Nottingham-based McDonald’s franchisee reports profit boost as turnover passes £25m: Nottingham-based McDonald’s franchisee Blades Restaurants has reported turnover increased 24% to £26,556,162 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £21,453,150 the previous year. Operating profit was up to £653,639, compared with £397,968 the year before while pre-tax profit rose to £564,424, compared with £340,163, the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Blades Restaurants, which is owned by Jerry Nicholls, operates nine McDonald’s sites across Nottingham having added two outlets to its portfolio during the period. In his report accompanying the accounts, Nicholls said: “We believe the trading environment in which we operate is challenging. However, the company remains optimistic and has continued its reinvestment with two additional store purchases during the year.”
Bell to leave Red’s for The Apartment Group: Craig Bell is to step down as finance director at Red’s True Barbecue to join north east-based bar operator The Apartment Group in the same role, Propel has learned. Bell joined Red’s at the start of 2015, and played a key role in the group’s subsequent growth, including securing new equity and bank funding. His departure comes after the eight-strong group underwent a restructure and was acquired by Tokyo Industries earlier this summer. Bell’s decision is not linked to that process but a wish to be closer to his family. Red’s True Barbecue founders James Douglas and Scott Munro said Bell leaves with their best wishes and thanks. Douglas will assume finance director responsibilities and management of the company’s finance team in the interim. The Apartment Group, which is led by Duncan Fisher, currently operates 12 venues across the north east.
Tequila Mockingbird acquires Dip & Flip premises in Brixton for fourth site: Bar operator Tequila Mockingbird has secured its fourth site, which will be its first to serve food. The company has acquired the premises in Atlantic Road, Brixton – previously occupied by roast meat sandwich and burger specialist Dip & Flip – in a deal brokered by CDG Leisure. Tequila Mockingbird will open the site next month following a refurbishment of the 2,500 square foot premises. While the site will remain in line with the concept’s other venues in Clapham, Putney and Tooting – offering cocktails, resident DJs and late-night dancing – the Brixton outlet will also serve food. Tequila Mockingbird director Jon Bas said: “Brixton is an excellent location with a brilliant nightlife and good atmosphere. Tequila Mockingbird will meet the demand for a space that moves from early evening to night.” CDG Leisure acted on behalf of the former tenant on the disposal of the site. Dip & Flip now operates sites in Battersea, Tooting and Wimbledon as well as a pop-up at Adventure Bar’s Bar Elba site in Waterloo.
Innis & Gunn reports 30% like-for-like sales uplift from Brewery Taproom concept as it completes Dundee conversion: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has reported a 30% like-for-like sales uplift at the two sites it has converted from Beer Kitchen to its Brewery Taproom concept. It comes as the company completed the rebrand of its Dundee site following the Edinburgh and Glasgow venues. The Dundee site, in South Tay Street, now offers 17 craft beer taps and is the first Innis & Gunn outlet to offer shuffleboard. The taproom also features a “Scottish soul food” menu that includes barrel-smoked Ayrshire port ribs, while the Brew Room hosts Innis & Gunn’s brew schools and beer tastings and is available to hire for private dining and meetings. Innis & Gunn director of retail operations Steve Drew said: “We’ve worked hard to design a space that really brings alive the Innis & Gunn brand. We’ve also introduced shuffleboard, which will be brilliant fun for customers as they enjoy a beer and a little competitive fun.”
Hard Rock Cafe eyes Newcastle site: Hard Rock Cafe is eyeing a site in Newcastle. The company has earmarked the Guildhall on Newcastle’s Quayside for the venue. A premises licence has been submitted to the city council for part of the ground floor of the grade I-listed building, reports Chronicle Live. The Guildhall in Sandhill formed the ancient centre of municipal government of Newcastle and the earliest signs of a guildhall on the site date to the 13th century. The old Guildhall was rebuilt and enlarged in the 17th century by Robert Trollop and the current interior dates from 1658.
Just Eat embroiled in £126m tax row with Danish authorities: Just Eat, the market place for takeaway food delivery, is embroiled in a row with Danish authorities over more than £100m in back taxes. Denmark has accused Just Eat of failing to pay enough tax after shifting its headquarters from Copenhagen to London in 2012, reports The Times. Last year, the taxman made a £126m claim against the company after an audit into how profits are allocated across the group. Just Eat, which has agreed terms with Dutch rival Takeaway.com on a £8.3bn merger, has said the claim is without merit. Nevertheless, it has made a £21m provision to cover the potential bill, accounts published last week showed. It admitted under the “most extreme” scenario it would have to pay the “full £126 million”, which includes back taxes, interest and penalties. Just Eat was founded in the Danish capital in 2001 and established a British subsidiary five years later, which became its most valuable operation. The tax dispute is thought to centre on a disagreement over where Just Eat pays profits for use of its brand. After relocating, Just Eat is understood to have begun registering new trademarks in Britain, paying HM Revenue & Customs taxes on profits generated from the intellectual property. The Danish authorities believe they were short-changed. They argue Just Eat should have paid higher licensing fees for existing trademarks, which remained in Denmark. As a result, Just Eat paid lower taxes in its country of origin than it should have done, according to sources with knowledge of the dispute.
