Wagamama appoints new chief marketing officer: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned business, has appointed Ross Farquhar as its new chief marketing officer, Propel has learned. Farquhar was previously managing partner at Grey London, looking after key accounts such as Lucozade Ribena Suntory and acting as the European business lead for Proctor & Gamble. He also spent more than six years at the creative agency as managing partner. Farquhar will report into Emma Woods, who stepped up to chief executive of Wagamama at the turn of the year on completion of its acquisition by The Restaurant Group. In September, Woods’ former role of chief growth officer was taken by Caroline Cromar, Pret A Manger’s former brand director. Earlier this month, Wagamama reported turnover increased 13.2% to £81.6m in quarter three to 3 February 2019, with 9.1% UK like-for-like sales growth and 10% US like-for-like sales growth.
Grind closes crowdfunding campaign after hitting £3.5m capped target: Coffee and cocktail brand Grind has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after hitting its capped £3.5m target. The company’s initial target of £1.35m was smashed within 24 hours of the campaign going public. Grind was offering 6.12% of its equity for the £1.35m investment, giving the firm a £34m pre-money valuation. In total, 1,789 investors pledged funds and the campaign has now closed. Last week, Grind said it would use the extra funds raised to open an additional company-owned site, while it would require less bank debt to execute proposals as its business plan was based on the initial target. Chief executive and founder David Abrahamovitch said: “We’ll use those funds to build a bigger business than planned by opening one additional large-format restaurant bar (company operated, not franchised). We are in discussions about a very exciting opportunity, which is currently off-plan, and this would give us the extra funding we’d need to complete on this and build a bigger group, faster. We’ll also buy a Grind coffee and cocktail truck to take Grind on the road to events, exhibitions and festivals in time for this summer. Further, we will de-leverage and change our debt/equity mix to execute on the business plan.” Grind is beginning its next phase of expansion with six central London openings in the next 18 months, which would take its portfolio to 16, plus a new coffee-roasting facility. Grind has previously said it is looking to grow to 36 sites by 2022 through a mixture of equity raised from its crowdfunding campaign, free cash flow and debt.
The Alchemist to replace Strada at Gunwharf Quays: The Alchemist, the Simon Potts-led bar and restaurant concept, has further strengthened its regional pipeline with an opening lined up for later this year at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth. Propel has learned the 14-strong business, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, has secured the Strada site at Gunwharf Quays with an opening planned for October. Potts told Propel earlier this month the company had enjoyed a “brilliant start” to 2019, with overall like-for-likes up 3.6%. Potts said: “We have been laying the groundwork for the new financial year (April), with a strong pipeline in place and new additions to the team.” 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 – for an opening next year. It also has a second opening in Birmingham, in Brindley Place, secured for August and a site in Old Street, London, due to open next month.
Shake Shack set for Lakeside: US better burger concept Shake Shack is to open its second regional UK site, in the Lakeside shopping scheme in Essex, Propel has learned. The Danny Meyer-founded business is understood to have been lined up to replace Red Dog Saloon’s American Sandwiches site at the scheme later this year. Since launching in New York in 2004, Shake Shack has expanded to more than 210 sites in the US and more than 70 international locations. The brand operates eight restaurants in London and one in Cardiff. In February, Shake Shack reported 2.3% like-for-like sales growth in the fourth quarter to 24 February 2019. It recently relaunched its new-look Covent Garden site, with a new design featuring white oak and Carrara marble, while the venue now offers a heated outdoor dining area. The venue launched in 2013 as Shake Shack’s first London location. The revamped venue also offers additions to the Shake Shack signature menu, including the Caramel Bourbon Shake (vanilla frozen custard blended with caramel and bourbon), and the Royal Toffee House (vanilla frozen custard blended with chocolate toffee, chocolate chunks, salted caramel sauce and malt powder).
