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Tue 5th Mar 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ian Banks departs We Are Bar as Simon Vardigans takes full control and brings in Enhanced Hospitality: Ian Banks has left his position as chief executive of We Are Bar Group after chairman Simon Vardigans took full control of the company, Propel has learned. Vardigans has brought in Enhanced Hospitality to help manage the group’s venues and is understood to have injected a substantial amount of cash into the business. Banks was appointed chief executive in June 2017. He had been acting chief executive having previously been the company’s chief financial officer following the departure of Richard Stringer in April 2017. Following a management buyout in October 2015, Banks and Stringer acquired We Are Bar Group with backing from Isfield Investments, which Vardigans is chairman of. Vardigans said: “I am delighted to be working with the Enhanced Hospitality team. It made clear business sense to co-ordinate our head office operations with Enhanced Hospitality and I look forward to being part of an exciting journey.” Alex Rayner, spokesman for the new combined group, added: “Working with the We Are Bar Group of venues will allow us to deploy our operational expertise and provide a fresh and exciting opportunity for all involved with the venues.” We Are Bar Group operates its eponymous venue in Bishopsgate, six Jamies wine bars, Smollensky’s in Canary Wharf and No. 25 and Willy’s Wine Bar. Formerly known as Camden Dining, Enhanced Hospitality offers a “service-based plug-and-play solution for venue owners, landlords and hospitality chains”. It states on its website: “Enhanced Hospitality removes significant overheads for venue owners and operators by centralising all back-office services such as reservations, event sales, group bookings, marketing, social media, accounting, procurement and stock management.” The group is owned by Roger Payne and a number of other shareholders. Propel understands Payne has no direct involvement in the running of We Are Bar. Last year, Enhanced Hospitality bought the Chicago Rib Shack brand in a pre-pack agreement and runs four restaurants in London and one in Leeds. It also operates private members’ club Blacks in Soho, Spanish restaurant and bar Gabeto in Camden, and South African restaurant Shaka Zulu and FEST Camden, both in Camden Market. Last year, London brewer and retailer Fuller’s acquired four We Are Bar sites.

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive Mark Wingett’s views on Steve Richards’ departure plus Alasdair Murdoch video: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will give his thoughts on the departure of Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards in an article for Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Tuesday (5 March) at 5pm. Meanwhile, Propel Premium subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday (8 March) where Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King, speaks about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,300 multi-site companies, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences as well as regular columns from Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Sustainability charity launches lunch box initiative to curb plastics use: Sustainability charity Global Action Plan has launched Long Live The Lunch Box, an initiative aimed at tackling single-use plastic. Cafes and restaurants in London, Brighton and Oxford have signed up to the scheme in which customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable lunch box for grab-and-go food rather than using store packaging. As well as displaying stickers in their windows, businesses are listed on Global Action Plan’s interactive digital map, which allows users to locate the nearest participating outlet. Some businesses taking part have committed to offering a discount or extra loyalty card stamp to those who bring their own lunch box. The campaign is the first initiative from Global Action Plan’s youth panel – a group of 18 to 25-year-olds passionate about living sustainably. A spokesman said: “Grab food to go with your faithful lunch box and hit excessive packaging hard. There will also be a knock-on benefit – we may find our young workforce chooses healthier options for lunch as a result.”

More than three-fifths of Brits consider an apprenticeship most useful start to their career: More than three-fifths (63%) of Brits consider an apprenticeship the most useful start to their career, while more than four-fifths (82%) see an apprenticeship as an attractive alternative to university, according to new research. The findings by brewer and retailer Greene King to mark National Apprenticeship Week also showed almost three-fifths (59%) believe there aren’t enough apprenticeship schemes on offer. Many believe apprenticeships should be made more accessible to those with a lower household income, with almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents saying there should be more support to help them get into work. Almost half of respondents (47%) believe spending thousands of pounds on a university degree isn’t worth the debt when it comes to improving career chances, while more than one-third (37%) of graduates agree. Since 2011, Greene King’s apprenticeship programme has trained 11,000 people. As part of a series of commitments in the company’s Stepping Up report, which was published in January and looks at addressing social mobility, Greene King has said it will support 20,000 apprentices by 2022. Chief executive Rooney Anand said: “We recognise a university degree isn’t the only option for young people when embarking on their journey to kick-start a successful career. Apprenticeships provide the opportunity to learn and earn – something that works really well for our team members. Our general managers are instrumental to the success of our apprenticeship programme, with 95% of our pubs having supported an apprentice since we launched our scheme in 2011. As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we’re delighted to continue our support of 20,000 apprentices by 2022 as we continue to champion this important approach to learning and career development.”

