Activist hedge fund takes stake in Whitbread: Activist hedge fund Elliott built a stake of more than 6% in Whitbread on Friday (13 April) in order to force the company to spin-off its Costa Coffee brand. Elliott has a reputation for taking aggressive steps to extract value from its investment – its Whitbread stake cost more than £430m and it is now Whitbread’s largest shareholder. The Sunday Times claimed Elliott believed £3bn of value – a 40% rise in its existing market value – could be created by splitting Costa Coffee from Whitbread’s Premier Inn business. Another activist fund Sachem Head holds a 3.4% stake in Whitbread. It wants the company to undertake a sale and leasehold of its freehold hotel properties and leverage the balance sheet to return more cash to shareholders.
The Sunday Times – Conviviality had been warned to improve its financial controls: The Sunday Times has reported Matthew Clark’s previous owner Conviviality was warned it needed to improve its financial controls a year before it collapsed. Conviviality, whose shareholders have been left with nothing after it collapsed, hired accountancy firm EY to review its cash flow forecasting in January 2017. EY came in at the request of Conviviality’s lenders – Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, which were considering extending its overdraft. EY’s report, delivered in March last year, “didn’t say [the financial controls] were completely unfit for purpose”, an inside told the Sunday Times. “However, it recommended things that didn’t get done that should have got done.” Conviviality collapsed after manual errors in two separate spreadsheets caused chaos. The Sunday Times reported finance director Mike Moran told chief executive Diana Hunter one of his new team had made a “shocking discovery”. The Sunday Times added: “The company had been using a manually updated spreadsheet to keep track of its incomings and outgoings – a system one insider admitted was ‘a bit cobbled together’. Someone had forgotten to enter almost £30m of alcohol duty and VAT payments due to HM Revenue & Customs in about a fortnight. The discovery would obviously blow a hole in Conviviality’s short-term cash flow.”
Chickano’s lines up Blackburn site as it aims to double estate by next year: North west-based chicken restaurant Chickano’s is lining up a site in Blackburn as it aims to double its estate by next year. The company, founded in 2011, has sites in Batley, Bradford, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Leeds with openings “coming soon” in Bolton, Halifax and Leicester. Now it is has lodged plans with Blackburn with Darwen Council to open a restaurant in St Andrew’s Street, Blackburn, as it targets a portfolio of 14 restaurants by early 2019. The company plans to invest £300,000 converting the former Mi’raj steak restaurant, which would create about 25 jobs. Managing director Sajad Hussain told the Lancashire Telegraph he hoped the new venue would be ready to open by August or September. He added: “Our investigations have shown while picking locations although there is quite a lot of restaurants and takeaways in Blackburn, there’s not a huge amount of diversity. We feel there’s a lot of competition but we think this can be a success. It’s going to be one of the best in Blackburn – we are not cutting any corners.”
Pint Shop to open third site, in Birmingham: Pint Shop, the award-winning Cambridge beer house, is to open a third site, in Birmingham. The company has had its plans approved by Birmingham City Council to transform a vacant, three-storey, grade II-listed building in Bennetts Hill in a move that could create 45 jobs. The conversion would see the basement house store rooms, a cellar and toilets, while the ground floor would feature an entrance hall, 24-cover dining room, 68-capacity bar and snug with a terrace outside. The first floor would have capacity for 58 diners as well as a kitchen and staff facilities, Insider Media reports. A statement lodged by Emery Planning on behalf of Pint Shop said: “The proposed conversion will involve a substantial amount of money to bring the building back into new use.” Pint Shop was launched in Cambridge by Rich Holmes and Benny Peverelli in 2013 and started expansion three years later by opening a second site, in Oxford. The brand operates under the banner “meat, bread, beer”.
Andrew Pern – London is only place outside Yorkshire for any addition to Star estate: Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern has told Propel that despite receiving many offers to open a venue for his Star portfolio in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, he has always declined as he is only interested in London. Pern’s debut site was Michelin-starred The Star Inn at Harome in North Yorkshire before opening Star Inn The City and Mr P’s Curious Tavern, both in York, and Star Inn The Harbour at Whitby. He said: “I wanted a Yorkshire version of what Nigel Haworth was doing at Northcote Manor in Lancashire and Terry Laybourne was doing in the north east. We did the classic Yorkshire things and polished them. It would only work outside the county in London, as we need a diversity of clientele. It would not be popular in, say, Lancashire to have a Yorkshire focus! I’d love to do a restaurant in Covent Garden or Soho.” Star Inn The City is a “brasserie version of The Star Inn” and its location in central York sees it serve up to 6,000 covers per week in the summer months, while cocktails and Pilsner Urquell tank beer can drive weekly wet sales of £20,000. Pern acknowledges he could have simply rolled-out the brasserie concept but chose the more complex option of having four different venues because it “gives people four different reasons to visit my restaurants”. Some people will dine in all four venues, which are within a ten-mile radius of each other.
