Grounded Kitchen targets 50 new UK sites in £15m investment: Midlands-based Korean-inspired restaurant Grounded Kitchen is aiming to open 50 new UK sites in a £15m investment. The ten-strong company, which launched in Leicester in 2017, is looking to sign up franchise partners for up to 25 sites at a time, creating more than 500 jobs. Ralph Llanwarne, Grounded Kitchen’s franchise director, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be rolling out the Grounded Kitchen experience across the UK and to be working with some fantastic partners on multiple sites. Our focus on delivering fast and healthy, balanced food has really captured the imaginations of those who dine with us, and we’re delighted to be able to share that experience with new communities as we expand the Grounded Kitchen family and fanbase. Grounded Kitchen is one of the most exciting franchise opportunities to come to the market in years, and this is a rare opportunity to get in on the ground level. We are actively looking to engage with ambitious partners to join us, as we continue the expansion of Grounded Kitchen across the UK. We are particularly interested in experienced partners looking to develop multiple sites with us.” Grounded Kitchen last week Read More
Barworks earned £16m from 13-site sale to Urban Pubs & Bars, company has ‘significant funds to support future development opportunities’: Urban Pubs & Bars paid £16m for the 13 sites it acquired from Barworks last year, Barworks’ accounts for the year ending 30 June 2021 have revealed. Listed in post-balance sheet events, Barworks said the sale helped it repay all bank debts, shareholder loans and preference shares. It said: “The group is now bank debt free at the date of approval of these financial statements, with significant funds to support future development opportunities.” Propel revealed exclusively in October 2021 the sale of 13 of Barworks’ 19-pub portfolio, increasing the size of Urban’s estate by 50%. Co-founder Marc Francis-Baum told Propel at the time of the sale that he intends to “grow Barworks” and “do interesting things”, and has since partnered with casual tennis concept Happy Padel. That same month, Barworks reopened Gas Station in Kings Cross following a refurbishment, having acquired it on a five-year lease two months earlier. In April 2022, it surrendered the lease at Two Floors as landlord Shaftesbury Estates intends to develop the site, along with adjacent ones. A new lease was agreed for the future Read More
Foodstuff nears £1m mark on crowdfunding campaign, plans London launch: Fledgling delivery business Foodstuff is nearing the £1m mark in its crowdfunding campaign, which it hopes will help it expand into four more major UK cities, including London. The business, which was founded by Toby Savill and James Perry, has delivered 70,000-plus orders across four major UK cities since its launch in Cambridge in May 2020. It had set a target of raising £900,000, with an offer of 9.1% of equity in the business, which gave it a pre-money valuation of £9,905,441. It is currently overfunding with 21 days left and has raised £991,918 from 264 investors. The company, which is chaired by Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, says it is on “a mission to redefine the industry, focusing on quality food from indie restaurants aiming to deliver with fewer emissions”. It said that 40,000 customers have spent more than £1.7m on the platform to date. The company said: “We charge partners a £50 monthly fee, alongside a 15% commission for exclusive partners, or 25% if they’re multi-platform, keeping money in the pockets of restaurants and local communities. With 63% of consumers actively choosing local, 1,700 indie restaurants added to Read More
FiLLi eyes ten sites in the UK as it makes debut: FiLLi, the fastest growing chai and Indian street food business in the United Arab Emirates, is set to unveil its first UK outlet in London this month. Taking its network to more than 40 fast casual stores across eight countries – FiLLi UK will open a 2,000 square-foot store in Harewood Avenue, Marylebone. The business is already in negotiation on stores in Luton, Leicester and Manchester and the plan is to open up to ten new UK stores over the next two years with select franchise opportunities available. FiLLi was founded in 2004 and the new London store – catering for eat-in, grab and go, delivery and collection – will feature its signature Zafran Chai and an all-day menu encompassing everything from classic paratha and kathi rolls to samosas, bun kebabs, wraps, burgers and masala fries as well as a breakfast range including a variety of omelettes and egg bhurji. FiLLi has developed a series of franchise formats – designed for high street, shopping centre, business parks and event locations – ranging from 500 square-foot kiosks up to 2000 square-foot stores, catering for up to 80 customers indoors with Read More
Clean Kitchen Club set to name Thomas Foulser as managing director: Clean Kitchen Club, the fledgling plant-based, fast-food concept, is set to name Thomas Foulser, formerly of Inception Group, as its new managing director, Propel has learned. It is understood that Foulser, who has been with Inception for the past 13 years, will take up his new role with Clean this week. He started as a general manager at Inception’s Barts venue before becoming a senior operations manager, and more recently, the Mr Fogg’s operator’s head of commercial and associate director. Earlier this week, Clean increased its presence in central London with an opening in Soho. The business, which counts Steve Easterbrook, the ex-chief executive of McDonald’s, PizzaExpress and Wagamama, as an investor, opened on the former Lords of Poke site in Old Compton Street. It follows an opening on Notting Hill earlier this year, and preceeds the launch of a flagship restaurant at Battersea Power Station later this year. The company had also spoken about opening on the ex-Cote site in Jerdan Place, Fulham Broadway, but is understood to have backed away from that unit. It will launch a crowdfunding campaign through Seedrs later this month with the aim Read More
Oakman explores refinancing options: Oakman Group, the Dermot King-led pub-restaurant operator, is hunting for a cash injection as it feels the pinch from rising costs, illustrating the pressure felt across the hospitality sector. The Sunday Times reports that Oakman is working with advisers from Forster Chase to explore refinancing options in a mission to refurbish a string of new pubs. Propel understands that BGF, the former backer of Coaching Inn Group, which earlier this year invested in Arc Inspirations, had previously been in talks with Oakman regarding a cash injection. In a trading update this month, Oakman, which runs 35 rural and suburban pubs, said it had slowed its opening programme as inflation threatened profits. It reported £65.1m of sales in the year to 4 July, up 55.4% on pre-pandemic levels. Oakman raised more than £4m from hundreds of customers in 2021, selling shares in the business to backers. Last year, it raised £14.2m of new equity, including £8.3m of shareholder loans that were converted to equity. King said Oakman was “exploring options to refinance”, in a bid to raise funds to refurbish new sites. In February, the company completed a £29m refinance of its freehold estate with Cynergy Bank, Read More
Hills steps down as Megan’s MD: Sarah Hills has stepped down as managing director of Megan’s, the fast-growing, cafe and deli concept, Propel has learned. Hills, who was previously managing director of Bill’s and The Restaurant Group-owned Wagamama, joined Megan’s in October 2020 as it prepared to open its tenth site, in Surbiton. It has since grown to 17 sites. Meanwhile, Propel understands the company has appointed Emily Grenville – formerly of Tossed, Novus and most recently Pinter – as its new people director. Last month, the company said it was on track “to play a key role in numerous neighbourhoods by the end of 2022”, including openings in Welwyn Garden City, Richmond and Guildford. Further locations are planned for the next two years where it also plans to introduce the brand to Weybridge, Crouch End and Farnham, as well as Bristol – its first opening outside of south east England. It also said it had set aside a £5m bonus to be shared between its team. The bonus will be shared between its current and future general managers, head chefs, assistant general managers and sous chefs, as well as its support office team. Page – finding staff not a Read More
Collins – we used the covid period to transform the business operationally: Nick Collins, chief executive of cafe bar operator Loungers, has said the business used the covid period to transform itself operationally. This has included reducing its “site to operations team ratio” at every level and publicly setting out its values for employees. Collins said: “Towards the end of the year we significantly restructured the operations team within the Lounge business. The restructure saw us add one operations director, two regional operations managers and five operations managers/chefs. It also saw us reduce the 'site to ops team ratio' at every level. At the operations managers/chefs level we now have a ratio of 5:1, which is unprecedented in our sector, in other businesses that will be 15, 20 or 25 to one. This consistently low ratio has allowed for our intensity of operation and our focus on detail. What's really great about it as well is it means we've got fantastic progression throughout the business. The regional operations managers run businesses, which produce in excess of £20m to £30m pounds of sales a year. Six of these regional operations managers were originally Lounge general managers operating sites turning over £1m. That Read More
Berkeley Inns sells two sites to RedCat, plans London opening: Berkeley Inns, the award-winning, Derbyshire-based gastropub operator, has sold two of its five pubs to RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, as it plans further expansion in the Midlands and a move in to the capital, Propel has learned. Berkeley Inns, which was founded in 2014, has sold The Meynell Ingram Arms in Hoar Cross, Staffordshire, and The Cock Inn in Mugginton, Derbyshire, to the circa 120-strong RedCat. The Meynell Ingram Arms Hotel was re-opened by Berkeley Inns in 2019 after being closed for more than five years, and the property has undergone a “major but sympathetic refit and redesign”. The Cock Inn was reopened in 2016 having been extended and much renovated. The pub has over 120 dining covers and serves up to 2,000 freshly made meals per week. The sale of the two pubs leaves Berkeley Inns with the Horseshoes in Long Lane Village, Derbyshire; The Cow at Dalbury Lees; and the Bluebell Inn in Kirk Langley. Howard Thacker, managing director of Berkeley Inns, said: “We acquired the Meynell and Cock Inn when both had been closed for five and ten Read More
Shakir Moin to become interim CEO of Costa: Shakir Moin, currently chief operating officer for Costa in the US, is to become the global coffee chain’s interim chief executive, Propel has learned. Moin will be in charge while a successor for Jill McDonald, who is to step down from the role at the end of this month, is found. McDonald, who joined Costa in 2019, is leaving the Coca-Cola-owned business to become the president of McDonald’s international operated markets segment, which includes the UK. Moin has been with the Coca-Cola Company since the start of 1997, which has included stints as vice-president for global strategic initiatives, vice-president and chief of staff – global growth function, and head, global growth operations. He has spent the past three years as chief operating officer for Costa in the US. Meanwhile, it is understood Todd Beiger, who has been with the Coca-Cola Company since 2001, and most recently was chief financial officer of its global ventures group, has become chief financial officer of Costa. Coca-Cola Company acquired the circa 4,000-strong Costa from Whitbread in a near-£4bn deal in 2018. McDonald worked at McDonald’s between 2006 and 2015, when she was head of the company’s Read More
Simmons Bars’ sales now more than double those seen in 2019 following ‘transformational’ couple of years: Nick Campbell, founder of Simmons Bars – the London cocktail bar operator – has told Propel the past couple of years has been transformational for the 23-strong business, with sales now more than double those seen in 2019. The company, which is backed by Lonsdale Capital Partners, has opened seven sites in London since the end of lockdown, the latest being on the former Pillars of Hercules pub in Soho, and plans on opening another ten-15 in the capital over the next couple of years. Campbell told Propel: “It’s been a totally transformational 18-24 months, and FY22 was by far the group’s most successful, profitable and record-breaking year to date. Ebitda more than tripled from pre-pandemic levels. All of this was despite lockdown/restrictions affecting the start of the financial year, and then Omicron limiting our peak Christmas sales. Sales are more than double 2019, while like-for-like sales were up 50% for the majority of 2021 and are sitting well over 20% in 2022. The FY22 period saw the majority of our sites breaking their all-time record sales weeks in the year, as well as numerous Read More
Loungers chairman Alex Reilley – our experience of the 2008 financial crash gives us confidence right now: Loungers chairman Alex Reilley has argued the company’s experience in 2008 provides confidence in the midst of current challenges. In his chairman’s remarks following the company’s full-year results, Reilly stated: “The next few months will undoubtedly be challenging. However, we have been planning for these headwinds for months now, and I believe we are not only positioned to weather a significant decline in consumer spending – or even a recession – but that we can actually take advantage of the circumstances. The reason for this confidence is that, as a business, we have experience of dealing with a seismic economic shock before, having traded successfully through the 2008 financial crisis. In 2005-06, the economy was buoyant and consumer spending was elastic, which was exploited by the sector, and specifically by casual dining operators who confidently increased their prices. As a small management team at the time, we took the view then that we should minimise any price increases and hold on to our value for money credentials. We resisted making short-term gains in exchange for being fully prepared should a recession happen. Ultimately, Read More
