Comptoir Group in ‘reasonably healthy’ cash position with ‘minimal’ bank debt:Comptoir Group, the owner and operator of Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean restaurants, has said it is in a “reasonably healthy” cash position with “minimal” bank debt while all its venues are shuttered following lock-down rules. The company deferred all rent payments for the three months to June; postponed all non-essential capital expenditure, including a new site opening; and cut directors’ salaries. The government’s business rates relief will save Comptoir circa £1.4m over 12 months while the company is applying for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to pay furloughed employees. It comes as the company reported revenue dipped 3% to £33m for the year ending 31 December 2019 due to temporary extended closures for refurbishment at three London sites. Loss before tax narrowed 20% to £520,000, while cash at year-end was £5m. The company said it would not recommend a dividend in line with previous years. Chief executive Chaker Hanna said: “The board believe the group’s current restaurant estate continues to have potential for further organic growth through selective new owned sites and opportunities with our franchise partners when the right economic conditions return. Setting the coronavirus outbreak and the related current challenges aside, I believe our business continues to be well-positioned in the restaurant sector and can continue to provide our customers with a unique experience, offering excellent quality, well-priced, healthy food, with welcoming family hospitality, differentiated to many other restaurant operations.”
Paul UK reopens another trio of London sites with three more to follow: Paul UK, the French bakery and cafe brand, has reopened another trio of its London sites with three more to follow next week. The company has reopened its Holland Park, Hammersmith and South Kensington outlets for takeaway as well as delivery via Deliveroo and UberEats – taking the total to seven. This will be followed by Chelsea, Earl Court and Islington next week. The shops are open daily from 8am until 2pm. The grocery market at its Acton bakery remains open daily between 8am and 2pm to pick up essentials such as milk and fruit and vegetables as well as bread and pastries. The delivery radius has been expanded to include select south west London postcodes as well as west London. The team is wearing personal protective equipment at all times with handwashing and surface sanitising stepped up to take place every ten minutes. All seating has been removed, transactions are cashless and the use of reusable cups has been paused. Paul UK chief executive Mark Hilton said: “We took the careful decision to responsibly open some of our stores to extend our delivery miles and give access to those who can’t get to the supermarkets easily. Our team members have returned on an opt-in volunteer basis and the free coffee for NHS workers is a small token of our huge appreciation.” Paul UK also continues to donate meals to London hospitals and unsold bread and freshly baked bread pudding to London-based charity The Felix Project, which distributes surplus fresh food to those that need it most.
Wingstop reopens two sites for delivery: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out US chicken brand Wingstop across the UK, has reopened its contactless delivery service from two of its three sites in London. The group, which secured a fourth site in the UK last year at Bluewater, has reopened its Dalston and Battersea sites for deliveries through Deliveroo. The company said it had put in place a number of measures to keep staff safe, including wearing protective kit, making sure hands are washed every five minutes, and social distancing in kitchens. Lemon Pepper Holdings opened Wingstop’s debut UK site in Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End in 2018. Wingstop, which has more than 1,000 restaurants globally, entered its agreement with Lemon Pepper Holdings in 2017.
Crussh joins #FeedNHS initiative: London-based healthy food and juice brand Crussh has become the latest sector operator to join the #FeedNHS campaign being spearheaded by natural fast food brand Leon. Crussh started its part in the initiative this week with a delivery of 2,000 hot meals to the Royal Marsden hospitals in Chelsea and Sutton. Separately, the company began delivering its cold-press juice to NHS workers at the beginning of April, delivering 500 bottles a week to Kings College Hospital in London. Nick Nathan, supply chain and operations director at Crussh, said: “Our cold-press juice was so well received, but we just felt we needed to do more. The work that Leon has done during this time is absolutely brilliant and we were really keen to get involved and show our support. We’re now making and supplying more than 2,000 hot meals a week. It’s not only important the NHS workers are fed, but they’re also provided with nutritious and well-balanced food, to help keep them fit and healthy; that’s definitely where we can help.” The company is also working to further expand its home delivery service and is now providing fresh fruit and vegetable boxes and store cupboard essential boxes. It said it would soon be launching more items across bakery, dried good, drinks and snacks.
