Graphite Capital to sell its 45% stake in Corbin & King: Private equity firm Graphite Capital is selling it 45% stake in Corbin & King, which operates seven restaurants in central London, including the Wolseley, and The Beaumont. The sale is taking place because Graphite Capital five-year investment timeframe has come to an end. Propel published figures a fortnight ago for the company’s individual restaurants showing they are trading well – The Wolseley has a turnover of £12m a year and Brasserie Zedel is turning over circa £8m a year. In the most recent published full year to March 2015, Corbin & King saw underlying earning of £2.3m on turnover of £43.8m.

Casual Dining Group plays down reports of abandoned £160m refinancing, sees like-for-like sales up 3% in first five months of 2017: Casual Dining Group (CDG) has played down reports it abandoned a £160m refinancing plan. The Sunday Times reported CDG had been trying to replace a debt package held with hedge funds but was unable to gain support at an attractive rate. However, CDG chief executive Steve Richards said: “Growing and highly cash generative companies such as CDG will constantly look at financing options and we did indeed look at the European high yield bond market earlier in the year and while there was substantial interest, the pricing was not attractive enough to justify the expense of launching a formal process at that time. CDG continues to trade strongly, performing ahead of the market with near double-digit revenue growth and sales up 3% like-for-like, in the five months since Christmas and with an improvement in the past two months. We continue to develop the business by investing in our core brands in the UK and expanding our franchise business in South Africa and the Middle East.” A CDG spokesman added: “The article is speculative – it’s normal for growing businesses to constantly look at financing options available and there was no process launched to withdraw from.”

Busaba Eathai to close Liverpool site: Busaba Eathai, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau and led by chief executive Jason Myers, is to close its Liverpool restaurant on Wednesday (15 May) – six weeks after the company said it was reviewing the site’s options. Busaba opened the restaurant at the Liverpool ONE complex in Hanover Street in March last year and the closure comes just over a month since the company shut its Manchester venue. A Busaba spokesman said: “After 12 months of positive trading and being well-received in Liverpool, the restaurant has not been able to get to the desired position in the timescales we wanted to. This decision hasn’t been an easy one to make, however it is balanced on timing and the commercial greater good of our business. All decisions made are to ensure Busaba stays at the forefront of Asian cuisine, and emerges a more agile, fitter and stronger business. The rest of our estate is performing well including our three RooBox sites. We are substantially investing in our core business this year, refurbishing five to six sites in as many months. No further closures are planned.” Busaba said it would continue to put the spotlight on its people, training and food and beverage development while investing in technology, including the Busaba Path of Enlightenment loyalty app, and improving its Busaba To Go delivery and takeaway proposition. The company added all Liverpool team members have been offered opportunities to remain within the Busaba family and was working closely to support colleagues through the transition.

Burning Night Group reports turnover boost: Burning Night Group has reported turnover increased to £17,379,772 for the year ending 31 July 2016 compared with £16,405,995 the previous year. Operating profit rose to £492,854 compared with £432,394 the year before, according to accounts filed with Companies House. It reported a pre-tax loss of £13,676 having made a profit of £28,315 the year before. The company stated: “At the beginning of the financial year the new Bierkeller venue in Cardiff opened situated in the Millennium Plaza, adjacent to the Millennium Stadium. The site sits 250 yards from the new pedestrianised zones currently being developed, which will include key restaurants, bars and retail brands. Although this new development has affected levels of trade, the directors are confident that once completed the venue will experience a significant increase in trade. Post year end, new Bierkeller entertainment complex’s opened in Birmingham in December 2016 and Nottingham in March 2017.” Burning Night Group is currently raising funds on peer-to-peer lending platform Crowdstacker to fund the next stage of growth for Bierkeller. The company is offering a mini-bond paying 7% per annum interest. So far, it has raised £5,434,867 with the next closing on Wednesday, 24 May. It is also opening a landmark site for its Potting Shed concept on the rooftop of the Trinity Leeds shopping centre.

