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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 14th Nov 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Supper club WeFiFo launches £400,000 crowdfunding campaign to recruit UK hosts and expand internationally: Supper club WeFiFo has launched a £400,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to recruit UK hosts and expand internationally. The company is offering 12.50% equity in return for investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £2.8m. WeFiFo raised £350,000 in angel investment in 2016 to launch and roll out its platform nationwide, while John Lewis Partnership (JLP) invested £100,000 in the company last year following its success in JLAB – JLP’s annual accelerator programme. WeFiFo enables home cooks, supper club hosts and professional chefs to “share their food with paying guests”. Launched by Seni Glaister, former founder and chief executive of The Book People, the service has 4,500 active users in seven countries. The pitch states: “WeFiFo is a two-sided marketplace, serving both chef and guest. Described as ‘Airbnb for the kitchen table’, WeFiFo enables those with a love of cooking to earn a flexible income from their food and offers diners more choice. WeFiFo charges a variable commission on ticket sales. In return, it offers marketing and admin support and insures hosts, their guests and their equipment. Hosts who need it are offered food and hygiene training and WeFiFo’s unique platform allows hosts to accept or decline bookings based on a guest’s profile. Events have taken place in hosts’ homes, cafes, pop-ups, supermarkets, shopping centres, parks, boats and high streets in seven countries. WeFiFo’s first target is to recruit 33,000 UK hosts and expand into three new international territories. We will use food to connect the world, one table at a time, with the aim no guest will be further than ten miles from their nearest WeFiFo event.”

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator tickets now on sale: The Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its second year following a bumper inaugural event. The summit is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality and aims to build a community, promote idea sharing, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference, which will be the centrepiece of the event series and take place on 16 and 17 January at One Moorgate Place, London. The event will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, building strong links between marketing and operations, embedding a brand throughout a hospitality business, and future trends. It has been designed for marketing, development and innovation teams as well as senior executives and investors who want to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. The event will feature more than 40 speakers, with a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs from companies including TGI Friday’s, YO! Sushi, Hakkasan Group, Casual Dining Group, Claus Meyer Restaurant Group, New World Trading Company, Wagamama, Hilton, Inception Group, Coca-Cola, Just Eat, Arc Inspirations, Novus, SSP, Be At One, Marriott International and Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group. As well as sharing successes from across the UK, the event will bring international speakers to the conversation. The 2019 edition will feature speakers from five countries including Anders Houman, partner at multi-award winning Victor Restaurant Group in Copenhagen; John Rigos, chief executive of New York-based Aurify Brands; and Australian entrepreneur Sarah Holloway, co-founder of Matcha Mylkbar, which became an overnight hit after posting one incredible shot on social media. Special guest speakers will include Chris Miller, founder of the White Rabbit Fund and investor on the BBC’s Million Pound Menu; Martin Morales, Ceviche Family founder and winner of Innovator of the Year 2018; and Zahra Kahn, founder of Feya, a concept designed with Instagram in mind. Tickets are £575 for operators and £845 for suppliers. Group ticket packages are available when purchasing three tickets or more. Tickets can be purchased by emailing Anne Steele, of Propel, at or calling her on 01444 817691.

BBPA ‘bitterly disappointed’ by low and no alcohol consultation outcome: The British Beer & Pub Association has expressed its “bitter disappointment” there will be no changes to the descriptors for low and no alcohol products. Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is bitterly disappointing the Department of Health has missed this opportunity to give consumers greater clarity when it comes to the labelling of low alcohol beers. Changing the current definition of ‘alcohol free’ beer from 0.05% ABV to 0.5% ABV – as we suggested during the consultation process – would have brought the UK in line with the rest of Europe and other global markets. This creates the perverse situation whereby beers at 0.5% ABV produced in Europe can be sold in the UK as “alcohol free”, but British brewers brewing at the same strength must label their beer differently. This is discrimination and will create confusion for consumers. While we have already seen significant growth in the low alcohol beer sector, the government has failed to implement changes that would enable Britain’s brewers to further innovate and promote lower-strength drinks to stimulate this growth further. A decision by the Australian government to introduce tax reductions for ‘lighter’ beer has already led to growth of such beers to occupy 25% of the market there. Sadly, this decision by the UK government represents a missed opportunity to provide a similar incentive here.”

