Crussh expects return to positive Ebitda on back of FY sales growth as diversification strategy starts to deliver, launches honesty kiosk trial: London-based healthy food and juice brand Crussh expects to return to positive Ebitda levels in its current financial year while it has launched a trial of “honesty kiosks”, Propel has learned. Crussh, which has seen full-year sales grow more than 10% as its diversity strategy starts to deliver, has partnered with shared workspace company WeWork to offer unmanned tills and fridges of food and drink at four of its sites in the City of London. Meanwhile Crussh, which has also seen full-year site Ebitda almost double to £1.5m from £822,000 the year before, has further strengthened its partnership with Sodexo and its footprint outside London with a site at the University Of The West Of England in Bristol – their third site together. Crussh also recently raised circa £700,000 from new and existing shareholders to continue the refit of its company-owned stores to the brand’s “new look”, with nine stores revamped so far in its current financial year. Chief executive Shane Kavanagh told Propel he was focusing on growing the partnership and product supply strands of the businesses despite the trading environment being the “toughest I have known”. It has now extended its product partnership with Sainsbury’s from 11 to 62 stores, while Kavanagh expects the company to open a “couple more” sites with Sodexo before its financial year ends in March. Kavanagh said: “It is really tough out there but we’re reasonably pleased with where we are in the current financial year and expect to return to positive Ebitda by the year end. The core estate continues to perform well. There are a lot of things out there we can’t control so we’re concentrating on the things we can and, with that in mind, our focus is on our partnerships. At the moment it isn’t the right time to open more high-street stores but we think there will be opportunities again at some point. It’s about having multi-revenue streams and we’re excited about our honesty kiosk trial and our work with Sainsbury’s, SSP and Sodexo. Having opened in Birmingham and now Bristol with Sodexo and through our Sainsbury’s partnership, we’re getting our brand in front of more people outside London.” Kavanagh spoke to Propel as Crussh revealed it returned to like-for-like growth – up 1.8% – for the year ending 31 March 2019. Revenue rose to £15.5m compared with £14.1m the year before, while underlying Ebitda was minus £61,000 compared with minus £569,000 the previous year. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £1.2m from £31.6m the year before. During the year the company opened another three sites inside Everyone Active sports centres and its debut outlet with SSP, at Paddington station. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “In 2018-19, despite the ongoing challenges in the wider economy and market place, Crussh saw a significant improvement in its financial performance as management action to control costs and margins, combined with positive early results from the company’s new strategy, began to contribute to results. The board of directors remains confident in the future of Crussh and pleased with the success to date of the strategy to transform the direction of the business and open new avenues for growth.”
Pret trials digital innovations at Houndsditch venue: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned chain, is trialling a number of digital innovations at its site in London’s Houndsditch. The trial includes digital labelling on shelves and a payment solution via a new app that allows consumers to select products and pay without going to the till. The new app also has an order-ahead feature, while the venue offers self-service tills and has coffee machines placed near the tills to help order pick-up. Beacon technology on the tables is also being trialled in the store at 133 Houndsditch. The move sparks the beginning of Pret’s digital journey, with chief executive Pano Christou telling the Operation Directors’ Conference organised by Propel last month that the company was learning from Panera Bread, which is also backed by JAB Holdings, to gain a “one-to-one view with the customer”. He admitted this could see the brand introduce its first loyalty programme and explore payment innovation, including digital tickets. Christou said: “Pret currently has no technology and no loyalty app to connect with customers – just its tills. The opportunity to increase loyalty and sales through a digital experience is huge.” The digital trials at Houndsditch are being overseen by Alex Chisholm, who was promoted to digital transformation director this year after previously developing and managing Pret’s digital engagement strategies in the US.