Multi-site operator lines up retirement sale: Multi-site restaurant operator David Charalambous is exploring a retirement sale after 41 years. He has appointed Richard Negus, of agent AG&G, to advise on options for his restaurant portfolio, which includes the six-strong group of Bar Estilo and Red Peppers’ restaurants. They are located in Esher; Teddington; and Mailbox, Birmingham; and have a combined average net of VAT annual sales over the past five years of £7m and Ebitda of circa £1m. The estate includes a nightclub and empty restaurant unit, both in Richmond, plus premises in Teddington that have planning permission to extend the neighbouring Red Peppers. Negus said this could represent an excellent opportunity to purchase a successful established group of businesses, either individually or as a group, set in excellent locations.

Liverpool-based Love Thy Neighbour prepares for expansion in north west: Liverpool-based Love Thy Neighbour, the cafe bar that describes itself as the healthy alternative to high-street coffee shops, is preparing to expand in the north west of England, Propel has learned. The concept was launched last year in Bold Street by Mike Abraham, Andy Duckworth, Simon Taylor and Damien Flynn. It offers a day-to-night menu from breakfasts, smoothies, coffees and healthy lunches through to evening meals and cocktails. Now it is targeting expansion and is looking for sites of between 2,000 square foot and 5,000 square foot in urban villages and up-and-coming city centre locations in the region. Former Barburrito property director Jim Bishop, who recently set up his own business, James Property Consulting, has been retained to acquire premises.

Derby Brewing Co extends £500,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Derby-based brewer and retailer Derby Brewing Co has extended its £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support its expansion plans. The family-run company, founded by Trevor Harris in 2004, is offering a 6.5% stake in return for the investment. So far, 382 investors have pledged £360,650 with 17 days remaining. The funding would support the expansion of the brewery, the launch of a craft range and the addition of a new venue to its four-strong estate. Managing director Paul Harris said: “We are delighted to announce our campaign will be extended by another 14 days and will now close on Wednesday, 31 May. We have been really pleased with the way it’s gone so far, having exceeded 70% of our target, an amazing £350,000 pledged. We are in talks with a number of potential significant investors, who are looking to invest. We have also had a very positive meeting with the Asda buyer about adding to our existing product range in store, with our new premium bottled beer and the new crafted range. We will of course continue to work on this and hope to add this to the current confirmed listings with Co-Op and Tesco.” The company operates The Tap, a specialist beer and spirit house with more than 75 beers and ciders and more than 70 spirits, in Derby; The Queen’s Head gastro-pub in Little Eaton; smoked food and crafthouse concept The Greyhound in Derby; and The Kedleston Country House, a bar, restaurant, boutique hotel and wedding venue in Quarndon. The company expects to generate turnover of £3.6m in its current financial year with Ebitda of £257,000.

Lincoln-based cafe operator Stokes Tea & Coffee to relocate roastery as it targets national expansion: Lincoln-based cafe operator Stokes Tea & Coffee is to relocate its headquarters and roastery as it targets national expansion. The company is marking its 115th anniversary by transforming The Lawns to ramp up production. The facility will also feature the company’s third cafe alongside a restaurant, barista training centre and offices. The Lawns is a former psychiatric hospital in Steep Hill next to Lincoln Castle and has been empty for almost a decade. The cafe will open this summer, with other phases of the build set for completion by the end of the year. Stokes managing director Nick Peel said: “The Lawn’s new cafe will be the third Stokes’ site in Lincoln and a further example of our commitment and historic links to the city. Relocation of the roastery to the new site will enable larger-scale production not only for our own shops but also other independents around the country that stock and serve Stokes’ coffee and tea. It is the start of an exciting future for the company.” Family-run Stokes Tea & Coffee was founded by Peel’s great-grandfather Robert Stokes in 1902 and offers a wide range of ethically sourced artisan tea and coffee.

Coaching Inn Group founder invests in hospitality technology provider GuestRevu: Coaching Inn Group founder and chief executive Kevin Charity has invested in hospitality technology provider GuestRevu. GuestRevu is a cloud-based hospitality guest feedback and online reputation management solution with offices in the UK and South Africa. Charity piloted GuestRevu in two Coaching Inn Group sites in 2014 and saw a 300% increase in the number of reviews published on TripAdvisor in the first three months after GuestRevu with TripAdvisor integration was implemented. Both properties also saw an improvement in their average review score and GuestRevu was then rolled out across the group. Charity said: “I was drawn to invest personally in GuestRevu because I see so many parallels in the way we operate our businesses – a passion, a vision and a total belief in what we do. That was the initial appeal. While using the system in the Coaching Inn properties, I came to see the foundation of GuestRevu is built on an understanding that the most important thing for a guest is not what we as hoteliers say or do, but how we make them feel. I believe this should be the foundation of any brilliant business, and on this we are totally aligned.” GuestRevu founder and chief executive Chris Alexandre added: “Having a hotelier of Kevin’s calibre invest in GuestRevu reflects so much more than just a business transaction. There is no higher praise than a customer deciding to become an investor. This is an incredibly exciting time for GuestRevu because we are meeting a real and growing need for hoteliers and others in the hospitality space.”