New Portman Group Code guidance will ‘damage the market for speciality beers’, says SIBA: New Portman Group Code guidance will “damage the market for speciality beer such as imperial stout, porter and IPA”, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has warned. The Portman Group has published the sixth version of the Code of Practice on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcoholic drinks. SIBA said while much of the updated code was sensible and included new measures to prevent alcohol packaging causing serious or widespread offence, protection for the vulnerable in society and preventing associating alcohol with illegal behaviour, the new guidance on “immoderate consumption” could be “very damaging” for independent craft brewers. Chief executive Mike Benner said: “The new guidance on the ‘immoderate consumption’ rule threatens new, innovative speciality beer styles such as imperial stout, porter, IPA and British interpretations of traditional strong Belgian styles – many of which are being packaged in large cans designed for sharing and sold at a premium price point. SIBA is disappointed the Portman Group is pressing ahead to introduce new guidance that says ‘single-serve’, non-resealable containers shouldn’t contain more than four units of alcohol. When you consider an average bottle of wine at 14% ABV contains ten units of alcohol and a small bottle of spirits contains 14 units at 40% ABV, why target craft beer of only four units? As we know, beer such as imperial stout and IPA may have stronger ABVs than a ‘regular’ beer but the strength is an integral component of their flavour and style. SIBA will seek an urgent meeting with the Portman Group to discuss the impact of this new guidance.”

Shaftesbury launches week of International Women’s Day celebrations: Landlord Shaftesbury has launched a week-long celebration for International Women’s Day at its Seven Dials site in London’s West End. Under the destination’s overarching 2019 theme #Balanceforbetter, the initiatives include a live podcast by feminist activist and author Scarlett Curtis alongside activations by numerous brands. The campaign will run until Sunday (10 March) and address gender equality, work-life balance and the day-to-day challenges women face. The Seven Dials hub will take place at 33 Monmouth Street and host a variety of free activities. As well as workshops and a free book exchange, there will be drop-in sessions featuring business leaders including Redemption co-founders Catherine Salway and Andrea Waters, and Tredwells chef Chantelle Nicholson. Karen Baines, head of group marketing and communications at Shaftesbury, said: “Many of the brands throughout Seven Dials are founded and run by women or a balanced dual partnership so it is a natural choice to host celebrations here for the second year running.” To watch a video of Julia Wilkinson, portfolio and group restaurant strategy executive at Shaftesbury, talking about the rise of women in the foodservice sector, click here

Smith & Wollensky to launch National Steak Day: Smith & Wollensky, the American steak restaurant chain, is to launch UK National Steak Day on Thursday, 25 April. The day has been chosen to coincide with British Beef Week. Smith & Wollensky is looking to recruit other restaurants and brands to sign up to the initiative. A new website – www.thenationalsteakday.com – will launch on Friday, 15 March, with participating restaurants and brands receiving their own dedicated page with customers able to see special menus and download discount vouchers. National Steak Day founder Nathan Evans said he couldn’t believe there wasn’t a day to commemorate steak. He added: “We want to celebrate quality meat and steak. We appreciate environmentally and for health reasons we need to be eating less red meat but the message we want to communicate is if you are going to be eating meat you should be consuming the best of the best. We have created this day to showcase the quality and excellence in our industry and support steak businesses across the UK and Ireland.” Smith & Wollensky launched in New York in 1977. After expanding across the US the company launched its first London site, just off the Strand, in June 2015.

