Company News:

Birbeck steps down as Whitbread Restaurants MD: Phil Birbeck has stepped down as managing director of Whitbread’s circa 400-strong restaurant division, Propel has learned. Birbeck, formerly of Dixons Carphone, joined the Brewers Fayre, Bar + Block and Beefeater operator in June 2015, after a year and a half as operations director of Dixons Carphone, where he was the Dixons lead in the merger integration with Carphone Warehouse. He also spent time as president director general of Pixmania and previous to that he was director of DSG Business, which at the time included PC World. Birbeck leaves Whitbread following a restructure of its operational reporting lines. Its restaurants and central operational teams will now be overseen by Simon Ewins in his new role as managing director, UK Hotels and Restaurants. A Whitbread spokesman told Propel: “Phil played a huge part in shaping the restaurant brands into the businesses that currently exist today as well as delivering excellent market performance.” Birbeck was also the company’s representative on the board of healthy food-to-go concept Pure. His position there has been taken over by Whitbread group transformation director Nigel Jones.
Lussmanns restructures business via new company JL20: Lussmanns Fish & Grill, the independent brasserie group backed by investor Luke Johnson, has restructured its business, which has led to the closure of one site and a move for another. The Andrei Lussmann-led group has closed its Tring site and moved out of its site in Hertford. After 16 years based in The Egyptian House, the five-strong company is moving to a new location – 83 Fore Street, in Hertford – with an opening planned for next month. The group, which currently has its sites in Hitchen, Harpenden and St Albans open, has restructured its business under new vehicle JL20 Restaurants, in which Johnson remains an investor. Lussmann told Propel the restructuring via JL20 and closure of two of its sites was “the only way we could hold our landlords to account and get them to share the burden”. He said: “The need to follow the ideal of ‘one for all and all for one’ is sadly missed for some of our landlords who seem to live in a time warp. That said, most of our landlords have been pragmatic and supportive as Lussmanns continues to trade well.”
Costa Coffee franchise targets growth after securing £1m-plus funding from HSBC: A Costa Coffee franchise has secured a £1m-plus facility from HSBC UK to refit its stores and help ambitious growth plans. Altrincham-based Sim Trava is a franchise-operated Costa Coffee network with 39 stores across Greater Manchester, Cheshire and the north east, which employs 334 staff members. Sim Trava managing director Simon Vardy said: “After a difficult period of trading for the business through the covid-19 crisis, we have now recovered enough to be in a strong position to continue with our plans to expand next year. The funding from HSBC UK has been crucial in making our stores as safe as possible throughout these difficult times.” HSBC UK corporate relationship director Zubayr Atcha added: “It has been a testing number of months for the food and drink industry. However, Sim Trava is a great example of a business that has successfully navigated the covid-19 crisis so far and we now look forward to seeing the company recover and continue to grow across the north of England.” Sim Trava was founded in 2005 by Simon and Tracy Vardy. It trades as Costa Coffee under a franchisee partnership with Coca Cola. It opened its 39th store in Trafford Ski Centre in Manchester.
Deliveroo appoints chief business officer to run UK and Ireland markets:Deliveroo has appointed Carlo Mocci as chief business officer for the UK and Ireland, Propel has learned. Mocci will have responsibility for running the UK and Ireland markets and report directly to chief executive Will Shu, and also sit on the executive team. Mocci, who will lead Deliveroo’s ambition to expand market share across the UK and Ireland, joins from Amazon where, during the past seven years, he led the Amazon Fresh and Prime Now businesses for Europe and Japan, and the UK health and beauty business. He also established pan-EU infrastructure, systems and operating processes in commercial and supply chain domains. Prior to this, Mocci was at McKinsey for 13 years where he was a partner and a core leader of the retail practice. A Deliveroo spokeswoman said: “This is an incredibly important role for our business. Carlo brings with him an enormous wealth of operating experience. He has the experience and mindset to help us achieve our goals of delivering a fantastic consumer value proposition to all different types of consumers, as well as continuing to develop new partnerships with restaurants large and small across the UK and Ireland.” Deliveroo now works with 44,000 restaurants in the UK, after taking on 11,500 new restaurants in recent months and will expand its rider network by 15,000.
