East Coast Concepts acquired out of administration for £520,000: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts was acquired out of administration for £520,000, Propel has learned. The five-strong business, which operates the Victors and Neighbourhood concepts, was acquired last month via a pre-pack administration by an investment group led by Naveen Handa of leisure company The Cairn Group. The deal protected more than 250 jobs. Propel understands the Handa-led group fought off five other offers for the business, which generated turnover of £13.7m in 2019. Management’s plan was to continue to roll out both the Victors and Neighbourhood concepts to more locations and grow the brand in line with increases to central overheads. However, this was put on hold after the Manchester site closed in April 2019 due to the loss of its licence. Manchester was the company’s most profitable site and, combined with operational issues at the newly opened Alderley Edge site and increased central overheads, the closure of Manchester accelerated the company’s losses, resulting in a pre-tax loss of £1.7m in the 12 months to the end of February 2020. Following the closure of Manchester, further support was provided by backer NorthEdge with the intention of giving management time to enact a turnaround. But before measures could have a material impact, the coronavirus pandemic forced all venues to close. While the company was able to access furlough support (£786,000 to end of June) and hospitality grants (£30,000) at two sites, it was not eligible for anything from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. In addition, rateable values at all sites, other than the Victors in Hale and its head office, were in excess of £51,000 meaning it was ineligible for hospitality grants across the majority of the portfolio. Consequently, management identified a £1.8m hole in its forecast cash flow arising by the end of September. This was partly mitigated by several actions including deferment of landlord rents, however, a £1.3m requirement remained. In consultation with NorthEdge, management concluded an accelerated sales process would be the best way of meeting the identified funding need with the most likely option being a sale via a pre-pack administration given the balance sheet position. The Victors estate reopened on 4 July and the Neighbourhood estate four days later. While the company delivered a better performance than its covid forecast, it required cash of £400,000 to £500,000 by November, and there was uncertainty about demand following the end of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme in September and possible future local or national lock-downs. The Handa-led group said the deal for East Coast Concepts was a “strategic acquisition to enhance their premium restaurant and bar offering”. Propel understands the Handa-led vehicle has committed £1m post-investment in the business to safeguard it against any further “sector shocks” and will look to aid its expansion plans going forward.
MOD Pizza UK goes into liquidation: MOD Pizza UK, the company behind the pizza concept, which is backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has been placed into liquidation. Insolvency firm Campbell Crossley & Davis is handling the process. It is thought the nine-strong pizza concept was placed into administration last month, with its circa 250 members of staff made redundant. Dunstone’s Freston Ventures vehicle declined to comment. The group’s nine sites have been closed since March, with no indication as yet of when they will reopen. It has already exited its site in Borehamwood, while its site near Leicester Square was placed on the market last year.
MJMK takes former Carluccio’s site in Canary Wharf: Bar operator MJMK – the team behind piri piri brand Casa do Frango – will open Bar Bolivar in the Reuters Plaza space that was home to Carluccio’s in Canary Wharf on Tuesday, 20 October. The concept is a 1950s Cuba-inspired cocktail bar with a bar food menu to match the drinks line-up. The decor includes an indoor fountain and old suitcases cladding the bar, colonial-style ceiling fans and Cuban soundtrack. Customers can expect cocktails such as The Hemingway Highball (£9.75), Havana Old Fashioned (£9.75) and Bolivar Mojito (£9.75). Food will be provided by Venezuelan specialist Pabellón, which won the British Street Food Awards last year. Dishes include arepa filled with Cheddar cheese, Pico de Gallo salad, avocado, sweet fried plantains and slow-cooked brisket; and the Cubano sandwich made with honey-roasted ham, Emmental cheese, roasted shredded pork, pickled cucumber and American mustard. Casa do Frango founders Jake Kasumov and Marco Mendes also run bars at Vinegar Yard and Pop Brixton. Kasumov said: “Having grown up in Havana, I was always mesmerised by Cuban culture – from architecture, to music, to bars, to nightlife, Havana offers a one-of-a-kind experience. Our idea was to transport our guests into a little corner of Havana. A place where we can forget the reality of London, and experience the feeling of being on holiday – with a Mojito or two in hand, and The Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background.” Richard Willcox from ETCH acted on behalf of MJMK while Rupert Bentley Smith from BGP acted for Canary Wharf Group.
