Gail’s reports like-for-likes up more than 8%: Gail’s Bakery, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, has seen like-for-like sales grow more than 8% in the first half of this financial year, Propel has learned. The company, which has 53 outlets, is set to open four sites in the next month with further plans to develop a grab-and-go coffee offer within transport hubs as it looks to double its number of premises in three years. Gail’s managing director Marta Pogroszewska told Propel the business, which specialises in freshly baked bread and pastries alongside a premium coffee offer, is feeling “quietly confident current growth is sustainable in the mid to long-term”. She said: “We are operating in a difficult climate and acknowledge things can go wrong but, having looked carefully at our business model, we feel confident we can continue to increase our volumes year on year.” The company is set to be trading from 60 sites by the end of its financial year, March 2020, including Willesden Green in north west London, which will launch on Friday, 1 November. This will be followed in quick succession by Gloucester Road in Kensington, Cambridge and Islington, north London. Pogroszewska said: “We will be tactical in terms of finding the right ‘neighbourhood’ sites but feel opening 15 a year is totally do-able.” In the past two years Gail’s, which employs almost 1,000 people, has halved its staff turnover through implementing a comprehensive “employee value proposition” and focusing on team engagement across the business. At least half the team in any new bakery is deployed from existing teams to maintain a strong company culture. Meanwhile, Sky News has reported Johnson is reviving plans for a sale of Gail’s and has started to sound out bankers about an auction of part or all of Bread Holdings, Gail’s parent company. A sale is expected to take place in 2020. Johnson’s renewed exploration of a sale of Bread Holdings comes two years after he initiated a previous auction. However, the process was put on hold at the end of 2018.
Fazenda owner trading ‘ahead of budget’ this year as it reports turnover boost:City District, owner of the Fazenda Rodizio Bar and Grill concept, is “trading ahead of budget” in its current financial year. City District also has no plans to add to its portfolio in the short term as it holds off investment until it sees how the economy shapes up following Brexit. Managing director Tomás Maunier told Propel: “We are trading well so far this year – ahead of budget and year on year, which is a great thing. However, we can’t forget the first half of last year was a difficult one for the restaurant industry due to the Fifa World Cup and unbelievable weather.” Maunier spoke to Propel as City District reported turnover increased to £17.0m for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £13.0m the previous year. Operating profit was down to £243,000, compared with £743,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit fell to £135,000, compared with £730,000 the previous year. Gross margin was down slightly to 66%, compared with 67% the year before. During the year, City District opened a Fazenda site in Birmingham to add to its venues in Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. The company also operates Picanha in Chester while in July last year it launched Tast Cuina Catalana in Manchester in partnership with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Despite the challenging market conditions, the board is pleased with the performance following the year end and is pursuing opportunities for further expansion if appropriate sites become available.” The number of employees at the end of the period rose to 359 from 252 the previous year. Earlier this year, City District Group underwent an internal restructuring of its ownership with backer LLB Investments, resulting in a management buyout.
Rooney Anand steps down from Chiktopia board: Casual Dining Group chairman and former Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand has stepped down from the board of Chiktopia as non-executive director. Anand joined the board as the better chicken concept opened its debut site, at Intu Lakeside in Essex, in the summer, and follows a personal investment he has made in the company, joining other industry leaders such as Abokado chief executive Mark Lilley, Tortilla managing director Richard Morris and Mystery founder Dan Einzig. It is understood Anand retains an advisory role. Chiktopia, led by former Ole & Steen operations director Alastair Gordon, uses technology to offer a counter-less restaurant with 100% kiosk and app ordering. In May, Gordon told Propel the Chiktopia team would concentrate on the Lakeside site this year to make sure the offer was “absolutely right” before looking at potential expansion. He said: “We have a compelling offer with an excellent price point but the rest of this year will be about spending the time working out what works and what doesn’t. We’ve been in this game long enough to know we can’t just start a mass roll-out.”
Chick-fil-A to cease trading at debut UK site: Chick-fil-A, the largest chicken and third-largest US fast food restaurant chain, will cease trading at its first UK outlet amid a row over donations to anti-LGBT groups. Gay rights campaigners called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A, which opened its first branch at The Oracle shopping centre in Reading on 10 October. A spokeswoman for the centre told the BBC the “right thing to do” was to not extend the restaurant’s lease beyond the “six-month pilot period”. Chick-fil-A said its donations were purely focused on youth and education. The family-owned company, founded in Atlanta in 1967, has about 2,400 outlets across North America. According to US news website Think Progress, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated millions of dollars in 2017 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Salvation Army. Campaigners from LGBT organisation Reading Pride said all three organisations have a reputation of being hostile to LGBT rights. A Reading Pride spokesman said the six-month period was a “reasonable request to allow for resettlement and notice for employees that had moved from other jobs”, but added the group would continue to “campaign against the outlet until it leaves”. Chick-fil-A previously told the BBC: “We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda. There are 145,000 people – black, white, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian – who represent Chick-fil-A.”
