M&B appoints Anna-Marie Mason as managing director of pubs division: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), the Phil Urban-led company, has appointed Anna-Marie Mason as managing director of its pubs division, Propel has learned. Mason has been with the company for almost eight years, beginning as a retail director, before spending the past five years as director of brand marketing. Before joining M&B, she spent nearly three years as marketing director of Game Digital. In her new role, she will oversee M&B’s circa 500-strong Pubs Division, which includes its Ember Inns brand; the group’s Suburban segment Sizzling Pub & Grill; and High Street segment O’Neill’s and similar unbranded pubs. She takes over from Nick Crossley, who left M&B earlier this year, to become chief executive of Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper.
Various Eateries begins building Coppa Club pipeline: Various Eateries, the AIM-listed Andy Bassadone-chaired business, has begun building its site pipeline for its Coppa Club brand, with openings in Bristol and Haslemere on its radar, Propel has learned. It is understood the 11-strong company, which also operates the Tavolino concept, has secured the former Georgian Hotel in Haslemere for an opening later this year. At the same time, Propel understands the company is in advanced talks to take on the ex-PizzaExpress site in Bristol’s Regent Street. Last September, Various Eateries raised £25m through an IPO and said it believed there was potential to open up to 100 sites under its fledgling Tavolino brand, and capacity for more than 50 Coppa Clubs across the UK. It launched its latest Coppa Club – the seventh under the brand, in Cobham, at the start of last December. In February, in an update to the City, the business argued that increased availability of attractive sites, reduced competition, availability of talent and changes in consumer behaviour would provide the ideal backdrop to the company’s growth strategy. At the time, Bassadone said that “with large sites, extensive outdoor space and all-day offer, Coppa Club is perfectly suited to the increase in remote working.”
East Coast Concepts appoints Vernon Lord as chief executive, set to make London debut: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts, which was acquired last year through a pre-pack administration deal by an investment group, led by Naveen Handa of leisure company The Cairn Group, has appointed Vernon Lord, formerly of Individual Restaurants, as its new chief executive, Propel has learned. Lord stepped down as managing director of Individual Restaurants, the operator of the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill brands, last spring after 16 years with the business. Lord, formerly of Inventive Leisure, joined Individual Restaurants in 2004 after Derek and Edwina Lilley, the couple who founded the Est Est Est chain, secured £18m of backing to expand their latest two ventures, the Restaurant Bar & Grill and Piccolino concepts, across the UK. He helped build the business into a nationwide presence, operating circa 35 sites, including a joint venture with chef Gino D’Acampo. Lord replaces John Hammond, who has left the business to join its former backer NorthEdge Capital as a director. NorthEdge began backing East Coast Concepts, which operates the Victors and Neighbourhood concepts across five sites, in June 2016. The deal for the five-strong business last year protected more than 250 jobs. The Handa-led group said the deal for East Coast Concepts, which operates sites in Hale, Alderley Edge, Liverpool, Leeds and Oxford, was a “strategic acquisition to enhance their premium restaurant and bar offering”. Propel understands the first step in the group’s expansion plans under Lord will be an opening of a Neighbourhood-style concept on the former Vapiano site in Wardour Street, Soho. In the long term, the group believes the appointment of Lord can help it grow to a similar size of operation that Individual Restaurants grew to, of about 30 to 40 sites.
McDonald’s to mandate anti-harassment training worldwide: McDonald’s will mandate staff training to combat harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting next year. The training requirement will impact two million workers at 39,000 stores globally. Chief executive Chris Kempczinski told Associated Press: “It’s really important that we be very clear: a safe and respectful workplace where people feel like they’re going to be protected is critically important for our business. Let’s use this to raise the entire standards for the industry.” The change is part of a larger reckoning over sexual harassment at McDonald’s. At least 50 workers have filed charges against the company over the past five years, alleging physical and verbal harassment and, in some cases, retaliation when they complained. Kempczinski said the company needed to set expectations and then continually refer to them, especially since staff turnover in restaurants can be high. McDonald’s restaurants worldwide – 93% of which are owned by franchisees – will be required to meet the new standards starting in January 2022. They must also collect feedback on the store’s work environment from employees and managers, and share those results with staff. Corporate evaluations will consider whether employees feel safe, both physically and emotionally, Kempczinski said. Details are still being worked out but Kempczinski said he expects employees will be given training when they start working for McDonald’s. Restaurants might also have training once a year for all employees. That is similar to the kind of training that is already being done at the company’s Chicago headquarters.
