Prezzo chief financial officer steps down: Prezzo chief financial officer Wayne Arthur has stepped down, Propel has learned. Arthur joined Prezzo in September 2016 from Whitbread-owned Premier Inn and replaced Alan Miller. Prezzo executive chairman Karen Jones said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Wayne for all he has done. During his time at Prezzo he has seen us through some major events, including reshaping the estate and stabilising the financial structure, leaving us in a much stronger position as we look ahead to 2019 and beyond. Wayne will always be a friend of Prezzo and its people and we wish him every success in the future.” Earlier this month Prezzo, which is owned by private equity firm TPG, reported an operating loss of £65m for 2017 after it closed more than 100 restaurants, restructured its debts and its main backer wrote off two-thirds of its investment. The company now has 186 rather than 300 restaurants.
 
Boston Tea Party sees ‘marked uplift in customers drinking in’ six months on from single-use coffee cup ban: All-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party (BTP) has seen a “marked uplift in customers drinking in” six months on from the company becoming the first in the UK to ban single-use coffee cups. BTP, which operates 22 cafes, has seen a 24% year-on-year fall in takeaway hot drink sales during the past six months but those sales are now recovering as customers and staff buy into the initiative, which has also improved staff retention. BTP owner and managing director Sam Roberts said: “A drop in takeaway coffee sales with the ban was inevitable but happily we’ve seen a marked uplift in customers drinking in. This six-month period also included one of the hottest summers in BTP’s history, when we sold a lot more cold drinks than hot ones. We’ve had calls from cafes and coffee chains asking us how to organise their own ban, and that is the real success story here. We’ve run operator workshops to convey how the ban has worked from an operational and commercial perspective.” The ban has prevented more than 81,500 disposable coffee cups going to landfill. BTP customers can bring their own cups for takeaway drinks, borrow one and return it for a full refund or buy an Ecoffee cup. BTP has sold more than 22,500 Ecoffee cups at cost price since the ban and the savings it makes from not using disposable cups are donated to community charities, with £8,100 raised so far. BTP brand director Anita Atkins said: “I am most proud of the reaction from our team. Everyone’s on board and they’ve all been amazing at sharing the story with our customers and explaining what they need to do if they have not been to BTP before. Since the cup ban, team turnover has reduced and they are more engaged than ever.”
Innventure says sales decline starting to reverse as pre-tax profit more than doubles: Innventure, the gastro-pub operator led by former Mitchells & Butlers executive Chris Gerard, has said its sales decline during the past two years has started to reverse as it reported a pre-tax profits boost. The company also said further investment into new sites “remained opportunistic”, although it returned to the expansion trail this month by acquiring the lease of The Old Cannon in Cannon Street – its seventh venue in total. Innventure said the site, which has manufacturing and production facilities, would bring the company “new challenges” and be a “steep learning curve”. The details were revealed in Innventure’s accounts for the year ending 30 June 2018. Turnover was down 0.68% to £6,262,715, compared with £6,305,466 the year before. Pre-tax profit more than doubled to £167,124, compared with £74,290 the year before. In his report accompanying the accounts, Gerard said: “Further investment into new sites remains opportunistic only for the moment. The leisure property market is cooling but the cost base of fresh food restaurants remains challenging, as does the risk of recession arising from the country’s politics. In 2018, the business will continue to consider developing business models that are less people-sensitive. The sister company Innventure Vacation Services model is interesting and may be grown to an additional site. The weakness of the businesses control ratios have been stabilised and reversed in 2018. The business is much closer to having the right people in all management positions and the sales decline seen over the past two years is reversing.”
Frontier Pubs takes estate to nine with two new London sites: Frontier Pubs, the partnership between Ei Managed Investments and Pioneer Hospitality, has opened its latest site, The Duke of Wellington in Dalston, while The Grosvenor Arms will launch in Wandsworth next month. The two sites mean Frontier Pubs will have opened nine London venues since its launch in October 2016. All Frontier pubs offer the Hops + Dough menu, which features a wide range of beer alongside freshly made pizza. Pioneer Hospitality commercial director Peter Myers said: “We are delighted with the success and continued growth of Frontier Pubs. We have a winning formula that combines pizza with craft beer and big screen sports, and through the Ei Group estate we’re lucky enough to have some fantastic pubs in stand-out locations. The first few days of trading at The Duke of Wellington have been really strong. We’re also excited to open our Wandsworth pub on 12 December.” Nathan Wall, operations director for Ei Managed Investments, added: “Frontier Pubs is a real success story and we’re delighted to see these two sites join the estate.”
