The Restaurant Group shares crash after Wagamama deal unveiled: Shares in The Restaurant Group (TRG) fell 14% at one stage on Tuesday (30 October) after the group announced it is to acquire Wagamama for £559m. The Restaurant Group will buy the pan-Asian restaurant chain from its private equity owners Duke Street and Hutton Collins using a combination of cash, debt and a rights issue. TRG chief executive Andy McCue said the deal would “create substantial value” for shareholders – who however were not impressed by the news, with shares falling 14% to 256p in morning trading. Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the acquisition was a “brave move”, given the high street was saturated with casual dining restaurants and the “iffy consumer outlook”. He said: “Growth is about more than getting bigger and while the deal would add a little under 200 new restaurants to its 509-strong portfolio, there have to be serious question marks over the scope to expand Wagamama – even if it is a successful operator. The fact Wagamama is being bought out of private equity ownership is not necessarily a positive either. While it is not always the case, private equity assets can often be underinvested as their owners have looked to squeeze every possible drop of cash out of them. The price paid by TRG for the business also looks fairly chunky.” TRG will embark on a rights issue to raise £315m and draw on a £220m revolving credit facility to bankroll the deal. Meanwhile, Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has described TRG’s acquisition of Wagamama as “a good deal, overall”. He said: “TRG will diversify into a higher growth business, which is well-suited to delivery channels. The deal will be accretive and it will give TRG the opportunity to convert underperforming legacy sites to Wagamama. There is still a good pipeline of growth with the potential for 40 to 60 more Wagamama sites in the UK without saturation. Post deal, 70% of Ebitda will derive from pubs, concessions and Wagamama, which are delivering good growth.” Leisure analysts at Berenberg stated: “This is a transformational acquisition by TRG. The headline multiple is pretty high for a casual dining chain. However, the deal will significantly improve the average quality of the estate given Wagamama has been one of the best performing businesses in this market over the past few years, demonstrated by achieving 228 consecutive weeks of like-for-like growth ahead of the market. In addition, if the company can achieve the targeted synergies the multiple becomes more reasonable.”
Revolution Bars Group former CEO sees remuneration rise by £43,000 despite resignation: Revolution Bars Group’s former chief executive Mark McQuater saw his remuneration increase by £43,000 for the year ending 30 June 2018 despite resigning eight months previously, the company’s annual report has revealed. The report showed McQuater, who stepped down in October last year, received total remuneration of £516,000 compared with £473,000 the previous year. This consisted of £368,000 salary and fees, £40,000 in taxable benefits, £64,000 pension and £44,000 in long-term incentives. Writing in the report, remuneration committee chairman Michael Swallow said: “Mark McQuater resigned from the board effective 17 October 2017. Mark was placed on garden leave from that date and, under the terms of his service contract, will continue to receive salary, benefits and pension payments over his 12-month notice period.” Meanwhile, chief financial officer Mike Foster received a total of £217,000 in his first full year in the role consisting of £200,000 salary and fees and £17,000 in taxable benefits. The report also showed McQuater’s successor Rob Pitcher was appointed on a salary of £350,000. Pitcher joined the company on 25 June – just five days before the end of the company’s financial year. Swallow said: “His salary was set on appointment at £350,000, taking into account his experience, the market rate for this role at similar companies and the salary of his predecessor.” None of the executive directors or senior management team received bonuses with the company’s performance under adjusted Ebitda and adjusted profit before tax bonus targets below the threshold level. Swallow said: “Given the underperformance of the business, the committee decided it was not appropriate to undertake salary reviews in July 2018 for the executive directors or the majority of the senior management team, although certain individuals’ salaries were reviewed during the course of the year to increase alignment with benchmark rates for their roles, particularly where this included expanded responsibilities.”
Cat’s Pyjamas bought out of administration for £80,000: Cat’s Pyjamas, the five-strong Indian street food business, was bought out of administration for £80,000 by founder Alison White’s partner Paul Baron for £80,000 through a vehicle called Meow Hospitality – the only offer received. A Companies House report showed £1,129,129 is owed to unsecured creditors, a sum that does not include any money that might be owed to landlords. The reports stated there would be no money available to pay debts owed to creditors. It also reported the company made a loan of £28,159 to Whites Deli, a company owned by White. The report stated: “Whites is expected to enter into liquidation shortly and it is not anticipated there will be a recovery from this source. We are investigating the reasons for this loan being made. In addition to the above, there have been a number of loans to the company by the director and her family members. These loans were made to support the business and based on an initial review of the company’s financial information it appears no repayments were made.” A report by administrator Begbies Traynor stated the company, founded in 2015, was funded through its expansion by loans and hire purchase agreements taken on by the company, often with personal guarantees provide by the director. A large amount of borrowing taken on was from lenders with high interest rates. Although the restaurants continue to trade successfully, the company was unable to generate sufficient funds to enable repayment of these loans within the required timeframes.
