Whitbread plans hub by Premier Inn trials in regional cities, UK growth focusing on returns rather than speed: Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain has said the company is planning trials of its hub by Premier Inn format in regional cities and is focusing UK growth on “returns rather than speed”. The company has only opened hub by Premier Inns in London and Edinburgh so far, with ten sites across the two capitals. However, in a presentation to investors and analysts Brittain said the company would bring the format to other locations, with Bath, Manchester and Oxford among places identified as suitable. She said it was part of Whitbread’s plans to expand hub by Premier Inn as well as its new ZIP format, which gives the company a potential runway for growth in the UK beyond the 10,000 bedrooms announced at the capital markets day in February. Brittain said the debut ZIP site, which launched in Cardiff in February, was showing “promising signs” and was proving particularly popular on Saturday nights. She added: “We have got very clear line of sight in terms of growth and I don’t think we are reaching saturation point. In Germany we would like to accelerate our growth, while in the UK we are focusing on returns rather than speed.” Brittain accepted Whitbread hadn’t anticipated the current level of decline in the mid-scale hotel market, with revpar down about 4% across the board. She said while there had been weaker domestic hotel demand, the leisure market had remained “relatively resilient” and forward-booking levels remained positive. She added: “Where we are seeing the impact is in those short-lead bookings, which are mostly made by business travellers. We think that’s directly linked to business confidence and businesses reining in their expenditure. We have made some adjustments to pricing to try to help.” Brittain also acknowledged other operators had “upped their game” and said Whitbread could learn from some of the things competitors were doing, such as Travelodge’s “SuperRooms”. She added: “I am confident we are in a better position than most to remain resilient in a challenging market. We invest in assets for the long term – 25 to 50 years – and our model is built to withstand the difficult economic times we face.”
Flour Pot Bakery develops strategic partnerships to strengthen offer as it opens seventh site: Brighton and Hove-based artisan bakehouse Flour Pot Bakery is developing strategic partnerships with local businesses to strengthen its offer as it puts plans in place to expand outside the city. Founder Oli Hyde has just opened his seventh outlet, in Portland Road, Hove. The site was originally made up of four units, two of which now house The Flour Pot. The remaining units have been sub-let, with one of them occupied by florist Matt Gunn with a connecting door to Flour Pot and the other rented to Found Studios, led by artist James Wilson and jeweller Charlie Carr-Gomm, who produce work on-site and share a gallery retail area at the front of the unit. Hyde told Propel he was delighted to help Found Studios break into the retail market. He added: “We want to develop these strategic partnerships, collaborating with two or more businesses to strengthen the offer and make sure the customer experience is unique and memorable. Our customers see we are always looking for innovative ways to enhance our products and services. The difference these days is, as a business, we must consider the lifestyle choices of our customers when we do that. That’s why we thought the synergy between our bakery coffee shop and a flower shop would work. Thankfully we were right. First and foremost, we are an artisan bakery and where we take the brand next should feel like a natural progression for the business and our team. Our plans are to continue looking for sites such as Portland Road and to take Flour Pot beyond the city limits.”
Goodbody – Greene King has had ‘solid finish to year’: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said brewer and retailer Greene King has had a “solid finish to the year”. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 585p, he said: “The key pub company (70% of profits) division had like-for-like sales growth of 2.9%, slightly ahead of our expectations of 2.4%. Like-for-like sales growth was 2.4% for the last 16 weeks which, although it marks a slowing, is a solid end to the year given the poor Coffer Peach data for January and February. Trading for the key Easter period was good with like-for-like sales growth of 4.6%, although it was helped by good weather. The group highlighted strong trading from its Chef & Brewer business with like-for-like sales growth of 15.3% over Easter, which is encouraging given the challenges the restaurant sector faces. Pub Partners’ like-for-like net income was 1.6%, and like-for-like net profit was down 1.4%, slightly behind the run rate at the 36-week update. Brewing & Brands’ own-brewed volumes were down 3.4% and total beer volumes were up 0.9%. After 36 weeks, beer volumes were up 1.8% and own-brewed volumes were down 2.3%. The company reaffirmed its guidance cost savings would be limited to a net £10m to £20m (gross cost inflation of £45 to £50m). The group now expects profit before tax in a range of £244m to £247m, versus our forecast of £244m. Management noted it has now repaid 51% or £393m of the Spirit debt and has drawn down £250m from the Greene King securitisation at 3.6% interest. It had pre-paid £331m at the half-year stage so is making continued progress on refinancing the expensive Spirit debt. Overall, this is a solid end to the year and there is slight upward pressure to our full-year profit before tax forecasts. Greene King shares are up 31% year to date and it now trades on 8.5 times FY20 EV/Ebitda, broadly in line with its ten-year averages. Given the level of cost headwind the sector faces in the year ahead, we see little scope for profit growth so find it difficult to argue in favour of a further re-rating. Furthermore, we would note Greene King faces a difficult comparable in the first half as it laps the extended period of hot weather last summer and England’s run in the World Cup.”
