PizzaExpress appoints chief business officer and chief customer officer:PizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, has appointed Jo Bennett as its new chief business officer, and Shadi Halliwell as its new chief customer officer. Bennett joins from Hilding Anders Group – the international sleep group with about 1,200 stores and sales in more than 60 countries – where she was group chief financial officer. Before this, she was a director of KKR Capstone, chief financial officer of retailer Jacques Vert Group, and worked in the operations group of TPG Capital. Halliwell was most recently chief marketing officer of Three UK, and from 2014 to 2017 was group marketing and creative director of Harvey Nichols. She also played a leading role in the marketing success of O2 for 15 years, most recently as head of brand and marcomms. Bennett and Halliwell will report to PizzaExpress chief executive Campbell, and will join managing director Zoe Bowley and people director Kate Daines on the PizzaExpress executive committee. Campbell said: “I am thrilled Jo and Shadi are joining the team. Their respective track records speak for themselves, and I am sure, alongside the already strong team at PizzaExpress, they will ensure that 2021 ends up as a brilliant year for our business around the world. Following the significant recapitalisation of the company two months ago, and substantial further funds being committed, we are in an increasingly strong position to grow once covid restrictions are eased.” Propel revealed last month PizzaExpress was to restructure its management team, which would include the creation of these two new roles. As part of the restructure, Bowley would see her remit expanded to also oversee the group’s international restaurant division. Andy Pellington will step down as chief financial officer, a role he has held for seven years, in March, after overseeing the recapitalisation of the business earlier this autumn. The finance role will come under the new chief business officer’s remit, as well as overseeing the group’s supply chain and procurement functions. The group’s new chief customer officer will also oversee the brand’s marketing function, as part of their remit, with the business currently without a marketing director.
Greene King continues 90% rent concessions for all tied tenants in national lockdown: Brewer and retailer Greene King has said all its tied tenants will continue receiving 90% rent concessions until the end of the current lockdown. The company wrote to all of its 1,000 tenants to confirm the additional support, which brings total financial support to more than £25m since the onset of the pandemic. The support remains in place while pubs are forced to stay shut under government restrictions and applies whether or not a pub is offering a takeaway service. The business said the support comes despite the government announcing grants of up to £9,000 for individual hospitality businesses impacted by the latest lockdown to help them through to the spring. Wayne Shurvinton, Greene King Pub Partners managing director, said: “The great British pub has been in a fight for its survival since the first lockdown in March 2020. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with our partners since that date and we are determined to keep doing all we can to support them now. However, reducing rents alone will not be enough and without further government support, pubs will continue losing money every week while they remain closed. The latest grants are a good step in the right direction but with no date for pubs to reopen, they will soon vanish on other overheads and outstanding bills. Pubs need guarantees of further long-term support from the government, such as an extension of the current VAT cut for hospitality and a continuation of the current business rates relief. As it stands, both of these would come to an end at around the point in the spring when it looks like pubs could finally be able to reopen. This could be the cruellest blow of all to hard-working publicans who reopen their pubs to welcome customers back in and suddenly see costs spiral.”
Five Guys UK strengthens 2021 pipeline with trio of new sites: Better burger brand Five Guys has further strengthened its 2021 UK openings pipeline, with the addition of three leisure park-based sites, Propel has learned. The circa 100-strong brand has secured the former Frankie & Benny’s sites in Crest Road, High Wycombe, and at the Gate Leisure Park, Chichester, for openings later this year. The company has also taken on the ex-Pizza Hut site at Stevenage Leisure Park, Hertfordshire. Last month, Propel revealed Five Guys had secured a site in London’s Brixton. It secured a newly developed site near Brixton’s Atlantic Road, and hopes to be on-site this month. It has also secured a site at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet West Midlands, which is due to open in the first quarter of this year, alongside Starbucks and Wagamama. As previously reported, it will also open in the Edinburgh St James development this summer. Five Guys opened ten sites last year, including at Parrs Wood, Manchester, just before Christmas.
Team behind The Assembly in Leeds to launch £1m Manchester venue: The team behind The Assembly street food concept in Leeds is to launch a £1m street food venue and taproom in Manchester city centre. As flagged up by Propel last February, PopCity, which is the brainchild of commercial property expert Nick Gregory and restaurateur Richard Sweet, will open the new site – Society Manchester – on the former Pitcher & Piano unit in Barbirolli Square. Local operator Elnecot will launch a new stone-baked pizza concept – Dokes Pizzeria – at the circa 8,000 square foot site, which will have capacity for 350 people. Other operators set to join the site, which hopes to launch this spring, include Asian concept Manzoku Street Food; burger concept Slap & Pickle; and the Falafel Guys. Vocation, the Hebden Bridge-based brewery, is also set to operate a taproom on-site. Society will also feature resident DJs and special guests, plus live music events, food and drink collaborations and local chef takeovers. Gregory told Manchester Evening News: “We’ve got an incredible line-up that will showcase local food superstars as well as our 2021 events programme that will be dedicated to highlighting independent artists from Manchester’s thriving music scene. It’s so important to us to create a destination that showcases the very best of Manchester and Society will be just that.”
