Auditor faces grilling over failures leading to Patisserie Valerie collapse:Grant Thornton faces questions over whether it examined Patisserie Valerie’s accounting journals, which could have provided clues about the suspected fraud that brought down the chain. The auditor may have failed to look at journal entries, according to someone familiar with a report commissioned by Patisserie Valerie from the accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The journals show the names, dates and amounts of transactions. Grant Thornton audited the company until the discovery of a £40m black hole in its accounts, caused by “significant, and potentially fraudulent, accounting irregularities”, Patisserie Valerie said. The chain, chaired by sector investor Luke Johnson, went into administration last week after failing to renew its banking facilities with Barclays and HSBC. A total of 71 sites have closed with the loss of 900 jobs. The accusation against Grant Thornton comes after a report the suspected fraud involved several finance staff and a supplier enlisted to provide fake invoices. The PwC review contains details of how the staff discussed whether they should adjust fake ledgers to take account of roadworks outside shops, reports the Financial Times. Each store had its own ledger, and would have its figures adjusted to ensure turnover and margin remained constant, according to the person familiar with the report. In one email exchange, finance staff expressed concern about where they would obtain cash to pay the then chief executive, Paul May. The black hole included £9.7m in two “secret” overdrafts. The company said in October it had none of the £28.8m cash it had reported earlier in the year. KPMG has been enlisted to find a buyer for the assets. Meanwhile, Brighton Pier Group, another listed firm backed by Johnson, is set to drop Grant Thornton as its auditor and hire rival BDO, reports The Times.
Soho Coffee Co launches mobile payment and loyalty app: Artisan coffee chain Soho Coffee Co has launched a mobile payment and loyalty app. The company has partnered with mobile payment, loyalty and marketing platform Yoyo to develop the offer. It rewards loyal customers with a point for every penny spent in-store on food and drink – receiving the equivalent of a seventh cup of coffee free. The app is being rolled out to all Soho Coffee Co-owned stores in the UK, providing customers with secure, straight-through mobile payment, automated loyalty points, product rewards and fully itemised digital receipts –in a single moment at point-of-sale. To mark the launch, customers are being gifted their first 100 points. Managing director Penny Manuel said: “The launch of the app enhances our data-led loyalty programme, which places customer experience at the heart of everything we do. Soho Coffee Co prides itself on the highest quality, freshly prepared food and drink, made to order. The introduction of the app allows us to concentrate on delivering good food quickly and, more importantly, delivers the high levels of speed and service our customers expect. Being able to connect with customers and generate tailor-made, relevant benefits is a win-win for everyone and will strengthen long-term relationships with our valued customers. Given their sector experience, we felt Yoyo was the right partner for this project.” Manuel said the company had no plans to introduce click-and-collect pre-ordering as it “compromised quality”. Michael Rolph, co-founder and chief executive at Yoyo, said: “We are delighted to work with Soho Coffee Co, which is leading the charge among high-street brands to truly transform the in-store experience – utilising purchasing behaviour to instantly and personally reward all its valued customers. This strategy adds real value to the customer experience, drives in-store footfall and, crucially, increases customer-lifetime value.” Soho Coffee Co was founded in Cheltenham in 1999 and now operates about 40 stores, with its heartland in the south west.
Be At One to hire 500 bartenders in 2019: Chris Lincoln, head of learning and development at Be At One, has told Propel the business expects to take on 500 new bartenders during 2019. The cocktail bar brand, which became part of the Stonegate Pub Company business in July, has won numerous awards and its drive to stay ahead of the game as other operators increasingly add cocktails to their offer has led it to become an accredited training company with its own academy issuing bartending qualifications. Lincoln said: “We have set the bar high. If you see GCSE maths on someone’s CV, you know what that is. It will be the same with our qualification. It’s to a certain standard that cannot slip. Many of our bartenders have gone on to great things so we’ve got a real legacy. This is giving them something back, an accredited certification they have on their CV to boost their employability. Anyone coming into Be At One will do this certificate off the bat. It’s our business standard now so it’s essential to pass this accreditation, and you then go on to further training.” Be At One has increased its focus on guest interaction as well as cocktail creation. Lincoln said: “We have added a little bit of flair and extra interaction in terms of recognising people’s body language to make sure they are really enjoying themselves. With cocktails, people don’t always know what they want or want to try new things, and we’ve got to be able to steer them towards something they’re going to really enjoy.”
