Poké House makes UK move with Ahi Poké deal: Milan-based, fast-casual brand Poké House is to make its debut in the UK after acquiring the Ahi Poké business. Off the back of the acquisition of the six-strong, London-based Ahi Poké, the company plans to launch seven venues in the capital by the summer, with the first Poké House restaurant planned to open in Notting Hill, in June. Poké House currently operates 30 sites across Italy, Portugal and Spain, and employs more than 400 people. It said it plans to expand into city locations, shopping malls, outdoor kiosks and dark kitchens in the UK. The deal comes a few days after Poké House closed a €20m (£17m) Series B funding round led by Eulero Capital, with backing from FG2 Capital and reinvestment from Milano Investment Partners. The proceeds from the investment are intended to fuel and accelerate the international expansion of the company, with the acquisition of Ahi Poké representing a key step in a broader plan to open 200 new stores across Europe. Matteo Pichi, co-founder and chief executive of Poké House, said: “We realised early on that poké could be a product with great potential but, at the same time, many other chains were starting to introduce it on their menus. That’s why we decided to strongly differentiate our high-quality fast casual offer and invest heavily in technology. Our data-driven approach allowed us to scale at a much higher rate than a classic restaurant chain and to adapt the business strategy in a very reactive and effective way. This has proven to be crucial, especially in such complicated and challenging times for the food service industry, and we are now looking forward to further expanding our reach in Europe and introducing our concept to new customers.”
Megan’s set to replace PizzaExpress in Wandsworth: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s is to increase its presence in the capital, with an opening in Wandsworth, Propel has learned. It will open a site in the ex-Pizza Express – Megan’s in the Tonsleys – in Wandsworth Old Town. Propel revealed earlier this month, the Sarah Hills-led company had secured the former Le Pain Quotidien site at 214 Chiswick High Road, for what will become Megan’s at the Flower Market. The new site will open on 3 May for outdoor dining. Propel also revealed in March that Megan’s was to convert a derelict 1930s cafe in the heart of Clapham Common into Terrace by Megan’s. That site opened in Rookery Road last month, offering an outdoor dining restaurant and takeaway deli serving all-day brunch, lunch, dinner and takeaway picnics. Megan’s is also understood to have applied to open a further site in Dulwich Village.
Wingstop CEO – we will apply some of the strategic thinking we’ve learned in Europe in the US: Charlie Morrison, chairman and chief executive of US chicken brand Wingstop, has said the company is applying some of the strategic thinking it has learned in Europe in the US. Speaking after the brand gave its first quarter update, he said in the future in the US, consumers could see “perhaps a high street location like we did in the UK, followed by a series of restaurants that surround that”. He said this could include alternative formats such as ghost kitchens. Wingstop operates 11 sites in the UK under a master agreement with Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is a mixture of restaurants and delivery kitchens. Earlier this week, it signed an agreement to open 100 sites in Canada over the next ten years. Talking to analysts, Morrison said: “A little over a year ago, we did a big strategic study globally to identify a few things. Number one, which markets fit the right archetype for us to go to aggressively develop in and which ones we should shy away from, and our efforts in markets like Canada, the UK and the work we’re doing in China to continue to prepare for expansion there. I’ll highlight what we talked about in Canada, which is the ability to have a premium positioning with a very high off-premise mix. That’s our sweet spot. And we know from our early indications in the UK and the great success we’re having there would lead to that. Now some of these markets where we are experiencing closures were markets that didn’t fit that mix perfectly. And so we’ve had some challenges. Larger restaurants that are sit-down oriented or are in markets where we don’t enjoy that premium price position have been the harder challenges for us, and that’s where we are experiencing some closures. But, for the most part, markets such as the UK, Mexico, our entry into Canada, further expansion in Europe and parts of south east Asia, where we enjoy that price premium, will be the markets that will stabilise and continue to grow for us long term.”
