Refurbishment of Corney & Barrow sites has led to 25% sales uplift, says Bowmark Capital boss: Ron Pearson, partner at Bowmark Capital, which backs premium bar and restaurant operator Drake & Morgan, has said there has been a 25% uplift in sales since refurbishment of the Corney & Barrow Wine Bars estate began. Drake & Morgan bought out the 11-strong company last year, disposing of two sites and rebranding as C&B Bars. Pearson told the Propel Multi Club Conference the acquisition had “transformed” the Drake & Morgan estate. He said: “The thing that attracted us to C&B was the sites were very well located and well invested, it’s just C&B had dropped behind the competition. Some of the sites we didn’t consider highly attractive so we are still in the process of transforming them and so far we’re in excess of 25% uplift in sales following those refurbishments.” Asked what the future held for the combined estate, Pearson said: “We have further to go in the redevelopment of the C&B Bars estate, we’ve currently done five, there are a couple that are going to be invested in, in early 2018, and we’re continuing the roll-out – focusing certainly in the near-term on London.” Drake & Morgan has just opened its 23rd site – The Listing in Charing Cross. Pearson said: “We’ve built a pipeline of sites to open during 2018 and the good thing about the headwinds we’re facing is there should be more great sites available in the next 12 to 18 months.” Propel managing director Paul Charity asked how Drake & Morgan was finding the environment in the City of London. Pearson replied: “We’ve put a lot of units into the City and we’re continuing to open there. The opportunity is there and ultimately it comes down to the fact the best operations will win through. Imbiba Partnership has funded quite a few, Wright & Bell’s The Kitty Hawk for example, and a number of other operations have opened so it’s undoubtedly more challenging but I don’t think we’re at saturation. There are a lot of existing operators in there who are sub-standard, and they’re the ones that will suffer.” Asked which operators meet Bowmark Capital’s criteria at the moment for scalability and potential, Pearson mentioned Loungers, Itsu, Leon, Tortilla and Honest Burgers. Asked about further sites in the capital, Pearson said: “We’d love to find a site in the West End but have yet to find anything we believe is economically viable.”

Goodbody – JD Wetherspoon is gaining traction in face of headwinds: Goodbody leisure analyst Brian Devitt has said JD Wetherspoon is gaining traction in the face of headwinds and believed its new app could be a game changer for the business. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 1,385p, Devitt said: “In advance of its first-quarter update on Wednesday (8 November) and incorporating the underlying trading noted with the full-year results in September, we update our numbers. Our like-for-like sales assumption increases to 4% for FY18 (from 3%) and 3.2% for FY19 (from 2%). Ebit increases by 3% in FY18 and 6% in FY19. For the first quarter we expect like-for-likes of 4.7% and Ebit margin of 7.4%. Recent trading statements from Wetherspoon have been very strong, with the like-for-likes up 6.1% in the first six weeks of the first quarter. Trading is accelerating while the market is slowing. Furthermore, the strong growth has materially benefited the bottom line in the face of mounting sector cost headwinds. The group has completed a large number of freehold reversions that afford management greater long-term investment flexibility. The order and pay app continues to gain impressive traction. Overall this is a business in excellent shape despite the external environment weakening. We continue to like the Wetherspoon investment case. We believe it is well placed to outperform in a tougher environment and recent investments will continue to support trading. Furthermore, we believe the mobile ordering application can be a game changer for the business in the long term and will be difficult for competitors to replicate. Investors may have concerns on valuation grounds but we believe the stock warrants a material premium.”

