Tasty achieves rent reductions and lease concessions on more than half of estate: Wildwood operator Tasty has reported it has now achieved rent reductions and lease concessions on more than half of its estate. The company said it is continuing consensual negotiations with landlords and other creditors in respect of outstanding rents and anticipates the process will now be completed in January. In a trading update, Tasty said 38 restaurants had reopened after the latest lockdown with an additional five sites providing takeaway and delivery services only, due to government restrictions. It is expected a further nine outlets will move to providing takeaway and delivery services only with the additional tier three restrictions being introduced in London and Essex on Wednesday (16 December). Tasty stated: “Certain restaurants within the company’s estate have remained closed due to poor trading conditions in their locality. The company continues to monitor developments affecting both the open and closed restaurants in line with the continually changing UK tier restrictions. Trading across the business continues to be challenging with Christmas parties cancelled and the differing levels of restrictions significantly reducing the number of customers eating out and related restaurant capacity restrictions. The company will again be relying on government support for employees’ pay and VAT, and business rate holidays and grants, where available.”
Plant-based brand By Chloe UK sites to continue operations as company files for bankruptcy in US and is put on market: Plant-based concept By Chloe has filed for bankruptcy in the US and has been put on the market. Chief executive Jimmy Haber has stepped down but debtor-in-possession financing will allow operations, such as the four UK sites that are owned by Qoot Restaurant Group, to continue operations unaffected. Blaming coronavirus and a long-standing lawsuit from co-founder and namesake Chloe Coscarelli, the 14-unit plant-based concept By Chloe filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday (14 December). New York-based parent company BC Hospitality Group also said it has put the chain up for sale as part of the bankruptcy proceeding. It has also obtained debtor-in-possession financing to continue operations from existing investors that includes Bain Capital Double Impact Fund LP, Qoot International, Kitchen Fund and Lion Capital. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the company is seeking an auction by mid-February 2021. While the company searches for a new chief executive, Catey Mark Meyers, who is chief of staff, will take the role in the interim. Haber will remain chief executive of ESquared Hospitality, which operates the BLT Steak concept. The bankruptcy comes after years of legal wrangling over the plant-based chain, which was founded in 2015 by Chloe Coscarelli as a vegan concept featuring house-made burgers, sandwiches, pastas, cold-pressed juices and baked sweets. It was initially developed in partnership with Samantha Wasser, who is Haber’s daughter. It grew to include locations in Boston, Los Angeles and Providence, Rhode Island, as well as licensed units in the UK and Canada. Co-founder Coscarelli was accused of, and found to have carried out, “gross negligence” in 2017, but won an award of more than $2m in arbitration this September, which is yet to be paid out. Three By Chloe US restaurants have been closed entirely since March, with others operating at reduced capacity, the company said in the filing. About half of the company’s staff were furloughed or laid off, and revenues are down 67% since February, according to the filing. BC Hospitality obtained $2.7m in Paycheck Protection Program loans, and the company expects the debt will be fully forgiven, the filing said.
BrewDog launches $10m fundraise to fuel growth in Australia: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is aiming to fuel its growth in the southern hemisphere by raising up to $10m (£5.5m). The company has launched Equity for Punks Australia, which has a minimum target of $300,000. There are up to 100,000 Class B shares available in BrewDog Group Australia at a price of $100 per share. The shares make up 10% of the total shareholding in the company. BrewDog stated: “We broke ground on our amazing river-front site on the banks of the Brisbane river in November 2018 and have been working tirelessly on building our Australian headquarters. We’re excited to start making Australia-brewed beers and becoming part of the vibrant beer scene that already exists in Brisbane. Everything about the brewery is set up for rapid growth. We’ve also got plenty of space available on the site, readying us for expansion. On top of our epic brewery, we’re looking to expand our bar network across Australia, with our sights on Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to start with, as well as plans for a brewpub in Perth to supply demand we have seen in Western Australia. We want to create a template for the future and open the world’s most sustainable bars – zero waste, carbon neutral, and a depot for closed loop delivery solutions. We plan to launch a series of these craft beer venues across Australia.” BrewDog also plans to use the funds to invest in a new canning line at the brewery in Brisbane as well as install solar panels on the roof. It also plans to build an eco-friendly beer hotel in Brisbane following on from its DogHouse in Columbus in the US.
