Coaching Inn Group reports turnover and Ebitda boost: Coaching inn operator The Coaching Inn Group has reported a 24% increase in sales as turnover hit £24.7m for the 52 weeks to 31 March 2019. The company saw turnover reach £24.7m, up from £20.0m in the previous year. Like-for-like sales were up 8.3% during the period, with weekly net sales averaging £32,200 per site across the estate. While audited accounts have yet to be produced, the company is forecasting a 52% increase in underlying Ebitda to £3.2m, up from £2.1m in 2018, as well as an increase in site Ebitda to £5.7m – an annualised average of more than £385,000 per site – as the business grew to 15 sites after acquiring the Swan Hotel in Stafford at the end of June, bringing the estate to 431 bedrooms in total. The company also announced plans for further investment in its estate with more than £750,000 to be spent in the next three months on refurbishment projects at the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury and the Talbot Hotel in Oundle. Chief executive Kevin Charity said: “It has been another excellent year for the company and we have achieved a great deal over the past 12 months, building on our investment in the estate and our team over the past four years. We are delighted with the progress we have seen in terms of profitability as well as the strong underlying performance from our core estate as seen in our like-for-like sales. We had the benefit of a good summer, which helped drive 8.5% like-for-likes during the period to September, but particularly pleasing was the 8.0% like-for-like improvement seen from October to March, which is down to the consistency of offering carried out by our teams and a great reflection of the stability and balanced nature of our business model.”
Boston Tea Party sees takeaway coffee sales fall 25% following single-use cup ban but continues to put ‘planet before profits’: All-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party has said it has seen takeaway coffee sales fall by £250,000 since it banned single-use cups last summer. Owner Sam Roberts said it had factored the loss in takings into its plans and said too many operators were “putting their profits before the planet”. The company, which has 21 sites, started the ban in June 2018. Customers must bring a reusable cup to drink in or pay a deposit on a cup they can return to any branch. Boston Tea Party usually sells £1m in takeaway coffees per year but the figure is down 25%. Roberts said thankfully the business was supported by a strong food offer and most customers were supportive of its stance on single-use cups. Boston Tea Party said it had prevented 125,000 cups going to landfill since it brought in the ban. Roberts told the BBC: “We have lost about 25% of our takeaway coffee sales but we modelled that into our costs as passing trade who don’t want to get involved in the cup loan scheme. We felt this was a financial loss we had to take and we want this to be a call to action to other companies. We know first-hand from those companies using a ‘25p off a reusable cup’ scheme that this has a very low penetration and, when we launched that scheme ourselves, only 5% of customers took it up. There are too many operators not dealing with the problem and putting their profits before the planet. At the moment bigger businesses are deploying a smoke and mirrors strategy and not resolving problems while seeming like they are doing something about it. We are 100% committed and there’s no going back.” Roberts said Boston Tea Party had sold 40,000 reusable coffee cups and raised £12,000 for local charities with the money saved on buying disposable cups – roughly 10p for every cup. The company saw sales of £17,353,611, up 3% on the year before. Ebitda was £825,724 compared with £847,974 the year before. It made an operating loss of £16,761 compared with an operating profit of £69,391 the year before.
Doughnut Time to hit double figures for London expansion with five more sites in pipeline, pop-ups proving ‘win-win’: Australian chain Doughnut Time is to hit double figures for London venues when it opens its latest site, in Fenchurch Street, on Wednesday, 10 April. The company said it has agreements in place to open a further five stores in the capital in the coming months and is actively looking for additional permanent sites and pop-ups across London. Doughnut Time owner Tom Anderson said: “We are constantly on the look-out for new permanent sites but also pop-up locations, which are proving to be an effective model for us. Working in partnership with landlords we are able to put pop-ups in place quickly and easily, which helps fill empty sites for landlords while enabling us to assess the profitability of the store location before entering into any longer-term agreements. It’s a win-win. We look forward to creating even more hype and hysteria for our doughnuts right across London as our expansion plans gather pace.” Doughnut Time is known for its pop culture-inspired doughnuts such as the Bueno Mars and Snicki Minaj. Damian Griffith founded Doughnut Time in 2015. It operates 23 sites in Australia. The company also operates the world’s first doughnut academy above its flagship Soho store.
