Tortilla begins planning for next stage of growth: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed restaurant group, has begun the process of planning the next stage of its growth, with the appointment of advisors to aid in setting out a roadmap for the business over the next 12 to 18 months, which may lead to a sale. The 36-strong company, which Quilvest has backed since 2012, has begun working with advisors at Spayne Lindsay, to determine the best strategy for its long-term future. It is understood discussions on what those options should be are at a very early stage and talk of a sales process starting is believed to be, for now, wide of the mark. It is understood the company is keen to see more clarity around Brexit before pursuing a formal process. The company, which is led by Richard Morris, is currently one of the standout performers in the sector, with like-for-likes up 6% over the course of 2018, with trading understood to have continued to be strong since the turn of the year. Last month, Morris told Propel he believed there’s scope to add to the number of sites the company currently operates. Morris said the business planned to open six sites this year with an opening in Southwark planned for the end of this month, set to be the group’s next opening in the UK, while a site in Oxford’s The Cornmarket has also been secured. He added there were also potential opportunities to expand on the seven franchised sites in the Middle East. Speaking on the back of the company reporting record sales in 2018, Morris said: “We had a fairly quiet year in terms of openings with the market being pretty deflated, only opening in Harrow, but we have a good pipeline for this year and we are also starting to build for 2020. Who knows what’s going to happen given the uncertainty over Brexit. We’re keeping our heads down, continuing to focus on value and quality. In terms of the market, I think this year there will be a levelling of the playing field. There are plenty of opportunities out there for us. I think trebling the size of the estate is realistic – many businesses have overexpanded and taken ‘marginal’ sites with high fixed costs. That has never been our strategy and the evidence in the market shows the problems that can cause. There are also opportunities overseas because it’s a very franchise-friendly business and our franchise partner has already lined-up several additional sites.” The company opened its first “Baby” Tortilla in Putney in November 2017 – a site specifically designed to cater for residential online orders. At only 700 square feet, the concept is half the size of a regular Tortilla restaurant but with an evolutionary kitchen design that delivers the same offering as any other site. Morris revealed the site had almost paid back on its investment and he was now looking to expand the format. He added: “We were one of the first adopters of delivery and quickly realised we had a product that suited it. We have a central kitchen, which we use for some of our items, so we don’t need lots of space. With sites being about 1,000 square feet, we should be able to keep fit-out costs and rent reasonable. We think there are definitely a few more of those ‘village-type’ locations in London that suit the model.”
 
Grind smashes crowdfunding target: Coffee and cocktail brand Grind has smashed its initial target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company has already raised £2,237,840 from 743 investors, with the campaign having only been made public on Saturday morning (9 March). Its initial target had been £1,350,000 in return for 6.12% of its equity, giving the company a £34m pre-money valuation. Its 2018 annual sales were £9.4m, with site Ebitda of £1.6m and Ebitda of £300,000. It had 19% like-for-like sale growth in 2018. It has just launched Grind Pods for Nespresso machine, selling 60,000 already. Grind is looking to grow to 36 sites by 2022 through a mixture of equity raised from its crowdfunding campaign, free cash flow and debt. Some15 of the proposed venues will be franchise sites. Grind is beginning its next phase of expansion with six central London openings in the next 18 months – taking its portfolio to 16 – plus a new coffee-roasting facility. The company is understood to expect turnover to hit £11m this April and £17m by April 2020. In its crowdfunding pitch, the company states: “We ended 2018 with about £1m in the bank, but the changing high street means we’re being offered more properties in prime locations than ever before, so we’re raising funds to capitalise on these opportunities. We’ve launched our Grind at Home retail range, headed up by our new compostable coffee pods for Nespresso machines, adding £20,000 of sales in the first month, and selling more than 60,000 pods since launching in December 2018. We’ve outgrown the roastery you helped us build in 2015, and are moving to a space five times the size to support our growth and the Grind at Home range.”
The Sunday Times – HSBC may have to write off £17m loaned to Jamie’s Italian:HSBC could be forced to write off £17m as the troubled restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian tries to find a buyer, the Sunday Times has reported. The newspaper added: “Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is selling a majority stake in the chain, which went through a restructuring last year to shut about a third of its sites and slash its rent bill. The chef pumped £13m of his own money into the rescue deal. The chain has been battered by poor trading and rising costs, which led to last year’s company voluntary arrangement that cost about 600 jobs. Oliver has hired advisory firm AlixPartners to find a buyer for the stake. The auction has attracted bidders such as private equity firms Carlyle; Endless; Aurelius Investments and Landmark, Dubai owner of Carluccio’s.”
