Pret A Manger in talks over Israeli franchise: Pret A Manger is in talks with Israel’s largest restaurant group Café Café, which is looking to open as many as 70 franchises in the country. The Café Café group, controlled by Ronen Nimni, wants to open 50 to 70 branches across Israel of about 100 square metres each. Café Café currently operates 15 brands, including Café Café, Fresh, Ruben, Hasushia, Lehem Erez, Kaspi, Nagisa and Sahbak. In recent months Café Café said it had considered franchising Starbucks but negotiations had been unsuccessful. The Israeli restaurant sector has become crowded in recent years, while challenges in the coffee and restaurant sector have become even more acute due to regulatory changes such as an increase in the minimum wage, laws on bottle deposits and tips, and a crackdown on foreign workers. A Café Café spokesman said: “We are Israel’s largest restaurant group, with more than 300 cafes and restaurants nationwide under 15 leading brands. The group assesses business proposals from time to time and neither confirms nor denies reports about its business policy.”
Chick-fil-A changes charity policy following restaurant protests: Chick-fil-A, the largest chicken and third-largest US fast food restaurant chain, has made a major about turn in its charitable policy following protests at its US and UK sites. A boycott of restaurants has taken place since news website ThinkProgress found Chick-fil-A had donated almost $1.8m to alleged anti-LGBTQ groups Fellowship Of Christian Athletes and The Salvation Army. Chick-fil-A was barred from opening venues at airports in San Antonio, Texas and Buffalo in March and April, while there have also been boycotts of the company’s debut UK sites in Reading and the Scottish Highlands. Chick-fil-A has now announced a $9m (£6.9m) commitment to charity organisations with a focus on education, homelessness and hunger. The company said commitments to The Salvation Army and Fellowship Of Christian Athletes had been “fulfilled” and wouldn’t be renewed. A Chick-fil-A spokesman told Nation’s Restaurant News: “The Chick-fil-A Foundation will support the three specific initiatives of homelessness, hunger and education. No organisation will be excluded from future consideration – faith-based or non-faith-based.” The groups receiving funds from the foundation include Junior Achievement, Covenant House and local food banks.
Puttshack secures debut US site: Puttshack, the indoor mini-golf concept, has secured its first site in the US. The company will open the venue in Atlanta after signing a lease to join The Interlock, a $450m mixed-use development in the West Midtown neighbourhood. Puttshack will occupy more than 25,000 square feet and offer four nine-hole mini-golf courses complemented by its food and drink offer and a private events space. Scheduled for completion in 2020, The Interlock will offer 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a boutique hotel, 350 apartments, 70 homes and more than 200,000 square feet of office space. Puttshack chief executive Joe Vrankin said: “As we expand into the US, Atlanta is a must-have market for Puttshack – and West Midtown is the perfect fit. Our social entertainment experience is unlike any other – we’ve been blown away by the response to the concept in the UK and have no doubt we’ll see the same in Atlanta.” The business, which completed a £30m equity raise with lead investor Promethean Investment this year, opened its latest site – and third in total – in Bank in the City of London earlier this month. Puttshack has plans for further openings, including at Intu Watford in the summer.
Sukho Group reports full-year like-for-likes up 4.4%: Sukho Group, parent company of the Sukhothai and Zaap Thai restaurant brands, has reported like-for-like sales were up 4.4% for the year ending 31 March 2019. Turnover rose to £10.2m, compared with £9.8m the previous year. Ebitda was up to £2.5m from £1.9m the year before, partly due to a rise in sales and gross margin and a fall in administrative costs. Pre-tax profit increased to £2.0m, compared with £1.5m the previous year. As previously reported by Propel, Sukho Group is being supported by four new directors following a partial management buyout. The company operates eight restaurants under the two brands having opened Zaap Thai in York in the current financial year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group is in a strong financial position and ready to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves due to continuing turmoil on the high street. Also, in the new financial year the group has established a group distribution unit under the name Khruathai, which enables us to have much better control and visibility of our supply chain and purchase more efficiently.” Founded in 2002, the brand has grown from its debut site in Chapel Allerton to four Sukhothai restaurants in Yorkshire alongside Zaap Thai branches in Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham and York.
