Company News:

Corbin & King reports FY turnover passes £50m before pandemic hit, first week of reopening ‘better than anticipated’: London restaurant operator Corbin & King has reported turnover increased beyond £50m in its financial year before the pandemic hit while the first week of reopening had been “better than anticipated”. The company saw turnover of £53.1m for the year ending 31 December 2019, compared with £44.2m for the nine months ending December 2018. The shorter accounting period reflected the alignment of the company’s accounts with parent Minor International, which bought Graphite Capital’s stake in December 2017. Ebitda for the year ending 31 December 2019 stood at £2.7m, compared with £7.5m in the prior period. Operating loss before tax increased from £2m to £3.9m while pre-tax losses were up to £5.4m from £3.1m. A £13.2m loan owed to Minor International, which was payable in May 2020, remains outstanding. In his report accompanying the accounts, co-founder Jeremy King said: “We have taken a number of steps to preserve cash and support trading and these have included but not limited to rent relief and deferral of payments by majority of landlords; suspension of any unnecessary capital expenditure; and launching a new revenue channel, at-home dining. We have been pleased with how the business has performed when restaurants have been allowed to reopen. While it is still too early to predict how the pandemic will affect trading for the remainder of 2021 and beyond, with the combination of the actions taken to combat the effects of the pandemic and support provided from government, suppliers and landlords, the directors have come to a decision the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the period of 12 months from date of approval of these accounts.” The company, which operates eight sites, reopened its Bellanger restaurant in August 2020 and said it had traded successfully when restrictions allowed. As previously reported, work on its new seafood restaurant in Soho – Manzi’s – has been put on hold, with no date confirmed when it will restart. On reopening, King told Propel: “The first week has been better than anticipated and the customers have been doughty in the elements. We are open at Bicester, Bellanger, Soutine, Delaunay Counter and also at the Colbert – both on the terrace and in the Square itself with a different offer. There may not be that much money in them all but it is a wonderful fillip for the staff to be working again.”
 
New World Trading Company completes refinancing of banking facilities and shareholder loans: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) has completed a refinancing of its banking facilities and shareholder loans to raise additional capital. The group, whose brands include The Botanist, The Florist and The Oast House, also said it expects to continue opening sites at a rate of between five and eight a year. NWTC stated: “The company is funded by a combination of bank loans, shareholder loans and cash from operations. We have communicated and negotiated with our debt providers, trade creditors, landlords and other creditors to ensure their support and to ensure our continued ability to trade and operate as a going concern. The banking facilities and the shareholder loans were refinanced in December 2020 providing an injection of new capital, and the directors now have a reasonable expectation the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. The government stimulus package, including a temporary reduction in the rate of VAT on food and non-alcoholic drinks, the suspension of business rates and the availability of grants to support reopening will also provide headroom in the coming months. When the sites were open between July and November 2020 following the first covid-19 lockdown, trading was strong.” The business provided the update as it reported turnover increased to £55.3m for the year ending 31 March 2020, compared with £51.8m the previous year. Pre-tax losses grew to £37.3m, compared with £5.7m the year before, following an impairment charge of £25.8m against the goodwill of the business. The company opened three sites during the period, taking the total to 29. It is also set to open a venue in Plymouth for its second Club House and is understood to be in talks on sites in Cardiff and Ipswich.
PizzaExpress appoints Arslan Sharif as first group digital and loyalty director:PizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, has appointed Arslan Sharif, formerly of Costa Coffee, as its first group digital and loyalty director, Propel has learned. Sharif previously held the same role at Costa, where he spent just over three years. At Costa he led the digital, loyalty and data transformation of the coffee chain in the UK, Europe, China, Middle East, US, and Japan across 2,500 retail stores and 10,000 Costa Express machines. He was responsible for Costa’s digitally-led loyalty programme (Coffee Club) with six million customers in the UK. He will now be responsible for the digital, customer and loyalty transformation at PizzaExpress, as it looks to become the leading digital casual dining business in the UK and internationally. Earlier this year, PizzaExpress strengthened its management team with the appointments of Jo Bennett as its new chief business officer, and Shadi Halliwell as its new chief customer officer.
