Red’s True Barbecue directors in advanced talks to restructure debt after breaching banking facility, losses increase to £2.5m:The directors of American smokehouse chain Red’s True Barbecue are in advanced discussions with Santander to restructure the company’s debt after breaching its banking facility. Despite the breaches, Santander issued a letter of support indicating it would continue to make funds available to the business. The details were revealed in a report accompanying the accounts for Red’s True Barbecue filed at Companies House for the year ending 26 March 2017, which showed losses increased to £2.5m. The report stated: “During the year the business suffered breaches of the facility. However, the bank remains supportive of the business and the group is in discussions with the bank to refinance its current facilities. In addition the bank has issued a letter of support indicating it intends to continue to make funding available to the business. The business will need to renegotiate current debt facilities to ensure the repayment profile for the current borrowings match the future cash generation of the business. The directors are in advanced discussions with their bank with a view to restructuring their current debt facility and amortisation of existing debt. These discussions have met with a favourable response from the bank.” Turnover for the year increased 26.4% to £14,229,406, compared with £11,257,416 the year before. Adjusted Ebitda dropped to £133,630, compared with £561,949 the previous year. Pre-tax loses rose to £2,528,495, compared with £659,853 the year before. Gross margin was down to 68.6%, compared with 69.9% the previous year. The directors stated: “The increase in turnover reflected a full-year effect of new site openings in the prior year and the opening of two new sites during the period, in Sheffield and Newcastle. The directors see the next 12 months as an appropriate time to consolidate Red’s position within the market place and ensure the existing sites are operating efficiently and giving the best guest experience possible.” In March this year, the company, founded by James Douglas and Scott Munro, closed its only London site, in Shoreditch, leaving it with seven sites.
 
McDonald’s removes salads from 3,000 US restaurants after illness:McDonald’s is stopping the sale of salads at 3,000 restaurants in the US after people became sick from a parasite-causing intestinal illness. The company said it was acting “out of an abundance of caution” until switching to another supplier. Health officials in Illinois and Iowa said they had identified roughly 100 combined cases of cyclosporiasis apparently linked to consuming McDonald’s salads. The illness is caused by the cyclospora parasite. McDonald’s is removing the lettuce blend from identified restaurants and distribution centres. At least one of the affected restaurants is in each of the following states – Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri.
Ajith Jayawickrema – Leona Lewis inspired me to found Turtle Bay empire: Ajith Jayawickrema, who moved to the UK from Sri Lanka at the age of 15, has revealed singer Leona Lewis unknowingly inspired him to launch his Caribbean restaurant chain Turtle Bay. Speaking during the fourth podcast in the “How I Grew My Brand” series by specialist investor Piper, Jayawickrema told broadcaster Mary Nightingale: “My girls were young and we were watching X Factor – Leona Lewis won it. As an immigrant, I thought it incredible – 22 million ordinary people had voted for her. Her race, colour, ethnic background didn’t matter.” Her victory gave Jayawickrema, who had previously co-founded Latin American restaurant chain Las Iguanas, now a Casual Dining Group brand, the confidence to bring the full Caribbean food and drink experience to the UK. He launched Turtle Bay in Milton Keynes in 2010 with Piper founder Crispin Tweddell. Today the company has 44 restaurants in the UK and two in Germany, employs 1,500 staff and turns over almost £70m. Piper invested growth capital in Turtle Bay in June 2013. Asked what advice he would give entrepreneurs who were thinking of seeking venture capital or private equity investment, Jayawickrema said: “I think there is money everywhere but the quality of that money depends on the quality of the people. In the short term, it’s really easy to take money from somebody but do you want to work with that person for the next five, seven, eight, ten years when things are going to get tough and never go according to plan? Who do you want to work with? If you think ‘things might get tough but the people I’m with will back me, help me and make sure we all benefit’ – that’s the answer. You want people to back you when things are down as well as up.” The first three How I Grew My Brand podcasts featured Propercorn co-founder Cassandra Stavrou, Loungers co-founder Alex Reilley and Neom Organics co-founder Nicola Elliott.
