San Carlo Group reports like-for-likes up 2% in current financial year as it aims for return to profit: San Carlo Group has reported like-for-likes are up 2% in its current financial year, with total sales increasing 12% as the group aims to return to profitability. The company, which operates the San Carlo and Fumo restaurants, said profit has climbed 87% so far in the current financial year. The announcement comes as the company saw full-year turnover pass the £50m mark, although “investment in new sites and difficult trading conditions” led to the business slipping to a loss. Revenue was up 8% to £53,943,097 for the year ending 30 September 2018, compared with £49,946,472 the year before. However, pre-tax profits slipped to £3,745 compared with £1,278,435 the previous year, while the company reported an overall loss for the year of £133,678 compared with a profit of £941,449 the year before. The company opened four sites during the year including its first San Carlo in London, in Regent Street. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group has recorded a loss in the year, which can be attributed to investments in new sites as well as difficult trading conditions due to Brexit and large rent and rates increases. However, the directors are confident the implementation of new processes and adapting to new market conditions will allow the business to return to profitability. The directors are confident the brands are performing well in the market place and are looking for new opportunities in the UK and globally. At the year end, the group had shareholders’ funds of £7,358,120 including distributable reserves of £6,543,120. Given the continued capital expenditure on the existing estate and new sites the directors believe the group’s position to be satisfactory.” The first San Carlo restaurant was opened by Carlo Distefano in Birmingham in 1992 and now has venues in London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leicester and Bristol. The group also operates Fumo, Cicchetti, Signor Sassi, Bottega, Gran Café and Flying Pizza-branded restaurants across the UK, as well as eateries in Qatar, Bangkok, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Last month it was revealed San Carlo would open its first airport location, in Manchester.
Simmons Bars reports like-for-likes up 16.4% year to date as it opens largest venue, reveals sites for next two openings: London operator Simmons Bars has reported its underlying business is trading “very well”, with like-for-like sales up 16.4% year to date and total sales up more than 36%. The announcement follows Simmons’ launch of its largest venue to date, in Soho. The company said it had seen like-for-like sales up 29.7% in the past week, achieving a 68.4% year-on-year sales uplift. Simmons Bars said it had traded positively through the good weather so far and achieved more than 20% consecutive like-for-like sales for the past four weeks, with a 50% uplift in total sales. The 350-capacity Soho bar is at 203 Wardour Street, which previously housed Stringfellows and Dirty Harry’s, and will feature a raised DJ booth and a dance floor surrounded by waltzer-style booths and a fairground sign. The venue will open until 4am, Thursday to Saturday, and offer a 150-capacity private space for hire. The site is the first of three that Simmons Bars will open this summer, with a venue at the former Graphic site in Golden Square, near Piccadilly Circus, launching in mid-August and another opening at Eastcheap, next to Monument tube station, shortly afterwards. The three openings will take the group to 16 sites with plans to open four to five more a year during the next few years. Chief executive Nick Campbell, who founded the company in 2013, told Propel: “We are very excited about the new set of sites, with Oxford Street (203 Wardour Street) our largest yet.”
Honest Burgers to bolster central London estate: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed chain, is set to add to its central London estate after securing another site in the City, Propel has learned. The company, which recently opened in Tooley Street, London Bridge, has secured the former Gow’s restaurant in Old Broad Street for an opening later this year. The company will open its 34th site at the end of this month, in Liverpool, with another regional opening to follow in Cardiff. In February, Propel reported Honest Burgers saw turnover break the £30m mark for the year ending 31 January 2019, with like-for-like sales up 7.9%. Founders Philip Eeles and Tom Barton opened the company’s debut site in Brixton, south London, in 2011.
Yard Sale Pizza to open fifth and largest London site, in Hackney Road: Yard Sale Pizza, the restaurant and delivery concept that includes sector investor Paul Campbell as non-executive director, is to open its fifth London site, in Hackney Road. The venue will be the brand’s largest when it launches in September at a two-floor space near Hoxton station. The store will open from midday for the first time so the brand can cater to local workers and deliver as far as Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Hoxton and London Fields. The venue will feature a new calzone menu with cured meat, vegetarian and vegan options alongside Yard Sale’s signature pizzas such as the Holy Pepperoni and the New Porker. The brand also offers cheese and Marmite garlic bread and Happy Endings ice cream sandwiches alongside local London beer and wine from Borough Wines. The ground floor will feature high seating, leather booths and an open kitchen, while the downstairs room will house a small bar and 32-cover hireable space. The walls of both floors will be adorned with neon signs and Yard Sale merchandise. Yard Sale Pizza, which is led by co-founder Johnnie Tate, opened its debut restaurant in Clapton in 2014 before opening sister sites in Finsbury Park, Walthamstow and Leytonstone.