Itsu and Heavenly Desserts sign for Stratford development: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, and artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts have signed leases for sites at International Quarter London (IQL), the £2.4bn joint-venture development between Lendlease and LCR in Stratford, east London. Itsu will open a 2,640 square foot store in early 2020 to add to its portfolio of more than 70 sites in the UK. Meanwhile, Heavenly Desserts has chosen IQL for its first venue in London as it expands south. The unit, which is almost 1,500 square feet, will have space for 70 covers including patio seating. The latest signings follow the launch of two independent food and drink operators at IQL – family-run east London bakery Signorelli, and Figo, which is a new venture from the team behind Bella Vita in Hackney’s Broadway Market. The brands join Tonkotsu, the Emma Reynolds and Ken Yamada-founded ramen restaurant group, which has been trading at IQL since summer 2018. Guy Thomas, head of retail at Lendlease, said: “We want to provide a rich variety of food and beverage offerings for people – from day to night.” Nash Bond and CF Commercial represented IQL, while CDG Leisure acted on behalf of Heavenly Desserts.
Clapham Leisure to open fourth site, on Friday: South London-based Clapham Leisure will open its fourth site, on Friday (22 November). The company, founded by wife and husband Joanna and Jayke Mangion, will launch Nue Ground in Abbeville Road, Clapham. The cafe bar will offer dedicated brunch, lunch and early evening menus from Sunday to Wednesday, as well as local beer, natural wine, coffee and kombucha on tap. There will be a grab-and-go counter offering salads, daily “hot” specials and plant-based cakes. From Thursday to Saturday the 65-seater venue will offer wine from small ethical producers and seasonal cocktails alongside grazing platters, flatbread and sharing boards. A dedicated first-floor workshop for ten people will be free to hire and host monthly events. Clapham Leisure also operates Brickwood, WC and Old Town Tavern.
Korean barbecue brand Yori to open in Covent Garden for third London site:Korean barbecue brand Yori is to open a third site in London, this time in Covent Garden. The 50-cover restaurant will launch in Catherine Street in mid-December, joining the brand’s other sites in Piccadilly and Wimbledon. The new 1,861 square foot unit has been signed on a lease that runs until 2032 with an annual rent of £80,000. Yori, which means “cooked food” in Korean, was founded in 2016 by Jong Soon Kim, who is also behind Japanese restaurant Nori and Korean dessert cafe Cake & Bingsoo, both in New Malden, Surrey, and Japanese dessert parlour Café Mori in Wimbledon. He said: “Customers queuing at our Piccadilly branch have often requested another restaurant. Covent Garden is in the heart of London and a location that can target different customers.” Daniel Rogers, surveyor at Restaurant Property, which secured the Covent Garden site, added: “Catherine Street is the perfect location for Yori, introducing Korean barbecue not only to theatre-goers but the whole Covent Garden community.” Hanover Green acted for Jidori, which previously occupied the Covent Garden site.
New McDonald’s boss tells staff ‘I would like to hear from you’: McDonald’s new chief executive Chris Kempczinski has told staff he “wants to hear from them” as he looks to take the business forward. Kempczinski, who replaced Steve Easterbrook as global boss earlier this month, has contacted employees at least twice in an effort to calm nerves and unify the brand. In his latest email, seen by Nation’s Restaurant News, Kempczinski wrote: “Change also brings opportunities for discussion, introspection and, ultimately, renewal so, as I start this journey as your chief executive, I’d like to hear from you. Between now and the end of the year, share something that makes you proud to be part of McDonald’s and something I could do as chief executive to make you even prouder.” Kempczinski said he would share some of the feedback he receives in January. Kempczinski was previously president of McDonald’s USA, overseeing 14,000 restaurants. He worked closely with Easterbrook, who was fired for having a consensual relationship with an employee.
