Birley Sandwiches set for administration process: Birley Sandwiches, the City fast-food chain owned by Robin Birley, owner of the Mayfair private member’s club 5 Hertford Street, is on the brink of collapse after it revealed plans to file for administration. According to The Telegraph the company had been trading well prior to the pandemic and was profitable. However, the shift to home working during the pandemic and harsh restrictions imposed on the hospitality sector have hit sales. The ten-strong company has been forced to make 75% of its 220-strong workforce redundant as a result. Birley said it was with “huge sadness” he had been forced to prepare the firm for administration. He said: “I have been self-funding its losses since the restrictions imposed by the government in March, but the continuing series of lockdowns and ever tighter restrictions means I cannot justify continuing down that route. When businesses as long-standing and robust as Birley Sandwiches’ futures are in jeopardy, it says something extremely meaningful as to the ultimate long-term economic impact this government’s response to coronavirus is going to wreak on our country.” Propel revealed earlier this month Birley Sandwiches had become the latest London-based food-to-go operator to be placed on the market under the name Project Loaf. It had been working with advisers from Lambert Smith Hampton on an accelerated sales process, with a bid deadline believed to be last Wednesday (25 November). It is thought a restructuring of the business would be part of any sales process. Birley’s, which was founded in 1990, operates sites across the City and the capital’s financial district, including stores in Cannon Street and New Street Square in the City, and Churchill Place and Bank Street in Canary Wharf. Propel understands a separate deal for its Canary Wharf site might have already been agreed.
BrewDog co-founder sets out ten biggest mistakes, including hiring expensive senior management team: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has set out what he believes is the ten biggest mistakes he has made as chief executive of the Scottish brewer and bar operator, including hiring an expensive senior management team; getting an acquisition wrong; and picking the wrong international franchisees. On the management team learnings, Watt said: “A few years back, I mistakenly believed the only way to take BrewDog to the next level was to hire an experienced and expensive senior management team. I assembled an all-star cast with impressive resumes and hearty pay checks but within 12 months we had parted company with all seven of them. Despite being fantastic people and leaders, they just did not integrate into our BrewDog culture. Furthermore, installing a whole new senior management team in one fell swoop was always destined to fail. It was an expensive lesson. Now we have the BrewDog Salary Cap that means no-one can join our business and be paid more than seven times the salary of the entry level position in our company. Because of this we have no option but to develop the next generation of BrewDog leaders from within our own ranks and we are much stronger as a team and company because of that.” On the acquisition of cider brewer Hawkes, Watt admitted he “ripped the soul out the brand” by taking production to Ellon and was now in the process of expanding the London cidery so within four weeks all Hawkes ciders will once again be made in the capital from freshly pressed apples. On franchising its bars overseas, he said: “Initially we were so enamoured anyone would want to open a franchise bar internationally we said yes to every inquiry. We did not check to see if the partner could run a bar, if they had the necessary funds and we did not even have a proper contract. This led to some pretty mediocre BrewDog bars internationally. We have since taken these prodigal sons back in-house and now the international franchise bars that we do, we do with far more structure and diligence too, which leads to far better customer experiences.” Watt also said he wished he had been quicker to act on climate change, regretted the legal action the company took on the Lone Wolf trademark dispute and the execution of its Pink IPA launch. Meanwhile, BrewDog has opened a site in Shanghai, China. The outlet has opened in the city’s Jing’ An district.
Upside Down House UK launches £100,000 fund-raise to support expansion plans: Upside Down House UK, the two-storey “inverted home” concept that offers customers a “zero-gravity experience”, is aiming to raise £100,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it aims to expand across the UK. The company, which operates five sites and has planning permission for two more, is offering 3.3% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. The business has achieved turnover of £1m since launching in 2018. The pitch states: “With five houses already – in Brighton, Bristol, Essex, Manchester and Great Yarmouth – Upside Down House is at an exciting stage of growth with further locations to be announced. The striking two-storey house structure, complete with furniture on the ceiling, captures the interest of guests from the street. Inside, creativity runs wild as guests take surreal images of themselves hanging from the ceiling to share on social media. The business is looking to raise funds so it can expand and reach its aim of having houses nationwide. It benefits from both domestic and international tourists, a huge market in the UK. In our first year of trading, we achieved a business turnover of £170,000, which we saw increase exponentially in the second year by 342%. We can attribute this fast growth to the popularity of the attractions, being the only one of its kind in the UK, and a high demand for houses to open in new locations. A total of 60% of the funds is to be spent on procurement of new sites. This will help us achieve our aim of having a house easily accessible from all areas of the UK, allowing us to expand to new locations and help with the organic growth of our brand. We plan to spend 15% of the funds on marketing to help grow our social media presence and brand awareness and 25% on personnel to further invest in growing our team to support the experience.”
PizzaExpress confirms reopening plans: PizzaExpress has confirmed its plans for reopening following the lockdown in England. In line with local tier restrictions and government guidelines, 286 sites will be open on Wednesday (2 December) for dine-in services, while an additional 16 will offer customers delivery and click and collect. All customers through the door will be offered a free portion of its snowball dough balls. The company said its robust safety measures would continue to be implemented across all sites. These include a physically distanced layout, hand sanitiser stations, heightened hygiene procedures and cleaning measures along with regular health checks of team members. PizzaExpress will also provide an online booking service, digital menu and cashless payment. Managing director Zoe Bowley said: “While our doors might have been closed throughout November, we’ve continued to do all we can to serve our customers their favourite pizzas at home. It’s been a challenging year for us all, which is why we’re looking forward to safely welcoming families and households into our pizzerias once again for good times and great food this Christmas.”
