Byron set to shed circa 20 sites under possible pre-pack administration: Better burger brand Byron could shed circa 20 sites from its 51-strong estate, if as predicted it undergoes a pre-pack administration. At the end of last month, Byron filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators and it reportedly held talks with three potential buyers. Sources said Byron’s board remained confident of sealing a deal in the coming weeks, with the likeliest outcome a pre-pack administration. Propel understands that process could see between 20 and 25 sites dropped, with the majority based inside the capital. It is thought some of these sites are already being marketed. The group currently operates 32 sites inside London and 19 outside. For the 12 months to the end of 2019, the group’s revenue is thought to have stood at circa £65m, with restaurant Ebitda at £3.5m. Central costs for the year were thought to be north of £6m, although it is thought cost cutting here has already been implemented, including a new payroll system. In terms of who is bidding to take on the business, speculation suggests current backer Three Hills Capital is one of the bidders, while a management buyout led by current chief executive Simon Wilkinson is thought to be another.
BrewDog and Biff’s partner to launch delivery-only vegan brand: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched a delivery-only vegan brand in partnership with plant-based brand Biff’s. Having launched their first all-vegan bar together in London last year, the two companies have come together to form Biff’s Delivery. Utilising BrewDog and Draft House sites to create delivery hubs, Biff’s branded burgers, wings and fries are now available in London’s Shoreditch, Brixton, Paddington, Camden, and Shepherd’s Bush, alongside Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. However, this number is set to double in the coming weeks, with more kitchens launched in major cities across England, Scotland and Wales. The delivery project marks the latest venture for Biff’s, which begun in 2017 as a street food stall, Biff’s Jack Shack, and has now grown into both physical sites in London and a national wholesale foodservice business. BrewDog retail director James Brown said: “The partnership started almost a year ago when we opened our first vegan BrewDog bar in Dalston, and customer feedback has been overwhelming. The next logical step was to help bring Biff’s to a wider audience using our BrewDog network of bars and kitchens. Delivery is a huge part of our retail strategy for the next few years and the Biff’s partnership adds another income stream and opportunity to deliver great craft beer to people’s homes alongside some killer vegan food.” Biff’s co-founder Biff Bloom-Burrows added: “Our mission at Biff’s is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to eat exceptional vegan food. Working with BrewDog is a very exciting opportunity to make this happen at scale – we share its innovative punk spirit, so combining its strength in physical sites with our passion for creating high-quality, plant-based food makes for a powerful proposition to really own more of the UK delivery space.” On top of the new Biff’s-branded delivery project, a Biff’s burger has been added to BrewDog’s main bar menus nationwide, with the new double-pattied “Lightning Jack” being a part of BrewDog’s commitment to offering a 50% vegetarian and vegan food menu.
Tim Martin sells £5m of JD Wetherspoon shares: JD Wetherspoon chairman and founder Tim Martin has sold £5m of shares in the company. Martin sold 510,725 shares at a price of £9.84 per share, according to a statement released on Friday evening (10 July). The sale reduces his stake in the company he founded in 1979 to 27.4%. Wetherspoon shares were trading at more than £16 before the pandemic but plunged to a low of £5.59 on 19 March, the day before prime minister Boris Johnson ordered all pubs, bars and restaurants to shut. To help with the prolonged closure of its 875 pubs across the UK and Ireland, Wetherspoon has raised about £140m through a share placing and has taken out a £48.3m loan through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Last week Martin, who has been a vocal campaigner for tax equality between pubs and supermarkets, said he hoped the temporary VAT cut on food in pubs and restaurants to 5% would become a long-term change.
