Warrens Bakery closure adds to Royal Avenue retail woe

October 22, 2019

THE Warrens Bakery outlet on Belfast’s Royal Avenue is understood to have closed after less than a year trading, with the loss of all 10 jobs.

The Cornwall-founded company only opened in December in the former home of Asher’s Bakery.

At the time it said it planned to open “many” new stores in Northern Ireland.

But in the last week it appears to have pulled down the shutters in Belfast amid fears the company is struggling.

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In July Warrens, the world’s oldest commercial pasty maker, which has more than 50 shops in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, made 66 staff redundant in the south west of England as part of a “restructuring exercise”.

No-one from the company would response yesterday to an Irish News request for a comment about its Belfast franchised operation.

But a worker in an adjacent business, who said he was a frequent customer of the Warrens store, said “the shop hasn’t been open for maybe a week or more”.

Warrens’ closure adds to more than a dozen empty units in Royal Avenue, once Belfast’s main shopping thoroughfare but which was described recently as “an embarrassment to retail in a European capital city”.

When it opened in December, bakery spokesman Carl Mortimer told the Irish News: “We’re really excited to be working with our franchise partner in Northern Ireland and delighted to open our first of what we hope will be many stores here.

“Northern Ireland represents a great opportunity for us and we look forward to bringing a little bit of Cornwall across the water.”

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The new store initially created eight jobs, and it is thought at least two more staff were recruited.

The prime Royal Avenue site was vacated by Ashers last October after owner Daniel McArthur decided not to renew the lease, citing a lack of footfall as a direct result of the Primark fire the previous August.

Voted the UK’s top craft bakery in 2018, Warrens Bakery dates back to 1860 and describes itself as the world’s oldest pasty maker.

It is also recognised for its famous range of breads, freshly-made sandwiches, sweet and savoury treats, tasty breakfast goods and on-the-go snacks.

In 2017 the company said it was looking to open 1,000 new shops over the next decade, replicating the success of its rival Greggs.

But in a challenging sector, where raw materials, transport and other costs have risen significantly, the bakery has struggled.

Its results for this year to June 30 have not yet been filed.

But in its previous trading year Warrens increased its sales to more than £17 million but saw losses widen from £31,200 to £915,400.

By Gary McDonald

Source: Irish News

Metro Rod welcomes the acquisition of Willow Pumps

October 20, 2019

Commercial drainage business, Metro Rod, has welcomed the acquisition of Willow Pumps by its parent company, Franchise Brands plc.

Founded in 1992, Willow Pumps is a leading water pump supply, installation and servicing business with a below-ground (foul water) and above-ground (fresh water) capability.

Working with Willow Pumps will enable Metro Rod to develop a complete range of market-leading pump services, further expanding its range of services to its commercial customers. At the same time, Metro Rod will also be able to offer its wide range of drainage services to Willow Pumps customers.

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This additional pump work will provide Metro Rod’s franchisees with an additional opportunity to grow their sales, whilst Willow Pumps will benefit from a significantly expanded delivery capability through Metro Rod’s national network of over 400 engineers working out of 43 depots across the UK.

Willow Pumps has a strong management team led by its founder, Ian Lawrence, who will continue as Managing Director, working together with Metro Rod, and will join Franchise Brand’s senior management team.

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Peter Molloy, Managing Director, said: “The acquisition of Willow Pumps is an exciting step forward as we expand the range of services we can offer to our commercial customers. It supports our ambition to provide a “water in, waste out” range of drainage, pumps and plumbing-related services on a national basis.”

Ian Lawrence, Founder and Managing Director of Willow Pumps, commented: “I am very excited about building on our success to date as part of a larger, publicly quoted group with significant ambitions in the drainage, pumps and plumbing markets.

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“The Group’s management and wider resources will be invaluable as we continue to grow Willow Pumps under Franchise Brands’ ownership. My team and I welcome the opportunity to work with Metro Rod franchisees all across the country and we look forward to working with Metro Rod to deliver first-class pump services and support to their national customers.”