McDonald’s expands career training programme with ‘influencer’ shadowing: McDonald’s is expanding its workplace benefits programme to include training from celebrities and influencers in non-foodservice fields such as entertainment, health care and technology. The Where You Want to Be campaign will allow select employees to be paired with mentors in five fields – arts/entertainment, technology, entrepreneurship, health care and restaurant/foodservice. The mentorship programme is meant to reinforce McDonald’s commitment to providing its employees career opportunities wherever they want to be, said McDonald’s US chief people officer Melissa Kersey. “You can have a career with us, or beyond us,” Kersey told Nation’s Restaurant News. McDonald’s said the influencers would provide a real world, “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” for employees who will shadow them for one day. For now, one employee will be selected for each category. McDonald’s also said it is now offering employees free job counselling from a career services advisor. Starting next year, employees will also be able to explore career opportunities through a new mobile tool. The latest employee career perks are part of the company’s $150m Archways to Opportunity programme, which provides educational benefits such as college tuition assistance to eligible employees. Since the Archways programme launched in 2015, it has awarded more than $42m in high school and college tuition assistance to about 33,000 employees. In late August, McDonald’s also rolled out a training programme for disadvantaged youth in Chicago. The programme is part of a larger $2m investment McDonald’s is making in programmes that provide young people the type of skills employers are looking for in entry-level employees.
Island Poké to open first sit-down restaurant for sixth site, in Shoreditch:Island Poké, the concept backed by the White Rabbit Fund and led by James Gould Porter, will open its sixth site – and first sit-down restaurant – in Shoreditch next month. Porter is launching the new venue on Tuesday, 13 November in Great Eastern Street. Until now, Island Poké has focused on grab and go and this is its first sit-down restaurant, featuring 17 covers. The decor will feature striking neon signs, reclaimed wood floors, panelling and wall murals. Poké, pronounced po-keh, is a mix of raw cubes of fresh fish with a soy-based dressing, served in a bowl with steamed rice and garnishes. The Shoreditch site will offer house poké bowls or customers can build their own creation. Porter said: “Our site in Shoreditch brings our fight to shake up the grab and go market to the frontline. It’s right in Great Eastern Street, across the road from Pret, Pod and Itsu who have dominated the area recently. We’re really looking forward to bringing something different to the area with our signature swings in the window, vibrant bowls and energetic staff.” Porter, who trained under an ex-Nobu sushi chef, started trading the concept as a street food residency before opening the first permanent site in Kingly Street in December 2016 with the backing of White Rabbit Fund and operational support of GoodLife Projects. Its other sites are in Canary Wharf, Great Titchfield Street, Broadgate Circle and Bank.
Pint Shop opens third site, in Birmingham: Pint Shop, the award-winning Cambridge beer house, has opened a third site, in Birmingham. The company has transformed a vacant, three-storey, grade II-listed building in Bennetts Hill, creating more than 40 jobs. It features 27 lines of beer and more than 100 gins in a large downstairs bar, plus an upstairs dining room with 55 covers and a small private dining area. New additions to the menu in Birmingham include tandoori masala chicken flatbread kebabs, overnight pork belly, and crispy pork bites with ponzu sauce. Pint Shop was launched in Cambridge by Rich Holmes and Benny Peverelli in 2013 and started expansion three years later by opening a second site, in Oxford. The brand operates under the banner “meat, bread, beer”. Peverelli said of the Birmingham launch: “In a word we have been blown away with the vibrancy of the city and its lovely welcoming folk. Hopefully time will prove we have made a positive addition to the city’s craft beer and food scene.”
