Tim Martin – average sales in Ireland higher than in the UK: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel average sales per pub at his five venues in the Republic of Ireland are now higher than in the UK. The company plans to open four further pubs in Ireland before summer 2019 – two in Dublin, one in Carlow and one in Waterford. Martin sees parallels with the Brexit situation. Diageo declined to supply Guinness in the Republic at the same price as in the UK so Wetherspoon opted to stock Beamish instead – with no obvious effect on sales. Martin said: “My dad worked for Diageo for many years – they effectively paid for my education – but I said at the time Diageo declined to supply I would never speak to them about it again, ever. But it’s important to stay friends. We took the same approach when the supplier of Peroni declined to supply us with Peroni on draught – it’s important to stay friends. Our approach to Brexit should be to say ‘sorry, quite busy at the moment and we’re not going to pay you anything – that’s the end of negotiations’. When you prioritise a deal, you are in difficulty because all the power is in the hands of the EU.”
Wimpy enters home delivery market as trial restaurants see 20% uplift in sales: Wimpy has entered the home delivery market after a series of trials saw an average increase in sales of at least 20% per restaurant. Two-fifths (40%) of the company’s 74 restaurants now offer the service and the figure will rise to at least half of the estate by Christmas. Wimpy has been working with UberEats and Just Eat and recently signed an agreement with Deliveroo, which has expanded the service further. Operations manager Simon Noble said: “We have been delighted by the uptake of the home delivery service, which is helping introduce Wimpy to a new, younger audience and making it easy for existing customers to enjoy our fabulous food from the comfort of their own homes. Our franchisees are thrilled, those enjoying the most success say it is like having a virtual restaurant or an eighth day of the week, which is why we plan to offer home delivery through as many of our restaurants as possible.” Initial trials in selected areas began in late 2017 and these have been extended as home delivery networks have grown. Future plans include continuing to increase the number of Wimpy sites that can offer home delivery. The service offers a slightly reduced menu but includes traditional favourites such as the original quarter pounder with cheese. In line with Wimpy’s move towards increased sustainability, all food is delivered in recyclable cardboard packaging.
Tim Hortons announces first UK franchise partner: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons has announced its first franchisee in the UK and Ireland. Graeme and Lisa Tobias will become the first partners to operate the brand when they open a drive-thru in Stenhousemuir, Scotland, before the end of the year. The site will be the first of a number of Tim Hortons drive-thru restaurants the Tobias’ plan to open and operate in Scotland. SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons, opened a first venue in Argyle Street, Glasgow, in June 2017 and has launched other sites since in and around Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Manchester. Kevin Hydes, chief finance and commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “We have seen great demand from many businesses interested in becoming franchise partners and, after a thorough selection process, we are delighted to welcome Graeme and Lisa Tobias and their team to the Tim Hortons family. Graeme and Lisa are experienced, successful operators and we believe they will deliver the Tim Hortons brand in Stenhousemuir and in other locations in the future to excellent effect. We’re really looking forward to growing the business together.” Graeme Tobias added: “We are thrilled to be working with Tim Hortons and excited about the opportunity to open our first drive-thru restaurant for the people of Stenhousemuir. We have initial plans to open a cluster of sites in the next 12 months and work with the Tim Hortons UK team for many years to come.” Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where everyone would “feel at home”.
Douglas Jack – TRG investors need to ask the questions that haven’t been answered over Wagamama deal: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said The Restaurant Group (TRG) investors need to ask the questions that haven’t been answered following the company’s £315m fully underwritten rights issue for the purchase of Wagamama. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on TRG’s shares with a target price of 250p, Jack said: “The company wants to issue 290 million shares on a 13 new for nine old basis at 108.5p. The directors, who only own 0.07% of the company, will take up their shares. The company has again said the rights issue is fully underwritten but, of course, it still needs the approval of its shareholders, many of which are income and value orientated. The rights issue price represents a 56.9% discount to the closing middle market price of TRG of 251.8p per existing ordinary share of the company on 9 November 2018, and a 35.1% discount to the theoretical ex-rights price of 167.1p. The company reiterated its previous trading update of a 2.2% decline in like-for-like sales after 42 weeks, emphasising the summer weather and World Cup as the issues rather than the other factors that have caused 33 company voluntary arrangements and administrations by restaurant companies over the past two years. In relation to Wagamama, all the emphasis is on like-for-like sales but investors want more information on costs and profits. Profits are now expected to be not less than £50m versus our forecast of £51.5m. There is little time for decisions to be made, with proxy votes due in just 14 days. We would therefore encourage investors to ask questions that are not addressed by the announcement. These include what assumption changes drove the deal to be downgraded to dilutive in the first year; can you adjust the 13.2 times Ebitda multiple to reflect 5% to 10% of Wagamama’s leases ending over the next five years; how profitable are these sites; why did Wagamama’s rent per site rise 25% over the past two years; how do you achieve £22m of synergies with Wagamama being run autonomously; how do you grow Wagamama’s like-for-like sales long term if the sites are now trading at full capacity at peak times; where do you anticipate the combined labour ratio moving to from the current level of 36% of sales; how dependent are like-for-like sales on delivery and how profitable is delivery; does management believe it can simultaneously integrate Wagamama, integrate pub acquisitions, invest in new digital channels, expand Wagamama in the US and franchises internationally and not be distracted in the attempt to turn around Frankie & Benny’s, Coast to Coast and Chiquito?”
