Strong sales across board driving Wetherspoon like-for-like growth: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel strong sales across the board are helping drive its like-for-like growth. Like-for-like sales increased 7.6% and total sales were up 8.4% in the 13 weeks to 28 April 2019. Year to date, like-for-like sales have increased 6.8% and total sales have risen 7.6%. Martin said: “Gin, craft beer, coffee, ale and soft drinks have all been strong. The ‘old favourites’ such as fish and chips are doing well but so are smashed avocado muffins and vegetarian meals. We try to keep price rises as modest as possible.” Martin said the company has now spent about a quarter of a billion pounds on freehold reversions in the past six or seven years, with £70.9m in the current financial year. He added: “It increases financial risk through exposure to banks but makes modest savings on rent versus interest. I believe further spending on that front for the rest of the year will be modest.” Wetherspoon is set to open five pubs in the current year and Martin hopes the rate will eventually step up again as the company reorganises its estate having previously over-expanded in some areas. He added: “Maybe we’ll open around a dozen in future years – but it’s difficult to be precise.” Of the company’s third-quarter results, Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said: “The stronger like-for-like outcome in the quarter would imply very low single-digit upside to our forecasts for the full year. However, we would note the comparator in the fourth quarter is more difficult. We recently moved Wetherspoon to ‘Hold’, given its premium valuation and the lack of short-term profit momentum, but we continue to believe it is one of the best operating models, evidenced by its strong top-line growth. We currently forecast full-year profit before tax of £102m, down 5% year-on-year.”
TRG shakes up Frankie & Benny’s menu to target ‘grown-up’ tastes: The Restaurant Group (TRG) is to shake up its Frankie & Benny’s menu to focus on “new customer tastes and a more grown-up audience”. The Italian American brand will introduce dishes designed to not only appeal to families but adults on a date or evening out with friends, with an emphasis on the Friday and Saturday night market. Of the 26 new “grown-up” dishes, seven are vegan, making a total of 22 vegan dishes on the menu including a vegan full English designed to expand the brand’s breakfast offering. There are also four vegetarian dishes and a new range of salads and desserts. The menu will be available from Tuesday (14 May) and include five new alcohol-free drinks, including a prosecco, spritz and mimosa, following customer demand for alternatives to soft drinks. Frankie & Benny’s head of food development Holly Davies said: “Following the great success of our extensive vegan range launched in January, we are creating further ways for our customers to enjoy every aspect of our menu across every day. We look forward to our guests’ reaction to this new menu as it’s the first of many exciting ideas we plan to put in front of them this year.”
Vinoteca reports strong sales growth in 2019: Wine bar and restaurant concept Vinoteca has reported strong sales growth in 2018/19, with total sales in the year to the end of March 2019 up 5.8% to £7.57m. The business, which operates five sites in the capital, saw good overall like-for-like sales growth in the year, particularly at its venues in King’s Cross and Bloomberg’s headquarters. Earlier this year, the company confirmed plans to open its first bar restaurant outside London as part of the Paradise development in Birmingham city centre in early 2020. Managing director Charlie Young said: “We are delighted with the performance last year, particularly at King’s Cross and Bloomberg. We are incredibly excited about our plans to open at the Paradise scheme in Birmingham. Vinoteca is increasingly the wet-led tenant of choice in these prestigious developments.” In March, Propel revealed Vinoteca had appointed advisors as it looks to secure funding for its next stage of growth. The company, which was founded by Brett Woonton, Young and Elena Ares in 2005, appointed Dow Schofield Watts London to advise on funding options.
Three Joes reports record sales: Sourdough pizza restaurant Three Joes, co-founded by Tim Hall, founder of London-based healthy eating brand Pod, has reported record sales and is firming up its next phase of openings. Hall, who co-owns Three Joes with ex-Pod food director Emma Blackmore and former Byron operations director Peter Bruton, said: “We are delivering some rock ‘n’ roll numbers at the moment, with 20% like-for-like revenue growth at our launch site in Fareham and revenue more than 30% ahead of budget in our new Winchester site. Three Joes is, amazingly, already the number-one pizza restaurant in Hampshire on TripAdvisor and is rating at more than 95% on Google review. We focus on ingredient quality, menu innovation and storming service and customers are flocking to this ‘independent’ experience as opposed to dining with a chain restaurant. We have spent the past few months talking to intelligent capital partners with a true understanding of hospitality and, as a result, we are now in a position to open Three Joes in some exciting new territories. Emma and I left Pod and the food-to-go sector four years ago to focus on casual dining and it feels like we’re beginning to generate the sort of momentum we created at Pod before I resigned in 2015.” Three Joes said it would announce details of its next phase of openings in the next few months. Earlier this year the company raised £510,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, which Hall previously said should be “thereabouts enough” to boost Three Joes’ estate to five outlets.