Soho delicatessen Lina Stores to launch debut restaurant next month: Soho delicatessen Lina Stores is to launch its debut restaurant next month. The 51-cover venue will open in Greek Street on Friday, 4 May set over two floors and offering a menu inspired by the Italian ingredients in its Brewer Street store, which opened almost 75 years ago. Head chef Masha Rener’s menu will focus on the best Italian produce with all pasta hand-made daily at the deli. The drinks list at the 12-seat bar will include Italian wine and classic cocktails. The interiors, designed by Red Deer, will be influenced by the original Lina Stores deli, while the bar will feature reclaimed globe pendant lighting and leather stools. Green and white-striped floor tiles will lead guests to the lower ground floor, where a further 36 covers will be divided between bar seating and green-tiled banquettes. Rener said: “When Lina Stores was first founded, Soho was home to a thriving Italian community of butchers, delicatessens, shops, restaurants and bars. Most of these independent businesses have closed but Lina Stores has remained a constant, a home from home for many Italians like me. We can’t wait to open our first restaurant, creating another destination where simple Italian cooking can be celebrated.”
Five Points Brewing Company hits £750,000 crowdfunding target for expansion: Hackney-based Five Points Brewing Company has hit its £750,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to “expand its community”. The company, which is offering a 5.66% equity stake in return for the investment, will use the capital to open the first Five Points taproom at The Pembury Tavern in Hackney, which the company acquired last month. So far, 1,154 investors have pledged £818,920 with four days remaining. Funds will also be invested in new brewhouse equipment and fermentation tanks that would triple production in a bid to increase sales from two million to six million pints a year (34,000 hectolitres). A new research and development brew-kit at The Pembury would be used to develop new recipes and brewing processes. The company reached capacity in late 2016 and has been brewing some of its beer with a brewery in Belgium. The investment would enable Five Points to bring all production back to London. The fund-raise would also see the company invest in its team, expand UK distribution and develop its growing export business. Five Points Brewing Company, which has seen turnover increase from £173,000 in 2013 to £2.6m in 2017, was the first brewer in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage employer, sources electricity from 100% renewable sources and helped set up an apprenticeship scheme at Hackney Community College. Co-founder and managing director Ed Mason said: “We believe we have the potential not just to cement our position as one of London’s favourite brands but to become a truly national brand.”
BrewDog opens OverWorks and taproom: BrewDog opened its Overworks facility on Friday (13 April), brewing sour and wild ales. The company stated: “Our incredible team of fermentationalists have been harnessing the power of wild yeasts and alternative flora to create a series of cultured beers that have already been hugely well-received. The BrewDog OverWorks taproom is located directly over the road from DogTap and our Ellon brewery. The OverWorks taproom sits on a mezzanine level overlooking the production facility itself, so you can gaze out over the Italian foudres and Spanish Rioja barrels and watch the magic happen.”
Unico Gelato opens fourth site, in St John’s Wood: Italian delicatessen and gelato concept Unico Gelato has opened its fourth site, in St John’s Wood, north west London. Founders Andrea Vitali, Enrico Zecchini and Andrea Tonelli have opened the venue in St John’s Wood High Street. The trio have links with Cremeria Funivia, one of the most famous gelato shops in Bologna. The gelato comes in flavours such as salted caramel and cremino, which is hazelnut infused into chocolate and cream. It also offers authentic Italian coffee, cakes, pastries, vegan salads and sandwiches, reports Just Open London. Unico Gelato’s other sites are in Bromley, Fulham and Notting Hill.