Signature Brew closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £630,000: Signature Brew, the “music-inspired” brewing operation known for its collaborative beers with musicians, has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube having raised more than £630,000. The company, which was founded by Tom Bott and Sam McGregor in 2011 and named 2018 UK brewery of the year by the Society of Independent Brewers, was aiming to raise at least £400,000 to open taprooms and treble capacity. It offered 4.26% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £9m. The campaign has now closed with 557 investors pledging £630,600. Earlier this month, Signature Brew used a £100,000 invoice finance facility from NatWest to support the opening of Signature Brew Taproom & Venue in Haggerston, east London. The pitch stated: “Our current brewery is at capacity so to keep up with demand we’re seeking investment to move to a nearby east London site, which will house a brewhouse, trebling capacity from day one to future-proof the brewery. The site will underpin the next ten years of continued growth, expanding UK distribution and growing exports. We want to bring all production in-house. In addition to our new taproom, we plan to open two further taprooms to showcase our beers and host events.”
Whitbread gets Chinese approval for £3.9bn Costa sale to Coca-Cola: Whitbread has received approval from the Chinese regulator for its £3.9bn sale of Costa Coffee to Coca-Cola. Whitbread stated: “The company announces clearance has been received from China’s State Administration for Market Regulation for Coca-Cola to acquire Costa, including its operations in China. Clearance is still required from the European Union under the EC Merger Regulation before the transaction can complete and certain completion deliverables remain outstanding including an agreement still to be reached with the trustees of the pension fund.”
Company that promotes pubs as meeting places aims for 500 venues as pubcos come on board: MeetingsInn, which promotes pubs as venues in which to host meetings, has said it is targeting a 500-venue milestone next year as pub companies sign up for the service. On Tuesday (27 November), MeetingsInn more than doubled the equity offer in its £250,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube from 7.69% to 16.67%, which adjusted its pre-money valuation from £3m to £1.25m. So far, 29 investors have pledged £53,840 with 20 days of the campaign remaining. The company stated: “Our target for pubs on the site in 2018 is 350, which we are well on track to achieve. We have just finished work on more than 60 venue profiles and have brought them live on the site, bringing the total number of venues to 294. The continuing roll-out of MeetingsInn within smaller, boutique pub groups such as Brewhouse & Kitchen, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, Urban Pubs and Bars, and Cirrus Inns will support us in exceeding our 2018 target. The uplift in 2019 is 500 venues. Continued on-boarding of venues from large pub groups where we have signed agreements such as Greene King, JW Lees and Fuller’s will contribute heavily towards our 2019 target. In addition, we have commitments from pub groups such as Adnams and Young’s, which will start on-boarding venues in the first quarter when their focus shifts from the holiday season to meetings and events. Our immediate growth strategy is focused on venue acquisition and we are seeing for the first time a platform that has curated a valuable choice of pre-qualified venues of pubs and inns that meet the meetings industry criteria.”
Ellison & Pioc to launch French wine and deli bar concept in Kentish Town next week for fourth London site: Ellison & Pioc, the company behind Cafe Gourmand in Soho and Mill Lane Bistro in West Hampstead, will open a wine shop and deli bar in Kentish Town next week for their fourth London site. Tabac will launch on Thursday, 6 October a few doors down from French restaurant Patron Cave A Manger, which company founders Tanzi Ellison and Jean-Francois Pioc opened in Fortress Road in October 2016. Inspired by French tabacs, the site is fittingly located at a former tobacconists with the original sign retained alongside a neon version from France. Like its Gallic counterparts, Tabac will offer wine, aperitifs and cocktails along with French cigarettes and craft beer. The low-lit drinking den will feature stools, leather banquettes and a custom-made copper bar. An Enomatic machine will dispense wine by the glass, while the snacks menu will include cheese and charcuterie boards, pate and saucisson.
BrewDog opens 40th UK bar, in Brixton: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened a site in Brixton, south London. The company has opened the venue in Coldharbour Lane – its 40th UK bar and 18th launch in 2018. The bar has capacity for more than 150 people with 22 beers on draught alongside spirits, wine, coffee and BrewDog’s menu of pizza, burgers and wings. Co-founder James Watt said: “Brixton is one of London’s most exciting neighbourhoods, with an undeniable energy and independent spirit that always felt like a natural home for BrewDog. We have been searching for the perfect location for a long time but it was worth the wait to lock down this latest location. The area has an exciting craft beer scene and DIY culture and we’re thrilled to finally be able to be part of it.”