The Alchemist completes refinancing of banking facilities and shareholder loans:The Alchemist, the 20-strong Simon Potts-led bar and restaurant concept, has completed a refinancing of its banking facilities and shareholder loans to raise additional capital. The refinancing took place last month and the company’s directors said they now have “a reasonable expectation the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”. The company said: “In evaluating the going concern assumption, the directors have prepared cash flow forecasts for the period to 31 March 2022 and compared these, together with a range of severe but plausible sensitivities, to the available bank facilities and the related covenant requirements. The group’s trading locations generated strong results when allowed to open, despite the significant restrictions in place affecting opening hours and capacity. This has given the directors confidence in the group’s forecast turnover, Ebitda and cash when measures are eased in 2021. Sensitivities applied to the forecasts demonstrate sufficient covenant headroom even without any mitigating actions being taken. In addition, the directors are confident the bank and shareholders remain fully supportive of the group.” The group reported turnover stood at £45.9m in the year to 31 March 2020. At the end of that period it held cash or cash equivalents of £5.9m. Pre-tax losses widened from £205,372 to £1.64m. Net liabilities of the group were £4.6m, including long-term shareholder held debt of £18.1m, at the same date. During the period, it opened new sites in Birmingham; at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth; and three venues in London – at Canary Wharf, Embassy Gardens and Old Street.
Pret comes to agreement with majority of landlords, acquires former Byron site:Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed chain, has made agreement with the majority of its landlords in regards to rent and discussions with the rest “are going well”. Last June, the company hired consultants to help it renegotiate its rents as it sought to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This initially led to the permanent closure of 30 of its then 400-plus sites in the UK. Unlike many of its peers it has yet to go down the company voluntary arrangement route, and last week reopened a further 47 of its 389 sites with outdoor seating, to go on top of the 276 that have been operating for takeaway and delivery. Meanwhile, Propel understands Pret has acquired the former Byron site in The Pavement in Clapham as part of its plans to explore sites in suburban locations. It is thought this particular site gave the business low rental exposure, due to a turnover based model, and lower capital costs.
Billionaire brothers close in on Caffe Nero takeover: The billionaire brothers behind Asda, who acquired natural fast food brand Leon on Sunday (18 April) in a £100m deal, are closing in on taking control of Caffe Nero after buying up the company’s debts. Mohsin and Zuber Issa, who own forecourt operator EG Group and are this week due to find out if regulators sign off their £6.8bn acquisition of Asda, are understood to have bought about £140m of loans from Swiss private equity firm Partners Group via investment bank Morgan Stanley, reports The Sunday Telegraph. Buying the loans will leave the Issas in a strong position to take control of Caffe Nero if the business was to default on its mountain of borrowing. City sources said Partners had written to Caffe Nero boss Gerry Ford on Friday (16 April) expressing a number of concerns about the state of the company’s finances. It is understood Partners told Ford that Caffe Nero is at risk of breaching its banking covenants and the company will struggle to refinance £145m of senior ranking debts that are due to be repaid next year. In November, Caffe Nero, which employs more than 6,000 people in the UK, launched a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). The move was disrupted by the Issas, who submitted an 11th-hour bid to buy the company outright. Although the deal was rejected, the CVA remains subject to a legal challenge. A Caffe Nero spokesman said: “We have had a successful winter and spring trading and are generating positive cash flow and are ahead of forecast for the past five months. We are forecasting no covenant issues in our projections over the next 12 months and look forward to an even brighter future post-17 May when we open our cafes fully to the public.”
TRG adds kebab-focused brand to delivery portfolio, The Real Greek launches Souvlaki & Skewers: The Restaurant Group (TRG), the owner of Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s, has added a kebab-focused brand called Babago to its delivery portfolio, Propel has learned. Available through TRG’s Chiquito estate, Babago focuses on kebabs and wraps, with items including the Baba Wrap & Go Bundle, which features a warm kebab wrap, portion of fries and drink for £9.95. Falafel wraps and bowls are also on the menu. The group’s range of virtual delivery brands has included Chicken Cartel, Cornstar Tacos, Levi Roots’ Kitchen, Kick Ass Burrito, Stacks, Birdbox, K-Bird, Pyjama Hotel, Daily Naan, Baragara and Jumping Pans. Propel also understands The Real Greek, the Fulham Shore-owned business, has also entered the virtual delivery brand market. The David Page-chaired business has launched Souvlaki & Skewers through selected sites across the brand’s 19-strong estate. Available through UberEats, the virtual delivery brand features meat souvalki wraps with handmade Greek flatbread; meat-free souvalki wraps with handmade Greek flatbread; “Greek Boxes” – with halloumi skewer, lamb skewer and roast chicken variants; and salads and Greek dips.
