Simon Emeny – order and pay has worked well for us, Cotswolds acquisition was timely: Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny has lauded the benefits of order and pay across the estate. He stated: “We launched order and pay – a web-based solution that asks customers to scan a QR code displayed on the table, allowing them to browse the menu, choose items, and order and pay their bill without the need for interaction with a team member. We started in a handful of sites when we reopened in July, where it proved popular and successful. It is now operational in about 75% of our managed pubs and hotels, with the rest of our managed sites due to come online over the coming months. It has led to some interesting insights into consumer behaviour, with customers choosing dishes and drinks they have not tried before, now they have the luxury of carefree browsing time, and our team members have more quality time to spend with customers as they serve the customers’ tables.” Emeny also highlighted the impact of working from home on its central London sites. He said: “On 17 October, when London was moved into tier two and people were once again encouraged to work from home, leaving the City like a ghost town, like-for-like sales in 37 of our largest central London sites fell to less than 30% of the previous year. This has led to our like-for-like sales, across the estate, finishing at 57% for the final week of October.” Emeny stressed how timely the purchase of the Cotswolds Inns and Hotel business had been given the changes of London trading. He noted: “Typically, our top performing pubs by revenue and Ebitda, are those in central London and transport hub sites. For the first six months of this financial year, those are the sites that have suffered most, particularly due to the stay-at-home message – so the natural balance of our estate has come into play. The purchase of the Cotswold Inns & Hotels business could not have been more timely and during August and September, five of our highest turnover sites (and three of our most profitable) came from this part of the business. When we acquired the Cotswold business just over a year ago, we believed we could add value to an already successful business by building more local trade and increasing the revenue from food and beverage sales to those who lived locally or within driving distance. The venues were famous for their wedding trade and this was one of the key sources of revenue. The possible outcome of so many weddings being cancelled could have been a problem – but a successful, targeted, digital staycation campaign and the widespread growth in domestic tourism have resulted in the Cotswold business outperforming its sales from the prior year. We will, in future, use the data we have captured, and creative and innovative marketing to build on this staycation trend. In addition, the restaurants have outperformed our expectations and provided a welcome reminder that this delightful business is a perfect fit for Fuller’s and our customers.”
M&B – digital technology increasingly important, delivery and click and collect now a £20m annual income stream: Mitchells & Butlers has highlighted the increasing importance of digital technology to the business. Chief executive Phil Urban stated: “Digital technology has become increasingly important in supporting hospitality businesses during the pandemic. Technology allows the service cycle to be adapted to better adhere to government restrictions. We had already developed a facility for guests to order at the table on their phone and this has been quickly rolled out across more brands in response to the pandemic. These sorts of technological interventions also help to enhance the economics of a service cycle and provide long-term guest and operational improvements.” Urban reported order-at-table apps have been accelerated to be live across eight brands before Christmas – and already accounts for 35% of transactions. “We also find transactions are larger than when customers stand at the bar,” said Urban, Before lockdown, the company had seen a “step up” in delivery and click and collect sales to £400,000 per week – a £20m annual income stream. Urban said: “In recent times, we’ve really increased the rollout. We see this as something that is going to continue. Lockdown has brought a new audience to delivery. These things are incremental, not substitutional.” M&B also reported its 44 Alex bars in Germany were closed until 20 December. It currently has 56 pubs open in Wales and three closed while it has 24 pubs open in Scotland with 56 closed. The company reported the best performing parts of its estate before the second lowdown were premium steakhouse brand Miller & Carter and Premium Country Pubs, which had been in “growth and even strongly in growth on many occasions”. On reopening next month, the company stated: “Site closures and social distancing measures will impact festive trade, but we expect December to be a profitable month.”
Hawthorn boss – we expect to get back to 90% of pre-covid trade by Easter but next few weeks and months ‘extremely challenging’: Mark Davies, chief executive of Hawthorn, the community pub arm of NewRiver, has told Propel he expects the company will get back to 90% of pre-covid trade by Easter, but admits the next few weeks and months will be “extremely challenging”. With the majority of its 700-strong business – including all 135 managed sites – being wet-led, the new tier restrictions in England means many of its pubs will not be able to reopen when lockdown ends next Wednesday (2 December). However, Davies said Hawthorn had no intention of changing its business model, which he said was emphasised by the company’s decision to rebrand, which sees “Leisure” being dropped from the name. Speaking following the company’s first-half results, Davies said: “Make no mistake, the next few weeks and indeed months, are going to be extremely challenging, particularly given the restrictions arising from the new tier system, but we believe the business can remain cash flow-positive. But because of our model we can bounce back very quickly. Because of the location of our sites and changing consumer habits, the community pub model is probably going to be stronger than it has been in a long time – going back to before the smoking ban. December will be tough and we may well see another national lockdown in January. We’re then looking at some stability in February and, hopefully, some green shoots in March, depending on the timely arrival of a vaccine, of course. For that reason, we think we can get back to 90% of pre-covid trading levels at Easter. We have seen a strong recovery – up until the latest lockdown – since reopening in July.” Davies said Hawthorn remained acquisitive and said the business’ strong financial position meant it was in a prime position to take advantage of the opportunities that would “inevitably” be thrown up in 2021 as a result of the pandemic. He added the company provided £3.8m of rent support to its tenants in the first half of the year and expected a similar figure in the second half. Davies said the company also continued to receive inquiries from operators about taking over kitchen space in its pubs, including one this week involving four of its sites. He added: “While it’s not top of our priority list, we see the opportunity that it brings so we’re looking to do a few in the next six months.”