Domino’s Pizza reports global sales up 16.7% in first quarter: Domino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 16.7% in its first quarter ending 28 March 2021. Like-for-like sales were up 13.4% in the US while the international division saw like-for-like sales grow 11.8%. The figures marked the 109th consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 40th consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased to $983.7m, compared with $873.1m the year before. The company added 175 net new stores during the period – 139 internationally and 36 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter were down 2.3% to $3.00. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “It was a strong first quarter for the Domino’s brand, with balanced growth across all areas of our global business.”
PCA orders Star Pubs & Bars to cancel dilapidations charges for tenants seeking MRO, pub company also refunds £25,000: The pubs code adjudicator (PCA) has ordered Star Pubs & Bars to cancel charges for dilapidations to its tenants when seeking the market rent only (MRO) option – and pay back £25,000 of money previously taken. The PCA was concerned Star’s policy of informing all tied tenants who requested MRO they would be charged for a schedule of dilapidations would put licensees off doing so due to the upfront cost. It said requiring the tenant to pay for the schedule of dilapidations when requesting MRO could amount to a pub company subjecting them to detriment because they exercised Regulation 50 of the code, which protects tenants against this. The PCA raised concerns with Star about this approach and asked for the pub company’s justification for doing so. This resulted in Star – the pub arm of Heineken – changing its policy. The PCA then asked Star to review the cases in question and explain what steps it was going to take to rectify the situation for the tenants affected. Star made a refund totalling £25,460 to tenants. This was regardless of whether the tenant, ultimately, took the MRO option or not. However, Star only updated the change of policy information on its website in March 2021 so tenants may have read out of date information beforehand. Star acknowledged this failure and has updated its website. It has also asked any affected tenants to contact its pubs code team.
YO! expands David Lloyd Leisure partnership: YO!, the multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese and Asian food group, has expanded its trial with David Lloyd Leisure Centres, and is now supplying clubs with pre-packaged sushi and salads. The expansion builds on the success of the trial and will see a specially designed range of YO! Food to Go pre-packaged sushi in David Lloyd Clubs, including YO! crispy salmon rolls, YO! chicken katsu bites and YO! vegan sushi. The rollout builds on the group’s growth across multiple retail channels. YO! Food to Go pre-packaged sushi is already available in 600 Sainsbury’s stores, 160 Co-op stores, and a trial partnership is also under way in WHSmith. The group’s Taiko brand is also available in Waitrose. Within the retail division, YO! also operates 52 YO! kiosks in Tesco stores under the YO! brand and 37 kiosks in Asda under the Panku brand. David Hampton, managing director of retail at YO!, said: “This is another important step in the diversification strategy and the expansion of our retail offer as we look to reach more customers by opening up new channels.”
Illycaffè opens site as part of Eataly London development: Premium Italian coffee company Illycaffè has opened a site as part of the Eataly London development in London’s Broadgate. Located on the ground floor of the 42,000 square foot venue, Gran Caffè Illy is a full-service Italian coffee bar, “inspired by the elegant cafes of Italy”. Alongside Illy classics such as the eponymous Italian espresso, there are specials such as Illy’s Cold Brew and the Marocchino, an espresso with hot chocolate, topped with frothed milk. The Gran Caffè Illy also offers all-day options created by the Eataly London chefs using high-quality ingredients from the market. The site will have extensive seating both indoors – which will open from Monday, 17 May – and outdoors on the terrace. Takeaway options are also available. Illycaffè chief executive Massimiliano Pogliani said: “We are glad to be partners of Eataly, with whom we share the same vision of promoting Made in Italy and high-quality, sustainable products in its first opening in London. We are sure the Gran Caffè Illy will represent an exciting hospitality experience on the London scene, bringing us even closer to our consumers in the UK, a very important market for our brand.” Illycaffè operates three other UK sites, two in London and one in Bristol.
