Balans places entire estate on the market: London-based casual dining group Balans Soho Society has placed all seven of its sites on the market, Propel has learned. The company, which opened its first venue in Old Compton Street, Soho, in 1987, is understood to be marketing the seven sites through CDG Leisure. Offers are being invited on the Balans sites in Ealing, Victoria, Kensington, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford, plus the group’s two venues in Soho’s Old Compton Street. It is thought the sites are available individually. Earlier this year, the business, which is led by founder David Taylor, sold its site in Clapham Common to the team behind the Little Yellow Door concept. The house parties-style bar and restaurant concept, backed by Edition Capital, reopened the site as The Little Orange Door.
Honest Burgers launches chicken concept: Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers has launched new concept, Honest Chicken out of its King’s Cross site, Propel has learned. Honest Chicken is currently a takeover of the group’s King’s Cross, delivering to King’s Cross, Camden, Clerkenwell, Highbury, Islington, Kentish Town, Holborn and Bloomsbury, with contactless delivery available from Deliveroo and UberEats. The company said there was plans in progress to open further sites in the future under the new concept. A new standalone menu features four free-range chicken burgers, all served with signature rosemary salted chips, ranging from £10 to £14. Tom Barton, co-founder of Honest Burgers and Honest Chicken, said “Honest Chicken has been in the making for years now, pretty much since we launched our first fried chicken burger! The food is a mash-up of all the free-range chicken greats from Honest Burgers and some new dishes just for Honest Chicken. It’s powered by all the same things as Honest Burgers – great British produce, homemade food, a simple menu, no fuss and great value.” The company has so far reopened 22 of its sites for delivery, with its sites in Oxford Circus and Portobello set to reopen on Wednesday (27 May).
Ole & Steen to begin trial reopening programme next week: Danish baker Ole & Steen is to begin a trial reopening programme from next Tuesday (2 June), starting with its three bakeries in Richmond, High Street Kensington and Bedford Avenue. These locations will be open for takeaway, click-and-collect and delivery only, with a slightly reduced menu. The company, which operates 11 sites in London and one in Oxford, said stores will operate a one-way system to observe social distancing and only five customers will be allowed at any one time. A new click-and-collect feature will be available for customers with the Ole & Steen app, which has been revised to reward both new and existing customers with vouchers and bespoke menu items. The company has teamed up with UberEats and Deliveroo. It will also be trialling a limited grocery range for Richmond customers, available via the click-and-collect app and on its delivery platform. In addition, Ole & Steen has teamed up with Karma, the food waste app, to minimise waste at the end of each day. Simon Ward-Nicholson, managing director of Ole & Steen, said: “We’ve discussed how to reopen, knowing our customers have been missing our food, but equally concerned about their safety and that of our staff. We’ve chosen these first three stores to assess how we can best manage the social distancing and I’m confident we can open more bakeries soon.”
Busaba receives interest, reopens half of estate for delivery: Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has received interest from 16 parties, with bids to invest in or acquire the 13-strong, London-based business due this week, Propel has learned. Last month, Propel revealed the Terry Harrison-led group had appointed KPMG to help it assess options, which if new investment doesn’t come forward could include a restructuring of the business and a possible company voluntary arrangement. It was thought the business had small reserves of cash to keep it going for the short-term, but needed a cash injection for the mid to long-term. It is believed to have looked at the government schemes available, but does not qualify under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. A request to extending its business loan facility was also thought to have been declined. Propel understands management has received interest in all or parts of the business from 16 parties over the past few weeks, with many encouraged by how the business was trading post-lock-down. Bids are understood to be due on Tuesday (26 May). At the same time, Propel understands the company will this week reopen its Westfield Stratford site for delivery. It will join reopened Busaba sites in Soho, Kingston, Chelsea and Hoxton, plus its Deliveroo Editions site in Blackwall.
Le Pain Russia co-founder among bidders for UK business: A number of parties remain interested in acquiring UK Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand Le Pain Quotidien UK, Propel understands. The sales process for the 26-strong business is still understood to be ongoing, despite speculation the brand was set to change hands last week through a pre-pack administration process. It is thought interest has been forthcoming from owners of the brand in other international territories, including, Propel understands, one featuring Ian Zilberkweit, the co-founder of Le Pain Quotidien Russia and current board member of Farmer J. Zilberkweit was previously chief financial officer of Le Pain Quotidien UK between July 2004 and January 2007, co-founding the UK operation with Philippe Le Roux. Zilberkweit, a one-time Subway franchisee, is currently president and co-founder of the Nash Khleb Group, the largest operator of premium cafes/bakeries in Moscow, which includes the Le Pain Quotidien brand. Meanwhile, Aurify Brands, which owns Five Guys, Melt Shop and Fields Good Chicken, has acquired the US franchise of Le Pain Quotidien. It comes as the brand’s main shareholder Cobepa, together with a recently-launched investment group M80, is set to take on the remaining Le Pain Quotidien business, separate from its UK and US arms. M80 will take a majority share, and Cobepa a “substantial” minority holding. According to reports, the two companies have said they are prepared to spend several million euros on relaunching the chain. As revealed by Propel, an emergency sale process for the UK business was launched in April, with Alvarez & Marsal overseeing the auction and was likely to be appointed as administrator unless a solvent sale was concluded imminently. Gail’s Bakery, the Luke Johnson-chaired company, was previously put forward as a possible bidder for part or all of the Le Pain Quotidien UK business.