Soho House appoints new chief financial officer: Soho House has appointed Humera Afzal as its new chief financial officer. Afzal, who takes up the role from Tuesday (1 December), succeeds Peter McPhee, whom Propel revealed earlier this month had stepped down from the role. McPhee, who held the role for four-and-a-half years, is moving back to the West Coast, US, to continue working with Soho House majority investor, Ron Burkle. Afzal arrives from London-based community-driven venture capital fund, Backed. She previously held roles at PwC and BNP Paribas. Afzal will report to Soho House’s global president Andrew Carnie. He said: “Humera has a proven track record of leading strong company growth and her experience complements our ethos at Soho House – we are customer and member-obsessed and everything we do is about making things better for our members. She will be a key part of the team driving Soho House’s move into its next stage of growth as we focus on expanding our digital, retail and core subscription-based membership business.” Afzal added: “It’s inspiring to be part of a team so focused on delivering an ambitious strategy of growth and innovation. This is an organisation that is dedicated to its members and improving their experience – I am looking forward to bringing my experience of leading businesses through important stages of their growth.”
M Restaurants to use robots at two sites to serve champagne throughout December: M Restaurants, which is owned by Rare Restaurants, will use robots at two of its sites to serve champagne to customers during December. The robot waiters will work alongside existing staff. The two robots – Bailey and Sage – will travel between the bar and customers delivering bottles and flutes of champagne, and will also offer seasonal greetings and personalised messages. Martin Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants – which is also the parent group Gaucho – said: “Our ethos at M is one of creating ‘joyful immersive dining experiences’, so we decided we would go to town and introduce a number of activations to celebrate the reopening of our restaurants and to introduce some fun to our dining experiences, regardless of restrictions.” According to the Evening Standard, the champagne bots will serve both lunchtime and supper services at M Victoria Street and M Threadneedle Street from 3 December until 3 January. None of Rare Restaurants’ 765-strong workforce have been made redundant as a result of lockdown.
Rustico Italiano operators secure seventh site, in Eastbourne: East Sussex-based Neapolitan Street Food Eatery, which operates six restaurants under the Rustico Italiano concept, has secured a site in Eastbourne. The family-owned company has acquired the freehold of the Maxims bar in South Street, which has been shut for the past two years, in a deal brokered by agent Fleurets. Rustico co-founder Claudio Ganadu said: “We will be launching our successful authentic Neapolitan street food offering on the ground floor and basement, while providing a further five residential units above.” Earlier this year, the company acquired the Lamb pub in Lewes from brewer and retailer Greene King in a deal that was also brokered by Fleurets. Divisional director Nick Earee, who handled both sales, said: “Fleurets transacted on circa 30 pubs in the first lockdown and has been really busy since, with a number of exciting new instructions and completions to a wide variety of buyers.”
Adventure bar concept Boom: Battle Bar builds pipeline, ex-Chop’d director joins: Boom: Battle Bar, the adventure bar concept founded by former Flip Out managing director Elliott Shuttleworth, has begun its expansion with an opening in Cardiff and a site lined up in Liverpool. Propel understands the concept, which made its debut earlier this year in Norwich, opened its second site last weekend in Cardiff’s Old Brewery Quarter. It also plans to open a site in Liverpool’s St Georges Way, early next year. At the same time, Propel has learned that Allan Cook, formerly of Chop’d, has joined the fledgling business as its UK head of operations. Cook spent more than 14 years at Chop’d as its operations director and remains a non-executive director of the salad bar chain. In July, Shuttleworth told Propel he was in talks over six further sites in the UK for Boom: Battle Bar, which offers axe-throwing, electronic darts, beer pong, nine-hole mini-golf, giant shuffleboard, boules, pool and arcade games. The group’s urban-themed bar in Norwich spans 10,000 square feet across four previously unused units. The venue also offers non-alcoholic drinks, Boom: Battle Bar beer on tap, a gin range, cider and cocktails.
