Fitch assigns Stonegate bonds a ‘stable outlook’: Ratings agency Fitch has assigned Stonegate Pub Company a final long-term issuer default rating of B-, with a stable outlook. A note by Fitch stated: “Fitch expects the enlarged UK pub group Stonegate, following its recent acquisition of the Ei Group portfolio, to return to its pro-forma run rate Ebitda by FY22 (end of September 2022) post-pandemic. This, together with realised synergies, should result in a lease-adjusted net debt/Ebitdar below 6.5 times. As at July 2020, more than 80% of the enlarged group’s pubs were trading, but some Stonegate’s high-Ebitda pubs remain closed. The enlarged group, primarily wet-led, is diversified across the UK, with a 48% weighting in the south. The diversification, with Stonegate weighted towards town centre outlets while EI Group towards unbranded suburban pubs, many of which are with outdoor facilities and closer to those working from home, aids the group’s profile. The enlarged portfolio combines Stonegate’s 761 managed formats yielding an average Ebitdar of £270,000 per pub versus Ei Group’s larger 3,988 leased and tenanted portfolio averaging £70,000 per pub. Using pro-forma annualised Ebitda figures, the Ei Group/Stonegate profit split is approximately 60:40.”
Bubble tea brand brews up third UK site, in Liverpool: Gong Cha England, the UK-based operator of the Gong Cha tea brand, is to open its third UK site, in Liverpool. The Kaohsiung City-founded brand said Liverpool’s population of 70,000 students and “vibrant young professionals” made the city appealing. Gong Cha is the most recognised bubble tea brand globally, with 1,500 outlets in 20 territories including Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and the US. The first two sites opened last year in Manchester. Gong Cha, which translates as “tribute tea for the emperor”, is a bubble tea store offering a range of bubble teas that can be enjoyed with or without milk. The interior of the new store in Bold Street marries the brand’s traditional Chinese heritage with “an inviting sense of fun” to appeal to the European market. Gong Cha will offer a takeaway service only when it launches in late August. Justin Liew, head of Gong Cha England, said: “The bubble tea trend has gripped Asia, Oceania and the US, where it’s considered a Taiwanese speciality. We have selected Bold Street for our next store as we are confident the people of Liverpool, who clearly love to be the first to know about new trends, will help us build the brand.”
Boparan to reopen another three Carluccio’s sites: Boparan Restaurant Group will continue the gradual reopening of its Carluccio’s estate with another trio of sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will welcome customers back to its Southampton, Leeds Trinity and Bristol Cribbs Causeway restaurants on Thursday, 27 August. The move will take the brand’s total number of reopened sites to 14. All the reopened restaurants are taking part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, with Carluccio’s removing the £10 limit as Boparan has done with its other brands.
Kent-based Starbucks franchisee secures CBILS funding: Kent-based Starbucks franchisee GK Coffee Group has secured a funding boost through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The company, which has eight franchises across Essex, Kent and Lewisham, has received the loan through Allied Irish Bank. Owner Bhopinder Singh Gill said: “We were delighted to reopen recently but we didn’t know what level of trade we would have so I applied for the CBILS to provide a safety net for my business. We are fortunate to have experienced a good level of trade since we reopened all our sites. There is still a lot of uncertainty around the economy and having the CBILS gives us reassurance in case there is a second spike or lock-down restrictions are enforced again. We have the finance in place to ensure our business is ready and able to survive.”
Ireland-based Press Up Hospitality Group secures debut UK sites for pair of F&B concepts: Irish operator Press Up Hospitality Group is to bring two of its food and beverage concepts to the UK. The company has agreed deals with the Frenchgate Partnership to open burger concept Wowburger and New York-style restaurant Elephant & Castle at the Frenchgate Shopping Centre in Doncaster. Wowburger and Elephant & Castle have taken 2,800 square foot and 4,000 square foot respectively on the first floor of Frenchgate’s North Mall Gallery, with the sites set to open in the fourth quarter of this year. Wowburger operates 14 outlets in Ireland, clustered in and around Dublin and Cork. Elephant & Castle was set up in Dublin’s Temple Bar 30 years ago as an extension of its original sister restaurant in the Lower East-Side in Manhattan, New York. There are six Elephant & Castle sites in Dublin. Laura Arnold, head of marketing and public relations at Press Up, said: “We have been planning the UK debuts of Wowburger and Elephant & Castle for some time, following closely a handful of locations that meet our requirements. Frenchgate is ideal, with its high footfall, strong regional appeal, and an evident commitment to providing visitors with a range of engaging food and beverage brands.” The Frenchgate Partnership has completed 40,000 square foot of new deals, regears and renewals in the past six months while it is also in detailed discussions with cinema operators having received planning consent in April last year for a 15,000 square foot, eight-screen multiplex. Time Retail and Rawstron Johnson represented The Frenchgate Partnership while Press Up dealt directly.