Bistrot Pierre launches virtual delivery brand: Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, has launched a virtual delivery brand called Birds, Buns and Bowls, Propel has learned. The new delivery brand offers “Birds – tender, succulent and crispy half chicken, choose your favourite flavour and sides; Buns – chicken breast, beef burger or halloumi in a brioche bun with a choice of toppings; and Bowls, packed full of flavour and topped with a protein hit of your choice”. The delivery offer is available at sites including those in Plymouth, Altrincham and Harrogate. The 24-strong Bistrot Pierre will open its next site later this year by the Wish Tower Napoleonic fort on Eastbourne seafront. Earlier this year, the company appointed Mike Wardell, formerly of Timothy Taylor and Casual Dining Group, as its new operations director.
Scotland-based Korean-inspired fast casual brand backed by Salt Yard Group co-founder launches £200,000 crowdfunding campaign to open third site: Scotland-based Korean-inspired fast casual brand CombiniCo, which is backed by Salt Yard Group co-founder Sanja Moll, has launched a £200,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open a third site, in Edinburgh. Founded last year by former University of St Andrews students Alex Longson and Juno Lee, CombiCo operates two sites – one of which is a concession – in the Scottish town. Now it is looking to raise the funds for a flagship site in Edinburgh and well as develop a line of organic bottled tea drinks. CombiniCo is offering 9.09% equity for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2m. The pitch states: “During its first year, the store generated more than £500,000 sales and £76,000 profit from what is a 20 square metre space with six seats. We have sold more than 70,000 of our signature BiniBowls. CombiniCo is looking to raise £200,000 on Crowdcube to build a third retail and flagship location in Edinburgh, and to develop a line of organic bottled tea beverages.”
Downing exits two Upham investments: Investment manager Downing has announced the exit from two freehold gastro-pub investments managed by Upham Pub Group. Both gastro-pubs – The Navigator in Swanwick and The Winning Post in Winkfield – were acquired by Upham Pub Group and subsequently formed part of its sale and leaseback deal of 14 sites with CBRE Global Investors. Downing first partnered with Upham Pub Group in October 2015 and subsequently refurbished the gastro-pub locations, both of which also have letting rooms. Downing has more than £100m currently invested in pub assets. The company stated: “It’s this track record that helped secure the exit deal with Upham, which also delivered a great outcome for Downing investors.” Steven Kenee, investment director at Downing, said: “It has been excellent working with Upham over the past four years. The deep experience of the management team has helped drive the business to become the fastest-growing pub company in the south of England. Despite the headwinds facing the high street, a strong operator such as Upham still presents an exciting opportunity for investors.” Upham Pub Group director David Butcher added: “Working with Downing allowed us to release value in our estate and acquire further sites to aid our growth programme.”
Shake Shack partners with Grubhub: Shake Shack has entered into a partnership with delivery company Grubhub. Shake Shack said the agreement reflected its long-term digital growth and innovation strategy to make its food more accessible to consumers through an increasing number of channels. Shake Shack delivery through Grubhub is currently being tested and available at a small number of outlets in New York. A nationwide roll-out will continue gradually over the next two to three quarters. Using Grubhub’s “Just in Time” technology, pick-ups by drivers will be timed to the moment an order is ready. Shake Shack will also have access to enhanced tools to analyse performance and ordering trends to be able to connect with guests in new and more personalised ways. Chief executive Randy Garutti said: “Shake Shack is experiencing incredible growth. Now more than ever, we’re doubling down on our commitment to be an accessible, omnichannel business. Over the past 15 years, we’ve built our brand around creating community gathering places and becoming the next generation’s burger joint. Our partnership with Grubhub is a reflection of our commitment to expanding that connected community through our increasing number of digital products, and our relentless focus on providing both convenience and excellence in experience through those digital offerings.”
