Stonegate to absorb Bermondsey Pub Company into existing managed estate, Fairbanks leaves business: Bermondsey Pub Company, the Ei Group-managed format, is to be incorporated into Stonegate Pub Company’s managed estate, Propel has learned. It means the 65 pubs that sit within the Bermondsey portfolio will be converted into one of Stonegate’s existing pub formats. As a result, Bermondsey Pub Company operations director Henry Fairbanks has left the business. Ei Group’s other managed formats, such as the 300-strong Craft Union group, are unaffected by the change. Following the acquisition of Ei Group in March for £1.27bn, Stonegate Pub Company is the largest pub company in the UK. Its portfolio comprises 1,270 sites within the managed division and 3,200 leased and tenanted businesses. In July, Stonegate sold £1.2bn of bonds to partly finance the acquisition. The financing package, which consisted of five-year sterling and euro tranches worth £950m and €300m respectively, marked one of the biggest sterling-denominated “junk” bond deals ever. Stonegate paid relatively high rates of interest compared with recent debt deals in a sign of investors’ caution about an industry that has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The sterling bond maturing in 2025 offered investors a coupon of 8.25% while the floating-rate euro notes, also maturing in 2025, priced at 93 cents on the euro.
Christie & Co to commence marketing of ex-Seafood Pub Company sites:Property advisory firm Christie & Co has been lined up to market the ten sites formerly operated by Seafood Pub Company, the north west-based country inns business, which was placed into administration in June. Propel understands a sale process is expected to commence imminently. The company operated 12 sites, which comprised eight long-leasehold sites, one freehold and three commercial leasehold premises. Since the appointment of administrators, the commercial leases in respect of the group’s head office and the Roaming Roosters site in Higham, have been surrendered. In a recently filed administrators’ report, it states while the company benefited from the furlough scheme, cash flow forecasts anticipated the company would run out of funds by June 2020. The reported added in the absence of additional funding being provided by the current funders and shareholders, together with the uncertainty surrounding the timing of lock-down restrictions being eased and re-establishment of trade, the company formally engaged BDO to undertake a period of contingency planning, while exploring options in terms of securing alternative funding. In the absence of any available funding and the deteriorating cash position, BDO was subsequently appointed administrator of the business. At the date of appointment of BDO as administrator, NatWest had secured debt in the region of £1.1m, while main backer Penta Capital had secured debt in the region of £8.3m. As of 19 June 2020, estimated total assets available for preferential creditors had a book value of £12.56m, but was estimated to realise £4.85m. The award-winning company, which was founded in 2010 by Joycelyn Neve, was unable to access government support from a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, and an internal fund-raise followed with the bank and investors. However, while they were supportive, the fund-raise failed, as did a subsequent management buyout attempt. Without funding, and no income since the forced closure, the business went into administration. The company operated award-winning gastro-pubs across Lancashire and Yorkshire. Penta Capital bought a majority stake in the then eight-strong Seafood Pub Company in July 2016. The private equity firm arranged an £18m funding package to acquire a majority stake in the business and provide funds for expansion.
Greene King reports record number of tenant applications: Brewer and retailer Greene King has reported a record number of applications from people wanting to run their own pub despite the impact of coronavirus on the industry. The company said between mid-June and mid-August, 254 people got in touch looking to take on one of its sites – more than double the number that did so during the same period in 2019. Even at the height of lock-down – between 24 March and 22 June – there were 108 applications from people wanting to become a tenant. Greene King Pub Partners has also launched a new recruitment website to help meet the increased demand and includes a live chat function. New virtual recruitment events are also being launched to allow anyone with an interest in running a Greene King pub to find out more information. Chris Thorogood, Greene King Pub Partners recruitment manager, said: “It’s really uplifting to see that people’s passion for running their own pub has not been daunted by recent events. We’re delighted with the number of enquiries we’re receiving and are working through them all now.”
