Imbiba invests £2.5m more in Farmer J: Imbiba, the specialist investor in the UK leisure and hospitality sector, has invested a further £2.5m into London-based, all-day market concept Farmer J, Propel has learned. The new funds follow the £1.9m Imbiba invested in the Jonathan Recanati-led business at the start of the year. Imbiba’s latest investment is joined by a further £250,000 cash injection from other existing shareholders to support Farmer J’s expansion across the UK. It’s thought Farmer J has a strong pipeline of sites coming to market, with an immediate focus on central London areas with a high density of workers. Propel understands since the initial investment the company, which features build-your-own grab-and-go “field trays”, has continued to thrive. In the past year Farmer J reported double-digit like-for-like sales growth at its two sites in the City and opened a site in Canary Wharf. The company recently opened a fourth site, near Liverpool Street station. Recanati founded Farmer J in 2016 and is joined by creative chef Nick Sandler, former development chef at Pret A Manger; operations director Noel D’Arcy; marketing director Ali Recanati; and Kevin Todd, non-executive director and former group managing director of Mitchells & Butlers.
Shareholders approve £2.7bn Greene King deal: Shareholders have approved Hong Kong private developer CK Asset Holdings’ £2.7bn acquisition of brewer and retailer Greene King. At an extraordinary general meeting, 99.38% of CK Asset Holdings shareholders voted to back the deal, with only 0.61% opposing the takeover. Meanwhile, at a separate meeting 98.73% of Greene King shareholders voted in favour of the acquisition. The deal values Greene King at £4.6bn including net debt, making it the second-biggest UK-inbound deal of the year after Blackstone and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board made a £6bn move for Merlin Entertainments. CKA, which announced plans to buy Greene King in August, was founded by 91-year-old Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and is run by his eldest son, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi. Ka-shing announced plans to retire last year but remains a senior adviser at CK Asset Holdings.
Potato firm Albert Bartlett reopens batch of Spudulike sites: Albert Bartlett, which provides more than 20% of the UK’s fresh potatoes, has secured an agreement to reopen and operate a number of Spudulike sites. The global potato firm, which was founded in 1948, has reopened eight Spudulike sites – in Livingston, Manchester, York, Glasgow, Greenhithe, Norwich, Bridgend and Leeds. Albert Bartlett is believed to be in talks to open a few more of the 37 Spudulike sites that closed earlier this summer after a buyer withdrew from a pre-package administration deal for the business at the last minute. A Spudulike spokesman said: “Spudulike is back. If you’ve been missing your favourite baked potato fix, you can find us again at selected shopping centres across the UK. Spudulike has had several owners over the years and operated as a franchise and managed operation. However, an exciting new era dawns as our brand becomes part of the Albert Bartlett portfolio, which means top-notch spuds, baked the way you love, at lower prices.” The reopened sites feature barista-style coffee, new ingredients and a new dessert menu. Speaking at the time of the company’s collapse joint administrators Neil Bennett and Alex Cadwallader, of Leonard Curtis, said they were “very disappointed” after working for several weeks preparing a company voluntary arrangement, which was rejected by Spudulike’s creditors, and subsequently pursuing the sale of all or part of the group’s business and assets with a number of prospective purchasers. The situation resulted in all the group’s outlets, plus its head office, being closed and all 298 employees made redundant with immediate effect. The Spudulike Group operated three trading companies – T&G Fast Food Developments, Courts Quality Foods and Spud-U-Like.