Japanese speciality coffee brand % Arabica to make UK debut with double London launch: Japanese speciality coffee brand % Arabica is to make its UK debut by opening two stores in London. A store is already in soft launch at a venue in King Street, Covent Garden, which will officially open on Friday, 1 November on the same day its flagship sister site launches in east London’s Broadway Market. Founded by Kenneth Shoji, each store has a wood-clad, custom Slayer Espresso machine at its centre, complemented by bespoke seating, mirrors and flooring. The London stores will also feature Smeed Dean yellow brickwork in a nod to “traditional craftmanship of the local community”. The Broadway Market site will also house its own roasting machine. Shoji trained as a barista in the US before buying a coffee farm in Hawaii and launching a green bean trading company. The first % Arabica store launched in Hong Kong in 2013 with a global flagship store opening in Kyoto, Japan, a year later. The company now operates 40 stores in 12 countries, with its first European sites opening recently, in Paris and Berlin. By the end of 2019, % Arabica said it will have opened 20 more stores internationally with plans for another 50 outlets in 2020.
Brakspear closing in on 15th managed site: Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear is closing in on a new site for its 14-strong managed estate, Propel has learned. Brakspear is in legals over a property in Berkshire and hopes to complete a deal by the end of the month. The company is also keen to add further sites to the portfolio if it can “find the right ones”. Chief executive Tom Davies told Propel: “The effort we’re putting into our managed estate is starting to bear fruit and there is good scope for growth. We have seen positive like-for-like growth this year. The Frogmill in Gloucestershire, our largest managed site we opened last July, is trading above expectations while our latest site, The Nags Head, had a good summer and can hopefully continue that over the winter period. Being able to share management and staff across a number of sites is also helpful at a time when the labour market is challenging. We continue to look for more sites but, of course, we need to make sure they are the right fit for the business.” Davies added the company’s 123-strong leased and tenanted estate was also performing fairly strongly. He added: “We have got some great publicans and, against tough comparables last year, we’re doing well. The division is the main part of the business and will remain so.”
Papa John’s appoints R&D director for UK: Papa John’s has appointed Tom Allen to the newly created role of research and development director for the UK. Allen, who has 20 years’ experience in the foodservice industry, will be responsible for Papa John’s menu choices in the UK. He has worked in a consulting capacity in the UK and abroad for companies such as Pret A Manager, KFC, Domino’s Pizza and Marks & Spencer. He also ran and sold his own bakery and coffee shop. Allen said: “While having a big, established and popular brand, Papa John’s management team is small enough to be flexible and can respond quickly to changing customer trends. This means I have scope to innovate and make a difference with new product introductions while maintaining our focus on the quality ingredients that make up our ‘old favourites’ and best-selling pizzas. I will also work closely with franchisees. Papa John’s has more than 400 franchised stores in the UK and I will visit stores and meet franchisees, managers and staff. It’s critical we manage the cost of goods and wastage so I need to have direct feedback from franchisees to see how we can continue to make improvements. Franchisees often come up with some great new ideas for products and process improvements too!”
Orée to go fourth with London Bridge launch: London-based premium bakery concept Orée has lined up a fourth opening as it targets a 12-strong estate in the capital. The company, which launched in London in 2016, is set to open in Station Western Arcade, London Bridge, before the end of the year. In the summer the concept raised £425,000 through Angel Investment Network to open two venues. It subsequently launched a site at 44 Wellington Street in Covent Garden. The bakery concept also operates sites at 275/277 Fulham Road and 147 Kensington High Street. Its long-term ambition is to operate a dozen sites across London and launch international expansion.
