Ayerst joins Leon as managing director: Natural fast food brand Leon has appointed Nick Ayerst, formerly of The Restaurant Group (TRG), as its new managing director, Propel has learned. Ayerst stepped down as managing director of TRG Concessions earlier this year. He had been with TRG for almost 14 years, including the last seven as managing director of its successful Concessions arm. Ayerst will oversee the company’s managed and franchised operations in the UK and overseas. Shereen Ritchie continues as the UK managing director for Leon Restaurants. At the same time, Propel understands the company is set to trial order-at-table at a select site, as it continues to evolve its trading model. On Wednesday (23 September), the company announced the launch of 13 new grocery products, including six ready meals as part of its exclusive partnership with Sainsbury’s. Following the recent launch of its Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets, Brown Seeded Sourdough and Waffle Fries, the company has launched three product ranges that will span three new categories. This includes six new gluten-free ready meals, which are priced at £4 each. Leon chief commercial officer Charlotte Di Cello said: “With our first grocery anniversary around the corner, expanding our range will always be so important to us because we want our customers to experience the great-tasting products Leon has to offer in both our restaurants and in the comfort of their own home.”
Rosa’s Thai Café founders to relaunch Redemption business: Alex and Saiphin Moore, the founders of Rosa’s Thai Café, are to relaunch vegan restaurant and dry bar concept Redemption, after investing in the business, Propel has learned. Propel understands the Catherine Salway-founded business, which had grown to three sites in the capital, in Seven Dials, Notting Hill and Shoreditch, went into liquidation earlier this summer. Alex and Saiphin Moore, along with Rosa’s finance director Tom Kristensen, are now set to bring the business back to life by reopening the Seven Dials site next Wednesday (30 September). The trio have partnered with Salway to recreate a new version of the business. It will showcase a new menu with the help of new head chef Erich Riberio and a support team. This is the second business the Moores and Kristensen have rescued from liquidation via their company, Atomex, the first being the Peruvian restaurants Ceviche and Andina, which were acquired in November 2018. Atomex’s intention is to help founders fix broken businesses and turn them around. Propel understands the company is currently in talks on finding a new home in Shoreditch for Andina, after failing to come to an agreement with the landlord of the concept’s former site in Redchurch Street. Redemption will be run by Raquel De Oliveira, who is also managing director of Ceviche and Andina. Alex Moore said: “I am a big fan of the Redemption brand and its pioneering stance to promote all things vegan. With the right support, we hope we can help the new business survive the covid-19 nightmare in great shape so it can eventually expand again and, ultimately, fulfil its potential.”
Subway in rent dispute with landlords of UK franchisees: The army of franchisees that operate Subway’s 1,600 UK sites are paying their shop rents – the company just isn’t passing the money on, according to a group of its landlords. According to a report by Bloomberg, Subway Realty is “exploiting” the UK’s ban on evictions by holding the rent from franchisees during the coronavirus crisis in the knowledge it can’t be pursued, the landlords said. “Subway is fully aware no action can be taken against them because of the moratorium on commercial tenant evictions, even though the moratorium is intended to protect those tenants who really do need help and can’t pay their rent,” said Adam Coffer, chairman of the Property Owners Forum, a group set up during the pandemic that represents more than 100 independent landlords, including some who said they are owed rent by Subway. A Subway spokeswoman acknowledged in an email only “some landlords” had been paid, though she declined to specify for what time period or respond directly to the allegations regarding the eviction ban. She said at least half of Subway’s UK landlords would receive rents by next month, and the rest haven’t submitted the “correct paperwork.” In a letter sent to landlords in June that was seen by Bloomberg, Subway outlined changes to long-standing arrangements for rental payments that were previously handled directly by UK franchisees. Under the new system, Subway Realty, which holds leases on the company’s stores on behalf of franchisees, now collects payments from individual operators and passes them on to landlords. It also proposed an agreement with landlords they did not seek rent for the three months to 23 June and agree to monthly payments thereafter. However, some landlords said they have received no rent since March, even though they know their franchisee tenant paid it to the parent company.