Mojo Bars unveils first wave of new expansion plans: Voodoo Doll, the company behind the Mojo Bars business, has lined up three new openings, including sites in Edinburgh and Newcastle, Propel has learned. The new Newcastle bar, located on Newgate Street, is expected to open in late September with a capacity of 250. It will offer the full Mojo food menu plus additional pizzas, as currently served in the Sheffield bar. A further site in Liverpool will follow shortly after. Mojo Edinburgh is expected in June 2023. Housed on Rose Street, the bar will have a 200 capacity, pizza menu as per Sheffield and also feature a street café. The company currently operates six Mojo sites in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Harrogate and Nottingham. Martin Greenhow, owner and director of Voodoo Doll said: “The pandemic meant we had to put a halt on several plans for Mojo and we are so happy that we are now in a position to implement our expansion programme to bring great music, food, cold beer, killer cocktails and friendly staff to cities across the UK. We are in negotiation with several other units across the country. No city should be deprived of a Mojo.” Read More
Burger & Lobster founder winds up Neyba after unsuccessful search for right lead investor: Neyba, the “multi-cuisine kitchen and grocer” concept from Burger & Lobster founder Misha Zelman which was launched earlier this year, has been wound up, Propel has learned. The decision was made after an unsuccessful search for a lead investor with the correct profile to take the business forward. The concept, which saw well-known chefs collaborate on a multi-cuisine menu in one place, opened its first site in London’s Westbourne Grove, earlier this year. It subsequently launched a £15m Series A funding round, with plans to get to 14 sites across the capital including in Chelsea, Clapham, Hampstead, Islington, Wimbledon Village and Dulwich. Propel understands that despite the first site being successful, without the investment to scale and while the owners reassess where it goes from here, they felt it was best practice to wind it up. It is thought in terms of a lead investor, that despite interest, the company couldn’t find one with the correct profile and its experience. Partnered chefs at the Westbourne Grove site included Tony Singh (south and north Indian curries), Miguel Barclay (Miguel’s Pizza) and Yoko Nakada (Makes Miso Hungry), while Read More
Turtle Bay reports ‘highest ever sales’, aims to open 40 new sites over next five years: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper, has reported its highest ever sales – £85.4m in the year ended 27 March 2022, and said it aims to open 40 new sites over the next five years. The 44-strong company said that adjusted Ebitda was a record £17.8m in the year (2021: £1.7m). The Nick Crossley-led business said it had seen like-for-like growth of 48.6% since it first reopened indoors in the period from 17 May 2021 to 27 March 2022. It said recent trading during the first 13 weeks of the new financial year continues to be very strong with three year like-for-like sales at 43.1% despite the withdrawal of the government’s VAT support. The company said it latest annual accounts show a return to a strong balance sheet position (with net cash of £8.6m) following the heavily covid-19 impacted previous year. The company, which has introduced a staff share scheme, opened new sites in Coventry and Durham, reopened Blackburn and Croydon during the year in question. Crossley said: “Our trading results since reopening in spring 2021 have been amazing. We were Read More
Tijbits – we need to re-set perceptions of pancakes, concept to stay focused on London before heading to regions: Where The Pancakes Are founder Patricia Tijbits believes her next challenge – having convinced people than pancakes are more than just a sweet snack – is to persuade them they’re an all-day dining concept. A popular snack or meal in countries including Tijbits’ native Netherlands, multi-site pancake concepts are still quite rare in Britain – although a third Where The Pancakes Are site will open later this year at the Battersea Power Station development, with plans to grow further. But first comes the battle to further change the perception of pancakes in the UK – something Tijbits said wasn’t helped by the covid lockdowns. “When we started, we had to fight tooth and nail to convince people that having a savoury pancake is as good an option, if not better, than a sweet one,” she told Propel. “Nowadays, 70% of what we sell is savoury, and people don’t blink, so that’s a battle we’ve won over the past five years. However, during the pandemic, we became increasingly known as a breakfast/brunch place, and we are keen to hit the re-set button Read More
Snell – inflation issues making Ebitda progress challenging, planning further expansion in the south: Matt Snell, chief executive of premium casual dining restaurant group Gusto Italian, has said the business is planning to expand further south in the coming year – but that inflation is making it difficult to increase Ebitda. Gusto reported “resilient” financial results for the year to September 2021, recording a “reassuring” turnover of £12.4m, with an Ebitda of £585,000. This compares to £34.7m turnover for the 18 months to September 2020, when adjusted Ebitda was -£3.78m. Snell said food is up 20% and labour costs 16% versus 2019, and utilities are due to go up 50% in September. Snell said: “The inflation issues that everyone is aware of are making progress at an Ebitda level extremely challenging. We have a set of operational initiatives that we are working through that we are confident will offset this. I can honestly say it's never been more difficult to run a restaurant business than it is at the moment.” He added: “The performance of our restaurants, feedback from customers and positivity of our people are all representative of the momentum we feel building behind Gusto Italian. Given the macro-economic Read More
Staycity to make Portugal debut, reports like-for-likes back to 2019 levels: Aparthotel operator Staycity Group is set to make its Portugal debut and has reported like-for-like sales are back to 2019 levels. The company is set to open sites in Porto and Lisbon under its Wilde concept. With 80 self-catering apartments in Porto and 95 in Lisbon, both Portuguese additions are scheduled to open towards the end of 2024, offering studio and one-bedroom apartments with kitchen facilities, dining and sitting areas, a coffee shop and gym alongside 24-hour reception and guest laundry room. Staycity has opened a record number of properties over the past 12 months including Bordeaux, Heidelberg, Dublin Mark Street, London Aldgate and London Paddington. This year, Staycity has opened properties in Dublin, Frankfurt, Manchester and Paris, with another site in Dublin still to open, taking the company to a total of 6,000 apartments across 32 locations. Staycity chief executive Tom Walsh said: “We’re delighted to be opening in these popular Portuguese destinations and taking our Wilde brand into another of our European target regions. Careful forecasting and refinancing meant we emerged from the pandemic ready to crack on with our expansion. This year, our like-for-like sales are Read More
Papa John’s UK appoints new managing director: Papa John’s UK has appointed Rob Payne as its new managing director, Propel has learned. Payne has joined the business from The Haulfryn Group, a family-owned UK park owner and operator of high-quality, luxury holiday and residential park homes, where he was group commercial director. Prior to his arrival, Gavin Lilley had been looking after UK operations following the departure of James Oakley as general manager of the UK and Ireland. A Papa John’s spokeswoman told Propel: “Rob has extensive knowledge and understanding of the franchise sector and of consumers, having served as chief executive of Best Western Hotels GB for three years. Rob also has broader experience in leisure, hospitality, and e-commerce, among other related sectors.” Papa John’s has more than 500 UK sites. Black Sheep Coffee secures first US sites: Speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has secured its first sites in the US, Propel has learned. Propel revealed in April that Black Sheep plans to open 15 sites in the US in its initial launch phase in the country and had selected Texas as its entry point. Black Sheep has now secured two sites in Austin and two in Read More
Big Table Group adds two Las Iguanas sites to Center Parcs estate: The Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, is adding two new Las Iguanas restaurants to its Center Parcs estate, Propel has learned. The two new additions will take its total number of restaurants at Center Parcs’ five UK holiday villages to 14. The company is adding Las Iguanas sites into Center Parcs Elveden Forest and Sherwood Forest, doubling the number of sites under the brand at Center Parcs to four. The 284-cover restaurant and bar in Elveden Forest will open in August, creating 40 jobs. The 269-cover restaurant and bar in Sherwood Forest will open in November, creating 40 jobs. Big Table Group and Center Parcs extended their partnership in 2021 with a new six-year deal. The group operates four brands at Center Parcs, with Bella Italia, Café Rouge and new premium Italian casual dining concept, Amalfi, in addition to Las Iguanas. Center Parcs’ five luxury family holiday villages – at Whinfell Forest, Sherwood Forest, Woburn Forest, Elveden Forest and Longleat Forest – welcome 2.1 million visitors each year. Alan Morgan, chief executive at The Big Table Group, said: “Our long-term Read More
GSG to focus on expanding Bold Street Coffee over other brands as casual dining market is ‘suffering’: GSG Hospitality will focus on expanding its Bold Street Coffee concept as it believes the hot drinks market has a brighter immediate future than casual dining. The Liverpool group currently runs seven other concepts – Slim’s, Salt Dog Slims, 81, El Bandito, Duke Street Food & Drink Market, Santa Chupitos and Peppercat Sports – with many others also having come and gone since it launched in 2009. It recently took the decision to close its Slim’s diner in Liverpool, but by contrast, Bold Street Coffee is “doing great numbers” and set to be the group’s first concept to expand outside the north west. Echoing comments made by hospitality consultant Ann Elliott in last week’s Propel Friday Opinion the casual dining model is currently “just not viable”, GSG founder Matt Farrell told Propel. “It’s challenging to plan week to week, and hospitality has to continue to adapt and change according to the climate. Not all concepts will thrive under the current living climate, and you have to embrace those changes. But Bold Street Coffee is doing very well, as people change their eating and Read More
Wingstop to open largest UK site to date in Manchester, in talks on five others: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out Wingstop across the UK, is to open the largest site to date here under US chicken brand later this summer. The 3,500 square-foot, 130-cover site will open in Manchester’s Trafford Centre this August, with expectations of being the brand’s highest volume site worldwide. Propel understands that Wingstop UK, which last month secured a new multi-million-pound debt facility to aid the further roll of the concept here, is also set to shortly announce five new restaurant locations. Wingstop, currently operates 22 sites here, comprising a mixture of bricks-and-mortar sites, under which the five new sites will be, and dark kitchens. The company, which recently opened in Nottingham, also has openings lined up in Brighton and Wood Green, plus a new delivery kitchen unit in Leeds. Last month, Michael Skipworth, president and chief executive of Wingstop, said the brand’s success in the UK is a “clear demonstration of the power of our international growth strategy”. The UK business has 15 openings slated for 2022. Skipworth said: “The average unit volumes in the UK are $2m, despite the market just opening Read More
The Salad Project to double up with City opening: The Salad Project, the all-day dining concept which launched in London last year, is set to open its second site in the capital, in the City, Propel has learned. The business, which was founded by friends Florian de Chezelles and James Dare (formerly of LVMH and Firmdale respectively), has secured the former Hawes & Curtis site at 1 Old Broad Street for an opening at the end of the summer. The Salad Project is described as an all-day-dining eatery that features a central salad bar featuring more than 50 ingredients. De Chezelles told Propel: “We aim to become the go-to-place for a healthy meal in London. We want a Salad Project on all major London high streets.” The company made its debut last year with an opening in The Fruit & Wool Exchange, Brushfield Street, Spitalfields. Chef and nutritionist Clementine Haxby designs the menu, which offers a range of customisable salad options as well as soups and rice bowls. Burger King enters partnership with Motor Fuel Group: Burger King UK, the Bridgepoint-backed chain, has entered a new franchise agreement with Motor Fuel Group (MFG), the largest forecourt operator in the UK Read More
Jowsey – Proprium has ‘some more firepower’ if we need it, energy costs biggest concern: Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns, has said that the 1,600-strong group’s backers Proprium Capital Partners has “some more firepower if we want it” for when it comes to further acquisitions. In May, C&C Group announced the sale of its 47% stake in Admiral to Proprium, with whom it originally invested in the community pub operator in September 2017. Jowsey told Propel: “Proprium have been great backers, and it is a vote of confidence from them that they have taken in the whole business. They do also have some more firepower if we want it, and they have been very clear about that. We’re not being held back in that sense, but we’ve always been really clear it’s got to be the right acquisition. It’s not about being big, I think there are diseconomies of scale as well as economies of scale. We’ve also been very public about wanting to have maybe 1,500, maximum 2,000 sustainable pubs. Could we grow? Yes we could, but I would be very careful, given that there are probably, unfortunately, going to be quite a few opportunities and a Read More
Jowsey – managed model could eventually make up 20% of our business, community pubs remain resilient: Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns, the Proprium-backed pub business, has said the group’s managed division could eventually make up 20% of the company’s estate. The division was created last year by the circa 1,600-strong company’s £222.3m acquisition of Hawthorn. Speaking in Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Jowsey said: “We’re less than a year in since the acquisition, and the thing that’s really pleased us is the leased and tenanted business has performed as well as we’d hoped. But Proper Pubs, which is the community, wet-led operator division, has outperformed, and is actually getting stronger and stronger. We had about 35 operator-led businesses in Admiral, but that was pretty new for the business after the acquisition in 2019. We’ve now got 175, including the pubs that came in from Hawthorn, and they’re really outperforming. It’s a very interesting model. I don’t think it’ll ever be the dominant model in our business by any means. We’re very much focused on tenanted pubs and always will be, but we’re learning a lot of lessons from the way they operate. We can take some of those lessons Read More