US street food brand The Halal Guys secures second UK site: US street food brand The Halal Guys has secured its second UK site. Restaurant operator ITICO F+B, which has the franchise rights for The Halal Guys in the UK, is to open a venue in Earl’s Court at the end of June. The announcement came on Monday (1 April) on the day the brand’s debut European restaurant opened near London’s Leicester Square at a 1,830 square foot venue in Irving Street. A further site is expected to open in the capital in 2019, with up to 20 across the UK within five years. The Irving Street outlet offers the brand’s basic menu of grilled chicken and gyro beef – a Greek version of a doner kebab – in a pitta, wrap or on a bed of rice. There is also a vegetarian alternative made with falafel. Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed launched The Halal Guys as a cart on a New York street corner 28 years ago catering to Muslim taxi drivers. As the company name suggests, all meat is slaughtered according to Islamic law. There are now 85 outlets under The Halal Guys brand across North America and Asia, with 400 more in the pipeline. In February, ITICO F+B partner Jan van Delden told Propel the plan was to grow small clusters of restaurants in cities across the UK, starting in London. He said: “We are the only brand that operates in this space and, given how The Halal Guys has been received in each territory it has launched, we’re confident of its success in the UK.”
Bear Bars takes on Wadebridge pub for third Cornish site with Punch: Bear Bars has taken on its third pub with Punch, the Ship Inn in Wadebridge, Cornwall, which has reopened as Bear Bar & Kitchen following a £197,000 refurbishment. The pub, which dates to the 1700s, offers a similar look to Bear Bars’ other Cornish sites, in Truro and St Agnes, and offers alfresco eating and drinking areas with lighting, heating and soft furnishings. Craig Burnett, who leads Bear Bars with Carol O’Hanlon, said: “We are really excited about the Bear Bar & Kitchen in Wadebridge. We have launched our food menu that consists of modern pub dishes such as gourmet burgers, posh steak kebabs and vegan and vegetarian options, while our drinks range now includes our own cask ale, Bear Bar Beer, as well as premium cocktails and craft beers.” The investment is part of £30m Punch is investing in its pub estate this year. Punch managing director Andy Spencer said: “By matching pubs with great people such as Craig and Carol, we can develop fantastic pubs together. We are looking forward to seeing the Bear Bar & Kitchen in Wadebridge become an important addition to their business and a great place to go.”
EAT returns to like-for-like growth, on course to grow Ebitda 50%: Fresh food to go retailer EAT has reported 11 consecutive months of like-for-like growth. The company also revealed it is on track to grow Ebitda by almost 50% and is close to break-even at post-tax net profit level. EAT has also completed its trial of a “SmartEAT” store format with hot self-service capability to “improve speed of service and delivery”. The like-for-like performance of SmartEAT stores has consistently been circa 10% higher than other stores since they were upgraded. The announcement comes as EAT reported turnover fell 4.3% to £94.9m for the year ending 28 June 2018, compared with £99.2m the previous year. Like-for-like sales were down 1.8%, “reflecting the difficult trading conditions in late 2017 and early 2018”. Loss after tax was £17.3m, compared with £18.9m the year before while delivering Ebitda of £3.2m. It closed the year with net assets of £12.7m, compared with net liabilities of £10.9m in 2017 and £86.4m in 2016. EAT said the foodservice offer had been enhanced following the arrival of MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Arnaud Kaziewicz as executive chef. The company has revised its store portfolio to focus on strategically selected, high-footfall locations, with stores opening in Madrid airport, Gare du Nord and Liverpool Street station. The international expansion will continue in 2019, with openings planned in Barcelona, Malaga, Alicante and Bahrain airports, and Marne-la-Vallée and Gare de Nantes stations in France. Chief executive Andrew Walker said: “Against a difficult backdrop on the UK high street, we have delivered a good performance that lays the groundwork for future growth. Our new SmartEAT stores are dramatically improving speed of service and delivery so we are looking forward to upgrading the rest of our stores to the new format. The improved store portfolio and capital structure together with upgraded stores and food offering are already delivering results, with 11 consecutive months of like-for-like growth.”
Bea Vo to replace Boondocks with soul food concept: Soul Food Enterprises, which is led by Bea Vo and operates US-inspired restaurants Stax and Famous Flames in London, is to replace its Boondocks diner in City Road near the Old Street roundabout with a new soul food concept, Harlem Soul. The restaurant will open on Monday, 15 April offering “American urban cuisine”, with the menu featuring snacks such as wings, jackfruit tacos, soft shell crab and blackened Cajun popcorn shrimp. There will also be buttermilk chicken and waffles in maple syrup and a vegetarian alternative, while burgers will include The Harlem (two beef patties, shredded short rib, American mac ‘n’ cheese, house pickle and thousand island dressing). Desserts will include cheesecake and brownies, while the drinks list will feature freakshakes (some with alcohol), more than 30 craft beers and cocktails. Set across two floors, the lower bar will open late with DJs and live soul acts, while the decor will include graffiti artists Enrique Torres, from New York, and south London’s Ed Tizer, Hot Dinners reports. Vo, who also founded Bea’s in Bloomsbury, opened Stax Diner in Carnaby in 2015. She opened Boondocks, which offered chicken and waffles, a year later and wings concept Famous Flames in Camden Market in February 2017.
