Itsu to roll out ‘store of the future’ model: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, it to roll out a “store of the future” model, including self-checkout kiosks, Propel has learned. The first iteration will open in London’s Spital Square later this year, after the format development was completed during lock-down. The company, which confirmed last week it will undergo a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that will see 53 of its 77 sites get a rent cut and only two close, will also launch a new pre-order for collection function via a new Itsu mobile app this week. The new Itsu store model fitting into 1,000 square foot will open in Great Portland Street, with self-checkout kiosks and no fridge out front – a move the brand is describing as a “significant departure” from its traditional model. The company believes this model will open a “wealth of new site options” both in the UK and with international partners. The move comes as the business starts a gradual reopening of its UK estate, which includes a new streamlined menu of “customer favourites” that has been trialled and rolled out on reopening. A lot of the changes are based on the new technology installed at the company’s Lime Street site in the City of London, which was opened earlier this year, complete with touchscreen ordering. Propel revealed last month Itsu had appointed AlixPartners as it looked to step up conversations with landlords and explore possible restructuring options, including the possibility of a CVA. Itsu said it would seek to protect as many jobs as possible throughout the process and given the limited store closures, large-scale redundancies were not anticipated. At the same time, it reiterated it was not up for sale and was not seeking new investment.
Byron to begin reopening estate later this month, 20 sites saved listed: Better burger brand Byron, which was last week sold via a pre-pack administration to investment vehicle Calveton UK, will begin reopening its now 20-strong estate later this month, and take part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The new company, which will be called Proper Brands and led by current chief executive Simon Wilkinson, has transferred 20 sites across from the former 51-strong Byron estate, although with landlords negotiations ongoing this number may end up slightly higher. Propel has learned the 20 sites transferred across to the new venture are those based in Beak Street, London; Bluewater; Bury St Edmunds; Cambridge; Chelmsford; Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London; Lothian Road, Edinburgh; North Bridge, Edinburgh; Islington; Liverpool ONE; Manchester Piccadilly; Milton Keynes; Norwich; Old Brompton Road, London; Oxford; Salisbury; Southampton; Waterloo, London; White City, London; and York. It doesn’t as yet include the brand’s original site in Kensington High Street, which last year was reopened under a new trial format by the business. As part of the new plans, the company will look to further cut its central costs, which for its past financial year were thought to be north of £6m. It is thought the company may dispense with a head office in favour of using its restaurants/shared office space or home working. It is also expected to ramp up its delivery strategy, which is understood to be delivering ahead of a 10% like-for-like revenue target pre-covid. It may also explore moving into dark kitchens and the further roll out of virtual brand Cheese Louise. It is also expected to reopen restaurants with a reduced menu. Calveton is backed by Sandeep Vyas and Haseeb Aziz and previously owned Style Group Brands, which included the Jacques Vert brand. Vyas will become Byron’s new chairman. The deal saw current backer Three Hills Capital’s stake in the company reduced to a minority one and its founder Mauro Moretti stepping down as Byron chairman. The closures will lead to 651 of the brand’s circa 1,200 staff being made redundant.
Pret makes US closures: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed company, has announced the closure of 17 of its US sites, in Boston and Chicago. Outside of a University of Chicago site, the move sees the chain exit both markets. It is thought sales across Pret’s US locations have fallen 87% year-on-year during the pandemic. It has so far reopened 51 stores across New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia in recent weeks, and expanded delivery options with Grubhub and Seamless. “It’s a sad day for the whole Pret family, and I’m devastated we will be losing team members,” Pret chief executive Pano Christou said in a statement. “But we must make these changes to adapt to the new retail environment. Our goal now is to bring Pret to more people, through different channels and in new ways, enabling us to grow once more in the medium term. We cannot defy gravity and continue with the business model we had before the pandemic. That is why we have adapted our business and found new ways to reach our customers. While Pret may look and feel different in the short term, one thing I know is we will come through this crisis and have a bright future if we take the right steps today.” In the UK, the company is currently undertaking a restructuring process and has already closed 30 sites.