Tortilla reports record sales in 2018 with like-for-likes up 6%, aims to expand ‘baby’ concept this year: Mexican restaurant group Tortilla has reported record sales in 2018 with like-for-likes up 6%. To combat delivery challenges, Tortilla opened its first “Baby” Tortilla in Putney – a site specifically designed to cater for residential online orders. At only 700 square feet, the concept is half the size of a regular Tortilla restaurant but with an evolutionary kitchen design that delivers the same offering as any other site. Managing director Richard Morris said the “Baby” concept was a natural evolution for the brand and has been a major success. He added: “There are many more Putneys out there and we hope to open a few more this year.” Tortilla also opened its first backstage concept in its Bankside branch last year, with a second being trialled in Leadenhall. This concept, modelled off the delivery market’s dark kitchen idea, saw a second servery being built behind the scenes in the restaurant to specifically process online orders so as not to interfere with customers’ in-store experiences. “By embracing the changes in the market and staying true to our core concept, we’ve managed to evolve some of our design thinking, to increase throughput without compromising our in-store customers,” said Morris. “Our offering is still proving hugely popular in the market and we’ve got several menu additions and new restaurant sites in the pipeline for customers to look forward to.”
KFC pledges to eliminate single-use plastic by 2025, reaches chicken raised free of antibiotics goal: KFC has pledged to convert to renewable, recycled packaging by 2025. The pledge applies to packaging such as container lids, plastic bags, straws and cutlery. KFC plans to work with suppliers and franchisees globally to identify plastic alternatives in each market. The company also revealed it has achieved its goal, made in 2017, to source all its chicken from suppliers which raise poultry without antibiotics important to human medicine. Chief executive Tony Lowings said: “As a global brand that operates more than 22,000 restaurants in more than 135 countries, KFC is in a position to have a real impact on how the industry approaches waste and packaging management overall. With environmental sustainability as a core aspect of how we do business, this commitment represents a public acknowledgement of the obligation we have to address these serious issues.” KFC said it would also join McDonald’s and Starbucks by working with NextGen Consortium, a think-tank for innovators looking to create the next generation of recyclable or compostable cups.
Taiwanese fried chicken chain makes UK debut, in Chinatown London:Taiwan-based Monga Fried Chicken has made its UK debut, in London. The company, which has about 40 sites in its homeland, has opened the venue in Chinatown, in Macclesfield Street. It also marks the first European site for Monga Fried Chicken, which opened its debut US outlet in Houston in the autumn having arrived in Canada in 2017. The Chinatown branch offers takeaway options with about 30 seats upstairs. Monga Fried Chicken marinates its chicken fillets in honey before dipping them in batter instead of dry flour before frying. The menu has five flavour options, including a seaweed version, alongside Taiwanese and fruit beer. There are also wings and nuggets along with regular and sweet potato fries, reports Hot Dinners.
Stew & Oyster secures sixth site, in Malton: Leeds-based bar group Stew & Oyster has secured its sixth site, in Malton, North Yorkshire. The company, which serves real ale alongside a selection of the food it is named after, has signed a new lease for the former Malton Town Hall in Market Place. Stew & Oyster plans to open the site in April having agreed a deal with the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate following a £380,000 investment to restore the grade-II listed building. Helen Barry, estate manager for the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate, said: “We are delighted we have been able to attract Stew & Oyster to come to Malton and we’re very impressed with its approach to jointly undertaking this significant renovation of our flagship building in Market Place.” Stew & Oyster opened Calls Landing in Leeds in 2009 before adding two further sites in the city – Boston Spa and Oakwood. It also has venues in Otley and Sheffield. The Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate was advised by agent Fleurets in the marketing of the property.
Motorway services operator Westmorland reports turnover passes £100m:Motorway services and hotel operator Westmorland has reported turnover increased to £100,780,000 for the year ending 1 July 2018, compared with £96,373,000 the year before. The family-owned business, whose sites include Gloucester services on the M5 and Cairn Lodge services on the M74 in Scotland, saw pre-tax profit fall to £5,124,000 compared with £5,813,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Westmorland is known for selling “home-cooked, locally sourced produce in beautiful settings”. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Fixed assets grew slightly to £65.4m (2017: £64.3m), with the most significant capital addition being the redevelopment of Cairn Lodge Services. A total of £3.1m was invested in the estate in the year. £1.7m of borrowing was repaid, with net debt decreasing to £26.0m (2017: £29.1m) and the benefit of reduced interest charges versus the prior year. Financial management remains strong with high liquidity, very competitive debt margins and a strong bank covenant cover. Cash balances were strong at £10.9m (2017: £9.5m). Net assets grew to £31.8m (2017: £27.8m). The company will continue to invest in its core businesses and look for new opportunities that enable it to strengthen its identity.”
Antic sells Brockley cafe bar as it focuses on wet-led pubs: Antic, the Downing-backed London pub operator led by Anthony Thomas, has sold its Jam Circus site in Brockley as it focuses on traditional wet-led pubs. The cafe bar, opposite Crofton Park station, shut on Sunday (27 January). Thomas told News Shopper: “It is indeed sad after so many years. However, it felt like it was time to hand over the reins to another and put our focus into more traditional wet-led public houses rather than neighbourhood cafe bars such as Jam. I have no doubt the new operator will continue what we began, while bringing new ideas to the fore to deliver an improved Jam Circus for Crofton Park. We wish it the very best of luck and are grateful to all our patrons who made Jam the circus of fun we had intended.”