Hepworth leaves Bill’s to reunite with Garrood at Ten Entertainment Group: Kai Hepworth, formerly of Bill’s Restaurants and Costa Coffee, has joined the Duncan Garrood-led Ten Entertainment Group as its new operations director. Propel understands Hepworth left Bill’s, where he had been operations director since November 2017, earlier this year. He joins up with former Bill’s chief executive Garrood at the bowling and family entertainment centre operator. At the same time Propel understands that Bill’s, the Richard Caring-owned group, has appointed former Wagamama area manager Edyta Stec as its new regional director for London. Stec, who spent more than four and a half years at Wagamama, joins Ben Litchfield, regional director for the north, and Nick Braxton-Abery, regional director for the south, at the David Campbell-chaired business. Propel also understands Tony Palmer, former head of development at Mitchells & Butlers, has stepped down as property director at Bill’s. He had held the post since February 2014. Palmer’s departure comes as Caring is thought to be looking to consolidate property across his various restaurant companies under Ivy Collection property director George Jones.
PizzaExpress to launch vegan version of retail dressing range: PizzaExpress has adapted the recipe of its House Light Dressing, which is sold in supermarkets across the UK including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons, Ocado and Co-op, to offer a vegan version. The dressing can also be used as a dip. A spokesman told Vegan Food & Living: “For light lunches or alfresco dining, you’ll be inspired by the new vegan dressing.” Last year, the company released its Vegan Giardiniera pizza to UK supermarkets for the first time as part of its retail range.
Rockpoint Leisure launches ‘modern British tavern’ as part of New Brighton regeneration project: Rockpoint Leisure, the company led by CPL Training founder and Institute of Licensing chairman Daniel Davies, has opened “modern British tavern” The James Atherton in New Brighton as part of its regeneration plans for the north west seaside resort. Davies aims to breathe new life into the Wirral town’s Victoria Quarter. The strategy includes the revitalisation of High Street and the company has purchased a number of empty and derelict buildings and is working on retail and hospitality concepts to benefit locals and generate footfall from outside the town. Formerly known as The Railway, The James Atherton has been redeveloped following a £390,000 investment by owners Punch. The name change recognises New Brighton’s 19th century founder. Davies said: “As a long-standing resident of New Brighton, I have grown increasingly frustrated at seeing the decline of this part of town – from boarded-up shops, vandalism and littering to the growing isolation of parts of our community. We’ve worked closely with Punch to deliver a concept specifically designed not to cannibalise existing businesses but complement and add value to the neighbourhood.” Punch chief executive Clive Chesser added: “We are pleased to be part of such an innovative and inspirational project and have real admiration for what Rockpoint is trying to achieve in New Brighton. We are extremely proud of the work that has gone into transforming The James Atherton and look forward to working with Daniel and the team at Rockpoint Leisure as it grows its business.” Davies told delegates at the Propel Multi Club Conference in November that a Propel study tour to Brooklyn, New York, gave him the inspiration to launch the New Brighton project.
Aprirose buys British Land’s pub portfolio of Spirit pubs for £130m: Real estate investment firm Aprirose has bought British Land’s entire pub portfolio for £130m. Aprirose has snapped up the estate, which is currently occupied by Greene King’s Spirit Pub Company, adding 45 more pubs to its current portfolio of 150 sites. Manish Gudka, chief executive of Aprirose, said: “In recent years our engagement with the pub industry has increased considerably. The acquisition of the 45-strong British Land pub portfolio is a sign of our growing commitment to this exciting sector. Our investment into the Spirit Pub Company-branded portfolio is testament to our experience and strong track record in this field. Against the backdrop of the Brexit uncertainty we are finding unique opportunities to acquire interesting assets. The food and beverage sector is particularly appealing as we seek to build our own bespoke offering.” The portfolio consists of pubs located across England in areas such as Brighton, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Nottingham and Twickenham, with the majority in the north west and south east. Aprirose was advised by Allsop.
