Liberation Group buys eight SA Brain pubs in England: Liberation Group, the owner of Butcombe Brewery, has bought eight English pubs owned and operated by Cardiff-based brewer and retailer SA Brain to add to the Butcombe estate for an undisclosed sum. The pubs make up most of the pubs that SA Brain has owned and operated in England. The eight pubs are six managed sites – consisting of the Smoking Dog in Malmesbury, Bear in Cirencester, Bowl in Almondsbury (includes 11 bedrooms), Ostrich in Bristol, Jubilee in Flax Bourton and White Horse in Buckover – and two tenanted pubs – Langford in Lower Langford and Old Station in Hallatrow. Seven are freehold and one is leasehold. Butcombe has more than doubled its pub estate over the last year and Liberation Group chief executive Mark Crowther told Propel the company was keen to make further group acquisitions. He added Butcombe would be adding three more managed pubs to its portfolio, which were all individual acquisitions, which would take the total number of pubs to 46. Butcombe is also investing in the Butcombe Brewery, expanding its range of beers, and upgrading infrastructure with a new distribution depot and kegging & bottling line. SA Brain plans to focus its future licensed retail operations within Wales where it will continue to operate about 100 managed pubs and a leased and tenanted estate totalling more than 70 pubs. The company said it also also remained highly acquisitive outside of Wales through its Coffee#1 brand, which recently saw the addition of an 83rd site in Plymouth, Devon. An announcement regarding a move to a new brewery site in Cardiff is expected in the near future. Crowther said: “We are keen to explore further group acquisitions if other opportunities occur. The addition of these eight high-quality pubs to our portfolio further accelerates the growth of our rapidly expanding pub estate, strengthening our presence in our heartland around Bath and Bristol. These pubs are a perfect fit with our existing portfolio and will benefit from ownership by our fast growing, market leading regional brewery with its well-known brands. We welcome all those who work in those pubs and look forward to building a successful future together.” Scott Waddington, chief executive of SA Brain, added: “The sale of our English pubs is well timed given the outstanding prospects we have to further grow our brand and pubs business in Wales. The rich affection with which our brand is held has further solidified our conviction to pursue our pub agenda inside Wales. We will remain very proud of the period of ownership we have enjoyed with the pubs that are being acquired by Butcombe and believe the team, with its West Country heartland, is well placed to take these businesses forward.”

Imbiba’s Growth Fund has appraised 200 F&B businesses in past 12 months: Imbiba investment fund partner Darrel Connell has said the company has appraised 200 food and beverage businesses in the past 12 months. Imbiba is looking to invest in early-stage multi-site companies through its new £50m Growth Fund, whose advisory board includes Karen Jones, Graham Turner and Karen Forrester. Speaking at the Propel Multi Club Conference, Connell outlined to delegates the factors Imbiba looks for in a company it considers investing in. He said: “Team is so important in our sector. You are backing people and these are people businesses. If you get the people wrong you can have the best sites and the best-invested businesses but if you get the people wrong, it’s all going to end in tears.” Another factor Connell looks for is “exitability”. He said: “Imbiba has turned down a number of businesses because we can’t see who is going to buy that business when it’s £20m or £30m turnover, making £3m or £4m Ebitda. It’s an important thing to us to think who is going to buy this business and the ability to exit.” Connell said Imbiba, which has made 16 investments in leisure and hospitality businesses, with six currently live, also looked “around the financial” when appraising whether to invest. He said: “We look for 20% Ebitda at site level, good returns on capital and we also like large sites. We’d rather have one large site that delivers £1m of Ebitda than six sites that deliver £150,000 of Ebitda. The ability to trade all day is also important and across our portfolio that’s what we look for. If you’re signing up to expensive rents with expensive overheads, to be able to sweat the asset on an all-day basis is really important. One of the markets we’ve looked very closely at over the past 12 months is the independent coffee market. Many have popped up recently and the ones that will do well will be the ones that can trade into the evening. If you’re just a coffee-focused operator and you don’t serve anyone after 4pm or 5pm, it’s very hard to monetise your sites.” Connell said Imbiba had spent a lot of time looking at well-being firms during the past 12 months but “not a lot of businesses do it well and make a success of it financially that we’ve seen”. However, he added: “Unquestionably it’s a market that’s on the up and something we’ll be looking closely at in the future.”

