Willingham – we are winning conversations on property based on covenant, financial security and reliability rather than a bigger cheque: Sarah Willingham, chief executive of listed bar group Nightcap, has said the fascinating thing about the current property market is it is like “we are starting again and winning conversation based on covenant, financial security and reliability rather than a bigger cheque”. Speaking as part of Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Willingham said: “I had a conversation with Hugh Osmond a couple of weeks back and he said the property opportunity is one of the most interesting areas of growth for the sector but it is like you have to literally throw away anything you have learnt about taking on property for hospitality and start again. It is difficult because we are so used to being up against loads of people and whoever has got the biggest cheque, putting more money for the premium, gets the property. What’s fascinating now is it is like we are starting again and we are winning conversations based on covenant, financial security and reliability rather than a bigger cheque. In my entire career that has never happened before. Landlords going into new and empty properties are looking at reverse premiums, helping with the fit out, offering two-years rent free and at actually sensible rents. What is happening for us is we are looking at sites where the model is very similar to what we have had historically but the site is miles better – great sites on great streets in the middle of big cities, when previously for London Cocktail Club we were always thought of for two streets down from there, around the back. We are now coming right forward but also matching our needs in terms of the rent we need to pay and our return on investment is going to be higher than it has ever been because we are not paying premiums, the rent is low, but they are better sites and the turnover will be better. It is very frustrating for a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs, who are growth entrepreneurs, but are backed by either private equity or banks who are just saying for 18 months you must pay this debt down and we are not interested in a roll out. It is a shame because the opportunities really are there.”
Costa Coffee launches first in-store dedicated zone for remote workers: Costa Coffee, owned by Coca-Cola, has launched its first dedicated in-store dedicated zone for remote workers. The area will open on Monday (17 May) within the revamped store in West Hampstead in north London, which also includes a range of new enhanced digital features. The site in West End Lane also has a street-facing service counter and is only the second UK Costa Coffee store to offer a half-caffeine option. Positioned across the ground floor level of the store, the zone for remote workers features individual pods to work from. These spaces have been divided by screens to ensure personal space and privacy, with each section featuring a power socket and the use of free Wi-Fi. The renovated store is also equipped with new intelligent digital menu boards. These screens, which are positioned both behind the inside counter and at the street-facing counter, ensure product information from Costa Coffee’s menu can be updated quickly and efficiently. Customers can personalise the amount of caffeine in their coffee – standard caffeine, half-caffeine or decaf, with the help of a state-of-the-art grinder, which can accommodate multiple blends. Jamie Awdry, head of propositions at Costa Coffee, said: “Costa Coffee looks to provide customers with a range of choices, and this store does that; from the half-caffeine option, the street-facing service counter and the true stand-out feature: the dedicated work zones – a first for Costa Coffee in the UK – and an exciting new addition for customers to enjoy.”
Pret to have 366 shops open for dine-in, takeaway and delivery: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed chain, will have 366 shops from its 389-strong estate open for dine-in, takeaway and delivery today (Monday, 17 May). Pret will bring back indoor seating in England and Wales and also reopen eight more shops. The sites will continue to operate with reduced hours and the company said menu items available will also vary by shop for the time being. The company said: “We have conducted a full review of our safety processes and believe we have strong protocols in place to ensure our shops can operate safely. Specific steps that we are taking to protect customers and those working in our shops include ensuring all employees and customers visiting Pret wear face coverings, unless exempt, or eating at a table, in line with the current government guidance; protective Perspex screens fitted a to the till counter; restricted customer flow into shops; provision of hand sanitiser gel to be available to customers as well as team members; and safety ‘refreshers’ for team members. Covid safety rules are currently in place in staff rooms to ensure teams are reminded daily. The latest guidance is also shared regularly with team members to ensure they remain front of mind. We will not allow for groups of more than six per table for indoor dining and tables and chairs will be sanitised after every use.”
Clare Smyth – I did not know if restaurants were going to exist again, sells three months of bookings in 20 minutes: Clare Smyth, the first female British chef to win three Michelin stars, has said at the height of the pandemic she did not know if restaurants “were going to exist again”. Smyth also revealed she sold out three months of bookings in 20 minutes when announcing her Core restaurant in London was reopening. During lockdown, Smyth has been training her team online. Staff members have been cooking for 600 people a week at the restaurant through various charity initiatives, as well as creating a tasting menu for customers in the capital that has seen all employees able to be retained. She told City AM: “Reopening is going to be quite emotional but the whole team is pumping and on fire. But it has been a challenge. We were all so shocked when this started. We did not know what the future held and I did not even know if restaurants were going to exist again. Now, I think people appreciate more than ever being able to go out and being able to have that experience. Cooking at home is one thing, having delivery boxes is another, but going somewhere with an atmosphere and having people serve and cook for you is a completely different thing.”