Burger King UK gives over Instagram account to support independent restaurants in tier three: Burger King UK is supporting independent restaurants forced to close under tier three restrictions by offering them the chance to advertise on its Instagram account for free. The company is following in the footsteps of its French business, which made the gesture this week to support struggling businesses and show solidarity. To participate, restaurant owners post a photo of their signature dish with the hashtag #WhopperAndFriends and Burger King UK will share it. Burger King UK stated: “There’s more to life than the Whopper. There’s Roti King, Sultan’s Palace, Tayyab’s, Eco, Dumplings Legend, Ochi’s, Damak, Platzki – in short, there are many great dishes that deserve to be as famous as the Whopper. As we head into tier three across more parts of the country, it’s clear independent restaurants need all our support. So we’ve decided to give you a break from our burger pics and make our Instagram available to all these restaurants. Until they can reopen, they can advertise on our Instagram for free.”
Domino’s to distribute $9.6m in bonuses to its front-line staff in US: Domino’s has announced it will pay 11,500 front-line staff a December bonus of up to $1,200 (£900) each – totalling $9.6m (£7.2m). Those in line for the pay-outs include hourly paid team members and delivery drivers in the US. Domino’s chief executive Ritch Allison said: “We strive every day to uphold our values of doing the right thing and putting people first. We have the honour and privilege of being open and operating throughout the US during this crisis, and we recognise that we could not be doing it without the hard work and dedication of our team members. This is our way of saying thank you to these remarkable people.” According to Nation’s Restaurant News, this is the second time Domino’s has offered extra compensation for hourly paid front-line workers. From March through to May, Domino’s paid regular “thank you” bonuses to supply chain and company-owned store workers, in addition to offering paid time off for both full and part-time workers impacted by covid-19. Earlier during the pandemic, Domino’s also increased staff numbers by committing to hire 30,000 workers between March and August as demand for delivery grew, and that these new positions would help those made redundant from other restaurant businesses. Domino’s reported, in October, its “strongest sales performance in decades” for the third quarter, ended 6 September. Domino’s is not the only restaurant chain that has offered bonuses to its front-line workers. In March, Yum! Brands gave out $1,000 (£750) bonuses to all restaurant general managers, and Starbucks announced a $3 (£2.25) pay raise in March for all working employees during the covid-19 pandemic. McDonald’s also gave out “appreciation bonuses” to workers at company-owned stores in May. Domino’s has 17,256 stores globally.
Indian fine-dining restaurant Kuti’s Brasserie seeks London location for fifth site:Hampshire-based restaurateur Kuti Miah is looking to open another branch of his Indian fine dining restaurant Kuti’s Brasserie in London. Miah said opening a restaurant in London would be the “final highlight” in his near 40-year career in hospitality. It is understood the restaurant has been in talks with a number of London hotels and capital management groups but has yet to make a decision on where the home of the London restaurant will be. It would be his fifth site, with Kuti’s Brasserie and Kuti’s Express in Southampton, Kuti’s Noorani in Eastleigh and Kuti’s of Wickham, near Portsmouth. His Southampton brasserie was awarded the Tiffin Cup last year, which is a competition to find the best south Asian restaurant in the UK and is voted for by members of parliament.
West Berkshire Brewery sees turnover down just £400,000 so far in current financial year, business now cash generative: West Berkshire Brewery, the David Bruce-chaired group, has reported turnover for the first six months of its current financial year to the end of September of £2.6m – only £406,000 down on the previous year. The company also revealed that following a £750,000 fundraise earlier this year and a recent improvement in trade, the business was now cash generative. It has also found another buyer for The Old Suffolk Punch in Fulham, west London, which operates under its Mavericks Pubs portfolio after a previous sale in place when the pandemic hit fell through. The company switched its focus to online sales when covid-19 struck. Its pipeline of contract customers now exceeds 79 million cans/bottles annually – a 4,000% year-on-year increase – and has created 23 production jobs, bringing the number of staff to 122. E-commerce sales are on the up, having increased more than 23 times during lockdown. Bruce said: “With the first six months (including September) of the 2021 financial year only just ended, we can announce turnover was £2,595,836, only £406,124 down on last year in spite of the negative effects of lockdown. We are also pleased to announce our pipeline sales for November are £560,000 and we expect the growth to continue.” Managing director Tom Lucas told Propel: “The challenge of covid-19 and the economic climate has seen too many of our talented industry colleagues suffer. As champions of British beer, our driving force is to protect and fly the flag for home-grown brewing. We’re proud to attribute this year’s success to our fantastic team, and are looking forward to revealing more exciting projects in the pipeline.” West Berkshire Brewery provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 29 March 2020 fell to £5.8m, compared with £6.2m the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £4m from £3.3m the previous year.
