YO! appoints Xenia Walters as new chief financial officer: YO!, the global multi-channel, multi brand Japanese and Asian food group, has appointed Xenia Walters as its new chief financial officer. Walters, who replaces Edward Knighton, who stepped down from YO! at the end of January, has also been appointed an executive director of the company’s board, effective from Monday (8 March). YO! said she brings with her more than 20 years’ extensive experience working in a variety of senior roles with international groups “gaining broad financial, business and international experience”. Most recently she held the role of group chief financial officer of SDL, the listed professional services provider, where she helped drive the successful transformation and merger with RWS Holdings, creating the world’s leading language service and technology group with a market capitalisation of circa £2.4bn. Prior to SDL, Walters held chief financial officer roles in a number of private equity-backed businesses including Frank Recruitment Group, Oxford International Education Group and INTO University Partnerships. Earlier in her career, she held senior roles at Regus, including UK chief financial officer and group financial controller. Richard Hodgson, chief executive of YO!, said: “Xenia has an impressive track record of helping businesses navigate growth, as well as managing teams and developing best practice processes in complex multinational organisations. These factors, together with her experience in driving transformational change, will make her an invaluable member of the team as we continue to execute on our diversification strategy.” Walters said: “I’m excited to be joining YO! at this moment in the group’s development – as it continues to reinforce its leading positions in the markets it serves, as well as grow through new opportunities.” Propel revealed in January that Knighton, who joined the business in 2017, was stepping down to pursue new opportunities.
Barkby Group – pubs and coffee business poised for ‘significant’ growth:Premium gastro-pub operator Barkby Group has said its pubs and Workshop Coffee business are poised for “significant” growth and a return to profitability as the UK is set to emerge from lockdown. For the six months ended 31 December 2020, the company, which also operates in the commercial property and life sciences sectors, reported revenue was up to £7.9m from £7.6m last year, with a net loss of £2m. During the period the company said it made a number of operational improvements in its pub business, which it expected to lead to higher margins once lockdown restrictions are lifted. It said while pubs are currently not trading, a path out of lockdown “gives cause for optimism”. Barkby Group said while the pubs were materially impacted by covid-19 and national lockdown, they had traded well between July and October 2020, when lockdown in England was lifted. Like-for-like sales were down 3% between 1 July and 30 September 2020 while they fell 45% between 1 October and 31 December 2020 following the re-imposition of trading restrictions. In September, it acquired a nine-year lease for The Harcourt Arms in the village of Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire and is “actively looking for further opportunities to add to our pub portfolio”. The company added: “The group’s short-term strategy remains to increase its portfolio to circa 12 pubs under a combination of leasehold and freehold acquisitions. We are currently assessing the acquisition of a further leasehold interest and we anticipate further acquisition opportunities will arise as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. At Workshop Coffee, wholesale revenues have been significantly impacted as independent coffee shops, hotels and other hospitality customers have been forced to close during the national lockdown periods. Wholesale revenues were down by 55% on the same period last year. However there has been a substantial increase in online sales, which increased 118% on the same period last year. As we come out of lockdown, our pubs and coffee business are poised for significant growth and a return to profitability.”
Mowgli confirms plan to open in Glasgow: Indian street food concept Mowgli has confirmed it will open a site in Glasgow, with a launch planned for spring 2022. Propel revealed last year the 11-strong Mowgli, which is backed by Foresight and led by Nisha Katona, had secured the ex-Handmade Burger Co site in the city’s St Vincent Street. On the new site, Katona said: “The Budget loosened much that has been calloused by the pandemic. I’m grateful to be able to grow and help economic resurrection by creating jobs ‘where the people are’. How fortunate for me that they are in Glasgow!” Last week, the company confirmed it had lined up an opening in Cheltenham for this summer. It has secured the ex-Babel site in the town’s Brewery Quarter. The company is also set to open in Edinburgh’s Hanover Street. At the start of November, the group, which is chaired by Karen Jones, secured a site in the McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet.
