Tequila Mockingbird ramps up expansion plans, secures Wimbledon site: South London-based bar operator Tequila Mockingbird has opened two new sites and is in talks on two more, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded in 2015 by cousins Jon Bas and Jake Brennan, opened its sixth site earlier this month in Wimbledon, after securing the former Smash site in The Broadway. It is currently running the site as a pop-up, before closing it in January for a refurbishment and a full opening in February. Earlier this autumn, the group added a fifth site to its estate, after securing the former Graffiti Bar site in Earlsfield. Bas told Propel the company was in talks on two more sites in south London. He said the business had traded exceptionally well after the end of the first lockdown over the summer, and would be looking at further expansion opportunities through 2021. Michael Penfold at AG&G acted on the Wimbledon deal.
Elite Pubs adds former The Woodman site to estate: Kent-based Elite Pubs will add a tenth site to its pub estate in February after securing the former The Woodman site near Sevenoaks. The company, which was founded in 2004 by Martial Chaussy, will reopen the site on Ide Hill, Goathurst Common, as The Pheasant Plucker early next year after a refurbishment. Elite operates eight other pubs in Kent and one in East Sussex. The company also operates two cocktail bars in Kent, The Cow Shed in West Malling and Junipers in Maidstone.
Polish seafood restaurant brand North Fish secures London site: Polish seafood restaurant brand North Fish has confirmed its debut London site, Propel has learned. The company, which secured its debut UK site in Birmingham’s Bullring early last year, is understood to have taken a site in the Westfield Stratford shopping scheme. It is thought that this now will become its first opening outside of Poland, and first in the UK, when it launches next year, with the Birmingham site yet to open. The brand is a subsidiary of North Food and is Poland’s market-leading fish and seafood chain. Last year, North Food, which is owned by Polish investor Michal Solowow, appointed Savills to search for its first UK locations. It is targeting high-footfall sites of between 600 and 1,500 square feet in major shopping centres before expanding to the high street and transport hubs.
Linden to take over from Whitehead as Busaba FD: Michael Linden, formerly of PizzaExpress, is to take over from Marc Whitehead as finance director of Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau. Whitehead, formerly finance director of TGI Friday’s and the Fat Duck Group, has been chief financial officer at Busaba since the start of 2018. He steps down after overseeing the sale of the business earlier this summer and a recent company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which was approved in October. Linden joins Busaba after almost ten years at PizzaExpress, where he was recently head of restaurant trading (UK & Ireland) and, before that, head of commercial finance. He previously also had stints at Sodexo and Pizza Hut. Busaba, which earlier this summer was acquired by London-based private equity firm Tnui Capital, launched its CVA at the start of September. The CVA saw it exit its site in Eastcastle Street, Oxford Circus, which it placed on the market earlier this year; plus the lease of its former site in Manchester; the lease of its former site in St Albans; and the site it was set to take in Reading’s Jackson’s Corner development. Last month, managing director Terry Harrison told Propel the company had agreed deals with landlords on eight of its 12 sites and was close to agreeing most of the last remaining sites.
Billionaire Life to double up with second Crazy Pizza branch in London: Billionaire Life, which is owned by Italian businessman and former Formula One boss Flavio Briatore, has announced it will add a second Crazy Pizza site to its London portfolio. Crazy Pizza Knightsbridge is set to open in early January on Hans Crescent near to Harrods. The Knightsbridge iteration will boast a year-round heated terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows for people watching. There will also be a central DJ booth that will see DJs play eclectic and vintage tunes encouraging diners to sing and dance alongside pizza-spinning chefs. Pizzas will be thin crust using yeast-free dough. The Pata Negra, Focaccia and Tartufo with black and white truffle shavings are the stand-out dishes. Online bookings open from Monday (14 December). Its sister site Crazy Pizza Marylebone opened in 2019, and it also has sites in Porto Cervo in Sardinia and in Monte Carlo, France.
Goodbody – M&B will be ‘attractive way to play the recovery in eating and drinking out’: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has argued Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) will be an “attractive way to play the recovery in eating and drinking out”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 350p, Ruddy said: “M&B reported FY20 results recently, the highlight of which was the fact bank net debt was broadly flat year-on-year. This was a reflection of good operational control both before and during the covid crisis, as well as government support. This allows it to navigate the current tier system that continues to severely impact near-term revenues. We reduce revenue forecasts for FY21 as the restrictions phase has persisted longer than we anticipated. For the current year, we see year-on-year sales growth of 13%, owing primarily to a shorter period of full lockdown. Revenues in FY21 remain circa 25% below prior peak. This reflects a highly disrupted first quarter, where a significant percentage of the estate is subject to severe restrictions; an easing of restrictions through the second quarter; and the estate returning to full operational capacity from the third quarter onwards with a good recovery in like-for-like sales. We believe the combination of its food-led focus; a well-invested estate; strong management team; and low valuation (6.3 times FY23 Ebitda), indicates M&B is an attractive way to play the recovery in eating and drinking out. With little structural impediment to eating out in a post-vaccine world, and demand concerns somewhat offset by a supply reduction, there is little reason it should not return to prior peak sales and margin in time. We increase our target price to 350p from 169p and with 40% upside, we reiterate our ‘Buy’ rating.”