Swingers has ‘halo effect’ on other businesses in the City, says co-founder: Jeremy Simmonds, co-founder of the Institute of Competitive Socialising, has said his street food and crazy golf concept Swingers has a “halo effect” on other businesses in the City of London. Speaking at the Propel Multi Club Conference alongside fellow co-founder Matt Grech-Smith, Simmonds said: “We regularly get 7,000 people a week coming to Swingers in the City and Saturday is our biggest trading day – people wouldn’t normally come to the City on that day. That has a halo effect on businesses around us.” Simmonds said the nature of the Swingers concept – it requires a 20,000 square foot floor space that is “incredibly difficult to find” – meant it had been a struggle to find venues as the company looked to expand. However, he said entrepreneurial landlords should look at Swingers as a concept that could attract footfall to surrounding businesses. He said: “What we’re trying to find is difficult space where a landlord is going to look at us as a footfall-driver. We’re looking for people who are quite entrepreneurial, who aren’t just going to quote pound-per-square-foot values at us because at that footprint you reach a very high figure incredibly quickly.” Simmonds said another challenge for the concept surrounded planning. He said: “We don’t fit into a neat planning box – we’re not D2, we’re not A4 – and therefore we have very difficult conversations with planning bodies and the planning officer often doesn’t know if we contravene their policies.” However, Swingers has secured a second site, inside the former BHS store in Oxford Street. Simmonds said the venue would open in March and will take crazy golf “back to its roots and the English Riviera and the seaside”. He said: “We have more demand than we can cater for, which led us to the conclusion we wanted to move on and open another venue, which we will do in March. It’s going to be great to take such a well-known building that had been empty and to do something new and exciting with it.” The new Swingers will feature beach huts housing four street food vendors, including a first dessert brand for the concept, plus a boardwalk, ornate ironwork and a light-up bar that will “look good on customers’ photos and social media”. Swingers started as a pop-up in Shoreditch and opened its first permanent venue underneath the Gherkin in the City last year.

Liverpool-based operator more than doubles profits as demand for rooms, food and drink grows: Liverpool-based operator Hope Street Hotel has reported profit has more than doubled due to strong demand for rooms, food and drink. The company, which operates the Hope Street Hotel and the London Carriage Works restaurant in the city’s Georgian Quarter, saw turnover increase 8% to £4,713,051 for the year ending 31 December 2016 compared with £4,362,384 the previous year. Pre-tax profit jumped to £1,753,105 compared with £776,892 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Hope Street Hotel comprises the boutique four-star Hope Street Hotel and the Michelin-listed London Carriage Works restaurant next to the hotel on the corner of Hope Street and Hardman Street. The company stated: “2016 has seen Hope Street Hotel continue its trend of strong year-on-year growth. This has been achieved through the development of the Hope Street Hotel and The London Carriage Works brands coupled with a clear strategic direction. Revenue from the hotel room sales have increased by 8.94%, while the restaurant sales have shown an increase of 7.44% in food sales and 4.04% in beverage sales. Gross profit margins have remained consistent following the introduction of a new food and beverage management team in 2014, with the 2016 gross profit margin being 85.66% (2015: 85.19%). Average occupancy rates for 2016 are in line with previous years with 77.5% occupancy compared with 77.6% in 2015. The liquidity position of the business remains consistently very strong and gearing is reducing significantly year-on-year due to the capital repayments being made on the bank loans.” Hope Street Hotel is currently undergoing a major programme of expansion. In January, Liverpool City Council granted planning permission to add 12 rooms, 26 aparthotel suites and ancillary accommodation on the top of the 1930s extension to the former Royal School for the Blind.

Tim Hortons to open second UK site next week, in Cardiff: Tim Hortons, the Canadian cafe and bake shop owned by Restaurant Brands, is to open its second UK site next week, in Cardiff. SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons, is opening the outlet on Tuesday, 14 November in Queen Street. The launch follows the brand’s UK debut in Glasgow this summer and starts its nationwide roll-out with more sites across England, Wales and Northern Ireland planned this year. Kevin Hydes, chief finance and commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in Great Britain, said: “We’re thrilled to announce we’re opening in Queen Street, Cardiff – it’s a fantastic area and shares similar values with Tim Hortons – a strong sense of community and friendly culture. We knew Great Britain loved its great coffee and delicious, freshly made food, but the excitement we’ve seen for Tim Hortons has beaten all of our expectations.” Tim Hortons offers its signature coffee, espresso-based drinks, hot chocolate, French vanilla and classic frozen Iced Capp, as well as baked goods and breakfast and lunch offerings. It was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where “everyone would feel at home”. The company will be opening in Manchester and Belfast in the coming months with plans for a minimum of 100 venues in total.

Daughter of Corbin & King co-founder to open first restaurant: The daughter of Corbin & King co-founder Chris Corbin is to make her first foray into the restaurant sector by launching a South African-inspired concept in Peckham, south London. Amy Corbin and her partner Patrick Williams are launching Kudu in Queens Road. It will offer South African-inspired dishes with locally foraged ingredients. Williams, who was previous sous chef at Paradise Garage, hails from South Africa and his dishes will include pigs head tortellini, hay bone broth and crispy onions; and Braai lamb rump, smoked yoghurt, lettuce and Brussels tops, reports Hot Dinners. Kudu stated: “Our South African roots inspire our food whether that’s slow cooking in a potjie pot over hot coals, or baking our Kudu bread. Sourced as much as possible from local suppliers, we celebrate hunters and foragers and gather what we can from our own herb garden and vegetable plot.”

