whole, had traded at 85% of pre-pandemic levels since the reopening of outdoor hospitality, the 144 pubs that had reopened on 12 April had traded at 97% of 2019 figures. “That was way above our expectations and why we are so optimistic about things,” he said. “This week with reopening indoors – and with more pubs open – we are seeing a good uplift. Wednesday night (19 May) was particularly good and bookings for the rest of the week are huge. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well we’ve done when we are able to trade. Who I feel for are those operators that are hanging on by their fingernails and need all restrictions to be lifted on 21 June in order to survive. But restrictions will be lifted and the pub sector can look forward to good times. If anyone thought the pub was dead, they’re wrong. In my view, they’ve got the best years to come.” Dardis admitted that before the pandemic, its Burger Shack business had “drifted away” but would play a key part in the future. He added: “What coronavirus has done is given us the opportunity to relaunch Burger Shack. We will be seeing many more Shacks in our outdoor spaces and will looking for bigger gardens when it comes to acquisitions – the Shack is certainly back.” Dardis said the company would also be adding to its circa 700 bedrooms, many of which have been refurbished during the pandemic, with a view to “getting to the 1,500 mark at some stage”.
 
Camerons – we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, in final stages of securing long-term refinancing deal: John Foots, finance director of north east-based brewer and pub operator Camerons, has told Propel the business can now see “the light at the end of the tunnel” as it rebuilds its balance sheet following the pandemic. The company, which secured £5m through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme last summer, is in the final stages of securing a long-term refinancing of existing borrowings. Foots said: “Having reached various agreements with our banks, landlords and other creditors, we are confident we’ll not need to borrow any more money. Although we continued to make big losses in FY21 because of not being able to trade for long periods, we can now see light at the end of the tunnel – we are starting to look to tomorrow rather than yesterday. Saying that, we are still keeping a watchful eye on the finances and will look to focus on our current assets in the short term and keep capital expenditure reasonably tight.” The company has helped strengthen its balance sheet by selling a couple of non-core pubs and securing new brewing business. Camerons is also in the process of selling four more pubs – three of those deals have been agreed and the final one is at heads-of-term stage. Two of the sites will remain as pubs with the other two being sold for alternative uses. Foots said all but two of the company’s circa 80 pubs are now open. He expects trade to return to pre-covid levels by September and the balance sheet to return to “a more normalised position” by the middle of next year. In terms of welcoming customers back indoors, Foots said the company was “pleased” with how the first few days had gone but it was too early to really gauge numbers. Foots spoke after Camerons reported turnover was down to £73.2m for the year ending 3 May 2020, compared with £84.1m the previous year due to the impact of the pandemic. Ebitda stood at £3.1m, due to a circa £1m Ebitda loss incurred in the final two months of the financial year. The company made a pre-tax loss of £3.7m, which included £1.2m of impairment fixed asset charged, compared with a profit of £397,000 the year before.
Parkinson – the UK is the perfect place to test and prove the Jollibee model before gearing up expansion: Adam Parkinson, vice-president for Jollibee in Europe, has told Propel the brand is using the UK, and its new flagship site in London’s Leicester Square, to test the market for a wider European launch. The brand, which operates circa 1,480 globally, opened its fourth site in the UK, on a former Bella Italia site, that is spread over three floors and has 200 covers, on Thursday (20 May). It hopes to have 11 sites operating in the UK by the end of the year, and is currently on-site in Cardiff and Reading. Further sites have been secured in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds. Earlier this year, the company said it would invest £30m to open 50 sites in the UK by 2025, and Parkinson told Propel the company hopes to open 20 next year, with sites in Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Exeter, Norwich and Southampton set to come online. The business expects to invest nearly £1m per site. The group opened its first UK restaurant in London’s Earl’s Court in 2018 and expanded to Liverpool and Leicester in 2020. In terms of opening in Europe, it already has sites in Milan and Rome, with a debut site in Spain, in Madrid, slated for an opening this autumn. Parkinson said: “The aim is to cover all the major UK cities through prime, high footfall restaurant sites. By the end of this year, we will be pretty much covered in the UK, in terms of the major cities, and next year, we look at the tier two cities. We know the UK is a very competitive market and we also know the consumer has a real appetite for chicken, so it’s the obvious place to build a platform and to test out the format. The longer-term aim is to have sites across Europe as a major fast casual brand and to go from high street and shopping centre locations to drive-thrus, once the brand is more established and recognised among European consumers. We view the UK as the perfect place to test and prove the model before gearing up expansion.”