Jollibee targets Liverpool for ‘flagship north of England branch’ and second UK site: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, has submitted plans to open its second UK site, in Liverpool. According to plans submitted to Liverpool City Council, Jollibee’s Liverpool restaurant would be its “flagship branch in the north of England”. Bee World UK, part of Jollibee Foods Corporation, has submitted plans to transform the former Lush store in Whitechapel, YM Liverpool reports. Jollibee, which has more than 1,000 sites around the world, made its UK debut at a former Wagamama unit in Earl’s Court, London, in October 2018. A document included with the Liverpool planning application states: “The development will create 70 jobs in the town centre, which is a significant boost for the local retail sector. At a time when confidence in the British high street is at a historical low, such investment in people and property should be supported.” When Jollibee made its UK debut, the company said it was targeting 25 sites in the region. The brand, which offers single plates combining fried chicken, spaghetti, and beef with gravy and rice, has plans for rapid expansion across Europe. Jollibee Foods Corporation is a $5.2bn market cap company headquartered in Manila. It operates 14 brands across 4,300 outlets worldwide and is the sixth-largest foodservice company in the US by virtue of its controlling stake in Smashburger. In September 2017 it made a $1bn approach for Pret A Manger. The company’s flagship brand is Jollibee itself, which has 1,200 stores.
Flanagan steps down as chief marketing officer at TGI Friday’s UK: Steve Flanagan has stepped down as chief marketing officer at TGI Friday’s UK after two years with the Karen Forrester-led business. Flanagan joined the now 86-strong business from Starbucks, where he spent six years including more than three as UK marketing and category director. At TGI he was responsible for marketing direction across all areas, including loyalty and rewards. He was also responsible for business solutions infrastructure from restaurant level to head office encompassing all elements of the guest journey. He had further responsibility for food and beverage development direction and innovation. In the summer Propel reported Al Gounder had stepped down as marketing director of TGI Friday’s UK after only a year to join Subway UK & Ireland in the same role. Owned by Electra Private Equity, TGI Friday’s reported like-for-like sales dropped 6.7% in the year to 30 December 2018. Total sales were down 3.3% to £208.8m after four sites opened in the year. Ebitda was £24.7m, compared with £33m the year before.
Other Side Fried to go permanent, in Brixton: Chicken burger concept Other Side Fried is to open its first permanent site, in Brixton, south London. Other Side Fried began operating from the back of a converted British ambulance, which it still operates at Kerb Camden, before going on to operate long-term residencies at Pop Brixton and Peckham Levels as well as a kiosk in Cranbourn Street, outside Leicester Square tube station. Now it will launch its debut bricks and mortar site in a converted railway arch in Atlantic Road, Brixton, in December. Designed as a 16-cover takeaway restaurant, the permanent venue will serve vegan burgers alongside its signature chicken versions.
Bistrot Pierre gets go-ahead for Worthing seafront site: Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, has had plans approved to open a seafront restaurant in Worthing, West Sussex. Worthing Borough Council has struck a long-term agreement with developer Nextcolour to convert a seafront shelter opposite West Buildings into a “contemporary, vibrant destination restaurant”. It will have space for 110 diners and a first-floor terrace with retractable roof for another 60. There will also be an outside area providing ground-floor seating, while full-length sliding windows will offer sea views along Marine Parade. Paul High, chairman of the council’s planning committee, told The Argus: “This striking building will be a high-quality improvement to the facilities along Marine Parade and Worthing seafront.” Next month Bistrot Pierre will open its 25th restaurant, along the coast at Eastbourne. The company has also launched a virtual delivery brand – Birds, Buns and Bowls.
Restaurateur Alessio Matrone to open third site for IT restaurant and gallery concept, in Mayfair: Restaurateur Alessio Matrone, who launched bar restaurant IT Ibiza in 2015 and a sister site in Milan in March this year, is to open his next venue in London’s Mayfair next month. The restaurant will launch in Dover Street on Friday, 1 November offering dinner, aperitivo, art and Balearic DJs. Chef Gennaro Esposito, of two Michelin-starred restaurant La Torre del Saracino on Italy’s Amalfi coast, has created the menu at the former art gallery, which will double as a space for emerging artists. Esposito’s menu will include pomodoro with homemade tomato sauce; olive soup with almond fennel purée and scabbardfish; and IT’s signature dish, which features raw sea bass, red prawns and tuna served in a glass ball. The venue will also offer thin-crust pizza while brunch will be served all day on Sunday, Hot Dinners reports. IT Ibiza offers a restaurant and bar, while IT Milan features two restaurants and a bistro.
