The Alchemist brings forward opening of new Cheltenham site after being buoyed by post-lock-down trading: The Alchemist, the 18-stong Simon Potts-led bar and restaurant concept, has brought forward its planned opening of its new site in Cheltenham after being buoyed by post-lock-down trading. The company had pushed back the opening of the 4,500 square foot venue in The Brewery Quarter to the end of year, but this has been brought forward to Friday (28 August). Potts told Propel: “Along with everyone else, we’ve had a stellar August – the Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been an astonishing success, providing a real shot in the arm in revenue terms with a number of the venues in double-digit growth in recent weeks, but far more crucially in reminding the general public that not only is eating and drinking out a safe thing to do – it is also incredibly good fun.” Potts said its offer was “working well” in line with the current guidance, with both dwell time and average spend up on last year. He added growth was being seen across all dayparts, which is helping to smooth out the impact of the capacity restrictions at what would have previously been peak trading. Potts said: “While we don’t expect to maintain the current remarkable numbers as we move into autumn, we are feeling confident about the future of the business. Our venues are all metro orientated, but we haven’t had to rely on footfall alone – the brand has demonstrated an enduring ability to draw people in, in each of our city locations – not least in central London.” Potts said the company had been able to reach “sensible consensual agreements” with the majority of its landlords while he was grateful to its suppliers that worked with the business through the lock-down period, “allowing us the headroom to positively and confidently reopen all of our sites”. Potts said: “We’re delighted to be getting back to what we do well and opening the new site in Cheltenham this weekend – it marks the first important step in us looking to return the business to growth in the fullness of time.”
Chilango bought out of administration: Mexican restaurant brand Chilango has been bought out of administration. The company has been sold to investment group RD Capital Partners, run by founders Sameer Rizvi and Iryna Dubylovska, following a competitive sale process. The deal secures ten of Chilango’s 11 restaurants and preserves about 130 jobs. The Leather Lane site has closed. Managing director Richard Franks, who took over running Chilango in February, will continue to lead the business. Propel understands trading in recent weeks at Chilango has been very good, particularly around delivery. Franks said: “Chilango is an incredible brand with quality food and an amazing team. Despite covid-19, the team has put forth an outstanding effort to continue bringing our vibrant flavours to the UK. I’m grateful for the team’s commitment and resilience and the strong results from delivery, speak to their hard work and determination, all of which was recognised by RD Capital Partners.” Rizvi added: “We are delighted to partner with a brand and business we have long admired. Chilango has a great proposition, which appeals to a diverse customer base, and we look forward to working with Richard and his team.” Gordon Thomson, joint administrator at RSM, said: “Despite the commendable support provided by the government, the pandemic and associated lock-down measures have presented significant challenges to the casual dining industry. This deal, together with the backing of RD Capital Partners, secures 130 jobs and will allow the Chilango brand to grow.” Chilango was launched by Eric Partaker and Dan Houghton in 2007. The company was struggling with rising operational costs and mounting debts even before the coronavirus pandemic ground much of the restaurant industry to a halt. It underwent a CVA in January as part of the company’s plans to get a grip on its finances and £6.9m debt pile. It included slashing rents at three restaurants and exiting four leases on dormant sites. Bondholders in Chilango were offered the choice to transfer their investment into shares in the company or cash out at a rate of 10p in the pound. About 1,500 people became bondholders in the business via mini-bond offerings in 2014 and 2019, which raised more than £5.8m with a promise of 8% returns. In September 2019, Partaker and Houghton – acting as directors – decided to make their co-chief executive roles redundant.
Greggs confirms coronavirus outbreak at Leeds distribution centre: Food-to-go retailer Greggs has confirmed an outbreak of coronavirus at its bakery distribution centre in Leeds. An undisclosed number of people working at the centre in Bramley tested positive. Following further tests the company said more staff were found to have the virus and the centre was deep cleaned. Public Health England (PHE) could not confirm the exact number of cases but told the BBC it was “fewer than 20”. Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside said the company had taken immediate action. He added the group was “working with Leeds City Council and PHE to ensure we minimise any possible impact on our customers and the wider community in Leeds and the surrounding area”. Lucy Jackson, Leeds City Council’s deputy director of public health, said: “Following further testing, more staff have been identified as being positive. This highlights why further testing and contact tracing is so important, which Greggs is proactively undertaking. The workplace is being deep cleaned and further contact tracing carried out, with necessary advice shared about self-isolating and awareness of symptoms. We are satisfied the necessary steps are being taken quickly to minimise any further spread of infection.”