Marugame Udon appoints Judd Williams as new head of franchise for UK & Europe: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon has appointed Judd Williams, formerly of Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), to the newly created role of head of franchise for UK & Europe, Propel has learned. Williams, who has more than 20 years of global hospitality franchisor and franchisee experience, joins from BRG where, as international development director for the last four and a half years, he delivered expansion through franchise across its multiple brands including Giraffe, Carluccio’s and Slim Chickens.  Williams has also previously held international franchise leadership roles in brands including Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Costa Express. Marugame Udon, which is led by Keith Bird and backed by Capdesia in the UK, made its UK and European debut in London last year with a flagship site opening off Liverpool Street, followed by sites in The O2, Canary Wharf and St Christopher’s Place. In mid-June, the fast-growing brand opened its fifth restaurant in London at retail and leisure destination Brent Cross. It has also secured further sites on The Strand and in Argyll Street, near Oxford Circus. Also in its pipeline is the former Carluccio’s site Read More
Whitbread suffers shareholder revolt over pay row: Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inns hotel chain, suffered a shareholder revolt for a second successive year as almost 40% of investors voted against the company’s pay plans. The group revealed 38.44% of investor votes at its annual general meeting on Wednesday (15 June) were made against its remuneration policy. While the policy was approved, with 61.56% of investor votes cast in favour, the backlash centred on the group’s decision to award bonuses to executives despite receiving government support during the pandemic. Sky News reported earlier this month that Whitbread was engaged in discussions with leading investors aimed at heading off a revolt after shareholders were told to vote against its remuneration report by Glass Lewis, a proxy adviser. The robust stance came despite Alison Brittain, Whitbread’s chief executive, voluntarily giving up a £729,000 deferred payout after deciding it would be inappropriate it in the context of furlough payments and other government support received by the company. The hotel operator also reduced bonuses for the year by 25% to reflect the fact that furlough funding was received only in one quarter of its financial year. The company said: “The board notes the Read More
Thwaites – Q1 has seen encouraging trading, but our continuing recovery has been disjointed and halting: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has said the early part of its current financial year “has seen encouraging trading, but our continuing recovery has been disjointed and halting, with a series of strong weeks then inexplicable lapses”. The company said turnover for the year ended 31 March 2022 increased by 198% to £96m (2021: £32.2m). An operating profit of £13.3m was made compared to an operating loss of £9.4m in the prior year, while pre-tax profit was £12.7m (2021: loss of £12.4m). Net debt decreased to £61.6m (2021: £78.8m), while at the year end, the company had banking facilities of £83m. During the year, it acquired The Red Lion at Burnsall to join its Inns division. The company said: “In addition, we have acquired a number of staff houses to assist us in recruiting team members in some of our more rural locations, and we believe this gives us an advantage in these local markets, particularly in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.” The company sold 15 bottom end pubs and its old brewery site in Blackburn, with total proceeds of £7.5m. Chairman Read More
Popeyes confirms next six sites, eyes next raft of locations: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand which made its debut in the UK last November, has confirmed its next six openings, which will create 600 new jobs. As revealed by Propel last week, the business has secured sites in Gateshead (Metrocentre) Reading (Broad Street), Nottingham (Burger King, opposite the Victoria Centre), Brighton (Tui unit in North Street), Ealing Broadway (Next store), and Oxford (Queen Street) – all set to open this year. The company is also understood to be in talks on sites in Glasgow and Cambridge. The company, which also operates delivery kitchens in Bermondsey, Maida Vale, Whitechapel, launched its second sit-down site at the weekend, in Chelmsford, with a third set to open Romford, next month. Its debut UK site, in Westfield Stratford, which opened last November, is the brand’s highest-performing restaurant in the world – out of 3,600 restaurants worldwide. The company said it has stepped up its expansion plans to meet “rapidly growing demand in the UK”. Tom Crowley, chief executive at Popeyes UK, said: “From north to south, we’re building communities of chicken lovers across the country. It’s such an exciting time Read More
Peckwater Brands secures £15m of new investment, Stonegate amongst backers: Virtual restaurant brand company Peckwater Brands has raised £15m from investors including Stonegate Group, Britain’s biggest pub company, and Japanese fund giant SoftBank. The Sunday Times reports that the Series A fundraising gives Peckwater Brands a £65m valuation and will power new investments in its technology and expansion in Europe and the US. Peckwater, founded in late 2019, has developed 12 food brands, ranging from fried chicken to katsu curry, which it offers to restaurants to make in their kitchens and then sell for delivery via platforms such as Uber Eats. The start-up supplies branding and recipes for the food, which is prepared by kitchen staff alongside the restaurants’ own dishes. Peckwater claims its brands help individual restaurants boost turnover by up to £45,000 a month. Stonegate already sells Peckwater food brands through about 30 of its pubs, and the intention is to extend the partnership to “as many sites as possible”, said Sam Martin, the company’s cofounder and chief executive. Martin credited the company’s success to software it has developed which can scan food delivery apps to see which types of food are proving popular with customers. “We can Read More
Big Table Group launches robot servicing technology pilot: Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, is trialling robot servicing technology through one of its Bella Italia sites, Propel has learned. Working in partnership with Pudu Robotics, Big Table Group said it had launched the trial in an effort to “boost innovation and elevate the dining experience, becoming the largest restaurant chain in the UK to introduce robot technology”. The retrieving robots, named “BellaBot”, are currently being trialled at the Bella Italia in Center Parcs Whinfell Forest, specifically chosen due to its large footprint, with longer distances between kitchen and tables. Designed to support team members with everyday tasks, the BellaBot features four shelves in the centre of its “body” structure to carry plates. Once loaded by its human colleagues, the robotic waiter interacts with guests when delivering food to diners to encourage customers to take their ordered dishes from the BellaBot. Additionally, the BellaBot can be programmed to conduct certain movements around the restaurant to allow customers to take their desired dish in a buffet-like environment. For special occasions and festivities, the robot can perform and entertain, such as sing “Happy Birthday”. Lisa Gibbons, Read More
Gin & Juice founder eyes expansion to 15 sites and sees same growth potential for new Parisian bistro concept: Co-founder Stephen Barker has set his sights on taking his Gin & Juice concept to 15 sites over the next three years – and has similar aspirations for his new Parisian bistro concept Maison Entrecote. Barker, who runs parent company Vintage Tea & Coffee Co with wife Charlotte and sons Kurtis and Kane, launched Gin & Juice in Cardiff in 2017, which was followed by further sites in Cheltenham, Bristol, and Swansea. Barker is aiming for up to three more openings this year but has scrapped plans to expand to Oxford after deciding the site offered wouldn’t be profitable. “We’re in negotiations in Bath and Exeter, and potentially Leeds and Manchester, on new sites for this year. Some may not happen but we’re trying for three more this year. I’d like, in the next two to three years, to get to 15 and then take a breath. I think that’s achievable.” Maison Entrecote will make its debut in September, in the same Castle Arcade destination where Gin & Juice began, having taken inspiration from Marylebone bistro Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote Read More
Liberation Group like-for-likes across UK managed pubs up 32%: Channel Islands and West Country-based brewer and retailer Liberation Group has reported that like-for-like sales across its UK-based managed pubs increased 32% in the 17 weeks to 28 May 2022 against the same period in 2019. The Jonathan Lawson-led business said that in the 52-week period ended 29 January 2022, turnover stood at £99.7m (2021: £68.3m), with pre-tax losses of £234,000 (2021: £13.9m). Ebitda for the period stood at £9.8m (2021: (£2.52m) and Ebitda contribution from its pubs division for the year stood at £10.5m (2021: £670,000), but central costs stood (£5.8m). The company said its strategy of “investing for the future” enabled the delivery of 21 major (over £100,000) development projects and maintenance capital expenditure together totalling £9.6m in the period. Lawson said: “Last year, we once again demonstrated the quality and passion of our people, which combined brilliantly with the inherent strengths of our business and its combination of pubs, brewing and wholesale drinks across the south west of England and the Channel Islands. Managed UK pubs delivering +18% LFL between May 2021 and January 2022 (compared to 2019) is a sector leading performance and has reinforced our focus Read More
Planet Organic eyes further expansion as it prepares to open two more London sites: Health-focused retailer Planet Organic is eyeing further expansion as it prepares to open two further outlets in London, Propel has learned. Planet Organic is understood to be working with Orme Property and is seeking further sites in affluent London villages and further afield in commuter belt towns. Planet Organic has recently opened sites in Broadway Market, Hampstead and Queen’s Park while the business is set to open outlets in Northcote Road and London Bridge. Plant Organic launched in 1995 and currently operates 13 sites. Boparan Restaurant Group partners with Bourne Leisure to roll-out Slim Chickens to holiday parks: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has partnered with Bourne Leisure to roll out its Slim Chickens brand in UK holiday parks, Propel has learned. The first opening under the new deal – at the Haven holiday park in Hafan Y Mor, Wales – is Slim Chickens’ 20th UK site in all. BRG marketing director Phil Neale told Propel: “Slims is in high demand and rapidly becoming the better-chicken brand of choice for customers. Haven Hafan Y Mor is our first partnership with Bourne Leisure, and we look forward to Read More
Blackrose continues roll out of Dirty Habit concept, plans to acquire more sites: Blackrose, the circa 40-strong pub company backed by real estate investment company Aprirose, has launched the third site under its new Dirty Habit concept after a £365,000 investment. The new look The Porter Cottage by Dirty Habit, in Sheffield, has reopened following a full revamp inside and out, including a new beer yard. This follows the successful switching of its venues in Gateshead and Whitley Bay to the Dirty Habit brand, in December 2001 and May 2022 respectively. Business development manager for Dirty Habit, Alex Brumwell, said: “The Porter Cottage is steeped in history and a well engrained name within the local area. We are taking an already successful site, refacing it and increasing the offer to make a versatile venue. Set in a strong local setting with a vast student base nearby, we are seeking to offer something for everyone. The Porter Cottage will be a real contributor to the community. The site has cocktails, cask, craft cans and an amazing draught and spirit range.” The pub’s entertainment offering will include live bands and DJs. It is the Daren Knipe-led Blackrose’s 20th capital expenditure project since Read More
Extrawurst pausing on bricks and mortar to roll out smaller format sites, focusing on Midlands before further UK expansion: Extrawurst, one of the leading German bratwurst fast-food to go brands, is pausing its bricks-and-mortar roll-out to focus on its “midi and micro” sites, and will concentrate on the Midlands before expanding further across the UK. The brand, which signed a UK master franchise agreement last year and plans to open “hundreds” of sites over here, last week opened its second, in Birmingham’s New Street. A restaurant in Nottingham was originally next on the agenda, but that will now wait until later in the year while its midi format – “anything from a shipping container to a trailer” – and micro – “a pop-up bike with a grill and a big umbrella” sites take centre stage. “We’ve put Nottingham on hold, and we’re using the investment we would have put into it to accelerate the smaller format models,” Sam Shutt, chief executive of Extrawurst UK, told Propel. “We’re being realistic about what is achievable. We’re bringing a new brand to the UK and opening a business off the backdrop of the pandemic, cost headwinds and the cost-of-living crisis, so we’ve just Read More
Wingstop UK secures multimillion-pound debt facility: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out US chicken brand Wingstop across the UK, has secured a new multimillion-pound debt facility, to aid the further roll of the concept here. The company, which recently opened its 20th Wingstop site in the UK, in Bromley, said it has secured “significant credit facilities” from Barclays to help continue the roll-out of the brand. Paddy Bamford, chief financial officer of Wingstop UK, said: “It’s great to partner with a bank that was able to offer us a bespoke financing solution and could see the potential for the brand in the UK market.” It is believed Lemon Pepper Holdings/Wingstop UK are one of the first new clients for Barclays Corporate in the restaurant and hospitality sector since the impact of covid-19. Chris Francis, relationship director at Barclays Corporate Bank, said: “We are pleased to be able to support Lemon Pepper Holdings with the provision of a new loan facility, and look forward to seeing the continued growth of its business across the UK.” Lemon Pepper Holdings has further restaurant openings lined up in the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton and Wood Green, plus new delivery kitchen units Read More
