Loungers thanks employees for EOTHO efforts with ‘Eat Out Because You Missed Out’ initiative: Cafe bar operator Loungers has moved to thank its employees across both its Lounge and Cosy Club brands for their efforts in making the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme a success by launching a “Eat Out Because You Missed Out” reward, Propel has learned. Under the initiative, every “Lounger or Cosy Clubber” who worked a shift in August is entitled to £50 off food and drink (including alcohol) in any Lounge or Cosy Club, free of charge. The £50 voucher is for every one of the group’s employees who worked a shift in August and can be used on one occasion on Mondays to Thursdays between 15 September and 22 October. The group has brought in the initiative for its circa 5,000 employees, to recognise their hard work and that they were unable to benefit fully from the EOTHO scheme while working.
Chop’d begins gradual reopening of its estate: Chop’d, the Eddie Holmes-led salad bar chain, has begun the gradual reopening of its 18-strong estate, with the opening of five sites in London. The group has, this week, reopened its sites in St Paul’s, Curzon Street, Long Acre, City Point and Spitafields. The sites are open for a limited time, and between 11am and 2.30pm, and offer a pared back menu. It is thought the company will assess the success of these sites before looking at opening further units. Holmes told Propel: “It is great to be opening up again, and the restrictions we have placed on the opening hours and limited menu will allow us to see how we may adapt our model going forward. We are grateful to the support of our suppliers and a number of our landlords in being able to take this step.”
Incipio Group praises landlords’ support during lock-down, operating at almost 70% of 2019 turnover: Incipio Group, which is backed by Edition Capital, has thanked its landlords after the successful reopening of its six London sites. Before lock-down, the group was on track to turn over more than £20m in 2020. Since reopening on 4 July, 105,000 customers have visited and even though it has operated at reduced capacity of 52%, Incipio has seen turnover at almost 70% year-on-year by adjusting its operating model. The company participated in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and witnessed an uplift of 40% in revenue across its sites on Monday to Wednesday during August. Incipio chief executive Ed Devenport said: “During the most challenging months the industry has probably ever seen, like many others, we were in fight mode in order to protect the business, our staff and our future. One of the first things we did was proactively turn to each of our landlords to discuss solutions to safeguard the venues and our teams. There has been a lot of negative press recently regarding how landlords have treated their tenants during the pandemic. From our perspective, we have always worked incredibly hard on our relationships with our landlords and their approach towards us has been exceptional. They have given us support that has underpinned our ability to retain the majority of our team, reopen and bounce back strongly.” The group’s sites are Pergola Paddington, Pergola Olympia, Lost in Brixton, Bloom, The Prince and W12 Studios. And its landlords include British Land (Pergola Paddington), Stanhope Capital (W12 Studios), Yoo Capital (Pergola Olympia), Delancey (The Prince), Hondo Enterprises (Lost in Brixton) and The Royal Garden Hotel (Bloom). The group has secured a variety of rental agreements including rent-free periods during lock-down as well as turnover and capacity-based rents.
Out Of The Woods acquired out of administration for £563,000, report shows: Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, which operates four pubs in London, was acquired out of administration last month by newly formed company – Racon Investments – for £659,408. A statement of administrators’ proposal by Chris Farrington and Simon Jagger, of ReSolve, showed £96,265 was paid on completion with the remaining £563,143 settled by way of rollover of secured creditor FAP’s assets of each of the group’s four subsidiary companies – Woodys Inns, Hillmaster, Willow Inns (UK) and Forest Inns (UK) – to the purchaser. Racon Investments, which invests in restaurants and bars, comprises a number of directors who were also formerly directors of Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, plus Martin Swindon, formerly finance director for Laine Pub Company. Swindon left Laine last year after 12 years with the pub company to pursue his own business interests. Propel revealed earlier this summer that Chris Farrington and Simon Jagger, of ReSolve Advisory, had been appointed joint administrators of the four subsidiary companies and founder Jasper Gorst had left the business. Gorst opened The Oak W2 in Notting Hill in 2001 followed by The Bird In Hand in Brook Green in 2011 and The Oak W12 in Goldhawk Road two years later. Last year, he opened The Oak SW11 in Battersea having transformed the former Butcher & Grill in Parkgate Road. All four sites have recently reopened. The report showed despite “significant” interest during the marketing campaign only four offers were received for the company, which was “struggling severely as a result of the lock-down”. However, three of those offers were for only one or two of the sites. Racon’s offer was, therefore, the only one put forward for recommendation, with the sale preserving 83 jobs. Unsecured creditors across the four companies are owed more than £1.5m and the administrators said there would not be a distribution.
