Abokado reports like-for-likes up 6% in current financial year on back of record profits, 24th site to open next month: Healthy eating chain Abokado, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, has reported like-for-like sales up 6% in its current financial year. The announcement comes as the company revealed record profits for the year ending 31 March 2018. Profits increased 24% to £726,000, while site Ebitda increased to £1.7m. Founder and chief executive Mark Lilley said: “I am pleased with this set of results, which have been achieved in the toughest market conditions we’ve experienced since we started Abokado. Our formula is simple – everything we do revolves around bringing Londoners the freshest and healthiest options for breakfast and lunch – and it’s great to be getting a resounding thumbs up from our customers. Our current-year sales growth is particularly pleasing as this comes entirely from in-store sales. Delivery still represents a tiny proportion of Abokado’s sales but with the delivery market established and fast growing and with a menu that lends itself extremely well to delivery, we’re excited about the growth opportunity this presents over the coming years.” Abokado, which currently operates 23 sites across the capital, has also revealed it will open its next store, in Hammersmith in November. The company said further sites were under offer and will be announced in due course as management capitalises on opportunities within a weakening property market. Abokado has also announced several key new hires over the past year, underlying its commitment to growth. Lilley added: “Our management and leadership team is now the strongest we’ve enjoyed. The new skills these individuals bring are enabling us to enhance the Abokado customer experience further, attracting new customers and increasing brand loyalty among our existing market. I would like to thank our leadership team and the entire Abokado family who have worked tirelessly to deliver these solid results and cement Abokado’s position as London’s leading healthy grab-and-go brand.”
 
Cabana reports core estate returns to growth, signs first franchise partnership: Cabana, the Brazilian barbecue group founded by Jamie Barber and David Ponte, has reported its core estate has returned to growth this year. The company has also signed its first franchise agreement – in Saudi Arabia – and is “entertaining approaches” in three other territories. The details were revealed in Cabana’s latest accounts submitted at Companies House, which saw losses jump to £5.9m as the firm shut underperforming sites. Turnover fell 1.7% to £12,026,376 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £12,234,391 the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda dropped to minus £1,149,087, compared with minus £665,126 the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £5,879,544, compared with £2,276,609 the year before. This followed a number of impairments, resulting in a charge of £3.62m. In his report accompanying the accounts, Barber said: “In common with most operators in the sector, Cabana faced a challenging period, navigating rising wages, higher input costs resulting from post-Brexit currency changes, business rates revaluation and industry-wide sales pressures. Sales for the year were £12.03m, down 1.7% on the prior year driven by underperformance at some sites, which masked significant growth at others including the 02 Arena. After the year end, two of these underperforming restaurants were sold for lease premiums and one has been closed and an offer is being negotiated. As a result of these actions, a number of impairments have been recognised during the year resulting in a charge of £3.62m (2016: zero). To strengthen the underlying performance of the core business, central overheads have been reduced and are currently running at more than 40% lower than 2016. A new menu strategy geared towards current tastes and trends, including a materially larger range of vegetarian, vegan and non-meat options, has been introduced, which is driving noticeable improvement in performance. Cabana has now signed its first franchise agreement for Saudi Arabia and is entertaining approaches for partnerships in three other territories. Despite the sector pressures, Cabana’s core estate returned to growth in the second quarter of 2018. We remain confident Cabana occupies a popular and differentiated part of the eating-out market and despite all these challenges we continue to consider investing in opening restaurants.”
Mikhail Investments plans 20 venues in three years for Irish-themed Punch Tarmey’s concept: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments is aiming to open 20 venues in the next three years for its Irish-themed bar concept Punch Tarmey’s on the back of strong growth. Punch Tarmey’s is named after company owner Andrew Mikhail’s Irish great-grandfather Michael Tarmey, who was a champion boxer in the early 1900s. Mikhail recently opened the third Punch Tarmey’s, within the former Cains brewery in Liverpool, and believes there is scope for wider expansion. He told The Business Desk: “I have seen countless Irish pubs that have popped up over the years and the only Irish thing about them was the name. Any Irish person that goes into one of our venues always says, ‘this feels like home’, which can only build the brand reputation on a solid footing. I admire Tim Martin and how he created JD Wetherspoon. He took on the industry and changed the pub game almost overnight – the man is a legend. He saw an opportunity, took it and smashed it.” Mikhail Investments also operates Punch Tarmey’s in St Helens and Southport. Mikhail said the plan was to hit “all the big cities” in the next three years. The company’s portfolio also incudes the Bold Hotel in Southport and the Eccleston Arms in St Helens.
