Former Cote owners among bidders for Pizza Hut UK: The former owner of French bistro company Cote is reported to be among the bidders trying to grab a slice of Pizza Hut’s UK operations. Private equity firm CBPE is one of four prospective buyers of Pizza Hut following a revival programme which has returned the chain to profitability, reports Sky News. The other bidders are said to include HIG Europe, another investment firm, while insiders said Electra Partners, the owner of TGI Friday’s, did not make it through to the latest round of the Pizza Hut auction, which is being overseen by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The sale, which is expected to be for about £150m, comes after a successful turnaround of the business. It struggled under former owner Yum Brands, which still owns the takeaway side of the business. Rutland paid a nominal sum of £1 to acquire Pizza Hut’s restaurants in Britain four years ago. Rutland, which also owns the Bernard Matthews turkey empire, has refurbished many of Pizza Hut’s 350 sites and revamped the menu. It now has Ebitda of about £20m. Pizza Hut UK chief executive Jens Hofma signalled the sale plan last year but warned the National Living Wage – which came into effect today (Friday, 1 April) – would “pose a challenge for the economic model of casual dining businesses”. CBPE made a stellar return when it sold Cote to BC Partners – another buyout firm – last year for circa £250m.

 

Loungers to open three sites in April, fully-formed pipeline for expansion in 2016: Cafe bar brand Loungers will open three sites in April, taking its tally of new openings in 2016 so far to seven, while the group has a fully-formed pipeline of new openings for the rest of the year. Castello Lounge in Wellingborough, a 4,800 square foot space over two floors on the site of a former McDonald’s, will open on Wednesday, 6 April. Nautico Lounge will open in Weymouth the following week in a grade II-listed former post office, with 3,400 square feet of space and a 700 square foot terrace. The group will then open its 14th Cosy Club in Derby on Friday, 22 April, which will occupy the first floor of the grade II-listed Royal Hotel, which closed in 1952 and until recently was operated as a nightclub. Loungers is investing £950,000 into the site, with a new ground-floor lobby opening into the first-floor space, including the hotel’s 2,200 square foot ballroom. Loungers managing director Nick Collins said: “We’re set to open a trio of cracking sites in April in three diverse locations and in very different buildings. Our three Lounge openings so far in 2016 – in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hinckley and Newquay – have exceeded our expectations and our Cosy Club in Hereford has got off to an absolute flyer. The potential scale of both brands is extremely exciting.” As well as a fully-formed pipeline of new openings for 2016, the group has already secured a number of new sites for 2017. Lounge openings for 2016 include sites in Loughborough, Monmouth, Lichfield, Corby, Derby, Mumbles, Telford and Mere Green, and it is understood details of two additional 2016 Cosy Club openings will be confirmed soon.

 

YO! Sushi introduces National Living Wage for all employees: YO! Sushi has today (Friday, 1 April) introduced the National Living Wage to all 1,800 employees across the UK – regardless of age. The official National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour only applies to workers aged 25 or over but the company has brought it in across the board. Chief executive Robin Rowland said: “For us, it is the fair and right thing to do. Our teams drive our business – are the face of the company day in and day out delighting our guests in over 75 locations across the UK. We are also very conscious and proud of the fact that many of our younger employees – and we have a lot – are extremely dedicated to YO! Sushi and regularly rise through the ranks into management positions. We want that positive and motivating culture to continue.” YO! Sushi is also committed to developing the range of benefits to employees at all levels – from kitchen porter to general manager. This includes friends and family discounts, monthly incentives where team members earn “YO! Yen”, which can be exchanged for rewards and vouchers, a bonus scheme, and opportunities for career progression.

 

Cabana launches new website ahead of Rio Olympics: Brazilian barbecue brand Cabana has launched a new website ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio, featuring order to collect, group booking and bar booking functions. The company has partnered with Orderswift to create an online “Order to Collect” service at all nine Cabana venues. New “Bars” and “Groups” sections of the website highlight Cabana’s “Brazilian spirit and party vibe”, while the “What’s Hot” section features latest news and will be a hub for “#WeAreBrasil” good news stories as the August 5 launch of the Olympic Games moves closer. Cabana head of marketing Lizzy Barber said: “2016 is an exciting year for us, with a new ‘Road to Rio’ menu launching mid-April, the opening of Cabana Newcastle and several other planned sites and, of course, the Olympic games. Brazil will be on everyone’s lips and we want to be the go-to brand for consumers wanting to get a taste of this vibrant country. We are constantly innovating our website – our traffic doubled by nearly 100% last year – and we hope this new iteration will engage even more Cabana fans.” Cabana will open its tenth site – in Newcastle city centre – later this month as part of expansion plans outside London.

 

Bella Italia to open 100th site at Bluewater shopping centre on Wednesday: Bella Italia, the brand owned by Casual Dining Group, will open its 100th restaurant on Wednesday (6 April) at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. The company will launch the flagship site in The Plaza dining area, which is also home to restaurant brands including Jamie’s Italian, Five Guys and Ed’s Easy Diner. The company stated: “Bella Bluewater is the grand 100th restaurant to join the Bella family! Showcasing the very finest of our Bella style, Bella Bluewater will deliver our authentic menu selection, carefully sourced all the way from the north to the south of beautiful Italy. Let Bella Bluewater take you on a culinary journey with our delicious pizzas, pastas and grills! Experience cured meats and salamis with a true Italian flavour and, of course, the favourite treat of many Italians – gelato (ice cream)! All this and much more will be served in a fun and exciting environment created for people who love to share the finest things in life – authentic Italian food in the good company of friends and family.”

 

Just Eat gets clearance for Spanish acquisition: Just Eat, the digital marketplace for takeaway food delivery, has received clearance from Spanish regulators to complete its acquisition of La Nevera Roja. Just Eat announced in February it had bought four businesses from Rocket Internet and Foodpanda for £94.7m, to be funded from existing cash resources. The other businesses are online takeaway food businesses trading in Italy (PizzaBo/hellofood Italy), Brazil (hellofood Brazil) and Mexico (hellofood Mexico). With the addition of La Nevera Roja, which translates as “the red fridge”, Just Eat said it had become the market leader in Spain “by some distance” and management expected the extra scale to generate “meaningfully higher” and sustainable profit margins. Just Eat chief executive David Buttress said the acquisitions in Italy, Mexico and Brazil were integrating as planned, while the company estimated the takeaway delivery market in the four territories to be worth more than £8bn. Buttress said: “This acquisition, along with the acquisitions in Italy, Mexico and Brazil, consolidate our market leadership in a number of geographies where the digital marketplace for takeaway food delivery is growing strongly.”