Black Sheep Brewery acquires Kith & Kin from Arc Inspirations: Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery has acquired bar and restaurant Kith & Kin from Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands. The deal for the Chapel Allerton venue means Black Sheep Brewery has increased its retail portfolio to six sites across the county in four months. Kith & Kin’s workforce will be retained, with all 18 employees transferred to Black Sheep Brewery as part of the deal. The move builds on Black Sheep’s purchase of York Brewery and four of its pubs in December. Black Sheep Brewery chairman Andy Slee said: “Kith & Kin fits perfectly with the strategy of developing our retail presence in our Yorkshire heartland and is a welcome addition to our growing group of pubs and bars.” Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft added: “In line with our plan to focus growth on our three core brands – Banyan, The Box and Manahatta – in cities across the north of England, we have taken the strategic decision to sell our Kith & Kin site in Leeds. Our team at this location have been fantastic and we’d like to thank them for their hard work and contribution. Their employment will be preserved as they will move across to Black Sheep Brewery – and we wish them and Black Sheep the very best.”
Cityglen to open sixth London pub, in Gipsy Hill: Cityglen Pub Company is to open its sixth site in south east London, in Gipsy Hill, Upper Norwood. The Gipsy Tavern next to the train station will reopen later in May as The Great Southern following a £400,000 refurbishment. Named after a steam train, the 1,800 square foot, 100-cover pub will feature decor inspired by sustainability using upcycled and recycled furniture and floor tiles. Local memorabilia will include historic pictures, while the 60-cover garden will showcase street art. The menu will offer pub favourites such as burgers, pizza and pies alongside sharing boards. Drinkers can expect craft beer, cocktails and wine on tap, while live music will be an integral part of the pub. Cityglen chief executive Don O’Rourke said: “Gipsy Hill is an exciting and fantastic opportunity. With our trendy but tasteful decor and classic pub menu, we want The Great Southern to be a hub and meeting place for the community.” Cityglen Pub Company’s other sites are The Great North Wood in West Norwood, The Brookmill in Deptford, The Portland Arms in South Norwood, The Windsor in Old Kent Road and The Red Lion in Walworth.
Primeur team heads to Cornwall for fourth site, first outside London: Jeremie Cometto and David Gingell, who are behind London restaurants Primeur, Westerns Laundry and Jolene, are heading to Cornwall to open their first site outside the capital. Fitzroy will launch at a former bank branch in Fowey in June taking inspiration from the Shaker movement’s “craftsmanship and principles”. Furniture will be hand-made while the venue in Fore Street will feature clay walls. The ground-floor dining room will feature individual tables and a kitchen counter, while upstairs will provide a private dining space overlooking the open kitchen. The daily changing menu will feature dishes such as cod with clams, cucumber and sea beet, and onglet with onions, garlic and croutons. The drinks list will include wine, locally brewed beer and cider, house-made vermouth and seltzer. Gingell said: “Having grown up in Cornwall, opening Fitzroy is going to be a return home to where my love of food began. The menu will be a continuation of what we always do – uncomplicated cooking that allows the quality of the produce to speak for itself.” Cometto added: “We are excited to venture outside London to offer a more focused and precise dining experience with more time and less pressure.” Cometto and Gingell opened Primeur in Stoke Newington, followed by Westerns Laundry in Lower Holloway. They launched bakery restaurant Jolene in Newington Green in September last year.
Domino’s pilots GPS delivery tracking: Domino’s Pizza has launched GPS tracking of delivery drivers in 27 corporate-owned stores in Phoenix, Arizona, allowing customers to track their pizza’s journey. When a customer orders from a pilot store, the location of their order and driver is displayed on a map on the Domino’s website or its app. Customers also receive an estimated delivery time and can opt in to receive SMS notifications when their order is about two minutes from being delivered. Store managers will also be able to track drivers to help manage operations. Domino’s plans to expand the programme later in the spring to Lansing, Michigan; Roanoke, Virginia; and the greater Seattle area, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Dennis Maloney, senior vice-president and chief digital officer, said: “Transparency on orders out on the road makes a big difference to customers as well as drivers and store managers. With GPS tracking everyone can have the best possible delivery experience.” Domino’s, which has more than 16,000 stores worldwide, last week reported a 3.9% increase in like-for-like sales for the first quarter. It was the 32nd consecutive quarter of growth but the slowest quarterly growth rate in at least three years.