Oakman Inns reports like-for-likes up 5.1% in latest quarter, CFO to leave:Oakman Inns and Restaurants has reported like-for-like sales were up 5.1% for the 13 weeks to 29 September, with total sales increasing 15.7% to £10.9m. Towards the end of the quarter Oakman opened The Lost Boy in Farnham, which is “trading ahead of expectations” at circa £40,000 per week. The company also announced chief financial officer Joseph Evans would leave the business in 2020 after six years with the business. Oakman has continued to bolster its leadership team with the recent appointment of Michelle Farrell as marketing director. Farrell has ten years’ experience in the sector, including spells at Novus, Intertain and JD Wetherspoon. Her arrival follows that of Steve Kenee as chief investment officer and Dermot King as chief operating officer earlier in the year. Chief executive and company founder Peter Borg-Neal said: “Oakman Inns is continuing to improve and grow despite the tough trading environment. Our recently opened sites are trading strongly and we are particularly delighted by the performance of The Lost Boy in Farnham, which has operated well ahead of expectations since it opened five weeks ago. However, it’s the performance of our core estate I am particularly proud of. Having decade-old sites still in growth demonstrates how robust our proposition is and what a strong team Oakman Inns has. Joseph has been at the heart of the Oakman Inns success story. When he joined we had seven pubs and sales of more than £10m but, like all growing businesses, we faced a huge array of challenges, which Joseph helped see us through. He has been a huge part of building what we have today – a thriving business with an amazing culture that will soon boast a turnover in excess of £50m.” Evans added: “I told Peter when I joined that having been in a big corporation during the formative years of my career, I wanted to spend the next five years with him learning about the realities of life at the sharp end of business. In return, I committed to helping him build Oakman into a market-leading company. I think both sides of the bargain have been delivered and I am ready for my next challenge.”
Draft House returned to pre-tax profit in year BrewDog bought business: Draft House returned to pre-tax profit for the first time in three years in the year it was acquired by Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog. Draft House reported turnover increased to £14.8m for the 14 months to 31 December 2018, compared with £10.4m for the 12 months to 26 October 2017. Operating profit was down to £48,000, compared with £276,000 in the prior period. The business made a pre-tax profit of £717,000 compared with a loss of £2.8m the period before – its first pre-tax profit since 2015. The accounting period has been changed to end in December to align with BrewDog’s financial year. The Draft House brand consists of 13 venues after BrewDog opened its first site in Scotland – The Hop & Anchor in Aberdeen – in April. BrewDog retail director James Brown told Propel: “We are pleased with the Draft House pubs’ trading performance and continue to invest in the estate with the conversion of Grand Union in Farringdon in spring and refurbishments of Tower Bridge, Chancery Lane and, most recently, the Birdcage pub in Columbia Road.” BrewDog acquired Draft House from founder Charlie McVeigh in March 2018.
Great Northern Inns completes company restructure: Nottingham-based independent pub group Great Northern Inns has re-emerged as Great Northern Group following the company’s restructure. The group owns and operates 11 venues in Nottinghamshire including Copper Cafés in West Bridgford, Mapperley and Nottingham city centre. The company’s Saltbox bar has been closed but a new Copper Café is set to open in Bingham this month. Great Northern Group director David Willans told The Business Desk: “For some time we have been restructuring the company to allow our managers to become partners in their venues. Individuals we have employed for many years have the opportunity to become our business partners in existing and new ventures and this hopefully gives our younger generation of staff incentive and insights into how the company values its hard-working and long-serving team members. The majority of our venues now operate as individual companies so, following the closure of Saltbox, Great Northern Inns has been liquidated and the final stage in our restructure is to rename the parent group. We feel renaming the group signals our fresh approach of manager buy-in while maintaining the stability of the extensive experience of myself and my business partner as we have been operating venues in Nottingham for more than 35 years.”
Matthews steps down as Benito’s Hat FD: Jakina Matthews has stepped down as finance director of Mexican restaurant brand Benito’s Hat after less than a year with the company. Matthews joined the business in January, replacing Georgina Stevens. Benito’s Hat underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) earlier this summer. The Calculus Capital-backed company appointed adviser CBW to assess the brand’s options resulting in the board’s decision to pursue a CVA, which received support from 93% of creditors. The company had already taken corrective action to close poorly performing stores in Leicester’s Highcross scheme and its original site in Goodge Street, London. However, Pearson said the now eight-strong company wasn’t looking to close any more locations. He said: “Each store was assessed on an individual basis and negotiations held directly with the landlords to find the most appropriate course of action in adjusting any lease terms.”
