Deep Blue secures £3m CBILS, sees sales recovery hampered by 10pm curfew, paid £7.3m for Harry Ramsden business: Deep Blue Restaurants, owner of the Deep Blue and Harry Ramsden’s brands, has secured £3m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to support the business through the coronavirus pandemic. Founder and chief executive James Low told Propel sales have broadly “recovered” but the latest government restrictions were hampering progress. The company also paid £7.3m to acquire the Harry Ramsden’s brand from Boparan Restaurant Holdings in August last year, which now consists of ten sites following the restructuring of the business and 17 franchises, and £921,000 for Fish & Chips @149, which has a portfolio of three outlets in Yorkshire and County Durham, in February 2019. The details were revealed in accounts filed by Deep Blue Restaurants for the year ending 24 September 2019. Low told Propel like-for-like sales in September this year were at 98.5% of 2019 levels but expressed concerns the government’s latest restrictions were hampering the recovery. He said: “We are delighted with the speed at which our business has recovered since the lock-down restrictions were eased. Our investment in training and other measures that were designed to ensure social distancing guidelines were observed paid dividends, resulting in a highly encouraging performance in August and September, which gave us justifiable cause for optimism. However, since the government announced its new measures, our sales have fallen by 20% on the previous year. While these new measures should not theoretically affect us at all – a large number of our restaurants are takeaways and our restaurants have very few customers at 10pm – the government has created a second wave of fear in the public mindset and the impact of it is clear to see. The curfew is a mistake and needs to be rethought.” Low praised the government’s supportive measures since lock-down but long-term measures need to be put in place that “will allow the hospitality industry to survive and prosper”, including a permanent reduction in VAT. In his report accompanying the accounts, Low said: “Management is focused on the following objectives – the development, both nationally and internationally of the Harry Ramsden’s franchise and licensing business; enhancement of the delivery business and the development of a delivery kitchens business; development of strategic partnerships aimed at achieving a progressive, structured growth strategy; and estate refurbishment but, primarily, the restoration of the iconic Harry Ramsden’s restaurants.” In the year that included one month’s contribution from the Harry Ramsden’s business, Deep Blue Restaurants saw turnover increase 37.2% to £16m for the year ending 24 September 2019, compared with £11.6m the previous year. Ebitda before share-based payment expenses (including central costs) rose 69.7% to £1.6m, compared with £908,000 the year before. Site Ebitda was up to £2.7m, compared with £1.9m the previous year.
Wagamama creates new chief experience officer role: Wagamama, the Emma Woods-led brand, has appointed Thomas Heier, its current people director, to the newly created role of chief experience officer, Propel has learned. It is understood The Restaurant Group-owned brand has created the new role to reflect the need to join up its customer and brand focus with people and the guest experience, especially in a world where Wagamama’s customers now connect with it through multiple channels. All of the brand’s insight, marketing, people and internal communication will now report to Heier, who joined the business in November 2017 from Travelodge, where he was head of HR. Following Heier’s new role, Matt Hudson, who was also previously at Travelodge, has been promoted from director of talent and people operations to people director. At the same time, Propel understands that Lisa Buckley, the brand’s UK operations director, is leaving the business to take up a new role in the sector. It is thought that, in the current economic climate, Wagamama has decided not to replace her role, and Nigel Sherwood, its chief operating officer, will take back the helm of day-to-day operations for the business.
Greene King appoints Andrew Gallagher as Locals marketing director: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed Andrew Gallagher as Locals marketing director, Propel has learned. Gallagher has responsibility for the overall marketing and campaign strategy for the division. He arrives from Domino’s Pizza, where he had been head of marketing for the international division for the past year. Gallagher has also previously held senior marketing roles at various sector businesses, including Ten Entertainment Group, French brasserie Côte and Papa John’s. Greene King announced earlier this year, it was moving from a centralised commercial and operations structure for its managed pub division to three divisional teams, each led by a managing director.
Peach sees spend per head rise 20% but September like-for-likes hit by 10pmcurfew and weather: Gastro-pub operator Peach has reported spend per head is up 20% but the 10pm curfew and weather change has seen like-for-likes drop 15% in September. The company, which operates 19 sites across England, said the pubs’ large gardens meant during July the business was able to recover some of the substantial losses it sustained from March to June, putting the business “well ahead” of last year in August. September has also been “profitable”. Founder Hamish Stoddart said: “Peach is in as good a place as any hospitality business. Work from home is a positive for our pubs, as are staycations and fewer people taking foreign holidays. Our late-night bar trade is not huge; our guest base is still coming out to eat but is missing the bar. We have a shorter menu and more specials. We are trading well ahead of Coffer numbers. We aren’t releasing exact numbers. We believe we will end up post covid-19 next summer with increased covers and spend per head. We will be close to breakeven over the winter period to April 2021 as long there aren’t more covid-19 regulations that scare our guest base or stop us trading. The 10pm curfew is just hurting all pubs and bars without any evidence of being beneficial to reducing covid-19 transmission. Christmas will a huge drop on previous years. A second national lock-down would be hugely costly and we presume supported in some form by the government. We are comfortable we have enough funding and free cash in place to survive most eventualities through working with our team and all our suppliers.” Having secured a £1.5m overdraft increase from HSBC, Peach has paid all its creditors and has now concluded deals and paid all of its landlords up to date. Stoddart provided the update as Peach reported turnover for 2019 was flat like-for-like at £27m, while operating profit before exceptional items was £423,000, down from £671,000 in 2018. Stoddart said this reflected the growing cost pressure on hospitality businesses in general between 2017 and 2019. He added: “We need to achieve increased like-for-like sales growth in our current pubs and we aim to find additional pubs that can be added to our portfolio. Peach is set up to do both through its strategic plan and the centre structure that has capacity to manage more pubs highly effectively.”