PizzaExpress undertaking comprehensive review of business: PizzaExpress, the Hony Capital-backed group, has said while planning for the future, it will undertake a comprehensive review of its business. The Zoe Bowley-led company was responding to reports over the weekend the business was mulling a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which would allow it to shutter some or all of its loss-making branches. It was also reported the company was appealing to lenders for permission to delay its accounts and had instructed financial restructuring specialists to identify the names of bond investors owed £1.1bn. Earlier this month, credit rating agency Standard & Poor said the recent agreement of a new £70m loan facility by PizzaExpress was only an “additional step toward a likely broad restructuring of the group’s capital structure”. It is thought the group’s position, so far, hasn’t changed since pre-covid-19 and Houlihan Lokey is working with the business as financial advisors given its debt maturity, and has continued to do so through lock-down. A PizzaExpress spokesman said: “Since we closed our restaurants, our priorities during the covid-19 pandemic remain clear – to look after our teams, to protect the business for the long term and to reopen successfully when the time is right. While planning for the future, we will undertake a comprehensive review of our business encompassing our restaurants, including the roll-out of Future Express, and planned digital innovations. When complete, and hopefully with greater clarity around how our restaurants can reopen safely, we will take the right steps to ensure PizzaExpress’ next 55 years are as successful as the past 55 years.” Last week, the company announced it was to begin reopening a select number of sites for delivery only. Propel revealed the brand would open 13 restaurants for delivery in “London villages”, including its sites in Balham, Fulham and Notting Hill.
Everards secures £5m CBILS loan: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards has secured £5m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from Lloyds Bank. Everards, which owns more than 170 tenanted pubs across the Midlands and brews a range of ales, has suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak and temporary closure of pubs across the country. The business has seen a significant decrease in turnover since last month and has had to furlough more than 70% of its staff. Nigel Allen, finance director at Everards, said: “This loan will allow Everards to help continue to support our 170 individual business owners and enable us to remain on the front foot for reopening once lock-down is lifted and pubs can reopen. It’s very difficult to envisage what the new post-covid-19 world will look like for the hospitality and leisure sector and how quickly consumers will return to their local pub. For us, the CBILS loan from Lloyds Bank means we can continue to support our business, working towards delivery of our long-term strategy.” The loan has also enabled the business to continue with the development of its new state-of-the-art brewery, beer hall and office site at Everards Meadows in Enderby, Leicestershire. The building project, which was originally due to be completed this autumn, has now been delayed until 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
Inn Collection Group appoints new CFO: The Inn Collection Group has appointed Paul Edwards as its new chief financial officer. Edwards, who joins from bus operator Go North East, replaces Claire Burgess, who joined the company in April last year. Edwards led the finance function at Go North East – a subsidiary of The Go-Ahead Group – for nine years, responsible to the main board for reporting teams, key banking and debt relationships, and group internal and external audit. The Inn Collection Group managing director Sean Donkin said: “With a wealth of experience in finance in one of the region’s largest companies in Go-Ahead, Paul will bring a skillset to the company that will assist with our systematic growth from a local into a regional company over the coming years.” The Alchemy-backed group bolstered its portfolio in March to 14 sites by acquiring Cumbrian coaching inn The Swan in Grasmere. The Inn Collection Group said it continued to seek out new-build and acquisition opportunities to grow across the north of England.
Megan’s to reopen majority of estate for takeaway and delivery by beginning of June: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s has reopened four of its sites for takeaway and delivery and will reopen the majority of its estate by the start of June, Propel has learned. The company, owned by Tossed founder Vincent McKevitt, has reopened its Clapham, High Street Kensington, Parsons Green and Wimbledon outlets. It plans to reopen the Battersea site on Tuesday (26 May), followed by Islington on Thursday (28 May) and Balham on Tuesday, 2 June. The sites are open for takeaway from 8am to 6pm between Monday and Wednesday, from 8am to 7pm on Thursdayand Friday and 9am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday. Delivery is available via Deliveroo from 9am to 10pm from Monday-to Saturday and 9am to 9pm on Sunday. Megan’s said extensive safety and social distancing measures were in place for its teams and guests.