JD Wetherspoon to invest £1.8m in Leeds pub redevelopment: JD Wetherspoon will spend £1.8m redeveloping The Stick or Twist pub in Leeds, with an opening date set for 6 July. The pub in Merrion Way first opened in 1997 and was demolished in 2018 by the landlord of the property in order to build a new unit with student accommodation above. Wetherspoon will begin renovating the ground floor on 5 April. The work will create 60 jobs and the pub will house 4,000 square foot of space and be 25% larger than the original site. It will add terraces to the front and side, which can be accessed via bi-folding doors. The Stick or Twist will have an open kitchen that will be twice the size of its predecessor. Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “We are delighted The Stick or Twist is set to open once again. The pub was open for 21 years and was extremely popular. We are confident existing as well as new customers will welcome the pub’s reopening and be impressed with its new look. Wetherspoon has always enjoyed great success in Leeds and this investment in the new pub highlights our commitment to the city.”
The Blues Kitchen to open first regional site in May: The Columbo Group, led by Steve Ball and Riz Shaik, will launch its first regional site of The Blues Kitchen on 20 May, in Manchester. Columbo, which is also behind London venues XOYO and Jazz Cafe, already operates three The Blues Kitchen sites in the capital. The Blues Kitchen will offer “a flavour of the Deep South” to Manchester and host live music with a seven-nights-a-week programme. The two-storey venue in Quay Street will comprise a restaurant and bar on the ground floor and a concert hall on the first floor. The concert hall will open for seated entertainment until 21 June when standing will be permitted for gigs and club nights. The food and drink offer includes Southern barbecue dishes and bourbon. Ball said: “We’ve been looking for the perfect site in Manchester for years and have finally found it. We’ve taken a great deal of pleasure in restoring the building over the past year and we’ve managed to get hold of some incredible vintage features from the US so it’s really going to be quite something.” The 35,000 square foot site is owned by Endless Developments and was previously occupied by Australian bar brand Walkabout but the venue closed at the end of 2015.
Deli Madeleine’s Kitchen doubles up: Hampshire-based deli brand Madeleine’s Kitchen is set to open a second site just across the county border, in Midhurst, West Sussex. The company’s original site has been operating for five years in Petersfield. The new site is a grade II-listed terraced building and will offer deli and takeaway food plus kitchen items, artwork, china and flowers and is set to open in late March. Its garden has views over country property Cowdray House. Among its dishes are Greek spanakopita, Moroccan lamb pies, Singapore curry puffs, quiches, frittatas and takeaway sandwiches. Locally roasted coffee from Mark Goulding of Winchester Coffee Roasters will be available to purchase as well as a cheese selection. Founders Kathryn Rodbert and Antonia Troth said: “What started as a discussion outside of the school gates has turned into a popular and successful deli and kitchen shop and we are excited to be opening our second shop in Midhurst.” The site letting was arranged through property agent Savills.
Virgin Experience Days to acquire Cloud 9 Living’s US business: Experiential gift provider Virgin Experience Days is set to acquire Cloud 9 Living’s US operations. Both brands offer domestic gift experiences to customers, with Virgin Experience Days using the acquisition as a springboard for further growth into a US gift experience market estimated at $1bn. Cloud 9 Living will be rebranded as Virgin Experience Gifts in the US. Plans for the business include expansion into certain US geographies, broadening the product range and introducing experiences “that have successfully differentiated the proposition in the UK”. Virgin Experience Days and Cloud 9 Living offer a choice of more than 4,000 experiences and, collectively, they account for almost 1.4 million purchases each year. In 2019, Virgin Experience Days recorded a 92% annual increase in UK Black Friday sales, while a 2018 Eventbrite survey revealed 63% of US adults would prefer to receive an experience gift over a material gift. Virgin Experience Days chief executive Richard Hurd-Wood said: “The Virgin brand has strong recognition already in the US and the acquisition of Cloud 9 Living bolsters our product proposition around extraordinary experiences for people to enjoy together.” Cloud 9 Living added: “The opportunity in the US experience gift market is enormous and largely untapped.”
