Natural Kitchen managing director buys back majority of business under new vehicle: Justin Green, managing director of London-based deli and cafe concept The Natural Kitchen, which was placed into administration in October, has bought back the majority of the business as part of a pre-pack administration process, Propel has learned. Propel revealed in September the nine-strong company was working with property advisers Lambert Smith Hampton in regards to the marketing of its business. It was subsequently placed into administration with Quantuma overseeing the process. All The Ducks, a new company set up by Green, is believed to have fought off competition from another party to acquire the company’s goodwill, equipment, business contracts, intellectual property, domain names and websites for £187,222 (exclusive of VAT). It is yet unclear how many of the brand’s nine sites have been transferred to the new vehicle. According to the administrator’s report, Natural Kitchen had its most profitable year in 2019, reporting a total profit of £323,204, on turnover of £13.6m. However, the impact of covid-19 on trade and the subsequent lockdown, which forced the company to keep its sites in the capital closed, saw sales drop from circa £300,000 net per week to zero. The report stated: “It was not anticipated the mandatory lockdown in the UK would continue for such an extensive period of time, during which time no sales were able to be made. As a result, the company incurred an insurmountable rent debt, as well as debts for other costs that were required to be paid during the lockdown to mothball the company’s systems, from the beginning of the second quarter of 2020 onwards.” In November, Green said the business had to take “drastic action to have a chance of coming back”. In an update on the group’s website, he said: “The process is ongoing and we are now trying our very best to agree on a reopening strategy with our partners. This will, in the main, now be next year as we find ourselves in lockdown again with no guarantee that restrictions will be lifted enough for the business to trade pre-Christmas. When you begin to return to your places of work in the City, Natural Kitchen will, we hope, be open again to serve you. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be everywhere and will depend a great deal on the pragmatism of our partners to find a way through.”
Greene King to launch new cake-focused delivery brand: Brewer and retailer Greene King is to add to its virtual delivery brand portfolio, with the launch of a new cake-focused concept – The Big Cake Company, Propel has learned. The new concept will offer six core cakes, plus one cake of the season on a rotational basis. It will be launched at a limited number of the company’s pubs over the coming weeks, and will be available through Just Eat. Last week, Propel revealed Greene King had launched a new delivery brand, Chicken Crazy. Available through Just Eat, the new virtual brand, offers nine dishes to choose from, including “a signature Chicken & Gravy that comes with a slice of white bread to soak up all the lovely gravy”. The new brand also offers burgers, bone-in and boneless boxes as well as a couple of lower calorie options. In September, Propel revealed brewer and retailer Greene King was trialling a new virtual delivery brand called Proper Pub Classics Co, in some of its Locals Pubs division sites. The virtual brand’s menu features pub classics such as fish and chips (£6.99), and steak & ale pie (£7.79), plus a small selection of burgers, a chicken wings sharing dish, sides and kids’ meals.
Langan’s Brasserie acquired out of administration: Langan’s Brasserie, the London-based restaurant once co-owned by the actor Michael Caine and famed as a 1980s celebrity haunt, is to be relaunched next autumn after being acquired out of administration. Propel understands the business in Stratton Street, Mayfair, has been acquired by a group of high-net-worth individuals, which is thought to include entrepreneur Peter Dubens of Oakley Capital. The restaurant will reopen under the direction of restaurateurs Graziano Arricale and James Hitchen. Arricale was formerly operations director at Richard Caring’s Birley Clubs, and now heads up the food and beverage operating team responsible for the Chucs Restaurant & Cafe Collection, which has five west London sites and is planning to expand in 2021; Chelsea based KX Private Members’ Club, which will open its New York outpost next summer; and KXU, its pay-as-you-go boutique sister concept. The relaunched Langan’s will be overseen by Arricale as chief executive, alongside site managing director Hitchen, the founder and former chief executive of East Coast Concepts. The pair said: “Through an extensive refurbishment, Langan’s will be reimagined and brought up to date – all the while ensuring the brand’s heritage as a British institution remains firmly intact.” Langan’s menu will consist of British and French classics, focused on prime, luxury ingredients. In addition to the main dining room, there will be a ground-floor lounge bar as well as a shellfish bar serving oysters and caviar. The lower ground floor meanwhile will become home to an extensive wine cellar and private dining room. Upstairs is set to become an exclusive, invitation-only late lounge. CDG Leisure acted for the vendors, Ross Kirton at Colliers International acted for the administrators Begbies Traynor.
