Oakman Inns reports like-for-likes up 7.3%, launches £10m fund-raise: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has reported like-for-like sales increased 7.3% for the 15 months ending 30 June 2019. Turnover for the period was £46.7m, while site Ebitda was £8.6m and group Ebitda was £4.2m. Despite inflationary pressures margins have been maintained, with average sales per core site running at more than £35,000 net of VAT per week. The company, led by Peter Borg-Neal, opened four sites during the period – The Four Alls in Welford-upon-Avon; The Royal Foresters in Ascot; The Beech House in Hampton Hill and The Polecat in Prestwood. Additionally, The Beech House in Beaconsfield was doubled in size while significant investments were made at The Globe in Warwick and The Anchor in Hullbridge. Since the year end, the company has opened its 24th site – The Lost Boy in Farnham. Oakman Inns significantly strengthened its balance sheet during the period via two significant deals with Ei Group and Downing Fund Management, which resulted in bringing the ownership of £25m of freehold assets within the group. Borg-Neal said: “Overall we have maintained our corporate momentum despite an unhelpful environment with the uncertainty around Brexit having an impact on consumer and investor confidence. We believe the post-election period will bring some momentum to the economy and expect the new government to keep its promise with respect to a root and branch reform of business rates. We have strengthened our senior management team and continued our focus on investing in training and providing clear and long-term career paths. Oakman is well placed to continue to grow and serve our customers in 2020.” As previously revealed by Propel, Oakman Inns will launch a £10m fund-raising exercise this week that primarily offers investors an opportunity to acquire new shares, preference shares or investment bonds, or a combination of all three. Oakman Inns has already announced The Beech House in Epsom, The Rose in Wokingham and The Grand Junction in Buckingham will open between April and November 2020, while its plans for Bush Hall continue towards a 2021 completion. Its new vehicle for the contract management of small privately owned pubs, Ashmore Inns, is also expected to acquire at least two properties in 2020.
 
Peter Marks – Deltic’s biggest competition is consumer apathy, not other operators: Peter Marks, chief executive of bar and nightclub company The Deltic Group, has told Propel apathy from people staying at home is its biggest competition – not fellow operators. Marks also said the company would look to invest in some of its more marginal businesses in 2020 once it saw confidence return to those towns. He added: “We are hopeful of seeing a bit of bounce in consumer confidence now there’s more certainty about Brexit. However, the biggest challenge is getting people to spend their money in our sector, which I’ve always tried to champion. Our competition isn’t the Mitchells & Butlers, Stonegates and Marston’s of this world, who are our friends, it’s the apathy of people staying at home and watching Netflix. We’ve been waiting to see whether to invest in certain businesses and hopefully we’ll see some solid growth that allows us to do that as consumer confidence starts to return. Towns have been hard work because the cities are drawing in young people. You look at places such as Bury and Bolton, which have been affected by the magnet that’s Manchester. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more money going into these towns. The issues we’ve had over the past year have been on a local rather than national level and we’ve been working hard to address them. Some we were able to do quite quickly, others are taking longer such as getting the new Eden concept to where we want it to be. The core estate is performing quite well year-on-year. We’re running this business for the long term so we’re not worrying about the next quarter. We’ll do the right thing for the business.” Regarding another potential approach for Revolution Bars Group, Marks said: “Not at the moment – but never say never. Our businesses are similar.”
Deliveroo hits 2,000 virtual restaurants in UK, orders rise 220%: Deliveroo has reached the milestone of 2,000 virtual restaurants on its platform in the UK. The company said the number of virtual brands available in the UK had risen 150% this year, with 1,200 added in 2019, while orders were up 220%. Deliveroo is working with 1,200 partners on virtual brands in all 13 of its global markets, with almost half of the 4,500 total brands available in the UK. Deliveroo said not all brands necessarily remained virtual, pointing to Oowee Vegan, which started as a virtual brand of burger joint Oowee Diner in a Deliveroo Editions site but now has its own bricks and mortar restaurant in Bristol with plans to open a further site in Brixton next year. The top five virtual brands on the platform performance-wise are Motu Indian Kitchen (four sites), Tasty Korea (three), Out Fry (six), Gym Food (four) and Poke By Tombo (two). Deliveroo chief executive Will Shu said: “By helping restaurants develop new brands, Deliveroo is helping them reach new customers and offer more choice and selection.”
