The Halal Guys – plenty of scope for UK growth beyond initial 20-site agreement ‘given opportunities in market’: The restaurant operator behind the launch of US street food brand The Halal Guys in the UK has told Propel there is plenty of scope for growth beyond its initial 20-site agreement “given the opportunities in the market”. ITICO F+B partner Jan van Delden said the plan was to grow small clusters of restaurants in cities across the UK, starting in London. The debut site will open in the capital’s Irving Street on Saturday, 30 March. ITICO F+B has “all but signed” on a second site in central London, which will open in late May or early June, with a third to follow later this year. Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed launched The Halal Guys as a street cart in New York 28 years ago. An expansion into restaurants in 2015 has led to 85 outlets under The Halal Guys brand across North America and Asia, with 400 more in the pipeline. The brand has a short menu of griddled chicken and beef gyro served on a platter over rice or in a pitta or wrap with signature white or hot sauce. There is also a vegan alternative made with falafel. Of its UK expansion, van Delden said: “We have an ambitious growth plan – we’re looking to open four or five sites a year. The initial agreement is for 20 sites but there’s plenty of scope to go beyond that given the opportunities in the market – but we’re taking it one step at a time. We’re looking to build a hub in London and then do the same in other major UK cities. We’re looking at high-street sites but we feel the brand would also work in other locations such as train stations and shopping centres. The first Halal Guys drive-thru opened the other week in Chicago, so that’s also an option.” Despite the well-publicised difficulties the casual dining sector faces, van Delden said he wasn’t afraid to launch a new brand into the market. He added: “The UK economy is still growing. Also, if we tried to launch two years ago we wouldn’t have had access to the sites we do now because the big operators would have snapped them up. We’re the only brand that operates in this space and, given how The Halal Guys has been received in each territory it has launched, we’re confident of its success in the UK.”
 
Polpo puts Berwick Street and Notting Hill venues on the market: Polpo, which is seeking a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), has placed its Berwick Street and Notting Hill venues on the market. A letter to creditors reported an offer of £160,000 has been made for the Berwick Street site but the company has received professional advice suggesting a price of circa £250,000 should be obtainable. The company has forecast a return to profit in 2020 should the CVA be passed. It estimates sales of £10,286,000 and a net loss of £174,000 in 2019. For 2020, it forecasts net sales of £10,389,000 and a net profit of £286,000 and for 2021 it forecasts sales of £10,493,000 and a net profit of £280,000. There is an estimated deficiency of £4,244,485 in respect of unsecured creditors. The proposal states: “HM Revenue & Customs is a major creditor, for circa £910,000, which would have an influential effect upon the approval of the arrangement, since its claim represents approximately 22% of the total value of creditors, but their attitude to the proposal is not known.”
Gaucho appoints new CFO: Jim Kottler, formerly of D&D London, has joined Gaucho as its new group chief financial officer, Propel has learned. Kottler, who spent more than a year as interim chief financial officer at D&D, replaces Frank Bandura. Ex-Carluccio’s finance director Bandura joined Gaucho in November 2016. Gaucho and M Restaurants chief executive Martin Williams told Propel: “I am delighted Jim has joined us as chief financial officer. He will bring a wealth of experience to the company. I am delighted he shares in our ambitions for the brand and will be integral in an exciting next chapter for Gaucho! Jim joins the appointments of Gemma Meale – HR director (previously Splendid Hotels), Jenna Bromage – marketing director (Mondrian Hotel Group), Ross Butler – managing director (RBD Consultancy), Travis McKechnie – operations director (Roka) and Max Castaldo – executive chef (The Lanesborough Hotel) in forming an incredible team, who in my humble view are the most talented in the industry. I am sure the whole company would like to thank Frank Bandura for his energy and enthusiasm for Gaucho and guiding the brand through a challenging year in 2018.” Williams, M Restaurants founder and a former managing director of Gaucho, was brought in to lead the brand as it exited administration in October last year after its acquisition by Lomo Bidco, an entity owned by Investec Bank and SC Lowy.
Chopstix makes Birmingham debut: Chopstix, the UK’s fastest-growing Asian quick service restaurant brand, made its debut in Birmingham last week. The national noodle brand opened on the former Wok & Go site in the city’s Bull Street. The opening is part of the company’s ongoing expansion across the UK over the next 12 months, as it looks to add to it growing number of sites in high-footfall shopping centres, high streets and travel hubs. Last year, Chopstix secured a new £2m bank facility from Metro Bank to support its expansion plans. The Bull Street site incorporates many new menu items such as tangy sweet chilli prawns and stir-fried beef and broccoli. The group, which currently operates close to 40 company-owned sites across the UK, plus a number of franchise units, recently doubled its presence in Nottingham. Chopstix managing director Jon Lake told the Birmingham Mail: “We have been searching for the right site to make our debut in Birmingham for some time but it has been worth the wait. We are looking forward to welcoming customers to Chopstix, where they can choose to eat-in, take-away or enjoy at home via our delivery partners Just Eat and Deliveroo. We love the Birmingham buzz and are already looking for further sites in the city.”
