JGourmet Burger Kitchen eyes restructure as Cote seeks merger partner:Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has hired restructuring advisers, the Sunday Times has reported. The newspaper stated: “GBK, which is owned by South Africa’s Famous Brands, is understood to have appointed Deloitte to thrash out deals with landlords on rent cuts and site closures. The move could result in a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). GBK, which has more than 100 sites, is the latest chain to suffer because of the casual dining slump that has already wiped out hundreds of restaurants and thousands of jobs. Soaring costs have squeezed profit margins at a time when consumers are spoilt for choice.” Speculation GBK could be forced into a CVA surfaced in July when Famous Brands said it was considering “strategic options relating to a subsidiary”. Like-for-like sales at GBK dropped 10.6% in the 22 weeks to the end of July. Anthony Clark, an analyst at Vunani Securities, described GBK as the “septic wart” that should be “cut out” of Famous Brands. The first GBK was opened in south London in 2001 by three New Zealanders. Famous Brands, which also owns the Wimpy burger chain, bought GBK for £120m two years ago, saying it saw “substantial growth potential” in the brand. Meanwhile, French brasserie Côte is said to be shopping itself around to rivals in the hope of a merger. The 93-site chain, owned by private equity firm BC Partners, is understood to have held early talks about a tie-up with a listed company.
Abba star to bring immersive dining experience to London’s The O2: Abba star Björn Ulvaeus is brining his immersive theatrical dining experience Mamma Mia! The Party to London. Coming to The O2 in a specially adapted venue, the restaurant won’t open until spring 2019. Diners will sit in a recreation of a taverna on the island of Skopelos, where most of the first film was shot, and tuck into Greek cuisine while a live immersive show plays out in front of them full of Abba songs. Nikos’ Taverna will consist of a courtyard with long tables to accommodate 500 guests with features including a fountain, olive trees and bougainvillea. There is already a Mamma Mia! The Party experience in Stockholm, which first opened in 2016 and has enjoyed three consecutive years of sold-out shows. Ulvaeus told the Evening Standard: “We have long admired The O2 and the huge entertainment success it has become under the ownership and management of AEG. We believe bringing Mamma Mia! The Party to The O2 will add to this already vibrant cultural destination and provide the perfect location for our exciting new show.” John Langford, vice-president and general manager of The O2, added: “To be hosting the Mamma Mia! The Party experience at The O2 is a real honour. It perfectly complements the outstanding live performances, events and the dynamic variety of entertainment all available under our world-famous roof.”
Amber Taverns reports turnover and Ebitda boost: Amber Taverns, the wet-led community pub operator led by James Baer, has reported turnover rose 14.4% to £74.2m in the year to 4 February 2018. Company Ebitda was up 12.6% to £14.02m. Like-for-like sales rose 1.7%. The company had 137 pubs at the year-end and has sold a site in Scunthorpe and bought seven new sites since. An impairment of £4,262,377 was recognised at the year-end. A change of ownership occurred on 27 October 2017 where Ingleby (1951) was acquired by Kildale Topco. A full valuation of the company’s freehold property occurred at change of ownership and there was an increase in the revaluation reserve to £42.5m. Profit before tax was £7.03m, down from £8.73m the year before.
BrewDog extends US crowdfunding campaign: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is extending its latest US Equity for Punks funding round to January 22, 2019. The campaign, which was originally set to close this October, originally sought to raise £10m and has so far raised more than £19m. The company announced in an update: “Equity for Punks puts you, the people who drink our beer, at the centre of everything we do and this past weekend we welcomed thousands of you to our Columbus brewhouse for the third annual punk annual general meeting USA! Alongside the great craft beer, street food and music our co-founders James (Watt) and Martin (Dickie) dialled in a series of epic updates and plans for BrewDog – including this piece of news. Equity for Punks USA is being extended for another 150 days.” The BrewDog team stated extending Equity for Punks USA until January gives it a chance to look at new ways in which the brewery’s fans may invest and have others join their community. It said: “Next month we are going to launch Equity for Punks USA gifted shares – meaning throughout the autumn and into the holidays you can give the gift of craft beer ownership to that beer lover in your life! Stay tuned for more details! Equity for Punks USA is a new future, and a new way of doing business.”
Gastro-pub operator Whiting & Hammond reports profit boost after improved gross margin: Whiting & Hammond, the gastro-pub operator led by Brian Whiting, has reported pre-tax profit rose to £378,064 in the year ended 30 September 2017 (2016: £101,207). Turnover dipped by 11.3% to £10,088,990 from £11,140,993 the year before. The company stated: “This decrease was principally due to the disposal of Stanmer House (this happened nine months into the previous year) and in part to the fall back to more realistic trading levels after the initial over-trading at the Rose & Crown and the Blue Ball Inn upon opening. The gross profit margin has risen from 29 to 31%. This has resulted from a concerted effort to maximise the efficiency in (our) kitchens, the move for two pubs to free-of-tie leases – resulting in lower drink prices – and finally staff rotas have been closely monitored and managed through the year to make best use of resources.”
