Busaba Eathai restructures finances, tackles legacy issues: Busaba Eathai, which operates 13 sites, restructured its finances in May in the wake of its acquisition by Muzinich Private Debt, which resulted in a reduction in loan note debt and additional facilities of £1.4m to support the ongoing development of the business and restructuring costs. The company reported it had sub-let a closed site in Manchester and assigned the lease of a closed site in St Albans – a leasehold site in Liverpool was previously assigned. The company said the business has refocused on London operations. The company reported turnover decreased 3% to £28.4m in the year to 26 May 2018, but management action saw adjusted Ebitda increase 342% to £897,000. Losses increased by 12% to £11.2m after an impairment of £3.7m on the book value of assets, a £600,000 write-down in the value of stock and £3m of onerous lease provisions. Speaking exclusively to Propel, managing director Terry Harrison, said: “Our FY18 results, which we were late in publishing due to the change in ownership, refinancing and the restructuring of our balance sheet, are a clear indication our decision to focus on our core London business was the correct one. The FY19 results, which we are just finalising, also signal the business recovery continues. We will also have a cleaner balance sheet as we tackled many of the legacy issues last year (asset impairments, historic stock write-downs, onerous leases etc). By focusing purely on Busaba’s core philosophy of quality food in engaging environments, with our menu and service aligned to a social experience, we are confident in the long-term future of the brand.” Harrison said the past two years had been “an incredible journey” for the business as the new management team had completely overhauled its direction and offer. He said: “We have a wholly different leadership team with positive and sensible plans against the difficult backdrop of general casual dining challenges the whole industry faces and the specific challenges we have faced in our turnaround strategy. It is testament to our restaurant teams that their loyalty has remained steadfast through the turbulent and uncertain times and we believe their support of the direction in which we are heading leaves us well positioned to steer Busaba towards a positive and fruitful future.”
Moretti steps down as Vapiano UK chief executive, joins Puttshack: Roberto Moretti has stepped down as chief executive of Vapiano UK, the Italian casual dining brand, after less than a year with the business to join Puttshack as its new chief operating officer in the UK, Propel has learned. The former co-managing director of Bill’s joined Vapiano in October, replacing Phil Sermon. Before joining Vapiano, Moretti was contract managing director at Coco Di Mama. Under his watch, Vapiano added to its London footprint by opening a site at the foot of the Centre Point building in Giles Square. It was the company’s fifth restaurant in the capital and seventh in the UK. However, earlier this year the company closed its Glasgow site just a year after launch. Bosses said the decision to shut the Buchanan Street restaurant was taken for “commercial’ reasons” and described Glasgow as the “wrong location”. An expected opening in Canary Wharf was also shelved with a new lease on the site formerly occupied by Thai restaurant Sri Nams eventually agreed for Flight Club’s new concept Electric Shuffle. Last week, Propel reported that Vanessa Hall, the former Mitchells & Butlers executive and YO! chief executive, was in the running to become chief executive of restaurant group Vapiano after Cornelius Everke announced he would resign for personal reasons on Saturday, 31 August. Everke’s employment has been terminated by mutual consent and the company’s supervisory board intends to appoint current chairman Hall in the interim to replace him. Hall’s new position relies on her being reappointed to the supervisory board in the company’s annual general meeting but she has declared she is prepared to run the company until at least the end of April 2020. It is thought Craig Goslin, a hospitality consultant who previously worked for Famous Brands, is currently overseeing Vapiano’s UK operations. Puttshack recently opened its second UK site, at Intu Lakeside in Essex, and secured an opening at Intu Watford next year. Puttshack’s expansion follows an equity raise of £27m earlier this summer with lead investor Promethean Investment. The two Intu launches come as Puttshack prepares for an opening at No 1 Poultry in the City of London this autumn. Chief executive Joe Vrankin previously told Propel he believes there is potential for 50 Puttshack sites in the UK and 300 in the US. Its planned UK expansion would see Puttshack open one venue every 12 weeks, beginning in 2020.
Bill’s eyes return to expansion trail: An uptick in performance at Richard Caring-backed business Bill’s since David Campbell and Sarah Hills took the helm as executive chairman and managing director respectively has led the company to eye a return to the expansion trail. Propel insights editor Mark Wingett, writing in Premium Diary, noted: “The new look the company is rolling out has led to impressive like-for-like growth and momentum has returned to the business. Campbell has also not been afraid to carry out some churning of the group’s estate, with a few sites off-loaded over the past year and a small number currently being quietly marketed. But what about returning to the expansion trail? The group is relocating in Manchester from John Dalton Street, which is set to be redeveloped, to the former Giraffe unit in Spinningfields. However, I hear the company could be sticking its neck out on two further new sites – in Portsmouth and Cheshire.”