Coco Di Mama opens 25th site, second Pod conversion: Azzurri Group-owned brand Coco Di Mama has opened its 25th site in London after completing the conversion of its second Pod site. The brand opened its latest site in Ropemaker Place, 71 Chiswell Street, Islington. Azzurri Group, which acquired 13 of Pod’s 22 sites out of administration earlier this year, opened the first site to be converted to its Coco di Mama brand last month, at More London. It’s thought Azzurri will look to convert a few more Pod sites to Coco di Mama before the end of the year. Azzurri, owner of the ASK Italian, Zizzi and Radio Alice brands, bought the majority of the Pod estate in a pre-pack administration for a total consideration of £1.6m – more than £1m below its original offer that failed to gain shareholder approval.
Franco Manca and MeatLiquor eye former Jamie’s Italian in Soho: Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned brand, and MeatLiquor, the Scott Collins-led concept, are believed to be in advanced talks to operate a joint site at the former flagship Jamie’s Italian in Soho. The companies are close to signing a lease on the Denman Street site that would see Franco Manca take over the ground and basement, with MeatLiquor taking the top three floors. The Franco Manca site is expected to offer 120 covers, while the MeatLiquor site would have a separate entrance and comprise 45 seats on the first floor, 45 in the dining room and 60 in the cocktail bar, both on the second floor, with a rooftop bar above. Propel understands Jamie’s Italian invested £3.5m in the site, while Franco Manca and MeatLiquor are expected to invest circa £400,000 and £250,000 respectively. It’s thought the brands will operate the site on a four-year lease before Land Securities redevelops the property. Franco Manca, which is chaired by David Page, recently opened its 50th site, in Manchester, while it is believed to be in negotiations to secure a number of further venues. Last month Propel reported MeatLiquor had seen a strong quarter of growth, partly driven by the first three months of trading at its new West End site. Opened in June, the site in Margaret Street, near Oxford Circus, which replaced its original site in Welbeck Street, is believed to have seen consistent growth from £33,000 net sales a week up to more than £79,000.
Tom Aikens to open fine dining restaurant Muse in Belgravia mews: Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens is to open fine dining restaurant Muse in London’s Belgravia in December. The 25-cover boutique restaurant will be housed in a renovated mews in Groom Place and will see the return of Aikens’ take on “experience-led dining” following a long search for a suitable site. Aikens will create a seasonal, stripped-back tasting menu featuring signature dishes that focus on one key ingredient or element. The dining space will be split over two floors, each with a theatre kitchen, with each guest offered a “kitchen table experience”. Aikens said: “I have been inspired and influenced by many people, places, times and travels. I carry with me an inherent pride of my Norfolk provenance alongside the many places I considered home from home. My new home, Muse, pays homage to the big and small things that have had the greatest impact on my life, inside and outside the kitchen.” Aikens is the youngest chef to gain two Michelin stars. He currently runs Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea and has an international presence having opened Pots, Pans and Boards in Dubai and three eateries at the Abu Dhabi Edition. He has also written three cookbooks and is a regular judge on television series Great British Menu.
Oxfordshire-based Papa John’s franchisee opens third site, eyes six in area:Oxfordshire-based Papa John’s franchisee Bally Brar has opened a site in Bicester to add to his venues in Abingdon and Didcot. Brar, who has been a franchisee since 2014, said: “I was always keen to run multiple Papa John’s close to each other. I’m now on target to open five or six outlets in the Oxfordshire area. There are certainly economies of scale when running several stores. Staffing and recruitment is made easier and marketing can be done for the whole area too.” The Bicester store features Papa John’s new look. Brar said: “It has created a welcoming atmosphere and in-store buzz. With the help of my team, I’m now looking forward to opening more Papa John’s locally in the next 12 months.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and operates more than 400 stores in the UK.
Remarkable Pubs to open Leytonstone venue next week featuring miniature railway: London-focused Remarkable Pubs is to open its latest site, in Leytonstone on Friday, 18 October. The Holly Tree will launch in Dames Road and feature a first for a London pub – a miniature railway in the garden. The Holly Tree is the 16th venue in a collection of quirky traditional pubs built by Robert Thomas and his family. Thomas, a former university lecturer, Olympian swimmer and double-decker bus dealer, said: “I have a penchant for pubs and all things mechanical so adding a gauge train to the garden of our latest pub is the perfect fit. We will add a London bus too for customers to hire for private parties.” General manager Laura Field added: “Even as a seasoned hospitality professional, I have never had to recruit a train driver before!” Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna said: “Our food will be cooked from scratch, our beer range will include a genuine Czech pilsner, we will have a proper old-school jukebox and, of course, a train in our landscaped garden.”