Really Local Group embarks on £250,000 fund-raise to support development of six-site pipeline: Cultural infrastructure developer Really Local Group is aiming to raise £250,000 to support development of its pipeline of six sites. The company, which has added sites in Canning Town and Sidcup, to the pipeline, is running the convertible share equity campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs, where it is offering a 25% discount on the equity valuation. Half of the money is coming from the Future Fund with Really Local Group looking to raise the remainder from the crowd. The company’s debut site – Catford Mews – opened in Lewisham, south east London, in September last year. It features a three-screen cinema, live entertainment space, pop-up food market and bar. The group is turning 14,000 square feet in Reading’s Broad Street Mall into an independent cinema with four screens, music and events centre. The company has also acquired the former Pressing Plant unit at The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, west London, from U+I and the site will provide a cinema, live music venue, community spaces, cafe and bar. It is also launching The Blue at the empty Thorowgoods furniture store in Market Place in partnership with Southwark Council. The company has also revealed it has signed for the Hallsville Quarter in Canning Town, with the venue due to open in 2023 and has also agreed a deal for a site in Sidcup. The pitch stated: “The majority of the proceeds (80%) will be used to complete the development of the ‘Biscuit Factory’ in Reading. The remaining proceeds will be used to progress design work on our pipeline sites in Bermondsey, Sidcup and Canning Town. Any additional monies raised will be used towards the development of our Gramophone site in Hayes. The site, home of the original EMI record printing press, will open in 2021 and will house a four-screen cinema and live music venue, as well as a bar/cafe and interactive exhibition celebrating the area’s musical heritage.”
Provenance Inns ‘well placed to move forward’ after carrying out ‘major programme of realignment and refurbishment’ during lock-down: Provenance Inns has reported it carried out “a major programme of realignment and refurbishment” during the lock-down period and the business is “well placed to move forward”. The company, which owns five country inns and operates a hotel under management, said all sites have now reopened “successfully”. Provenance Inns provided the update in accounts filed at Companies House that showed turnover for the year ending 25 August 2019 fell 2.1% to £4.1m, compared with £4.2m the previous year. The company reported a pre-tax loss of £1.5m, compared with a profit of £2m the previous year when director Chris Blundell waived interest on his loan, amounting to £2.1m. Food and beverage margins improved by 0.5% and 0.1% respectively. In his report accompanying the accounts, Blundell said 2018-19 had been a “challenging time” for the business with a “significant period” between the departure of managing director Michael Ibbotson and its new operations director starting. The transitional period was covered by a mix of existing management and external consultants. The company was also without a group chef for the first half of the financial year. Blundell said: “The resultant upheaval caused by these senior management changes impacted the stability and effectiveness of the operating teams. By the year end, this situation had been addressed and was being reversed.” With regards to the coronavirus pandemic, Blundell said: “During the period of enforced closure, the business carried out a major programme of realignment and refurbishment. While uncertainty still exists, and the full impact remains to be seen, the business is now well placed to move forward, whatever the wider economic outlook.”
Out Of The Woods Group acquired out of administration: Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, which operates four pubs in London, has been acquired out of administration by a newly formed company called Racon Investments, Propel has learned. Racon Investments, which invests in restaurants and bars, comprises a number of directors that were also formerly directors of Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, plus Martin Swindon, formerly finance director for Laine Pub Company. Swindon left Laine last year after 12 years with the pub company to pursue his own business interests. Propel revealed earlier this summer that Chris Farrington and Simon Jagger, of ReSolve Advisory, had been appointed joint administrators of the group’s four subsidiary companies – Woodys Inns, Hillmaster, Willow Inns (UK) and Forest Inns (UK). In July, Propel revealed founder Jasper Gorst had left the business. Gorst opened The Oak W2 in Notting Hill in 2001 followed by The Bird In Hand in Brook Green in 2011 and The Oak W12 in Goldhawk Road two years later. Last year, he opened The Oak SW11 in Battersea having transformed the former Butcher & Grill in Parkgate Road. All four sites have recently reopened. The business was said to be “struggling severely as a result of the lock-down”, while its successful sale has preserved 83 jobs.
Hall & Woodhouse appoints Ann Elliott as non-executive director: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse has welcomed Ann Elliott to its board to replace Mike Street, who has stepped down after ten years. The move to bring Elliott in as a non-executive director completes the transition of the business’s senior team. She has 30 years’ experience in the hospitality sector, having spent the early part of her career with Whitbread, where she sat on the board of Pizza Hut and Beefeater as marketing director. From there, she was responsible for 280 pubs in the Whitbread Pub Partnerships division. After that, she formed agency Elliotts, which specialised in hospitality and leisure marketing. Earlier this summer, she joined Fleet Street Communications as a senior director and adviser. Elliott said: “I am thrilled to join the board and look forward to working with the team to deliver a heavy focus on the voice of the guest and the guest experience. I am keen to live and breathe ‘the way of Woodhouse’ to ensure my contribution to the business helps to create continued success and longevity for the next generation.” Hall & Woodhouse executive chairman Anthony Woodhouse added: “Ann joins with a wealth of knowledge and experience from her extensive career in our industry and will be a dynamic force. Her contribution will be vital as we adjust to the new normal and look to continue to grow our business in this challenging environment. I would like to thank Mike for his contribution over the past 10 years during a period of major change. His wisdom and guidance in relation to hospitality, culture and safety has been invaluable and greatly appreciated.”
