Inception Group to launch Soho site: Inception Group, which operates an eclectic collection of London bars and restaurants including Mr Fogg’s, Bunga Bunga and Cahoots, will open its latest site in London, in Soho’s Kingly Street in October. The Ticket Hall & Control Room will be spread across two floors and open opposite the original Cahoots. The company has been operating a pop-up – Casa Bonita – on the former Cinnamon Soho site since the start of the year. The original Cahoots, designed to resemble a 1940s underground station, launched in Kingly Court in 2015. Earlier this year Propel revealed Inception Group had appointed advisers as it looks to assess its growth options. The 11-strong, London-based business, which was founded in 2009 by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, appointed advisory firm Tamweel Capital to aid the process, although it is understood the company is in “no rush” to make a decision on its growth plans.
Whittard of Chelsea promotes Smith to chief executive: Hot drinks retailer Whittard of Chelsea has promoted chief financial offer Nathan Smith to replace Mark Dunhill, who stepped down as chief executive last month following five years in the role. Smith has worked for the company since January 2009, when he joined as financial controller. A Whittard spokesman told The Sunday Telegraph: “Mark has led the transformation of the business from high-street retailer to global aspirational brand. This has involved the revitalisation of our product portfolio, store design and layout and upgrading the customer experience. (Smith) brings a deep understanding and knowledge of the business and his passion for the brand.” Whittard operates 48 stores and sells tea in concessions such as John Lewis. The company, which began as a tea shop in Fleet Street in 1886, has been in turnaround mode since Dunhill joined in 2014, moving back into the black in 2017. Whittard was bought out of a pre-pack administration in 2008 for £600,000 by private equity firm Epic after the collapse of its Icelandic owner Baugur. The company made pre-tax profits of £327,000 on sales of £34m, its latest accounts show, as it began selling more overseas. Like-for-like sales in the UK were up 10.3% despite a “challenging retail environment”.
Its international arm now accounts for more than half of its revenues and grew in “double-digit” figures driven by efforts in China, the company said.
EasyHotel bidder ups stake in business: The company behind a bid for EasyHotel – which values the hotel chain at £138.7m – has increased its stake in the business. Earlier this month the board of Citrus UK Bidco and the independent directors of EasyHotel reached agreement on the terms of a recommended cash offer by Bidco, a newly incorporated company owned by a consortium of Cadim Fonds, part of Ivanhoé Cambridge, and ICAMAP Investments. A purchase price of 95p per EasyHotel share was agreed. On Friday (16 August) ICAMAP agreed to acquire 7.9 million EasyHotel shares. Following completion, its stake in the company will rise from 38.65% to 44.09%. EasyHotel’s portfolio includes 12 owned hotels and 1,340 rooms, with a further 26 franchised hotels and 2,293 rooms.
Sir John Fitzgerald reports return to profit: Newcastle-based pub operator Sir John Fitzgerald, the company founded after its namesake moved to Newcastle from Ireland in the 1850s, has reported turnover dipped slightly to £17.7m in the year to 31 January 2019 from £18.7m 12 months earlier. However, the business posted a pre-tax profit of £331,285 compared with a pre-tax loss of £910,196 in 2018. Sir John Fitzgerald’s pubs include Newcastle venues Café Royal, Crown Posada, The Bacchus, The Bodega, The Bridge Hotel, Twin Farms and The Pavilion, as well as Fitzgeralds in Newcastle and Sunderland, Hugo’s in Tynemouth, Briar Dene and Rockliffe Arms in Whitley Bay, Shiremoor House Farm in North Shields, The Chillingham in Heaton, The Green in Gateshead, The Manor House in Stockton, The Plough in Cramlington and The Ridley Arms in Morpeth.
Portobello Pub Company acquires first pub and agrees terms on second as it seeks further London sites: Portobello Pub Company, which is led by former We Are Bar chief executive Richard Stringer and Portobello Brewing Company founder Rob Jenkins, has acquired its first pub. The company has bought The King & Co in Clapham, south west London, and told Propel the business was looking to acquire wet-led, free-of-tie pubs in Greater London and had agreed terms on a second acquisition of a site near the City. Alongside Portobello’s well established London Pilsner and its new 4% ABV Notting Helles craft lager, Stringer said The King & Co would continue to offer the “widest and best range of craft beer in Clapham”, while he envisioned no change to the current rotational pop-up food offering, which had “developed a strong following”. Jenkins said: “With lots of activity at the brewery and looking to the next stage of our growth, it feels like the right time to start investing to grow a quality pub estate.” AG&G advised on The King & Co deal.
