Jonathan Neame – still plenty of room for growth in Kent heartland: Jonathan Neame, chief executive of brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame, has told Propel there is still plenty of room for growth in its Kent heartland. About two-thirds of its 322 pubs are in the county but Neame said the economic development it has planned means there are good opportunities for the company. He added that the group continued to look at “high-quality acquisitions” on a site-by-site basis but didn’t rule out a group deal. Meanwhile, the company also continues to explore potential growth in London, where it has about 40 sites. Shepherd Neame secured a new and extended £107.5m financing structure in October to “support the business for the long term and take advantage of opportunities that may arise over the next few years”. Speaking following the company’s interim results, Neame said: “Because we are investing in big capital projects and building the estate for the long-term, we are really looking at high-quality single-site acquisitions. Kent is our heartland and we continue to see opportunities there but last year we secured a pub in Farnham, Surrey, so we are pushing out a little bit. We’re also looking at sites in London. While we are looking to grow on a site-by-site basis, if a good group opportunity came up we would certainly look at it.” The second half of the year will also see the company start work on its Ebbsfleet Garden City site, which will feature 17 bedrooms and is due to open in mid-2020. Neame said while the company didn’t have a “huge amount of bedrooms in its pipeline at the moment”, it would continue to add them when “suitable opportunities arose”. He said: “If you look back ten years, we have transformed the business. There’s a big elephant called Brexit but, putting that to one side, the underlying economy is strong, wages have started growing, inflation is dropping and people continue to eat and drink out. If that big cloud disappears, I think we can look forward to a bright year or two.”
Island Poke strengthens management team: Island Poke, the White Rabbit Fund-backed concept, is gearing up for growth by strengthening its management team with the appointments of finance and operations directors. Propel has learned the six-strong concept has appointed Georgina Stevens, previously of Benito’s Hat, as its new finance director. Stevens stepped down from the Calculus-backed Mexican chain last year. She previously spent two years with First Restaurant Group. At the same time Richard Zivkovic, formerly of Abokado, Costa and Pret, has joined the company as operations director. Zivkovic stepped down as chief operations officer at Abokado last year after three-years with the Mark Lilley-led business. Island Poke opened its latest site, at 42 Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, in November. It is thought to be looking at further opportunities in Victoria and Waterloo for openings later this year.
Simon Potts – Alchemist has had ‘brilliant start’ to 2019, overall like-for-likes at 3.6%: The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts has told Propel the company has had a “brilliant start” to the year, while new projects such as an augmented reality (AR) cocktail menu have left the brand “well placed to keep growing”. He said: “We have had a brilliant start to 2019 with our overall like-for-like position at 3.6% for the nine weeks year to date. We’ve been laying the groundwork for the new financial year (April) with a strong pipeline in place and new additions to the teams.” The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity and renowned for its theatrical experiences and presentation, has launched AR cocktail menu and app The Conjurer. It is one of the first national immersive menus and has been produced in collaboration with William Grant, Vapour and xDesign. The Conjurer is available in The Alchemist’s St Martins Lane site in London ahead of an estate-wide roll-out. Guests can choose from six AR-centric cocktails, which have been inspired by iconic childhood memories such as trips to the seaside. Customers who download the app can focus their camera phone on the coaster for a “unique drinking experience”. Those who try all six cocktails unlock a “secret elixir and attain Alchemist status”. Potts told Propel: “Projects such as the AR menu demonstrate our ongoing commitment to innovation and ideas against a backdrop of high-quality service and high-specification venue design, and we feel well placed to keep growing the brand.” Founded in 2010, The Alchemist operates sites in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Chester, Oxford, Nottingham and Cardiff. Just before Christmas, The Alchemist secured its fourth London site – at Embassy Gardens as part of the Nine Elms redevelopment – with two more in the pipeline.