Coffeesmiths Collective strengthens management team as it eyes further acquisitions: Coffeesmiths Collective, the parent company of Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (DoCaSA), has further strengthened its management team by appointing two directors focused on acquisitions. David Bateman, previously managing director of Wimbledon Brewery, who also spent 18 years at Paperchase including stints as chief financial officer and chief operating officer, has become managing director of mergers and acquisitions and integration, while Pru Smithson, formerly finance director at Grace Belgravia, has become mergers and acquisitions director. Earlier this year, Coffeesmiths Collective appointed new chief operating officer Mark Ellis, who spent more than ten years at Starbucks, most recently as director of retail operations services EMEA, and more than five years at McDonald’s. Ellis’ appointment was followed by the hiring of Bharti Radix, formerly of Draft House and Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, as group finance director. Last week, the company announced it had appointed Toby Smith, who recently stepped down as chief executive of Novus and served as chief executive of Stonegate Pub Company, as its UK chief executive. The business operates more than 130 outlets in the UK including its own bakery and roastery. The company’s flagship brand, DoCaSA, has coffee shops in the UK and US. During the past six months the business has been strengthening its presence in London and the rest of the UK through a number of acquisitions, including acquiring a majority stake in Brighton-based, seven-strong Small Batch Coffee.
Bross Bagels hires chairman as it looks to add 15 sites in next 12 months: Bross Bagels, the Edinburgh-based concept, is planning to hit the expansion trail during the next 12 months. The company, which was founded by Larah Bross in August 2017, will open its fourth site this summer, in Edinburgh, but has ambitious plans to add a further 15 locations in the coming year. It currently operates two sites in the Scottish capital and one in Leith. The company has also appointed Andrew Montague, chief executive of investment, development and e-commerce incubator Melbury Capital, as chairman. Montague will help and advise the Bross Bagels team on property, expansion, finance and investment. Bross grew up in Montreal and lived in New York for four years, where she became used to seeing a bagel store on every street corner. When she relocated to Edinburgh she teamed up with organic bakery Breadshare to create Bross Bagels, which combines Montreal-style bagels with New York-style fillings.
Coco di Mama set for Bishopsgate: Azzurri Group-owned, quick service Italian concept Coco di Mama is to further strengthen its central London estate with an opening in Bishopsgate. The 21-strong brand will open its next site at 55 Bishopsgate this summer. The concept has also signed to open at Southbank Place, a redevelopment of the Shell Centre in London by Braeburn Estates, a joint venture between Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar. The brand has been led by Jim Attwood, formerly of Costa Coffee, since October. Attwood joined the brand after nine years at Whitbread, most recently as partnerships director for Costa UK and Ireland.
Leon and Honest Burgers backer acquires Northern Monk stake: Active Partners, the backer of Leon, Honest Burgers and Caravan, has acquired a stake in Leeds-based craft brewer Northern Monk. Active has acquired a less than 25% stake in the business, which was founded in 2013, for an undisclosed sum. Northern Monk said it had been working with Active for “some time” to “properly understand their business and for them to understand ours”. In a blog on its website, Northern Monk stated: “Like many of our peers we’ve had numerous approaches from Big Beer acquirers, investment firms and the rest. It has always been a resounding ‘no’ from us. We have a strong independent spirit and if a potential investor doesn’t share our values or our vision for the future, we’re not interested. Active is deeply involved in the companies it supports and makes long-term investments in truly authentic and visionary brands. The passion for the businesses it works with has already led to collaborations we’re really excited about. Active has wholly bought into our vision for the business, from our Northern roots to our unwavering commitment to community and a values-driven approach. We are looking forward to a new chapter at Northern Monk.” As well as boosting the brand’s capacity, the new funding will be used to allow it to open more of its Refectory bars and create more jobs at its home in Holbeck. It also plans, with Active’s help, to become one of the first UK brewers to be B-Corp accredited.
Last-minute restaurant deals app Wriggle hits £600,000 crowdfunding target a day after launch: Last-minute restaurant deals app Wriggle has hit its £600,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs a day after the campaign launched. The company, which was launched in Bristol in 2014 by Rob Hall, acts as a restaurant discovery tool and offers users same-day discounts to fill excess capacity. It is offering 10.45% equity in return for the investment to fund its next stage of growth, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £5,140,320. So far, 186 investors have pledged £607,755. The pitch states: “Wriggle is a market-leading eat-out transactional platform in three cities – Bristol, Brighton and Cardiff – with a model currently generating more than 20,000 transactions per month (March 2019). After keeping things tight and proving our model, Wriggle is ready to scale up and attack our vision of creating a national consumer champion, supporting the best eat-out establishments across the country. This round of investment is to achieve three things. Firstly, geographic growth with launches in new cities across the UK. Secondly, to grow revenue within existing cities. We have only just begun in existing markets and will continue to go deeper. As an example we estimate our largest market, Bristol, is currently one-26th of its total opportunity, so there’s plenty of room for growth. Thirdly, we will substantially grow our tech team as we look to build a suite of tools to help the eat-out industry market itself – each providing additional subscription revenue opportunities.” In 2016, Wriggle raised almost £450,000 on Seedrs having raised £160,000 on the platform in 2014.
