Gusto to resume expansion after rise in FY sales: Italian casual dining group Gusto, which has been backed by Palatine Private Equity since 2014, is to resume its roll out and explore non-traditional locations for the brand after reporting a slight rise in full-year sales. Managing director Matt Snell told Propel that as the 18-strong group entered the second year of its three-year strategic plan, expansion was back on the table, with the company already in discussions on several potential sites. He told Propel: “We would hope to open two to three sites in the next year. We are looking at opportunities in the south and want to develop hubs. Gusto has traditionally been in high streets but we want to start exploring new types of location and look at shopping centres, new schemes and transport hubs.” For the year to 31 March 2019, turnover climbed from £32.2m to £32.35m, while Ebitda was maintained at £3.2m. Pre-tax losses at the group narrowed from £2.4m to £2.06m, while operating losses narrowed from £759,000 to £11,000. The company labelled the results a “very good performance in a pressurised market”. Snell said: “We are one year into our three-year strategic plan and it’s encouraging to see the new foundations beginning to take hold, empowering the business to meet the well-known challenges the wider casual dining market faces. In the past 12 months heavy investment in brand, menu development, food quality and provenance, team training, tight operational controls, and out of restaurant sales have galvanized the business, with guest NPS satisfaction scores increasing. Although challenging market conditions look likely to continue, the company remains committed to the strategic imperative of growth.” Snell said the group was battling with a £1m cost base, which made the performance even more commendable. He said performance for the group this year had been “mixed”, with a good start to the year followed by a less positive summer against strong comparables last year. However, he said trading in September had been stronger and Christmas bookings were already up on the year before.
Arc Inspirations reports like-for-likes up 1.1% as it boosts turnover and Ebitda:Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has reported like-for-like sales increased 1.1% for the year ending 31 March 2019. Turnover was up 16.7% to £27.2m, compared with £23.3m the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda rose 15% to £3.7m, compared with £3.2m the year before. Five sites opened in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle – its first in the north east – during a six-month period. The company is selectively expanding the number of locations from which it operates its three core premium brands – Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Box and Manahatta – and currently operates 17 sites. Arc Inspirations said its strategy of operating sites in clusters was driving growth. The model is proving successful in Leeds city centre, with all three brands operating within 100 yards of each other and each site enjoying sales growth. The business has invested more than £7.5m during the period, both in new sites and positioning the company for growth. During the year the group disposed of two sites. Arc Inspiration plans to expand into new locations across the north and Midlands. Chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “We have enjoyed arguably our most successful year in the company’s history and believe we are now operating at the very peak of the sector, delivering through our continued focus on our people, brands and guest experience. We are actively exploring opportunities for new sites in a number of targeted locations, which means there are some exciting times ahead for the business as we look forward to the full-year contribution of our new sites.”
Iberica managing director steps down: Joel Falconer has stepped down as managing director of Spanish restaurant group Iberica, Propel has learned. Falconer joined Iberica in September 2017 from Busaba. Propel understands Falconer won’t be replaced, with chief executive Marcos Fernandez Pardo taking on his responsibilities at the eight-strong group. Pardo told Propel: “Joel has been instrumental in helping us build the pillars this business stands on today and we are grateful for everything he has done and wish him well with his future endeavours.”
Joseph Holt reports turnover and profit boost: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has reported turnover increased 5% to £68.7m for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £65.5m the year before. Operating profit was up almost 20% to £4.1m compared with £3.5m the previous year, while pre-tax profit rose 40% to £4.2m compared with £3.0m the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. During the period, the company disposed of the White Lion in Patricroft and The Kingsway in Levenshulme for a profit of £0.4m. Chairman Richard Lee said: “I am pleased to report a strong set of results for 2018, to which the significant acquisitions and developments made by the company over the past two years have made a substantial contribution. During the year we invested £1.7m in significant refurbishments at The Woodthorpe (Prestwich), The Richmond (Southport), The Blue Bell (Blackford Bridge) and Wyldes (Bury). We purchased the Half Way House in Blackpool, which will be developed in the current year alongside substantial development projects at The Abbey (St Helens), the Goats Gate (Whitefield) and the Millhouse (Warrington). We have recently completed the purchase of The Shamrock in Ancoats and we will develop this exciting opportunity next year as the Northern Quarter expands. Brewery volumes have increased for the third successive year, giving an 8% increase in our own draught products during this period.”
Leon appoints chief commercial officer, makes Swiss debut: Leon, the natural fast food brand, has further strengthened its management team and international presence. Propel understands the company has appointed Charlotte Di Cello, formerly of Sainsbury’s, as chief commercial officer. Di Cello spent more than 12 years at Sainsbury’s, including stints as head of food – Asia, and most recently category manager for canned and packaged. Meanwhile, Leon has opened its first site in Switzerland. The John Vincent-led group has launched a site at the main train station in Basel under its partnership agreement with HMSHost (Autogrill). Last year Leon announced plans to open 20 stores in Europe and the Middle East through its partnership with HMSHost. The company currently operates 57 sites in the UK, with further openings lined up for Wimbledon, Bishopsgate and the South Bank.
