Mackay to step down as Benihana MD: Richard Mackay, formerly of Wagamama and Nozomi, is to step down as managing director of Benihana, the worldwide Japanese teppanyaki restaurant chain, Propel has learned. Mackay joined Benihana last year on the back of new investment from Minor International, which acquired a 75% stake in the company, to spearhead the business and oversee its expansion programme. He is leaving the company to head up Matal Eatery in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year, Benihana, which operates three sites in London, launched a 100-cover restaurant at the former Carluccio’s site in Glasgow’s West Nile Street. It was the first new Benihana restaurant in the UK for more than 20 years. In April, Benihana signed a host of international franchise deals, which will see it open five restaurants in Egypt, three in Pakistan, and one in in Mexico, creating a total of 29 across its global portfolio. Founder Hiroki Aoki opened the first Benihana in 1964. Benihana’s London restaurants are in Chelsea, Piccadilly and at The Grange hotel in St Paul’s.
Upham Pub Company reduces debt levels after completing sale and leaseback deal on 14 pubs: Upham Pub Company has completed the sale and leaseback of 14 of the 15 pubs within the group to CBRE Global Investors. The properties, all of which are in the south of England, provide a total of 151 bedrooms. Upham Pub Company director David Butcher told Propel the majority of the funds had been used to reduce debt levels. He said: “What we’ve done is made the business even more resilient and set us up for the next stage of our journey. We’re going to spend the next six months bedding things down and we’re probably then start looking at what’s out there.” The pubs in the sale and leaseback deal were The Bunk Inn, Newbury; The George Inn, Warminster; The Hawk Inn, Andover; The Mill at Gordleton, Hordle; The Navigator, Lower Swanwick; The Peat Spade, Longstock; The Running Horse, Littleton; The Station House, Haslemere; The Thomas Lord, West Meon; The Weighbridge Brewhouse, Swindon; The Wheelwright’s Arms, Havant; The White Hart, Overton; The White Hart, South Harting; and The Winning Post, Winkfield. Upham Pub Company has retained its freehold interest in The Swan in Chiddingfold. Savills acted for Upham Pub Company on the deal. Kevin Marsh, head of licensed leisure at Savills, said: “Upham Pub Company has built up a portfolio of well-respected local pubs that benefited from diversified income streams and large site areas. We are pleased to have secured a successful sale and leaseback for our client that enables it to fund further expansion of this highly-respected, managed house pub company.” Paul O’Brien, at Marle Place Property, acted for CBRE Global Investors.
Wignell steps down as Ed’s brand operations director: Sam Wignell, formerly of Mitchells & Butlers and Tesco Family Dining, has stepped down as brand operations director of Ed’s Easy Diner, after almost three years with the Boparan Restaurant Group-owned business. Wignell, who joins Ed’s in October 2016 from Harris + Hoole where he as chief operating officer, has joined S4Labour as its new chief customer officer. Last month, Ed’s rolled out its new menu with added vegan and gluten-free dishes and “custom-build” options. Following the success of the brand’s vegan activity between January and March, Ed’s is now offering its first permanent vegan burger – the Beet-Root 66. Earlier this year, Ed’s and sister brand Giraffe underwent a CVA, which saw 27 of their combined 87 sites proposed for closure.
Deliveroo acquires Scottish software company Cultivate: Deliveroo has acquired Cultivate, an Edinburgh-based software design and development consultancy specialising in the development of custom software applications, for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition, Deliveroo plans to build a technology hub in Edinburgh, where it plans to hire 50 highly-skilled technology workers within three years – primarily engineers, product managers, user researchers, designers, and data scientists. Deliveroo was formerly a client of Cultivate, with the Scottish software company building the delivery firm’s payments system. The companies said they would continue to look at developing ways to improve payment processes for both riders and restaurants. They said the work will build on Deliveroo’s ‘“Cash Out” feature, which allows riders to access their earnings immediately; give riders and restaurants more information on how they are earning through the platform so they can better manage their finances; and develop ways to offer more financial support, for example to help riders save and help restaurants to manage their cash flow. Dan Winn, vice-president of engineering at Deliveroo, said: “As a British company, Deliveroo is proud to be investing in Edinburgh and creating more high-skilled jobs in the UK. Edinburgh is one of the UK’s fastest growing technology hubs, with access to an excellent talent pool of highly-skilled people and university graduates. Deliveroo is committed to offering riders flexible, well-paid work and helping restaurants to grow their businesses. Building on Cultivate’s expertise, we are excited to create new products and services that will help us achieve this.”