200 Degrees appoints commercial director: Nottingham-based coffee roaster 200 Degrees has appointed Will Kenney as commercial director, Propel has learned. Kenny brings with him 20 years of experience in the coffee sector, having held senior positions in the industry. Kenny’s responsibilities at 200 Degrees include managing and driving all commercial aspects of the business, particularly its wholesale offer and the online sale of beans and coffee machines. Kenny said: “I feel my experience complements 200 Degrees’ vision for growth and I’m looking forward to helping to share our knowledge of running successful coffee shops with our wholesale partners, working with the wider team to increase our reach and offer to customers – while staying true to 200 Degrees’ core values.” Co-founder Tom Vincent added: “Will’s years in the industry are testament to his passion for coffee and his expertise make him the ideal fit for us. He loves the product as much as we do, and his commercial understanding of the market makes him instrumental in steering 200 Degrees to new opportunities – to further enhance our customer experience.” Founded by Vincent and his business partner Rob Darby in 2012, 200 Degrees has its roast house near Trent Bridge in Nottingham and operates 11 coffee shops. Its next opening will be in Manchester at the end of May. The site, which includes a barista school, and will open in The Hybrid Building in Mosley Street.
Former Horeca head at Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company launches craft beer filling station drive-thru concept: Matt Kelly, formerly head of Horeca at Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company, has launched a retail concept centred around a drive-thru craft beer growler filling station for market towns, Propel has learned. The first location for the Filling Station is in Ives in Cambridgeshire. The business offers a draught tap wall of ten frequently changed brews from breweries across Cambridgeshire and neighbouring counties as well as national companies. The beer is served from growler filling taps supported by a range of canned and bottled brews from a fridge bank. The Filling Station units are converted 40-foot shipping containers that house a chilled cellar, tap wall, customer service area and collection point. Kelly has worked with four private investors to fund the business and is looking to add four more Filling Stations over the next four years into similar market town locations. Kelly said: “With consumers now back in their home geographies for longer, most market towns suddenly have lots more people who love craft beer. As one of those consumers I was frustrated by the lack of choice and innovation in this area. There are also incredible local breweries who need our support at the moment, and this gives them a much needed lifeline to get their beers out there to new consumers. Our growler system allows customers to take away some of these great UK brews and enjoy them ice cold wherever and whenever they want.”
The Coal Shed owners to launch Burnt Orange venue: Black Rock Restaurant Group, which owns The Coal Shed and Salt Room restaurants, is to launch a fourth site, called Burnt Orange, Propel understands. The business, which was founded by Raz Helalat, is understood to have secured a site in Brighton’s Market Street for the new restaurant and bar that will feature “wood-fired flavours and well-made drinks” and promises to be a “new grown-up hangout” for the city. The company already operates The Coal Shed and The Salt Room sites in Brighton, plus a The Coal Shed at London’s One Tower Bridge scheme.
Shu – we must prove ourselves to market: The boss of Deliveroo has conceded the company will have to work hard to prove itself to the stock market after the slump in its shares that followed last month’s £7.6bn listing, reports The Times. Will Shu, the food delivery group’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “We have a lot of work in front of us to build the business over the long term, and also to prove ourselves to the markets. It is day one of doing that.” Shu conceded the reopening of Britain’s hospitality sector was likely to have some impact on the rate of expansion but added, in other markets where covid-related restrictions had eased including Hong Kong and Dubai, growth had remained strong. He added: “The truth is we don’t know how things will turn out in the UK and how much these new consumer behaviours will stick but we are really positive.” Asked about concerns over the self-employed status of the company’s riders, Shu insisted they wanted “complete flexibility”, and added: “I’m not wedded to any particular model. However, I am wedded to the model that riders want. I want riders to have the flexibility they have now but also have benefits that are congruent with a flexible model.”