Namco launches world’s first Angry Birds adventure golf experience, in Gateshead: Entertainment centre company Namco and Rovio Entertainment, the mobile game developer behind Angry Birds, have opened a debut site for their Angry Birds adventure golf attraction, in Gateshead. The two-storey, 18,000 square foot leisure experience has launched at Intu Metrocentre as part of plans to open a minimum of five UK Angry Birds sites in three years. Players can choose a round of 18 or 36 holes and tee off into Bird Island or Pigtropolis. There are also arcade machines and an Angry Birds-inspired food and drinks menu. Namco commercial director Philip Milward said: “This is the world’s first Angry Birds Adventure Golf and there’s no better place to launch such a fun and entertaining experience. We’re looking for more leasing opportunities within popular, high-footfall locations such as Intu Metrocentre to ensure this new attraction can flourish across the UK.” Intu regional managing director Kate Grant added: “Compelling attractions like this provide thoroughly entertaining and new experiences, which draw more visitors to our destinations and drive footfall to our retail and food and beverage customers.” The Angry Birds franchise has generated more than four billion mobile game downloads since Rovio created it in 2009, moving on to include two movies, an animated series and brand licensing ventures such as theme parks. Namco operates a number of family entertainment centres throughout the UK.
Great British Menu winner buys freehold of Michelin-starred restaurant: Chris Harrod, the 2018 winner of BBC show The Great British Menu, has purchased the freehold of his Michelin-starred Monmouthshire restaurant, The Whitebrook Restaurant With Rooms. Having purchased the leasehold of The Whitebrook in 2013 Harrod, who spent four years learning under Raymond Blanc, re-established the restaurant as a fine-dining venue, culminating in achieving a Michelin star less than a year later. The Whitebrook Restaurant With Rooms consists of a boutique hotel with fine dining in situ, housed in a three-storey property that dates to 1670. Harrod has decided to purchase the freehold to grow the business, with funding secured by commercial finance broker Christie Finance. His plans include increasing the number of letting rooms, renovating the property and implementing an events diary.
High Street Hospitality brings Purple Peacock to Newcastle: High Street Hospitality, a subsidiary of Newcastle-based The High Street Group, has opened its latest restaurant in the city. The company has launched its second Purple Peacock in the former Fat Buddha restaurant under the 55 Degrees North apartments in Pilgrim Street. The move comes after High Street Hospitality acquired Fat Buddah and the neighbouring alpine-themed Antler restaurant in a pre-pack administration deal in August. Sonali Craddock, who heads The High Street Group’s marketing team, used her experience of launching a high-end restaurant in India to influence the look and feel of Purple Peacock, which also has a site in Yarm. The food has an Asian/classic fusion element with a strong emphasis on vegan and vegetarian cuisine, reports Chronicle Live. Meanwhile, Antler is being converted into a sports bar. High Street Hospitality also plans to create a hotel in the space underneath the apartments for its Hotel-52 brand.
Peak District-based firm eyes Robinsons pub to launch UK’s highest distillery:Peak District-based The Forest Distillery is looking to take on the Cat & Fiddle Inn on the A537 in Derbyshire on a long-term lease from Robinsons Brewery. The pub is on a remote section of Snake Pass and has been owned by the Robinsons family since 1931. However, it has been closed since 2015. The Forest Distillery, which is operated by husband and wife Karl and Lindsay Bond, produces gin and plans to move the whisky part of its business to the Cat & Fiddle. At 1,690 feet above sea level, it would be the highest distillery in the UK, while the pub would also house a shop and tasting rooms. To help with refurbishment costs, Robinsons and Forest Distillery have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdfunder. If all goes to plan, the pub will relaunch in the spring. Robinsons Brewery managing director (pub division) William Robinson said: “Forest Distillery is a wonderful local family business. Its vision to create a whisky distillery with on-site shop, tours and a pub has real potential and would transform the Cat & Fiddle into a destination venue.” Karl Bond added: “We are simply out of space at our distillery. The Cat & Fiddle has the most fantastic network of cellars that are perfect for slowly ageing our spirits while having a brilliant space above for visitors to enjoy. Having lived in Macclesfield all my life, I know what a special connection the pub has for the area. I hope we can fulfil its potential.”