Parkdean Resorts sues insurer over business interruption insurance claim:Holiday park operator Parkdean Resorts has launched a High Court battle over its insurer’s alleged refusal to pay out on a pandemic business interruption claim. Court filings show Parkdean, which has 67 sites across the UK, has begun action against the Lloyd’s 
syndicate of Axis Capital, a US-listed insurer with branches in Bermuda, the US, Canada, Europe and Singapore. Axis criticised claims it had refused to pay out, insisting to The Sunday Telegraph that Parkdean walked away from discussions with claims adjusters. Business interruption insurance has become a flashpoint of the pandemic. Some insurers have refused to pay out, arguing a government-imposed lock-down was not covered under policies designed for more normal risks such as fire, storms, flooding and equipment breakdowns. Parkdean shut its entire estate on 23 March in line with lock-down rules. During its closure, the company had been offering up to £150 to customers if they were willing to accept a voucher instead of a cash refund in a battle to stay afloat. Its sites have since reopened. An Axis spokesman said: “At no point have we refused to pay out a claim [to Parkdean]. We were engaged with the insured and its assessor to ensure the submitted claim was adjusted in accordance with applicable policy terms. The insured unfortunately decided to walk away from those discussions and take the path of litigation.” A Parkdean spokesman added: “Parkdean Resorts does not recognise 
the facts as presented by Axis and would have preferred to have 
concluded this matter without the need for litigation.”
Parogon Group reports ‘buoyant’ trading since lock-down, finances in place to take advantage of expected opportunities: Staffordshire-based Parogon Group has experienced “buoyant” trading figures for the initial three weeks following the lifting of lock-down restrictions and said it has the finances in place to take advantage of the expected opportunities in the market place. The company said all seven sites are open and sales are in excess of those achieved in the same period last year and several sites are showing double-digit like-for-like growth. Managing director Richard Colclough said: “Our sites and brand have proved resilient to the worst challenges that covid-19 have thrown at us. Destination dining in large, well-spaced venues with attractive outside seating have allowed us to capitalise on the appetite to safely socialise from customers, successfully spreading peak demand across the week.” The company said bookings for August so far, during which the government-backed Eat Out To Help Out scheme will take place, suggested a minimum of an additional £250,000 of revenue during the month. The concise but “attractive” menus put in place since reopening have allowed the business to operate with smaller teams and reduced labour costs. With a full debt restructure with Santander made during the closure period, £2m secured through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and a swift return to previous trade levels, Colclough believes the group is well placed to take advantage of the expected opportunities that will be available over the next 12 months. He added: “We have the finance in place to allow us to execute our short-term goals for the business and will potentially be considering other investment to accelerate growth should the expected market place shake out materialise and our outperformance continue.”
Shake Shack UK launches DIY burger kit: Shake Shack UK has launched a DIY burger kit. Customers can now order the ready-to-cook kits to recreate the burgers at home. They feature the ingredients to make four signature ShackBurgers – 100% all-natural Aberdeen Angus beef, American cheese, potato buns, Shake Shack’s custom ShackSauce, salt and pepper blend, lettuce and tomato. The kits come with step-by-step cooking instructions and are available across London and Cardiff through Shake Shack’s new online ordering platform and via Deliveroo. Shake Shack will donate a portion of sales from every kit to Action Against Hunger to benefit the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Coronavirus Appeal. Meanwhile, Shake Shack has announced plans to open the company’s first restaurant with a drive-thru as part of a strategy to diversify the format of its stores. The new drive-thru restaurant, planned next year in the US, could have at least three lanes dedicated for mobile pick-up orders. Kerbside pick-up is now available at ten US stores, and will roll out to at least 50 by the end of the third quarter. Shake Shack also plans to step up menu innovation as well as upgrade its app to include direct delivery and additional payment functionality. In recent weeks, the company has rebooted growth with plans to open six to 11 more stores in the second half of the year. That represents about half the number the company previously planned. The company said sales were also slowly improving, with like-for-likes at minus 39% for the four weeks to 22 July.