D&D London to shut Kensington Place as site undergoes redevelopment:Restaurant operator D&D London is to close its Kensington Place restaurant and fish shop this month. The venue will shut on Thursday, 21 March because of the Newcombe House property development by Brockton Capital and U+I, which includes the building that houses Kensington Place. Following closure, the majority of staff will transfer to other restaurants within the D&D London group. The company told Propel there were currently no plans to relocate the restaurant. Chief executive and chairman Des Gunewardena said: “Kensington Place has had an illustrious history since it first opened in 1987. It was one of the restaurants that kick-started the renaissance of London restaurants and we have been its proud owners since 2007. We will miss Kensington Place dearly and we hope many of our customers and friends will join us in our last few weeks to wish Kensington Place a very jolly goodbye.”
Kellogg’s tests the water with its first UK cereal cafe, in Manchester: Kellogg’s has teamed up with London-based Cereal Killer to launch its first cereal cafe in the UK, in Manchester. The venue has opened at a former Starbucks site in Princess Street, opposite Manchester town hall. The breakfast manufacturer operates a permanent cafe in New York offering household favourites such as Rice Krispies, Cornflakes and Frosties. The UK menu also features a number of Manchester-themed cereal “remixes” such as This Charming Bran, the Manchester Evening News reports. Manchester has been chosen to host the snap, crackle and pop-up as it houses the largest Corn Flakes factory in the world, while Kellogg’s also has its UK headquarters at MediaCityUK. Cereal Killer’s London sites are in Brick Lane and Stables Market, Camden.
Pub sales help boost turnover at Hop Back Brewery: Wiltshire-based brewer and retailer Hop Back Brewery has reported turnover increased 3% to £3,915,246 for the year ending 30 September 2018, compared with £3,790,604 the year before. Sales from its ten-strong pub estate rose to £2,110,665, compared with £2,012,481 the previous year. The group’s pre-tax profit fell to £63,775, compared with £153,863 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Following the resignation of managing director Paul Sullivan in August last year, a review of the business was made, leading to the appointment of a head of sales and a pub estate manager, who both report directly to chairman and founder John Gilbert. In his report accompanying the accounts, Gilbert said: “There has been a small increase in the turnover of both the brewery sales and in the pub estate. Cost of sales as a proportion of sales rose principally as a result of a decision to pursue volume in a manner that proved unprofitable. However, sales have continued to increase after the abandonment of this strategy.”
BrewDog opens first Scottish Draft House site: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened the first Draft House site in Scotland, in Aberdeen. The Hop & Anchor in Exchange Street is the second Draft House site to open under BrewDog’s ownership since it acquired the business from founder Charlie McVeigh in March last year. The venue features 12 taps while the food menu includes “pub classics” such as burgers, wings and pies as well as a Sunday roast. BrewDog opened its first site under the Draft House format in November, in Farringdon, central London. The site in Charterhouse Street was part of the six-strong Grand Union business Draft House acquired in 2017. The Draft House brand currently consists of 13 sites. Meanwhile, BrewDog has overcome objections from local residents to get the go-ahead to open a bar in Dalston. Hackney Council approved the licensing application for the venue in Stoke Newington Road despite vocal opposition from the Rio Cross Residents Association, reports the Hackney Citizen.
Gingerman Group to open fifth restaurant next month: Sussex-based restaurant group Gingerman will open its fifth site, next month. To be called Flint House, the restaurant will be located in a standalone, two-storey building, at the centre of the new Hanningtons Lane, Brighton. There will be more than 50 seats and a rooftop terrace with adjacent green wall and views across the Lanes. The company, owned by directors Ben and Pamela McKellar, started Gingerman Restaurant Group in 1998, with their flagship restaurant The Gingerman, in Norfolk Square. Ben McKellar said: “Flint House is about casual dining, small plates, simple local ingredients cooked well, and a wide range of quality wines served by the glass. The Lanes is somewhere people want to linger and we have the perfect rooftop terrace for them to grab a glass of wine, bite to eat and do just that.” Andrew Foulds, portfolio director at Redevco, which is developing the Hanningtons Estate scheme, added: “We couldn’t have asked for a better restaurant operator to occupy the jewel in the crown of this scheme. Gingerman Restaurant Group has four existing local businesses within its portfolio and a strong Brighton following. Its philosophy is to offer really good food and great service within a relaxed setting.”
