Inn Collection Group buys 15th site: The Inn Collection Group have taken its pubs with rooms portfolio to 15 with the purchase of a fifth Lake District site. The north of England operator has acquired the 20-bedroom Churchill Inn in Ambleside. The multimillion-pound deal is the group’s second Lakes acquisition of 2020 and its second venue in Ambleside. The Churchill Inn will be closed temporarily before trading independently until the start of a major redevelopment, which is set to take place later this year, to bring the site into the group’s “eat, drink, sleep and explore” philosophy. The Inn Collection Group’s managing director Sean Donkin said: “We’re looking forward to unlocking the venue’s full potential and investing in what will be a valuable new addition for locals and visitors to the Lake District here in Ambleside as we continue to grow our customer base and group foothold across the north of England.” The group’s existing Ambleside venue, The Ambleside Inn, opened in December following a major refurbishment, while the company’s 42-bedroom The Coniston Inn in Coniston opened on 1 August, following an 18-month redevelopment. Elsewhere, the group’s trading portfolio includes sites in Northumberland, County Durham and Yorkshire with a 40-bedroom new-build development under construction on Sunderland’s seafront. The Alchemy-backed group, which is supported through banking by OakNorth, is continuing to push ahead with its strategic “buy and build” expansion across the north of England to more than double its portfolio within the next two years.
BrewDog lines up raft of new bar openings, including franchise site with Red’s True Barbecue: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has lined up a further 11 bar openings across both the UK and internationally, including a franchise site with Tokyo Industries-owned smokehouse brand Red’s True Barbecue. Propel understands Red’s will operate its current site in Headingley as a BrewDog bar under franchise. The two companies currently work together at the BrewDog site in Leicester. BrewDog also plans to open second sites in Manchester (Fountain Street) and Paris, while also making its debut in Shanghai, Wiesbaden, Lincoln, Huddersfield, Bradford, Plymouth and Mumbai. It will also open a DogTap site in Ellon, Scotland. The openings will be a mixture of company-owned and franchise sites.
Bill’s to reopen further four sites: Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group, will reopen a further four of its sites in September, but as yet not put a date on when it will reopen its remaining 22 sites, with speculation continuing many will remain permanently closed. The group’s sites in High Wycombe and Muswell Hill will reopen on Friday (4 September) and those in Camberley and Hammersmith on Friday, 18 September. That leaves sites in locations including High Street Kensington, Glasgow, Ealing, Taunton and Oxford still closed. In August, Propel revealed Bill’s was set to close parts of its 78-strong estate. It’s thought the business has earmarked a number of sites for closure. One industry source suggested the number of closures could be more than 20 including Glasgow, the group’s only site in Scotland; Worcester and some in central London.
Fuller’s developing technology to allow consumers to view pub floor plans:Fuller’s, the Simon Emeny-led pub company, is currently developing technology that will allow people to view the floor plans of its different pubs when they are booking a table online. Emeny told The Telegraph booking online will also become the new norm for customers, even in pubs. He said: “Customers have got in the habit of booking tables electronically. In future, we’re going to let customers choose which table they want to have. When groups now sit down at tables, even if they’re there just to drink, they will want to order electronically rather than visit the bar. That’s a preference, particularly for women in pubs who may have been intimidated by going up to a bar. The ability to be able to order from a phone will be something they might want to stay.”