Stack & Still opens fourth site: Glasgow-based operators Paul Reynolds and Graham Swankie have opened a fourth site for their pancake house concept Stack & Still. The venue has opened at Glasgow’s Braehead Shopping Centre. Stack & Still Braehead, which features 120 socially distanced covers and creates more than 20 new jobs, has taken over from Handmade Burger Co. Reynolds said: “The current challenges for the hospitality industry really allowed us to take stock of our business and we could see how much our loyal customers were crying out for us to reopen, and the response to our reopening was so inspiring for us as a business to show us we have something truly special to offer. Expansion has continued to be on our minds, and if the recent crisis has taught us anything, it would be how much our customers rely on a safe and comfortable space to connect, laugh, and, of course, enjoy our pancakes. We are confident Glaswegians both young and old, will enjoy our fresh pancakes in Braehead, in the same way they have loved them at Silverburn, Glasgow Fort and our West George Street branches.”
Upside Down House UK hits £100,000 crowdfunding target to support expansion plans: Upside Down House UK, the two-storey “inverted home” concept that offers customers a “zero-gravity experience”, has hit its £100,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it aims to expand across the UK. The company, which operates five sites and has planning permission for two more, is offering 3.3% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. So far, 72 investors have pledged £100,090 and the campaign is overfunding with 22 days remaining. The business has achieved turnover of £1m since launching in 2018. The pitch states: “With five houses already – in Brighton, Bristol, Essex, Manchester and Great Yarmouth – Upside Down House is at an exciting stage of growth with further locations to be announced. The striking two-storey house structure, complete with furniture on the ceiling, captures the interest of guests from the street. Inside, creativity runs wild as guests take surreal images of themselves hanging from the ceiling to share on social media. The business is looking to raise funds so it can expand and reach its aim of having houses nationwide. A total of 60% of the funds is to be spent on procurement of new sites. This will help us achieve our aim of having a house easily accessible from all areas of the UK, allowing us to expand to new locations and help with the organic growth of our brand. We plan to spend 15% of the funds on marketing to help grow our social media presence and brand awareness and 25% on personnel to further invest in growing our team to support the experience.”
Cookie concept Blondies Kitchen boosts sales by 1,700% after pivoting to online sales only: Milk and cookie bar concept Blondies Kitchen has increased sales by 1,700% after it switched to online sales only when the pandemic forced the closure of its shop. Blondies Kitchen was launched in 2016 in London’s Selfridges Food Hall and sold more than one million cookies in its first two years. But coronavirus forced the closure of Selfridges and founders Kristelle Levy and Chelsie Collins made the difficult decision to move their operation to an online-only model. After launching its online store and nationwide delivery service – and with the help of celebrity fans such as Little Mix and Joe Wicks on social media – sales soared by 1,700%, from £500 per week to £9,000 per week. Blondies Kitchen has turned over £250,000 since June 2020, which has seen the brand 70% up on profits from the previous year and growth of 40% year-on-year since the business’ inception four years ago. Festive treats available include Mince Pie Cookie Cups and Limited Edition Praline Christmas Cookies, plus its staple Stuff It Yo’self DIY Kits – which has proved such a hit, more than 100 per day are being dispatched daily.
Dayashankar Sharma to open fine dining restaurant in West Dulwich:Dayashankar Sharma, who has worked at Michelin-starred Tamarind and Kensington venue Zaika, is to open a fine dining Indian restaurant in West Dulwich, south east London. Sharma will launch Heritage next month in Rosendale Road. Offering regional small plates, kebabs, tikkas and curry dishes, the menu will include char-grilled truffle murgh kebab, vegetarian and vegan options such as broccoli ke kofte and Indian bread, including the gruyere and chilli naan. The drinks menu will offer Indian-inspired alcoholic and zero-proof versions, a range of fine wine and a number of Indian whiskies and beer. The 48-cover space will feature a central copper bar while Heritage will also offer takeaway and home delivery across a range of south east London postcodes. Sharmar said: “This food is very close to my heart – I have spent many years developing dishes that my mother taught me as a child, and taken inspiration from my early career at some of the finest establishments in India and Sri Lanka. This restaurant is about exploring the myriad cuisines of regional Indian, and sharing that heritage with our customers.”