Burger & Lobster and Goodman founder denies sales report: The founder of Burger & Lobster and the Goodman restaurant businesses has denied a report published during the weekend that both are for sale. The Sunday Times reported the futures of the Burger & Lobster and Goodman steakhouse chains were in question as their owner sought buyers. The newspaper said it was understood the company was offering “up to half its London sites to rivals”, while Goodman’s three restaurants were also said to be “on the block”. Founder Misha Zelman told Propel: “Neither side of the business is in the process of being or wants to be sold. Both restaurants are in growth and continue to be heavily invested in by the owners.”
Franco Manca reaches 50 with debut Scottish opening, lines up more: Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned pizza concept, has opened its 50th site in total and first in Scotland, in Edinburgh. The David Page-led company has launched a site at the Mint Building in South St Andrew Street. At the same time the pizza brand has been linked with an opening in Glasgow after submitting an application to open in the city’s Mitchell Street, at a former Oddbins site. Last month Fulham Shore chairman David Page told Propel he was negotiating on 30 sites for Franco Manca and The Real Greek, with the aim to open ten. He was speaking following Fulham Shore’s full-year results in which the company reported revenue growth of 17% to £64.0m and headline Ebitda up to £7.4m. As well as 36 Franco Manca sites in London, the brand currently operates 13 outside the capital and one in Italy. The next restaurant opening is due in Manchester next month. The company is also believed to have submitted an application to open on the former Vital Ingredient site in London’s Middlesex Street.
Kuckoo acquires three Star Pubs & Bars sites in north west England: North west-based rock ‘n’ roll cocktail bar brand Kuckoo has acquired three sites from Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The company, led by Chris Powell, was the tenant at all three sites. The venues are Kuckoo in Preston, which was marketed off a guide price of £225,000, Kuckoo in Knutsford, which was marketed off a guide price of £400,000, and the Fox & Grapes in Preston, which was marketed off a guide price of £140,000. The sale prices have not been disclosed. Powell said: “Following the completion of the sale we can now look forward to a period where we can fulfil our ambitious plans to renovate and enhance the buildings, particularly Kuckoo Preston, to the same high standards as Kuckoo Knutsford and our other cocktail bars in Chester and Sheffield.” Tim Martin, of Fleurets, which brokered the deal, added: “I am pleased for Chris as commercially it makes a lot of sense for him, freeing him from his rental liability. It is always pleasing to sell a pub to an existing tenant – you know the business is in safe hands and has been sold to someone who not only knows the business inside out but also cherishes it.”
Jamie Oliver to turn empire into ‘social impact business’ tackling childhood obesity: Jamie Oliver is to turn his empire into a “social impact business” focused on halving childhood obesity by the end of the next decade. The Jamie Oliver Group has laid out an anti-obesity project the chef hopes will be his legacy, the Daily Mail reports. The report lays out how the group’s activities from 2019 onwards will centre on a goal to halve childhood obesity by 2030. The group plans to reach the “2030 Project” target through campaigning, television shows, books, products and partnerships with other companies. The group will look to be certificated to B Corp status, which is awarded to companies that meet certain sustainability, accountability and transparency standards, a process that can take several years to complete. In the social impact report, the chef said it had been a “difficult” year but the failure had “motivated his team”. He said: “The challenges we’ve weathered have galvanised us to be more effective, focused and impactful.” All of Oliver’s UK restaurants were closed when the business went into administration in May apart from three sites at Gatwick airport, which were acquired by SSP. Oliver was reduced to tears on Channel 4 documentary The Naked Chef Bares All last week after returning to one of his empty Fifteen restaurants in east London. Oliver’s restaurant empire lives on in the form of 65 international sites in 25 countries.