Chetiyawardana – overseas expansion came about ‘completely by accident’:Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, who operates the “world’s best bar” Dandelyan, has told Propel its forthcoming overseas expansion came about “completely by accident”. Chetiyawardana is opening his debut international venue – Super Lyan cocktail bar in Amsterdam at the Kimpton De Witt hotel – on Thursday, 18 April. This will be followed by Silver Lyan in Washington DC towards the end of the year. He is also planning a Dandelyan pop-up Stateside. Chetiyawardana said: “We’d been thinking of opening outside of London, but it always required the right local partners. Amsterdam was quite by accident! I had been out for a talk, and we were talking about helping with a project. At the same time, we were closing Super Lyan for refurbishments, and a light bulb kind of came on when we realised the space at Kimpton, and the market in Amsterdam was perfect for Super Lyan. Washington DC is an accidental move too. I’m keen to explore places that have an exciting food, drink and arts scene that feel appropriate to us. Again, we have to have the right people on the ground too. We are very excited by looking at more projects in new places. I have always been inspired by travel, so the opportunity to explore these in the unique way you can with a venue really excites me!” Chetiyawardana has been named UK Bartender of the year twice and in 2015 was proclaimed International Bartender of the Year. He launched his first bar, White Lyan, in Hoxton in 2013. He replaced it in April 2017 with two new venues – Super Lyan and Cub. Dandelyan opened in 2014 in the Mondrian Hotel, which is now known as Sea Containers. That will make way for a new concept, Lyaness, which is opening this month. Super Lyan closed in late 2018, making way for a fermentation lab for Cub restaurant. The Mr Lyan brand also includes a range of five bottled cocktails.
Rockfish selected for Sidmouth site: Rockfish Group, the sustainable fish and chip brand led by Mitch Tonks, has had its bid to open a restaurant at Drill Hall in Sidmouth approved by East Devon District Council. Rockfish will add to its portfolio of restaurants in Exmouth, Dartmouth, Brixham, Plymouth and Torquay, with a site launching in Exeter this month. Cllr Stuart Hughes told Devon Live: “Rockfish ticks all the boxes and is a win-win for Sidmouth due to our town’s fishing heritage. It has an excellent set up and will be a draw for lots of people and encourage more visitors to visit our wonderful town. Rockfish has been a catalyst elsewhere, where its presence has turned around town centres.” Final negotiations with Rockfish are under way, with a planning application expected in the next few months. The opening would create up to 30 jobs. Rockfish has just received seven-figure backing to open three restaurants across the south coast of England. The company will use the funding from HSBC UK to open the sites this year, with the first in Exeter on Monday, 18 March as the sixth Rockfish venue. The other restaurants to open this year will both be in Dorset, in Poole and Weymouth.
Batali and Bastianich partnership is dissolved: The 20-year partnership between the celebrity chef Mario Batali and the Bastianich family of restaurateurs in the US has been dissolved – more than a year after several women accused Batali of harassment and assault. Batali “will no longer profit from the restaurants in any way, shape or form,” said Tanya Bastianich Manuali, who will head day-to-day operations at a new company, as yet unnamed, created to replace the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group. The new company will operate the group’s remaining 16 restaurants under a new management and financial structure. Bastianich Manuali and her brother, Joe Bastianich, have bought Batali’s shares in all the restaurants. They would not discuss the terms of the buyout. Batali is also selling his shares in Eataly, the fast-growing global chain of luxury Italian supermarkets. “Eataly is in the process of acquiring Batali’s minority interest in Eataly USA,” said Chris Giglio, a spokesman for that company.
North Wales-based brewery aims to treble micro-pub estate to 12 by end of year:Wales-based Dovecote Brewery is aiming to treble its micro-pub estate to 12 sites by the end of the year across the region. The company opened its first site under the format – The Dove in Rhyl – in March last year followed by a second Dove in Prestatyn. Two similar micro-pubs, which are both called The Hoptimist, have been added in Rhuddlan and Abergele. Now owner Richard Green is targeting further growth. He told the Daily Post: “We wanted to create a new business model because it can be a problem for a small craft brewery actually getting its beer into pubs because many of them are owned by big breweries, which limit the ability of tenant landlords to introduce such products. We have looked at a number of potential new sites all around North Wales and our intention is that further expansion will happen very quickly.” Green set up Dovecote Brewery in Denbigh 20 months ago when he decided to make his home brewing hobby into a career after working as an industrial chemist.
Southampton-based Unity Brewing Co sets sights on £200,000 after hitting £130,000 crowdfunding target within 24 hours of public launch: Southampton-based Unity Brewing Co has set its sights on raising £200,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to double production and expand its taproom after hitting its initial £130,000 target within 24 hours of public launch. The brewer was offering 7.51% equity in return for the £130,000 investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.6m. So far, 311 investors have pledged £183,260 with 26 days of the campaign remaining. Founder and head brewer Jimmy Hatherley said: “We’ve been bowled over by the response we’ve had to our crowdfunding campaign so far and funded quicker than we could have ever imagined! We have put a stretch limit of £200,000.” Hatherley said there were no plans at the moment to raise any further capital as the funds from the crowdfunding campaign would allow the business to grow “substantially”. Founded in late 2016, Unity Brewing Co said it became profitable within two years of launch with net profit of £6,476 in December 2018. It has also seen 105% year-on-year sales growth to £236,669 during the same period. The pitch states: “We’re now struggling to meet demand and brewing at capacity on our ten-hectolitre kit while customers queue out the door in our on-site taproom. With your investment we’ll take on larger premises, purchase equipment to double capacity and build a destination taproom.”
