Brewhouse & Kitchen to raise further funds for working capital and continue expansion plans: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, is to raise further funds to provide working capital and continue with its expansion plans. The company, which has 13 company-owned sites and nine that it operates under a franchise and management agreement with Puma investments, has launched a limited rights issue to raise circa £2.5m from existing shareholders only, with which – alongside additional current cash reserves – the company intends to continue to invest into the current estate to develop its first brewpub with rooms in Worthing, as well as a further 24 rooms in Bristol and Bournemouth. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell told Propel: “The uptake has been excellent and we are on course to be oversubscribed. We aim to continue to improve the estate, have sufficient reserves to manage through the current uncertainty, and also look to acquire again should the right sites become available.” Given the social distancing measures in place, the group estimated its brewpubs , which were gradually reopened from 6 July, are operating at 86% of original internal cover levels. The business has traded “well ahead” of expectations and has demonstrated real term like-for-like growth outside of the Eat Out To Help Out trading sessions. Gumbrell said: “We worked hard to develop our gardens, executed a number of minor redecorations and create a covid safe but relaxed guest experience for the new trading environment. We delivered a considerable amount of training, welfare support and interaction with our teams during lock-down. They have hit the ground running and we have been delighted with the results so far.” The company said it expects to return to sustained, pre-pandemic turnover levels within a year. To support the business through an expected suppressed period of sales, the company is introducing new revenue streams. These include a national mini-keg delivery service, with a new Brewhouse & Kitchen gift shop on the website, which will be expanded with further offerings. The company has completed a click and collect pilot that is being rolled out while it is trialling takeaway food as well as food and beer local delivery schemes. The company said it was looking to continue developing its franchise model, which “increases our revenue mix, reduces our capital at risk while increasing revenue and leverages the growth of our estate”. Brewhouse & Kitchen’s accounts filed at Companies House showed turnover increased 7% to £15.2m for the year ending 28 September 2019, compared with £14.1m the previous year. Pre-tax losses increased to £976,000, compared with £761,000 the previous year. During the year the company raised £1.7m in new equity to enable further development of the estate. Gumbrell added: “We continued our progress to develop a market-leading pub and brewing model within the UK market, innovation has seen further investment last year and continued into this year. Lock-down was a particularly fertile period for concept development and we are cautiously optimistic for the future.”
Busaba and Thai Leisure Group restructure: Thai restaurant chain Busaba is set to close one site – and keep five shut for the time being, The Sunday Times has reported. It added: “Busaba, which has 13 restaurants and 350 staff, has hired consultants from Duff & Phelps to thrash out a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), the insolvency process used to cut rents. In a letter to employees this weekend, Terry Harrison, managing director, said he had managed to reduce the number of redundancies necessary from 200 to 40, after staff agreed to reduce their hours and be more flexible about where and when they worked. ‘By everyone being so supportive and flexible and with the support of our new owners, we have a fighting chance to ensure the business is around to celebrate another 20 years, by us continuing to focus on what makes Busaba great,’ the letter said. Thai Leisure Group, which has 18 restaurants, has hired advisers from RSM to push through a CVA of its own.” A total of 180 staff will be made redundant. Thai Leisure Group managing director Ian Leigh told The Sunday Times: “There’s no way we could get through this without a CVA. It’s our lifeline.”
Thwaites considers extending banking facilities, initiates redundancy programme: Brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has said it is considering extending its banking facilities further and has initiated a programme of redundancies. In an update, executive chairman Rick Bailey said all its sites have reopened and trade “has built steadily”. However, the company will not be paying a dividend for the year ending 31 March 2020 as the preservation of cash “continues to be an absolute priority”. Future dividends will be reviewed “when normal trading levels resume”. The company renewed its banking facilities in the first quarter of 2020 and, at 31 March 2020, had net debt of £65.4m with total facilities of £82m giving it liquidity headroom of more than £16m. At the end of June, net debt had increased to £71.8m. Bailey said: “While this was an increase of £6.4m during the period of closure, £12m of headroom remained against the company’s existing facilities and, with the support of its banks, its banking covenants were relaxed. The company is currently giving consideration as to whether it is necessary to increase facilities further as a prudent measure to ensure it has sufficient facilities to deal with the ongoing uncertainties that might arise over the winter period. What has become very clear in reopening is the visibility we had last year on forward bookings has been greatly shortened, and we see no sign this will change as we enter the winter. Against this background, we have taken the unwelcome decision to initiate a programme of redundancies to ensure our cost base reflects the environment we expect to operate in over the coming months and protect the business against significant ongoing uncertainty.” Bailey said the company benefits from the fact it owns the freeholds of all its properties and is, therefore, not under pressure to pay third-party landlords rent but it does have financing obligations in the form of interest payments to its funders. He added: “Our initial experience upon reopening has been better than we had at first hoped, however, the coming months are likely to test us again. The company has been through troubled times before and has a strong asset base and an experienced management team to assist in finding a pathway through the challenges we face.”