Bob & Berts opens second Scottish site, in Dunfermline: Northern Ireland coffee company Bob & Berts, which is backed by the BGF, has opened its second Scottish site, in Dunfermline. The company has opened the outlet in High Street on the back of its debut store, which launched in Falkirk last month. Director David Ferguson, who joined founder Colin McClean in the business in 2015, told the Dunfermline Press: “We are delighted to open our second Scotland store so people in the area can experience what we have to offer.” The launch is part of the company’s plan to open 20 sites in Scotland and create 400 jobs backed by £2m of “patient capital” raised from the BGF in August 2017. The funding is also being used by Bob & Berts for further expansion in Northern Ireland, where it has 16 sites.
Be At One launches bartending academy: Cocktail bar brand Be At One, which was acquired by Stonegate Pub Company in July, has launched a bartending academy. In an industry first, the move will see Be At One become an accredited training company with Highfield Qualifications. Trainees will complete a three-week programme covering more than 120 cocktails and learn how to provide the best guest experiences, health and safety, and how to build mental resilience. Those who qualify will obtain an accredited certificate. Be At One head of learning and development Chris Lincoln said: “Bespoke and extensive training has always been such a critical contributor to our success and is something we have continued to invest in. The launch of our bartender certificate through our bar academy is a big moment for us as we are proud to provide all those bartenders out there with the training and development needed to enhance their careers.” In August, Be At One opened its first site under Stonegate ownership, in Chelmsford, Essex.
Burger & Beyond opens first bricks and mortar site: Street food operator Burger & Beyond has opened its first bricks and mortar site, in Shoreditch High Street. The company has operated for more than three years through Kerb, Street Feast and Camden Assembly sites. New additions to the expanded menu include Fried Hot Fish (crispy line-caught cod with Nashville hot sauce, kaffir lime herb mayo, crunch slaw and pickles); Krispie Fried Chicken (Rice Krispie-fried chicken with miso maple butter and ranch pickle slaw) and Mushroom Raclette (panko-crusted mushroom patty with melted raclette, caramelised onion, lambs lettuce and smoked garlic mayo). Director Craig Povoas said: “The location is perfect and the design brings our vision to life. The restaurant will showcase a different side to Burger & Beyond while staying true to the foundations of our brand, something that isn’t always possible within the constraints of the street food market.”
Safestay to raise £11m for UK and European roll-out: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has raised £11m to roll out in the UK and Europe. The company raised the money via a £10m share placing with institutions and £1m through an open offer for all retail investors. It has seen 27.6 million new ordinary shares placed at a price of 34p per share and an opportunity for existing investors to subscribe for an aggregate of about 2.85 million new ordinary shares at a price of 34 pence per share. The new capital will be used for organic investment and acquisitions. The group operates 13 hostels in seven countries totalling 3,100 beds. The management team has identified 19 European cities it believes would make good locations for a Safestay hostel including Dublin, Glasgow, Istanbul, Liverpool, Manchester and Rome. The company is redeveloping a site in Montmartre, Paris, and converting recently acquired sites in Brussels and Vienna from hotels to Safestay hostels. Executive chairman Larry Lipman said: “We continue to believe Safestay is a proven and scaleable brand. This, together with the current market environment favouring the buyer, means the proposed fund-raising is timely and once invested will enable us to leverage the company’s existing platform and established brand with a view to building a self-sustaining growth position through significant organic and acquisition opportunities. I am pleased we are offering shareholders the opportunity to participate in the next growth stage of the business.”
Hollywood Bowl to launch in Watford following £2.4m investment, 59th site:Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, is to open its 59th site, in Watford, following a £2.4m investment. Part of a wider £180m extension at Intu Watford leisure complex, the 23,600 square foot venue will open before Christmas to join brands such as Cineworld, TGI Friday’s and YO! Sushi at the extension. The opening, which will create 40 jobs, will be the second partnership between the companies after Hollywood Bowl launched a site at Intu Derby in April last year. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns said: “Our aim is to encourage Intu shoppers to join us for a bowl, a drink and a meal before, during or after their shopping trip and for local residents to visit us with family and friends. With the huge number of commercial outlets and offices within easy reach of our new central Watford centre, we’re also looking forward to offering brilliant team nights out and corporate parties.” Vicki Costello, general manager at Intu Watford, added: “This highly anticipated addition will give families, friends and businesses a fantastic leisure offering to complete a great day or night out in Watford.” Earlier this month, Hollywood Bowl completed the conversion of its Bowlplex estate. The new look includes American decor, a Hollywood Diner and upgraded amusement areas.