Inglenook Inns & Taverns aims to build 20-strong estate as it acquires 15th site, fourth with Star Pubs & Bars: North west pub operator Inglenook Inns & Taverns has said it aims to build a 20-strong estate after acquiring its 15th site. The company has signed a “substantive” lease to take on The Crown in the Staffordshire village of Alrewas – its fourth venue with Star Pubs & Bars. A £270,000 joint investment will see the pub refurbished and the garden revamped. Parts of the building date to the 16th century and work will retain and renovate features such as beams, timber flooring and a snug. A kitchen extension will enable the pub to serve a menu of pub classics as well as specials. Inglenook Inns & Taverns will also introduce local ale alongside a hand-picked wine menu, a premium gin selection and a whisky bar. While trade is normally 75% wet/25% dry at its sites, Inglenook Inns & Taverns expects it to be roughly 50/50 at The Crown. Director James Waddington said: “Twenty is the optimum size for us right now as we like to be hands-on with the pubs. We consider all kinds of locations – village, suburban and town.” Star Pubs & Bars’ flexibility in creating agreements that work for the individual pub and our shared focus on premiumisation and willingness to invest makes us ideal partners.” Alun Johnson, Star Pubs & Bars operations director for the north Midlands, added: “Inglenook Inns & Taverns has a proven track record of turning round underperforming pubs in affluent village locations similar to The Crown’s. It has made an impressive start at The Crown while running the pub on a temporary basis before the investment. We’ve got a number of pubs in the region we’re looking to invest in and we look forward to developing this model further with Inglenook Inns & Taverns.”
AMT launches 100% bio-compostable coffee cup and lid: AMT Coffee, which operates concessions at transport hubs and is owned by the McCallum-Toppin family, has launched a range of 100% bio-compostable coffee cups and lids made from sugar crop waste. The 12oz cup and lid is available from the company’s estate of more than 50 coffee bars in the UK. An industry first, the cup will naturally break down at room temperature and fully decompose within one year – the plastic-lined cups and lids used by most operators can take decades to break down. AMT Coffee managing director Alistair McCallum-Toppin said: “It has taken years of research and development to source a fully bio-compostable coffee cup and lid. Thanks to new green-focused technology and our demand for change, we are delighted to introduce our new 100% bio-compostable coffee cups and lids across all AMT Coffee bars. We hope our message is heard loud and clear this Christmas and New Year by our customers and competitors, who could have a far bigger impact than us if they help make the change.”
Premier Inn overhauls customer service model: Whitbread-owned Premier Inn has changed the way it views and delivers customer service after a research project helped it improve its level of return visits. The company has also changed the way it targets, motivates, trains and rewards staff at all levels. Working with social insights agency Listen + Learn, Premier Inn’s insights team analysed two-and-a-half years of data including behavioural, socio-demographic, loyalty and post-stay surveys and looked at 2,500 TripAdvisor reviews of its own hotels and those of its competitors. Listen + Learn then mapped the service customer journey using 6,000 randomly selected TripAdvisor reviews, which fed into the overall strategy and helped Premier Inn define the “moments of truth” it is now focusing on, reports Marketing Week. Premier Inn has developed predictive models to explore the impact service has on guests so it can segment those who rely heavily on service compared with other drivers. The findings were shared with 1,000 hotel managers, who filtered it to 30,000 hotel teams. Premier Inn said the move had helped instil a “service-first” culture from ground level to the board room. All teams are now incentivised by customer service scores, with targets set at individual hotels using the understanding of current levels and potential for growth.
