Greene King appoints chief marketing officer: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed Maria Sebastian to the new role of chief marketing officer. Sebastian will report to chief executive Nick Mackenzie and join the executive board. In her most recent role, Sebastian was senior vice-president for marketing, product and brand at Starbucks EMEA, where she led product innovation, category management, marketing and loyalty, shaping the brand experience across 42 countries and almost 3,200 stores. She joined Starbucks after 20 years in the airline industry, including at Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines. Mackenzie said: “I am delighted to welcome Maria to Greene King. Her broad experience in brand development, pricing, digital marketing and CRM, customer experience and customer insight will be invaluable as we implement our new strategy.” Sebastian added: “I am delighted to join at such an important time as the business reopens after lock-down, with a renewed focus on delivering an improved customer experience and advancing the digital offering. Greene King has distinctive brands and amazing locations and I look forward to further developing the brand propositions.”
New Vapiano UK owners plan further expansion, deal includes Edinburgh site:UK VAP, a subsidiary of Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, which recently acquired the Vapiano brand and franchising rights from Vapiano SE, has told Propel it is working with two family offices on the relaunch and expansion of the Italian casual dining concept in the UK. The new subsidiary has formed a partnership with Minhoco 56, founded by the Cairn Hotel Group, which operates more than 30 hotels and restaurants in England and Scotland, and Dominvs Group, the privately owned group of companies focused on the hospitality, residential and commercial real estate sectors in the UK. Together, the groups held by the Handa and Ahluwalia families will be partners in the London-based venture that will take over the Vapiano sites in Great Portland Street, Bankside and Tower Bridge. Furthermore, under the terms of the agreement Minhoco 56 will enter an exclusive franchise agreement with Love & Food Restaurant Holdings to operate the restaurants in Manchester and Edinburgh and is “committed to opening further sites” in the UK. “This is an exciting investment towards the hospitality industry’s future,” said Husnell Ahluwalia, director of Dominvs Group. “As a company we are always on the lookout for great opportunities led by quality teams and this is a huge opportunity to look ahead at rebuilding an industry that has faced very challenging times recently.” The transactions secure the future of 209 jobs. “We are delighted we have been able to help safeguard the future of Vapiano UK and many of its workers. Vapiano is a strong brand and the new owners, Love & Food with Mario at the helm, will see this brand continuing to be a market leader and we are committed to its growth in the UK,” said Naveen Handa, of the Cairn Hotel Group. Mario C Bauer, co-founder and chief executive of Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, said: “It was of utmost importance to us to preserve a strong presence in London, a city that’s a global show window for brands and concepts, and be able to offer a stable outlook to hundreds of Vapianisti. The fact we were able to forge a strong long-term partnership with an established third-generation family business that shares our philosophy and values and adds excellent local market know-how to the mix clearly proves Vapiano attracts and inspires leading entrepreneurs. Together with the Ahluwalia and Handa families as our partners, we look forward to growing and sustainably expanding our network throughout the UK.” The deal for Vapiano UK through a pre-pack administration saw the closure of the brand’s sites in Soho and Centre Point. The buyer consortium was advised by MJ Hudson, Clyde & Co and Mincoffs (legal) and Harper Dennis Hobbs (property).
Wells & Co appoints retail director as it sets out ambitious growth plans: Bedford brewer and retailer Wells & Co has appointed Shirley Couchman to the new role of retail director. Couchman, who also joins the board, arrives from UK transport hub foodservice company SSP Group, where latterly she was national operations director – regional rail and Millie’s Cookies. Couchman, who has also worked for Greene King, will be responsible for creating and delivering Wells & Co’s managed pub strategy in the UK and France. The company said the new role reflected its ambition to continue expanding that part of its business. Wells & Co managing director Peter Wells said: “Shirley’s appointment is a statement of intent around our future and plans to rebuild and grow our way out of the covid-19 crisis. Despite the pandemic, we will be on track to move into our new home, Brewpoint, at the end of the summer. In France, 16 of our 17 pubs have reopened and sales are well ahead of forecast. France represents a strategic pillar of growth for the business and we’ll return to our acquisition programme once the pub business is back to normal. In the UK, Pizza, Pots & Pints has proved a successful model we will look to expand as soon as normality resumes. We also have plans to develop our premium Little Gems Pubs With Rooms division in the near future.” Couchman added: “Wells & Co has some exciting activity in the pipeline. I look forward to working with the board and wider team to deliver the company’s ambitious plans for growth.” Wells & Co operates a 190-strong estate of pubs in the UK.