By Sarah OBeirne

Source: FMJ

easyHotel To Review Dividend Policy As Hotels Outperform UK Market

October 20, 2019

easyHotel PLC on Friday said it will consider its dividend policy amid challenging trading conditions which are not expected to improve over the medium-term.

The stock was trading 11% higher in London on Friday in early trade at 110.00 pence a share.

The super-budget hotel chain said total system sales were up 28% in the year to the end of September to GBP47.8 million from GBP37.3 million reported a year ago.

easyHotel highlighted that despite the ongoing political and economic uncertainty facing the UK, owned hotels have continued to outperform the UK hotel market on a like-for-like basis.

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easyHotel’s owned hotels like-for-like revenue per available room was up 7.7%, but franchise like-for-like RevPar down 1.6% over its most recent financial year.

“The hotel markets have remained challenging in the second half of the financial year, particularly in the UK where we are seeing dampened consumer confidence. Whilst our owned hotels have continued to outperform the market, we have not been immune to the weaker regional hotel market and trading across our franchised portfolio has continued to be subdued,” said Chief Executive Guy Parsons.

The AIM-listed company reported revenue growth of 56% to GBP17.6 million from GBP11.3 million year-on-year.

easyHotel said it has maintained a “tight” control of costs, but against the challenging trading environment it anticipates adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization closer to GBP4.6 million for the year ended September 30. In comparison, last year, the UK-based company’s adjusted Ebitda totalled GBP3.0 million.

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In addition, easyHotel’s current dividend policy will be reviewed prior to the publication of annual results. The company will consider ending the dividend as it looks to grow its current hotel estate.

“Whilst we don’t foresee any improvement to the trading environment in the medium term, we are focused on our strategic priorities and believe the current economic uncertainties will present attractive investment opportunities to continue to expand our development pipeline in our target destinations, underpinning the long-term growth of the brand,” added Parsons.

By Evelina Grecenko

Source: Morningstar

Costcutter unveils Co-op franchise package

October 19, 2019

Costcutter Supermarkets Group has officially launched its offer to independent retailers interested in taking on a Co-op franchise.

The package, which operates exclusively through Costcutter for retailers with 10 stores or fewer, was unveiled at the National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham earlier this month (October).

Seven franchises are already up and running through the agreement, including three company-owned stores, and Costcutter says the outlets are seeing sales growth of more than 50%.

Benefits for retailers include the creation of a store layout plan, category space allocation and range tailored to their store’s catchment area.

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They also get ongoing support and training in how to implement staff training, store processes and retail routines.

Stores need to have weekly sales of £20,000, excluding VAT and services such as Lotto, Paypoint and Post Office. They also need a sales area of more than 2,000sq ft and back-of-house space of more than 800sq ft.

Martin Rogers, head of new channels at the Co-op, said: “This is a significant milestone in our franchise ambition and we’re looking for the right retailers in the right locations to share in our success and help widen the reach of Co-op products. We now have the capability to deliver franchising at scale.”

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Southern Co-op already runs a similar franchise operation, but these stores operate under the Welcome fascia rather than Co-op.

Costcutter’s exclusivity does not extend to university student unions or existing Nisa retailers interested in a Co-op franchise. They would need to go direct to the Co-op.

By David Shrimpton

Source: Talking Retail

Bury St Edmunds dog owners needed as Barking Mad launches in town

October 19, 2019

A dog-sitting service has launched in Bury St Edmunds, giving residents the chance to look after a pooch for free.

Barking Mad has set-up in the area this week, after the online pet-matching scheme proved a success in other towns. It sees owners pay the company to source a host, before going away. Barking Mad will then procure a small fee to the short-term owner to cover costs.

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Steve Lake has bought into the franchise, which he hopes will allow dog lovers, who are unable to own a pet, to enjoy the experience.