Starbucks aims for $15 minimum wage: Starbucks is aiming for a $15 minimum wage, as the company makes a major investment in worker pay. Chief executive Kevin Johnson told The Wall Street Journal, over the next three years, he wants to raise wages for all US store workers to at least $15 per hour. Starbucks is in the process of giving all employees at least 10% raises, with pay hikes rolling out across the US by Monday (14 December). On Wednesday (9 December), Johnson released a public letter he sent to Congress, calling for “immediate bipartisan action to pass new covid relief legislation”. In the letter, Johnson highlighted financial investments Starbucks made during the pandemic and the recent wage hike. He said: “With these investments, more than 30% of our US retail partners are currently at or above $15 per hour and we continue on our path to ensure all US partners will be making at or above $15 per hour within the coming two to three years.” Starbucks workers have been pushing for a $15 minimum wage, with almost 10,000 people signing a CoWorker.org petition on the topic.
Loungers shareholders trim stakes: Three members of the senior management team at cafe-bar operator Loungers along with private equity firm Lion Capital have sold shares in the listed company. Alex Reilley, co-founder and chairman; chief executive Nick Collins; and Jake Bishop, co-founder and commercial director; and Lion Capital have collectively sold about 4.25 million ordinary shares, at a price of 215 pence per share, representing about 4.2% of Loungers’ share capital. The placing shares were offered by way of an accelerated bookbuild with Peel Hunt and Liberum Capital acting for the selling shareholders. The remainder of the company’s shares held by Reilley, Collins and Bishop following the secondary placing will be subject to a lock-up that ends 180 days after completion of the share sale. Loungers is not a party to the placing and will not receive any proceeds. Following the placing, Reilley, Collins and Bishop own 6.79%, 1.06% and 6.35% of the company respectively while Lion Capital has a 26.10% stake.
Reel secures £3.5m CBILS: Independent cinema operator Reel has secured £3.5m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to help it trade “through this incredibly difficult period for the business”. The company said following a phased reopening of its 15 venues from July, it began to see the public returning “despite fewer attendances than before the pandemic”. It stated: “The group has sourced all relevant and available financial support to ensure the group can continue to operate. In total, about 200 staff were placed on furlough during the months the cinemas were closed, with only a core team operating from head office during this period. We anticipate utilising the extended Job Retention Scheme to some extent in the period to 31 March 2021 as a result of the anticipated reduction in film releases and attendances. Since the outbreak of covid-19 in March 2020, the group has had very little income due to the closures. We have taken the decision to apply for a CBILS loan of £3.5m giving us the flexibility and funding to help us trade through this incredibly difficult period. The loan allows a 12-month period before the capital repayments must commence and is also interest-free during this time, which should enable us to hopefully return to profitability during this period and begin to generate positive cash flows. The roster of upcoming films have, in part, been delayed to 2021 and beyond, which has further contributed to the decrease in attendances, however, we anticipate a large proportion of the public will have been nervous about returning to the cinema. While the environment we currently find ourselves remains difficult as a result of dealing with the challenges of the covid-19 outbreak, we believe the business will be in a strong position in the future to be able to continue the rollout of its strategy of operating state of the art multiplex cinemas.” Reel provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 26 December 2019 remained flat at £11m. Pre-tax profit for the period fell to £137,000 from £758,000 the year before.
Incipio Group sells more than 32,500 tickets for seasonal experience at Pergola Paddington: Incipio Group, operator of venues including The Prince and Lost in Brixton, has reported it has sold more than 32,500 tickets for the seasonal transformation of its Pergola Paddington venue. The “Miracle on Kingdom Street” features a winter wonderland forest, igloos and alpine winter hall and has been created with the help of more than 70 freelancers, independents, small businesses and suppliers. Incipio Group sales and marketing director Anthony Knight said: “From this festive pop-up, we have been able to create dozens of new jobs and provide a much-needed boost for business. Everyone from set builders, carpenters, designers and illustrators to musicians, performers, Christmas tree growers and even Father Christmas himself have helped to bring Miracle on Kingdom Street to life in a covid-19 safe and secure way without sacrificing the magic of Christmas.” “Miracle on Kingdom Street” will run until the end of January, with a line-up of après ski-themed brunches and parties confirmed for early 2021.
Guinea Grill launches Guinea Express pop-up: Mayfair-based pub The Guinea Grill has launched the “Guinea Express” pop-up. Young’s, in conjunction with the pub’s landlord Oisin Rogers and his staff, have taken over the former PizzaExpress site opposite the Guinea Grill in order to provide room for 60 additional socially distanced guests this Christmas season. The business said that because of demand for tables at the pub after lockdown ended, it had secured the opposite space in order to be able to serve “more customers safely and retain their full staff”. Rogers said: “We want to be able to serve our customers really safely, and because of this, we lost 40% of our capacity when we reopened in summer in order to keep social distancing in place. That is totally correct but to keep a large team, keep the chefs busy and make sure we can take as many reservations as possible, it’s a really good solution to keep the business somewhat profitable and sustain it through this pandemic.”