Castle Rock Brewery reports turnover up, profits down: Nottingham-based Castle Rock Brewery, which owns more than 20 pubs across the East Midlands and Yorkshire, has reported turnover of £10.6m for the year to 31 March 2019, up from £10.3m in the prior 12 months. However, its pre-tax profits dipped from £385,204 to £148,490. The company said sites with outdoor areas benefited from the good weather but pubs without outside seating “found trading difficult” and its sales of cask ale were affected because of the high temperatures. Originally founded as Tynemill in 1977 by former Campaign for Real Ale chairman Chris Holmes, the company now owns pubs in Derby, Chesterfield, Boston, Newark, Lincoln, Sheffield, York and Loughborough as well as 16 in Nottingham. A statement signed off by the board said: “The company continues to make progress in the harshest of competitive climates. The record-breaking hot temperatures in summer 2018 buoyed revenue at key sites such as the Canalhouse, which had its first full year as a 100%-owned trading asset. On the revenue side, pubs without an outside area found trading difficult and this balances out the company’s results. The hot weather was not conducive to cask-ale drinking, with British Beer & Pub Association figures showing further decline against which Castle Rock volumes are holding up very well. The company made big leaps forward by reinvigorating the beer portfolio and, coupled with additional packaging formats, that will allow us to enjoy a wider consumer reach. The results of this and further investment in our sales capability, predominantly in direct delivery, are starting to yield benefits and with headroom available to further grow this in the year to come.”
Trattoria 51 to open third Merseyside site: Trattoria 51 will open its third Merseyside venue next month. The Italian brand, which has restaurants in Old Hall Street, Liverpool, and Southport Promenade, will open a venue at the aptly named 51 Whitechapel. Trattoria 51 offers traditional home cooking using recipes handed down through generations. The new restaurant, based at a former Bellini site next to Metquarter in Liverpool, will seat 120 people. Trattoria 51 owner Attilio Sergi said: “We have been running Trattoria 51 for almost two decades now, first in Southport before opening in the heart of Liverpool’s business district in 2013. It’s testament to the hard work of the entire team at Trattoria 51 that we’re now in a position to open our third site.”
Beds and Bars completes Belushi’s premiumisation plan in London: Beds and Bars venue Belushi’s in Hammersmith, a sports bar and party venue in the heart of west London, has undergone a £650,000 refurbishment as part of a wider plan to premiumise the brand’s offering across London. The company stated: “The Hammersmith branch is the final Belushi’s in London to be refurbished following investments in our sites in Camden, Greenwich, Shepherd’s Bush and London Bridge to take our brand and customer experience to the next level, one bar at a time. Our vision was to create an integrated venue offering ultimate sports entertainment alongside great-value food and drink and a late-night party atmosphere. Following the month-long refurbishment our bar is flaunting a fresh new look on the inside and out with a more premium food and drink offering as well as daily entertainment with a focus on nightly events and sports. After dinner service we remove tables to create a dance floor enhanced by a high-tech lighting system. With the aim to modernise and elevate our venue into the ultimate late-night party and sports bar, we’ve added special features to enhance a sports fans’ experience, including the addition of London’s first pull-out stadium seating, a giant high-definition projector and investment in premium technology and audio with 20 high-definition televisions. Our new booths have also been fitted with PlayStation 4s to create an e-gaming element. As the Premier League kicks off, we look forward to showing customers old and new what we have created.”
SSP reiterates backing for chairman: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has reiterated its backing for chairman Vagn Sorensen. More than a third of shareholders opposed the re-election of Sorensen at SSP’s annual meeting in February, while Blackrock, Legal & General and Vanguard, which are all major shareholders in SSP, are taking a tougher line on directors they believe are “spreading themselves too thin”, the Times reports. Sorensen, who has chaired SSP since 2006, is also an adviser at private equity firm EQT and Morgan Stanley in the Nordic region as well as chairman of Air Canada and non-executive director of Royal Caribbean Cruises. SSP said it had “gathered feedback on concerns” but believed Sorensen was a “very effective independent chairman with extensive experience and knowledge of the business while his dedication and leadership was invaluable”. The company also said it would undertake further consultations after a third of investors voted against its remuneration policy. Kate Swann was handed a final $6.2m pay package after leaving her post as chief executive at the end of May following six years with the company. SSP said its bonus policy for Simon Smith, who has taken over from Swann, would be amended so his annual bonus would be decided on the “financial performance of the group and his personal performance”.
Wells & Co reopens third Orange Tree site under Pizza, Pots & Pints brand, in Leicester: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co has opened its third Pizza, Pots & Pints site in the East Midlands, in Leicester. The venue is one of three sites acquired from independent pub group The Orange Tree last year. Wells & Co, then known as Charles Wells, opened the Nottingham Orange Tree as The Playwright in May and reopened The Kelso in Loughborough while retaining the name. Now it has reopened the Leicester High Street site Orange Tree as The Tree featuring new soft seating areas at the front and rear, bench seating and a refurbished dining area. The venue also features bar games such as “ringing the bull”, while a space has been created for live bands. Manager Ollie Worley told Leicestershire Live: “It has always been a living room in the centre of town but now it’s a living room in 2019 instead of 1997!” Wells & Co will also reopen the former Orange Tree site next door to The Kelso as The Jam Garden next month. There are currently nine Pizza, Pots & Pints sites. The concept launched in Cambridge in 2015.