Rosa’s Thai to begin reopening its estate for dine in: TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Café will begin reopening its 19-strong estate for dine-in on Monday (13 July). The Gavin Adair-led business will reopen 11 of its sites this week, after keeping several reopen in the capital for delivery and collection throughout lock-down, with demand over this period understood to have been “extraordinary”. The sites that will reopen for dine in this week are based in Spitalfields, Soho, Chelsea, Angel, Victoria, Brixton, West Hampstead, Tooting, Tower Bridge, Clapham Junction, and Manchester. Safety measures the company has put in place include running a slightly reduced menu in order to ensure its kitchen team can work in a safe environment with the least amount of crossover to other sections; not taking cash payments; team members will be wearing face masks while working; and tracking sickness levels and absences (of any kind) across the company on a daily basis.
Incipio Group appoints operations director: Incipio Group, which is backed by Edition Capital, has appointed Paul Loebenberg to the newly created role of operations director. Loebenberg joins Incipio Group with more than 20 years’ experience having previously been head of operations at Ping Pong Dim Sum and held operations director roles at game expert Mac & Wild and Benugo. He has also held a number of management roles including general and openings manager of Drake & Morgan’s The Folly before being promoted to group operations manager of the London-based bar and restaurant group. Loebenberg will be responsible for day-to-day operations, enhancing service standards and delivering growth for Incipio Group, which operates six sites across London. Chief executive Ed Devenport said: “With Paul’s breadth of experience and his excellent ability to motivate and lead teams, we are delighted to welcome him to the Incipio family.” Loebenberg added: “I am thrilled to take the next step in my career with Incipio Group and looking forward to joining the business at this exciting phase in its history.”
St Austell opens long-awaited debut Dorset site: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has opened its long-awaited first site in Dorset. The company has launched the Rock Point Inn in Lyme Regis. Originally built in the 18th century, the grade II-listed pub was bought by St Austell in 2018 and has since undergone sensitive restoration work. Alongside a pub and outside decking area, the Rock Point also has nine new guest bedrooms – including dog-friendly, sea view and twin rooms. Steve Worrall, managing director of St Austell Brewery’s pubs, inns and hotels, said: “It’s been a tough few months, so the long-awaited opening of our first pub in Dorset feels like a very special moment. As we have in all our managed pubs, we have introduced extra measures to the Rock Point to keep our guests and pub teams safe – from our new Easy Order app and hand sanitising stations, to one-way systems.” St Austell owns more than 180 pubs across the West Country.
German Doner Kebab reports 60% jump in like-for-likes following at-home box launch: German Doner Kebab (GDK), the flagship brand of Hero Brands, has reported its at-home “Boss Box” has led to a 60% jump in like-for-like sales. The “Boss Box” was launched during lock-down as an exclusive product for delivery and click and collect, “bringing an immersive brand experience into the homes of consumers across the UK”. The box costs £12.99 and includes a choice of GDK’s original kebab, KCal kebab, durum or lahmacun wrap, served with doner spring rolls or chilli cheese bites, a side of fries, three signature sauces and a drink. GDK has also tapped into the global “unboxing” craze for the launch, working with blogger Sherlina Nyame who was first to “unbox” the “Boss Box” to her own 1.5 million followers. GDK global chief executive Imran Sayeed said: “We have always been primarily positioned as a dine-in consumer proposition. However during lock-down we quickly remodelled our offering to expand our click and collect and delivery offering The Boss Box experience reflects our innovation and ingenuity during this period and we will continue to explore new ideas that excite and capture the imagination of our growing customer base across the country.” GDK has opened 35 restaurants in the UK during the past four years and has a development pipeline of 350 franchise units over the next seven years. It also operates franchised stores in Sweden, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi, Oman and Bahrain. As well as the UK, the brand has announced growth in Saudi Arabia where the Ajlan Bin Ajlan Group has been signed-up as the master franchisee, with a development agreement of 100 stores over the next ten years. Further growth has also been announced in North America, as franchises have been signed in Canada’s Ontario and British Columbia provinces, while negotiations are underway to open outlets in New York’s Manhattan and New Jersey.