Laine Pub Company – ‘better than expected start’ since reopening but ‘trade below last year’: Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company has reported trading has “exceeded expectations” since reopening after lock-down. The company said while levels remain short of last year, trading patterns suggest “a quicker recovery than initially modelled”. It stated: “The directors have considered the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on the group with the information available to it, and do not believe it will affect the group’s ability to continue to trade for the foreseeable future.” Chief executive Gavin George told Propel: “The positive impact of the good weather, staycations and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, gave us a better than expected start in July and August, but trade remains well below last year, particularly in our more centrally located sites. There are parts of our London estate that desperately need to see the return of tourists and office workers and we have therefore joined other UKHospitality members in calling on the prime minister and the mayor to provide a joined-up plan for getting the capital up and running again. As the cooler weather draws in, the impact of distancing on pub activities and capacities will have a marked effect on trade levels, so we hope conditions allow for further relaxations of the guidance in the months to come.” Laine Pub Company provided the update in accounts filed at Companies House that showed turnover stood at £43m for the year ending 18 August 2019 against £50.5m in the previous period, which spanned 60 weeks. The previous accounting period was extended to allow the company to bring its financial year in line with its backer, Vine Acquisitions, which bought the business in May 2018. The company operates more than 60 pubs and its Laine Brew Co business produces a portfolio of craft beer at its production brewery in Sussex. The group also operates five pubs in its Mash Inns partnership with Ei Group.
Trust Inns reports ‘robust’ trading since reopening: Trust Inns, the north west-based pub company, has told Propel trading has been “robust and above expectations” since reopening. Managing director Mark Brown said this was despite some of its sites being unable to reopen due to local lock-down restrictions, such as in Leicester, Aberdeen, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. It comes as Trust Inns reported turnover fell to £39.6m for the year ending 31 March 2020, compared with £41.1m the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £5.6m, compared with £7.3m the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The directors paid a dividend of £1m during the year. No dividend was paid the previous year. The company said in response to covid-19 and the closure of its pubs, management had taken action to mitigate the impact on profit and cash flow. Brown told Propel this included sizeable reductions in capital and repair budgets while the majority of employees were furloughed until reopening. However, importantly, regular contact was maintained with tenants through non-furloughed members of the operations team who ensured the closure period was used as productively as possible and that sites were risk assessed and thoroughly prepared for reopening. Founded in 1995, Trust Inns owns 350 pubs across the UK and is owned by the family interests of Trevor Hemmings.
All Star Lanes permanently closes Manchester site: All Star Lanes, the boutique bowling alley operator backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, is permanently closing its Manchester site, Propel has learned. The venue at the Great Northern Warehouse opened in 2013 and was the company’s only outlet outside the capital. Chief executive Graham Cook said: “Due to recent events, we have decided to close Manchester Deansgate and will no longer be operating the venue. We love Manchester and are sad to be leaving. However, this is a head-over-heart decision made in the best interests of our wider team and business, longer term. For now, we will be concentrating on our leading bowling businesses in London.” All Star Lanes will continue to operate its four London venues – Brick Lane, Holborn, Westfield Stratford and Westfield White City.
New home for The Dairy restaurant: Chef-entrepreneur Robin Gill and wife Sarah will reopen The Dairy at a site in Bermondsey on Thursday (10 September). Following the closure of the original site in Clapham, the restaurant will open in Bermonds Locke. Robin Gill said: “Closing the original Clapham site of The Dairy was a very difficult decision for me and Sarah, but finding a brilliant site so quickly means we are able to retain our staff and bring them over to Bermondsey. The Dairy was, and will always be, a family-run restaurant led by nature. Our goal was to create an experience as close to dinning by a farm or coastline in central London with direct relationships to our beloved purveyors from the land and sea.” The Dairy Bermondsey will follow much of the same produce-led focus as its predecessor. Among its new menu items are: Willie’s mackerel, dilled fresh gherkins, sea purslane, dashi; grilled radicchio, broad bean purée, pickled tropea onions; and wood-roasted lamb, hayonnaise, charred lettuce and mint oil. The Dairy was launched in 2012.