Company News:

Activity centre brand gets £20m backing: Leisure sector specialist Holmes Investment Properties and subsidiary Everyone Entertained has entered into a funding agreement with Hamilton Bradshaw Capital Partners (HBCP) for a capital raise of up to £20m. The business will open its first activity centre under the Everyone Entertained brand in Newcastle next year. Everyone Entertained plans to develop a minimum of 12 centres nationwide over the next five years, with each site offering a variety of leisure activities that appeal to different age groups. HBCP, which was founded and is now chaired by former Dragons’ Den investor James Caan, invests as a principal and with funding partners in companies seeking expansion capital. Alongside the capital raise, HBCP has also introduced several new members of the Everyone Entertained management team. The first centre is set to open in Newcastle in the second quarter of 2019. Everyone Entertained managing director Grant Wright told Insider Media: “With the leisure industry continuing to grow at pace, we are delighted to bring on board a partner that will not only provide us with capital to maximise the opportunities that arise but additional strategic experience to help expedite our business plan. We have an incredibly exciting leisure offering to bring to the market and look forward to being able to welcome customers to our centres in the near future.”

Hop to diversify into evenings with fifth site, in Leadenhall building: City-based Vietnamese street food concept Hop is to open its fifth site next month – its first to have an evening offer. Founder Paul Hooper is opening the venue on Tuesday, 4 December at the base of the Leadenhall building as it diversifies from its grab and go status. The restaurant will offer an evening sit-down dining experience and cocktails alongside its daytime menu. The evening menu, made up of small plates, will include a variety of chicken wings and vegetable gyoza alongside steamed bao buns with a choice of fillings. The cocktail list will see Asian twists on classics such as the Hot Damn, Vietnam – a spicy margarita with a sriracha salt rim. The new 80-cover Leadenhall site will be Hop’s flagship venue. The bar is a Hop first while seating will be across two levels, with banquets and larger tables alongside small tables. Hopper founded Hop in 2015. Its other sites are in Broadgate, Coleman Street, Cullum Street and London Wall.  

16 Hospitality adds fifth site and doubles number of rooms with Frodsham buy: 16 Hospitality Group, which operates pubs and restaurants in the north west and North Wales, has added a fifth site to its portfolio. The company has acquired the freehold of The Old Hall in Frodsham, Cheshire, with the purchase of the 26-bedroom hotel and restaurant doubling the number of rooms in its estate. Edward Barlow, founder of 16 Hospitality, said: “The acquisition marks a doubling of bedrooms for the business and an opportunity to extend our classic food, drink and hospitality offer we’ve developed since 16 Hospitality’s inception three years ago. We are also excited to extend our family by 30 colleagues overnight and look forward to supporting them through our award-winning training platform, The Hub.” 16 Hospitality’s other venues are Cheshire pubs The Swan in Tarporley and The Partridge in Stretton, and The White Eagle and The Oyster Catcher, both in Anglesey.

Papa John’s reports increased sales volumes following mobile app launch: Papa John’s has launched its latest mobile app in the UK, with the company reporting higher conversion rates and increased sales volumes as a result. The investment in the technology will also support the brand’s network of more than 400 franchised stores nationwide. Neil Swanston, senior manager for digital product at Papa John’s, said: “Online orders have increased dramatically in the past few years. It is now important to ‘be where our customers are’ and better mobile access means we are now more open for business than ever. From the point of view of our franchisees, we are already seeing higher conversion rates and increased sales volumes following the launch of the app. The technology enables us to push marketing notifications and special offers plus information about new products to encourage buying behaviour, which will feed into our sales strategy in the short and long term. The app is another example of Papa John’s commitment and investment to support the businesses of our franchised network throughout the UK.”