Character Inns adds Yarmouth pub to portfolio: Isle of Wight-based Character Inns has added a pub in Yarmouth to its portfolio. The company has acquired The King’s Head in Quay Street. The pub is managed by Jolie Taylor, who started work as a waitress in another Character Inns site – The Bugle – aged 16. Rob Benwell, director of Character Inns, told the Isle of Wight County Press: “We have given the pub some TLC with new furniture and bric-a-brac to get us through the season but in November we’ll close it for a refurbishment and provide table service as well as changing the menus to make them more specialised, more high end and offering island produce. It will be a different concept to The Bugle.” Character Inns operates eight pubs on the Isle of Wight.
Independent restaurant with evolving appearance and menu to open in Manchester’s Printworks next month: Blank Canvas, an independent restaurant that will change appearance four times a year alongside its menu, is to open in The Printworks in Manchester next month. The concept will take over a 160-cover vacant unit in Withy Grove, which faces Corn Exchange and Exchange Square. In a prime location for visitors to Manchester Arena, Blank Canvas will offer an ever-changing food menu and regular decor makeovers when it launches in early May. The decor will feature wooden panels fixed to the walls by hooks, meaning they can be easily swapped and updated to create a new look. Owner Joe Bolger’s hospitality background includes positions at Michelin-starred Lake District restaurants HRiSHi and Forest Side. This will be the first venture under his own steam and a rare independent restaurant to open in The Printworks, where other restaurants include chains such as Nando’s and Wagamama. While the ground floor of Blank Canvas will be a fluid space, like a “never-ending pop-up”, upstairs will be transformed into a lounge bar featuring vintage lights and street art. The menu will adapt with the seasons but focus on simple, crowd-pleasing dishes such as burgers and salads alongside freakshakes and cocktails. Bolger told the Manchester Evening News: “I think The Printworks is ready to have a bit of life breathed back into it and it’s time an independent business opened up there.”
Leon to launch spring menu inspired by Thailand and the Caribbean: Natural fast food brand Leon is to launch its spring menu featuring new flavours from Asia and the Caribbean. Available from Thursday (4 April), new dishes will include a vegan plantain curry and an exclusive home-style curry by cookbook author Kay Plunkett-Hogge. Two-thirds of Leon’s menu is vegan or vegetarian, with new plant-based options including a harissa falafel wrap. People following a gluten or wheat-free diet can now order burgers in a gluten-free poppy seed bun instead of vegan sourdough, while old favourites such as strawberry lemonade have returned to the menu. Last week Leon, which operates 63 restaurants globally, said it was close to signing for a site in Notting Hill Gate, London. The company will also open a restaurant this spring at Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet in conjunction with HMSHost and is looking to extend its reach into key transport hubs as part of the partnership.
Robinsons reopens North Wales pub following £1.2m investment: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has reopened the George III in Penmaenpool, North Wales, following a £1.2m investment. The property, which was built in 1650 to serve the boat-building industry, has received a sympathetic update that marks the pub’s rich heritage and tradition. Internally, the bar has been opened up while a new dining area and breakfast area offers views across the Mawddach Estuary. The George III also features ten newly refurbished bedrooms. The pub’s menu will change quarterly using local produce where possible. Managing director William Robinson said: “The George III is the latest in a series of 12 managed pubs we have refurbished in the past four years. We are delighted with the transformation and we’re planning the next investments we intend to make within our growing managed retail estate.”
Hawley Wharf landlord launches innovative leasing approach: LabTech, owner of Camden Market, and Colliers International have created a new approach to leasing the retail and food and beverage element of Hawley Wharf, the 580,000 square foot mixed-use destination that is due to open in Camden this autumn. Key to the programme is creating flexibility and reducing risk for startups and fledgling businesses. LabTech and Colliers International will offer turnover rents, shorter terms and provide a baseline kitchen fit-out for food and beverage brands to reduce startup costs for operators. The Hawley Wharf leasing team will also adopt an unconventional approach to sourcing and securing occupiers. Potential operators can attend an open house event at Hawley Wharf on Tuesday, 9 April with interested brands invited to pitch their ideas to the Colliers International team directly on social media and the Hawley Wharf website. Tomer Bercoviz, LabTech’s commercial director responsible for Hawley Wharf, said: “We recognise it’s important to break down barriers for entrepreneurs, independents and artisans. That means sharing the risks, increasing the ease with which such businesses can take space, and supporting them as they grow.” Colliers International represents Hawley Wharf Camden.