Goodbody – SSP is a ‘podium player’ in the global travel concessions market:Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy as described UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP as a “podium player in the global travel concessions market”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 730p, Ruddy said: “Since its formation as part of Compass Group and its evolution into its current format, SSP has been a growth story supported by the structural growth in air travel. Having grown organically and acquisitively since its genesis, the group has transformed into a leading global operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations across 33 countries. SSP has the dual benefit of operating in growth channels and markets while still having relatively low market shares, which gives us confidence it has a long runway for growth. SSP has a number of tailwinds supporting its growth. These include the global increasing propensity to fly; consumers increasingly eating on the go; airport space being dedicated to food and beverage over retail; continued outsourcing of travel food and beverage operations; and favourable geographic exposure. SSP has operational expertise in a sub-sector with complex logistics and is increasingly gaining scale that creates a considerable competitive advantage. Importantly, growth will drive margin expansion. We believe the combination of all these factors makes SSP a compounding growth story. Our analysis shows SSP could continue to pay a 6% annual yield including special dividends. This combination of growth and income is highly attractive.”
Exale Brewing teams up with Victory London to launch sustainable brewery, taproom and distillery: Exale Brewing has teamed up with Victory London Distillery to launch a brewery, taproom and distillery in the heart of Walthamstow, east London. Exale Brewing founder Mark Hislop and his Victory London Distillery counterpart Daniel Vane were brewing in a shipping container outside a nightclub until recently but outgrew the space and started a search for a permanent, more sustainable space. Having found a site and secured funding for the brewery itself, the pair are now raising money for the taproom through a non-equity campaign on Crowdfunder. Everyone who donates will receive double their investment back in the form of a bar tab to spend at the brewery and the duo hope to raise at least £40,000 before opening in December. The space aims to cut waste by growing produce for local food banks and botanicals for brewing and distilling. Spent grain will be turned into biofuel, while waste beer will be made into soap and shampoo. Hislop said: “As well as offering a really comfortable space, we wanted to make sure we were minimising our effect on the environment – a sustainable taproom is a great way to do that.”
Odeon to bring Luxe & Dine concept to Islington: Odeon is set to bring its Luxe & Dine concept to Islington, north London. The concept is the first to sign for the Islington Square development that is being built on the site of a former post office off Upper Street. Odeon launched Luxe & Dine at Whiteleys department store in Bayswater many years ago when the company teamed up for a short-lived menu with Le Cafe Anglais. The Islington venue will offer table service and dishes such as Moving Mountains vegan burgers, flatbread pizza and wild boar hotdogs, Hot Dinners reports. The venue is due to open at the end of the year. Chef Rowley Leigh opened the 175-cover Cafe Anglais in 2008 but sold it to the owners of Whiteleys in 2014. The new owners of the Whiteleys site, which include Dutch property fund Meyer Bergman, are currently redeveloping the former store and wider Queensway area. Odeon operates 21 Luxe sites across the UK.
Venners reports rise in licensed trade franchise operations: Stocktaking and audit expert Venners has reported an increasing number of hospitality operators rolling out franchise agreements. The announcement follows the company’s latest deal, with Camerons Brewery’s franchised pubs division. Venners will conduct a monthly stocktake in its pubs. Client services director Scott Hulme said: “The traditional pub trading models of tenanted, leased and managed have been evolving in recent years and the franchise structure seems to be growing in popularity. We’re thrilled to start work with the franchised division of Camerons Brewery as it has developed a strong offer for partners wanting to run their own pub business. We work with a number of other franchised operations, including Marston’s and Punch. As part of our commitment to this sector, Venners has joined the British Franchise Association as we look to develop and expand our support services in this area.”