Barworks plans to take on Jamie Oliver’s former Fifteen site: London bar and pub operator Barworks is planning to take over the site previously housing Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Hoxton, Propel understands. The company, which is led by Marc Francis-Baum, has applied to open on the site, with it expected to reopen as a pub. The Jamie Oliver-backed social enterprise, which ran apprenticeships for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, was one of 22 sites that closed when the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group entered administration in May. Barworks recently reopened the former Beef & Brew site in Hackney, under its original name, the Duke of York. The bar has been moved to the centre of the room and, while the key offering is drink, it offers a small pizza and pasta menu alongside Sunday roasts. Barworks is also working on the White Bear in St John Street, Smithfield, which is expected to reopen in mid-November. Barworks operates 13 pubs, plus Mare Street Market and five under The Diner name, which have been part of Barworks since July. The Diner sites will be converted to independent wet-led operations during the next year.
North Bar sells Cross Keys to new operator: Leeds brewer and retailer North Bar has sold The Cross Keys pub in Leeds to Water Lane Pub Company. The rapid growth of North Brewing Co has led directors John Gyngell and Christian Townsley to take the decision to focus on the brewery and their “wet-led” sites. All staff from The Cross Keys will be guaranteed jobs within the North Bar family of bars, the company confirmed. In a statement, North Brewing Co said: “North is confident the new owners will approach The Cross Keys with the care and attention it deserves and it will continue to provide a social hub within Holbeck Urban Village.” The new phase for The Cross Keys will be headed up by Richard Fiddaman, former operations manager for North Bar. Water Lane Pub Company will be operating a “pop-up” at the pub over Christmas, before refurbishing the site in the new year.
Antic lines up flats plan in Crystal Palace: South London pub operator Antic wants to build flats behind its yet to open new pub in Crystal Palace. In March, the company was given permission to open its third pub in the Triangle. But the new pub, expected to be called Cambridge Coopers, has not yet opened at 58-60 Westow Hill on the site of former plumbing shop Plumbase. Behind the site is a 1980s warehouse that Antic wants to bulldoze to make way for a block of five flats. In February it withdrew proposals for three houses in the same location. The new scheme involves a three-storey building made up of four two-bedroom flats and a single three-bedroom flat. A planning decision is expected next month.
Inn Collection Group hatches plan to tackle chef shortage: The Inn Collection Group is carving out a fresh way to counter a national shortage of chefs in the trade by growing talent from within. The company has appointed Richard Moore as group development chef following his promotion from head chef at the operator’s £4.5m The Commissioners Quay Inn, in Blyth, Northumberland. Moore has set his sights on nurturing new and existing talent in kitchens across the group’s ten-strong and growing estate. He also plans to set up a chef’s training programme as the group continues its growth journey to more than double its portfolio by 2022. Moore said: “It’s no secret there is a chronic shortage of chefs nationally. Long working hours and often unrealistic expectations has seen a dip in young people moving into the hospitality sector. The future of the hospitality industry and businesses such as The Inn Collection Group lies in the hands of young people coming through. If you have the right environment, training and atmosphere, then people will want to get into the hospitality sector and, more importantly, feel valued and want to stay.” Moore is in talks with Northumberland College in Ashington to set up a new chef training programme for The Inn Collection Group and to introduce kitchen apprenticeships to the company, which currently employs 370 staff. About 70 more jobs are set to be created with the opening of The Ambleside Inn, Ambleside, in December and The Coniston Inn, Coniston, in spring 2020, both in the Lake District.
Tokyo Industries lines up new Manchester opening: Tokyo Industries has submitted a licensing application to reopen the former Neighbourhood bar in Manchester’s Spinningfields. The application suggests an “immersive” entertainment offer of plays, films and live music, will run alongside the restaurant and bar. Aaron Mellor, managing director of Tokyo Industries, told the Manchester Evening News: “We have reached agreement with East Coast Concepts to purchase the former Neighbourhood site in Manchester’s Spinningfields on a subject to licence basis. We have consulted closely with Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council out of hours licensing unit to agree a set of conditions that could potentially allow the unit to reopen under new ownership. If successful we hope to reopen the venue in early November, with a similar entertainment-led Manhattan-style restaurant and cocktail bar.” The Neighbourhood site closed earlier this year after the city council revoked the licence following a second review in a year.
