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Wed 30th Oct 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pubs, bars and restaurants remain optimistic despite recruitment and retention concerns: The majority (90%) of pubs, bars and restaurants remain optimistic about their future despite challenges surrounding staff recruitment and retention, according to the 2019 haysmacintyre UK Hospitality Index. Despite difficult trading conditions and uncertainty surrounding Brexit, hospitality businesses have seen steady growth in the past 12 months, the study found. The Index revealed evidence of resilience in the sector, with average turnover growth of respondents broadly consistent with last year at 4.2% (2018: 4.7%). However, the wider industry view was less upbeat, with fewer than two-fifths (39%) positive about the outlook for the sector as a whole. The Index revealed fears over availability of labour and the overall impact of Brexit. This year more than four-fifths (83%) of respondents believe Brexit will have a negative impact on their ability to recruit staff, compared with 77% last year. Respondents reported 31% average labour costs as a percentage of turnover this year compared with 29% in 2018, while the average hourly wage has grown to £9.63 from £8.96 last year. Delivery remains a challenge, with more than half (52%) of respondents using a delivery service compared with 39% last year. However, little more than one-quarter (28%) said delivery has had a positive impact on profits, with 48% stating it had a positive impact on turnover. The survey also highlighted the burden of business rates on hospitality businesses, with four-fifths (80%) calling on the government to reform the system. Regarding sustainability, more than four-fifths (81%) of respondents have taken steps to improve their green credentials, including cutting single-use plastic and energy use, sourcing food more locally and using food waste apps. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents saw an increase in demand for low or non-alcoholic drinks compared with 57% in 2018, with more than two-fifths (43%) offering low or non-alcoholic spirits compared with 20% last year. One-fifth (20%) of respondents are offering low or non-alcoholic wine compared with 10% in 2018. Gareth Ogden, partner in the hospitality team at haysmacintyre, said: “The effect of Brexit on consumer demand and food costs is causing anxiety but it’s the uncertainty over availability of staff that’s having the greatest impact. Despite these headwinds, and while turnover predictions are still markedly down on the heights of five years ago, we’re reassured much of the data we gathered points to a sector that remains resilient. Pubs, bars and restaurants are constantly improving what they offer and responding to changing lifestyles and the drive for sustainable practices. Business rates remain a headache and respondents are calling for a fundamental reform, while others are hoping for a reduction in VAT on food and drink.”

Industry News:

Almost one-quarter of eating-out visits depend on ‘brand love’: Almost one-quarter (23%) of eating-out visits depend on how much a customer “loves the brand”, according to new research. The BrandVue Eating Out study, published by global intelligence business Savanta, questioned 100,000 diners across the UK and found the greater the love for a brand, the greater the dining frequency. A 7% increase in “brand love”, equated to an extra visit per customer, while a single point increase equalled a 4.6% uplift in eating-out footfall, Savanta stated. The company said its study showed new customer experiences without involving capital or pricing could yield “double-digit growth”. Younger people are more likely to love a brand than older people with quick service restaurants the most loved type of restaurant in the UK. UK consumers eat out about three times a month and visit 35 eating-out brands a year. Londoners are the most active diners, eating out 3.9 times per month, while those in Wales are the least likely (2.3 times per month). The study also stated UK consumers love an average of 1.2 eating out brands at any one time. Factors driving brand love are different to familiar key performance indicators such as net promoter scores (NPS), Savanta said, adding its research into the drivers of NPS revealed customer brand advocacy is conditioned heavily by regular factors such as taste and freshness of ingredients. However, the company said the drivers of brand love were much more emotional and included delivery of a consistently positive personal experience such as prompt and friendly service and restaurant ambience. 