McDonald’s labels ex-chief executive Steve Easterbrook ‘morally bankrupt’:McDonald’s has labelled Steve Easterbrook “morally bankrupt” as it asked a judge to reject its former chief executive’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to reclaim the $40m severance he was paid after his firing last year. The company sued Easterbrook earlier this month in the Delaware Court of Chancery, accusing him of lying and covering up his inappropriate relationships with at least three employees while negotiating his severance package. Easterbrook was fired in November 2019 after he admitted to a consensual relationship with one of the employees – and McDonald’s now claims an internal probe found he lied to investigators and the board about additional relationships in an effort to get more money upon his departure. Easterbrook filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on 14 August, claiming its allegations were meritless because the company had information about his relationships during the negotiations that was stored on his company email account. McDonald’s responded to that motion on Monday (31 August), saying the evidence was “buried somewhere in the tens of thousands of his emails” and calling for Easterbrook’s questions about the thoroughness of its investigation to be answered in court. In the latest court filing, McDonald’s said: “When McDonald’s investigated, its chief executive lied”, and Easterbrook’s argument amounts to “he cannot be liable because, as a matter of law, he did not hide his misconduct well enough”. A subsequent statement from McDonald’s said: “This brazen attempt at table-turning has no merit. He violated the company’s policies, disrespected its values, and abused the trust of his co-workers, the board, our franchisees, and our shareholders. His argument he should not be held responsible for even repeated bad acts is morally bankrupt and fails under the law.” It is also alleged David Fairhurst, the company’s former head of global HR, was sacked for making women at the firm “feel uncomfortable”. Fairhurst, who was promoted to McDonald’s chief people officer in 2015 by Easterbrook, was suddenly sacked last year after Easterbrook’s dismissal. At the time no reason was given for Fairhurst’s dismissal and his family claimed he had been made a “scape-goat” for his boss, but allegations have now emerged the Wigan-born executive was also the subject of complaints from members of staff. The Wall Street Journal reported Heidi Capozzi, the new head of McDonald’s HR, told staff during a meeting last week Fairhurst was fired for “making women at the company feel uncomfortable on numerous occasions at business events”.
Island Poke to extend discount Out scheme into September after a 242% jump in like-for-like dine-in sales: Island Poké, the London-based, White Rabbit Fund-backed business, is to extend the discount scheme into September, after seeing like-for-like dine-in sales jump 242% in August compared with the same month last year. Throughout September, customers dining in will receive 30% off their food and drink every Monday to Wednesday. The offer applies across all stores that have space allocated to dine in (six out of the seven currently open). Since reopening Island Poké have added more dishes to its “House Bowls” menu with a broader range of prices. With the offer in place, bowls will now start from £3.50 for a house salad bowl, and toppings such as avocado and miso aubergine will be an extra 70p. Island Poké founder James Porter said: “We’ve been blown away by the success of the scheme and we want to be a part of the continued effort to encourage people back out into hospitality venues. It’s right we do it in a way that’s sustainable for us, which is how we got to the 30% discount, but we feel this is still a compelling offer for our customers to take part in and look forward to continuing to welcome customers back to our stores.”
Boston Tea Party to give away 25,000 reusable cups: All-day dining casual cafe brand Boston Tea Party is to give away 25,000 reusable cups in September. Chief executive Sam Roberts said: “Boston Tea Party was the first chain to ban single-use coffee cups completely in 2018 and has already stopped 360,000 cups from going to landfill. After suffering an initial loss of £250,000 due to a drop in takeaway sales, we bounced back to have a record year in 2019. Now, the team aims to drive behaviour change by giving away 25,000 reusable cups (worth £250,000) in September, in a further attempt to drive the change the industry and ultimately the world needs to see. We’ve seen global brands take a huge step backwards on their ‘sustainability agenda’ using covid-19 as an excuse to no longer accept reusables. Even when deemed safe by science they drag their heels. Where are the outraged masses? Are we too tired to shout about the hypocrisy of a popular brand launching a reusable cup at a time when they will also refuse to refill it? Or the fact you can take a reusable cup in and receive a discount but you’ve got to actually drink your coffee from a takeaway cup? Are the big boys serious about being sustainable or is this just pure purpose washing? It’s easy for big chains to give away a 25p discount to the 5% of their takeaway customer base that actually use reusables. In September we’re introducing a 25p discount for every single takeaway customer, because we’ve believe it’s not a choice between planet or profit, you can choose both.”
Stew & Oyster reports 120% sales boost during August from Eat Out To Help Out, extends scheme: Leeds-based bar group Stew & Oyster has reported sales in August between Monday and Wednesday were up 120% compared with last year, and will now extend the discount scheme into September out its own pocket. The company will offer 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to the value of £10, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the month at its five sites. Operations director Jay Weir told Propel: “Most days at every site we have been full through August, with circa 60% being advance bookings – we’d never operated any kind of table booking system before 4 July. This investment through September will be significant for us, and we are wary of the perils of heavy discounting, but we have been given the chance to look after a large number of new customers thanks to the government scheme. We want as many more new people as possible to try our new menu we refreshed during lock-down.”