University of Warwick adds Pret to line-up as part of new F&B focus: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed chain, has opened a site at the University of Warwick. Pret is the latest high-street brand to launch across campus as part of a new retail focus by the university to provide a diverse range of food and drink outlets to appeal to students, staff and the wider community. There are currently 19 outlets on campus, 13 of them university-managed cafes, bars, restaurants and shops, with six cafes, bars and restaurants managed by the students’ union. The new store – Pret’s first in Coventry – is in The Piazza in the centre of campus, close to Warwick Arts Centre. The university is seeking to attract more high-street names to enhance choices and provide healthier options at reasonable prices in response to feedback from students and staff. As part of the university’s new retail strategy, Aroma, which is part of Caffe Nero, opened an outlet on Westwood Campus in September following a Caffe Nero opening at the university’s new sports and wellness hub in August.
Gaucho operator Rare Restaurants appoints Dawson as CFO: Rob Dawson, formerly of Azzurri Group, has joined Rare Restaurants – the Investec and SC Lowy-backed parent company of Gaucho and M Restaurants, as its new chief financial officer. Dawson spent more than two years at the ASK Italian and Zizzi operator as its head of strategic finance. He has also extensive experience in the care sector. Rare chief executive Martin Williams told Propel: “We are delighted to welcome Rob to the team. With his experience at Azzurri Group, we are confident he is an incredible asset to the team and will join us in taking both the Gaucho and M brands on their evolutional journey and delivering our growth ambitions at this exciting time.” Earlier this summer, the company appointed Jamie Mitchell, the ex-chief executive of Tom Dixon Studio, and Daylesford, as its new non-executive chairman. Mitchell is joined on the Rare board by Gary Mann, the co-managing director of Honest Burgers and former chief financial officer of Gaucho, who is a non-executive director. Rare has been seeking a new chief financial officer after Jim Kottler stepped down from the role earlier this year. A deal was concluded in April that saw M Restaurants’ three venues and Gaucho’s 16 sites brought together under the Rare Restaurants banner.
Bradford-based coffee shop to double up with opening in former Patisserie Valerie site: Bradford-based coffee shop Tiffin Coffee is to double up after taking on a former Patisserie Valerie in the city. The unit on the corner of Market Street and Charles Street has been empty since January when administrators closed it following the collapse of Patisserie Valerie. Now Tiffin Coffee, which has an outlet in the Wool Exchange, is investing almost £100,000 to bring the vacant site back to life. Project manager Doug Stewart told the Telegraph & Argus: “Between noon and 2pm we can’t take any more covers because we’re so busy. It’s great for us but highlights we could do more.” The site will be called Tiffin Coffee Grande and will have a different feel to the original outlet as it will aim more towards the dessert market. “It’s more a dessert parlour meets coffee shop than just a typical coffee shop,” Stewart said. “There’s a definite market for it.”
Jamie Rollo – German hotel market attractive opportunity for Whitbread but expect another weak revpar performance overall: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has said he believes the German hotel market is an attractive opportunity for Whitbread but has forecasted another weak overall revpar performance for the company. Rollo said: “If we include the rooms in Whitbread’s committed pipeline in Germany, the room count will reach roughly 8,000, making Premier Inn the joint third-largest budget operator in the country alongside Accor’s Ibis Budget. This is an impressive feat given it will have been achieved in only a few years, albeit at a total investment of £700m. We think the German hotel market is an attractive opportunity for Whitbread given the fragmented nature of the market and the low brand penetration versus the UK and France. However, the leasehold nature of the German market and the high overheads that come with Whitbread’s ramp-up mean that despite its rooms being about 10% of group, we expect Germany’s profit contribution to be closer to 5%. The company has said it is open to acquisitions, it has already carried out two in the region, and we wrote about the possibility of funding a larger acquisition via a UK sale and leaseback, which could be moderately earnings per share accretive and move Germany to up to 25% of Ebitda. We are cautious ahead of the upcoming first-half results on Tuesday (22 October), forecasting another weak revpar performance in the second quarter (Morgan Stanley estimates minus 3.6%) and we think consensus estimates for FY20 revpar and Ebit need to come down. With weak trading, a relatively high valuation and little obvious attraction from a sum of the parts viewpoint, we remain on the sidelines.” Meanwhile, Whitbread has revealed plans for its first Irish property outside Dublin, with a 183-bedroom Premier Inn set to open in Cork. The property will be at Morrisons Quay. Premier Inn currently operates one hotel in Ireland, at Dublin airport, but has three city centre properties under development in the capital.
