Tortilla to explore ‘dark kitchens’ as future growth opportunity: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed, fast-casual Mexican concept, has begun exploring the possibility of opening a “dark kitchen” to tap into areas of the country in which the brand is under-represented. Managing director Richard Morris told Propel that off the back of the growth of the delivery side of its business and the success of a smaller “Baby Tortilla” format the company was to begin the search for a possible dark kitchen site, but had yet to decide which location or approach it would take. Morris said: “Clearly our business has proved itself as a hugely popular delivery item. Whist our in-house sales have remained strong, we have benefited from the extra revenue driven by delivery and take away. Dark kitchens have been on our radar for a while – we just need to be sure these are in the right locations, either as test areas for new sites, or to help in areas where our restaurants are over trading with delivery. There are areas within the London area we currently don’t service, and outside London would also present great opportunities for us. The revenues of dark kitchens are generally lower than restaurants, so we have to consider manpower, and ensure we can operate them efficiently and to the same standards as our restaurants.” Morris said the group’s smaller format sites in Putney, Southwark and Soho, already operate, up to a point, like dark kitchens. Last month, the company announced it would make its transport debut, after signing a development agreement with food travel company SSP. The agreement will see Tortilla open its 43rd UK restaurant in London’s Euston station, with a further four openings planned in key travel hubs next year. Propel understands Tortilla will replace SSP’s own Mi Casa Burritos brand in some locations, including Euston. SSP also operates Mi Casa sites in stations including Waterloo, Victoria and Birmingham New Street.
Tim Martin – no plans to put any more pubs on market for at least two years: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel it does not plan to put any more pubs on the market for at least two years. Martin said the recent work to consolidate the portfolio was now effectively complete and even the tail end of the estate was performing well. Speaking following the company’s first-quarter results, Martin said: “We’re more or less there with the reorganisation. We are not planning to put any pubs on the market in this financial year or the next. After that there might be one of two we look to dispose of, but it won’t be the packages there’s been in recent years. Our average sales per pub are up 60% in the past ten years.” The company added to its portfolio this week with the acquisition of HQ Bar and Restaurant in Dublin and Martin said he believed there was still scope for up to 30 sites in Ireland. He said he was particularly keen to open a pub in the Temple Bar area of the city. Martin said the company’s continued like-for-like sales growth – up 5.3% in the first quarter – was being driven by increased sales across the board. He added: “We are continuing to see good growth, although it has dropped off a bit in the past six weeks. Coffee, Pepsi, non-alcoholic beer, gin and real ale are particularly popular and we have also seen a bit of a surge in sales of guest beers from micro-breweries.” Martin also took another swipe at the rules over corporate governance, saying it’s “throwing experience in the dustbin”. Asked whether he was confident of getting approval for Wetherspoon’s annual report at its annual general meeting next week given shareholder unrest, Martin said: “We will just have to wait and see.” Looking ahead to the rest of the financial year, he added: “We are cautiously optimistic about the outlook.” Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said: “The secret to Wetherspoon’s success is not in one single programme, but a myriad of successful initiatives. While its point of differentiation in the market has always been their lower prices, improvements to venues, better food offering and the addition of coffee and pizza to menus have all contributed to strong like-for-like sales. Tim Martin’s commentary on the corporate governance code makes a disappointing addition to the trading update. Some of the points he raises appear to have some validity but the question arises as to whether or not he is acting in the best interest of the other Wetherspoon shareholders?”
Greene King begins delivery trial with Deliveroo: Greene King, the brewer and pub operator, which has been taken private by CK Asset Holdings in a £4.6bn deal, has begun a trial of a delivery offer with Deliveroo out of some of its pubs in London. The delivery offer – Pub Classics from Greene King – is now available across about ten of the company’s London-based sites, including The Prince of Wales in Covent Garden and the Hope & Anchor in Islington. The offer includes meal deals such as fish and chips with beer for two at £32.99, rising to £65.99 for four people. People can also order a sports food and beer offer for four, which features four bacon and cheese burgers or chicken burgers with chips, 20 chicken wings and eight bottles of Peroni. There are also classic pub dishes such as steak and ale pie; fish and chips; and Hunter’s chicken, plus sharing dishes. Burgers available include a chicken burger, a salt beef burger and a chickpea, red pepper and hoisin burger. Earlier this summer, The Actress in Dulwich became the first under Greene King’s Metropolitan Pub Company arm to offer some of its menu through Deliveroo, which focuses on the wood-fire ovens pizza the pub already offers, plus a selection of burgers. The launch in The Actress is believed to be part of a plan to launch Deliveroo in specified pubs in north, south and central London. Greene King has been offering a delivery option with Deliveroo through its Loch Fyne restaurants for a couple of years. A Greene King spokesman told Propel: “Ten of our central London pubs are offering customers the chance to enjoy a range of our pub classics at home along with some great drink deals, delivered by Deliveroo. We are testing it to ensure we get the offer and experience right for customers.”