KFC to trial delivery only kitchens in London, more locations to follow: KFC UK & Ireland is trialling its first delivery only kitchens in London, with more locations set to follow later in the year. Having recently opened its 1,000th restaurant, KFC UK & Ireland say the kitchens will improve the experience of customers, team members and delivery drivers while taking the pressure off existing restaurants. Customers will be able to order through Deliveroo, JustEat, UberEats and via KFC’s website and app. Further sites have been selected through continued sales growth via a range of channels and delivery platforms, including drive-thru, front counter, kiosks and delivery. James Whitehorn, chief development officer, KFC said: “We’re excited by the potential of our delivery only kitchens; ensuring our fans get their fried chicken fix in good time whilst also creating more job and improving the experiences of KFC team members and delivery drivers. This launch presents an opportunity for us to reach more people than ever and let them enjoy KFC’s delicious fried chicken in their own homes. We can’t wait to see the results!” Gin & Juice team set to launch Paris-style bistro in Cardiff, plans rapid roll-out: The team behind independent Read More
Knoops aiming for 100 UK restaurants over the next five years and 3,000 worldwide by 2030: Luxury hot chocolate shop Knoops is aiming for 100 UK restaurants over the next five years as it rolls out its rapid expansion plans. Founded in 2013 by Jens Knoop, the company – which offers chocolate drinks ranging from 28% to 100% cocoa in a mix of single origins and blends – has since expanded to seven stores. A new flagship site will open in London’s Covent Garden on Thursday, 2 June, while the immediate pipeline includes sites in Bath, Cambridge and St Albans. The furthest north the company has gone so far is its most recent opening, in Oxford. Chief executive Tori Nunn told Propel: “As we started expanding, it obviously made sense operationally to open in the south, but now we’re scaling up we’ll definitely be moving north. We’re looking all over, and we’re definitely not finished in London, where I would like to open more sites north of the river. We have significant ambitions for the brand and intend to open up to 100 stores in the UK. We’re looking to achieve those numbers within the next five years – we think Read More
Song Capital acquires 95-strong SA Brain pub portfolio: Investment firm Song Capital has acquired a 95-strong pub portfolio from Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain. Propel revealed last week that Song, which is understood to have been working with Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Admiral Taverns, was close to agreeing a deal for the portfolio of pubs that was placed on the market last summer. This after Propel revealed in March that real estate investment company Aprirose had entered the race – and is thought to have been at one point granted a period of exclusivity – before Song, which was established by real estate executives Daniel MacKinnon and Tom Pritchard, again moved ahead in the race. It is thought the deal is valued at £85m-£90m. SA Brain said: “To provide a foundation for growth for the future of the Brains brand, in 2021, SA Brain put the freehold and leasehold investment of 99 pubs on the market for a price reflecting a NIY of 5.75%. For some time, following the marketing of this portfolio by real estate advisor Avison Young, there has been speculation on the potential buyers. The directors are pleased to announce that on 20 Read More
Revolution Bars Group to make Preston return: Revolution Bars Group, which operates 67 bars trading mainly under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, is to make a return to Preston, Propel has learned. The business, led by Rob Pitcher, has secured the former Fishers premises in Fishergate, which was previously occupied by brewer and retailer Greene King. Revolution Bars Group is aiming to open the 600-capacity venue, which will operate under its eponymous brand, at the end of June, creating 50 jobs. It marks a return to the city for the group after an eight-year absence. Pitcher told Propel: “We are delighted to be bringing the Revolution brand back to Preston and can't wait to bring our special mix of handcrafted cocktails, delicious food and the biggest party nights.” In February, Propel revealed Revolution Bars Group would open its first new site in four years with an opening in Exeter. The former Las Iguanas premises in Queen Street is set to reopen as a Revolution in June. Meanwhile, the group is set to give its Revolution site in Oxford Road, Manchester, a £144,000 makeover. It was the first Revolution to open, in 1966. The Botanist reveals non-alcoholic cocktail sales Read More
Phil Urban – M&B focusing on the things it can control such as building volume and market share, sector customer base still has a way to go before it recovers: Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), has told Propel the business is focusing on the things it can control – such as building volume and market share – and believes the sector’s customer base still has a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Despite rising costs, which M&B forecasts this year will be up about 11.5% on 2019 levels, Urban said the business would not be raising prices “above what it normally does when launching new menus” as he believed such short-term decisions would have a long-term impact. Speaking following the company’s interim results, Urban said: “There’s still a lot of our previous customer base to come back, particularly among the older generation. It’s gradually coming back – day by day it appears to be getting better and city centres are getting stronger. But we’re not blind and there’s going to be some impact from the cost-of-living crisis. But I do believe that a lot of these rising costs are temporary. I’m not saying Read More
Song Capital and Cerberus set to win race for circa 100-strong SA Brain pub portfolio: Song Capital and Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Admiral Taverns, are set to win the race to acquire the freeholds of circa 100 pubs from Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain, in a deal valued at £85m-£90m, Propel has learned. In January, it was reported Song Capital and Cerberus were close to agreeing a deal for the package of pubs, but Propel revealed in March that real estate investment company Aprirose had entered the race, and is thought to have been at one point granted a period of exclusivity. However, Propel now understands Song Capital, established by real estate executives Daniel MacKinnon and Tom Pritchard, and Cerberus have again moved ahead for the portfolio of pubs, and are set to exchange on a deal this week. SA Brain put the freehold investment of 99 pubs on the market for in excess of £87.3m last year, and a purchase at this level would reflect a net initial yield of 5.75% in return. A successful transaction will generate substantial proceeds for Brains’ family shareholders, with the funds expected to be used to pay down debt. Read More
Whiteside – price rises inescapable, we don’t know if city and office locations will ever get back to normal: Roger Whiteside, the outgoing chief executive of Greggs, has said price rises are “inescapable”, and that city and office locations may never get back to normal. Speaking after the brand’s latest trading update, Whiteside said: “We moved prices at the beginning of the year and then, when the VAT relief was removed we had to charge VAT again, so that was price movement at that time, and we’re going to have to move prices again very soon. We’re just looking at, selectively, where those prices would move and can safely move them because they are still competitive relative to prices in the market. We won’t pass all the inflation on, but when we are forced to put prices up there’s always 5p or 10p typically, and we’ll only do it when the gap between us and our competitors isn’t going to be narrowed by that. It has to be carefully managed. But, it’s inescapable in the current climate. Prices need to move. We monitor the market to see how our competitors are moving in price, and we have views from previous experience Read More
Vapiano sees sales at UK sites up almost 5% on pre-pandemic levels, set to open new central London restaurant: Vapiano, which was acquired last year by the Mario C Bauer-led consortium Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, is seeing sales across its six UK sites almost 5% up on 2019 levels, Propel has learned. The brand said the revenue boost has been particularly around antipasti, with sales up 31% on pre-pandemic levels, as digital ordering continues to lead guest experience in its restaurants. Vapiano is also set to open its seventh UK site, in a “central London” location, later this year. Craig Goslin, UK managing director of Vapiano, told Propel: “Footfall is up across the entire UK business. We have seen the performance of our six UK sites exceed 2019 achievement by almost 5%. Our guest profile is predominantly Generation Z and, unsurprisingly, they have been the biggest adopters of our new digital guest journey, continuing to use their smartphones to order their favourite pasta and personalise their dishes exactly as they like it. Historically, our guest journey meant the emphasis was on our pasta and pizza, but we have now seen a considerable jump in antipasti and drinks orders. Our Read More
Popeyes reveals Stratford site now the brand’s highest-taking restaurant globally, confirms Romford opening: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, has revealed its debut UK site, at Westfield Stratford, is the company’s highest-taking restaurant globally. It comes as the business, which operates 3,600 sites worldwide, confirmed it will open its third UK restaurant in Romford, and has lined up its first drive-thru site here. As Propel revealed last month, the business, which is led by Tom Crowley in the UK, will open a 72-cover restaurant on the ex-Superdrug site in Romford’s South Street, a couple of doors from rival US brand Wendy’s. Popeyes, which will open its second UK restaurant in Chelmsford on Saturday, 11 June, also said it hoped to have news shortly on its first UK drive-thru site, which is also expected to be in Essex. At the same time, Propel understands Popeyes is planning to open a site on the former Gap unit in Cambridge’s Market Hill. Popeyes UK, the master franchisee for the UK, launched its debut site in Britain in November, at Westfield Stratford, and is aiming to open hundreds of sites across the next decade in the UK. Popeyes has also been Read More
Portfolio of sites let to Marston’s placed on market: A portfolio of seven leisure investments located in south Wales, and let to Marston’s, have been placed on the market, Propel has learned. King Street Real Estate have been appointed to market the investment opportunities, with offers in excess of £4.6m sought. The portfolio comprises the Beaufort Arms, Swansea; Cockett Inns, Swansea; Heath Hotel, Cardiff; Malsters Arms, Cardiff; The Piercefield, Chepstow; The Vivian, Swansea; and the Windsor Hotel, Penarth. The seven sites are understood to have a total passing rent of £310,000 per annum. All properties will be let on new 25-year leases, with a tenant only break option in year 15, let to Marston’s. Thunderbird Fried Chicken begins exploring franchise opportunities, in talks with UK and international businesses: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, has begun talks with prospective franchisees as it looks to expand its presence in the UK and internationally, Propel has learned. The Paul Gilchrist-led business, which recently opened its sixth bricks-and-mortar site in Wimbledon, is understood to be in talks with a transport hub operator in regards to opening sites both in the UK and overseas. It is also believed Read More
US coffee chain Blank Street hires Ignacio Llado as MD to oversee UK expansion plans: Blank Street Coffee, the fast-growing, New York-based chain, has hired Ignacio Llado, formerly of the Singapore-based Flash Coffee, as managing director to oversee its UK expansion, Propel has learned. Llado was previously managing director of “tech-enabled coffee chain” Flash Coffee, overseeing its growth from launch to its expansion to circa 250 stores across seven markets in less than two years. Blank Street will launch in the UK next month and earlier this year, said it plans to make London its “second-biggest city”. The first UK location for the business is set for Fitzrovia, near University College London. The company plans to open additional locations in quick succession in the area while expanding into the Marylebone neighbourhood. The chain was started in Williamsburg in summer 2020 by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha, and now has 29 sites around New York. The brand plans to have 100 locations in the US city by the end of this year. It also plans to open two-dozen shops in the UK this year. Last year, the company raised $60m, including $25m in Series A Funding from General Catalyst Partners and Read More
Leelex founder to launch new restaurant and bar venture: Ged Feltham, founder of bar group Leelex, is to open a new restaurant and bar venture in Beaconsfield, Propel understands. Feltham is launching Angel of Mercia, which will offer “craft food, speciality coffee and exquisite cocktails”, in the Buckinghamshire town’s Gregories Road, later this summer. It is thought Feltham is launching the venture with Thomas Coates, his co-founder in drinks business Spirit Bridge. Leelex Group used to operate the Oporto, Jakes and Neon Cactus venues in Leeds, along with The Distillery in London. Feltham was also the founder of the award-winning Portobello Road Gin. German Doner Kebab hits 100-site mark in UK with Covent Garden launch: German Doner Kebab (GDK), owned by Hero brands, will open its 100th UK site today (Tuesday, 10 May). The company will reach the landmark with the launch of its restaurant in St Martins Lane in London’s Covent Garden. It comes as German Doner Kebab forges ahead with plans to open 78 new restaurants in the UK during 2022, building significantly on the 39 opened during 2021. Now employing more than 3,500 people in the UK, the brand boasts a development pipeline of 350 franchise units over Read More
Bodean’s founder launches fundraise to back roll out of new subs concept:André Blais, founder of American barbecue diner-deli brand Bodean’s, which operates five sites across London, is planning to roll out another concept, Gerry’s Hot Subs. Propel understands Blais has begun fundraising for the concept, after a successful test pilot period in the Foodstars kitchen in Battersea over the course of 2021. The dark kitchen unit was launched with a £35,000 seed investment and over its six-month run sold circa 7,000 hot subs. The fledgling business is now looking to raise £200,000, which will see it offer up 16.67% of its equity. The plan for the concept, which offers six and eight-inch subs, is to secure a bricks and mortar site in Soho’s “high-footfall pedestrian area, next to commuter stations”. Longer-term, the business hopes to open 11 sites over the next five years. Blais said: “What makes a hot sub at Gerry’s unique and authentic? Premium quality ingredients, no processed core ingredients and all is made in-house to classic recipes. After a successful test pilot period in Battersea’s Foodstars kitchens in 2021, Gerry’s Hot Subs is ready to hit the high street!” You Me Sushi appoints Paul Turner as new Read More