UKHospitality – sector integral to National Food Strategy: UKHospitality has called on the government to support hospitality businesses to help deliver its first National Food Strategy for 75 years. In its submission to the government, UKHospitality has highlighted the important role sector businesses can play. The trade body has urged the government to ensure the strategy capitalises on the work already being carried out by the sector and avoids unnecessary barriers to growth such as additional costs or regulations. The submission highlights a number of areas in which hospitality businesses can help achieve the government’s aims if they have support, including a positive regulatory regime, investment in skills and training to promote careers in hospitality, food quality and sustainability, and innovation and productivity. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “A positive and effective National Food Strategy is in everyone’s best interests. Food businesses play a vital role in the relationship between consumers and food, which means the hospitality sector is integral. We can only achieve our full potential if we have the right support from the government. We share the government’s aims of ensuring people are eating good-quality, healthy food and that the food and hospitality industries are thriving and innovative. A positive strategy would touch on many aspects of regulation and business from sustainability and quality to skills and training. We need an all-inclusive approach that supports businesses every step of the way from farm to fork and supports hospitality businesses to deliver that vision. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure the new strategy makes this happen.”

US diners experiment more with new flavours when eating out compared with delivery: US diners are more willing to experiment with new flavours when eating out rather than when ordering delivery, according to new research by insights firm Technomic. The company’s 2019 Flavour Consumer Trend Report found more than two-thirds (68%) of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers new flavours. Meanwhile, almost half (46%) are hesitant to try new flavours because they don’t want to pay for something they aren’t sure they’ll like. One-fifth (20%) of millennials actively seek new flavours on a regular basis. Technomic manager Charles Winship said: “Consumers are already hesitant to pay for something they might not like when trying new dishes, and the added cost of delivery simply exacerbates this concern. Operators may consider bringing more familiar ingredients and flavours to the forefront of their off-premise marketing or providing an incentive such as a waived delivery fee for new dishes ordered for delivery.”

Sales growth of iced beverages outpaces hot coffee in the US: Iced beverage sales growth in the US is outpacing hot coffee, according to new research. Allegra World Coffee Portal’s debut report focusing on the US out-of-home iced beverages market revealed iced beverage sales increased 7.3% in the past 12 months, generating $10.4bn at branded coffee shops. Hot coffee sales during the period rose 4.6%. Iced beverage sales now comprise more than one-fifth of the $47.5bn revenue generated by branded coffee shops in the US. A total of 91% of industry leaders surveyed in the Project Iced USA 2020 report deemed the iced beverages sales environment in the US as positive, while 92% reported improved iced beverage sales in the past year. Branded chains are driving the popularisation of iced beverages in the US – more than 90% of respondents bought an iced coffee beverage at Starbucks, Dunkin’ or McDonald’s in the past year. More than 80% of industry leaders identified cold brew as the fastest-growing product in coffee shops, while more than 90% expect cold brew to become a mainstream staple in the next three years. Meanwhile, more than three-fifths (62%) of industry leaders believe nitro coffee will become a coffee shop staple in the next three years. Allegra has forecast the iced beverage segment will continue to prosper, with annual sales growth of 6.6% to $11.1bn expected in 2020. The company said growth would be led by the coffee-focused sub-segment, which is expected to surpass $10bn within the next 12 months.

Job of the week: COREcruitment is seeking a regional director on behalf of a leisure business that’s going through a period of growth and transformation. The business is looking to add to its southern team to strengthen the senior team and support its expanding operational team. The ideal individual will have experience in a regional role in a high-volume business and have a strong knowledge of leisure-focused, multi-revenue-streamed environments. The position offers a salary of between £80,000 and £90,000 plus a bonus and benefits package. For a confidential chat or more information, email hollie@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Chop’d appoints advisers to assess funding options, launches virtual brand: Chop’d, the Eddie Holmes-led salad bar chain, has appointed advisers to assess its funding options, Propel has learned. The Calculus Capital-backed business is understood to have appointed north west-based advisory firm Cowgills to oversee the process, which is thought to involve a short-term funding requirement of £250,000 ahead of a broader strategic review in the new year that could lead to a sale of the business. The funding requirement comes as Chop’d launches virtual brand Vegan Delivered, which will deliver freshly made vegan meals prepared in Chop’d kitchens. Chop’d opened its first store in Leadenhall Market in December 2004 and currently operates 15 sites, 12 of them in central London. Calculus, which also backs Mexican brand Benito’s Hat, invested £2m in Chop’d in summer 2014, taking a circa 40% stake in the business. Holmes, a former Lloyds bank manager and head chef for YO! group, founded Chop’d in 2004 with ex-management consultant and gastro-pub owner Jasper Wight and marketing executive Simon Baker. The company was one of only a few of the first wave of salad bar chains to expand outside the capital, opening in Liverpool in 2016 followed by Manchester and Leeds in the same year. It’s believed trading at the business, which has been chaired by Miles Templeman since 2016, stabilised in recent months following the launch of several products and a click-and-collect app. Chop’d reviews its options at a time when mergers and acquisitions and consolidation activity has been on the increase in the food-to-go market. Earlier this year Pret acquired long-term rival EAT, while Azzurri Group acquired the rump of the Pod business out of administration.

