BrewDog passes £10m mark in crowdfunding campaign for sustainability projects: Scottish craft brewer BrewDog has passed the £10m mark in its crowdfunding investment programme, Equity for Punks Tomorrow. The company recently announced its carbon negative status as it continues to break from conventional business models and become the world’s most sustainable beer business. Equity for Punks Tomorrow launched on 10 September with the initial goal of raising £7.5m. It raised £1m in less than 48 hours, and passed its target at the end of October. The company said it would fund projects including direct wind power for its breweries, carbon dioxide recovery, electric vehicle fleets and converting waste into energy. Having secured more than £73m from previous crowdfunding rounds, BrewDog has now set its sights on raising £15m before the campaign is scheduled to close on 28 January.
Piano Works to reopen this week, one of the only venues in London permitted to operate until midnight: Dining, drinking and live music concept The Piano Works is to reopen this week – and will be one of the only venues in London permitted to operate until midnight. The government is allowing grass roots live music venues to remain open until the last performance has finished. Having been closed since March, The Piano Works is offering festive live music brunch, lunch and dinner parties from Wednesday to Saturday in the run-up to Christmas and will also open on New Year’s Eve. The new seated live music parties “will be a twist on the usual Piano Works experience” but will still feature musicians performing customers’ requests. Last food and drinks orders must be placed before 10pm. Founder Alan Lorrimer said: “We’ve all had enough of looking at static people through computer screens. At last we’ll be able to look all around and see real people having fun again and be given permission to stay up until midnight.”
Flour Pot Bakery makes at-home move: Brighton and Hove-based artisan bakehouse Flour Pot Bakery has made a move into the at-home market. The company, which was founded by Oli Hyde and operates eight sites, said it wanted to build further on the range of fresh products it sells in its cafes. Louise Tamadon-Nejad, head of sales and PR, told Propel: “When the first lockdown happened we quickly pivoted to supplying our products online and in-store to our local community with added extras such as eggs, flour, milk, butter, and of course coffee, to have at home. We were able to mobilise our fleet of drivers into carrying out home deliveries and at peak lockdown we were doing in excess of 350 per day. So now it feels like a natural step to appeal to the at-home market with a collection of ready-made dishes to finish off at home.” The move had led to the creation of the Flour Pot Festive Feast, which features a selection of sides, sauces and sweets “to make the big day as easy and fuss free as possible”. Tamadon-Nejad added: “We are excited to see where this takes us in the new year with the development of this side of the business and the launch of our range of soups and stews to enjoy at home.”
Gilkes – UK’s hospitality sector is on death’s door, and in vital need of life support: Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Foggs, has said the UK’s hospitality sector is on death’s door, and in vital need of life support from a government that so far “has failed its duty of care”. Writing in the Evening Standard, Gilkes said: “It was lovely being back out in a London pub again, sipping on a draft beer, hearing the chatter and laughter, the sounds of order tickets printing and the clink of cutlery – but let’s not delude ourselves. The UK’s hospitality sector is on death’s door, and in vital need of life support from a government that so far has failed its duty of care. Given the choice, few in hospitality would want to add to the government’s eye-watering debt or add further to the economic catastrophe the UK is facing – we’d prefer to be allowed to trade on a safe but unrestricted basis – but help is critical. This is an industry in crisis, crippled by the tier restrictions. In the absence of anything like normal trade, the government needs to get real about the levels of support needed to keep our sector alive. While the vaccine news is wonderful and it seems increasingly likely things will go back to normal by April, without further support, next spring will be too late for thousands of restaurants, pubs and bars, and the UK’s third-largest sector will have been destroyed. There are some provisions in place and furlough certainly helps cover wage costs, but there’s still a sizable contribution companies need to make for those not working and it’s simply impossible to furlough all staff, even during periods of closure. My business, the Inception Group, needs to continue to pay people to keep our 11 venues maintained. Hospitality companies can’t just shut down in their entirety even when forced to close. Workforce aside, there are many other fixed costs we pay out, including website hosting fees, annual software and rental subscriptions, utility bills and, of course, the big one – rent. While some landlords have been pragmatic and supportive, others have not and the lease forfeiture moratorium is the only thing that has kept the wolves from the door for many. Many businesses, including ours, have tried hard to adapt but earnings from deliveries and ‘at-home’ kits don’t come close to replacing the lost income in venues, especially during these crucial Christmas weeks.”
