Itsu expects like-for-likes to be up 3% in 2018, full-year turnover hits £105m: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, has reported the company expects to see like-for-like sales increase between 2% and 3% in 2018 as trading remains “strong”. The progress was revealed as accounts filed at Companies House revealed turnover increased 10% to £105,559,067 for the year ending 28 December 2017, compared with £95,911,995 the previous year. Group Ebitda was up 28% to £2,566,140, compared with £2,001,362 the year before. Like-for-like sales increased 0.4%. Pre-tax losses were down to £8,170,357, compared with £8,497,532 the previous year. In his report accompanying the accounts, Metcalfe stated: “Trading in 2018 is strong, with positive year-to-date like-for-like performance driving UK Ebitda expectations back to more healthier levels. Itsu is starting to see all the benefits from the multiple investments made in 2017. This positive pattern bucks the common trend currently seen in the UK hospitality sector. 2018 margins are up, sales are up, second daypart is up and more is on the way. During 2017, Itsu saw sales grow through increased grocery sales of 5% and through its UK stores by 5%. Revenue growth in the period was driven by successful product launches, new customer acquisition, annualisation of new stores sales and the introduction of three new stores in December 2017, the full sales benefit of which will be felt in 2018. The growth in Ebitda came from increased turnover flowing down at a higher rate due to greater cost control within ‘shop controllables’ and at head office. These benefits were partially offset by increases in food inflation, continued growth in labour rates, year-on-year property rates rises and continued investments in the launch of the US business. 2018 like-for-like trade shows encouraging positive momentum, primarily driven by increased transactions year-on-year. Like-for-likes are expected to be up between 2% and 3%. In the period, the business further secured its balance sheet by taking in £25m of new equity money from Ambrosia Investments. These funds were used to invest in new store openings, the expansion of Itsu’s grocery range, international growth and to pay down the majority of bank debt. 2018 has seen the launch of the Itsu brand in New York, our first shop outside the UK. This first store will allow the business to understand the US market and create a platform to develop the Itsu retail and Itsu grocery model across America and the rest of the world.” Itsu has more than 70 restaurants in Britain, mostly in London.
Benugo reports turnover up to £112.7m: Benugo, the operator of deli cafes and catering in high-profile venues such as the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert museum, has reported turnover rose 13% to £112,738,000 for the year ending 29 December 2017, compared with £100,100,000 the previous year. The company said the increase was due to the full-year impact of contracts won in 2016 and a number of new sites opened during 2017. Profit before tax drop slightly to £4,670,000, compared with £5,482,000 the year before. Capital expenditure during the period was £5.2m, compared with £4.7m the previous year. At the end of the period net assets stood at £29.2m, compared with £25.9m the year before. Cash and cash equivalent was up to £6.1m from £5.1m the previous year. The company reported a total of £23,775,000 in tax borne or collected by Benugo, compared with £20,866,000 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “As an employer with a significant number of employees but operating in a relatively low-margin sector, corporation tax alone is not a balanced reflection of total tax contribution made by Benugo.” The company staff count grew to 1,238 from 1,030 the year before. Benugo’s immediate parent company is Westbury Street but the ultimate controlling party is Alastair Storey, who controls the ultimate parent company Cheadle Developments.
Gravity founders receive further £3m to expand offering: The founders of Gravity, which operates trampoline parks, have received a £3m investment from Guinness Asset Management to expand into other areas of experiential leisure such as rock-climbing and crazy golf. Guinness Asset Management has previously invested £5m in the company. Gravity was founded by Harvey Jenkinson and Michael Harrison – it opened its first trampoline park three years ago and currently has nine sites across the UK. It expects sales of £12m this year. It also recently signed a five-year franchise deal in Saudi Arabia.
Barclays upgrades JD Wetherspoon shares: Leisure analysts at Barclays have upgraded JD Wetherspoon shares in a research note. Analysts praised the “strong culture of innovation” at the company, pointing in particular to its order and pay app and, more recently, its roll-out of pizza across its 900 pubs. “Achieving similar levels of like-for-like sales growth going forward (4.4% average since FY13) will be challenging, but the company-driven initiatives are encouraging,” read the note to clients. Barclays also highlights the company’s ability to retain its top-level pub staff as another plus point, with managers now averaging 12 years in the job, compared with nine years in 2012. “There may be bumps in the road but we continue to believe that, in the long term, happy customers and staff should continue to ensure happy shareholders,” the note to clients stated. Barclays retained its long-held ‘Overweight’ rating on the stock – a ‘buy’ to you and me – as it upped its price target to 1,450p, some 12% higher than where the stock currently sits.
