Goodbody – open offer puts M&B ‘on the front foot’, may be ‘start of a full privatisation’: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has argued the confirmation of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) open offer will see the business begin recovery operations “on the front foot” yet controlling group, Odyzean, will increase its shareholding and “this may be the start of a full privatisation”. Ruddy said: “M&B confirmed [on Monday, 22 February] terms of its pre-emptive open offer and gave an operational update. The Odyzean Group will be the controlling holder, and, as per the release last week, it will take up its entitlements under the open offer and subscribe for additional shares that come available under the Excess Application Facility. The statement notes it will work with management to ensure the strategy and structure of the business are appropriate to optimise its long-term success and will include consideration of the speed and nature of the existing Ignite investment programme and opportunities for acquisitions and partnerships. To this end, it notes it may need to raise additional capital through the issue of new shares at least 12 months after the date of this announcement. The Odyzean Group states it would prefer the company prioritises debt repayment and investment ahead of dividend payment for the foreseeable future. The open offer is something of a mixed blessing in many regards. It will see the equity survive for now, despite the significant challenges caused by effective closure of the estate. It will also put the group on the front foot operationally during the recovery phase and allow it to continue to invest and, potentially, acquire. However, it seems likely Odyzean’s holding will increase in the open offer process given it has committed to acquiring the unsubscribed shares. This would leave the other shareholders as a significant minority holder, which will dilute their influence in decision making. Given the comment that ‘The Odyzean Group has also indicated the time and cost devoted by the senior management team to public company matters should be reduced’, this may be the start of a full privatisation.”
Bone Daddies to launch ‘pop-up’ wings-based sister concept, opens Putney site:Bone Daddies Group, which comprises the eponymous ramen restaurants, Shack-Fuyu and Flesh & Buns, is to launch “pop-up” wings-based sister concept, Wing Daddies. Initially launching in Kentish Town on Monday, 1 March, Wing Daddies will operate as a pop-up delivery brand, popping up in virtual kitchens across the capital over the coming months. As well as operating from dark kitchens, the concept is looking towards opening a bricks and mortar site, or entering the street food market with the launch of a Wing Daddies truck that can trade across London on a flexible basis. The menu is centred around the twists on the chicken wings for which the group is known – such as Korean fried wings with gochujang and sesame as well as new sticky teriyaki and buffalo fire recipes. Meanwhile, Bone Daddies has opened a site in Putney, south west London. As revealed by Propel earlier this month, Bone Daddies has launched in the former Byron site in Putney High Street. Operating initially as a delivery-only kitchen, post-lockdown the Putney restaurant marks the seventh bricks and mortar opening for the group, which also has outlets in Bond Street, Bermondsey, Soho, Old Street, Richmond and Victoria. Bone Daddies also operates six dark kitchens across the capital. Operations director Steve Hill said: “The industry has been through hell over this past year and we are so grateful to our fans enabling us to stay strong as a business bringing much needed energy to all our teams and collaborators. Putney is a great location where we know we have many supporters and being on their doorstep makes perfect sense. We look forward to the year ahead making the most of the many opportunities that are coming our way.”
PureGym ‘burning through £500,000 a day’: Lockdown has been costing budget gym operator PureGym about £500,000 a day, the company’s boss has said. Humphrey Cobbold told the BBC’s Today programme it has meant about £120m of costs with no revenue for his 275 gyms. He said: “We are burning about £500,000 a day and that’s the average over eight months of closure. It’s been brutally tough.” While the government furlough scheme has been paying a portion of staff salaries, he said his business has still been paying some staff costs such as pension contributions and has amassed sizeable rent arrears. Cobbold said he has been able to raise funds from investors, which has helped the business survive, and he insists his business is ready to reopen safely. “The sooner the better within safe operating procedures for us,” he said. “We can make a massive contribution to the health of the nation.”
