Whitbread plans more than 2,000 Premier Plus rooms in next 18 months: Whitbread has said it plans to have more than 2,000 rooms operating under its new Premier Plus format within the next 18 months. The company has introduced the model at two central London hotels, where 38 rooms are operating in total on separate floors to standard rooms. Whitbread said so far it had tested a daily rate uplift of between £10 and £20 and was seeing “very strong demand and high satisfaction scores” from business and leisure customers alike. The company will have more than 500 rooms in trial before the end of 2019 and has identified in excess of 2,000 rooms to be converted to the model. Premier Plus features include an improved workspace, a rainfall shower with luxury toiletries and a Nespresso machine with pods supplied. Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain told analysts during a presentation of its interim results that not every Premier Inn was suited to the upgraded room format. She said where it was introduced, about 10% to 15% of rooms in the hotel would be Premier Plus. She added: “I wouldn’t encourage anybody to model 76,000 rooms with a £20 uplift and a great return on capital because I don’t think this is how this is going to play out. As we want to organise it as a floor – so it has an appeal of quietness and selectiveness and is not family orientated because there are no family rooms in the trial – you have to do this on a site-by-site basis. Within a city that has eight or ten Premier Inns, you wouldn’t look to premiumise the lot. The business-orientated hotels that fill to 100% capacity in midweek would be the sweet spot for the higher premium rooms. We have been astonished by the response to the rooms in what is admittedly a small trial of two hotels in London. The 500 we’ll open between now and the end of the year are in a wide range of towns and cities across the UK and that will give us a real sense of whether that segmentation can be applied across a broader cross-section of hotels.” Whitbread’s 11 hub by Premier Inn sites are seeing occupancy rates of more than 80% and the company is now looking to expand the concept into areas outside London and Edinburgh, including Bath and Manchester. Meanwhile, its Zip format trial site in Cardiff continues to “perform well”, with occupancy rates in line with expectations. Brittain said the company was still working on the finer points of the economic and operating model to make sure prices could be maintained. She added: “They aren’t the easiest sites to find because we’re looking for sites in low-cost environments but where we think we can still get the right clients to the hotel.” Whitbread’s disposal strategy centres on “moving on” its smaller 30 and 40-bedroom hotels. Brittain said the company had no number for pub restaurant disposals but, given the current market, it was “slowing down” on about 1,000 planned hotel extensions. She added: “Because they are on the books and we have planning permission for them and they are quick to do, there’s no need to do them in advance of the market coming back.” Brittain said the German market was about 30% larger than the UK and had been growing at a faster rate, at about 4%. She added: “We remain excited about the long-term opportunity in Germany and are increasingly confident in replicating our UK success.”
Barclays – things could get interesting if Prosus increases Just Eat offer to 800p per share: Barclays leisure analyst Andrew Ross has said if investment firm Prosus NV increases its bid for Just Eat to 800p a share, things could “get interesting”. Just Eat’s board rejected an unsolicited offer of 710p per share in cash for the company from Prosus on Tuesday (22 October). Just Eat’s board said the bid “significantly undervalued its attractive assets and prospects on a stand-alone basis and as part of the proposed recommended all-share combination with Takeaway.com”. Ross said: “Our target price is 785p. We think there are a lot of Just Eat shareholders who still think the asset is worth 800p-plus. Right now, Just Eat shareholders are better served by the Takeaway.com bid. Our take is that if Prosus were to bid towards 800p, it would get interesting. This might be the type of premium (circa 35% versus our attempt at the undisturbed price for Just Eat) that is more palatable to Just Eat shareholders. At that level, it isn’t clear Takeaway.com would match it. Can Prosus get to more than 800p? It can definitely fund it but at that level we think the returns to Prosus shareholders become less obvious. Our view is there may be better returns for Prosus elsewhere in food delivery and, indeed, in other verticals than paying more than 800p for Just Eat. However, it would be highly surprising if 700p was the last bid.”
Bath Pub Company set for expansion as it reports like-for-likes up 7.2%: The Bath Pub Company, which operates four gastro-pubs in the city, has reported like-for-like sales increased 7.2% for the year ending 31 March 2019. The company also saw Ebitda rise 158% to £220,000, compared with £85,000 the previous year. The company expects to open a site in Bath early next year as part of a planned programme of expansion. Managing director Joe Cussens said: “We have been able to deliver both strong sales growth and improved profitability, despite the challenging trading conditions that continue to affect the industry. Two years ago we took the decision to overhaul a number of our key operating systems and platforms. Their introduction was disruptive and costly to the business at the time but, in the view of the board, necessary for the company to survive and prosper in the longer term. I’m delighted these changes are now bearing fruit and delivering the improved bottom line we were seeking. We believe we now have the right operating model in place to allow us to grow the company and expand the estate.”