Company News:

Tom Crowley – Giraffe and Ed’s CVA ‘only way to protect company’: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) chief executive Tom Crowley has said a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) for its Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner brands is the “only way to protect the company”. BRG has confirmed its intention to enter into a CVA for the two brands, as exclusively revealed by Propel on Monday (4 March). If the CVA is agreed, 27 of the 87 Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner sites will shut. BRG, which had appointed KPMG to review options for the two businesses, said sales had improved at the chains since they were acquired in 2016 but several sites remained unprofitable. Crowley said: “The CVA is the only option to protect the company. The combination of increasing costs and oversupply of restaurants in the sector and a softening of consumer demand have all contributed to the challenges both these brands face.” BRG acquired the then 54-strong Giraffe business from Tesco in summer 2016 in a deal valued at circa £13m. Later that same year, the company paid almost £10m to acquire 30 Ed’s Easy Diner sites in a pre-pack administration agreement. The company brought the brands together in early 2017, rebranding and relaunching them with new menus and designs while adding assisted service and quick-service options. Last year the businesses were merged, with turnover across the new single entity believed to be circa £61.7m for the year to the end of 2018. Will Wright, restructuring partner at KPMG, said: “This CVA seeks to address the cost of the company’s leasehold obligations across a number of unprofitable sites and, if successful, will put the business on a surer financial footing.” Creditors will vote on the proposal on Thursday, 21 March with at least 75% needed to approve the CVA for it to proceed.

Brasserie Bar Co – trading since Christmas ‘has been solid’: Mark Derry, executive chairman of Brasserie Bar Co, has told Propel trading across the company’s Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie estates has been “solid” since Christmas, with both businesses up in terms of like-for-like sales and versus budget. On Monday (4 March), Propel revealed the company saw turnover for the year ending 1 July 2018 increase 15.8% to £54m, with restaurant Ebitda reaching £7.3m. On current sales, Derry said: “They have continued that way and since we have just started tracking against Beast From The East sales, they will be that way for the foreseeable future.” The company was understood to have been one of the suitors for Peach Pub Company but Derry said the business, which will open its next pub in Horsham, West Sussex, this spring, was more interested in developing its estate organically to “keep the quality of each site at the same market-leading level as existing ones”. He said: “We continue to pursue opportunities and, while on-site in Horsham, we are about to sign several others, which we will disclose as soon as the ink dries.” The company previously said despite well-documented industry uncertainties its performance was in line with the previous year “reflecting the strength of the brands and the management team”. Between Brasserie Blanc and the White Brasserie Co the company served almost 1.9 million meals last year – up more than 250,000 on 2017 – a result it said was “built on a robust, quality-led and stable business”. The group currently operates 19 Brasserie Blancs and 17 White Brasseries.

Abokado reveals mornings now account for 30% of visits as it launches breakfast campaign: Healthy eating chain Abokado has revealed mornings now account for 30% of visits to its stores as the company launches a breakfast campaign. Abokado has launched its Better Breakfasts menu across all 24 London stores and has joined forces with psychologist Dr Tim Sharp to reveal the science behind why eating a healthy breakfast makes people happier. In addition, Abokado is teaming up with a London personal trainer to run a series of monthly “happy body, happy mind” well-being sessions for staff, including fitness and strength, qigong (breathing meditation) and yoga and movement. Chief executive Mark Lilley said: “I have personally always believed in breakfast being the most important meal of the day. A good healthy breakfast fuels you for the day ahead. It’s certainly vital to getting my brain and body geared up for the day. Mornings now account for 30% of all visits to our stores so I’m hugely excited about the new hot breakfasts we have on offer. I believe Abokado’s breadth of menu is now second to none.” The new breakfast menu includes “extra creamy” porridge, with a vegan option and choice of toppings, and grab-and-go wholegrain bagels. Abokado operations director Kara Alderin said: “Our new motto is ‘add a shot of positivity to your day’ – it sums up our commitment to our customers and teams to spread the ‘feel great’ vibe. We are committed to serving better breakfasts to busy, hungry Londoners but also helping our teams stay happy and healthy with perks such as free breakfast and regular well-being sessions.”