Greene King relaunches free drink offer to designated drivers for festive anti-drink-drive campaign: Brewer and retailer Greene King is partnering with Coca-Cola European Partners to run its anti-drink-drive campaign again this year offering a free drink to designated drivers through its Hero the Driver initiative. Now in its 11th year, Greene King pubs operating under tier one and two restrictions will take part in the festive campaign from Friday (11 December) until Monday, 4 January. Customers who spot the Coca-Cola sponsored advert on Facebook and Instagram for the buy one, get one free scheme can fill in a few details and will receive a QR code to be scanned at their chosen pub or they can claim their drink through the Greene King order and pay app. Drinks available are Coca-Cola, Coke Zero and Diet Coke. Greene King corporate affairs director Greg Sage said: “This has been a year most of us want to forget but, with 2020 drawing to a close, we are determined that as many of our pubs as possible give customers a Christmas celebration to remember. We’re hoping to give away thousands of free drinks as we work to support responsible drinking while ensuring people are able to enjoy festive cheer and a warm welcome in our pubs.” All Greene King managed pubs and restaurants are taking part in the offer (tier systems allowing) with the exception of Metropolitan Pub Company and Loch Fyne.
Edyn Group begins international expansion for its Locke brand with Dublin opening: Aparthotel operator Edyn Group has started its foray into the international market with the opening of Zanzibar Locke in Dublin. The Ireland site, due to open this month, marks the first outside the UK and there are plans to open further hotels in Germany and Ireland next year. Edyn said it has maintained an average occupancy of 60% across the group with its Bermonds Locke in London posting an average occupancy of 75% since opening in September. Zanzibar Locke is located on Ormond Quay, overlooking the River Liffey, and has been developed on the site of the Georgian building that housed Zanzibar nightclub. It has 160 studio apartments and will house Baraza – an all-day restaurant by local business NolaClan, serving Irish-inspired small plates and craft cocktails. Edyn Group chief executive Stephen McCall said: “We have been incredibly fortunate that the extended-stay sector has performed comparatively well throughout the pandemic. This allowed us to push forward with our expansion plans in a time when very few hotels were opening.” The brand’s fourth London property is slated to launch in January in Dalston, followed by a second location in Dublin (Beckett Locke, opening in March) plus two openings in Munich (Schwan Locke and WunderLocke, opening in May).
Smokeworks wins Best Family Restaurant at Deliveroo awards: Smokeworks, part of Cambscuisine Group, has won the Best Family Restaurant award from Deliveroo. As well as the award, £30,000 worth of vouchers have been distributed by Deliveroo to Smokeworks customers. During the lockdown periods, the group, which is led by Oliver Thain and Max Freeman, used the time to research, collate and launch its cook at home meal kits. Cambscuisine is offering traditional Sunday roast, a “Pie Night Inn” and a “Date Night Steak Night”. Using its network of pubs and restaurants, customers are able to order online to be collected from their closest Cambscuisine site. On the back of this, the offer has been expanded to partner with Click It Local, which means it can now cover Cambridgeshire. Cambscuisine is also offering its “Cook at Home Xmas Day” kit, which it said was proving popular given the restricted covers for Christmas Day means it cannot satisfy all the demand within the sites. Smokeworks is also offering its alternative party kits, which includes a feast for four, bourbon, beer and mixers and cocktail-making equipment.
Local restaurant and bar concept Boujee opens debut site at Liverpool ONE:Grosvenor Europe, owner of shopping, hospitality and leisure complex Liverpool ONE, has announced Boujee Restaurant & Bar has opened its debut site. Boujee spans 9,600 square foot across two floors and prmoises Instagram and family-friendly times that will transform into a “buzzing, experiential atmosphere in the evening”. Sharing plates, sushi, signature cocktails, champagne and signature drinks are available plus a VIP and private dining space on the upper floor for up to 20 people. The site has 250 covers and houses a convertible pink car, giant candy area, “pool party” and “Alice in Boujeeland” spaces. Boujee has financial and profile support from entrepreneur and reality TV star Lystra Adams. Alison Clegg, director, asset management, Grosvenor Europe, said: “The Boujee flagship is a very exciting launch for Liverpool ONE, especially as it coincides with the reopening of our hospitality operators at the destination. The unique interactive elements will set Boujee apart as a dining experience while also providing something extra special for our visitors.” Adams added: “The vibrant venue offers the fun and sense of social connection that people have been missing throughout the pandemic, and we’re pleased the timing of the launch will allow people to safely gather and experience Boujee throughout the festive period.”
Best Western Salford Hall Hotel sold off a guide price of £1.7m: The former Best Western Salford Hall Hotel has been sold off a guide price of £1.7m. The 36-bedroom site is located 12 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. The grade I-listed hotel with parts that date back to 1602, was sold on behalf of Sky Lanes Hotels – which had operated the hotel with an emphasis on weddings and was sold to investors who plan to continue to operate the property as a hotel. The transaction was handled by Will Thomas, of Flude Property Consultants, who said despite the challenges over the past year the sale is representative of the interest for good hotel and leisure opportunities that has been strengthened by the staycation market.