Megan’s to transform derelict 1930s cafe in Clapham into latest site: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s is to convert a derelict 1930s cafe in the heart of Clapham Common into its latest site, Propel has learned. Terrace by Megan’s, which will be the company’s 11th site, will open in Rookery Road for take out on Friday, 2 Aprilbefore opening fully later that same month. The site will offer an outdoor dining restaurant and takeaway deli serving all-day brunch, lunch, dinner and takeaway picnics. The menu at the new site will be slightly different to the brand’s other restaurants, with the company launching its sourdough pide pizzas. Megan’s, which is led by Sarah Hills, is also understood to have applied to open further sites in Chiswick and Dulwich Village.
Adam Handling promotes Nicola Gartenberg to executive director as he prepares to spend more time in kitchen: Nicola Gartenberg, previously operations director at Adam Handling Restaurant Group, has been promoted to executive director, and appointed to the board, with Handling planning to spend more time in the kitchen. Gartenberg joined the company four years ago, overseeing the openings of most of the restaurant group portfolio, and has been instrumental in helping the company pivot to a successful home delivery option, Hame, during lockdown. Handling said: “We have an exciting rollout plan for the group, triggered by the success of Hame, which is going to be steered by Nicola in her new role. And while I’m still very much involved in the overall development of the group, as its owner, lockdown has helped me to realise how much I’ve missed being in the kitchen. I’m going to be spending more time in Frog by Adam Handling, and am determined not to miss out on a Michelin star in 2022. Nicola brings an abundance of professionalism and determination, and everyone congratulates Nicola for her outstanding dedication to the success of the group.”
Rockfish lines up further opening in Devon, in Salcombe: Rockfish, the south west-based seafood restaurant group run by Mitch Tonks, has lined up a further opening in Devon, in Salcombe. The eight-strong business has submitted planning permission to open a 100-cover restaurant and bar overlooking Salcombe estuary. The Gresham House Ventures-backed company plans to invest £1m into the project, which would employ 30 to 35 people. Tonks said: “Salcombe is one of the most beautiful places in the country and we’ll be hoping to open in spring next year and look forward to welcoming people on foot, by water and car!”
Bubble tea brand Gong Cha brews up fourth UK site, in Newcastle: Gong Cha England, the UK-based operator of the Gong Cha tea brand, is to open a site in Newcastle. The company will open the outlet in Haymarket as part of the next step in its growth strategy. The Newcastle store will join its two in Manchester and one in Liverpool. Justin Liew, head of Gong cha England, said: “We have selected Haymarket for our next store as we are confident the people of Newcastle, who are keen to learn about new trends, will help us build the brand. The bubble tea trend has gripped Asia, Oceania and the US, where it is considered a Taiwanese speciality and now we are excited to introduce it to the city where we are confident the produce range will be very well received.” Gong Cha is the most recognised bubble tea brand globally, with 1,500 outlets in 20 territories including Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and the US. Gong Cha, which translates as “tribute tea for the emperor”, offers a range of bubble teas that can be enjoyed with or without milk.
Arc Inspirations to launch training school, CEO to mentor bartender brothers as part of partnership: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, is to launch a training school to develop and upskill the group’s bar teams. The 17-strong operator of the Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Box and Manahatta brands is joining forces with bar entrepreneurs and award-winning bartender brothers Daniel and Joe Schofield for the ARCademy. The duo are shortly to launch their very own bar venture, in Manchester. As part of the relationship, Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft will serve as a mentor to the brothers, drawing on his many years of hospitality and business-building experience to help them launch Schofield’s bar. Wolstencroft said: “This is a tremendous coup for us. To have the opportunity to tap into Joe and Daniel’s experience, knowledge and craft at this time is a game-changer for our people. I have known them for a long time and am really pleased we will have two of the best in the business helping us deliver the new ARCademy programme.” Joe Schofield, who was awarded “International Bartender of The Year” in the Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards, added: “Daniel and I are thrilled at the opportunity to be able to spend some time with the team at Arc Inspirations. Their alumni have gone on to do incredible things for the hospitality sector. We are excited to be part of the journey for the current Arc team, who without a doubt, will continue to shape our wonderful industry for the better.”