Three senior directors follow chief executive Forrester out of TGI Friday’s UK: Three senior directors of TGI Friday’s UK are to follow chief executive Karen Forrester out of the company. Forrester announced her departure on Monday (28 October) after 12 years with the business. She will leave on Friday, 13 December to be replaced by Virgin Active chief executive Robert Cook, who will join on Monday, 2 December. Chief financial officer Stuart Greener, culture and people development director Jacqui McManus, and operations director Cain Savazzi have also decided to leave. Propel understands that having worked closely with Forrester, the trio felt it was the right time to start a new chapter. Forrester said: “It has been an unbelievable honour and privilege to have led the magnificent TGI Friday’s UK family over the past 12 years. It was an incredibly hard decision to hang up my stripes but I’m excited to hand over to Robert Cook, who will steer the company on the next stage of its epic journey.” During her tenure Forrester is credited with turning around TGI Friday’s fortunes in the UK after years of decline, scrapping the tired image she described as “clown-like” and investing in open kitchens, oak floors and leather seating. TGI Friday’s UK reported total sales of £208.8m in 2018, down from £216m the previous year. Pre-tax profits for the year stood at £3.7m.

Healthy bowls concept Beiriso launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Healthy bowls concept Beiriso has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand to “prime London locations”. The company, founded by restaurant designer Roya Andrews, is offering 10.71% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2.5m. Beiriso offers click and collect and delivery services from its kitchen in Holborn, north London. The pitch states: “After opening our London kitchen four years ago, serving food to more than 240 customers a day, we are seeking funding to expand our community by adding retail outlets in other prime locations. We focus on fresh healthy food made fast and know presentation is paramount. We believe packed lunches are old-fashioned and, as income levels stand still while living costs rise, students and office workers want value for money without losing taste. We have managed to fine-tune serving made-to-order breakfast and lunch to two to three minutes. A good-portion size with high-quality ingredients has been accomplished at affordable prices and we intend to maintain this with our streamlined operational processes. We propose to increase opening times to seven days and extend operating hours to include evening meals. We plan to add a subscription-based model for extra convenience to customers who don’t wish to cook. We plan to expand on our success by using our Holborn site as the central hub and finishing orders in open-view kitchens. Investment in Beiriso will provide startup costs for a new unit and cover rent and staffing for the first year while we grow our business.”

Doughnotts eyes Birmingham and Sheffield as it targets further growth: East Midlands-based doughnut concept Doughnotts is eyeing sites in Birmingham and Sheffield as well as a move into a bigger bakery in its home city of Nottingham. Doughnotts has stores in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Lincoln but is keen to expand further afield. Megan Scadden, who founded the business with Wade Smith, said: “We are investing in a bigger bakery, more staff and more equipment. The future looks bright for Doughnotts and we couldn’t be happier with how things are going.” Doughnotts is working with FHP Property Consultants on its expansion plan. Darran Severn, of FHP Property Consultants, said: “As the business grows we have been tasked with acquiring a larger bakery and have been looking at industrial units in Nottingham. As we move into 2020, Doughnotts is looking to open additional stores in Birmingham and Sheffield. The ideal property would be between 300 and 600 square feet. High-street locations with high visibility and footfall or concession stands will be considered.”