McDonald’s to trial reusable cup for hot drinks in UK: McDonald’s has announced a global partnership with TerraCycle’s circular packaging service, Loop, to test a new reusable cup model for hot drinks. The initiative will first be trialled in 2021 across select McDonald’s restaurants in the UK. McDonald’s said the partnership will “conveniently allow customers to reduce waste” by choosing a durable Loop-created cup, for a small deposit. The deposit can then be redeemed by returning the cup to participating McDonald’s UK restaurants in order to be safely washed through the Loop system and reused again in McDonald’s restaurants. Jenny McColloch, vice president, global sustainability at McDonald’s, said: “We’re on a journey to rethink how we package products to give customers options that reduce waste, maintain the highest safety standards, and enhance the McDonald’s experience they expect and enjoy. That’s an innovation challenge, and it’s one we think the Loop model has potential to help us solve. We’re excited to assess how new reusable packaging models could work within our system as we accelerate circular packaging solutions with our partners around the globe.” McDonald’s said this builds on progress it has already made to recycle paper cups in multiple markets. Almost all of McDonald’s restaurants across the UK now have recycling units for hot and cold paper cups.
Tampopo to open pop-up in former Byron site: Pan-Asian restaurant business Tampopo is to open a pop-up under its East Street brand in the former Byron unit in London’s Clapham. The pop-up on Northcote Road will run till the end of the year, but there is a possibility that it could be extended. It is thought that the David Fox-led business will use the pop-up to test the neighbourhood for delivery trade. From its original site at Manchester’s Albert Square, the group has expanded to open restaurants in the Corn Exchange and the Trafford Centre in the city, and Fitzrovia in central London. Dishes come from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and beyond, and include sharing platters, noodles and curries. East Street aims to reflect the relaxed “grab-and-graze” style of street markets and shopping centres in Bangkok and Singapore. In 2018, East Street took over the former Rice site in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, adding an “on-the-go” element to its pan-Asian food offer.
Sushisamba to open rooftop site in Edinburgh’s St James Quarter: Sushisamba has lined up an opening in Edinburgh, at the city’s St James Quarter, for 2022. The international restaurant brand will occupy the rooftop at the W Edinburgh hotel, located on levels 10 and 11 of the scheme, and be part of its final phase. The restaurant will be the brand’s third UK location and its first outside of London, joining Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Dubai and two London sites – Heron Tower and Covent Garden. The restaurant will feature a main dining room with unparalleled views of Edinburgh’s skyline, a bar and lounge, chef’s table, and outdoor terraces. Ed Webb, director of Development Management at St James Quarter, said: “From the start, we’ve focused on ensuring St James Quarter attracts world-leading brands and securing Sushisamba for the rooftop of W Edinburgh matches this ambition. The Sushisamba brand and offer is a perfect fit for our vision and is a fantastic addition to the existing food line-up at St James Quarter. Sushisamba will bring a new level of energy and excitement to Edinburgh, showcasing a joint vision and innovative concepts not yet seen in the Scottish capital.” Omar Gutierrez, chief operating officer of Sushisamba, said: “Edinburgh and its international appeal make it a natural fit for Sushisamba’s third UK location as we continue to expand our brand globally. We look forward to unveiling our cutting-edge plans and are honoured to join the growing list of pedigree brands that make up St James Quarter’s iconic estate.” Everyman Cinema, a new food hall from Bonnie & Wild, @Pizza, Five Guys, and The Alchemist have already signed up for the scheme.