Ikea to launch home delivery service with UberEats, partners with Eataly in Rome: Ikea is to make its iconic meatballs available for the first time outside its stores by launching a home delivery service with UberEats. The offering will feature three set menus featuring Swedish comfort food alongside Ikea products such as scented candles, lighting and wine glasses. Ellie Pniok, commercial food manager of Ikea UK and Ireland, said: “Together with UberEats, we hope it helps us find the ultimate cosiness and makes staying in a reason to celebrate.” The service will be available from Friday (16 November) to Tuesday, 20 November to people living within 30 minutes of the kitchen in Hoxton, east London. Meanwhile, Ikea is partnering with Eataly, the largest Italian food hall chain in the world, to open a store in the Ostiense district of Rome. The 700 square metre, two-storey store will be accessible from Eataly, which has been based at the former air terminal site for the past six years, and the neighbouring Ostiense train station. Last month, Ikea reopened its restaurant in Nottingham following a £1.2m refurbishment to increase capacity to 500 covers, while Asda this week expanded its trial of a pizza delivery service in partnership with Just Eat.

Extra MSA unveils first tenants for £60m ‘new concept’ service station on M1: Extra MSA Group has unveiled the first tenants to operate at its £60m “new concept” motorway service station at Junction 45 of the M1. Natural fast food brand Leon, PizzaExpress, fish and chip chain Harry Ramsden’s, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Group, and noodle brand Chopstix are among the restaurants that will open in the food court. Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, Upper Crust, Mi Casa, The Pasty Shop and Urban Express will also join the line-up at the site near Leeds. SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has been “contracted” for a number of the leases. SSP UK & Ireland chief executive Simon Smith told The Business Desk: “We are delighted to be working with Extra MSA Group to bring a fantastic portfolio of brands to the new food court. There will truly be something for everyone, and we look forward to the summer 2019 opening date.” The services will also house a 100-bedroom Ramada Hotel, while leisure and gaming facilities will be operated by Playnation. Extra MSA Group chief executive Andrew Long said: “Extra MSAs across the UK already feature leading brands and this range will be further enhanced for Leeds Skelton Lake Services.”

Hard Rock Cafe to open flagship Piccadilly Circus site, first featuring new look: Hard Rock Cafe is to launch a flagship site in Piccadilly Circus, London, featuring the brand’s new design. The 19,000 square foot, multi-level cafe will open in the Criterion building in Piccadilly showcasing an open kitchen concept with Hard Rock’s new design drawing inspiration from the capital including Victorian glazed tiling and the fabrics and colours of London Underground. The main dining room will feature a live music stage, while the cafe will feature memorabilia from UK artists such as Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, George Michael, Ed Sheeran and Amy Winehouse. Hard Rock International president of cafe operations Stephen K Judge said: “All brands, even classic ones, know that to stay relevant they must evolve. Hard Rock Cafe Piccadilly Circus will embody a modern evolution of our restaurants and a wonderful representation of the brand’s future.” David Pellow, area vice-president of cafe operations in Europe, added: “The addition of Hard Rock Cafe Piccadilly Circus further demonstrates Hard Rock’s commitment to the market and we are thrilled to share our modern vision for the brand.” Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton opened the first Hard Rock Cafe in Old Park Lane, London, in 1971. Hard Rock International operates 185 cafes, 27 hotels and 12 casinos in 74 countries. Last week it opened its second Hard Rock Cafe in Dubai at the city’s international airport.

Former Champs operator lines up two more sites in Sheffield for micro sports bar concept: Former Champs operator Danny Grayson has lined up two more sites for his micro sports bar concept in Sheffield. Grayson, who operated the Champs format with Punch, teamed up with local businessman James Dobson to launch Sport Shack in September in Ecclesall Road. Now they have applied to the city council to open two further venues – in Woodseats and Hillsborough. The Hillsborough location has been chosen due to its proximity to Sheffield Wednesday’s football stadium. Grayson and Dobson said both locations would give more to their respective areas, with one of the units being an abandoned charity shop. Grayson said: “All too often other areas of Sheffield are neglected when it comes to new bars. It’s not all about Ecclesall Road and Kelham Island. The reception to Sport Shack has been amazing. We look forward to bringing the same atmosphere and fantastic deals to the new locations.” Subject to planning permission, both sites are expected to open early next year.

Abokado launches autumn menu as hot dishes increase in popularity: Healthy eating chain Abokado, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, has launched its autumn menu as sales of hot dishes continue to rise. Inspired by Pacific flavours, the menu includes a new soup range and two new curries, including a vegan option. Abokado co-founder and chief executive Mark Lilley said: “Growth in the popularity of Abokado’s hot menu means it now generates even more revenue than its highly regarded sushi offering. This has contributed to consistently strong trading through all seasons.” Lilley and wife Lindsay founded Abokado in 2004. It currently has 23 stores across London and employs more than 200 staff. Last month, it reported record profits for the year ending 31 March 2018. Profits increased 24% to £726,000, while site Ebitda increased to £1.7m. 