Arc Inspirations breaks £1m sales amid record week: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, told Propel it has just delivered a record trading week, breaking £1m net sales across the group for the first time in its 20-year history. The company reported a record trading day on Saturday (14 December), while a number of sites saw record sales weeks including Manahatta in Deansgate, Manchester, and Merrion Street, Leeds. Arc’s Banyan sites in Spinningfields in Manchester, Newcastle city centre and Leeds city centre all broke previous trading records. Chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “While the run up to Christmas is always a busy time for us, this is a truly outstanding performance. Christmas 2019 is set to smash all records for Arc Inspirations and gives us great momentum heading into the new year.” The company’s financial results for its most recent year reported turnover increased 16.7%, from £23.3m to £27.2m, with like-for-like sales up 1.1%.
Azzurri Group brands grow sales helped by focus on staff engagement and training: A continued focus on staff engagement and training across its brands helped Azzurri Group grow sales in its financial year, Propel has learned. The 311-strong group’s recently filed annual report shows improvements in filling roles internally, high staff retention and the launch of a Coffee Academy for its Coco Di Mama brand. The report revealed the 162-strong Zizzi brand registered its seventh consecutive year of like-for-like revenue growth, while its Viaggio career path programme led to more than two-thirds (70%) of general manager positions being filled internally. The company said: “In addition this year has seen the introduction of padrinos – our best head chefs – in every region to support and train kitchen teams. The combination of these programmes has seen an improvement in stability and a reduction in team turnover. This year has seen the launch of Zizzi Viaggio, our training and development programme, which provides clear paths for team members to progress to senior chef or management positions. This focus has seen us improve team stability and increase the number of internal promotions into restaurant management. We are delighted more than 50% of management vacancies are now filled internally.” The 111-strong ASK Italian brand grew its sales and profitability for the sixth consecutive year as it served a record number of customers. The brand achieved seven consecutive record weeks of sales, while Mother’s Day and Father’s Day broke all sales records. The brand said its development programme was providing a “clear route” for team members. A spokesman said: “Despite Brexit, retention has remained high through ensuring regular updates and communication with our team members. The second year of the apprenticeship programme has seen the number of apprentices double and all graduates have been retained. A new stream of the apprentice programme has been introduced, targeting head office.” During the year the company launched a dedicated Coffee Academy for its 28-strong Coco Di Mama brand. The spokesman said: “We relaunched jobs in Coco with the introduction of a Hot Chef role, which recognises the importance of food skills and standards while investing in the training, education, welfare and culture of the teams and maintaining pay progression ahead of the National Minimum Wage. We have trained 80 baristas on a dedicated coffee development programme, offered free maths and English lessons to all, and raised awareness of mental health issues through the introduction of an employee assistance programme.” Last month the Steve Holmes-led business reported a 7% increase in group sales to £299.4m for the year ended 30 June 2019, with like-for-like sales growth across all four brands.
Caprice Holdings to open restaurant in partnership with Andrew Lloyd Webber at Theatre Royal Drury Lane: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, is to open a “one of a kind” restaurant inside London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The restaurant will be part of the new-look Covent Garden venue when it reopens in autumn 2020 following its £60m refurbishment by LW Theatres, owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although the restaurant has yet to be named, Propel understands Caprice Holdings recently trademarked “Mosaic”. The restaurant will be in an adjoining building in Catherine Street recently acquired to become part of the theatre, which is undergoing a £60m restoration project that includes a complete refurbishment and the creation of new bars and restaurants. Lloyd Webber said: “Richard is a brilliant restaurateur and showman, both of which are essential to ensuring the theatre will continue to be a vibrant part of Covent Garden life. He is behind many of the country’s most loved and entertaining restaurants, making it a perfect match for our ambitious project at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.” Caring added: “We hope to create something unique that will make you smile.”