Ash leaves TRG to become Deliveroo director of restaurant growth and marketing: Elise Ash has stepped down as strategy and brand director at The Restaurant Group (TRG) to join Deliveroo as its new director of restaurant growth and marketing, Propel has learned. Ash initially joined TRG as brand director in the summer of 2018, but was promoted six months later to the role of strategy and brand director. She joined TRG after five years at SSP where she was the travel concessions operator’s head of commercial.
Tim Hortons plots big move in ‘the south’ starting with Milton Keynes drive-thru:Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons is to open its first site in “the south” – a drive-thru in Milton Keynes, Propel has learned. The restaurant is earmarked to open in December with many more planned for 2021. The 2,700 square foot site will offer a drive-thru service as well as space for 74 covers inside. It will also create more than 40 full and part-time jobs. The business has ambitions of opening in every major city and town in the UK by 2022 and will create more than 2,000 jobs by doing so. Kevin Hydes, chief commercial officer of Tim Hortons UK & Ireland, said of the launch: “The arrival of our Tim Hortons brand in the south of England has been a key part of the business growth plan. Despite challenging times for the hospitality sector, our drive-thru businesses have performed exceptionally well and our model is proving to be well attuned to the evolving needs of customers at this time. Our launch into Milton Keynes is just the start of our planned expansion throughout the UK, with many more exciting openings in the pipeline for 2021”. At the start of October, Tim Hortons announced it had submitted plans for a drive-thru in Dunfermline, Scotland, to take the place of a former Chiquito restaurant.
Rosa’s set to open in Finsbury Park: TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Cafe is looking to further expand its presence in the capital, with an opening in Finsbury Park, Propel has learned. The Gavin Adair-led business, which has reopened the majority of its 24-strong estate, has secured a site in the City North development next to Finsbury Park Station, for a planned opening before the end of the year. The company is also believed to be in talks to take the former Saigon restaurant unit on Nelson Road, Greenwich. The business recently opened in Queensway, as part of the West Walk Estate, and will soon open in The Cut, Waterloo. The company has reopened all of its restaurants for dine-in, except its Seven Dials site and its Lao Café business in Chandos Place, after keeping several open in the capital for delivery and collection during lock-down. It also operates two delivery kitchen sites with Deliveroo, in Blackwell and Crouch End. It also has a site lined up at the new Paradise development in Birmingham alongside Dishoom and Vinoteca. Thomas Rose, of P-Three, acts for Rosa’s.
Le Pain Quotidien UK reopens its entire estate: Le Pain Quotidien, the Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand, which was acquired out of administration earlier this year, has reopened its entire 16-strong estate, upgraded its delivery offer, developed a new autumn menu and launched a click-and-collect option. BrunchCo paid £500,000 to acquire 16 (15 in London and one in Oxford) of Le Pain Quotidien’s 26 UK sites through a pre-pack administration in June, with the deal seeing Steven Whibley, who was managing director of the brand at the turn of the decade, returning to the role. Other new hires include new Andrew Tottle (ex Ole & Steen) as head of food, and Faye Hance (ex-Wagamama and Five Guys), as head of people. Whibley said: “We wanted to create a buzz on our return to baking. We also wanted to remind our teams and customers that we are, first and foremost, a bakery that also happens to serve fresh, healthy, delicious food and, now, even better coffee. We worked hard while our doors were closed on reviewing what we can do better. We’ve looked to bring the right people around the table to create a quality all-day offering. Everything we do is done with a conscience, we care about our teams and we care about our customers and communities. We have a passion for real food and real choice, ethical sourcing, and a commitment to zero waste.” The company said it had a bigger range now available for delivery via Deliveroo and UberEats, and that it had launched a new online ordering platform to make click and collect “even faster and easier”. It said new at-home kits were coming soon as well, while its catering offer has also been improved and was not just for offices anymore. There are now meal deals, including lunch for six. Other innovations across the group include: refurbishing bakeries to make them more comfortable and safer, improving its retail offer, launching online ordering for order and pay at table and incorporating Tipjar QR codes allowing customers to give their entire tip to all team members.