Sutton and Sons converts vegan fish and chip restaurant in Hackney to fried chicken concept: Sutton and Sons has converted its vegan fish and chip restaurant in Hackney to a fried chicken concept. The company has launched Peck! Peck! at the site in Graham Road. The concept offers 100% British free-range buttermilk chicken in American-style crumb or grilled and served with peri-peri chilli sauce. The menu includes chicken burgers, buffalo wings and sides as well as a vegan burger made using fried seitan with cheese and facon. The space includes communal seating for 20, while it serves beer from nearby Crate Brewery, reports Hot Dinners. Sutton and Sons opened the Hackney site in June 2016. Its other fish and chip restaurants are in Islington and Stoke Newington.
Bella Italia launches largest menu: Casual Dining Group brand Bella Italia has launched its largest menu to date. It has been developed by executive chef Vittorio Lettieri and includes more than 20 options for vegans, vegetarians and customers seeking gluten-free and dairy free options. A number of new dishes build on the brand’s lower-calorie range including Gamberoni Spirali, a dish with less than 300 calories that features spiralised carrot, golden beetroot, courgette and king prawns in a spicy garlic and tomato sauce, and three salads with less than 600 calories. There are also a number of traditional Italian dishes including Cacio E Pepe, a dish dating to Roman times. Bella Italia head of brand Marc Saunders said: “Ethical and healthy dishes are becoming increasingly important factors in where consumers decide to eat, which has been an important influence in our latest menu innovation. In a highly competitive market you have to continually evolve to stand out on the high street. We’ll always do this while staying true to our identity and brand DNA.”
Portuguese food and wine concept Bar Douro to double up with Broadgate launch: Portuguese food and wine concept Bar Douro is to open its second London site. Max Graham, whose Churchill’s Port family business has been making wine in the Douro Valley for two centuries, launched Bar Douro at Flat Iron Square in 2016. He will double up this summer by opening a site at the Finsbury Avenue development in Broadgate in the City. There will be an open kitchen and bar with counter dining plus 26 covers inside and 22 on a terrace. Bar Douro City’s menu will include snacks and large and small plates, with desserts including pastel de nata – a Portuguese pastry with egg custard filling. Wine, spirits and liqueurs will come from Portugal alongside craft beer that isn’t available elsewhere in the UK. Graham said: “We are excited to open a second Bar Douro, continuing our mission to be a platform for Portugal in London showcasing the best of Portuguese food and wine.”
Starbucks gains $2.3bn in free advertising from Game Of Thrones gaffe: Starbucks has gained an estimated $2.3bn in free advertising in the past few days after a coffee cup mistakenly appeared in a Game Of Thrones episode. The cup was spotted by fans during a feast scene in the hit television show, with photos and videos going viral within hours on social media. Although the brand label on the cup was unclear, many fans speculated it was Starbucks. Stacy Jones, chief executive of marketing company Hollywood Branded, told CNBC: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime collision of opportunity for Starbucks but this is just the tip of the iceberg, because what isn’t being monitored or estimated is the word of mouth and social media on top.” Noah Mallin, of media agency Wavemaker, said a product placement in the show could cost six figures, while media and advertising companies would have a “hard time ever reproducing this type of fervour organically”. He added: “This was lightning in a bottle.”
Little Creatures to launch King’s Cross micro-brewery and taproom this month:Australian craft brewer Little Creatures is to open its micro-brewery, taproom and restaurant in London’s King’s Cross this month. The 557 square metre flagship site will launch at the Coals Drop Yard development showcasing the brand’s beer alongside collaborations with London-based brewers such as Fourpure. The beer will be complemented by all-day brunch, sharing platters and gourmet burgers. The micro-brewery will be led by head brewer Laura Smith, who has worked for Lion, the food and beverage company that owns Little Creatures, for 21 years. Toby Knowles, Lion regional director for UK and Europe, said: “London has been home to a renaissance in world-class craft breweries in recent years and it’s exciting to bring Little Creatures to such a vibrant market. Our aim for this venue is to embed the Little Creatures brand in the community, provide greater awareness and ultimately market the brand to an audience who already have a real interest in craft. Following the success of recent site launches in Asia, we can’t wait to introduce the brand to UK consumers and create a spiritual home for Little Creatures in London.” Founded in Fremantle in 2000, Little Creatures has two breweries in Australia and taprooms in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Taipei.
