Company News:

Neame – we hope to be profitable by June: Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Kent-based brewer and pub retailer Shepherd Neame, has said that on the back of the company being able to reopen more than 200 pub gardens and seeing more than 50% of those trading in line or significantly ahead of last year, he hopes the business will return to profitability in June. On Wednesday (21 April), the company reported a rise in bottled beer volume growth by 25.7% and tight cost control had restricted underlying monthly cash burn to circa £1.5m to £2m while its pub estate was closed. Neame told Propel: “The early signs have been good. Of the more than 200 pubs we have been able to reopen, 50% are trading in line or significantly ahead of the same period last year. Consumers are much more confident, more relaxed and there is plenty of goodwill for pubs. On that basis and that April will see us incorporate significant start-up costs, which will be a challenge, I expect us to be cash neutral in May but, come June and the reopening of the rest of our estate on 17 May, I hope we will be profitable again.” Neame said although drinks sales had far outweighed food sales, there were signs over the weekend the latter was starting to “pick up”. He also believes the company will be in the best shape possible to look at opportunities if and when they come up next year. He told Propel: “Our first focus will, of course, be getting all our people back and all our pubs reopened. Then we will have to look at our investment programme across the estate, which should be the focus for much of the rest of the year. However, with the profile of our estate, the strength of our balance sheets and the backing of our licensees and banks, we will be in a good position to look at opportunities that come up, and I think there will be a lot of opportunity. What we need first is some stabilisation and predictability in the trading landscape, and although the early signs are encouraging, one swallow does not make a spring.”
Marugame Udon and German Doner Kebab among five operators to sign for sites at O2: Udon noodles and tempura restaurant chain Marugame Udon and German Doner Kebab, the flagship concept of Hero Brands, are among five operators that have signed for sites within the entertainment district at The O2 in Greenwich. The Waterfront Partnership, a joint venture between live entertainment company AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners, has let more than 32,000 square feet of space to firms that will open under the roof of The O2 in the coming months. As well as Marugame Udon, which is set to open its second UK site at the complex as a two-floor 3,790 square foot restaurant later in the year, and German Doner Kebab, which is taking a 1,910 square foot unit that will open in the third quarter of 2021, Middle Eastern dining concept Soukra and Kitchen Pizzeria have also agreed deals. Soukra will launch a 9,370 square foot bar, lounge and restaurant across the ground floor, mezzanine and garden space in late 2021. Kitchen Pizzeria will open a 1,400 square foot space, which includes outdoor seating and a takeaway option when The O2 reopens. In addition, and as previously reported by Propel, Boom: Battle Bar, the adventure bar concept from the team behind adventure park franchise Flip Out, will also open at The O2 this summer. It will take a double unit across two floors, comprising more than 16,000 square feet with an opening planned for summer. Alistair Wood, executive vice-president of real estate and development at AEG Europe, said: “Despite an incredibly challenging pandemic, we have worked very hard to keep our existing brands and to bring in diverse new offerings.” Lunson Mitchenall is the leasing agent on The O2 site.
Judy Joo plans Canary Wharf opening for Seoul Bird concept: Seoul Bird, the fledgling Korean concept from chef Judy Joo, is planning to launch in Canary Wharf, Propel understands. The concept, which launched last summer in Westfield London, is believed to be in talks to take the Radio Alice site in Jubilee Place. The concept specialises in crispy, double-fried, Korean-style chicken inspired by Joo’s Korean-American heritage. Chickens are brined for 24 hours before being double fried and served with Asian slaw. Seoul Bird also offers bibimbap bowls (steamed rice with vegetables, pickled daikon, edamame beans, onions and poached egg). Joo left the business she founded, Jinjuu, in 2019, after launching the Korean street food concept in Kingly Street, Soho, six years ago. Jinjuu grew to three sites, including one in Mayfair, but only the original in Soho remains.
Chucs to replace Cote in London’s St John’s Wood: Luxury restaurant and cafe collection Chucs is to add to its London estate with an opening in St John’s Wood, Propel has learned. The company, which is backed by entrepreneur Peter Dubens, is understood to have secured the former Cote site in Circus Road for what is thought will be an opening later this year. Chucs, which is chaired by Graziano Arricale, currently operates three restaurants in the capital in Mayfair, Westbourne Grove and Belgravia, plus cafes in Kensington and Chelsea. The original Chucs opened in Mayfair’s Dover Street opened its doors in summer 2014.