Naked Deli eyes empty units in Newcastle for fifth site as part of 15-venue expansion plan: Newcastle-based The Naked Deli has submitted plans to turn two empty shops in Newcastle’s Central Arcade into its fifth site. The clean and healthy eating brand also wants to create a pavement cafe as part of the outlet, which is part of plans to open 15 restaurants across the UK and create 300 jobs. The units in Grey Street formerly traded as Trollbeads fashion store and 99 Sandwich shop. Naked Deli plans to combine the units and turn them into a restaurant serving its range of gluten and dairy-free, vegan and paleo dishes, with takeaway options. Plans submitted to Newcastle City Council show a basement would be turned into a kitchen, leaving ample room for seating upstairs, Chronicle Live reports. Since opening its first site in Heaton in 2014, the brand has tapped into a growing market for healthier choices, opening stores in Gosforth, Newcastle’s Fenwick food hall and Newcastle airport, as well as planning permission for a venture near Eldon Square in the city. In June, The Naked Deli received £2.5m of growth capital from independent infrastructure, private equity and investment manager Foresight Group. As part of the investment, John Upton joined The Naked Deli as chairman. He is former managing director of healthy fast food brand Leon and a member of the senior team at McDonald’s UK. Regarding expansion, chief executive Chris Jones said: “It is quite an aggressive plan over the next few years. We want to open five or six restaurants a year.”
Indoor mini-golf concept passes halfway mark in £150,000 crowdfunding campaign: Indoor mini-golf concept Pixel City Golf has passed the halfway mark in its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open the first of five multi-activity sites outside London by 2022. The company is offering 13.04% equity in return for the investment, with funds being used to open a first venue plus “marketing to drive awareness”. So far, 55 investors have pledged £84,330 with 16 days remaining. The company said it aims to take advantage of the fast-growing competitive socialising industry, expected to be worth £129bn this year. The Pixel City Golf team has 25 years of experience in complementary industries and businesses. The pitch states: “We believe the UK is lacking indoor entertainment venues that offer the customer something different – fun for all age groups and with pricing aimed at capturing the majority, not the minority. Pixel City Golf aims to open a multi-activity indoor entertainment and leisure venue designed for all age groups and private hire, offering a 36-hole indoor mini-golf experience. In the UK, there are more than 700 mini-golf venues. However, in Germany we estimate there is one mini-golf venue for every 16,520 people, with 15 million people playing every year. In the US we estimate there is one mini-golf venue for every 10,770 people, with millions playing each year. Compare that with the UK, where our estimation is there is one mini-golf venue for every 93,771 people! In addition, Brits have been spending less on new clothes, cars and foreign holidays and are anticipated to spend more on UK-based leisure activities.”
McDonald’s operators in US move to form franchisee association: A group of McDonald’s operators in the US moved a step closer to forming a self-funded alliance to represent their interests with the company. The group, which has named itself the National Owners Association, is an “owners advocacy group” that aims to “work with McDonald’s to positively impact the system”, according to its website. The move follows a first-of-its kind gathering of more than 400 franchisees last week. Attendees at the meeting in Tampa, Florida, gave a “resounding yes” to the prospect of a self-funded franchisee group, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. The effort is spearheaded by third-generation owner operator Blake Casper, who has posted an introductory blog on the alliance’s website calling for franchisees to “retain more control of menu pricing”. He wrote: “We have all witnessed the control shift from local to national in the last two years. The corporation’s strategy to nationalise all aspects of our business. Our ability to price our menu boards may be one of the last controls we still have.” In response, McDonald’s said: “We always welcome, and are committed to, a constructive, collaborative dialogue with our franchisees. We will continue to work closely with our franchisees so they have the support they need to run great restaurants and provide great-quality experiences and convenience for guests.”