Frontier Pubs to open tenth site: Frontier Pubs, the partnership between Ei Managed Investments and Karen Jones-led Pioneer Hospitality, has secured its tenth pub, in south east London. Propel understands the company will reopen The Ship in Kennington before the end of the year. In August the company reported its first operating profit. It saw turnover increase to £5,112,000 for the year ending 23 September 2018, compared with £2,695,000 for the 76 weeks ended 24 September 2017. The company, which was incorporated in April 2016, made an operating profit of £46,000, compared with a loss of £379,000 in the previous period. It made a pre-tax profit of £43,000 compared with a loss of £344,000 in the prior period, according to accounts filed at Companies House. At the end of the financial year Frontier Pubs operated seven sites, which offer craft beer and pizza and screen sports.
White Brasserie Company secures 20th site: White Brasserie Company, the sister business to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc chain, will open its 20th site by the end of the year, at a former Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) pub on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The Kings Arms, which operated under M&B’s Crown Carveries brand, has been shut since the end of 2018. A spokesman for White Brasserie Company told Propel: “The 100-cover pub will be a fantastic addition to the business following the success of two sites opened over the summer in Horsham, West Sussex, and Highcliffe, Dorset. The pub will open in early December and will be the sister pub to Brasserie Blanc in Cheltenham.”
Boxpark gets go-ahead for first site outside London: Boxpark has been given the go-ahead for its first site outside London, in Shoreham, West Sussex. The company has been granted planning permission by Adur District Council to turn a toilet block on Shoreham Beach into Shoreham Beachbox – a “landmark seafront dining destination and community cafe”. The venue will also feature a roof terrace, changing rooms, community space and watersports centre. Boxpark founder and chief executive Roger Wade said: “Our intention from the start has been to create the best seafront cafe restaurant in the UK. With planning approval granted, we have taken a large step to achieving that ambition. We will now commit to working with the community to make sure we deliver on our promise.” The council entered into a preferred development agreement with Boxpark for the site in 2017. The plans are part of Adur District Council’s Shoreham Renaissance plan. Boxpark, which operates large-scale developments in Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley, hired KPMG Corporate Finance in August to find an investment partner to support growth. The expansion will also see the launch of two concepts – BoxOffice and BoxHall. BoxOffice is a co-working space that will be incorporated into new Boxpark sites, while food hall concept BoxHall will be based on existing sites in city centres and feature six to 12 street food vendors at each.
Byron appoints finance director: Better burger brand Byron has promoted Gillian Clements to finance director, Propel has learned. Clements has been with the company since April 2018 as financial controller. Her promotion comes after Michael Toon, who was set to join Byron, decided to remain as finance director of Asian quick-service restaurant chain Chopstix. Byron has been looking for a finance director since Russell Hoare stepped down earlier this year. Byron has been investing in refurbishing the group’s estate and repositioning the brand, design and logo. The first site to feature the new look will reopen in Kensington High Street next month.
Incipio Group to launch Kensington site next month: Incipio Group, which received £5m from entertainment and leisure investor Edition Capital earlier this year to open six venues in 18 months, will launch a site in Kensington next month. The company will open Bloom in Kensington High Street on Friday, 8 November, having acquired the site that was previously occupied by Mahiki. Bloom will have room for 350 people and feature two bars, a restaurant and a “secret dance floor”. Incipio’s estate consists of Lost in Brixton, Pergola On The Roof in White City, Pergola Olympia, Pergola Paddington, The Prince in West Brompton Crossing, Feast in Hammersmith and W12 Studios in White City. In the next 18 months the group will launch sites in Putney, Wimbledon and Birmingham, the latter being its first outside London. The company recently launched Wildcard Kitchen – its first in-house restaurant at The Prince.
Zizzi adds first permanent vegan dish to menu as category accounts for 2.5% of all meals ordered: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi is putting the first permanent vegan dish on its menu – a jackfruit pepperoni pizza. The move comes as Zizzi announced vegan dishes accounted for 2.5% of all meals ordered at its restaurants in the past 12 months. The jackfruit pepperoni pizza will be available from Tuesday (15 October) and has been developed in partnership with plant-based protein company Jack & Bry. The Jackfruit Italian Hot is topped with a vegan alternative to pepperoni as well as spicy harissa, roquito chilli and vegan Mozzarisella. Kathryn Wilson, director of food development at Zizzi, said: “Our customers are more conscious than ever in what they’re eating and how it’s sourced. In the past year we’ve seen vegan dishes become even more popular so it’s important we adapt some of our classic dishes so vegans can also enjoy these perennial favourites.”