Exclusive Hotels and Venues parent secures $4.2m of long-term funding, defers payments on £20m of loans: The Manor House Hotel (Castle Combe), the parent company of Exclusive Hotels and Venues, has secured an additional £4.2m of long-term funding and deferred payments on almost £20m of loans. In addition, one of the group’s current lenders has agreed to waive covenants for the financial years ending March 2021 and March 2022. The company stated: “We have taken swift action to align our cost base to the reduced revenue generation from the business and continue to challenge our previous operating model as events unfold. Our staff have shown tremendous flexibility and resilience, supporting the business as we manage through this period. Building on our strong banking relationships, and benefiting from our prudent debt position, we have been able to arrange additional borrowing facilities. Coupled with careful cash management, these have given us the financial resources to operate with confidence through this extraordinary period for the hospitality sector. The group has secured £4.23m of additional long-term funding facilities subsequent to the year-end. In addition, since the year end, the group has agreed with one of its lenders to defer repayment of £2m, originally due to be repaid in November 2020, until December 2022. Additionally, loans due to the group’s other primary lender totalling £17.7m, which were due to be repaid quarterly, have been deferred, with quarterly repayment recommencing in March 2022.” The company provided the update as it reported turnover increased to £52.6m for the year ending 29 March 2020, compared with £50.2m the previous year. Ebitda was up to £8.5m from £7.7m the year before. Pre-tax profit grew to £3.4m, compared with £2.8m the previous year. The company has a six-strong estate of luxury hotels across the south of England that feature golf clubs, spas and Michelin-starred restaurants. Its portfolio comprises 14th century hotel and golf club The Manor House in Wiltshire; Surrey’s Pennyhill Park; Winchester wedding destination Lainston House; South Lodge in West Sussex; Royal Berkshire country house, near Ascot; and Fanhams Hall in Hertfordshire. Michelin-starred restaurants at its sites are Matt Worswick At The Latymer (Pennyhill Park) and Bybrook (The Manor House).
FCB Coffee to open at Paddington station in May for its eighth site: FCB Coffee has announced it will open its eighth site in May, in the arches of the original Paddington station building in London. FCB Coffee operates at stations across the south east of England and serves speciality coffee from Plot Roasting in Woolwich, handmade sandwiches, cakes and pastries. FCB Coffee started a partnership with Network Rail in 2020 and is one of the first independent coffee offerings in stations. It has two sites in Brighton, and at Guildford, Denmark Hill, Blackfriars, Woking and Tonbridge. FCB’s offer includes seasonal drinks such as affogato and ice lattes in the summer, house curated warmers in the winter, plus food such as coconut porridge, vegan sausage ciabatta and breakfast smoothies, salad pots, sandwiches and flatbreads.
Former rugby professional opens site in Bristol for his third coffee shop: Former professional rugby player Sam Smith has opened a third site of his Worcester-based speciality coffee shop concept Wayland’s Yard. The shop has opened on Whiteladies Road in the Clifton area of Bristol. Smith said: “Despite the lockdown, the new Bristol property has been able to serve takeaways, and because it includes an outdoor space at the front we have also been able to take advantage of outdoor dining. Having to stop playing rugby was devastating as I hoped to play for another nine or ten years, but I’m really pleased with how Wayland’s has progressed since 2016. My dream was to create a venue that champions speciality coffee, supports local suppliers and serves great food in a unique and exciting space, and I’m delighted I’ve been able to do that with my fantastic team.” Smith, a former Worcester Warriors and England under-20s winger, launched Wayland’s Yard in Foregate Street, Worcester, in October 2016, after injury forced him to end his career. He added a site in Birmingham in March last year. delighted I’ve been able to do that with my fantastic team.” Smith, a former Worcester Warriors and England under-20s winger, launched Wayland’s Yard in Foregate Street, Worcester, in October 2016, after injury forced him to end his career. He added a site in Birmingham in March last year.
Lockdown recipe releases inspire new PizzaExpress cookbook: PizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, has responded to an overwhelming response to its recipe releases during lockdown by announcing the launch of a new cookbook. PizzaExpress: From Italy with Love will be released on 16 September. It features recipes for more than 100 PizzaExpress favourites from the past 56 years, including dough balls, margherita and Sloppy Giuseppe as well as spicy, seafood, vegan and veggie pizzas. Alongside 68 pizza recipes, there are salads, desserts and dressings and sauces. There are also recipes for artisan pizza base doughs such as Leggera and Calabrese, including a gluten-free option. PizzaExpress food and beverage director Jane Treasure said: “It has been so much fun digging through the legendary PizzaExpress archives and cooking up these recipes for millions of pizza lovers at home as they fire up their ovens.” Anna Valentine, executive publisher at The Orion Publishing Group, added: “As a lifelong fan of PizzaExpress, I’m thrilled to be publishing this sumptuous cookbook. When PizzaExpress released its dough ball recipe during lockdown, it went viral showing there is a huge appetite (pun intended) to bring the magic of the restaurant into our homes.”