Tough Mudder creator launches immersive gaming venture in London’s Southbank: Electronic Theatre, an immersive gaming experience from the creator of mud-infested obstacle race Tough Mudder, has launched its debut site in London’s Southbank. The concept features custom-built rooms (LightBoxes) that are 200 square feet and use touchscreens, motion-tracking, surround sound and projection mapping to beam interactive games across four walls. Teams of up to six can choose a 30-minute or 60-minute session, starting at £20 per person. The concept was founded by Will Dean, who stepped down as chief executive of Tough Mudder last year. The company raised £2.5m in the summer to fund its launch and expansion. The funding round was led by Index Ventures, the venture capital firm that has backed Facebook and Deliveroo. The company plans two openings in the US next year and is looking to launch about 100 locations globally during the next two years, 80 of them in the US. Overall, it is aiming to open 1,000 global locations in the next five years.
Roxie Steak & Wine opens sixth site: London-based steak specialist Roxie Steak & Wine has opened its sixth site in the capital, in Twickenham. The Richard Hollway-led business has taken on the former Palm Grill/Grand Union site in London Road. It has launched Roxie Steak & Tap at the site with, as the name suggests, more of focus on beer than its sister sites. Last year the company opened a site in Wimbledon, in Wimbledon Hill Road. Hollway has previously spoken about opening one or two sites a year. Three years ago, the business turned down investment interest from a number of private equity firms and investors.
The Patate secures former Beef & Brew venue for debut bricks and mortar site:Beef bourguignon in a bun concept The Patate is to open its debut bricks and mortar site, in Kentish Town, north London. The concept, which is the brainchild of Paul-Henry De Vassoigne and Martin Le Boulc’h, has secured the former Beef & Brew site that closed earlier this week after four years of trading. So far The Patate has operated a successful street food business, including a site at Kerb Camden Market. Jake Bernstone, of Stonebrook London, which acted on the deal, said: “Beef & Brew created a great neighbourhood restaurant with a loyal following. Sadly, all good things come to an end but The Patate is looking to convert its highly successful street food business into a high quality, bricks and mortar site, bringing its French burgers to Kentish Town.” Stonebrook London also acted on the disposal of Beef & Brew’s Haggerston site to Barworks earlier this year.
Camm & Hooper to run events calendar at Battersea Power House development:Imbiba-backed Camm & Hooper has been appointed to run events at the redeveloped Battersea Power Station, which is due to open in 2021. Events will take place in Generator Hall, Control Room A and three other spaces that will be collectively known as Battersea Power House. Events will include gigs, arts and cultural performances, fashion shows, industry awards, product launches, conferences and large-scale hospitality functions. Generator Hall will be a triple height space with a capacity of 1,400, while the 250-capacity Control Room A, the power station’s original art deco control room, will retain parquet flooring and dials that were once used to regulate one-fifth of London’s electricity. Executive head chef Ronnie Murray, formerly of Hix Restaurants, will create food menus for the venue, while Camm & Hooper’s Patrick Hobbs will curate the themed cocktails. Camm & Hooper managing director Debra Ward said: “We are so excited about our future with the Battersea Power Station team and can’t wait to start delivering extraordinary events in this iconic venue.” When it opens in 2021 Battersea Power House will sit alongside the 109 metre Chimney Lift offering skyline views, more than 100 restaurants and shops, Apple’s new London campus, and new housing, while a Northern Line tube station will be created to service the development. The first phase of the project – Circus West Village – already features independent restaurants, cafes and bars.
Victor Garvey to replace Rambla with US west coast concept: Spanish chef and restaurateur Victor Garvey is making a move away from his Catalan roots by transforming his Soho restaurant Rambla into a US west coast concept. The venue in Dean Street will relaunch on Friday, 1 November as SOLA, a combination of Soho and Los Angeles. Garvey said: “I think it’s well known I’m always looking to innovate and have one eye on the next project. It’s why I closed Encant and Sibarita when I felt I’d taken them as far as I could creatively. Rambla has been phenomenally successful in the two years it has been open but now I’m ready to do something new.” That “something new” sees Garvey move away from Spanish food to the modern cuisine of his father’s native California. SOLA will include a 12-course menu as well as snacks, with taster dishes such as glazed sweetbread with sushi rice; mussels and clam pistachio with dipping soldiers; and lobster pot pie to share. The drinks list will focus on Californian wine, while British tailor Timothy Everest will create staff uniforms for the refurbished restaurant. Garvey said: “Half of my career has been spent cooking on the west coast of the US. Californian cuisine draws from so many cultures, countries and traditions I know I will feel freer and more able to express myself this way than continuing to focus on just one country. I’m incredibly excited about this new beginning and look forward to taking guests on a trip across California, from Soho to LA.” Earlier this year Garvey launched his first solo restaurant in the City of London. Barullo opened in Bevis Marks in March at a space formerly occupied by James Cochran EC3 but closed within months. Garvey launched Barullo after closing his Covent Garden restaurant Sibarita to focus on his new project. In January 2018, Garvey took ownership of Sibarita and Rambla under the umbrella Garvey Restaurant Holdings.