Dalata reports €3.6m Ebitda loss in first quarter as UK occupancy falls to 13%:Irish hotel operator Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, made an Ebitda loss of €3.6m in the first quarter of the year as its occupancy levels fell to as low as 13% due to covid-19 pandemic restrictions. The company said it expected its hotels in the UK to reopen fully in the middle of May in line with the timetable set out by the government. In a statement ahead of the company’s annual general meeting, Dalata chairman John Hennessy said: “Since the start of January, our hotels have been closed to the general public, serving customers related to essential services only. For the first quarter of 2021, occupancies at our hotels were 14% in Dublin, 16% in regional Ireland and 13% in the UK. We continue to minimise the impact of lower revenues through proactive cost control and availing of government support.” The company had cash and undrawn debt facilities of €272m at the end of March. The cash outflow of €21m for the first quarter of 2021 was in line with expectations,” Hennessy said. He added the hotel group will continue to progress its development pipeline of close to 3,300 bedrooms and expects to open three new hotels before the end of this year. Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said: “Importantly, the group continues to do an excellent job in managing Ebitda losses, helped by government supports. The liquidity position is strong ahead of reopening.” Dalata recently announced Dermot Crowley would succeed co-founder Pat McCann as chief executive, with Carol Phelan to become group chief financial officer. Dalata operates the Clayton and Maldron brands.
Sector food supplier bought out of administration: Serious Food, which supplies high-quality ingredients to the hotel and restaurant industry, has been bought out of administration. Established ten years ago, Serious Food experienced cash flow challenges due to the pandemic, which initially led to a company voluntary arrangement. When contributions could not be met, ReSolve was appointed as administrator. The business and certain assets have been sold to First Choice Produce, a purveyor of speciality fine foods to Michelin star and fine dining restaurants as well as casual dining and event catering establishments, securing the future of all employees. First Choice Produce chief executive Dan McCullough said: “We are pleased to have acquired Serious Foods because it is complementary to our existing business and enables us to increase our warehousing and distribution capabilities to meet the increased demand we forecast once this lockdown period ends.”
PPHE ‘encouraged by early consumer demand for outdoor hospitality offerings and increased level of bookings’: Hotel company PPHE, which owns the Park Plaza brand, has said it has been “encouraged by the early consumer demand for its outdoor hospitality offerings at some of its hotels and the increased levels of enquiries and bookings, generally, across both leisure and meeting segments”. The company said total revenue in the first three months of 2021 had dropped 89.6% to £5.3m, due to the ongoing impact of coronavirus restrictions. However, PPHE said it expects demand to bounce back when restrictions on tourism are lifted. The hotel group said there had been “strong demand” from leisure guests when lockdowns were eased last summer, resulting in “market outperformance” at its flagship London and Amsterdam venues. “The group anticipates a similar rapid return of domestic and international demand as travel restrictions are eased and hospitality reopens across its operating markets,” PPHE said. Chief executive Boris Ivesha said: “The first quarter results of the financial year were in line with the board’s expectations, with performance subdued due to property closures and restricted capacities and against a strong year-on-year comparative. As restrictions are eased across our operating markets in Europe, we will capitalise on consumer demand and other potential opportunities, underpinned by our strong track record, well-invested properties, and unique approach to drive long-term success.”
WatchHouse head of marketing to launch UK’s first travelling concept grocery store: Nicole Compen, head of marketing at Edition Capital-backed coffee concept WatchHouse, is to launch the UK’s first travelling concept grocery store. Raye aims to support innovative food, drink and wellness brands “to elevate their reach and boost brand awareness” by putting their products in front of shoppers and also media, buyers of larger retail stores and investors. Compen is planning to launch the concept by opening a ten-day pop-up grocery shop in east London at the end of May or start of June and is looking for a space in Spitalfields or Shoreditch to do so. Raye will showcase 200-plus products from more than 50 innovative food, drink, and wellness brands. The brands, 80% of which are vegan and 90% are from the UK, have been chosen for their values – “well designed and well intentioned, with health, use of natural ingredients and sustainability at its core”. She said: “The way we shop is constantly changing. We are discovering new brands digitally and now more than ever care about the story, quality, and look of products. With shoppers looking for an experience, Raye brings to life a unique discovery space. By showcasing like-minded brands and practicing cross-marketing activities we are set to elevate amazing brands, inspire and educate.”