BabaBoom seeking MD, active in the property market: Fledgling kebab restaurant concept BabaBoom is recruiting for a managing director as it remains “firmly committed to bringing our delicious kebabs to London and beyond”, Propel has learned. The company said it was recruiting for a managing director “who will take on full responsibility for running all aspects of the business and contribute to deciding our future strategic direction”. The Eve Bugler-founded business recently appointed Graham Ford, formerly of Bill’s, Carluccio’s and Strada, as its interim managing director. Bugler told Propel: “As the largest shareholder in BabaBoom, and given my passion for all things kebab-related, I will continue to relish my involvement as a board member and as guardian of the concept and culture. I am very pleased that Graham Ford, who has been working with us since July, leading on all matters operational, will be taking the helm in an interim role until the end of April. Graham is a very experienced operator having held senior positions in Strada, Bill’s and Carluccio’s. This will give me time to devote to finding the right person, among the exceptional talent currently on the market, while providing stability for the business and our team in the meantime.” Bugler said that trading performance at the company’s Battersea site “had been very resilient”, building through August with Eat Out To Help Out and resulting in positive like-for-like sales through September. She said: “We’re fortunate to be in a neighbourhood location with a solid delivery business.” Having recently secured a 40% reduction in rent, the company was set to reopen its Upper Street site in Islington on Monday but, given the introduction of the “single household” rules, it is now “proceeding cautiously to preserve cash”. In February, the business closed a £1m growth funding round, which included the circa £815,000 it raised through a crowdfunding campaign with Seedrs at the start of the year. Bugler said: “We are active in the property market and remain firmly committed to bringing our delicious kebabs to London and beyond.”
NWTC to double up in Sheffield: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) is to double its presence in Sheffield, with the opening of a site under its The Trading House brand in the city. Propel understands the Jesper Friis-led business has secured a site in Charter Row as part of the Heart of the City 2 development. The 28-strong company already operates a site under its The Botanist brand in the city, in Leopold Square. Earlier this year, the company appointed Friis as its new chief executive, replacing Chris Hill. He joined NWTC from Ole & Steen (Lagkagehuset) where, as chief executive, he led the Danish bakery group’s expansion from 35 to more than 100 outlets, including stores in the UK and New York. NWTC operates seven brands – The Oast House, The Botanist, The Canal House, The Trading House, The Club House, Smugglers Cove and The Florist.
Cloud kitchen restaurant hits £250,000 target within hours of launch to rapidly expand number of sites and concepts: London-based cloud kitchen restaurant Feastr has hit its £250,000 target within hours of its campaign launching on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it looks to rapidly expand its number of sites and concepts. The company launched its first kitchen in November last year, in Shoreditch, along with its first concept – SoBe Burger – and added a second concept – Chick’N’Bun. Feastr opened a second site, in Waterloo, at the start of this year operating both SoBe Burger and Chick’N’Bun and has since launched its third restaurant concept – plant-based concept Mutha. In the next five years, Feastr aims to scale to six concepts across 30-plus locations, “building high-tech, open plan kitchens along the way” and is raising funds to support its plans. The company is offering 5.93% equity in return for the £250,000 investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £4m. It has signed for its third kitchen, in Camden, which will launch before the end of 2020 while its fourth and fifth sites have been identified, in Battersea and Hammersmith. The pitch states: “Feastr is one of the first UK multi-brand cloud kitchen businesses, delivering restaurant-quality food to the door in 30 minutes, or less. Operating from cloud kitchens within densely populated areas allows us to exploit the booming food delivery market without the huge overheads associated with bricks and mortar restaurants – cheaper rents, rates, and no front of house. With the founding team immersed in the London food scene, Feastr places a huge emphasis on the quality of food. Since day one, we’ve had outstanding customer feedback and reviews, with average ratings across all restaurants being 4.6 out of five.”
Zelman-backed Novators Hospitality to open new restaurant in Notting Hill:Novators Hospitality – which is backed by Misha Zelman and led by Tim Mills, former operations director at Pho and head of operations at Paul UK – is to open a new Japanese restaurant in London’s Notting Hill next month, Propel has learned. The company has taken the former Andina site in Westbourne Grove for the new SUMI restaurant. Last year, Novators Hospitality secured the former Wild Honey site in Mayfair, for a new dim sum concept. Sammy Weinbaum at CDG Leisure acted on the Notting Hill deal.
Yard Sale Pizza to open sixth site: London-based Yard Sale Pizza has announced it will open its sixth site in November. The East Dulwich restaurant, which will have a limited number of seats inside and focus on delivery, is the company’s first location south of the River Thames. Its current pizzerias are located in north and east London. Pizzas are made from 48 to 72-hour fermented dough. Favourites that will be available at the Lordship Lane site include TSB – tender-stem broccoli, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil; The Maestro – anchovies, capers, oregano and black olives; Mush Be Love – roasted chestnut mushrooms, oregano, red onion and speck ham (no tomato); and New Porker – fresh Sicilian sausage, guindilla chillies, garlic and basil. Customers can expect regular collaborations with other restaurants and celebrities such as rapper Loyle Carner, and a competition is proposed for its launch as well.