Douglas Jack – Greene King shares are ‘materially undervalued’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said he believes Greene King’s shares are “materially undervalued”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 700p following the company’s first-half results, Jack said: “Managed like-for-like sales rose 2.7% in the first half driven by higher drink volumes, with Greene King-branded (typically wet-led) pubs outperforming with like-for-like sales up 4.9%. Sensibly, more food-led pubs were moved into the core brand, benefiting their drinks offer through better ranging. This helped premium draught lager sales rise 12.9%, with premium packaged lager up 17.0%, cocktails up 17.6% and spirits up 20.3% in the managed estate. Managed average weekly sales rose 4.0%, helped by disposals and investment as well as a 21% increase in local marketing investment, improved labour deployment at weekends, improved key dish food quality, and total net promoter score rising from 59.0% to 61.5%. These factors contributed to positive like-for-like sales growth at Chef & Brewer and Hungry Horse during a tough period for food-led outlets. Cost mitigation guidance remains at £30 to £35m (2018: £44m) versus £45m to £50m (2018: £60m) of cost inflation. Managed Ebit margins fell 60 basis points largely due to the timing of the value, service and quality programme in the second half of the 2018 financial year (equating to 50 basis points margin headwind in first half of 2019 and 50 basis points tailwind in the second half) and 45% of this year’s cost inflation falling in the first half versus £10m of this year’s £30m to £35m cost mitigation. Tenanted like-for-like net income was ‘comfortably ahead’ of last year, driven by higher like-for-like rent, beer, wine and spirits sales. Like-for-like net profit was down 1.0% due to higher central costs, some of which were one-off (yet still treated as normalised). Reflecting the benefits of central buying, it is encouraging tenants are now buying the following through Greene King – food (140 tenants), digital services (328), and sports club packages (265). Brewing revenue rose 7.5% in the first half with Ebit up 1.4%, even though own-brewed volumes were down 2.2% in an ale market that was down 5.0%. Ebit margins fell 90 basis points due to product (third-party) and channel mix. A total of 40 pubs and 13 unlicensed properties were sold for £30.7m, including the sale of 24 tenanted pubs for £25m (or 18.2 times Ebitda). In managed, there were three new-builds and one single-site acquisition in the first half. The 688p a share net asset value (8.6 times EV/Ebitda equivalent) is supported by good trading and debt reduction. We forecast a £63m fall in net debt this year helped by £13m of annual cash interest savings on the £331m of Spirit debenture refinancings done to date. We believe the shares are materially undervalued, prior to considering upgrade potential. In our view, the biggest upside to our forecasts is in managed like-for-like sales (we have 1.4% assumed).”
Staycity to open fourth Dublin site on Monday, set to double city footprint:Aparthotel operator Staycity is to open its fourth Dublin site, on Monday (3 December), and is set to double its footprint in the Irish capital. The company will launch the 50-bedroom building in Chancery Lane. It offers 49 studio apartments sleeping up to two people and a two-bedroom apartment sleeping up to four with a new “stronger, bolder and contemporary look”. Facilities include a Staycafe serving hot and cold drinks and snacks, a laundry for guests and 24-hour reception. Chancery Lane is the first of four additional properties Staycity will open in Dublin, with apartments in Little Mary Street, Mark Street and Moss Street opening in 2020. The company already operates aparthotels in St Augustine Street, Christchurch and Millennium Walk as well as in nine other European cities. Founded in 2004 by brothers Tom and Ger Walsh, the company has 4,500 apartments – operational and pipeline – across the Staycity Aparthotels and Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity brands. The first of the company’s premium Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity opened earlier this year in the Strand, London, with sites to follow in Edinburgh, Manchester and Berlin.
Halewood opens £1m Liverpool gin distillery: Halewood Wine & Spirits has launched a £1m gin distillery in Liverpool. The company has opened the venue in Castle Street for its Liverpool Gin brand. It comprises two bars – a premium gin and spirits bar on the ground floor and a premium dark spirits bar at basement level. There is also a specially designed gin lab, where visitors can make the spirit themselves, and a bartender school. General manager Emily Kelly told The Business Desk: “This is a beautiful grade II-listed building in Liverpool city centre and our bars will give even more options to those people who enjoy its thriving cafe culture and nightlife.”
Access Group launches technology platform to streamline operations: Software provider Access Group has launched a technology platform that aims to help operators streamline their mission-critical processes and staff interactions. Access Workspace is the first cloud-based connectivity platform for hospitality and unites all applications via a single sign-on and view. Personalised drag-and-drop dashboards can be created for all business operations relevant to individual members of staff. It enables users to organise apps, tasks, company information and data feeds to suit their day-to-day practices. When updates are made in any one business system, all other records are updated automatically. Access Group hospitality division product director Mat Wood said “Access Workspace has been developed to deliver efficiency, scale, productivity and agility to change the way people work. It provides the most effective use of technology to give busy staff the freedom to do more to build and improve their business.”