Goodbody – Greggs distribution centre coronavirus outbreak unlikely to hinder operations but could affect customer sentiment: Goodbody leisure analyst Jason Mollins has said the coronavirus outbreak at food-to-go retailer Greggs’ distribution centre in Leeds is unlikely to prove a hindrance operationally, but could affect customer sentiment. Greggs confirmed on Thursday (27 August) an undisclosed number of people working at the centre in Bramley tested positive. Following further tests, the company said more staff were found to have the virus and the centre was deep cleaned. Public Health England could not confirm the exact number of cases but told the BBC it was “fewer than 20”. Mollins said: “Given its manufacturing and distribution footprint across the UK, we expect Greggs to maintain its store operations despite the disruption at one of its distribution centres, noting it is likely to source product from some of its nearby centres, such as Manchester and Newcastle. However, we consider this outbreak is unhelpful for sentiment both from a customer and investor perspective.” Meanwhile, Greggs is looking to open a new drive-thru in Swansea. The company is seeking permission for the site on vacant land to the north of Langdon Road.
Boparan to bring back three more Carluccio’s sites: Boparan Restaurant Group will continue the gradual reopening of its Carluccio’s estate with another trio of sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will reopen its Solihull outlet for delivery and click and collect on Tuesday, 8 September and then dine-in on Wednesday, 16 September. Meanwhile, its Chichester and Reading restaurants will reopen on Thursday, 10 September. The move will take the brand’s total number of reopened sites to 18.
Golden Union to make second reopening attempt after lack of footfall forces closure: Soho-based fish and chips concept Golden Union is to make a second reopening attempt after shutting due to the lack of footfall. Owners Kerry Brennan and Billy Drew tried to open the Poland Street site in mid-June, but were forced to close after a short spell because of the scarce number of people across central London. Now they will try again on Friday (4 September) to coincide with National Fish and Chip Day – offering free portions to the first 50 customers. Its new buttie menu will sit alongside its traditional offering of beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips, pies, sides and saveloys. Brennan said: “It’s been the toughest few months we’ve ever been through so we wanted to create an offer that people can really celebrate. Hopefully, it will mean we can try to start to put the lock-down period firmly in the past. I’m normally in the restaurant every day. I talk to our customers, the builders, office workers, the disenfranchised, the tourists, tired and hungry shoppers. In that respect, Golden Union provides a vital service and I’m gutted we had to take that away. I can’t wait to get stuck back into Soho again.” Brennan and Drew launched Golden Union in 2008. Deliveries will continue on Deliveroo and Orderswift.
Hong Kong-style egg waffle concept Bubblewrap opens second site, in Covent Garden: London-based waffle cone concept Bubblewrap has opened its second site, in Covent Garden. The company has opened the outlet within the Market Building, adding to its debut venue, in Chinatown. The new space is focused on grab and go, with just six seats inside, reports Hot Dinners. Bubblewrap is a Hong Kong egg waffle concept that cut its teeth as a festival food truck. An egg waffle is similar to a pancake and is cooked in a waffle iron, rolled up like an ice cream cone, topped with a scoop of gelato and covered in sauce and fruit.
Peel sells Leeds hotel to ambitious fledgling business: Yorkshire-based Peel Hotels has sold The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Leeds city centre for an undisclosed sum. The property has been acquired by the newly formed Belfont Hotels, which is a joint venture owned by the Thakerar and Dhamecha families, and plans to add further sites. The property, which will be managed by Countrywide Hotels on the families’ behalf, has 89 bedrooms and an extensive ground-floor lounge, bar and restaurant facilities. Keval Thakerar said: “Leeds city centre generates such strong corporate and leisure demand across the year and, once our investment has been undertaken, we will have one of the best hospitality venues in the city.” Peel said it decided to sell this property to focus on its remaining hotels across the UK. Christie & Co acted for Peel Hotels on the deal.