Sector specialist haysmacintyre extends sector services: Sector specialist accountant haysmacintyre, which has circa 140 sector clients, has extended its support for hospitality businesses by launching a fully comprehensive capital allowance service with chartered surveyor expertise. Andrew Ball, head of hospitality at haysmacintyre, said: “Our tax experts can now review clients’ business expenditure and make fully comprehensive claims, dealing with HMRC and the Valuation Office Agency. Capital allowances are available on new structures and buildings, property purchases and sales, and new-build and refurbishments. Enhanced tax reliefs are also available for contaminated land and green technology usage.” Analysing clients’ property expenditure on behalf of clients, haysmacintyre will first investigate whether an allowance is applicable and then prepare, submit and manage claims on behalf of clients. For more information, email Andrew Ball at aball@haysmacintyre.com or Mark Shewring on mshewring@haysmacintyre.com
Former Anglian Country Inns director opens debut site for fledgling pub company: Harry Kodagoda, who recently left his role as food and beverage director of Anglian Country Inns, the operator of gastro-pubs and restaurants led by James Nye, has opened the debut site for his new pub company. Kodagoda has launched Horizon Pub Company and reopened Punch-owned The Cricketers Arms in the Essex village of Rickling Green after taking it on a ten-year lease. The pub, which has ten en-suite bedrooms and a 70-cover restaurant, offers a gastro-pub menu. Kodagoda said: “I saw a great opportunity with this pub. It’s in a great spot overlooking the village green and the cricket field. At the moment it’s a case of making sure we get this one right and then see where we go.” Last month he told Propel: “After 15 years with Anglian Country Inns it was time for me to go it alone. I’ve learned so much from my time with the Nye family and I’m going to take bits and pieces from my time there and incorporate them into my business. I’m going to be very hands-on in terms of the kitchen side of things.” The deal was brokered by agent Christie & Co, one of three Essex pub sales it has completed in the past few weeks. The other deals saw Brian and Lorna Owen take on The Wooden Fender in Colchester, which dates to at least 1625 and features exposed beams, an open fireplace and comfortable seating areas. The Owens plan to enhance the business via the current management team. Meanwhile, a local businessman has taken on brewery-owned, tenanted pub the Wagon & Horses in Braintree and plans to reopen it in October following remodelling work. Anthony Jenkins, associate director at Christie & Co, who handled the three sales, added: “These sales demonstrate the continued demand for pubs of all shapes and sizes across Essex.” The Wooden Fender and Wagon & Horses were sold on a freehold basis for undisclosed sums.
Rooney Anand set for £10m shares windfall: The proposed circa £4.6bn takeover of Greene King by the Hong Kong-based CKA Group could mean a windfall for former chief executive Rooney Anand. Writing in Premium Diary, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett noted: “Anand, who only stepped down earlier this year and was fond of a deal, is said to be about to collect circa £10m as a result of the takeover. Greene King’s chief executive of 14 years still holds 1.1 million shares in the Bury St Edmunds-based pub operator and brewer. There’s also speculation that tentative talks on the proposed takeover were first put forward on his watch.”
Admiral Taverns is trade favourite to buy 150-strong Heineken package: Admiral Taverns is trade favourite to buy the 150-strong package of pubs Heineken placed on the market last month with a value of circa £55m to £60m. Propel insights editor Mark Wingett said: “NewRiver, Red Oak Taverns and Admiral Taverns were all suggested as possible suitors plus the possibility of some investment firms looking at the package as a possible entrant to the sector or bolt-on for their existing pub portfolios. I understand that on the trade buyer side, Admiral Taverns is seen as the favourite to complete a deal, with an unnamed investment firm also believed to be in the running for a package that has been given the code name, Project Tokyo.”
Costa Coffee workers allege poor working conditions at 29 franchise stores:Costa Coffee workers have alleged poor working conditions at 29 franchise stores. The BBC said it had spoken to 26 employees of Costa Coffee franchise stores managed by Goldex Essex Investments and Bristal Investments. Complaints include managers’ alleged refusal to pay for sickness or annual leave, working outside contracted hours and retention of tips. A Costa Coffee spokeswoman said an independent audit had been launched. She said: “Given the serious nature of the allegations we have informed all our individual franchise partners we will launch an independent audit into the legal and ethical compliance of their operations, including employment matters.” The allegations surfaced after the BBC reported staff at Costa stores managed by Goldex Essex Investments were being charged a minimum of £200 for their own training. A previous complaint against the Costa franchise partner by former employee Daniel Gyori for withholding wages was upheld in court in the claimant’s favour. An anonymous former employee at a store under Goldex Essex Investments claimed they had almost £1,000 of holiday pay deducted from their salary. The employee also claimed they had worked an average of 60 hours a week. Three Bristal Investments employees working under Emilio Aleo alleged they regularly worked 13-hour shifts with 20-minute breaks. Aleo said: “We do not obligate staff to work more than 44 hours per week without their agreement.” He added that breaks were given in “accordance with the hours worked”.