Birmingham-based Tex-Mex restaurant to double up: Birmingham-based Tex-Mex restaurant Perios is to double up with an opening in the city centre. Perios, which serves Mexican classics such as tacos, burritos, nachos, as well as American burgers, beef and chicken, has taken the former Handmade Burger Co premises in Brindleyplace. The 3,150 square foot restaurant will be opening in a canal-side location at The Water’s Edge and will become the second location for Perios following its launch in nearby Shirley. The new restaurant is expected to open this summer, depending on covid-19 restrictions. Perios operations director Sharath Sundar said: “Perios has been a great success for many years in Shirley and we felt now was the time to expand our services and bring our taste of Latin America to Birmingham city centre for the first time.” Stacey Muir, marketing and events executive at Brindleyplace, said: “Perios will be a fantastic addition to Brindleyplace’s varied food and drink offering, and will provide an exceptional new experience for those who work and visit the estate.”
Chicken & Blues announces multi-year exclusive partnership with Deliveroo: Dorset-based Chicken & Blues has announced an expansion of its partnership with Deliveroo and the signing of a multi-year exclusive collaboration to 2023. The concept has worked with Deliveroo across Bournemouth and Poole since its launch in the area in 2015, now delivering to upwards of 5,000 customers per week from two locations in the region. As part of the new partnership agreement, Chicken & Blues is also adopting Deliveroo’s new “Signature” service to enable customers to order delivery directly via the Chicken & Blues website and social channels. Co-founder Joshua Simons said: “Over the past year in particular, thousands of new customers have enjoyed ‘Mama’s Home Cookin’ delivered to their door thanks to Deliveroo’s expertise and logistical know-how. We are now working closely with Deliveroo’s operations team as we look to take Chicken & Blues to neighbouring towns and cities.” Harrison Foster, UK and Ireland growth director for Deliveroo, added: “Chicken & Blues has set a high bar for other quick-serve chicken brands in the UK with its innovation, customer engagement and initiatives to support its local community. We are excited to see this partnership reach new heights.”
Birmingham-based Global Venues to open new 3,500-capacity music spot in city:Birmingham-based Global Venues is to open a new 3,500-capacity music spot in the city. Forum Birmingham is taking over the space previously known as The Ballroom, which has lain dormant for a decade having had a spell in the 2000s as Carling Academy Birmingham. Global Venues, owned by the Chauhan brothers, has extensively renovated and modernised the space, ready for lockdown easing in late summer. Some of the upgrades include restoration of the original woven wooden sprung dance floor, a steel mezzanine and new sound system and LED screens. Billy Chauhan said: “Prior to the pandemic, a quarter of a million people in the West Midlands worked in the culture, media and night-time industries, and the relaunch of this historic venue in Birmingham will help to refuel this damaged part of our local economy.” Global Venues’ other sites include Que Club, Void, The Monastery and 52 Gas Street.
Sambrook’s begins production as it sets up home at Britain’s oldest brewery:Independent brewer Sambrook’s has begun production at Ram Quarter in south London – Britain’s oldest continuously working brewery and former home of Young’s. Relocating from its previous headquarters in Battersea, Sambrook’s is launching a new brewhouse and bottle shop at the development by Greenland. A taproom will follow in the summer with space for events as well. Alongside its brewing facilities, Sambrook’s is opening a heritage centre that will show the area’s history. From mid-May, visitors will have the chance to look “behind the barrels”, enjoy tours of the old Young’s coppers, and try their hand at making beer. Duncan Sambrook, founder of Sambrook’s, said: “We always wanted to celebrate traditional beer-making with a modern twist, and where better to do it than at the home of British brewing? Our first brew on-site marks a major step forward in our plans at Ram Quarter.” Greenland UK chief executive Taotao Song added: “From the start of our redevelopment, we knew the importance of protecting and celebrating Ram Quarter’s brewing legacy. We’re delighted to be supporting Sambrook’s as part of our work to create a new destination in Wandsworth.” Alongside Sambrook’s, the development is now home to a number of independent leisure brands. It was announced last year that Strike bowling, Mai Thai Deli and Schooner bar will be coming to Ram Quarter, joining Backyard Cinema, fine dining restaurant London Stock, Story Coffee and MoreYoga.