Gourmet burger brand Fat Hippo lines up Leeds opening: Gourmet burger brand Fat Hippo will open a site in Headingley, Leeds, next February. The company, which was founded in 2010 by Michael Phillips, has secured a site in the city’s Otley Road. Fat Hippo, which recently opened a site in Nottingham, is expected to work with Deliveroo in the build-up to the opening of the site. Phillips said: “After a successful stint in Trinity Kitchen and a staycation at Leeds Festival with our fleet, it was only a matter of time before the Hippo came to Headingley. The people of Leeds have always been so welcoming and have made it known over the years on our social channels they want a Fat Hippo set up here.” The company also operates sites in Newcastle, Jesmond, Durham and two outlets in Sheffield.
Ross swaps Greggs for Whitbread Restaurants: David Ross has stepped down as head of category at food-to-go retailer Greggs to join Whitbread as head of commercial – restaurants. In his new role, Ross, who spent more than seven years with Greggs, joining as category manager, will report into Simon Ewins, who was appointed managing director, UK hotels and restaurants at Whitbread earlier this autumn. Ross has also had stints at Finsbury Food Group and Greencore. Propel revealed in October that Phil Birbeck had stepped down as managing director of Whitbread’s circa 400-strong restaurant division, which includes the brands Brewers Fayre, Bar + Block and Beefeater.
Team behind Chinatown’s Tao Tao Ju restaurant to launch new Mayfair site: The team behind Chinatown-based restaurants Tao Tao Ju and Super Star, is to launch a new dim sum teahouse concept called Sparrow in London’s Mayfair, Propel understands. The company has taken on the former Boca Cha Cha site in Formosa Street, Little Venice. The business said Sparrow would be a “new take on dim sum, fresh, seasonal and healthy”. Sammy Weinbaum at CDG Leisure acted on the Formosa Street deal on behalf of the vendor.
London’s G-A-Y nightclub serving McDonald’s so it can open in tier two: London’s G-A-Y nightclub has started to serve McDonald’s meals so it can stay open under the new tier system. In order to reopen under tier two rules in the capital, G-A-Y in Old Compton Street, Soho, is working with a number of nearby restaurants – including McDonald’s – to offer a table service menu. Owner Jeremy Joseph said: “The government hasn’t really thought about this at all. They are so out of touch. The problem is they haven’t ever had a conversation with hospitality. It’s all very well saying you’ve got to serve food. But that’s not what we do. Do they want me to suddenly open a kitchen and start cooking when I have no idea about food hygiene?”
Three Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta’s Arros QD secures CVA plan approval: Three Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta has seen creditors unanimously approve a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) for his Arros QD restaurant in London’s Fitzrovia. Opened last year, the restaurant in Eastcastle Street, marked the first opening for Dacosta outside of Spain. The CVA will principally see the lease integrated into the restructured business on flexible rent terms. Marcos Fernandez Pardo, chief executive at Arros QD and sister business Iberica, said: “These are exceptionally challenging times for our sector and as such we are delighted to have reached such a constructive position with the support of our creditors. This outcome provides us with a strong platform to secure the long-term future and growth of the business. We are grateful for the support from all key stakeholders, including the landlord and Santander. This has been a difficult time for many of our team members and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work and commitment throughout this process. Our focus is now ‘business as usual’, supporting all of our team members and continuing to provide a quality and covid-safe restaurant experience for our guests.” RSM advised on the restructure. In October, Spanish restaurant group Iberica underwent its own CVA with rent levels taking their toll on the business. As part of the restructure, Iberica closed its site in Glasgow while its restaurant in Manchester.
