Hornby – the next six months will be about cash preservation: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group – the owner of Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s and Brunning & Price – has told Propel he is cautiously pleased with the progress the business has made, but the focus for the next six months will be “cash preservation” and ramping up the delivery and takeaway capabilities of its leisure division. Hornby said: “As Boris Johnson said, the next six months are going to be bumpy so, for us, it is all about trading, trading and trading, being the best we can be and also preserving cash. We can’t be complacent especially with a number of different new rules coming in at various stages, impacting the sector both nationally and regionally. The next few months are going to still present lots of challenges.” Hornby told Propel he was particularly pleased with the performance of the group’s pub business, Brunning & Price, with Q3 like-for-like sales up 14%. A performance he described as “outstanding”. In the three weeks to 26 July, Brunning & Price like-for-like sales were down 13% but were up 20% in the four weeks to 23 August and up 20% in the four weeks to 20 September. Delivery and takeout accounted for 24% of Wagamama’s sales mix in the four weeks to 20 September, against 16% in the same period last year. At the same time, delivery and takeout grew from 4% of the sales mix in the group’s leisure division in four weeks to 20 September 2019, to 12% in the same period this year. Hornby said he felt comfortable with the Wagamama delivery and takeout figure growing to 30%, but even that could be “pushed further if we get further lock-downs”. At the same time, he felt there was more in the delivery and takeaway market for the leisure division to go after, especially with Frankie & Benny’s, and that the sales mix for delivery and takeaway could grow to 20% during the next year. He also didn’t rule out exploring a kerbside pick-up option. On Frankie & Benny’s and the leisure division, he said: “The estate is where we need and want it to be in terms of size for now. We’ve got a good, experienced team running the division and we are going to continue to invest in the brand proposition, operations and food offer.” On the decision to exit 36 to 41 of its concession sites, Hornby said: “Given passenger volumes are significantly down at present and anticipated to not significantly improve until 2022, we have restructured our estate resulting in a circa 50% reduction in sites and adopted a disciplined reopening programme focused on Ebitda delivery. Our like-for-like sales performance since reopening has been ahead of passenger growth.”
Living Ventures-backed new company buys back Leeds Blackhouse site: BH Restaurants (Leeds), a new company backed by Living Ventures, has bought back and reopened the Blackhouse Grill restaurant in Leeds, Propel has learned. Blackhouse and Newgate Restaurants, the Living Ventures-owned businesses, were placed into administration in June following the closure of its restaurants in March due to the covid-19 pandemic. The companies operated restaurants in Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester under the Blackhouse Grill brand and Olive in Liverpool. Administrators Duff & Phelps were appointed to both companies. Propel understands that the remaining three sites remain with the administrators. At the same time, Scott Grimbleby, managing director of Blackhouse Grill, has become operations director for the wider Living Ventures business, which includes the Manchester-based sites, Australasia and Grand Pacific. The Australasia and Grand Pacific businesses, which were unaffected by the administration process, secured backing from Santander to help them through the lock-down period.
Which Wich expands London presence with delivery kitchen openings: Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, the US sandwich brand, has expanded its presence in London by opening two delivery kitchens. The virtual restaurants have launched in Battersea and Bethnal Green. With the onset of covid-19, the company has adjusted its short-term expansion plans, postponing the launch of two office locations in favour of the delivery kitchens. UK master franchisee Rami Awada said, with the virtual restaurants, the brand would be able to service home and office delivery demand across London, from Fulham in the west to Shoreditch in the east. He added: “In a challenging time for the London hospitality market, we are delighted to have the proven track record to launch new openings, bringing renewed menu choice to London customers and new jobs for talented team members.” The first UK Which Wich restaurant opened in Central St Giles, near New Oxford Street, in February 2018. The brand is known for its customisable, freshly made-to-order, hot toasted sandwiches and salads. Which Wich Superior Sandwiches was founded in Dallas, Texas, in 2003 by entrepreneur Jeff Sinelli and has grown to more than 500 locations open or in development in 12 countries.
The Burger Priest to open restaurant in West Bromwich: The Burger Priest, the church-themed burger restaurant concept, is to open a site in West Bromwich in the West Midlands. The company will launch the venue at the New Square Shopping Centre in the next few weeks. A Burger Priest spokesman told the Express & Star: “This is a fantastic development that fits well with our expanding new brand. We think our offer of high-quality food at affordable prices will be a great addition with an extra dimension to the dining experience at New Square and the wider West Bromwich community.” A New Square Shopping Centre spokesman said: “Despite the uncertain times we are all living through, we are really encouraged with the level of new interest that is been shown at the centre and we expect to announce further positive news of new lettings in the weeks ahead.” Last week, The Burger Priest revealed it will also open a restaurant at The Springs in Thorpe Park, Leeds, as it heads north.
