East Coast Concepts acquired out of administration: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts has been acquired through a pre-pack administration by an investment group, led by Naveen Handa of leisure company The Cairn Group, Propel has learned. The deal for the five-strong business protects more than 250 jobs and its existing Neighbourhood and Victors sites will continue to trade as normal. The Handa-led group said the deal for East Coast Concepts was a “strategic acquisition to enhance their premium restaurant and bar offering”. Propel revealed in July that East Coast Concept, which is led by John Hammond and operates sites in Hale, Alderley Edge, Liverpool, Leeds and Oxford, was working with FRP Corporate Finance, with options thought to include securing a further equity injection. It is thought a competitive bidding process was subsequently generated. Propel understands the Handa-led vehicle has committed £1m post-investment in the business to safeguard it against any further “sector shocks” and will look to aid its expansion plans going forward. Handa also recently led a consortium to become the new joint venture partners for London and UK franchisees of Vapiano Restaurants. Ben Woolrych and Anthony Collier of FRP were appointed as joint administrators of Victors Restaurants and East Coast Concepts on 1 September 2020. On appointment, the joint administrators completed the pre-pack sale of the business and assets to the investment group. Hammond, managing director at East Coast Concepts, said: “Since opening our doors in 2012, every member of the business has worked hard to establish strong brands and create an experience that our guests love. We have significantly exceeded sales and profit targets since reopening while delivering an industry-leading net promoter score, with 25% year-on-year growth in the final week in August, including the bank holiday weekend. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for the business and will enable us to embark on the next phase of growth, with an investor that really sees the value in the brands we have created.” Handa added: “We are delighted to have been able to secure the long-term future of East Coast Concepts, and its much-loved Neighbourhood and Victors brands, as well as the jobs of over 250 staff throughout the sites and head office. Moving forward, we see great potential for premium, experiential and well-differentiated brands, and will be focused on supporting the existing management team, while investing in the brands and its people to help realise the exciting growth potential.”
 
Five Guys launches ‘curb side’ pick-up option in the UK: Five Guys, the US better burger brand, has launched a “curb side” pick-up option at selected sites across its circa 100-strong UK estate, Propel has learned. The John Eckbert-led company has launched the option at 14 of its sites across the country, including those in Leicester, Nottingham, Cheshire Oaks, Gloucester Quays and Milton Keynes. Earlier this summer, Pizza Hut Delivery UK extended its kerbside pick-up option to more of its circa 400 sites, Propel has learned. A trial of kerbside collection was launched in May from the group’s sites in Blackburn, Colchester Turner Rise, Durham, London Park Royal, Trafford Retail Park and Worcester Shrub Hill. Consumers order online and, when they arrive at the restaurant, open their car boot for staff to deposit their order.
Wadworth introduces own discount scheme for managed pubs: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth has introduced its own Eat Out To Help Out scheme following the success it had with the government initiative in August. All managed pubs will be offering 20% off food between Monday and Wednesday throughout September with no spend limit on the discount. Six pubs have also added two alcoholic drink deals with £1 off a pint of Wadworth ale or £5 off a bottle of wine. Nick Young, operations director for the managed pub estate, said: “We had a great August seeing so many new people coming to the pubs with Eat Out To Help Out and we wanted to encourage guests to keep coming back. By offering a ‘no spend limit’ on food, we’ve been able to enhance the offer to suit our customers going forward.”
David Gough joins Boxpark as COO: Boxpark has appointed David Gough as its chief operating officer to lead company strategy, Propel has learned. The former operations director at Fuller’s brand the Stable will also oversee all commercial aspects of the business, enhance the customer experience, and focus on training and employee development. Gough said: “I’ve been a huge fan of Boxpark for a number of years so it really is a privilege to come on board and join the team. This is an exciting opportunity for me to use my experience on a thriving brand that is on the cusp of a transformational stage in its growth. Despite the struggles facing the hospitality industry, I’m looking forward to bringing Boxpark’s vision to life and building a solid strategy to achieve our goals.” Boxpark chief executive and founder Roger Wade added: “As we focus on our growth strategy, David will be instrumental in ensuring everything is in place and that we are meeting our commercial objectives.” Gough has also previously worked for Good Company Inns, Olivo Restaurants and PizzaExpress. Last month, Boxpark appointed Simon Bishop as property director to drive the company’s development plans during the next five years.