Britannia ranked UK’s worst hotel chain: Britannia has been ranked the UK’s worst hotel chain for the eighth consecutive year, after guests described its venues as “filthy”. It was the only firm to receive just one star out of five for cleanliness following the survey of more than 4,000 people by consumer group Which? Despite being one of the UK’s cheapest chains, with rooms costing an average of £58 per night, guests still only gave Britannia one star for value for money. One customer said a hotel was a “filthy hovel”, while another claimed it was “by far the dirtiest hotel room I have ever stayed in”. When Which? visited the Folkestone Britannia, also known as the Grand Burstin, as part of a separate investigation into hotel hygiene, it found stray hairs and stained towels. Further tests indicated surfaces had not been thoroughly cleaned between stays. Britannia received an overall customer score of 37%, putting it in last place. The company said in a statement: “We are totally committed to providing a safe environment for visitors. We have so far spent about £2m on covid-19 precautions, but we accept there is more to do.”
Surrey-based micro-brewer The Park Brewery closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £230,000: Surrey-based micro-brewer The Park Brewery has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising £230,000 – more than twice its original target. The company was aiming to raise £100,000 and was offering 5.75% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £2.3m. It has now closed the campaign, with 414 investors pledging £229,999. The company will use the funds to add further tanks to increase brewing capacity as well as for marketing purposes. The pitch stated: “This year, due to the pandemic, the business model had to change. We managed to purchase a second-hand canning line, set up an e-commerce site and sell direct to customers through home deliveries within a week of lockdown. Since then, we have completed about 2,000 home deliveries and gained more than 1,700 new customers in 2020. And these numbers keep growing. Although we had a significant increase in capacity and output, we still feel we are a bit of an undiscovered gem in the brewing world. This investment will help us develop our marketing strategy, increase direct sales, enhance our range, create more employment as well as purchase much-needed additional tank space to meet demand.” The company was founded in autumn 2014 by husband-and-wife team Josh and Frankie Kearns with an initial £5,000 set-up producing just 200 litres a brew. It raised more than £300,000 on Crowdcube in 2018 to relocate to a new home in Kingston, add a taproom and increase production fivefold.
Nick Jones – we have 50,000 people on the membership waiting list if we needed to raise cash post-pandemic: Nick Jones, founder of Soho House, has said if the business needed more money post-pandemic, it would let in its “huge” waiting list of 50,000 people. Speaking in an interview with the Telegraph, Jones was confident Soho House customers would return to the private members club when they could, and if the business needed extra cash, it had plenty of people wanting to be a part of the scene. “Once everything switches back on and there is light at the end of the tunnel all those worries about ‘is there too much debt against the profit’ will go away,” he said. “If we were desperate for cash, we would let in our huge waiting lists, you could just go straight to that and let them in. We have about 50,000 people on our waiting lists.” Like other hospitality businesses, the covid-19 crisis has been tough for Soho House. The club bid goodbye to 1,000 of its 8,000 global staff and asked its landlords for rent holidays. Soho House has also made use of the furlough scheme and £16.5m in crisis loans backed by the US government. “We have very good relationships with all our landlords, I’ve known them all and every deal I’ve done has always been a personal deal,” Jones said. “But that doesn’t mean we have paid everyone. We didn’t refuse to pay either. We sat down and negotiated deferment or some rent-free months. We’re pretty up to date.”
Country house hotel Branston Hall forced to shut as parent company enters administration: Country house and wedding venue Branston Hall Hotel has been forced to close, with all jobs now at risk, after its parent company South Spring entered administration. Accountancy firm RSM has been appointed as administrator. A statement from Branston Hall management said: “We are utterly heartbroken to announce that Branston Hall Hotel, the company that is owned by South Spring, has now been placed into administration. This is devastating for every member of staff that has been at the hotel for so many years and to those who worked so hard to try and get Branston Hall open again.” The venue in Lincoln has 53 bedrooms and is set in 88 acres of parkland and lakes.
