Itsu looks to the future after CVA approved: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, has told Propel it is looking to, and investing in the future, after its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) was approved. Propel revealed in July that Itsu had appointed AlixPartners as it looked to step up conversations with landlords and explore possible restructuring options, including the possibility of a CVA. It was also set to receive £4.3m of new funding and begin an operational turnaround plan if its CVA proposals were approved. Propel understood that Itsu’s shareholders, which includes Ambrosia Investments, had provided a letter of comfort to the company confirming their intention to support the additional funding needed should it not be successful in obtaining the finance from an external source. However, this additional funding was conditional on approval of the CVA proposal. It is thought the company will now exit five sites in Chancery Lane, Lime Street, Ludgate Hill, Old Broad Street and Sackville Street, which were trading at a loss, were close to expiry or were wholly sub-let. An Itsu spokesman told Propel: “The successful vote is proof of the confidence that our landlords, suppliers and our teams have in the Itsu brand and the strength of our business. We thank them all for their support. We are now looking to and investing in the future, and serving our loyal customers with the reassurance of this outcome behind us.” Meanwhile, Itsu has secured a listing for its new brilliant’broth for ramen at Marks & Spencer (M&S). The product (RRP £2), which comes in two flavours – classic ramen and chicken ramen – is also available to as part of M&S’s stir fry meal deal. The £6 meal deal includes the brilliant’broth and noodles, vegetables and a protein.
 
Natural Kitchen to explore options: Deli and cafe concept Natural Kitchen has become the latest London-based operator to begin working with advisers in regards to its future options, Propel has learned. The nine-strong, Justin Green-led business, is believed to be working with property advisers Lambert Smith Hampton in regards to the marketing of its business. It is thought that a deadline for offers has been set for Monday, 21 September. If no appropriate offers are forthcoming, it is thought the business will need to go down a restructuring route. The company opened its latest site, at St Katharine Docks, in summer 2018 after taking over the former Tom’s Kitchen site. Earlier this year, it was linked with taking a site on the ground floor at 100 Bishopsgate. The company also operates sites in Angel Court, Marylebone High Street, Tudor Street, Baker Street, New Street Square, Waterloo Station, Aldersgate and Trinity Square. All of the sites remain temporarily closed. Posting on the company’s website on the continued closures, managing director Green said: “With the continued uncertainty surrounding the covid-19 virus crisis, Natural Kitchen will remain closed beyond the 4 July government reopening date. The reasons for this decision are the challenging social distancing restrictions and the continuing advice to you, our customers, to work from home whenever possible. Therefore, without the majority of our customers back in the city, Natural Kitchen cannot trade successfully and opening too early could jeopardise the whole business. After such a long and enforced lock-down and, so far, surviving this crisis, we believe it foolhardy to reopen just yet with the persisting uncertainty.”
PizzaExpress confirms locations of 73 restaurant closures following CVA approval: PizzaExpress has confirmed the 73 restaurants that will shut after its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) was approved by creditors. The closures see 1,100 jobs at risk. Outside London, the outlets that will permanently shut are Aberdeen, Belmont Street; Aylesbury; Barnstaple, Three Tuns; Biggleswade; Billericay; Birmingham, Corporation Street; Birmingham, Mailbox; Bournemouth, Post Office Road; Bramhall; Bristol, Berkeley Square; Bristol, Regent Street; Bromsgrove; Chippenham; Dalton Park; Darlington; Dudley, Merry Hill; Edinburgh, Holyrood; Formby; Glasgow, Princes Square; Glossop; Gosforth; Grantham; Halifax; Hatch End; Hereford; Heswall; Ipswich, Lloyds Avenue; Leeds, Crown Street; Leeds, Horsforth; Ludlow; Lymington; Melton Mowbray; Midhurst; Milton Keynes, Hub; Moseley; New Brighton; Newcastle; Newport, Isle of Wight; Newport, South Wales; Northallerton; Nottingham, Goosegate; Orpington; Oxford, Oxford Castle; Poole; Port Solent; Ramsgate; Reading, St Mary’s Butts; Scarborough; Sheffield, Devonshire Street; Sheffield, The Moor; Shirley; Southport, Old Bank; Stafford; Staines; Stoke; Stourbridge; Sudbury; Torquay; Uxbridge; Wakefield; Walsall; Weston-Super-Mare; Whiteley Village; Whitstable and Wrexham. The closures in London are Bruton Place; Charlotte Street; Earls Court, Earls Court Road; Fulham Palace Road; Hampstead; O2 Finchley; Wardour Street and Wapping.
