Industry leaders launch quick service chicken brand Chiktopia: Industry leaders have joined forces with Dan Einzig, founder and chief executive of sector design agency Mystery, to launch fast-food firm Chiktopia. Investors who form the advisory board include Ashton Crosby, former investment director of True Capital and City Pantry; James Hacon, managing director of Think Hospitality; and Mark Lilley, chief executive of Abokado. Einzig, who is also a founding investor in a portfolio of brands in the sector, including bubble tea bar operator Bubbleology, said: “The idea for Chiktopia was hatched on a quest to find the nirvana of chicken, which took us as far as New Orleans. For us, Chiktopia is not a destination it’s an ongoing mission, not only to create the tastiest chicken and satisfy our guests’ cravings for chicken paradise but also to have a demonstrable social impact by helping people in need. It’s flattering to have attracted investment from such senior industry figures. Their guidance and support will be invaluable as we pursue our strategy to position Chiktopia as a leading UK restaurant brand.”
Roadchef sees pre-tax losses significantly narrow driven by foodservice investment: Motorway services operator Roadchef has seen its pre-tax losses significantly narrow driven by investment in foodservice offerings at its sites. The company saw pre-tax losses drop to £6.5m for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £29.4m the year before. Roadchef said it had been working hard to improve the food offer at its 28 service stations, including new partnerships with natural fast food brand Leon and Pret A Manger. It plans further investment to enhance the estate in 2018. Having also opened the first Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee drive-thru on the UK motorway network in 2016, Roadchef, which also operates the services on the A34 at Sutton Scotney in Hampshire, added an additional ten during the period. Growth in amenity and drive-thru sales increased 3.2%. Roadchef said continued sales growth was underpinned by strong growth from existing McDonald’s in the estate as well as new revenues from the introduction of the additional Costa drive-thru sites. The number of transactions also increased to 30.2 million compared with 30.0m the year before, which was being “driven by the strength in popularity of the offerings in place”. Average spend per transaction was up to £5.01 compared with £4.88 the previous year. Roadchef said a key development in the year had been the introduction of McDonald’s self-ordering systems at several of the group’s sites, which “give customers the opportunity to view and build their selection from a menu at their leisure”. Meanwhile, group revenue declined from £196m to £188.8m, partly due to new agreements with Blackburn-headquartered counterpart Euro Garages. Gross profit was up slightly to £119.2m, compared with £115.5m the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Although the profit of the group remains at similar levels as a result of this agreement, there has been a reduction in revenue and cost of sales. These contracts have enabled the group to reduce its exposure to fuel price fluctuations and move away from very low-margin business to focus on the more profitable income generators of the business such as catering. Management has been delighted to introduce the first Leon on the UK’s motorway network, at Strensham southbound, shortly followed by a further unit at Norton Canes. Leon adds an exciting diversity to the group’s portfolio of catering outlets. The group’s drive to add variety and choice of quality brands for customers has been at the forefront of efforts in 2017. Management continually assesses the suitability and success of the group’s offerings and looks forward to making further investments to enhance the estate during 2018.”
Steamin’ Billy boss submits plans for bowling alley and crazy golf venue in Leicester city centre: Billy Allingham, managing director of Leicestershire-based Steamin’ Billy Brewing, has submitted plans to create a bowling alley and crazy golf venue in Leicester city centre. Allingham is seeking permission from the city council to transform a former Dunelm Store in East Street into what would be the first bowling alley in Leicester city centre for decades. The vacant, 33,475 square foot unit, which is close to the train station and the landmark St George’s Tower, is below a multi-storey car park. The move would create 20 full-time jobs. The application for the bowling alley has been submitted by East Street Lanes, which was incorporated in March and lists Allingham as its only director. According to documents filed to the authority, the new alley would include crazy golf and a bar, Insider Media reports. Founded in 1998 by Allingham and Barry Lount, Steamin’ Billy has established a presence in Leicestershire, Rutland and Derbyshire and recently expanded into Warwickshire. Last month, the company secured £1.5m from HSBC to support its expansion plans.