Pizza Hut Delivery targets north east and south west as part of expansion plans: Pizza Hut Delivery is targeting expansion in the north east and south west of England, in particular, as it looks to add an initial 125 sites to its portfolio. The company has appointed Christie & Co to assist Pizza Hut Delivery in acquiring new sites by converting existing operators to franchisees of its brand. Through its existing franchise network, Pizza Hut Delivery already operates 380 sites. Pizza Hut Delivery is looking for either new partners or to work with experienced and proven operators who are committed to company growth and willing to invest over the short, medium and long term in all aspects of the business. Neil Manhas, general manager UK at Pizza Hut Delivery, said: “Pizza Hut Delivery has been a beloved brand in communities across the UK for decades and we’re excited to build on this strength and continue expanding our reach in the UK.” Simon Chaplin, senior director at Christie & Co, who is handling the project, added: “We are using our industry knowledge to seek out ambitious entrepreneurs who wish to become part of the Pizza Hut Delivery brand by becoming regional franchisees through the conversion of their own stores.” Pizza Hut Delivery has similar growth aspirations across Europe, with an immediate focus on priority markets France, Germany and Russia.
Christie & Co is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Inn Collection Group acquires former police station in Northallerton: The Inn Collection Group is to transform Northallerton’s former police station into a pub with rooms, creating up to 50 jobs. The company completed on the North Yorkshire town site on Monday (30 November), where plans have been approved for a multimillion-pound refurbishment to transform the grade II-listed building into a 32-bedroom inn. Work is set to begin on the 18,500 square foot building in High Street in the new year, with the site expected to open in autumn 2021 as The Northallerton Inn. The building, which has remained vacant since North Yorkshire Police services were moved to new force headquarters at Alverton Court, contains original features from its former constabulary days including a custody suite complete with cells and reception desk. Inn Collection Group managing director Sean Donkin said: “We are excited to be broadening our customer base and presence here in Yorkshire with the addition of a Northallerton location to our group. It is a great country town that is full of character with good access and visitation, while the venue itself is superbly located.” The undisclosed deal takes the group’s portfolio of sites to 18 and is its fourth Yorkshire location, joining the its freehold sites The King’s Head Inn in Newton-under-Roseberry, The Black Swan in Helmsley and The Stables in Whitby, which it acquired last month. The purchase of the former police station is the Alchemy-backed group’s seventh purchase of the year as it continues to deliver strategic “buy and build” growth plans, supported with banking via OakNorth.
Black Country Ales secures 40th pub: Dudley-based brewer Black Country Ales has acquired its 40th pub. The company has bought The Railway Tavern in Newport, Shropshire. The pub will close for a five-figure refurbishment early in the new year before reopening. Managing director Angus McMeeking told the Express & Star. “It will be a pub with no gimmicks – just good beer and a good choice of beer.” Black Country Ales’ 38th pub – The Starving Rascal, in Amblecote, Stourbridge – is also on track to open on Thursday, 17 December following a revamp, subject to local coronavirus restrictions. The 200-year-old pub was originally built in the early 1800s and opened as The Dudley Arms. The company’s 39th pub – The Harp Hotel, in Albrighton – is also undergoing a refurbishment before it reopens in the new year. It was bought for an undisclosed sum from Hopback Brewery. Black Country Ales, which is in its 21st year, is also selling its beer in bottles for the first time through its website.
