YO! to launch ‘grab ‘n’ perch’ concept: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to make a return to the grab and go market by launching a standalone YO! To Go site in Manchester’s Piccadilly station early next month. Described by the company as a “grab ‘n’ perch” concept, consumers can take away products or enjoy them in-store. The site will also look to ramp up the group’s sustainability credentials and feature sushi trays that use ground-breaking, water-based technology that means they can be processed by any recycling facility. A second site under the standalone format is expected to launch next year in Brunel Square, Bath. The group previously trialled a standalone YO! To Go unit at London’s Charing Cross station but it closed a few years ago. The company is currently extending its YO! To Go trial with Tesco following a two-store pilot, with plans to open counters in up to 40 stores by the end of February. Hodgson told Propel: “Following the work we did on the YO! To Go offer a few years back the range has seen amazing growth with like-for-like to-go sales up 23% last year. We’re excited about trialling this offer in its own dedicated grab ‘n’ perch space in Manchester Piccadilly. Clearly if things go well there’s potential to deploy this in other locations. Together with the roll-out of in-store kiosks in Tesco and our new YO! Kitchen concepts in White City and Dundrum, this demonstrates we continue to test new initiatives as part of our strategy to drive availability and engagement with a wider audience.”
Hawksmoor parent narrows pre-tax losses as it reports turnover and Ebitda boost: Hawksmoor operator Underdog Restaurants has reported group turnover rose to £46.9m for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £43.7m the year before. Underlying group Ebitda was up to £5.7m from £4.8m the previous year. Operating profit rose to £2.6m from £2.3m the year before. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £4.3m, compared with £7.5m the previous year. Turnover from Hawksmoor restaurants rose 8.2% to £42.0m, compared with £38.8m the year before, driven by like-for-like sales growth and the opening of a restaurant in Edinburgh, taking the brand to eight sites. Ebitda for Hawksmoor restaurants increased to £6.0m in the period from £5.5m the previous year. As previously reported, a lease has been signed to open a Hawksmoor restaurant in New York in early 2020. The Foxlow restaurants remained loss-making throughout 2018 and into 2019 and the two remaining sites – in Balham and Clerkenwell – were shut in June. The Foxlow business was placed into creditors’ voluntary liquidation last month. Will Beckett and Hugh Gott founded Hawksmoor in 2006.
Oakman Inns launches trading division: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has launched trading division Ashmore Inns and acquired its first site, The Pointer in Brill, Buckinghamshire. The division will be responsible for the management under contract of a number of pubs where the freeholds remain, for example, as part of family estates. Jack Ashmore, who joined Oakman Inns ten years ago, will oversee the new division. Following the launch of The Pointer, he will add two further pubs to the Ashmore portfolio this week – former Epic Pubs site The Three Locks in Stoke Hammond and The White Swan in Twickenham. Ashmore said: “The transfer to our management control of The Three Locks has been seamless and all staff have transferred over. The pub is in pretty good decorative order having been recently refurbished so we can focus all our attention on familiarising staff with the way we do things.” Peter Borg-Neal, chief executive of Oakman Inns, added: “Ashmore Inns is going to play a profitable role in the ever-developing Oakman story. Taking on pubs we admire under sensible commercial terms on a managed contract basis ultimately improves the value of the property for the owners as we improve footfall and sales. I’m particularly delighted we’ve acquired the Three Locks as I only live ten minutes away!” Last week 24-strong Oakman Inns reported like-for-like sales up 5.1% for the 13 weeks to 29 September, with total sales increasing 15.7% to £10.9m. Fleurets acted on the Three Locks deal.
Busaba launches brand refresh, appoints marketing director: Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has launched a brand refresh to coincide with its 20th anniversary. The Terry Harrison-led group, which operates 13 sites in the capital, has worked with creative agency Paul Belford to develop a new brand strategy and identity. The move is part of a drive to “re-energise the brand while celebrating its past”. The new identity includes a fresh logo, menus and staff uniform. The full rebrand will be activated over the next year beginning with digital platforms, an advertising campaign and signs outside its London restaurants. Busaba will also launch a full business review that will see changes to restaurant interiors and recipes. The rebrand will be further celebrated next month through a menu that will include a selection of Busaba’s most popular dishes from the past 20 years, including chilli prawn rice (1999), jungle curry (2006) and crab claw po (2010). Harrison told Propel: “We believe it’s a perfect time to re-energise the brand while celebrating our history. The new logo and brand elements reflect the symbols and rituals that have existed from the first Busaba restaurant and live on in every one we’ve opened since. It’s fundamentally about communicating confidently to a modern audience the relevance of Busaba, even more so in today’s hectic, competitive landscape.” Propel also understands the company, which is backed by Muzinich Private Debt, has appointed Neve Rabbou, former global head of marketing at Le Pain Quotidien, as marketing director. Rabbou spent two years at Le Pain and before that was head of marketing at creative agency Cult LDN.
