Cote strengthens management team, Sherrington appointed CFO: Cote, the circa 90-strong French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has further strengthened its management team with a number of new appointments, including James Sherrington as its new chief financial officer, Propel has learned. Sherrington stepped down as chief financial officer at Drake & Morgan earlier this year after three years in the role and six years with the Bowmark Capital-backed, London-based bar operator. Sherrington, who joined Drake & Morgan from Caprice Holdings and the Birley Group where he was the finance director, takes over from Strahan Wilson, the former EAT chief financial officer, who is leaving Cote after more than four and a half years with the company. Propel has learned Simon Chester, ex-purchasing and supply chain director at Wagamama, has joined Cote as supply chain director. The company has also hired Amy Strawbridge, former brand director and head of people experience at Virgin Group, as its new people director. During her ten years at the Virgin Group, Strawbridge led the employee experience function as part of the company’s global brand team. Cote, which appointed Lisa Buckley, formerly managing director of Wagamama, as its new managing director at the end of last year, has also appointed ex-Wagamama regional operations director Dawid Kaminski as a new operations director, while Toby Cowan, formerly of Urban Pubs & Bars and Young’s, has also been appointed as an operations director. Former Wagamama chief executive Jane Holbrook took over as Cote’s executive chairman in September, replacing ex-The Restaurant Group chief executive Andrew Page. Holbrook’s appointment coincided with global private markets investment manager Partners Group acquiring Cote via a pre-pack administration. Alex Scrimgreour, who stepped down as Cote chief executive in October after 12 years of leading the business, took up the role of chief executive at cinema operator Everyman in January.
 
Tomahawk Steakhouse refutes allegations ‘staff would be sacked if they did not sign loan agreement’: Tomahawk Steakhouse, the company led by north east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston, has refuted allegations staff would be sacked if they did not sign a loan agreement. The company asked furloughed employees to sign an agreement to lend 10% of their wages each month to cover their pension and national insurance contributions. The GMB union alleged workers would lose their jobs if they didn’t agree. However, Tomahawk Steakhouse refuted the claim, and said every single employee chose to sign up to the agreement. The company wrote to employees saying it has a “short-term cash flow issue and it requires your help and support”. It said as it must make the national insurance and pension payments itself the “only viable alternative is to ask for your agreement to a loan arrangement”. It added the interest-free loan would be repaid “once the lockdown is eased sufficiently for the company to trade”. A spokeswoman said: “At no point has Tomahawk Steakhouse suggested members of staff would be sacked if they did not sign a loan agreement. Like the rest of the hospitality industry, we have faced a challenging year, and our priority throughout has been to protect our people and our business. As part of this and in order to survive the coming months, we asked our staff to sign up to a voluntary agreement to help us cover the cost of employer national insurance contributions/pension amounts, in the form of a loan. Every single employee chose to sign up to this agreement.” Tomahawk Steakhouse operates ten sites and last month secured the former Bistrot Pierre unit in Stockton Heath, Cheshire. The property in London Road is undergoing refurbishment ahead of a proposed opening in May.
Numis – successful £500m refinancing of The Restaurant Group makes it ‘well placed to benefit from reduced industry supply’: Numis leisure analyst Tim Barrett has argued the success of the £500m refinancing of The Restaurant Group (TRG) means it is “well placed to benefit from reduced industry supply”. Barrett added TRG’s Wagamama brand and its mainly freehold pub-restaurants account for 80% of the business and “will be a core driver” of value at TRG. Issuing an “Add” note to the shares with a target price of 130p, Barrett said: “TRG has successfully refinanced all of its debt facilities, earlier than expected and (at this stage) without recourse to new equity. Both the £225m Wagamama high yield bond and group revolving credit facility were due to mature in mid-2022. This takes away any uncertainty and also removes leverage covenants until June 2022. It has also been achieved without early redemption penalties.” He also said the combined average cost of debt will be about 7% versus 7.9% coupon on the bond and, separately, the group has quantified year end net debt (December 2020) at £340m, in line with its £336.3m forecast, which suggested cash burn remained very well controlled in the group. Barrett added: “The outlook message is also relatively upbeat, with 200 sites (half the estate) trading for delivery, producing average delivery/collection sales at 2.5 times and five times pre-pandemic levels. For Wagamama, we estimate this is close to £10,000 of delivery sales per unit per week.” He added the support of the company’s lenders vindicated its strategy of “shrinking the structurally challenged leisure estate”, which helped to reduce IFRS-16 rent liabilities from £933m to £660m last year. He said TRG may benefit from new equity at some point but has managed to avoid selling its “trophy assets” or raising equity at depressed valuations.