Swingers ‘not a fad’, say founders: Jeremy Simmonds and Matt Grech-Smith, founders of the Institute of Competitive Socialising, have said their street food and crazy golf concept Swingers is a “hospitality concept first and foremost and not a fad”. Speaking at the Propel Multi Club Conference, Grech-Smith said: “We are a hospitality business, first and foremost, and the activity we supply we almost regard as incidental. As long as we provide great food, great drinks, great music, great service and a really fun experience on top, we think people will keep coming back. As long as we remember our hospitality core and make sure every guest has a great time, we don’t see why the popularity of Swingers would wane.” Asked how Swingers could stand out from the crowd and grow, Simmonds said: “We’re aware you can’t be experts in everything. We’re not restaurateurs, we come from a marketing and brands background so we leverage other operators to come into our business and we run a concessions model. That has a huge advantage for us. Firstly, we bring people into our business who are obsessive about making the best burger or pizza in London and therefore we elevate our food concept. It also means we leverage their brands, PR and social media, which is hugely important and the collective database is incredibly powerful. We’ve always understood brands and customer experience live way before someone enters your venue and way after they leave. We are obsessive about making sure that journey is consistent. We take a very creative and design-led approach so we think in minute detail about how someone can walk around our space and have different experiences in different parts of our venues every time they visit and always on a journey of discovery. It’s this attention to detail on customer service I think will make us prevail as a long-standing business. Ultimately, our business is about creative venues, great music, premium drinks, quality food and impeccable service. To deliver this, we’re aware we can’t deliver a cookie-cutter roll-out. We never talk about roll-out, we talk about growth and we have a steady plan to have a handful of fantastic venues that are highly profitable. We’ve got no intention of schlepping around the world to 20 venues all worrying about year-on-year growth.” Swingers will open its second London site, inside the former BHS store in Oxford Street, in March.

Papa John’s strengthens management team to help lead UK growth: Papa John’s has strengthened its management team to help lead its UK growth. The company has appointed Phil Gaffer as a new franchise sales and business development manager, who will now be responsible for franchisee recruitment. In addition, two new staff have been appointed to the business development team to help oversee new store development and John Mott, who joined Papa John’s in 2012 as construction and development manager, has been promoted to development director. Gareth Davies, regional vice-president for western Europe, said: “The strengthened team reflects the need to support our franchisees as we open more UK stores. Phil is a franchise sector expert with a proven background in franchise recruitment, business development and operational management.” Gaffer has previously been a board member of the British Franchise Association and has held senior positions at franchise organisations including Premier Sports and retail fabrication kitchen and bathroom business Trend Transformations. Gaffer said: “The company is heavily focused on growth and this aligns with my own values and passion for franchising. I am looking forward to making a significant contribution to the ambitious development plans that are in place for the UK.” Papa John’s, which was founded in the US in 1984, has more than 350 sites across the UK and more than 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Sadler’s reveals plans for up to six new bars in Black Country: Black Country-based Sadler’s has revealed plans for up to six new bars across the area as its new brewery nears completion. The company is opening the new brewery, which will allow it to quadruple production, in the village of Lye by the end of January. Sadler’s, which received investment earlier this year when Halewood Wines and Spirits acquired a majority stake, will keep the existing brewery at its base at Conyers Trading Estate in Stourbridge for producing experimental ranges of its beers. Managing director Chris Sadler said the next step in Sadler’s growth would be to open more bars in the Black Country area. It already operates the Windsor Castle in Lye, the brewhouse bar at the brewery and a pub in Southampton. He told the Express & Star: “We are looking at four sites at the moment and are looking to open up to six over the next year or so. The new bars will have a modern twist with smoked barbecue food, real ale and craft beer. It will be a 100% a Sadler’s brand. The new brewery will quadruple production. We will be able to produce up to 1,000 brewers’ barrels a week, equivalent to about 300,000 pints of beer.”

FullClear launches £250,000 crowdfunding campaign to help fund next stage of growth: Beer line cleaner business FullClear has launched a £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to help fund the next stage of its growth journey. The company, whose customers include Admiral Taverns, Hawthorn Leisure and Tokyo Industries, is offering a 9.09% equity stake in return for the investment. FullClear is a scientifically formulated beer line-cleaning solution that is non-corrosive, non-toxic and non-hazardous, proven to allow for safe, monthly beer line cleaning. The company will use the investment to further its expansion in the UK and globally alongside building its sales and marketing capabilities. It also has an exclusive partnership with beer quality and waste management systems company Vianet, allowing operators total oversight over their line cleaning processes. Co-founder and chief executive Alex Murray said: “At FullClear we are committed to helping retailers serve better quality beer and run better, more profitable businesses. We provide the science behind great beer and with the current cutting-edge techniques in brewing, it’s only right the industry deserves the most scientifically advanced cleaning solution to support that. Crowdfunding is a proven and modern approach to raising the capital we require to fund the next stage of our exciting growth journey. Our research shows £1bn a year is lost in beer waste through traditional line cleaning methods. FullClear has the commercial opportunity to save the UK industry alone some £700m a year in waste.”