Turtle Bay appoints new marketing director: Caribbean restaurant chain Turtle Bay has further strengthened its head office team by appointing a marketing director and head of talent. The company, which earlier this month appointed Jane O’Riordan as chairman, has recruited Pollyanna Hall as marketing director. Hall spent 17 months as sales and marketing director at Little Lion Entertainment, which includes the Crystal Maze LIVE Experience. Before that, she spent almost five years at Merlin. Meanwhile Rob Mansell, managing director of Cherryred Recruitment, has joined the Piper-backed business as its new head of talent. He replaces Graham McDonnell, who stepped down from Be At One at the end of 2017 and joined Turtle Bay last spring. In November, Turtle Bay reported revenue increased 7% to £68.1m for the year ending 24 February 2018, compared with £63.7m the previous year. Group Ebitda before exceptional costs was £12.1m compared with £14.4m the year before, reflecting continued investment in Germany and the effect of rises in the National Minimum Wage, business rates and the impact of exchange-rate movements on input costs.
We Are Bar Group reports increased losses as turnover falls: London-based We Are Bar Group has reported turnover fell to £11,228,412 for the year ending 29 September 2018, compared with £13,777,713 the previous year. Ebitda fell to £980,938, compared with £416,796 the year before. Pre-tax losses almost trebled to £3,033,322 compared with £745,474 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. At the year end, We Are Bar Group’s estate consisted of 12 venues in central London. At the beginning of the year the business consisted of 17 venues but sold Jamies sites in London Bridge, Fleet Place and Creechurch, and The Saint in St Paul’s to London brewer and retailer Fuller’s, while the lease ended at Smollensky’s in the Strand. The group has now accumulated losses of £8.0m and has negative shareholders’ funds of £7.6m. Earlier this week, Propel revealed chairman Simon Vardigans had taken full control of the company, with Ian Banks leaving his position as chief executive. Vardigans has brought in Enhanced Hospitality to help manage the group’s venues and is understood to have injected a substantial amount of cash into the business.
Galvin brothers to close Scottish restaurants: Michelin-starred chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin are to close their restaurants in Scotland, The Pompadour and Galvin Brasserie De Luxe, which are both housed in the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh. The Galvin brothers said: “We have been operating the restaurants at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh since 2012 but our arrangement will come to a close by mutual agreement in the next few months and we will no longer have an involvement in the hotel. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Waldorf Astoria and the owners for their support and combined efforts on both sides to deliver two award-winning restaurants – The Pompadour and Galvin Brasserie De Luxe. Special thanks must also go to all the incredible team members who have been a huge part of our Scottish restaurants over the past seven years. Our focus will now be towards our current estate and new openings in the year ahead.” The Galvin brothers currently operate four restaurants in London and one in Chelmsford, Essex. They also operate a restaurant in Dubai.
Humble Grape hits target in £400,000 crowdfunding campaign to accelerate growth: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, has hit target in its £400,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to accelerate growth by opening one to two sites a year. The company is offering 3.23% equity in return for the investment, giving it a pre-money valuation of £12m. So far, 80 investors have pledged £413,070 and the campaign is currently “overfunding”. The pitch states: “Our four sites were all profitable within the first six months. We are launching a large flagship site in Canary Wharf in the second quarter of 2019 and plan to launch a further one to two each year thereafter. We have four main revenue streams – wine bars and shops, online, wine club/wine bank, and wine school and events. We will use the funds to accelerate our growth. We consider the timing is perfect for us to create optimal growth in this sector of the industry. We will use the funds to open our fifth site. We plan to rapidly grow our new wine school and aim to improve our food offering. Funds will also allow us to hire a marketing and finance manager.” Dawson founded Humble Grape in 2009, importing wine from family-owned vineyards and running pop-ups around London. In 2014, Humble Grape raised £535,000 to take the brand to the high street. It now operates wine bars and shops in Battersea, Fleet Street, Islington and Liverpool Street. In 2017, the company raised almost £1.3m on Seedrs to open the Islington and Liverpool Street sites.