Aspirational Brands to open two entertainment venues in Cheshire: Aspirational Brands, a new growth vehicle that was formed to roll out a number of concepts across the UK, including Handmade Burger Co and Thai brand Lemongrass, is to open two leisure developments in Cheshire. Cheshire House Bar and Grill in Knutsford and Recardo’s in Hale will have an emphasis on entertainment, including a late-night drinking licence until 2.30am. Directing the creative development of the new ventures is Recardo Patrick, who was lead singer of the 1970s band Sweet Sensation. Recently appointed as associate director of acquisitions for Aspirational Brands, Patrick will be drawing on his years of experience and contacts to spearhead the development of the two concepts. Based in the former Brasserie Blanc in Knutsford, the 4,000 square foot Cheshire House Bar and Grill will open on Monday, 24 May. Set to open in August is Recardo’s in Hale, which has taken over the former Suburbia club. By day, Recardo’s will offer light bites, patisserie, coffee and tea, along with a selection of plant-based nibbles. At night, it will transform into an entertainment venue with capacity for 350 people, featuring a line-up of live performers playing 1970s, 1980s and disco classics. Howitt said: “Each venue will have its own identity, which is the foundation of our core beliefs. We are not a large commercial outfit pumping out chain restaurants. We are experts at nurturing independent brands built on community spirit.” Aspirational Brands has retained all of the former Brasserie Blanc staff for Cheshire House Bar and Grill and is adding another 30 positions across both sites.
Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group gets go-ahead for debut site in England: Scottish restaurant operator Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group has been given the go-ahead to open its debut site in England. The company has been granted permission by Newcastle City Council to bring its Cafe Andaluz tapas restaurant brand to Grey Street. It has secured the former Carluccio’s premises and the new bar and restaurant is expected to create 60 jobs. Rhian Thomas, associate at P4 Planning, which secured permission for Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group, said: “The new Cafe Andaluz will be the first of its kind in England and the decision by Newcastle City Council will see the building brought back to use in a quick timescale, boosting the vibrant restaurant offer in the city centre.” Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group operates 18 restaurants and five food court outlets across a number of different concepts and brands in Scotland. These include five sites under the Cafe Andaluz brand, with two each in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and one in Aberdeen. The company also operates the Di Maggio’s and Amarone brands in Scotland.
Raymond Blanc sells £1m of Nightcap shares: Chef Raymond Blanc has made £1m by selling shares in Nightcap, the bar group founded by Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham. Nightcap raised £10m in a share placing on 12 May that was oversubscribed. It said to satisfy demand, Blanc and restaurateur David Moore, another big shareholder, sold some of their stock at the same price as the placing. Blanc sold 4,347,826 shares at 23p each for a total of £1m and Moore sold 2,350,000 shares, receiving £540,500. The sales leave Blanc owning 3.93% of Nightcap and Moore with a 4.16% stake. Willingham founded Nightcap with Michael Toxvaerd to help bar and late-night entrepreneurs and businesses recapitalise balance sheets, and to access growth funding as the UK hospitality and leisure sector emerges from the pandemic, and guests return to venues. The company floated in January and bought London Cocktail Club, a business Willingham had already invested in with Blanc and Moore. Earlier this month, Nightcap agreed to buy a second business, Adventure Bar Group. Nightcap raised £10m to further its investment strategy and to roll out Adventure Bar Group, as well as reduce its debt.
‘UK’s first’ mochi bar opens at Japan Centre: The “UK’s first” mochi bar has opened at Japan Centre, the Japanese food hall in Soho led by Shoryu Ramen founder Tak Tokumine. The site will specialise in the brand’s signature Japanese baked goods, including mochi donuts pon de ring, mochi cookies, mochi daifuku, mochi pan bread, Mochi dango and Mochi ice cream. In addition, the venue offers a range of bubble tea. Japan Centre, which was founded in London, is one of the largest Japanese food halls in Europe.
