PizzaExpress to restructure management team, CFO Pellington to stand down: PizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, is to restructure its management team, which will include the creation of two new roles, a chief customer officer and a chief business officer, Propel has learned. As part of the restructure, current UK managing director Zoe Bowley will see her remit expanded to also oversee the group’s international restaurant division. Andy Pellington will step down as chief financial officer, a role he has held for seven years, next March, after overseeing the recapitalisation of the business earlier this autumn. The finance role will come under the new chief business officer’s remit, as well as overseeing the group’s supply chain and procurement functions. The group’s new chief customer officer will also oversee the brand’s marketing function, as part of their remit, with the business currently without a marketing director. Both roles are currently being advertised for, with appointments expected early next year. The group’s management team is completed by Kate Daines, who joined from Costa in 2018 to become PizzaExpress director of people for UK and Ireland, was appointed people director for the region and promoted to the UK leadership team last year. Campbell, the former chief executive of Wagamama, was appointed group chief executive of PizzaExpress at the start of November, as the chain announced the completion of its recapitalisation. Campbell, who led the turnaround at Wagamama, and most recently Bill’s, where he was executive chairman, was joined on the new PizzaExpress board by former Asda chief executive and ex-Wagamama chairman Allan Leighton. PizzaExpress also announced the completion of its recapitalisation, which the company said would give it “a strong balance sheet and significant funds to invest in growth in the years ahead”. The company’s new capital structure saw its total debt reduced from £735m to £319m, and included the immediate injection of £40m of new capital. In addition, the business was provided with a further £90m of funds available from the new owners. The recapitalisation saw the Beijing-based Hony Capital, which acquired PizzaExpress for circa £900m in July 2014, depart the business, but keep its China-based operation.
 
Café de Paris-owner Maxwell’s Restaurants goes into liquidation: London restaurant and bar operator Maxwell’s Restaurants, which owns Café de Paris and Tropicana Beach Club in the West End, has gone into liquidation, leading to the loss of 400 jobs. The Sunday Times reported Live Recoveries, which has been appointed liquidator, said restrictions on trading meant the company had no choice but to close. “Despite hope December would generate a much-needed upturn in trading income, it was apparent low customer numbers, uncertainty surrounding trading, and mounting creditors and rent arrears left the company with no alternative,” Live said. Maxwell’s is controlled by Guards Polo Club chairman Brian Stein, who bought Café de Paris in 2002. Howard Raymond, the son of “King of Soho” Paul Raymond, who owns the freehold, said he received a letter on Friday (18 December) announcing the liquidation.
McDonald’s to stop serving non-sustainable hard plastic in toys with Happy Meals from New Year’s Day: McDonald’s will stop serving toys made from non-sustainable hard plastics with its Happy Meals from 1 January. The initiative will remove more than 3,000 tonnes of plastic from circulation. In the new year, the Happy Meal will only include soft toys, sustainable paper-based gifts or books as McDonald’s looks to viable alternatives to hard plastic. Beth Hart, vice-president of supply chain and brand trust at McDonald’s UK, said: “Removing hard plastic toys from our Happy Meal next year will see more than 3,000 tonnes of plastic removed from our supply chain and is a big step in our ongoing sustainability journey.” More than one million Happy Meal toys have already been recycled and used to create the first of 15 playgrounds, which opened close to Oxford Children’s Hospital and is available for the use of families staying at the 62-bedroom Ronald McDonald House Oxford. The house provides a home away from home for the families at the hospital and the playground will provide respite for children being treated at the hospital and their siblings.
Asda owners offering to fund landlords legal challenge against Caffe Nero rent plans: The billionaire owners of Asda are offering to fund a legal challenge for landlords against Caffe Nero. According to The Sunday Times, the EG Group, led by Mohsin and Zuber Issa, has hired law firm CMS and property agents Christie & Co and CWM to rally property owners in the hope of launching a challenge to Caffe Nero’s plan to slash rents as part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). Borrowing a tactic used by the retail tycoon Mike Ashley, who funded an effort to overturn Debenhams’ CVA last year, the brothers hope to derail the insolvency – and ultimately take control of Caffe Nero. However, a source close to the process accused EG Group of “dirty tricks” after it made an offer to buy Caffe Nero just hours before landlords voted on the CVA at the start of this month. EG declined to comment. It has previously said it believes its offer would have delivered a “stronger outcome” for employees and landlords, and Caffe Nero would “thrive” under its ownership. As part of the CVA, which is being run by KPMG, landlords face losing most of their outstanding rent. EG is promising to pay them in full. Under insolvency law, creditors can challenge the result of a restructuring plan within 28 days. Caffe Nero said: “We fully believe the decisions we have taken are in the best interests of our creditors and other key stakeholders.”