Dunkin’ to close up to 1,150 underperforming sites: Dunkin Brands, which operates Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins, has said it will close up to 800 underperforming Dunkin’ sites in the US and up to 350 outlets abroad. The company said in its second-quarter results announcement it had closed 229 net locations of both brands in the three months ended 27 June. That included 180 international Baskin-Robbins sites and 40 Dunkin outlets and self-service locations in the US. Although the closures of the 800 locations in the US would represent 8% of its total number of Dunkin’ restaurants in the country, it would just count for about 2% of sales, the company said. Most of the locations the business was considering closing were unprofitable for franchisees, with average weekly sales about 25% of the nationwide average. Chief executive Dave Hoffmann later told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We’ve been heavily focused since this management team arrived on the scene regarding quality over quantity, and also the repositioning of the brand to be beverage-led.” Scott Murphy, president of Dunkin’ Americas, said like-for-like sales for the past two weeks of the quarter in some newer markets such as Texas and California were higher than last year, with growth in the low teens. Almost all of them have drive-thrus, “which have proven to be essential during the pandemic”, he said. Murphy added: “What we’ve been able to do is kind of shift the mindset of the consumer (in those newer markets) who used to probably think of us as a doughnut shop and a bakery. And as they’re coming in, they’re understanding all the different offerings we have.” Overall for the quarter, like-for-like sales at Dunkin’ US. were down 18.7%, but they improved sequentially each month. For the week ended 25 July, like-for-like sales declines were down to low single digits.
Qoot plans new concepts in place of Dominique Ansel sites: Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, has said it plans new concepts in place of The Dominique Ansel Treehouse and Dominique Ansel Bakery sites. Last week Qoot announced Dominique Ansel Treehouse in Covent Garden will not reopen while Dominique Ansel Bakery will shut on Monday, 31 August. But Qoot has revealed it has plans in place for both locations. The company stated: “Qoot has exciting plans for both of our locations in Elizabeth Street, Belgravia and Floral Street, Covent Garden. We have already launched the ‘Floral Street Coffee House’ pop-up, which will run throughout the summer, ahead of launching a long-term offering later this year. We will announce what is to come over the coming weeks.” Ansel previously said: “London has been so wonderful and so supportive to us. Unfortunately, our licenser has told us, in the light of the ongoing restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it does not think it will be possible to continue operating either location profitably.” To mark its final month, Dominique Ansel Bakery will be serving up items specially created by Ansel to honour the moment, including The Last Cronut – a milk chocolate and banana cronut filled with milk chocolate and banana ganache and whipped peanut butter ganache, and topped with icing and a banana chip.
Inn Collection Group launches latest Lake District site: The Inn Collection Group has launched its latest Lake District property – The Coniston Inn in Coniston. The historic 42-bedroom Lakeland inn has reopened following the completion of a multimillion-pound redesign. During the 18-month redevelopment, the group has carried out a complete reform of the building, which has been a hotel for more than a century. A redesign of the bar and dining area has opened up the property, while maximising lake and fell views. A private dining room is available for larger parties or corporate guests. The site has covid-secure measures including table service, social distancing markers and enhanced cleaning programmes. The opening of the expanded The Coniston Inn has created 40 jobs, while the group is also looking to recruit a further 50 people across its expanding portfolio of Lakes sites – The Ambleside Inn at Ambleside, The Swan in Grasmere and The Pheasant in Bassenthwaite. The Inn Collection Group operations manager Chris Moor said: “As The Inn Collection Group’s debut Lakes acquisition, it’s especially rewarding seeing The Coniston Inn open for business in what is one of the most breathtaking addresses in the Lakes and one we as a group looked long and hard for more than ten years to find.” The Alchemy-backed group’s estate of trading properties includes 14 pubs with rooms in Cumbria, Northumberland, County Durham and Yorkshire. A further 40-bedroom venue, The Seaburn Inn, is currently under construction in Sunderland.
Dishoom removes £10 limit for Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Indian restaurant concept Dishoom is removing the £10 limit as it confirmed its participation in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. It means diners can enjoy food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August and receive 50% of their entire bill. No registration or voucher is needed; the discount will be automatically applied to all bills.