Deltic Group opens Eden Manchester: Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs, has launched its Eden concept in Manchester. Deltic launched the concept last month in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, the first of three sites for Eden following a £1.5m investment. Eden, which also opened in Newcastle at the end of July, provides a “playground of sensory delights” and features floral-themed interiors, birdcage booths, giant blossom trees and multiple club rooms. All three Edens are former Tiger Tiger sites Deltic acquired from Novus in November. The Manchester site spans three floors of The Printworks and offers three distinct nightclub experiences – Hedonist in the main room, tunes from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s in Genesis, and hip-hop and old-school tracks in Forbidden. The venue, open until 3am, also offers bottomless brunches, sharing platters, wood-fired grills and pizza. Tiger Tiger’s private karaoke pods have been renamed Voice Of Eden. Deltic chief executive Peter Marks said: “Eden is a ground-breaking concept for Deltic, where quality food and drink sit centre stage alongside our award-winning club expertise, offering a truly all-day experience.”
Surbiton-based coffee bar and kitchen owners start expansion by taking on Twickenham pub restaurant: The owners of Wags N Tales, a coffee bar and kitchen in Surbiton, south west London, have taken on Le Baron, a pub restaurant in Twickenham, for their second site. The venue comprises a 40-cover bar, 18-cover raised dining area, 47-cover dining rooms and a 40-cover terrace. Closed for the past seven months, Le Baron previously enjoyed strong footfall thanks to its central location and proximity to Twickenham Stadium. The Tank family owns Wags N Tales, which is a dog-friendly cafe that focuses on speciality coffee, homemade cake and brunch. They said: “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to welcome Twickenham locals to our Wags family. We adore this area and when the chance to buy Le Baron arose, we jumped on it. Wags hopes to become a community hub, especially for foodies, sports-lovers and dog-owners. They can enjoy a pint or a cocktail in our beer garden while watching a game of football or rugby on our many large screens.” Stewart Harkness, associate director at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, said: “I am looking forward to seeing the new owners take over and introduce a second Wags N Tales.”
Colley comes back to Majestic: John Colley is set to return to his position of chief executive at Majestic Wine in light of the company’s new ownership. Colley has resigned as chief trading officer at Kingfisher, which owns B&Q and Screwfix, to return to the position he held at Majestic from August 2015 to July 2017, The Sunday Times reports. Earlier this month, Majestic Wine entered into an agreement to sell the Majestic Retail and Commercial businesses to CF Bacchus Holdings, a vehicle controlled by funds managed by Fortress Investment Group LLC, for £95m. A separate sale of one freehold property previously owned by MWWL to an independent third party is expected to realise a further £5m subject to approval of a planning application for redevelopment.
Mothership transforms Shoreditch restaurant to boost live music scene: Bar and events company Mothership Group is set to relaunch Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen as Colours to inject a “much-needed vibrancy into Shoreditch’s music landscape”. Mothership, which also runs Shoreditch’s Queen Of Hoxton and The Book Club as well as Patterns in Brighton, will ally with fellow east London multi-art spaces Village Underground and EartH on programming. The new-look venue will host gigs, club nights and other cultural events while still operating as a restaurant during the day. Mothership said it hoped Colours would become an “incubator for invited local artists and creative networks, providing a free space for collaborators to host meetings, rehearsals and record podcasts”. Mothership head of events and marketing Chloe Uppington told Complete Music Update: “Colours will be a bold and beautiful temple of creativity and a celebration of live music. A testament to Hoxton’s past, which overflows with seminal moments across club, culture and the art scene, Colours is part of a dedicated push to keep young artists and musicians in east London.” Mothership acquired Hoxton Bar & Kitchen off previous owner MAMA in 2015 following the latter’s acquisition by Live Nation.
M&B to open first All Bar One in the north east: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) will open its first All Bar One in the north east on Monday, 23 September. The site is in Grey Street, occupying a site it previously traded as Browns. M&B operates 56 All Bar One venues across the UK. Meanwhile, M&B will open its first Miller & Carter steakhouse in north Lincolnshire next month. The company plans to convert a Sizzling Pub Company site – The Dolphin in Messingham Road, Scunthorpe. The new Miller & Carter is scheduled to open on Sunday, 15 September. Despite having Lincolnshire sites in Grimsby and Grantham, the nearest Miller & Carter site to Scunthorpe is in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
TRG to turn Chiquito site in Basildon into Wagamama: The Restaurant Group (TRG) is to turn its Chiquito site at Festival Leisure Park in Basildon, Essex, into a Wagamama. Chiquito has been part of Festival Leisure Park for more than a decade but TRG closed the site on Sunday (18 August) with fit-out beginning immediately. It will be the fourth Wagamama in Essex alongside restaurants at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock, Chelmsford’s Bond Street and Colchester High Street. TRG reopened its former Chiquito site in Stevenage Leisure Park as a Wagamama on Monday (19 August). A spokesman said all Chiquito staff had the option of transferring to Wagamama and more than half had done so.
Glasgow-based American-style fried chicken restaurant to double up: Glasgow-based American-style fried chicken restaurant Buck’s Bar is to double up in the city. The company is adding to its outlet in West Regent Street with a venue in Trongate. Buck’s Bar is converting the former Isola Sarda Italian restaurant ahead of an opening next month, reports Glasgow Live.