Byron to reopen majority of its estate over the next week: Better burger brand Byron, which earlier this month was sold via pre-pack administration to investment vehicle Calveton UK under newly formed company Famously Proper for £4m, will reopen the majority of its estate over the next week. The Simon Wilkinson-led group will have 18 of the 20 sites it acquired out of administration by 9 September. Last week, the company reopened its sites in Waterloo and Old Brompton Road. On Tuesday (1 September), it opened its two sites in Edinburgh, plus restaurants in Manchester, and Bury St Edmunds. This week, it will also open restaurants in locations including Oxford, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Leeds, Liverpool and Milton Keynes. Propel reported last month that the company would initially focus on reopening its circa 20-strong estate but would also examine consolidation possibilities, which could include long-time rival Gourmet Burger Kitchen. It’s thought to be currently in negotiations regarding a handful of sites, which would make up its final estate. At the same time, the new company is expected to ramp up its delivery strategy. To mark its reopening plans, the company has brought back one of its favourite specials of all time – the B-Rex – and is donating £1 from every one sold to NHS Charities Together. It is also offering bottomless fries with every burger sold.
Leon launches fries delivery brand: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched Loaded Leon, a new fries delivery brand out of a handful of its London-based sites. The brand is described as “Leon’s late-night fries shop, delivering your favourite waffle-cut fries loaded with toppings. 100% gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options”. The brand is currently available to postcodes around the company’s sites in Wimbledon, Notting Hill, London Bridge and Spitalfields through Deliveroo. Leon appointed consultancy firm Quantuma in early June to help it engage with its landlords and push to change to a turnover-based rent model. Leon co-founder and chief executive John Vincent has told Propel, at the time, the brand has agreed new rental terms with many of its landlords but, “given the uncertainty of what is going on”, it needed to “keep all options open”.
McDonald’s faces $1bn discrimination lawsuit from black ex-franchise owners:McDonald’s is being sued for up to $1bn by more than 50 black former franchise owners, who claim the company systematically placed them in “substandard locations”. The lawsuit alleges the move hindered profitability and growth for franchisees, saddling them with high insurance costs and leaving their restaurants performing below the national norm. The lawsuit comes weeks after McDonald’s was among dozens of corporations to release a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and condemn racism following George Floyd’s death and nationwide anti-racism protests. In June, chief executive Chris Kempczinski acknowledged McDonald’s had more work to do to improve racial equality and diversity within the company, after two executives filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly pushing out black managers and franchisees. Despite this, Kempczinski claimed the company had created more millionaires in the black community than any other company. But the latest lawsuit, filed by 52 black former franchise owners in a Chicago federal court, said their average sales of $2m a year between 2011 and 2016 were $700,000 below the national average, often leading them to bankruptcy. The claims include more than 200 stores with compensatory damages that average between $4m and $5m per store, exclusive of punitive damages. Jim Ferraro, representing the plaintiffs, said the number of black franchise owners has halved to 186 during the past two decades, while a lawsuit earlier this year claimed almost a third of black franchisees left under ex-chief executive Steve Easterbrook’s tenure between 2015 and 2019.
Tortilla reports 50% jump in sales from Eat Out To Help Out, launches two September offers: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast casual Mexican concept, has reported a 50% jump in sales between Monday and Wednesday during August, compared with the previous month. The company is looking to carry on the success of Eat Out To Help Out with two offers in September. Every Monday this month, the company will be offering two burritos for the price of one while, on Thursdays, customers can enjoy tacos at £1 a pop. Both offers are available after 5pm for dine-in customers only. Managing director Richard Morris said the brand “plans to keep the good times rolling” after a strong August. He added: “It’s fantastic to see so many people back in our restaurants, making the most of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. While our new house rules and procedures mean our restaurants look and feel different, crew have been excited to return to work and it appears our customers are happy to have us back.” Following full closure in March, Tortilla started reopening in May for online ordering only. The company has reopened 33 of its 42 sites with its Victoria station outlet having welcomed customers back on Tuesday (1 September). The group will reopen its Southwark restaurant on Tuesday, 8 September, and is also offering takeaway, click and collect and delivery.
Greene King buys riverside pub near Shrewsbury: Brewer and retailer Greene King has bought The Riverside Inn, in Cound, near Shrewsbury, and plans to reopen it as a Chef & Brewer site in 2021. The Shropshire Star reported the venue will have “undergone a fantastic refit and refurbishment and will be under new management” before it reopens. The pub closed on 20 March in response to the coronavirus lock-down. A Greene King spokesman told Propel the deal had been put in place prior to lock-down.
BrewDog confirms Plymouth site plans: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has confirmed it will open a 4,000 square foot bar at The Barcode, the new leisure and entertainment development, located next to Drake Circus in Plymouth’s city centre. The company will join a range of restaurants and leisure brands at the new development, including Five Guys, Nando’s, Cosy Club, Zizzi and Paradise Golf. A BrewDog spokesman said: “We are delighted to be bringing awesome craft beer and food to the people of Plymouth and look forward to opening our doors.” Alice Keown, leasing director – Restaurants and Leisure, British Land, said: “We’re really excited to welcome BrewDog to Drake Circus. It is a fantastic brand, which complements The Barcode’s restaurant and bar offering and will enhance the overall appeal of the new leisure development for our customers. Their decision to commit to Drake Circus, amid uncertainties in the retail market and covid-19, is a strong endorsement of the centre.” Cushman and Wakefield and Smith Young acted on behalf of British Land. Propel reported yesterday that BrewDog had lined up 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.