Fulham Shore continues to build openings pipeline: Fulham Shore, which operates 53 Franco Manca sites and 19 The Real Greek venues, is continuing to build its new openings pipeline for both brands. The David Page-chaired business is understood to have lined up the former Giraffe site in Norwich’s Chapelfield Plain for a The Real Greek opening. Fulham Shore is understood to be in talks on further sites for the Mediterranean brand, in Manchester and at the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre near Bristol. It is also in talks on sites for pizza concept, Franco Manca, in Basingstoke, Horsham and Tunbridge Wells. Last month, the company highlighted the property opportunities being provided by the pandemic. In a trading update, it stated: “The well-publicised difficulties in the property and restaurant sectors are providing the group with opportunities to acquire new sites at much reduced rents and lower capital costs per site. We are negotiating for many sites throughout the UK to restart our expansion programme as soon as full restaurant trading resumes.”
Parogon Group takes on ex-TRG site for new all day dining concept: Staffordshire-based Parogon Group is to open a new all-day dining concept after taking on a former The Restaurant Group site in Trentham Shopping Village. The seven-strong Parogon Group, which is led by co-founder Richard Colclough, has secured the former Joe’s Kitchen site at the scheme for new concept Willow. The company said: “Relaxed days and upbeat evenings is our theme, so it will be the perfect spot for coffee and cake while walking the dog and also for a fun-filled dinner date and cocktails in the evening. We’re thrilled to be opening a new addition to the Parogon Group portfolio in Trentham Gardens.” Colclough told Staffordshire Live: “We have exciting plans to accelerate the growth of Parogon Group once the current restrictions come to an end. It’s been an incredibly tough period for the industry but we’ve been busy behind the scenes laying the foundations for future expansion.”
Greenall to take on second pub, The Surprise in Chelsea: Jack Greenall, a scion of the Greenall Whitley brewing family, is to take on his second pub, after taking a lease on The Surprise in London’s Chelsea. Greenall, whose uncle is Lord Daresbury, has taken on the pub in Christchurch Terrace on a lease at £120,000 per annum, with plans for a May reopening. He also runs The Pheasant near Hungerford, Berkshire, which he took on at the start of 2016. Paul Tallentyre, of Davis Coffer Lyons, acted on The Surprise deal.
Manchester bar concept Jimmy’s to open third site, in York: Jimmy’s, the bar and restaurant concept from brothers George and Jimmy Craig, is to open a third site later this year, in York. The pair, who were in the band One Night Only, have secured the former Cafe Rouge building in Low Petergate, after signing a 15-year lease on the listed building near York Minster. It will be the first of the group’s sites not to host live music, after an objection from local residents, but will be the first to feature a beer garden. Jimmy’s opened its first site in 2016 in Manchester, doubling up with a site at former Liverpool venue the Cabin Club about a year ago.
Blacklock to make dark kitchens debut with hot food delivery service: Skinny chops concept Blacklock is launching a hot food delivery service as part of a first move into delivery kitchens. The new service will initially be available through the company’s Shoreditch site from Friday (5 March). Propel understands it will then be made available in the Battersea/Wandsworth area from later this month through what is thought will be the group’s first dark kitchen unit, in Culvert Place. The service will expand to Camden and Wood Green in April. It is thought Blacklock, which is led by Gordon Ker, is looking to open multiple delivery kitchen units this year. The hot food menu will be split into buns, chops, meat-free and chicken along with sides, sauces, puddings and drinks. Dishes will include pigs head nuggets and Blacklock Fried Chicken – thighs tumbled in spice and fried in beef dripping.
Shake Shack to raise $225m toward growth and development plans: Shake Shack, the US better burger brand, has announced it intends to offer $225m of convertible senior unsecured notes due 2028 in a private placement. The Danny Meyer-founded brand intends to grant the initial purchasers of the notes an option to purchase up to an additional $25m of notes. The company said it expects to use the net proceeds from the offering to support its growth and development plans. Investments may include, but not be limited to, the opening of new sites; Shake Shack format evolution, such as drive-thru; Shack Track – its digital guest experience; and continued investment in talent. Other uses of proceeds include working capital and general corporate purposes.
Pub Invest Group looks to improve team with 100 new vacancies: Pub Invest Group, which owns the McCooley’s, Level and Sgt Peppers brands, is looking to recruit 100 new staff as it prepares for reopening. Hospitality sites in England will be able to start reopening outdoor areas from 12 April but indoor spaces will have to remain closed until 17 May. Liverpool-based Pub Invest Group operations director Mike Edwards said: “The group is lucky to have some of the best outdoor spaces in this great city of Liverpool – and we now have some dates to work up to so plans can be implemented. We are looking to build a team based on the experience and talents of any aspiring hospitality sector workers.”