Las Iguanas to open restaurants on Christmas Day for first time, EAT unveils festive menu: Las Iguanas, the South American-inspired restaurant brand owned by Casual Dining Group, is to open some of its restaurants in the UK on Christmas Day for the first time. Its Christmas Day menu will include traditional Turkey and all the trimmings. It also includes an option for children under 12. Its festive three-course menu will be available from Monday (13 November). Las Iguanas is also partnering with The Entertainer toy shop again for its Community Christmas Present Fund. Each party booking for more than 10 people ordering from the Christmas menus will see Las Iguanas donate £5 to local children’s charities across the UK that The Entertainer will match. Meanwhile, EAT, the fresh food-to-go brand, has unveiled its Christmas menu. The EAT menu includes pigs in blankets three different ways – on their own, in a hot pot or with mash and gravy. There is also mac ‘n’ cheese with spicy jalapeños and crispy onions as well as the festive full works bloomer featuring slices of butter-basted turkey along smoked ham and a hand-crumbed pork with a prune and pancetta stuffing. Other options include the merry mincemeat crumble bar and the salted caramel latte. EAT has more than 100 sites in London and across Britain’s major cities.

Goodbody – Spirit estate is causing much of Greene King’s trading weakness: Goodbody leisure analyst Brian Devitt has argued the Spirit estate is causing much of Greene King’s trading weakness. Issuing a ‘Sell’ note on the shares with a target price of 475p, Devitt said: “Incorporating the annual general meeting trading statement and recent Coffer Peach data, we reduce our Ebit forecasts by circa 4% in FY18 and circa 6% in FY19. We also discuss the interims, due on 30 November, and what we believe should be the key focus points for investors. We have long been of the belief the Spirit sites acquired in 2016 were underinvested and recent trading supports this view. Capex per managed site is running at a lower annual spend rate than closest peers and may have to be increased materially to meet medium term consensus expectations. The share price correction and the majority freehold estate raises the question whether the current net asset value offers valuation support. However, we examine recent disposals and outline our concerns about this approach. In fact, we estimate the net asset value support level to be considerably lower than the current share price. We have been cautious on Greene King for circa 12 months now, a view that was based on aforementioned concerns about the Spirit estate and a weaker cash flow profile than peers. Even post the share price correction, we believe the market may be underestimating the challenge of turning around the business’ performance especially in a slowing market and an increasingly competitive environment.”

Daisy Green Collection to launch floating bar and restaurant in Paddington: Australian-inspired restaurant group Daisy Green Collection, is to launch a floating bar and restaurant, in Paddington, west London. The venture, which will be formed of two barges named Darcie and May Green, will be based on the Grand Union Canal directly outside Paddington Station. The 50 metre boats, which are set over two levels and designed by British pop artist Peter Blake, will serve as a full-service restaurant and bar with an all-day menu featuring Antipodean-inspired food. By night, the site transforms into a restaurant and bar, offering Aussie dinner favourites, contemporary cocktails and an array of natural New World wines and local craft beers. Overseeing the menu is the group’s founder Prue Freeman. It will include Szechuan soft shell crab and the giant chicken parmigiana alongside lighter options such as vegan celeriac steak and the Asian chicken salad. The drinks menu includes a raspberry sour, an innovative take on an espresso martini, an array of house made festive cocktails and warmers and nine dedicated craft beer taps. Freeman said: “Daisy Green is focused on creating exciting one-off local destinations that bring together laid back Australian food culture, art and design. The prominent water top position at the heart of the Paddington regeneration together with artwork from the godfather of British pop art, Peter Blake, make Darcie and May Green two very special vessels that we can’t wait to introduce to Paddington Central.”

Starbucks opens first Princi site in US, within Seattle Reserve Roastery: Starbucks has opened its first Princi bakery and cafe site in the US at its Reserve Roastery in Seattle. The company has introduced the offer at the roastery, which opened in December 2014 as a “homage to coffee in an immersive and sensorial retail space”, to complete its new customer experience. Princi, which was founded by Rocco Princi, will become the exclusive food offering in all new Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations, including Shanghai, opening in December, Milan, launching in late 2018, and New York, Tokyo and Chicago thereafter. Much like its sites in Milan and London’s Soho neighbourhood, the Seattle store is centered around ovens with food across every daypart baked fresh on-site. More than 100 menu items – from flaky cornetti to focaccia sandwiches filled with salame Milano and mozzarella di bufala or crostata fragola – will be available daily, using ingredients imported from Italy, 25 of which are specifically for Princi. Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz said: “Rocco Princi is an artisan who, at an early age, discovered a love of bread making and through determination as well as an obsession for finding the perfect ingredients, has created an Italian food experience that I think is unparalleled.” Rocco Princi added: “I am excited and humbled the people of Seattle will now be able to experience our food.” Last year, Starbucks announced it had joined a global investment team, which includes Milan-based Angel Capital Management and Pekepan Investments, to expand Princi bakeries into international markets. In addition to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations, Starbucks plans to open Princi standalone stores starting in 2018.