Azzurri Group begins rolling out Coco di Mama/Zizzi link-up: Azzurri Group, the TowerBrook Capital-backed business, has extended the trial of delivery of its Coco di Mama concept through a number of its Zizzi sites, to three more sites. Propel revealed earlier this month that the Italian food-to-go brand was to trial delivery in new locations prepared through its sister-brand’s kitchens, starting in London suburbs. It began the trial in Bromley, Sutton and Kingston, and is now understood to have extended that to the Zizzi sites in Beckenham, Greenwich and Chiswick. Coco di Mama managing director Jim Attwood told Propel: “The initial trials in Bromley, Sutton and Kingston aim to bring Coco di Mama’s fast and fulfilling pasta closer to its core customer base of professional City workers as they continue to work from home during lockdown.” Azzurri began the reopening of its 30-strong, London-based Coco di Mama estate at the start of November. It relaunched five sites in Margaret Street, Holborn, More London, Cheapside and Fleet Street. Its sites in Fleet Street, Holborn and More London remain open for delivery and takeaway.
Macellaio RC founder to open CasaCosta restaurant next week: Roberto Costa, founder of Italian steak brand Macellaio RC, will open his restaurant CasaCosta in Fulham, south west London, on Thursday (3 December). CasaCosta opened the shop side of the site in October to provide the items Costa uses in his kitchen sourced directly from producers. Shelves are lined with fresh vegetables and fruit, cheeses and charcuterie, breads and cakes and pantry items such as Italian pasta and sauces. Customers can also pick up freshly made ready meals alongside Italian wines, beer and pre-made cocktails. Hidden behind a secret entrance inside the shop, the restaurant will open next month to serve a concise menu that celebrates the home-cooked meals served on dinner tables throughout Italy and desserts. There is also an amaro bar serving cocktails.
Bar and restaurant closures hit Britvic income: Britvic posted a near 22% slide in adjusted operating income for the year as coronavirus restrictions hurt demand at bars, restaurants and cinemas. The soft drink company’s adjusted earnings before interest and taxes fell to £165.8m for the 12 months ended 30 September, down from £214.1m a year earlier. Revenue was down 9% to £1.4bn. In the UK, volume and revenue declined, reflecting the significant impact of restrictions placed upon the out-of-home channels and on-the-go consumption, while at-home channel revenue increased, as consumers stayed home and bought brands such as Robinsons, Pepsi, Tango and 7UP, resulting in market volume and value share gains. Chief executive Simon Litherland said: “Our determined and dedicated people, portfolio of trusted brands, strong commercial relationships and operational agility mean we have performed strongly where we have been able to compete. We also continue to navigate the changing landscape successfully. So, even though out-of-home trading has inevitably been impacted, we have continued to gain market share in our key growth markets of Great Britain and Brazil, and we have successfully protected cash and our overall financial strength.”
Dishoom to relaunch renovated Covent Garden site next Saturday, updates on reopening post-lockdown: Indian restaurant Dishoom will open its renovated site in Covent Garden on Saturday, 5 December, having taken over the neighbouring Jamie’s Italian to aid expansion in July 2019. The restaurant, Dishoom’s first, opened in July 2010 and drew on the influences of the Irani cafes of Bombay. The Upper St Martin’s Lane site closed in January 2020 to undergo a tenth anniversary redesign. “New” Dishoom Covent Garden will also tell the story of Bombay’s theatrical journey from Parsi theatre to silent films and the talkies era. Dishoom said: “In the 1930s and 1940s, many of Bombay’s foremost theatres were reincarnated as state-of-the-art cinemas. Dishoom Covent Garden’s new story and design will draw on this heritage.” In light of the latest government guidance, Dishoom will open the rest of its London cafes on Wednesday (2 December). The Edinburgh site remains open until 6pm daily, in line with present local guidance. The Manchester and Birmingham outlets are both in tier three, and as such remain closed until guidance changes. Earlier this week, the company launched its first delivery kitchen outside London, in Brighton.