Star Pubs & Bars signs with HGEM to refine guest experience and drive sales:Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has signed with guest experience management expert HGEM to help its licensees and managers gain insights from mystery guest reports and analysis in The Hub, HGEM’s management platform, to drive sales growth. The programme will take place across 2,700 sites and provide in-depth guest experience reports at site and area level. The reports will enable Star Pubs & Bars to establish and reinforce best practice, while The Hub will allow the company to monitor performance on a wide range of indicators. Star Pubs & Bars national supplier manager Mark MacDonald said: “We are pleased to be working with HGEM over the next three years to drive sales growth through mystery feedback. The company’s proven track record of auditing pubs, the quality of its information management systems and the cultural fit made HGEM the perfect partner to improve our pubs and customer experience.” HGEM managing director Steven Pike added: “We look forward to working with Star Pubs & Bars to empower its teams to make a real difference to operations.”
Port Isaac-based operator to reopen restaurant with Great British Menu chef at helm: Port Isaac-based operator David Barnard is to reopen the Stargazy Inn in the north Cornwall village with a Great British Menu chef at the helm. Andrew Sheridan, who appeared on the BBC show last year and will return in the current series, is now head chef of the restaurant and bar, which has been refurbished during the winter. Sheridan said: “I am excited to come to Cornwall and create new menus for Stargazy Inn that will celebrate the wonderful local produce, including fish from Port Isaac dayboats and lobster from pots in the bay, as well as foraging, fermenting and preserving wild food.” Barnard added: “Port Isaac has a thriving gastronomic scene with Restaurant Nathan Outlaw and our sister properties Port Gaverne Hotel and Pilchards cafe on the beach. We’re excited to reopen Stargazy Inn after significant refurbishment of the bar and restaurant.” The Stargazy Inn will reopen on Thursday, 11 April.
Pub snack brand backed by BrewDog co-founder passes £500,000 mark in crowdfunding campaign: Pub snack brand Serious Pig, which is backed by James Watt, co-founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has passed the £500,000 mark in its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The investment will be used to accelerate growth and expand its product range during the next three years. Founder George Rice is offering 4.88% equity for the £350,000 investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £7.4m. So far, 1,363 investors have pledged £529,980 with the campaign due to close on Sunday (7 April). Watt has advised Serious Pig during the past four years and personally invested in this round of funding. Rice said: “This investment is going to allow us to compete with the major snack brands in the UK. It will allow us to grow our sales and marketing team to really accelerate our growth so we can reach every corner of the UK.” Serious Pig’s products include snacking salami and crunchy snacking cheese.
BaxterStorey supports five young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds into employment: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has supported five young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds into employment. The company worked with charity Action For Children and people development company Hub International to offer a two-week work placement at City of Glasgow College and Glasgow Caledonian University. The aim of the placement was to give 12 students aged 16 to 25 an opportunity to experience a realistic working environment to help improve their communication skills and confidence. The hands-on training programme saw students learn baking and practise customer service and barista skills. As a result, five students have joined BaxterStorey. Operations director Mark McCulloch said: “This was a great opportunity for BaxterStorey Scotland’s team to get involved with Action For Children and introduce some great young people to the hospitality industry. Given the challenges the hospitality industry is facing, it’s the responsibility for all caterers to support young talent enter the industry.”
Poppleston Allen promotes associate to partner: Licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen has promoted associate Sarah Taylor to partner. In her new role, Taylor will be involved in the wider management of the firm and also play a role in developing new business. Managing partner Lisa Sharkey said: “We always look to recognise the dedication of our people and promote from within whenever possible. In the nine years Sarah has been part of Poppleston Allen she has consistently excelled in her legal service delivery. Sarah is a real asset to our firm and I look forward to working alongside her for many years to come.”