Drayton Manor to be prosecuted over 11-year-old’s death: Staffordshire theme park Drayton Manor is to be prosecuted under health and safety laws after an 11-year-old girl died after falling from a ride. Evha Jannath, 11, from Leicester, was on a school trip when she fell from the Splash Canyon ride in May 2017 and died of chest injuries. Drayton Manor Park now faces a charge under Section 3 of the Health And Safety At Work Act. The criminal proceedings have yet to begin because an inquest into the youngster’s death, due to be heard next month, needs to take place first. A spokesman from Drayton Manor told The Business Desk: “It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment until the inquest concludes.” The ride has remained closed at the theme park in Tamworth since the youngster’s death. In March, police said her death failed to meet the threshold for gross negligence or corporate manslaughter. In its latest available accounts for the year ending 28 February 2018, Drayton Manor revealed it was forced to refinance the business after “one of the most difficult financial years in the group’s history”, which saw pre-tax losses almost treble to £4.2m.
Fledgling operator and Star Pubs & Bars rejuvenate Worsley pub featuring new gin distillery: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has teamed up with a local entrepreneur to rejuvenate a pub in Worsley, Greater Manchester, which will include its own gin distillery. The Greyhound in Leigh Road is undergoing a transformation as part of a joint £750,000 investment. It will reopen in mid-November as the Coal & Cotton – a nod to the area’s mining and cotton production history. The new operator is Green & Salmon, led by Jason Green and David Salmon. Green said: “Having recently left the corporate world I wanted to set up my own business and one I can genuinely say I’m proud of. I feel the area is crying out for what we have to offer.” The food menu will feature “British classics with a subtle international twist” as well as cocktails and gin from the distillery.
Lincoln & York ‘maintaining progress’ in current financial year as it reports turnover and profit boost: Coffee sourcing, roasting and packaging company Lincoln & York has maintained progress in the first half of its current financial year as it reported an increase in sales and profit before tax along with its parent company. Turnover at Lincoln & York rose to £39.3m for the year ending 31 January 2018, compared with £34.6m the year before. Operating profit was up to £4.7m compared with £4.6m the previous year, while pre-tax profit increased to £4.6m compared with £4.5m the year before. Accounts for its parent company Elsham Wold Estates revealed turnover rose to £45.9m, compared with £39.9m the previous year. Operating profit was up to £5.3m compared with £4.9m the year before, while pre-tax profit rose to £5.0m compared with £4.6m the previous year. Lincoln & York supplies the out of home, foodservice, specialist retail, contingency, wholesale, vending and export markets. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “We have continued our period of sustained growth. This progress has been maintained into the first half of the current financial year. We have continued our attempts to optimise efficiency during the year as a means of improving margins. The directors are mindful of the uncertainty being caused by Brexit, which may result in additional costs. The directors therefore wish to maintain a cash buffer to deal with any adverse effects.”
Newcastle-headquartered hotel group expands to Ireland: Newcastle-headquartered hotel group Sandman has expanded into Ireland. The company, part of Northland Properties UK, has bought Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links in Dublin. The former home of the Jameson family – founders of Jameson Irish Whiskey – the hotel is in Fingal and comprises 134 bedrooms, a championship links golf course, restaurants, and meeting and banquet space. The deal marks the hotel group’s 59th acquisition, with the firm’s plans for expansion including a city centre hotel in Glasgow. Mitch Gaglardi, managing director of Northland Properties UK, told BDaily: “We are thrilled to expand into Ireland. It’s such a stunning part of the world and this property is incredibly special. We have great respect for the existing team and the long history of the hotel. Combined with our own 50-plus years of experience, we see a winning formula.”
Five Lamps opens brewery and visitors’ centre in Dublin: Dublin-based Five Lamps has launched a brewery and visitors’ centre. The company has transformed the upstairs space at The Camden pub in Camden Street. Visitors can see the entire brewing process during their tour. Master brewer William Harvey will brew seasonal beers and use the facility as an experimental kitchen. Five Lamps general manager Ross Bissett said: “In our spiritual home, visitors will experience the culture, heritage and authenticity of Five Lamps.