Ei Group warns tenants insurance policies don’t cover for coronavirus: Ei Group, the UK’s biggest pub group with more than 4,000 pubs, has warned its publicans their existing insurance policies will not cover them for loss of business because of coronavirus (covid-19). According to The Guardian, the company has told its managers covid-19 is not included in the group’s policy with the insurer Zurich and has advised them to consider seeking further cover elsewhere. In a letter sent to publicans last week, which has been seen by the Guardian, Ei Group said: “It has been confirmed Zurich is not including covid-19 in its notifiable diseases section. As such, any business affected by covid-19 will not be able to claim for loss of trade.” Earlier this month, the government bowed to pressure by changing its stance on insurance to declare coronavirus as a “notifiable disease” – a formal classification required by many insurance policies. However, many of these existing policies cite specific diseases that businesses can claim for. As coronavirus is so new, it is not included in most of the lists.
Giggling Squid opens debut delivery-only kitchen: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, has opened its first delivery-only kitchen. The company is operating out of Food Stars’ new facility in Wandsworth, south west London, with Deliveroo as delivery partner. The move follows the success of Giggling Squid’s Wimbledon restaurant as a top Deliveroo site. Giggling Squid said the new kitchen, which borders the delivery radius for Wimbledon, would enable the brand to cater to a “growing appetite for Thai cuisine in the area without over-stretching existing restaurants”. Giggling Squid said it had seen its takeaway business “grow considerably” in the 18 months since partnering exclusively with Deliveroo. Andy Laurillard said: “Our Wandsworth kitchen reflects our continued commitment to catering to our customers’ needs. While our priority will always be to welcome guests to eat-in at our restaurants, delivery-only kitchens allow us to reach new audiences and test locations.” Giggling Squid, which is backed by BGF, operates 35 restaurants.
Usher to shut sites for two-and-a-half-days a week in response to coronavirus outbreak: Chef Gary Usher has announced he will be shutting all six of his restaurants for two-and-a-half-days a week in response to the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak. Usher, who operates the restaurants across the north west under the Elite Bistros umbrella, took to Twitter over the weekend to announce his sites would be reducing opening hours in a bid to cut costs. Menus at each of the restaurants, which include Manchester’s Kala, will also be reduced in a bid to reduce the cost of holding stock. He posted: “We are making some changes and we’d like you to know. I have no idea if this is the right decision. The future of Elite Bistro isn’t in our hands anymore but we will do our best by the teams and by the guests to adapt. Starting this week, we are going to be closing all of the restaurants for two-and-a-half days a week. We feel this will alleviate pressure on all of the teams, but also on the business as well. We won’t give up. We won’t moan. We won’t beg. We will fight it.”
Hoyle steps down as Bill’s people director: The management changes at Bill’s have continued with David Hoyle stepping down as people director, just three months after joining the Richard Caring-backed group, Propel has learned. Hoyle joined the 78-strong Bill’s after nine years at Fuller’s, where he was group people director, at the start of the year. His appointment followed the departure of Odette Schwartz, who joined Bill’s as people director from Wahaca at the start of last year. Propel understands no replacement for Hoyle has yet been secured. Last month, Propel revealed Bill’s had appointed Piers Walkers as its new sales and marketing director. Walker was previously director of marketing and acquisitions at hospitality management company The Ghost Group. He replaced Lesley McIlroy, who left the business to pursue other opportunities. In February Nick Gray stepped down as Bill’s chief financial officer after less than six months with the business. In early 2020, Bill’s reshuffled its management team with executive chairman David Campbell and managing director Sarah Hills stepping down from the business. Baton Berisha, already managing director of The Ivy Collection, took on management of Bill’s with immediate effect.
Chestnut Group stops taking cash in wake of coronavirus outbreak: East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group has stopped taking cash in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The move is part of a series of measures the company is taking to make the health and well-being of its guests and teams in each of its properties the “number-one priority”. Anti-bacterial gel has been made available in all bars and the frequency all surfaces and door handles are cleaned has been increased. All properties now have a digital thermometer on-site and any team member feeling ill will have their temperature recorded before starting a shift. Chestnut Group founder and managing director Philip Turner outlined the measures being taken in an email to customers and said the company was already seeing changes in its guests’ bookings. He added: “If the use of cash is necessary – arrangements can be made using sanitised gloves. These are challenging times for people and businesses. We are hugely appreciative of the support we receive from our guests and the hard work of our team members.”