“We hope hosts will see a boost to their own wellbeing,” said Mr Lake, who left a career in distribution to start-up.

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Mr Lake meets potential owners – who can state a preference for the kind of dog they wish to take.

By William Mata

Source: Bury Free Press

UK’s Domino’s Pizza franchise to exit four international markets

October 18, 2019

Britain’s Domino’s Pizza Group will exit its international markets, where it has been facing mounting losses.

“We have concluded that, whilst they represent attractive markets, we are not the best owners of these businesses,” outgoing chief executive officer David Wild said.

The company, which is a franchise of US-based Domino’s Pizza Inc, said third-quarter group system sales rose 3.4 per cent to £313.5 million (€361 million) on strong demand in the UK and Ireland.

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The British company owns Domino’s operations in Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and is a minority shareholder in the Germany operations as well.

However, it reported a 2.7 per cent dip in international system sales, which have taken a hit from macroeconomic events, including declining tourist numbers in Iceland.

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Europe’s economy has slowed this year as the US-China trade tensions weakened global growth, and consumers and businesses in and around the United Kingdom worried about the impact of Brexit on jobs and incomes.

The company, which has 57 stores in Norway, said it had implemented a turnaround plan in the country during the quarter, but early signs have been mixed and improvement in sales were weaker than expected.

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The decision to exit these markets comes a few months after the company announced the retirement of its CEO Wild, while in the midst of trying to resolve a profit sharing row with disgruntled franchisees in the UK and Ireland. – Reuters

Source: Irish Times

The TaxAssist Direct Group named finalist for Business Award

October 18, 2019

The Eastern Daily Press has named The TaxAssist Direct Group as a finalist in the Large Business category in the Norfolk Business Awards.

The annual Eastern Daily Press Business Awards are a celebration of business success within the Eastern Region. All the entries have been rigorously analysed, after the finalists were interviewed as part of the process to help inform the final decision as to who will be named winner next month.

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Karl Sandall, Group Chief Executive of The TaxAssist Direct Group, said: “To even make the shortlist is a huge honour, and highlights the stature of our business which has grown so successfully since its inception in Norwich in 1995. We now have more than 250 franchised areas across the UK, Ireland and Australia, with the network servicing over 84,000 clients with a combined fee bank of more than £55.4 million.

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“We moved to new premises 5 years ago and last year doubled the size of our office on the prestigious Broadland Business Park to cope with demand from our fast-growing franchise network. We plan to recruit further new employees this year, as new support lines to our global franchisee network are added. We are also progressing well with plans to launch in Canada and USA in 2020.”

Richard Porritt, Business Editor of The Eastern Daily Press, said of the finalists: “These are the firms that are driving our region. These are the firms on the edge of innovation that will change all our lives. These are the firms making a difference.”

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Award winners will be announced at the Norfolk Showground Arena on Thursday, 21st November by the host, star of film and television, James Nesbitt. Further information about the awards can be found here.

Pink Spaghetti Chester and North Wales wins national award

October 17, 2019

Michelle Collins, owner of Pink Spaghetti PA Services Chester and North Wales, has returned from the Approved Franchise Association Awards night triumphant, as the proud winner of the Franchisee of the Year award.

The AFA was set up in 2012 to support the rapidly growing UK Franchise Industry.

Their aim is to help grow and support the franchise industry in the UK by providing accreditation and membership to franchises of every size, and this year marked the inaugural annual conference and awards.

Michelle was thrilled to find out in July that she had been nominated for the Franchisee of the Year award, and travelled to Milton Keynes on Thursday, September 19 for the awards ceremony.

Michelle said: “I have been running Pink Spaghetti Chester & North Wales for the past five years, and have many happy customers who needed the 25th hour in the day my team and I provide.

“Providing an efficient service to satisfied customers is, of course, its own reward, but it’s always nice to be recognised for what you do, so I’m thrilled to be coming home with this award.”