Five Points Brewing Company reveals plans for new combined brewery and open-air taproom: London-based Five Points Brewing Company has revealed plans for a new combined brewery and open-air taproom. The move allows the company to merge its separate production and warehousing sites into a new flagship headquarters in Mare Street, Hackney. The new taproom will host visitor tours and beer tastings, and will have a large outdoor area for open-air hospitality. The company aims to complete phase one of the project in time for the April reopening of outdoor hospitality. The business will also be raising fresh investment and allowing customers to invest, with perks to include bar tabs in the new taproom. Co-founder and managing director Ed Mason said: “The past 12 months have been incredibly challenging for independent breweries, as they have for all small businesses. So it is exciting to be able to look to the future and place the company on a secure footing with a new brewery and taproom.”
New sports bar to open at Ricoh Arena ahead of Commonwealth Games: A new sports bar is set to open at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, which will be a venue hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022. The bar will cater for up to 160 covers at a time and will have a number of widescreen TVs as well as interactive games, including shuffleboard and table football. The venue is currently used by Wasps rugby union team and its club shop will be relocated to make way for the 400 square metre bar, which will be open to the general public daily, and will create about 25 jobs. Work has already begun and the sports bar is set to open this spring, reports The Business Desk. Ricoh Arena’s catering partner, Delaware North, is funding a significant portion of the seven-figure investment in the bar, along with investment from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which has been made via an allocation of funding as part of the government’s Getting Building Fund, and from the government’s Local Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund.
Two Midlands hotel and wedding venues go into administration: Two hotels in the Midlands that host weddings and conferences have been closed after administrators were appointed for the venues’ parent company Sundial Group and Woodside Conference Centre. Highgate House Hotel in Creaton, Northamptonshire, and Woodside Conference Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, have both been shut and are “unlikely to reopen”. A statement from administrator Grant Thornton said: “The businesses have been heavily impacted by the covid-19 pandemic, with the hotels being closed during the current lockdown period. The administrators recognise the impact of the administrations on employees, clients and suppliers to the companies, and are working to resolve outstanding matters in line with their statutory obligations as swiftly as is practicable. The administrators are continuing to work with the directors to assess the options available to realise the assets but unfortunately, due to the current economic climate, the hotels are unlikely to reopen during the period of the administration.”
Lucky Saint strengthens team: Alcohol-free beer brand Lucky Saint, founded by Luke Boase, has strengthened its team with the signings of former BrewDog and Camden Town Brewery charges. The move comes shortly after the successful fundraise of £3.5m by the business. John Logue has joined Lucky Saint as head of marketing. He was part of the team that launched Rekorderlig’s alcohol-free cider globally, worked in BrewDog’s alcohol-free portfolio and also at Atom brands. Aaron Duffett has taken the role of head of on-trade after spending four years leading London-based Camden Town Brewery’s on and off-trade sales teams. Boase said: “Following rapid growth in 2020, driven by success in off-trade and e-commerce, we are in the exciting position to be able to invest further into sales and marketing. John and Aaron both bring with them a huge amount of experience in growing brands and I can’t wait to see them bring Lucky Saint to an ever-growing audience.”
Compass Scotland vows to create 100 apprenticeship opportunities in 2021, backed by Tom Kitchin: Compass Scotland, which was launched by contract caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland in November last year, will create 100 new Modern Apprenticeship opportunities this year. The launch of its Modern Apprenticeship Programme creates a career progression roadmap for an individual to work towards, from a Foundation Apprenticeship, Modern Apprenticeship or a Graduate Apprenticeship. To deliver the programme, Compass Scotland is working with Scottish clients, businesses, hospitality industry stakeholders, colleges and universities – all with input from Compass Scotland’s culinary ambassador, Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin. Compass Scotland managing director David Hay said: “Scotland has an excellent reputation for its hospitality and its world-renowned food and drink. As the industry recovers from the impact of the pandemic, we need to look to the future and ensure the next generation of talent is nurtured and retained.” Kitchin added: “I am excited to be working with Compass on its apprenticeship scheme, which should help to bring through the next generation of hospitality talent in the UK.”