Simple Health Kitchen closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £1m, launching pre-order and loyalty app: London-based healthy eating concept Simple Health Kitchen has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £1m while it is launching a pre-order and loyalty app. The company, founded by former Newcastle Falcons rugby player Bradley Hill, was aiming to raise £750,000 – offering 7.48% equity in return for investment, giving the business a pre-money valuation of £10m. The campaign has now closed with 373 investors having pledged £1,027,400. The funds will be used to open eight to ten delivery hubs around London. Simple Health Kitchen will also launch its pre-order and loyalty app next month, which Hill said would “help to increase average spend as well as take some stress off labour and the queue”. Hill founded Simple Health Kitchen after a life-threatening illness forced him to focus his attention on diet and nutrition. Having opened a site in Watling Street in St Paul’s, he has added two more quick service restaurants in the capital, in Baker Street and King William Street in the City of London, and two delivery kitchens. The pitch stated: “Since opening we have been growing revenues at 50% per year. We now have more than £240,000 average monthly revenues and a 12% Ebitda margin. Group revenue for the past 12 months was £2.9m (Ebitda £357,000). The company is debt-free. We are much more than a healthy restaurant. We plan to open eight to ten delivery hubs around London allowing almost anyone to order food from Simple within 30 minutes.”
BrewDog to open bar in Bradford: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to open a site in Bradford. The company is taking over the historic old Bradford Baths building in Randall Well Street – most recently home to the Brew Haus pub. Work has started on the site, which will be part of BrewDog’s growing franchise operation. Retail director James Brown told Propel: “We can confirm BrewDog and one of our franchise partners are currently in the process of constructing a bar in Bradford. We will be considering the most appropriate time to schedule the opening due to current circumstances.” At this month’s Propel Multi Club Conference, BrewDog chief operating officer David McDowall said the company would open more franchises than company-owned sites for the first time this year as it looks to finish 2020 with 130 bars. The company currently operates about 100 sites in circa 15 countries.
Administrators confirm no dividend for Thali Cafe creditors: Unsecured creditors of Bristol-based Thali Cafe, which operated five sites in the city before going into administration in 2018, will receive no dividend, administrators have confirmed. A final progress report by administrators Simon Girling and Danny Dartnell, of BDO, said unsecured claims totalling £591,488 had been received to date but there were “insufficient funds” to make a dividend. Meanwhile secured creditor HSBC, which is owed about £348,000, received a total of £9,307. As previously reported, preferential claims of £10,947 have been settled in full. Girling and Dartnell said the administration had now been completed and the company would be dissolved. Thali Cafe, which specialises in Indian street food, operated restaurants in the Southville, Easton, Montpelier, Totterdown and Clifton areas of Bristol. Its Companies House registration, Bristol Thai Company, was placed into administration in May 2018 after the closure of Thali Cafe in Oxford – its only restaurant outside Bristol. Although the brand’s move to Oxford’s George Street was meant to be the first of many openings nationally, the site was hit by delays and a difficult trading environment. Eventually the restaurant’s closure led to the “crystallisation of significant costs” and administrators at BDO were bought in with Thali Cafe founder and director Jim Pizer stepping down. Juggard, a company founded by Thali Cafe kitchen manager Jose Blanco Rodriguez, operations manager Dominika Paulina Sawicka-Harris and Michael Dillon, an investor who owns 75% of the company, bought Thali Cafe out of administration in September 2018. The Montpelier site was subsequently bought by its head chef, Ramesh Prasad, in June 2019.
Yakinori reveals national ambitions as it opens fourth site, in Solihull: Japanese restaurant Yakinori has opened its fourth site, at the Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihull, with ambitions to expand nationwide. The company used part of a £140,000 loan from HSBC UK to renovate a 3,000 square foot space in the complex. Owner and founder Ali Karakaya told Insider Media: “As a Birmingham-born family we’re thrilled to open another Yakinori restaurant close to home. Our ambition is to take the Yakinori brand nationwide.” Yakinori was founded in 2015 and has restaurants in Grand Central shopping centre and Selly Oak in Birmingham as well as Park Street in Bristol.