Rossopomodoro to make dark kitchens move: Rossopomodoro, the Italian restaurant chain backed by Change Capital, is to make its dark kitchens move with an opening in London’s Streatham, Propel understands. The five-strong, London-based, restaurant group is set to open a unit in the Foodstars kitchen in Mitcham Lane, which launched at the end of last year. Greek concept Yiayia’s Boy, which operates a site in Shoreditch, is also delivering out of the Mitcham Lane kitchen.
Boom: Battle Bar lodges plans for Aberdeen site: Boom: Battle Bar, the adventure bar concept from the team behind trampoline park business Flip Out, is targeting a site in Aberdeen. AGD Two has submitted plans to the city council for a section of the former Aberdeen Market building off Market Street. As well as having a bar and kitchen area serving food and drink in the lower areas of the market building, there will be an area dedicated to adventure games. It’s proposed the Aberdeen site will include axe throwing, smart darts, shuffleboard, table tennis, pool, mini golf, marble tarble and synthetic curling lanes. According to planning documents, it is hoped the site will be open by summer, reports the Evening Express. A statement in support of the application stated: “Now the Aberdeen Market has ceased trading, the intention is to extend the Flip Out operation to the rest of the property (across level two). The change of use will activate a currently disused space, which will add to the range of activities that are available for visitors to the city centre.” Last month, Boom: Battle Bar co-owner Richard Beese said the business had 15 sites in the pipeline. It operates venues in Cardiff, Lakeside in Essex, Liverpool, Norwich and Oxford while work has started on outlets at The O2 and Aldgate East in London as well as Eastbourne.
Itsu makes TV debut on back of 59% increase in grocery sales: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Julian Metcalfe, is making its TV debut with a multichannel campaign designed to support its supermarket range of frozen gyoza and broths, sales of which climbed by 59% in 2020. Expected to reach 16 million households, the campaign features TV chef and stylist Gok Wan cooking easy Asian-fusion meals in his kitchen using Itsu products. Spanning TV, video-on-demand, PR, social and outdoor, the campaign heroes Itsu’s frozen gyoza range, one bag of which was sold in supermarkets every ten seconds in 2020, according to the company. The campaign will be complemented by in-store activities and promotions. Metcalfe said: “Gok has been a regular in our restaurants for years, so last year we finally invited him to Itsu headquarters to try our gyoza and ‘brilliant’broth’ – he was totally blown away (his words, not ours!). A few weeks later we were filming an advert for them in his kitchen! Launching our first TV advert marks an exciting new chapter for our grocery range, and Gok is the perfect partner for it – he has a genuine passion for Asian cooking, who better to bring our ‘eat beautiful’ mantra to life? With January marking our biggest month ever of Itsu supermarket sales, and brilliant’broth launching on to our restaurant menu, it feels like now is the time to go big with our amazing frozen gyoza and broth ranges.”
Bella Italia partners with La Tua Pasta to offer Bella at Home kits: Bella Italia, The Big Table Group-owned brand, has partnered with artisan pasta producer La Tua Pasta to offer Bella at Home – nationwide delivery of a range of premium fresh pasta kits, Propel has learned. It is understood Bella Italia has developed Bella at Home in response to the increase in consumer demand for restaurant-quality food and meal kits at home. The strategy is to provide the “always special” Bella Italia experience at home, allowing people to spend “quality time with loved ones with easy to make kits, using quality ingredients”. Ranging from four to eight servings for two to four people, the kits include “everything consumers need to create meat-filled or vegetarian pasta dishes, along with plenty of fresh Italian cheese and a bottle of Via Vai Prosecco”. Fresh pasta includes pappardelle, mafalde, and ravioli and artisan sauces include wild boar; beef shin; pomodoro and sage butter. Bella Italia is also set to tap into celebratory occasions and launch limited-edition Bella at Home kits. Bella at Home is available nationwide for next working day delivery. Founded in 2006, La Tua Pasta trades out of Borough Market, making fresh pasta from scratch.
