Turtle Bay reports turnover and profit drop amid ‘significant headwinds’:Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay, backed by Piper, has reported turnover and profit dropped in the year to 2 March 2019 as the company battled with “significant headwinds”. Sales decreased 2.5% to £66.9m while pre-tax profit was £2.2m, compared with £5.9m the year before. The company stated: “As well as the continued over-supply in the sector and the general weakness of consumer demand, sales were also adversely affected by a number of one-off events such as the FIFA World Cup. In light of the environment we slowed site growth and only opened one site during the year. Our belief is there is still a large number of good potential sites around the UK – however, their cost is likely to fall over the next couple of years. In Germany, sales increased during the year by 31.5% due to the full year impact of the restaurant that opened part-way through the prior year. Adjusted Ebitda of £7.6m (2018: £12m) is down, but we are happy our adjusted Ebitda margin of 11.4% balances the needs of the company and its customers. The company continues to generate cash from operating activities in excess of capital expenditure and make payments to reduce external debt obligations by £3.25m.” Turnover in Germany for the year was £2.2m while £64.7m of turnover derived from the UK.
 
Reports suggesting Pho owners ‘mulling sale’ wide of the mark: Reports Gresham House Ventures is “considering a sale” of Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho are understood to be wide of the mark. The Sunday Telegraph reported Gresham, which bought the fund and investment manager in charge of Pho from Livingbridge last year, was mulling a sale of the 29-strong business. However, Propel understands neither Gresham or Pho is currently investigating a sales process, especially in the current depressed sector mergers and acquisitions market, with all current focus on the continued expansion of the business. Propel revealed last week Pho will open its 30th restaurant early next year after securing a site in Sheffield. It has taken a site in the Leopold Square mixed-used development, which already houses Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi, New World Trading Company brand The Botanist and The Restaurant Group-owned Wagamama. It’s understood Pho is also working on securing sites in Edinburgh and the Midlands for its 2020 pipeline. The company, which Stephen and Juliette Wall founded in 2005, saw a 12.8% increase in turnover to £34.4m in the year to the end of February 2019, driven by a 5.4% increase in like-for-like sales. The company continued to generate a positive sales performance, with like-for-like sales in the nine months of its current financial year understood to be up 6.5%, driven by strong eat-in numbers and continued growth outside London.
Carluccio’s eyes franchise route, appoints new people director: Italian restaurant group Carluccio’s plans to seek strategic franchise partners for future travel hub openings and also for the Republic of Ireland, as it continues to see sales uplifts from sites refurbished with its “Fresca” design, Propel has learned. Mark Jones, Carluccio’s chief executive, told Propel: “We are seeking strategic partners in both the Republic of Ireland and also to assist us in growing our travel business at a faster rate. In Ireland we currently operate two successful restaurants in Dublin but we believe the market has room for up to ten sites across the country in key cities including Cork, Limerick and of course further sites in Dublin. We also have a successful travel business with scope to grow that faster. We believe that is best done with a partner who specialises in this environment.” Carluccio’s said it expects to choose its strategic franchise partners early in 2020. The company currently operates eight sites in the Middle East under a franchise agreement. New sites will feature the company’s new “Fresca” style design. The company now has seven Fresca refurbished sites – in Chester, Newcastle, Dawson Street Dublin, Heathrow Terminal 5, Canary Wharf, Bluewater and Richmond. Propel understands sales uplifts from these range from 15% to 35% and the business is “very pleased with sales”. Jones said: “The model requires enhancing to drive down the costs of the refurbishments. The original seven cost on average £300,000, including additional catch up maintenance required by some landlords. Our target is now sub £100,000, which we believe is possible with a focus on design and decoration rather than structural works seen in the original seven.” The refurbishment programme has been paused for Christmas, and will start again with the new lower capex version in the first quarter of next year at Waterloo station. At the same time, the company has appointed Claire Dickson, formerly of Tragus Group, who has most recently been consulting at Oakman Inns, as its permanent people director. Jones said: “Claire has been with us ten months, originally as maternity cover support and then when Leanne Murphy decided not to come back after maternity we appointed her permanently.”