Carter promoted to UK people director at Pret: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed chain, has promoted David Carter to the role of UK people director. Carter has been with Pret for more than 18 years, and has been head of HR and recruitment for the past six-and-a-half years. Last month, Pret announced the appointment of Kate Stein to the newly created role of global technical director, starting on Monday, 2 September. At the start of July, the company announced chief executive Clive Schlee was to retire at the end of September after more than 16 years in the role. Schlee will hand the reins to chief operating officer Pano Christou. Schlee will remain on Pret’s board as a non-executive director. The announcement came on the eve of Pret completing its acquisition of fresh food to go retailer EAT. Since then, EAT’s chief executive Andrew Walker and director of food and beverage Arnaud Kaziewicz have stepped down from the business.
Whitbread to open first out-of-town Bar + Block restaurant: Whitbread is to open the first out-of-town site for its Bar + Block steakhouse restaurant brand this month. The restaurant will open at its Premier Inn hotel in Winnersh, Berkshire, on Friday, 16 August. The 418 square metre, 189-cover restaurant will include the brand’s trademark open kitchen and copper feature bar as well as decorative finishing touches such as the Bar + Block neon cow. The all-day, casual dining concept places an emphasis on high-quality steaks at affordable prices. The Winnersh site will be the 11th Bar + Block to open since the brand was launched in Birmingham in 2016. Annelise Watson, senior brand development and marketing manager at Whitbread Restaurants, said: “The restaurant is our first opening in an out-of-town location and we are excited to be adding to the local food and drink scene and providing a new destination all-day dining concept to the community of Winnersh.”
Dodo Pub Company set to make Berkshire debut: Oxford-based operator Dodo Pub Company is set to open its first site in Berkshire, after a securing a site in Reading. Propel understands Dodo, which was founded in 2009 by Leo Johnson and Chris Manners, is set to take on the Prince Of Wales in Caversham, with plans to reopen it later this year under the name the Last Crumb. In April, the company reopened The Somerset Arms in Marston Road, Oxford, as The Up in Arms. Earlier this year, Johnson said the company was seeking to open ten to 15 pubs across the Home Counties with rescuing rundown and unloved pubs at the heart of its plans. The company, which is chaired by Patrick Henchoz, who set up the Esporta rackets and gym chain, also operates The Rickety Press and The Rusty Bicycle in Oxford as well as The Bottle Of Sauce in Cheltenham.
The Kitchens team to open fifth site this month: The team behind The Kitchens concept is to open its fifth site – and fourth in London – this month. Bloomsbury Street Kitchen will open in Bloomsbury Street on Saturday, 10 August. The restaurant will showcase a selection of contemporary Mediterranean and Japanese small plates, complemented by a diverse variety of wine, sake and signature cocktails. The restaurant will have 74 covers, split between 60 in the main dining area, eight on a semi-private dining table and six at the chef’s counter, which will offer diners the opportunity to experience the kitchen team working at a raw bar. A lounge bar will feature an additional 46 covers, while the outdoor garden will seat a further 16. The Kitchens concept also comprises London-based May Fair Kitchen, Monmouth Kitchen and Leicester Square Kitchen along with Peter Street Kitchen in Manchester.
Star Pubs & Bars sponsors 100 apprentices: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has committed funding to sponsor 100 new apprentices in its estate this year. The move is designed to help licensees attract and retain the best talent in the kitchen and behind the bar in order to develop future hospitality managers. Prompted by feedback from the company’s licensee forums that recruiting and keeping permanent staff is one of their biggest challenges, Star Pubs & Bars has teamed up with service provider Remit to help licensees find and train apprentices. Star Pubs & Bars is funding the employer contribution for the first 100 licensees who sign up to use the scheme. Stephen Rooney, head of Business support said: “Apprenticeships provide the structure for young people to get off to a good start, and our scheme will hopefully help encourage more to follow a career path in our sector. In particular, we want to help develop experienced chefs and managers, who are in short supply. We have listened to licensees concerns about recruiting and keeping staff and put in place support to help them grow their own talent. Apprentices also bring energy and enthusiasm, along with a fresh perspective, to the teams they work with, so taking on an apprentice is a win-win for all.” The Star Pubs & Bars pub apprenticeship scheme sits alongside Heineken’s wider apprentice programme, which includes brewing operations. This year, Heineken is increasing the intake of brewing apprentices from six to 22, extending its engineering apprentices opportunities to advanced process operator, brewer and manufacturing manager roles.