Multi-experiential site Chameleon set to open in One Marylebone in new year:Restaurateur Alex Ghalleb is set to open a multi-experiential offer called Chameleon in the grade I-listed One Marylebone venue. The site, which was previously a church built in the 1820s, will include a Tel Avivian sharing-style outdoor restaurant and tented lounge while other experiences will include a silent cinema, magical wellness sessions, a futuristic fitness experience, dance classes and a rotating art installation gallery – set to open on 15 January 2021. While, later in the year, a private members’ space will open in a basement level. Ghalleb, who is a former managing partner of Gold in Notting Hill, operations director at Grind and general manager at Soho House, said: “We’re so excited to be bringing something new to London. Chameleon is a space that offers a vibrant assortment of experiences, all to be enjoyed under one roof.” The restaurant will comprise nine greenhouses offering seated tables for up to 30 people. Israeli chef Elior Balbul will come from Tel Aviv to head the kitchen. There will also be a cocktail and mezze offer. Private booths for up to six will house glass-covered fireplaces while live performances take place in the evening. Sundays will be silent cinema nights with customers using wireless headphones. A weekend market will open from 16 January with food and drink stalls from independent vendors. The private members’ club is set to open in summer 2021 with a capacity for 500 people and will include a restaurant, cocktail bar and private dining rooms that can be opened up to create a nightclub.
Bedlam closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £660,000: Sussex-based Bedlam has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £660,000. The company, founded in 2011, initially aimed to raise £450,000 and was offering 16.2% equity, giving the company a pre-money valuation of circa £3.4m. It has now closed the campaign with 500 investors pledging £662,064 to help the company accelerate its growth. Bedlam reported year-on-year turnover to March 2020 was up by 27% to more than £677,000 with Ebitda at minus £410,000. This is the third round of crowdfunding Bedlam has embarked on. In 2016, it raised £500,000 on Crowdcube, which enabled the company to relocate and build a brewery at the foot of the South Downs, ten miles north of Brighton. Last year it raised more than £625,000, again via Crowdcube, to further invest in its brewery and expand the business.
Mr Ji to reopen in January with new menu and decor as it moves to table service format: Taiwanese-inspired chicken concept Mr Ji will reopen on Friday, 8 January after a refurbishment and with a new menu. The Soho restaurant founded by Samuel Haim has teamed up with Ta Ta Eatery and Tou duo Ana Goncalves and Zijun Meng to work on the menu revamp while the space has been altered from a grab-and-go diner to a “buzzy restaurant with table service”. Taking ideas from Taiwanese canteens for the daytime offer and stripped-back bars for the evening, Mr Ji will give customers a more refined experience from an expanded menu centred around fried chicken plus a new cocktail menu. The fried chicken offer now draws on Goncalves’ and Meng’s innovative flavour combinations and modern techniques. Haim said: “Having been forced to close for lockdown, I was more determined than ever to bring the lively evening vibe back to Soho once I could open Mr Ji again. After many evenings at Ta Ta Eatery with Ana and Meng, we decided to work together to make Mr Ji a place where guests can sit down and get stuck into dinner with friends, in a space that has a real buzz just like the Taiwanese spots I fell in love with on my travels.” Goncalves added: “Meng and I were really excited to be working with him so closely on this project. Mr Ji is definitely going to be our go-to Soho spot for a drink and a fried chicken fix.”
Freehold of iconic gay pub and cabaret venue The Royal Vauxhall Tavern on sale for in excess of £2.5m: The freehold of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, currently leased by Vauxhall Tavern London, is on the market for offers in excess of £2.5m – reflecting a net initial yield of 4.89%. The owner, a private international investor, is marketing the public house and cabaret venue through Savills. Vauxhall Tavern London holds the lease for the popular gay venue, which will expire in September 2038 and pays a rent of £130,000. The business will remain unaffected by the sale. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is believed to have been built in the 1860s and is arranged over basement, ground and two upper floor levels. The main trading area is at ground floor level with a bar, two raised seating areas and a centre stage for cabaret performances. The basement provides a beer cellar and dry stores while the upper floors provide living accommodation. Paul Breen, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, said of the property that is 500 metres from The Kia Oval cricket ground: “This is a rare opportunity to acquire the investment interest in one of London’s oldest and most famous gay nightspots. This is a hugely popular venue operated by one of the most respected operators in the industry that had, prior to the most recent lockdown, been continuing to trade six nights per week. We are sure it will draw strong interest from investors in the market.”
Former Busaba chief executive to reopen ex-Loch Fyne site in Egham as pub next week: Grosvenor Pubs & Inns, the pub vehicle from former Busaba boss Jason Myers and David Ramsay, will reopen a former Loch Fyne site in Egham, Surrey, next week. The Kings Arms, which will launch on Thursday, 3 December, will be the second site for the company formed in 2018. It will have six boutique bedrooms and an alfresco terrace at a grade II-listed building, which was initially used as stables in 1949. The site will also house a cocktail area, fresh food restaurant and modern-day pub and taproom. Grosvenor Pubs & Inns also operates The Cricketers on the Green in Pirbright, Surrey. While The Kings Arms – the same name it had more than 30 years ago as a pub – has retained some of its traditional touches, such as exposed brick walls and low-beamed ceilings, the pub has been brought into the 21st century thanks to plush furnishings and rich colour tones throughout. The dining area offers a high-end experience, complete with a seasonal menu. The rooms have been named after rebel barons in a nod to the area’s history, which includes the proximity of where the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215.