Everards gets final approval for new-look headquarters: Leicestershire brewer and retailer Everards has been granted final approval for its new-look headquarters. Outline permission has already been granted for the project on land at Narborough Road South and Soar Valley Way in Enderby. The reserved matters application, which was approved by Blaby District Council, includes new-look plans for the brewery and office building. The first phase of the scheme includes a new headquarters as well as a pub, cafe, cycle centre and restaurant. The revised permission would see the brewery and office building also incorporate the previously separate beer hall, reports Insider Media. Work has already started on the cycle centre and cafe at the Everards Meadows site. A council document stated: “The redesigned brewery/office/beer hall would have a more modern appearance than that previously approved by making use of flat roofs, glazed curtain walling and metal-clad panels. The three-storey headquarters would include a beer hall, offices, accommodation and the brewery, which would take up a large part of the building’s footprint. Even with the incorporation of the public house element, the new building would be sited in a similar position to the previously approved brewery/office building and have a similar visual size and scale.”
Tonkotsu to open tenth London site, in Ealing this month: London-based ramen specialist Tonkotsu is to open its tenth site in the capital, in Ealing on Friday, 30 November. The 50-cover, 1,500 square foot restaurant will launch in the new Dickens Yard development spanning two floors with seating on both and featuring an open kitchen and a bar-top made from recycled chopsticks. Alongside the brand’s signature homemade noodle ramen, gyoza and Japanese appetisers, new dishes will include miso mushroom ramen, improved Tokyo ramen, and yuzu mixed greens. The bar will offer craft beer, sake and cocktails. Tonkotsu co-founder Ken Yamada said: “It is staggering to think we’re opening our tenth site in London – home to thousands of Japanese people and in the heart of a beautiful new development. Ealing is our most neighbourhood site to date and there is already so much support for our arrival.” Managing director Stephen Evans added: “With the creation of Dickens Yard and the opening of Crossrail, Ealing has further strengthened its position as a busy, cosmopolitan centre and one we are proud to be part of.” Yamada and Emma Reynolds launched Tonkotsu in 2012. As well as its soon to be ten London sites, with plans to open an 11th in Peckham early next year, the company operates a ramen bar in Selfridges Birmingham.
KFC’s Christmas advert ‘puts turkey in its place’: KFC has unveiled a Christmas campaign that hits back at the centrepiece of festive meals – the turkey. The adverts remind people that although turkey may take the spotlight on Christmas Day, chicken “rules the roost for the rest of the year”. The work, created by agency Mother, will run across television, online, cinema, outdoor and press throughout November and December. In a 60-second film that features soundtrack The Ecstasy Of Gold from classic spaghetti western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, a chicken sets out on a wintry journey, where it meets its ultimate nemesis – a turkey. The two birds battle it out but the chicken wins thanks to its “swaggering attitude”. KFC marketing director Monica Pool told Campaign: “We close our restaurants on the 25th, allowing turkey to have its moment in the sun. Every other day of the year, though, you needn’t worry, KFC will be there.”
‘Skinny’ drinks brands launch crowdfunding campaigns for expansion: Two drinks brands that focus on “skinny” alternatives to wine and beer have launched crowdfunding campaigns for expansion. Manchester-based Skinny Brands has launched a $400,000 fund-raise on Seedrs. The company is offering 3.83% equity in return for investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £10m. Skinny Brands was founded by Tom Bell and Gary Conway in 2015 with a focus on creating a range of “better-for-you” alcohol alternatives. The company launched Skinny Lager in late 2016, a 4% ABV drink that has “35% fewer calories than the average lager”. It has also launched Skinny Cider, which is 5% ABV, with both drinks vegan, kosher and gluten-free. Skinny Brands recently launched in Australia and has hired former Kopparberg global sales director Adrian Hirst to spearhead growth in the UK and EU. The business has raised £1.7m through a network of private investors, some with “extensive experience in the alcohol industry and in building global brands”. Skinny Brands is aiming for £1.4m turnover this year, which would be a 211% increase year-on-year. It is seeking funds to employ “country managers” in Australia and the US, where it aims to establish distribution rights deals in five key states. In the UK, it aims to increase on-trade presence and has a London strategy that includes “bar takeovers”. Meanwhile, Thomson & Scott, which has a portfolio of low-calorie, vegan sparkling wine such as Skinny Champagne and Skinny Prosecco, has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. It is offering 3.61% equity in return for investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £8m. Thomson & Scott is expanding rapidly in major territories including the US, South Africa, New Zealand and South America. The company was founded by Amanda and Ian Thomson, while Patrik Franzen, who co-owns London bar group Barworks, is a key investor and advisor. The company will use funds raised to “challenge the drinks industry again in 2019” by launching an alcohol-free, organic, vegan sparkling wine.
