PizzaExpress lenders order £100m cash injection: PizzaExpress’ lenders are demanding a cash injection of at least £100m despite China-based owner Hony Capital’s attempts to buy back tens of millions of pounds of debt. Hony Capital announced on Wednesday (6 November) it would buy back heavily-discounted debts with a face value of £80m. However, insiders have urged Hony Capital to pour cash directly into the company rather than buying back bonds, The Sunday Telegraph reports. One insider told the newspaper: “This is Hony seeing bonds that are cheap and picking them up. It’s not Hony fixing the balance sheet. It’s not Hony giving comfort it can get over the refinancing wall. We want it to address the balance sheet.” PizzaExpress is struggling to repay £1.1bn of loans amid spiralling losses. Of those, £665m is owed to bondholders, which must start being paid in 2021. The bonds are trading at a heavy discount and being bought by hedge funds. They could seek to wrestle control of the company and cause fresh complications to what are already expected to be difficult restructuring discussions. PizzaExpress has appointed restructuring experts from Holihan Lokey and lawyers from US firm Kirkland & Ellis to assist with restructuring its balance sheet. Bondholders have hired investment bank Perella Weinberg. While the first tranche of loans isn’t due to be repaid for more than a year, lenders believe PizzaExpress must have a restructure in place by March or auditors will be unable to sign off its financial statements. Bondholders expect a rescue plan to include Hony injecting cash directly into the business and a debt for equity swap, sources said. One insider said more than £100m would need to be injected to satisfy lenders. Last week PizzaExpress reported like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland fell 1.1% for the 13 weeks to 29 September 2019. Ebitda for the UK and Ireland business was £19.9m with margin at 17.9%, down 130 basis points. During the period three company-owned sites opened and one closed, leaving the UK and Ireland estate with 477 company-owned restaurants and five franchise outlets. PizzaExpress and Hony declined to comment.
 
Deliveroo launches Pickup service: Deliveroo has launched click-and-collect service Pickup, which waives delivery fees and allows people to order food for collection from restaurants that don’t offer delivery. Deliveroo said 700 restaurants in 13 UK cities had already signed up to Pickup, including major brands Byron, PizzaExpress, Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito, Coast to Coast and Giraffe. Pickup is initially available in the city centres of Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham and Edinburgh (Old Town). Deliveroo said it expected to grow the service “rapidly”, forecasting more than 10,000 restaurants would offer Pickup within the next 12 months in the 200 towns and cities Deliveroo operates in. The company expects to work with a further 10,000 restaurants in the next six months to take its total to 30,000 venues. Ajay Lakhwani, vice-president of new businesses for Deliveroo, said: “Pickup customers can collect their meal exactly when they want. This service opens up even more choice and selection for consumers while providing a new revenue stream for restaurants. This is another move towards Deliveroo being the definitive food company, offering the widest selection of food for all occasions.” Last month Propel revealed Deliveroo had trademarked its first virtual brand. Deliveroo parent company Roofoods trademarked the name Chicken On The Green after developing the brand in partnership with Casual Dining Group. Chicken On The Green went live at 25 Café Rouge sites in a trial as part of Deliveroo’s plan to licence brands to restaurants. It’s believed Deliveroo is using its Editions sites to create and test brands before licensing them with partners. As it develops further brands, it’s believed Deliveroo is likely to trademark those as well. Propel understands Deliveroo has no plans to open standalone sites itself. The Competition and Markets Authority is currently running a full merger inquiry into Amazon’s £457m investment in Deliveroo in May.
Brakspear takes managed estate to 15 with Berkshire pub buy: Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear has acquired The Golden Ball in the village of Pinkneys Green, near Maidenhead, to take its managed estate to 15 sites. The Berkshire pub has seating for 110 customers inside as well as a large patio and garden. Food includes hand-stretched pizza, burgers and other pub favourites, while the drinks list includes wine, cocktails and an extensive gin range. Brakspear plans to trade the pub in its existing format up to and over the busy Christmas period before giving it a light “sparkle” in January to bring its look and feel more in line with other sites in the managed estate. The existing pub team will remain in place. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We are delighted to add The Golden Ball to our managed division. It’s a popular pub serving its community with a great range of food and drink and we think it has great potential within the Brakspear family.” He added: “We are very happy with the growth of our managed estate. While each pub has its own individual character, they also have some shared features that help customers identify them as a Brakspear-managed site, which encourages them to visit other pubs in the group.” Brakspear launched its managed division in 2013 by opening The Bull On Bell Street in Henley-on-Thames. The estate now includes pubs across the Cotswolds and south east, many with letting rooms. In July 2018, Brakspear reopened The Frogmill, near Cheltenham, its largest managed site to date.