Burger brand Hubbox to open seventh site, on Friday: West Country better burger brand Hubbox will open its seventh site, this time in Taunton, Somerset, on Friday (5 October). The new restaurant takes the place of former eatery Roots Cafe And Red-Hot Razzberry in North Street and has brought 35 jobs to town. Founder Richard Boon said: “We can’t wait to bring Hubbox to Taunton. The town holds a special place in my heart and brings back many happy childhood memories of watching cricket with my dad. On the menu will be a selection of Hubbox favourites including the National Burger Award-winning Big Kahuna and our gourmet hotdogs. We’re also excited to introduce new dishes cooked on our charcoal grill, offering a Hubbox take on surf and turf. We hope to bring some of Cornwall’s beach barbecue vibes to buzzy Taunton while retaining our welcoming, relaxed environment.
Red Mist Leisure to launch biggest refurbishment to date with £2.5m investment in new Hampshire site: Pub operator Red Mist Leisure has revealed it will invest £2.5m in its latest venture – The Wellington Arms in Stratfield Turgis – the group’s biggest refurbishment project to date. The company, founded by Mark Robson and Mark Williams, is set to open the pub later this year. Situated in the Wellington Estate on the Hampshire and Berkshire border, the pub will feature a function room and 25 boutique bedrooms, creating more than 40 jobs. Work on the pub and function room will be completed ahead of an opening around the end of November. The venue will offer a menu of seasonal and local British food alongside local ale and craft beer. The 25 bedrooms will open towards the end of January. Robson said: “The Wellington Arms is a real milestone for Red Mist Leisure as we head into our 15th year of trading and we have ambitious expectations for this site. We look forward to embracing a collaborative approach with the Wellington Estate to offer a destination pub with boutique bedrooms and a great function room to ensure The Wellington Arms is everything we all want it to be.” Earlier this month, Red Mist Leisure sold its Farnham town centre pub, The Wheatsheaf, to Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame, leaving the company with ten sites.
North London-based Redemption Brewing Company hits £300,000 crowdfunding target: North London-based Redemption Brewing Company has hit its £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support growth plans. Last month the company, founded in 2010 by Andy Moffat and Sam Rigby, raised its equity offering to 13.64% from the original 10.71% in return for investment. So far, 419 investors have pledged £303,030 and the campaign is currently “overfunding”. The pitch states: “In 2017 our sales have organically grown to more than £500,000 (net profit minus £48,919). We’ve built Redemption with our own blood, sweat and tears, our small but tight dedicated team, and the enthusiasm of our growing customer base. Our portfolio has expanded to seven core beers, which we complement with seasonal beers and collaborations with our brewing friends. Now we’re settled in our new, bigger, more efficient brewery we have the capacity and ambition to brew more than two million pints a year. We want to grow our brand and build sales locally, regionally, nationally and internationally by building our team and bolstering our sales and marketing function. We plan to invest in tanks to launch a new keg product and can format. We also want to improve our taproom with the aim of making it a go-to venue for north London’s discerning beer drinkers.”
Odeon reports turnover boost as attendance numbers rebound: Cinema operator Odeon has reported a boost in turnover as attendance numbers rebounded. The company saw turnover increase 7% to £235,701,000 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £220,136,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit jumped to £15,889,000, compared with £9,932,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Attendance figures increased 1% to 170.6 million from 168.3 million the previous year having dropped from 171.9 million in 2015. At the year end, the company operated 109 cinemas with 864 screens. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “One cinema was added to the company’s portfolio in the year, expanding our customer proposition and brand profile in key local markets. This cinema was in Bournemouth (ten screens). A number of cinema refurbishments were successfully completed in the year and capital investment in retail facilities continued as an integral part of the strategy to maximise future retail profitability. Further estate development activity is planned for 2018 and beyond including the introduction of recliner seating in selected cinemas.” Odeon said the cinema sector remained strong last year, with films such as Beauty And The Beast, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Dunkirk being particularly strong performers. Odeon was bought by US company AMC Entertainment, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda, in 2016 in a deal worth £921m. It was previously owned by private equity firm Terra Firma, which bought Odeon and UCI in 2004 before merging the two rivals.