Trust Inns lines up two more sites as it adds to tenanted portfolio: Trust Inns, the north west-based pub company, has lined up two more sites as it adds to its tenanted portfolio. Propel has learned Trust Inns has acquired The Station Hotel in Caton, near Lancaster. The tenanted food-led operation is the third acquisition in the past six months for Trust Inns, taking the estate to more than 350 pubs nationwide. Late last year, the company purchased The Tap House in Lancaster, which is a managed operation, and The Eagles Head in Over Kellet, near Lancaster, a “destination food house”. Further purchases are in the pipeline with a property under contract in Bedford and another in Lancashire. Property director Lyn Perry said: “We are delighted to welcome The Station in Caton into our portfolio and are confident of its continued success under our ownership. These latest purchases demonstrate Trust Inns’ long-term plan to find and purchase suitable properties to build our portfolio of viable pub businesses.”
McDonald’s buys 10% stake in New Zealand-based app developer: McDonald’s, which acquired an artificial intelligence company last week for $300m, has said it is taking an almost 10% stake in a New Zealand-based app developer. Under the terms of the agreement, McDonald’s is purchasing 13.8 million shares of Plexure at a 15% premium, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Plexure powers the McDonald’s global app in 48 countries outside the US, including Italy and Japan. The $3.7m investment, McDonald’s first equity stake in a mobile app vendor, will allow McDonald’s to use Plexure’s technology to improve back-end and front-end features, customer functionality and customer targeting, the company said. McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook said: “Across all our markets we’re using technology to elevate and transform the McDonald’s customer experience. Our mobile apps play a key role in our digital acceleration, allowing customers to interact with us on their terms in a personal, customised way. This investment is testament to our belief in Plexure’s ability to deliver strong results for our business as well as the talent and technology they’ve cultivated.” The deal follows McDonald’s purchase last week of Dynamic Yield, which specialises in personalisation and decision logic technology. The tech will initially launch in drive-thru lanes and suggest add-on items to go with a customer’s selections.
Your Friendly Local takes on sixth site and first with Ei Group: Multi-site pub operator Your Friendly Local, led by Chris Windle, has taken on its sixth site. The Bay Horse in Scholes Village, Rotherham, has reopened following a £120,000 joint investment with Ei Publican Partnerships. The pub has retained its wooden and stone floors and been refurbished throughout. Windle said: “We are pleased Ei Publican Partnerships shared our vision for the Bay Horse to resurrect the site giving it a fresh new look while maintaining its character and appeal. We are looking forward to a lasting partnership.” Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager Jay Weir added: “It is rewarding to see a plan come together to give locals the quality village pub they deserve. Chris has extensive experience in the industry and his attention to detail has been invaluable throughout the refurbishment.”
Chef Aiden Byrne acquires site from Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard to launch high-end grill concept: Chef Aiden Byrne, backed by Medusa Hospitality, has acquired The Vincent Café & Cocktail Bar from owners Paul Adams and former Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard for an undisclosed sum. The venue in Liverpool’s business district will continue to trade under the new management before relaunching as The Metropolitan Bar & Grill Rooms later in the year. Byrne told The Business Desk: “I have built my reputation with a fine-dining tasting menu. However, I have always wanted to deliver a high-end grill rooms concept. The realisation of The Metropolitan Bar & Grill Rooms is a lifetime’s ambition to pay my respects to legendary venues such as The Savoy Grill and The Grill at the Dorchester, which have set the standards all aspire to. The menu will be classic, honest food.” Adams added: “Steven and I are happy to have brokered a deal that will see the venue go from strength to strength.” Last week, Byrne partnered with Chester Race Company, which also operates a portfolio of pubs and restaurants, to launch Parade With Aiden Byrne, an invitation-only, live-sports entertainment experience that will run for the duration of the race season at Chester racecourse. Byrne also launched MCR in Manchester in December having acquired the site out of administration from Living Ventures.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen to shut York site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen is to close its restaurant in York. The company will shut the venue in Lendal on Wednesday (3 April) at 3pm. The decision to close the site, which opened in 2007, was taken quite suddenly, reports York Mix. Gourmet Burger Kitchen had signed up to be part of the current York Restaurant Week, only to withdraw a couple of days ago. Owned by South African-based Famous Brands, Gourmet Burger Kitchen entered into a company voluntary arrangement in December, which resulted in the closure of 24 restaurants. Last month, Famous Brands said Gourmet Burger Kitchen had returned to growth, with like-for-like sales for the 16 weeks to 24 February up 4%.