Plans lodged for £3.8m hotel and leisure resort scheme at Gulliver’s World in Warrington: Plans have been submitted for a hotel and leisure resort at Gulliver’s World in Warrington, Cheshire. The £3.8m scheme, which is proposed for a development site near the existing theme park, comprises four co-joined planning applications that seek permission for the construction of two hotels, a change of use of land to allow for the siting of 33 holiday lodges, and the building of a themed village resort complex. Known as the Wilderness Wharf, it has been designed to complement the venue’s current offering. The two hotels will be themed as a pirate ship and a fairytale castle with suites, family rooms and a village resort encompassing a cafe, craft centre, children’s indoor play centre and creche, guest reception and housekeeping facilities. Gulliver’s managing director Julie Dalton told Insider Media: “This is our 40th year in business and next year we are proud to be celebrating our 30th year in Warrington. The proposals will help us continue to deliver quality leisure breaks and entertainment as the UK holiday market changes and grows, providing quality, family-friendly accommodation that suits all budgets and tastes.” Subject to approval, construction is set to commence by the summer and progress in two phases, taking between two and three years to complete.
Fishbowl appoints new chief executive: Fishbowl, the provider of marketing and analytics solutions to the restaurant industry, has appointed Mike Dodson as its new chief executive. Dodson joins Fishbowl with an extensive, proven track record of driving business growth in the restaurant technology sector. He has served as an advisor to emerging technology companies such as Resy and Rewards Network, and as chief revenue officer/senior vice-president of global sales and restaurant relations at OpenTable. During his tenure, Dodson scaled OpenTable from less than 800 restaurants in only four cities to a global enterprise that now serves more than 40,000 restaurants, navigating it through an initial public offering, and ultimately, the acquisition of Priceline Group. Fishbowl, which was acquired by private equity firm Symphony Technology Group in 2017, has more than 70,000 restaurants among its users. Symphony Technology Group managing director Marc Bala said: “Fishbowl is poised for tremendous growth. Mike’s outstanding expertise in the restaurant technology segment and his client centric focus make him the ideal chief executive to lead Fishbowl into this next phase of growth.” Dodson added: “Fishbowl has served the needs of the restaurant industry for two decades as both an innovator and an industry resource. I was fortunate enough to partner with it at the beginning of its journey during my time at OpenTable. I am excited to join it now as chief executive as we evolve with new strategies.”
Welcome Break to open fourth PizzaExpress motorway services site, at Cobham in March: Motorway services operator Welcome Break is to open a PizzaExpress restaurant at its Cobham services site on the M25 in Surrey in March. Plans have been submitted to Elmbridge Council for signage at the site. PizzaExpress will be in a new unit between Starbucks and the Days Inn hotel, reports Surrey Live. It will be the fourth PizzaExpress at a motorway service station in partnership with Welcome Break following openings at Oxford, Beaconsfield and Fleet. Cobham services, located between Junction 9 and Junction 10 of the M25, is already home to a host of food operators including KFC, Nando’s, Greggs and McDonald’s.
Michelin-trained chef to launch plant-based concept in Leicestershire next month: Bindu Patel, who has worked in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants Gymkhana and Trishna, is to launch a plant-based concept in Leicestershire next month. Patel will open Sanctua in London Road, Oadby, on Tuesday, 26 February in premises formerly occupied by Indian restaurant Geetas Krupa. The 40-seat venue will offer a 100% plant-based, regularly changing menu using “wonky” fruit and vegetables, organic where possible, to reduce food waste. Dishes will include wild mushroom, lentil and spinach pie with Guinness and mushrooms, while there will be a platter of the week featuring a selection of eastern, Indian, Mexican or Italian dishes. Drinks will include vegan wine and beer alongside non-alcoholic offerings such as lemon and ginger turmeric sherbet shots. Bindu said: “We aren’t here to preach about lifestyles and animal welfare. I want people to eat here because they really love the cooking.”
Bermondsey-based brewer closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £525,000: Bermondsey-based brewer Anspach & Hobday has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to triple production after raising more than £525,000. The company initially aimed to raise £400,000, offering 11.76% equity, giving a pre-money valuation of £3m. It has now closed the campaign with 565 investors pledging £527,045. The company will use the funds to triple production and expand taproom space. Anspach & Hobday exports its beer to 11 countries and plans to increase production to meet 50% year-on-year wholesale growth and expand the range of brews at its Bermondsey taproom. The company reported 50% year-on-year wholesale growth (from £195,000 in 2017 to £294,000 in 2018; overall Ebitda minus £50,900). Founded in 2012 by Paul Anspach and Jack Hobday, the brewery produces keg, cask and bottled beer and is “moving on to cans”.