Greene King launches UK’s first beer garden vending machine: Greene King has launched the UK’s first beer garden vending machine, complete with sunglasses, sun cream and deodorant. The machine at the Anchor Bankside pub in Southwark, London, stocks everything required for a day in the sun including flip-flops, shorts, hats and vests. All items cost £1. The launch follows Greene King research that found more than one-third (36%) of Brits spend up to three hours in their local beer garden on an average visit, while one in ten spend up to five hours in the sunshine. Despite this, almost half (49%) of Brits claim they forget the sun cream and 38% admit to burning while enjoying a day of outdoor drinking. Greene King chief commercial officer Phil Thomas said: “When the sunshine comes we know there’s nothing better than getting outdoors and enjoying a pint in the sunshine.”
Jamie Rollo – Travelodge revpar continues to outperform Premier Inn: Morgan Stanley analyst Jamie Rollo has said Travelodge continues to expand its revpar outperformance versus Whitbread’s Premier Inn brand. Rating the shares at equal weight with a 4,600p price target, Rollo said: “Our chart shows Travelodge continues to expand its revpar outperformance versus Whitbread’s Premier Inn. Travelodge reported first-half 2019 results on 22 August with revpar up 0.1% in the second quarter, a slowdown versus 1.0% growth in the first quarter but still 200 basis points outperformance versus the Midscale & Economy (M&E) sector for the first half of the year. This takes Travelodge’s revpar outperformance versus Premier Inn to 640 basis points for the latest comparable period (Travelodge second quarter 2019 April to June versus Premier Inn first quarter 2020 March to May). The actual underperformance is probably not this severe as market revpar in March was particularly weak, whereas we saw a rebound in June (M&E revpar minus 4.0%/+0.9% March/June). Travelodge has circa 45,000 UK rooms versus Premier Inn’s 76,000 and has a similar regions/London split to Whitbread at circa 80/20. We note Travelodge’s 0.6% like-for-like revpar growth in the first half was driven by strong occupancy growth at 3.1% and offset by a 2.5% decline in room rates, suggesting the company is willing to sacrifice rate to defend occupancy and reinforce the brand’s strong price proposition (Travelodge room rates are on average 18% cheaper than Premier Inn’s). Travelodge and Whitbread have both flagged heightened political uncertainty in the UK and remain cautious on the short-term outlook. We forecast a 4.0% decline in total Premier Inn revpar in FY20, which requires an improvement versus first-quarter 2020’s minus 6.3% and we note the M&E sector has improved 260 basis points over June/July versus March to May (Whitbread’s first quarter 2020).
House Café Company relaunches Riding House: House Café Company has reopened its Fitzrovia venue Riding House Cafe featuring a remodelled interior and new menu. Head chef Henry Omereye has created a series of new menus, including a five-course tasting menu paired with wine flights and an a la carte evening option. The venue has also introduced skewers that can be paired with a new bowl section containing curries, salad or pasta. Every dish on the new menus is paired with wine. House Café Company also operates Rail House Cafe in Victoria. Earlier this month House Café Company boss Adam White revealed he would relaunch the firm’s third venue, Village East, as the Loyal Tavern in partnership with former Duck and Waffle executive chef Tom Cenci. Loyal Tavern will open on Friday, 6 September offering seasonal menus and cheese toasties for late-night snacks.
Calcot Collection enlists HGEM to monitor staff happiness: Luxury hotel group Calcot Collection has enlisted guest experience management expert HGEM to monitor staff happiness through the company’s employee survey function. The agreement, which serves 575 employees across five venues, will provide Calcot Collection with in-depth reports to track employee engagement at all stages of the career process and identify opportunities for development and improvement. The reports will enable Calcot Collection to establish and reinforce best practice while HGEM’s reporting platform, The Hub, will give the company access to Little GEM e-learning modules. Calcot Collection HR manager Pat Sparkes said: “We are pleased to be working with HGEM to monitor employee engagement and identify any areas for improvement. The company’s detailed analysis in this area will help to inform our ongoing strategy and ensure we create the best possible culture for our employees.” HGEM managing director Steven Pike added: “We look forward to working with Calcot Collection closely over the coming months to help utilise the data provided to deliver the best possible results for the business.” HGEM recently added three further hotels to its customer base – Oulton Hall, St Pancras Renaissance and The Queen’s Hotel.