Brewhouse & Kitchen sees 2.9% revenue growth in reopening week as pre-planning pays dividends: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, has announced a 2.9% growth in revenue in the first week since it started to reopen its estate. The company attributed part of its success to “swiftly adapting” its offer and said the sales figures meant it was “cautiously optimistic” about the future. The group said its order and payment platform, B&K On Tap, had seen “immediate success”, with take up “growing exponentially every day” resulting in a “critical uplift in individual spend per head”. Brewhouse & Kitchen said the click and collect and UK-wide delivery services it trialled last month had reduced potential for “overwhelming footfall” when reopening. The group said it now planned to fully launch those services, alongside food delivery. It said a focus on early week trading and a gradual reopening plan had also paid dividends. Brewhouse & Kitchen reopened one site every weekday last week, followed by two sites per day this week. The group said it was reaping the benefit of pre-booked experiences that would have taken place during lock-down. The group said in the past seven days it had confirmed more than 1,000 covers across its experiences and was working to accommodate 1,000 more. Brewhouse & Kitchen said lock-down had allowed its teams to undergo further training and development, while a positive and clear message to guests about new measures had helped to encourage customers to return. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell said: “Operators won’t be given a second chance to make a first impression in this market. We know from our guest research we needed to open well and create a positive but safe environment. Our staggered, intensive approach to reopening sites, adopting further online efficiency and new technologies has allowed us to ensure the well-being and safety of our team and guests. The initiatives that have been hard fought for by our trade bodies are extremely welcome. We have been focused on building early week trading and the company will be working hard to drive Eat Out To Help Out.”
East Coast Concepts works with advisers to get through ‘transitional period’: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts is working with advisers as it eyes options to help it navigate the covid-19 trading environment. Propel understands the John Hammond-led business, which operates the Neighbourhood and Victors brands, is working with FRP Corporate Finance, with options thought to include securing a further equity injection. The five-strong company is backed by private equity firm NorthEdge, which has invested £10m in the business since 2016. East Coast Concepts operates two sites under New York dining district-inspired concept Neighbourhood, in Liverpool and Leeds city centres. It also operates three sites for its “elegant, Hamptons-inspired” dining concept Victors, in Oxford, Hale and Alderley Edge. Each site requires a circa £1.5m investment and turns over about £45,000 to £60,000 per week. Hammond, who was promoted from finance director to the group’s managing director earlier this year, told Propel: “We have had an incredible response from our guests for our Neighbourhood and Victors restaurants. It remains a challenging time for our industry but bookings have been strong and we’re pleased to welcome our guests and teams back safely. As we look ahead, we’re working with our advisers at FRP Corporate Finance to help us through this transitional period and ensure we are in the best position to continue trading well into the future.” The move to promote Hammond to managing director followed founder James Hitchen’s decision to step down from his day-to-day activities as chief executive of the group to focus on his new venture, Hitch Hospitality.
McDonald’s unveils energy efficient global flagship restaurant: McDonald’s has unveiled a reconstructed eco-friendly restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, designed to generate enough renewable energy on-site to cover its energy needs for a year. The company is calling it a new “global flagship restaurant”, which will serve as a learning hub for McDonald’s as it tests solutions for cutting energy and water use. The restaurant in Buena Vista Drive is open for drive-thru and delivery and is expected to open for takeaway and dine-in at a later date. A portion of the 8,024 square foot restaurant, closed since the fourth quarter of 2019, was repurposed. The rest of the building was demolished and rebuilt, with almost 97% of the construction waste recycled. The building features an automated energy system and passive ventilation in the dining room that circulates air and regulates temperature to minimise use of the heating system and air conditioning. When dine-in reopens, customers will be able to burn a few calories while using stationary bikes that also help the restaurant generate electricity, while tablet games will teach children and adults about renewable energy. The restaurant also features an expansive solar-panelled roof, with photovoltaic glass panels integrated throughout the building.  McDonald’s said data and what it learns from the restaurant would be used to inform the company’s global sustainability team as it worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 36% in restaurants and offices by 2030 compared with 2015 levels.