Mosaic grows to 30 with addition of two London sites: Mosaic Pub and Dining, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, has secured its 29th and 30th sites. The leasehold interest in The Lockside Lounge, situated next to the lock in Camden Market, was acquired from a private vendor late last week, with David Gooderham, of AG&G, acting as the vendor’s agent. Earlier this week, Mosaic added The Sterling, which comprises two floors situated in the Gherkin, in St Mary Axe – the leasehold interest of which was acquired from Novus, which had Andy Frisby, of Fleurets, acting on its behalf. Watson told Propel: “It has been a pleasure working with all parties and these two iconic sites will fit well within our high-quality portfolio.” McDonald added: “It is great to be adding two such strong units and we are looking forward to working with the existing management to further improve turnover and profitability.” Mosaic Pub and Dining has a portfolio of 30 premium sites spanning London, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Kent and Warwick.
German Doner Kebab outlines plans for six Liverpool sites: German Doner Kebab (GDK), the flagship brand of Hero Brands, has outlined plans to open six restaurants in Liverpool. The first venue is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2020, with details and the remaining five yet to be confirmed. The Liverpool opening will form part of a larger expansion framework, which will see the brand launch in a host of other untapped cities. Daniel Bunce, GDK managing director for the UK, Ireland and Europe, told Insider Media: “The UK’s appetite for our gourmet kebabs and extensive range of sides means it is only right we continue to forge ahead our strong growth plans and bring GDK to one of Britain’s most iconic cities. Our Liverpool opening is just the latest in a line of key strategic locations that we believe will bolster our mission to bring our product to even more consumers, while reaffirming our commitment to creating significant job opportunities across the UK.” Last week, GDK reported like-for-like sales have increased 49.6% in the past 12 months. The UK growth plan follows news the brand is expanding into Saudi Arabia. The Ajlan and Brothers Group has signed as master franchisee with a development agreement of 100 stores in the next ten years. Further growth has also been announced in North America with franchises signed in Canada’s Ontario and British Columbia provinces, while negotiations are under way to open outlets in New York’s Manhattan and New Jersey.
BrewDog hits minimum £500,000 target for mini-bond within 36 hours of launch:Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has hit its minimum £500,000 target in its latest mini-bond raise within 36 hours of launch. The company is looking to raise up to £15m through the offer to support expansion. BrewDog has launched the mini-bond on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and partly pays lenders in beer. The bond will pay 6% interest per annum over four years, which will be paid 50% in cash and 50% in beer – redeemable in its bars or online shop. Bonds cost £500 and the interest payments will be made twice a year. BrewDog stated: “Funds raised from the new BrewDog bond will be used to drive projects such as expanding into India with plans to open a bar in Mumbai, which will set our bar division well on its way to more than 100 bars around the planet.” So far, 376 investors have pledged £521,000 with 40 days of the campaign remaining. The company has previously launched two mini-bonds via Crowdcube. It sold a £2.5m, four-year bond in 2016 that carried a 6.5% interest rate, while last year it raised £10m after issuing a four-year bond with a 7.5% interest rate. Both its previous bonds entitled investors to a 10% discount in BrewDog bars but didn’t include beer as a payment component. The new bond is running alongside the company’s Equity for Punks crowdfunding campaign, which this week hit its minimum £7m target with almost 34,500 investors having pledged funds. The latest Equity for Punks campaign, which runs until April, has a stretch goal of £50m. In total, its six fund-raises to date have raised more than £74m from circa 125,600 investors.
Papa John’s franchisees open fourth site with fifth to follow: Papa John’s franchisee Atif Maroof Zar and his brothers Umair Ramay and Amir Maroof have opened their fourth site – with a fifth to follow. The trio have launched their latest outlet in Regent Street in Kingswood on the outskirts of Bristol. A fifth opening is set to follow early next year. Zar said: “Hinckley was the first franchised outlet. It came up for sale and I went for it! We also run Redditch, Bromsgrove and now Kingswood.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and operates more than 400 stores across the UK and more than 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.