TRG reopens further Chiquito and Frankie & Benny’s sites: The Restaurant Group has reopened a further 11 Chiquito and four Frankie & Benny’s sites for dine-in, click and collect and delivery. The company said a further six Chiquito sites will welcome customers back “in due course”. Leisure division chief executive Mark Chambers said: “We are delighted to be reopening more of our restaurants and look forward to welcoming back our guests. Our priority will be to ensure the health and safety of our teams and guests while providing a first-class experience. We are very pleased with the feedback we have received so far and will be monitoring feedback very closely to ensure we continue to deliver a great and safe experience.”
TV celebrities launch delivery-only poké concept Poké the Bear: TV celebrity Calum Best has teamed up with chef-model Georgia Salamat to open delivery-only concept Poké the Bear on Friday (4 September). Fraser Carruthers – one of the team behind private members’ club Albert’s – is also on board for the opening of the Hawaiian poké bowls venture in Chelsea. Salamat, who reached the final of BBC’s Best Home Cook, has designed the menu and there are plans to expand the delivery-only sites to cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Best said: “We’ve all seen a huge rise in food being delivered directly to people’s houses. I’ve teamed up with Fraser and Georgia because I know they can bring a wealth of experience to create a successful brand.” Salamat added: “My ethos is: the world is my kitchen, and I wanted to show this off with the menu. Health and nutrition play a large role in all our lives, so incorporating this was always part of the vision.” Carruthers said: “The restaurant and dining-out space has dramatically evolved due to covid-19 with more people deciding to eat at home. I’ve been working in hospitality for most of my life and the past few months have meant we’ve had to change the way we work drastically.” Signature dishes on the diced raw fish, rice and vegetables and grains menu include Ahi Tuna (£10.95): tuna, wakame salad, pickled sesame cucumber, fresh mango with sesame seeds, topped with crispy shallots; The Keto Bowl (£10.95): salmon, shredded sesame spring greens, sliced avocado, edamame, fresh chilli and black sesame; and The Vegan Bowl (£10.95): satay-style jackfruit, edamame, pickled sesame cucumber, avocado, pickled ginger and spring onions.
Football star agrees pre-pack deal to keep Foodwell Manchester: Premier League footballer Danny Drinkwater will remain in control of Foodwell Manchester after agreeing a pre-pack deal with administrators. The arrangement made by Drinkwater and business partner Christian Coates will save 25 jobs at the Los Angeles-inspired health concept, reports The Business Desk. Administrators Mike Dillon and Katy McAndrew from Leonard Curtis were appointed to Foodwell in late August after the business shut in March following coronavirus restrictions. The joint administrators have not disclosed how much the company owed on its collapse. The 9,000 square foot unit incorporates a deli and fitness studio, and operated as daytime restaurant Foodwell and as bar and eating venue, Firefly, by night. Drinkwater won the Premier League with Leicester City in 2016 and was a youth player at Manchester United. But he has made very few appearances since his trophy win as a player on the books at Chelsea and loan clubs Burnley and Aston Villa. The deal with the administrator was completed by vehicle Firefly Holdings (Manchester). It had secured support from asset-based lender Asset Advantage last month, three weeks before administrators were appointed to Foodwell.
Puttshack extends Eat Out To Help Out initiative with ‘Let’s Go Halves’ campaign:Indoor mini-golf experience Puttshack will offer guests to 50% off pizzas and kids’ meals with no £10 cap, from Monday to Thursday during September. Both its White City and Lakeside venues will take part in the scheme. Puttshack chief development officer Hugh Knowles said: “The response we received from the Eat Out To Help Out campaign has been incredibly positive and we were really keen to keep the momentum going which is why we have decided to extend the offer into September. Our focus has always been to provide guests with unforgettable experiences. ‘Let’s Go Halves’ is the perfect way to continue providing this to our guests and encourage further footfall into our venues.”