Creams reports year-on-year sales up 35% in August: Dessert parlour operator Creams has reported year-on-year sales were up almost 35% in August with help from the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The brand, which operates 90 sites, reported a record-breaking 430,000 covers throughout the month on Eat Out To Help Out days – an average of 33,000 covers per day. Creams has decided to run an additional offer throughout September to November, giving customers 25% off everything from Monday to Wednesday at select stores. Co-founder Adam Mani said: “It’s been a challenging few months, but the response to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a real morale boost for the Creams team. Now, more than ever, people need a little sweet relief and a touch of escapism, and I think that’s exactly what we provide at Creams, and that’s the reason our sales have been so exceptionally strong.”
Mosaic extends discount scheme after Eat Out To Help Out sales boost: Mosaic Pub and Dining saw sales rise on Mondays to Wednesdays by almost 100% versus July, thanks largely to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. And the 30-strong pub collective, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, is extending the 50% discount between Mondays and Wednesdays throughout September and, “possibly, beyond” at most of its sites. Watson told Propel he hoped there would be an additional boost to early-week sales from extending the scheme with participating pubs adding new dishes to their offers, such as lobster burger and truffle tortellini, in a bid to entice those “seeking fine dining food at entry level prices”.
Hubbox to return to openings programme after sales boost: Hubbox, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, is to return to its openings programme, with three sites set to open over the next year, after reporting a 34% increase in like-for-like sales in August. The eight-strong company has, this week, restarting the fit-out of what will be its ninth site in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff, which was halted due to lock-down, and will be open by 24 October. It will open its tenth site, next spring, in Cheltenham’s The Brewery development. It will follow this up with a planned opening at Plymouth’s Royal William Yard scheme next summer. The company opened six of its eight restaurants (excluding Gunwharf Quays and Pentewan Sand) in May and June for takeaway. Boon told Propel: “In the case of Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth, we did delivery and introduced a click-and-collect online system. The click and collect was also introduced in St Ives and Truro. Sales were very positive and the service was very well received. By the end of June, takeaway/delivery sales were 33% of full prior year sales. A new online booking system was also introduced in the lead up to full reopening. In July, like-for-like sales were up 1%.” During this period, the company also secured £700,000 from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through Lloyds. The company, which reopened all its sites for dine-in in July and participated in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, also introduced an order-and-pay feature through its existing app. Boon said: “Our customer response to all of our covid-19 measures has been very positive and we worked hard to get the blend between safety and a hospitable atmosphere right. Use of the app has increased from 10% to 70% of all transactions. August was a record month for the business with like-for-like sales up 34% and total net sales of £1.5m, including the bank holiday, which was the best trading day yet. We couldn’t have achieved that without the help of our teams who couldn’t wait to get back to work and have been brilliant. We haven’t extended the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and although it has only been a couple of days without that incentive, we haven’t seen a drop off in trade, which is encouraging.”
Inception Group launches app as company comes fully out of hibernation: Inception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s, has launched an app. Users are able to make bookings, order to their table and find exclusive offers. Following the gradual reopening of its venues, the company is now being brought out of full hibernation. To mark the occasion, Inception Group is offering £10 off the total bill per person, including drinks, when they dine any night of the week throughout September at the original Bunga Bunga in Battersea. Inception Group, which operates 11 sites, was founded in 2009 by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling.
 
MeatLiquor to reopen remaining closed site, not extending discount offer:MeatLiquor will reopen its King’s Cross site on Monday, 14 September, but has said it will not be extending the discount scheme out of its own pocket. The King’s Cross, site is the 11th and final location of the Scott Collins-led concept to reopen. Meanwhile, it will introduce a five-strong additional cocktail list, each costing £5, from Monday (7 September).
Former Cyclone Leisure Group director acquires second site: Stuart Young, former director of Cyclone Leisure Group, has added a second site to his Northumberland Pub Co portfolio. The company, which owns The Blackbird in Ponteland, has acquired The Northumberland Arms in Felton. The former coaching inn, which was originally built in 1820, has been refurbished and features a new outdoor dining and drinking. The venue – which offers six en-suite rooms – serves a variety of dishes made by a team of AA Rosette and Michelin experienced chefs, who use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Young said he had been looking to add to his hospitality portfolio since selling his interest in Cyclone Leisure Group last year, which owns San Lorenzo Gosforth and Washington, along with the former Union Rooms in Newcastle.