Laine Brew Co appoints first apprentice: Laine Brew Co, the beer division of Brighton-based pub and brewing company Laine, has appointed its first brewing apprentice as it aims to increase diversity in brewing. Lauren Carpenter joins the team after working in the hospitality sector for eight years and was one of more than 20 applicants. In addition to her work for Laine, her year’s apprenticeship will include a number of collaborative brewing assignments with breweries around the UK and a virtual collaborative beer with US brewer Megan Stone, who has championed for more diversity in the sector. Laine chief executive Gavin George said: “We launched the ‘One for All’ apprenticeship scheme to encourage people from all backgrounds to consider a career in brewing and we are thrilled Lauren has decided to join our scheme.” Laine Brew Co is offering one apprenticeship per year that will teach the essential skills and crafts involved in brewing beer and apply that skillset to a range of beer styles. Supported by the Hospitality Industry Training Brewer Scheme, Laine’s apprenticeship will be run in conjunction with the University of Nottingham’s International Centre for Brewing Science.
McDonald’s to close some branches early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to give staff time off: McDonald’s is to close some branches early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to give staff time off. It also means some restaurants will open a little late on Boxing Day too. The rules were outlined in an email to customers and opening and closing times will vary across the country. The company said it expected to update customers of restaurant opening hours in the next two weeks. McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “Given the extraordinary year we’ve all had, we will balance being there for you when you need us with giving our people some additional time off with their loved ones. This means that some of our restaurants may close a little earlier on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and open a little later on Boxing Day.”
Lockdown project of making sourdough for friends results in opening of Sourdough Sophia bakery: Sourdough Sophia bakery – a business that started during the first lockdown – will open a bakery and school in Crouch End this month after its bid to raise £25,000 was achieved with nine days to spare on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Sophia Sutton-Jones and her husband Jesse spent the first lockdown supplying sourdough from their own kitchen across the local neighbourhood. What started as a few loaves to friends became almost 200 loaves per week, including the likes of sourdough focaccia, croissants and doughnuts. The campaign has reached a total in excess of £33,000. Sophia Sutton-Jones wrote on the Kickstarter funding page: “I cannot believe I can say this or even write this but from what I have seen in the past few weeks it comes as no surprise to me to say that we have hit our target of £25,000 nine days early. It is no surprise because this wonderful community behind us has been so overwhelmingly positive. I am so thrilled, jumping for joy and doing a little dance in the kitchen as I write this.” The site will open on Wednesday, 16 December in Middle Street.
Black and White Hospitality-operated Humber Royal Hotel is put on market for £1.9m: The Humber Royal Hotel – operated by Black and White Hospitality, which also owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White – has been put on the market for £1.9m. The 58-bedroom site in Grimsby was bought out of administration by Icon Hotels, which gave the venue a £1.75m overhaul on what was then the Hotel Elizabeth, in 2010. Black and White Hospitality took the reins at the north east Lincolnshire hotel in September this year after an extended first lockdown closure with investment house Downing as significant shareholder in the hotel. The 2.7-acre Humber Royal Hotel site is being sold through property agent Colliers International. Five function rooms are complemented by an open-plan lounge bar and restaurant, with seating for about 60 people while the rear of the property overlooks Grimsby Golf Course.
JD Wetherspoon to operate eight Wales pubs as cafes: JD Wetherspoon is keeping eight of its pubs open in Wales. It follows a meeting between Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin and two members of the Senedd Cymru (Welsh parliament) who are opposed to the pub closures. Wetherspoon will keep the properties open, effectively trading as cafes, not pubs, in Cardiff (two sites), Morriston, Newport, Caernarfon, Cwmbran, Mold and Wrexham. Martin said: “I met with Conservative leader of the opposition Paul Davies and Conservative chief whip Darren Millar at our pub, The Mount Stuart, in Cardiff. They are opposed to the Welsh pub closures and were keen for Wetherspoon to keep some of the company’s pubs open. As a result we have decided to keep eight of the pubs open from 8am to 6pm