York-based operators to open Greek restaurant after lock-down transforms cafe business’ fortunes: Stamatios Koulouris and Maria Dendia are to open a Greek restaurant in York after their cafe saw its fortunes transformed by lock-down. Koulouris and Dendia will launch Wine Stories in the former Papas Fish & Chips premises in Parliament Street. It will house 36 tables with a lift to take the food to the upper floors. The top floor of the three-storey building will be a VIP room. Koulouris said they had been able to acquire the site – and realise his dream of opening a Greek restaurant – following the success of Stam & Maria Greek Corner Cafe, which opened on the corner of Parliament Street and Jubbergate in September last year. “To be honest, before lock-down I couldn’t pay the bills,” Koulouris told YorkMix. “It was really quiet because people didn’t know we opened there.” When other eateries shut, Stam & Maria stayed open, converting into a takeaway service. Koulouris said: “People noticed us because everything else was closed and people have kept coming and supporting us. Now we’ve earned some money during lock-down, I can fulfil my dream of opening a restaurant.” The couple also run a Greek street food trailer in Shambles Market.
Developer wins go-ahead for new features at Edinburgh Wavegarden: Scotland’s first artificial surf park – to be created near Ratho – will feature a string of additional features to help it boost the local economy by up to £11m per year. Wavegarden’s developer, Tartan Leisure, has also been given the thumbs-up to build overnight accommodation at the development and its Hub complex, which will provide food, retail, changing and leisure facilities. Last year, Tartan Leisure received planning permission to redevelop the disused Craigpark Quarry into a “world-class” surfing destination and since then enabling work has been carried out to prepare the site for the next stage of development. The new planning permission gives the green light for the Hub, with facilities including a restaurant, retail outlet, surf school, wellness spa, cafe and a number of viewing terraces and an observation deck, overlooking the park. Set within a 60-acre country park, the waterside accommodation will cater for all needs through luxury lodges, glamping pods, accessible “wave pods”, bothies and canal berths.
Linda Lee begins reopening On The Bab sites for dine-in: Restaurateur Linda Lee has begun reopening her Korean street food brand On The Bab for dine-in. The restaurant in Shoreditch is now welcoming eat-in customers again and is continuing to offer takeaway and delivery via Deliveroo. Lee plans to open the remaining three sites – in Soho, Covent Garden and St Paul’s – for dine-in in September. On The Bab St Paul’s is currently open for takeaway and delivery only. There is also an On The Bab site in Paris, with another international site in the pipeline, in Seoul. Lee also owns fine-dining Korean barbecue restaurant Koba in Fitzrovia.
Nottingham-based McDonald’s franchisee reports profit boost as turnover passes £30m: Nottingham-based McDonald’s franchisee Blades Restaurants has reported turnover increased 21% to £32.2m for the year ending 31 December 2019, compared with £26.6m the previous year. Operating profit was up to £756,000, compared with £654,000 the year before while pre-tax profit rose to £652,000, compared with £564,000, the previous year. Blades Restaurants, which is owned by Jerry Nicholls, operates nine McDonald’s sites across Nottingham. The restaurants were closed in March following the coronavirus outbreak but have now reopened.