Carluccio’s begins estate-wide green initiatives: The 75-strong Italian restaurant group Carluccio’s has announces the implementation of a number of “Turning Carluccio’s Green” initiatives following a trial. In a bid to encourage as many customers as possible to use reusable cups, Carluccio’s now rewards them with a 50p discount on the purchase of any hot drink. From Sunday, 1 September, Carluccio’s will also offers its own branded, reusable and recyclable Frank Green cups – each customer will receive a complimentary coffee with the purchase of the cup. In addition, this autumn will see the arrival of compostable Nespresso-compatible pods in Carluccio’s shops and online and the introduction of compostable paper cups – with recyclable lids – and corn starch cutlery for takeaway meals. Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said: “The uptake of the 50p refill discount has been staggering with a 20-fold increase in the number of customers using their own cup. ‘Turning Carluccio’s Green’ is our way of demonstrating our commitment to sustainability, which goes beyond the cup and we will continue to strive to lighten our environmental footprint, a cause championed by our founder, Antonio Carluccio.”
EasyJet founder urges ‘no action’ over ‘very low’ EasyHotel offer: EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Iannou has urged shareholders to “take no action” over a cash offer for sister business EasyHotel that he considers too low. Sir Stelios, who owns almost 30% of EasyHotel through his EasyGroup investment company, said a joint offer from real estate investor Ivanhoé Cambridge and property fund manager Icamap, EasyHotel’s largest shareholder, which valued EasyHotel at an enterprise value of £127m was “very low”, reports the Financial Times. EasyHotel runs 38 hotels under owned and franchised models. The 95p per share offer, which represents a 34.8% premium over last week’s closing price of 70.5p per share, was fully recommended by the EasyHotel board, which said it was “fair and reasonable”. However, Sir Stelios said Icamap had bought more shares at 110p per share in a £50m placing in January 2018 and the stock had “been as high as 128p just 15 months ago”. Harm Meijer, managing director of Icamap, which has been a shareholder since October 2016, said the offer would provide the hotel group with new capital to increase its presence in Europe. Meijer said the bidding companies were “open-minded” as to whether EasyHotel should remain a publicly traded company or become private.
Malhotra Group to open £1.5m Newcastle venue next month: Newcastle-based operator Malhotra Group will open a £1.5m venue in the city next month after three years of planning. Combined bar, restaurant and nightclub venture Leila Lily’s will launch in Grey Street at the former Living Room site, creating about 50 jobs. The venue, named after operations director Atul Malhotra’s daughter, will cover two floors of the property, which is also home to The Grey Street Hotel and All About You Spa. Decorated with a floral theme, the venue will feature a “living garden” as well as bespoke fittings and fixtures sourced personally by Malhotra. The venue’s bar and restaurant will sit at street level, while the basement will house Studio 54-style club lounge 212@Leila Lily’s. Malhotra Group head of operations Simon Wright said: “We are very much aiming this at a sophisticated clientele. It’s five experiences in one place and nowhere else offers that.” Malhotra added: “We are very conscious this is one of the finest streets in all of England. I am confident Leila Lily’s will do it – and its customers – proud.” The project is the first of more than ten developments scheduled to be carried out by Malhotra Group in Grey Street and Mosley Street over the next three to four years as part of a long-term plan to restore the listed buildings to their former glory.
28 Well Hung to open first permanent site: 28 Well Hung, the fast-casual dining concept, which has been making a name for itself on the street food circuit, will open its first permanent site later this summer in Peckham, south London. The concept, which serves “pasture-raised, UK heritage native breed meats”, will open in Nunhead Lane. The business was founded in 2011 by Gary and Catherine Solomons, and works in partnership with farms in Cornwall, Yorkshire, Kent and Sussex, which manage grazing in a way that supports and regenerates the soil. The company said it is part of a “new global movement aiming to regenerate one billion hectares of grassland by 2025”.
Feya founder opens dessert-inspired restaurant: London-based patisserie chef Zahra Khan, who is behind Instagrammable cafe concept Feya, has opened a dessert-inspired venue for her second site. Khan, who graduated from Gordon Ramsay’s Tante Marie cookery school, has launched Dyce in James Street. Each dessert starts with a choice of doughnuts, brownies or cookies as a base with customers able to add a range of gelatos, including vegan and gluten-free options. There are also baklava ice-cream sandwiches. The drinks menu includes milkshakes as well as fruit, milk or bubble tea, reports Hot Dinners.
Focus adds Stratford-upon-Avon hotel to portfolio: Focus Hotels Management has added the Swan’s Nest Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon to its portfolio of managed sites across the UK. The 72-bedroom Georgian hotel overlooks the River Avon. The property was one of the earliest brick houses in the town, built around 1673. The house has been used as an inn at least since the Restoration under its original name the Bear. It later became a warehouse and was then relaunched as The Shoulder of Mutton. More recently, it operated as the Macdonald Swan’s Nest. The hotel unveiled a collection of new suites following a £1.3m investment last year. Focus Hotels Management chief executive Peter Cashman said: “Many hotels across this region lay claim to a long history but very few can list as long or as rich a history as the Swan’s Nest Hotel. We are thrilled to have added this great hotel to our portfolio.” Focus Hotels Management has 17 hotels, which are open, under development or in planning, totalling 1,669 bedrooms.