Mowgli secures Sheffield site: Indian street food concept Mowgli has further strengthened its openings pipeline after securing a site in Sheffield. The company, which is led by founder Nisha Katona and backed by the Foresight Group, is set to take over the Cat’s Pyjamas site in the city’s Ecclesall Road, with an opening scheduled for this spring. The current seven-strong business recently opened its second site in Manchester, at the new University Green development in Oxford Road. It also has openings lined up this year in Cardiff and Leicester, whilst a launch in Preston has also previously been mooted by Katona. Mowgli also currently operates two restaurants in Liverpool and venues in Birmingham, Nottingham and Oxford.
Franco Manca secures Greenwich site, builds regional pipeline: Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned pizza brand, is set to enhance its presence in London by opening a site in Greenwich. The company, which operates circa 40 sites, has secured the Papa Charlie’s site opposite the entrance to Greenwich Market in Church Street. It is currently on-site at the former Le Pain Quotidien site opposite St Paul’s. The group, which recently applied to open in Church Street, Cardiff, is understood to be planning eight openings between April this year and March 2020. It is also set to open in Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, this year. Propel also understands the pizza concept is also in advanced talks on sites in Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds. It is thought current trading across the company’s two brands – Franco Manca and The Real Greek – is good.
Loungers eyes Buxton opening, Cosy Club for Nottingham: Loungers has applied for a premises licence to open in Buxton, Derbyshire. The company has submitted the licensing application to High Peak Borough Council in respect of 22-23 Spring Gardens, which was formerly occupied by outdoor clothing retailer Trespass. In its application, Loungers states the vacant unit is “to undergo a major refurbishment to form a new cafe/bar, Lounge”. Meanwhile, Loungers wants to turn the former Victoria Club casino into a 21,000 square foot Cosy Club restaurant over three floors. There are currently 23 Cosy Club venues in the UK. The building was constructed in the late 19th century for the Imperial Life and Fire Insurance Company. It was altered to the Reform Club in 1913 and was most recently occupied as The Victoria Club.
Happy Bird closes Bristol site: The Happy Bird chicken concept, which placed an emphasis on ethical produce and received backing from former Domino’s chief executive Chris Moore, has closed its Bristol site. Happy Bird opened in Whiteladies Road in January last year, taking over the prominent unit that was formerly a Vodafone store. Its website stated it served “the best chicken you have ever tasted” with an emphasis on ethically-sourced, “happy” chickens. Chickens were sourced from a free-to-roam farm in Yorkshire and were used to form much of the menu, which included wings, tenders, wraps and burgers, with sides including fries and chicken crackling.
MeatLiquor switches from Deliveroo to UberEats: MeatLiquor has switched delivery supplier from Deliveroo to UberEats, Propel has learned. The move will be a boost to UberEats, which has so far lagged behind rival Deliveroo in terms of market share and profile. MeatLiquor was a high-profile early adopter of the Deliveroo model in the UK and one of the first established brands to open a unit in a Deliveroo Editions site, which it has since closed. UberEats recently reaffirmed its commitment to growing in the UK, stating it was keen to secure more quality restaurants on its platform and increasing its marketing expenditure. It most high-profile partner in the UK is McDonald’s, which currently offers delivery from more than 700 of its UK sites. Last week, UberEats said it would limit the fees it charges to restaurants at 30% of the value of an order, compared with a current maximum fee of 35%. It will also introduce a “market place” in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, to capture restaurants that want to be listed but make their own deliveries. It is thought talks on acquiring Deliveroo, first reported last year, have since cooled after Deliveroo insisted on a price well above $4bn (£3bn). Last November, Deliveroo increased its restaurant partners to 17,000, and announced new exclusive deals with PizzaExpress, Wagamama and Azzurri Group.