Private equity firm Carlyle abandons attempt to seize control of Prezzo: US-based private equity firm Carlyle has abandoned its attempt to seize control of Prezzo, The Sunday Times reports. The restaurant chain, owned by private equity firm TPG Capital, won approval from its landlords in March to close 94 outlets via a company voluntary arrangement with its creditors. Carlyle acquired more than a third of Prezzo’s senior debt earlier this year and, according to sources, tried to use its position as a lender to block Prezzo from accessing a £25m overdraft facility, which could have forced the chain into administration and given Carlyle an opportunity to swoop. The firm planned to use Prezzo as a platform to acquire other ailing brands and create a business to rival Casual Dining Group, the source said. Carlyle believed Prezzo needed to ask permission from its lenders to access the cash. TPG disagreed. Both sides consulted lawyers and Carlyle threatened legal action. It is said to feel the chain was in danger of breaching its covenants. Prezzo’s CVA documents revealed it owed £154m to secured creditors and £65.7m to unsecured creditors. A source familiar with the situation said: “Carlyle tried and failed to invoke a technicality to try to prevent Prezzo from accessing its own funds. Now TPG has agreed to buy Carlyle’s debt and the matter is fully resolved, the company can refocus on its recovery.” TPG paid £300m for Prezzo in 2014. Café Rouge co-founder Karen Jones was installed as executive chairman in April to lead the turnaround. Carlyle and TPG declined to comment.
Investigation into independent Lincolnshire brewer uncovers potential falsifying of accounts to administrators: An investigation into independent Lincolnshire brewer Tom Wood Beers has uncovered potential falsifying of accounts lodged with administrators, a new document has revealed. In his progress report administrator Charles Ranby-Gorwood, of Grimsby-based CRG Insolvency & Financial Recovery, said he made the discovery while looking into how the company was managed prior to the administration. He said: “I undertook an initial investigation into the company’s affairs to establish whether there were any potential asset recoveries or conduct matters that justified further investigation, taking account of the public interest, potential recoveries, funds likely to be available to fund an investigation, and the costs involved. Specifically, I recovered, listed and reviewed the company’s accounting records; obtained and reviewed bank statements for a number of months prior to the company ceasing to trade; and compared information in the company’s last set of accounts with that contained in the statement of affairs lodged in the administration and made enquiries about the reasons for the changes. These investigations are continuing and I will report in due course. Within three months of my appointment as administrator I was required to submit a confidential report to the secretary of state and include any matters that might indicate the conduct of any past or present director that could make them unfit to be concerned with the management of the company. My report has been submitted.” Ranby-Gorwood said it was not possible to say at this stage what the potential dividend for unsecured creditors would be until the investigation was complete. He added: “The purpose of the investigation is centred around the potential for recoveries to unsecured creditors. My investigation will continue and the outcome of these will determine the likely final funds available for creditors, if any.” The report said there were 48 non-preferential unsecured creditors with an estimated total deficiency of £535,520. As previously reported, the company has no secured creditors. The business was sold in November last year to Lincolnshire Craft Beers, a company connected to Mark Smith, who was a director of Tom Wood Beers.
Timothy Taylor appoints Steve Cash as interim estate operations director:Keighley-based brewer Timothy Taylor has appointed Steve Cash as its interim estate operations director. Cash is former brand operations director of Mitchells & Butlers, responsible for the Harvester, Miller & Carter and Vintage Inns brands. He will now be responsible for Timothy Taylor’s pub estate until a permanent appointment is made. Timothy Taylor chief executive Tim Dewey said: “While we remain very focused on our core brewing activities, we are also at an exciting time in the development of our pub estate and we need someone of Steve’s experience to help us as we take the necessary time to make the right permanent appointment.” Cash added: “I am delighted to be involved with a company with flagship quality beers that stand out among all others. The pub estate is very varied – from great wet-led pubs and stunning destination outlets in the Bronte heartland to well-positioned outlets in Leeds and Harrogate.” On Tuesday (10 July), Timothy Taylor reported a turnover boost helped by a beer launch and the acquisition of a hotel and restaurant in Harrogate. Turnover increased 2% to £22,187,485 for the year ending 30 September 2017, compared with £21,637,292 the year before. Pre-tax profit fell 1.5% to £2,742,083 compared with £2,782,510 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House.