Great British Menu finalist to open long-awaited second restaurant, in Liverpool next week: Great British Menu finalist Ellis Barrie will open his long-awaited second restaurant, in Liverpool next Saturday (12 September). Barrie, who was a finalist in the BBC2 show in 2018, and older brother Liam are launching Lerpwl at the Royal Albert Dock. The restaurant, in the former premises of circus-themed dinner concept Circo, was due to open earlier this year and is named after the Welsh name for Liverpool. Pronounced “Ler-pool”, it recognises the personal links the brothers share between their home city of Liverpool and north Wales. The 80-capacity restaurant is split across two levels. The main space downstairs wraps around an open kitchen while a secluded cocktail Bar called Margot’s, named after Liam Barrie’s daughter, is at the back of the venue. There is also kitchen-side seating at the Oyster bar. There will be two menus – à la carte and a second that is more relaxed – that will change with the seasons. Upstairs is a private dining area called Albert’s, named after Ellis’s son. The space with a private bar can seat up to 30, while at the top of the stairs is a DJ booth. The Barries opened their debut restaurant, Marram Grass, in Anglesey in 2011.
Bancone to reopen flagship Covent Garden restaurant on Tuesday: Bancone, the all-day fresh pasta concept led by Will Ellner and backed by David Ramsey, will reopen its flagship site in Covent Garden on Tuesday (8 September). The venue in William IV Street will have social distancing measures in place in line with its other site that has welcomed back customers – in Golden Square, Soho. To mark the Covent Garden reopening, head chef Stefano Cilia has created two new dishes – braised octopus, avocado, red pepper, shallot, lime and coriander as a starter, followed by king prawn bucatini with confit tomato, garlic and chilli. Additionally, for September, Bancone is offering a “Tuesdays and Wednesdays deal” – a set menu for £20 per person.
Curzon teams up with LabTech to unveil pop-up cinema at Camden Market:Boutique cinema chain Curzon will host a pop-up cinema for a fortnight at London’s Camden Market this month. The open-air cinema will operate daily from Wednesday, 16 September, with a capacity for 150 people, at landlord LabTech’s North Yard and promises visitors exclusive screenings of films yet to hit the UK. The cinema will use deckchairs and have black carpet throughout. It will stand alongside restaurant openings including plant-based sustainable burger chain Neat Burger and The Indian Alley. Curzon chief executive Philip Knatchbull said: “We are thrilled to open our first open-air cinema post-lock-down. It is an opportunity for us to welcome visitors back in a safe and secure environment complemented by Camden Market’s iconic food and beverage offer.” LabTech retail commercial director Maggie Milosavljevic added: “Camden Market continues to lead the way in putting London back on the map for locals and visitors to enjoy different food, drinks, retail and leisure experiences post-lock-down.” LabTech dealt direct and Curzon represented itself.
Focus Hotels boosted by lure of staycations: Focus Hotels has claimed staycations are playing a “pivotal role” in its recovery from covid-19. The independent hotel management company has invested in the creation of dedicated staycation sections on the websites of some of the properties it manages to entice more Brits to holiday in the UK. Focus Hotels chief executive Peter Cashman said: “There’s no doubt the increased interest in staycations is playing a pivotal role in our ability to recover from having been shut for many months.” Hotel Colessio, in Stirling, has enjoyed a 91% occupancy rate in August, which is the same as August 2019. Focus Hotels manages more than 1,700 rooms across the UK.
Tayer and Elementary reopens with new food residency and drinks offer: All-day cafe bar Tayer and Elementary reopened on Wednesday (2 September) with new drinks and a food residency from Kitchen FM. The front bar – Elementary – will serve drinks such as “One Sip Martinis” and a pale ale from Partizan Brewing, reports Hot Dinners. There is also a new terrace bar at the site in Old Street, east London, and a bottle shop will be in operation too. Meanwhile, French chefs Fabien Spagnolo and Max Truel of Kitchen FM will offer dishes such as pig’s head croquette with kimchi and oyster mayo. The back bar – Tayer – is expected to reopen in October.
Various Eateries clarification: In Wednesday’s (2 September) Propel Breaking News – Various Eateries IPO to take advantage of the “tectonic shift in the hospitality industry” – the source of the information was stated as the company’s placing and admission to AIM document. Propel would like to clarify it was in fact opinions and information from a broker’s note from WHIreland and apologises for any confusion or inconvenience caused.