Ramsay lines up third ex-Byron site for burger concept: Chef Gordon Ramsay has lined up a third ex-Byron site in London for his fast-growing Street Burger brand, Propel understands. The chef, who this week said he is planning to open another ten sites in the UK by this summer, with “dozens” of locations under review, is thought to have secured the former Byron site in Upper Street, Islington. Earlier this week, he opened a Street Burger on the former Byron site in Kensington High Street, west London. It became the fourth site to open under the burger brand, following openings in St Paul’s, Charing Cross Road (ex-Byron) and Woking. It is thought the chef is also in talks to take the ex-Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, for another Street Burger site. Ramsay is also believed to have made the highest offer to take the former Giraffe site in The Oracle in Reading. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Gordon Ramsay Restaurants had appointed Antony Perring, formerly of Leon and Wagamama, as its new chief financial officer. On the expansion plans, Perring said: “Our planned new restaurant openings will enable the business to accelerate its growth, boosting employment in the sector and advancing existing and new landlord relationships.”
Upham Inns to launch new suburban steakhouse concept, appoints new finance director: Upham Inns, the Hampshire-based operator, is launching a new suburban concept, Harpers Steakhouse, which it said is “inspired by the great American Steakhouses”, Propel has learned. The David Butcher-led company, which operates 15 pubs in Hampshire and the south, will roll out the new format to three existing locations by early June as part of a large capex investment programme, in Swindon, Southampton and Haslemere. As well as a premium steak offer, Harpers Steakhouse will have a “strong rhythm of the week programme, including Barbecue Night, Bottomless Brunch and Indulgent Sunday Lunches”. At the same time, the company, which is chaired by Kevin Todd, has appointed David Jeffery to head its finance department because current finance director Robb Harris is leaving the business in early June for another role in the sector. Jeffrey joins from Ascot Racecourse where he was head of finance, with previous experience including being European franchise business financial controller for Yum! Brands.
Cote appoints Erin Roy as new chief marketing officer: Cote, the circa 90-strong French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has further strengthened its management team with the appointment of Erin Roy, formerly of The White Company and Marks & Spencer, as its new chief marketing officer, Propel has learned. Roy joins the Jane Holbrook-chaired business after a year and a half as marketing, digital and retail director at Hush Homewear. Previous to that, she was marketing director at The White Company and head of media and digital marketing at Marks & Spencer. In March, Propel revealed the company had appointed James Sherrington, formerly of Drake & Morgan, as its new chief financial officer.
Co-founder of The Athenian announces launch of new Greek-Cypriot street food restaurant brand: Co-founder of Greek food restaurant brand The Athenian, Neofytos Christodoulou, is launching a new Greek-Cypriot street food site called Smashing Plates. Opening in early June, the restaurant will serve food from a delivery kitchen in Battersea through Deliveroo in an exclusive partnership, followed by a bricks and mortar opening in St Thomas Street, London Bridge, from 20 June. Open all day, the restaurant will specialise in gyros and offer a balance of both meat and plant-based Mediterranean dishes. Diners can expect chicken, pork, lamb gyros and plant-based alternatives, marinated in Greek oregano for 24 hours before being seared to order. Sides include hand-cut fries served spicy, cheesy or dusted with house-made oregano salt. Also available are a range of salads. Christodoulou said: “Greek hospitality is based around being welcoming and generous – Smashing Plates is my interpretation of how I’ve always wanted to enjoy Greek street food – but made uncompromisingly with the best quality and freshly prepared ingredients we can lay our hands on.” Smashing Plates’ website shows there are future plans to launch restaurants in Canary Wharf, Tooting and Wembley, plus delivery kitchens in Hackney, Reading, Cambridge and Birmingham.