Bedlam appoints former Ei Group MD as chairman: Sussex-based craft brewer Bedlam has appointed Kim Francis as its new chairman. Francis replaces Nick Cooper, who is standing down due to other work commitments, but will remain on the board as a non-executive director. Francis joined the Bedlam board in November after a career spanning 35 years in the industry, initially with Courage, thereafter Scottish & Newcastle and Heineken. Most recently, he spent seven years as managing director operations for Ei Group, prior to its sale to Stonegate Pub Company. Cooper said: “We established Bedlam in 2011 as a group of friends learning to brew in a barn and over the past nine years the company has evolved into a professionally run and well respected business. The fact Bedlam is now able to attract the likes of Kim to work alongside Bob Emms, our chief executive; Danny Hoskins, our sales director; and Dominic Worrall, one of my fellow directors, all highly regarded in their areas of the industry, is more than we ever dared hope for.” Francis added: “I am thrilled my fellow directors have asked me to take on this role as chairman as Bedlam continues to grow. I am particularly enjoying the diversity of input around the board table at Bedlam combining significant industry experience with a high regard for good corporate governance, as well as an entrepreneurial ‘can-do’ attitude, all of which bode well for the future.”
Hollywood Bowl remains ready to reopen in England when restrictions are lifted after government delay: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has said it remains ready to reopen its sites in England once government restrictions are lifted. Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday (31 July) the reopening of bowling alleys had been delayed by at least a fortnight – just a day before they were due to reopen – following an increase in coronavirus cases. Hollywood Bowl said team members have been trained in the group’s “extensive” covid-secure measures and hygiene protocols “to ensure customers can stay socially distanced while keeping safe and enjoying bowling at its centres”. The group said its two centres in Wales would reopen on Monday (3 August) following the latest guidance from the Welsh government. Hollywood Bowl chief executive Stephen Burns said: “We are disappointed at this unexpected delay to reopening. Our priority is first and foremost the safety of our customers and team members, and we are confident in our ability to operate in the approved covid-secure way for their well-being once we are allowed to reopen.”
SSP Group appoints new independent non-executive director: UK transport hub foodservice company SSP Group has appointed Judy Vezmar as an independent non-executive director. Vezmar – who was chief executive of LexisNexis International, a global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics, from 2001 to 2014 – will also serve as a member of the remuneration committee at SSP. Vezmar is currently a non-executive director and chairman of the remuneration committee of Ascential, a specialist information, data and analytics company. She has also previously held non-executive director roles at online video platform Rhythmone and Rightmove. SSP chairman Mike Clasper said: “Judy has extensive knowledge of running complex, international businesses, and she brings significant expertise to the board in the field of data and analytics having held senior leadership roles in the technology sector for many years, both in the US and internationally.”
Edinburgh-based pizza and Italian street food concept Civerinos opens third site:Edinburgh-based pizza and Italian street food concept Civerinos has opened its third site in the city. The company has launched “pizza pub” the High Dive in St Leonards Street. Civerinos is known in the city for its “New York-style wood-fired pizzas and modern Italian street food with our secret classic family recipes passed down through generations”. The High Dive is described as “a family-friendly reasonably priced neighbourhood pizza bar that is ideal for laid back dining and drinking with friends”. The company also operates Civerinos in Hunter Square and its delivery and contactless collection concept Civerinos Slice in Forrest Road, reports Herald Scotland.
Oklava GM launches neighbourhood restaurant in Highbury: Angus Oztek-Pook, general manager at modern Turkish restaurant Oklava, has opened a neighbourhood restaurant in north London. Oztek-Pook has launched The Nook in the former Linden Stores premises in Highbury, which was co-owned by Oklava co-founder Laura Christie. The Nook offers contemporary European dishes with a Turkish twist. There are two menus – one focusing on hot sandwiches paired with fresh small plates that change two to three times during the week. The other is a deli menu, with dishes that can either be taken home straight from the fridge or had to dine in. The food is accompanied by a range of beer and wine. Oztek-Pook, who is running the restaurant with wife Lale, said he knew the space in St Paul’s Road from Oklava training and staff parties. He told Hot Dinners: “When Chris (Boustead) and Laura decided to move the Linden Stores to the north it was a no-brainer. They offered and we happily took it over, moved our house to the neighbourhood and fully settled into our new area and location.”