Bourgee secured creditor to suffer funding shortfall of more than £650,000: The secured creditor of steak-lobster lounge concept Bourgee, which went into administration last year, will be left more than £650,000 out of pocket, according to a new report. In their progress report filed at Companies House, joint administrators Mark Upton and David Scrivener, of Ensors, said Colchester Zoo Holdings, which held a legal charge in respect of the company’s leasehold property and a fixed and floating charge debenture in respect of the company’s assets, has received a further £133,500. It means Colchester Zoo Holdings has been paid £335,000 of the £1m it was owed. The administrators said a further £4,800 would be paid prior to Bourgee being liquidated but would leave Colchester Zoo Holdings with a £660,200 shortfall in its funding. As previously reported unsecured creditors, who were owed £432,400, received a dividend of 10.46p in the pound while preferential creditors, which amounted to £2,800, were paid in full. Chef Mark Baumann and entrepreneur James Welling founded Bourgee in 2015. It traded from four sites when it went into administration in April 2018. The Bourgee name and brand was excluded from the subsequent pre-pack sale and Welling and Baumann are now operating Bourgee Bites – Bar – Luxe Lounge, which trades from sites in Norwich, London Southend airport and Chelmsford, the latter of which opened last month.
Deliveroo enhances events and catering service as orders surge 110% in a year:Deliveroo has unveiled a new package of catering services for its UK corporate clients. DFB said the UK was its largest catering market, with order volumes growing more than 110% this year compared with 2018. Part of the company’s Deliveroo For Business (DFB) offering, the new service includes food and beverage catering and a dedicated events co-ordinator. DFB will work with businesses to create tailor-made events and experiences involving a range of menu options. The launch follows DFB’s introduction of a van delivery service from its 300 UK caterers, while the company also offers a pop-up restaurant arm in London. DFB global head Juan Diego Farah said: “Launching the catering service was a natural next step.”
BrewDog passes £1m mark in mini-bond raise: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has passed the £1m mark in its latest mini-bond raise. The company is looking to raise £15m through the offer to support expansion. BrewDog has launched the mini-bond on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and will partly pay lenders in beer. The bond, which hit its minimum £500,000 target within 36 hours of the campaign’s launch, will pay 6% interest per annum over four years, which will be paid 50% in cash and 50% in beer – redeemable in its bars or online shop. Bonds cost £500 and the interest payments will be made twice a year. So far, 633 investors have pledged £1,051,000 with 34 days of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “Funds raised from the new BrewDog bond will be used to drive projects such as expanding into India with plans to open a bar in Mumbai, which will set our bar division well on its way to more than 100 bars around the planet.” The company has previously launched two mini-bonds via Crowdcube. It sold a £2.5m, four-year bond in 2016 that carried a 6.5% interest rate, while last year it raised £10m after issuing a four-year bond with a 7.5% interest rate. Both its previous bonds entitled investors to a 10% discount in BrewDog bars but didn’t include beer as a payment component. The new bond is running alongside the company’s Equity for Punks crowdfunding campaign, which hit its minimum £7m target earlier this month, with almost 34,700 investors having pledged funds. The latest Equity for Punks campaign, which runs until April, has a stretch goal of £50m. In total, its six fund-raises to date have raised more than £74m from circa 125,900 investors.
Tom Kerridge makes Manchester debut at new Stock Exchange Hotel: Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has opened his debut Manchester restaurant The Bull & Bear at the new Stock Exchange Hotel in Norfolk Street, which is operated by GG Hospitality – the company co-owned by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. The restaurant is housed in a domed room that was previously the trading floor of the stock exchange itself. Kerridge and his team are also overseeing 16-cover private dining room The Bank and 120-capacity private events space The Vault. The menu is influenced by Kerridge’s Marlow pub The Coach and is divided into three stages, with the team recommending four to five plates per person to allow diners to experience a wide selection. Kerridge said: “The space looks amazing. I’ve always loved Manchester and I’m so chuffed my first restaurant up north is in this brilliant city.” Stock Exchange Hotel is a member of Relais & Châteaux. GG Hospitality chief executive Winston Zahra said: “We are honoured to be the first Relais & Châteaux member in Manchester and one of the first properties in the 65-year history of the fellowship to become a member before its doors open.”