Tian Tian Market opens second site in Aldgate: Asian food grocery store Tian Tian Market has opened its second site offering food from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The new site is located in Piazza Walk, Aldgate, and has large meat and seafood sections, bubble teas, noodles and Little Moons mocha ice cream. It also houses a sake bar, which can only be used for collection only under lockdown restrictions, and a range of patisserie goods. Customers can collect pre-ordered goods from companies such as Wa Café, Kova Patisserie, Mille Patisserie and Tsujiri UK Matcha House, and can also go in store for grocery shopping. Tian Tian opened its first site in South Quay, London, in 2016.
Chick ‘n’ Sours launches meal kits: Chick ‘n’ Sours, the Carl Clarke and David Wolanski-founded concept, has launched meal kits. They feature “everything fried chicken lovers need to recreate the Chick ‘n’ Sours experience at home”, including signature dishes, cocktails, and a 24-hour playlist of tunes. The kit features two chicken sandwiches, four kung pao wings, four hot wings, four tenders, house-made dip, watermelon salad, green ‘slaw and cucumber. The “All In + Sours” kit also includes four signature sours, pre-bottled. The kits are available for nationwide delivery. Cut off for orders each week is Sunday evening, with deliveries taking place the following Friday. Clarke and Wolanski also operate fried chicken concept Chik’n.
BrewDog launches online Beer School: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched Beer School, which is designed to give beer fans the chance to learn more about what they drink and how to brew beer. The online course promises to make students beer experts and learn about the ingredients used in the beer processes and pairing matches with food. Co-founder James Watt said: “Thinks less maths and English, and think more the science of doing and the history of hops.” Beer School will send out “some tasters” for students so they can “start with a taste test and see what piques your interest – that, quite literally, is your homework”. Experts on board to help teach at Beer School include BrewDog co-founders Martin Dickie and Watt, malting and brewing scientist Dr Charlie Bamforth, Crown & Hops Brewery founders Teo Hunter and Beny Ashburn, vice-president of Alt Growth at BrewDog Sarah Warman, Cloudwater Brewery founder Paul Jones, chief of brewing operations at Urban Artifact Bret Kollman Baker and Good Beer Hunting editor and reporter Kate Bernot.
Wells & Co offers virtual tours of new home and tutored beer tasting: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co is offering virtual tours of his new home, Brewpoint. Alongside a live virtual brewery tour delivered via Zoom, customers can enjoy a tutored beer tasting of half a dozen new beers from the range, delivered by the brewers who crafted them. Tom Foddy, head of sales and marketing, said: “Opening a brewery during a pandemic is tough, but necessity is the mother of invention, and we couldn’t be happier with the virtual tour and tasting format we’ve created to bridge the gap until we’re able to invite guests to visit Brewpoint in person.” Customers can take part by buying a specific taster pack of six beers, complete with a branded glass, from Brewpoint’s online shop, then sign up for a tour date.
Alcohol-free drink producer Sea Arch Drinks secures investment to aid growth:Devon-based Sea Arch Drinks has secured an investment to help grow the alcohol-free producer further in the UK and overseas. Established in 2018, Sea Arch Drinks makes Sea Arch Coastal Juniper blend drink, which has met with the approval of Patrick Doyle, chief executive of duty free business International Diplomatic Supplies. Doyle, whose company is based in Dubai, contacted Sea Arch Drinks owners Geoff and Sarah Yates after trying the drink. Doyle said: “It is no secret the no and low-alcohol sector is growing worldwide. As a non-drinker, I have enjoyed some great alcohol-free beer but I’d tried several non-alcoholic spirits and was generally disappointed. However, when I tasted my first glass of Sea Arch and tonic, I was really impressed; in my opinion it is the best non-alcoholic botanical spirit available. I asked Geoff and Sarah for a meeting to discuss an investment in the brand and I’m pleased to say we have been able to reach an agreement.” Doyle, who has 30 years’ experience as a company director, including 24 years running International Diplomatic Supplies, will help to fund new brand extensions and innovations for Sea Arch Drinks.