Lucky Onion opens The Hollow Bottom for sixth site: Cotswolds hotel and restaurant group The Lucky Onion has launched its sixth site, The Hollow Bottom. The Lucky Onion, owned by Julian Dunkerton, the entrepreneur behind high-street brand Superdry and Dunkertons Organic Cider, has reopened the pub in the village of Guiting Power. The group’s executive chef, Ronnie Bonetti, has created a menu featuring classic pub dishes alongside Sunday roasts. The 17th century Cotswold stone pub has been part of the racing community for decades. Dunkerton said: “It is our ongoing commitment to restore historic buildings in the Cotswolds and Cheltenham. Racing is at the heart of the community as is The Hollow Bottom and we have gone above and beyond to ensure locals and visitors can continue to celebrate both.”
Rosa’s Thai Cafe to hit 18 sites with Clapham Junction opening next month:TriSpan-backed group Rosa’s Thai Cafe is to hit the 18-site milestone when it opens its latest restaurant, in Clapham Junction, south west London, next month. The 68-cover venue will open in Northcote Road on Sunday, 3 November offering the brand’s renowned Thai dishes such as fiery drunken noodles, and stir-fried aubergine in chilli and basil, with most dishes available as vegan options. The decor will include bespoke rattan cane furnishings against a colour scheme of deep green, peach and cream. Saiphin and Alex Moore opened the first permanent Rosa’s Thai Cafe in London in 2008. It has grown to 15 venues in the capital, with one each in Liverpool and Leeds. Saiphin Moore said: “The close community feel in Northcote Road takes me back to my early Rosa’s days trading in Brick Lane. I am excited for Rosa’s to join Clapham Junction’s vibrant foodie scene and I look forward to meeting our local customers and businesses when we open the doors!” Last month, private equity firm Connection Capital acquired a small stake in Rosa’s Thai Cafe from TriSpan. Rosa’s is now targeting a UK-wide roll-out to 45 sites, consisting of restaurants and grab-and-go outlets, in the next five years. Rosa’s Thai Cafe is run by ex-Wahaca director Gavin Adair as chief executive, with former YO! chief executive Robin Rowland as chairman.
Turkish restaurant concept Baraka to launch in City of London next month:Turkish restaurant concept Baraka is to launch at British Land’s flagship Broadgate site next month. The 180-cover, 3,165 square foot unit will open in Finsbury Avenue Square in mid-November offering outside and atrium seating. In Turkish culture a “baraka” is an old wooden house where people live, sell food and socialise. The idea behind the concept is to create a modern Turkish-style restaurant and bar that provides a “home from home” in the City of London. The menu will feature prime cuts of meat served directly from a mangal or charcoal grill. Daniel Rogers, surveyor at Restaurant Property, which secured the site, said: “We are delighted we have been able to help Baraka secure its first site at the Broadgate scheme. Liverpool Street is the ideal site for Baraka, which will debut its exciting modern Turkish cuisine to City workers.” Nash Bond was the other agent involved.
Sticks ‘n’ Sushi opens Soho restaurant for seventh central London site: Denmark-based Japanese restaurant brand Sticks ‘n’ Sushi has opened its ninth UK restaurant, in Soho. The venue in Beak Street is the group’s seventh in central London and follows a recent opening in King’s Road, Chelsea. Set over two floors, the Soho restaurant offers 170 covers with the opening creating 80 jobs. Andreas Karlsson, who heads up Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, said: “We devote a great deal of energy looking for the perfect sites and we’ve found the right spot in Soho.” Brothers Jens and Kim Rahbek launched the brand 25 years ago with Thor Andersen. Earlier this year the founders sold part of their stake to Maj Invest, which now has a 79% holding in the business.