Sky News – Center Parcs UK owner weighing up exit: The Canadian owner of Center Parcs UK is preparing the ground for a £3bn sale or stock market listing. Brookfield Property Partners, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, is looking to appoint advisers to conduct a strategic review of the business, reports Sky News. City sources said neither Brookfield’s or Center Parcs’ board had made firm decisions about the timing of any process, with a sale or initial public offering both expected to considered in the coming months. No transaction would take place until well into 2020 at the earliest, while a review of options could result in Brookfield deciding to retain ownership. One insider said the opening of Center Parcs’ first location in Ireland – at Longford Forest – in July had been a critical milestone before the process of hiring bankers could commence. The company opened its first UK site at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire in 1987 followed by others at Elveden Forest in Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria; and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire. Center Parcs has been a public company in the past, being floated on London’s junior AIM market in 2003 before moving to a main market listing two years later. It was then taken over by private equity firm Blackstone in 2006 before being sold to Brookfield in 2015 in a deal reported to have been worth £2.4bn. Banking sources said the business was now likely to be worth closer to £3bn. Center Parcs UK reported pre-tax profit of £84.2m for the year to 29 April 2019, up from £76.5m the year before. Center Parcs’ UK and Ireland operations are owned separately from the European business that also trades under the brand.
Domino’s Pizza reports global sales up 5.8% in third quarter: Domino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 5.8% in its third quarter ending 8 September 2019. Like-for-like sales were up 2.4% in the US and 1.7% in the international division. The quarter marked the 103rd consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 34th consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased 4.4% to $820.8m. The company added 214 stores during the period – 174 internationally and 40 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter were up 5.1% to $2.05. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “It was a good quarter for Domino’s as we continue to lean on our fundamental strength against a unique competitive environment. Strong unit growth and positive comparable sales yielded a solid and balanced quarter of retail sales growth across the US and international businesses. We remain steadfastly focused on driving profitable growth for the Domino’s system and, most importantly, for our franchisees.”
Richard Corrigan to open third London restaurant, next month: Richard Corrigan, chef patron of the Corrigan Collection, is to launch his third London site, next month. Corrigan and fellow Irishmen John Nugent, who founded music, food and arts hub Kings Place in King’s Cross, and Tony Gibney, from Gibney’s Of Malahide in Dublin, will open Daffodil Mulligan in Old Street. They bought the site in July that formerly housed restaurant Nuala, which closed at the end of last year. The 60-cover restaurant will include a ten-seater oyster bar and a basement saloon bar that will host live music. The menu will feature produce from Corrigan’s Virginia Park Lodge country estate in Ireland, while the bar will serve craft beer and spirits with a focus on smaller Irish distilleries and producers. The venue is named after the daughter of Biddy Mulligan – a Dublin street-seller immortalised in song. Corrigan’s other London venues are Bentley’s and Corrigan’s Mayfair, which also incorporates Dickie’s Bar.
Made of Dough team to launch discount pizzeria in Brick Lane: The team behind London-based pizza company Made of Dough is to launch a discount concept in Brick Lane. Roma will offer thin, Roman-style pizzas for £5 when it opens on Thursday, 7 November. There will be eight 12-inch pizzas on the menu, including mushroom and truffle, aubergine and tahini, and spicy lamb sausage. The dough and tomatoes will be organic, while there will be a dedicated vegan menu. Sides will include garlic bread with aioli, and fennel and radiccio slaw. Value will extend to the drinks list, which will feature wine, house draught beer and cocktails, Hot Dinners reports. Made of Dough started out at Pop Brixton, street food markets and festivals before opening its first bricks and mortar site, in Peckham in June 2017. The brand also operates at Try Market Halls’ Fulham site and at Swingers West End.
Former Byron managing director takes helm at marina operator: Former Byron managing director Steve De Polo has been appointed chief executive of British Waterways Marinas, the largest operator of marinas in the UK. De Polo stepped down from Byron earlier this year after little more than 12 months in the role with the better burger brand, which he first joined as commercial and brand director. He joined Byron from Ei Group, where he was customer director in charge of sales and marketing, digital, food, insights, and concept development. Before joining Ei Group, de Polo worked for Mitchells & Butlers in operational, change and strategic marketing roles as well as leading the management and integration of the Orchid Group following its acquisition from Deutsche Bank in 2012. Established in 2004 as part of the Canal & River Trust, British Waterways Marinas operates 18 UK marinas with more than 2,500 moorings in total.