Greggs set for another attempt to establish presence within home of Cornish pasty: Food to go retailer Greggs is set to make another attempt to establish a presence within the home of the Cornish pasty. Months after the company closed its one and only branch in Cornwall, a new outlet is expected to be unveiled close to the hamlet of Victoria. The company, which has more than 2,000 shops across the UK but none in Cornwall, declined to comment but is understood to be months away from a potential opening at a service station on the A30, which has a pizza cafe, as well as branches of Costa Coffee and McDonald’s. A spokesman for the service station, Cornwall Services, told The Guardian: “We cannot currently confirm who the new tenant will be. We hope to make an announcement very soon.” Greggs’ previous foothold in Cornwall was within another service station, at Saltash on the eastern edge of the county. Its initial opening in 2018 sparked consternation among locals. While pasties can only be called Cornish if they include only beef, potato, swede or turnip, onion and seasoning, the current Greggs menu continues to offer what the company describes as its “take on this delicious West Country classic”, a version containing steak, mince beef with potato, onion, carrots and peas.
Nico Simeone gifts debut restaurant to its former kitchen porter: Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone is giving ownership of his debut restaurant to his first kitchen porter. Modou Diagne, who worked his way up to head chef at 111 by Nico in Glasgow after arriving from Senegal, will take control next month. The Kelvinside restaurant will close on Monday, 23 March for refurbishment and reopen on Friday, 3 April as 111 by Modou. The move comes as Simeone prepares to open his seventh restaurant under his Six by Nico concept, in London at the end of this month. Simeone said: “The time feels right for myself and Modou. This has been a personal dream of mine since meeting Modou in 2014. I have not only got to know him as a close colleague, he has become like family to me. Six by Nico is going from strength to strength and, as such, there are increasing requirements for my energy to continue that development. There is no-one I trust more to hand the reins to than Modou.” Diagne, who has been head chef since 2018, added: “This opportunity is life-changing for myself and my family back home. Having moved here in 2013 I would never have dreamed I would be in this position seven years later. My hard work has paid off but, more so, this is really special to me as Nico is like a brother. I’m more than ready for this next chapter at 111 and I look forward to showing everyone in the industry what myself and my team can do here at 111 by Modou.” Simeone opened 111 as his debut restaurant in 2015. His original Six by Nico launched in the Finnieston area of Glasgow in 2017, followed by Edinburgh in 2018 and Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool last year. He has also opened a site within the brand’s development kitchen in Nithsdale Road, Glasgow.
Motorway services operator Westmorland eyes new opportunities as it reports turnover boost: Motorway services and hotel operator Westmorland is eyeing new opportunities following a boost in revenue. The family-owned business, whose sites include Gloucester services on the M5 and Cairn Lodge services on the M74 in Scotland, saw turnover increase to £104.7m for the year ending 30 June 2019, compared with £100.8m the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £3.3m, compared with £5.1m the year before, with the decision to invest in staff pay ahead of the National Living Wage having contributed to increased costs and the business making further investment in its leadership team. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Fixed assets grew slightly to £67.0m (2018: £65.4m), with the most significant capital addition being the completion of the £3m redevelopment of Cairn Lodge Services. A total of £3.8m was invested in the estate in the year while £1.5m of borrowing was repaid, with net debt decreasing to £23.8m (2018: £26.0m) although an increase in the base rate increased interest charges versus the prior year. Financial management remains strong with high liquidity, very competitive debt margins and a strong bank covenant cover. Cash balances were strong at £11.6m (2018: £10.9m). Net assets grew to £34.2m (2017: £31.8m). The company will continue to invest in its core businesses and look for new opportunities that enable it to strengthen its identity.”
Pub Invest Group to reopen former Revolution site in Liverpool as American-style sports bar: Liverpool-based Pub Invest Group is to reopen a former Revolution bar in Liverpool as an American-style sports bar. Pub Invest Group picked up the Wood Street property after Revolution Bars Group closed the venue last year along with sites in Swansea and Macclesfield. Work has been ongoing since February, with the venue set to launch as Yankees Bar & Grill, creating 30 jobs. General manager Iman Nicholson told Insider Media: “It will very much be the traditional American-style sports bar look and theme throughout and in a few weeks we will also have news on what we will be doing upstairs.” Pub Invest Group owns and operates more than 30 sites in Liverpool city centre, including Soho, Level and Brooklyn Mixer.