Leelex unsecured creditors receive dividend of 4.1p in the pound: Unsecured creditors of London and Leeds bar operator Leelex, which went into administration in 2018, have received a dividend of 4.1p in the pound, a new report has revealed. Meanwhile, secured creditor HSBC, which was owed circa £1.2m, has suffered a shortfall of £905,621 having received an additional payout of £119,172. Joint administrators David Costley-Wood and Owen Jeffery, of KPMG, said in the report, which covered the period from 20 March to 11 September, preferential creditor claims of £7,445 were paid in full. Leelex operated Leeds venues Neon Cactus, Jake’s Bar and Cielo Blanco along with The Distillery in London. Prior to the administrators’ appointment, a sale of The Distillery to Good Harbour Trading was completed for £400,000. The report revealed a rent bond of £35,000 had been due to be paid in July. However, after Good Harbour Trading was forced to close the business due to coronavirus restrictions and in light of declining sales, a settlement of £22,500 was agreed. As previously reported, a separate sale of Neon Cactus, Jake’s Bar and Oporto was completed to Akito prior to the administration. Leelex went into administration in September 2018 after a “slowdown in the casual dining sector resulted in the company finding it increasingly difficult to service its current debt levels, leading to cash flow issues for the company as a whole”.
Ten Entertainment Group boss – 10pm curfew will only affect 10% of trade but further support needed to ‘level the playing field’: Ten Entertainment Group interim chief executive Graham Blackwell has told Propel the 10pm curfew will only affect about 10% of its trade but has called for further government support for the bowling sector to “level the playing field”. Speaking following Ten Entertainment Group’s interim results, Blackwell said the business was in “good shape” and was “cash generative”. He said: “We were at 10% like-for-like growth before lock-down and I don’t see why we can’t eventually get back to that, although our hands are tied at the moment. About 90% of our trade comes before 10pm, but any restrictions are unhelpful. What we have tried to do as we are operating at 50% of capacity is move some of the trade from peak to off-peak and we have been pretty successful with that, which is part of the reason we’ve managed to return to 83% of previous levels. But we need further support. For example, as a bowling business we don’t benefit from the 15% VAT reduction so we would like to see the government extend that to us to level up the playing field.” Blackwell said it had been able to move some trade to off-peak by offering customers incentives. The company is continuing the 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks between Monday and Wednesday at least until the end of September, while it has introduced 25% off on Fridays, which Blackwell said would be permanent. Bowling deals, including buy one, get one free are in place for October half term. Blackwell said none of its sites were loss-making, while landlords had been very supportive, which had allowed the company to re-gear some of its leases and also defer some rents. The rollout of its new food menu was completed to coincide with the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and Blackwell said the company would look to enhance the offer further. He added: “With the rise in staycations, more people are going bowling and the key thing, right now, is to show they can do that in a safe environment with us.”
Haute Dolci to make London debut with Wembley Park site: Premium dessert concept Haute Dolci is to make its London debut after securing a site at Wembley Park. The company has agreed a deal with developer Quintain to open a 3,350 square foot restaurant, including a mezzanine, at the new neighbourhood scheme, in Wembley Park Boulevard. Haute Dolci offers a range of desserts including Belgian waffles, American pancakes and French crepes. Founder Nizam Mohamed said: “I have spent the past 12 years perfecting the concept behind Haute Dolci and I am thrilled to be opening the doors to our first restaurant in London at Wembley Park. The entire premise at Haute Dolci is about creating special moments and an extraordinary and unforgettable experience for visitors. This aligns with the Wembley Park experience of memorable times and the culture of the landmark destination.” Quintain retail director Matt Slade added: “The new signing will boost the provision of the experience offer that is commonplace among our tenants, catering to ever-changing consumer behaviours. It will also benefit our retailers by creating yet another reason to visit the varied mixed-use destination.” Haute Dolci operates eight sites across the north of England and Midlands.
Giggling Squid to open Cambridge site next week for biggest restaurant to date:Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, will open its new site – and biggest to date – in Cambridge on Monday (28 September). The company will open the restaurant in Wheeler Street having secured the former Jamie’s Italian premises last year. The venue will have capacity for 150 people and is Giggling Squid’s 36th site. Andy Laurillard said: “In undoubtedly challenging times for the hospitality industry, we’re delighted we are in a position to open a new restaurant. The new location in Cambridge will be our biggest and reflects our determination to continue with our ambitious business expansion plans.” The Cambridge site will offer dine-in and takeaway, with delivery operations through partner Deliveroo launching later this year.