Moonshine Bars secures second site for Munich Cricket Club, at West India Quay: Moonshine Bars has secured a second site for its Bavarian concept, Munich Cricket Club. The company, led by father-and-son team Tom and Robbie Gill, is opening the venue at West India Quay – building on its existing venue in Victoria. The Port East property at West India Quay is a grade I-listed heritage warehouse with a 200-year history, converted from a masonry and timber warehouse into a mixed-use leisure site. Munich Cricket Club, which offers imported Munich beers along with authentic Bavarian dishes, served by staff in traditional dress, will sit alongside brands including Pizza Pilgrims, Burger & Lobster, and Drake & Morgan, and its signing marks the letting completion of the scheme. Daniel Rabin, speaking on behalf of West India Quay, a joint venture between Landsec and Schroder UK Real Estate Fund, said: “We wanted to breathe new life into the scheme with appealing brands that suit local demand, and Munich Cricket Club marks the final piece in the jigsaw.” Moonshine Bars also operates The Rose gastro-pub in Chelsea and The Loose Box Bar & Kitchen in Westminster. Shelley Sandzer acted for Landsec and Schroders on the West India Quay deal. Tony Levine, leasing agent at Shelley Sandzer, said: “Munich Cricket Club will sit perfectly next to the popular casual-dining traders at West India Quay – the brand is a perfect match for the area, with its high volume of office workers, and completes a great offer.”
Great British Menu finalist reveals further details about Liverpool restaurant:Great British Menu finalist Ellis Barrie has revealed further details about his second restaurant, in Liverpool. Barrie, who was a finalist in the BBC2 show last year, opened Marram Grass with older brother Liam in Anglesey in 2011. Now the brothers are launching the new venture at the Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool early next year. The restaurant, in the former premises of circus-themed dinner concept Circo, will be called Lerpwl, the Welsh name for Liverpool. Pronounced “Ler-pool”, it recognises the personal links the brothers share between Liverpool and North Wales. The restaurant will accommodate 45 downstairs with a bar. Upstairs, there will be a private dining experience for up to 20, with its own kitchen and dedicated chef. The mezzanine level will incorporate a DJ booth. Ellis Barrie told The Business Desk: “Lerpwl is all about the trade links Liverpool has had with the rest of the world – yes, we’ll be using Welsh produce, but we’ll be looking around the world to complement our Welsh ingredients.”
Debenhams launches branded coffee trial with Lavazza: Retailer Debenhams is continuing to explore ways to ramp up its food and beverage offer, with the launch of a trial of a branded coffee offer with Lavazza, Propel understands. The company has launched its first branded coffee partner trial in a company-operated restaurant in its store in Lincoln. It is thought the company is trialling a coffee offer with more than just Lavazza before taking a view on a national roll-out. It recently also opened an in-store site with independent operator Adoro Caffe in Oxford. In September, Propel revealed the retailer had launched a partnership with Harry Ramsden, which will see branded fish and chips rolled out across all 100 of its in-store restaurants. The roll-out came after a successful trial between the two companies in six of Debenhams’ stores. Debenhams has been increasing the range of its food and beverage partners and its food and drink offer over the past few years. It now operates an estate of 150 in-store restaurants and cafes, plus 75 food concessions, with 14 brand partners. The estate is overseen by Sam Shutt, who recently took over the whole of the Debenhams food business, as head of food retail and partnerships.
SFG Club to launch bar and crazy golf concept: SFG Club, which operates competitive socialising venue Roof East in Stratford, is to launch a new cocktail bar and crazy golf experience called Birdies, with the first site set for Battersea. The new nine-hole concept will launch at the end of this month under the arches at Battersea Power Station. The group is also believed to have lined up a further opening for Birdies in the Angel shopping centre in a former JD Wetherspoon unit. SFG, which is the brainchild of Gerry Cottle Junior, launched in east London in 2014, offering crazy golf, batting cages, lawn bowls, curling, shuffleboard and virtual-reality foosball. It is thought the launch of Birdies will be the first of a number of concepts the company looks to open over the next 12 months, including a standalone batting cages format.