SSP to bring Jamie’s Deli, TGI Friday’s and EAT to Bahrain airport as part of new openings: SSP, the UK operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, is to bring a series of restaurant brands to Bahrain for the first time. The company has reached an agreement with Bahrain Airport Company to operate 17 units in Bahrain International airport’s new passenger terminal, in partnership with Bahraini business conglomerate Buhindi Group. The units will feature a mix of local and international food and beverage brands, including Bahrain’s first Jamie’s Deli and Pizzeria from Jamie Oliver. In addition, SSP will unveil the first TGI Friday’s in an airport in the region and an EAT restaurant, the first in the region. SSP will also open a rooftop terrace called Sama by Alto, developed by the team behind the city’s Alto Bar. Lumee, a Bahraini casual dining concept, will offer classic flavours of the locality in a contemporary setting. Bahrain-based shawarma concept Ya! Salam will make its airport debut while a concept called Jaipur will serve Indian favourites. The line-up will also include an Illy cafe, Burger King, KFC, Camden Food Co, Millie’s Cookies, Italian brand Levito and a Ritazza in a new food court area. Mark Angela, chief commercial officer of SSP Group and chief executive of SSP EEME, said: “We’re delighted to be entering Bahrain for the first time and have been working closely with Bahrain Airport Company’s team to develop the right mix of bespoke concepts alongside an exciting range of local and international brands.” Bahrain Airport Company chief commercial officer Ayman Zainal added: “This is the first time we have gone to an external tender process for this type of activity and we were delighted to receive a number of strong proposals. SSP offered a compelling range of brands and a well-considered mix of local and international names and we are delighted to be partnering with them in this new venture to help put Bahrain on the international aviation map.”
Cotswolds-based hospitality group seeks sites after being acquired in reverse takeover: Investment firm and AIM-listed company Sovereign Mines of Africa has acquired Cotswolds-based hospitality group Turf To Table. A reverse takeover has seen Turf To Table put on the NEX Exchange Growth Market. Turf To Table, which operates The Five Alls and The Plough in Lechlade as well as The Bull Hotel in Fairford, has been renamed Barkby Group. Rather than remaining on the junior market, the company relisted on NEX, raising £547,500, reports City AM. Turf To Table was founded by Sebastian Snow, a chef who trained with Anton Worrall Thompson. Following the transaction, Barkby is seeking to create new gastro-pubs, tapping into the market for individual non-branded pubs with boutique accommodation. The directors of Sovereign Mines of Africa who engineered the reverse takeover include chairman Giles Clarke, who is the founder of Majestic Wine and former chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Snow acquired the lease of The Five Alls in 2012 before buying the freehold of The Plough three years later. The tenancy lease for The Bull Hotel was entered into in 2016.
Latin American restaurant and bar Zuaya to launch in Kensington next month: Latin American restaurant and bar Zuaya is to launch in Kensington next month. The concept is the brainchild of Spanish twins Alberto and Arian Zandi and will open in High Street Kensington on Friday, 20 July. Zuaya will cover 2,500 square feet and include a ground-floor marble bar, a 66-cover dining area spread across two floors, and a 12-cover terrace with separate bar. The venue will host live jazz and DJs at weekends. The kitchen will be headed by Francisco Lafee, who has worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in South America and London, including Barrafina. Dishes will feature unique flavour combinations with inspiration from Peru, Argentina and Mexico. Sharing dishes will include wild turbot ceviche and 18-hour slow-cooked lamb neck. The interiors will feature a palette of green and gold with botanical artwork, a feature moss wall, hanging plants, bespoke pendant lighting and a monochrome, chevron-patterned floor. Alberto Zandi said: “My brother and I are delighted to see Zuaya come to fruition. Our aim is to provide a new customer experience in London from a gastronomic, design and service perspective. We also have an outstanding team on board with experience from some of the world’s best restaurants.”