KFC UK system sales up 7% in first quarter: Yum! Brands has reported KFC system sales in the UK rose 7% for the first quarter ended 31 March 2022, compared with the previous year. The UK now accounts for 8% of KFC’s system sales worldwide following the closure of its Russian operation. Globally, KFC like-for-like sales in the quarter increased 3%, with US like-for-like sales up 1%. System sales worldwide rose 6%, with the lockdowns in China weighing on sales – China is KFC’s largest market by system-wide sales, making up 27% of global sales. System sales in China were down 4% in the period. Operating margin was down four percentage points, and operating profit fell 3% to $291m. Profits in Russia declined versus the first quarter last year, negatively impacting KFC operating profit growth, excluding foreign currency, by two percentage points. KFC opened 587 gross new restaurants in 49 countries during the period. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut system sales in Europe, including the UK, were up 28% – the continent now accounting for 8% of Pizza Hut’s system sales globally following the closure of its restaurants in Russia. Pizza Hut sales were up 2% globally, with like-for-likes flat. Lockdowns in Read More
Young’s adds award-winning Hertfordshire pub to estate: London pub operator Young’s has made a further addition to its premium managed pub portfolio, with the acquisition of The Bedford Arms in Chenies, Buckinghamshire, in an off-market deal, Propel has learned. The Bedford Arms is a country pub with 18 bedrooms and was previously run by the Ratcliffe family for 20 years. Last month, Young’s added the freehold of the multiple award-winning 16th century pub, the White Horse in the village of Hascombe, Surrey, to its portfolio. Over the past few months, Young’s has also added seven pubs in total from the Cotswolds-based Lucky Onion Group; The Pheasant near Hungerford, Berkshire, from Jack Greenall, a scion of the Greenall Whitley brewing family; and The Bull in Ditchling, East Sussex, for an undisclosed sum. Jeremy Drake, of Drake & Company, acted on The Bedford Arms deal. Korean food and culture hub concept Oseyo secures Cambridge and Battersea sites: Korean food and culture hub concept Oseyo is to add a further two sites to its growing estate, including a second regional opening. The company, which already operates six sites in London and one in Manchester, is understood to have secured a site in Petty Read More
Tomahawk owner looking to buy own wholesaler to keep beef prices down, focusing expansion on steakhouse concepts: Tomahawk Steakhouse owner Howard Eggleton has revealed he is looking to buy his own wholesaler in a bid to combat rising beef prices. Speaking about rising costs at the Propel Multi-Club Conference, Eggleton said: “Beef-wise, we’re looking to buy our own wholesaler so we can be in charge of our own destiny – so we can take their margin out and return that lower price into our restaurant direct. We’re halfway through negotiations to buy our own distribution centre. We’ve put prices up on a few key lines where we can make cash difference to the business rather than across the whole menu, so it doesn’t look much different, and those slight increases will cover us for the next six months. We’ve got room to play as we’re not at the top end – we could get another 10% to 15% in our key lines and the customer wouldn’t really notice.” Eggleton, who is also looking to set up a training school to help battle hospitality’s recruitment crisis, went on to say he is focusing his expansion plans on his Tomahawk Steakhouse and Read More
Kempczinski – UK continues to be one of strongest markets, Chicken Big Mac most successful promotion ever: Chris Kempczinski, chief executive of McDonald’s, has said that “sustained digital momentum and strong menu initiatives” has allowed the UK to continue to be the one of brand’s strongest performing markets. Speaking after the fast-food giant’s Q1 update, Kempczinski said: “The UK continues to be one of our strongest performing markets. In the first quarter, performance in the UK was fuelled by sustained digital momentum and strong menu initiatives like the national rollout of McPlant and the extremely successful Chicken Big Mac promotion. This quarter, the UK introduced the Chicken Big Mac as a limited time offer, and it quickly became the market’s most successful food promotion ever, selling millions of sandwiches in the first two weeks. And as customers return to our dining rooms, kiosk usage is coming back as a key order channel for customers. In Q1, kiosk sales made up more than half of in-restaurant sales in Australia, Germany, France and the UK. At the same time, McDelivery has become the largest QSR delivery program in the world. In the UK, our customers can now order delivery directly on the McDonald’s Read More
Pret launches Pret Express into first three locations: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed brand, has launched Pret Express, its “24/7 self-service coffee-to-go solution” into its first three locations, Propel has learned. The new vending solution is now available in the RaceTrack Pitstop garage in Bearsden, near Glasgow; the RaceTrack Pitstop store in St James’ Road, Glasgow; and the Garip’s Superstore (Costcutter) in Barking, Essex, with more sites understood to be in the pipeline. Propel revealed in July last year that Pret, which has been seeking new routes to market as its core business in central London was impacted by the crisis, had trademarked the Pret Express name and was set to follow Costa, which operates circa 10,000 Express machines around the world, and introduce a vending format into offices, convenience stores, hospitals and petrol forecourts. Last October, Pret confirmed it had entered into a partnership with JDE Peet’s, the world's leading pure-play coffee and tea company and owner of brands including Peet’s Coffee, Douwe Egberts and Jacob, to launch the trial of Pret Express. JDE Peet’s will provide the self-service technology and capabilities, with bespoke furniture designed exclusively for Pret. The company said Pret Express will be introduced in Read More
Buzzworks seeing double-digit like-for-like growth against pre-pandemic levels, acquires three-strong Herringbone business: Kenny Blair, managing director of Scottish independent restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks Holdings, has told Propel the business is seeing underlying double-digit like-for-like growth against pre-pandemic levels. The company has acquired the three-strong Herringbone business in what is Buzzworks’ first deal for a going concern and Blair said it was looking to grow the brand further. Herringbone operates venues in Edinburgh’s Goldenacre and by the coast in North Berwick, with a third on the way at 3 Royal Terrance Gardens in Edinburgh. The acquisition will also see the Herringbone team, led by managing director Ash Bairstow, remain, while a further 20 jobs will be brought to the capital with its new venue, due to open in the summer. The deal brings Buzzworks’ current portfolio up to 17, with five venues now on the east coast. The group is already set to open sites in Greenock and South Queensferry this year and Blair revealed another site is in the pipeline for a 2023 launch. He told Propel: “We think Herringbone really complements the business. We like the locations and the deal fits in with our strategy of organic growth Read More
Burger King – started year well, launches urban-box format, trialling loyalty app: Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, has told Propel the circa 520-strong company has started this year well, but consumers are “definitely getting more nervous” and “costs are piling into the industry”. Burger King, which is eyeing an additional 200 restaurants in the UK over the next four years, saw its adjusted Ebitda almost triple to £49.5m in 2021. Murdoch told Propel: “We've had a fantastic run over the last couple of years. We will still stay resilient and we are looking to grow pretty hard. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s challenging for everyone, and we would just hope we can manage it as well as, or hopefully better, than others. We started this year well, we're ahead of budget. Hopefully that will continue. But we're not by any means resting on our laurels.” The company recently launched the trial of a new smaller “urban box-style” format in Norwich, and Murdoch said it has “started in line with what we wanted”. He said: “It will be really interesting to see what it is doing in six months’ time. It is a trial concept, but Read More
Gravity to invest £10m in flagship Liverpool multi-entertainment concept: Experiential leisure operator Gravity will invest £10m in a large multi-entertainment concept over two floors at the Liverpool ONE destination in Liverpool. The 100,000 square-foot site, which will span the two upper floors of a former Debenhams store, is set to open this autumn. It is an evolution of the 80,000 square-foot Gravity Southside destination the company opened in Wandsworth last summer but will be its first to feature an outside rooftop space. It will house a unique e-karting experience, bowling, urban golf and food and beverage offerings, with a bar and live entertainment. The Liverpool site will become the company’s flagship in its portfolio of 18 venues across the UK, with further openings on the horizon. Michael Harrison, co-founder and chief growth officer at Gravity, said: “This is our biggest investment yet, and we are delighted to be collaborating with Grosvenor at a destination that has continued to perform positively, despite the recent market challenges. As a business, we are getting stronger all the time, and we have no doubt that we will control one million square feet of the high street within the next two years. Gravity is at Read More
Neat Burger to launch in the US, plans 1,000 sites globally by 2030: Lewis Hamilton-backed plant-based concept Neat Burger will open its first flagship location in the US, in Manhattan, later this autumn, as part of plans to expand to 1,000 corporately owned, franchise and dark kitchens by 2030. The company said its expansion will begin in the US covering a nationwide roll-out, as well as the introduction of its proprietary alternative-protein products into the CPG (consumer packaged goods) retail market. The first Neat Burger pop-up in midtown New York, in UrbanSpace Vanderbilt, opened this week, with its flagship location opening in Manhattan in autumn 2022. Its roll-out will then span major hubs across the US. The company is also expanding its food technology division with the establishment of new innovation centres, and plans to roll out its range – including new and improved versions of its plant-based chicken patty, hot dog, nuggets and shakes – by the end of the year. Tommaso Chiabra, co-founder and chairman of parent company, Neat Food Co, said: “By 2040, we see a world where alternative proteins have replaced animal proteins completely. Neat is leading the charge in the development of these alternatives that not Read More
Whistle Punks appoints Chris Poole as managing director: Axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks has promoted Chris Poole to managing director, Propel has learned. Poole joined the business at the end of 2019, as its head of operations. He had left Carluccio’s earlier that same year after more than ten years with the company, including stints as regional director and central operations director. Earlier this year, the business, which is backed by Edition Capital, applied to open on the former Busaba Eathai site in London’s Eastcastle Street. The group opened its fourth site earlier this year, in The Electric Press development in Great George Street, Leeds. It also operates sites in London’s Vauxhall, Manchester and Bristol. A site in Birmingham closed after the lease expired and the business is looking for a new permanent site in the city. John Nimmons and Jools Whitehorn launched Whistle Punks in 2016. On Poole’s promotion, Whitehorn said: “John and I have always been fairly upfront that we’re not great managers. Thankfully, we have Chris! He started at a time when everything was on the up, and before the covid lockdowns. Since then, we’ve had a rougher time than anyone expected, but we’re now rebuilding the momentum Read More
Camerons Brewery returns to profit, confident of further improved trading during 2022: North east-based brewer and pub operator Camerons Brewery has reported it made a return to profit in the eight months to December 2021, and it was “confident of further improved trading” during the year ahead. The Chris Soley-led business, which has 34 managed and 43 franchise/leased and tenanted sites, said the ability of those sites to trade outdoors from 12 April 2021 and then indoors from 17 May, significantly helped with the return to generating profits. In the eight months to December 2021, turnover was £50m, which compared with £22.9m for the full year to 2 May 2021. Profit after tax for the eight months to December 2021 was £400,000, which was nearly circa £8m higher than the prior year loss of circa £7.4m. The company said while trading was on an upward trajectory as it progressed through the 2021 calendar, the business was slightly derailed by the emergence of the Omicron variant in mid-December and the associated restrictions reimposed on the sector just as the company was entering the busiest time of the year. The company said: “The directors are very appreciative and have worked closely with Read More
Metcalfe – I think it takes getting to 100 sites before you can prove your concept for franchising: Julian Metcalfe, founder of Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, has told Propel he thinks a brand needs to reach 100 sites before “you can prove your concept” when it comes to franchising. The company is set to open its third site with franchisee – Heart with Smart Group, which is operated by the team behind Pizza Hut Restaurants, this Friday (22 April) in Chelmsford’s Chelmer Village Retail Park. Further franchise sites are set to open in the Trafford Retail Park, Manchester, and in Union Square, Aberdeen. Alongside the Heart with Smart Group, Itsu has also opened a franchise site in Fosse Park, Leicester, with Savvi Dining Group. Metcalfe said: “90% of our style of hospitality businesses franchise so it's our job to make sure we are a brilliant franchisor. We will probably only ever have two or three people in England, maybe four, who we work with who can do it very, very well. If your disciplines, procedures and processes of your business are good enough, I don't see why you can't franchise. McDonald's has proven you can. I think it Read More