City AM – Chilango set to launch CVA: Mexican brand Chilango is set to launch a company voluntary arrangement as soon as Monday (9 December), ahead of a meeting with shareholders next week. The restructuring agreement would allow Chilango to reopen rent negotiations with landlords to tackle its cash flow issues. The company is in talks to shore up its business with RSM, and is more than two months late posting its accounts. Chilango will propose exiting several restaurant leases as part of the restructuring, reports City AM. The plan will require the backing of company’s creditors, including about 1,500 small investors who bought its so-called burrito bonds. Chilango recently postponed its annual general meeting to Thursday, 19 December, telling shareholders the delay would allow it to offer a “full update” on its future. Launched by Eric Partaker and Dan Houghton in 2007, Chilango operates 12 restaurants in London, Manchester and Birmingham. However, it has never turned a profit, losing £1.4m in the year to March 2018, the most recent period for which it has filed accounts. In November, City AM revealed Chilango was in talks with RSM to secure its long-term future. Chilango has raised £5.8m through the sale of two tranches of burrito bonds. A form of mini-bond, the burrito bonds allowed investors to purchase some of the company’s debt for a set period of time, in exchange for fixed interest payments. Mini-bonds allow investors to essentially buy company debt for a set period in exchange for regular interest payments. More than 700 investors backed Chilango’s first bond, which was raised in 2014. Its most recent bond – promising an 8% return for four years – closed in April 2018. The offering was oversubscribed and exceeded its initial £1m target to raise £3.7m from almost 800 retail investors. The minimum investment for the bond was £500 but 194 backers invested more than £10,000, qualifying them for a “free weekly burrito for the duration of the loan”. The financial watchdog recently announced a temporary ban on the marketing of some mini-bonds to retail investors from January while it consults on more permanent rules for the sector. Bonds such as Chilango’s burrito bonds would not be covered by the temporary restriction.
Greene King reports sales boost from Amazon Premier League fixtures, takes space at Liverpool development: Brewer and retailer Greene King has reported a boost in drinks sales during Amazon’s first round of Premier League fixtures last week, selling almost one million pints at its 900 sports pubs that screened the matches. With a further full round of fixtures being broadcast by Amazon on Boxing Day, Greene King said it anticipated another “significant” increase in sales. Greene King chief commercial officer Phil Thomas said: “We are delighted to report positive sales growth from the first three sets of Premier League matches on Amazon, which were screened across all our sports pubs. Football is the most popular sport to watch at a pub, while our investment in the Amazon Premier League Pass also demonstrates our commitment to broadcasting all major sporting occasions.” Meanwhile, Greene King is set to open a pub at the Lime Street development in Liverpool. The company has agreed a deal with property developer Ion to lease part of the street-level space to open a Greene King Locals pub. Ion managing director Steve Parry said: “It has always been important to us to reflect the roots of Lime Street through this development. The panelled façade tells the story of the history of the street – from the penny bazaar to the cinemas and milk bars. We hope to mirror that offering when allocating the street-level units.”
Wahlburgers debut UK site set to come to market: Wahlburgers, the US chain run by chef Paul Wahlberg in partnership with his brothers Mark and Donnie, is set to place its UK debut site in London’s Covent Garden on the market, just over six months after its launch, Propel has learned. It is understood Restaurant Property has been lined up to market the site at 8-9 James Street, with a premium of £2m thought to have been placed on it. The site is believed to have a current rent per annum of £1.2m. Speculation has been growing the brand, which operates more than 20 sites in the US, was struggling to reach break-even levels at the site. The business was understood to be in talks with its landlord Capital & Counties (Capco) about its rent levels, on the back of trade tailing off since its launch. At the time of its opening, the business spoke of planning to open 15 restaurants in five years in London and the wider UK. A second UK opening for the concept was also mooted for Tottenham Court Road.
Maray bans bookings for fewer than six at Bold Street site to prevent no-shows:Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant and cocktail bar concept Maray has banned bookings for groups of fewer than six at its Bold Street site in a bid to prevent no-shows. Maray owners James Bates, Dominic Jones and Thomas White said “something had to be done” after the issue hit daily covers by between 10% and 20%. The ban doesn’t affect its larger restaurants at Albert Dock and Allerton. Bates, Jones and White wrote on Facebook: “We want Maray to be a casual, fun experience and felt taking credit card details for every booking would formalise and sanitise this.” Earlier this year Propel revealed Rosa’s Thai Cafe founders Alex and Saiphin Moore had invested in Maray as it targeted further expansion. The company has ambitions to open in Manchester in early 2020, with potential for a fifth site in London.