Waterworld tees up mini-golf attraction and gym: Waterworld Leisure Group has teed up the latest investment at Waterworld in Stoke-on-Trent. The Adventure Mini-Golf complex, featuring two themed 18-hole crazy golf courses themed around jungles of the Inca empire, is set to open in mid-September. It will include a fully-themed front-of-house area with food and beverage facilities, and a children’s party area. It is the latest part of a multimillion-pound investment in the resort, which has already seen the addition of new rides and wave-making machines at Waterworld. A new three-storey M Club gym is also being created on-site, including three fitness studios; a dedicated ladies-only gym; 50-metre sprint track; free-weights area; functional training zone; and a swimming pool and spa with hydrotherapy and plunge pools, steam, sauna and heated loungers. Owner Mo Chaudry told The Business Desk: “The covid-19 lock-down has naturally delayed our original timescales but we’re delighted to finally see all the pieces coming together. Anyone who has visited our Adventure Mini Golf site at Star City in Birmingham will know exactly what’s in store for this new development.”
David Moore to reopen Michelin-starred Pied a Terre next month: Restaurateur David Moore is to reopen Michelin-starred restaurant Pied a Terre next month. The venue in Charlotte Street in London’s Fitzrovia will welcome customers back on Wednesday, 2 September. The restaurant will reopen with a selection of tasting menus for lunch and dinner as well as an exclusive chef’s tasting menu available within only 48 hours’ notice. Head chef Asimakis Chaniotis’ tasting menu will include some of Pied a Terre’s classics as well as a selection of dishes he has been developing during lock-down. Groups of up to six can book the chef’s table experience upstairs, where Asimakis prepares dishes in front of guests. Meanwhile, Richard Corrigan will reopen Daffodil Mulligan in Old Street on Tuesday, 1 September. The City Road restaurant will offer dishes that use produce from Corrigan’s estate in Ireland, Virginia Park Lodge. Irish pub Gibney’s, which is downstairs, will also reopen.
Hippodrome Casino reopens with £3m multi-level terrace bar: The Hippodrome Casino has reopened with a new £3m, 3,000 square foot, multi-level terrace bar, The Rooftop. Installed during lock-down at the venue in London’s Leicester Square, The Rooftop comprises two floors of gaming, two bars and open-air seating. The first two floors are open for drinks, food, and gambling with the upper terrace dedicated solely to food and drinks, all with seated service. Smoking is permitted in designated areas across all three floors. The bars serve an extensive selection of spirits, draught and bottled beer, cocktails and wine by the glass and bottle. Guests looking to eat can order from the 24-hour menu. As well as The Rooftop, The Hippodrome’s six floors of indoor gaming, premium restaurant Heliot Steak House and eight bars have reopened round the clock. Reconfigured to ensure one-metre-plus social distancing throughout, a one-way system, Perspex screening, round-the-clock cleaning and sanitisation stations have also been installed across the venue, with face masks available to all staff and customers. Simon Thomas, chief executive and chairman of Hippodrome Casino, said: “We were determined to use this time to grow and develop our offering. Alongside redeveloping our terrace space, we have worked tirelessly to introduce extensive hygiene measures to ensure the well-being of our patrons and staff. The Rooftop is an integral part of this new chapter.”
Crosstown Doughnuts launches national next day delivery service: Crosstown, the artisan doughnut and speciality coffee concept, has launched a national next day delivery service. Customers can order boxes of handcrafted doughnuts, specialty ground coffee beans and gift boxes including merchandise and accessories, directly from the Crosstown website. Orders placed before noon will qualify for next day delivery, which covers most of the UK. Deliveries will be made Tuesday to Friday. To mark the launch, Crosstown has released a new doughnut flavour – banana and cherry. It is available as part of a new six-pack box alongside the chocolate and orange and the matcha tea cake doughnuts. Crosstown founder JP Then said: “We’ve had a lot of requests to extend our delivery area beyond central London so we put our heads together to come up with a solution to make it happen.”
Coventry-based cafe to double up: Coventry-based cafe Playwrights Bar and Bistro is to double up with a second site in the city. Owner William James will launch the venue at Canal Basin on Thursday, 20 August. It will offer the same breakfast and lunch menu as its debut site in Hay Lane. James told Coventry Live the new venue might also host the “odd pop-up night”. He added: “There are plans for investment in Canal Basin so we wanted to take that risk and move there so other businesses could follow.”