Three Joes to firm up site pipeline in next few weeks after raising £510,000 on Crowdcube: Tim Hall has told Propel he hopes to have a pipeline of sites firmed up for his sourdough pizza restaurant Three Joes in the next couple of weeks having raised £510,000 in its crowdfunding campaign. Hall, founder of London-based healthy eating brand Pod, said negotiations were taking place with landlords on a number of potential sites. He added the funds raised should be enough, “there or thereabouts”, to boost Three Joes’ estate to five outlets, building on its current venues in Fareham and Winchester. The company remains in discussions to open its third site, at The Beacon, a redeveloped shopping centre in Eastbourne, East Sussex. Three Joes, which Hall launched in 2017 with former Pod food director Emma Blackmore and ex-Byron operations director Peter Bruton, raised a total of £510,250 from 455 investors on Crowdcube. Three Joes offered 6.25% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £6m. Hall said: “It has been very successful and we’re delighted we have been able to raise this amount, especially given the current market. As well as our existing investors, we’ve had a lot of support from customers and Crowdcube investors.” The pitch stated: “We think sourdough pizza is the next big thing, with Franco Manca now operating 44 restaurants. We install a wood-fired oven in every restaurant and make sourdough fresh every morning. We believe authentic sourdough pizza will replace pizza chain pizza made from white flour dough and cooked in electric ovens just like barista-made coffee has replaced instant coffee.”
The Lucky Onion to open second Gin & Juice with Cheltenham launch, five further sites planned in 2019: Cotswolds hotel and restaurant group The Lucky Onion is to open its second Gin & Juice site, in Cheltenham this week. The company, now owned by Julian Dunkerton, the entrepreneur behind high-street brand Superdry and Dunkertons Organic Cider, will launch the venue on Thursday (28 February) in The Promenade. Having made its debut in Cardiff, a further five Gin & Juice venues are planned for 2019. The concept offers more than 350 gin varieties alongside cocktails, while during the day Gin & Juice offers an all-day brunch menu. The main room includes small sofas, booths and high tables with stools, while The Snug is available for private hire, reports Punchline Gloucester. The Lucky Onion operates five sites in total.
Paintball company submits plans for Crystal Maze-style venue in Newport: Plans have been submitted by a Somerset-based paintball company to create an adventure-style venue similar to The Crystal Maze on an industrial estate in Newport, South Wales. Plans for the 4,445 square foot venue in Mariner Way have been lodged with the city council on behalf of Bridgwater-headquartered Diverse Coaching. A planning statement said: “This is a new activity not yet seen in the UK and is a physical adventure-style problem-solving activity similar to The Crystal Maze – its exact name has still to be confirmed. The activity is based on a team of four to six people completing a single overall objective during a two-hour session. However, to achieve this they most work as a team to solve multiple physical and mental problems in a multi-room game area. It is also planned to utilise the same space to provide two-hour ‘Nerf parties’ for children when not otherwise in use and would not envisage more than 20 children taking part at any one time.” The site would also accommodate a paintball venture.
Former Champs operator to open second site for micro sports bar concept, in Sheffield on Thursday: Former Champs operator Danny Grayson is to open a second site in Sheffield for his micro sports bar concept. Sport Shack will launch in Hillsborough Corner, close to Sheffield Wednesday’s football stadium, on Thursday (28 February). Grayson, who operated the Champs format with Punch, teamed up with local businessman James Dobson to launch Sport Shack in Ecclesall Road in September. Sport Shack Hillsborough will feature eight 4K Ultra HD televisions screening Sky, BT Sports and the racing channel alongside sporting memorabilia and heavily discounted drinks on Thursdays and Sundays. The venue will offer keg and cask ale, mainstream lager and spirits, and more than 20 gins. Food will made on-site using local ingredients. Grayson and Dobson said: “The reception to Sport Shack has been amazing. Hillsborough has been neglected over the past few years, with lots of shops and banks disappearing. We hope other companies will come to Hillsborough and make the area as vibrant as it used to be as it’s a fantastic area with good, honest people.” A third site in the city – Sport Shack Woodseats – is due to open in March.
Paris-based Italian trattoria brand Big Mamma makes UK debut, in Shoreditch:Paris-based Italian restaurant brand Big Mamma has made its UK debut by opening a site in Shoreditch, east London, creating 85 jobs. Big Mamma, which operates six trattorias in Paris and one in Lille, has launched 172-cover Gloria in Great Eastern Street at a site formerly occupied by Red’s True Barbecue. The venue features a main dining room inspired by the isle of Capri, with marble from Carrara and mirrored ceilings. It also features a “secret 1980s-inspired dining room” downstairs that offers late-night pizza and cocktails until 2am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The menu mixes Italian classics with products direct from 180 small producers in Italy. Dishes include a ten-level lasagne, girella (ravioli filled with rabbit ragout and polenta), Neapolitan pizza heated in a Marana oven, and Italian gelato. The drinks list includes cocktails, while the wine room offers 50 bottles from the best winemakers in the Piedmont region. A spokeswoman said: “One of our wildest dreams at Big Mamma has come true. Since the beginning we’ve always wanted to open in London, the most exciting city with the craziest vibe.” As well as its trattorias, Big Mamma operates cocktail bar Popolare, Italian speakeasy No Entry and food hall La Felicitá, all in Paris.