High Street Hospitality plans new £3.85m hotel and Italian restaurant in Washington: High Street Hospitality, a subsidiary of Newcastle-based The High Street Group, has lodged plans for a new 58-bedroom hotel in Washington. The company has completed the purchase of The Three Horse Shoes pub and Tavistock Italia restaurant. High Street Hospitality has applied to South Tyneside Council to build a new hotel on the site of the pub, which will become the fourth in the Hotel 52 chain, while the restaurant will be rebranded to become a Pazzo Italian restaurant. The company is investing £3.85m in the project. Managing director Phill Brumwell told Insider Media: “We’re delighted to add yet another excellent location to our growing hotel and restaurant business. With superb links to both Tyneside and Wearside, we look forward to being part of delivering more much needed, high-quality accommodation and dining options for visitors to our region, through our Hotel 52 and Pazzo brands.” Its website states it plans to have “at least 15 Hotel 52 sites across the UK in the next five years”. The company is currently looking at options for outlets in Tyne and Wear, Durham and Cumbria, with its strategy involving on-site restaurants and bars. This year the company also plans to launch a Bar 52 brand, with “two bars in the pipeline”.
Lost Boys Pizza to open second site, in Camden: Neighbourhood pizza concept Lost Boys Pizza is to open its second site, in Camden. Alex Fisher and Peter Crozier-Clucas launched the concept in Archway in June last year. Now they are opening a venue in Eversholt Street in Camden in December. It will feature the company’s signature black charcoal pizza, cocktails and strictly 1980s soundtrack upstairs, while downstairs will be Croque Monsieur – an absinthe bar. The new venue will take inspiration from the Frog Brother Comic Book Store in the Lost Boys film and feature an open kitchen at the back of the restaurant. Fisher and Crozier-Clucas have opted for a menu on the walls while the ceiling will be adorned with black and white comic book pages. Outside, the 45-cover garden will have a retractable roof. In the basement, Croque Monsieur will offer an extensive range of brands that can be enjoyed in their purest forms, as well as cocktails. Fisher and Crozier-Clucas met 20 years ago while working at TGI Friday’s and then spent their formative years working for brands such as Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Wahaca, The Living Room and Giraffe before climbing the management ranks to oversee branded restaurant operations and expansions in the UK and abroad and developing a reputation in consultancy.
Bourne & Hollingsworth to open new rooftop bar and restaurant next month: London bar operator Bourne & Hollingsworth are to open a new rooftop restaurant and bar next month. The company is launching The Garden Room on Friday, 23 November on the tenth floor of the Assembly Hotel in Charing Cross Road. The space will be split into a series of counter tables along with a private dining room with capacity for 22. Dishes will include slow cooked spiced lamb, prunes, chilli and coriander, sweet potato mash; and roast cauliflower, red pepper, buckwheat, pistachio, pomegranate and mint with spiced coconut yoghurt. The cocktail menu will mirror the fresh herbs and spices used in the food, so drinks such as Gimble will see Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon blended with a homemade dandelion and nettle cordial, reports Hot Dinners.
Llandudno-based pizzeria Johnny Dough’s set to open third site, in Rhyl: Llandudno-based pizzeria Johnny Dough’s is set to open its third site, in Rhyl. Restaurant owner Morgan Austin is in talks with Denbighshire Council about taking a site next to the Children’s Village. He told the Daily Post: “It looks like we will be opening in the middle of next year, next door to the SC2 and the cinema. Everything is not 100% finalised but I’m really keen to be a part of the regeneration of Rhyl and working with Denbighshire Council to get this off the ground.” Austin started the brand from a van in 2014. He then teamed up with Great Orme Brewery to open a restaurant in Upper Mostyn Street in Llandudno in 2016. It was followed this year with a new site in Conwy, taking over The Bridge pub in a joint venture with four local breweries – Bragdy Nant, Conwy Brewery, Purple Moose and Great Orme Brewery.
GG Hospitality to shut fine dining restaurant The Rabbit next month: GG Hospitality, which is co-owned by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, is to close its fine dining restaurant The Rabbit next month as it focuses on its hotel roll-out. The restaurant, which occupies the top two floors of the Urbis building at Cathedral Gardens, will serve its last meal on Saturday, 17 November. The restaurant underwent a rebrand earlier this year after chef Michael O’Hare stepped down from his role as culinary creative director at GG Hospitality. The company said trading figures do not justify keeping the restaurant open and shareholders want to focus on the roll-out of hotels, including Manchester’s forthcoming Stock Exchange development. A spokesman told the Manchester Evening News: “With effect from 18 November, the venue will be used for corporate and private events only. The team at The Rabbit will continue to operate the venue under the GG Events & Catering brand.”