Japanese restaurant Taka takes former Providores site in Marylebone for second London site: Restaurateur Andrey Datsenko and sister Anastasia have secured a second London site for their contemporary Japanese restaurant Taka. Following its success in Japan, the Datsenkos opened their debut London site, in Mayfair, in 2017. Now they have secured the premises in Marylebone that was formerly occupied by The Providores, which closed in July. The new Taka restaurant is set to open in April or May next year and has a lease that runs until 2026. Taka offers an extensive range of dishes including tataki, tempura, salads, sashimi platters, inside-out rolls, and yakitori alongside cocktails featuring sake, Japanese whiskey and liqueur. Andrey Datsenko said: “We are thrilled to expand and open our second site in London!” Restaurant Property acted for Taka in securing the 3,000 square foot, three-floor site, while Shelley Sandzer represented The Providores. Owned and run by chef Peter Gordon and general manager Michael McGrath, the Antipodean-style eatery closed after 18 years as the pair looked to travel and pursue other projects.
Pitt Cue Co founder to resurrect brand after buying back IP rights: Jamie Berger, co-founder of wood-smoked barbecue pioneer Pitt Cue Co, has revealed plans to resurrect the brand after it went into administration earlier this year. Berger has repurchased the intellectual property of the brand he co-founded in 2011 and sold in 2015. Berger said of the acquisition: “While I was sad to see the restaurant close, I’m delighted to be able to take Pitt Cue Co back to its original ethos of barbecue, bourbon and beer – in whatever form that may take.” Berger and his team are exploring a number of opportunities for products, pop-ups and residencies in London and further afield while they search for a site to relaunch the restaurant. The first of these events will be a Thanksgiving Dinner held in central London on Thursday, 28 November. Pitt Cue began as a food truck on the South Bank before its creators, Berger and Tom Adams, moved into tiny premises in Newburgh Street, Soho, with only five tables and a no-booking policy that resulted in long queues. After Berger and Adams sold the business, Pitt Cue moved to larger premises in the City, in Devonshire Square. The restaurant shut in June when Pitt Cue Co went into administration. Berger has been working on a number of joint ventures and consultancy projects since 2015, including a rib concept.
Chopstix and Buy & Bite snap up Barburrito sites: Asian quick-service restaurant chain Chopstix and healthy Japanese concept Buy & Bite have signed to take over the two London sites vacated last month by Mexican brand Barburrito. Agency Restaurant Property said it found both buyers “without having to go to market”. Chopstix, which has more than 80 sites in the UK, has taken on the 700 square foot site in Hammersmith’s Broadway Shopping Centre at a rent of £150,000 per annum and a lease that runs until 2026. Meanwhile it will be a second site for Buy & Bite, which has taken on the ground floor and basement of the Farringdon site in Cowcross Street at a yearly rent of £102,000 on a lease that runs until 2028. Each space at the venue measures 700 square feet. Last month Propel revealed BGF-backed Barburrito had exited the two London sites leaving the circa 20-strong company with only its Paddington station venue in the capital. The company recently opened a site with TRG Concessions in Gatwick airport in Sussex and has signed up to launch a site in Manchester airport’s new extension as the brand looks to refocus its operation. Restaurant Property surveyors Danielle Agami and Gabriella Sether, who both acted for Barburrito, said: “We were able to find two strong buyers for Hammersmith and Farringdon that acted quickly without even having to go to market.” Buy & Bite was founded last year by Taiwanese-based food specialist Han Dian, opening a debut site in Shoreditch that also features a tea bar. The healthy concept serves omurice (fried rice wrapped in an egg omelette) as well as noodles, bao burgers and Taiwanese sausage.
Great Northern Group opens fourth site for Copper cafe bar concept: Nottingham-based independent pub group Great Northern Group has opened a fourth site for its cafe bar concept, Copper. The venue has opened at a grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in Nottingham’s Market Place that was formerly used for offices. The site joins the other Copper cafes in Mapperley, West Bridgford and Nottingham city centre. The brand offers everything from breakfast, steak, halloumi kebabs and afternoon tea to real ale, spirits and cocktails when the cafe turns into a bar in the evening. The coffee counter also serves cakes, sandwiches and sharing plates. Downstairs, the two-storey site offers a mix of tables for eating and night-time drinking, while upstairs houses a function room and private dining space. The terrace has seating for a further 80 customers. Great Northern Group director Dave Willans told the Nottingham Post: “Coppers are evenly spread from breakfast to lunch and early doors to evenings. Bookings before we opened were substantial for private parties and Christmas functions so there was obviously a need for something in this area.” Last month Great Northern Group re-emerged following the company restructure of Great Northern Inns. The group now owns and operates 12 venues in Nottinghamshire.
