Star Pubs & Bars doubles outdoor investment to £6m: Star Pubs & Bars is investing £6m this year in revamping the exteriors of its pubs to enhance their kerb appeal and increase external covers. The investment is double that of 2017 and will benefit 260 pubs. More than 60% of the funds are being allocated to transforming pub exteriors through redecoration, new lighting, signage, cladding and other finishes for less attractive buildings. A key focus this year will be on creating strong statement entrances by adding structures such as pergolas, dropping adjacent windows and, where possible, relocating side entrances to the front. New outdoor areas will be created at 120 pubs, adding more covers for alfresco eating and drinking and better space for licensees to hold events. Features such as retractable awnings, pods, lighting and artificial grass will enable all-weather, year-round use. The trend for “bringing the inside out” will be maximised using outside rugs, interior-style furniture, artwork and mood lighting to make stunning outdoor areas. The number of outside bars and cooking facilities – such as pizza ovens – is expected to rise as licensees look to capitalise on the investment and reduce pressure on main bars and kitchens during warm weather. Star Pubs & Bars property director Chris Moore said: “This expenditure is an essential part of our 2018 £44m investment programme. A pub’s external appearance is vital to its success – our research shows it sends all sorts of signals to passers-by on what they’ll find inside. A great outdoor space is no longer a ‘nice to have’. Customers now expect a fantastic environment outside as well as inside, and licensees see outside areas as an essential part of any refurbishment and a vital income stream. Our own calculations suggest a properly designed garden can increase food and drink sales by as much as £50,000 a year.”
Bourne Leisure turnover tops £1bn: Turnover has topped £1bn at Bourne Leisure, which operates Butlin’s, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels. Newly filed results for the year to 31 December 2017 revealed turnover at Bourne Leisure Holdings climbed to £1.03bn from £996.6m 12 months earlier. Pre-tax profit also increased to £155.1m from £143.9m. Group operating profit was also up by 5.3% due to improved trading. During the period, Bourne Leisure spent £150.9m, which included continued investment in its hire fleet, pitches, entertainment complexes, swimming pools, caravan parks, and improving the guest experience and accommodation at Warner Leisure hotels and Butlin’s. The business also acquired the owner of its Hertfordshire head office, RAGOF Park Lane – now known as BL Park Lane – for £21.1m and continued the development of a Warner hotel at Studley Castle. The venue’s opening is scheduled for spring 2019. Bourne Leisure is headquartered in Hemel Hempstead and has Butlin’s resorts in Skegness and Minehead as well as almost 40 Haven parks around the coast of England, Wales and Scotland. Warner Leisure Hotels are in Somerset, Hampshire, Suffolk, Berkshire, Nottinghamshire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, North Wales, North Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight.
McDonald’s launches MacCoin to mark 50th anniversary of Big Mac:McDonald’s has marked the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac by launching its own MacCoin burger currency. The MacCoin will be handed out to every customer who orders one of the iconic burgers in any of their branches across the globe. The coins, embellished with images of the burger and the number 50, can be exchanged for another free burger. It is thought the Big Mac currency will be on offer for the rest of 2018, with the coins expected to launch worldwide on Thursday (2 August). McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook revealed the launch day will fall on what would have been the 100th birthday of Jim Delligatti, a McDonald’s franchisee in western Pennsylvania who invented the Big Mac.
Sapient reports Novus received ‘unsolicited approaches’ for its 15 landmark venues: Mergers and acquisitions advisor Sapient Corporate has reported the sale of 15 Novus venues to Stonegate Pub Company last week followed “unsolicited approaches” from other parties. In a note, Sapient stated: “Since 2014, Novus has achieved strong growth across its business facilitated by significant investment in proposition and people. Following a number of unsolicited approaches from parties interested in acquiring Novus’ venues business, a focused sales process was undertaken by Sapient resulting in the successful sale of the 15 sites to Stonegate. The sale of 15 sites for Novus is Sapient’s 31st transaction involving wet-led pub and bar businesses in the past ten years including three deals for Admiral Taverns and four deals involving Stonegate. During that time, our client mix has shifted towards financial buyers and sellers (including PE and real estate funds) with over 75% of our deals now involving such clients/counterparties.”