BrewDog creates ‘Europe’s first fully refrigerated beer warehouse’: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has created what is billed as Europe’s first fully refrigerated beer warehouse after purchasing the 129,000 square foot Vertex building at Eurocentral, which is one of Scotland’s largest industrial estates, located near Motherwell. BrewDog struck a deal with Muse Developments for the site, which it has dubbed the Hop Hub. It has fitted a full refrigeration unit into the Vertex distribution operation. Meanwhile, BrewDog, has released tickets for Metro Mayhem, its first London-based beer festival, set to take place on Saturday, 10 November at The Copper Box Arena in Stratford, east London. The event will feature craft beer from 17 world-renowned breweries, food and music from artists such as Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, and Everything Everything. BrewDog also recently announced it would be offering free tickets to those who work in the beer industry, as well as two free beers to try. Anyone working within the UK’s craft beer scene (brewers, retailers, bar teams, journalists and bloggers) can apply for free trade tickets. Doors will open at 2pm.
Glasgow-based restaurateurs to open second site for Greek-Cypriot restaurant concept: Glasgow-based restaurateurs Kevin Campbell and Toni Carbajosa are opening a second site for their Greek-Cypriot restaurant Halloumi. The duo are opening the venue in a former bank in Pollokshaws Road, Strathbungo, creating 30 jobs. It comes after the launch of its debut site in Hope Street in 2016. The new venue will include a private dining room, event space, bar and large open plan 80-cover restaurant. Carbajosa told the Evening Times: “We’ve been searching for a second Halloumi location for a number of months and when we saw this venue we immediately fell in love with the building. It’s a beautiful setting for a restaurant and our team are being very careful to restore and repurpose.” Campbell and Carbajosa also own restaurant and bar Mezze, which is at the top of the Rotunda complex with views across the River Clyde, and Rioja tapas and cocktail bar in Finnieston.
Manchester-based operator opens second site – 25 years after first:Manchester-based operator Rafael Cabrera-Vargas has opened his second site – 25 years after his first. Cabrera-Vargas has launched casual dining Spanish restaurant Rafa’s in the suburb of Didsbury. Rafa’s is based in Wilmslow Road and serves contemporary Spanish food. The tapas restaurant offers traditional dishes as well as gluten-free and vegan options. The drinks menu is largely Spanish, and features beer, wine and coffee. Cabrera-Vargas has been operating El Rincon de Rafa in Deansgate for about 25 years. He told The Business Desk: “We chose to open in Didsbury because it’s a thriving village with a real food and drink hub that we’re pleased to now be a part of. We’re looking forward to welcoming the local residents whether they’re new to Spanish cuisine or regulars from El Rincon and getting to know our new home.”
Wetherspoon to add 200 capacity to Galashiels pub: JD Wetherspoon is to invest £750,000 at its pub in the Scottish town of Galashiels (population: 14,632) to increase capacity by 50%. The Hunters Hall, in High Street, will be able to cater for 594 customers after Scottish Borders Council’s licensing board voted unanimously in favour of the proposals. Wetherspoon has already secured planning permission to extend into the old JB Hogg butcher’s shop next door, which has been vacant since owner Jim Hogg retired in 2013.
Novus unveils new autumn menu and events refresh for Balls Brothers:Novus, the London bar and restaurant operator, has unveiled a new autumn menu and events refresh for its Balls Brothers brand. The menu includes a slow-roast pork belly as well as rotating daily specials including lobster and flat iron Ginger Pig. New vegetarian dishes include a butternut squash and chestnut risotto, and roasted fennel and cauliflower steak. The company has also introduced a new wine list as well the return of its gin masterclasses. Balls Brothers customer experience director Simon Gaske said: “We are excited to launch this new era of Balls Brothers to our customers. Their loyalty and direct feedback has inspired positive change across the estate. Our customers can continue to expect the very best quality in all products served at Balls Brothers, alongside new flavours and continued creativity among dish presentation.” Earlier this month, Novus chief executive Toby Smith told the Bar and Nightclub Conference its ten-strong Balls Brothers business saw 13% like-for-like sales growth in the most recent quarter.
Martini lounge Anthracite to open in King’s Cross next month: Martini lounge Anthracite is to open in King’s Cross, London, next month. The 90-cover, three-roomed lounge will launch on Wednesday, 14 November on the first floor of the Great Northern Hotel. Drawing on the hotel’s railway heritage – anthracite was a principal fuel for steam trains – the lounge’s charcoal colour palette will be brought to life with submetallic details and electric blue trims. The walls will feature portraits by Gareth Reid, Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2017, while cocktails and gin and tonic will accompany the wide range of martini-based drinks available. Owner-operator Jeremy Robson said: “Standing at the gateway to the newly regenerated King’s Cross, I wanted to bring something to the area that builds on the Great Northern Hotel’s timeless elegance while offering a darker edge of glamour and subversion.”