Douglas Jack upgrades Fuller’s profit before tax forecasts by 3% on back on £40m Cotswold Inns & Hotels deal: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has upgraded his Fuller’s profit before tax forecasts by 3% for 2021 and 2022 following the company’s £40m acquisition of Cotswold Inns & Hotels. Issuing an ‘Add’ note on the shares with a target price of 1,200p, Jack said: “The acquisition comprises seven freehold country inns and hotels and eight freehold staff cottages in the Cotswolds, together with two leasehold bars in Birmingham city centre. In 2018 these sites generated average sales 50% above Fuller’s average on Ebitda margins that are circa one percentage point above Fuller’s average (subject to the latter’s central cost allocations). The acquisition is officially occurring on a site Ebitda multiple of 11.8 times September 2018. However, we would expect the true multiple to be lower than this as we believe Fuller’s is pleased with Cotswold Inns & Hotels’ trading over the 12 months to September 2019; some of the acquired sites have further development potential; and Fuller’s has a clear plan to generate synergies. In our view, this is most likely to occur from purchasing benefits and bringing the 201 bedrooms into Fuller’s direct booking network. We aren’t changing our 2020E forecast. In our view, there are too many uncertainties that may become clearer when the company reports its interim results on 12 December. These include the timing of the head office move and new central cost base as well as the timing of the Asahi management agreement ending. We are upgrading our 2021E and 2022E forecast by 3%. This brings our forecasts in line with consensus, which hasn’t moved since this acquisition was announced. Our upgraded forecasts assume no synergies from this transaction and we anticipate just two new managed pubs (plus four tenanted conversions to managed) per annum despite the company having the firepower for much more than this. Fuller’s EV/Ebitda rating is in line with its ten-year historical average, yet its leverage is lower and its acquisition firepower is higher than at any other time during this period. Against a sub-3% cost of bank debt, we would expect any further transactions to be earnings accretive. In our view, this potential should underpin the valuation, leaving the risks on the upside.”

Donut King opens second UK site: Donut King, the doughnut shop concept owned by Australia-based Retail Food Group, has opened its second UK site. The company has launched the venue at the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Basildon, Essex. The outlet is based inside the Debenhams store on the second floor, reports Essex Live. Donut King has replaced the Patisserie Valerie concession that closed earlier this year after the company went into administration. Donut King specialises in doughnuts, cakes and coffee. The UK’s first Donut King opened in nearby Shenfield in May after the brand secured a franchising deal.

Burger & Lobster expands Smack concept, eyes wider UK growth in 2020: Burger & Lobster has opened a third site for its delivery-only lobster roll concept Smack and is eyeing wider expansion in 2020. The latest kitchen has opened at its West India Quay restaurant in the City of London. In June, the company closed its Smack restaurant in Soho and turned it into a Deliveroo-exclusive brand, operating out of the Burger & Lobster restaurant in Dean Street. Smack also operates from the group’s restaurant in Bread Street. A Burger & Lobster spokeswoman said: “The demand for Smack has been steadily growing and expansion plans for the digital business isn’t stopping either. With ambitious plans in 2020 we hope to see Smack more readily available to people across the UK.” Burger & Lobster launched in Mayfair in 2011 and the brand operates nine sites in London, two in New York, and one each in Bangkok, Dubai, Genting and Kuwait City, as well as two Singapore sites. Earlier this month the company reported group Ebitda climbed 13% in the year to 30 December 2018 to £7.16m, with total group turnover rising 28% to £53.6m. In the UK, full-year turnover fell 10% to £37.9m, with Ebitda down from £6.17m to £5.68m. The company is planning up to ten opening across Europe, Asia and the US.

KFC focusing on drive-thru automation and personalisation as it shapes digital strategy: KFC is focusing on automation and personalisation at its US drive-thrus as the company shapes its digital strategy for 2020. While off-premise sales are key to driving new growth to restaurants, US chief technology officer Christopher Caldwell said innovation at its drive-thrus was “essential”. Specifically, KFC is exploring automation similar to McDonald’s, where artificial intelligence-powered digital menu boards automate order-taking and upsell menu items. Caldwell told Nation’s Restaurant News: “There are a lot of really cool things we can do for customers on an external digital menu board that would make their experience much better. I would like to use technology to give our customers a better experience and free up labour so we can focus more time on our customers.” He said order accuracy, which was always a “bit of a challenge” at drive-thrus, would improve, with almost two-thirds (65%) of KFC store sales generated from drive-thru orders. Once KFC is ready to test these drive-thru technologies with customers, Caldwell said he was confident a “number of franchisees” would be interested in becoming early adopters. The digital push comes after KFC launched its online ordering platform this month, which was already “exceeding expectations”. “Early metrics are fantastic,” said Caldwell, who has held multiple IT positions with KFC and its parent company Yum! Brands since 1996.