Port House Restaurant Group to open tapas bar for fifth site: Dublin-based Port House Restaurant Group is to open its fifth site, with the launch of a tapas bar in the city. The company, founded by Lee Sims, is opening Port House Cava in Camden Street. A former townhouse is being converted into the 100-seater venue, which will champion cava alongside tapas inspired by the pintxo bars of San Sebastian. The three-storey building will also have a 35-seater private dining area on the top floor. The menu will include pork loin, pimiento padron and smoked paprika aioli on fresh baked flute bread; and grilled Spanish black pudding topped with fried quails’ egg and piquillo peppers. As well as cava, the drinks menu will include a selection of port and wine alongside non-alcoholic option Freixenet. Sims said: “We’re delighted to be opening our fifth location, in Camden Street. This amazingly diverse area is a fantastic opportunity to introduce our tapas, port and wine to its audience of food and wine lovers, while shining a light on cava, which we feel currently doesn’t get the attention it deserves.” The company operates two other sites in Dublin as well as in Dundrum and London’s Covent Garden.
Wheelcake Island secures first standalone site, at Westfield London: Taiwanese pancake and snack brand Wheelcake Island has secured its first standalone site, at Westfield London. Having established its first location in Old Spitalfields Market, Wheelcake Island, supported by brand management company PKWG, is now making its move into a retail and leisure environment following the deal brokered by agent Shelley Sandzer. The kiosk will have its soft launch on Friday (15 November), ahead of a full launch on Friday, 22 November. JC Lin, founder of Wheelcake Island, said: “The brief for our second location was to target a high footfall catchment with a mix of consumers and Shelley Sandzer endorsed Westfield London as a highly suitable location for us to share our traditional Taiwanese wheelcakes.” Etai Page, leasing agent at Shelley Sandzer, added: “Wheelcake Island is an exciting young brand looking to expand in the capital. We are delighted to support its expansion into this fantastic site.”
Leasehold of Fitzrovia pub previously operated by Faucet Inn goes on market:The leasehold of The Northumberland Arms in London, which was operated by Faucet Inn before the company went into administration earlier this year, has been put on the market with a guide price of offers in excess of £385,000. Acting on behalf of administrators FRP Advisory, agent Fleurets is marketing the property in Tottenham Court Road in Fitzrovia. Andy Frisby, of Fleurets, said: “The central London leisure market is buoyant and demand for centrally located pubs is very strong, so we anticipate high levels of interest.” The business and assets Faucet Inn was subsequently sold in a pre-pack agreement to its founder Steve Cox under two new companies – Golden Brick Pubs and Freshwater Pub Co.
Subway strengthens ISS partnership with West Middlesex University Hospital store: Subway has opened a site at West Middlesex University Hospital in Hounslow, south west London. The store, located in the food hall has opened in partnership with facility services provider ISS. It marks the second to be opened by ISS in the UK, following the first at University Hospital Coventry, which launched in 2017. The partnership with ISS underpins Subway’s commitment to providing food options in non-traditional locations. Subway currently has more than 15 stores at hospital locations throughout the UK and Ireland. Colin Hughes, country director for Subway UK and Ireland, said: “We are delighted to see ISS open its second Subway store in the UK, strengthening our partnership further. The new store at West Middlesex Hospital allows us to widen our brand reach in hospital locations.” Glynn Ford, franchise and brand manager for ISS, added: “Subway is an ideal partner for our healthcare business, as we know our staff and visitors are looking for a fresh and healthy option during all parts of the day.” Through its partnerships, Subway now has more than 800 stores in non-traditional locations and in excess of 2,500 sites overall in the UK and Ireland.
Pure doubles reusable cup discount to £1: Healthy food-to-go group Pure is doubling its reusable cup discount from 50p to £1. Since launching the discount in September 2017, the Whitbread-backed, 21-strong chain said 15% of its customers purchase hot drinks with a reusable cup. This has meant in 2019 alone, more than 350,000 cups have been saved. The company said it now hopes to increase this “already market-leading position to more than 20% usage during 2020 and save a further 500,000-plus cups next year”. Chief executive Spencer Craig said: “We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our reusable cup discount. I hope our new, market-leading double discount will appeal to even more customers to bring their own cup or to buy one of ours.” The “Joy to the world” double discount starts on Friday (15 November) and is available on all hot drinks served in a reusable cup until Christmas.