Leon completes roll-out of operations management app Trail: Healthy eating brand Leon has completed the roll-out of operations management app Trail in all 40 of its sites to support its growth following £25m investment earlier this year. Trail serves a daily list of tasks to guide teams step-by-step, from opening checks and food safety to cashing up. The roll-out took two weeks and Leon has said it is already seeing an increase in restaurant implementation as well as saving staff time. Leon head of operations development Alan McNiven said: “Quickly, Trail has become a central operational hub for our restaurants. It helps us manage the day-to-day, as well as communicating specific activities and reminders direct to restaurants in the moment, from product launches to urgent actionable items.” In September, Leon reported total sales increased by £21.5m to £58.4m for the year ending 31 December 2016 with like-for-like sales up 7.6%. In March, Leon sold a £25m stake to private equity house Spice as part of its efforts to accelerate international expansion.

Foodservice offer improvements help petrol station operator break £200m turnover mark: Petrol station operator HKS Holdings has reported improvements with its foodservice offer have helped turnover break the £200m barrier. The company saw turnover increase to £221,270,640 for the year ending 31 May 2017 compared with £157,678,146 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up to £5,644,940 compared with £3,145,266 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. HKS Holdings manages 64 petrol stations with convenience stores across the country and has partnerships with foodservice brands including Subway, Greggs and Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee. In its report accompanying the accounts, HKS Holdings said: “The group has continued to drive revenues and profitability growth through improvements in the retail and food offerings on existing locations and new locations. The directors look to continue the growth with acquisitions of filling station and land development opportunities. The directors are also actively engaged in bringing new food and retail branded partners into our portfolio to improve our customer offering. At the year-end, the group had shareholders’ funds of £22m (2016: £17.7m) including distributable reserves of £11.9m (2016: £7.9m). The directors therefore believe the group’s position to be satisfactory particularly with total assets in excess of current liabilities of £53.4m (2016: £51.3m).” Established in 1984 with its first petrol station in Coalville, Leicestershire, the company now employs more than 570 staff. The group includes HKS Motors, HKS Retail and Brobat Group.

Paris-based Japanese restaurant Yen to make UK debut this month with Strand opening: Paris-based Japanese restaurant Yen, part of fashion company Onward Holdings Co, is to make its UK debut this month by opening a restaurant in the Strand, London. Yen, which launched in the St Germain de Prés area of Paris, will open its London restaurant in Arundel Street on Saturday, 28 November. It will offer traditional Japanese noodles, tempura and an eight-seat sushi counter. As with its French flagship site, buckwheat soba noodles will be the main focus in the Strand restaurant, made in-house twice a day. Main dishes will largely centre around the robata and tempura dishes, including Yen’s signature oyster and courgette flower tempura and Wagyu steak with Ponzu sauce. Guests will also be able to choose an omakase menu, where guests are served a blind menu entirely directed by the chef. Drinks will feature a selection of cocktails, wines and spirits, and a variety of Japanese sakes, beers, shochu, plum wines and whiskies.

Havana-born chef to launch Cuban bar and restaurant in Camden this month: Havana-born chef Raul Jarez Rodriguez is to launch a Cuban bar and restaurant in Camden, north London, this month. Rodriguez has partnered with chef Pedro José Martínez Ferre to open Little Havana on Wednesday, 22 November in Inverness Street. Diners will be able to sample authentic Cuban food at the 1,500 square foot, 65-cover site. The menu will include tamales Cubanos (ground corn tamale wrapped in corn husk); croquetas de bacalao (salt cod fritters topped with crispy cod skin); and barrigada de cerdo asada (oven roasted marinated pork belly with mash potato and sweet potato crisps). A menu of Havana Club rum cocktails will also feature while there will also be live music nights and weekly salsa classes as part of the entertainment programme curated by Oreste Noda, promoter of the famous Cuban party tribe Sambroso Sambroso. Jarez said: “My passion is to cook authentic Cuban food using its natural flavours from the Caribbean. With Oreste on board to ensure the entertainment is every bit as exciting as the kitchen, I am looking forward to offering Londoner’s a real taste of Cuba.”