Goodbody advises caution on investment in Domino’s, sale of Swedish business will have little effect on net debt: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has urged caution on Domino’s Pizza Group investment ahead of the group’s 2020 financial year results on Tuesday (9 March) but has said the sale of Swedish operations to Eyja fjarfestingafelag III EHF will have little effect on net debt forecasts. Ruddy said Domino’s, which trades on 14.2 times FY21 EV/Ebitda (IAS17), bucked the trend of “meaningful earnings downgrades and capital raises elsewhere” and profit before tax will be flat year-on-year despite circa £8m of covid costs. He added the first half of 2021 “should see good like-for-like growth” because of the VAT capping extension and much of the dine-in sector being closed or restricted. However, the second half of the year would become more difficult. He said although Goodbody underestimated the length of the impact of covid-19 when it reduced its valuation of Domino’s to “Sell” in June 2020, it believed it is difficult “to argue in favour of a re-rating at this point” given analysis of its comparative sales figures for the past year. Ruddy added: “Future growth with be impacted by very well funded delivery aggregators [and] it will require some form of additional investment to appease franchisees if it is to achieve its goals of returning to higher growth. As a result, we remain cautious on the investment case.” On the sale of its Swedish operations, Ruddy said: “It is a positive to see another exit of an international market. The international business is reported as discontinued operations so this will have no impact on underlying profit forecasts. There is a small payment to exit the market, but presuming there will be a cash loss here in FY21 also, there will only be a small impact to net debt forecasts.”
Foodhub looks to raise £100m to turbocharge global growth: Food delivery platform Foodhub is looking to raise £100m in private equity funds to turbocharge its growth. Launched in 2017 by Ardian Mula and Mohammed Shakil, Foodhub has established a turnover of about £30m in three years due to accelerated expansion across the globe and month-on-month order growth. In the past year alone, Foodhub has begun trading in new territories across several continents, including the USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Ireland, and New Zealand, as it continues to add new international markets to its growing portfolio through acquisitions. In addition, the multimillion-pound takeover of Eat Appy at the start of 2021 has seen Foodhub enter the Australian market. Now, the brand is setting its sights on further growth, looking to raise £100m to support its expansion plan. Aside from developing further global acquisitions in 2021, the private equity funds will be used to develop Foodhub’s existing operations in several territories, expanding the workforce across the globe and helping the brand to continue to refine and develop its offer while continuing to challenge the bigger players in the market. Chief financial officer Mohamed Chaudry said: “Now we have footholds in dozens of countries we’re looking to expand our offering in each territory fast. The £100m of private equity funding will help to bring smaller takeaway aggregators under the Foodhub banner through acquisitions, as well as help us to scale up our operations in each location.” Based in Stoke-on-Trent with staff in India, Australia and the US, Foodhub has 22,000 takeaways on its books and the brand grew 160% in 2020, after a huge swing towards takeaway orders during lockdown.
Academy Coffee and The Depot sign for Swansea scheme: Family-owned coffee shop concept Academy Coffee and Cardiff’s biggest independent events brand The Depot are to open sites inside the redeveloped Albert Hall in Swansea. The £8m refurbishment of the former opera hall on the corner of De-La Beche Street and Cradock Street is being led by Loft Co. It is restoring the 157-year-old building to create a mixed-use development. Academy Coffee will take space in the scheme. The group originated at The Pumphouse in Barry, and now has several venues across south Wales – in Barry, Cardiff and Penarth with another in Newport under construction. It plans to operate an all-day venue in Swansea, serving coffee and light lunches during the day, transforming into a cocktail bar and lounge by night. Meanwhile, The Depot, which started life as a pop-up in Cardiff in 2014 before opening a permanent site in the city, will open its second live music venue. The Swansea site will have capacity for 800 people. The scheme will also feature a boutique aparthotel and spaces for lifestyle businesses and offices. The full refurbishment of the building is expected to take between 12 and 18 months. 