ETM Group opens destination bar and restaurant Maple at Westfield: ETM Group, the 14-strong bar and restaurant company, has launched its latest site –Maple – as part of Westfield London’s £600m expansion. Created to appeal to the thousands of creatives working in White City as well as shoppers and families visiting Westfield leisure complex, the bar restaurant is open daily for morning coffee, light lunch, after-work drinks and dinner. Maple features a central statement bar dominated by six copper beer tanks offering unfiltered craft beer. The venue also offers booths, a chef’s table and a theatre kitchen. The “see and be seen” table seats 14 on a raised level, while a terrace is available to book and decked with planters and heaters. The bar menu includes small plates such as soft-shell crab sliders alongside contemporary cocktails. Dishes on the all-day menu include tuna tartar with avocado, ginger dressing and seaweed crackers; and confit duck leg on a bed of cannellini beans, pancetta and blackberries. Resident DJs play from 8.30pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Last month, ETM Group announced it would make its first move into transport hubs with a debut train station site opening next year. The company will launch two-storey pub Redwood next to The Shard at London Bridge.
Mad Squirrel closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £322,000 to expand craft beer shop estate: Hertfordshire-based brewer and retailer Mad Squirrel has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand its craft beer shop estate. Last month the company, founded by Greg Blesson and Jason Duncan-Anderson, increased its equity offer to 2.95% from the original 1.93% with a target of raising £250,000. In total, 348 investors pledged £322,420 and the campaign has now closed. Mad Squirrel recently secured its sixth site, in Harpenden, and aims to add another this year with plans for three more by 2020. The pitch stated: “We recently installed a state-of-the-art brewery and have shown 180% growth in three years. We operate five Mad Squirrel craft beer outlets in commuter-belt towns, with moving annual total revenues up 45%. Our taprooms have built a positive reputation for great beer and education. This has created cordial relationships with the authorities. Our strategy of opening more wet-led Mad Squirrel taprooms focuses on current consumer trends for great beer and value for money. Market insights show food-biased outlets are experiencing a decline in revenues compared with wet-led outlets showing a renaissance.” Mad Squirrel, then trading as Red Squirrel Group, raised more than £665,000 on Crowdcube in 2016 to expand its brewery and craft beer shop estate.
Mowgli eyes Leicester: Indian street food restaurant Mowgli, which is backed by investment company Foresight Group, is eyeing Leicester for expansion. The company, founded by barrister and food writer Nisha Katona in 2014, opened its latest restaurant, in nearby Nottingham, earlier this month. Katona posted on Instagram: “I am toying with taking Mowgli to Leicester, which is a city I love for its Indian retail thrills and melamine crockery. I love Leicester but where shall we go? I don’t want to be in the shopping centre. I don’t want a temple to capitalism. I want quirky bohemian Diagon Alley. I spent a few nights and days in St Martin’s Square. It feels very Mowgli and I loved its feel instantly.” Mowgli has two restaurants in Liverpool and venues in Manchester, Birmingham and Oxford. Further openings are planned for Leeds, Cardiff and a second site in Manchester, The Business Desk reports.
Oakman Inns launches Ascot pub for 23rd site: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has opened its latest pub, The Royal Foresters in Ascot. The 140-year-old pub in London Road has been transformed following a £10m-plus investment by Oakman Inns. The Royal Foresters offers 24 new luxury guest rooms and an 80-seat flexible function space next to the restaurant. The fully restored bar features two log fires while the restaurant has an open theatre-style kitchen where head chef Lee McMullen will create traditional British and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The freshly planted beer garden and newly landscaped terrace provide alfresco dining for up to 80 guests. The venue is the company’s 23rd and has reopened after three years. Before Oakman’s acquisition, the local community feared it would lose a valuable local amenity when the site became tagged for a housing development. Chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “This has been Oakman Inns’ largest investment to date and it’s been very encouraging to hear so many positive comments from the local community who have waited to get their pub back.” Earlier this month, the company reported like-for-like sales were up 5.1% for the 13 weeks ending 1 July. Total sales for the period were, at £8.8m, on-budget and an almost 35% increase on the previous year.