Paris-based Italian trattoria brand Big Mamma to double up in London: Paris-based Italian restaurant brand Big Mamma is to open a second London site. The company, which launched Gloria in Shoreditch in February for its UK debut, will open Circolo Popolare, or Circolo for short, in Rathbone Square, Fitzrovia, in June. Circolo will offer Italian cuisine inspired by summer days in Sicily and will be Big Mamma’s ninth restaurant. Co-founder Victor Lugger said Circolo would showcase a home-made and “slightly over the top” menu, including metre-long pizza, pasta dishes served in hollowed-out cheese, skewers from a Sicilian grill and a one-litre sundae with giant cookie chunks. More than 20,000 bottles of spirits will line the walls of the restaurant, which is 9,000 square feet for 280 diners compared with 6,000 square feet for Gloria, which seats 160. There will be large sharing tables and 60 seats on a terrace. Big Mamma also operates 50,000 square foot food market La Felicità in Paris.
Café Brera to open centralised London kitchen to support growth plans: Italian cafe group Café Brera is creating a centralised London kitchen as part of plans to double in size in the next three years. Established in Canary Wharf in 1991, Café Brera has expanded to three more Canary Wharf sites and one in Fenchurch. The group has secured £212,000 in funding through NatWest and business finance company Lombard Asset Finance, which it will use to fit out a central kitchen in Wandsworth as part of its growth strategy. The kitchen will be fully operational by July. In 2017, Daniil Khodurskiy, backed by private equity investors, acquired the five sites with the aim to double that number by 2022. He told BDaily: “Café Brera is a well-established business at the heart of the Canary Wharf and Fenchurch communities. We want to build on this popularity by expanding in London and bringing our authentic Italian offering to a wider customer base. We’ve always had ambitious growth plans and with the funding we’ll be able to create our centralised kitchen, which will be the foundation for our growth.”
Chipotle publishes sustainability report: Chipotle has published its 2018 sustainability report, which covers issues ranging from animal welfare and employee benefits to energy reduction and recycling. Initiatives by the company in 2018 included launching a pilot programme to turn plastic gloves into rubbish bags. The company also reported a 25% reduction in average restaurant waste since 2016, 42% waste diversion from landfill, and 88% of restaurants having a programme for recycling and/or composting packaging. Chipotle’s commitments by 2020 include testing a recyclable or compostable cup and lid, including a strawless option; cutting plastic in cutlery by 20%; and having a recycling and/or composting programme at all its restaurants. Chief executive Brian Niccol said: “Being transparent with the world holds us accountable for our actions. We want everyone to know exactly what we are doing, from how our food is raised to how it is served.” Chipotle owns and operates about 2,500 restaurants in the US, Canada, UK, France and Germany.
Pophams to evolve concept for second site, in Hackney: London-based Pophams Bakery is to open its second site, in Hackney, featuring an evolved concept. Founding director Ollie Gold will launch the 1,710 square foot site in Richmond Road in June. The venue will expand on the brand’s offer by adding a dinner service featuring fresh artisan pasta. Diners at the 45-cover site will have the option to sit at a chef’s table to watch their baked goods and pasta being made. Bakers and baristas have been serving hand-made viennoiserie and coffee from local roasters at the debut Pophams site in Islington since late 2017. Gold said: “Our second artisan bakery heralds the exciting evolution of our concept. Since opening our first site, which we developed from a derelict chemist, we’ve taken a hands-on approach with all aspects of the business and this has helped us go from strength to strength.” Shelley Sandzer acted for Pophams Bakery.
Loui Blake opens second Kalifornia Kitchen, at Market Hall Fulham: Loui Blake, managing director of Erpingham House, the UK’s largest plant-based restaurant, has opened a second site for his all-day vegan cafe concept Kalifornia Kitchen. Blake launched the concept, which features a pink colour scheme inside and out, in Fitzrovia in December. Now he has added to that with an opening at Market Hall Fulham. The venue offers four new items on the menu including a Galaxy Bowl featuring blue spirulina and banana with blueberries, dragon fruit, granola and chia seeds. Blake said: “Market Hall is the perfect space for us to provide healthy, plant-based food in a setting that caters for a mix of diets and interests.”