What The Pitta! to head north, with Manchester site: Vegan doner kebab concept What The Pitta! is to head north, to Manchester. The company is opening the site in Back Turner Street on Friday, 8 January, which will offer delivery, takeaway and eat-in options subject to local covid-19 restrictions. Co-founder Cem Yildiz said: “Manchester feels like a huge step forward for What The Pitta! The site will be our biggest bricks and mortar site yet, and to finally open during what we hope is the tail end of this pandemic fills us with optimism for the future for, not just us, but hospitality as a whole. Manchester is my favourite city outside of London, with such an incredible food scene.” What The Pitta! launched in London in 2016, and has four locations – at Boxpark’s sites in Croydon and Shoreditch, and in Camden and Brighton. In the summer, it opened its debut delivery kitchen, in Battersea. Kebabs at What The Pitta! feature non-genetically modified soya chunks marinated in a blend of Middle Eastern spices and grilled. The contents are then stuffed into hand-made pitta bread and loaded with homemade houmous, tzatziki and salad. Yildiz and Rojdan Gul were inspired to launch What The Pitta! when Gul’s uncle in Freiburg, Germany, taught them the secret of his vegan doner kebabs.
Travelodge chief executive to step down as company reveals 17 hotels lost to rivals following CVA: Travelodge chief executive Peter Gowers will leave at the end of the year after the conclusion of the dispute with its landlords over its recent company voluntary arrangement. Gowers, who took up the role in 2013, will be replaced on an interim basis by chief operating officer Craig Bonnar, as the company starts the search for a replacement. The resignation of Gowers, who will remain as an adviser into the new year, came as Travelodge revealed it had lost 17 hotels to rivals as a result of fallout from the CVA. Although the majority of its landlords opted to stick with the Travelodge brand, two opted for Premier Inn and nine will assume Accor’s Ibis brand under a deal with Ago Hotels. The losses leave Travelodge with 578 hotels, including ten in Ireland and Northern Ireland and five in Spain. They include nine new hotels opened this year. Travelodge is owned by Goldman Sachs, Avenue Capital and Golden Tree Asset Management. In the wake of the lockdown closure of its hotels, Travelodge stopped paying rent, culminating in a CVA to secure rent cuts. To enable it to get sufficient support for the CVA, it was forced to insert a break clause allowing landlords to take back their hotels and hand them to another operator. The latest Travelodge hotel to be rebranded to Ibis will be the property at Heathrow’s terminal five, with UK hotel management and services company RBH taking over the running. The hotel’s owner, Sidra Capital, the Sharia-compliant asset manager based in Saudi Arabia, was the first landlord to terminate its relationship with Travelodge after the CVA. RBH has been tasked with overseeing a phased refurbishment of the 297-bedroom property and will also manage the hotel’s commercial operations once rebranding is complete. RBH managing director Susan Bland added: “Not only does this represent yet another step in our growth alongside franchise partner, Accor, it also signals RBH’s return to the Heathrow market, where we opened our very first hotel in 2000.”
Mayfair restaurant from three-Michelin-starred chef David Muñoz placed on market: StreetXo, the Mayfair-based restaurant from three-Michelin-starred chef David Muñoz, has been placed on the market. The restaurant was opened in Old Burlington Street in November 2016, following a series of delays. StreetXo was Muñoz’s first opening outside his home country of Spain, where he runs DiverXo and StreetXo restaurants, both in Madrid. London’s StreetXo was originally set to open in June 2014 but was beset by delays, some connected to construction issues. The 4,215 square foot site is being marketed by CDG Leisure.
Matt Healy permanently closes Holbeck restaurant: Chef Matt Healy has revealed his Matt Healy x The Foundry site in Holbeck will not reopen. Confirming the news on Instagram, the chef, who is from Horsforth, said: “2020 has been hard for hospitality, especially for independent restaurants like ours. We’re beyond proud of the work we did in the first lockdown with the NHS. In July, we reopened with reduced capacity, then reduced hours, then within the tier system. One thing after another, and then a second lockdown. Over the past few weeks and months, we’ve had some really difficult decisions to make. Regretfully we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to cease trading. We’re so thankful to everyone that has supported us from the very beginning. We’ve had almost three wonderful years at The Foundry. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. Here’s to 2021.” Healy and his team Seventh Course took over the reins at The Beehive, in Thorner, in 2019. However, Healy, who was runner-up in the 2016 series of MasterChef: The Professionals, stepped back from the restaurant in March this year. His team also launched Grön Kafe in Oakwood, which opened in September 2018, and has recently expanded to open another site in Low Petergate in York.
Security staffing business adds another hospitality sector employee to ranks:Rebecca Cullum, who previously worked for Stonegate Pub Company and The Deltic Group, has been appointed head of risk at Professional Security. The national security staffing business, which took on former Deltic chief operating officer Jason Thorndycraft as its own chief operating officer earlier this month, looks after more than 1,000 hospitality venues across the UK, with more than 7,000 door staff on its payroll. Cullum will oversee all risk, compliance and assurance for the business, which is based in Leeds. Professional Security chief executive Dave Fullerton said: “We are delighted to have Rebecca joining the team. Her wealth of experience in the hospitality sector and the amazing relationships she has built with operators and with local authorities, in particular the police, will be a huge asset to us.” Cullum added: “I’m excited to be joining Professional Security at such an important time for the business and look forward to helping deliver a unique premium offer for our customers.”