McDonald’s US franchisee group drafts list of menu initiatives that are ‘hurting operators’: A coalition of McDonald’s franchisees has drafted a list of menu initiatives it says are “hurting operators”, including the lack of a premium chicken sandwich, dollar drinks and the new Worldwide Favourites menu. The National Owners Association (NOA), which formed last autumn, has been concerned about eroding profits, lack of control over menu pricing and costs tied to the Experience Of The Future remodel programme. In a letter, the NOA said McDonald’s was finding ways to drive profitable growth but operators “weren’t seeing increased traffic”. The association was especially critical of McDonald’s spending national advertising money on promotions such as the Worldwide Favourites menu, which debuted in June and includes four items on menus from Spain, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada. “They may be favourites abroad, but they are not our customers’ favourites,” the NOA board said. The NOA board is also pushing for a better chicken sandwich, which it said was crucial to compete with rival Chick-fil-A in the south east. The NOA also stated it would like to end the $1 any-size drink programme. It told Nation’s Restaurant News: “It isn’t working for the majority of the US. We must find more sustainable growth opportunities. Price is not the answer, especially in today’s economic environment.” However, Vicki Chancellor, chair-elect of Operator’s National Advertising Fund (OPNAD), said the $1 any-size drink programme was “driving guest counts and resulting in positive incremental sales across all OPNAD-contributing restaurants”. McDonald’s has about 14,000 restaurants in the country, the majority run by franchisees. The NOA is thought to represent more than 400 US McDonald’s franchisees. McDonald’s declined to comment on the NOA letter.
JD Wetherspoon acquires Galway nightclub for latest Irish pub: JD Wetherspoon has acquired Carbon Nightclub in Galway with plans to upgrade the facility with an investment of about €2.5m (£2.2m). The company said it would apply for planning permission and a variation to the property’s licence to develop the Eglinton Street site into a pub. It is understood the company will spend at least €2m acquiring the business from Sugarleisure, reports the Irish Times. Wetherspoon plans to transform Carbon, which opened in 2011, into a 4,000 square foot pub with a 1,900 square foot first-floor beer garden. The move adds to the company’s Irish estate, which encompasses seven pubs and one hotel. Wetherspoon owns five in Dublin, including the recently opened Silver Penny, one in Carlow and one in Cork. It expects the Galway transaction to complete in August. Additionally, the company is developing an 89-bedroom hotel in Camden Street, Dublin, and a site in County Waterford.
 
Lina Stores to join Arcade Theatre line-up: Soho delicatessen Lina Stores, which launched its debut restaurant last year, has been added to the list of concepts set to open next week at Arcade Kitchen Theatre, the food hall launching at Centre Point in London’s New Oxford Street. The White Rabbit Fund-backed concept will open a 100-cover site in one of last remaining heritage buildings in Stable Street, King’s Cross, later this year. At Arcade Kitchen, Lina Stores will join the latest Harts Group venue, Pastorcito; Kurt Zdesar’s Nikkei sushi bar concept Chotto Matte; Project Tou, the katsu sando concept by Ta Ta Eatery founders Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng; Popham’s Bakery; Flat Iron Workshop; Oklava; and Casita do Frango, a smaller version of MJMK’s London Bridge-based piri-piri concept Casa do Frango. Each trader will offer counter dining while the 12,500 square foot food hall will also feature three bars, a terrace and a kitchen called The Loft that will feature new talent, the first being Project Tou.