Positive updating to forecasts at Greggs by Goodbody: Leisure analyst Goodbody has positively updated its forecasts for food-to-go operator Greggs to reflect its strong second half of the year. The analyst has updated FY20 revenue and profit before tax forecasts to £811m (versus £770m previously) and minus £14.3m (minus £65m previously) respectively, ahead of Greggs FY20 results on Tuesday, 16 March. Issuing a “Hold” note with a target price of £21.50 from £15, leisure analyst Jason Molins argued: “This reflects a strong recovery in the second half of 2020 with fourth quarter company-managed like-for-like sales at 81% of 2019 despite varying levels of restrictions. The franchise and wholesale businesses performed even better given their exposure to sites accessed by cars and retail respectively. We also upgrade FY21 revenue by 6% to £1,064m (up 31% year-on-year) reflecting the higher FY20 base and greater level of net new store openings (up 100 as guided versus 50 previously). The improved operating leverage should see a substantial recovery in profit before tax to circa £69m (versus £114m in FY19).” Molins stated the group’s digital offering performance in the year to date will be of interest because delivery accounted for 5.5% of co-managed sales in the fourth quarter (versus 0% in FY19) and he suspects this will have grown further in the first quarter of 2021. He added: “Despite the continued challenges related to covid-19 in the near term, Greggs is well placed to win over the longer term underpinned by its vertically integrated model and the continued rollout of its digital platform. However, we consider this strong medium-term outlook to be largely captured in the group’s valuation, trading well above the top-end of its historic range on a FY22 price earnings ratio of circa 24 times. We consequently reiterate our ‘Hold’ recommendation with a new target price of £21.50.”
Cook My Grub passes £300,000 crowdfunding target within days of launch:Online food delivery marketplace Cook My Grub, which offers home-cooked food from trained chefs, has passed its £300,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand. Within four days of its launch, it has received 109% of funding – raising £328,667 from almost 200 investors. The company is offering 9.87% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £3m, with shares valued at £2.67 each. Cook My Grub is operating in Berkshire, serving customers in Maidenhead, Marlow, Slough and Windsor. Further rollout of the service is planned with launches in Reading, Swindon, west London and parts of the Home Counties through 2021. The pitch stated: “Finding time to cook is a luxury many people don’t have. As a result, many people end up resorting to frozen meals. We believed a digital platform was needed to help those people connect with qualified home chefs. Cook My Grub was conceived to provide a healthy and sustainable alternative for people unable to cook wholesome meals at home. Each customer is presented with a wide selection of cuisines to choose from. These meals can be ordered on the day or pre-ordered several days or even weeks in advance. For home chefs, we set up their own ‘virtual restaurant’, which gives them the flexibility to decide when, what and how much they cook. The funds raised will be used to support further growth by increasing marketing, scaling-up operations and growing the technology teams.”
£3m plant-based restaurant and rooftop bar to open in Leeds: A new £3m plant-based restaurant and rooftop bar, The Green Room, is to open in Wellington Street, Leeds. It is a collaboration between young entrepreneurs Will Habergham and PJ Gardner. The pair have worked for the past decade in events, music and festivals and crossed paths while working the club scene. During the pandemic they have been working to transform a historic former members’ club. Habergham said: “The rooftop terrace is our USP, and due to covid, outdoor spaces are vitally more important. The terrace’s size not only allows people to sit comfortably in an outdoor space but also allows [us] to put any future social distance measures in place. In the winter months, we plan to utilise the space for pop-up markets or similar outdoor events that have become so much more important over the last year.” The Green Room will offer a range of plant-based dishes and will use ingredients sourced locally and ethically. Gardner said: “We want to be pioneers in the plant food business and The Green Room will be at the forefront of changing people’s perception about what plant-based food is.”