Hospitality virtual recruiter Sonicjobs closes £1m funding round: London-based startup Sonicjobs, the first virtual recruiter in the hospitality sector, has closed a £1m funding round, bringing its total raised to date to £1.6m. The funding round was led by Angel Co-Fund, recruitment entrepreneurs Paul Huntingdon, Rod Leefe, Andy Winterburgh, Dan Mulholland and Jas Gujral, and existing investor Velocity Capital Partners. Sonicjobs uses chatbot and artificial intelligence to create a virtual recruiter. The chatbot, Julie, tests how candidates behave in specific hospitality situations and scores them on responses. Fewer than one-third (30%) of candidates on Sonicjobs make it through, meaning employers spend 70% less time filtering candidates, the company said. Launched two years ago, Sonicjobs works with more than 2,200 restaurants and bars in London including Mitchells & Butlers brand All Bar One and Greene King. Sonicjobs chief executive and co-founder Mikhil Raja said: “Job boards and apps enable managers to put up jobs and receive lots of applications, which they have to filter one-by-one. On the other hand, agencies provide a tailored solution but are expensive. We believe technology can provide the service of a traditional recruitment agency, at a fraction of the price. This is particularly important at entry-level, where good people can drive the success of the business but where managers spend lots of time recruiting and are plagued by high staff turnover.” Huntingdon, founder of £120m revenue recruitment firm Serocor Group, added: “When I look to invest, I look at people, product and problem. Hospitality recruitment has been a key problem ever since I entered recruitment 20 years ago and is only getting worse with increasing wages and Brexit. I believe Sonicjobs has huge potential to expand rapidly and become a key player.” Sonicjobs has just partnered with Deliveroo to help its restaurants in London and the UK to recruit staff. Meanwhile Nick Deverell-Smith, chef patron of Cotswolds pub The Churchill Arms and who has worked with Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and Eric Chavot, is joining Sonicjobs’ advisory board.
Hart brothers close crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £2.5m to take Barrafina to King’s Cross: Harts Group, the parent company of London restaurants Barrafina and Quo Vadis, has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising almost £2.5m. The campaign was launched with an initial £750,000 target and raised more than £1.6m within the first two hours. The company was offering 9.12% equity in return for investment, with the funds supporting an expansion to King’s Cross. The brothers plan to open a Barrafina site in Coal Drops Yard in October offering 34 covers inside, 60 on a terrace and a 20-cover private dining room. In total, 972 investors pledged £2,499,000 and the campaign has now closed. It is the first time the company, which is led by Sam and James Hart, has offered a chance to invest in the business. Harts Group’s Ebitda growth has averaged 19.9% per year since 2013. In 2017, the company turned over £10.3m with Ebitda of £1.04m. Quo Vadis is a British restaurant offering produce-led food from much-respected chef Jeremy Lee. It also has a members’ club in Soho. Barrafina offers top-quality Spanish tapas, bar dining and private events spaces. The original Barrafina opened in Soho in 2007, with two more launching in 2014 and 2015 in Adelaide Street and Drury Lane, Covent Garden. The brothers also teamed up with Crispin Somerville to launch tortilla factory and taco bar Tortilleria El Pastor in Bermondsey in April.
Cubitt House co-founder to open second Boxcar site: Cubitt House co-founder Barry Hirst is to open a second site for his “butcher and grill” concept Boxcar. Hirst will open Boxcar Baker & Deli in in Marylebone on the corner of Crawford Street and Wyndham Place on Tuesday, 24 July. The all-day bakery, store and deli will sell British produce including meat and poultry from its own butchers along with pastries inspired by Sweden. The lunch menu will feature salads and sandwiches and switch to a light tapas-style menu in the evenings served with a selection of English wine and local craft beer or cider, reports Hot Dinners. Hirst launched the Boxcar concept in nearby New Quebec Street last year. He founded central London gastro-pub operator Cubitt House with Stefan Turnbull in 2005, selling a majority stake in the business to a consortium of private investors in 2015.
Essex-based artisan cider producer passes 50% mark in £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to scale production: Essex-based artisan cider producer Big Bear Cider Mill has passed the halfway mark in its £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to scale up production. Earlier this month, the company increased its equity offer to 15% from the original 10% in return for investment. So far, 134 investors have pledged £151,800 with ten days of the campaign remaining. The company is looking for funds to create an “apple to can” production facility able to produce more than one million litres of craft cider a year. The pitch states: “We plan to make quality craft cider marketed with a strong brand appeal and year-round supply. Essex orchards were ripped up in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for gravel pits. We buy disused gravel pits and turn them into flourishing orchards – making great cider and having a positive environmental impact.”