Starbucks to fund Thames ‘plastic fishing boat’ through 5p paper cup charge: One of the first uses of Starbucks’ new 5p paper cup charge will be to fund a new “fishing boat” that will clear plastic waste from the Thames. The boat is the brainchild of environmental charity Hubbub, which ran the initial “latte levy” trial for Starbucks that the company rolled out across its 950 stores in the UK last week. Earlier this year, the charity launched Poly-mer, a boat made from 99% recycled plastic that has undertaken 36 plastic fishing trips from London’s Docklands. The resulting haul has seen more than 800 plastic bottles pulled from the river. The funding from Starbucks will support the launch of a second vessel in Richmond next month to allow more children and businesses to participate. Hubbub has also launched a social media campaign to name the boat by 9 August under the hashtag #NotBoatFace. The boat is the first of a wave of projects Hubbub is planning following Starbucks’ levy roll-out. Martin Brok, president at Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa, told Business Green: “We saw encouraging results from the first three months of this trial and what stood out was the positive response we had from our partners and customers, who continue to push us to innovate and find ways to reduce waste.”
Goodbody – unrest among franchisees biggest threat to Domino’s business model: Leisure analysts at Goodbody have expressed concern over a Sunday Times article at the weekend highlighting unrest among franchisees. In an investment note, Goodbody stated: “According to an article in The Sunday Times, the corporate culture at Domino’s has come under question after claims of growing unrest among franchisees. The departure of three chief financial officers in just over three years is said to have raised concerns over chief executive David Wild’s style of management. According to the article many of the franchisees also believe the rising food and business costs are not being shared equitably by the company and to have led to 11 franchisees setting up an association to represent their own interests. Additionally the decision to move Simon Wallace from UK chief operating officer to international managing director has not been received well given his popularity among franchisees. As we have always said, the biggest risk to our investment thesis is the group’s relationship with franchisees given the group is reliant on them to continuously roll-out stores. While we have built in the absorption of some cost headwinds by the group across FY18 and FY19, growing unrest among franchisees would suggest risks are increasing that the company could have to take further margin pressure. We continue to believe Domino’s should have a good update next week at its first-half results given favourable second-quarter trading as it is a World Cup year and we would highlight the group is trading at a discount to both relative and historic EV/Ebitda and price-earnings multiples. However, we expect the stock should be weak off the back of this today.”
New Pesto site breaks records: The latest addition to the Italian casual dining pub and restaurant brand Pesto, which is owned and operated by Neil and Sara Gatt, has broken numerous company records in its first week of trading. Pesto At The Yacht Inn opened last week after a £650,000 refurbishment that has taken 12 weeks to complete, transforming a former Greene King pub in Woodbank, near Chester. Neil Gatt said: “You never really know how these developments are going to trade until you open the doors. Nobody gets them right all the time but to break the record for the highest-grossing opening week for the company since we started in 2006 is very satisfying.” The freehold of the Yacht Inn was acquired from Greene King in January through a property company and leased back to Pesto on a 20-year FRI lease. “This is the first time we have used the PropCo model in this way,” added Gatt. “It is a great way to unlock value in these tired, underperforming freehold assets. Hopefully we will be doing more deals of this kind in the future.”