Hanshin Shuhan acquires 49.5% stake in Japan Centre Group: Hanshin Shuhan Group, which owns and operates 1,200 restaurants and stores in ten countries, has acquired a 49.5% stake in Japan Centre Group. Tak Tokumine, chief executive of Japan Centre Group, which operates four London sites, said the deal would give customers a more “comprehensive offering and better value on a wider choice of products and ingredients across retail, online and restaurants”. Tokumine said: “Our partnership with Hanshin Shuhan will open new opportunities to bring Japanese ingredients to a wider European audience. With Japan taking centre stage globally with the upcoming Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics hosted in Tokyo, we believe the demand for Japanese goods is only going to grow. As the leading authority in the UK, we’re excited to be able to expand our offering and meet this demand through our various brands.” Founded in London in 1976, Japan Centre Group offers more than 3,000 products spanning food, drink and lifestyle. It operates a flagship store off Leicester Square plus Umai, a fresh food centre in Westfield Stratford City that offers sushi, sashimi and hot sozai alongside shelves filled with imported Japanese staples. Japan Centre Group also operates a ceramics and sushi centre in Shaftesbury Avenue and Icihiba, Europe’s largest Japanese food hall, at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush.

Linda Lee to open debut On The Bab restaurant overseas, relocating Marylebone site to Soho: Restaurateur Linda Lee, who operates four London restaurants under her Korean cuisine brand On The Bab, is to open her first overseas site, in Paris. Lee is also relocating On The Bab in W1 from Marylebone to Soho. On The Bab in Marylebone Lane – one of two smaller, “express-style” sites – closed on Saturday (2 March). On The Bab Soho will be substantially larger than the Marylebone site and offer eat-in options as well as takeaway. It will open in mid-March in Archer Street, replacing Lee’s Mee Market, which will be refurbished and rebranded. In May, On The Bab Paris will open in Rue Thérèse and will be Lee’s debut overseas restaurant. She said Rue Thérèse was one of a cluster of streets rich in Korean restaurants and businesses and a popular destination for Korean visitors and fans of the country’s food, making it the ideal location for France’s first On The Bab. Lee said: “I am excited to bring On The Bab to Soho and even more so to Paris. I have been considering opening overseas for a long time and Paris has a thriving, curious and ever-expanding food scene, which On The Bab will bring something new to. It’s sad to be leaving Marylebone, an area I love, but the lease is up on our little site in Marylebone Lane and relocating On The Bab to my larger premises in Soho means we will continue to have a presence in W1.” On The Bab’s other locations are in Covent Garden, Shoreditch and St Paul’s. Lee also owns fine-dining Korean barbecue restaurant Koba in Fitzrovia.

Various Eateries to take Coppa Club to Streatley: Various Eateries, which operates Strada and Coppa Club, is to open a further site under the latter brand, in Berkshire this summer. The company, which currently operates five Coppa Club sites, is to open a 350-cover restaurant and bar at The Swan in Streatley, on the banks of the Thames. The Swan is owned by Various Eateries backer Hugh Osmond, who acquired the country hotel in 2012 under the Rare Birds vehicle. Coppa Club also operates sites in Tower Bridge, St Paul’s, Henley-on-Thames, Maidenhead and Sonning. In November, Various Eateries said it was on a “strong financial footing” as it prepared for expansion. The company reported 19.8% like-for-like sales growth in Coppa Club for its last financial year, with five sites in the pipeline for more venues across its brands. Chief executive Sue Walter told Propel: “The like-for-like sales growth gives a strong indicator of the fantastic performance by the brand, which is continuing in this financial year. It is too early to give indications to the Ebitda and pre-tax numbers but they will be considerably better than 2017.”

Northamptonshire-based operators take on Star Pubs & Bars site for fifth venue as they look to double estate: Northamptonshire-based operators Mark and Melissa Lynch have taken on the lease of The Bell in Banbury, Oxfordshire, with Star Pubs & Bars. The pub will undergo a joint £320,000 refurbishment to feature a craft, cask and pizza offer. The Bell is the fifth pub in the Lynchs’ portfolio of one freehold and four leased sites, with the couple looking to double their estate. The Bell will undergo a refurbishment to open up the interior. SmartDispense will be installed, while the pub will specialise in craft beer, cider, cask ale, gin and rum. An imported Italian oven will be used to cook pizza, while an all-day coffee offer will be introduced. A new all-weather courtyard will feature a projector screening sports. The Lynchs, who operate two pub companies, Maximise My Business and The Good Pub Restaurant Company, are now looking to double the size of their estate to ten sites. They are interested in leased and freehold pubs in need of development in town centres in Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire. Mark Lynch said: “We specialise in turning round struggling pubs. The leased model works well as it brings the benefit of joint investment and enables more rapid expansion without tying up capital. However, freeholds are also attractive as a good way to build value in our business.” Star Pubs & Bars operations manager Neil Convery added: “The Lynchs are extremely switched-on operators with a clear vision for The Bell and we are delighted to undertake our first investment project with them.” The Lynchs’ other sites include the Princess Alexandra in Northampton and the Queens Head in Higham Ferrers.