Bakery Twelve Triangles opens fifth site as food store: Edinburgh-based bakery Twelve Triangles has opened its fifth site but it will be a food store rather than a restaurant as planned. The Easter Road site offers a variety of baked goods, homemade takeaway dishes and fresh produce, as well as soft serve ice cream. Founders Rachel Morgan and Emily Cuddeford chose to open as food store after realising what customers wanted during and post-coronavirus. Cuddeford said: “Our Easter Road site was originally planned as a restaurant but times have changed and we’re delighted with our new food store. We’re still able to use the large kitchen and, with the expertise of our chefs, we’re placed at the heart of burgeoning food and drink scene in this part of the city. We’re able to explore new flavours, techniques and dishes while celebrating the local producers we treasure.” The store has an emphasis on produce for people to cook at home and prepared salads, sandwiches and pies, alongside sourdough, cakes and pastries. Shelves are lined with fresh meat, charcuterie, cheese, organic vegetables, honey, jam, pickles and ketchups. There is also a hatch onto the street. Chef Joe Howarth, who worked with Skye Gyngell at Somerset House’s Spring, is developing hot dishes including curries and made-from-scratch pasta and gnocchi. Baker Connor Stewart will be developing a range of pastries, cakes and cookies specifically for the site.
Seafood restaurant Catch to open fourth site after £200,000 investment: West Yorkshire-based seafood restaurant concept Catch has announced it will open its fourth site on Monday, 5 October. The building on Street lane, which used to be The Fisherman’s Lodge, has been given a £200,000 refurbishment. It joins three other restaurants in the chain, one of which was opened by Emmerdale star Charlotte Bellamy, who plays Laurel Thomas, at the start of September, in Headingley. Catch serves a wide range of seafood, including traditional fish and chips that will be cooked in vegetable oil rather than beef dripping after locals made the request. It will also operate as a takeaway and a bar has been incorporated into the site too. Catch managing director Sarah Stuttle said: “It’s a great achievement for us to have opened in Headingley and now Street Lane in what has been a very difficult year for the industry. The Fisherman’s Lodge has been a part of the local community for a long time, and we’re excited to welcome these loyal customers to Catch, as well as some new faces.”
Goodbody – SSP cash burn better than anticipated and good outcome on liquidity: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said cash burn at UK transport hub foodservice company SSP was better than anticipated and has seen a good outcome on liquidity. Reflecting on the company’s pre-close update, Ruddy said: “Cash burn is better than we anticipated, guided to a range of £250m to £270m (we expected £290m cash burn with a smaller Ebit loss) and better than previous guidance, although it does mention rent deferrals. This means liquidity at the end of the current financial year will be £480m to £500m with current monthly cash burn of £25m per month. On current trading, weekly sales are now circa 76% below last year recovering from minus 90% in June and minus 95% in April and May. The UK also saw a small recovery in the air sector during the summer from leisure customers while the rail sector was very weak in the third quarter but is now seeing signs of a slow recovery. The group has now reopened circa 1,100 units, which is more than a third of its total. The reopenings are selected in locations that can achieve break-even level of sales at low levels of passenger numbers. Operating losses for FY20 are above our forecasts and at the higher end of the consensus range, however, this should not come as much of a surprise given the disruption to global travel that continued into the late summer. Liquidity is better than we anticipated and current cash burn is manageable, helped by government support. We will reduce forecasts for FY21 to reflect the slow rebuild of the travel market with sales only running at circa 75% of pre-covid levels.”
Caprice Holdings to reopen Balthazar next month: Balthazar London, the French brasserie in London’s Covent Garden owned by Caprice Holdings, will reopen on Thursday, 1 October. The Russell Street restaurant will be open daily, offering a diverse menu of fruits de mer from the raw bar alongside a selection of classics, including escargots with garlic, parsley and Pernod butter; and duck confit with braised lentils. Its weekend brunch will also make a return while a list of French wine and champagne as well as cocktails will sit alongside the food menus.
Jesse Elias opens solo venture Gordo’s Pizzeria: Jesse Elias, former general manager at Yard Sale, has launched a pizza parlour in Dalston, east London. Gordo’s opened in August with the idea of being a late-night space yet traditional with its fare, reports Hot Dinners. Pizza prices range between £6 and £14; with the most expensive being Calabrese – a pizza with spicy spianata salami, burrata, nduja and ricotta. There is a small wine list and one lager on the drinks menu. Gordo’s also offers a delivery service.