Various Eateries confirms Strada investment as it moves towards all-day offer: Various Eateries has confirmed new investment into its Strada restaurants to move it towards an all-day offer. The company, which also operates Coppa Club and the 31 Below brands, will initially focus on its three major Strada locations – Royal Festival Hall, More London and St Katharine Docks – and will include an update of the restaurant spaces, menu offering and the Strada brand, as revealed by Propel last month. The focus will be on creating a modern Italian dining experience without “losing the warm, family-friendly feel associated with Strada”. The space renovations will include the creation of more relaxed lounge areas that people can use throughout the day, moving it away from being just a lunch or dinner experience. Group chief executive Sue Walter said: “These three restaurants are performing incredibly strongly despite the competitive market, and this new investment demonstrates our commitment to this much-loved brand. We are adapting our spaces to meet the changing way in which people socialise. The Strada restaurants at Royal Festival Hall, More London and St. Katharine Docks enjoy some of the most beautiful and iconic views in London. We want people to experience these settings throughout the day.” Walter previously told Propel she was assessing the remaining 11 Strada restaurants – some may be sold with others potentially converted into Coppa Clubs or bar cafe concepts similar to 31 Below, which opened in Marylebone in February. Various Eateries saw like-for-like sales increase 6.6% for its second quarter to March, with total sales of £5.8m.
Grab-and-go concept Pizza Sqr to launch in Midlands: Grab-and-go concept Pizza Sqr is to launch at Intu Merry Hill shopping centre in the Midlands. The concept offers square pizza slices alongside freshly made sandwiches, soup, pastries and authentic Italian coffee. Pizza Sqr operations manager Davide Cason said: “Pizza doesn’t need to be complicated. Our menu will combine the freshest ingredients and seasonal toppings to create pizza based on authentic recipes from Rome. Intu Merry Hill is a fantastic destination with enormous potential as a key dining location. It’s exciting to launch the first Pizza Sqr there.” Intu plans to build a 180,000 square foot leisure extension at Merry Hill, which will introduce more restaurants and a cinema. Intu regional managing director Nick Round said: “We are investing millions to transform Intu Merry Hill. Exciting new dining concepts such as Pizza Sqr are a key focus of our plans to update the centre’s leisure offer.”
France’s oldest tea house to make UK debut with Covent Garden launch:France’s oldest tea house, Mariage Frères, is to open its first UK store in September, in Covent Garden. The flagship branch will be the brand’s largest to date when it opens in a five-storey listed Georgian townhouse in King Street. The 1,200 square metre site will adhere to Mariage Frères’ three distinct offerings. Comptoir de Thé on the ground floor will feature a tea emporium including the “longest tea wall in the world” with almost 1,000 rare teas. It will also sell fragrance, incense, candles, confectionary, gift sets, crockery, books and strainers, while tea will be available to take away alongside pastries. The first floor will house the 100-cover Salon de Thé and the Cuisine au Thé, which uses tea as an ingredient, spice or flavouring in dishes such as Thai-style seared beef tartar with coriander and Lune Rouge Tea, and dark chocolate gateau flavoured with Black Magic Tea. The Musée du Thé on the second floor will showcase tea antiques, while the third and fourth floors will house two private rooms, one with its own terrace, and a trade showroom. Mariage Frères has been operating out of the Marais district of Paris since 1854, when it was founded by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage. It also has a presence in Germany and Japan.
Remarkable Pubs partners with Portobello Brewing Company to launch taphouse in Acton: Remarkable Pubs, the privately owned east London-focused pub company, is to collaborate with west London craft brewer Portobello Brewing Company. The partnership will see Portobello extend its operations to a brewery housed in Remarkable Pub’s the George and Dragon in Acton. Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna told Propel: “It is a natural fit for Portobello and Remarkable to collaborate for what will be a Portobello Brewery taphouse in one of our wonderful grade II-listed pubs.” Portobello Brewing Company director Joe Laventure added: “The additional brewing capacity at the George and Dragon will allow Portobello to create new brews and experiment with small-batch production. The plan is to offer a Portobello brewing experience with great beer, great food and brewery know-how, all in one amazing venue.” In May, Remarkable Pubs acquired the freehold of the Boleyn Tavern in Barking Road to bring its estate to 15 sites.