Four Hundred Rabbits to open at Elephant Park for fifth site: South London-based sourdough pizza and craft beer restaurant concept Four Hundred Rabbits is to open its fifth site – and biggest to date – at the Elephant Park development. The flagship pizzeria, bar, gelateria and coffee shop will launch in Ash Avenue on Friday, 28 May. The site will offer 54 seats inside the restaurant and a further 26 outside on the terrace. Four Hundred Rabbits uses a sourdough starter made from British rye flour and ferments the dough for up to 48 hours. It is then cooked at about 400°C in a wood-fired oven, with British seasonal produce used for toppings. Founded by ex-DJ brothers Daniel and Duncan Edwards in 2015, Four Hundred Rabbits has neighbourhood pizza restaurants in Crystal Palace, Nunhead and West Norwood and a brunch-focused cafe in Brockwell Park, Herne Hill.
Butcombe Brewing Co opens its first taproom: Butcombe Brewing Co, part of Liberation Group, has opened The Whitmore Tap, its first taproom, on the site of the former Penny pub on Whiteladies Road in Clifton, Bristol. Named after Butcombe’s founder Simon Whitmore, The Whitmore Tap will serve the full range of award-winning Butcombe cask, keg and bottled beers and cider, along with some seasonal beers and small batch brews. Downstairs, in the street level bar, guests will be able to enjoy a raft of bar snacks, small plates, sharing boards and yakitori skewers. Upstairs in the dining room, the menu will focus heavily on local, seasonal produce and robust dishes designed to celebrate Butcombe’s drinks range – all created in a robata charcoal grill and open kitchen. Propel understands Butcombe could look to open further sites under the taproom concept, judging on the success of this first opening. Jayson Perfect, group managing director Pubs & Inns, Liberation Group, said: “The opening of The Whitmore Tap is an incredibly exciting venture for us in that it’s our very first taproom and a real showcase of everything Butcombe Brewing Co stands for. Our award-winning food and drink will take centre stage in this beautifully designed, high-end and contemporary space where our guests can enjoy superb service and good old-fashioned welcoming hospitality.”
Fine & Country Inns acquires Sheffield site for fifth outlet: Fine & Country Inns, run by Gary Hunt, has acquired a site in Sheffield for its fifth venue. The company has bought Brocco on the Park from Tiina Carr in a deal brokered by agent Fleurets. The property in Brocco Bank features a restaurant and eight bedrooms. Launched in 2014, Fine & Country Inns also operates The Strafford Arms in Stainborough, The Mason Arms in Thorpe Hesley, The Parish Oven in Thorpe Salvin and The Rose & Crown in Barlborough.
Park Holidays UK acquires fellow operator Bridge Leisure: East Sussex-headquartered holiday park group Park Holidays UK has acquired Bridge Leisure, which operates nine holiday parks in the West Country, Peak District, Yorkshire and Scotland. The deal brings the number of parks now operated by Park Holidays UK to 42. Park Holidays UK director Tony Clish said the deal presented exciting new opportunities. “Both companies have invested substantially in their parks over recent years, and created a range of high-quality holiday products that people clearly enjoy,” he said. “We will now be committing even more investment to ensuring park facilities and services meet the highest possible standards, and in further upgrading accommodation and infrastructure. But it is important to both customers and staff that our investment plans are sensitive to the individual park identities and character, which each has established over the years.” Park Holidays UK was formed more than 35 years ago, and its portfolio of coastal parks has been built up largely in southern England. Bridge Leisure was founded in 2008 and has grown through the acquisition and development of selected holiday parks. Parks in both groups provide extensive leisure facilities and family entertainment, together with holiday lodges and caravans.