India-based Café Delhi Heights to make UK debut: India-based cafe concept Café Delhi Heights is to make its international debut with an opening in Manchester. Propel understands the business, which operates circa 20 sites in India, has secured the former Cabana site in the Corn Exchange for an opening early next year. Founded in 2011 by Usha Batra, the business is now run by her sons Sharad and Vikrant and focuses on global cuisine with a menu based on comfort food. Café Delhi Heights is part of Batra Bros Foods & Beverages and “serves food from all parts of the globe but with a Delhi twist”. The Manchester venue will be next to a Döner Haus site, which is taking over the vacant former Byron unit in the Corn Exchange.
Hotel operator Malmaison launches first high-street version of Chez Mal brasserie brand, in Birmingham: Hotel operator Malmaison has launched a standalone deli and bar version of its in-house Chez Mal brasserie brand, in Birmingham’s Mailbox. MalBox has opened in the Urban Room on Level 2 of the leisure complex offering cakes, pastries, salads, soup and baguettes alongside hot and cold drinks. Malmaison operates 16 hotels in the UK – in Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Cheltenham, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Reading, with each site offering an all-day Chez Mal bar and brasserie.
Din Thai Fung to replace Vivi at Centre Point: Taiwanese dim sum brand Din Tai Fung is set to open its second UK site, at London’s Centre Point scheme. Propel understands the brand will open in the space vacated by Rhubarb’s Vivi restaurant. Din Tai Fung, which operates more than 160 restaurants worldwide, was previously mooted for the rooftop space at Centre Point but speculation arose it had pulled out of the development altogether. However, it is now believed to have agreed to open at the space Vivi vacated in the summer, six months after opening. The 16,000 square foot space was split into four areas – a bar, dining room, “liquid lounge” for healthy drinks, and a viewing gallery, with 290 covers in total. Din Tai Fung made its UK debut in Covent Garden at the end of 2018. The company agreed a rent of £1.2m a year for a 9,000 square foot, 250-cover unit in Henrietta Street arranged over ground floor and basement.
SSP partners with German TV chef to launch Frankfurt restaurant: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has partnered with German television chef Steffen Henssler and his brother Peter to launch a restaurant at Frankfurt Central train station. Ahoi Steffen Henssler is the brothers’ second site for the concept following its launch in Hamburg. The Frankfurt restaurant seats 26 diners inside and 16 on an outdoor deck. The menu features regional cuisine with an emphasis on seafood, including sushi bowls, fish and chips, shrimp and chips, and sandwiches. There are also takeaway options. Jan Kamp, director of business development and properties at SSP, said: “We are constantly looking to add new brands to our portfolio. The Henssler brothers have brought an individual touch to the concept and together we’ve adapted this to fit the requirements of foodservice in the travel environment.” SSP operates six other food and beverage units at Frankfurt Central and has partnered with a number of renowned chefs around the globe including Alvin Leung in Hong Kong, Paul Wahlberg in the US, Michel Roth in France, the Torres Brothers in Spain, and the UK’s Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver.
Daisy Green Collection opens second City of London site: Australia-inspired restaurant, bar and coffee group Daisy Green Collection has opened its second site in the City of London. The Prue Freeman-led company has launched Barbie Green at London Wall Place for its 11th site. The venue offers the brand’s signature bottomless brunch alongside new sharing plates such as vegan Korean cauliflower “wings” with sweet and sticky sauce. For the first time at a Daisy Green Collection site, Barbie Green also offers a pizza menu. The venue offers seating for 40 inside plus a large terrace and sits within the remains of St Alphage church and a section of the original city wall, which dates to the 2nd century. Fully retractable windows open on to more than an acre of gardens. Freeman said: “After a record year of trading we’re delighted to round out 2019 with a stunning new site in the City, taking us back to 2012 where we started selling our coffee outside The Gherkin. Our uniquely Australian all-day offering is continuing to defy the well-documented challenges the hospitality industry faces.” As previously reported by Propel, the business’ next opening will be its largest site to date, on the rooftop of the Brunel Building at Paddington Exchange. Freeman founded the company with husband Tom Onions in 2012. Last year the business raised more than £2m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as part of plans to grow to 17 sites by 2022.