JD Wetherspoon puts Wick pub on market: JD Wetherspoon has put its pub in Wick in Scotland on the market. The company said the move to sell The Alexander Bain in Market Place was a “commercial decision”. It said if a buyer who would not require the staff was found, employees would be offered the chance to transfer to other Wetherspoon pubs. A spokesman told The Press and Journal: “We can confirm The Alexander Bain in Wick has been put up for sale. We understand our loyal customers and staff will be disappointed with this decision. However, Wetherspoon does on occasion put some of its pubs up for sale. It is a commercial decision taken by the company taken after long consideration. The pub will continue to trade as normal until a buyer is found.” The pub is named after Alexander Bain, who was born on the outskirts of Wick in 1810 and invented the electric clock and designed an electromagnetic means of transmitting images.
Magic Rock Brewery to expand into Holmfirth: Huddersfield’s Magic Rock brewery is set to expand into Holmfirth later this year when it takes over a vacant bank. It has applied to Kirklees Council for change of use permission to alter 28 Victoria Street, a grade II-listed building that is situated within the Holmfirth Conservation area. The building covers three floors including a basement level and was last occupied by HSBC bank, which shut in January 2017. A survey through RateBeer.com listed Magic Rock Brewing as being the 44th best brewer in the world and the fifth in England.
Ei Group launches event to build partnerships with entrepreneurial operators in the north: Ei Group has launched a targeted networking and recruitment event to open the door to new partnerships with existing and aspiring multi-site operators across the north of England. The Multiples event will take place at The Spitfire pub in Southport on Thursday, 28 March, from 2pm to 5pm. The event will allow publicans to learn more about operating formats and lease agreements offered by Ei Publican Partnerships and hear about the progress and opportunities within Ei Managed Investments, which partners with experienced managed house operators. Ei Managed Investments operations director Nathan Wall will also provide an overview of the business as it seeks new partners across the north. Recruitment marketing manager Matt Ralphs said: “We are constantly looking to recruit the best publicans and provide them with an array of support tools to help build their businesses. We feel there are many more opportunities to work with talented publicans across the country and our innovative and varied lease agreements provide an ideal platform for ambitious operators to create and sustain a successful pub business and grow their portfolio of pubs. We are excited to see what opportunities emerge from this event.” To attend the event, email RecruitmentTeam@eigroupplc.com
Douglas Jack – it’s time for The Restaurant Group to deliver on its promises: Peel Hunt analyst Douglas Jack has argued it is time for The Restaurant Group to start delivering on its promise when it delivers its preliminary results on Friday (15 March). He stated: “It made many promises at the time of the Wagamama acquisition. With group labour costs rising to above 35% of sales and net debt/Ebitdar exceeding four times, the company needs to focus primarily on delivering positive in-store like-for-like sales/Ebitda growth. The shares are not expensive, but the risk profile is too high to buy, in our view. On 7 March 2018, The Restaurant Group said ‘current trading is broadly in line with our expectations’. We had to wait until 23 May 2018 to find out that meant like-for-like sales were circa 5.6% in the first quarter based on ‘in the first seven weeks of the second quarter like-for-like sales declined 1.8%’. Despite this, ‘like-for-like sales for the 20 weeks ended 20 May 2018 declined 4.3%’. Cinema attendance fell by 15.4% in January and retail footfall fell by 1.9%, whereas we estimate airport footfall was up circa 3.4%. The restaurant constituent of the Coffer Peach Tracker continued to fall, declining by 2.5%, with London restaurants down 4.1%. Like-for-like trading should have improved in February due to better year-on-year weather. In 2018, restaurant supply fell by 2.1%, closures (1,934) exceeding openings (1,373). According to Lavender Bank Partners, 79% of licensed retail company voluntary arrangements and administrations since August 2017 have been restaurant companies, coinciding with their rush into food delivery. The Restaurant Group has promised to expand Wagamama in the UK and US; expand Wagamama elsewhere through its franchisee network; grow delivery sales; generate strong like-for-like sales from Wagamama; and turnaround the circa 360 leased sites in retail/leisure parks. This is all in the forecasts. Our 2019E forecasts assume like-for-like sales rise by 2.2%, helped by Wagamama. The company may choose not to quantify recent like-for-like sales. Either way, we believe forecast risk remains on the downside due to relentless increases in labour costs and downward pressure on in-store volumes.”