Foundation Coffee House to open third Manchester site: Foundation Coffee House, which is owned and operated by design and branding agency NoChintz, is to open its third Manchester site. The company will launch the outlet in Portland Street in December, joining its Northern Quarter and Whitworth Street locations. The space will offer a “brighter and fresher” setting than its sister sites, with bespoke lighting and an added focus on take-out options. Director Dominic Beardwell said: “We are planning to grow the business organically but at the same time we do have our eye on continuous expansion. We are conscious not to create identikit environments so as we develop across the city customers will find that underlying Foundation philosophy wherever they go but realised through design and service that meets the needs of a particular area or demographic.”
Taproom concept championing local brewers to open second site, in Brixton:Taproom By, the concept that champions local brewers, is to open a second site, in Brixton Village, south London. Taproom by Brixton Village will launch on Friday, 1 November following the same ethos as its debut site in Bethnal Green. The Brixton taproom will focus on championing locally sourced products with a menu spotlighting experimental brews and new concepts. The venue will offer beer from brewers in the surrounding area such as Brixton Brewery, Gypsy Hill, Kernel and Orbit, while there will also be a range of draught cocktails and bar snacks with plans to offer a “pies and pickles” menu. Ross Blake, from the Taproom by Brixton Village team, said: “We will work to source the best products from the plethora of south London brewers as well as organising a number of tap takeovers and events. There is a vibrancy and energy in Brixton Village and we’re excited about becoming part of the community.”
Sports Direct confirms no offer for Goals: Sports Direct has confirmed it doesn’t intend to make an offer for five-a-side football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres. Sports Direct, which is the largest shareholder in Goals with an 18.93% stake, was in talks over a 5p-per-share offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital. However, Sports Direct said it had “only limited and fitful access and co-operation” from Goals’ board to support its possible offer. Accordingly, Sports Direct said it was unable to complete the necessary due diligence to progress the offer adding that Goals’ board continued to pursue the accelerated merger and acquisitions process it set out in August. Trading in Goals shares has been suspended since March, when the company unearthed historical accounting issues. Its share price at the time of the suspension was 27.2p.
Gusto Pronto Group reopens Suffolk pub for fifth site: Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Gusto Pronto Group has reopened The Fox in the village of Bulmer Tye for its fifth pub. The pub had been closed since January but the company, founded by husband and wife David and Roxane Marjoram, has reopened the venue as a gastro-pub. The new look includes a coffee lounge. Roxane Marjoram told the Free Press: “It is a challenging time for the pub industry – we continue to work hard and keep looking at what customers want and the experiences they receive when they come in. We want to see it become a happy and thriving pub again. We are thrilled by the way people have returned to the pub and, hopefully, new faces will try it out as well.” Founded by the Marjorams in 2008, Gusto Pronto Group operates fours pubs in and around Bury St Edmunds and a craft brewery, Brewshed.
Starbucks expands US delivery programme: Starbucks has extended its delivery service in the US to five further markets. The service is now available in Atlanta, Denver, Phoenix, Philadelphia and New Jersey, while it has been expanded in New York. The programme, which launched as a pilot in partnership with UberEats in late 2018, is now operating in 16 major US markets and Starbucks recently revealed it would reach national availability in early 2020. Starbucks group president and chief operating officer Roz Brewer said: “The expansion of Starbucks Delivers is part of our continuous effort to enhance the retail experience and provide customers with another convenient option to enjoy Starbucks, wherever they are.” Starbucks has launched delivery programmes in more than 15 global markets outside the US including the UK, where it offers the service in 11 cities.
Giggling Squid opens Weybridge site: Giggling Squid, the 34-strong Thai restaurant brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, has opened a site in Weybridge, Surrey. The company has launched the 110-cover restaurant – with an additional 16 seats outside – at the former site of French brasserie Cote in Church Street. Pranee Laurillard said: “We are thrilled to introduce Weybridge to our Giggling Squid family. I want each guest to feel like they’re coming into my home – feeling welcome, relaxed and generously looked after.” The pipeline for sites remains strong as Giggling Squid looks to open between six and ten restaurants a year while embarking on a refurbishment programme of its more mature restaurants. Sites in Cambridge, Harborne and Leicester were recently added to the pipeline. Giggling Squid, which is backed by the BGF, recently ended its sales process after being placed on the market earlier this year.