Abra Wholesale director to launch American-inspired plant-based grab and go concept in Farringdon: Restaurant group Abr, owned by Abra Wholesale director Dee Thaya, is to launch an American-inspired plant-based grab and go concept in London. Abr is opening Flipside on Friday, 28 September in Cowcross Street, Farringdon. Jen Pardoe and Claudia Tarry, of plant-based food and beverage development agency PB2B, are the duo behind the menu and cashless concept. The 30-cover restaurant will have a mixture of self-service and counter ordering. Breakfast options will include organic chickpea scramble boxes and mocha morning oats as well as organic Bullet coffee, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and teas. Lunch items will include more than 30 sandwiches and salads along with a daily-rotating line-up of freshly made soups. In the evening, burgers will take centre stage alongside a selection of sides, beer and malt shakes.
Pizza Punks to make England debut this month: Pizza Punks is to open its first English outlet, in Newcastle this month, creating about 30 jobs. The artisan wood-fired pizza concept has restaurants in Glasgow and Belfast. Owner and managing director Brad Stevens said: “Newcastle’s thriving food and drink scene made the city a natural choice for the restaurant’s first move into England and will pave the way for further outlets. Pizza Punks is essentially an experience; with the food, the drinks, the soundtrack and the atmosphere. Our menu allows people to have whatever they want for a flat fee – we don’t believe people should pay extra to satisfy their taste.” Set in the heart of Newcastle and located in the former unit occupied by Cafe Rouge, which is owned by Casual Dining Group, in Grey Street, Pizza Punk’s new restaurant will open on Thursday (6 September)following a £400,000 investment. Diners will be able to select as many toppings as they like to add to Pizza Punk’s handmade sourdough pizza base – all for one set price. Pizza Punks’ arrival in Newcastle has been supported by NE1, a company that works to improve business in the city centre. NE1’s director of communications Stephen Patterson added: “We are thrilled a popular restaurant such as Pizza Punks has chosen to open its first English site in Grey Street. The abundance of new restaurants opening in Newcastle shows the city is in great demand and is cementing its position as the north east’s number one destination for food and leisure. We hope Pizza Punks distinctive offering will not only attract new generations of diners into the city, but also ‘punk up’ our current food and drink scene.”
Adam Handling opens Bean & Wheat site in Old Street: Chef Adam Handling has opened a site for his coffee shop and deli brand Bean & Wheat in Hoxton, east London. Handling has opened the venue in Old Street, which also includes a craft beer shop featuring 280 craft beers from small suppliers. Bean & Wheat focuses on reducing waste with its sandwiches, salads, parfaits and preserves made fresh daily using off-cuts and surplus food from Handling’s other venues – Frog by Adam Handling, Eve Bar, The Frog Hoxton and Iron Stag Bar. As well as the new craft bottle beer shop, drinks include seasonal blend coffee and fresh juices. In keeping with Bean & Wheat’s sustainable outlook, there is a new recycling initiative in place – where any customer can bring back empty beer bottles in exchange for a free coffee.
Esquires Coffee to open 37th site, in Tunbridge Wells: Esquires Coffee will open its 37th site on Tuesday (28 August), in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The site is launching in Mount Pleasant Road and will offer the brand’s range of ethically sourced coffee, tea and chocolate alongside healthy, vegan and locally sourced food options. Waqas Yaqoob, owner of Esquires Coffee Tunbridge Wells, said: “Our shop is much more than a coffee house – it’s a cool and quirky environment, filled with communal tables and cosy seating.” Doug Williamson and Gary Buckland founded Esquires Coffee in Vancouver in 1993, expanding to the UK in 2000. The company operates franchised and non-franchised stores and earlier this year signed a partnership with the Cracking Egg Company to open 67 sites across the south east of England.
Imbiba strengthens team: Sector investor Imbiba has added Lizzie Ryan to its team. Ryan has joined from Foresight Group, where she spent the past three years investing in lower mid-market private equity, mainly focused on the consumer and leisure markets. She has more than ten years’ experience working in mergers and acquisitions and private equity. Prior to joining Foresight Group, she worked at Synova Capital, the mid-market private equity firm and Deloitte UK, where she trained as a chartered accountant. Imbiba chairman John Connell said: “Lizzie is a very experienced and valued member of the team; she has an excellent pedigree in investment experience and has a great affinity with our market.” Ryan added: “I am delighted to have joined such a reputable team and look forward to backing a number of dynamic, growing UK leisure businesses over the coming years.” In February, Imbiba closed the Imbiba Growth Fund at its hard cap target of £50m. With an investment of £30m provided by the British Business Bank, the fund provides growth capital and operational support to young and dynamic UK leisure businesses seeking to scale.