Flat Iron to start reopening programme with London Bridge site: Flat Iron, the nine-strong “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, will begin reopening its estate on Tuesday (14 July), starting with its London Bridge site. The Tooley Street restaurant will initially open from 5pm to 11pm on weekdays and midday to 11pm on weekends. The group is taking bookings as well as walk-ins. A company spokesman said “extensive precautions and measures” were being taken to keep guests and teams safe and “ready for a good time”. A message to customers stated: “We want the restaurants to be places for you to relax in and hope you don’t notice too many changes – but rest assured we’re doing lots in the background to keep everyone safe. We’re starting with one site to make sure we get everything right and learn lessons. We hope our other restaurants will reopen soon.”
Junkyard Golf to reopen estate next month: Crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf will reopen its five-strong estate from the beginning of August. The Mat Lake-led group, which was in private equity talks before the covid-19 outbreak, will reopen all its regional sites – Manchester, Oxford, Liverpool and Leeds – on Monday, 3 August, with its London site coming back online a week later. Safety measures will include a track and trace system implemented across all its sites and staff given the option to wear PPE such as masks or visors while working. Pre-covid, the business applied to open a site in Newcastle and was believed to be in talks on a venue in Glasgow. In December, Propel revealed Ignite Growth, which came close to investing in Indochinese restaurant operator Banana Tree a few years ago, had moved ahead of two other investment firms in the race to acquire a stake in Junkyard Golf.
Doubts cast over Out Of The Woods Group: Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, which operates four pubs across London, has had its future thrown into doubt with founder Jasper Gorst understood to have left the business. Propel understands the business is working with restructuring firm ReSolve, with all four sites currently closed. Gorst opened The Oak W2 in Notting Hill in 2001 followed by The Bird In Hand in Brook Green in 2011 and The Oak W12 in Goldhawk Road two years later. Last year he opened The Oak SW11 in Battersea having transformed the former Butcher & Grill in Parkgate Road.
Shake Shack launches click and collect: Shake Shack has partnered with mobile technology company QikServe to offer click and collect. Shake Shack has initially launched the pre-ordering and pay solution, which is powered by QikServe’s Preoday product, at its London sites in Brent Cross, Canary Wharf, Mansion House, Stratford, Tottenham Court Road and Victoria. Shake Shack business director John Berberich said: “We are doubling down on our commitment to be an accessible, omni-channel business. Over the past 15 years we’ve built our brand around community and we’re committed to connecting with our community in as many ways as possible. As we look to reopen our restaurants fully, QikServe’s technology will play a key role in building consumer confidence.” QikServe chief revenue officer Nick Hucker added: “Online ordering is the ideal technology for brands such as Shake Shack, which want a safe and simple way to continue offering the service their customers love. Beyond lock-down, we believe it and other forms of digital ordering will maintain popularity.” Meanwhile, Shake Shack has launched a new menu item in the UK – chick’n bites – six or ten pieces of hand-breaded chicken breast served with barbecue or honey mustard dipping sauce. Shake Shack recently launched four restaurants in the US, with each site registering “encouraging levels of sales”. The company operates more than 280 sites in the US and 95 international locations.
Tipjar to embark on £700,000 fund-raise: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, is to embark on a £700,000 fund-raise as it looks to grow, Propel has learned. Founder James Brown, who is retail director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, and Rosa’s Thai Café co-founder Alex Moore, who invested in Tipjar about a year ago, aim to raise funds through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube while engaging with a number of fintech and hospitality industry investors directly. Tipjar is offering 15% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £4.5m. Brown said Tipjar had seen record tipping levels during lock-down as people used cash less frequently. More than 10,000 tip transactions have been made since March, while 180-plus venues and 3,000 staff now use the software. Brown added: “We designed Tipjar to help hospitality staff earn more, bring transparency to the world of tipping and help businesses deal with the increasingly challenging administration of managing and distributing tips. To grow our business, we need funds to invest in launching our solution in new markets as well as onboarding clients in the UK.” Moore said: “The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. At the time covid-19 hit we didn’t know what it meant for the Tipjar business. Firstly, we saw lots of delivery-only businesses taking up our software and saw our busiest ever months in March, April and June. Secondly, with the reopening of bars under new guidelines and the new contactless limit, Tipjar has become even more powerful in connecting customers with staff to say thanks for great service.”