Europe’s largest Japanese food hall opens at Westfield London: Europe’s largest Japanese Food Hall – Ichiba – has opened at Westfield London as part of the Shepherd’s Bush centre’s £600m expansion. Ichiba is the first joint venture between the Japan Centre Group and Cool Japan Fund, which helps support businesses to promote Japanese food and culture overseas. The 17,400 square foot flagship store features food stations dedicated to freshly prepared and cooked food. The main food hall offers a range of Japanese staples including a selection of sake, rice crackers and confectionery, plus books and hand-picked ceramics. In-store experiences are also a key part of the new-format concept. Theatrical kitchens are set around seating for more than 200 covers with a changing schedule of weekly cooking demonstrations and workshops, events, regional food and drink festivals and sake-tasting seminars. Tak Tokumine, chief executive of Japan Centre, said: “Ichiba is a dynamic and inspiring addition to the expanded centre and retail landscape in the capital.” Keith Mabbett, director of leasing, Westfield UK and Europe, added: “Ichiba is a fantastic concept that will offer our visitors the opportunity to dine, shop and experience Japanese cuisine and culture with an element of theatre – and we know it will be hugely popular.”
Former Gordon Ramsay chef launches healthy takeaway in City of London:Former Gordon Ramsay chef Angie Steele has launched a healthy takeaway concept in the City of London. Steele, who worked for Ramsay for eight years before becoming a private chef, has opened Alfs in Bank. Everything is made on-site at the venue in Poultry. Hot dishes to go include turkey kofta and moussaka, and a roasted vegetable bake. The salad selection features the Alfie (broccoli, sunflowers and golden raisins) and the Monty (sofa noodle salad with miso), while poached trout and harissa chicken are among the items that can be added, reports Hot Dinners. Steele worked with Ramsay at Claridges, Royal Hospital Road and Maze as well as alongside him in two television series – The F Word and Kitchen Nightmares.
Ciro Salvo brings Neapolitan pizzeria concept to central London for UK debut: Master pizzaiolo Ciro Salvo has brought his Neapolitan pizzeria concept to central London for the brand’s UK debut. 50 Kalò di Ciro Salvo has opened in Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square. Salvo specialises in “high-hydration dough” and his new venue involves a “continuous search for the best Campanian produce and raw materials and, when possible, sourcing from the best suppliers available locally”. The menu at the London venue is similar to the brand’s flagship Naples restaurant and, as well as traditional pizza, the concept offers fried pizzas such as the Parmesan-topped Montanara alongside ricotta and filled fritti, Hot Dinners reports. Wine comes from the Campania region of Italy, alongside Italian craft beer and champagne to encourage customers to enjoy a mixture of “pizza and bubbles” when dining.
Mamuska to close Elephant and Castle site this month: London-based Mamuska Restaurants, which owns and operates casual dining concept Mamuska! Polish Kitchen and Bar, is to close its Elephant and Castle site after the lease expired. The company will shut the site on Friday, 27 July with all furniture auctioned off and half the proceeds going to Polonia Ladies Volleyball Club. Mamuska stated: “We have had a blast over the past eight years, the past three of which have been at 16 Elephant and Castle. We asked to stay but the landlord refused to extend the lease.” Founder Ian McColl will focus on opening the company’s flagship site in Waterloo. The 240-cover, 400 square metre venue is set to open in LCR’s new Leake Street Arches development. McColl is also looking to expand the concept further. Areas of interest listed on the company’s website include Camden, Lewisham, King’s Cross, Shoreditch and White City.
Dog-friendly restaurant brand Megan’s launches third London site, in Balham: Dog-friendly restaurant brand Megan’s has opened its third site in London. Megan’s On The Hill has launched at a former Starbucks site in Balham. It is the company’s first site south of the Thames, joining sister venues in Chelsea and Parsons Green. The venues operate as a cafe by day and transform into a restaurant in the evening, with dogs welcome at any time. Additions to the menu at the new venue in Bedford Hill include sourdough pizza, shakshouka and “deconstructed kebabs”.
Kerb Camden Market to launch series of late-night Fridays: Street food business Kerb, which operates six London markets, is to launch a series of late-night Friday events at Camden Market. The first “sunset session” will take place on Friday, 20 July, from 6pm to 10pm, and the event will run for seven consecutive Fridays until 31 August. The events will be free and focus on street food and big-name DJs such as Norman Jay and Jazzie B. All 34 of Kerb’s Camden traders have been given an extended curfew, including Only Jerkin’, Oli Baba’s, The Cheese Wheel and Club Mexicana. There will also be a selection of local beer and signature Kerb cocktails from two on-site bars. A Kerb spokeswoman said: “As far as Friday nights go this one pretty much has it all – street food, music and booze – all outdoors in one of London’s most iconic locations.” At the recent Propel summer conference, Mitchell told delegates the street food scene had become “sustainable in its own right”. He said: “It isn’t a flash in the pan or an over-hyped concept as many assumed. It’s not dying – it’s growing.”
