Company News:

Administrators for failed bakery Patisserie Valerie slap lawsuit on auditors Grant Thornton over ‘negligent audits’: Administrators for collapsed bakery chain Patisserie Valerie have slapped a lawsuit on auditors Grant Thornton at the High Court for “negligent audits” of its accounts. Patisserie Valerie collapsed last year after a £40m hole was found in its accounts, possibly as a result of fraud. Grant Thornton is also being investigated by the accounting watchdog over the collapse. FRP Advisory, the administrator, confirmed the liquidators have “issued a claim for damages against Grant Thornton in respect of their negligent audits of the group companies’ financial statements”. Grant Thornton said: “We are aware a claim has been filed but it has not been served. We will, however, be rigorously defending the claim once we receive it.” Patisserie Valerie began in 1926 as a bakery shop in Soho, before it was bought by entrepreneur Luke Johnson in 2006. David Dunckley, chief executive of Grant Thornton UK, stated last year at a hearing with MPs it was not the role of the auditor to uncover fraud. The audit watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council, revealed plans last month to increase the onus on accountants to spot fraud.
Wilkinson – Byron has stabilised under new ownership, looking for new sites:Simon Wilkinson chief executive of Byron, which was acquired via pre-pack administration by investment vehicle Calveton UK under newly formed company Famously Proper for £4m in August, has told Propel the business has been stabilised under its new ownership, returned to a small profit and is on the lookout for sites and/or delivery hubs. Byron, which was one of the bidders for rival Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), currently has 19 sites and four delivery kitchen units. Wilkinson said: “For the period from the reopening of the estate at the beginning of September to the second lockdown (bearing in mind we opened after Eat Out To Help Out so didn’t have the benefit of inflated sales), we have made a small profit at company level, for the first time in a number of years. That’s against a backdrop of sales decline mirroring the industry average of circa minus 25%, we have some sites in growth but we are over-exposed in large city centres, which are still ghost towns and will be for the foreseeable future. The main contributing factors to positive figures have been the work done to reduce our central overheads from more than £6m at the end of last year to less than £1.7m per annum now, and the incredible work ethic and application of the leaner Byron team that has worked tirelessly. We have been helped by new landlord deals and the VAT reduction. An extended lockdown into December would be disastrous and undo all the hard work. It would be a body blow to the whole industry because most hospitality businesses make the large share of their profit during that six-week period until schools return in January.” Boparan Restaurant Group, which earlier this year acquired Carluccio’s out of administration, acquired the bulk of the GBK business through a pre-pack administration last month, in a deal Propel understands was valued at more than £5m. Wilkinson said: “We unfortunately missed out on a well-publicised opportunity to consolidate the market, but we have moved on quickly and are having many conversations with a number of landlords regarding ex-Byron sites, ex-GBK sites and many of the other empty units the length and breadth of the country. The whole industry are mere pawns in the government’s chess game so it is hard to make long-term commitments with confidence in such uncertain times, however, that won’t stop us from making what we believe to be the right decisions.”
Lasan secures former Cafe Rouge site in Harborne: Birmingham-based restaurant group Lasan is to further strengthen its presence in the city with its fifth site. The company has secured the former Cafe Rouge premises in Harborne High Street for its latest eatery. The, as yet unnamed, restaurant will offer an “elegant and urban chic” dining environment and is due to open in February 2021. Lasan Group owns four sites in the city – Raja Monkey, an Indian street food cafe in Hall Green; Fiesta del Asado steak restaurants in Hagley Road and Shirley; and its eponymous venue in the Jewellery Quarter that serves upmarket Indian cuisine. The Harborne restaurant will join the group’s other new launch – Argentine-style cocktail bar and eatery Sonrisa in Leicester. Lasan chief executive Jabbar Khan told Birmingham Live: “There’s no denying it’s been a tough year for us all, especially for the hospitality sector. We remain positive and continue to grow and invest during this challenging time. We’re really excited to be able to create more than 60 jobs between the two new sites.” The Cafe Rouge closed in July when Casual Dining Group was placed into administration. The business was subsequently bought by private equity firm Epiris and renamed The Big Table.
Peacock steps up to chief operating officer at TGI Friday’s, new people director appointed: TGI Friday’s, the Robert Cook-led business, has promoted Suzanne Peacock, the group’s people and culture director, to chief operating officer, after the departure of Tom Sycamore, Propel has learned. Sycamore, formerly of PizzaExpress and Mitchells & Butlers, stepped down from TGI Friday’s after less than a year with the business to pursue a new opportunity outside the sector. Peacock joined the business late last year. She was previously group talent and development director at Merlin Entertainments for more than four and a half years. On the back of her promotion, Propel understands that TGI’s has appointed Karen Barnard, formerly of Whitbread and Caffe Nero, as its new people director. Barnard was previously head of HR operations at Premier Inn and head of HR at Caffe Nero. Last week, the company confirmed it was launching a cocktail-led bar and restaurant concept, named 63rd+1st. Designed to cater for a broad audience, the first venue under the new concept will open on the former Carluccio’s site in Cobham, Surrey, on 8 January. Inspired by the original Friday’s founded in 1965 in Manhattan, on the corner of 63rd Street and 1st Avenue, the concept will be a “visible departure from the iconic Friday’s brand but harks back to the same principles of classic cocktails, quality food and legendary atmosphere”. Further 63rd+1st restaurants will launch across the UK in 2021. It is thought sites in Canterbury, Harrogate and Cambridge are being discussed for the new concept.