Papa John’s franchisee opens 11th South Wales site: Papa John’s franchisee Umar Malik has opened his 11th site in South Wales, this time in Llanelli. Malik opened his tenth site in March, in Newport, and now employs about 200 staff. He funded his first Papa John’s opening in Swansea following a business loan from HSBC. Malik said: “Llanelli is the largest town in Carmarthenshire and a fantastic location for us. We get so many repeat customers across our stores, which has been the inspiration to expand throughout the region. It has also been rewarding to be able to create jobs, which is the life-blood of any community. Llanelli has been really busy since opening so I may be on the look-out for more suitable locations in Wales.” There are more than 350 Papa John’s sites in the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets.

Polpo founder reports booming demand for gift vouchers: Founder of the Venetian-inspired Polpo restaurants, Russell Norman, has reported booming demand for gift vouchers as consumers spend more on experiences than “things”. He is is about to open his 12th outpost in Bristol, having taken the chain to Brighton, Exeter and Leeds since it landed in London in 2008. Norman told The Guardian he had been surprised by booming recent demand for gift vouchers and private party requests. “When we opened in Exeter we expected it to be an all-day offering, but we’re really finding that people are coming for special occasions, as an event, or an experience,” he said.

Beds and Bars launches no deposit booking engine for St Christopher’s Inns brand: Pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, led by chief executive Keith Knowles, has launched a no deposit booking engine for its St Christopher’s Inns brand. The model allows customers to travel more flexibly and enjoy greater benefits when booking direct. Under the booking engine, there are no up-front fees and guests will only be charged for their first night if they cancel within 72 hours of arrival. Beds and Bars group sales and revenue director Franz Burghoff said: “The youth travel sector demands greater flexibility than most, as their travel plans are constantly changing.” UK marketing manager Sophie Herbert added: “We are really excited to launch our new campaign – Your Trip, Your Story, Your Way – in conjunction with our new no deposit and free cancellation booking model. Travel is all about discovery so it’s important for us to allow the travel community to move freely and make those spontaneous decisions, creating their own story on the go.” St Christopher’s Inns operates 21 hostels across Europe in 13 locations. The company has been increasingly investing in its technology offer, launching an app that allows travellers to earn points during their stay and interact using a real time in-house social network. It has also launched the world’s first online check-in system for hostels.

Champagne bar founder to host dinner for crowdfund investors: The founder of the Oh You Pretty Things champagne bar concept, which is now almost 60% funded on crowdfunding platform Growthdeck, is to hold a dinner for would-be investors. The pitch states: “Oh You Pretty Things is an established and profitable business, raising £750,000 for 20% equity to fund further expansion plans across the UK. An agreement was signed with John Lewis in April to roll-out the ‘Champagne Stories’ concept in up to 11 of their department stores around the country. The first ‘Champagne Stories’ bar is now open in John Lewis’ flagship Oxford Street store. With £444,000 already raised, this deal offers investors a target IRR of 61.2%. We will be holding an intimate investor lunch at Sartoria in Savile Row, at 1pm, on Wednesday, 24 May.”

YO! Sushi to open Canterbury site: YO! Sushi is to open a site in Canterbury, Kent. Work is under way on a site in Sun Street with a working opening date scheduled for Thursday, 28 July. The company cited the “excellent vibe” surrounding the city and said it had been looking for the “perfect spot” for some time, Kent Live reports. Earlier this year, chief executive Robin Rowland told Propel YO! Sushi planned to double its openings this year. The company, backed by Mayfair Private Equity, has seen like-for-like sales increases of 5%-plus since last summer in the wake of moves to evolve the company in a number of key areas. Menus have been redesigned with dish numbers increased from 70 to 100. Rowland said: “The planned openings this year will take us close to 100 restaurants operating worldwide by the end of the year. We’ve got our mojo back as a business and are definitely back on track.” The company recently launched a pop-up concept, minus its trademark conveyor belt, at Boxpark Croydon.