Everards to create 40 jobs as more details revealed about new brewery:Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards has announced it will create 40 jobs as it revealed more details about its new state-of-the-art brewery, beer hall and shop. The recruitment drive begins on Monday, 1 November but candidates can apply now. The new Everards Meadows site is expected to open in spring next year. It is set just off junction 21 of the M1 and in 70 acres of green space. On the creation of new jobs, managing director Stephen Gould said: “We will be looking for 40 people who are passionate about delivering excellent customer service to join us in a variety of roles. We are working with our recruitment partner ER Recruitment, which is exclusively managing this recruitment campaign to help find a great team to join us at our new home.” Customers will be able to eat, drink, shop and take a tour of the new brewery, and will be able to brew their own beer as an experience slated for late 2021. Large windows behind the bar will allow customers to take in all the brewery action while eating and drinking. There will be an open kitchen and a shop will offer beer selections and merchandise. Tours will allow customers to take part in tasting sessions and brewing workshops.
Wing Shack opens debut delivery kitchen: Wings concept Wing Shack has opened its debut delivery kitchen. Founders Joshua Jarvis and Larry Shiro have launched the site in Canary Wharf and delivery is within a radius of 2.5 miles. Available on Deliveroo and UberEats, the menu features Wing Shack’s classic dishes including its signature Jarvis tangy buffalo wings and boneless chicken fillets covered in southern rub. Wing Shack is also set to introduce its 100% plant-based menu, titled Vegan Shack by Wing Shack Co. The offer will include jackfruit wings, jackfruit burgers, seitan burgers and fries. Jarvis said: “It’s only an uncertain time if you believe it is. We believe it’s a time of opportunity. With the likelihood of more restrictions and people being at home, we believe it’s a great opportunity to expand our delivery radius so we can cater to our customers and attract new customers as well.” The company operates four other outlets – in Clerkenwell, Loughton, a residency within the Sebright Arms pub in Hackney, and at Selfridges Market.
Lane7 founder to sell pub to focus on bowling alley brand: Tim Wilks, founder of Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, is selling his pub The Pickled Parson of Sedgefield, in County Durham. Wilks chose to sell the site, which also has nine luxury letting rooms, to focus on Lane7 with more outlets launching in the coming months. Wilks said: “The Lane7 bowling alleys have always been our core business and the pubs have been an excellent bolt-on to our hospitality portfolio. As the bowling business grows and we imminently expand into four new locations, now seems a good time to scale down our involvement in the pub-hotel sector. We disposed of another pub last year – The Fox Hole at Piercebridge – when we were going through a similar period of expansion and it helped focus our attention on Lane7. That’s the idea behind the sale of The Pickled Parson – we have an exceptional team in there and the business will continue to run as normal.” Christie & Co has been appointed to market the pub, which has a guide price of £690,000 for the freehold. Christie & Co director David Cash, who is handling the sale, added: “I acted for Greene King, the previous owner when Tim bought the pub in 2017 and the transformation is unbelievable.”
Manchester-based comfort food outlet to launch pizza restaurant for second site:Manchester-based North American comfort food outlet Brewski is to launch a Chicago-style pizza restaurant for its second site. The venue – American Pies MCR – is “in the works” and is launching in early 2021. On its Instagram, Brewski stated: “Big news! We just can’t keep it a secret anymore – we have been working on a new deep-dish pizza restaurant. Expect deep-fried calzones, cheesy garlic knots, Chicago deep-dish pies, grandma pies, dessert pies and more.”
Waterworld Leisure Group reveals turnover rise but pre-tax profits drop 45%:Staffordshire-based Waterworld Leisure Group has revealed a turnover increase in its newly filed results for the 12 months ending 31 December 2019 while pre-tax profits dropped. The Stoke-on-Trent venue houses a recently revamped aqua park, mini indoor golf course and two fitness centres; these were joined earlier this month with the unveiling of a second golf attraction and a three-storey M Club gym. Waterworld posted a turnover increase from £4.5m in 2018 to £6.5m in 2019. However, pre-tax profits dropped by 45% from £998,390 in 2018 to £549,486. Founder and owner Mo Chaudry said of the latest improvements to the facility, which began in May 2018, in a signed-off business statement: “The new development progressed less quickly than planned. Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented lock-down (March to July), further exasperating matters. Group results are satisfactory and in line with forecasts given the considerable ongoing investment in upgrading the waterpark. The additional investment in each respective period 2019-2020 reflected positively in the year-end results but should be transformational in the years ahead.”