Wellbourne Brasserie comes to White City for third site: Wellbourne Brasserie, the brainchild of former Dabbous head chef Ross Gibbens and senior sous chef Michael Kennedy, has opened its third site, in London’s White City. They launched the concept in Bristol in August, going on to open a second site in Salardu, Spain. The all-day brasserie is part of the former BBC television centre redevelopment. Wellbourne Brasserie’s new venue is split into four areas – a main 40-cover restaurant, a bar with communal table, an eight-cover private dining room with its own enomatic wine dispenser, and an 80-seater terrace. Dishes include dry-aged Simmental beef bavette with chips and aioli, and homemade crumpets with smoked mackerel, alongside brunch dishes such as Portobello mushrooms with broken eggs on homemade toasted sourdough bread, Hot Dinners reports. The venue joins other operators at the £8bn development including a second site for D&D London’s Bluebird brand, Indian small plates concept Kricket, pizza company Homeslice, better burger brand Patty & Bun, a Soho House members’ club, a hotel and an Electric cinema.
Revolution Bars Group gets go-ahead to convert Pizza Hut site in Salisbury: Revolution Bars Group, operator of 73 premium bars, trading under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The company has been granted permission by Wiltshire Council to convert the Pizza Hut site in Blue Boar Row. Revolution Bars Group has agreed a new 25-year lease for the building following the expiration of Pizza Hut’s current lease, reports the Salisbury Journal. The application said: “The proposed alterations enable more of the disused and dilapidated areas of the old ‘dance hall’ and first floor to be renovated and brought into use for customer and staff areas. The upper levels will be overhauled to a design as now but repaired in good order. There is a small external seating area for tables and chairs with removable barriers to detail and application to highways.” The company also plans to knock down current courtyard buildings in Chipper Lane and create a garden area for customers.
Leicestershire-based Indian restaurant to start expansion by opening two new sites: Leicestershire-based Indian restaurant Cinnamon Lounge is to start expansion by opening two new sites. Owner Naz Abdul is building on the launch of the concept in Market Harborough by opening a venue in the nearby village of Middleton, and another in the Rutland town of Uppingham. The restaurant in Middleton will be in the former Red Lion pub in The Hill while the Uppingham venue will be based in the former Gilberts furniture shop in Ayston Road. Abdul is aiming to open both restaurants at the same time later this year. He told the Leicester Mercury: “I believe there is room in the market for a good Indian curry house serving Corby and the surrounding villages such as Middleton. The Red Lion is the perfect location and I am really looking forward to getting the restaurant up and running. We think there is also scope for a quality Indian restaurant in Uppingham. We are not going to rush these openings – we want to get things just right.”
Wine merchant Grays & Feather to open boutique bar in Covent Garden: London-based wine merchant Grays & Feather is to launch a boutique wine bar in Covent Garden. Owner Andrew Gray is opening the eponymous venue in Wellington Street. The concept will specialise in sparkling wines offering guests exploration and education taking guests on a journey through fizz; from the rolling hills of England to the southern peaks of Patagonia. Grays & Feather will showcase undiscovered and unusual wines from small, hidden experimental winemakers from across the globe. The wine list will be complemented by a menu of small plates from around the world. Grays & Feather takes its name from founder and sparkling wine expert Andrew Gray and his wine merchant business of the same name, found online and at the Southbank Food Market.
Paul UK doubles re-usable coffee cup discount: Paul UK, the 37-strong French bakery and cafe brand, has doubled its reusable cup discount to 50p. The move, part of the Paul Cares initiative, means the company’s reusable cup discount has risen from 10p to 50p in less than a year. Paul UK also sells its own, branded reusable cups at its stores. Chief executive Jean-Michel Orieux said: “Paul Cares is our way of demonstrating our commitment to a passion we share with our customers that goes beyond the cup – lightening the environmental footprint of all we welcome through our doors. We hope by increasing the discount it will make a significant difference.” Last month, Paul UK reported group turnover up 9.6% to £35.4m (2016: £32.3m) in the year to 31 December 2017. Revenue was up 2.4% on a like-for-like basis. Group Ebitda (after head-office costs) was £3.2m, 0.7% up on last year.
Manchester street food trader accuses Krispy Kreme of trademark blunder: Manchester street food trader Oh My Glaze, which sells chicken wings and wraps at markets across the city, is threatening legal action after Krispy Kreme used the same wording in advertisements for its new chocolate-glazed doughnut. Founder Scott Graham registered Oh My Glaze as a trademark in 2015 and said Krispy Kreme’s branding used similar fonts as well as the same wording. He told the Manchester Evening News: “It’s very similar. I think it’s a lack of research, I don’t see why they would see it and copy it? I have taken advice and spoken to a solicitor but it could cost me about £50,000 to £60,000 just to get them to drop it from their campaign.” Krispy Kreme was contacted for a comment.
