Tim Martin – government has been ‘shooting from the hip’ on coronavirus restrictions: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel the government needs to stop “shooting from the hip” and constantly “chopping and changing” when it comes to its latest coronavirus restrictions. Speaking following the company’s full-year results, Martin said: “When respiratory infections started to rise in autumn, it (the government) panicked and started abusing emergency powers, and started shooting from the hip. The messaging is being chopped and changed on a weekly basis. How as an operator can you possibly be able to change at the same rate? As we get just barely used to one set of new measures another one, two or three are added.” Martin said with that level of uncertainty it is hard to plan ahead, whether that was in terms of investment or new openings. He said: “We can’t give out that kind of guidance at the moment, especially on new openings. Where is the certainty to be able to say we can open, say 20 new pubs next year? We are on site on five, which we will push ahead on, but after that it is hard to predict.” Speaking before the tier two restrictions came into force in the capital, Martin said his central London pubs had traded “the worst” through the pandemic, while performance across the company’s pubs in other large city centres had been “variable”. Martin said since 4 July, 429 of the company’s employees have tested positive for coronavirus, 1% of its circa 43,000 staff, in line with a 0.9% positive rate in the UK population. He said: “Of our 867 pubs, 607 have had no cases among staff and 116 have had one. You’d think if it was ripping through the pub world, it would be more.” He said the remainder of pubs had between “two to 21” cases, and the one pub with 21 cases was from when the staff went to a private party and came back with coronavirus.
Megan’s appoints Sarah Hills as MD, hits ten with Surbiton site: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s has appointed Sarah Hills as managing director, Propel has learned. Hills, who was previously managing director of Bill’s and The Restaurant Group-owned Wagamama, joins Megan’s as it prepares to open its tenth site, in Surbiton. Head of people Fernanda Antonio said: “Sarah will be driving Megan’s people-led culture and strong hospitality business, continuing our journey to becoming the nation’s most loved neighbourhood restaurant. We believe being people-driven is our key to success and, through lock-down and the imminent crisis, we have maintained high team engagement and managed not to make any redundancies. We have since July created jobs and a number of promotions internally. We have also launched Yapster during lock-down, an internal communication tool, where we run competitions and get teams to share pictures and videos from their best latte arts to educational videos from our learning and development team.” Meanwhile, the company has agreed a new lease for the 4,300 square foot restaurant in Victoria Road in Surbiton, which is set to open later this year. Megan’s operates eight venues in London – in Balham, Battersea, Clapham, Fulham, High Street Kensington, Islington, Parsons Green and Wimbledon – as well as a site in St Albans. Shelley Sandzer acted for the landlord on the Surbiton deal while Proteus Property represented Megan’s.
Camino appoints advisers to explore options: Camino, the London operator led by Richard Bigg and backed by the BGF, has appointed advisers to explore its options, which could result in a sale or restructuring of the business, Propel has learned. It is understood Camino, which had been trading strongly pre-covid, is working with accountancy firm RSM on an accelerated sales process. The group currently operates four Spanish tapas restaurants in King’s Cross, Bankside, Shoreditch and Monument. It also operates two bars at its King’s Cross site, including Bar Pepito. The two bars currently remain closed with the restaurants operating limited hours. Prior to closures and restrictions enforced by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company had profitably grown sales to circa £9m during its 2019 financial year. Like its peers, trade has been heavily impacted by the reduction in office staff and general footfall in central London locations as a result of the pandemic. It is expected any transaction will be executed through a pre-pack sale from administration.
Puttshack reshuffles UK executive team: Indoor mini golf experience Puttshack has announced a restructure of its UK executive team, assigning new roles and responsibilities to Logan Powell and Hugh Knowles. Powell is now Puttshack’s UK president, having been the group’s chief finance officer. Powell joined Puttshack in 2019 and has become increasingly more involved with all aspects of the business, with his financial, strategic and operational leadership proving invaluable as the company looks to grow. Knowles has been appointed UK managing director and will continue to lead on UK growth while plotting global expansion for the group. He will also assume responsibility for site operations in the UK. Puttshack chief executive Joe Vrankin said: “We made the decision to restructure our executive team to facilitate the smooth reopening of our White City and Lakeside venues, ensuring we continued to provide fun, clean and safe experiences to our guests. We’re also confident this move will best prepare us for the upcoming year after what has been a very challenging time for the entire hospitality industry. Both Logan and Hugh have been key to Puttshack’s growing success and I am delighted to announce these changes as they more fully reflect their contributions.” Puttshack combines tech-laden mini golf with food and beverage service. As well as its White City and Intu Lakeside sites, the company also has a venue in Bank, which remains shut. The company is globally headquartered in Chicago.