Sketch launches ‘at-home’ service: Sketch, the three-Michelin starred restaurant in London’s Mayfair, is launching an “at-home” service. The series of three meals and drinks collection are available to pick up from the restaurant in Conduit Street or for delivery. All orders must be placed 24 hours in advance, before 6pm the day before. The menus are four-course meals created by Sketch’s executive chef Frederic Don and come with instructions on how to heat them up at home. The containers used to deliver the food are made of sugar cane pulp, are biodegradable and compostable. In addition there’s “Sketch in a bottle”, which sees mixologist Alexandre Robin sending out a Sketch twist on the classic Negroni and a Fantasmargarita, along with a non-alcoholic drink – the Mango Tango.
All-day Italian restaurant Sycamore Vino Cucina opens in Middle Eight hotel:Former head chef at Temper and The Coal Shed, Paul Robinson, has opened an all-day Italian restaurant within the Middle Eight hotel in Covent Garden, which itself opens on Wednesday (28 October). Sycamore Vino Cucina is inspired by northern Italy and offers ’nduja pizzas for breakfast to hand-rolled pasta for dinner. On the menu are dishes such as pit-grilled meats, artisan breads and old-fashioned cured meats like Sgombro bruciato (torched mackerel, horseradish and pomegranate) and Sedano Rapa (ash-baked celeriac, dates, pickled walnuts and cambozola). Robinson told Hot Dinners: “Over the past few months, we’ve been busy sourcing ingredients, speaking to suppliers (both here in the UK and in Italy) and perfecting our dishes.” At the bar, customers can expect to sup on 15 types of Negroni plus Bellinis and ‘Grappa-Tinis’ as well as a wine list focusing on northern Italian producers. Breakfast service will be open to hotel guests and non-guests. Middle Eight, owned by Shiva Hotels, will also open a restaurant called The Balcony that overlooks Sycamore and is more secluded, offering a global menu in a tranquil setting. An area called QT has a street entrance and is described as “a destination in and of itself”. QT will host private events for now but in the future it will be a bar and a venue for comedy and music, and has a screening room for video art and performances.
Chinatown London operators launch initiatives and giveaways for Netflix outdoor experience: Operators in Chinatown London are marking the release of animated film Over The Moon with various themed initiatives and limited-edition products inspired by the movie. These range from traditional moon cake giveaways, to ornate dumplings, bespoke desserts and menus available throughout the months of October and November following the collaboration between landlord Shaftesbury and Netflix. Celebrating east Asian folklore of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the animation tells the story of a young girl seeking to prove the existence of the legendary Moon Goddess. The experience in Chinatown London embraces this modern tale of a traditional story and also features 30 lanterns that come to life each evening. Karen Baines, head of group marketing and communications at Shaftesbury, said: “Over The Moon is a wonderful tale, highlighting the value of determination and passion – qualities Chinatown London’s tenants have shown in abundance over the past few months. This collaboration with Netflix showcases the destination’s appreciation of Chinese tradition and folklore. We are always looking for new and relevant ways to engage with Chinatown London visitors and create a mix of modernism and tradition that embodies east Asian culture, creating a home away from home.”
Nobu reveals restaurant details for new hotel opening in December: Nobu, the group founded by Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Taper, has revealed further details about its restaurant in the soon-to-open new hotel in Marylebone’s Portman Square. Most of the staff from the Nobu Hotel in Berkeley Street, which was in situ for 15 years, will move to the larger site that opens on 1 December. The Marylebone hotel is its second now – joining the Nobu hotel in Shoreditch – will feature a new restaurant, bar with a terrace and a sushi bar. Hot Dinners reports the popular black cod miso dish will remain on the menu. The restaurant will span 470 square metres and have close to 200 covers. The sushi counter will be joined by a private dining room. The team from Berkeley Street, including head chef Joao Alegria will take charge of the kitchen. Head Sushi chef Junichi Hiyoshi and his assistant chef Go Namerikawa are also on board, who have worked for Nobu for 38 years. Other favourite dishes that have made it onto the new menu include lobster tempura, creamy lemon and red jalapeno; Chilean sea bass and wasabi lime miso; and crispy pork belly with apple wasabi salsa. David Collins Studio has taken on the design of the space that has floor-to-ceiling windows and views over Portman Square, and the bar will feature a bespoke glass sculpture made by Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert. A bar terrace will seat 50 people and serve a range of cocktails. The lounge area within the central part of the hotel will serve an all-day menu, focused on Californian-style cuisine. The hotel has 249 rooms plus a ballroom that is capable of holding 600 people, and a gym and wellness facilities.