Black Sheep Hotels invests £20m in portfolio in anticipation of tourism surge:Scottish operator Black Sheep Hotels has invested more than £20m in its Highland portfolio of boutique hotels, lodges and restaurants in Lochaber and Inverness-shire ahead of an anticipated surge in tourism in the region. The investment has created more than 80 jobs in time for the further lifting of restrictions in the country, with the company set to welcome more than 1,250 guests to its three hotels and four restaurants in two weeks’ time. In addition, the business is adding a pop-up version of its Inverness-based Asian restaurant, Tiger on the Wall, in Fort William and a bakery in Glenmoriston. The company, which operates The Whispering Pine Lodge on the shores of Loch Lochy in Lochaber, Rokeby Manor in Invergarry and the Cluanie Inn in Glenmoriston, has added an additional 19 bedrooms to these properties in the form of self-catering cabins. The pop-up restaurant will be located opposite fort William’s Highland Cinema, which opened last year. The restaurant will be open throughout the main tourist season and will close briefly in the autumn for a full refurbishment. Black Sheep Hotels will also open the Landour Bake House opposite The Cluanie Inn, which will serve homemade cakes, pastries and sandwiches from recipes dating to the 1890s. Sanjay Narang, owner of Black Sheep Hotels, said: “We anticipate a surge in demand in tourism, especially from within the UK at the start of the season and we think this popularity is set to stay. Our £20m investment and expansion of our portfolio reflects both the market opportunities we predict as well as our commitment to the Highland economy and creating sustainable employment.”
Chop and Wok opens in Walsall for ninth site: Birmingham-based wrap and noodle brand Chop and Wok has opened a site in Walsall for its ninth outlet. The company has opened the restaurant in Bridge Street. Franchisee Haydor Ali told the Express & Star: “I really wanted to contribute to the regeneration of the Bridge Street area in Walsall and knew straight away Chop and Wok would be the perfect contribution.” Chop and Wok, which opened its debut restaurant in 2009, operates six sites in Birmingham and one each in Wellington and Wolverhampton. The brand offers dishes such as noodles, rice, soup, curries and a range of sides.
Mediterranean restaurant concept La’De Kitchen lines up two new openings:Mediterranean restaurant concept La’De Kitchen is to grow its south east-based estate to five sites after lining up two new openings. The group, which is led by Sukru Soydas, is set to open on the former Café Rouge site in Newbury’s Parkway shopping centre. Propel also understands La’De Kitchen has lined up an opening on the former Frankie & Benny’s site in The Atrium scheme in Camberley. La’De Kitchen, which specialises in Turkish, Greek and Italian food, already has restaurants in Pangbourne, Woodley and Muswell Hill, London.
Neat Burger, Honi Poke and Lokma sign up for Westfield Stratford: Lewis Hamilton-backed plant-based concept Neat Burger, Turkish restaurant and cocktail bar Lokma, and Hawaiian poké specialist Honi Poké have all signed up to open at Westfield Stratford. Lokma, which currently operates a site in Bermondsey Square, will open a 6,000 square foot offering at the scheme’s The Street this summer including an outdoor Shisha terrace. Meanwhile, Westfield Stratford’s food courts will be enhanced with Honi Poke, Neat Burger and Polish seafood restaurant brand North Fish all taking space. New food and beverage outlets to open at the west London destination include Filipino ice cream concept Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream and Bindas Eatery in Westfield Square, which won Westfield’s restaurant entrepreneur competition in 2018.
Store Retail Group to open at Manchester’s Kampus neighbourhood for sixth site: Independent food hall operator and food and drink retailer Store Retail Group is to open a site at the Kampus neighbourhood in Manchester for its sixth outlet. The company has agreed a deal with developers Capital&Centric and HBD for the 4,500 square foot store, which is due to open in the autumn. With a village market feel, the Kampus General Store will have independent, artisan food and drink sitting alongside daily essentials and well-known brands. A regular series of local collaborators will showcase produce with a focus on local specialists from butchers and greengrocers to gin makers and wine merchants. Store Retail Group founder Mital Morar said: “Kampus is a neighbourhood with a strong sense of community and a very independent feel, which is exactly what we’re about. Kampus General Store will be right at the heart of the neighbourhood, where the convenience of a corner shop meets local artisan food and drink.” The Kampus site follows General Store openings in Ancoats, MediaCity, Sale and Stretford, with a Deansgate Square outlet also launching later this year.
West Yorkshire multiple expands with Star Pubs & Bars, targets five-strong estate by end of year: West Yorkshire-based multiple operator Jason Smith has reopened The White Swan in Otley following a joint £228,000 sympathetic upgrade with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. It will have been 14 months since the refurbishment was due to start and seven months since the last pint was pulled in this local. Originally scheduled for March 2020, the refurbishment was postponed until October due to lockdown and its reopening put back until Monday (17 May). Smith also took on the lease of another Star Pubs & Bars pub in Otley, The Junction, in November, and will be taking on The King’s Arms, Silsden, in June. He plans to grow his estate with Star Pubs & Bars further over the next 12 months. He said: “I am confident business will come back to near normal in the next year. So much so that my plan is to increase my pub estate to five pubs in West Yorkshire by the end of the year. They’ll all be wet-led pubs offering a little bit of pub food.”