Marco Pierre White opens in Dover: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has opened a site in Dover. Mr White’s English Chophouse Dover and the celebrity chef’s Wheeler’s Fish and Chips shop are both based at the Best Western Plus Dover Marina Hotel & Spa in Waterloo Crescent. The restaurant is the third of its kind to open in the UK this year, after London and Manchester, which opened in April and May respectively. Wheeler’s has both a takeaway and sit-down service. The menu features dishes such as moules mariniere, salt cod croquettes and smoked sardines on toast. This opening comes just 11 days after Kent’s first Marco Pierre White Steakhouse took in its first customers at the Best Western Clifton Hotel in the Leas in Folkestone. It also comes after a site in White’s home town of Leeds closed – the Marco’s New York Italian at The Merrion Centre has shut citing “contractual renegotiations” as the reason why.
Rogan to take over from Brian Tuner as president of Bocuse d’Or UK: Multi-site chef Simon Rogan will be taking over from Brian Turner as president of the Bocuse d’Or UK. The Bocuse d’Or sees the very best chefs from around the globe come together every two years in Lyon, for two days of intense competition and a huge celebration of the culinary arts. Writing on his Instagram account, Rogan posted: “After holding the role for nearly 30 years, I would like to thank Brian for his dedication, and undoubtedly cementing the UK’s standing within the Bocuse d’Or family.” The UK team is through to the world final, taking place in January.
Pizza Hut to close Lincolnshire site: Pizza Hut has confirmed its restaurant in Boston, Lincolnshire, will close in November. Staff at the venue in West Street have been informed of the decision and may be relocated. A Pizza Hut Restaurants spokesman told the Boston Standard: “We continually evaluate the location of our restaurants to ensure they are in the best possible areas to meet consumer demand and have decided to close our restaurant in Boston in November. We still have a strong presence in the area with a very popular and refurbished ‘Hut’ in Skegness, where our customers can continue to enjoy their favourite pizzas. Our team members have been informed and are currently in discussions about relocation to other restaurants in the local area.”
Celtic Manor plans five-star hotel in Cardiff: Celtic Manor, the five star hotel in Newport that hosted Ryder Cup golf, plans to open a five-star hotel in Cardiff city centre, according to Wales Online. The publication stated: “In what would be the first five-star venue in the city centre for years, and an investment that would be seen by many as filling a missing piece in Cardiff’s hospitality offer, the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport is considering a new hotel stretching across the adjoining and historic Parkgate and old County Court buildings in Westgate Street. It is understood it is discussions with Cardiff-based property development firm Rightacres and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), which owns the County Court building, over the ambitious project. Any hotel would maintain the listed facades of the two listed buildings, in a project that could see up to 300 bedrooms, as well as a high-end restaurant for guests and the general public. However, to progress the project, the partners would first have to secure the freehold interest in the larger Parkgate building, which once served as the city’s main post office and extends to 60,000 square feet, from a private investor. Discussions are understood to be ongoing. However, a positive outcome, subject to planning consent, would provide a new lease of life for the tired-looking buildings, which are both more than 100 years old. The old County Court building has been vacant for years, while BT occupies part of the space in Parkgate. The WRU had been looking at others options, including private residential, for its County Court building for a number of years. It is understood any hotel would be branded under the Celtic Manor name and be operated under a lease deal with Rightacres and the WRU, the latter of which could provide car parking for the venue from spaces at the Principality Stadium next door.”
Derbyshire-based real ale producer secures £222,000 to convert former home into visitor centre: Derbyshire-based real ale producer Peak Ales has secured a £222,000 funding package to convert its old micro-brewery into a visitor centre. The new Peak Ales Visitor Centre, located on the Chatsworth Estate, was previously used as its main micro-brewery plant where it had operated since its launch in 2005. The refurbished visitor centre now hosts a smaller micro-brewery, tasting room and gift shop for visitors. The funding for the project came from HSBC, as well as a contribution from The Rural Development Programme for England. Peak Ales managing director Robert Evans told The Business Desk: “In 2014, HSBC provided a business loan that enabled us to upgrade our brewing equipment and move the main brewery to a new purpose-built premises in Ashford in the Water. We wanted to bring the space at the original plant back to life, preserving its history and heritage. With the support of HSBC, we’ve been able to convert our original brewery into a consumer-friendly visitor centre. Our original site means a great deal to the business and we hope that our customers enjoy it as much as we do.”