Whitbread shareholders approve revised remuneration policy despite opposition:Whitbread shareholders have approved the company’s revised remuneration policy for executives to reflect its focus as an international hotel company. A total of 70.46% voted in favour of the new policy at a general meeting on Friday (6 December). The primary change in the policy is replacing the performance-based long-term incentive plan with a restricted share plan, which must have a combined vesting and holding period of at least five years. The company is also lowering the pension contribution for the current executive directors by 10% to 15% of salary over the policy period and will lower the pension provision for new executive directors to 10% of salary. The first reduction will take effect in May 2020. Whitbread stated: “The board recognises arriving at a position on remuneration that can meet the approval of all shareholders is very hard to do. The board believes this proposal is the best structure to provide strong alignment with shareholders’ interests and the delivery of the company’s ambitious long-term plan to create value by investing in the UK and expanding internationally. The board appreciates restricted stock plans are, as yet, relatively uncommon and practice is evolving. However, as a result of the introduction of this new policy, including a reduction in pension contributions, there will be a substantial reduction in the pay opportunity for the senior executive team. In the circumstances, the board believes a vote of 70% in favour is an acceptable outcome and is committed to continuing its constructive discussions and engagement with all of Whitbread’s shareholders.”
Roxy Leisure gets go-ahead for second Nottingham site: Roxy Leisure, operator of the Roxy Ball Room concept, has been given the go-ahead to open a second site in Nottingham. The company, which is in advanced talks with Foresight Group regarding new investment, has been granted permission by the city council to open in the former Red Hot World Buffet unit in the Cornerhouse development, reports The Business Desk. The venue will feature a bar, restaurant, bowling alley, pool tables, table tennis and shuffleboard and have capacity for 450 people. Roxy Leisure already runs a Roxy Ballroom in Thurland Street. In October, Propel reported Roxy Leisure, which is led by Matthew Jones, was lining up a second Manchester site. It operates two Roxy Ball Rooms in Liverpool and two in Leeds plus Roxy Arcade, which is also in Leeds. Propel revealed earlier this year the company was working with advisory firm Sedulo to assess its options, which could include selling a stake in the business.
M&B lines up former post office in York for Miller & Carter steakhouse: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is lining up a site in York for its Miller & Carter brand. The company has submitted plans to the city council to convert the ground floor and basement of the former post office in Lendal into a steakhouse. It has also applied for a premises licence, reports York Mix. M&B plans to preserve the war memorial inside the building that honours York post office workers who died while serving their country. The upper floors of the property are used as offices and won’t be affected by the scheme. The post office was built in 1884 but the branch closed in April when services moved into WHSmith in Coney Street.
Lane7 to open Sheffield site this week: Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, will open a site in Sheffield this week. The company will launch the 20,000 square foot venue in Matilda Street on Saturday (14 December), creating 30 jobs. The site will feature nine bowling lanes as well as baseball-style batting cages, dartboards, table tennis, pool and beer pong tables. Street food company Fat Hippo has developed the menu. Owner Tim Wilks told Insider Media: “We have been desperate to bring Lane7 to Sheffield for so long – now we can finally open. Our site in Sheffield is definitely one of the most exciting we’ve created.” Lane7 launched its first site in Newcastle in late 2013 and has gone on to open venues in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Liverpool and Middlesbrough. It will launch a “super-site” in Leicester early next year that will feature a container-style food and beverage village. Sites have also been secured in Bristol and Cardiff and are scheduled to open before the end of 2020.
BrewDog opens Swansea site for its second bar in Wales: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its second Welsh site, in Swansea. The company has launched the venue in Wind Street in premises previously occupied by The Bucket List bar. BrewDog Swansea offers 28 taps of craft beer alongside coffee, wine, spirits and its burgers and wings menu. BrewDog made its debut in Wales five years ago with an opening in Cardiff. The Swansea site marks the company’s 95th bar globally. Meanwhile, BrewDog has submitted plans for a bar and visitors’ centre next to its Aberdeenshire headquarters. The company wants to create the development inside a building at Balmacassie Industrial Estate in Ellon. BrewDog has applied to Aberdeenshire Council to change part of the unit from office accommodation and production space so it can relocate its DogTap pub and visitors’ centre, reports STV. The brewer took ownership of the building in 2018. It initially proposed to turn the building into The DogHouse Hotel but the plan never came to fruition.