JD Wetherspoon records almost six million test and trace pub check-ins within a month: JD Wetherspoon has received 5,742,125 test-and-trace registrations at its UK and Ireland pubs between 3 August and 6 September. Customers can use a QR code as they enter a pub or at stations within the premises or simply fill in a form. However, only one person must sign in per group but has to indicate how many people are in their party. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “As the weeks have gone by, trade and registrations have increased. There were approximately 1.5 million registrations in the past seven days. Since there are three customers per group, approximately 4.5 million visitors to our pubs are contactable through the test-and-trace system for last week. People are intelligent and, if you explain a system that’s for their own good and for the good of family, friends and the public, generally, they will co-operate.”
Debenhams reopens 100 F&B concessions, complete with new partners: High street retailer Debenhams has relaunched its in-store food and drink offers out of 100 of its sites with a range of new and existing partners. When Debenhams reopened 124 stores across the UK, the stores initially reopened without their in-store restaurants and coffee bars due to continuing government restrictions. Debenhams has now reopened a range of food offers, having secured agreements with new and existing partners, including launching a new Costa Coffee in its Oxford Street flagship. As well as long-standing partner, Costa Coffee, among a variety of others, Debenhams has welcomed new partners to a number of stores, including Donut King, Bentley’s Coffee, Street & Co, Rounton Coffee and Double Zero. Sam Shutt, head of food and partnerships at Debenhams, said: “We know our customers like to come with their families to do their shopping and take a break for a cup of coffee and a snack. We’re delighted to be opening some new and different food offers in our stores.”
Flower Burger lines up UK debut site: Milan-based vegan burger brand Flower Burger, which earlier this year signed a master franchise agreement with London-based multi-brand multi-unit food and beverage operator Gerry’s Group to develop the brand across the UK, has lined up its debut site here, Propel understands. The brand, which already operates in Italy, France and the Netherlands, is understood to have lined up a site in London’s Charlotte Street. The partnership with Gerry’s, which was brokered by food and beverage business developer and franchise consultant Seeds Consulting, involves 45 openings in key cities over the next ten years. Founded in 2015 in Milan by Matteo Toto, Flower Burger is an “innovative vegan burger concept” with 14 locations in Italy, Marseille and Rotterdam. All burgers are produced from raw ingredients and without the use of additives in its central production facility and they are cooked in store to order. Gerry’s Group is a multi-national company operating more than 30 Costa Coffee locations in the UK, as well as Wok To Walk franchises in the UK and IHOP restaurants in Pakistan. It currently operates a Wok To Walk site in Coventry, with a further opening under the brand due to open in Leicester.
Le Pain Quotidien UK begins reopening its estate: Le Pain Quotidien, the Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand, which was acquired out of administration earlier this year, has begun reopening its UK estate. BrunchCo paid £500,000 to acquire 15 of Le Pain Quotidien’s 26 UK sites through a pre-pack administration in June, with the deal seeing Steven Whibley, who was managing director of the brand at the turn of the decade, returning to the role. The company has now reopened its sites in London’s Kendal Street and Marylebone High Street, with more set to come back online over the coming weeks. In July, Whibley told Propel the company was in talks about taking on a further three of the brand’s London sites. Whibley said the group would spend six to nine months looking to put in foundations to revitalise the brand and look to open a new site in 2021 before embarking on an expansion strategy of opening three to four sites a year from 2022.
Tomahawk Steakhouse lines two more openings, including London debut: North east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston has secured two more sites for his Tomahawk Steakhouse brand, including a debut site in London. Eggleston, who opened his eighth site under the brand last month on the former Jamie’s Italian site at Lendal Cellars, York, will open a Tomahawk Steakhouse on Jamie Oliver’s former Fifteen restaurant site in London’s Hoxton. Eggleston will also take over the restaurant at Middlesbrough’s only grade I-listed building Acklam Hall. Eggleston’s company also operates Brazilian concept Rio in Jesmond, as well as two takeaway stores, in Jesmond and Yarm.
Red Fox & Peacock to open debut freehold site as it makes first town centre foray: North west multiple operator Red Fox & Peacock, formerly known as Lytham Hospitality Group, is to open its debut freehold site later this month as it makes its first move into town centre bars and restaurants. The new bar, restaurant and live entertainment venue called Lytham House is the company’s sixth site and will create 65 jobs. About £1m has been invested in transforming a former Italian restaurant into the space. A 30-foot tall steel tree rises through the centre of the building spanning two floors. There will also be a photo booth for guests to take snaps. The venue will hold 650 people with a private dining room for 30 and another private room with capacity for 14 guests. It will also add a takeaway service in due course as the company has done at its other pubs. Lytham Hospitality Group partner Ross Robinson, who has previously worked for Revolution Bars Group and as operations manager at Mission Mars, said: “With people staycationing, I think Lytham may be more attractive to tourists and, in fact, become busier. Increasing numbers of people are also looking to move out of the big cities and Lytham and the Fylde coast has lots to offer.” He also doesn’t intend for covid-19 to halt future expansion plans and added: “The disruption to the industry on the back of this pandemic will throw up some great opportunities. We still intend to expand our portfolio but will be very focused on the right sites and right locations that will trade well in a post-covid-19 recessions.”