North west-based aparthotel operator targets 30-strong portfolio following funding deal: North west-based aparthotel operator Walker & Williams is targeting a 30-strong portfolio after securing funding from Lloyds Bank. Walker & Williams owns and operates two venues in Preston – the Winckley Square Hotel and No 10 Preston. It has now been backed to the tune of £1.17m, which has helped the group break ground on a third site, in Chester. Work has begun to transform a 300-year-old building in the city centre into 19 apartments. The money will also go towards a scheme in Ormskirk, where planning permission has been approved for a magistrates’ court to be turned into 23 luxury apartments, a 72-cover restaurant and a cocktail bar in former prison cells. The business has also set its sights on expanding into Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Harrogate. Founder and director Max Walker-Williams told Insider Media: “Our ultimate goal is to grow our portfolio to include 30 aparthotels in the next ten years. While it may seem ambitious, we have a proven track record of success and continue to see an appetite for the boutique style of luxury accommodation we offer.”
Sharp’s Brewery reports turnover decline as volumes fall 5.5%: Cornwall-based Sharp’s Brewery, which is owned by Molson Coors, has reported turnover fell 8.7% to £38.2m for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £41.2m the previous year. Gross profit rose 1.6% to £11.4m compared with £11.2m the year before, while pre-tax profit was up 70.2% to £1.3m compared with £770,000 the previous year. Volumes were down 5.5% year-on-year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. During the period, Sharp’s Brewery invested £890,000 in its facilities to increase capacity. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Turnover declined in the year due to year-on-year volume reduction (5.5%). However, operating efficiency has ensured gross profit is in growth of 1.6%. Investment continues to be made in increasing the volume capacity of the business to meet consumer demand for the main brand, Doom Bar, while continuing to develop a wider portfolio of brands. The company has a capital expansion plan to support the continued growth of its production capacity.” Net assets at the end of the year amounted to £22.0m, compared with £20.8m the previous year. Sharp’s Brewery was acquired by Molson Coors in 2011.
Fledgling pub company Lunar launches debut site, plans two more: Fledgling pub company Lunar has launched its debut site, with plans to open two more outlets in the next 18 months. Founded by Hubert Beatson-Hird and Oliver Marlowe, Lunar has launched The Hunter’s Moon in South Kensington, west London, at a 2,587 square foot site in Fulham Road. The venue is split between a 25-cover pub and a 48-cover dining room at the rear. The Hunter’s Moon offers a modern European menu with dishes created by Marlowe, who has held executive chef positions at a number of pub groups as well as Michelin-starred restaurants The Glasshouse and Chez Bruce. Beatson-Hird said: “Having managed London pubs since 2012 for a variety of independent groups, it is great to open a site I can call my own. The opportunity to do this with Olly is fantastic as the food he creates is exceptional.”
CPL Online launches personal resilience course: CPL Online, the specialist provider of e-learning, business solutions and interactive services, has launched a personal resilience course aimed at coping with industry pressures. It will give hints, tips and exercises to help people “bounce back” and recover when stress levels reach breaking point. Personal resilience will form part of a new range of courses aimed at improving staff mental health and well-being. The personal resilience course will be free with purchases of CPL’s mental health awareness course, which it launched last month. Martin Hilton, director of learning and education at CPL Online, said: “Resilience supports self-esteem that improves self-confidence, well-being and happiness. It also supports an individual’s ability to bounce back from life’s difficulties and deal with operational challenges. These factors will contribute to improved experiences for guests and employee satisfaction.”
 
Dalata appoints JD Wetherspoon senior independent director to board: Irish hotel group Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, has appointed Elizabeth McMeikan as an independent non-executive director. McMeikan is senior independent director at JD Wetherspoon and Unite Group and is also a non-executive director at Fresca Group. She spent her executive career at Colgate Palmolive before taking up a role with Tesco, where she established Tesco Express in 1994. Dalata chairman John Hennessy said: “With the breadth of Elizabeth’s experience across the hospitality, retail, and food and beverage sectors, she will be a valuable addition to the board. As we continue to grow our business across the UK, Elizabeth’s knowledge and expertise in that market will be of great benefit.”
Devon-based cider-maker triples capacity following funding deal: Devon-based cider-maker Hunt’s Cider has tripled capacity after securing finance from Lloyds Bank. The Totnes-based, family-run company uses Devon apples to create its traditional and flavoured cider. After experiencing increased demand, the management team decided to buy a pressing mill that crushes 24 tonnes of apples in a day, turning out three times as much cider as its predecessor. The company arranged a £50,000 hire purchase facility with the bank. Managing director Richard Hunt told Insider Media: “Investing in a new mill will not only allow us to scale up production and increase revenue but make our cider available to even more people in the UK.” Timothy Burston, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, added: “Hunt’s Cider is a great example of a business with a proud heritage but whose entrepreneurial spirit has seen it move with the times and respond to evolving consumer tastes.”