Aqua Restaurant Group eyes former Villandry site: Aqua Restaurant Group, the David Yeo-founded international restaurant business, is in advanced talks to acquire the former Villandry site in London’s Great Portland Street, Propel has learned. The company, which operates more than 20 restaurants across London, Hong Kong and Beijing, is understood to have applied for a licence for the site that closed last year after its parent company was placed into administration. Launched in 2000 by former lawyer Yeo, the company operates the Shard-based Aqua and Hutong restaurants. At the end of 2017, it appointed advisers to help secure new investment as it sought further international expansion. The company appointed BDO to find buyers for a 25% stake, which at the time would have valued the business at about £200m. Villandry, the three-strong restaurant chain run by former Le Pain Quotidien director Philippe Le Roux, was placed into administration last year after accumulating losses of £7.3m. It also previously operated sites in St James’s and Bicester Village.
The Gentlemen Baristas opens in Flat Iron Square for seventh London site:London-based The Gentlemen Baristas has opened a site in Flat Iron Square for its seventh venue in the capital. The venture is the first cafe-style offering at the Borough-based food hub and uses beans from The Gentlemen Baristas’ nearby Shadwell roastery, alongside a simple offering of pastries, cakes and snacks. The brand’s range of espresso-based drinks is accompanied by Guernsey milk from The Estate Dairy and a range of alternative milk from Minor Figures. Tea comes from Chash Fine Tea Co alongside seasonal specials, hot chocolate and homemade lemonade. Coffee cocktails are currently being developed. Breakfast offerings include croissants, cinnamon buns and pastries alongside homemade cakes available all day. The Gentlemen Baristas co-founder Ed Parkes said: “We have always admired the vibrancy and community focus of our neighbours at Flat Iron Square, not to mention keeping their teams caffeinated at our coffee stores.” Flat Iron Square chief operating officer Phil Renna added: “We are excited to establish this partnership with a Bankside institution.” In January, The Gentlemen Baristas opened a flagship coffee house and roastery at East India Docks, its largest site to date. Parkes founded the company with Henry Ayers in 2014, opening a debut site in Borough. Flat Iron Square features 16 traders and an outdoor stage, and hosts a market at weekends.
Bristol-based Thali Cafe to close Totterdown site to give post-administration business ‘security’: Bristol-based Thali Cafe, which operated five sites in the city and was bought out of administration in part by its managers in September, is to close its Totterdown restaurant to give the new business “security”. The street food brand’s future was left uncertain last May when it closed its only restaurant outside Bristol, in Oxford, and was placed into administration with founder and director Jim Pizer stepping down. The group was bought out of administration in September by Juggard, which was founded by Thali Cafe kitchen manager Jose Blanco Rodriguez, operations manager Dominka Paulina Sawicka-Harris and Michael Dillon, an investor who owns 75% of the company. A spokesman told Bristol Live: “The site hasn’t been meeting expectations and, coupled with an oversubscribed Bristol market, the team felt closing the site gives the new business the security needed going forward.” Thali Cafe’s other Bristol restaurants – in Southville, Easton, Montpelier and Clifton – will remain open. The Totterdown restaurant’s last day of business will be Sunday, 31 March.
Deltic Group sees first cohort of apprentices graduate: The Deltic Group has seen the first cohort of 15 apprentices graduate following its 12-month programme. The announcement comes in what is National Apprenticeship Week (4 to 8 March). The business will welcome a further six people on to the programme this week, bringing the total number of Deltic apprentices to 51. The Deltic Group is the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs and employs more than 1,800 people aged 16 to 25. In October 2017 Deltic partnered with HIT Training, launching its first apprenticeship programme soon after. Available to anyone over the age of 16, the programme spans three apprenticeships – Level 3 hospitality supervisor (assistant managers), Level 4 hospitality manager (deputy managers) and Level 3 team leader (sales managers). Candidates attend quarterly workshops delivered by HIT Training. Deltic said it hoped to recruit more than 30 apprentices in the next year. HR director Zoe Pacyna-Wood said: “Most of our senior team started on the ground and worked their way up so investing in our people is key. These apprenticeship schemes help us equip our talent with the skills they need to progress.”