Team behind Taka to open Japanese restaurant Maru next month: The team behind Japanese restaurant Taka will open Maru next month, in Mayfair. Maru, led by executive chef Taiji Maruyama and partners Andrey and Anastasia Datsenko, will serve a 20-course omakase-style, farm-to-table inspired, tasting menu and has claimed to be the first Japanese restaurant in the UK to specialise in the culinary technique of dry-ageing fish, in-house. The restaurant will seat ten people who will all be served from behind the counter by chef Maruyama and his team. The “omakase” menu, which means “I’ll leave it up to the chef”, will be an innovative take on traditional Japanese cuisine, combining British ingredients with classical training and techniques. Maruyama has previously worked in Tokyo, and at Nobu, Beaverbrook and Taka. Maru, which is based in Shepherd Market, will open on Tuesday, 15 June, with the 20-course menu having a supplementary drink pairing, to include wine, champagne, sake and tea.
Chef-restaurateur Alexis Gauthier doubles up with opening at Fenwicks in Mayfair: Chef-restaurateur Alexis Gauthier has doubled up – by opening a site at the Fenwick department store in London’s Mayfair. As with his main Gauthier restaurant in Soho, 123V is an all-vegan plant-based restaurant, which has a broad range of influences from southern California, Mexico and Thailand to the south of France. Dishes include the California cheeseburger – Beyond Meat patty, house bun, vegan cheese, onion, lettuce, pickles and special sauce; and the Quesedilla Rojo – fresh toasted corn galette, harissa glazed aubergine, confit red peppers, spicy salsa, fresh vegan cheese and wild rocket. There is also an all-vegan sushi counter. Alongside the vegan wine list and cocktails is a selection of cold-pressed juice and coffee, reports Hot Dinners.
Experienced team opens chicken and burger restaurant in Woolton Village:Chicken and burger restaurant Buffalo & Tabasco is opening on Friday (21 May) in Woolton Village, Liverpool. The team behind the Woolton Street business has more than 25 years’ experience in hospitality, having worked in the sector in Liverpool, Malta and Egypt. Its menu includes peri peri chicken, burgers, ribs, wraps, subs and side dishes such as halloumi fries and mozzarella melts, as well as a range of healthy salads. Signature shakes include Ferrero, Kinder Bueno, Oreo and Biscoff shakes and there is a selection of desserts. General manager Mo Ali said: “We had plans to open sooner but were unable to with the pandemic so it certainly feels like a long time coming. Whether you prefer chicken, burgers, ribs or wraps and subs, we’ve ensured that we cater for all.” The restaurant is offering 50% off all menu items on its first day.
New £1m bar and restaurant to open in West Yorkshire village: A new bar and restaurant is opening in the West Yorkshire village of Haworth after a £1m investment by two entrepreneur brothers. The Treehouse Bar and Kitchen will launch on Friday (21 May) on the former site of Chaplin’s Bistro, in Oak Street, creating up to 30 jobs. It represents the initial venture into the hospitality sector by Frank and Rob Stott, who own Stott Decorating Contractors and Stott Building Contractors. Having bought the 3,000 square foot property two years ago, the Stott brothers have overseen its complete refurbishment and the venue will be managed by Benjamin Comstive, who has joined from the bar and restaurant group Potting Shed. The all-day venue will offer pizza, burgers, craft beer and cocktails, and show live sport across ten screens.