Ole & Steen launches customer loyalty app: Danish baker Ole & Steen has launched a new loyalty app that aims to thank customers with regular rewards, bonuses and offers. Anyone signing up to the app from Wednesday (7 October) will receive a free cinnamon social slice, Ole & Steen’s best-selling pastry. In addition, app users will experience a range of bonuses and offers including Wednesday treat, a new click-and-collect and pay-at-table functions to avoid queues; and a “treat a friend” offer where customers visiting at the beginning of a new menu campaign can get a free item to treat a friend when they buy the same item for themselves. Ole & Steen UK marketing director Katie Lister said: “We have more than 20,000 customers visiting our stores every week and that number is growing. As a good percentage of them are regulars, we wanted a loyalty app that truly rewards them and shows our gratitude for their custom, particularly this year. As an incentive, anyone who signs up will immediately get a free cinnamon social slice and I’m also really excited about the Christmas treats coming up.” The company completed the reopening of its full 11-strong London estate on Tuesday, 15 September, with its sites at Nova, Victoria and Oxford Circus being the last to return. It also operates a site in Oxford.
Dartford family takes on third pub: A Dartford family are set to open their third pub in the Kent town. Three generations of the Clack family will be involved in running The Plough in Wilmington when it opens on Friday (9 October) following a £260,000 revamp with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. David and Dilys Clack, who operate The Dart in Chastilian Road and The Chequers in Darenth, will be joined by daughter and son-in-law, Nicola and Chris Tume, and two grandchildren, 20-year-old Billy and 18-year-old Freddy Tume. Having worked at her parents’ pubs for many years, Nicola Tume is taking centre stage at The Plough as its new licensee. The project has retained The Plough’s traditional feel while making it more contemporary. Original features such as the old wooden bar, beams and fireplace have been restored and a new kitchen and toilets installed. The pub now boasts a dining area, comfortably accommodating 40 people as well as a bar with big screens and Sky and BT Sport. An extended drinks range – featuring cask ales and premium wines and spirits – will be served alongside a new menu of pub favourites, such as sausage and mash, and homemade pies. The Plough’s large garden includes seating for 84. A second phase of work is planned for the winter to further develop the outside space and install covered sections.
Hot chocolate shop Knoops to open second London site, in Kensington this month: Hot chocolate shop Knoops is to open a second London site, in Kensington. The company is opening the venue in Kensington High Street this month. Knoops offers a range of chocolate drinks – the chocolate used ranges from 28% to 100% cocoa and there are a mix of single origins and blends. Owner Jens Knoop opened the original site in Rye, East Sussex, in 2013 before adding a site in Clapham Junction in March this year just prior to the lock-down. Knoops has also expanded its retail range with a variety of chocolate flakes and coffees available from its online shop.
Black Goo cafe opens third site: Independent cafe company Black Goo has expanded operations from its heartland of Hertfordshire to open a third venue in Thame, Oxfordshire. The business, which is run by Sacha and Chris Leake, has two sites – in Tring and Berkhamsted – already. The new site is set across two floors and will build on the company’s formula of coffee, breakfast and all-day brunch. The Thame cafe has collaborated with Oxford-based craft beer brewer Tap Social Movement to incorporate a tap wall into the venue that has four taps from the brewer and two rotating guest beers, plus wines from Oxford Wines and locally sourced craft gins to go with charcuterie boards. Black Goo claimed trade has been boosted recently because local communities are using their sites rather than commuting to London.
Southampton-based Hoxton Bakehouse to open two new cafes: Southampton-based Hoxton Bakehouse is to open two new cafes – in Bishop’s Waltham and Petersfield. The Bishop’s Waltham site will open in Book Court next Thursday (15 October) with the Petersfield outlet due to follow in the second week of November. Hoxton Bakehouse is led by Florence Hellier and Darren Bland, and operates a bakery in Southampton that supplies more than 60 hotels and restaurants as well as its cafes in Lymington, Southampton and Winchester.
Welsh resort operator Bluestone reports ‘strong’ bookings levels since reopening as it builds ‘robust’ liquidity position: Welsh resort operator Bluestone has reported it has seen “strong” booking levels since reopening and has built a “robust” liquidity position “as protection against possible further business interruption”. Bosses of the Pembrokeshire resort said they had taken advantage of appropriate government support, including using furlough and applying for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The company stated: “The resort reopened on 24 July in line with Welsh government guidance and has since benefited from strong booking levels. Guests affected by the closure were incentivised to rebook and a significant proportion took advantage of this offer. Prior to the pandemic, revenue and profitability were at expected levels.” Bluestone provided the update as it reported turnover increased 5% to £26.1m for the year ending 2 January 2020, compared with £25m the previous year. Ebitda was up to £6m, compared with £5.3m the year before. Visitor numbers were up 3% while the site’s occupancy rate increased to 97%.
Dishoom Covent Garden reopening set to take place in late autumn: Indian restaurant Dishoom will open its long-awaited revamped site in Covent Garden in late autumn, having taken over the neighbouring Jamie’s Italian to aid expansion in July 2019. The restaurant, Dishoom’s first, opened in July 2010 and drew on the influences of the Irani cafes of Bombay. The site closed in January 2020 to undergo a tenth anniversary redesign and will reopen on Upper St Martin’s Lane on a date yet to be named. “New” Dishoom Covent Garden will also tell the story of Bombay’s theatrical journey from Parsi theatre, to silent film, to the talkies era. Dishoom said: “In the 1930s and 1940s, many of Bombay’s foremost theatres were reincarnated as state-of-the-art cinemas, adopting fresh monikers to denote their modernity – popular theatres were reborn as ‘New’ Empire and ‘New’ Excelsior. Dishoom Covent Garden’s new story and design will draw on this heritage, capturing the thrilling world of adventure, glamour and freedom that the early Bombay Talkies represented”.