Wales-based sausage restaurant passes half-way mark in £150,000 fund-raise as it aims for UK roll-out: Wales-based sausage restaurant The Sausage Revolution has passed the half-way mark in its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to roll out across the UK. Simon Llewellyn launched the concept in Barry last year, with the restaurant profitable within its first 12 months of trading. Llewellyn is raising the funds as he looks to open a site in Cardiff before launching franchises in Bristol and the West Midlands. He is offering 10% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.35m. So far, 60 investors have pledged £103,950 with 15 days of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “The Sausage Revolution is serving one of the UK’s favourite foods. The company seeks to increase its presence in the quick service restaurant market and roll out its distinctive brand across the UK. Investment will fuel this by opening in Cardiff before launching franchises in Bristol and the West Midlands. Primary expenditure will be store logistics and marketing.”
Glasgow-based burger restaurant doubles up: Glasgow-based burger restaurant El Perro Negro has opened its second site in the city. The concept from Nick Watkins, Peter McKenna and Ivan Stein began life as a pop-up before opening a permanent site in Argyle Street 18 months ago. Now they have doubled up with a new site having launched in Woodlands Road. Watkins told Glasgow Live: “We’re excited about our new venue. It’s a massive milestone and we are delighted to see all the team’s hard work come to fruition. The support from customers over the past five years since we started out as a small pop-up has been overwhelming and we can’t wait to welcome everyone at Woodlands.”
Loungers opens Cosy Club at Basingstoke shopping centre: Loungers, the operator of neighbourhood cafe-bar restaurants, has opened a site for its Cosy Club brand at the Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke, Hampshire. The company has launched the 5,300 square foot venue having previously agreed a deal with the complex’s owner, AEW. It becomes the second Cosy Club in the county, joining the venue at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. In addition to providing an all-day offer a key aspect of the Basingstoke venue will be the cocktail bar, which will cater to the growing evening economy at Festival Place. There will also be a private dining room. Cosy Club managing director Amber Wood said: “Customers describe Cosy Club as a home away from home, which is why we chose Festival Place in the town centre as the destination for the next opening. We believe our restaurant will support the centre’s growing position as an all-day destination, offering a variety of leisure experiences to complement the traditional retail offer. We also look forward to expanding the wet-led offer and helping to develop a thriving evening economy.” Russell Jewell, head of private equity funds at AEW, added: “Cosy Club will appeal to the increasingly broad catchment we’re attracting.” Lunson Mitchenall and Cushman & Wakefield are joint agents for Festival Place, while CBRE is the managing agent.
Tennent’s invests €16m to ‘tackle climate emergency’: Scottish brewer Tennent’s, which is owned by C&C Group, has ramped up its sustainability plans in a bid to “help tackle the climate emergency”. The company has pledged to invest €16m (£14.3m) to boost its commitment to local sourcing and waste management. Tennent’s has also promised to eradicate single-use plastic by 2021, produce energy from renewables and be carbon neutral by 2025, and become the first brewer to join the UK Plastics Pact. The move to cut single-use plastic will eliminate 150 tonnes of the material a year, while the company will start work on a carbon-capture facility at its Wellpark brewery in Glasgow before the end of the year. Tennent’s will build on strong sustainability roots as its beer is made from 100% Scottish barley, with by-products used as animal feed or organic compost as part of a zero waste to landfill system introduced in 2014. The company also operates an anaerobic digestion plant at Wellpark, which treats waste water and generates bio-gas that is used to heat the brewery. Tennent’s has also linked with not-for-profit organisation 2050 Climate Group to host a series of pub “pint and a plan” sessions. Martin Doogan, group engineering manager at C&C, said: “It is a leap in the right direction but we’re not complacent and we’re not finished. We will continue to seek ways to minimise our environmental impact.”
Punch business support team reaches awards finals: Punch’s business support team has made the finals of the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards. Punch operates 1,300 pubs in England, Scotland and Wales, while its business support team consists of five customer service teams and is one of the smallest to reach the finals. Marketing and strategy director Russell Danks said: “Customer service is extremely important to us. We are always listening to our publicans to find innovative ways to deliver new and exciting services.”