Seven Bro7hers Brewery closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £435,000 towards six new beer houses: Manchester-based Seven Bro7hers Brewery has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £435,000. The company, founded by brothers Keith, Kit, Guy, Luke, Daniel, Nathan and Greg McAvoy in 2014, is raising funds as it looks to open six beer houses in the next two years and expand production. It was looking to initially raise £50,000, offering 1.24% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £8m. The fund-raise has now closed with 980 investors pledging £436,646. The funds will be used to add to its two existing beer houses in Manchester as well as expand production capability at its brewery to two million litres per annum. The company said one beer house site had been secured in Liverpool, which is set to open in the final quarter of this year, with another in Leeds under negotiation and is looking to add another four to the portfolio. In 2019 the company reported revenue of £2m with a loss before tax of £200,000. Last year Seven Bro7hers Brewery raised more than £665,000 on Crowdcube to aid its expansion plans.
Sankey’s – goodwill generated by work supporting the community has helped lead to ‘insane’ first week after lock-down: Sankey’s founder Matthew Sankey has told Propel he believes the goodwill generated by its work supporting the community during the coronavirus crisis has helped the Tunbridge Wells-based company have an “insane” start to life-after-lock-down. Sankey said in the first week of reopening, like-for-likes at Sankey’s Seafood Kitchen & Bar in Mount Ephraim were up circa 134% compared with last year and 113% at The Old FIshmarket in The Pantiles. Sankey added he has even recruited five more members of staff to cope with demand. He said: “I’m putting it down to a mixture of huge goodwill generated by our fishmongers home delivery service; the nature of our sites that allowed us to work social distancing quite simply; and managing customer arrival to fill the old ‘graveyard’ shifts. I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve had.”
Piano Works prepares to reopen in September: Dining, drinking and live music concept The Piano Works is preparing to open its two sites in September, using an exclusive combination of advanced safety technologies. The process begins with guests entering the venues in Farringdon and the West End having their temperatures checked by a thermal imaging camera that is accurate to within 0.2 of a degree. Afterwards, guests will enter the venue through a tunnel that sprays antiviral dry mist from head to toe in seconds. ID’s will then be scanned that capture personal details of each and every guest and will be asked to leave contact details through a track and trace app. Once inside the venue, guests will notice vinyl disc stickers lining the floor to help customers keep one metre apart. Guests will be able to order and pay at their tables and sanitiser stations will be placed throughout the venue. Musicians will be shielded by a Perspex screen. At closing time, the venue will be cleaned and disinfected using a sanitising system. Tristan Moffat, operations director for The Piano Works, said: “We need to reassure our guests we are doing all that we can to keep them safe. We dress our security as gamekeepers for the same reason. We’re hopeful by taking each and every precaution we can, that we will instil trust in our customers and vice versa. These safety measures have not been seen combined in the UK before and we believe using the best technology available will help our guests enjoy our great musicians perform once again.”
Lennox opens second Zim Braai site: Zim Braai, the southern African-inspired restaurant venture from Koh Thai founder Andy Lennox, has opened its second site. Having launched in Ashley Cross, Dorset, in December 2018, Lennox has doubled up with an outlet in Bournemouth. The premises in Poole Hill, which were due to open in March, has been completed “despite the extremely difficult circumstances and restrictions”. The group’s second and larger city centre location features a terrace and will house more than 120 covers post-covid restrictions. Lennox said: “Despite what has been the most difficult time in modern history in our industry we believe our brand can flourish in the post-covid world and are so happy that despite literally everything going wrong we have managed to pull together and deliver a beautiful restaurant. Our eyes are set firmly on safeguarding the team and returning to profitability in the coming months while we also actively look to expand the group further.” Zim Braai offers dishes from South Africa, and also the Seychelles, Malawi, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Cape Town. Lennox has adapted the recipes, flair and cooking style of the world’s second largest and second most-populous continent to suit the UK. The Ashley Cross site has reopened in line with government guidelines.