JD Wetherspoon to reopen Rainham pub, submits £1.5m Liverpool city centre plan: JD Wetherspoon has been given the go-ahead to reopen The Railway pub in Rainham, Kent, while it has also submitted plans to launch a £1.5m venue in Liverpool city centre. The company’s plans for The Railway in Station Road were rejected by Medway Council in June last year as a proposed extension would be “out of proportion with the main building, fail to respect the character of the surrounding area and harm the street scene”. However, the approved plans do not include a roof garden and the extension is lower. The Railway closed in 2012 after the owners, Sarumdale pub group, went bankrupt, Kent Online reports. Meanwhile, a new £1.5m Wetherspoon pub could transform an office space in Liverpool city centre. The company has applied to Liverpool City Council to change the use of a site in James Street. JD Wetherspoon has acquired the leasehold for the floors it is looking to transform at the building, which also houses seven upper floors of commercial space. JD Wetherspoon has four pubs in Liverpool city centre – The Welkin, The Richard John Blackler, The North Western and The Fall Well.

Agent AG&G keeps it sensible after £2m per annum Covent Garden rent demand: Acting for the tenant, Transport for London, property agent AG&G has concluded the 2016 rent review on the iconic London Transport Museum at an increase in rent from £685,500 per annum to £762,500 per annum. Anthony Alder of AG&G represented the tenant, Transport for London. Occupying the site of the former flower market opposite Covent Garden market, the landlord originally proposed an increase in rental value to £2,000,000 per annum. Anthony Alder of AG&G was asked to represent the interests of the tenant and contest what potentially would have been a crippling increase. The 28,000 square foot unit was leased for use as a museum in 1983. Alder said: “The tenant has had to undertake extensive improvements to convert this grade-II listed building to museum use, including new glazing and roof improvements to minimise solar glare, new services and partial air conditions, and basic fitting out to permit customer use. AG&G was able to present evidence to the landlord, using a mixture of both a specialist profits rental valuation and a unit measurement basis of valuation, in support of a much reduced increase. Crucially, these tenant’s improvements were disregarded. In this regard, the profits method valuation methodology proved invaluable.”

Influential former Tesco boss backs acquisition of Booker: The former chief executive of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy, has given his blessing to the supermarket’s controversial £3.7bn takeover of wholesaler Booker and said it was a “front foot play” by Britain’s biggest retailer. Sir Terry said he supported the move in his first public comments about the deal and praised Tesco for being pro-active despite a tough market environment due to the weaker pound and fierce competition from discounters Lidl and Aldi. “What I like about it is that it’s a front foot play”, Sir Terry said at a City event run by software firm Eagle Eye and first reported by the Evening Standard. “Clearly the supermarket sector has faced challenges in a long recession. But you can’t just sit there and complain your environment is unsuccessful.” The retail veteran added there was “good value to be created” and that Booker would gain some of Tesco’s “world leading” skills when it came to customer relationship management.

Southampton mixed-use scheme home to seven restaurants sells for £8.75m: A mixed-use leisure scheme in Southampton that is home to seven restaurants has been bought by investment firm Avignon Capital for £8.75m. The 88,315 square foot Arts Complex in Guildhall Square also includes a performing arts centre. The units are let to Gourmet Burger Kitchen; Nando’s; The Stable, which is 76% owned by Fuller’s; Tapas Barcelona, which is owned by Delicious Dining Group; Neighbourhood, the brand operated by Faucet Inn; Southampton-based independent coffee house Mettricks; and Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee. Studio 144, the arts centre element of the scheme, is let to Southampton City Council and is due to open this summer, offering two performance spaces, a dance studio and a bistro cafe. Avignon Capital investment manager Phil Walker told Property Week: “Having recently sold our holding in Worcester, we have redeployed that equity into a new asset with an average length of lease of 18 years.” Last year, Avignon Capital entered a joint venture with Curzon Cinemas to create a portfolio of long-let cinema-led assets. Avignon Capital was advised by Green & Partners and Gateley.