French chef Cyril Lignac to open first UK site this spring: French chef Cyril Lignac is set to open his first UK site – Bar des Pres – in Albemarle Street in Mayfair this spring. The restaurant is Lignac’s first venture outside France. His French site served raw food when it opened in 2016 but the London expression will offer Franco/east Asian creations both warm and cold. Diners can expect scallops with caramelised miso; “Galette Craquette” (crunchy crab galette); Madras curried crab with avocado; and satay fillet steak. Pastries include French toast; chocolate tart; and vanilla and pecan praline mille-feuille. A wine list with almost 250 French pours and cocktails such as the Germanopratin – a blend of gin, Saint-Germain, cucumber, lemon juice and champagne – will be available. The site will seat 100 covers across two floors, including counter dining. Lignac said: “I have always adored London, its culture, its energy and lifestyle. I naturally wanted to open a restaurant in London to spend more time there, but also – most importantly – to integrate myself in the community, discover a new way of working, a different sensitivity, and a new type of creativity.”
Burger King announces rebrand with new logo, modern design and cleaner food:Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which owns Burger King, has announced it will rebrand the burger chain for the first time in 20 years – with the redesign expected to rollout at UK stores during the next few years. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the overhaul focuses on the “food journey” and includes new worker uniforms, a new logo, store redesigns and new packaging. The business has introduced drive-thru redesigns, prototypes and modernisation throughout 2020. Raphael Abreu, head of design at RBI, said: “Design is one of the most essential tools we have for communicating who we are and what we value, and it plays a vital role in creating desire for our food and maximising guests’ experience. We wanted to use design to get people to crave our food; its flame-grilling perfection and above all, its taste.” Burger King also plans to use cleaner ingredients, plant-based menu items and easy-to-read signage in the increasingly digital age.
Westons reports first loss since 1991: Cider-maker Westons has made its first loss since 1991 during its latest financial year, newly filed accounts have revealed. The Herefordshire-based firm, which sells its cider to more than 40 countries across the world, said the pre-tax loss of £1.4m for the 12 months to 31 March 2020 was caused by “market factors” occurring within its on-trade channel. The loss comes after the company reported a pre-tax profit of £1.2m in the prior financial year. The latest accounts for H Weston & Sons also show its turnover dropped from £67.6m to £63m over the same period. The company is behind the Henry Westons and Stowford Press brands. A statement signed off by the board said: “Changing market dynamics within the highly competitive on-trade market impacted the overall top-line company performance. Alongside accelerating market consolidation, on-trade cider category volumes declined by 5.5%. The company’s on-trade fruit cider performance tracked ahead of the market, with Stowford Press Mixed Berries being particularly successful.”
Restaurateurs launch £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to expand virtual wine cellar service: Restaurateurs Ian Campbell and Will Palmer have launched the first round of crowdfunding for their London-based virtual wine cellar, Drop, as they look to expand its service nationwide. Campbell and Palmer, who are behind 10 Cases wine bar and bistro and Parsons seafood restaurant in Covent Garden, launched Drop in 2016. Drop has seen its customer base double and sales grow 145% during the covid-19 pandemic, and is aiming to raise £300,000 on Seedrs as it looks to increase its audience. Drop is offering 3.99% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £7.2m. The key goal will be to scale the business to a national footprint of more than 100 distribution points. Projects to support this include expansion to 85 franchise locations, a logistics hub, additional technology development and artificial intelligence interpretation of customer needs. Palmer said: “More than 25% of wine drinkers purchase online in a market worth more than £1bn, yet nationwide on demand delivery options are almost non-existent. Given the current climate now is the perfect time for Drop to ramp up.”
Timothy Taylor’s calls time on cask production until further notice: Keighley-based brewer Timothy Taylor’s has stopped producing cask beer until further notice. The 163-year-old West Yorkshire brewery has blamed the ongoing pandemic but will continue to produce beer for its bottled business – for both retail sites and its online store. During this period, the majority of its 100-strong workforce will be furloughed, with only key team members working on a part-time basis to keep the business active. Timothy Taylor’s sales director Paul Matthews said: “Once the reopening of our industry is confirmed, we can assure you we will be ready to meet demand and support our trade customers once again – as we were last summer.”
Best Western Calcot Hotel on market for £6.3m: The Best Western Calcot Hotel in Reading is for sale for £6.3m. The 80-bedroom property has been brought to the market by Colliers International. It is on a 1.78-acre site on the A4 Bath Road with the potential for expansion or redevelopment. Paul Barrasford, director in the hotels agency team at Colliers International, said: “We are expecting interest from buyers looking to reopen the hotel business – or to redevelop the property for alternative use. It also has a supportive pre-application to develop an additional 25 bedrooms.” The hotel has traded under the Best Western brand for a number of years and was acquired in 2016 by the present owner, who has now decided to sell in order to concentrate on other business interests. The hotel has a restaurant with about 90 covers, and a bar with seating for 40. There are also two function rooms, one of which has capacity for up to 200 guests and a licence for civil ceremonies.
£60,000 rent bill for Cantonese restaurant closed since March forces site to shut for good: Cantonese restaurant Chung Ying Central has been forced to close for good because it cannot pay its £60,000 annual rent bill having been shut since March. The sister restaurant to James Wong’s Chung Ying Cantonese site, also in Birmingham, has not reopened since the first lockdown in March last year. Wong told Birmingham Live: “I am heartbroken to confirm Chung Ying Central will not reopen at Colmore Row. It had been my dream to open a restaurant here and I put my heart and soul into making it work. But a restaurant cannot pay £60,000 per year rent when it has only been open for two months of that year. It was a tough business decision but the right one for me and my family.” Wong said his focus is on ensuring his Chung Ying Cantonese restaurant in the city’s Chinatown area can survive. He added: “I want Chung Ying Cantonese to be around for its 50th year and it has a chance despite covid. We adapted quickly to the pandemic restrictions by switching to delivery and takeaway – and when we were allowed to open, we were able to offer good social distancing to diners. Sadly there was no hope for Chung Ying Central – it was too small for adequate social distancing and even if we could open, there are no more customers in the area.”