Craft soft drinks company Gunna passes 50% mark in £500,000 crowdfunding campaign: Craft soft drinks company Gunna has passed the 50% mark in its £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company is offering 17.54% equity in return for investment to fund expansion. So far, 139 investors have pledged £289,320 with 18 days remaining. The largest single investment to date is £51,500. The pitch states: “The UK soft drinks market was worth £15.2bn in 2017, with 1.4% in market growth. Gunna competes in the carbonates sector, which has more than 30% of the market share. In the same way craft beer has transformed its market, consumer research shows there is an opportunity for craft soft drinks because millennials are looking for great-tasting, healthier and more natural soft drinks. Gunna is currently growing with revenue up 300% versus 2017 (average loss month-on-month in 2017 of £45,000; 2018 average loss of £42,000). It is already stocked in more than 3,500 outlets. Gunna is healthier, with less than 5% sugar, 100% natural flavours and no preservatives. It has a modern, craft brand image that appeals to millennials. There are four flavours inspired by famous soft drinks blends from around the world. Funds raised will be used for trade marketing to drive Gunna into more outlets, recruitment of new sales people and consumer marketing to increase awareness. Gunna was founded by Melvin Jay, who launched marketing strategy and innovation consultancy Clear Ideas in 2002. Clear Ideas was acquired by M&C Saatchi for £18.4m in 2007.
Citi – Greene King’s share price is ‘overdone’: Leisure analysts at Citi have issued a note arguing Greene King’s share price weakness is “overdone”. A note to investors stated: “Despite in-line FY18 results and above-market current trading, Greene King’s share price has fallen circa 20% during the past month. Concerns remain around the sustainability of its like-for-like growth, the efficacy of its refinancing activity and the sustainability of its dividend. We are alive to the risks in the sector but think in the case of Greene King these concerns are overstated. Greene King’s like-for-likes underperformed the industry by 160 basis points last year but recent investments in value, service and quality have driven a step change in performance – like-for-like growth in May/June was 100 basis points above the industry at +2.2%. Recent good weather and easier comparables through the remainder of the year should underpin our +2% like-for-like forecast. Refinancing is clearly net present value (NPV) positive. Recent actions to refinance the Spirit Debenture, where interest costs were up to 10% into a retained cash flow with an estimated 2.5% interest are clearly NPV positive in our view – we calculate a NPV at £60m. We expect management to continue to pursue this strategy to lower interest costs and increase financial flexibility. The group has a number of calls on its circa £170m per annum free cash flow. On our forecasts the group can comfortably fund its circa £103m per annum dividend and circa £54m per annum debt amortisation. Even without assuming ongoing asset disposals we forecast a circa £30m per annum reduction in net debt. Scope for asset disposals, cash balances of £170m and £470m headroom on its combined revolving credit facilities provide ample contingency. The shares have fallen circa 20% since in-line FY18 results and now trade at eight times FY19 profits-earnings versus a historic range of six to 14 times (LT average 11 times). We regard the dividend as secure and see the 6.4% dividend yield as an attractive support. We make minor changes to forecasts and retain our ‘Buy’ and 730p target.”
Tonkotsu opens eighth London site, in Stratford: London-based ramen specialist Tonkotsu has opened its eighth London site, in Stratford. The 100-cover restaurant has launched in Endeavour Square in the International Quarter offering the brand’s signature homemade noodle ramen, gyoza and Japanese sides, alongside craft beer, sake and cocktails. The restaurant features a large dining terrace and a six-metre Japanese maple tree in the entrance. The venue is the brand’s furthest east in the capital. Tonkotsu managing director Stephen Evans said: “Being part of International Quarter allows us to bring our ramen to shoppers, residents, office workers and visitors to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the London Stadium.” Tonkotsu was founded by Ken Yamada and Emma Reynolds in 2012. Its other standalone sites are in Bankside, Battersea, Dunston Street, Mare Street, Notting Hill, St James’s Market and Soho. It also has concessions at Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street and Birmingham, with plans to launch a site in Ealing later this year.