Whitbread to open two Hub by Premier Inn hotels in London: Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn and Hub by Premier Inn hotel brands, has announced the opening of two Hub by Premier Inns hotels in London. The first site is located on Berwick Street, Soho, and will open on Friday (16 April) with the second on Quaker Street, Shoreditch, due to open in late June. The additions grow the brand to more than 2,000 London bedrooms and the number of Hub by Premier Inn hotels to 11 in the capital. There are five more Hub by Premier Inn hotels either being worked on or in the advanced stages of planning. Whitbread head of acquisitions Derek Griffin said: “With Soho and Shoreditch opening their doors in some of the best locations in central London and five hub by Premier Inn hotels currently on-site and in planning, we are continuing to invest in well-connected locations that we believe will be popular with our customers.” Hub by Premier Inn hotels are designed for prime city locations that feature “compact” bedrooms, Smart TVs, clever lighting and a through-the-day “Lounge’ dining and quality bar offering.
JPMorgan downgrades TRG: JPMorgan has downgraded The Restaurant Group (TRG) to “neutral” from “overweight” after reviewing its largely unchanged forecast following a model update for the FY20 results and the £175m capital raise in March. JPMorgan said its new model now captures higher cost of debt following the refinancing, as well as the increased share capital. The bank argued its new target price, which has been lifted to 120p from 95p, is close to current trading levels, leaving limited potential upside. It said: “We argue that price target and trading multiples fairly capture the company’s strong efforts to weather the covid-19 storm, but also price in recovery from here to pre-covid levels in FY22E. In the absence of further upside to this scenario, we downgrade the shares. In our view, future catalysts could be results evidencing the speed of recovery.”
Pizza Pilgrims to open second Slice site, at Swingers’ West End venue: London-based pizzeria concept Pizza Pilgrims is to open the second site for its fledgling New York City-influenced Slice by Pizza Pilgrims concept, at crazy golf brand Swingers’ site in the West End. Slice by Pizza Pilgrims will join existing food vendors Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman; Breddos Tacos, the joint venture between Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney and Gleneagles owner Ennismore; and Hackney Gelato. Pizza Pilgrims launched Slice at the turn of the year as a 12-month pop-up on the former YO! site at Festival Riverside, Royal Festival Hall. It has also secured the former Quality Fish Bar in Seven Sisters Road for a permanent opening under Slice. The concept serves one-metre-long rectangular pizzas that can be cut into super-sized slices alongside alcoholic slushes. Matt Grech-Smith, co-founder and co-chief executive of Swingers, said: “Pizza Pilgrims has been with us from the beginning of our journey at our pop-up in 2014 and its new Slice concept is going to go down a storm.” Pizza Pilgrims co-founders Thom and James Elliot added: “After a successful launch on Southbank in January, we’re looking to continue serving London’s largest slices at Swingers West End. We’ve got history with Swingers dating to its beginnings in Shoreditch, so it feels like we’re having a slice with a cold beer with an old friend after a tough year.” Swingers West End is set to reopen on Wednesday, 19 May, with Slice replacing Made of Dough at the venue.