Larkin Cen to open third Bristol restaurant: MasterChef finalist Larkin Cen is to open his third restaurant in Bristol with the launch of Woky Ko: Kaiju at the Cargo 2 extension of Wapping Wharf. The restaurant will open on the level above Meatbox and Squeezed on Thursday, 14 March featuring a ramen menu alongside seasonal vegetable, fish and meat yakitori skewer dishes cooked on Robata grills under the leadership of head chef John Watson. Drinks will include beer, wine and cocktails. There will be space for about 40 diners with eight seats in front of the grills to watch the chefs at work, as well as a terrace. Cen, who reached the MasterChef final in 2013, said: “The addition of John to the Woky Ko family is exciting. It’s important we impart knowledge of another type of Asian cuisine to the chefs we nurture to keep passing on the traditions and art of Asian cooking to this new generation. This is my mission with all the Woky Ko restaurants. I love the community that has been created at Wapping Wharf so I really wanted to open Kaiju there. We can’t wait to get going and welcome people to dine with us.” Cen also operates Woky Ko: Kauto in Queens Road and Woky Ko: Cargo at Wapping Wharf.

Yorkshire Brewing Company owner joins forces with Hull licensee to open brewpub: Yorkshire Brewing Company owner Guy Falkingham has joined forces with Hull licensee Lee Kirman to open a brewpub in the city. They have invested £150,000 in The Taphouse Brewpub, which has opened in the regenerated Fruit Market. It offers a rotating choice of more than 30 real ales, craft lagers and ciders on draught as well as bottled and canned beer, wine and spirits. The 4,000 square foot venue includes a mezzanine, with floor space split between the bar and production area. The Taphouse Brewpub will stage drinks festivals while, during the week, its food menu focuses on platters with street food operators taking over the kitchen at weekends. Falkingham said: “It has been a long-held ambition of mine to create a venue like this and I’ve been talking with Lee about it for more than a year.” Kirman co-owns the Minerva pub and Humber Street Distillery Co gin bar in the Fruit Market with his partner Charlotte Bailey.

Barons Eden Group bolsters board: Barons Eden Group has appointed Edward Law and Steve Clements to its board. The move comes as the hospitality operator looks to acquire freehold properties in “key regional destinations”. Law has more than 25 years’ experience in finance and investment including 17 years in investment banking at James Capel, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank. In 2010 he joined private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts, initially at its London office and then in New York as global head of equity capital markets. He left the company at the end of 2017 to focus on entrepreneurial activities. Clements has built a group of dental practices in Birmingham and worked on a number of projects at national level for the NHS. Law said: “Barons Eden Group not only has a great collection of properties with a terrific legacy and tremendous potential but it also has a very strong management team. I am excited to assist the company in its next phase of development.” Clements added: “Barons Eden Group is in a great position to take advantage of developments in the market place.” Barons Eden Group owns Hoar Cross Hall, Eden Hall Day Spa and a collection of assets in the Cotswolds.

Delisserie sells remaining site: North London-based New York deli and grill concept Delisserie has sold its remaining site. The 2,641 square foot former Temple Fortune branch of Delisserie in Belmont Parade has been secured by a commercial tenant through agent CDG Leisure. The branch is the last in the five-strong chain to have been assigned to other tenants by CDG Leisure. Last year, American-style diner Hudsons Brasserie took the Borehamwood branch in Shenley Road, while Pinner ice cream parlour Indulge Dessert Lounge expanded its operations in Buckingham Parade, Stanmore. Vegan restaurant group The Gate took the 3,270 square foot venue in Allitsen Road in St Johns Wood for its fourth London restaurant, while all-day bistro Bob’s Café, a concept by Laurel Canyon Ventures, the team behind Belsize Park’s Chez Bob, opened its third restaurant at the former Delisserie in The Broadway, Mill Hill, in April last year. CDG Leisure’s Emma Wright, who acted on behalf of Delisserie, said: “This is a great result that marks a new beginning for all involved. These expansions mark the strength of these brands and will benefit a whole new community.”