TRG Concessions and Diverse Dining bring Shake Shack to UK airports: The Restaurant Group (TRG) Concessions and Diverse Dining have entered into a partnership to bring Shake Shack to UK airports. The first site will open on Thursday (24 October) in Gatwick’s North Terminal. Shake Shack currently operates ten sites in the UK. Diverse Dining and TRG Concessions, which operates a number of casual dining franchises in the UK’s largest airports, will open a number of Shacks across airports in the UK. TRG Concessions managing director Nick Ayerst said: “We are excited to be working with a brand like Shake Shack and look forward to collaboratively opening our first shack at Gatwick.” Michael Kark, Shake Shack’s chief global licensing officer, added: “We are incredibly proud to be part of the UK’s thriving food scene and are continually humbled by the support of our UK fans. We look forward to expanding on that connection in UK airports.”
 
Rosa’s Thai confirmed for Manchester: TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Café has confirmed it will add to its fledgling regional estate with an opening in Manchester. The company will launch at the former Handmade Burger Co site in Deansgate in the spring. It will be Rosa’s third regional site following Liverpool and Leeds, with an opening in Birmingham also in the pipeline. Co-founder Saiphin Moore said: “We have spent a long time trying to find the right site to open a Rosa’s Thai Cafe in Manchester and The Old Courthouse felt like the ideal location. We look forward to becoming part of the city’s vibrant food and drink scene and have a lot of plans for this restaurant, which will set it apart from our Rosa’s in London.” The company, which is led by Gavin Adair, will open its 18th site next month at the former Bill’s site in Northcote Road, Clapham. Meanwhile, Gillian Lambden has been confirmed as Rosa’s people director. She stepped down from the same position at Be At One in the summer and has held the same role at Franco Manca and Itsu. Saiphin and Alex Moore opened the first permanent Rosa’s Thai Cafe in London in 2008. It has grown to 15 venues in the capital. P-Three acts for Rosa’s.
Coco Ichibanya secures former Jason Atherton venue for second UK site, eyes further openings: Coco Ichibanya, one of the largest curry house chains in Japan, is to open its second UK site when it replaces Jason Atherton’s Social Wine & Tapas site in Marylebone. Coco Ichibanya, which operates its Japanese-style curry concept at more than 1,400 sites worldwide, will launch at 39 James Street in the next few months. The concept made its UK debut in Great Newport Street, Covent Garden, earlier this year. It is looking to expand into shopping centres and high streets in 2020. Atherton closed Social Wine & Tapas in June after four years of trading. CDG Leisure secured the site for Coco Ichibanya. Davis Coffer Lyons acted in partnership with Dean Gambles & Co on behalf of Social Wine & Tapas.
Shareholder calls for Just Eat to consider Prosus and Takeaway.com offers: Just Eat shareholder Aberdeen Standard Investments has called for the online delivery platform’s board to “explore all available options” and engage with Takeaway.com and Prosus, which have both tabled bids for the company. The investor urged Prosus to increase its offer by at least 20%, saying the current all-cash offer of 710p “significantly undervalues the group”. Prosus made a £4.9bn all-cash offer for Just Eat on Tuesday (22 October), representing a 20% premium to Takeaway.com’s bid, which has been hit by the company’s falling share price. Aberdeen Standard Investments also said the proposed merger between Just Eat and Takeaway.com could be at risk due to German rival Delivery Hero, which Prosus holds a major stake in, suppressing Takeaway.com’s share price through an ongoing open-market share sale. Aberdeen Standard Investments director Frederik Nassauer said: “If the selling pressure continues in the coming weeks we believe the currently proposed merger ratio won’t be sufficiently attractive for Just Eat shareholders and might put the proposed merger at risk.” Activist investor Cat Rock has warned Prosus not to interfere with Takeaway.com’s merger with Just Eat. Cat Rock, which owns shares in Just Eat and Takeaway.com, said the latter’s share price had been hit by Delivery Hero share sales. “It is imperative any entity related to Prosus, including Delivery Hero, immediately cease market actions that interfere with the effective value provided by competing bids for the duration of the offer period,” it said.