Stonegate reignites training programme following lock-down: Stonegate Pub Company has reignited its Albert’s Theory of Progression (ATOP) training programme, opening its courses to more than 800 delegates-in-waiting, with much of the learning going virtual. After lock-down forced the cancellation of more than 60 workshops, Stonegate’s learning and development team began redesigning many of the training programmes to facilitate online learning. ATOP has been rebuilt with virtual classrooms, videos, on job, online, one-to-one coaching, as well as face-to-face workshops, which the learning and development team hopes can recommence in November. The career pathway will continue to embrace the new learning practices adopted during lock-down, with shared online whiteboards, working in virtual groups, recording all workshops to watch again and collaborating online on tasks, such as business plans and charity events, all becoming part of the core of study. Stonegate also reported despite staff being furloughed, it had 100% engagement from its team leaders currently enrolled on the Accolade programme that prepares staff for deputy manager roles, and similar figures for Albert’s Award, aimed at team members wanting to progress to team leaders. Stonegate also saw its apprentices on Albert’s Evolution continue their studies during lock-down, with more than 200 partaking in online learning. ATOP saw a flurry of sign-offs post lock-down, as delegates could quickly finish off their last pub-based modules once they had reopened. Albert’s Award as already broken the 500 barrier this year, the highest number of sign-offs in a single year to date.
Conrad Hotels & Resorts transforms rooms in St James property into private workspaces: Conrad Hotels & Resorts has transformed some of the rooms and suites at its Conrad London St James property into private workspaces. The company has introduced The Perfect Address “to cater for and align with a new market of customer”. The office spaces, which start from 26 square metres, can be booked for up to one hour to a month at a time. The air-conditioned spaces include a large desk; complimentary high-speed internet access; Chromecast with 42-inch satellite HDTV; and two desk phones. Each office features a Nespresso machine and hospitality tray, small lounge area and en-suite bathroom. Guests will have access to the business centre and printing facilities, 24-hour concierge service, private gym and bicycle storage while users will receive exclusive discounts on food and beverage, laundry services, larger meeting room bookings and room rates. Each room and workspace will also receive stringent cleaning while digital key check-in allows contactless office access by using a mobile phone.
Fullers’ to reopen flagship The Parcel Yard on Monday: London-based pub and hotel operator Fuller’s will reopen its flagship site The Parcel Yard at London King’s Cross railway station on Monday (7 September). The company has been undertaking a phased reopening of its estate having started to welcome customers back to its pubs when lock-down restrictions were lifted on the sector in July. The Parcel Yard was launched in March 2012.
Ottolenghi to reopen trio of sites, takes ready meal service nationwide: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi will continue the reopening of his restaurants this week while he is taking his ready meal service nationwide. Ottolenghi Spitalfields will reopen on Thursday (10 September), with Nopi following suit the next day and Ottolenghi in Belgravia offering takeaway from Monday, 14 September. The Ottolenghi delis in Notting Hill and Islington, along with Rovi, welcomed customers back in July. Meanwhile, Ottolenghi’s ready meals service is now available nationwide. Ottolenghi Ready offers six recipes that the team said would keep in the fridge for up to ten days and would only require reheating in a saucepan. The meals can also be frozen for up to one month. Recipes have been adapted from Ottolenghi’s test kitchen and cookbooks, alongside new dishes. The range includes braised spinach and herbs with paneer and lime; spiced lamb ragu with harissa, apricots and green olives; and shakshuka with red peppers and tomatoes. Ottolenghi also offers pick-up and delivery from all sites, ordered online.
Selfridges wins fight to stop gentleman’s club opening opposite new £300m entrance: Selfridges has won its fight to stop a gentleman’s club opening opposite its new £300m entrance after Westminster Council agreed the venue would be “seriously detrimental” to the area. Electshow, which previously ran the Mayfair Club, had applied to turn the existing Blush club in Duke Street into a gentleman’s bar. But the authority denied the venue a licence calling it “inappropriate” and its application “not fit for purpose”, reports the Evening Standard. Selfridges had told the council’s licensing committee it was building a 20,000 square foot toy shop and a cinema in Duke Street to make the area more “family orientated” until late into the night. The store’s Brasserie of Light would also directly overlook the proposed gentleman’s club. Philip Kolvin QC, for Selfridges, said: “My client has spent five years and £300m on a redevelopment of the Duke Street facade to transform it from the rather modest services side of the building to a fine piece of architecture in its own right. With its triple-storey customer entrance, key welcoming and drop off point for visitors – the place where people meet before and after visiting Selfridges. That entrance is directly opposite the application site.” The New West End Company, residents and the Met Police were also among the objectors. Craig Baylis, speaking for Electshow director Wahid Mekhaiel, said the club would be discreet, had already been operating as a standard nightclub without incident and would not affect Selfridges.