Team behind Jammy Piece in Inverness save city’s Castle Restaurant from closure: The operators of the Jammy Piece in Inverness have saved the city’s Castle Restaurant from closure. The long-established Castle Restaurant in Castle Street was set to shut on Monday (23 November) due, in large part, to the impact of coronavirus. But it has now been saved. Jammy Piece, which operates sites near the Caledonian Canal and in the Eastgate Shopping Centre, told The Inverness Courier: “Yes it’s true, we are delighted to confirm we are taking over the Castle Restaurant. Could there be a better match? A bit of a shake-up on the menu but all the favourites are staying including the crinkle-cut chips – we’re not that brave. There’s no doubt these are tough times but we are up for the challenge and the best news is Castle staff are staying. Covid-19 won’t stop us.”
Funding secured for new Premier Inn hotel and Bar + Block restaurant: Funding has been secured for a new 15-storey Premier Inn hotel and restaurant at Exchange Square 2 in Birmingham city centre. The Whitbread-owned hotel will have 235 bedrooms, a 6,000 square foot Bar + Block restaurant, and will be part of the second phase of a scheme to build 375 apartments to add to the 603 flats built in phase one. The finance has been secured after developer Nikal agreed a deal with LaSalle Investment Management. Investment advisers were Adrian Clery at Colliers, Craig Satchwell at Bampton Satchwell and the legal team advising Nikal was led by Ben Newton at Eversheds.
Iconic ice cream parlour and restaurant in Largs shuts until April, JD Wetherspoon site also closes: Largs ice cream parlour Nardini’s and restaurant Tony Macaroni will not reopen until April next year due to travel restrictions imposed by the Scottish government. Viva Italia, the owners of the Greenock Road sites, said: “We have taken the very difficult decision to temporarily close our doors for a second time this year until 2 April next year. We have spoken to all of our staff, who will now be furloughed. There will be no redundancies.” Meanwhile, the Paddle Steamer pub in the town, operated by JD Wetherspoon has also closed. All Wetherspoon pubs in Scottish tier three areas, except one in Irvine, have closed as the pub chain waits for restrictions to ease. JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told Largs & Millport Weekly News: “We will reopen when restrictions are eased and our pubs can trade more normally. The Auld Brigg in Irvine will remain open as it is part of a shopping centre, which is attracting people. We look forward to reopening in Largs in due course.”
Bristol-based Indian-inspired street food restaurant closes permanently to focus on home delivery and events: Bristol-based Indian-inspired street food restaurant Gopal’s Curry Shack has closed permanently to focus on carrying out home deliveries and operating at events. The restaurant opened at Cargo, the shipping container development at Wapping Wharf, in 2017, having operated from a mobile food truck. But while the restaurant has closed, the team will offer home deliveries and serve at markets and events when they resume in 2021. Owner Heather Simmonds told Bristol Live: “We have had a wonderful time being part of the Wapping Wharf community, but now it’s time for Gopal’s to move on to the next chapter in our story. The business originated when we started the Horfield Supper Club from my house and grew from there into a vibrant street food enterprise, before we moved into Cargo in 2017. We have decided to return to our street food roots, focusing on community events and local markets, as well as continuing with our chilled home deliveries – and we are very excited about the new adventures that lie ahead for us.” Gopal’s Curry Shack was located next door to former restaurant Pickled Brisket, which announced its permanent closure last week.
Heritage Hotels places Langdon Court hotel on market for £1.85m: Heritage Hotels has placed grade II*-listed Langdon Court hotel on the market for £1.85m. The 16th century Jacobean manor house in Wembury, near Plymouth, closed in April, resulting in the loss of 20 jobs. The ten-acre site has gardens, a vineyard, lakes and two cottages in addition to the 19 en-suite rooms in the hotel. Property consultant Vickery Holman has been appointed by Cheshire-based Together Commercial Finance to handle the sale of the hotel. Ollie Steer-Fowler, head of leisure at Vickery Holman, said: “Langdon Court has a long history and is well known in the area as an events and dining venue. The property offers plenty of potential to reopen as a high-end hotel and venue. Alternatively, it’s a prime site for development or would make a wonderful home for anyone looking for an impressive property with atmosphere and land near the coast.”