Bedlam closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £625,000: Sussex-based Bedlam has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £625,000. The company, founded in 2011, initially aimed to raise £550,000 and was offering 14.67% equity, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. It has now closed the campaign with 359 investors pledging £625,530. Bedlam has put together a four-year plan, which would see further investment in its brewery and expansion of the business. In 2016, Bedlam raised £500,000 on Crowdcube, which enabled the company to relocate and build a brewery at the foot of the South Downs, ten miles north of Brighton. The site is solar-powered, while the spent grain and hops feed local farm animals. Since its previous raise, turnover has risen considerably and Bedlam has increased its distribution across the on-trade. For the year ending 31 March 2019, average on-trade distribution was up more than 90% year-on-year and turnover increased 57.5% to £526,000.
Shiva to open boutique hotel in Buckingham Gate: Shiva Hotels is to open a new purpose-built boutique hotel and restaurant in London. The company is launching The Guardsman in Buckingham Gate early next year. The property, located in Vandon Street, will feature 53 bedrooms, while the top three floors will encompass six residences. The spaces for dining and socialising are set over two levels. At the core is the restaurant, open to residents and hotel guests only, which will have menus developed daily from seasonal produce. Shiva Hotels managing director Rishi Sachdev said: “The Guardsman is designed for those who want the tailored, personal experience offered by a club, the flexibility and luxury of a hotel and the comfort and familiarity of a home. It will also have a conscience, wherever possible putting bits people and the environment at the centre of its decisions.”
Barons Eden Group eyes expansion as it rebrands: Hospitality operator Barons Eden Group, owners of Hoar Cross Hall on the outskirts of Birmingham and Eden Hall Day Spa near Nottingham, is eyeing expansion as it rebrands to become Be (Barons Eden). The brand said it was positioning itself as “go to” destinations and to give guests an experience that brings them back time and again. Using the moniker “Be”, Barons Eden said it was targeting the next generation of guests who seek experiences and one-off occasions. The roll-out of the Be brand through acquisitions and diversifying into the medi-care sector is on the agenda, along with capital investment in the current properties. The company will be running a series of pop-up brand experiences in target UK cities over the summer, as well as launching an influencer ambassador programme. Chief executive Andre Elshout said: “We want to become synonymous with places where people can go offline, kick back and enjoy some ‘me’ time. We are already in discussions to expand our locations and we look forward to asserting Be as one of the leading brands in the hospitality and wellness sectors.”
Revolution Bars Group shortlisted for two UK customer experience awards:Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 79 premium bars trading across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has been shortlisted for two UK customer experience awards. The company has been nominated in the retail and the best use of insight and feedback categories at the CXA UK Customer Experience Awards. Revolution Bars Group is the only hospitality company to be named as a finalist in this year’s awards. An extensive customer research programme was undertaken by Revolution Bars Group at the end of 2018 to analyse the views of more than 3,500 customers and team members. The company then undertook a series of “Create Tomorrow” forums with its Generation Z team members from across the UK. The insights gained have been translated into various workstreams designed to drive the growth of the brand over the next few years and help make it an employer of choice for Generation Z. Chief executive Rob Pitcher said: “We’re delighted to be representing the hospitality industry at these prestigious awards and to be up against company’s such as Zurich, Sky and Ralph Lauren is credit to the dedication shown by the whole Revolution team who’ve worked so tirelessly over the past 12 months.”
First Welsh carbon-free restaurant opens bakery: A Business Wales-backed restaurant has become carbon-free and launched a new bakery venture in Pembrokeshire. The Paddock Inn and Bakery is believed to be the first carbon-free certified restaurant in Wales. The venue, which is owned and operated by Carl Willett and Paul Cinderey, opened its restaurant in October and has now opened the bakery venture. Willett said: “Our approach has been welcomed by our customers and is something they have wholeheartedly embraced. We recognise the way the Welsh government is quite rightly trying to put the environment high up people’s list of priorities and we feel it is very important business does its bit to protect the environment. We are therefore delighted with our contribution to the Green Earth Appeal charity and very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. Not only can we say we are a carbon-free certified restaurant but we embrace recycling, ensuring food waste is recycled and is used in making compost, and any leftover bread is donated to community kitchens and food banks.”