US franchisees hire high-profile lawyer as Papa John’s struggles continue:Papa John’s franchisees in the US have hired industry specialist attorney Robert Zarco, of Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowski & Brito, to represent them during discussions with their parent company. The move follows another disappointing quarter in which like-for-like sales fell 9.8%. Papa John’s has been struggling following a year of poor public sentiment blamed on controversies surrounding former chief executive John Schnatter. Vaughn Frey, chairman of the Papa John’s Franchise Association, whose members operate more than 1,200 sites nationwide, told Nation’s Restaurant News: “His comments about the NFL during the earnings call and his use of a racial slur in the media training session with the company’s marketing firm have significantly harmed the brand and our membership’s store sales. The brand image has been severely tarnished.” Papa John’s said it was committed to helping franchisees through difficult times. A spokesman said: “We have been and continue to be committed to our franchisees’ long-term financial health and will continue to work constructively with them in our efforts to move the company forward.” Papa John’s announced a financial assistance programme in North America in August, which may continue into its next fiscal year. Zarco has previously won high-profile cases for restaurant franchisees. In May, El Pollo Loco was ordered to pay $9m in damages to two franchisees for “breach of good faith” when the company opened a corporate-owned location nearby.
Fortnum & Mason takes over at Royal Exchange: Fortnum & Mason, the London department store that has expanded in recent years to operate branches in travel hubs such as St Pancras and Heathrow, has taken over the restaurants at the Royal Exchange. D&D London, which operated the Grand Cafe, The Gallery, Threadneedle Bar and Sauterelle, exited the City of London site in the summer after 15 years. Fortnum & Mason is operating two spaces – a food hall and a restaurant and bar. The food hall also offers a gift and hamper selection, while the 90-cover restaurant and bar takes over the courtyard space formerly occupied by Grand Cafe. Fortnum’s Bar & Restaurant at The Royal Exchange is an all-day venue offering caviar, shellfish and smoked salmon – hand-carved at the counter – alongside light, raw and vegan dishes. A Josper grill will cook ingredients such as Fortnum’s exclusive Glenarm beef, while there will be comfort food options such as Welsh rarebit and knickerbocker glory. Fortnum & Mason chief executive Ewan Venters said: “The Royal Exchange provides not only an important postcode location but a culturally important environment bringing together two brands with a shared history in trade.”
Clean Cut Kitchen heads to Birmingham for third site: Nottingham-based healthy eating cafe concept Clean Cut Kitchen is to head outside the city for its third site. The company has secured a site in One Snow Hill, Birmingham, in a deal brokered by Box Property. Clean Cut Kitchen, owned by Antonio Vendone and James Irons, opened its first restaurant in Derby Road, Nottingham, in 2017 before adding a second venue, at the Intu Victoria Centre last month. Vendone told The Business Desk: “While Birmingham has a thriving food and drink scene, we saw a gap in the market for our offering.” Frankie Labbate, of Box Property, added: “We are pleased to be on this exciting expansion journey with Clean Cut Kitchen, which is a strong product and brand, is relevant to today’s lifestyles and has potential for large-scale growth nationwide.” Vendone and Irons also own artisan pizza bar Suede in Nottingham.
Hook co-founder opens debut solo restaurant, at Pop Brixton: Simon Whiteside, chef and co-founder of seafood restaurant Hook in Camden, has opened his first solo venture. Whiteside has launched Roe at Pop Brixton. Located in a shipping container, the restaurant and terrace seats 32 guests. The stripped-back interiors feature two communal tables made from reclaimed wood, each seating eight guests, vintage-style bulkhead lights along the wall and an open kitchen. Roe focuses on sustainable seafood from the British and Irish coast using only small, independent suppliers. The ever-changing menu offers small and larger plates drawing on Whiteside’s Irish heritage. Dishes include ray wing with Jerusalem artichoke and wild mushrooms; and confit sea trout with sea greens, and oyster and sorrel emulsion. The drinks list features a small flight of cocktails alongside wine, beer and soft drinks. Whiteside said: “My wife Cairene and I have been talking about the Roe concept for a while and we’re looking forward to serving tasty and affordable food. Opening a place without investors is daunting but it will give us the freedom to do so much more.”