Costa trials new-look store with street-facing counter: Costa Coffee has unveiled its debut street-facing service counter at a busy central London location. As previously revealed by Propel, customers to the Argyll Street site, off Oxford Circus, will be welcomed by a refreshed look and feel and an enhanced digital offering that includes outdoor ordering screen, the option to pre-order via the company’s app and deliveries through UberEats. Costa global retail director Connie Emerson said: “The Argyll Street store was the perfect location to trial a new store design. Our customers have shared that they’re looking for safe and comfortable space to relax. But for those that are not quite ready to sit inside, an all-new solution has been designed so they can still get their coffee without entering the store. We have re-imagined a new store focus – one where visitors to the store can meet friends and take time out in our warm and relaxing seating areas, and give those looking to just grab a coffee on the go a quick and easy limited contact service through a redesigned digital-only ordering service. We’re looking forward to welcoming new and returning customers to our Argyll Street store.”
Trinity Kitchen and British Street Food Awards founder Richard Johnson reveals name for new street food offer: Richard Johnson, founder of the British, European and USA Street Food Awards and the man behind the Trinity Kitchen food court in Leeds and street food concepts at Euston station in London, has told Propel that the name of his new casual dining offer featuring the best UK traders, will be Main Stage bar and kitchen. The concept will unite the best street food traders from the awards series and the “most original beverage vendors – in one place”. Traders will change seasonally, with the site designed on a “Glastonbury meets Borough Market vibe”. He said: “The drawings by architect Derek Barker and his team at Haskoll have a real festival feel, with a day into night backdrop and a relaxed vibe.” The company has also added two new directors. Sean Gogarty, former global divisional chief executive at Unilever has been added to the board for his branding experience and Mark Williams, ex-president of Revo and director at RivingtonHark has been recruited “for his encyclopedic knowledge of the British high street”. The company is also currently interviewing for a chief operating officer with a proven track record in successfully running a multi-site food and beverage or restaurant business. Johnson added: “The chief operating officer will be a main board partner and vital to the successful establishment and scaling of the business.” Earlier this month, Johnson told Propel he was progressing plans with a “growing list of landlords in repurposed retail space in key towns across the UK”. Johnson said: “After covid, people will want to continue supporting the best of their local food businesses and they will also want new casual, freewheeling dining opportunities in places that are less confined than a restaurant.” He said the concept would be a single-contact partner with landlords and councils to create, promote, lease and operate an “exciting food environment” in town centres and retail spaces.
Inamo – trading well above expectations: West End operator Inamo has reported business has greatly exceeded expectations, with sales 20% above forecast for August. The company on track to be only 25% down for the month year-on-year, despite all sites being restricted to circa 65% capacity and the Soho location not reopening until mid-August. A spokesman said: “These positive results bode well for the company’s forecasts at a time when Inamo is exploring investment opportunities to grow our innovative tech-led brand. Revenue has been assisted by the Eat Out To Help Out scheme (EOTHO) with Monday to Wednesday trade generating 30% of weekly sales. In the last two weeks of August, the company has been in 20% year-on-year weekly sales growth. While EOTHO has grown weekly, the business has not seen a reduction in weekend covers and, in fact, numbers have continued to rise week-on-week. Covers booked for Tuesday, 1 September, and Wednesday, 2 September, are, however, currently less than 25% of covers dined in the week commencing 24 August. Following the fantastic results of August, and the green shoots of recovery that Eat Out To Help Out has helped nurture, we are concerned that, without further support, autumn 2020 will be challenging. Like many within the sector, we would be delighted if the chancellor were to extend the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which has encouraged guests to venture out to support restaurants, increasing opening hours, reducing the number of team members on furlough, stimulating the economy and, in turn, generating tax revenue for HMRC. Our calculations indicate that the support given under Eat Out To Help Out would be less in September than our potential furlough claim without the accompanying benefits to the economy, HMRC, suppliers and partners.” Chief executive Lee Skinner added: “In the event that the chancellor does not choose to extend the scheme prior to Tuesday, Inamo will join in continuing the promotion for September under the same terms, additionally we will extend the availability from Monday to Thursday at all times open, and on Friday lunch, to encourage more first-time guests and thank our loyal patrons. Naturally, we would also like to thank our dedicated team which has worked tirelessly to ensure guest safety.”