Mediterranean dessert bar chain Hans & Gretel makes UK debut, at Camden Market: Mediterranean dessert bar chain Hans & Gretel has made its UK debut by opening a site at Camden Market in north London. The chain is popular across Greece, Cyprus and Turkey for its Instagrammable desserts. As the brand name suggests, the venue in North Yard specialises in “fairy-tale creations”, with the decor resembling a scene from the Brothers Grimm tale Hansel & Gretel. Trees are decked with fairy lights, giant lollipops and marshmallows, while there is a “candy house” suited to Instagram snaps. Desserts include a Chimney Cake (sweet dough spun and roasted on a spit to make a cone that’s caramelised, dusted with sugar and filled with ice cream and sweets); and the Fantasy Cone (a waffle cone filled with ice cream and topped with candy floss) alongside freakshakes, a candy floss station and pick ‘n’ mix. Hans & Gretel co-founder Lisa Lee told Hot Dinners: “We are bringing a touch of magic to the rejuvenation of the market’s offering and helping establish the North Yard as a family friendly foodie destination.”
Social enterprise Britannia collapses into liquidation: Britannia Enterprises, which operated five cafes in Norwich, has collapsed into liquidation owing £629,739. The community interest company ran an estate consisting of Café Britannia at HMP Norwich, Park Britannia at Waterloo Park, Gibraltar Gardens in Heigham Street, Court Britannia at Norwich Crown Court, and Guildhall Britannia in the city centre. The company’s main aim was to rehabilitate prisoners by offering them jobs in their venues. Britannia Enterprises, led by Davina Tanner, has now appointed liquidator Stewart Bennett to wind down the company. The greatest amount owed, £94,722, is to Brand Strategy Partners, a management consultancy and financial management practice that is also owned by Tanner, who also put funds into the business in the form of a director’s loan. She is listed as crediting the company £45,000, while HMP Norwich is owed £90,000. Employees are also directly listed as being owed £65,000 by the company. HM Revenue & Customs is owed £34,132 for VAT, with the company owing a further £5,000 in PAYE tax, according to the Eastern Daily Press. The liquidator’s report values the business’ assets at £9,284, significantly down on assets listed in the company’s final accounts, in December 2017, when assets totalled £287,371. Café Britannia closed in the summer following a dispute with the Ministry of Justice, while Gibraltar Gardens has also closed. Park Britannia at Waterloo Park has been taken over by a sole trader.
McDonald’s plans to buy solar and wind energy to power US restaurants: McDonald’s is looking to power its US restaurants using solar and wind energy. The company is investing in two Texas-based startups that generate renewable energy equal to taking 140,000 cars off the road for one year. McDonald’s didn’t disclose the amount of capital investment, which involves buying “virtual power” from the two companies. Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s chief supply chain and sustainability officer, said the company had a “responsibility to customers as a world leader to do what’s right for the planet”. She added: “These renewable energy commitments will generate green energy equivalent to more than 2,500 McDonald’s restaurants-worth of electricity.” In early 2018, McDonald’s set a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions related to its restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 based on energy used in 2015. Earlier this month McDonald’s fired chief executive Steve Easterbrook after investigating a consensual relationship he had with an unnamed employee. The company named Chris Kempczinski, most recently president of McDonald’s USA, as its new chief executive.
Turkish restaurant brand Gem opens at former Prezzo in Norwich for fourth site:Turkish restaurant brand Gem has opened its fourth site, at a former Prezzo in Norwich. Owner Cemal Alby has launched The Gem in Thorpe Road to join sister sites in Loughton in Essex, Maidstone in Kent, and the original Gem he opened in Islington, north London, in 1999. The concept offers hot and cold mezze, meat dishes, mixed barbecue and desserts. Alby, a Kurd who came to England as a refugee 30 years ago, told the Eastern Daily Press: “Over the past ten years lots of people have been going on holiday to Turkey and discovering its fresh and healthy food. People like the sharing element too.”
Thunderbird Fried Chicken appoints chief executive: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, is to pass the chief executive baton from Marcel Khan to Paul Gilchrist by the end of the year. Khan has worked with Thunderbird Fried Chicken founder Matt Harris supporting the fledgling brand for 12 months, building the team and business to five owned and operated sites in London. TriSpan operating partner Robin Rowland said: “We wish Marcel every success with his next move in the sector and will miss his infectious and enthusiastic management. Paul joins Thunderbird Fried Chicken with 30 years of multi-unit experience with premium restaurant and pub operations.”