Hollywood Bowl opens new site in Dagenham following £500,000 investment: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has invested £500,000 in the development of its latest site, in Dagenham, Essex. The company has transformed the former Namco Funscape bowling venue into a “new generation” Hollywood Bowl, including 20 pre-bookable, fully computerised lanes with plush seating, four VIP lanes, a new “Hollywood Diner” concept and upgraded bar, with new decor celebrating all things Americana. The diner serves freshly made American classics, including gourmet burgers and dogs, as well as shakes and signature desserts while the bar offers a variety of drinks, including traditional cocktails. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns said: “Dagenham is the fourth new Hollywood Bowl centre to open in the past 12 months, following new builds in Derby and Southampton, the London O2 centre and nine rebrands and refurbishments throughout the existing estate.”

Gourmet grilled cheese sandwich concept Pickle & Toast opens first restaurant 18 months later than planned: Gourmet grilled cheese sandwich concept Pickle & Toast has opened its first restaurant – 18 months later than planned. Pickle & Toast, which is the brainchild of London-born brothers Sanjay and Rajeeve Ahuja, has launched in Soho’s Wardour Street. The all-day venue, which was originally due to open in May last year, offers “the finest Poilâne sourdough bread, a special blend of artisan British cheeses and plenty of old-school New York grilling expertise”. Each sandwich is grilled to order with extra fillings such as ham hock and Dijon mustard, or spinach and truffled mushrooms. Pickle & Toast also offers dill pickles, speciality beers, micro-roast coffee and whole leaf teas. The venue is also open for breakfast, serving omelettes, croissants and homemade Cumberland sausage, plus breakfast grilled cheeses and freshly baked pastries, reports Hot Dinners.

Pret and Crussh launch Christmas menus: Pret A Manger and Crussh, the London-based healthy food and juice brand, are launching their Christmas menus. The Pret offer, which is available from today (Tuesday, 7 November), includes its first vegan Christmas sandwich, which features vegan stuffing combined with grilled carrots, crispy onion, caramelised pecans, spinach and a port and orange cranberry sauce. It joins the company’s Christmas lunch sandwich and veggie Christmas lunch sandwich. All three Christmas sandwiches will carry a gold sticker to show 50p from the sale of each one is donated to the Pret Foundation Trust to help the homeless. Other new items include smoked salmon, soft cheese and dill baguette; and the festive flat white, where a dash of mince pie syrup, with notes of apple, plum and cinnamon are added to a flat white or any other coffee. Meanwhile, Crussh’s Christmas menu, which will be available from Wednesday, 15 November, features a juice made with Brussels sprouts. Its Christmas Cleanser consists of Brussels sprouts alongside cucumber, celery, apple and lemon. The menu also includes a vegan carrot and mushroom nut roast sandwich, a confit turkey and cheddar spelt sourdough toastie, and a festive turkey feast sandwich. Crussh will apply a 10p donation from sales of selected products throughout its stores that will directly benefit mental health charity Mind. Crussh will also be offering customers an opportunity to round up their spend to the nearest 50p or £1, with the difference going straight to Mind.

Bolton-based Provenance Food Hall to triple restaurant capacity after securing six-figure funding: Bolton-based Provenance Food Hall & Restaurant is to expand its restaurant after securing six-figure bank funding. The food hall and restaurant in Westhoughton will use NatWest funding to triple the size of its current restaurant capacity, after acquiring a neighbouring unit. The 3,000 square foot space sits next to the current venue in Market Street. It will take the restaurant from a 46-cover restaurant to 150-plus covers when it opens in ten months’ time. The business was founded by husband and wife Brian and Karen Tinniswood together with brother Rob Tinniswood, in June 2015. They purchased the unit that was once home to their grandparents and parent’s family toy business Tinniswoods between 1952 and 1999. Provenance Food Hall & Restaurant combines a butcher, bakery, greengrocers, deli, tea rooms and Provenance restaurant, headed by chef Lewis Gallagher. It has featured in the Waitrose Good Food Guide for the two consecutive years it has been open. Brian Tinniswood said: “Our restaurant is fully booked most nights, so when the unit next door became available it was the perfect opportunity for us to look at expanding our business.”

Pop-up ecologically friendly craft wine company to open permanent site, in Dalston: Pop-up ecologically friendly craft wine company Weino BIB is to open a permanent site, in Dalston, east London. Weino BIB is launching the venue on Thursday, 16 November in Balls Pond Road. It will be selling its natural and craft wines, available across 20 taps to drink-in or take away. Wine will be sourced from winemakers of the more “artisanal end of the spectrum”. There will also be a deli offering a selection of nibbles, reports Hot Dinners.