SSP opens first Burger King in a Belgian airport: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group has opened the first Burger King in a Belgian airport. The venue has launched airside on the mezzanine level of the Espace Food Court at Brussels South Charleroi airport. Spanning 80 square metres, the restaurant has more than 250 seats and opens from 10.30am to 9.30pm daily. Gérard d’Onofrio, managing director of SSP France and Benelux, said: “We are delighted to join forces with Burger Brands Belgium and Brussels South Charleroi airport to launch this concept.” Kevin Derycke, chief executive of Burger Brands Belgium, added: “Opening a restaurant in the heart of an airport has always been a goal with special significance for the Burger King brand.” SSP operates Burger King in more than 100 airports and train stations in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Egypt, Switzerland, Cyprus, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and United Arab Emirates. Earlier this month the company launched four Pret A Manger stores at Zurich airport, the brand’s first venues in Switzerland.
Sri Lankan concept Paradise to take over Spuntino’s Soho space: New Sri Lankan concept Paradise is set to take over the space in Soho that will become vacant when Spuntino relocates at the end of the month. In March, restaurant entrepreneurs Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, who are also behind Polpo, announced they would relocate Spuntino following an agreed return of the lease to landlord Hallmark Estates, which owns the premises in Rupert Street and will take back possession of the lease on Wednesday, 31 July. Paradise will use British and Sri Lankan ingredients in a menu inspired by restaurateur Dom Fernando’s “annual childhood trips to Sri Lanka”. The concept has been tested through supper clubs and a pop-up at Balham restaurant Brother Marcus and is due to open in Rupert Street in October, Hot Dinners reports. The kitchen will be led by Sri Lankan chef Charith Priyadarshana, who will produce dishes such as hoppers and kothu roti, mutton rolls with curry powder, and slow-roasted pork cheek curry. The drinks list will include cocktails and wine from small biodynamic and organic growers. London studio Dan Preston, which created interiors for Kiln and Smoking Goat, will design an “intimate yet raw space inspired by chic bistros in Colombo and Galle”. In March it was reported Polpo had been exploring replacement sites for Spuntino in Soho, working with industry property expert Richard Wassell and offering a £10,000 finder’s fee.
Domino’s Pizza reports global sales up 5.1% in second quarter: Domino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 5.1% in its second quarter ending 16 June 2019. Like-for-like sales were up 3.0% in the US and 2.4% in the international division. The quarter marked the 102nd consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 33rd consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased 4.1% to $812m. The company added 200 stores during the period – 158 internationally and 42 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter were up 19.0% to $2.19. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “It was a good second quarter, particularly for global unit growth, as we continue to seek balanced retail sales growth through the blend of like-for-like sales and store growth. As a work-in-progress brand, we are constantly striving to improve in needed areas, execute our long-term strategy and build towards being the dominant number one – a goal I continue to feel we are built to achieve.”
Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group reveals plans for Europe’s largest games arcade:Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group has revealed plans to open Europe’s largest retro and futuristic arcade, in Liverpool. The group, led by chairman Andrew Mikhail, is adding the £3m venture as part of its transformation of the Cains Brewery Village. ArCains arcade will house original games and virtual reality on a dedicated floor as part of the ongoing redevelopment of the site in the Baltic Triangle. Mikhail told The Business Desk: “Our planned £3m investment in ArCains is part of our wider £7m plans for the strategic regeneration of Cains. Not only will the arcade development offer the biggest selection of arcade games anywhere in Europe but our partners, alongside many stakeholders in the area, believe ArCains will be a significant addition to the Baltic creative offering.” As well as pinball and retro arcade games, the floor will be dedicated to virtual reality, pool tables, basketball and shuffle tables. Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group acquired the licence for the Cains brand last summer, opening one of its Punch Tarmey’s pubs on-site.
Middle Eastern vegetarian concept Bubala to open first permanent site: Bubala, the vegetarian Middle Eastern concept, will open its first permanent site later this summer in London’s Spitalfields. The brainchild of Marc Summers, co-founder and former general manager of Berber & Q, and head chef Helen Graham, who has worked at The Palomar, The Barbary, The Good Egg and Ottolenghi, Bubala has been popping up for the past year and a half in London at Carousel, Brunswick East, Berber & Q and Untitled Bar. It will now open a 30-seater restaurant in Commercial Street at the site formerly occupied by Gul and Sepoy, which closed last year.