Koi Ramen and Beza launch at Elephant Park: South London-based street food traders Koi Ramen and Beza have opened their first bricks-and-mortar sites – at Elephant Park, the £2.3bn regeneration project in Elephant and Castle headed by Lendlease and Southwark Council. Ethiopian restaurant Beza, founded by Beza Ethio, has evolved its concept to become a 100% vegan eatery. Its menu includes national dish “teff injera” – 100% gluten-free sourdough flatbread. Ethio said: “We approached Lendlease at Artworks Elephant with the hope its drive to support small brands at the temporary space would help us grow. We are delighted to see this come to fruition, with our first permanent restaurant space.” Meanwhile Koi Ramen, which also trades at Pop Brixton and Tooting Market, has brought southern Japanese flavours that focus on tonkotsu ramen. Ming Chan, of Koi Ramen, said: “We are so happy to be here in our first proper shop in Elephant and Castle and can’t wait to serve our ramen to all the locals.”
Chiquito to offer edible insects: The Restaurant Group-owned Tex-Mex brand Chiquito is adding edible insects to its offer. The beer and bugs range will be available from Wednesday (13 November). Customers will receive the edible insects free with every pint or standard bottle of Corona and Brooklyn Naranjito. The two flavour options – chilli and lime and peri-peri crickets – will also be available to purchase separately in a 12g pack. Chiquito managing director Angelo Gabrilatsou said: “We pride ourselves on being the brand that brings the best of Mexican flavours and culture to the UK. Through our food and environment we always allow our guests to be as adventurous as they want, with a range of dishes that go from mainstream to more authentic. Bringing edible bugs felt like a natural next step into driving that real Mexican experience, allowing our guests to be a little more daring.”
SSP America wins Bermuda airport contract: SSP America, a division of SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has been awarded a food and beverage contract by Bermuda LF Wade international airport. Restaurants developed and operated as part of the contract will feature in the airport’s new passenger terminal. SSP America has teamed up with Bermudan entrepreneurs Dennie O’Connor and Jennifer Turini Ysseldyke to form a joint venture, Bermuda Travel Concessions. The restaurant they will operate are The Whistling Rum Bar & Grill, which will be in the departures check-in area before security; Rock & Barrel Gastro Bar in the US departures hold room; and The Heron & The Sea Public House in the international departures hold room. Kyle Phillips, SSP America senior director of business development, said: “Our strategy is to deliver the ‘taste of place’ for which we’re known as well as unsurpassed operational know-how. We look forward to being part of the airport community.”
Hollywood Bowl introduces immersive video game: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, has introduced an immersive video game-style format as part of a £200,000 revamp of its Norwich site. The centre now features HyperBowl on all 26 lanes, becoming the first Hollywood Bowl in the country to offer the concept across the venue. Unlike regular bowling, HyperBowl turns the lanes into an immersive video game with progressive levels featuring moving coloured targets and score multipliers. HyperBowl playing time depends on how many players are on the lane and whether they choose three, six or nine levels. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns said: “Our Norwich centre has been significantly improved thanks to the addition of HyperBowl, an exciting and interactive new way to bowl.” As part of the Norwich venue’s revamp, a Hollywood Diner has also been introduced serving gourmet burgers, hotdogs, thick shakes served in retro milk bottles, desserts and cocktails, while its amusement area has been upgraded.
Lincolnshire-based Laver Leisure submits plans for Staffordshire holiday village in former quarry: Lincolnshire-based Laver Leisure has submitted plans for the first phase of its scheme to transform a former quarry in Staffordshire into a holiday village. The company was granted outline planning permission in 2016 for the development at Moneystone Quarry, which would comprise 250 lodges alongside leisure and recreation facilities. The detailed reserved matters application is for the first phase of development, which would see 190 lodges built alongside a hub building with swimming pool, gym, restaurant, cafe, play areas and a multi-use games area. A separate full planning application will also be submitted shortly to refurbish former laboratory buildings on the site for further indoor leisure use. Laver Leisure director Peter Swallow told The Business Desk: “This reserved matters planning application is a major step towards making Moneystone Park a reality.” Laver Leisure operates 13 holiday parks.
Casual Dining Group scoops Springboard award for career progression: Casual Dining Group has scooped Springboard’s best career progression award in recognition of its learning and development programmes. The award coincides with the launch of CDG’s second cohort of participants in its Elevate programme, which targets high-performing general managers who are looking to progress to multi-site leaders. In addition, the company’s Future Leaders programme is for assistant and deputy managers looking to step up to general manager roles. Claire Clarke, group HR director at CDG, said: “There’s a wealth of talent across the business. Our role is to identify the stand-out performers and give them the skills and training they need to become leaders and progress. We’re incredibly passionate about creating a culture of high performance. This is just the start – we look forward to growing and evolving the courses.”
HGEM adds competitor review tracking: Guest experience management expert HGEM is offering operators the ability to track the social review performance of local competitors for each location. Subscribers to HGEM’s review tracking in The Hub can now select a number of competitors for each location and see where they sit in a league table. An HGEM spokesman said: “This can provide valuable motivation for general managers striving to be the ‘best in town’. You no longer need to look up this information in separate places.”