Travelodge sites under threat from rival operator: The landlords of as many as 40 Travelodge hotels are planning to replace them with a serviced apartment operator following a bitter row with the hotel company over rent cuts. Various unnamed landlords are in discussions with Room2, which wants to launch a low-cost version of its “hometel” concept, which combines serviced apartments with some extra add-ons normally found in hotels, reports The Telegraph. Room2 is part of the family-owned property company Lamington Group. Travelodge was among the first companies to withhold rent as coronavirus struck Europe, riling landlords. In June, it agreed a company voluntary arrangement with its creditors, securing a 38% rent cut through to December 2021, but allowing landlords to break leases within six months and to seek new operators if they wished. Travelodge said in a statement at the time the deal would allow it to “navigate the short-term challenges facing the business as a result of the covid-19 pandemic”. Room2 founder Robert Godwin said his “hometel” model had held up well during the crisis. He added: “We now see a real opportunity to replicate this success in the budget hotel market.”
Crockers to double up with Henley opening next month: British seasonal food brand Crockers is to start expansion next month by opening a second site, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. The venue will launch on Saturday, 1 August at the former Loch Fyne restaurant in Market Place, which closed in May 2018 after almost two decades in the town. Crockers Henley was supposed to open in early April but has been operating a casual takeaway service as an introduction to the community during lock-down. The venue will feature two 16-seat chef’s tables – The Thames Table and The Gardiner Table – a bar and grill, and seven rooms in The Quarters. Each chef’s table will have its own head chef, with guests able to watch them create dishes. The Thames Table will serve a seasonal British tasting menu, while The Gardener Table will offer a pan-Asian tasting experience. Both will offer a seven-course lunch and 12-course dinner. The Grill will offer a “more relaxed approach to drinking and dining”. The concept is the brainchild of chef and chief executive Luke Garnsworthy, who opened the debut Crockers restaurant in Tring in spring 2018. He said: “I am incredibly excited to open Crockers Henley after what has felt like the longest period of uncertainty in our industry. The team is exceptional and has shown remarkable resilience and determination over the past few months. Henley is in for a treat when we open our doors and I can’t wait to see the response.”
Tomos Parry launches Brat residency outdoors at Climpson’s Arch: Michelin-starred chef Tomos Parry has launched a residency of his Brat concept in the outdoor space at events hub Climpson’s Arch in Hackney, east London. The residency offers dishes inspired by the open-fired grilling techniques the Basque country. Parry posted on Instagram: “We’re happy to announce this summer Brat will take residency outdoors at Climpson’s Arch, Hackney. We’ll light the wood ovens in which we’ll roast turbot, spider crab, aged whole ducks and grilled bread in the courtyard. Due to the circumstances we all find ourselves in, we weren’t sure when our restaurant would reopen or in what capacity. Rather than reduce the size of the team our solution was to open another restaurant as best to support the farm-to-restaurant system and cook the produce we love with our fantastic team while providing a safe and comfortable space for guests. We’ll work closely with our suppliers to create a daily blackboard menu. Vegetables picked in the morning and cooked over fire in the evening, a dish of wood-fired rice with rabbit, salad of slow-roasted pollock with tomatoes, and grilled petit snap greens with roasted ricotta will feature. We’ll observe government covid guidelines and do everything to ensure the safety and comfort of our guest and staff.” In March, Parry opened a farm grill and wine shop at Brat in Shoreditch to support staff and suppliers during lock-down.