Michael Caines launches Porthleven restaurant after taking over former Rick Stein site: Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines has opened a site in Porthleven, Cornwall, for his fourth venue. Caines has relaunched the former Rick Stein site he acquired last month as The Harbourside Refuge, Restaurant and Bar. It is Caines’ second venture in Cornwall and adds to the Michael Caines Collection that comprises luxury country house hotel and restaurant Lympstone Manor, The Cove at Maenporth, and a new project in Exmouth. Paying homage to its quayside position, The Harbourside Refuge offers a menu inspired by its seaside setting as well as a selection of drinks sourced from the south west. Dishes include Cornish mackerel with gooseberry and grain mustard relish along with Cornish steaks from the grill. Caines said: “This lovely small town is rich in culture and history and, in recent years, has become renowned as a food-lover’s destination. We are looking forward to revealing fully our plans for the restaurant in the future but for now our priority is to reopen with an outstanding food offering, featuring the finest Cornish produce.” Trevor Osborne, of the Porthleven Harbour & Dock Company, which includes the site of the restaurant, added: “I am confident with his outstanding reputation and award-winning food, Michael’s new restaurant on Porthleven’s harbourside will be an excellent addition to our community and complement the impressive list of distinguished chefs already working here.”
Lost City Adventure Golf to open third site in Hull: Nottingham-based adventure golf operator Lost City is to open its third site, in Hull. The venue, which will create 15 new jobs, will feature two 18-hole adventure indoor golf courses will have a tropical rainforest theme, with large-scale special effects, animal animatronics, tropical rainstorms and interactive features. Lost City Adventure Golf director Lane Scott told Insider Media: “We’re really excited to bring something new to Hull. We’re now busy transforming our new space into an immersive, interactive golfing experience that’s fun for all ages. Work is progressing really well so now we’re looking for staff to join our journey.” The company runs sites in Nottingham and Belfast.
Rick Stein to reopen Marlborough restaurant next Friday following reprieve after rent deduction: Rick Stein will reopen his restaurant in Marlborough, Wiltshire, on Friday, 4 September. The venue was previously earmarked for closure due to covid-related cuts, but the division was reversed after a rent reduction from the landlord. The restaurant will offer customers “a taste of Cornwall in the English countryside”, serving fresh Cornish ingredients, including sustainable fish and seafood. For dinner, guests will be able to choose from either the à la carte menu, which will include scallops in the half shell with a hazelnut and coriander butter; and Indonesian seafood curry, served with pilau rice, or the set menu that will feature options including a coarse pork and herb terrine with toasted sourdough and beetroot chutney. To accommodate for guests who would still prefer to dine at home, the restaurant will be offering a takeaway service. Select dishes such as the fish and chips, Thai fish cakes and the curries will be available to order via the Rick Stein app and collect at the restaurant, which originally opened in 2016.
Second Taka restaurant prepares for September opening: Japanese restaurant Taka will open a second site after rescheduling its unveiling from May. The Marylebone venue is slated to open its doors on 24 September after covid-19 hampered the original opening date. The first Taka site, in Mayfair, reopened in July. Group executive chef Taiji Maruyama, formerly of Beaverbrook and Nobu, has created the menu alongside head chef Jonathan Dowling. It focuses on hot and grilled small plates as well as sushi. The restaurant also hopes to take a slice of the weekend brunch market with waffles and pancakes leading the line-up. Cocktails, sake and wines will be key to its drinks selection. The 2,500 square foot space has been designed by B3 Designers, which lists Roka, Hakkasan and Gymkhana among its previous achievements, and blends Japanese and European styles.
Kin+Ilk secures permanent St David’s site: The St David’s Partnership has announced the launch of a new 1,133 square foot cafe at St David’s, Cardiff, for speciality Welsh coffee company Kin+Ilk. Following a successful pop-up, the brand has secured a permanent site on Hills Street, adjacent to Hugo Boss and directly accessed via The Hayes, as part of their expansion within the region. Kin+Ilk, meaning family and kind, is focused on providing directly sourced coffee from the producer, Finca El Corozo, in partnership with Clifton Coffee, while supporting the local communities in El Salvador. All takeaway drinks and food are served in 100% compostable cups and packaging by Vegware. Haydn Darke, director at Kin+Ilk, said: “We initially opened at St David’s for a Christmas pop-up and soon saw the demand for our unique coffee and range of locally made products. We wanted a more permanent location within the destination, so we waited for the right unit to become available to complement our other coffee shops in Wales, and are pleased to have been able to open our doors and grow our business further at St David’s.” Kin + Ilk has two other sites in Cardiff.
Goodbody – Dalata well positioned for the recovery, but key questions to answer at first-half results: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said Irish hotel operator Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, is well positioned for the recovery given its liquidity is in order and strong management team, but said there would be some “key questions to answer” at its first-half results on Tuesday (1 September). Dalata last updated on trading at the end of April when it said for the first quarter like-for-like revpar was down 18.6% in the UK, 24.3% in Dublin and 14% in regional Ireland. Ruddy said: “Given the second quarter was largely lost, the key focus in first-half numbers will be net debt and cash burn. As a result, any commentary on recent trading in the reopening phase will be closely scrutinised.” Other questions, Ruddy said, included given the level of occupancy being witnessed in Dublin and London, is it worthwhile keeping all the hotels open through this winter? He added it would be interesting to hear details on property valuation, new supply of hotels and decisions around sale and leasebacks. Ruddy said: “We recognise the current difficulties the hospitality sector faces, which has been further compounded by second wave concerns and no immediate visibility over a recovery in international travel. However, we see Dalata as well positioned for the recovery given its liquidity is in order, it has a strong and experienced management team, good freehold assets and the medium term valuation looks attractive.”