Cake Box to repay furlough funds after ‘very strong’ trading since reopening:Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, is to repay all the money it claimed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) after seeing “very strong” trading since reopening in June. In the past three months, Cake Box saw like-for-like sales grow 14.1% in franchise stores, while online sales continued to grow, up roughly 74% year-on-year. As a result, the group said it would repay the £156,000 it received under the CJRS and did not plan to make any claims under the government’s Job Retention Bonus. The company said it was now also benefiting from “the increasing appeal” of its delivery service through Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats. With a month left in Cake Box’s first trading half, the group stated the encouraging trading since reopening would see it pay a special dividend of 3.2p. Cake Box operates circa 115 sites.
Fierce Beer to make England debut with Manchester site opening: Fierce Beer, the Aberdeen-based brewer and bar operator, is to make its debut in England, with the opening later this week of a site in Manchester. The business, which was founded in 2015 by Dave Grant and David McHardy, has taken on the site formerly occupied by Marble Beers at 57 Thomas Street, in the city’s Northern Quarter. The new bar will open this Friday (4 September). The company already operates bars in Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
Black and White Hospitality reports in excess of 30,000 covers served in August with ‘strong’ week-on-week growth: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has reported it served in excess of 30,000 covers in the 21 sites that were open during August. The company said it had seen “strong” week-on-week growth since the launch of Eat Out To Help Out and was looking to carry the momentum that had been generated into the autumn. Dave Daniels-Ekarte, operations director at Black and White Hospitality, said: “Once we were able to reopen, there was naturally a little trepidation to eat out. However, what Eat Out To Help Out helped dissipate was customers’ concerns regarding dining in a safe environment. This then transcended into weekend covers, which have also increased week-on-week throughout August and is really encouraging to see. It has also helped significantly with the mood of all the teams involved, which can be best described as being buoyant. We are now looking to continue this momentum into September and the autumn.” Black and White Hospitality operates almost 50 restaurants under various Marco Pierre White brands. The company will reopen a further four restaurants this month and five in October, with the remainder set to welcome back guests before Christmas.
Costa Coffee launches ‘mini’ cup size and food deals: Costa Coffee has introduced a new “mini” cup size and reduced its meal deal price to £4. The mini cup size means customers can choose from four different size beverages, with the newcomer costing as little as £1.41, if taking advantage of the reusable cup 25p discount. The 8oz (227ml) drink is joined on the menu by the lower priced meal deal, which is a small coffee (one size larger than the mini) or cold drink and a savoury item for £4 between 11am and 3pm daily. Costa also has a new premium meal deal that includes new menu items such as a hoisin duck wrap and creamy mushroom risotto. Both sweet and savoury options have been expanded too such as a new sausage roll on the breakfast menu, and caramel Bramley apple tart and chocolate torte. Commercial marketing director Eric Tavoukdjian said: “Our new mini 8oz cup is the perfect choice for coffee lovers at a smaller price point. We know choice and value are important to our customers and we’re thrilled to launch the mini and refreshed meal deals.”
Dalata raises €94.4m to fuel UK growth: Irish hotel operator Dalata has raised €94.4m (£84.1m) to take advantage of opportunities arising from covid-19 disruption, particularly in the UK. The funds were raised through the placing of 37 million shares at a price of €2.55 each, representing about 19.9% of the company’s issued share capital immediately prior to the placing, Dalata said. The funds would help secure leases at competitive terms in London, regional parts of Britain and Dublin where “growth opportunities remain compelling”. The placing will also help mitigate any possible prolonged covid-19 impact, it added. Dalata had €110m in cash and €111m in undrawn committed debt facilities at the end of August. The company has also signed lease agreements for hotels in Brighton and Manchester. It said it has a pipeline of almost 3,300 rooms in “excellent locations”. Dalata, which owns or leases 12 of its 44 hotels in the UK, said it operated at 30% occupancy across the group in July upon reopening from lock-down and projected that to have risen to 40% in August, boosted by staycations. All its hotels have reopened. It reported a €70.9m loss for the six months to 30 June 2020, down 287.7% compared with the previous year, mainly because of property revaluations and impairments on other assets significantly impacted by the pandemic. Revenue was down 60% to €80.8m. The company said it was also looking at new ways to shore up demand, including offering students deals to stay in its hotels when they may only need to be in university one week a month due to covid-19 restrictions.
Michelin-starred Harwood Arms among London operators reopening: Sally Abé, head chef at The Harwood Arms, has been perfecting the menu for the reopening of the capital’s only Michelin-starred gastro-pub. On opening its doors on Wednesday, 2 September, for the first time since lock-down began, Abé said everything, bar its venison Scotch eggs and Sunday roast, will be new while co-owner Brett Graham has refurbished the bar and dining areas. The restaurant will be open for dinner on Tuesdays to Fridays, and for lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. Bocca di Lupo will reopen on Wednesday (2 September) with Sicilian dishes as menu highlights. The Italian restaurant, which is located in Soho and was founded by Jacob Kenedy in 2008, will alter its stand-out meals by using recipes from across Italy as the months change. For the time-poor, Bocca di Lupo will also offer a worker’s lunch of two courses for £12. Food experience brand and events caterer Rhubarb will reopen its Fenchurch restaurant in London’s Sky Garden on Friday (4 September). The company has also appointed Michael Carr as the restaurant’s new head chef. Clarette has reopened with a seasonal menu under the guidance of new chef Pierre Mirepoix. The wine bar in Blandford Street, central London, welcomed customers on Tuesday (1 September) after the lock-down.