Opening of Hard Rock Cafe is key to sale of seafood restaurant: The owners of Nova Seafood & Grill have sold the site to pursue their ambitions of opening the Hard Rock Cafe on Newcastle Quayside. Property advisory firm Christie & Co has completed the sale on behalf of David and Penny Tilly, who opened the restaurant in 2018. The now-closed Nova Seafood & Grill in the city centre’s High Bridge Street, was bought by local businessman Michael Grayson, who plans to turn the site into an American-style sports bar focusing on fast food and on-trend beers, with expansion plans on the horizon for the north east. David Tilly said: “We had lots of early interest in the restaurant with more than one offer at the time, but we decided to go with Michael’s bid. The deal was agreed pre-lock-down and then everything stalled until the announcement that restaurants and bars could reopen.” Grayson added: “High Bridge Street is perfect for what we are looking to do – it’s already home to lots of successful, independent businesses and we want to add to that. We will be starting work immediately on turning the venue into an American-style sports bar called Hen & Hops, with a focus on chicken wings, hot sauces and craft beers and ciders. This is definitely a brand we are looking to roll out elsewhere.”
Tim Hortons eyes former Chiquito site in Dunfermline for drive-thru: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons has submitted plans to open a drive-thru in Dunfermline. The site at Fife Leisure Park would be the second in the city, and the 24th in its UK and Northern Ireland portfolio. If proposals are accepted by Fife Council, SK Group, which is leading the roll out of Tim Hortons in the UK, will convert the former The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned Chiquito restaurant, with plans showing there will be two lanes and two order points for drivers, as well as one collection window at the site. Iceni Projects, which has submitted the proposals on behalf of Tim Hortons, said: “This application seeks advertising consent to implement a new signage scheme to facilitate the conversion of the former Chiquito unit in Fife Leisure Park into a Tim Hortons drive-thru operation. This application has been submitted alongside an application for full planning consent in respect of the proposed drive-thru and external alterations to the site. Over the past three years, SK Group has rapidly expanded Tim Hortons in the UK and there are now 12 stores in Scotland alone, including one located at Hospital Hill in Dunfermline.” TRG closed its Chiquito site at the leisure park but has kept its Frankie & Benny’s branch open.
Candypants founder to launch first site in Dubai: Entrepreneur Ray Chan will launch Missippi’s – his first venue in partnership with restaurant design company Livit Hospitality Management under his Candypants brand – and the group’s first venue in Dubai. He is also set to forgo a salary until February 2021 to ensure his businesses, which include Mans Market – a site in Leeds that combines a Chinese restaurant with a bar – can make the most of the coronavirus period, reports The Business Desk. Chan launched Candypants in 2008 after recognising night-time venues were a “sweaty environment” but wanted people to have an alternative experience in better conditions in the evening. Candypants is a party events business that also sells clothing but his new Dubai site will be a “pool bar and social hub”. Talking about coronavirus, Chan, who relocated to Dubai two years ago, said: “I didn’t feel it was right. If I’m asking people for redundancies and cuts, I’m going to lead the line as well. I also wanted to make sure I had a core team of people ready so we could relaunch. Operators that were half-hearted, cowboys or not necessarily attuned to the market will fall away. But the good guys who know how to do good hospitality, including food and drink, will connect and there will be more opportunities. The key to business success is just being able to adapt and reinvent and move sideways or even back a step, to reposition yourself. Covid has given us that ability to get off the hamster wheel and realign our goals.” Chan’s plans for 2020 had included hosting 550 events with Candypants and to hit the road with Mans Market via a new food truck, taking the best of the Leeds venue to festivals and food events across the UK in a bid to find its next bricks-and-mortar location.
Refugee chef to open permanent Syrian food site in central London: Syrian chef Imad Alarnab will open his first permanent restaurant in Kingly Court in London’s Soho, as revealed by Propel last month. Alarnab’s site, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, is set to take over the space in November, which was home to Darjeeling Express before the Indian restaurant concept relocated to Covent Garden. Alarnab has launched a crowdfunding scheme to raise £50,000 for the restaurant’s final push. The chef, who ran two restaurants plus several juice bars and cafes in Damascus, said: “After four years I am so very excited that I am now finally going to open my own restaurant in the heart of London, the city I, and my family, now call home. Losing my restaurants in Damascus was devastating but I am so happy that I can now bring my Syrian cooking to Kingly Court in Carnaby, to the people of London who have supported me so much over the past few years.” Alarnab came to prominence in the capital four years ago with his charity events, supper clubs and pop-up venues. When his restaurants were destroyed in the war in his homeland of Syria, he and his family escaped and made their way through Europe – passing on his cooking skills on the way to the UK. On the menu, customers can expect to find Syrian mezze, including falafel, as well as main and sharing dishes. Julia Wilkinson, Shaftesbury restaurant director, added: “After working with Imad on several pop-up projects during the past four years, it is fantastic for Shaftesbury to be able to support this next chapter.”