Camerons opens first Head of Steam site in Wales with Cardiff launch:Camerons Brewery has opened a Head of Steam in Cardiff – a first venue for the brand in Wales. The company has opened the bar in Church Street on the site of a former Harvester, creating more than 30 jobs. The venue, which is the 15th Head of Steam site, offers 45 cask and keg lines alongside cocktails, beer cocktails, wine, spirits and soft drinks. Food is served daily including British pub classics, stone-baked pizza, burgers, 12-inch hotdogs and The Besler light bite and beer flight taster board. Jim Bentley, retail managed house director, said: “We are excited to bring the Head of Steam to Cardiff. This is our first venue in Wales and we feel it is ideally located in this brilliant city, so it should be a real success.” Camerons’ estate consists of more than 70 venues. It acquired The Head of Steam brand in 2014 and plans to open further venues in the coming months.
Gin bar concept opens in Plymouth: A gin bar concept has opened in a grade II-listed building in Plymouth’s Barbican quarter. The Barbican Botanics Gin Room offers about 100 different gins for tasting and retail sale. The property has been refurbished to create a tasting room with seating area and chill-out room on the first floor. The building is one of 20 historic properties looked after by charitable organisation the Plymouth Barbican Trust with management services provided by North Hill-based Stratton Creber Commercial, reports Insider Media.
Genting invests £2m in Mayfair casino featuring new destination restaurant: Casino operator Genting has invested £2m in its Palm Beach venue in Berkeley Street, Mayfair, which has been revamped to include a new destination restaurant and gaming floor. The new 50-cover restaurant at the 10,000 square foot casino is overseen by head chef Mahmud Zaman, formerly of Zaman’s at The Sportsman Casino. Ruby leather booths and magnolia velvet chairs are surrounded by backlit mirrored arches and artwork inspired by Chinese symbolism. The menu reflects Zaman’s expertise and passion for south Asian and global cuisine. The Bar & Grill, overlooking the casino floor, is also overseen by Zaman and provides a more casual offering, as well as coverage of all major sporting events. Casino director Phil Nunn said: “The Palm Beach is one of London’s most iconic casinos and, as well as the capital’s finest gaming facilities, we are delighted to now have a destination restaurant. While the new restaurant provides our regular high stakes clientele with a much-enhanced offer, we want to attract late-night diners as well as Londoners looking for a more experiential experience.”
Plans to extend Dakota submitted: Plans to extend the Dakota Deluxe Hotel being built in Manchester city centre have been submitted. Work started on the £25m venue in November 2017. The 137-bedroom site represents the fifth hotel for the Dakota Group, a partnership between Evans Property Group and hotelier Ken McCulloch. Upon completion it will comprise 20 suites and the Dakota Bar & Grill, which will have 104 covers and feature external seating terraces complemented by the hotel bar and a champagne room. Now, plans have been submitted to introduce a cigar terrace to the hotel, reports Insider Media. A design and access statement drawn up as part of an application to Manchester City Council noted such an addition “fits in with the style of the Dakota Deluxe brand and the sophisticated nature of the hotel”.
Zonal deploys BluJay’s MessageBroker to deliver fully integrated customer communications: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has deployed supply chain software provider BluJay Solutions’ MessageBroker platform. The solution will offer Zonal customers access to more than 40,000 suppliers for its purchasing management system, Acquire. BluJay’s MessageBroker platform helps unlock Acquire’s full potential as a real-time, order-to-pay tool for Zonal’s customers and their suppliers, by providing a fully integrated and automated communications service. Zonal director of online commerce Helen McMillan said: “With the implementation of MessageBroker, we will quickly and easily provide more customers with an enriched and wider range of Acquire’s features, such as a real-time, more accurate view of order status and vastly improved invoice matching.” Sian Hopwood, BluJay senior vice-president business-to-business operations, added: “We know consumer expectations in hospitality are increasingly high. The complexity of the technologies needed to achieve customer satisfaction and the pressure for hospitality firms to increase efficiency are also growing. The integration and automation of MessageBroker will help Zonal achieve its goals in the face of this challenge.”