PizzaExpress promotes Fenwick to productivity and change director: PizzaExpress, the Hony Capital-backed chain, has promoted regional director Graham Fenwick to the new role of productivity and change director, Propel has learned. Fenwick, who has been with the brand for almost 15 years, has been regional operations director for the past four years, firstly for London and most recently the north and Ireland. He secured the role after an external search. Under the new title he will look at all processes in the company’s circa 470 UK restaurants to understand how it can be “more productive and drive a culture of efficiency”. Propel understands the role is also linked to the company’s Future Express programme, with Fenwick ensuring the brand not only invests in its teams and site design but constantly evolves its operating model. PizzaExpress managing director Zoe Bowley told Propel in August the performance of the initial group of restaurants it had refurbished under the Future Express programme had “exceeded expectations”. Earlier this month PizzaExpress hired adviser Houlihan Lokey ahead of debt talks with creditors. Separately, a group of secured bondholders started working with Perella Weinberg Partners after appointing law firm Latham & Watkins in July. A report at the weekend said hedge funds, including CarVal, Cyrus Capital and distressed debt specialist HIG, were circling the business.
Franco Manca secures former Vital Ingredient site in City of London: Fulham Shore-owned pizza concept Franco Manca, which recently opened its 50th site, in Manchester, is to add to its London estate with an opening in the City. The group has secured the former Vital Ingredient site in Middlesex Street for an opening before the end of the year. In the summer Fulham Shore chairman David Page told Propel he was negotiating on 30 sites for Franco Manca and The Real Greek, with the aim to open ten. As well as 36 Franco Manca sites in London, the brand currently operates 13 outside the capital and one in Italy. In the summer it opened its first site in Scotland, at the Mint Building in South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh. At the same time the pizza brand has been linked with an opening in Glasgow after submitting an application to launch at a former Oddbins site in Mitchell Street. Franco Manca and MeatLiquor, the Scott Collins-led concept, are also believed to be in advanced talks to operate a joint site at the former flagship Jamie’s Italian in Soho. The companies are close to signing a lease on the Denman Street site that would see Franco Manca take over the ground floor and basement and MeatLiquor take the top three floors.
Whitbread expands Cookhouse estate, opening Newcastle Bar + Block: Whitbread is continuing to add sites to its fledgling Cookhouse + Pub and Bar + Block brands. On the former, the company has added a further five venues including an opening this week in Lockyer’s Quay, Plymouth, to take it to 18 sites. It will add a site in Enfield before the year end while one in Keighley is also understood to be in the pipeline. The company had previously converted Brewers Fayre sites to the new brand but the Plymouth and Enfield sites are Table Table conversions. The brand, which Whitbread launched in 2017, aims to reinvent the pub dining experience by combining the “food and service of an all-day casual dining restaurant with the relaxed vibe and affordability of a pub”. The menu features grazers, oven-fired flatbread, grilled dishes, lighter options, brunch, pub classics, Sunday roast and desserts. Cookhouse + Pub also offers rotating specials alongside craft beer, cask ale, cider, and wine and cocktails on tap or by the carafe. Meanwhile, Whitbread will open its 13th Bar + Block site, at the Premier Inn in Newgate Street, Newcastle. The opening will follow the launch of the latest Bar + Block – at the new Premier Inn in Sutton, Surrey, on Friday, 1 November. The all-day, casual dining concept focuses on high-quality steak at affordable prices. Bar + Block sites have opened in Wimbledon, Belfast, Bristol and Winnersh this year. Sutton will be the 12th site to open since the brand launched in Birmingham in 2016. In the summer Whitbread said the Bar + Block brand was set for “considerable growth” in 2020.