The Alchemist to open second London site, in Covent Garden on Friday: The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, will open its second London site on Friday (16 November). The company will open the venue in St Martins Lane, Covent Garden. The Alchemist has invested £1.6m in the bar and restaurant, which will extend over 6,966 square feet and accommodate 180 covers. The site’s interior design follows The Alchemist’s trademark “copper-cased wonderland” look, with interiors featuring a palette of amber, copper and red accompanied by unique and gothic artwork. Managing director Simon Potts said: “We are excited to bring the brand to Covent Garden. We’re looking forward to engaging with the local theatre, bar and restaurant community. The capital in many ways represents the country on a world stage as an international destination visited by millions every year so this opening is a significant one for The Alchemist as we continue our journey as a brand. This venture marks our commitment to London as we expand across the capital.” The Alchemist’s other London site is its Bevis Marks venue in Liverpool Street, while a third outlet in the capital will open in Old Street, Shoreditch, in March.

Harcourt Inns ‘expects’ further acquisitions as it adds boutique rooms to The Coach in Clerkenwell: Harcourt Inns, the venture from former Racine chef patron Henry Harris and James McCulloch, owner of The Harcourt in Marylebone, has launched boutique rooms at its The Coach pub in Clerkenwell. The four rooms retain traditional elements of the 18th century inn in Ray Street, with the addition of 1950s furniture, sliding doors and white wall tiles. Harcourt Inns’ other sites are Three Cranes in the City and The Hero of Maida in Maida Vale. The company was due to open a fourth London site – The Harlot – in Chiswick this month but it will now launch in January as The Crown. The company said further acquisitions were expected.

Hollywood Bowl completes Bowlplex conversions with £450,000 upgrade of Bristol leisure park site: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, has completed its conversion of the Bowlplex estate with the rebrand and redevelopment of its site in Aspects Leisure Park, Bristol. The £450,000 revamp is the company’s eighth investment project of 2018. The 24-lane centre has been redesigned and now features new furnishings, contemporary American decor and upgraded music and lighting technology. The new Hollywood Diner serves gourmet burgers, hotdogs, freshly made shakes and desserts, while speciality house cocktails are served from a new American-style bar. In addition, the centre’s amusement area has been upgraded. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns said: “We look forward to showcasing the upgraded look and feel of our ‘new-generation’ Hollywood Bowl.”

Colenzo’s shuts remaining restaurant, in Chelmsford seven months after taking over from Bourgee: Essex-based restaurant Colenzo’s, which took over two sites in April from steak-lobster lounge concept Bourgee when it went into administration, has shut its remaining restaurant, in Chelmsford. The company, led by Dominique Tropeano, has closed the restaurant at High Chelmer shopping centre – a month after shutting its site in Southend, reports Essex Live. In a statement, Colenzo’s said: “The decision to close Colenzo’s Restaurant & Lounge in Chelmsford has been taken shortly after the closure of the Southend location in October. Since April, business has not been consistent and the hospitality industry has proven to be difficult in the current economic climate, which has also been seen with the closure of a number of other restaurant brands recently. There are a number of large chain restaurants in Chelmsford, which has made it very difficult for an independent restaurant such as Colenzo’s to compete in the industry. Colenzo’s may emerge again in the future in new locations.” Tropeano, who is also behind Colchester Zoo, was one of the directors of Bourgee when it was founded in 2015 alongside his son Anthony Tropeano, chef Mark Baumann and entrepreneur James Welling. Bourgee opened the first restaurant under its new direction in Norwich this week. It also operates Bourgee Bites – Bar – Luxe Lounge at London Southend airport, which it retained following the administration.