Stem + Glory raises more than double £40,000 target towards new Cambridge site: Cambridge-based vegan restaurant Stem + Glory has raised more than double its £40,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs towards its new site in the city. The company set out to raise the funds to add to the £200,000 already raised in grants and capital contributions, for the venue at the CB1 development. Stem + Glory, which operates sites in Cambridge and London, hit its target within a hour of public launch and the inward investment for this round stands at more than £80,000. Founder Louise Palmer-Masterton said: “Our supporters have backed us from the beginning helping to turn the business into what it is today. Stem & Glory is a community-owned business and our 1,000-strong investor community have stuck by us all the way.” During lock-down, Palmer-Masterton developed a new business model, which now spans in-store dining, delivery, click and collect, and a ready meal and product range. She added: “We are on a mission to disrupt both the world of plant-based food and the traditional hospitality model. Our new omnichannel business model is not only innovative, but will also help pave the way for healthier and more conscious ways of living.” The current funding round will close at midnight on Monday, 5 October, and Palmer-Masterton said the investment would help drive the business forward into 2021.
Foodhub reports 66% increase in orders as it prepares to head international: Food delivery platform Foodhub has reported a 66% increase in orders compared with pre-lock-down figures, as well as more than 1,000 restaurant sign-ups per month. Foodhub was founded in 2017 and has a network of more than 15,000 takeaway and restaurant partners across the UK. The business has seen considerable growth year-on-year, with more than one million app downloads since its launch. In addition, Foodhub is also actively expanding into other territories, including the USA, in order to reach new customers and extend its offering on an international scale. Foodhub provides a fixed rental charge to its restaurants, rather than a commission for each order.
Rousset and Devaney to relaunch Soho members’ club as late-night wine bar and restaurant: Late-night wine bar and restaurant The Black Book will open on Thursday (10 September). The Black Book will take the place of Trade, the Soho members’ club for hospitality professionals run by restaurateurs and master sommeliers Xavier Rousset and Gearoid Devaney. The Frith Street site will specialise in rare and interesting wines and classic brasserie dishes and is open to all. Rousset said: “Soho is a community, and it has always welcomed all with open arms, and that’s why commis chefs, to commuters, date nighters and late-night diners all find refuge here. We wanted to open up The Black Book to all to ensure everyone felt especially part of this community to toast to good health, eat well and embody the spirit of Soho too. Special and rare wines with the option to buy by the glass was an essential aspect to making this inclusive even if there were certain perks afforded to the industry via the Trade app that keep the spirit of Soho and London going. The Black Book blends perfectly the elements that we think make Soho special – some glamour to be enjoyed by all.”
Mike Robinson to open The Elder restaurant in Bath: Co-owner of Michelin-starred gastro-pub The Harwood Arms, Mike Robinson, will open The Elder restaurant in Bath on Friday (11 September). The site is located within the new Hotel Indigo Bath. The 60-seat restaurant will feature British cooking, created by restaurateur Robinson and group head chef Gavin Edney, with a focus on sustainability, seasonality and locally sourced and wild produce. Robinson, who also owns The Woodsman in Stratford-upon-Avon, said: “This will be very much a neighbourhood restaurant. We have put a lot of thought behind every element of the service to create a warm, relaxing spot with excellent food that’s tasty as hell.” While Edney – who has worked at The Woodsman, André Garrett at Cliveden and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s – will lead the kitchen, front of house will by stewarded by general manager Paul Halliwell who previously worked at Lutyens Restaurant.
Bierschenke to reopen its Liverpool Street site: London-based authentic German beer hall Bierschenke will reopen its Liverpool Street site on Wednesday, 16 September. Its second site – Bierkeller in Tower Hill – will remain shut temporarily. Bierschenke marketing manager Elli Hornis said: “While the original Oktoberfest in Munich is cancelled, we are over the moon happy to announce that we will celebrate this year’s Oktoberfest. A safe and still traditional experience is essential for us and we will work extremely hard in the background to ensure exactly that.” Temperature checks will be mandatory on reopening after coronavirus forced the closing of both sites in March.