Former Vanilla Black chef launches plant-based restaurant in Peckham: Tom Heale, former chef at gourmet vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black in Holborn, has launched his own concept in the capital. Heale and partner Anne Stokes have opened Naïfs in Goldsmith Road, Peckham, showcasing vegan and vegetarian dishes after CDG Leisure secured a 750 square foot site for the bistro-style venue. Offering “elements of fine dining in a homely setting”, signature dishes include koji-roasted celeriac with tomato salsa, remoulade and leaves. Weekends feature a simple breakfast service, while the bar offers natural and biodynamic wine, beer from Peckham’s Brick Brewery, cocktails, speciality tea from Postcard Teas and coffee. Heale, who is running the restaurant with brothers Max and Finn as well as Stokes, makes all sourdough bread and baked goods on-site. Stokes said: “Naïfs is an old French word for ‘naïve’ and conjures the spirit of this project. It’s about newness and greenness as a metaphor for new growth and doing things your way without being constrained by formality.”
Brewhouse & Kitchen launches ‘pairing and sharing’ menu: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, has launched an autumn and winter menu that focuses on “pairing and sharing”. New dishes include beer-can chicken wings, Beyond Meat vegan burgers, and chocolate fondue with marshmallows, mini doughnuts and salted caramel profiteroles to dip. Each dish has been designed to pair with a Brewhouse & Kitchen beer. Brewhouse & Kitchen operates 13 brewpubs plus nine franchise sites. In the summer, investment house Puma VCT invested £847,000 in Knott End Pub Company, which entered into a franchise agreement with Brewhouse & Kitchen last year to roll out a portfolio of pubs offering “on-site craft micro-brewing activities and good-quality food”. Knott End opened its first two pubs, in Milton Keynes and Horsham, West Sussex, last year. Puma had previously invested £2.4m in Knott End Pub Company.
Draughts relocates Hackney site and adds private dining room with ‘hidden features’: Board game cafe concept Draughts has relocated its Hackney site to 41 Kingsland Road in Dalston, where it has expanded its offering in the larger space to include a private dining room with “hidden features”. The grade II-listed, 3,000 square foot former pie and mash shop was more recently home to Shanghai Chinese restaurant. Customers enter a bar with booths before venturing into the main area, which is broken down into different rooms and sections with a library offering more than 1,000 games. For a more intimate experience, an office on the top floor has been converted into a retro-inspired private dining room with several hidden features – “perfect for a party or themed event such as a murder mystery dinner”. Able to accommodate more than 180 gamers, food is run in partnership with Andy Jones, who provides the same service at Draughts’ debut site, in Waterloo. The drinks menu includes beer, cider, wine and themed cocktails. Toby Hamand and Nick Curci launched Draughts Waterloo in November 2014. Curci said: “This larger space in east London gives us the opportunity to create a bigger and better gaming, dining and drinking experience.”
Largest Costa Coffee franchisee partners with Trail: Scoffs Group, the largest Costa Coffee franchise in the UK with more than 90 sites, has partnered with operations management app Trail. With a number of openings and site refurbishments, the move will allow Scoffs Group to streamline its operations and maintain high food hygiene ratings. Operations director Delroy Daniels said: “We turned our Costa checks and compliance forms into regular tasks on Trail, which not only saved us time and money but has contributed to some of the best scores we’ve had.” Scoffs Group joins fellow Costa franchisee Soar Group in using Trail, with other franchises digitising their operations manual including Leon, Heavenly Desserts and German Doner Kebab. Trail managing director Joe Cripps said: “We are proud to help redefine the relationship between franchisees and franchisors.”
Lincoln & York sets social responsibility targets: Coffee sourcing, roasting and packaging company Lincoln & York has launched its corporate social responsibility strategy. The policy is built on three core pillars – local community, coffee community and environmental – with all pledges to be achieved by 2024. Pledges, which were voted for by 95% of Lincoln & York’s workforce, include removing all single-use plastic, 10% of the company’s workforce being filled by local apprentices, and delivering on as many of the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals as possible. The company has also pledged to deliver 100 charity days a year for staff and “origin trips” to coffee-growing regions, with each farm paid a hospitality fee of £100 per person. Other environmental aims include switching to renewable energy and making all packaging recyclable. Lincoln & York managing director James Sweeting said: “We are on a mission to help Britain drink better coffee. For us this means covering all aspects of the coffee industry, from sourcing beans to providing jobs in our factories for local apprentices. As we continue to expand across Europe, we hope to attract more customers who share our passion for creating sustainable products.”