This week’s Diary includes a look at the chairmanship of Byron and Cote, a love-in between Tom Kerridge and Greene King, Steve Thomas being bullish about No Saints, and clear-the-air talks on VAT

Musical chairs
There are several similarities between Byron and Cote. Both are impressive casual dining concepts, which were launched in 2007, both have recently changed hands for c£100m after being acquired by private equity players and both are now short of a chairperson to act as a sounding board to management teams led by Tom Byng, and Alex Scrimgeour and Harald Samuelsson respectively. Diary understands that there is no rush from the Cote camp on a chairman appointment, but that the process regarding Byron is much more advanced, with a new chair likely to be appointed over the coming weeks.

First keg for Kerridge
High-profile chef Tom Kerridge has turned a Greene King tenancy in Marlow, the Hand & Flowers, into an award-winning venture but it hasn’t stopped him coming up with more plans to grow his business, including a second pub and his own beer. He is also glowing in his praise for the support he has received from Greene King and about the brewer and pub operator itself. He tells Diary: “Breweries get such a bad name and I don’t understand why. If you work with them, they will work with you – they don’t want empty pubs. Greene King has been fantastic with us from before we had Michelin stars. We’re in the process of finalising plans for our own Hand & Flowers beer with them – different flavour profiles, interesting stuff. They’ve got the process, we’ve got the ideas. It’s a big international company that turns over millions, but if I go to Bury St Edmunds then it feels like a massive microbrewery – it still feels like a family.”

Kiss and make up
Could the spat between JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin and All-Party Beer Group chairman Andrew Griffiths be about to end? The pair have had a high-profile disagreement since the Burton MP derided VAT-cut campaigners as “deluded” and embarking on an “exercise in fantasy politics” - Martin even said he’d stand against Griffiths in the General Election. Diary now understands that Griffiths is to ask the Wetherspoons founder for a lunch to clear the air. Or perhaps show Tim around his new constituency?

No Saints strives on
Despite a troubled seven months to the end of September 2012, which saw the group report a £3.4m loss after its main backer Hotbed collapsed and it had to write down the value of a number of venues where investment was no longer possible and sites were surrendered back to landlords, No Saints founder Steve Thomas remains bullish about the company’s future prospects. He tells Diary that the £3.4m loss occurred after a third and fourth round of fundraising did not materialise after Hotbed collapsed (after it raised £6m in the first two rounds) and its carry in No Saints was picked up by Connection Capital. He says: “Losses on the write-down of the value of assets and discontinued sites amounted to £3m. Trading losses of around £400k account for the remainder of the loss but the continuing business is profitable.” The group currently has two Jam Houses in operation, a shareholding in four further sites, five nightclubs in its Dancing Division and three sites under development. Thomas said the company, which is on track to report a profit of £1.5m on turnover of £14m-£16m in its current financial year, has also cut central head office costs from £800k to £350k during the year. He says: “We are a stable company and are gradually gaining momentum. We have been operating for two years, do I think we have done as well as I would have liked in that time? Probably not, but with everything that has been going on I think we have still done well operationally.”

A land downunder
Beds & Bars, the bars-meets-hostels operator, is targeting expansion under the leadership of new MD Murray Roberts, with the likes of London, Paris, Amsterdam and Rome in its sights. One region that’s not on the cards, however, is Australasia. Roberts said Australia and New Zealand is a “very interesting market” but one that’s well served by existing operators. “Also you’ve got to start thinking about your management of those truly international brands,” he added. “It’s a bit different managing something five and a half hours away in New York and 26 hours away in Australia or New Zealand.” Fair point.

March to Marylebone
The migration of eating and drinking-out circuits has always been a topic of interesting debate for Diary. Shoreditch is currently going through a renaissance of sorts at present, but its Marylebone that could be the next hot spot next year, with a few industry heavyweights believed to be eyeing future openings in the region. Chef of the moment Jason Atherton is believed to be in talks on a unit in the area for a new concept, while Diary understands that Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are also running the rule over a site there.