Corbin & King brings lease of Bellanger to market: London-based restaurant group Corbin & King has brought the lease of its Bellanger site to market. Having revealed earlier this week the Islington restaurant would close, Corbin & King has now instructed Christie & Co to find a buyer for the existing lease. The 6,800 square foot space is arranged entirely across the ground floor. Corbin & King co-founder Jeremy King said: “Although we loved being in Islington, we just couldn’t make it the success we aspired to, and with seven other restaurants, plus a recently acquired site in Notting Hill and working on the opening of Manzi’s in Soho, the time was right to move on.” Christie & Co is seeking offers for the leasehold interest by way of an assignment.
Gusto Pronto Group acquires fifth pub: Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Gusto Pronto Group has acquired its fifth pub. The company, founded by husband-and-wife team David and Roxane Marjoram, has added The Fox in the village of Bulmer Tye to their portfolio. Its website states: “We’re delighted to announce The Fox at Bulmer Tye has joined the Gusto Pronto family. The Fox is a pub with a fabulous history and we can’t wait to share in its future with you when we open in early September.” A minor refurbishment is being carried out on the pub, which has been closed since January, ahead of the reopening. Founded by the Marjorams in 2008, the company operates fours pubs in and around Bury St Edmunds as well as its craft brewery, Brewshed.
Hawthorn Leisure launches partner training programme for new publicans:Hawthorn Leisure, which is owned by NewRiver, has launched a partner training programme for new publicans. Partnering with training provider LJD Innovation, Hawthorn Leisure hopes to train about 180 licensees across the first year of the “seven steps to sales success” programme. The course will coach practical marketing and business-building strategies, providing key advice and recommendations to help them grow sales. Hawthorn Leisure managing director of operations Mark McGinty said: “By working together with our partners, we help to ensure they have the tools and support they need alongside investing into our pubs to create long-term, sustainable businesses, and this training programme will provide invaluable insight and learnings for our new partners, setting them up for lasting success.”
26 Grains eyes Borough opening: 26 Grains, the café concept founded by Alex Hely-Hutchinson, is looking to open a second site in London, in Borough Market. Propel understands the business, which opened its first permanent site in 2015 in Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, has lined up the former Rabot 1745 site in Stoney Street for an all-day offer. 26 Grains was started by Hely-Hutchinson to create the West End’s first grains-based cafe. Porridge is the primary focus but also sits alongside muesli, granola, risotto and salads on the menu. Following a successful run of pop-up venues, Seven Dials was the first permanent location for the brand.
Mercedes Benz launches ‘autohaus’ hospitality concept: LSH Auto UK, part of Mercedes-Benz dealership LSH International, has opened its debut licensed bar as part of a new hospitality concept. The company has opened the UK’s first Mercedes-Benz Autohaus, in Stockport. The purpose-built, three-storey, site off Brighton Road features a bistro, events facilities and a garden alongside a traditional dealership space. The licensed bistro serves paninis, cakes and pastries alongside wine and craft beer. The concept has its own dedicated hospitality manager and a screening room available for hire with cinema-style seating.
Beds and Bars retains IIP platinum status: Bed and Bars, the pan-European hostel operator led by Keith Knowles, has retained its Investors in People (IIP) platinum status. The company is one of only six hospitality businesses worldwide to achieve platinum status and part of the 0.01% of all IIP organisations that has achieved platinum status twice. The average benchmark result Beds and Bars achieved was 750, well above the IIP average of 724 and that of “food and beverage service activities” at 715. Knowles, said: “It is a privilege to be ranked for double platinum as a hospitality business – a clear indication of the dedication and hard work the team has invested in the business. The standard of what we have achieved together has been heartwarming – we’ve gone from gold, champion, platinum to double platinum in 2019.” Achieving double platinum status has been a significant milestone for the company as it continues the legacy of Knowles’ late wife, Franca. She steered Beds and Bars through the first IIP process, where she went on to win the company’s first IIP award.
Catapult launches in Germany: On-demand artificial intelligence staffing platform Catapult has launched in Germany. Catapult said it aims to address the unique challenges Germany’s highly regulated staffing industry presents such as mandatory paper contracts, while record-low unemployment rates make attracting quality candidates difficult for employers. Catapult uses behavioural science and artificial intelligence to match highly-skilled and experienced part-time workers with employers via an app and online booking system. Candidates can choose which shifts they work. Germany is the second market for Catapult, which has expanded across the UK. Jette Schaffran, Catapult chief operating officer and managing director of Germany, said: “Germany has some catching up to do when it comes to finding innovative solutions to the issues within the staffing industry. We’re really excited to provide a streamlined system to some of these manual processes, inject flexibility into hospitality and retail recruitment and give some control back to part-time workers in Berlin.”