Douglas Jack – clear roadmap to debt reduction makes Marston’s an attractive investment: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said Marston’s clear roadmap to debt reduction makes the company an attractive investment. Issuing an ‘Add’ note on the shares with a target price of 140p ahead of next week’s full-year results, Jack said: “Combined managed like-for-like sales were up 0.8% in 2019E and up 1.9% in the fourth quarter (ten weeks). (Wet-led) Taverns’ like-for-like sales were up 1.9% over the full year and 5.4% in the fourth quarter, whereas (food-led) Destination & Premium (D&P) was up 0.1% over both the full year and fourth quarter, with good wet sales offset by weaker food sales. In comparison, the Coffer Peach Business Tracker was up 1.2% in wet-led pubs and 0.8% in food-led pubs during 2019E. We expect like-for-like sales to be up slightly in early 2020E, held back by October’s cold, wet weather and ongoing weakness of the eating out market (about half of Marston’s pub profits derive from food-led pubs). Our 2020E forecasts assume like-for-like sales rise 1.7%, assisted by extra investment in pub training, pub team incentives and digital marketing. Ebit should be up slightly in both Taverns and Brewing (both against tough comparables), but down circa £2m in the food-led D&P estate, largely reflecting the second-half drop in like-for-like sales versus the first half’s 1.2% increase. Own-brewed and licensed volumes should be up 1% in a falling market. Net debt rose £13m to £1,399m, following capex of £92m on existing assets and £45m on expansion, offset by £43m of disposal proceeds. We forecast circa £55m of net debt reduction in 2020E due to capex reducing to £83m on existing assets plus £9m on expansion versus £70m of disposal proceeds. We forecast a similar level of debt reduction in 2021E based on capex of £75m versus £40m of disposals. We expect the pub sector to benefit from falling supply over the next three years. This should stem from wet-led pub conversions into alternative use and ongoing weakness in the casual dining market. Simultaneously, wet-led pubs and carveries should be less exposed to the structural shift to eating at home (partly fuelled by food delivery). Pubs should remain more flexible and adaptable to structural change than restaurants. Our ‘Add’ recommendation reflects the company’s dividend and clear strategy to reduce debt, in comparison to which we view the 10% equity free cash flow yield (2020E) as attractive.” Meanwhile, Marston’s has signed a new 15-year agreement with US-based Shipyard Brewing Co. The partnership, which already has a 12-year history, will see Marston’s continue to brew, develop new products and distribute Shipyard beer in the UK.
Lina Stores opens King’s Cross site: Soho delicatessen Lina Stores, which launched its debut restaurant last year, has opened its latest site, in King’s Cross. The White Rabbit Fund-backed concept has launched the 100-cover site in Stable Street in one of the area’s few remaining heritage buildings. The opening marks 75 years since the Italian delicatessen first opened in Soho. Housed within a Victorian transit shed behind Granary Square, the venue builds on the Soho site and features a deli and restaurant under one roof for the first time. The deli features the brand’s green-and-white stripes and stocks Italian “pantry essentials”. Diners and shoppers can watch pasta made by hand while enjoying an espresso, made-to-order sandwich or after-work aperitivo. Last year the company opened a 51-cover restaurant in Greek Street.
American barbecue concept to open debut bricks and mortar site, in White City:American barbecue concept Prairie Fire will open its debut bricks and mortar site, in London’s White City next month. Launched in 2013 by Kansas City native Michael Gratz, Prairie Fire has been popping up across the capital offering barbecue-style smoked meat, burgers and sandwiches. Now Prairie Fire will be the first restaurant to open in Transport For London’s new Wood Lane railway arches development, which has been transformed into a mix of commercial, leisure and retail space. Prairie Fire will take over two archways, one housing a 75-cover restaurant and the other a taproom featuring a rotating selection of London craft beer and monthly tap takeovers. A curated cocktail and wine list will also be available. The overall 1,700 square foot venue will combine American diner culture with the heritage of London’s railway stations. The taproom will offer 16 beers and a 30-cover terrace.