‘Zero gravity’ experience to launch second UK site, in Essex, plans expansion across south east: A two-storey “inverted home” that offers customers a “zero-gravity experience” will open its second UK site, at Intu Lakeside in Essex this month. Customers will be able to walk on the ceiling, go up and downstairs and do handstands on the sofa without their feet touching the floor. The “home” is fully furnished with two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, bathroom and office. The Upside Down House UK is set to open more sites this year as part of an expansion across south east England. The experience will open ahead of the launch of the centre’s 175,000 square foot, leisure-led extension later this year. Upside Down House UK chief executive Tom Dirse said: “The Upside Down House UK is an extremely entertaining place to visit where children and adults can observe seemingly familiar surroundings from a totally new perspective.” Intu customer experience director Roger Binks added: “We are transforming Intu Lakeside to create a more compelling, day-out experience for our customers and Upside Down House UK offers a unique and unusual experience that is guaranteed to make them smile.” Upside Down House launched its first site in the UK in Bournemouth in November. Intu Lakeside’s leisure-led extension will feature family entertainment centre Nickelodeon Adventure, mini-golf experience Puttshack, Hollywood Bowl, trampoline operator Flip Out and new food hall concept The Hall.
Burger King unveils meat-free burger: Burger King has released a meat-free burger it claims tastes “identical” to its traditional beef patty. The Impossible Whopper, made in partnership with plant-based food startup Impossible Foods, is flame-grilled like its beef counterpart and is served with the standard tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup and onion. However, the patty itself is made from Impossible Foods’ “magic” ingredient heme – a protein cultivated from soybean roots that mimics the texture of meat and famously “bleeds” like beef. Fernando Machado, Burger King chief marketing officer, told the New York Times: “When people on my team who know the Whopper inside out try it, they struggle to differentiate which is which.” The burger was released on Monday (1 April), prompting speculation the announcement was just an April Fool’s prank. However, Burger King and Impossible both took to social media to insist the announcement was true.
Starbucks partners with 25 employers to close US gender pay gap: Starbucks and 25 other employers have joined forces to agree to a shared set of pay equity principles to help eliminate the gender pay gap in the US. The companies are part of the Employers For Pay Equity consortium, which is committed to identifying and promoting best practices to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers with US employers. In 2018, Starbucks announced it had reached 100% pay equity for men and women and people of all races performing similar work in the US. Last month at its annual meeting, the company announced it had maintained equity for another year and verified Starbucks in China and Canada, two of the largest global markets for company-owned stores, had also fulfilled the company’s commitment to achieve and maintain gender equity in pay. Chief executive Kevin Johnson said: “The pay equity principles we have signed on to – equal footing, transparency and accountability – were created not only to help us but also other organisations and businesses seeking to eradicate the pay gap. While the signatories represent different industries facing different challenges to achieving pay equity, we all agree that by working together we can accelerate elimination of the national pay gap.” Meanwhile, Starbucks is reviewing its UK media account, putting 19-year incumbent Manning Gottlieb OMD on alert. Starbucks has started a review process through Creativebrief, with the successful shop being part of a “UK cross-agency team”, reports Campaign. Starbucks is also offering to pay tuition fees for UK staff wanting to get a degree from a US university. The company is to provide the cost of university as an employee incentive in the UK for courses taught online by Arizona State University.