Marston’s reopens former Milton Pubs and Taverns site in Caerphilly:Marston’s has reopened its newly acquired Moat House Inn in Caerphilly, South Wales, following a six-figure refurbishment. The pub in Lon-y-Llyn was one of 15 Milton Pubs and Taverns sites Marston’s acquired from Aprirose in October. A new, contemporary-style bar showcases the pub’s drink selection, including Marston’s cask ale, while there is a lounge and snug. The beer garden has also been revamped. Marston’s drinks category manager Jo Rogers told the Caerphilly Observer: “The Moat House Inn has been underinvested for quite some time so the difference now is fantastic. We have taken care to restore the pub and we hope everyone enjoys the result as much as we do.”
Edinburgh-based cafe and bakery to open second site: Edinburgh-based cafe and bakery Loudons is to open its second site in the city. The family-run company is opening the outlet in New Waverley, in New Street Square. Most items on the menu are made on-site by hand using fresh, high quality ingredients and organic products where possible. The homemade ethos is applied to all elements of Loudons including the architecture and interior design and joinery. Founder Chris Loudon told the Edinburgh Evening News: “Loudons was founded on the basis that everyone should be able to enjoy everything. Our menu is designed to adapt to a whole range of dietary requirements.” Loudons’ existing site opened in Fountainbridge about eight years ago.
Lincolnshire late-night entrepreneur makes return after taking over two Cleethorpes nightclubs: Lincolnshire-based late-night entrepreneur Kash Pungi has made his return to the scene after taking over two Cleethorpes nightclubs in a £300,000 deal. Pungi has acquired the former Barcelona nightclub off Grant Street and the Nokturnal in Sea Road. Pungi formerly ran several nightclubs in the town including The Pier for several years before the business folded in 2010 as the recession hit. The Barcelona will be reopened as Platform, giving a nod to the neighbouring railway station, and Nokturnal will be reincarnated as Legends B2B (Back to Basics). Pungi has invested in excess of £250,000 in the former Barcelona venue, which will primarily be a “speakeasy-style” bar, specialising in gin and cocktails, complete with a selection of wine, spirits and draught beer. He said the adjoining New York-style discotheque, which is part of a building rented by the railway station owners to Pungi, will have a “secret” entrance. The entire venue will have a capacity of around 200 guests. Meanwhile, he approached the owner of Nokturnal, Unity Bars and Clubs, which also owns The Bootlegger in High Street, and a deal was struck. It will reopen as Legends B2B on Thursday, 21 February featuring two rooms of music. Pungi told Grimsby Live: “I made some mistakes previously, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. The team was good then, and is even better now as we move forward. This is about being the best in the game in Cleethorpes, providing the locals with the entertainment and levels of service they deserve.”
Norwich-based milkshake bar to double up in city: Norwich-based milkshake bar Shaake is doubling up in the city. The company is adding to its branch at Intu Chapelfield with a site in the Castle Mall shopping centre. Shaake is opening in an empty unit next to Auntie Anne’s. The business serves a variety of drinks including milkshakes, smoothies and fruit juices, reports the Norwich Evening News)
Former Swansea City footballer to launch restaurant and coffee bar: Former Swansea City footballer Leon Britton has submitted plans to launch a sports, restaurant and coffee bar. It will be named Seven in honour of Britten’s shirt number and replace 360 cafe, which closed in the Welsh city in September. Plans include a 58-cover restaurant, an 80-cover cafe lounge bar, external seating for more than 130 people, a kiosk and a new entrance lobby. The bar and restaurant will be operated by brother and sister Ryan and Lucy Hole, who run Uplands bar The Optimist, while the venue will include a sports academy offering water and beach sports, which will be overseen by Britton. He told Wales Online: “The restaurant will be top-class, serving food and offering music into the night, while the coffee bar will be open from breakfast. It’s an exciting venture, an amazing location and it’s about giving something back to the people they can be proud of. Finishing in football gives me an opportunity to do other things.”
Whitbread lines up Premier Inn site at former Reading nightclub: Whitbread is lining up a Premier Inn site at a former nightclub in Reading. Broad Street Mall owners Inception (Reading) have submitted plans to Reading Borough Council that would see the previous home of Eva’s in Hosier Street replaced with the 101-bedroom hotel and steak restaurant. The nightclub closed in November 2017, and has been empty since. The developer wants to demolish the empty building and replace it with the part seven, part eight-storey hotel. There is no parking proposed at the site, with people expected to use the Broad Street Mall car park. Service vehicles would access the hotel from Hosier Street, reports In My Area