D&D London to launch 14 Hills in City of London next month: Restaurant operator D&D London is to launch its latest site next month and its first in the City of London since 2014. 14 Hills will open at 120 Fenchurch Street on Monday, 11 November offering a restaurant, bar and deli. The restaurant will feature trees and shrubs to transform the open plan space into an “indoor garden”, while views from the 14th-floor venue will take in many of London’s landmark buildings. 14 Hills’ grab-and-go deli will open weekdays from 9am to 5pm serving sandwiches, salad and freshly baked cakes, cookies and tarts, while the central onyx cocktail bar will stay open until 1.30am on Fridays and Saturdays. Dishes on executive chef Thomas Piat’s restaurant menu will feature signature dishes such as sharing dish of venison and a seafood starter of white crab with cauliflower and caviar. The weekend brunch menu will include winter black truffle omelette. Earlier this month D&D London chairman and chief executive Des Gunewardena told Propel the company was in legals on two further UK sites – one in London planned for autumn 2020 and another regional city launch a year later. The company is already set to open a restaurant and events venue in the Quakers Friars building at Cabot Circus in Bristol around Easter. Gunewardena said: “We remain focused on UK expansion and we’re actively looking at other UK opportunities.” 

Independent Italian American restaurant Smoke & Dough to open debut site, in Liverpool: Independent Italian American restaurant Smoke & Dough has opened its debut site, in Liverpool. Founded by Deepak Bahuguna and Sachin Bajpai, the restaurant has opened at Liverpool ONE having previously agreed a deal with owner Grosvenor Europe. The 7,000 square foot venue includes 150 covers and features a 50-cover late-night bar with outdoor seating. Smoke & Dough provides an “interactive experience” centred on a smokehouse. Every table features a lava pit that allows customers to grill meat and fish. Smoke & Dough also serves sourdough pizza, burgers and flatbread. Bahuguna said: “This is an exciting new endeavour for us as we introduce our menu and concept to the UK market and we’re pleased to have the Liverpool ONE’s momentum propelling us.” Alison Clegg, director of asset management at Grosvenor Europe, added: “Smoke & Dough is a great new concept to debut at Liverpool ONE, adding to our global restaurant line-up while complementing the retail and competitive leisure offering.” Cushman & Wakefield and Metis Real Estate Advisors acted for Liverpool ONE. Smoke & Dough dealt direct.

Innis & Gunn to launch crowdfunding campaign for new brewery: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn is set to launch a fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs towards its planned brewery in Edinburgh, Propel has learned. The craft brewer has yet to reveal the campaign target or equity for the campaign until the prospectus is launched on Monday, 11 November under the banner This Is Beer Money. The pre-pitch states: “We have been doing our thing since 2003 and last year was our 15th consecutive year of double-digit volume growth. We are strong at home and overseas, a rare thing for a craft brewer. We’re the number-two UK craft brewer by volume, with our lager the biggest craft beer in Scotland. We are the leading imported craft beer in Canada and our beer is available in more than 30 countries. We’ve got three craft beer bars and secured £15m investment and the backing of L Catterton, one of the worlds largest private equity firms. When everyone else is worried about the future we are embracing it – and growing. With your help we want to build the biggest brewery in Edinburgh, which will allow us to accelerate our growth.” Last month Innis & Gunn said it was set to return to profitability in 2019 following losses of about £2m for the year ending 31 December 2018 as the company ploughed cash into the business and pulled the plug on loss-making operations. The company said it aimed to apply for planning permission for the brewery in the “final quarter of this year and become operational in early 2021”. Innis & Gunn raised £2.37m on Crowdcube in late 2016 from more than 1,900 investors.

High-end Mexican restaurant group Toca Madera to make UK debut at west London rooftop space next week: High-end Mexican restaurant group Toca Madera, which operates sites in Hollywood and Arizona, will make its UK debut by operating the rooftop restaurant at a west London hotel from next week. The venue will open on Monday (4 November) at the former Saint George’s Hotel next to BBC Broadcasting House in Langham Place. The hotel has been taken over by US American travel group SH Hotels, which will relaunch the venue as part of its new Treehouse boutique hotel range. The Madera restaurant will offer an “elevated, modern and organic take on traditional Mexican cuisine”. The menu, which will have a focus on sharing dishes, will offer ceviche and queso fundido along with hot lava stone cooking and a taqueria section. Treehouse London will offer 95 bedrooms, including 12 suites, and a ground-floor coffee bar, while the restaurant and bar will offer 360-degree views of London’s skyline.