Ei Group launches event to build partnerships with entrepreneurial operators in the north: Ei Group has launched a targeted networking and recruitment event to open the door to new partnerships with existing and aspiring multi-site operators across the north of England. The Multiples event will take place at The Spitfire pub in Southport on Tuesday, 28 March, from 2pm to 5pm. The event will allow publicans to learn more about operating formats and lease agreements offered by Ei Publican Partnerships and hear about the progress and opportunities within Ei Managed Investments, which partners with experienced managed house operators. Ei Managed Investments operations director Nathan Wall will also provide an overview of the business as it seeks new partners across the north. Recruitment marketing manager Matt Ralphs said: “We are constantly looking to recruit the best publicans and provide them with an array of support tools to help build their businesses. We feel there are many more opportunities to work with talented publicans across the country and our innovative and varied lease agreements provide an ideal platform for ambitious operators to create and sustain a successful pub business and grow their portfolio of pubs. We are excited to see what opportunities emerge from this event.” To attend the event, email
Foodservice improvements help petrol station operator hit turnover of almost £240m: Petrol station operator HKS Holdings has reported improvements of its foodservice offer helped turnover hit almost £240m. The company saw turnover increase to £238,968,077 for the year ending 31 May 2018, compared with £221,270,640 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up to £6,203,499 compared with £5,644,940 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. HKS Holdings manages about 70 petrol stations with convenience stores across the country and has partnerships with foodservice brands including Subway, Greggs and Costa Coffee. In its report accompanying the accounts, HKS Holdings said: “The group has continued to drive revenues and profitability growth through improvements in the retail and food offerings. The directors look to continue the growth with acquisitions of filling station and land development opportunities. The directors are also actively engaged in bringing new food and retail branded partners into our portfolio to improve our offering. At the year-end, the group had shareholders’ funds of £26.8m (2017: £22m) including distributable reserves of £16.5m (2017: £11.9m). The directors therefore believe the group’s position to be satisfactory, particularly with total assets in excess of current liabilities of £56.2m (2017: £53.4m).” Established in 1984 with its first petrol station in Coalville, Leicestershire, the company currently employs more than 570 staff. The group includes HKS Motors, HKS Retail and Brobat Group.
John Schnatter agrees to leave Papa John’s board: John Schnatter, founder and former chief executive of Papa John’s, has reached a settlement with the company, agreeing to leave the board after he has helped name a successor. The agreement, which comes after months of legal battles and a war of words between the two parties, means Schnatter has dropped all legal claims against Papa John’s and will be replaced following the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting. Schnatter will remain the largest shareholder at Papa John’s and retains about 31% of the company’s stock, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Schnatter said in a statement: “I founded Papa John’s, built it from the ground up and remain its largest shareholder. I care deeply about its employees, franchisees and investors and am thankful I’ve been able to resolve these important issues and that we can all focus on the company’s business without the need for additional litigation.”
Derby Brewing Co to open Lichfield pub next week for fourth site: Derby-based brewer and retailer Derby Brewing Co is to open its fourth pub, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, next week. The Pig will open on Wednesday, 13 March following an extensive renovation. The pub will offer a menu of pork-based dishes alongside a drinks list that will include Derby Brewing ales. Derby Brewing Co has restored the original Pig & Truffle’s Tudor features and added a large outdoor seating area. Director Paul Harris said: “This Tudor coaching inn is packed full of character. Most of it had been hidden away, so much so The Pig has turned out to be a gem. With a great, passionate team we can’t wait to share it with everyone and get the beer flowing again, showcasing our award-winning beer in the heart of Lichfield and, of course, our homemade menu.” Harris founded Derby Brewing Company in 2004. The family-owned company raised more than £640,000 through a crowdfunding campaign in 2017. Its other sites are The Tap beer and spirit house, and smoked food and craft house concept The Greyhound, both in Derby, and The Kedleston Country House – a bar, restaurant, boutique hotel and wedding venue in Quarndon. The Hole In The Wall will launch in Mickleover later this year for the company’s fifth pub.