Former Ottolenghi chef launches wine bar and kitchen in Peckham: Helen Hall, a former chef at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Rovi restaurant, is to open a neighbourhood wine bar and kitchen in Peckham, south London, Propel has learned. Hall will launch Peckham Cellars at the former Meet District restaurant in Queen’s Road. Peckham Cellars will open on Tuesday, 19 November offering wine, cocktails and food. Hall has extensive experience in the industry including with Columbo Group, where she was responsible for opening Blues Kitchen sites in Shoreditch and Brixton. She left Columbo Group in 2016 to gain experience as a chef including working in the kitchen for Rovi’s opening. Hall was also part of the team behind Accent, which used to operate from the site where Peckham Cellars will be based. MKR Property acted for Peckham Cellars on the deal.
Twisted London to open studio in Market Halls West End: Twisted London, the virtual restaurant brand from social media group Jungle Creations, has announced plans to set up a studio in London’s Market Hall West End, which will be the UK’s largest food hall when it opens in Oxford Circus next month. Twisted, which also operates delivery kitchens across the capital, will open its studio to the public, allowing them to see how its cooking shows are created. Twisted Studio will also offer a 50-cover private dining space suitable for hosting events, supper clubs and workshops. Jungle Creations chief content officer Melissa Chapman said: “Twisted has built a huge audience of passionate fans during the past few years and we’re always working on innovative ways to help our partners connect with that audience.” Simon Anderson, chief creative officer at Market Halls, added: “This ground-breaking crossover between the digital and real worlds will provide a fascinating platform for content and consumer interactions.” Other operators at Market Halls West End will include Pastaio, Roti King, Flank, Breddos Tacos, BaoziInn, Hotbox, CookDaily and Paradise Slice.
Yorkshire-based Domino’s franchisee opens eighth site: Domino’s Pizza franchisee Domino’s Yorkshire has opened its eighth site, in Skipton. Domino’s Yorkshire, which turned over £10m in 2018, launched the venue following a six-figure funding package from HSBC UK. The two-storey, 1,200 square foot takeaway has replaced a delicatessen in Swadford Street and created 25 jobs. Domino’s Yorkshire managing director James Salt told BDaily: “With HSBC UK’s support we’ve been able to buy an existing business and refit and modernise the unit.” Domino’s Yorkshire also operates three stores in Bradford, two in Leeds and two in Wakefield.
Edwardian to open £300m ‘super boutique’ hotel in Leicester Square featuring restaurants, cinemas and rooftop bar: Edwardian Hotels is to open a £300m “super boutique” hotel in London’s Leicester Square featuring restaurants, two cinemas and a rooftop bar. The Londoner is the latest project by Edwardian Hotels, which is behind the development of The May Fair Hotel and a collection of restaurant and bar brands in the capital, including May Fair Kitchen, May Fair Bar, Bloomsbury Street Kitchen and Peter Street Kitchen. Charles Oak has rejoined Edwardian Hotels London as hotels director to manage the Leicester Square opening, the company’s “most ambitious project in its 40-year history”. The 16-storey hotel will offer 350 bedrooms and take over the space previously occupied by Odeon West End. The site will open in June featuring two Odeon Luxe cinemas and six restaurants. The hotel’s signature restaurant will be housed on the ground floor with a terrace and tavern offering live music. The rooftop will feature a Japanese lounge bar with fire-pit seating. Hotel guests will also have a spa, swimming pool, gym, hair and nail salon, barber shop and two private screening rooms at their disposal.
Printworks Manchester completes transformation to family-friendly destination as two more brands join line-up: Two more leisure and restaurant brands have secured sites at Printworks Manchester as the venue completes its transformation from a late-night location to a family-friendly destination. Having welcomed Treetop Adventure Golf and Escape Reality in 2018, Printworks owner DTZ Investors is now introducing a 12-lane bowling venue from Ten Entertainment Group that will open next year. The move marks the completion of an asset management project to transform 50,000 square feet of unoccupied space into daytime use. Independent restaurant NY By Night recently opened on the ground floor offering wood stove-cooked pizza and craft beer. The Deltic Group also launched all-day restaurant, bar and club concept Eden at the Printworks’ former Tiger Tiger unit in the summer. A DTZ Investors spokesman told The Business Desk: “Since purchasing Printworks in 2017, DTZ has been committed to building on the brand offer to present our customers with a varied mix of national and independent brands that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The introduction of brands such as Tenpin and NY By Night works towards cementing Printworks as an all-day haven of entertainment in the centre of Manchester.”