Essex-based artisan cider producer launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to scale up production: Essex-based artisan cider producer Big Bear Cider Mill has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to scale up production. The company is offering 10% equity in return for the investment for an “apple to can” production facility with the ability to produce one million-plus litres of craft cider per annum. The pitch states: “We love craft cider but it’s only seasonally available and traditional in packaging and concept. Big brand cider is available all year round but much of it is produced from concentrate so lacks depth and quality. Our solution? To make our own, which was not easy as it involved planting thousands of trees. Our mission was launched. From the first batch of cider five years ago, momentum grew. People loved it and now demand outstrips supply. The answer? A production facility to allow us to press and blend more than a million litres per annum. We plan to make quality craft cider marketed with a strong brand appeal and year-round supply. Essex orchards were ripped up in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for gravel pits. We buy disused gravel pits and turn them into flourishing orchards; making great cider and having a positive environmental impact.”
Goose Island to open first UK brewpub in September: Chicago craft brewer Goose Island is set to open its first UK brewpub in September. The company will open the site in Shoreditch High Street on the site of the former Drunken Monkey dim sum restaurant and cocktail bar. As well as an extensive beer range, the brewpub will offer a Chicago-inspired pizza menu and a music venue championing indie and headliner live acoustic and DJ acts. Customers will also be able to learn more about the brewing process from Andrew Walton, who has been appointed the company’s first UK brewmaster after joining from Fourpure Brewing Co. Goose Island international president Ken Stout said: “London has always held a special place in Goose Island’s history. Our next chapter in Shoreditch represents a work of love and dedication that has been 30 years in the making, and we’re excited to have the brewpub in Andrew’s capable hands. As we continue to contribute to, and learn from, British beer culture, we are excited to be creating a new experience in the heart of east London, where foodies, beer drinkers and music lovers alike can join together in appreciation of a good time – and great beer.” Goose Island previously operated a taphouse under the banner of Vintage Ale House in Balham, south London, which shut last month.
Sager + Wilde to take over bar at Corinthia Hotel: Marcis Dzelzainis and Michael Sager, of London-based bar restaurant group Sager + Wilde, are to take over Bassoon Bar at the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall. The cocktail list will be inspired by New Orleans classics curated by Dzelzainis, formerly of 69 Colebrooke Row and Dandelyan, while Sager will curate the champagne offering, Hot Dinners reports. The soundtrack will feature funk and soul with DJ decks in the room. Sager launched his company with wife Charlotte. It operates restaurant Paradise Row and wine bar Hackney Road, both named after the streets they are located in. It is also due to launch Fare Bar And Canteen, which will offer sourdough pizza, cocktails, wine and coffee when it opens in Clerkenwell. Chef Tom Kerridge will open his first London restaurant – Kerridge’s Bar & Grill – at the five-star, 283-bedroom Corinthia Hotel in September, replacing Massimo restaurant.
Night Tales to launch first permanent site, in Hackney next month: Gastro pop-up series Night Tales is to launch its first permanent site, in Hackney, east London. The company will take over some of the arches in Bohemia Place, off Mare Street, as part of the Hackney Central development. The space will feature a 300-capacity nightclub, a drinking and dining area, an outdoor bar and a cocktail bar. The food offering will feature Japanese izakaya concept Fat Baby, which offers grilled seafood, gyoza, salad and rice dishes, with Greg Round, formerly of Pitt Cue and Michelin-starred Umu, as its head chef. Sons of Slice will offer New York-style pizza, while the 4,000 square foot Japanese Garden Bar will also offer food. The Agave Bar will be inside the club and focus on mezcal and tequila with rotating speciality cocktails, Hot Dinners reports.
Starbucks to expand Teavana brand into US grocery market: Starbucks has announced the introduction of Teavana packaged tea into the US grocery market as it evolves the brand into a new format. The selection of six premium tea sachets – Youthberry, Peach Tranquility, Citrus Lavender, Jade Citrus Mint, Imperial Spiced Chai and Earl Grey Creme – will be available from this summer, expanding nationally throughout 2018. “The launch of Teavana packaged tea in grocery is just the beginning of the journey to bring consumers some of their Teavana favourites in a new, accessible format where they purchase their groceries,” said John Culver, group president, international, channel development and global coffee and tea. “Since our acquisition of Teavana five years ago, we have continued to innovate within the tea category and build distribution outside of Starbucks stores. We remain committed to executing our plan to increase our tea business to $3bn over the next five years through Starbucks global retail, packaged tea and ready-to-drink premium Teavana craft iced teas.”