Chef-restaurateur Ben Tunnicliffe announces second Cornish pub: Cornwall-based pub operator Ben Tunnicliffe is opening a second site with his head chef Matt Smith. The Packet Inn – an old coaching inn near Prussia Cove will officially opens its doors on 2 September. With the promise of a “Cornish pub for all seasons” to follow on from seafood pub The Tolcarne Inn in Newlyn, Tunnicliffe said: “As ever, we’ll be guided by seasonal cycles and our love for the finest local produce, but we’ll be working with local butchers and smallholders as well as growers and fishermen. So, as well as superb seafood, guests can expect grass-fed beef, free range poultry and outdoor-reared pork as well as colourful and creative vegetarian and vegan food.” The menu will be in a “small plates” format, encouraging diners to order and share a variety of dishes rather than the traditional three courses. Tunnicliffe took over The Tolcarne Inn in 2012 and Smith joined him in 2019.
Tomos Parry extends Brat residency at Climpson’s Arch: Michelin-starred chef Tomos Parry is to extend the residency of his Brat concept in the outdoor space at events hub Climpson’s Arch in Hackney, east London. The residency, which was launched last month had been due to finish at the end of September, but will run until January. The residency offers dishes inspired by the open-fired grilling techniques of the Basque country. The daily menu will continue to showcase native seasonal produce, with dishes including roasted game rice; fried pork chops with anchovy and hay butter; and winter tomatoes with aged mutton and grilled cep mushrooms. Alongside Brat’s wine and bar selection, Climpsons & Sons will be serving some of their new range of bottled and on-tap cocktails and its coffee roasted on-site. Parry said: “We created a residency at the Arch to support our team and suppliers, and we’re looking forward to continue growing and bringing people together. The dynamic space and menu will be slightly adapted to work with the seasons and we can’t wait to warmly welcome guests during the winter months.” In March, Parry opened a farm grill and wine shop at Brat in Shoreditch to support staff and suppliers during lock-down.
Soho restaurateurs to reopen 10 Greek Street next week: Luke Wilson and Cameron Emirali will reopen their 10 Greek Street restaurant in London’s Soho on Wednesday (2 September). The ever-evolving menu, created by Emirali, will now include a choice of small dishes, plus a selection of Roman-style pizzas, which will also be available for takeaway and, very shortly, delivery. Small plates will include presa, romesco and green beans; and tuna carpaccio, broad beans and chilli. Wilson has curated a short wine list that will celebrate a range of styles, grapes and regions, all available by glass and carafe. Beers will be supplied by Wilson and Emirali’s brewery, Braybrooke Beer Co, available on draught via two taps. Tables will also be set up on Greek Street where diners are able to enjoy alfresco dining in the temporarily pedestrianised area.
Covent Garden’s Frenchie to reopen with new menu options: Parisian restaurant concept Frenchie will reopen its doors on Friday, 4 September. A revamped terrace plus new menus await customers on Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. Chef Gregory Marchand’s classic dishes will be joined by new items, which include brandade croquettes and tartare sauce, a smoked lamb ragú pappardelle, kalamata olives and confit lemon, and Woolley Park Farm duck, piquillo purée, carrot and burnt paprika. Best-sellers that will remain include bacon scones served with maple syrup and Cornish clotted cream, duck foie gras presse, and banoffee, nutmeg and caramelised pecan. Frenchie Covent Garden is the sister restaurant to Paris’s Michelin-starred Frenchie Rue du Nil and Frenchie To Go.
Cornish climbing centre secures £20,000 loan: The Tide Climbing Centre has secured a £20,000 loan from non-for-profit company SWIG Finance. The Wadebridge-based leisure site will use the loan to help the business overcome issues that arose from a downturn in the exchange rate. The company has raised £340,000 through a mix of personal savings, business loans, private investors and crowdfunding. Co-owner Sophie Reynard said: “We have put everything we have into The Tide. With the recent downturn in exchange rates, we are grateful to SWIG Finance for facilitating our start-up loan to boost our initial investment.” The Tide has created 15 jobs and comes as climbing becomes the latest Olympic sport to be included in the Summer 2020 Olympics.