Bird weighs up options: Fried chicken and waffle chain Bird is weighing up its options with advisors after running into funding difficulties earlier this year. Co-founder Paul Hemings said the five-strong business had its bank overdraft withdrawn only weeks before its Canary Wharf opening in late 2018, which had resulted in a knock-on effect throughout the business. Hemings told Propel: “We had to take on funding we didn’t really want to replace it and then the bottom fell out of the banking sector, at least for restaurants.” Bird is working with its shareholders and BM Advisory on a range of options including further investment or a restructure. Hemings said unlike many of the recent restructurings in the industry, Bird’s would be different because of the nature of the problem. He added: “We have had positive like-for-like sales for the past two years straight, every month. The restaurants are performing well and growing. We’ve had these issues recently but we’re not in the position where nothing is working – far from it.” Hemings said the recent difficulties were a sad reflection on the state of small and medium-sized enterprise lending and added he was confident about the ability to secure the best deal for the business imminently, which would allow it to move on to better things such as a long-planned opening in Brixton later in the year. Hemings said: “We have had to park that one for a little while but hopefully it won’t be too long.” As well as Canary Wharf, Bird operates sites in Camden, Islington, Shoreditch and Westfield Stratford.
Santander lines up Leeds bank branch to launch UK’s first ‘work cafe’: Santander is to launch a first site for its “work cafe” concept in the UK, at a site in Leeds in collaboration with Taylor St Coffee. Located in Park Row, the concept’s launch on Thursday (18 July) will bring one of Santander’s branches that closed at the end of June 2018 back to life. The concept was developed by the bank in Chile and been rolled out to Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina. Alongside banking facilities and free Wi-Fi, the work cafe offers free co-working spaces and meeting rooms. Susan Allen, head of retail and business banking at Santander UK, said: “More than a cafe and more than a bank, the work cafe is a whole new banking experience, acting as a vibrant hub for local businesses and the community. Work cafes have been a huge success with our customers in other countries and we look forward to seeing the response in the UK. With its growing reputation as an innovative city attracting strong digital talent and as one of the largest financial hubs outside London, Leeds is the perfect place.”
Six by Nico makes England debut with Manchester site: Six by Nico, the restaurant concept led by Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone, has made its debut in England – in Manchester. Simeone, who opened his third Six by Nico restaurant in March, in Belfast, has launched the venue in the former Roc & Rye unit in Manchester’s Spring Gardens. The 250 square foot site has been transformed into a 66-cover restaurant with a wine and spirits bar and open kitchen. The concept is based on a revolving culinary hub as every six weeks Simeone and his team “reinvent the wheel” by serving a new six-course tasting menu, each one themed on a different place, memory or idea. The Manchester site has started with The Chippie, which will see chip shop and takeaway classics reinvented as new dishes. Simeone launched the concept two years ago in Glasgow and also operates a site in Edinburgh. It is also thought Simeone is considering a move into London, with Fitzrovia a possible destination. Commercial law firm Kuits secured the licence for the Manchester site.
AG Barr sees share price drop sharply following profit warning: Funkin owner AG Barr saw its share price drop sharply after the company issued a profit warning. The company said it expected sales to drop 10% and profits up to 20% as it struggled against a strong year in 2018. AG Barr cited poor weather and “challenges” some of its brands face, particularly its Rockstar energy and Rubicon juice drinks. The share price fell as much as 30% early on Tuesday (16 July). In a pre-close update, the company said trading so far this year had been below its expectations. AG Barr chief executive Roger White said although the cocktail mixer division Funkin was growing well, it had been a challenging start to the year for the rest of the company. He added: “Weather comparatives and trading, particularly in the impulse on-the-go market, have been even tougher than expected which, along with some brand-specific challenges, have led to a short-term impact on our financial performance. We are focused on returning to growth and will continue to take the actions we believe necessary to succeed in the dynamic environment within which we operate.” These actions include launching three Rockstar drinks by the end of the summer and “recipe improvements” for Rubicon juice drinks. However, the company warned the “benefit” of these actions wouldn’t be felt until “later in the second half of the financial year”. Sales for the 26 weeks to 27 July are now expected to be about £123m – down 10% on last year – and further one-off costs are expected to be announced later in the year, the company added.