Yapster appoints Just Eat executive as first chief financial officer: Yapster, the mobile messaging app for retail and hospitality teams, has appointed Nicci Setchell as its first chief financial officer. She will also take on chief operating officer responsibilities in a joint role. Setchell joins from Just Eat, where she spent the past six years, most recently as global strategic lead. Before that she was head of finance, mergers and acquisitions, and integration, completing 18 acquisitions. She grew the international finance team from eight to 24 across 12 countries. Her other prior roles include international financial controller for NFL Europe and management accountant for Tottenham Hotspur. Yapster, whose customers include Caffe Nero and Krispy Kreme, recently raised a further round of funding from private investors to meet growing demand. Setchell is responsible for all financial planning and reporting as well as building the team and infrastructure to achieve significant scale over the next 18 months. Setchell said: “When I was introduced to Yapster I was struck by the quality of the team, the brands already on board, and the potential market size for technology that serves the ‘deskless’ workers in our economy. We want to become a category leader and I’m excited to be taking on this new challenge and helping us get there.” Co-founder and chief executive Rob Liddiard added: “I can’t imagine someone better suited to this job than Nicci – we’re all thrilled to have her on board. Not only does she bring a wealth of financial, operational, and leadership experience, she knows exactly what it takes to achieve Just Eat’s level of success.”
Interactive inflatable park Air Haus to make UK debut at Meadowhall: Air Haus, the UK’s first interactive inflatable park, will make its debut at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield this autumn. Designed in Holland, Air Haus will combine the latest interactive technology with “competitive games suitable for all ages”. The 15,000 square foot site will challenge visitors to race each other across its course, scale the park’s eight-metre peak, and then relax under sensory lights. An on-site restaurant will complete the Air Haus offer. Air Haus director Jack Pendlebury said: “Air Haus offers a new and exciting concept for families and friends to enjoy, bringing the very best of technology and traditional games together. Meadowhall’s recent £60m refurbishment has made it the perfect location to launch our UK debut site and we are proud to join such a great venue.” Richard Crowther, asset manager for British Land, which owns Meadowhall, added: “Air Haus’ selection of Meadowhall for the UK’s first interactive inflatable park highlights Meadowhall’s position as a leading retail and leisure destination in the country.” Colliers International acted for British Land and Air Haus dealt direct.
Exclusive Hotels and Venues reports turnover passes £50m: Exclusive Hotels and Venues has reported turnover increased to £50,686,869 for the year ending 1 April 2018, compared with £49,225,535 the year before. Group Ebitda dropped to £8.4m, compared with £9.0m the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £3,107,596 compared with £4,097,239 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group continues to perform well. We continue to remain optimistic about revenue growth. Cost of sales from a food and beverage perspective have been exceptionally well controlled. The spa at South Lodge in West Sussex continues to progress, with an expected opening date of late March 2019. The project will enhance the positioning at South Lodge and help keep us at the top end of the hotel and leisure markets. The directors are pleased to report the group as a whole has seen an increase in occupancy and average room rate. Group occupancy ended the year at 66.2%, with an average room rate of £157.26. The new rooms at The Castle Inn produced a higher room rate than anticipated.”
Michelin Guide-listed pub The Wheelwrights Arms goes on the market:Michelin Guide-listed pub The Wheelwrights Arms has been put on the market. David Munn created the Wheelwrights Arms in its current format 12 years ago and has decided to retire. He is selling the lease of the pub with rooms, which is located in the village of Monkton Combe, near Bath, through agents Fleurets. The Wheelwrights Arms features in the 2018 Michelin Guide and Good Pub Guide. Munn said: “This has been a difficult decision to make given the ongoing success of The Wheelwrights Arms, which we have continually strived to improve and create the business it is today. Having achieved this, now is the time for a new owner to grow the business further.” Fleurets is inviting leasehold offers for the venue.
Essex-based Italian restaurant Olio to open third site: Essex-based Italian restaurant Olio is to open its third site. The business, which is run by the Gremi family and has venues in Chelmsford and nearby Writtle, is launching in the village of Wickham Bishops. The restaurant will open in The Street following a conversion of The Chequers pub. The restaurant will offer the same menu as its sister sites, including chicken, veal and steak dishes.