Health and fitness delivery brand Gym Food passes half-way mark in £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to open three dark kitchens: London-based health and fitness delivery brand Gym Food has passed the half-way mark in its £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open three dark kitchens in the capital. The company, founded by managing director George L Streatfield, is offering 16.67% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.75m. So far, 121 investors have pledged £228,360 with ten days remaining. The company operates a dark kitchen in Bethnal Green that is averaging sales of £23,000 a week. The company said it saw 278% organic growth from November 2017 to November 2018. The pitch states: “Now exceeding £90,000 a month in sales, Gym Food is looking to execute a low cap ex expansion model. We have no storefronts, shop fits or premiums – we trade purely via delivery. With this investment we plan to open three additional sites – Battersea, Vauxhall and King’s Cross – high volume food delivery locations that will also grow our corporate audience.”
Kuula Poké to open in Birmingham: Kuula Poké, which operates sites in London, Manchester and Madrid, is to open in Birmingham later this year. Taking over the Great Western Arcade site in Colmore Row that was formerly occupied by Yorks Bakery, the eatery will primarily serve salad bowls that are known as poké bowls. Poké is a native Hawaiian raw fish dish, which is usually served with traditional condiments such as sea salt, seaweed and limu. Seen as a mix of Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine, Kuula Poké will offer a number of healthy salad bowl-style options with customers able to select their preferred protein, base and toppings.
Perle Hotels acquires fourth site following Inverness deal: Perle Hotels has acquired The Lochardil Hotel in Inverness, Scotland, for its fourth site in the country. The hotel is situated in a quiet suburb, five minutes from Inverness city centre, and offers 12 bedrooms in the original hotel building and a further 16 letting rooms in a modern, two-storey annexe. Family owned and operated for more than 30 years, owners Eileen Fraser and Graeme MacBean have retired following the off-market transaction. Perle Hotels’ other sites are the Perle Oban Hotel in Oban and the Marmalade and Bosville hotels on Skye. Perle Hotels said it wanted to add an Inverness hotel to its portfolio given the area’s increasing popularity for tourists. Stuart Drysdale, director of Christie & Co, which handled the sale, said: “The hotel has enjoyed healthy turnover levels and profits over the years and we are confident Perle Hotels will be able to build on the historic trading levels as Inverness continues to enjoy increased visitor numbers.”
Tiny Rebel looks to increase production seven-fold as part of growth plans: South Wales-based brewer Tiny Rebel is set to increase production seven-fold and develop a new distribution centre as part of plans for growth. The company has submitted plans to redevelop land opposite its headquarters at Wern Industrial Estate in Rogerstone. Moving operations to the new centre would allow the firm to expand production at its main brewery by seven times and brew more than 12 million litres of beer annually. The company hopes to achieve turnover of £10m and create 25 jobs in its brewing and operations teams to support growth. Founder Brad Cummings told Insider Media: “The British craft brewing industry has exploded in recent years thanks to growing demand in local and overseas markets. Our core focus remains on expanding sales across the UK and the new distribution centre will provide us with the flexibility needed to increase production and expand our product range” The brewer secured the new site with a £175,000 funding package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
Oddfellows Hotel Collection management passes to Bespoke as Jonathan Slater steps down: Jonathan Slater, owner of Oddfellows Management Company, which operates the Oddfellows Hotel Collection, is to step down. He will pass the mantle to hotel management company Bespoke to take over the running of Oddfellows Chester and Oddfellows On The Park. The investors behind the boutique hotel collection will continue to own the hotels, which Bespoke will operate under a management contract. Slater has operated the boutique hotel brand for more than four years following his retirement as managing director at The Chester Grosvenor. He masterminded the transformation of Oddfellows Chester from a restaurant with rooms in a Georgian townhouse to an 18-bedroom boutique hotel with apartments. In 2017 he launched Oddfellows On The Park, a 22-bedroom hotel restaurant, bar and salon in a Victorian hall in Greater Manchester. Slater said: “I will cherish the opportunity to spend more time with my wife, daughters and grandchildren and pursue some more rigorous sailing challenges!” Bespoke Hotels chairman Robin Sheppard said: “We are delighted to work with a distinctive and vibrant brand such as Oddfellows Hotels. Our team’s priority is to ensure business continues as usual.”
Former BEDA chairman joins NDML as nightlife ambassador: Former Bar, Entertainment & Dance Association (BEDA) chairman John Hayes has joined night-time leisure insurance company NDML as its new nightlife ambassador. Hayes brings more than 40 years’ experience of the late-night leisure industry. NDML was previously the official insurance broker to BEDA and enjoyed a strong working relationship with Hayes as chairman. Hayes said he would help to build bonds and strengthen the relationship between NDML and nightclub and late-bar owners and trade body leaders