Goodbody retains cautious view on Greene King despite World Cup and weather benefits: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has retained his cautious view on Greene King despite the likely short-term benefit it will receive from the recent good weather and the World Cup. Issuing a ‘Sell’ note on the shares ahead of the company’s preliminary results on Thursday (28 June), Ruddy said: “It reported a pre-close trading statement on 12 April for the 49 weeks to 8 April and Pub Company like-for-likes were down 1.8% year-on-year, compared with our forecast of minus 1.5% (minus 1.2% excluding snow). Furthermore, it noted Easter trading was strong with like-for-likes up 2.8% year-on-year. In Pub Partners, like-for-like net profit was minus 0.3% year-on-year, while in Brewing and Brands own-brewed volumes were down 0.7% year-on-year. The full-year profit before tax estimate was guided at £240m to £245m (Goodbody: £240m) so there is potential for a small beat to our forecast. The statement also confirmed it was on track to achieve £40m to £45m of cost savings and disposals would yield £120m. Given the detail disclosed in the pre-close, we believe the key focus of Thursday’s statement will be current trading, which should be good given the impact of weather and the World Cup; the outlook for FY19; the cost outlook for FY19 and in particular the mitigation target; the benefits of the Value Service Quality project; and an update on the estate disposal programme. For FY19 we forecast Pubco revenue like-for-likes flat for the year and see group profit before tax estimates slightly down year-on-year to £236m. We retain our overall cautious view on Greene King despite the likely short-term benefit it will receive from the recent good weather and World Cup. Underlying like-for-like trading remained in negative territory for most of FY18 and cost headwinds will persist into FY19. We retain concerns about the quality of the Spirit estate and the investment that will be required to turn this around. Greene King’s share price is up 16% year to date, which puts the stock on 8.2 times 2019 calendar EV/Ebitda, above the peer average. We believe the group will continue to underperform the sector and we retain our ‘Sell’ recommendation.”
Coffee subscription service Pact submits plans to build Surrey roastery: Coffee subscription service Pact Coffee has submitted plans to build a roastery in Haslemere, Surrey. The company, which is headquartered in Bermondsey, east London, has more than 40,000 subscribers and recently launched a business-to-business service – Pact Coffee For Business – to provide coffee to offices and workspaces across the UK. Pact Coffee managing director Paul Turton told Insider Media: “We are delighted to be growing Pact and joining the lovely Haslemere community. We picked the area for its fantastic location, people and opportunity to be part of an exciting place outside London for our new roastery. All at Pact pride ourselves on providing the highest-quality coffee for all our customers, whether in the office or at home. The new location of the roastery will ensure we can continue providing the very best coffee for all our valued customers and continue an incredibly exciting time for the Pact family.”
Pink gin brand Pinkster appoints Diageo veteran as sales director: Pink gin brand Pinkster has appointed Martijn van Buuren as sales director. With 30 years’ experience in the spirits business at Grand Metropolitan, Guinness and Diageo, van Buuren will be based at the company’s Cambridge headquarters with overall responsibility for its ten-strong sales team. Van Buuren has been working with Pinkster as a strategic consultant since early 2016, during which time sales of the raspberry-infused gin have doubled year-on-year. Pinkster managing director Stephen Marsh said: “With Gordon’s and Beefeater unveiling pink gin brand extensions in recent months, this burgeoning sub-category is poised to explode. Who better to help us benefit from this opportunity than an industry stalwart of Martijn’s calibre – and we’re delighted to have winkled him out of an early retirement.” Van Buuren added: “I am hugely impressed by what Stephen and the team has achieved to date and relish the opportunity of using my industry insight and contacts to help take the business to the next stage.”