The Chestnut Group appoints Fairbanks as chief operating officer as it eyes further growth: East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group has strengthened its senior leadership team with the appointment of Henry Fairbanks as chief operating officer as it eyes further growth. Fairbanks brings more than 20 years’ of hospitality and leisure experience to his new role and joins from Ei Group’s Bermondsey Pub Company, where he was operations director since 2016, responsible for 68 pubs as well as the opening and pipeline of new acquisitions. It also marks a return to where it all began for Fairbanks, who started life in the industry as a pot washer at The Chestnut Group’s The Westleton Crown in West Etch, Suffolk. The Chestnut Group founder Philip Turner said: “We are pleased to have appointed Henry to the leadership team. He brings a wealth of experience and will be integral in achieving our ambition for Chestnut. Henry will be responsible for overseeing the trading business, as we see continued opportunity for strong growth.” Fairbanks, who joins the business at the start of next month, added: “I am delighted to be joining one of East Anglia’s fastest growing hospitality businesses. This is a fantastic opportunity to work with an ambitious team and some outstanding venues that pride themselves on a great experience and celebrating this beautiful region.” Prior to the Bermondsey Pub Company, Fairbanks held a variety of managerial and operational roles at RealPubs, the Metropolitan Pub Co, Heineken UK and Suffolk brewer and retailer Adnams. The Chestnut Group operates 11 sites across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
YO! to trial new Indian street food concept with Asda: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to begin trialling a Indian street food concept called Kulaba Kitchen with retailer Asda, Propel has learned. The company, which has so far opened 27 concession sites under its pan-Asian street food concept Panku with the supermarket operator, is set to trial Kulaba Kitchen over the next couple of months in five stores. The trial will start on Monday (19 October) in the Asda in Worksop under a dual site launch with a Panku unit, before rolling out to supermarkets in Clapham, Halifax, Rotherham and Aintree. The new brand, which is understood to offer “big bold flavour, fresh ingredients and Mumbai-inspired recipes”, officially launched online last month in partnership with Asda food boxes, as the first non, own-label food brand. The brand was founded by Neil Nugent and Andy Upton and YO! will act as licensed brand operator. David Hampton, managing director of retail at YO!, told Propel: “We are really excited about trialling Kulaba Kitchen in select Asda stores as we continue to progress our multi brand, multi format global strategy. During lock-down and beyond we have seen that more than ever people are looking for new foods and meal options they can enjoy at home. Kulaba Kitchen offers consumers a modern, lighter take on much loved Indian street food dishes, and we were delighted to be able to partner with Asda once again to bring this concept to life.”
Fuller’s launches series of campaigns to drive trade: London-based pub and hotel operator Fuller’s has launched a range of campaigns and promotions designed to drive trade at its sites across the south of England. A campaign, based on VisitBritain’s Escape the Everyday initiative, launches this week with a focus on a new dinner, bed and breakfast deal. A series of quirky videos will be screened across Fuller’s digital channels and social media to help inspire people out of their homes. The campaign will run for eight weeks. The company has also launched Fuller’s Friday – in conjunction with Asahi. The promotion is specifically designed to help those sites that are suffering from low footfall in their immediate area and uses information supplied by Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The promotion uses geotargeting to reach new and recent visitors to a specific pub with a free pint offer. Fuller’s existing customers are set to benefit too with the launch of Fuller’s Rewards. All customers on the Fuller’s database will be receiving an offer for either a free pint, 10% or 20% off food and drink, or a free bottle of house wine when they dine. Marketing director Jane Jones, said: “Whatever else is going on, it’s so important we continue to make our pubs warm, safe and welcoming and we give our customers as many reasons to visit as possible.”
Gordon Ramsay to open burger restaurant within Harrods: Gordon Ramsay is bringing his eponymous burger restaurant to London. Having launched Gordon Ramsay Burger in Las Vegas, Ramsay is now opening a site within Harrods later this year. The menu at its Las Vegas restaurant includes the Hell’s Kitchen Burger – asadero cheese, roasted jalapenos, avocado, roasted tomatoes and jalapeno aioli; and the Farmhouse Burger – Dubliner cheese, bacon and fried egg. Ramsay’s website states: “Gordon Ramsay Restaurants and Harrods are proud to announce the arrival of Gordon Ramsay Burger to its historic home in London’s Knightsbridge. For the first time outside of the concept’s original Las Vegas location, Gordon Ramsay Burger will open with an exclusive menu, serving gourmet burgers made with the finest-quality ingredients. Stunningly crafted burgers will sit alongside an array of sides, including hand cut crispy fries, secret sauces and thick, silky shakes.”