Camino founders secure business out of administration for circa £2m: Spanish tapas restaurant and bar group Camino was acquired out of administration by its founders for a total consideration of circa £2m, Propel understands. Last month, Camino Trading – a newly incorporated company run by co-founders Nigel Foster and Richard Bigg – agreed to acquire the business and assets from RSM, the administrators of Camino Leisure Holdings and Camino Restaurants (the group’s operating entity), following an accelerated sales process. BGF invested £3m in the business in 2012. Propel understands turnover for the business was approximately £9m per annum from FY16 to FY19. However the impact of covid-19 saw sales fall by circa 40% from £7.4m in FY19 to September, to £4.3m in the same period this year. Losses over the period also headed above £1m. In October, the founders acquired the BGF debt/security position. Despite RSM speaking to 15 parties around further details of the business as part of an accelerated sales process, no parties proceeded to signing non-disclosure agreements. The one offer that was received, from the founders, was for the sum of £2.1m, by way of a £2.07m debt roll and £30,000 on a cash deferred basis. The offer was accepted, with an initial consideration of circa £1.83m, including a £1.8m debt roll at completion. The deal means the group will be able to continue operating its four restaurants and two bars while saving 77 jobs. Managing director Bigg said last month: “Despite covid-19, our amazing team has made an outstanding effort to continue bringing our vibrant Spanish flavours to the UK. I’m hugely grateful for the team’s commitment and resilience and with the future support of our key stakeholders including our valued suppliers and landlords, we look forward to successfully continuing the Camino story.”
Douglas Jack – TRG’s positive long-term outlook remains: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) positive long-term outlook remains but it is cutting its 2020E profit before tax forecast by £31m. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 100p, Jack said: “The cut in forecast is to reflect [a number of points]. Cash burn during the November lockdown was £5.5m. It was £2m per month higher than during the first national lockdown due to rents payable under the terms of the company voluntary arrangement and employer contributions towards furlough payments. The new tier system has become increasingly disruptive – on 14 October the company had 37 closed sites; on 2 December it had 64 closed sites; and under the latest tier structure, it has 103 closed sites, 142 sites offering delivery and takeaway services only, and 145 sites (37%) that are able to allow dine-in. We believe monthly losses/cash burn (with rent being paid) are similar under the current trading scenario to what they were during the November lockdown. We now forecast the current level of disruption and losses continuing throughout the first quarter of 2021. This accounts for about 60% of our 2021E forecast change; the balance is a more gradual recovery from the second quarter. After also factoring in an extra £15m of working capital outflow (which is unlikely to reverse in December) and increased cash exceptional costs due to the November lockdown, we now forecast £340m of net debt at year end. In 2021E, net debt should be supported by lower capex (circa £30m) and almost £10m of working capital inflow. We forecast £352m of net debt in 2021E. With £480m of debt facilities, TRG has plenty of liquidity in our view. We are holding our forecasts for 2022E. In this year, net debt should fall despite capex and expansion starting to increase. We are retaining our 100p target price. This equates to eight times EV/Ebitda, which we do not view as onerous for a company in which the dominant share of profits are generated by Wagamama and a very high-quality pub estate. On 6.7 times EV/Ebitda, the shares offer attractive long-term value in our view.”
Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito to save more surplus food by extending food waste app partnership across all UK sites: Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito, owned by The Restaurant Group (TRG), have extended their partnership with food waste app Too Good To Go across all their UK sites to stop more food being wasted, after a successful trial. The app allows users to buy surplus food from restaurants, retailers and producers rather than letting it go to waste. More than 1,100 meals have been saved from going to waste. Customers must download the app then purchase a “Magic Bag”, collect it at an allotted time and take it away to enjoy. Prices start at £3.60 and all revenue created for TRG through this initiative is donated to charity. Mark Chambers, chief executive leisure and concessions at TRG, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Too Good To Go across all our sites to reduce our waste and ramp up the number of meals that are being saved from going to waste. We want to ensure any surplus food from our restaurants is being managed and the people who need it have access to it, so we are very excited to see this relationship developing and growing.” Too Good To Go UK country manager Paschalis Loucaides added: “The fact we have saved so many meals from going to waste shows just how big an impact we can have together in the fight against food waste. The national rollout will see even more meals saved.”
Le Bab to open third site in February: Modern kebab concept Le Bab, founded by Stephen Tozer, Manu Canales and Ed Brunet, will launch a third site in February. The restaurant will be located in Old Street, Shoreditch, and will replace Turkish Delight kebab shop. Kebabs will be cooked on a wood and charcoal-filled robata and served with flatbreads made on-site. According to Harden’s, the menu will offer pork shawarma, which comes with pickled cucumber, chermoula mayo and herbs; lamb Madras, which comes with Bombay mix, red onion, lime, mint and coriander; and the paneer kebab, with coconut puree, crispy onion and curry mayonnaise. The site will have 40 covers and a takeaway option. Nick Garston, of the Found Agency, acted on behalf of Le Bab.
Hot Stone to open second Japanese restaurant in January: Japanese dining concept Hot Stone will open a second restaurant, in Fitzrovia’s Windmill Street in January. Following the success of the group’s first site in Islington’s Chapel Market, Hot Stone Fitzrovia will have a 50-cover restaurant and seven seat open sushi bar in the 1,300 square foot space. The menu will feature Ishiyaki food – inspired by the historic Japanese art of cooking on searing hot stones – alongside freshly prepared sushi, sashimi and seasonally changing hot dishes, such as 48-hour marinated black cod, Hamachi cheeks and fresh, home-made tofu will be introduced. Drinks include a curated list of sake by the glass, bottle and tasting flight, alongside old world wine, Japanese spirits and Sapporo and Kirin beer. Hot Stone co-founder and director Shrabaneswor Rai said: “We are delighted to be expanding the Hot Stone brand and to have found a new home in the heart of Fitzrovia. After an unprecedentedly challenging year for our sector, it’s fantastic to be growing, evolving and taking the Hot Stone concept to new audiences in central London.”
Thomasina Miers collaborates with Detox Kitchen on ready meal range:Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca, has collaborated with all-natural deli and meal delivery service Detox Kitchen to develop a meal range. The six meals, which include baked chicken and rigatoni and veggie enchilada lasagne – will be available on the Detox Kitchen website from January. Detox Kitchen founder Lily Simpson told Propel: “We’re both deeply passionate about making food that is as nourishing as it is tasty. In a world where fast, processed food is becoming the norm we’re determined to prove to our customers you can have fast, delicious food that is good for you, sustainable, seasonal and locally sourced.” Miers said: “Life now seems to be one of extremes, but my take on food and sustainability is resolutely moderate and open to new learning, governed by the fundamental belief that eating better has the power to make the world a better place. I am thrilled to be creating this range with Lily and her team at Detox Kitchen, enabling us to get really delicious food to lots of people throughout the UK.”
Erpingham House to host London pop-up: Erpingham House, the UK’s largest plant-based restaurant, is to host a pop-up in London and use it as a springboard to try new dishes. The three-week residency will be held at The James Street Collective – a multifaceted venue comprising a co-working space, cafe, and restaurant – in Covent Garden. The menu will focus on the versatility of vegetables and be available from Wednesday through to Sunday – until 31 January. Erpingham House executive chef Megan Greenacre will be at the helm, with the specially created menu available evenings only. Erpingham House was founded in 2018 by entrepreneur Loui Blake, with vegan football-playing partners Declan Rudd and Russell Martin, who saw a lack of plant-based options in Norwich. They have since opened a second outpost, in Brighton. The restaurants are entirely free from single-use plastic and the London pop-up will also follow suit.