Big Mamma Group founders raise €20m to support launch of new payment:Tigrane Seydoux and Victor Lugger, the founders of the Big Mamma Group, which operates 20 Italian restaurants across major European cities including London, have joined forces with entrepreneur Christine de Wendel to announce a €20m (£17.3m) seed round to support the launch of a new, sector-focused, payment technology called Sunday. They said the new venture has raised “Europe’s largest ever seed round”, with €20m in seed capital from Coatue and New Wave, with further support from numerous established hospitality investors who have participated in the financing of Big Mamma and other hotels and restaurants globally. Designed to enable customers to pay in under 30 seconds by using a QR code, the solution will be deployed simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic, including the UK. The business said the ultimate goal was “to make the bricks and mortar restaurant experience as simple and fast as online”. Big Mamma launched a similar solution into 14 of its restaurants last year as the pandemic took a hold and found 80% of customers chose to pay via QR code, on average each table saved 15 minutes in wait time, there was 40% more tips for waiters, 50% of all bills were immediately shared among guests, a 12% increase in table turn, and a 10% increase of average basket. On the back of this, Seydoux and Lugger decided to partner with US-based Wendel, former chief operating officer of Mano Mano, to make this solution available to the hospitality industry. The company said aside from the Big Mamma Group, operators including JKS Group and Corbin & King will also be implementing the payment solution.
Taco Bell opens digital-only Cantina site, in New York: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has opened a digital-only Cantina, in New York. The site in Times Square features ten digital ordering kiosks, digital pick-up cubbies and exclusive menu items. Taco Bell previously hinted at the opening of the “completely digital, yet in-person experience” in March when the company outlined its growth plans and focus on new store layout concepts. It is the latest location for Taco Bell’s 20-plus Cantina offshoot brand, which usually offers alcoholic drinks and custom menus – and is the first with a completely digital-only experience. The store has also installed a wall of heated digital cubbies where customers can pick up their orders placed ahead of time online or via the Taco Bell app. They enter the order number and a cubby will light up. Taco Bell stated: “The beloved elements of the typical Cantina with an open-kitchen and alcoholic drinks paired with the digital design elements of the Times Square Cantina simplify and modernise the consumer experience, which in turn, optimises and redeploys the role of the team member within the restaurant experience.” This is all part of a continuation of the company’s New York regional expansion plans, with plans to build 25 more restaurants in the area over the next year. Overall, Taco Bell is accelerating toward its goal to build 10,000 restaurants and become a $20bn brand over the next decade.
Dubai restaurant and bar concept The London Project to open in Canary Wharf: The London Project, the Dubai-based conceptual bar, restaurant and lifestyle venue, is to open a site in Canary Wharf. It will open a site at the end of this year on one of two floating pavilions that were recently towed into Wood Wharf. The Canary Wharf Group said: “Originally opening its doors on Bluewater Islands in Dubai, The London Project Canary Wharf will deliver a dining experience like no other. With art, music, food and even an in-house gin distillery, guests will be guided through an unforgettable journey of the senses. Resting in the canals of Water Square, this flagship location will deliver experiences, day and night.” Stuart Fyfe, director of retail leasing at Canary Wharf Group, said: “The pavilions will provide the perfect space for a dining experience and will build on our existing collection of top dining and cultural experiences available at Canary Wharf.” Stephen Valentino, chief executive of The London Project, said: “The dynamic and creative nature of these floating pavilions are the perfect setting for us to bring The London Project to the city that inspired the concept. More than just a bar and restaurant, The London Project will feature a one-of-a-kind distillery, a media arm called London Project Live, a range of dining experiences and the most progressive bar in the region. London gave us the inspiration to develop the brand, now we are excited to bring a global concept home and showcase the diversity and exceptionality of our brand.”
East London distillery launches £750,000 crowdfunding campaign for global expansion: Gin, vodka and whisky distillery East London Liquor Company (ELLC) has launched a £750,000 crowdfunding campaign to realise global expansion. ELLC was founded by ex-bartender Alex Wolpert in 2014 and successfully raised £1.5m with a similar campaign in 2018. Wolpert said on Crowdcube: “Our ambition is big: to become a distillery that crosses the ‘craft’ divide by producing the best drinks we can, priced so they don’t break the bank and delivered to our friends from our East London home. To achieve that, we need to grow our off-trade channels further, both in the UK and abroad, expand our direct-to-consumer output, update our brand home to welcome more people through our on-site bar, restaurant, bottle shop and on distillery tours, and increase our whisky production to meet demand.” The company is offering 2.8% equity in the business with a pre-money valuation of £26m and share price at 9p. It had raised almost £650,000 from about 280 investors with 26 days of the campaign remaining.