East Sussex-based multi-site operator acquires Burwash pub: East Sussex-based multi-site operator Paul Nolan has added to his portfolio after acquiring a pub in the village of Burwash. Nolan, who runs several sites in the area, has bought The Bear Inn from Patrick O’Callaghan off an asking price of £1.45m through agent Christie & Co. The grade II-listed property comprises eight chalet-style bedrooms, a bar with capacity for 70 covers, a 100-cover restaurant, and a conservatory. James Hughes, senior business agent at Christie & Co’s Maidstone office, who handled the sale, said: “This traditional pub and coaching inn attracted significant interest.”
Former Sexy Fish general manager behind new Turkish restaurant in Knightsbridge: A Turkish-style restaurant has opened in Knightsbridge, central London. The Mantl is the brainchild of operations director Serdar Demir and Emre Gunes, former general manager of Caprice Holdings’ Sexy Fish. The 74-cover restaurant in Brompton Road offers eight covers outside and features ambient lighting and leather-bound booth seating. Dishes cooked on an open grill include kebabs and pistachio lamb chops. Wine is available by the glass alongside spirits and house cocktails.
Just Eat unveils global creative platform: Online food delivery business Just Eat has unveiled its new global creative platform – Did Somebody Say Just Eat – as it seeks to “capture the joy Just Eat brings to any occasion”. Developed by creative agency McCann, the creative is designed to consolidate Just Eat’s marketing by giving it a “simple yet bold platform that resonates across multiple markets”. Global brand director Susan O’Brien said: “Our new creative platform is all about making Just Eat synonymous with takeaway delivery. It celebrates how we deliver not only food but the delight people feel when their favourite takeaway arrives, no matter where in the world they are.”
Former musicians to launch motel-inspired craft bar and kitchen in Bethnal Green: David Burgess and Liam Tolan, former musicians in indie bands The Brights and The Light Assembly, are to launch a motel-inspired craft bar and kitchen in Bethnal Green, east London. Fugitive Motel will open next month overlooking Bethnal Green Gardens as a cafe and co-working space offering coffee from local roaster Climpson & Sons. In the evening the bar will offer 14 craft beer lines, including low and no-alcohol brews, kombucha on tap, and sourdough pizza in a motel-style pizza lounge complete with shuffleboard. Influenced by US motels from the 1950s and 1960s, the 140-cover space will seat another 25 on a terrace. The pizza lounge will feature sharing booths that feature a motel-style “vacancy” light that can be turned on or off depending on whether occupants would like others to join them.
Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini shares secrets of success in exclusive interview:Tuscan butcher and Bistecca Fiorentina icon Dario Cecchini has shared some of the secrets of his success in an exclusive interview. Cecchini talks to Mario C Bauer, former Vapiano executive board member and Curtice Brothers co-founder, as part of the Curtice Brothers’ “Teddy Talks” series. As well as discussing meat, ketchup and “rock ‘n’ roll”, Cecchini reveals how he has brought the spotlight back on butchers and learned a lifelong lesson or two. Propel readers have been given exclusive UK access to the 40-minute interview, which can be seen here. Cecchini helped a group of restaurant leaders, including Bauer and Sticks ‘n’ Sushi UK boss Andreas Karlsson, to launch an artisan organic ketchup under the resurrected Curtice Brothers brand. Brothers Simeon and Edgar Curtice founded the brand in Rochester, New York, in 1868 but the name was abandoned in the 1940s.
 
Costa Coffee launches summer menu: Costa Coffee, owned by Coca-Cola, has launched a summer menu featuring a new range of iced and cold coffee including limited edition Strawberry Cold Brew. New food items include British harissa chicken and grain salad; mozzarella and tomato panini; roast chicken salad sandwich; and raspberry and blackcurrant ripple cake. The menu also sees the return of the “frostino”, an ice-based blended drink that features a new recipe and toppings. Costa Coffee commercial marketing director Eric Tavoukdjian said: “We have created a menu that combines fantastic new innovations while not forgetting fans’ favourites. Whatever the weather, we’re confident we have created the perfect mix.”
Zonal appoints enterprise sales manager: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has appointed an enterprise sales manager for its expanding Marketing Technologies division. Darren Jackson has joined from property management solution provider Guestline and will assume the role following David Charlton’s promotion to commercial director. Jackson will focus on growing Zonal’s market share in customer engagement products, including its online booking tool liveRES, integrated table and events management, and order and pay solutions. Jackson said: “I have been genuinely impressed by Zonal’s technology and product innovation – it’s at another level. Being able to integrate modules such as online bookings and table management software with EPOS is a huge benefit for restaurant operators so it’s incredibly exciting to be part of such a dynamic company.” Charlton added: “Darren is well respected within the sector and I am delighted to welcome him to the Zonal team as we continue to develop innovative solutions that give greater visibility and insight to operators to help them drive profitability and provide a better customer experience.”