Two failed weddings and conference venues up for sale for £11.5m: Two failed hotel, wedding and conference venues in the Midlands have been put up for sale for £11.5m. The owners of Sundial Group and Woodside Conference Centre called in administrators from Grant Thornton in February leaving Highgate House Hotel in Creaton, Northamptonshire, and Woodside in Kenilworth closed, and 70 jobs lost. Successive covid-19 lockdowns last year and into 2021, and a protracted planning application process, were the reasons administrators were called in. Management had hoped a piece of land next to Woodside could be sold to a residential developer, but the deal was reliant on planning consents being obtained – a process that had become drawn out, reports The Business Desk. Administrators believe the sale of Highgate House Hotel and Woodside Conference Centre will mean the companies’ debts will be paid in full. Planning permission for the 31 acres of land next to Woodside is also progressing, and Catesby Estates has been instructed to market the site for sale. Meanwhile, Knight Frank is marketing the two venues, with Woodgate up for sale for just under £5m and Highgate House commanding a £6.5m price tag.
Former Vogue producer to launch plant-based restaurant in Knightsbridge: A new plant-based restaurant is to open in London’s Knightsbridge next month. Holy Carrot, which will launch within wellness and beauty destination, Urban Retreat, is the brainchild of former Vogue producer Irina Linovich. It will offer all-day dining with the dishes on the menu free from preservatives, refined sugar and additives. The menu will include the Maki Set – a selection of crispy and holy maki ponzu with a spiced mayo; and a raw red pepper burrito. Drinks will feature a range of fresh juice, smoothies and cocktails. Linovich said: “When we came up with the idea to launch a vegan restaurant in Knightsbridge, we wanted to make sure we brought an element of fun to eating vegan food. ‘Carrot’ symbolises the fun and intriguing element of the brand, and ‘Holy’ represents the healthy nature of our dishes.” The restaurant will officially open on Thursday, 10 June.
New venue featuring London’s largest outdoor drinking area and street food operators to launch this month: A new venue featuring London’s largest outdoor drinking area and a host of street food operators will launch on the South Bank this month. Between The Bridges is a partnership between the organisers of the Winterville and Brockwell Park festivals and Peppermint Bars. Launching on Thursday (27 May), the venue will span more than 4,000 square feet and also feature a programme of live entertainment. The food stalls will be run by operators including Club Mexicana, the vegan restaurant concept that offers Mexican and Californian-inspired street food; Venezuelan fried chicken concept El Pollote; and Burger & Beyond. There will be also weekly themed craft markets. Between The Bridges director Marcus Weedon said: “Celebrating the best in London culture, Between The Bridges will provide entertainment, activities, food, and drinks for everyone.”
West Midlands restaurant relocates after investment team takes on Dorridge hotel: West Midlands-based restaurant The Butchers Social has relocated after its owner and other investors took ownership of The Forest Hotel in Dorridge. The Butchers Social opened as a pop-up in Harborne, Birmingham, but has operated for the past four years in Henley-in-Arden. The restaurant’s owner, Mike Bullard, joined forces with Birmingham-based business founder and entrepreneur Russell Martin, and founder and investor of multiple businesses, including Solihull Moors Football Club, Darryl Eales, to acquire The Forest Hotel and open The Butchers Social there. Bullard told The Business Desk: “The Butchers Social offers quality British cuisine, using ingredients sourced locally and nationally, to bring the best produce to the menu. From chicken wings at the bar to Sunday lunch, a three-course a la carte meal or a nine-course tasting menu, we offer a culinary delight for everyone and every dining occasion. Myself and the team are raring to go and we’re hitting the ground running this week.” The Forest Hotel also offers accommodation and hosts events such as weddings and conferences.
Designer Anya Hindmarch launches cafe concept: Designer Anya Hindmarch has opened a cafe as part of her The Village concept in London’s Pont Street. The cafe, which has a terrace that can seat more than 20 customers, offers cakes and classic biscuits that have been reinvented and baked on site, including its own take on digestives and custard creams. Alongside those are a daily salad bowl and toasts with toppings that include Welsh rarebit and smoked salmon. The all-day cafe is inspired by the “quintessential British cafe of old but reimagined with the brand’s trademark humour”, reports Hot Dinners.