Corbin & King opens Soutine in St John’s Wood: London-based restaurant group Corbin & King has opened Soutine in St John’s Wood for its ninth venue in the capital. The restaurant has launched at a former Carluccio’s in High Street and spans 3,500 square feet. The front room and pavement offers cafe and bar seating leading to a more formal dining room at the rear. A key element of the design is a 15-seat bar guests can dine or drink at. In April, Propel reported Corbin & King had seen growth continue in its current financial year and expects further increases as it continues expansion. The company has lodged plans for a site in Soho. Co-owner Jeremy King said: “We are awaiting the outcome of our application for a rather unusual site in Soho – large, light and a sibling companion for Brasserie Zédel in terms of size and affordability.”
Fattal Group launches four central London hotels following £1bn Grange deal:Israel-based Fattal Group has relaunched four central London hotels following a deal last month that saw the venues acquired from Grange Hotels by Queensgate Investments in a $1bn deal. Fattal Group acquired long leases on all four hotels, adding 1,300 rooms to its Jurys Inn and Leonardo brands. The hotels have reopened as Jurys Inn London Holborn, Leonardo Royal Hotel London St Paul’s, Leonardo Royal Hotel Tower Bridge and Leonardo Royal Hotel London City. A major refurbishment programme at all sites will include rebranding the Holborn hotel to become the group’s first NYX Hotel by Leonardo Hotels in the UK. Jason Carruthers, managing director of Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels in UK and Ireland, said: “Opening four hotels in central London is a hugely important milestone for us.” Fattal Group said it had also acquired sites in Manchester and Bristol Glassfields and planned to extend Jurys Inn Edinburgh to create a 131-bedroom NYX Hotels by Leonardo Hotels next door.
Laine Pub Company partners with Sky to cut plastic use at Brighton Fringe:Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company has partnered with Sky Ocean Rescue to cut single-use plastic at this year’s Brighton Fringe arts festival. Sky Ocean Rescue will supply more than 40,000 reusable cups for Laine Pub Company to use in the four bars it will operate at Brighton Spiegeltent during the festival, which runs from Friday (3 May) to Monday, 2 June. Customers will be able to reuse the cups or return them via a deposit scheme. After the festival the cups will transfer to Laine’s seafront pubs The Tempest and Fortune Of War. Laine Pub Company chief executive Gavin George said: “It is a subject close to our hearts, especially as we are a Brighton-based business and see the effect single-use plastic has on our sea every day.” Fiona Ball, Sky Group head of inspirational business and Sky Ocean Rescue, added: “Eight million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year, and that’s largely made up of items such as single-use drinks cups. Finding ways to replace these with reusable options will make a huge difference.” Earlier this week, Laine Pub Company agreed to acquire Birmingham pub group Urban Art Bar for an undisclosed sum. Laine Pub Company, which is backed by Patron Capital and May Capital, has more than 60 pubs in Brighton and London.
Alfa Leisureplex Group adds Torquay hotel for 22nd site: Employee-owned hotel operator Alfa Leisureplex Group has strengthened its portfolio after acquiring a site in Torquay. The company has added The Cavendish Hotel for its 22nd venue, joining its other property in the Devon town – the Regina Hotel. It is also Alfa Leisureplex Group’s second purchase in as many months, having bought the Monarch Hotel in Bridlington. Managing director Karen Sawbridge said: “The Regina Hotel in Torquay is extremely popular with our customers. The Cavendish will enable us to increase occupancy levels within Torquay so we can meet customer demand for this attractive resort. We have taken the decision to return The Cavendish to its original name, The Metropole, and plan to renovate it, starting with 48 bedroom refurbishments and new bathrooms in the next 12 months.” Alfa Leisureplex Group employs about 700 staff across its hotel, holiday company and tour coach operator businesses.
Lincoln & York appoints new finance director: Coffee sourcing, roasting and packaging specialist Lincoln & York has appointed Simon Webster as finance director as it continues expansion. Lincoln & York achieved revenues of £34.55m in 2018 and said it was on course to hit £60m by 2023. The company also ranked first on the Sunday Times International Track 200 list in 2018, with overseas sales set to account for 50% of growth in the coming years. Webster joins Lincoln & York from JZ Flowers International, where he was managing director. He has more than ten years’ board-level experience. Lincoln & York managing director James Sweeting said: “We are delighted to have Simon on board as we enter an exciting stage in our journey. His wealth of experience and focus on the commercial side will be a vital asset for the business.” Webster added: “My main goal is to support James and the wider team to achieve the next phase of growth by cementing our roots in the UK and expanding into further markets internationally.”