M&B to open Browns Brasserie & Bar in Beaconsfield: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is planning to open a new site under its Browns Brasserie & Bar brand in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Propel has learned. The company, which currently operates 23 sites across the country under the brand, is understood to be set to convert its Vintage Inns site, The White Hart, into a Browns. It would be the first opening under the brand in a market town location. Last November, Phil Urban, chief executive at M&B, told Propel the group’s star performers over the previous few months had been Miller & Carter, which still has “another two or three years of expansion ahead”, and Browns. Jeremy Mogford opened the first Browns restaurant and bar in 1973 in Brighton. Over the next 15 years, he established a chain of five sites under the brand, with further openings in Oxford, Bristol, Mayfair and Covent Garden, before the business was acquired by Bass Brewery, which would eventually become, in part, M&B, in a circa £35m deal. Over the next six years, the company steadily built the business up to 14 sites. However, it would take another six years before another Browns would open, after Read More
Elliott – trading at Pizza Pilgrims is ahead of where we wanted to be: Thom Elliott, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims, the London-based sourdough pizzeria brand, has said the group has traded resiliently since covid restrictions have been lifted. He added that with full VAT back, “we are ahead of where we wanted to be”. Elliott told Propel: “We put a little bit of price in last week. Not a lot, about 40p on the odd dish here and there. And last week, we traded basically flat on the week before, so we’re pretty happy with that. Last week was one where it was like, ‘Oh God, what’s this going to look like’, and it was all right, so we’re pretty happy all in all. Our delivery sales have stayed pretty high, but our eat-in is coming back, so hopefully we’re going to end up with a situation where you have the eat-in, plus the delivery is incremental. The one thing we can absolutely say about our numbers in the last six weeks is they’ve been pretty consistent, and there is reassurance in that consistency.” In the year to 27 June 2021, the group saw turnover stay almost flat at £11.7m Read More
Morris – Tortilla planning to explore European expansion by Q4, property market still in our favour: Richard Morris, chief executive of Mexican restaurant brand Tortilla, has said the business plans to begin exploring opportunities to expand into Europe by the end of this year – which may start with a delivery kitchen launch. Morris told Propel it will probably start pursuing opportunities on the continent in the final quarter of this year, and that dipping the brand’s toe in the water with a delivery kitchen launch to test the market was “a very sensible way of doing it”. The company’s business plan was to open nine bricks-and-mortar sites this year, plus three delivery kitchens and up to three sites with SSP, and Morris said the opportunities to secure new sites “kind of peaked during covid, when property prices were fantastic”. He said: “We picked up some great sites, including a location in Bath we had been looking for years. We ended up picking that up for probably half of what it was when we first looked at it, and that site is trading really well. So that was probably the peak of recent market. Obviously we’ve just come out of Read More
Tequila Mockingbird appoints FD, lines up two more sites: South London-based bar operator Tequila Mockingbird has appointed David Jenkinson as its new finance director, who will help “raise finances to execute further expansion” for the business over the next few years, Propel has learned. Jenkinson started his career with EY Audit, building a strong base working with a wide range of small and medium-sized enterprise clients. The company said: “Since then he has helped businesses such as Red Sea Holidays, Mothership (Queen of Hoxton, Book Club, Colours (was Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen), and Patterns), Village Underground, Earth Dalston, Homeslice and Symplicity Foods, supporting their expansions and helping them successfully manage the impacts of the pandemic. Most recently, David set up his own accountancy business, In Step Accounting, focusing on leisure and hospitality providing full accountancy services offered in partnership with clients as well as finance director services. David’s appointment is an exciting step for Tequila Mockingbird and we believe he fits well with our company ethics.” The seven-strong group, which was founded in 2015 by cousins Jonathan Bas and Jake Brennan, will open a new flagship site, and its first in the West End, later this month at 42 Read More
Clean Kitchen Club launches £2m fundraise: Vegan concept Clean Kitchen – which was founded by former YouTube celebrity Michael Pearce, with Made in Chelsea TV star Verity Bowditch joining in 2020 – has launched a further fundraising round, with the target of raising £2m. Last November, Bowditch and Pearce closed a £1.4m seed funding round for the business, announcing plans to open 40 locations across the UK. On the latest fundraising, Pearce said he and Bowditch have signed the “lead investment for our next round - £500,000 at £12m valuation from our first raise”. He said the new fundraising campaign would allow the business to open more sites, “increase our retail range while continuing to innovate by investing in our research and development centre and strong marketing campaigns”. The London-based company will open a 2,441 square foot flagship restaurant at Battersea Power Station later this year. It will be the chain’s sixth location, following its launch just 15 months ago. The business hopes to also add sites in Fulham and Soho over the coming months. Pearce said the prospective Fulham site would be the group’s biggest project to date at 3,000 square feet and will feature an 80-cover outdoor terrace. Read More
Parogon ‘looking seriously’ at two sites following finder’s fee launch, another in legals, new FD starts this month with refinancing brief: Parogon Group’s reward scheme for finding new sites to acquire is already paying off – with around 50 replies in the first few days and two being seriously looked at. The Staffordshire-based pub group earlier this week announced a finder’s fee of £5,000 for anyone who finds them a suitable venue that in turn becomes a new site, as it forges ahead with plans to double its nine-strong portfolio by 2025. It is looking to expand across Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, the East Midlands, south Manchester and north Birmingham regions in a £15m investment. Of the finder’s fee initiative, managing director Richard Colclough told Propel. “It’s about finding quality new sites and getting in there first, because there will be a lot of competition for them in the coming months. Phil Sharp, our property director, said he had 48 replies within the first day of announcing the scheme, and two of them we’re looking at seriously as they’re right in our sweet spot. We’re trying to grow out of our heartland, and we’re looking very strongly at Shropshire – Read More
Warrens Bakery set to exit CVA as it reports return to profit, sales up 36% in current financial year: Cornwall-based Warrens Bakery is set to exit its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) as it reported a return to profit. The company entered into the CVA in July 2020 and requested creditor approval to make payments of £5,000 per month for a period of 12 months rather than the £24,000 originally proposed. It also sought approval that total contributions be reduced by the value in reduction of payments by £228,000. Following this, the company’s accounts for the year ending 30 June 2021 showed a profit of £348,000, compared with a £3m loss in 2020 – despite turnover being down to £10m from £13m. A statement accompanying the accounts said: “The success of the CVA can be clearly seen with a return to profit for the year. Turnover fell due to the closure of 18 loss-making shops, as well as the closure of loss-making production facilities with their related wholesale sales. Sales at our hospital sites continued to be lower due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.” The company also benefited from £1m in government grants (2020: £1.2m), including £171,000 business rates Read More
Brasserie Bar Co seeing strong like-for-like sales growth, large pipeline of openings in place: Richard Ferrier, managing director of Brasserie Bar Co, the White Brasseries owner, which was recently acquired by Alchemy Partners in a circa £40m deal, has told Propel the company has been in strong like-for-like sales growth since restrictions were lifted. Ferrier said it has also built a large pipeline of new openings. Speaking before the 32-strong company filed its annual accounts for the year to 21 June 2021, Ferrier said the recovery of its London estate to above pre-pandemic levels being “particularly pleasing”. On trading for Mother’s Day, Ferrier said the business experienced an “exceptionally busy day with covers well up on 2019”. On the Alchemy investment, the company said it would look to secure up to ten new sites a year, with the emphasis on growing its pub estate over its Brasserie Blanc business. On its expansion plans, Ferrier told Propel: “While we have only been working hard at growing the pipeline since just before Christmas, we have been very encouraged by the quality of opportunities coming through. We have been able to build a large pipeline relatively quickly and should have some sites to Read More
Côte unveils first stage of brand evolution with new menu and design:Côte, the French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has marked the start of its brand evolution with a reinvigorated menu. The changes, which will also see the gradual roll-out of a new restaurant design across the Jane Holbrook-chaired, 80-strong business, begin with a menu created by Steve Allen, previously head chef at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. The new menu launch will go live alongside a longer-term refurbishment of the entire Côte estate, which follows on from two new openings in the last year in Solihull and Henley-on-Thames. The company said the changes to its menu include Côte’s French classics alongside regionally inspired dishes such as Monkfish Normande, and new creations including French Toast Américaine. The signature Côte de Boeuf will now be aged for 30 days in the restaurant’s specially built Himalayan rock-salt aging room to give the grass-fed British and Irish beef a deeper, more intense flavour. A revised vegan offering includes Celeriac Fricassée, a “modern and indulgent spin on a classic dish inspired by French Nouveau Cuisine”, while Côte’s new Espresso Martini Crêpes are a “fun twist on a French classic, combining sweet crêpes with Read More
Ferrier – covid taught us we can sustain a lot more pressure than we thought: Richard Ferrier, managing director of Brasserie Bar Co, believes the pandemic taught businesses they can withstand a lot more pressure than they ever felt possible. Speaking in Propel’s video series Plotting a Path Forward, which is sponsored by workforce management tech firm Harri, Ferrier said: “It taught us you can sustain a lot of pressure, and a lot more than you’d think. Resilience builds up over time, and we definitely saw this with the managers, who became very slick at opening and closing the business. They built a level of resilience which shocked themselves really.” Ferrier said going into the pandemic, the business “wasn’t exactly flush with cash” and “didn’t have a particularly good-looking balance sheet”, but three key factors helped them through the initial lockdown periods – modelling, communications and reviewing. “We modelled and said we can get to the end of August if we keep everybody, end of September with 75% and end of October with 50%,” he said. “We took the view if it buys you an extra two months, it’s not really any use. We’d rather take everyone with us, and Read More
Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken signs deal with UK’s largest Costa franchisee:South west-based operator Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken has secured a franchise partnership with Scoffs Group – the largest Costa Coffee franchisee in the UK, Propel has learned. Miss Millie’s, which is led by Carl Traill and backed by HBM Investments, said the new ten-site deal, encompassing Southampton and the south east region, cements its “vision and growth plan” for the brand. Traill said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a dynamic and passionate group. This partnership will see us expand our geographical reach into the south coast region for the first time. We’re confident that Scoffs’ significant expertise and knowledge of the local communities is the perfect complement to ensure we can continue to deliver the awesome Miss Millie’s chicken experience. We have imminent plans to grow the Miss Millie’s brand into other regions, and we look forward to welcoming Scoffs Group on board this exciting journey.” Miss Millie’s currently has 11 sites, with a further three in the pipeline to open this summer. Propel understands it has a further 15 sites planned over the next two years. Last November, the brand made its London Read More
Coco di Mama makes its roadside debut with Roadchef: Motorway service area operator Roadchef has partnered with the Azzurri Group-owned, Italian food-to-go brand Coco di Mama, to bring the concept to motorway users for the first time. A first site under the partnership has opened at Roadchef’s flagship Norton Canes service area on the M6. If the trial is successful, Roadchef will look at extending it to its other service areas. Howard Lockwood, catering and brand development director at Roadchef, said: “We are very excited to be working with Coco di Mama on this pioneering project to bring its innovative Italian food to the motorway. We are constantly striving to add new creative concepts and delicious menu options to our service areas, and we feel this partnership will give road users a broad range of exciting food options while still having great synergy with the other offerings already in place. The company’s ethos is firmly focused on providing good, honest food with the freshest ingredients and a seasonal focus, which chimes perfectly with our philosophy of constantly striving to delight our customers with the experience that we offer.” Coco di Mama currently operates in 145 locations nationwide, however, this will Read More
Bewiched Coffee signs first franchise partnership as it plans expansion to up to 40 sites by end of 2026: Northampton-based cafe operator Bewiched Coffee has signed its first franchise partnership as it plans to expand its estate to up to 40 sites by the end of 2026. The company has partnered with the Heart Of England Co-operative Society as it grows its 13-strong portfolio. Bewiched Coffee managing director, Matt Fountain, told Propel there are plans to open 15 sites over the next three years with Heart Of England Co-operative Society but it will be a “long-term partnership”. He said one site was being worked on at the moment, which will see Bewiched open inside a Heart Of England Co-operative Society store in Warwickshire, but added there were “quite a few irons in the fire”. Fountain said: “We’ve built our brand over the last decade and we now feel confident to take that next step into franchising. This partnership opens us up to a whole new audience and will allow us to learn so much more from a retail perspective.” He added: “I admire [Heart Of England Co-operative Society general manager] Steve Browne and his food division teams desire to innovate, Read More