Tim Hortons eyes Inverness site: Tim Hortons, the Canadian cafe and bake shop owned by Restaurant Brands, is lining up further expansion in Scotland with a site in Inverness. SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons, has lodged plans with Highland Council to open a restaurant and drive-thru at Telford Retail Park in Telford Street, reports The Inverness Courier. The planning statement stated: “The outlet at the retail park will not preclude the operator developing a store in the city centre and indeed it is actively looking at opportunities in this respect.” Tim Hortons’ debut UK site opened in Argyle Street, Glasgow, in June last year and it has been rapidly expanding in England, Scotland and Wales as it plans up to 100 UK outlets. Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where “everyone would feel at home”.
Office services firm leads acquisition of Devon island hotel for hospitality debut: Office services firm Office Space In Town has led a joint venture to purchase a Devon hotel and the private island it sits on for its first move into the hospitality sector. The venture, Project Archie, which also includes Bluehone Capital and Marechale Capital, has acquired the grade II-listed, 25-bedroom Burgh Island Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote two novels. The art deco hotel was built in 1929 and sits on a 26-acre private island, only accessible by boat or sea tractor when the tide is in. Giles Fuchs, co-founder and chief executive of Office Space In Town, told Insider Media: “We look forward to extending our expertise into the premium leisure and hotel markets. The restoration of Burgh Island Hotel to suit modern tastes will be our first project. Luxury tourism in Britain is booming.” Previous owners Deborah Clarke and Tony Orchard also operate Southernhay House in Exeter. Clarke said: “We took the decision we could either stay with Burgh for another ten years and see this beautiful project into the next phase of its history or sell responsibly. We chose to hand over the legacy of Burgh Island to a new custodian.”
East Yorkshire-based craft brewer opens first pub, in Hull: East Yorkshire-based The Crafty Brewer has launched its first pub. The company has reopened The White Hart in Hull, which had been closed for six years. The listed bar in Alfred Gelder Street was built in 1904 and has been sympathetically restored. Modern additions include shuffle boards and pool tables, with a large screen in the back room screening sport and a food offering from Voodoo Burger. Crafty Little Brewery marketing director Nick Tyldsley told the Hull Daily Mail: “The pub’s got such historic character and we’ve brought in craft ale that will change regularly. We’ll be playing cool music and want it to be a traditional pub where the younger generation can come and have a drink. There are loads of pubs in Leeds and Manchester that have created a modern twist with their older buildings, and that’s what we wanted to do here. The support already has been great and we want to create another great pub to add to the city’s ale trail.”
G&J Distillers to launch gin school and distillery in Manchester city centre: Warrington-based G&J Distillers, which is owned by Quintessential Brands, is set to launch a gin school and distillery in Manchester city centre. If plans are approved, the venue in Lloyd Street would feature a distillery on the ground floor and gin academy upstairs, with visitors learning about the gin-making process and producing their own spirit and labels. The first floor would also feature a 40-capacity gig venue – the Thomas Dakin Amicable Club – showcasing local talent. A specialist gin bar would seat about 50 people and offer premium drinks, gin-based cocktails and bar snacks. G&J Distillers hopes to attract 60,000 visitors a year to the attraction, which would focus on its Thomas Dakin Gin brand. Quintessential Brands director David Hume told Manchester Evening News: “We believe the Thomas Dakin distillery will highlight Manchester’s place in the history of gin.”
Greene King to open new-build Farmhouse Inns site in Ipswich: Brewer and retailer Greene King is to open a new-build Farmhouse Inns site in Ipswich. The company is developing the pub restaurant in Donald McKintosh Way, creating 70 jobs. The venue is expected to open in the late summer or early autumn. A Greene King spokesman told the Ipswich Star: “We are pleased to confirm we are in the process of bringing a new Farmhouse Inns dining and carvery restaurant to Ipswich. Our Farmhouse Inns brand has proved hugely popular across the country and we can’t wait to introduce Ipswich customers to the restaurant’s trademark ‘Cakeaway’ service, plus our generous and affordable carveries and pub meals.”