BrewDog to open Aberdeen and Budapest bars on Friday: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will open bars in Aberdeen and Budapest on Friday (16 November). The company will open its third site in Aberdeen – at the Union Square shopping centre – to join its flagship BrewDog Aberdeen site and Castlegate bar. The new venue will offer 20 taps. Meanwhile, the company will also open its first site in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. The bar will open in a former banking hall and feature 25 taps. BrewDog stated: “We are not stopping there. The next few weeks will see more BrewDog bars break cover, including our first airport bar, at Edinburgh.”
Artisan distiller Exeter Gin hits £100,000 crowdfunding target for expansion: Exeter Gin has hit its £100,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to diversify its product range and increase capacity. The company, run by the Skerratt family, is offering 10.0% equity in return for investment with the aim to exit by a trade sale in five to seven years. So far, 132 investors have pledged £100,660 and the campaign is now “overfunding” with eight days remaining. The pitch states: “We noticed Exeter didn’t have its own city-branded gin. To fill this gap we’ve produced two distinct brands, Exeter Gin and Granny Garbutt’s. Across these brands we have five products. Launched in August 2017, we were advised to expect sales of 500 bottles in our first year. Despite targeting a sales total of 1,000 bottles, demand for our product saw us sell over 4,000 and 4,500 miniatures within ten months. We are stocked in regional Waitrose stores and supply St Austell Brewery and major distributor LWC among others. We have yet to fully tap into growth opportunities via gin tours, our website, international exports and other sales outlets. With larger equipment, we could maximise economies of scale by reducing our overall costs. We are motivated by the residents of Exeter, their pride in the product we’ve produced, and their support of our ambitions to be a leading UK artisan gin producer.”
Norwich-based operator sets sights on further growth after taking on second Ei Group pub: Norwich-based operator Burwood Inns has set its sights on further growth after adding its second site in the city with Ei Group. The company, founded by Gemma Burwood, has taken on The Chestnut Tree. Closed for 18 months and formerly called The Bull, the Reepham Road site has been transformed following a £250,000 refurbishment. Burwood Inns also operates The Oak Tree, which is five miles away in Ipswich Road. Burwood said: “Having the one pub, I felt confident I could take on a second. It was either be comfortable with one or push myself and take on more. I’ve now got ambitions to grow further and the potential is there to take on number three.” Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager Adam Cogan added: “Already having one pub with us meant we were confident Gemma could do a similar job at The Chestnut Tree, and she certainly has.”
Hand Picked Hotels launches apprenticeship academy to develop ‘leaders of the future’: Hand Picked Hotels, owned by Julia and Guy Hands, has launched an apprenticeship academy to develop its “leaders of the future”. The academy, which has been curated in partnership with HIT Training, aims to help staff progress in their career towards deputy-level positions. The company has enrolled 29 apprentices into its Leaders Of The Future Academy. They come from all areas of the company’s 20-strong portfolio and will complete a level three supervisory management apprenticeship. As part of the programme, apprentices will take part in seven interactive workshops covering topics such as building relationships and communication, and operational and project management, as well as one-to-one sessions with a HIT trainer and individual projects. Plans are also being put in place to launch an academy for a level five operations/departmental manager apprenticeship and a mentoring programme to provide the next level in apprentices’ career progression. Hand Picked Hotels HR director Deborah Seymour said: “We have been working with HIT Training for a number of years to offer apprenticeships across our business, including a bespoke chef academy. We were conscious we needed to strengthen our development pipeline and provide further progression opportunities for our team members. The aim of the Leaders Of The Future Academy is to provide those working in a supervisory role an opportunity to progress their careers in the hospitality industry through a structured training programme.”
Former Novus director sees turnover treble at TASN: The Advanced Sales Network (TASN), founded by former Novus sales director Rupert Macfarlane, has seen turnover treble since its launch in 2016. TASN works alongside companies that are seeking to grow their pre-booked sales and recently added marketing and digital support to the sales consultancy services it provides to hospitality businesses. Macfarlane said: “We recently celebrated the second year of TASN, with turnover trebling in that time as we added new clients who have taken advantage of our strategic sales consultancy, training programmes, temporary staffing resources and recruitment services. The logical next step was to add marketing and digital support to our offer so new consultants have come on board to enable us to do so.” A new enquiry platform has also been launched to support the business’ growth. Macfarlane said: “Our aim at TASN is simple – to enable hospitality businesses to maximise the opportunity presented from pre-booked sales. Our new services will provide an even more comprehensive range of support for those businesses to access.”