BGF invests £15m in Yorkshire Wildlife Park: The Business Growth Fund (BGF) has ploughed £15m into Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP), which has unveiled new attractions and plans for a leisure complex. The BGF, which backs a number of sector companies including Giggling Squid and The Coaching Inn Group, made the investment just before lock-down. YWP has now opened the Himalayan Pass and Experience Ethiopia, where visitors can see hyenas, red pandas and smooth-coated otters. Alongside BGF, Lloyds Bank has committed an £18m debt facility in a bid to increase annual visitor numbers from 750,000 to 1.5 million. There are plans to create a “boutique leisure destination”. This will include an experiential-themed restaurant with a giant children’s play barn, two other restaurants, a new wildlife-themed hotel, a lifestyle retail offering and a flexible venue for conferences and events. YWP chief executive John Minion said: “We’re delighted to welcome BGF on board to support our plans to expand our offering to position YWP as a destination, providing one of the stand-out visitor experiences in the country.” BGF investor Barry Jackson said: “YWP has earned an international reputation for conservation, animal welfare and high-quality visitor experiences. John and the team have an ambitious and clear strategy for growth, and we’re delighted to be supporting the business as it expands its facilities to be able to rescue more animals and allow more visitors to be educated and inspired by its conservation efforts.” YWP is an interactive centre for animal conservation and welfare, home to more than 450 animals and over 70 different species, and has a staff of 300. Legal advisers to the transaction were Gordons for BGF, Shoosmiths for YWP and Addleshaw Goddard for Lloyds.
Tom Aitkens reopens Muse restaurant, plans guest chef appearances in September: Michelin-starred chef Tom Aitkens reopened his 25-seat, Old Belgravia restaurant Muse on Thursday (3 September). Muse has new menus and is launching a Muse Masters series later in September, which will feature guest chefs – already booked are Robin Gill of The Dairy and Alex Dilling from The Greenhouse. Despite missing out on being able to offer the government initiative Eat Out To Help Out, Muse will give diners on Tuesdays and Wednesdays evenings £10 off per person. The menu will offer seven and ten-course dinner menus, priced at £95 and £145 respectively, and a four-course set lunch menu priced at £50. Aikens said: “It has been an incredibly long and uncertain five months for us all but my team and I are delighted to be able to reopen Muse, and to be getting back to doing what we love most.”
£24m Games of Thrones studio tour gains planning permission: Planning approval has been granted to create a Games of Thrones studio tour in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. Linen Mill Studios – a key production site for the popular TV series – was given the green light by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to build the attraction that hopes to draw 600,000 visitors every year, putting it behind only The Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Belfast. The development involves extending the existing studio buildings into a 110,000 square foot interactive experience dedicated to Game of Thrones. The tour will feature original sets, props and costumes used in the filming of the fantasy series, which ended in May 2019. It will also provide work for up to 200 people. Belfast law firm Carson McDowell acted for Linen Mill Studios in the planning application. Partner Gary McGhee said: “We are delighted to have helped Linen Mill Studios secure planning permission for this landmark £24m attraction. Game of Thrones is a global brand with a worldwide fan base that is prepared to travel to Northern Ireland in great numbers.” Linen Mill Studios managing director Andrew Webb said: “This decision paves the way for one of the most exciting visitor attractions in Northern Ireland’s history, one which will draw thousands of visitors from near and far, provide a host of direct and indirect jobs and underpin Northern Ireland’s economy at a crucial time.” The Winterfell great hall will form the centrepiece of the tour, with visitors also able to enjoy digitally interactive activities. A restaurant is also planned and a ‘back-lot’ café, designed to replicate the studio catering experience. A park-and-ride facility is to be built in 3.5km east of Banbridge for up to 350 vehicles so visitors will not drive directly to the site.
Liverpool ONE gets cabin fever with Sipsmith and Camden Town: Liverpool ONE has opened a set of cabins with Sipsmith Gin and Camden Town Brewery to offer cocktails and beers. The Chavasse Project is set in the green space area of the retail and leisure park where customers can take advantage of customised menus, creative cocktails and craft beers from both of the premium alcohol brands, with a dedicated pre-booking system and private cabin service. The instalment runs until Sunday, 30 September. Alison Clegg, director, asset management at Grosvenor Europe – owner of Liverpool ONE – said: “It’s great to be collaborating with such high-quality brands to create a memorable experience for visitors, and the versatile, open-air space of Chavasse Park lends itself perfectly to this bespoke concept.” Sipsmith shopper marketing manager Zoe Jones added: “Liverpool ONE has provided us with the ideal platform to deliver the kind of fresh and original experience that we know consumers are craving post-lock-down.” Liverpool ONE’s performance figures indicated footfall is at 86% of the volumes experienced this time last year with sales at 88% – both figures exceed UK averages by 7% and 10% respectively.