Sector technology platform Loke raises £2.85m to expedite development and target European growth: Hospitality technology and marketing service provider Loke has announced it will be able to develop tech faster to help hospitality businesses after raising £2.85m. Loke said the funding would also lead to growth in Europe, with backing from lead investor Guinness Asset Management. Loke provides hospitality and retail businesses with a sales and marketing platform designed to create new revenue channels, increase the average order value, frequency of transactions and reduce labour costs via a suite of digital sales and marketing tools. Loke co-chief executive Matt Khoury said: “Businesses need to adapt to consumer trends allowing for new and enhanced ways for customers to pay and interact while learning preferences and behaviours that personalise and influence the customer experience. Big name delivery app models are not always sustainable for small businesses.” Loke said it had achieved revenue growth of about 250% during its past financial year and a rise of 283% in transactional volume per month. With strong interest from new markets where a single platform solution is rare, the company is set to enhance its product while expanding to new European markets. Loke’s clients are located in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and include City Pub Group, Greene King, Shake Shack and Baskin Robbins.
Elystan Street co-owner to launch pasta delivery service Otto: Elystan Street co-owner Phil Howard is set to launch a pasta delivery company called Otto. The chef, who earned his stripes at Le Gavroche, will have a seasonal menu of eight pasta dishes, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten and dairy-free options, when the delivery service begins on Tuesday, 4 May. In creating them, Howard has used suppliers from his restaurants Elystan Street, Kitchen W8 and Church Road in Barnes, such as butcher HG Walter, Natoora, Buchanans Cheesemonger and Flying Fish Seafoods, according to Hot Dinners. Howard said: “Two of the dishes I am perhaps best known for are the lasagne of crab at The Square and the strozzapreti of truffles at Elystan Street. Pasta’s capacity to deliver pleasure is without rival and when you’re in the business of giving pleasure, that makes for a pretty useful tool.” The launch menu includes the likes of rigatoni with slow-cooked aged beef, field mushrooms and red wine; ravioli of Jersey Royals, English peas, aged pecorino and mint; and linguine with wild English garlic leaf pesto. Delivery will start with south west London with plans to expand throughout the capital.
Hard Rock Cafe launches at-home meal range: Hard Rock Cafe has launched an at-home meal range. Hard Rock @Home has been launched to mark the brand’s first “cook at home” fresh food box so diners can recreate some of the chain’s signature dishes. Available for nationwide UK delivery thanks to a partnership with meal kit company Plateaway, the Hard Rock @Home box serves two or four and comes with ingredients, including sauce and seasoning, sides and detailed cooking instructions. Hard Rock Cafe International vice-president Stefano Pandin said: “This is an historic moment for us and we have worked hard on every detail of Hard Rock @Home to help our fans enjoy all the flavours and feel they know and love when they visit us. While we are delighted to be reopening our doors for outdoor dining, we know many customers will not be able or ready to visit us just yet – so Hard Rock @Home is the next best thing.”
Former Greene King operations manager to launch Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in Chester: Mediterranean-inspired Artezzan Restaurant and Bar, led by former Greene King operations manager Jim Dorrington, is set to open in Chester in June. Located in Pepper Street in the city centre and spread across two floors, the 140-cover site has a menu that combines dishes from Italy, Spain, France and Greece, and includes Spanish pinchos, homemade pizza and pasta, grilled meat, seafood and vegetarian and vegan dishes. The wine list also explores the countries of the Mediterranean. Dorrington, who has plans to roll out the new brand to more locations, said: “Although this past year has been very difficult for the hospitality sector, now is a great time to launch a new brand in the premium dining market. With the vaccine rollout going so well and the government roadmap on track, we feel people will have confidence to eat out and return to some sort of ‘normal’.”