Adam Handling launches Chelsea hotel restaurant: Chef Adam Handling has opened a restaurant at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Chelsea, south west London. The 45-cover Adam Handling Chelsea is the main restaurant at the hotel and features a large open kitchen, counter dining and its own entrance. As chef patron, Handling is overseeing the entire food and beverage offering at the hotel, calling on 90 staff to look after six elements – the restaurant, bar, Cadogan’s, a private dining room, terrace, and room service. The menu encapsulates the “best of British” with a focus on smaller producers and seasonal produce. The restaurant offers a la carte and tasting menus for lunch and dinner with dishes such as lamb wellington with carrot and mint, and langoustine with pink grapefruit. Handling said: “This is the biggest opening of my career so far. I want to celebrate everything that’s wonderful about British produce. Everything will be sustainable without compromising on quality.” Handling also operates two restaurants, two bars and a cafe, all in London. Belmond operates 47 hotel, rail and river-cruise experiences, while Cadogan is a family business, property manager, investor and developer.

Freehold pubs let to Greene King and Stonegate brought to market: Freehold pubs in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, and Lichfield, Staffordshire, let to Greene King and Stonegate Pub Company respectively, have been brought to market and are available individually or as a pair. The Rye House in Hoddesdon is let to Spirit Pub Company, which is wholly owned by Greene King, with a lease expiring in 2044. The waterside pub is held on a lease at a current rent of £126,410 per annum with fixed annual rental increases of 2.5% per annum and is available at a guide price of £2.5m reflecting a net initial yield of 4.75%. The Lichfield city centre pub houses Stonegate’s Walkabout brand and trades over ground and first-floor levels. The property is held on a lease expiring in 2039 at a current rent of £113,140 per annum and is available at a guide price of £1.9m, which reflects a net initial yield of 5.46%. The current lease benefits from five yearly, upwards-only rent reviews in line with 2.5% per annum compounded. Stuart Stares, associate director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, which is marketing the pubs, said: “The Rye House and Walkabout are let to extremely strong covenants and benefits from long leases with fixed rental increases. We expect to generate significant interest from a range of investors.”

Angela Hartnett-mentored chef launches debut restaurant, in Marylebone: Chef Carlo Scotto has launched his debut restaurant, in Marylebone. Scotto has opened Xier in Thayer Street, off Oxford Street. The restaurant is split into two distinct spaces – 62-cover, ground-floor casual dining concept XR, which offers lunch and dinner, and Xier, a 38-cover, first-floor dining room with an evening tasting menu. XR’s menu features dishes such as yellowfin tuna tartar with aubergine caviar and taro chips, while the menu at Xier includes rose-cured salmon with foie gras and burnt figs. The decor has been inspired by Scotto’s experience in kitchens across Europe and Asia. Aged only 13, he took a job as apprentice chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Don Salvatore in Naples. He moved to London where he worked with Corbin & King before joining Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred Murano under Angela Hartnett, who he credits as his mentor. He then moved to Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle before taking his first head chef role, at Italian restaurant Babbo in Mayfair. He said: “London is a place that has brought me incredible opportunities so it felt right to open here and showcase fantastic British produce.”

The Inn Collection Group expands central reservations facility to support growth plans: The Inn Collection Group, which is backed by Alchemy Partners, has expanded its central reservations facility to support its plans to more than double its portfolio. The company, which has ten sites, has expanded its central offices in Alnwick while investing in additional staff and reservations technology. Operations manager Paul Brown said: “The expansion of our central reservations facility is a milestone for us, providing our customers with more choice and convenience via a central point of contact for bookings or queries about each one of our growing family of inns. This is invaluable in terms of building customer satisfaction and loyalty and has shifted the role of managing reservations from individual units as we continue to roll out our exciting ‘buy and build’ growth plans.” The addition comes at a time of significant growth for The Inn Collection Group, which secured £10m of funding for acquisitions as it aims to more than double its portfolio to 21 inns by 2022. The group said it would continue to seek development opportunities to grow its portfolio in the Lake District and Yorkshire as well as the north east of England.

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