Inception Group nears reopening of full estate, launches takeaway cocktail range: Inception Group, the London-based company, will open a further two of its 11 sites this week, leaving only its Maggie’s nightclub in Chelsea still closed. Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration in Covent Garden, reopens on Thursday (8 October), while Bunga Bunga Covent Garden follows on Friday (9 October). At the same time, the company has launched a takeaway bottled cocktail range, which has been produced with Bacardi UK, to sell before its customers leave at 10pm. Propel understands the company, which was founded in 2009 by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, will also be announcing some at home experiences in the coming weeks.
Nando’s to help pay for customers’ meals every Wednesday in October: Nando’s will help pay the bill for thousands of diners every Wednesday throughout October. Each restaurant will select one table at random and give customers who eat at that table a discount code ranging between £10 and £20. Customers won’t know if they have been chosen as a discount recipient until they pay. There are 12,500 chances to win during the scheme that runs from Wednesday (7 October) until Wednesday, 28 October, and is only available for dine-in orders.
Buzzworks thanks staff with £20,000 gift card donation: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings has thanked staff members for their hard work since venues reopened by rewarding them with £20,000 in gift cards. The “Eat Out Because You Helped Out” initiative will see its people receive up to £50 each to spend in a Buzzworks venue of their choice. Managing director Kenny Blair said: “We would not be in the position we are in without our dedicated Buzzworks team. These past few months have really brought this home more than ever and although the end is not quite in sight, we are keen to reward our team who worked tirelessly reopening the business. We are proud to provide the ‘Eat Out Because You Helped Out’ initiative.”
Street food collective Kerb to serve food at Levy’s UK-wide high-profile sites:Levy UK, the hospitality arm of Compass Group, has inked a deal with street food collective Kerb to bring exciting food options to Levy’s sporting, events and conference venues. The move will also help Kerb – which operates six street food markets across the capital, including its flagship indoor site, Seven Dials Market – expand into cities outside London. Levy UK runs catering at high-profile venues including Premier League football clubs such as Chelsea, Spurs, Leicester City and Aston Villa; Twickenham and Principality stadiums; rugby clubs Harlequins and Leicester Tigers; and Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis club. Levy UK managing director Jon Davies said: “Kerb is completely unrivalled in its passion, expertise and experience. It is exciting to support Kerb’s ambition to grow its footprint into other cities in the UK via our network of venues across the country. By working directly with the best in the business, we can help our clients to move with even greater speed in accessing our nation’s best new food talent and continue to provide the broadest and boldest choices that best reflect the rapidly changing tastes and expectations of customers.” Kerb chief executive Simon Mitchell added: “From our roots as a small group of like-minded street food traders in King’s Cross, Kerb’s mission has always centred on providing our members with the best possible platforms to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.”
By Chloe ‘fish’ and chips available for delivery: Plant-based brand By Chloe has launched delivery of its popular vegan fish and chips across London. The move is part of the Qoot Restaurant Group-owned business’s “Fish-Free Friday” drive, which encourages people to ditch fish and try a more sustainable alternative. New York-founded By Chloe has restaurants in Covent Garden, Tower Bridge and Oxford Street. The dish features pressed tofu in crunchy batter, chips, mushy minted peas and “vegenaise” tartare sauce. Brand partner Loui Blake said: “Our fish and chips is one of our best-selling dishes in London. With so many people replacing animal products in favour of plant-based, we’re incredibly pleased to be able to offer a more sustainable take on a national favourite. Fish-Free Fridays will help raise awareness of the immediate need to reduce our impact on the oceans.” By Chloe launched delivery kitchens to meet the demands imposed by covid-19. The fish and chips dish will also be available for a discounted price every Friday, with 10% off or two for £14.50 with a drink. Fish-Free Friday offers will be available across all three London stores, as well as delivery locations in Crouch End, Victoria and Clapham. The deal is available throughout October.
Wells & Co begins production at new £14m brewery as it offers taste of development: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co has begun production at its new £14m brewery and is giving customers a taste of the development. The new hospitality venue – Brewpoint – also houses a pub-restaurant, retail shop, coffee roastery, company offices and a visitor centre. Brewpoint’s 30,000-hectolitre brewing capability will enable the creation of a range of beer styles. While trading restrictions imposed on the hospitality sector due to covid-19 mean Brewpoint’s full launch will wait until the spring, the external garden area of the site in Fairhill is opening for 11 weeks, offering a pop-up bar. Managing director Peter Wells said: “While we’d love to throw open the doors and welcome everyone in for the full Brewpoint experience, safety-related limitations and the ongoing uncertainty around trading during covid-19 mean it simply wouldn’t be a responsible decision at this time. But people will be able to get a real flavour for Brewpoint via the ground-breaking beer, food, retail opportunities and entertainment we’ll have on offer. Just as we’ve done within our pub estate throughout 2020, we’ll be staying on top of evolving government regulations and taking every precaution possible to ensure ‘A Taste Of Brewpoint’ offers a safe yet thoroughly enjoyable experience for our friends in the community.”