Camden Town Brewery creates ‘jobs board’ to support and share staff workload: Camden Town Brewery has created a “jobs board” as a way to support and share the workload for staff that may be picking up extra tasks while colleagues are on furlough. Managing director Adam Keary said the company was also trying to continue its Friday lunch tradition – albeit virtually. Writing in the latest Propel Friday Opinion, Keary said: “If someone is super busy, they can post tasks (on the jobs board) and those with some spare time can pick it up, no matter their title or job description. Introducing these new ways of working has helped us to maintain Camden’s community atmosphere, with everyone chipping in despite their job role. It’s also just as important to ensure team morale is kept high with non-work-related activity. Most hospitality companies are incredibly sociable so it’s important to switch this aspect to online. We’ve been trying our best to do what we can to keep Camden, Camden. Since the very beginning we’ve always done a Friday lunch where we provide lunch for the entire team, giving us an opportunity to pause and connect with one another. As it’s important to our culture, we’ve tried to move this virtually by sending out Deliveroo discount codes and encouraging meals together over Zoom. We also have beer delivered for everyone to enjoy a virtual Friday desk beer together, as well as sharing Spotify playlists to recreate the fun office vibe.” The company has furloughed about a third of its workforce.
Taco Bell plans to hire 30,000 staff in US: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is planning to hire 30,000 staff in the US, including new safety-focused roles created amid the coronavirus crisis. Some of the new positions are aimed at shoring up staff to help with the growing demands of takeaway operations, as well as new dedicated cleaning roles. Chief people officer Kelly McCulloch told Nation’s Restaurant News: “Since coronavirus became a reality, we have continued our commitment to putting our people first. We work closely with our franchisees to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of our restaurant teams. Their safety and well-being remain our first priority. With this new hiring wave, we look forward to expanding our Taco Bell family and providing great, safe jobs to even more people.” Given the increased demand for contactless ordering, Taco Bell is also focusing its efforts on new roles that enhance speed and efficiency from various off-premise ordering channels.
Holiday park company secures future with £2.5m funding package: Holiday park company Coppergreen Developments has secured its future with a £2.5m funding package following the closures of its sites due to coronavirus. The company runs four venues across the UK, in Thirsk, North Yorkshire; Kenwick, Lincolnshire; Clumber, Nottinghamshire; and Dundee. The funding from HSBC UK will ensure the company can cover its running costs and retain its staff until the holiday parks are able to reopen again. Coppergreen Developments has implemented the government’s furlough scheme for 360 of its 400 employees. Finance director Donna Copley said: “We initially feared coronavirus would mean permanently closing our holiday parks. However, thanks to HSBC UK’s support, we have been able to secure the future of the company and ensure hundreds of our employees will be taken care of while the furlough scheme is in place.”
Ottolenghi reopens two deli sites: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi has reopened two of his deli sites. The Notting Hill and Islington outlets have reopened for takeaway and click-and-collect with delivery being introduced next week. Both sites offer a reduced “essentials” range, including croissants and other pastries, fruit tarts and its chocolate fondant cake. There is also the aubergine salad, broccoli and cauliflower tabbouleh and a changing selection of mains to take home. The Ottolenghi Belgravia and Spitalfields outlets as well as the Nopi and Rovi restaurants remain closed.
Intu outlines safety support for tenants as part of gradual reopening of non-essential stores: Intu has outlined how it will safely support the gradual reopening of non-essential stores at its 14 shopping centres nationwide in line with government guidelines. Individual plans have been drawn up for each site, with new social distancing and hygiene procedures and more support to help Intu’s tenants reopen safely such as queuing zones to help limit the number of customers inside a shop. The plans include placing limits on the number of people and cars allowed into each centre at a time, with some parking bays closed; and there will be a raft of other measures including one-way systems, floor stickers and staff training to ensure visitors stay socially distanced. Enhanced hygiene regimes that were introduced at the start of the outbreak will continue. Hand sanitation stands will also remain at entrances and other locations throughout each centre for visitors to use during their visit.
Bar Douro to reopen for delivery: Portuguese food and wine concept Bar Douro has reopened its London Bridge restaurant for delivery. The service is available from Wednesday to Sunday between 5pm and 10pm. The menu is similar to the restaurants in Broadgate and London Bridge, with sections for petiscos (snacks), horta (garden), mar (sea) and terra (land). Dishes include Croquetes de alheira made with smoked Portuguese sausage, and grilled octopus with blistered peppers and onions. There is also be a selection of wine, craft beer and port.