Young’s launches ‘Work from Pub’ packages: London pub retailer Young’s has launched “Work from Pub” packages as it taps into the working-from-home trend. Running throughout the week, each participating Young’s pub is fully equipped with free Wi-Fi, charging points, quiet spaces and unlimited tea and coffee. The various deals also include items from breakfast, lunch and brunch menus. Young’s stated: “Available across all four points of London and beyond, book a spot in advance, and move your office to the pub.”
Cheshire Pub Co to open fifth site this autumn: North west-based Cheshire Pub Co will open its fifth site with a 160-cover restaurant this autumn. The Churchill Tree will be housed in grade II-listed building Tenant’s Hall, which is set in scenic 400-acre Alderley Park. Along with the restaurant in the 6,000 square foot site, there will also be an outside beer garden and the pub will offer meals made from British produce and a broad selection of drinks, including cask ales from local breweries. Cheshire Pub Co said: “It’s all about creating a proper pub and keeping things simple, yet sophisticated. Customers can cosy up by our open fires in the winter and soak up the sun while dining alfresco in the warmer months. Our new venue at Alderley Park will give people a safe and happy place to visit during these unusual times.” Alderley Park managing director Dr Kath Mackay added: “Alderley Park is a fantastic place to live and work and we can’t wait for The Churchill Tree to open this autumn.” Cheshire Pub Co currently runs The Dog at Peover, The Ship Styal, The Frozen Mop Mobberley and The Crown & Conspirator Bramhall. The Churchill Tree has been named after the sweet chestnut tree planted by a young Winston Churchill in Alderley Park in the early 20th century.
Waterside Holiday Group acquires fourth holiday park: South west-based Waterside Holiday Group has announced its acquisition of a fourth holiday park. The company, which currently operates three holiday parks in Dorset, is branching out of the county for the first time and taking ownership of an existing holiday park near Looe, Cornwall. The park covers 55 acres and is named Tregoad. Tregoad is being handed over to Waterside Holiday Group by Pete and Tina Hannay, who have managed the park for 17 years and are retiring. Waterside Holiday Group chief executive Dave Bennett said: “We can’t deny the effects of covid-19 have hit our industry hard, and many businesses are still having to recoup months of lost business during lock-down. However, we have worked hard through this difficult period and I am delighted to report that we have recovered and maintained a stable and forward-thinking focus. This new acquisition comes after a year of careful planning and consideration, and forms part of our wider growth strategy.” The new acquisition will undergo a sympathetic, high-quality enhancement of the park’s existing landscape, including a refresh of facilities and creation of new pitches for premium holiday homes. Waterside Holiday Group was founded in 1963 by Ralph and Esther Jacobs. The business has passed down the generations with granddaughter Miranda Jacobs now director of the business. The group currently operates The Waterside Holiday Park & Spa on Weymouth’s Bowleaze Cove; Chesil Vista on Portland Road, Weymouth; and Osmington, in Osmington Mills.
Hawthorn sells 18th century grade II-listed site in East Midlands: Hawthorn Leisure, the pub operations arm of NewRiver, has sold The Fourways Hotel, an 18th century grade II-listed building, for in excess of the £220,000 asking price. The site in Blyth, Nottinghamshire, occupies almost half an acre in the centre of the village. Hawthorn Leisure has a portfolio of more than 700 UK pubs across England, Scotland and Wales, and brought The Fourways Hotel to market through Christie & Co in July, when it generated 30 viewings and several bids, and was sold within eight weeks. Gavin Webb, senior business agent in the pubs and restaurants team at Christie & Co, said: “The unprecedented amount of interest and offers we received for The Fourways Hotel underlines the ongoing demand we are experiencing for licensed opportunities in the East Midlands.”
Crosstown to launch cookie range: Crosstown, the artisan doughnut and speciality coffee concept, is launching a range of handmade cookies. The two flavours – black cocoa, and chocolate chip – will be available in stores and online for delivery across the UK from Friday (23 October). Boxes of six and 12 will be available for next-day delivery across England, Wales and lowland Scotland. They will also be available as part of Crosstown’s gifting offer, alongside its doughnuts, ice cream, coffee and merchandise.
Itsu extends hot food range with ‘healthy’ katsu curry: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, has extended its hot food range with the introduction of a light klean’katsu. The company has created its own healthy spin on the katsu curry by swapping out the “calorific” deep-fried chicken for a version that is steamed and “packed with greens”. Metcalfe said: “Right now, it’s more important than ever to be eating healthily and watching our weight. Katsu curry is undeniably delicious – it’s one of the nation’s favourite Asian dishes – but it’s typically incredibly calorific. By sticking to our commitment to steam and never deep-fry we’ve created a healthy version, without sacrificing anything on flavour.”