Paddy & Scott’s to open cafe at £28.8m sports park in Colchester: Independent Suffolk coffee shop operator and wholesaler Paddy & Scott’s is to open a site in Colchester, Essex. The company will open the outlet at the £28.8m Northern Gateway facility on Monday (26 April), initially offering takeaway only. The 76-acre sport and leisure facility also features a learn-to-ride facility and cycle pump track for children, alongside 3G pitches, grass rugby pitches, a multi-use sports centre, indoor cricket, badminton and futsal. There is also a fitness suite, exercise and dance studios, and an interactive velo studio. Paddy & Scott’s managing director Jon Reed said: “The Northern Gateway sports park is going to be a landmark destination for the region with some fantastic facilities. It’s great to be a part of something that links to health, sustainability and well-being.” Cllr Theresa Higgins, Colchester Borough Council portfolio holder for commercial services, added: “We’re delighted Paddy & Scott’s has chosen this great location to open its first cafe in Colchester. Its passion for health and sustainability perfectly complements what we want to create at the sports park.”
Revenues fall by almost 40% at PureGym after ‘very tough year’: Budget gym operator PureGym has reported its revenues fell by almost 40% in its financial year ending 31 December 2020 after a “very tough year”. Although the Leeds-based business reported a drop in all key metrics during the year with revenue dropping from £447m in 2019 to £270m last year (down 39.6%) as its gyms were closed, on average, for 37% of the year, chief executive Humphrey Cobbold said PureGym is “without doubt, a stronger business for having weathered the storm”. The business was forced to focus on cash conservation and reopening, while accelerating its digital strategy, which included enabling contactless entrance and exit using its app and making available pre-recorded content, according to The Business Desk. It added there had been a net drop of 12 in its number gyms, there was no covid-driven programme of redundancies or restructuring, and that, last week, it reopened 240 gyms in England including ten new sites. Cobbold said: “Last year was a very tough year as the world reacted to the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic. But we should be judged on how we managed the things within our control. Our cost control and cash management was exemplary and the actions we took and support received from governments, equity investors and debt providers gives us significant liquidity to not only survive but, importantly now, also resume our strategy. We are, without doubt, a stronger business for having weathered the storm.”
Edyn Group to develop aparthotel at Liverpool ONE: Aparthotel operator Edyn Group has agreed a deal to develop a site at Liverpool ONE. The company has signed a 25-year lease with Grosvenor Britain & Ireland for the aparthotel at 39 Paradise Street. The 60,000 square foot space will span ten floors and is set to open in the summer. From March to October 2020, Edyn maintained an average occupancy of 65% across its portfolio despite covid-19, reflecting consumer demand for self-contained accommodation. Chief executive Stephen McCall said: “As proven over the past 12 months, our quality-focused, long-stay accommodation model naturally aligns with evolving travel needs, positioning us as leaders for the new chapter of hospitality ahead. We look forward to unveiling this compelling new address for Edyn at Liverpool ONE, which forms a key part of our dynamic international portfolio.” Savills acted for Liverpool ONE while Edyn dealt direct.
Heineken reports UK beer sales down 30% with on-trade volumes ‘close to zero’:Heineken has reported UK beer sales fell about 30% in the first three months of the year due to on-trade volumes being “close to zero”. Beer volumes in the first quarter were in line with last year and 2.1% below the same period in 2019. It came after strong growth in the Asia Pacific and Africa, Middle East and eastern Europe regions, which helped to offset a sharp decline in Europe. Net profit for the first three months of the year was €168m, up from €94m a year earlier. Beer sales in Europe fell 9.7% across the continent, driven by a decline of about two thirds in pub sales given lockdown restrictions. While UK on-trade sales were down, the off-trade grew ahead of the market driven by Heineken, Strongbow and Birra Moretti. Heineken chief executive Dolf van den Brink said: “We had a solid start to the year despite facing severe restrictions across many markets and the closure of the on-trade in Europe due to the pandemic. Overall, beer volume was in line with last year with strong growth in Africa, Middle East and eastern Europe and Asia Pacific and modest growth in the Americas.” As countries start to emerge from severe lockdowns, Heineken has retained its forecast that markets would gradually improve in the second half of the year, depending on the vaccine rollout.