The British Honey Company acquires Union Distillers in £8m deal: Leicestershire-based Union Distillers has been acquired by The British Honey Company (BHC) for an initial £8m through cash and shares. The acquisition is conditional on the successful completion of a £6.2m placing from BHC. BHC is intending to raise funding through the issue of up to 4,175,455 new ordinary shares at an issue price of 110p per share and a new £1.63m unsecured convertible loan facility. The proceeds of the fundraising will be used, in part, to satisfy the cash consideration element of the purchase with the remaining net proceeds being used for working capital purposes and to further strengthen the company’s balance sheet. Following completion of the acquisition, Union’s joint owner and chief executive Mark Gamble will join the board of BHC as an executive director. The strategy of the enlarged group is to develop a multi-category brand portfolio worldwide through organic and acquisitive growth. Union Distillers produces gin, vodka and absinthe through its Two Birds Spirits portfolio while BHC is noted for its Keepr’s spirits range. FinnCap is acting as an adviser on the deal, as well as a joint broker on the placing with Stanford Capital Partners.
Edinburgh-based Thai restaurant concept gets go-ahead for third site with Glasgow opening: Edinburgh-based Thai restaurant concept Ting Thai Caravan has been given the go-ahead to open its third site, in Glasgow. Founders Ting and Ae Tapparat have been granted permission by the city council to convert the former Patisserie Valerie unit in West Nile Street, reports Glasgow Live. The Tapparats launched the concept having returned to their love of street food after working in Bangkok’s restaurants and five-star hotels. In the summer of 2019, Glasgow City Council rejected Ting Thai Caravan’s proposal to move into the former Fopp unit in Byres Road. Ting Thai Caravan operates restaurants in Edinburgh’s Lothian Road and Teriot Place.
Liverpool-based operator opens dessert restaurant for second site: Liverpool-based operator Sara Darra Zafra has launched a dessert restaurant for her second site in the city. Zafra, who owns Mediterranean concept Fattoush in Hatton Garden in the city centre, has opened Cocoa Desserts a few doors away. The outlet, in the former Barley and Beans cafe premises, is serving crepes with various toppings, cookie dough and waffles, with dishes currently available for delivery only due to the coronavirus restrictions. As well as sweet treats, the restaurant also serves up burgers including peri-peri chicken burger and an halloumi burger as well as sides including fries and milkshakes. Zafra told the Liverpool Echo: “We saw this as an opportunity even in the pandemic.”
Travelodge targets Welsh locations, plans to reopen Nottingham hotel despite housing plan: Budget hotel brand Travelodge is targeting new hotels in Wales to help add 20,000 bedrooms to its portfolio by 2025. In north Wales, it is interested in new sites in Pwllheli and Wrexham, with planning already secured by a developer for the former, according to Business Live. In mid-Wales, Aberystwyth is believed to be a target with also Welshpool or Newtown in its sights. It also wants two hotels in Pembrokeshire. Meanwhile the operator is believed to be planning to reopen its Nottingham city centre when restrictions are lifted – despite plans lodged with Nottingham City Council to turn the building into student flats, reports The Business Desk. Nottingham Hotel Assets is said to want to turn the building into 121 studio apartments. However, Travelodge said it is planning to reopen, once conditions allow. A Travelodge spokesman said: “The hotel is closed at the moment due to the restrictions but we are looking forward to opening it up again once allowed.”
Plans revealed for F&B shipping container development in Preston: Plans to create a food and drink destination in Preston out of shipping containers have been revealed. The scheme is lined up for a site in Moor Lane, reports Insider Media. Proposed is a two-storey development with each outlet being based in its own container. The project has been designed to “improve the kerb appeal of the site” and it would also generate footfall into the area, the application said.