Team behind Glasgow-based Ox and Finch to open second site: The team behind Glasgow restaurant Ox and Finch is to open a second site. Jonathan MacDonald and Daniel Spurr will launch Ka Pao in January within the Category A-listed Botanic Gardens Garage in Vinicombe Street. Housed in the basement Ka Pao, which derives its name from the Thai word for Holy Basil, will offer a menu influenced by south east Asian cuisine. MacDonald told Herald Scotland: “Some of my most memorable cooking and eating experiences have been in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand; sometimes in impressive restaurants but more often on plastic stools by the side of the road.” Spurr said: “Ka Pao is not about trying to be authentic or replicating the food of any particular region or country. The guiding principle will be more about taking inspiration from dishes, ingredients and flavour combinations that have influenced us and combining them with local produce.”
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Tim Hortons to open Cumbernauld drive-thru: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons is to open a site in the Scottish town of Cumbernauld on Tuesday (10 December). SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of the brand, will launch the drive-thru at Cumbernauld Retail Park. Kevin Hydes, chief finance and commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, told The Scotsman: “We are delighted to secure a fantastic location in Cumbernauld for our new drive-thru. We’re looking forward to becoming part of the community.” SK Group opened the debut UK Tim Hortons in Argyle Street, Glasgow, in June 2017 and the brand now has circa 25 sites in Britain. Professional ice hockey player Tim Horton founded the brand in 1964 to create a space where “everyone feels at home”. The brand currently has more than 4,700 restaurants globally.
Jamaica Blue opens in Eastbourne for eighth UK site: Foodco-owned international cafe restaurant brand Jamaica Blue has opened its eighth UK site, in Eastbourne, East Sussex. The company has opened the 120-cover outlet in The Beacon shopping centre for its final launch of 2019. Last month, Jamaica Blue opened in the Telford Centre in Telford, Shropshire. Jamaica Blue was founded in Australia in 1992 and operates more than 160 cafes worldwide. Foodco opened the first Jamaica Blue cafe in the UK in Cambridge in December 2014.
John Fowler Holidays acquires debut Welsh site: West Country holiday park operator John Fowler Holidays has acquired its debut site in Wales, on the Gower Peninsula. The company has bought Llanrhidian Holiday Park, which was previously owned by the Richards family for more than 27 years. John Fowler Holidays managing director Martyn Fowler told Insider Media: “We are delighted to have been able to add Llanrhidian to our business – it forms an important part of our planned expansion. It has been a pleasure to work with a family with a similar ethos to ours during this process and we look forward to continuing their excellent work as we take the park forward.” John Fowler Holidays now operates 12 sites throughout Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wales.
Team behind Cardiff-based Dusty Knuckle to launch new concept: The team behind Cardiff-based pop-up turned permanent pizza restaurant Dusty Knuckle is to open a new concept in the city. Phill and Debs Lewis are launching Dark in the Castle Arcade on Wednesday (11 December). It will mark a new direction for the Lewis’, who launched Dusty Knuckle in 2014. Having started selling pizza from a homemade oven at local markets, they have gone on to open permanent sites in Cardiff and Pembrokeshire. A second Cardiff site is set to open in the former park warden’s house on the edge of Sophia Gardens early next year. Dark will be a compact 30-cover restaurant with a nod to Dusty Knuckle’s roots by including a few new pizzas on the menu, but the focus will be on “bolder choices and experimental flavours”. Dishes will range from flatbreads and kebabs, to pizzas and small plates. A pared-down “on the go” menu of kebabs will also be served from the hatch at the side of the premises, continuing a tradition that was brought in by the former owner, Café Minuet, more than 40 years ago. The Lewis’ are also co-owners of high-end burger pop-up Hoof and small-plates and natural wine restaurant Nook.
Scottish whisky distillery launches £1m fund-raise: Scottish whisky distillery Nc’nean has launched a £1m fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to accelerate its growth plans. The investment will be used to launch its first whisky next year, buy bottling equipment and support further portfolio expansion. Founded by Annabel Thomas and Derek Lewis in 2013, Nc’nean is offering 5.68% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £16.6m. Nc’nean has launched two products in the past two years – the Botanical Spirit and Aged Botanical Spirit, which the company describes as a “mix between whisky and gin”. Thomas said: “We have seen real consumer demand for authentic and sustainable brands and believe the scotch category has yet to tap into a new audience base by attracting them with innovative products, which is where we’re looking to build further on our success to date.”