KFC UK & Ireland appoints Lucy Taylor as new COO: KFC UK & Ireland has appointed Lucy Taylor as its new chief operations officer, Propel has learned. Taylor joins from its parent company Yum! Brands, where she has worked for the past 11 years. For the past eight years, Taylor has been chief operating officer for KFC in the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey. Meanwhile, Jenny Packwood has been promoted to chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at the brand. Packwood has been with KFC UK & Ireland for more than 13 years and, until recently, was its director for responsibility and reputation. Neil Piper, interim managing director of KFC UK & Ireland, said: “Both Lucy and Jenny bring almost 30 years of KFC knowledge to our team between them, and we all get to benefit from their leadership as they’ll steward two of our most critical agendas; our team and customer experience and our brand reputation and sustainability strategies respectively. Having known Lucy and Jenny for well over a decade, I can also say how proud we are to have such inspiring leaders making a difference to our whole organisation, as aspirational role models to our female Read More
Borg-Neal – biggest limitation on growth is finding great people, may turn focus on London for new sites: Peter Borg-Neal, chairman of pub-restaurant operator Oakman Group, has said that the biggest limitation on the company’s growth is finding “great people”. In terms of finding new sites, it may look to London, as other groups start leaving the capital, he added. Speaking as part of Propel’s Friday Wrap video series, Borg-Neal said: “The quality of our pipeline is great, I’m super excited by it. There have been times where we just couldn’t get a site. In 2015 it was just dire, and we ended up doing the joint venture with Ei Group because we couldn’t find sites. But now we can find sites. In fact, our site finding is getting ahead of our funding. We’ve got the sites and we will get the money, what keeps me awake is making sure we can get great people. If we are going to open quickly and expand quickly, there’s no point having wonderful buildings and a great menu if you haven’t got great people to make that capital sing and dance. To my mind, that would be the biggest limitation on our growth Read More
Hornby – recruitment still our biggest issue, trialling four-day week working pattern: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group and Wagamama and Brunning & Price operator, has said recruitment is still the company’s biggest issue, but its apprentice scheme and trial of a new four-day week pattern is helping the situation. Hornby told Propel: “There is no doubt that recruitment is still our biggest issue, but I think there are two things that are working best for us. One, and it is early days, is our apprenticeship scheme. We launched it last year with 240 new apprentices starting. They will typically end up with a minimum of five GCSEs and, depending on which course they’re on, most end up with a degree, often in chef skills or front of house/commercial skills. This year we are doubling that number and have 500 new apprentices. Obviously, the big joy of it is you’ve got to stay in two or even three years, depending which scheme you’re on, to graduate. So, it’s not just that it helps you recruit, but it also helps retain because they’re going to want to see it through. And then there is flexibility. I think what the Read More
Global amusement park operator to make UK debut with new leisure concept: Global amusement park operator, Babylon Park, is to make its UK debut with a new leisure concept. The company is opening the site at Camden Market’s Hawley Wharf development in north London. Babylon Park has agreed a deal with LabTech for a 35,000 square foot space, which will be its largest to date. The three-floor leisure venue will be Babylon Park’s flagship location, providing a multitude of activities. These include a roller coaster, drop tower, and bumper cars, alongside video and simulator arcade machines, soft play areas, and karaoke rooms. It is set to open later this spring, with an intergalactic theme that also encourages learning about living more sustainably, and a family-friendly food and beverage offer including soft and hot drinks, ice creams, and waffles. Babylon Park has 19 sites in three different countries, and has plans for further worldwide expansion in the coming years. Efi Malka, owner of Babylon Park, said: “Opening our first venue in the UK, within a space that champions family-friendly concepts in an inviting atmosphere is a great move for Babylon Park. We are looking forward to bringing our new concept here, Read More
Prezzo estate now standing at 150 with total of 30 sites exited after transfer to Cain International completes: Prezzo’s entire leasehold portfolio has now transferred to new owner, Cain International, with the estate now standing at 150 restaurants. A progress report by administrators Matthew Callaghan, Andrew Johnson and Ali Khaki, of FTI Consulting, showed a total of 30 sites have been exited. During the period of the report – 10 August 2021 to 9 February 2022, 43 lease assignments were completed and one site was vacated. The administrators said as the companies – PRZ Realisations and PRZ Realisations (2) – no longer have any leasehold interests, the administration can now move to closure. The administrators said they continue to recover business rates in relation to various sites, with circa £26,000 being received – all in the first six months of the administration. However, they added after taking advice they do not believe there is a prospect of any recoveries from a business interruption insurance claim. The report stated 213 former employees that were made redundant as a result of the 30 sites that closed, who are owed £205,000, will be paid in full while HM Revenue & Customs is likely Read More
Birts – Wasabi is back to 2019 trading levels: Henry Birts, chief executive of Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain backed by Capdesia, has said the business is back to 2019 trading levels. He told Propel: “I'm delighted to say that overall we are back to 2019 trading levels, with midweek sales between Tuesday and Thursday now matching 2019 as workers get back to their offices. Sales over the weekends are now in healthy growth over 2019 with Mondays and Fridays still behind in city locations as more people continue to work from home on these days. Our grocery partnership with Sainsbury’s has delivered exceptional growth throughout the pandemic and beyond and now represents a material part of the Wasabi business. This has been an incredibly tough couple of years for the industry, business and most importantly our teams. We are now very much looking forward to an exciting future but again I would like to say a huge thank you to our amazing people who have stuck with us and helped us to emerge stronger from the crisis. We're also very appreciative of the support we have received from our landlords, suppliers, bankers and investors.” It comes as the Read More
Greene King to acquire The Bull in Highgate from Gorgeous Pubs: Greene King, the Nick Mackenzie-led pub company, is to acquire The Bull in Highgate, London, from Gorgeous Pubs, Propel has learned. It is thought Greene King will pay in excess of £3.5m for the freehold of the site. The Bull will undergo initial works to introduce the group’s Metropolitan Pub Company’s operating format and food and beverage offering, with an investment to follow later in the year. Michael Horan, managing director of Metropolitan Pub Company, said: “We are delighted to be acquiring The Bull in Highgate, which will open as a Metropolitan gastropub following completion of the purchase this spring. We have exciting plans to further develop the pub with a refurbishment later this year. We are hoping the current employees will be staying with us, where we will look to develop their careers for the future.” Last October, Gorgeous Pubs, which is led by former Geronimo Inns employee Rob Laub, acquired The Plough at Sleapshyde, St Albans. Meanwhile, Metropolitan Pub Company is to reopen its recent acquisition, the Bear Inn in Bath, today (Friday, 11 March). Located in the Bear Flat neighbourhood, The Bear Inn has been completely Read More
Handa among interested parties for Corbin & King business: Naveen Handa, of leisure company The Cairn Group, is one of the interested parties bidding to acquire London-based restaurant operator Corbin & King, Propel has learned. Handa is part of the family that owns The Cairn Group, which has grown to a portfolio of 32 hotels and more than 30 bars and restaurants across the UK. He is also the backer of East Coast Concepts, a partner in the joint venture behind Vapiano UK, and recently backed the relaunch of the Richoux brand in London’s Piccadilly, under the leadership of chefs Jamie Butler and Lewis Spencer. It is unclear as yet whether Handa would work with Corbin & King co-founder, Jeremy King, if his bid was successful or bring in his own operational team. Propel revealed earlier this month that bids for Corbin & King are due this Friday (11 March). Corbin & King fell into administration in January, with FRP Advisory appointed as administrators. Its collapse was sparked by a row between its management, led by King, and its majority shareholder, the Thai hotel giant Minor International. King wants to buy back his company with finance from American investment fund, Read More
Domino’s UK to fight cost of living crisis with national deals, rolling out delivery charge, investing £20m in digital acceleration: Domino’s Pizza UK chief executive Dominic Paul has said he believes the business can continue to entice customers in the face of rising inflation as it serves up national price cuts. With inflation hitting a 25-year high in January, households are facing a cost of living crisis, but Paul said the group’s revitalised ability to offer national deals to customers will support sales. Speaking following the company’s full-year results, Paul said: “We are acutely aware of cost increases consumers in the UK are experiencing this year. This is where our really strong value message and proposition will resonate well with those consumers who want a treat but are priced out of going to eat at restaurants and following our franchisee resolution we are now able to promote our value message using a price-point nationally. That gives us confidence that we can accelerate our growth.” The company is also rolling out a delivery charge following a trial at about 150 of its stores, with the rate being different “depending on franchisee and area” but likely to be between 99p and £2.50, Read More
Papa John’s appoints new head of UK operations: Papa John’s has appointed Gavin Lilley as it new head of UK operations, Propel has learned. Lilley replaces James Oakley as general manager of the UK and Ireland, who has decided to leave to explore other opportunities after just over two years in the role. Lilley was previously vice-president, international operational excellence at Papa John's International. He has been with the business for 16 years having joined as a regional training manager for London in 2006. Liz Williams, senior vice-president international, said: “After six successful years at Papa John's, James Oakley has decided to explore opportunities outside of the business. Gavin Lilley, a 16-year veteran of the company, is now heading up Papa John's UK operations. He has a wealth of experience both in the UK and internationally, which will be a real asset as we move ever forwards in the UK.” Papa John’s has more than 500 sites in the UK and has begun rolling out its new branding, starting at a refurbished store in Potters Bar. The Alchemist keen to roll out new experiential concept across future sites: Bar and restaurant group The Alchemist will look at rolling out its Read More
Existing management team completes deal for Roxie Steak & Wine: The bulk of the London-based steak specialist business Roxie Steak & Wine business has been acquired by its existing management team, Propel has learned. In January, Propel revealed the business, which had sites across south London – in Earlsfield, Putney, Wimbledon, Fulham and Twickenham – had appointed Hilco Global to review its options, which could involve a restructure and sale of the business. It has now learned the existing management were the preferred bidders and the sale has now gone through. A spokesman for the company told Propel: “We have restructured to a more compact group of three restaurants in Wimbledon, Putney and Earlsfield, with butchery continuing at our central Roxie kitchen. Going forward, the business will be led by Sue Hollway, with Richard Hollway taking on a strategic advisory role. The last couple of years have been both challenging and emotional, but the successful restructure of Roxie means we can now get back to doing what we love and do best: delivering incredible steak, value and hospitality to our loyal guests. The future is very exciting as we look to build on our success to date with a brilliant Read More
Aprirose in race for circa 100-strong SA Brain pub portfolio: Real estate investment company Aprirose is in the race to acquire the freeholds of circa 100 pubs from Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain, Propel has learned. Earlier this year, it was reported that Song Capital and Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Admiral Taverns, were close to agreeing a deal. Sky News reported on 14 January that pub industry sources said a transaction could be signed in the coming days. However, Propel understands that this time line changed after Aprirose also expressed an interest. It is understood that Song Capital, established by real estate executives Daniel MacKinnon and Tom Pritchard, and Cerberus retain an interest too. MacKinnon previously worked with Alan McIntosh, the founder of Punch Taverns, while Song Capital’s other partners include Neil Hyman, a former Slaughter & May partner, and Glyn Barker, chairman of Berkeley Group, the FTSE-100 housebuilder. A successful transaction, which is thought to be valued in the region of £100m, will generate substantial proceeds for Brains’ family shareholders, with the funds expected to be used to pay down debt. The pub freeholds being acquired by Song Capital and Cerberus are understood to represent Read More