Peel Hunt – Just Eat’s underinvestment in strategic initiatives will see rivals ramp up pressure: Peel Hunt leisure analyst James Lockyer has argued online food delivery business Just Eat will come under increased competitor pressure after underinvesting in strategic initiatives. Issuing a ‘Sell’ note on the shares with a target price of 520p following the company’s full-year results, Lockyer said: “At the interims, Just Eat increased its investment for delivery and brand to between £55m and £60m. At the full year, it has reported £51m. This is disappointing when it comes to Just Eat’s desire to invest for growth and in our view the company will come under growing pressing from competition (recent aggressive moves from UberEats, nipping from Deliveroo). Net cash is below expectations. We had expected £147m net cash at the end of the year, with consensus expectation £145m. However, the company has reported £83.2m. This is driven by an increase in investment in its IF-JE associates, an increased cost associated with the acquisition of Hungryhouse, and a reduced benefit from payables excluding cash paid to restaurants. 2019 revenue is expected to be between £1.0bn and £1.1bn and underlying Ebitda (both excluding Brazil and Mexico) between £185m and £205m. This is in line with consensus for revenue but remains 9% ahead of consensus (in line with us), implying the market is expecting more investment but the company has yet to provide it.”
PizzaExpress launches casual concept ZA in City of London: PizzaExpress has launched casual concept ZA in the City of London. The venue has opened in Fenchurch Place offering coffee and pastries from 7am and pizza by the slice from lunchtime until “late”. Pizza options include the Za-gherita, American Hot, Padana, Pollo Ad Astra and the Vegan Giardiniera. Other new hot items include two daily changing soups and “luna bread”, freshly baked pizza dough filled with ingredients such as egg, spinach and ham.
Multi-site operators scoop seven accolades at Star Pubs & Bars awards: Multi-site operators scooped seven of the 16 accolades at Star Pubs & Bars’ 2018 Star Awards. Kate Hayden and Paul Warriner won the pub of the year and heart of the community awards for The Snow Goose in Farnborough, while Pug Pubs won the most innovative category for The Fat Pug in Leamington Spa. Dave and Marion Carr won the marketing award for The Brandling Villa in South Gosforth, while Howard Egglestone won the Famous For Food category for the Tomahawk Steakhouse in Newcastle. The other multi-site operators to receive awards were Rick Ellison, of The Peak Hotel in Castleton (pint perfection), Mike Reeve, of The Weld Blundell in Lydiate (best soft drinks), and Anna and S Davey, of The Strugglers Inn in Lincoln (best cask ale). The awards were the biggest held by the company so far, reflecting its enlarged estate of 2,700 pubs. Representatives from 90 venues attended a ceremony in Sutton Coldfield. Star Pubs & Bar managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “This was a special year for the Star Awards as it was also the first anniversary of our acquisition of 1,900 pubs from Punch Taverns. It has been fantastic to have so many great licensees join Star Pubs & Bars and see so many of them represented at the Star Awards.”
Portsmouth-based brewer Staggeringly Good closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £360,000 to quadruple capacity: Portsmouth-based brewer Staggeringly Good has closed its £300,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to quadruple capacity. The brewer was offering 10.71% equity in return for investment giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2.5m. In total, 471 investors pledged £360,000 and the campaign has now closed. The company will use the funds to quadruple brewing capacity to meet demand, acquire its own canning line and grow its team to help increase sales. Staggeringly Good runs a taproom that is being expanded at its brewery site next to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park stadium and an annual beer festival, WarriorFest, set on HMS Warrior. The pitch stated: “We started Staggeringly Good in 2015, brewing part-time on borrowed equipment, labelling bottles by hand in an old shipping unit. Three years on and we’ve established ourselves as one of England’s top 20 breweries (Untappd) and have grown into our own 11,000-litre brewery producing more than 250,000 pints in the past 24 months. But demand is high and, with only three full-time employees, we’re struggling to meet it. We’re looking for funding to expand our brewery to 44,000 litres, add our own canning line and grow our team to include dedicated salespeople and additional brewers. Our taproom served more than 37,000 beers in the past 12 months. We’re now expanding into the adjoining unit, adding ten taps for house and guest beers.”