Whitbread to double number of Premier Inn hotels in Oxford: Whitbread is set to double its presence in Oxford with the opening of two new Premier Inn hotels this year. The Botley Premier Inn, a 123-bedroom hotel in Botley, will open in April while a flagship 90-bedroom hotel opposite the Westgate shopping centre is due to welcome guests in the summer. The two hotels grow Premier Inn’s network to four locations across the city and will create about 50 jobs on opening. Whitbread development director Alex Flach said: “The openings are important milestones for the business as we strategically grow our network in popular and accessible locations across the city where we see strong, long-term demand for our bedrooms.” The Botley Premier Inn will be an eight-storey hotel that will feature Premier Inn’s Thyme restaurant format. The Botley Development Company, a joint venture between Mace Developments and Doric Properties, delivered the hotel for Whitbread as part of its mixed-use West Way Square development.
Lasan sets opening date for Argentine-style cocktail bar and eatery Sonrisa:Birmingham-based restaurant group Lasan has announced it will open Argentine-style cocktail bar and eatery Sonrisa in Leicester on 17 May, which will create 40 jobs. The St Martins site, which is an offshoot of the Fiesta Del Asado steak restaurants in Birmingham and Solihull, will launch in line with the government’s roadmap to reopening when indoor hospitality is planned to start welcoming guests again. It will serve Argentinian-inspired food along with cocktails and South American wine. Roles to be filled include a restaurant manager, supervisors, experienced service team members, bar staff, a sous chef, chef de partie, commis chef and kitchen porter. Lasan Group HR manager Chris Thomas told The Business Desk: “We have opportunities for both hospitality professionals and people looking for part-time roles, perhaps while studying, who are outgoing and conscientious – people who will enjoy creating memorable guest experiences and can build an instant rapport with guests.”
Morrisons acquires Cornish seafood supplier: Supermarket company Morrisons has acquired a £40m-turnover Cornish seafood business for an undisclosed sum. Falfish operates from two sites – in Redruth and Falmouth docks – on the south Cornish coast and is owned by founder Ian Greet and his son Mark, who is managing director. Falfish has long-term relationships with the owners and skippers of more than 70 partner boats in the south west, who land their total catch direct to the company. It has supplied fresh fish and shellfish to Morrisons for more than 16 years and about 50% of its turnover is with the retailer. Mark Greet and all 140 Falfish staff will join Morrisons. Following the deal, more than 80% of Morrisons’ fish and shellfish in its 497 stores and online business will come through Morrisons’ wholly-owned seafood operations. Morrisons manufacturing director Andrew Thornber said: “Falfish is a great fit with Morrisons; not only is it a great British company supplying high quality fish and shellfish, but it also shares our passion for sustainability and for local sourcing. Bringing Falfish into Morrisons further strengthens our position as Britain’s biggest food maker. Our manufacturing operations employ circa 9,000 people at 19 sites throughout Britain, providing about 25% of everything that Morrisons sells.”
JW Lees tops licensee survey: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees has topped the latest KAM Media Licensee Index. JW Lees improved its overall rating compared with last year, up 1.8 points to a score of 9.7 out of ten, to top the standings. Its pub partners also rated the company 9.8 out of ten on average for the covid-19 support they have received. When asked if they would recommend JW Lees to other publicans, 91% of its licensees said they were “very likely” to do so. The biggest improvements have been “knowledge of their business needs” and “helping reduce running costs/efficiency savings”, licensees said. JW Lees managing director William Lees-Jones said: “We’re delighted once again our pub partners are telling us we are continuing to meet their needs, that we come out top in many areas, compared with our competitors, and we are improving in areas that are important to them. We’re proud of the family of pub partners we have the pleasure to support.” KAM Media spoke to 1,330 tenants across 19 pub companies and family brewers during the research.
Suffolk-based non-alcoholic craft kombucha brand reaches 142% of £500,000 crowdfunding campaign target as part of wider £2m fundraise: Suffolk-based non-alcoholic craft kombucha brand LA Brewery has raised £712,029 – which represents 142% of its £500,000 crowdfunding campaign target as part of a bigger £2m package of growth capital funding. The company, founded in 2017 by entrepreneur Louise Avery, has met and beaten its target on Crowdcube and is offering 10.55% equity in return for the investment. The business will use the new funds to complete expansion works at its Suffolk brewery site and for working capital purposes as it invests behind brand development and the launch of more innovative non-alcoholic craft drinks. Avery said: “We’ve seen brilliant success with our latest products Citrus Hops and Sparkling English Rose and fantastic growth with our new online shop. January was a record month for us as we saw a 171% increase in online orders compared with December 2020. The crowdfund is part of a total raise for up to £2m including the Future Fund scheme.”