Surrey-based Indian fine dining restaurant Saffron Summer to start expansion with second site, in Reigate: Surrey-based Indian fine dining restaurant Saffron Summer is to start expansion by opening a second site in the county, in Reigate. The venue was due to launch at a site in Church Street, formerly occupied by The Clove restaurant, in March. However, after being scuppered by lock-down, the venue will now open on Tuesday (14 July). Showcasing Indian haute cuisine, the kitchen will be led by executive head chef Awanish Roy, who has worked in London’s Cinnamon Club, Roti Chai and Chai Ki restaurants. His menu will feature signature dishes such as Goan wild boar vindaloo and Keralan seafood moily. The restaurant will initially operate at 50% capacity to maintain social distancing, while staff will wear masks and gloves. Customers will be offered hand sanitiser on arrival. Owner Ralph Sousa said: “I researched the area, loved the vibe and am convinced locals will appreciate our modern take on classic regional dishes. Although we’ve had a long delay, as a country we can’t all stay in lock-down forever. We need to kick-start the economy and support our suppliers.” The debut Saffron Summer opened in Chessington in 2018.
Fledgling pub company Small Hands opens second Liverpool site: Liverpool-based pub company Small Hands, run by husband and wife Dominic and Fiona Hornsby, and Ian Forster, has opened on its second pub in the city. The Denbigh Castle in Hackins Hey, off Dale Street, was a city centre landmark for more than a century before closing in the late 1970s. The building has housed a number of concepts since then. Small Hands has now reopened the two-storey pub, having originally planned to do so in March, but refurbishment work was halted once the lock-down was imposed. Fiona Hornsby told The Business Desk: “We have recreated a traditional pub by enhancing the features in the building where we could, and have added some reclaimed artefacts to add more character.” The trio’s first pub is The Bridewell, which opened in Campbell Square last year. Both sites have a focus on German lager, cask and craft beer, and a vegan wine list.
Plans submitted to transform Oldham town hall into food market: Oldham Council has submitted plans to transform a historic space in its town hall into a food market for independent brands. Situated in the Egyptian Rooms, the casual dining market would deliver a new style of offer to Oldham town centre. Featuring six food and drink concessions, it would cater for about 200 people with inside and outside seating including a large alfresco dining area in Parliament Square. Sean Fielding, council leader and cabinet member for economy and skills, said: “This would be an exciting new food and drink experience for Oldham and a great addition to the Old Town Hall and the fantastic businesses already based there and across the town centre. We’re committed to ensuring Oldham has a vibrant leisure and night-time economy and are confident a market like this would be welcomed by residents and visitors.” If approved work would begin on the Egyptian Rooms this year, with a planned opening in summer 2021.
Lina Stores to launch piazza-style terrace at King’s Cross site: Delicatessen brand Lina Stores is to launch a piazza-style terrace in front of its King’s Cross site. The 75-seater space will launch on Wednesday, 15 July in Lewis Cubbit Square offering a seasonal menu with new dishes including maltagliati verdi with spring mushroom ragù, and crab linguine with lemon, chilli and garlic. From August, the partially covered space will also feature Lina Stores’ vintage Italian gelato cart. Drinks will be served from a Piaggio Ape van converted into an outdoor bar, focusing on summer aperitivi and Italian organic and biodynamic wine. Guests will be asked to follow a one-way entry and exit path and place orders by scanning a QR code on their table. Lina Stores head chef Masha Rener said: “The last couple of months have been challenging to say the least and, while we turned a crisis into an opportunity by launching a nationwide delivery platform to keep providing our Italian products to customers, we’re so excited to finally welcome our guests back for a sit-down Lina Stores experience in an alfresco setting reminiscent of an Italian piazza!” Lina Stores’ other site, in Greek Street, Soho, will reopen on Tuesday, 21 July
Bacardi to reopen British distillery experiences on 20 July: Spirits company Bacardi has announced its British distillery experiences will reopen to the public on Monday, 20 July with new health and safety measures in place. The distilleries at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire and in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, will once again offer whisky tastings and gin cocktail masterclasses as well as guided tours – but at a reduced capacity. Facilities such as the museum, bar and gift shop have been adapted with the addition of Perspex screens at till points, reduced door touchpoints and hand-sanitisation stations throughout. Temperature checks will be conducted on arrival and face masks will be provided to be worn at all times. All visitors must book in advance.