Yumpingo heads to US with TGI Friday’s partnership: Restaurant data platform Yumpingo has launched in the US with TGI Friday’s, introducing its technology in restaurants across nine states. With restaurants receiving more than 7,500 at-table food, beverage and service reviews per location, per month, Yumpingo said its partnership with TGI Friday’s would “introduce big data to transform US restaurant operations and create a new future”. Yumpingo is already used by a number of UK restaurant businesses including Mitchells & Butlers, Jamie’s Italian, Bill’s and Wahaca. Guests complete a one-minute review at the end of their experience. Yumpingo will now be used by TGI Friday’s to optimise menu development and execution of food, beverage and service at store, shift, kitchen and server level. TGI Friday’s chief experience officer Sherif Mityas said: “The restaurant industry has traditionally relied too much on gut feel, antiquated mystery shops and misleading online reviews to track and optimise guest experiences. We know technology can solve this. Yumpingo’s platform is a real-time solution that taps into the silent majority of our guests, giving the entire TGI Friday’s team complete certainty of how to optimise customer satisfaction with our people and product. Data is the most powerful asset we have to ensure we delight customers, optimising their food and service and ensuring they come back time and time again for more. Yumpingo is a game changer for how restaurants are now able to use technology to optimise the complete guest experience.” Yumpingo founder and chief executive Gary Goodman added: “TGI Friday’s is a perfect partner for us as we scale globally and bring our at-table, one-minute review platform to the US restaurant market. We share a common vision, to transform the entire customer experience by using technology to seamlessly connect customers and restaurants digitally in live service.” Yumpingo said it delivered more reviews per restaurant than from Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Facebook and Google combined, with almost two-thirds (66%) of guests sharing their voice without incentive and 20% leaving an email address. Since using Yumpingo, London-based fried chicken restaurant group Bird said it had seen an 8% increase in comparable sales in the first half of 2018, attributed to visit gains resulting from improved product and service. Mitchells & Butlers has seen net promoter score increases, with an 18% jump in the number of customers promoting restaurants brands within just four months. Earlier this year, Yumpingo raised more than £1m from four high-profile investors, including Formula One mogul Ross Brawn and Crystal Palace FC chairman Steve Parish.
 
The Cheese Bar increases equity offer in £200,000 crowdfunding campaign, plans two new restaurants in next 12 months: The Cheese Bar has increased the equity offer in its £200,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Mathew Carver, who traded at music festivals as The Cheese Truck, opened the first Cheese Bar in Camden Market in March 2017 after raising £126,000 on Crowdcube. Now he has returned to the platform in a bid to open a site in Covent Garden and has increased the equity offer from 5.41% to 6.78% in return for the investment, thus reducing its valuation from £3.5m to £2.75m. Carver has also revealed the company is set to open two new restaurants in the next 12 months. So far, 282 investors have pledged £145,000 with 12 days remaining. Carver said: “We felt our valuation of £3.5m was a fair reflection of the business in its current state. This was re-enforced by discussions off-platform with existing investors. That being said, the market on Crowdcube seems to feel the valuation is a little high, and to ensure our success in this campaign we have decided to lower it. We’re already a profitable company, with an established and successful restaurant, two award-winning food trucks and a strong management team ready to grow the business. We also have plans in place to open two central London locations in the next 12 months.”
Dutton Cuisine opens third Lake District site: Lake District-based Dutton Cuisine has opened its third site. The company, led by Ian Dutton, has launched Brown Sugar having purchased the Lighthouse Restaurant in the centre of Windermere village in July last year for £1.65m. The three-storey bar and restaurant has opened following an eight-month refurbishment of the site that has cost more than £1m. It seats more than 80 customers inside, with space for a further 14 on the balcony and 24 on a heated outside terrace. The ground-floor space offers cafe-style speciality tea and coffee, a patisserie and a juice bar. The middle floor offers a more upmarket dining experience, while the upper floor features sofas and its own bar and is available for hire. Dutton said: “We love to create something different for our customers and, following decades in the industry, know what they want. All our businesses have evolved over the years – we’re not afraid of change and I believe that has been the secret of our success.” Dutton Cuisine’s other restaurants are The Pig in Windermere and the Village Bar & Grill in Bowness.