Homeslice fired up for Neal’s Yard site reopening with guest chefs: London-based better pizza brand Homeslice will host a monthly series of dinners hosted by guest chefs to celebrate the reopening of its Neal’s Yard site in Covent Garden. Michelin-starred chef Lee Westcott will cook for three nights from Thursday, 24 September, at the venue’s Fire & Friends programme but the venue will be open for regular service from Monday (14 September). Neil Rankin (Symplicity Foods) will take the reins for a period during October with further chefs to be announced. Westcott has put a four-course menu together to make full use of the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. On the menu will be grilled Carlingford oyster, jalapeno salsa and fermented wild garlic; IPA sourdough served with whipped Marmite butter and roasted yeast; wood-fired beetroot, blackberry, smoked cream and fennel pollen; roasted spatchcock quail, grilled courgettes, tomatoes and camomile, and seasonal greens; damson, Sichuan pepper, rapeseed and fig leaf. The Fire & Friends events will be ticketed. Meanwhile, the venue will continue to offer the Eat Out To Help Out scheme throughout September from its own pocket as per the government scheme.
Tipjar closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £700,000: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising £700,000. Tipjar founder James Brown, who is retail director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, and Rosa’s Thai Café co-founder Alex Moore, who invested in Tipjar a year ago, aimed to raise £300,000 as it looks to grow. Tipjar was offering 6.25% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £4.5m. It has now closed the campaign with 1,194 investors pledging £699,999. The pitch stated: “Tipjar set out to solve three problems – tipped workers are earning less each year as cash transactions reduce; businesses are struggling under the administration burden, tax compliance and levels of transparency needed to manage tips; and consumer confidence in tipping is at an all-time low. We’ve used tech to allow customers to tip staff directly. This transparency gives consumers confidence the money goes to who it was intended. By facilitating the direct payment of tips between customers and staff, we remove the business from the equation, removing its liabilities, the burden of complying with tax legislation and reducing the cost of running a compliant tronc system. We’ve already appointed a chief executive in the US with the aim of having live clients by November and have plans to expand across the EU and Australia.” Last month, Propel reported Tipjar had received significant investment from Simon Bocca, the former chief operating officer at Fourth, and four other Fourth senior leadership alumni.
Robinsons reopens The Pooley Bridge Inn after £1m investment: North west-based brewer and retailer Robinsons has teamed up with new licensee Mat Cooper to plough £1m into the revamp and reopening of The Pooley Bridge Inn. The tenanted site near Ullswater in the Lake District was set to reopen in late March but lock-down forced its postponement. Since opening its doors, it has proved a popular spot for staycations and offers food and drinks. Pooley Bridge operations director Kyle McGregor said: “The place looks stunning and, after months of worry and the disappointment of missing out on our original opening day in March, trade has taken off like a rocket. August sales were up by 70% on last year. We’ve recruited a fantastic team and the guest experience is now on a completely new level. Our covid-friendly spacing gives us 397 covers inside and out.” Among the renovation work is an extension to the rear, refreshed paintwork outside, a rear and front external courtyard with covered seated booths, festoon lighting and an external bar. Upstairs, the 12 bedrooms have been refurbished. Robinsons business development manager Simon Taylor added: “The Pooley Bridge now certainly meets the expectations of today’s tourists and visitors. The village was left isolated after Storm Desmond of 2015 (the new bridge is due to reopen in late October 2020), and we wanted to give the village a new lease of life. The bedrooms are rich in heritage and cosy with feature floral walls and sandblasted oak beams, perfect for guests ranging from single travellers to families or couples. The Pooley Bridge offers a delicious brand new menu, embracing scrumptious pub classics, hearty pies and local steaks.”