Farmer J reopens site for delivery: All-day market concept Farmer J, which is backed by Imbiba, has reopened its site in London’s Broadgate for delivery only. The company is now offering the service through Deliveroo at its Finsbury Avenue site. Last month, the Jonathan Recanati-led, four-strong group, launched a grocery and prepared meal delivery service. The initiative – The Farmer’s Market – sees menu items, recipes, groceries and sauces delivered to those unable to leave their home.
I am Doner to reopen two sites on Friday: I am Doner, the Think Hospitality-backed brand, will reopen its Headingley and Harrogate sites on Friday (24 April) for delivery and contact-free click and collect. The brand is also in talks with a number of restaurant and pub venues to franchise or joint venture, giving access to its brand as a dark kitchen offer. Investor and director James Hacon said: “We have been working on a franchise model for more than a year and were quite far down the line with an international deal before the coronavirus outbreak. We have a solution ready to go and it feels like an obvious opportunity for operators whose existing concepts are not easily converted to delivery-only, and are therefore struggling to trade given the current circumstances. Our national supply chain can plug and play relatively simply, and our team is ready to support new partners with everything from operations to communications. We are happy to talk to anyone who may want to collaborate.”
Dalata agrees sale and leaseback of Dublin hotel for €65m: Irish hotel group Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, has agreed the sale and leaseback of its Clayton Hotel Charlemont in Dublin to German investor Deka Immobilien for €65m. The deal includes the purchase price of €61.95m and a rent-free period of one year. The agreement will see the hotel let on a new fully repairing and insuring lease for a 35-year term, with a rent of just over €3m per annum. The rent will be reviewed on a five-yearly basis. The four-star hotel has 187 air-conditioned bedrooms, a bar and restaurant, a fitness suite and meeting room facilities. Opened in November 2018, some €41.6m has been invested into the construction of the hotel by Dalata. The company will complete the final part of the hotel development, converting 38 Charlemont Street into additional bedrooms and a Red Bean Roastery Cafe. The hotel was valued at €77.4m on 31 December 2019 on the basis of Dalata owning and operating the asset, and contributed €4.3m to Dalata’s Ebitdar in its first full year of operation. Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said: “Overall this is a good bit of business for Dalata. Firstly, completing such a transaction is a positive in the current environment, but achieving a yield as keen as 4.25% is a real vote of confidence from Deka considering the hotel is currently closed. This also reduces bank debt and gives Dalata additional liquidity. If we were to value the Ebitda from the hotel at eight times, the group retains circa €20m of valuation post transaction for the hotel.”
JW Lees appoints new non-executive director: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees has appointed Jim Tully as a non-executive director. Tully is senior partner at law firm Slater Heelis and has more than 25 years’ experience as a corporate lawyer. JW Lees managing director William Lees-Jones said: “Jim has been working with JW Lees’ board since June last year when he succeeded Roy Ellis as an external advisor. Jim brings a fresh perspective to JW Lees and we look forward to working with him as we come out of lock-down and continue to build the business in these challenging times.” Tully added: “I have long admired JW Lees as a business and look forward to helping to support it embark on the next stage of its history.”
DesignMyNight Launches DeliverMyNight platform: DesignMyNight, part of Access Hospitality, has launched a new platform, which it said will showcase and support the “best in online events and deliveries taking place across the UK” during coronavirus. The booking resource said it had recorded a huge spike in deliverable cocktails since the end of March, resulting in more than 100 UK bars now bottling their drinks and dispatching them. It has also witnessed a 310% increase in hampers and deliverable DIY food kits since lock-down began. Online events and experiences that people can enjoy from the comfort of their own homes have also seen a 13,000% surge on DesignMyNight.