Brewer Samuel Smith fined following Pensions Regulator enquiry: Tadcaster-based brewer and pub operator Samuel Smith and chairman Humphrey Smith have been fined for failing to provide pension scheme information on time. The company and Smith were fined £18,750 and £8,000 respectively at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Monday (30 July). Criminal proceedings were brought against the company after it failed to meet a 26 January deadline for providing relevant information, The Pensions Regulator said. Smith was charged because the offence by the company was committed with his “consent, connivance or neglect”, the pensions watchdog said. Smith, who was not in court, and the company were also ordered to pay a total of £1,240 in costs and victim surcharges. In May, the company and Smith pleaded guilty to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse under the Pensions Act 2004. Nicola Parish, of The Pensions Regulator, told The Yorkshire Post: “Our ability to request information is a necessary part of our regulatory toolkit and we take it very seriously when parties do not co-operate.” Samuel Smith, which is known for its very low prices, runs its pubs on a directly managed basis and is known for not responding to press inquiries.
Hart Brothers reveal further details of third El Pastor site at Coal Drops Yard: The Hart Brothers have revealed further details of a third site for their Mexican taqueria concept El Pastor, which will open at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross. Casa & Plaza Pastor will open on 26 October to sit alongside a fourth site for Harts Group’s Barrafina restaurant and new-concept wine bar and restaurant The Drop. Earlier this month, the company raised almost £2.5m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to fund the openings. The campaign was launched with an initial £750,000 target and raised more than £1.6m within the first two hours. Casa & Plaza Pastor will offer tacos, tortas, coffee, churros and a Mexican rotisserie. It will be the largest El Pastor to date, making use of Coal Drop Yard’s spacious plaza with lots of alfresco seating and live music, Hot Dinners reports. The Harts launched El Pastor in Borough, opening sister site Tortilleria El Pastor in Bermondsey in spring 2018. The new venues will be part of more than 50 stores, cafes and restaurants at Coal Drops Yard, including a second site for Hackney-based Morty and Bob’s.
Contemporary kosher restaurant and bar Tish opens in Belsize Park:Contemporary kosher restaurant and bar Tish has opened in Belsize Park, north west London. The venue has launched in Haverstock Hill with capacity for 160 diners across a dining room, bar and terrace. The dairy-free, all-day menu features “modern classics and seasonal new dishes alongside Jewish heritage favourites”. Main dishes include dry-aged rib-eye steak with truffle chips and field mushrooms; seared salmon fillet with green kale salsa, pickled fennel, crispy pearl barley and pomegranate; and Tish chicken schnitzel with roasted fingerling potatoes, peppers and caper berries. The menu also has a selection of fresh salads and sandwiches. The drinks list includes wine, cocktails, coffee and fruit juice.
Entrepreneur starts Sharkey’s roll-out: The entrepreneur behind Sharkey’s, the Bournemouth pool and sports bar, has got the go-ahead to launch a venue in Southampton. Sharkey’s Sports Bar owner Rod Cake has applied to change the use of 136 Above Bar Street. Following approval from Southampton City Council, the ground and first floors of the building could now be revamped to comprise a bar featuring billiard, snooker and pool tables, along with table tennis. Cake told Insider Media he aims to make Sharkey’s the “UK’s number-one sports bar” with Southampton a “springboard” to that goal. He added: “This is going to be a flagship Sharkey’s over three floors, including a snooker room on the top floor.”
Wine bar championing women with food by Victor Garvey launches in Covent Garden: A wine bar, restaurant and shop that champions women in the wine industry has launched in Covent Garden. The concept is the brainchild of Carole Bryon, who has opened Lady Of The Grapes in Maiden Lane offering biodynamic and natural wine made by female winemakers. The venture has opened at the site formerly occupied by Victor Garvey’s Encant, with the chef and restaurateur creating Lady Of The Grapes’ food menu focusing on “authentic and simple food made from seasonal, locally sourced ingredients”. About 100 wines are on sale in the shop, complemented by an extensive list of cheese, charcuterie and fine grocery products. The venue also hosts special events with wine producers