Humble Grape opens Canary Wharf site for fifth London wine bar: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, has opened a site in Canary Wharf for its fifth London venue. The move follows Humble Grape raising more than £560,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs earlier this year to accelerate expansion. The Canary Wharf wine bar has opened in Mackenzie Walk at a site formerly occupied by Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. It features a terrace by the water’s edge and offers 30 wines by the glass and more than 400 by the bottle. Open for breakfast from 7.30am until the evening, wine is also available to take away, while there are two private rooms for hire. Dawson told Hot Dinners: “I fell in love with the site as it has access to water and a large outside space – the first for any Humble Grape venue.” Dawson founded Humble Grape in 2009, running pop-ups around London. In 2014 he raised £535,000 to take the brand to the high street and it operates sites in Battersea, Fleet Street, Islington and Liverpool Street. Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte operates three other restaurants in London as well as sites in Paris, New York and Mexico City.
Liquorette launches London’s first self-service cocktail bar: Liquorette, the cocktail bar from design firm AvroKO, has launched the “first self-service cocktail bar in London”. The venue in Rathbone Place allows customers to pour their own cocktails on tap and attend “be your own bartender” classes. The range changes every four months, with the current selection all spritzes. Liquorette said it had introduced the offer to “create a more accessible and democratic cocktail culture”. Liquorette combines two bars, a cocktail takeaway and delivery service, and an off-licence.
 
Bedlam extends crowdfunding campaign as it nears initial £550,000 target:Sussex-based Bedlam has extended its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it closes in on its initial £550,000 target. The company, founded in 2011, is offering 14.67% equity, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. So far, 190 investors have pledged £505,720 with 17 days remaining. The company has a stretch target of £800,000, which would lead to the equity on offer rising to 20%. Bedlam has put together a four-year plan, which would see further investment in its brewery and expansion of the business. If it achieves the stretch target, it will open a brewery tap in Brighton. 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.
Glasgow-based pancake house Stack & Still opens second site, at Silverburn:Glasgow-based operators Paul Reynolds and Graham Swankie have opened a second site for their pancake house concept Stack & Still. The venue has opened at the Hammerson-owned Silverburn shopping centre, creating 60 jobs. The dual-level store is located in the Winter Garden and features a dedicated food and drink area seating 185 customers. Since launching in West George Street in October, Stack & Still has served more than 500,000 pancakes. Reynolds said: “Silverburn has a strong reputation for high footfall and our launch has been a great success, especially benefiting from the evening cinema trade. We know from our first restaurant in Glasgow city centre how popular our menu is. We look forward to serving our extensive collection of pancakes at the thriving food scene in the Winter Garden.” Glasgow Silverburn general manager David Pierotti said: “Stack & Still offers something different and exciting. Because the brand is based in Glasgow, the team knows what our customers are looking for.”
Stonegate rolls out energy-saving pub cellar system: Stonegate Pub Company is to roll out Technik2 Energy Solutions’ Cellar Manager and Smart Python Timers systems to 550 of its sites following a trial. Cellar Manager saves up to 30% of energy by automatically switching the main cellar cooler on and off as required. Smart Python Timers work in tandem with the system, switching off remote coolers when not in use. Timers can be programmed to suit specific opening hours, generating a further 25% energy cut. Stonegate head of commercial Dan Castle said: “It is hugely important to us our pubs operate as sustainably and responsibly as they can. These systems allow us to have more control over our energy usage as well as maintaining product quality for our customers.” Simon Treanor, of Technik2 Energy Solutions, added: “There is a huge impact on Stonegate’s carbon footprint, with the equivalent of more than 19,000 trees being saved a year as a result of these cellar-cooling efficiencies. Technik2 is on track to deliver carbon footprint improvements across the UK pub industry, saving the equivalent of more than one million trees by 2025.”
Chapel Down appoints Martin McGowan as sales director: Wine and beer maker Chapel Down has appointed Martin McGowan as sales director. He joins from Treasury Wine Estates, where he spent almost eight years. McGowan will lead the group’s drive for further distribution across the on and off-trade for Chapel Down and Curious Brewing products. Chapel Down group chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “Going into our 18th year of business, the breadth of Martin’s sales knowledge and relationships with key retailers and trade partners, combined with our passion for making distinctive English wine, premium spirits and contemporary beer and cider, means an exciting new chapter for Chapel Down Group.”