Hakkasan appoints group sommelier: UK-based restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group has promoted Tobias Brauweiler to group sommelier. He will oversee the wine programme for all Asian Luxury Collection brands including Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sake No Hana and Ling Ling. Brauweiler’s roles since joining the group have included head sommelier at Hakkasan Hanway Place and general manager at HKK, Sake No Hana and Ling Ling Mykonos. Before that Brauweiler was head sommelier at a number of hotels including The Ritz London. He said: “I look forward to building and diversifying the already stellar wine offering at our restaurants.”
 
Douglas Jack – opportunity for Fuller’s to accelerate growth from 2021 after transition ends: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said there will be an opportunity for Fuller’s to accelerate growth from 2021 when its transition period ends. Issuing an ‘Add’ note on the shares with a target price of 1,050p, Jack said: “Fuller’s like-for-like sales have remained above its competitor benchmark. Trading conditions have been tough over the summer and autumn this year due to cold, wet weather, a weak year-on-year sporting calendar, and pre-election uncertainty. This means Fuller’s has much softer comparables to look forward to in 2021E. We don’t believe there’s much upside to 2020E. Our full-year forecasts assume like-for-like sales rise 2.0% (in comparison with which they were up 2.1% after 36 weeks) and managed Ebit margins will fall by 100 basis points, in line with the first half. We believe the forecast upside is in 2021E as the benefits of the acquisitions emerge and against assumptions of just 2.0% like-for-like sales. From 2021E, post transition, Fuller’s will have the opportunity to accelerate growth through managed like-for-like sales and cost reductions before considering the potential for further acquisitions/expansion should the company choose to utilise its £120m to £150m of financial firepower.”
Daventry-based operator takes on second Punch pub: Steven McGeachey has reopened Daventry pub No 4 Brook Street At The Dun Cow for his second Punch pub in the Northamptonshire town. The venue has undergone a £150,000 refurbishment to create a retro look with soft furnishings and open fires. The renovation is part of a £90m investment programme by Punch during the next three years to “unlock possibilities at community pubs up and down the country”. McGeachey, who also operates Punch pub The George, said: “I am really excited to be at No 4 Brook Street, working with Punch to bring this amazing bar back to life and giving it a whole new identity.” Punch managing director Andy Spencer added: “The transformation of this pub is fantastic and it’s great we have an experienced operator in Steven taking it on.”
Innis & Gunn extends fund-raise as it reveals location of new brewery following university partnership: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has revealed its new brewery will be at Heriot-Watt University’s Research Park in Edinburgh. Subject to planning permission, it will be the first major brewery built in Edinburgh for more than 150 years. The tie-up is the UK’s first major collaboration between a full-scale brewery and a university. The research park on Riccarton campus also houses the International Centre for Brewing & Distilling and students will gain hands-on experience once the brewery becomes operational in 2021. The company has also extended its £3m fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to Friday, 31 January. The campaign, under the banner This Is Beer Money, is offering 1.96% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of almost £150m. So far, 1,443 investors have pledged £2,183,817. The brewery will also be part-financed through a £15m loan, which is currently being progressed. As well as brewing Innis & Gunn’s core range, the brewery will house high-speed canning, bottling and kegging facilities, its head office and a visitors’ centre, while a taproom will be added at a later date. Innis & Gunn’s brewery in Perthshire will continue to brew the Inveralmond Brewery range and focus on small-scale experimentation and limited edition barrel-aged beer. Innis & Gunn founder and master brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp said: “We are creating a centre for brewing, collaboration and applied learning on the world stage. Working with the International Centre of Brewing & Distilling opens up endless opportunities by combining our creative abilities and the talent pool at the university with a world-class brewery. We hope to be able to research new beer and brewing techniques and develop pioneering carbon and water-saving technologies. We are especially proud to be part of the revitalisation of Edinburgh as a world centre for brewing.”