Matt Healy steps away from Leeds gastro-pub to focus on other ventures: Chef Matt Healy has stepped away from a gastro-pub in Leeds he took charge of last year. Healy, who was runner-up in the 2016 series of MasterChef: The Professionals, reopened The Beehive in Thorner last summer. Now, he’s decided to focus on his Leeds city centre restaurant The Foundry and his cafe business Grön, which has a Leeds branch and recently opened in York. Healy told Leeds Live: “It’s been a pleasure to get The Beehive back up and running again. It’s a piece of history when it comes to the Leeds pub scene and I’m happy we’ve been able to give it another lease of life. But it’s now time to let the team take the full reigns as I step back, along with my business partner Marc Cunliffe, to focus on The Foundry and our ongoing Grön expansion across the north.” The Beehive will now be led by director Dale Wynter, along with Craig Thorpe as head chef and Jess Georgallis as general manager. The Beehive has a new menu as the new team looks to establish themselves. Healy recently announced a change to its dining style at The Foundry – switching to snacks and small plates to allow guests to experience a “collection of tastes” rather than a traditional set of starters, mains and desserts, along with the introduction of a tasting menu.
CPL Learning reports more than 11,000 coronavirus e-learning course assigned within 24 hours of launch: CPL Learning, which delivers hospitality-based training and development, has reported its free coronavirus e-learning course has been assigned to 11,000 hospitality teams members within the first 24 hours. The Coronavirus – Taking Proactive Action course has been developed with David Edwards, a member of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. The course has been designed to support businesses in making preparations and contingencies to deal with coronavirus. Aimed predominantly at outlet management, it covers topics such as what coronavirus is, areas to consider and plan, operational tips, and training guides and materials. The course will be accompanied by additional support material to be used in venues, while it also draws on key government information, data and research from CGA, and advice from UKHospitality. Martin Hilton, director of learning and education at CPL Learning, said: “We created this course to support the hospitality sector in protecting the well-being of their team members and customers, and it’s great to see so many operators deploying it within their businesses. With the announcement the UK government has now moved out of contain phase into delay, we will continue to review, update and amend our learning materials accordingly to ensure we are supporting the sector in delivering best practice.”
Ascot Brewing Company passes halfway mark in £150,000 fund-raise: Ascot Brewing Company has passed the halfway mark in its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The brewer, which was acquired by local businessmen Chris Davies and Mike Neame in 2018 and is based in Camberley, Surrey, is offering 7.32% equity to investors, which gives the company a pre-money valuation of £1.9m. So far 138 investors have pledged £89,470 with 15 days of the campaign remaining. The company is looking to raise the funds to expand brewing capacity, address export enquiries and add a small canning line. Ascot Brewing Company raised £270,680 on Crowdcube in early 2019 to move to larger premises and buy equipment to meet demand. The move came a year after raising more than £270,000 on the same platform. The pitch states: “We have moved into an 8,500 square foot warehouse, acquired more brewing equipment, launched craft beer brand Disruption Is Brewing, and built a 2,500 square foot, 20-tap taproom for our community to enjoy. Now we have the ingredients we can grow our revenues and achieve even more success. We will challenge the accepted order by disrupting the craft beer scene with our Thirst For Knowledge platform – using contactless technology so consumers learn more about the beer they are drinking by tapping their smartphone against the smart pump clips. This raise will enable us to grow our revenues and move towards a possible exit in circa 2023.”
Sushi On Jones launches catering service after making London debut: New York-based Sushi On Jones, which has just made its London debut, has launched a catering service. The menu offers a variety of bespoke sushi platters in small or large portions. Sushi On Jones opened the restaurant earlier this month at the music, drinks and street food concept Goods Way in King’s Cross. Described as the city’s first “alfresco omakase bar”, Sushi on Jones offers 12-piece sushi menus with a 30-minute turnaround.
Shepherd Cox acquires hotel and restaurant in Thirsk: North of England-based hotel group Shepherd Cox has acquired a grade II-listed hotel and restaurant in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, for its 19th site. The property includes five-star hotel Crab Manor and double AA Rosette restaurant the Crab & Lobster. The hotel’s 20 rooms take inspiration from worldwide destinations such as The Ritz and Bellagio. Shepherd Cox hotel group founder Lee Bramzell told Insider Media: “We are delighted to add the Crab Manor hotel and its restaurant to our ever-growing portfolio of hotels. I’m happy to say with this acquisition we’re going from strength to strength as our portfolio of hotels grows and drives the business forward.” Shepherd Cox owns and operates 20 hotels in the UK under brands such as Holiday Inn, Best Western, Travelodge and Accor.