Hyper Reality gaming complex reopens with covid-safe rules: Computer gaming venue Hyper Reality has reopened under covid-safe initiatives. The Mile End Road, east London, gaming site that combines “nostalgic gaming experiences with futuristic virtual reality” had only been open for a few months before lock-down. Along with safety edicts such as special cloth facemasks beneath the virtual reality masks and ultraviolet wand scans of the venue every two hours, there is a bar serving non-alcoholic drinks and private karaoke room. Hyper Reality founder YJ Chen said: “We’ve created a space with influences from the cyberpunk genre, including Blade Runner and Akira, and we want customers to feel a sense of awe and ‘futuristic nostalgia’. We are delighted to be back, delivering experiences that people love. Our dedicated covid-19 strategy is in place to keep our staff and customers safe, and free to enjoy themselves.”
Turnover boost for Shorefield Holidays: Shorefield Holidays has revealed a turnover rise from £26.4m in 2018 to £28.8m in 2019. The Hampshire-based, family-owned holiday and leisure park operator, which runs eight holiday parks, revealed the boost in its financial statement for the year ending October 2019 but recorded a drop in profits after tax from £3.7m to £2.4m. Ebitda was £5.8m compared with £6.1m in 2018. The business said holiday homes sales increased by 21.7% versus 2018 and had made changes in its senior management team and its marketing strategy. Food and beverage sales had increased by 8.3% while net profit decreased by 15.6% due to more costly overheads, including salaries, advertising, prior year costs, computer costs and a full year in ownership of Wilksworth Caravan Park in Dorset. It also stated the main risk it faces is a second local wave of coronaviruses cases if they were to force another closure of its parks.
Webb Hotel Group encouraged by business since reopening: Family-owned Webb Hotel Group claimed the early signs since reopening after lock-down are “very encouraging”. However, the West Midlands-based outfit added in its latest accounts submission that coronavirus will have a “big effect” on FY20 statistics. For the year ended 31 December 2019, turnover was up to £10.7m from £10.5m while profit after tax dropped by £466 from £561,759 (FY18) to £561,293. A statement on the document read: “2019 was a mixed year. The challenges continue to be controlling wages, costs and margins. The rise again in the minimum wage has a knock-on effect across the whole team in each property with the most challenging area being the kitchen as good-quality chefs are hard to recruit. There was a good start to 2020. Unfortunately, these steps have since been overtaken by the coronavirus pandemic, which will have a big effect on the year’s figures though since reopening early signs are very encouraging.”
Folie reopens with new seasonal dishes and a weekend brunch offer: Folie, the restaurant and bar in London’s Soho, has reopened to bring a taste of France and Italy to the capital. Founder Guillaume Depoix and executive chef Christophe Marleix have refreshed the menu to include a selection of new seasonal ingredients, alongside Folie’s classic recipes. À la carte dishes include courgettes farçies, tuna sashimi Riviera-style and octopus with citrus, avocado and herbs, as well as fresh fish sourced from day boats in Cornwall and Devon. Signatures meals have also returned – these include chickpea panisses, wagyu burger with Comté cheese and confit lamb shoulder with confit garlic, cooked over 12 hours. The weekend brunch runs from 11.30am to 5pm, on both Saturdays and Sundays, and includes cocktails such as the Bloody Maria – a mix of Don Julio Blanco, tomato, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces while the brunch food includes poached eggs with avocado, rocket and sourdough. There is also a home delivery service available.
£15m plans to create hotel and revamp golf courses get go-ahead: Liverpool City Council has given the go-ahead for a £15m overhaul of Allerton Manor to create a 31-bed boutique hotel and golfing facilities. The council, which owns the property, has developed plans with Green Circle and will be funded by private investment. The grade II-listed property is said to be dilapidated and at risk while the current 18-hole golf course and nine-hole par three course will both be reconfigured. Plans include adding a driving range, putting area, pavilion and golf simulators. Green Circle managing director Yvonne Jackson said: “These plans are the culmination of a five-year investment programme and will realise our vision to provide first-class public golf facilities, expand opportunities for participation and restore the heritage and fabric of this historic site.” Up to 150 jobs could be created by the scheme.