Labron-Johnson to open Somerset restaurant and shop: Merlin Labron-Johnson, former executive chef of the Woodhead Restaurant Group, is to open a restaurant and épicerie in Bruton, joining his farm-to-table restaurant Osip in the Somerset town. Named after the 16th century building in which it’s housed, and inspired by the épiceries of rural France, The Old Pharmacy will launch in January. Working alongside Labron-Johnson on this project will be David Durban, who manages operations at Osip, and who previously worked at Petersham Nurseries and Frenchie. Labron-Johnson said: “The Old Pharmacy feels like a natural progression from Osip. At the restaurant, we let the home-grown, seasonal ingredients shine, so I wanted The Old Pharmacy to continue in this vein and allow locals and visitors alike to be able to take home the same produce we use at the restaurant just a few doors down. I love the idea that you could drop into The Old Pharmacy and pick up some supplies to take away like some local cheese with beautiful charcuterie and a jar of pickles, and go off into the Somerset countryside to enjoy a picnic with loved ones, or choose to stay and settle in for the night with some wine, cider and small plates.” During his time with Woodhead Restaurant Group, Labron-Johnson opened its Portland restaurant in 2015, winning a Michelin star 12 months later.
Former Derby Chiquito site to become Indian tapas restaurant and cocktail bar: A former Chiquito site will be converted into an Indian tapas restaurant and cocktail bar in Derby. Entrepreneur Sanj Kumar will invest £500,000 into the venue at Derby’s Pride Pride Park to create Nicco Restaurant and Bar, which will create more than 20 jobs and with space for about 250 covers. Kumar, who is the managing director of a car dealership told Derbyshire Live: “One half of the restaurant will be dedicated to modern Indian cuisine, and the other will be a lively cocktail bar. We’re going to have a dedicated DJ deck to offer live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.” Nicco will offer mixed grill dishes and tapas sharing plates and is set for an opening date in the spring next year.
Model Mandy Lieu launches ethical cafe, deli and restaurant in west London:Malaysian-American model Mandy Lieu has launched a cafe, deli and restaurant in Notting Hill with an emphasis on being ethical and sustainable. The Good Plot is located on Westbourne Grove, and Lieu has also acquired Ewhurst Park in Hampshire with plans to use produce from there for the Notting Hill restaurant. Meanwhile she is using British farmers to supply The Good Plot. A statement on its website describes the site as “a wholefood kitchen using seasonal ingredients and a place to find ethical produce sourced from predominantly British farmers and makers. We care deeply about provenance and the role of the land in what we eat”. Breakfast and lunch is served Mondays to Fridays, brunch is available on Saturdays and evening dinner service runs on Thursdays to Saturdays. The Good Plot also offers an organic milk delivery service to those who live nearby.
Heineken appoints new UK managing director: Heineken has appointed David Flochel as managing director of its UK business. Flochel joins from the Selecta Group, the European unattended self-service retailer that provides coffee and convenience food solutions in the workplace and in public spaces, where he has been chief executive for the past four years. He has significant experience in consumer goods and business services across Europe and North America having previously held roles at Unilever and, more recently, as regional president in Europe and North America of the Mars Drinks segment at Mars. His appointment is effective from Friday, 1 January and he will take over from Simon Amor who has been operating as interim managing director for Heineken UK since the departure of David Forde in July. Flochel will report to Søren Hagh, president Europe, Heineken, and join the Europe management team. Hagh said: “David’s authentic leadership style, customer-centric approach and passion for developing talent are a great fit with Heineken as we continue our journey as Britain’s leading pubs, cider and beer business.” Flochel added: “Our portfolio of brands, our route to market strength, and our great people and culture are unique and very inspiring to me. I am confident together we will emerge even stronger.” Amor will hand over to Flochel during the early part of 2021 while reverting to his position as off-trade director for Heineken UK.