BrewDog cancels beer events after US craft brewer’s pro-Trump message: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has cancelled a series of planned events in the UK with US brewery Scofflaw after a statement issued on behalf of the American company promised free beer to supporters of US president Donald Trump. The events were planned to take place in BrewDog bars across the UK during the weekend. The statement said Scofflaw would get UK drinkers “beered-up redneck style completely free of charge”, before adding, “you have to be a Trump supporter”, according to The Scotsman newspaper. BrewDog responded to online criticism of the promotion by cancelling the events. BrewDog tweeted: “The Scofflaw release was announced without our knowledge or consent. We are in no way aligned with their position and we will, of course, be cancelling all the events and sending all the beer back. We care about beer and people. Not hate.” BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie are vocal critics of Trump, having produced a brew entitled Make Earth Great Again to protest at the president’s 2017 decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. In 2017, BrewDog announced plans to open a temporary bar on the US-Mexico border featuring the words “Make Beer Not Walls”.
Veeno opens Norwich wine cafe for 21st site: Italian wine cafe Veeno has opened its 21st site, in Norwich. The venue has launched in Castle Mall shopping centre. Veeno was founded in November 2013 in Manchester by Andrea Zecchino and Nino Francesco Caruso. Zecchino said: “We are delighted to bring the Veeno experience to Norwich. We felt there was a real gap in the market for an outlet such as ours, which provides a genuinely authentic Italian experience as well as a superb lunchtime menu and an excellent venue for weekend drinking and dining.” Veeno is targeting 25 sites by the end of this year and 80 by 2020. Its site in York is currently closed for refurbishment.
Club concept featuring adult ball pit launches in Coventry: A new bar and club that features an adult ball pit has opened in Coventry. The venue, called Ballxrs, has launched in Far Gosford Street and features a giant ball pit with more than 80,000 balls and room for 40 people. Ballxrs also offers board games and retro arcade machines, while regulars can participate in the club’s beer pong league. The new venue, the first of its kind in the city, is the brainchild of local businessman Sam Burne. London’s first adult ball-pit bar, Ballie Ballerson, started as a pop-up in Dalston before opening a permanent site in Shoreditch in September last year. The team behind Coventry’s new venture hopes to expand the concept to other cities on the back of the debut Ballxrs site.
Beckham and Ritchie buy north London pub: Former football star David Beckham has partnered with film director Guy Ritchie to buy a north London pub for £3m, with plans to give it a “Soho House-style makeover”. Beckham and Ritchie are reported to have acquired the Walmer Castle in Notting Hill – close to Beckham’s family home in Holland Park. A source told the Mail On Sunday: “He can’t wait to get stuck into making it just as he wants it.” Ritchie already owns The Lukin pub in Fitzrovia and runs the Gritchie Brewing Company from his farm in Wiltshire.
YMCA boutique hotel plan aims to develop careers in hospitality: A former hotel at Taunton railway station in Somerset is to be redeveloped as a boutique hotel in a project spearheaded by the local YMCA. The grade II-listed Great Western House, which has been derelict for four years, will be given a new lease of life after Taunton Deane Borough Council agreed to lend £750,000 towards the project. The council has granted an enabling loan to exchange on the building, with a further loan to be agreed in the coming weeks to facilitate its purchase. The YMCA will transform the property to create 14 bedrooms, a cafe and conference space, as well as co-working areas for small businesses. The refurbishment is scheduled to begin this month, with a launch date of January 2019. The project will be funded through a mix of sources including the EDF Community Impact Mitigation Fund, the Railway Heritage Trust and YMCA resources. The project will be the third conversion for YMCA Somerset Coast, which has already undertaken similar schemes at the Beach Hotel in Minehead and Barley Wood Country House in Wrington, north Somerset. The focus at each property is to offer hospitality training and arm young people with business skills to develop their careers in the sector. Dave Jackson, director of social enterprise for YMCA Somerset Coast, said: “This is another hugely exciting opportunity for us to help inspire and change the lives of young people in the area. We have already seen amazing transformations within our other projects, not only the buildings but the lives of the young people we work with. We have seen them move from our supported housing to complete catering qualifications and some are now running departments in Michelin-starred kitchens across the UK.”