Escape Hunt to open at Resorts World Birmingham: Escape Hunt, the escape room company, is to open a site at Resorts World Birmingham. Escape Hunt, which has venues in 27 countries, will open on the ground floor of the leisure complex before Christmas. The site will feature one of the brand’s most popular escape room games – Alice In Puzzleland. Based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, players step into Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter has been accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. Players have only one hour to find the tarts before the game ends.
Whitbread to open first north east Bar + Block, in Newcastle next month: Whitbread will open the first site in the north east for its Bar + Block steakhouse restaurant brand, in Newcastle on Thursday, 5 December. The 155-cover restaurant will replace Thyme Bar & Grill at the Premier Inn in Newgate Street. The move follows Bar + Block openings in Wimbledon, Belfast, Bristol, Winnersh and Sutton this year. The Newcastle restaurant will be the 13th Bar + Block and feature the brand’s trademark open kitchen and copper feature bar alongside decorative finishing touches such as the Bar + Block neon cow. The all-day, casual dining concept focuses on high-quality steak at affordable prices. Joanna Spencer, senior brand and marketing manager at Whitbread Restaurants, said: “This an exciting development that sees Bar + Block extend into the north east for the first time as part of our nationwide growth strategy.” Whitbread has previously said it is planning considerable growth for Bar + Block in 2020.
Caribbean restaurant concept Caribe’ opens permanent site, at Pop Brixton:Caribbean restaurant concept Caribe’ has opened a permanent site, at Pop Brixton in south London. Founder Keshia Sakarah has held a series of pop-ups and kitchen takeovers since launching the concept in 2015. Caribe’ aims to “challenge the stereotypical perception of Caribbean food” by introducing alternatives to jerk dishes and incorporating cuisine from islands inspired by Sakarah’s travels such as saltfish accra fritters native to Trinidad and stew oxtail and butter beans from St Lucia. The drinks list includes “island beer”, while house-made soft drinks such as sorrel and ginger beer are used in rum cocktails. Sakarah said: “The goal is to create a relaxed and lively atmosphere where people can eat and drink as if they are in the Caribbean. Each and every island is unique in its own right and I’m passionate about sharing their individuality. It’s a great bonus to be in the heart of Brixton, which has its own diverse hub of communities similar to the islands.”
Laine launches apprenticeship scheme that champions diversity: Laine, the Brighton-based pub and brewing company backed by Patron Capital, has launched an apprenticeship scheme that champions diversity. The company, which operates more than 60 bars, is looking to attract and inspire people from diverse backgrounds to join its rapidly growing brewing operation. The scheme was launched by US brewer and blogger Megan Stone at Laine’s new One For All Festival. Brewery director Jack Hibberd said: “We want to encourage those from diverse ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds to consider a career in brewing. To do this we decided to launch One For All Festival, where individuals from under-represented groups can discuss what needs to be done to help the brewing industry become more inclusive.” Stone added: “In the US I’ve learned you have to fight and be pushy to get on in the sector. No-one necessarily gives you permission as a female or person of colour. As a young gay woman I still have to constantly prove myself to be worthy of a place in the industry. Laine launching an apprenticeship scheme to literally invite people in is a fabulous move.” The first apprenticeship will begin in May and run for roughly 18 months.
Allergy app wins new product award a month after launch: Dinepilot, an app that allows operators to present allergy and ingredient information, has been awarded best new product by The Society Of Food Hygiene And Technology (SOFHT) only one month after its official launch. The app, which already hosts information from almost 2,000 Pret A Manger, TGI Friday’s and Mitchells & Butlers sites in the UK, allows customers with allergies to search for their favourite brands. Dinepilot hosts real-time dietary and allergen information from operators subscribed to the service so customers can filter dishes based on 14 of the most common allergens and ingredients they wish to avoid. Once a customer has identified a suitable menu they can book a table via the app. Dinepilot chief executive Tim Betts said: “Customers have the right to know exactly what’s in their food. Dinepilot uses live information, direct from operators, to ensure the app is always up to date.”