Arc Inspirations opens debut north east site as Banyan Bar & Kitchen lands in Newcastle: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has made its debut in the north east after launching Banyan Bar & Kitchen in Newcastle. The company has invested £1.5m to transform the former Jamie’s Italian site in Monument Mall. Banyan Bar & Kitchen spans more than 5,000 square feet across two floors, with the opening creating 70 jobs. The venue is the ninth Banyan Bar & Kitchen and takes Arc Inspirations’ portfolio to 19 sites overall. Chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “We are delighted to have finally opened the doors to our first bar in Newcastle. We see this as a perfect location and a great starting point for us to further build on our award-winning portfolio as we continue to invest in our core brands – Manahatta, Banyan Bar & Kitchen and The Box.”
Bun House to double up in Soho with Chinatown opening this month: Bao and pickle cafe concept Bun House is to open a second site in Soho. Founders Alex Peffley and Z He will open the largest Bun House so far, in Lisle Street in Chinatown Londonon Tuesday, 16 April. It will offer its signature Cantonese steamed buns with two new items on the menu – beef brisket and a soft, brioche-style pineapple bun. The site will also pay homage to Hong Kong’s food stalls, with a small hatch inside the restaurant serving traditional street food-style snacks such as curried fish balls. The drinks menu will celebrate Hong Kong’s burgeoning craft beer scene, while there will be tea-based cocktails and cold-brewed tea. The double-fronted venue will feature sliding glass windows and an outdoor counter. Inside will be a 16-cover dining space with 40 seats upstairs. He said: “It is particularly exciting for us to open Bun House in the heart of Chinese food in the city. We hope our buns bring back memories of home for many.” Julia Wilkinson, head of group restaurant strategy at Shaftesbury, added: “Z and Alex’s design backgrounds will add a fresh creative aesthetic to Lisle Street.” Peffley and He launched Bun House in Greek Street, Soho, in May 2017.
DHP Family to invest £1m in floating Bristol venue: Live music venue operator DHP Family is to invest £1m in its floating Bristol venue, Thekla. The moored live music venue and nightclub will be taken into dry dock on Monday, 3 June for a major overhaul to “secure its future for the next 50 years”. The refurbishment will follow Thekla’s 35th anniversary weekend before the boat returns to its usual position in the harbour in early September. DHP Family owner George Akins told the Bristol Post: “There’s a lot of love for Thekla in Bristol, around the country and worldwide. We’re committed to preserving that heritage and that’s why we’re getting the new hull fitted – we need to make sure Thekla continues to be a great night out for the next 50 years.” At more than 50 metres long, Thekla is one of the longest ships in Bristol’s floating harbour.
Former Chiltern Firehouse head chef reveals more details of seventh-storey Stratford restaurant: Former Chiltern Firehouse head chef Patrick Powell has revealed more details of the restaurant he will open in Stratford, east London. Allegra will launch on the seventh floor of The Stratford hotel within the Manhattan Loft Gardens skyscraper in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in June. The restaurant will be accessed by a private lift and offer 360-degree views of London. It will feature a large outside terrace and herb garden, while an outdoor grill will feature a “triple-height, cedar cantilevered roof”. The modern European restaurant will have its own curing room, while much of the produce will be brought in from its own farm in Kent. Dishes will include smoked eel pie with parsley sauce, and baked apple mille feuille with Epping honey ice cream. Allegra will also offer an eight-course tasting menu and a glass-encased, walk-in wine room. Harry Handelsman, who co-owns Chiltern Firehouse with Andre Balazs, is the man behind the development. Powell told Hot Dinners: “We want people to be able to visit for a cocktail and stay long into the evening, looking out over the best views of London.” Powell headed up the kitchen at Chiltern Firehouse alongside Nuno Mendes for four years. He has also worked with Anthony Demetre at Wild Honey and trained at Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain in Dublin. Allegra is Powell’s first solo venture.