Greene King goes for greener crackers: Brewer and retailer Greene King is aiming to reduce its environmental impact by offering greener Christmas crackers to its customers this year. All single-use plastic contents from its crackers have been replaced with gifts made from sustainable sources such as metal, wood and paper, while the crackers themselves are also made using recyclable material. Greene King chief commercial officer Phil Thomas said: “Last year we sold 154,000 meals on Christmas Day alone so we wanted to find a more sustainable way for our customers to enjoy the traditional Christmas cracker.” Other Greene King environmental initiatives include compostable straws, while the company partnered with Too Good To Go earlier this year to enable customers to buy leftover meals from its pubs, carveries and Farmhouse Inns sites towards the end of the day in a bid to cut waste.
Merlin and Entertainment One to bring PJ Masks to SeaLife Centres: Merlin Entertainments has signed a partnership with Entertainment One to bring its pre-school superhero PJ Masks to SeaLife Centres around the world. PJ Masks-branded trails – featuring artwork from the show, a branded photo wall and costume character appearances – will travel between SeaLife Centres during the year, starting in February. The partnership builds on Merlin’s relationship with Entertainment One, which includes exclusive rights to roll out Peppa Pig attractions. Peppa Pig World Of Play indoor attractions are already open in the US and China. Matthew Williams, senior brand director of Midway attractions at Merlin Entertainments, said: “This is an amazing fit – fun and discovery are at the core of what we do at Merlin Entertainments and that’s why PJ Masks is a perfect partner.” Rebecca Harvey, executive vice-president global brand and marketing, family and brands at Entertainment One, added: “Our latest partnership with Merlin Entertainments underlines our focus on live events and their ability to create unique touch points for our brands.”
Cotswolds Distillery raises almost £3m to ramp up whisky production: The Cotswolds Distillery has raised almost £3m so far in its Angel’s Share 2 campaign on peer-to-peer lending platform Code Investing. The share offer sees shares cost £22 each, with a minimum investment of £1,000. Cotswolds Distillery, founded by Dan Sizer, raised more than £1m via Code Investing in 2016 to grow its business after launching in 2014. Now the company has returned to the platform having grown revenue by more than 25 times and raised a further £7m across three fund-raising rounds, including almost £2.9m on Crowdcube last year. Cotswolds Distillery said the primary aim of its latest fund-raise was to boost growth in whisky stocks for ageing. It added: “Gin has been the mainstay of our distillery but whisky has shown great promise, as evidenced by the significant growth rate of sales since 2017.” The offer to buy shares will close on Monday, 13 January.
Surrey hotel brought to market for £2.35m: Bishop’s Table Hotel in Farnham, Surrey, has been put on the market for £2.35m. The 24-bedroom town centre hotel also offers meeting rooms and function spaces for corporate events and private parties. The Georgian property has undergone a full restoration. Adam Bullas, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, which is marketing the hotel, said: “Bishop’s Table is a fantastic opportunity to acquire a town centre hotel that benefits from diverse income streams. Farnham’s market town charm attracts visitors looking for a taste of Surrey’s history.”
Dalata appoints corporate development director, forms environmental committee: Irish hotel operator Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, has promoted Shane Casserly to corporate development director. Casserly joined Dalata in 2014 as head of strategy and development, while the company is also forming a committee to oversee environmental, social and governance matters. Dalata chairman John Hennessy said: “Shane has been a leading member of the executive team since 2014 and his appointment will further strengthen the board as the next phase of the company’s expansion into the UK gathers momentum. The board is aware of the company’s responsibility to make a positive contribution to society, managing its impact on the environment, and governance matters. I believe establishing a board committee with responsibility for overseeing these efforts will provide leadership and demonstrate the priority given to those matters by Dalata.”