Mangobean eyes first Scottish opening: Coffee brand Mangobean is eyeing its first Scottish site. Plans have been submitted to Dundee City Council to convert the former Vodafone shop in Murraygate into a cafe. Newcastle-based Mangobean hopes to refurbish the former mobile phone shop to provide a new cafe – its first in Scotland. The company has applied to the council for a change of use from shop to restaurant. If given the go ahead, it would open next door to a Caffe Nero site. A spokesman for Mangobean said: “We plan a refurbishment of the interior with a new fit-out including partition walls and equipment needed for the cafe.” Mangobean was launched more than ten years ago and has ambitions to become the fourth-largest coffee chain in the UK. It has gone from selling coffee beans and equipment to now operating 12 stores on a franchise basis. A spokesman said: “To become the fourth-largest coffee chain in the UK we’re looking for development agents, what we call master franchises, and franchise partners to open 50 stores throughout the UK over the next ten years.”
Gym brand joins Thetford Riverside line-up: Gym brand Snap Fitness 24/7has opened a site at the Thetford Riverside leisure scheme in the heart of the Norfolk town. Snap’s UK master group franchisee MSG Life is to operate the 4,850 square foot boutique membership gym, which provides a full range of fitness equipment. It is the first Snap Fitness operation in Norfolk. MSG Life co-managing director Ian Gosling said: “We are excited to add Snap Fitness Thetford to our growing portfolio and can’t wait to welcome our members to our fantastic new club.” The deal means there is only one unit left at Thetford Riverside, which is anchored by a three-screen The Light cinema and a 62-bedroom Travelodge hotel and includes free parking for more than 60 vehicles. The last remaining unit comprises 2,360 square feet and is located between the new gym and TLC Inns’ Grand Central American Bar & Grill. The unit features an outside seating area. Letting agent Francis Darrah Chartered Surveyors is already in discussions with restaurant chains interested in taking the unit. Thetford Riverside is a development by Breckland Bridge, a joint venture between Breckland Council and The Land Group.
End-of-the-pier cafe to relaunch in Deal: The cafe at the end of Deal Pier in Kent is set to reopen as Deal Pier Kitchen. Tim Biggs and Rebecca Hodson have secured a 20-year lease for the property from Dover District Council through agents Fleurets. The property will now undergo a comprehensive refurbishment. Once complete, Deal Pier Kitchen will offer an all-day dining menu and feature a baby grand piano. Biggs said: “Deal Pier Kitchen firmly believes the best restaurants are borne out of a true partnership with the community. Our aim is to build such a partnership with Deal’s community by working together to create a highly successful, enjoyable and welcoming environment that proudly reflects and enhances the reputation of Deal. Our main offering will be a mix of brunch and lunch dishes accompanied by interesting drink and dessert options, and we hope to expand our evening offering as the summer nights get longer in 2019.”
Hotel management company RBH to operate Hilton Garden Inn in Stoke:Hotel management company RBH will operate the new Hilton Garden Inn in Stoke-on-Trent – the first Hilton-branded hotel in the city. The £20m venue is scheduled to open in late 2019 as part of the Smithfield scheme being developed by Genr8 in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council. The hotel will have 140 bedrooms, meeting and conference facilities, and a fully equipped gym. A bar and full-service restaurant will also feature, offering locally sourced produce where possible. Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent will be part of the RBH portfolio of more than 70 hotels across the UK, which includes seven properties under fellow Hilton brands DoubleTree by Hilton and Hampton by Hilton. RBH chief development officer Andrew Robb said: “As our first Hilton Garden Inn, this new hotel represents a landmark addition to our growing portfolio.” Genr8 partner Richard Ingham added: “As a management company with decades of experience, we have absolute faith that RBH is the right choice to operate it. We look forward to working with the company for many years to come.”