London-based taco restaurant Del 74 to open third site: London-based taco restaurant Del 74 is to open its third site, in Dalston, east London. Enrique Vivas and Jorge Felizardo opened their first site in Clapton earlier this year followed by a second outlet, which was within Icelandic bar Helgi’s in Mare Street. Now it is opening a second standalone restaurant on Friday, 24 November in Kingsland Road, Dalston, which will have an extended menu. It will offer new tacos, tostadas and tortas – a type of Mexican sandwich. Other new dishes will include tamarind and Chile Morita chicken wings, which will be part of its new bar snacks menu. The Dalston site will also offer the option to order a whole mezcal sharing bottle, “pre-marked” for sipping that will be charged under a “pay as you pour” scheme, reports Hot Dinners.

Freshii adds two more sites in Dublin as part of ongoing Ireland expansion: Canadian-based health brand Freshii is adding two more sites in Dublin as part of its ongoing expansion in Ireland. Freshii Ireland master franchise holders Dave O’Donoghue and Cormac Manning have opened a site in Smithfield Plaza that will be followed by an outlet in Dame Street on Monday (13 November), taking the total number of venues to ten. The company is on track to open 40 to 50 sites within five years. Freshii offers tossed salads, hot bowls, burritos, poké bowls, healthy wraps, soup, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and frozen yogurt. O’Donoghue said: “Freshii’s core mission is to help people live healthier and better lives by making nutritious food convenient and affordable. We have a unique widespread offering for anyone focused on a healthy lifestyle and well-being.”

Marston’s to open Inverness new-build pub and lodge in February: Marston’s is to open its new-build pub restaurant with 40-bedroom lodge in Inverness in February – creating almost 50 jobs. The venue, currently being built in the Slackbuie area, has been named The Three Witches and will cater for 150 diners. Its name is a literary nod to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which has links to nearby Inverness Castle and Cawdor Castle. A Marston’s spokesman told The Press and Journal: “This pub will operate under our classic Milestone Carvery format. The emphasis will be on family-friendly values and high-quality, hearty food.” Stuart Nicol, of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, added: “This is a really positive development that will bring welcome employment. The pub restaurant will also provide accommodation, which is much-needed in Inverness.” In its trading update last month, Marston’s said it would reduce the number of pubs it opens next year from 20 to 15 and plans four fewer lodges, opening six in total to “reflect a degree of caution given the recent subdued market”.

Belfast-based private equity firm reveals new 10,000-capacity fanzone: Belfast-based private equity firm Norlin Ventures is to expand its leisure and community offering with the introduction of one of the country’s largest fanzone facilities. The former B&Q warehouse in Boucher Road will become Fanzone@S13 for Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland’s upcoming World Cup Qualifiers, as well as the Irish rugby team’s clash with South Africa. The 10,000 capacity indoor venue will feature a huge screen, licensed bar facilities and a range of food and beverage options, as well as family entertainment such as penalty shoot-outs, bouncy castles and face painting. Stephen Symington, director at Norlin Ventures, Fanzone@S13, told Insider Media: “Northern Ireland boasts a strong sports culture that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and from across all backgrounds, contributing more than £850m to our economy every year. Norlin has invested in making the site at Boucher Road a safe, family-friendly venue where people can come together – regardless of the weather – to embrace the community spirit that embodies sport here.”

Dalata signs agreement for first Scottish hotel: Irish hotel operator Dalata is to open its first site in Scotland. The company has signed a lease agreement with Artisan St Enoch Quarter, a subsidiary of Artisan Real Estate Investors, for a new Clayton Hotel to be built in Glasgow. The hotel will be a four-star property in the centre of Glasgow on the River Clyde, close to Glasgow Central station. The Clyde Street hotel will have circa 300 air-conditioned bedrooms, a bar, restaurant and conference facilities. On completion of construction, Dalata will commence operations in the hotel through a 35-year operating lease that will be subject to five-year rent reviews linked to the Retail Price Index. It is expected the hotel will open in the fourth quarter of 2020. The construction of the hotel is subject to the receipt of planning permission from Glasgow City Council. Dalata operates seven hotels in the UK – two in London as well as one in Cardiff, Leeds, Birmingham, Belfast and Manchester Airport. A new Clayton hotel is also planned for the centre of Manchester as revealed in September. Dalata also operates Maldron hotels in Derry and Belfast Airport with two further Maldron hotels under construction, in Belfast and Newcastle.