Homeslice open for alfresco reservations, Brixton Jamm set to reopen: London-based better pizza brand Homeslice has announced it is now taking reservations for outdoor dining from 12 April. Customers can book for alfresco dining at its branches in Queen Street, City; Old Street, Shoreditch; Wood Lane, White City; and James Street, Marylebone. And it is also broadcasting a one-hour Mother’s Day DIY pizza and cocktail virtual masterclass on Sunday, 14 March. Meanwhile, south London music venue Brixton Jamm is set to reopen its outdoor experience The Brixton Courtyard from 12 April. The venue plans to reopen its outdoor beach, courtyard and terrace areas with its run of “Socially Distanced Socials” recommencing, with much of its cancelled December and January music programme already in place. Jerk-inspired street food trader Only Jerkin’ will also return, serving its trademark Triple-Dipped Fried Chicken as well as other Caribbean dishes. There will also be a series of socially distanced brunches and barbecues. The music programme will include Craig Charles, Crazy P, Horse Meat Disco and Oliver Smith with guests able to watch the performances from socially distanced tables and private booths.
Japan Centre to extend flagship Soho site after taking former Busaba space:Japan Centre, the Japanese food hall in Soho led by Shoryu Ramen founder Tak Tokumine, is to be extended in time for its 45th anniversary year. The site in Panton Street will be extended by 2,600 square foot later this month as the food hall takes over the Busaba Leicester Square site, extending its ground floor to offer customers more space to “shop for Japanese groceries, store cupboard essentials, plus fresh sushi and best-selling snacks”. The new area will build on the existing food hall, which consists of three different “specialist” rooms (tea, sake and miso), a central courtyard eating area, open kitchens and a Japanese entrance experience. The company said phase two of its expansion is planned for launch towards the end of 2021, combining the shopping experience with a new Japanese casual dining concept. Tokumine said: “It’s been a challenging year for the hospitality industry, but the Japan Centre continues to look forward to a brighter future for its customers.” Savills acted on behalf of landlord Motcomb Estates.
Cricket ground could be ‘Leicester’s premium outdoor venue’ after securing premises licence: Leicestershire County Cricket Club could become “Leicester’s premium outdoor venue” after it was granted a new premises licence. Almost 20,000 people would be able to attend large-scale events at the Uptonsteel County Ground after gaining permission to host two major events every year. Leicestershire County Cricket Club chief executive Sean Jarvis said securing the licence was a major step in securing the long-term future of the club. He told The Business Desk: “This new licence gives us greater flexibility when working with artists and promoters to organise large-scale events at the Uptonsteel County Ground. Having already attracted artists such as Sir Elton John previously, we are really looking forward to securing other big-name artists to our events calendar. In the coming days, we will be announcing our first outdoor show for summer 2021 and we expect tickets to sell very quickly. We now have the means to position ourselves as the premium outdoor venue in Leicestershire for live music, plays, films or dance performances.” Elton John played at the venue in 2016 to a packed crowd and, since then, outdoor cinema, West End shows and fireworks events have been hosted at the ground. A double-header concert of Westlife and Little Mix was planned in 2020 but cancelled due to the pandemic.
Elior UK pledges new gender diversity objectives: Contract caterer Elior UK has announced new objectives to support its “Celebrating Equality” initiative and speed up its progress around gender diversity. By 2025 the company has committed to ensuring its leadership team is more representative of gender diversity across the workforce. Elior UK has set three key objectives – increase the number of female chefs at all levels within Elior UK to 49% by 2025 and 53% by 2030; increase the number of females in middle/senior management positions within head office to 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030; and increase the number of females on the UK leadership team to 50% by 2025 and 62.5% by 2030. The company said it was introducing a number of initiatives “to support the career development of women at every level of the business”. A new coaching and mentorship programme has been created to support employees throughout the organisation with a focus on identifying future female leaders. Justin Jonson, HR director at Elior UK, said: “While we recognise the value of diversity and have always tried to create a truly inclusive culture where people are valued for their contribution, we recognise we have more work to do. This is why we are making a commitment to speed up progress with regards to gender diversity and have created a comprehensive plan to make this happen.”