TGI Friday’s to double Watford presence: TGI Friday’s is to double its presence in Watford. The company will open a restaurant at the Intu shopping centre on Monday, 10 December creating 85 jobs. Set over two floors, the 220-capacity restaurant will feature a “shotgun-style” bar and open plan kitchen. It will add to the company’s other restaurant in the Hertfordshire town, in St Albans Road. TGI Friday’s property director David Carroll said: “Our existing restaurant in Watford has been a firm favourite with locals for many years so to meet the huge demand for Friday’s in the area, we are opening a restaurant featuring the very best Friday’s has to offer. We’re also pleased to create a host of career opportunities for those looking to begin or progress their careers in the hospitality industry.”
Michelin-starred restaurant owner to launch four-day working week to ‘fuel creative flair’: Paul Kitching, who owns Michelin-starred restaurant 21212 in Edinburgh with partner Katie O’Brien, is to introduce a four-day working week to “fuel the creative flair” of workers without cutting their wages. Kitching said the move would help his chefs produce dishes “better than ever before” and improve their work-life balance. The restaurant opened in 2009, scooping a Michelin star the following year and retaining it since. Kitching told the Daily Mail: “This is a tough industry and we thrive on the energy and passion of our chefs. We are about constant innovation and reinvention of dishes and the creativity needed for this is incredibly important. We believe by reducing our days this creativity will grow and we will be able to push our menu and dishes to another level. This change is going to see our restaurant flourish further. Reducing our days to four is by no means a way of scaling back but a way for us to improve and grow further.” The restaurant will open from Wednesday to Saturday.
Active Hospitality acquires third site: Hotel operator Active Hospitality has acquired Easthampstead Park Conference Centre in Berkshire for its third site. The company has bought the property for an undisclosed amount from Bracknell Forest Council in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. The grade II-listed Victorian mansion features extensive guest accommodation and is used as a wedding and corporate events venue. The property will undergo a substantial refurbishment programme. Active Hospitality partner Bruce Cave said: “Easthampstead Park Conference Centre is an important step on our journey to create a bespoke, aesthetically pleasing hotel and conference-based portfolio around the M25, which will see a combination of bedrooms, ball rooms, meeting and conferencing space, serviced offices, health and fitness, and food and beverage offerings within each hotel.” The council decided to sell the property following a strategic review, deciding it was no longer financially viable to continue subsidising the venue. Active Hospitality also owns the Gorse Hill hotel in Woking and Villiers Hotel in Buckingham.
BrewDog to stage biggest #Collabfest to date: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to stage its biggest #Collabfest to date. The company will run its annual multi-venue craft beer festival in 52 BrewDog bars across 37 cities in 12 countries. This year’s event will take place over four days instead of the usual three – from Thursday, 18 October to Sunday, 21 October. BrewDog launched #Collabfest in 2013 to celebrate the wealth of independent breweries local to its bars. The #Collabfest event sees up and coming independent brewers from across Europe team up with staff at a local BrewDog bar to develop and brew a new, limited edition beer. All collaboration beers are released at the same time in participating BrewDog bars. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “We have turned it up several notches with our biggest #Collabfest to date. This year there is more beer, more time and more brewers. Collaboration and community sit at the heart of everything we do as we continue to drive our mission of making other people as passionate about craft beer as we are.”
Stonegate to reopen south London LGBTQ+ bar following £250,000 refurbishment: Stonegate Pub Company is to reopen its LGBTQ+ bar the Two Brewers in south London on Saturday (20 October). The £250,000 refurbishment of the Clapham High Street venue includes updated decor, new booth seating and a new bar. General manager Jimmy Smith said: “We are thrilled to unveil the new and improved Two Brewers. The Two Brewers prides itself on being a vital LGBTQ+ cultural and social space that creates a safe environment for everyone and we’re excited for everyone to see the fresh new look.” Stonegate Pub Company operates 724 pubs split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Be At One and Venues); and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, Classic Inns and Common Room).