Irvine-based coffee shop secures former Frankie & Benny’s in Ayr for second site, third planned in Glasgow: Irvine-based coffee shop Gro Coffee is to open a second branch, in Ayr, with a third planned for Glasgow. Owner Gordon Rennie has secured the former premises of The Restaurant Group-owned brand Frankie & Benny’s in Highfield Drive, Ayr. Announcing the news on social media, Rennie said he was still “wondering” how he got there, having been in a derelict apartment just two years ago. He added: “This pic[ture] is me and Joey Gro finding some beer crates for seats in our derelict apartment just over two years ago after another long day. Even in that moment, we had a vision and a plan, and a determination to make it a reality. We just never gave up.” The new Ayr outlet is undergoing renovations ahead of the opening, while the location of the planned Glasgow shop was not revealed.
Patisserie Valerie launches click and collect: Patisserie Valerie, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, is launching click and collect across 42 of its UK sites before rolling out to its full estate. The company has partnered with mobile order and pay firm Wi5 to offer the service. Patisserie Valerie group chief executive James Fleming said: “Customers are expecting innovations that make their day-to-day lives easier, so we wanted to make it as convenient as possible for them to order and pay for their food and drink.” Wi5 chief executive Prask Sutton added: “Wi5 is enjoying working with the team at Patisserie Valerie and we’re already discussing new and innovative ways to bring more and more benefits to the business and its customers.”
Wi5 is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
SSP Group appoints independent non-executive director: UK transport hub foodservice company SSP Group has appointed Tim Lodge as an independent non-executive director. Lodge will also serve as a member of the audit committee. The company stated: “Tim has a strong finance and accounting background and brings relevant food and beverage sector and supply chain experience to the board having held various positions with Tate & Lyle from 1988 to 2014, including six years as chief financial officer from 2008. More recently, he was chief financial officer at COFCO International, the international agriculture supply chain company.” SSP chairman Mike Clasper said: “Tim has significant international commercial experience and a track record of advising businesses with complex global operations and supply chains in the food and beverage sector. He is a great addition to the board.”
Elior Group launches staff hardship fund: Contract caterer Elior Group has launched a fund to help support colleagues facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Group Solidarity Fund, which is being administrated with the help of Hospitality Action, will provide Elior colleagues in need with a £750 grant. The grants will be funded by Elior Group’s most senior directors and executive committee, who have volunteered to reduce their salaries by up to 25% in a show of solidarity with colleagues across the business. Justin Johnston, human resources director for Elior UK, said: “The current pandemic has brought financial challenges for people across the hospitality industry, including many of our colleagues here in the UK. We hope these grants will make a real difference in the lives of any of our people who have been facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.” Elior UK is working in partnership with Hospitality Action and where applications are approved grants will be issued on a first come, first served basis, until all funds are exhausted.
Bibendum to launch live webinar WSET training: Drinks distributor Bibendum has launched a live webinar WSET Level 2 training course. Adapted due to the covid-19 restrictions, Bibendum will be offering the course through a series of live webinar sessions, supplemented with a series of Bibendum-created online resources, one-to-one support and self-study. The training will include the same amount of classroom time as Bibendum’s face-to-face courses. This includes ten, two-hour sessions that will take place twice weekly across five weeks. Bibendum’s first WSET Level 2 course will commence on Monday, 12 October, with more course dates to be announced.
Bibendum is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Budweiser reaches 100% barley sourcing goal in UK: Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I has announced it has reached its goal of sourcing 100% of its barley from British farms. The barley is used in its UK-produced beers and achieving the milestone means there is no need to import the ingredient, therefore, reducing carbon emissions and showcasing British agriculture. Some of its most popular beers include Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, which are brewed at Magor, south Wales, and Samlesbury, Lancashire. There are more than 300 farmers growing barley for Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I across 6,000 hectares and producing 40,000 tonnes of barley each year. Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I president Paula Lindenberg said: “We’re so proud to announce we’ve reached this goal. Local communities are the lifeblood of this country, so we’re absolutely committed to supporting them, creating more efficient supply chains, and brewing the UK’s most sustainable beers.” In 2014, 100% of the barley required by Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I was imported. Eric Wright, from Wrights Agriculture, Leicestershire, one of the farmers growing Explorer barley for Budweiser, added: “It’s really important to me that what I produce is used in this country and supports our economy.” More than 20 million bottles and cans of Budweiser are brewed every week in the UK.