Mexican chef to open delayed debut solo site, in London this month: Mexican chef Santiago Lastra, who has worked in some of the world’s best restaurants, will open his first solo restaurant, in London this month. Kol will launch in Seymour Street, Marylebone, on Tuesday, 20 October, offering Mexican influences but celebrating the “finest of British ingredients and craftsmanship”. The two-storey, 4,600 square foot site, which had been due to open in May, will house a 56-cover dining room, open kitchen and tortilla station on the first floor. The venue will offer a set menu or à la carte dishes, with a wine list focusing on biodynamic wine from central and eastern Europe. There will also be a 20-cover chef’s table with its own kitchen that will double as a private dining room. Specialist mezcal bar Mezcaleria, which will be on the lower ground floor and offer rare agave spirits alongside cocktails, will open later in the year. Lastra first came to the attention of the London food scene during his residency at Marylebone restaurant Carousel in 2016 followed by a pop-up at Tate Modern the following year. He has also worked at Mugaritz near San Sebastian and Bror in Copenhagen.
Pergola Paddington ready for winter transformation: Incipio Group will reopen Pergola Paddington next month, which will be transformed into a winter wonderland from November until February. The botanical bolthole in west London is set to become the “Miracle on Kingdom Street” for the festive period, which will open on Thursday, 12 November. Set across two floors, the upstairs deck will be decorated as a winter forest with a backdrop of snow-covered hills while the lower level will be a Bavarian-style hall, complete with eight winter lodges in partnership with Moet & Chandon. Each lodge will have blankets, cheese fondue kits and a private bar. There will be log fires, 200 real Christmas trees and a new heating system, with drinks to include cocktails, mulled wine, hot toddies, spiced cider and hot chocolate. Four restaurants will serve dishes such as bratwurst and currywurst, raclette cheese, roasted chestnuts, mince pies, s’mores and burgers. Lodges and tables can booked now for up to six people each with festive boxes available for those choosing to visit nearer Christmas. It will be open seven days a week and there will also be winter events announced soon.
Gloucestershire-based hotel and leisure group ‘well placed to navigate pandemic’ as it reports turnover boost: Gloucestershire-based hotel and leisure group Calcot Health has said it is well placed to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and meet liabilities for the coming 12 months. The company operates Calcot Manor in Tetbury, three other Cotswold properties and The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel in Blanchland, Northumberland. Calcot Health provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 31 December 2019 increased to £17.8m compared with £17.1m the previous year. Pre-tax profit rose to £371,000 from £199,000 the year before. No dividend was distributed for the period.
Chesterfield-based fish and chip restaurant to double up: Chesterfield-based restaurant Chesters Fish & Chips is to double up in the Derbyshire town. Owner Chris Ioannides is opening the new premises at the Markham Vale services site at Junction 29 of the M1. The restaurant will cost more than £1m and create more than 30 jobs. Set to open in the spring, the venue will offer a seaside-themed restaurant and a takeaway counter as well as a drive-thru lane, reports The Business Desk. Chesters Fish & Chips existing site is in Sheffield Road.
Stonegate announces drink giveaway to mark new football season: Stonegate Pub Company has announced a drink give away through its We Love Sport app to mark the new football season. Customers have the choice of BrewDog Pale Ale, BrewDog IPA, Hop House 13, San Miguel, Carlsberg, Amstel, Heineken, Carling, Budweiser, Orchard Thieves, Strongbow or Strongbow Dark Fruits; or a bottle of Heineken 0.0, Coca-Cola or Diet Coke. This offer is available across selected We Love Sports venues until Monday, 19 October. Customers download the app, register for a free account and receive a voucher code that they show to a member of staff to redeem their drink.
Hotel provider offers longer-term remote working at lower costs: Boutique accommodation provider Generator is offering long stays at hotels across Europe and the US at discounted rates as the remote working revolution continues. Generator, which describes itself as a “hospitality disruptor”, said it is offering “extensive rates for digital nomads that are more affordable than renting an apartment for month-to-month remote living”. The business claims to save money for people wanting to take advantage of travel for fun or work, such as the “half tourist”. It also said it can offer up to 30% off on mid-term rates per night when booking seven nights or longer – with a month’s stay starting at £700. Generator said: “Catering to all types of travellers – business, leisure, the digital nomad, the half tourist, the gap-year student – Generator’s high-quality low-cost accommodation combines home comforts with all one’s digital needs. From fast, free Wi-Fi to communal co-working spaces, DIY laundry, vending machines and more. Generator is an ideal base for those that need culture, community, comfort, safety and a home away from home.” It offers “experience-led high-design hotels in the most central locations in Europe and the US”.