Manchester Hall owner to open late-night bar and club: The owner of Manchester Hall is to open a late-night bar and club in a bid to turn the development into the “most sought-after social destination in Manchester”. Stephen Cliff, who is responsible for the renovation of the Bridge Street property, will launch Vanitas on Thursday (15 November) in the building’s vaulted memorial hall. Drawing on the 17th century art style of the same name, Vanitas will include a VIP champagne lounge and put a “positive twist on history, focusing on celebrating and enjoying life” under the tagline “life’s short, so let’s live it!” Cliff told the Manchester Evening News: “Vanitas sees us move in an all-new direction at Manchester Hall. It is the perfect addition to what has become a social hub and go-to venue for dining, events, weddings – and now for socialising. We recently celebrated our first year of business and have announced additions to our rooftop area – Dishoom and Honest Burgers. We also look forward to opening our eight boutique bedrooms next year.”

Joe Allen team relaunches Mustard as Provencal-inspired restaurant: The team behind iconic West End restaurant Joe Allen has relaunched British brasserie Mustard in Brook Green as a Provencal-inspired restaurant. Tim Healy and Lawrence Hartley bought Joe Allen, a late-night haunt for West End stars, in 2012. They launched Mustard in Shepherd’s Bush Road in 2016 but have reopened it as Le Petit Citron, a new concept from Hartley and wife Emily. The new-look restaurant offers classic French bistro dishes alongside wine, coffee and pastries. The menu includes lemon and garlic poussin with French beans, persillade and pine nuts. Weekend brunch includes waffles with maple syrup while the drinks list focuses on aperitifs. Hartley said: “Every year we visit Provence and always bring a slice of the lifestyle back to London with us, whether a recipe or a touch of the serenity we find in the hills. It’s a place we feel inspired by. Le Petit Citron goes some way to returning classic French bistros to our high street – relaxed, welcoming and unfussy.”

Plans unveiled for food-focused developments in Gloucester and Nottingham: Plans have been unveiled for a food-focused development on Gloucester waterfront. The proposed Gloucester Food Dock, which will sit on the north site of the city's docks, will include modular steel units attached to an extension of grade II-listed buildings. Designed specifically for independent, regional food operators, the scheme proposed by Legal & General offers a variety of sizes and styles for up to 15 businesses. The scheme will replace the previous development, which had planning permission for five full-scale restaurants. Legal & General development director Ken Elliott told Insider Media: “The food and beverage market has moved on from the large brands that have dominated many town centres and this provides an opportunity for Gloucester and the region to do something new and celebrate the best of its brilliant range of quality, independent food businesses.” Meanwhile, plans have been submitted to turn a vacant Nottingham city centre church into a street food market. Castle Gates Group has applied to the city council to convert the Congregational Church in Castle Gate. The venue would house eight independent street food vendors with bars on the ground and upper floors. Plans include the church organ as a centrepiece and the re-use of pews. The venue would also include a coffee shop and outdoor seating.

Douglas Jack – we expect Marston’s to maintain its dividend: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said he expects Marston’s to retain its dividend. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 125p ahead of its preliminary results next week, Jack said: “In 2018E, managed pub like-for-like sales rose 0.6% (total managed pub sales up 3.2%), with drink sales up and food down, reflecting ongoing difficulties (largely driven by oversupply) in the eating out market. This impact was felt most in Destination & Premium (D&P), where like-for-like sales fell 1.2%. Despite the like-for-like sales decline, D&P margins are expected to have fallen by just 50 basis points, supported by limited discounting. Taverns like-for-like sales rose 3.8% and leased like-for-like profits rose 2% in 2018E, with both estates benefiting from their wet-led market positioning. Brewing volumes rose 47%, largely due to the Charles Wells acquisition. Nevertheless, the company believes underlying like-for-like volumes were also positive. A total of 14 pubs/bars and seven new lodges were opened. Expansion from 2019E has been reduced, resulting in a £25m annual capex reduction (prior to a £5m annual increase in organic investment). Also supported by lower capex from 2019E and pension contributions due to cease in 2020E, these plans should help lower net debt/Ebitda over the medium-term. Downside risk to 2019E forecasts should be limited by current assumptions of minimal like-for-like sales and average profit growth. We expect Marston’s dividend to be maintained – cutting it is the last thing management would want to do. The dividend yield and plans to reduce net debt/Ebitda are the foundations of our positive recommendation.”