Le Bun co-founder launches Hackney restaurant combining French and southern US cuisine: Andy Taylor, who co-founded burger stall Le Bun, has launched his debut restaurant in Hackney, east London. Carte Blanche has opened in Mare Street combining “indulgent French flavours and American comfort food classics”. Taylor, a former musician who supported The Who at the Royal Albert Hall, has created “gluttony-emboldening dishes” such as briny oysters with caviar hollandaise and maple bacon, and foie gras and escargot tostadas. The natural wine list is inspired by Paris, with unusual pours from small-batch artisan producers, alongside cocktails. The 50-cover restaurant features a collection of abstract, print-based artwork, simple white tables and an open kitchen, with wooden stools by the bar. Taylor said: “I want to create a place where you can get caviar on your fried chicken with a glass of great wine and maybe rounded off with a glass of whiskey. Carte Blanche will be a relaxed space, with anything from AC/DC to old-school hip-hop on the stereo and exciting French American cooking on the menu.”
QSR Automations acquires Call Systems Technology division: QSR Automations, which provides kitchen automation and guest management solutions to hospitality companies, has acquired the QSR automations division of Call Systems Technology (CST). CST has been a strategic partner and reseller of QSR’s kitchen automation and guest management solutions since 2008. Under the partnership, CST has built strong demand for QSR Automations’ products across 2,000 sites in the UK with customers including Mitchells & Butlers and Casual Dining Group. QSR Automations founder and chief executive Lee Leet said: “We are confident this acquisition will help expand and accelerate business, creating even greater value for QSR Automations customers and partners worldwide.” CST sales and marketing director Ashley Sheppard will join the QSR team as vice-president of sales.
Annie’s Burger Shack to start expansion with Derby site: Nottingham-based Annie’s Burger Shack is to start expansion by opening a second site, in Derby. The company is looking to launch the site this autumn following a long delay – it secured permission to convert the grade II-listed First Church Of Christ Scientist in Friary Street into a burger restaurant in late 2016. The opening will create up to 70 jobs, while it will offer a menu similar to Nottingham, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The brand offers more than 30 burgers, including The New England Yankee Brisket, The Boston Nibbler and The Deathray. Founder Anmarie Spaziano told Derbyshire Live: “It has taken a bit of time to get to where we are but we are definitely looking to open in Derby in the autumn. We can’t wait to open in Derby. Although my business started in Nottingham, my first experience of England when I came over from the States in the early 1990s was in Derby. We are really excited to bring the brand to the city.” Annie’s Burger Shack started out with a residency at The Navigation pub in Nottingham but became so successful it moved to larger premises in the Lace Market in 2014.
Night Tales launches first permanent site, in Hackney: Gastro pop-up series Night Tales has launched its first permanent site, in Hackney, east London. The company has taken over some of the arches in Bohemia Place, off Mare Street, as part of the Hackney Central development. The space features a 300-capacity nightclub, a drinking and dining area, an outdoor bar and a cocktail bar. The food offering features Japanese izakaya concept Fat Baby, which offers grilled seafood, gyoza, salad and rice dishes, with Greg Round, formerly of Pitt Cue and Michelin-starred Umu, as its head chef. Sons Of Slice offers New York-style pizza, while the 4,000 square foot Japanese Garden Bar also offers food. The Agave Bar is inside the club and focuses on mezcal and tequila with rotating speciality cocktails, Hot Dinners reports.
Japanese hotel brand reveals plans for debut UK site, in Manchester: Japanese hotel brand Toyoko Inn has revealed plans to open its first UK venue, in Manchester city centre. The company, which has a strong footprint across Asia, recently launched its first European hotels, in Frankfurt and Marseille. Its UK debut will be in Manchester’s Piccadilly and involve the construction of a 22-storey building comprising about 350 rooms. A planning application will be submitted to the city council shortly with building work targeted to begin in early 2019. Toyoko Inn project lead Tamaki Hashimoto told Insider Media: “Our concept of modern, Japanese-style inns located near railway stations has led to rapid growth inside Japan and worldwide expansion. We are looking to expand further in Europe, building on the success of our first European hotel in Frankfurt. We have chosen Manchester for our first UK hotel because it is one of the UK’s flagship cities, with its growing visitor numbers.”