Tomahawk Steakhouse to make London debut as brand hits ten: North east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston will make his London debut this week as he brings his Tomahawk Steakhouse brand to the capital. Eggleston will open the restaurant – the brand’s tenth – in Jamie Oliver’s former Fifteen restaurant site in London’s Hoxton on Thursday (3 December). Eggleston said: “When it comes to venues and growing the business, Tomahawk is a company that pushes boundaries, we always have been. Expansion plans and potential site visits have not stopped even in the lockdown. We must keep our heads high and keep up momentum otherwise we stop, and we just won’t accept that. We had seen quite a few venues in London prior to this one, but Westland Place just felt right. All of our Tomahawk venues have something special about them and this one really is our little gem. The urban warehouse style building is quite something especially with the glowing bulls head in the entrance. The Tomahawk branding is strong and we feel it’s something that can work in London.” Eggleston’s company also operates Brazilian concept Rio in Jesmond, as well as two takeaway stores, in Jesmond and Yarm.
Twisted London partners with Asda for first retail concession: Twisted London, the virtual restaurant brand from social media group Jungle Creations, has partnered with Asda to launch its first retail concession. The site has opened at the new Asda in Clapham Junction, south London, offering delivery within a 2.5-mile radius of the store via UberEats. Counter service will also be available from the store’s food hall concept, House of Yum, once lockdown restrictions have been lifted. The menu offers the full range of Twisted London’s dishes, including the Money Shot and Hashtag burgers as well as its vegan range.
Largest US fast casual seafood concept Slapfish places UK debut site on the market: Slapfish, the largest fast casual seafood restaurant brand in the US, has placed its debut UK site in London, on the market. The “modern seafood shack” launched in Kentish Town Road in Camden, north London, in October last year. The menu included lobster taquitos, shrimp ceviche, lobster grilled cheese, two-handed fish taco, and chowder fries. US celebrity chef Andrew Gruel founded the “boat to plate” concept in California in 2011, serving from a food truck. The brand now operates more than 20 restaurants across the US. Davis Coffer Lyons is marketing the site in Kentish Town Road.
Coastal & Country Inns adds North York Moors National Park pub to portfolio:Coastal & Country Inns, led by Chris Hannon, has taken a site closed for two years and reopened it after a £650,000 renovation. The Owl at Hawnby, near Helmsley, in the North York Moors National Park, which will open on Thursday (3 December), has been given a major overhaul to make it a pub-restaurant with nine rooms to let. The Owl – known previously as the Inn at Hawnby – remains part of Mexborough Estates but the long-term leasehold has been bought by Coastal and Country Inns. Coastal and Country Inns managing director Chrish Hannon said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for us – and the perfect fit for our operation. It will be the jewel in our crown. Our aim, as a company, is to create a portfolio of attractive inns of which we can be very proud. We want our inns to be individual, friendly, accessible and tasteful, a far cry from the big pub chains.” Jamie Savile, who runs the Hawnby Estate – part of Mexborough Estates, which owns and operates a number of properties in the area, said: “The hilltop village of Hawnby has really missed having a thriving country inn. The Owl is now looking magnificent and it will really put our picturesque village on the map again.”
New operators at Boxpark as all three London venues reopen this week: Boxpark, the Roger Wade-led business, will reopen its three London venues on Wednesday (2 December) with new operators at each site. New street food traders set to open include Fanny’s Kebab, Eah Lah and Bassal’s at its Croydon venue; The Clean Kitchen, Ipanema Barbecue, Sunshine Hummus and The Dessert Factory will be at the Wembley venue; and The Argentinian Grill will be open at Shoreditch, joining its sister venues at the other two Boxpark sites. Boxpark’s venues will offer discounts to customers on reopening. There will be 20% off at selected street food vendors and 50% off beer and cocktail pitchers from Mondays to Wednesdays during December. In line with tier two rules, bars will only serve alcohol if food is purchased too. Delivery and click and collect will also be available. Boxpark chief executive and founder Wade said: “Like our fellow hospitality businesses, the second lockdown has hit us hard but we have used this time to think about ways we can come out the other side stronger. Boxpark is a business that strives to keep evolving and innovating and I truly believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Undoubtedly, it has been a rough month for everyone in the wider hospitality sector and I am concerned about the survival of this sector through the winter. Venues like Boxpark serve as the heart of local communities and are places people depend on for their social lives.” Boxpark confirmed it is backing UKHospitality’s #Fair4Hospitality campaign, which calls on the government for further aid such as the job support scheme, lockdown grants and rent and business rates holidays. Boxpark Shoreditch was launched in 2010, offering modern street food and a pop-up retail mall. The Croydon site followed in October 2016. It has 40 traders from around the world, with businesses set up in more than 90 shipping containers. The Wembley venue opened in December 2018 and is the largest site of the three.