South Wales-based licensees take on second site: South Wales-based licensees Kathryne and David Thomas have acquired their second site. They have taken on The Poundffald in the village of Three Crosses, near Swansea, on the Gower peninsula. The Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars site is the couple’s first leased pub. They also run wet-led freehold pub The Joiners Arms in the village. The Poundffald will continue to trade during a £100,000 joint refurbishment that will include a new beer garden with heated booth huts, a new back bar and booth-style leather seating in the roundel, which was originally used to feed and water horses 150 years ago. Kathryne Thomas said: “The pub lost its way recently and the people running it kept changing. As a result, villagers stopped using it. When Star Pubs & Bars acquired The Poundffald and the opportunity to lease it came up, we jumped at the chance to take it on. We live in the village and wanted to give Three Crosses residents what they wanted – a great place to eat and drink.” Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director Caren Geering added: “We are delighted Kathryne and David have taken on the pub as they are good operators and, as part of the community, know what people want. We look forward to working with them in the years to come.”

Los Angeles-inspired health concept FoodWell to launch in Manchester: Los Angeles-inspired health concept FoodWell is to launch in Manchester offering healthy food, coffee, superfood cocktails, workshops and group fitness sessions. FoodWell will open in a 9,000 square foot site near Spinningfields next year and has partnered with wellness platform Hero, which was founded by former WeWork managing director Joe Gaunt. Hero will operate the site’s purpose-built studio offering yoga, pilates and other fitness classes. FoodWell chief executive Christian Coates said: “We aren’t conforming to the traditional health club and restaurant sector but creating something new – something that promotes and enhances a real work-life balance. We want to encourage dwell time. We want people to come in for lunch, stay to do some work, attend a yoga class and have some superfood cocktails afterwards. Aside from the studio and restaurant space we will also host regular workshops and community events. We are partnering with Hero because of our shared vision and commitment to revolutionising and shaking the dust off the traditional approach to health and fitness. We are confident this is a partnership that will achieve great things in Manchester and beyond.” Hero’s first training club is set to launch on the ground floor of Moda’s 35-storey, 466-home build-to-rent scheme in Manchester.

Aprirose strengthens hotels team: Real estate investment firm Aprirose has strengthened its hotels team by appointing Kym Kapadia as chief commercial officer and Bastien Anouil as asset manager. The appointments follow a period of growth for the division since its acquisition of the QHotels portfolio for £525m last year. Kapadia joins from hotel asset management company Michels & Taylor, where she was a founding partner and board member for 11 years. Her 30-year career spans senior positions at major companies such as IHG, Marriott, Hilton, Le Méridien and Premier Inn. Anouil joins from Columbus Hotel Monte Carlo, where he was general manager. Aprirose chief executive Manish Gudka said: “Our hotel business continues to go from strength to strength making it the perfect time to develop our offer further.” Aprirose chief executive of hotels Tim Shearman added: “Kym and Bastien have a wide range of experience and strong relationships across the hotel market in the UK and internationally. I look forward to welcoming them to Aprirose as we continue to evolve the business and develop a market-leading team in this thriving sector.” Aprirose currently has 32 hotels in its portfolio.

Individual Restaurants reveals plans to expand flagship Piccolino site in Manchester with private events spaces: Individual Restaurants has revealed plans to expand its flagship Caffé Grande Piccolino restaurant in Manchester. The restaurant, which had a £1.3m refurbishment in spring 2016, is to develop a private dining and events space on the lower ground floor. It will include two private dining rooms and a private cocktail bar and kitchen for larger and bespoke events. Work on the private dining room and events space will start in January following a £400,000 investment ahead of a launch in spring. The news comes as the Clarence Street restaurant prepares to reopen on Thursday, 22 November following a fire last month.

Yotel secures debut Portuguese site: Yotel, the budget accommodation chain launched by YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe, has secured its first site in Portugal. The company will open the 147-bedroom venue next year in Porto, close to the city’s business district. The hotel will house a sky bar and terrace on the ninth floor. Yotel chief executive Hubert Viriot said: “Having grown in double digits for three successive years, Porto’s hotel market has demonstrated its strength and aptitude to attract an increasingly wide variety of demand.” The project follows investment from owner and luxury real estate developer United Investments Portugal. General director Carlos Leal said: “As a long-term strategic partner of Yotel, we are delighted to bring such a pioneering hotel group to Porto.” Yotel said it was looking at further expansion on the Iberian Peninsula, focusing on major cities such as Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona. 

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