Bid deadline set for Corbin & King: A deadline of 11 March has been set for parties wishing to make bids for London-based restaurant operator Corbin & King, Propel has learned. Corbin & King fell into administration in January, with FRP Advisory appointed as administrators. Its collapse was sparked by a row between its management, led by co-founder Jeremy King, and its majority shareholder, the Thai hotel giant Minor International. King wants to buy back his company with finance from an American investment fund, Knighthead Capital. The US investment fund has been working closely with King on trying to buy the restaurant business from Minor for well over a year. At the end of January, FRP Advisory was said to have received 35 to 40 expressions of interest in Corbin & King, with serial sector investor Richard Caring believed to have initially been one of the interested parties. In 2017, Minor, one of the largest hotel operators in the Asia Pacific, acquired Corbin & King, in a deal valued at circa £58m. Last month, Corbin & King fought off a High Court challenge to a proposed £38m rescue package. A subsidiary of Thai Minor International attempted to block the restaurant Read More
Cambscuisine to demerge Smokeworks as it focuses on growing pub restaurant estate: Pub and restaurant operator Cambscuisine is to demerge barbecue concept Smokeworks as it turns its focus to growing its pub restaurant estate. Max Freeman, who is managing director of Smokeworks, will leave Cambscuisine to set up a new company under which Smokeworks intends to expand its reach over the next few years. Smokeworks had been part of the Cambscuisine group of eight restaurants based in and around Cambridge, with two sites within the city. Oliver Thain, who will remain chief executive of Cambscuisine, said: “I want to wish all our friends and colleagues at Smokeworks the best of luck in the future, and particularly thank Max for his efforts with Cambscuisine over the last 14 years. I’m sure under his leadership, Smokeworks will flourish, while the demerger allows Cambscuisine to focus our efforts on growing our pub restaurant estate. We have traded very well over the last 12 months, despite the pandemic, and have exciting plans to invest not only in our current restaurants, but also add additional pub restaurants to the group in the near future.” The remaining sites in the Cambscuisine portfolio are The Cock in Hemingford Read More
Big Mamma Group plans Kensington restaurant opening: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London-based restaurants Gloria, Ave Mario and Circolo Popolare, is planning to open a fourth site in the capital, in Kensington. Propel understands that the company is planning a site with around 180 covers in the former HSBC bank site on Kensington High Street. The company is “investing considerably” in turning the former bank into “a restaurant of the highest quality”. Propel reported earlier this month that the business is planning a “liquidity event” this summer as it plans further growth across Europe, including its first opening in Germany. Speaking last month at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, Jack de Wet, chief development officer at Big Mamma Group, said the company was set to go through a “a restructuring cycle in the summer/liquidity event”, and the business is looking to grow by ten restaurants a year over the next five years. The business currently operates 18 restaurants across London, France and Madrid, and is set to make its German debut later this year, with a site believed to be opening in Munich. On the group’s structure, de Wet said: “Up to nearly 20% of our company Read More
Handa to launch new restaurant and bar concept, The Residency: Naveen Handa, of leisure company The Cairn Group, is to launch a new restaurant and bar concept called The Residency, in London’s Notting Hill, next month, Propel has learned. Handa, who also backs East Coast Concepts and Richoux, and is a partner in the joint venture behind Vapiano UK, is understood to have secured the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Westbourne Grove for the new neighbourhood bar and eatery, The new concept, which will have a Mediterranean feel, will offer a brunch service pre-5pm and an “upbeat dinner service” from 6pm till late. It is thought Handa is looking to roll out the concept into other former restaurant sites based on high street locations. Handa recently backed the relaunch of the Richoux brand in London’s Piccadilly, under the leadership of chefs Jamie Butler and Lewis Spencer. Handa, who is part of the family that owns The Cairn Group, which has grown to a portfolio of 32 hotels and more than 30 bars and restaurants across the UK, plans to expand Richoux in the UK and internationally. Propel understands he plans to return the brand to Mayfair on a new Read More
Itsu continues to build regional openings pipeline: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain founded by Julian Metcalfe, is continuing to build its regional openings pipeline, including sites planned in Aberdeen and Chelmsford. Propel understands that the company is planning to open in Union Square, Aberdeen, and in Chelmer Village Retail Park, Chelmsford. It is thought that both sites will open under the group’s franchise agreement with the Heart with Smart Group, which is operated by the team behind Pizza Hut Restaurants. Heart with Smart is set to open its second Itsu franchise site next month, in Edinburgh. The business will launch what will be the healthy Asian food brand’s first site in Scotland, at the St James Quarter development, at the end of March. Itsu opened its first franchise restaurants in the UK last year. The first opened in Reading in partnership with Heart with Smarts, while a second opening, in Leicester, opened with Savvi Dining Group. Propel understands that Hearts with Smarts is also looking at a possible Itsu site in Manchester. Last month, Itsu secured a site in Woking, Surrey, and is also thought to be planning an opening in Gordon Street, Glasgow. The company plans to open Read More
Marugame Udon secures first UK shopping centre site: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon is to open its first UK shopping centre site in London’s Brent Cross. Propel has learned the brand, which currently operates three sites in the capital, has secured the former Burger King in Brent Cross Shopping Centre, for an opening later this year. The brand, which is led by Keith Bird and backed by Capdesia in the UK, opened its first site in Britain near Liverpool Street in the City of London last July and has since opened three more at the O2, Canary Wharf and St Christopher’s Place. It has also secured the former Frankie & Benny’s site in Argyll Street, near Oxford Circus, for an opening later this year, and is understood to be opening in Waterloo station. The Times reported earlier this week the brand plans to have at least 100 outlets within five years in the UK and on the continent. It will open another eight to ten company-owned outlets this year at a cost of £600,000 to £700,000 per site, with 40 to 50 employees for each of them. Bird hopes to then start upping the ante by Read More
Fever Bar founders back new burger and dessert concept Cow & Cream: Mark Shorting and Nigel Blair, two of the founders of the Fever Bar business, which was acquired by Stonegate Group at the start of 2019, are backing a new burger and dessert concept called Cow & Cream, Propel has learned. The concept, which is the brainchild of John Dunning and Rob Green, launched last year in Barnsley. The company said on the “back of phenomenal success” with its original site, it is now launching a second restaurant in Crystal Peaks, Sheffield. Shorting and Blair established Fever Bars in 2007 with its first site in Cheltenham. It grew to operate 32 venues, comprising 29 bars and three Bierkeller Bavarian pubs primarily in towns and cities throughout England. They also back the Epic Bars & Clubs vehicle, which currently operate nine sites, including the Trilogy nightclub brand in High Wycombe, Southampton and Warrington; Labyrinth in Bath; and Home & Botanic in Cheltenham, plus the Botanic Bar brand. It is planning a further Labyrinth site in Windsor and another Trilogy club in Nuneaton town centre. Rekom secures first UK site for pub/bar concept Proud Mary: Rekom UK, the Peter Marks-led nightclub Read More
Revolution Bars Group signs for Exeter site to mark first opening in four years, agrees heads of terms on another: Revolution Bars Group has signed for a site in Exeter – marking its first opening in four years – while it has agreed head of terms on a further venue. The company has agreed a deal for the former Las Iguanas premises in Queen Street, Exeter, with £1m set to be invested into the property. The venue is set to open as a Revolution in June and will have capacity for about 700 people. It will create up to 80 jobs and feature three bars – including one on the first floor that will be used for cocktail masterclasses. Chief executive Rob Pitcher told Propel: “Exeter was in our top five target locations so we’re delighted to get this site. It’s in a fantastic position on the main route from the university into the city centre and among some great operators. The whole city is on the up. We have a Revolution in Plymouth that trades really well so we’re looking forward to coming to Exeter.” Pitcher revealed the business has reached heads of terms on another site while it Read More
Wingstop CEO – UK business on track for record year: Charlie Morrison, chairman and chief executive of Wingstop, has said the UK market is on track for a record year and in terms of expansion its business here is “on fire right now”. Talking to investors after the chicken brand’s fourth quarter update, Morrison said: “I'm really excited about the potential for our international expansion now that we've gotten through the worst of this pandemic. And our markets are back to where they were in 2019 levels. I'm also excited about the pipeline for international deals. I mean, if you combine our domestic pipeline with our international, we've got more than 1,100 potential new sites for the brand, a big chunk of those are in international markets. We're getting ready to open Canada, probably late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter. We are on track for a record year in the UK, with strong average unit volumes more than $2m (£1.46m) per store. We're looking at a lot of expansion, not only in expanding in Western Europe, the Middle East, but we also are looking at Asian expansion as well. China's certainly on our radar.” Morrison Read More
Pret secures new group FD, appoints Guy Meakin as interim UK MD: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holding-backed chain, has appointed An Zhang, formerly of Starbucks, as its new group finance director, Propel has learned. Zhang joins the Pano Christou-led business after just over a year as head of finance, EMEA at Starbucks. Previous to that he spent 15 months as global finance director at marketing and advertising firm WPP. His appointment comes as the business has promoted Guy Meakin from trade director to interim managing director UK & Ireland. Meakin, who has been at Pret since 2017, takes over from Claire Clough while she is on maternity leave. Earlier this week, the company said that sales are “almost back to normal” at its sites in London’s financial districts. “With restrictions loosening across England, we’re seeing significantly more traffic around the country and in some places getting back to the level we saw before Omicron,” Pret chief executive Christou said. Chik’n set for Camden High Street: Chik’n, the fried chicken concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has secured a site in London’s Camden. Propel understands the John Nelson-led business is taking on an empty unit next to the Tesco Express Read More
Costa’s largest UK franchisee passes 100-site mark after new acquisition:Scoffs Group, the largest Costa Coffee franchise in the UK, has passed through the 100-site mark, after acquiring a further nine stores from the global coffee brand, Propel has learned. The nine stores were previously owned and operated by Costa as “equity” stores. The stores, which are all located in Cornwall, mean Scoffs now owns and operates a total of 101 Costa Coffee stores, cementing its position as Costa’s largest UK franchisee. Scoffs, which is led by Antony Tagliamonti, said: “We’re honoured to have been able to purchase existing corporate Costa stores. The acquisition sees us expand our geographical reach into Cornwall for the first time and we’re confident our knowledge of the local communities served by our store teams will help us deliver the exceptional Costa Coffee experience that our customers know and love. We have imminent plans to grow the Costa brand in the Cornwall area. All existing equity Costa team members have been welcomed into Scoffs and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such talented and passionate baristas.” You Me Sushi MD steps down to join Roadchef: Peter Cossar has stepped down as managing Read More
Snowfox Group restructures management team, Christian Haas made YO! MD: Snowfox Group, which owns the YO!, Taiko and Bento brands, has restructured its management team, which has included the appointment of Christian Haas, to the newly formed role of managing director of YO! UK & Ireland, Propel has learned. Haas joined the Richard Hodgson-led business last February as group development director, after a stint at PizzaExpress in the newly created role of retail and product director. Previous to that he spent 14 years at Waitrose. Under his new role, it is understood he will oversee the YO! brand’s supermarket partnerships and restaurant estate. Current YO! Restaurants managing director Emma Deabill is understood to be moving to the group’s US business in a senior leadership position. She will report in to Stacy Kwon, who becomes president and chief executive of the company’s US division. She is currently president and chief executive of Snowfox US. The US is the company’s fastest growing market and constitutes more than 50% of all group sales. Meanwhile, Glenn Brown, currently president and chief executive of Bento Sushi, is to become president and chief executive of the group’s Canadian division. Finally, Propel understands David Hampton is moving from Read More
Access Group reports 35% revenue growth, paid £16.8m for CPL: Sector EPOS provider Access has reported revenue rose 35% to £318m in the year to 30 June 2021. Profit before tax was £54m (2020: £29m). The company stated: “Recurring revenue represents 87% of total revenues, which is an increase of four percentage points on prior year, ensuring sustainable revenue growth. Access reported organic revenue growth of 12% on prior year.” The company completed 13 mergers and acquisitions transactions, including the purchase of CPL Technology for £16,868,000 in April 2021. The company added: “Adjusted Ebitda margin (of 43%) improved year-on-year by six percentage points through focus on value creating revenue streams, careful management of costs and accretive acquisitions.” The company spent £34m (2020: £28m) on research and development and the new financial year is expected to see a further increase in research and development initiatives. The 12 month proforma impact of the 2021 acquisitions is revenue of £45m and Ebitda of £9m. Of the total revenue, £302.2m comes from the UK, £8.1m is derived from the rest of Europe and £7.2m comes from the rest of the world. BrewDog boss to lodge official complaint about BBC documentary:BrewDog boss James Watt is Read More