Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Finsbury bites into free-from bread and Sainsbury's standards criticised

The news, reviews and trends from September 1-2, including foodservice acquisitions and an interview with Byron's CEO.

3 September 2018
burgerfree-fromfruitocadopubsrestaurant openingSainsbury's

Food news

Burger bother

Gourmet Burger King has joined the list of companies to seek help from restructuring advisers, as the Sunday Times reveals that the Famous Brands-owned business has hired Deloitte to negotiate rent cuts and closures with landlords. Like-for-like sales have dropped 10.6% in the 22 weeks to the end of July.

 

Free-from bread gets a rise out of Finsbury Food Group

The growing popularity of gluten-free has led the Finsbury Food Group to snap up family-owned Ultrapharm for £25m, reports the Telegraph. The British free-from bread and pastry market has almost doubled in value over the past year, as consumers without intolerances view it as a healthier alternative (often incorrectly). Ultrapharm’s gluten-free bread, muffins and cakes are already sold to retailers like Marks & Spencer.

Sainsbury’s supermarkets display ‘poor standards’

“Analysts at stockbroker Shore Capital warned in a note last week that Sainsbury’s stores were displaying ‘poor standards,’ including gaps on shelves, unmanned checkouts and ‘general untidiness,’ and suggested recent cost cutting was to blame,” writes the Telegraph. A Sainsbury’s spokesperson retaliated that “reasonable explanations, such as a late delivery for example, are more likely to explain this than reaching conclusions that ignore the facts.”

 

Ocado’s rocketing share price

Pivoting from online retailer to technology provider has been a success for Ocado, which has sold £150m of shares this year. The share price rose 350% following a deal to supply an automated warehouse for France’s Groupe Casino, according to the Sunday Times, which notes that Ocado already has tie-ups with Canadian supermarket Sobeys and American giant Kroger.

 

Canned goods

The Scottish government's plans to extend its Best Start Foods voucher programme to include tinned fruit and vegetables has caused a backlash, after both the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and charity Nourish Scotland pointed out that the canned goods tend to contain higher levels of sugar than fresh produce. Currently, the initiative – designed to help poorer parents afford fruit and veg for their offspring – is limited to frozen and fresh items, though the proposed change would come into effect next year. The Sunday Times notes that including canned fruit and veg appears to conflict with anti-obesity efforts.

Leaping salmon

The Scottish Salmon Groups’ revenue has grown by 36% to £92.3m, according to results from January to June. The Times reports that the company has benefited from growing demand for salmon as well as increased overseas sales. 

 

Restaurant Group adds fuel

The Times picks up on MCA’s news that the Restaurant Group has acquired Food and Fuel’s 11-strong portfolio, which includes Prince of Wales in Putney and Lots Road in Chelsea. The Restaurant Group already has 509 restaurants through its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands, though its gastropub business has been trading better, accounting for 51% of earnings.

 

Coca-Cola’s fizzing Costa acquisition

The Telegraph and the Sunday Times dive into the big news last week of Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Costa. Both note that the £3.9bn deal is a boon for seller Whitbread, which has steadily sold off its businesses over the past few years. CEO Alison Brittain had already announced that Whitbread and Costa would demerge in April this year, following pressure from hedge fund investors Sachem Head and Elliott Advisors.

 

Food interviews

Simon Cope, Byron Hamburgers CEO

The Sunday Times quizzes the Byron boss on CVAs, sales and the future of the brand. While Cope freely admits that “Byron provides a perfect case study of the cost of having bad locations and making bad investments,” he adds that after securing a rent deal with landlords, the brand is in a much stronger position and hopes to take advantage of the craft beer boom to lure in punters.

 

Food reviews

Tozi, London SW1V 1HJ

Venetian cicchetti (aka small plates) form the heart of this eatery’s menu, with plenty of cured meats and cheeses from Italy. “Chopped pieces of artichoke, battered tempura-style and deep fried with a pot of aioli for dredging” receive high praise from Jay Rayner, as does the “classic saltimbocca, the veal beaten thin and layered with Parma ham and sage before being fried to crisp and dressed with a glossy veal jus.”

Native, London SE1 1TU

Marina O’Loughlin is shocked to find herself swayed by the “pretentious London hipster nonsense” of this spot, which includes hay-ash honey and fish-bone caramel, as well as appetisers made from leftovers and white chocolate bonbons with bone marrow. The restaurant goes big on game and foraged ingredients, seducing the critic “so comprehensively I want to collar everyone in the ridiculous queue for nearby Padella and send them here instead.”

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