Patty & Bun and Swingers partner to launch ‘date night’ burgers and cocktail kit: Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman, has partnered with crazy golf and food and beverage concept Swingers to launch a burger and cocktails “date night” kit. Patty & Bun is providing the elements to make two of its Ari Gold or Smokey Robinson burgers at home. The kit includes two burger patties, smoky Patty & Bun mayo, cheese slices, HG Walter bacon, home-made pickled and smoky onions, and buns. Meanwhile, Swingers will provide the ingredients to make summer citrus daiquiris. There will be enough to make four to six glasses of the citrusy rum cocktail, including a 200ml bottle of Duppy Share rum, demerara sugar, two clementines, a lemon, a lime and two sticks of lemongrass. Customers will only need to add ice and water. Patty & Bun and Swingers have also created a music playlist to download.
Paul UK partners with The Food Medic to launch summer range: Paul UK, the French bakery and cafe brand, has partnered with nutritionist and author Dr Hazel Wallace, aka The Food Medic, to launch a feelgood summer range. The range, which features more “sustainable, plant-based and flexitarian options”, will be available in all Paul stores and via delivery from Monday, 20 July until Sunday, 30 September. The range includes grab-and-go breakfast pots, tofu and jackfruit salads, open sandwiches topped with Mediterranean vegetables, and a vegan Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut, balsamic beet and vegan gouda. All items are high in protein and fibre, rich in omega 3 and low in saturated fat and feature Paul’s additive and preservative-free bread. Executive chairman Maxime Holder said: “I represent the fifth generation of our French family to work in the Paul business. Over the past 130 years we’ve always listened to what our customers want. As our customers look to make food choices to support a healthier lifestyle, I’m proud to be able to offer a versatile range developed with the enthusiasm and creativity of such an experienced and respected doctor and nutritionist.” PAUL continues to support the NHS and will donate 20p from every Food Medic salad sold to its charities.
Gizzi Erskine and Professor Green to launch old-school pizza pop-up at Passo:Chef, food writer and broadcaster Gizzi Erskine and musician Professor Green are to take over Old Street’s Italian-inspired restaurant Passo during the summer for a pop-up. The launch of Giz & Green on Friday (17 July) follows the pair’s weekly lock-down Instagram mini-series in which Erskine taught Green how to make his favourite takeaways. They have decided to turn the most successful dish of the series – their take on the Anglo-American deep-dish stuffed-crust pizza – into a pop-up concept at Passo. The menu will include the Hawaiian, pepperoni and veggie “stuffed crust” as well as the chicken barbecue. There will also be a selection of locally produced soft drinks. The menu will be available for eat in, takeaway and delivery. Erskine said “We hope to give an opportunity to local chefs and producers to get back to work. Stephen and I have been good friends for years, enjoy the same kind of food and cooking, and are really happy to finally partner up.” Green added: “I grew up in east London and we want to reset the benchmark for the old-school 1990s delivery pizza we grew up loving.” Phil Smith, Erskine’s head chef from restaurants such as Bibendum and Mare Street Market, will take the reins as executive chef with operations run by Passo owner Jonny Boud. He said: “Gizzi and I share a love of great pizza so this seemed the perfect collaboration with which to reopen Passo’s doors. We have some other exciting projects in the pipeline, too.”
Diageo creates world’s first 100% plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle: Drinks company Diageo has partnered with venture management company Pilot Lite to launch the world’s first 100% plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle. The bottle will debut with Johnnie Walker whisky in early 2021. The bottle is made entirely from sustainably sourced wood pulp and is expected to be fully recyclable. Diageo and Pilot Lite have also launched sustainable packaging technology company Pulpex. To ensure the technology can be used in others areas, Pulpex has established a partner consortium of leading FMCG companies in non-competing categories, including Unilever and PepsiCo. Further partners are expected to be announced later this year, with each consortium partner expected to launch their own branded paper bottles next year based on Pulpex’s design and technology. Diageo chief sustainability officer Ewan Andrew said: “We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be ground-breaking.” On Friday (10 July), Diageo fully launched its recovery fund – Raising The Bar – to support the trade as lock-down lifts.