UberEats now covers 90% of the UK: Delivery firm UberEats has said its UK business grew faster than its global average over the past year, as it expanded its coverage across the country to cover 90% of the population. The company said its global delivery business grew 150% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, with growth in the UK and the rest of Europe exceeding that level. The company said it had added more than 25,000 new restaurants across the UK since the start of the pandemic. UberEats said it was now available to as many people as have fibre optic broadband in the UK with plans to expand to further by the end of the year. Sunjiv Shah, general manager of UberEats, UK and Ireland said: “Last year was a year like no other, and we’ve seen substantial change in the hospitality and grocery industries as a result. This was a difficult time for restaurants so it was important for us to play our part in helping thousands of restaurants access new customers and adapt their businesses. As the nation comes out of lockdown, we’ll continue to ensure people can order their favourite restaurant meals at home and help them with their essential shopping no matter where they live.” The new figures come as it was reported the business was attempting to break what it called Just EatTakeaway.com’s “monopolistic” stranglehold on the German food delivery market. According to the FT, UberEats will launch in Germany for the first time over the next few weeks, starting in Berlin, in its biggest entry to a new country since 2018. Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s senior vice-president of delivery, said Germany was one of its fastest-growing markets in ride-hailing, which it operates in 13 cities, and a “strategically important country” as it strives for group profitability for the first time this year.
Scottish distillery The Glenturret to open fine-dining restaurant: Scottish distillery The Glenturret is to open a fine-dining restaurant at its Perthshire premises this summer. The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant will be led by Mark Donald, who has joined from Michelin-starred Number 1 at The Balmoral, in Edinburgh. Donald’s menu will showcase contemporary Scottish produce to create classic French dishes. The Glenturret managing director John Laurie said: “Mark’s exceptional knowledge of Scottish produce combined with his creativity will perfectly complement both the heritage of where we have come from, and the new direction in which we are going with the restaurant.”
Zip World to open new south Wales site next week: LDC-backed leisure company Zip World is set to open its new site in south Wales next week. Launching on Monday (26 April) with two new experiences, Zip World Phoenix and Big Red, the site has been designed to create a legacy to its long mining heritage. Zip World Tower has created 56 jobs during its first phase and is forecasting 100,000 visitors within the first year of operation. Funding for the project was made possible as a result of a £4.5m loan from the City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region at the end of last year. Founder Sean Taylor said: “It’s been a challenging time for the tourism sector over the past year but with the opening of Zip World Tower, we feel like it will only go from strength to strength. We have proven experience of preserving and regenerating iconic sites and, as a passionate Welshman, I couldn’t think of a better location than the south Wales valleys to create a new legacy and grow our brand outside of north Wales for the first time.” This is the fourth site by Zip World and is located near the villages of Rhigos and Hirwaun, covering an area of land on the Rhigos Mountain.
Leonardo Hotels to open debut NYX hotel in UK: Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland is to open its first NYX hotel in the UK. The company will launch the site in London’s Holborn on Monday, 17 May, joining the other 11 NYX hotels in the portfolio. Located on the corner of Southampton Street and Theobalds Road, the ten-storey Holborn property will feature 213 bedrooms and suites, the 126-cover all-day late night NYX bar and restaurant, the Rena Spa and, opening in 2022, a rooftop events space. The restaurant menu will reflect the “melting pot of cuisines found in London” with dishes including panettone French toast, and the signature NYX raclette burger. The bar will serve cocktails alongside a range of more than 20 tequilas. Jason Carruthers, managing director of Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland, said: “London is one of the most culturally diverse and exciting cities in the world and the NYX brand is committed to reflecting that and engaging with the people and places that make it so special.” Meanwhile, customers at Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland’s new rooftop bar Sabine will be able to enjoy views over St Paul’s when the venue opens on Wednesday, 19 May.Sabine, which is taking the space previously used by The Sky Bar on top of the Leonardo hotel in the City of London, will have two outdoor terraces – one of which will have a retractable roof. Customers can expect sharing platters and dishes such as potted Morecambe Bay shrimps; and Gochujang fried chicken bao buns with pickles, green onions and kohlrabi – plus cocktails, gin, rosé wine and champagne.