BrewDog to launch distilling company: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to launch its own distilling company. The BrewDog Distilling Co umbrella will cover the company’s current range of Lone Wolf gin and vodka and a number of additions during “2019 and beyond”. New brands in the pipeline for this year include Zealot’s Heart Gin, Rogue Wave Vodka, and The Boilermaker Series, which will be a collaboration with three spirit-makers from the UK and Europe to produce three limited-edition whiskies designed to be paired with BrewDog beer. The company stated on its blog: “We are bringing all our work and knowledge under one roof. In the near future, The BrewDog Distilling Co will bring you authentic spiced rum, plus we will reclaim scotch for people who believe (like us) that whisky isn’t made to gather dust.”
German Doner Kebab heading to Preston: German Doner Kebab (GDK) is heading to Preston, Lancashire. The company is opening a restaurant in one of the units beneath the Whitbread-owned Premier Inn in Fox Street. Branding has appeared on the unit, although an opening date has yet to be confirmed, reports Lancashire Live. Last month, Propel revealed GDK has signed a franchise deal to open 100 stores in Saudi Arabia in the next ten years, while it has also struck a separate partnership to launch stores in the US. The Saudi development agreement sees Ajlan & Bros Group, which has estimated assets of $2.9bn, become master franchisees in the kingdom. Ajlan & Bros Group has secured its first property and will open its debut GDK site, in Riyadh. GDK has also teamed up with Texas-based businessman Tanweer Ahmed, who operates 153 sites for KFC, 58 for Pizza Hut and 24 for Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell in the US. Ahmed has signed up to open an initial 12 GDK branches in Houston, Dallas and Las Vegas, which will be rolled out during the next two years.
JD Wetherspoon launches £1.3m Runway Bar at Stansted airport: JD Wetherspoon has launched a £1.3m bar at its Stansted airport pub The Windmill. The 3,650 square foot Runway Bar is on a new mezzanine level and can accommodate 200 seated customers. Aircraft taking off and landing can be viewed through a window that is 30 metres long, while the bar offers six real ales and self-service coffee machines. Wetherspoon’s largest airport pub, which serves more than 1.2 million customers a year, will employ an additional 40 staff to operate Runway Bar, which will open daily from 3am until the last flight. Pub manager Michael Wilkins said: “The Runway Bar is a fantastic addition.”
Huddersfield-based brewery secures six-figure investment: Huddersfield-based Lord’s Brewing Co has secured a six-figure investment from Charlesworth Business Growth Services. The cash boost gives the brewery, founded in 2015, financial leverage to triple production, refresh its brand and launch new products. In addition, Lord’s will diversify into gin production. Operations director John Slumbers told The Business Desk: “This investment is a major vote of confidence in our brand. Our family business has grown and grown and teaming up with another Huddersfield family business is a perfect fit.” Charlesworth Business Growth Services director Richard Charlesworth added: “We are thrilled to support Lord’s Brewing Co. This major investment will help it grow at an even greater pace over the coming years.”
Zonal launches technology solution to help hoteliers increase F&B spend: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has launched a complete hotel and restaurant reservation solution to help hoteliers increase food and beverage spend. A full integration between Zonal’s hotel management system, High Level Software and restaurant reservations system liveRES offers guests live availability of rooms and tables in the same booking journey. High Level’s new, fully responsive booking engine now links directly to the liveRES availability feed. All restaurant reservations are also stored in the system, giving a much wider view of the customer journey, spending and booking preferences. Hoteliers can also make table reservations directly from the system, where a full restaurant list is updated in real time. High Level Software managing director Rhys Swinburn said: “This is an exciting development that will enable hoteliers to grow their food and beverage sales. This integration allows a significant upsell opportunity and offers hoteliers the best chance to capture in-house diners who would ordinarily venture outside the hotel. It’s not only a huge benefit for existing High Level Software and liveRES customers, but a game-changer in the independent market.”