Greene King launches new virtual delivery brand – Chicken Crazy: Brewer and retailer Greene King has added to its virtual delivery brand portfolio, with the launch of new concept Chicken Crazy, Propel has learned. It is understood Greene King has started to roll out the new delivery brand across selected sites. Available through Just Eat, the new virtual brand, offers nine dishes to choose from, including “a signature Chicken & Gravy that comes with a slice of white bread to soak up all the lovely gravy”. The new brand also offers burgers, bone in and boneless boxes as well as a couple of lower calorie options. In September, Propel revealed brewer and retailer Greene King was trialling a new virtual delivery brand called Proper Pub Classics Co, in some of its Locals Pubs division sites. The virtual brand’s menu features pub classics such as fish and chips (£6.99), and steak & ale pie (£7.79), plus a small selection of burgers, a chicken wings sharing dish, sides and kids’ meals.
BrewDog to replace Kupp in Exeter: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to replace the former Kupp site in Exeter, for an opening next year. The site in the city’s Guildhall Dining Quarter has been closed since the summer of 2018, when the Scandinavian-inspired restaurant and cafe concept operated by Faucet Inn, went into administration. Propel revealed in October that BrewDog had 20 new bars in various stages of construction around the world. The company is currently working on openings in the UK, in Plymouth, Exeter, Manchester, Chelmsford, Basingstoke, Bath, Ealing, Headingley, Huddersfield, Bradford, Lincoln and Belfast. It is currently seeking permission to open the first beer hotel with rooftop fire pit and barbecue in England. The site is currently an empty three-storey office building in Manchester’s Fountain Street but, if granted, BrewDog will transform the venue into a boutique hotel with 18 en-suite rooms and a restaurant and bar on the ground floor, which will provide 150 covers. The brewer already has similar sites operating in Scotland and the US.
Smith & Western set for Horsham relocation next year: Smith & Western, the south east-based US-style restaurant chain, has confirmed plans to relocate its Horsham site to a more central location in the West Sussex town. The seven-strong group has confirmed it will open in the closed Steamer Trading unit in the town’s East Street. Smith & Western currently operates a site in North Parade, just outside Horsham town centre. However, plans were submitted last year to demolish the restaurant and replace it with 23 flats. The group, which is owned by the Sandford family, opened its latest site in early 2019 at the Addlestone One regeneration scheme in Addlestone, Surrey. The company had been in talks to open a site at Turk’s Yard next to the Thames in Kingston. The chain also operates restaurants in Boxhill, Crawley, Chichester, Lingfield and Tunbridge Wells.
Former Fifteen Restaurant employees to receive pay-out following employment tribunal: Former employees at Cornwall Food Foundation and its associated Fifteen Restaurant are to share more than £200,000 following a failure in the redundancy process. The restaurant at Watergate Bay, founded by Jamie Oliver, made the announcement it was going into liquidation in emails and via social media in December 2019 and ceased trading with immediate effect after almost 14 years. The foundation was a charitable venture running healthy eating programmes for the community and training young chefs and restaurant staff through the Fifteen Restaurant. Both businesses closed just days before Christmas last year without any prior warning causing the loss of 78 jobs. A Crowdfunder campaign was later launched to help the staff losing their jobs with the hopes of raising £10,000. However, after making contact, Citizens Advice Cornwall stepped in to make sure the former employees knew about their rights and helped them make applications to the employment tribunal for the protective award, which will be paid by the government’s redundancy payments scheme because the businesses are insolvent, reports Pirate FM. The law requires employers to consult with staff for at least 30 days whenever 20 or more employees are likely to be made redundant. Employees are entitled to compensation, called a “protective award” when that does not happen. The payments are equivalent to eight weeks’ pay for the former Fifteen staff.
Preston-based restaurant operator to open Mexican concept for fourth site:Preston-based restaurant operator Mark O’Rourke is to launch a Mexican concept for his fourth site in the city. O’Rourke, who operates 263, Fino Tapas and Winckley Street Ale House, will open La Neta in St Wilfrid Street. The restaurant is due to open in the first week of December – depending on coronavirus restrictions. La Neta will serve all of the traditional dishes such as barbacoa, burritos, fajitas and nachos. It will also offer different cuts of meat such as leg, shoulder and rib that will be cooked authentically in a wooden oven as is traditional in Mexico. The drinks menu will also be very traditional with a focus on margaritas and tequila. O’Rourke told Lancashire Live: “I identified a gap in the market and I don’t like opening things that Preston already has. It’s something the city really needs and I think people want.”
Patisserie concept Sakurado launches in Chinatown: Patisserie concept Sakurado has opened in London’s Chinatown. The Franco-Japanese patisserie is owned by real estate investment trust Shaftesbury. The site has opened for takeaway, delivery and click and collect, and will open in full when the current lockdown ends. Its speciality is the “mille crepe” – a 30-layer cake comprised of alternating pancakes and pastry cream in a variety of flavours. The 700 square foot store also serves a “wobbly cheesecake” and Japanese pastry staples roll cakes, shortcakes, mochi ice cream, coffee and bubble teas. Shaftesbury restaurant director Julia Wilkinson said: “This is yet another indication of just how attractive Chinatown London is for operators looking to bring a taste of east Asia to the UK and that operators recognise the long-term attraction of the West End for innovative food concepts.” Sakurado owner Ernest Singh added: “Having started in 2018, Sakurado has supplied some of the most popular restaurants and chefs in London alongside Chinatown’s best bakeries with our mille crepes, prepared daily. Opening our very own store in this buzzing and central location is very exciting for us – we look forward to safely welcoming customers through our doors, and launching in full in December.”