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Michelle is going to have to make a space in her trophy cabinet as she is no stranger to winning industry awards. She is a Small Business Saturday #SmallBiz100 Alumni, and is the current Pink Spaghetti Franchisee of the Year. She has also won the Pink Spaghetti ‘People’s Choice’ award, as she is always willing to share her expertise, and is highly regarded within the nationwide Pink Spaghetti network.

Michelle understands her strengths, and is a capable businesswoman who regularly seeks opportunities to develop both her own skills as well as those of her team.

These are some of the strengths which won her the award. A spokesman for the AFA said: “The standard of application was so high and many awards so close.”

By Sallie Ehlen

Source: Cheshire Live

Cleaning franchise bought by NW businessman

October 17, 2019

A North West businessman has taken over a cleaning franchise. Poppies launched in 1984 and now comprises a 22-stong network cleaning more than 6,000 homes every week across the UK. Its turnover is £5m.

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Chris Wootton joined the company in 1996 when he bought his own franchise in West Lancashire. He is now owner and managing director, and will also remain at the helm of his own Southport, Formby and West Lancashire operations.

“Buying the Poppies franchise has been a dream of mine for over a decade; I absolutely love this business,” said Wootton. “I worked closely with our founder, Sue Rorstad, for many years – she was my leader, my mentor and, later, my great friend until her untimely death in 2015.

“With the support and blessing of her family, I’m incredibly proud to be able to give Poppies a new lease of life.”

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Wootton’s first aim is to “double the size of the network in the next four years”.

By Matthew Ord

Source: Insider Media

American Fast Food Giant Wendy’s Wants to Serve the U.K. Some Spicy Nuggets

October 16, 2019

Wendy’s is the latest American fast food chain to have a crack at the fragile U.K. restaurant market. International president Abigail Pringle used strangely World War Two-influenced language in telling investors that Britain would be the brand’s “beach head for European expansion,” according to Propel.

Wendy’s operates over 6,000 sites across the globe, and pulled out of its U.K. restaurants in 2000 to concentrate on its home market. The fast food brand is best known for:

1. Spicy chicken nuggets. These are not McDonald’s’s recently-released damp squibs of chicken, whose heat is the dull nag of a hangover headache; these are hot, with a proper cayenne burn. Eater critic Ryan Sutton named them America’s best chicken nuggets in 2017.

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2. Twitter stunting. The Wendy’s Twitter account does not f— around. It spent an entire day roasting people on 4 January this year. It released a mixtape dragging its competition.

3. Twitter stunting about spicy chicken nuggets. Wendy’s took those championship nuggets off the menu in March 2017, before unfurling a hypebeast campaign spanning a lifetime non-spicy nugget giveaway in exchange for Twitter engagement; a spicy nugget campaign featuring Chance the Rapper in exchange for Twitter engagement; and a Google Calendar invite for the relaunch in exchange for Twitter engagement.

4. Not Twitter stunting about labour practices. Wendy’s has blamed income equality for sales stagnation despite its starting wages being as low as $8 an hour; it has refused to sign up to the Fair Food Program that regulates against abuse in the agricultural industry.

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5. Frostys. The drink-dessert hybrid — in particular its black-and-white, chocolate and vanilla, off-menu serve, captivated Eater critic Ryan Sutton and former staffer Daniela Galarza in a ranking of America’s best fast food desserts.

If and when Wendy’s opens a new U.K. restaurant or franchise, it will join cult-followed, anti-LGBTQ chicken chain Chick-fil-A and fast franchising burger chain Five Guys, as well as Shake Shack, McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC. Smaller U.S. success stories, like NYC’s The Halal Guys and chicken wing slingers Wingstop have also made moves on London, as favourable franchising finances and willing investors capitalise on an uncertain U.K. restaurant market.

The first U.K. opening(s) are planned for the next 12 — 18 months.

By James Hansen

Source: London Eater