RBH saves four hotels shut by Bespoke Hotels: Hotel management company RBH has saved four hotels closed by Bespoke Hotels earlier this month. The grade II-listed Duke of Cornwall hotel in Plymouth; The Lyndene and St Chads, both in Blackpool; and The Townhouse in Manchester, were all shut on 3 February by hotel management company Bespoke Hotels but the group that owns all four hotels – Singapore-based The Fragrance Group – struck a deal with RBH and will reopen and re-employ a number of its former staff members at all sites. RBH divisional director Steven Foster said: “We have moved swiftly to re-employ the general managers to ensure the hotels are ready to reopen as soon as we’re allowed to do so.” The Fragrance Group’s UK representative Martin Rogers added: “Since discovering Bespoke Hotels had effectively closed four of our hotels by making all staff redundant without warning on 3 February, we have had an intense fortnight of discussions, culminating in an agreement with RBH. We have every confidence the four Fragrance hotels will thrive under [RBH’s] professional management.” London-based RBH manages 45 hotels already in the UK.
Year-round Cornish visitor attraction hits market for £2.5m: A year-round visitor attraction, restaurant and retail destination in Cornwall has been put up for sale with a guide price of £2.5m. Cornwall Gold and Tolgus Mill, spanning 18 acres, and located two miles from Redruth, is being marketed by Christie & Co on behalf of owner FS Group. Tolgus Mill is the last working example of a tin mine in Cornwall. Alongside the mill, the attraction offers a range of family activities including the chance to “pan for gold” and crazy golf. The on-site restaurant and cafe, the Cornish Pantry, offers a selection of locally sourced Cornish produce. Also featured on the property is a jewellery business, trading as Cornwall Gold & Cornwall Pearl, which is operated from the largest retail unit. The on-site workshop allows customers to design and customise their purchase, as well as upcycle old jewellery. FS Group has owned the property for more than 30 years and has decided to bring it to market to focus on other businesses in its portfolio. In addition to the retail and leisure offerings on site, three units are currently let to third-party operators on lease or licence agreements. These trade as a build-a-bear workshop, dance school and studio, and a pottery and painting studio. One further unit is currently vacant.
Fuller’s launches at-home offer for Mother’s Day: Fuller’s has launched an at-home offer for Mother’s Day. Fuller’s At Home Mother’s Day Feast includes a three-course Sunday roast meal with British seasonal ingredients prepared by the pub company’s chefs and a bottle of Laverstoke Farm biodynamic 2015 sparkling wine. The box, which costs £120 for four people or £155 for six, comes with instructions and the whole meal is prepared and ready to just be heated and served. The company has also partnered with chef Brian Turner to bring his guide to cooking the “Feast”. The packs also include recipe cards for each dish and a full video tutorial on cooking each course as well as some personal top tips for mastering the roast. It will be delivered direct to a chosen address on 12 March, ahead of Mother’s Day.
Plans for £4m music venue in Plymouth start to take shape: Plans for a £4m music venue at the site of a former nightclub and cinema have started to take shape. The site, in Plymouth’s Union Street, was purchased by Nudge Community Builders, an organisation of local volunteers, and Eat Work Art, a business that revitalises redundant buildings, in October last year at a joint cost of £800,000. Both owning parties are set to invest a combined £4m and have begun talks with investors and potential commercial tenants. The building used to be home to Millennium nightclub and was also a cinema before proposals to turn the disused building into a 1,300-capacity music and entertainment venue, with bars and cafes around the edge of the ground floor. Work has already begun to shore up and revamp the building. Nudge, set up and run by people in the local Stonehouse community, has fixed the derelict building’s leaky roof and carried out other repairs. The owners aim to have some events take place inside the block in mid-2021 but there is no time-frame on the completed project. Nudge director Hannah Sloggett told Business Live: “We have an outline plan. But we don’t want to raise expectations. We need to work out which organisations and people will be part of bringing this building back to use. That will happen this year. We will also start a community share offer. That will inform how we get the funding and raise finance.”