Esquires Coffee to open new shop in Leamington, Dodo Pizza to move in nearby:Cooks Global Foods-owned Esquires Coffee has announced it will open a cafe in Leamington town centre. The Canadian coffee chain is expected to open the doors to the new site before the end of the year. Esquires, which has circa 60 sites in the UK and Ireland, has signed a ten-year lease at a ground-floor 2,200 square foot unit at 52-54 Warwick Street, which used to be home to a Co-op store. Meanwhile Dodo Pizza, which was founded in Russia almost ten years ago, is opening a site close to the Esquires cafe. Martin Brown, franchise owner of Esquires Coffee in Leamington, said: “Leamington is a forward-looking and exciting town, whose residents are increasingly looking for both an ethical and fresh offering. We look forward to bringing excellent and consistent quality, with a unique menu that will delight customers of all ages and tastes.” Commercial property consultants Wareing & Company secured the deal on behalf of the building’s landlords Hatchback Developments. Jonathan Blood, of Wareing & Company, said: “Esquires Coffee is the second global firm that has committed to long-term investment in Leamington in as many months – with the other being European pizza chain Dodo Pizza – which is a brilliant vote of confidence in the town as the wider country looks to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic in 2021.” The new cafe is expected to create nine new jobs.
Sabbir Karim to open third site, in Highgate: Chef-proprietor Sabbir Karim is to open his third site, in Highgate, north London, on Wednesday (2 December). Karim, who owns Namaaste Kitchen in Camden and Salaam Namaste in Fitzrovia, will launch Namaaste Highgate in South Grove. Much like its older siblings, Namaaste Highgate will showcase redefined Indian home-style cooking along with modern interpretations of classic dishes from the sub-continent. Sections will include chaats and chapata from the bazaar; speciality small plates; market specials; Namaaste specialities; ribs and chops from the tandoor; and bread, rice and sides.
Budweiser Budvar UK appoints new managing director as Simon George steps down: Simon George is to step down as managing director of Budweiser Budvar UK after six years in the role. Joining the UK management team is Jitka Vlčková, who will serve initially as joint managing director, alongside George, as part of an extensive handover. Vlčková was, most recently, the country commercial manager responsible for the Czech and Slovak markets for a Belgian food company. Petr Dvořák, Budweiser Budvar NC managing director, said: “Simon and the UK team have done a great job in building the Budvar brand. In particular, we are pleased with the brand performance in the UK, and we are particularly proud of the latest market share data showing we are the fastest-growing Czech brand in the GB off-trade.” George said: “I have loved my time here but it’s now the right time for me to hand over and embrace a new challenge. The appointment of Jitka means the UK business is in great hands.”
Tipjar receives £100,000 government grant to allow operators to trial its Tap to Tip boxes: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has received a £100,000 government innovation grant to allow hospitality venues to try out its new Tap to Tip boxes. The company is accepting applications from businesses to take part in the government-funded free four-month trial. Tipjar said its Tap to Tip boxes are easy-to-install devices that connect to 4G and Wi-Fi, allowing customers to instantly tip venue staff via contactless payment, with Tipjar’s software distributing tips directly to the staff members who are working. Tipjar was launched in 2019 by James Brown, retail director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, and Alex Moore, co-founder of Rosa’s Thai Cafe. So far in 2020, Tipjar has collected and distributed more than £200,000 in tips to more than 4,000 hospitality workers in the UK and USA, with plans to bring its software to Europe in the next year. Brown said: “Tap to Tip removes customer barriers to tipping, and allowing workers and businesses to focus on great customer service, growing their top-line sales, and generating more tips to take home.”