Liverpool-based Lucky Penny Consultancy to launch debut bar restaurant this week: Liverpool-based hospitality consultancy Lucky Penny is to open its own bar restaurant in the city this week. Abditory will launch in Queen Avenue on Friday (1 November). The name is a 17th century word meaning a “place to hide oneself or valuables” and refers to Queen Avenue being a “hidden part of the city”. The venue will focus on cocktails, German lager, wine, toasties and deli boards and offer outdoor seating. The bar will be operated by Lucky Penny managing director Steven Burgess and Josh Moore, who together founded events company Camp and Furnace. Burgess said: “There are too many boring bars out there so everything in Abditory is meant to have a sense of fun. We have drawn inspiration from some of the best bars around the world and hope to create our own little piece of old-school cool in Liverpool.” 

Salt Yard co-founder to launch Portuguese concept in Covent Garden next month: Salt Yard co-founder Simon Mullins is to launch new project Volta do Mar with wife Isabel Almeida Da Silva in Covent Garden on Monday, 11 November. The restaurant will open in a double-fronted Georgian townhouse in Tavistock Street showcasing regional Portuguese dishes and recipes formed through the country’s trading history. George Tannock, who has worked at The Dorchester, The Fat Duck, Zuma and most recently Sexy Fish, will oversee the kitchen. His menu will include piri-piri marinades made with chillies from Angola and Mozambique, Brazilian-style smoked ham, and Goan dishes such as Iberico pork vindalho. The cocktail list will focus on wine from Portugal and Brazil. Volta do Mar, which loosely translates as “return from the sea”, will also operate as a traditional Portuguese pastelaria with an in-house bakery. The first-floor wooden-panelled Georgian dining room has been designed with an “eccentric merchant’s house in mind”, while the ground floor will feature a wooden bar. Mullins founded Salt Yard in 2005, while Almeida Da Silva previously held front-of-house roles at Marco Pierre White’s Mirabelle and The Delaunay.

Airship secures £500,000 investment: CRM agency Airship has secured a £500,000 investment to further develop its technology. The Sheffield-based company has completed the equity investment from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. Airship’s eponymous product brings together data from different sources to help operators understand more about their customers and their visiting habits and is used by more than 50 operators. Its second product, Toggle, allows hospitality companies to sell and manage gift cards and experiences. Launched in October 2018, it is now live in more than 350 locations. Airship chief executive Dan Brookman said: “Both our platforms have enjoyed a surge in new customers and, after the success of Airship, Toggle is being well received in the market. We are delighted with this investment and look forward to building on the growth of the past year.” Will Schaffer, investment manager with Mercia, added: “The hospitality industry is highly competitive and understanding and engaging with customers is key to success. Airship is shaking up the industry by offering companies of all sizes the technology that enables them to do that.” Mark Wilcockson, senior manager at British Business Bank, said: “NPIF continues to provide vital funding to northern businesses across the region. We are proud to work in partnership with Mercia and our other appointed fund managers to make a real impact on business communities, creating jobs and strengthening regional economies to unlock the north’s potential.” The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank. 

Mr Ji’s to open permanent site, in Soho next month: Taiwanese-inspired chicken concept Mr Ji’s will open a permanent site in Soho next month. The street food-influenced concept founded by Samuel Haim will launch a grab-and-go format in Old Compton Street on Wednesday, 20 November. The business previously operated a pop-up in Camden. The interiors will be inspired by Taipei, with lantern-style lighting and Taiwanese street art and graphics. Mr Ji’s focuses on crispy fried chicken and alcoholic Taiwanese tea. Using only 100% free-range chicken, the hero dish is the Big Ji – chicken breast brined and coated in gluten-free sweet potato flour, deep fried, then dusted with flavours. It also offers Mini Ji’s – bite-sized pieces of marinated thigh meat in house sauce – and a bao burger, while side dishes include hot and sour soup and sweet potato doughnuts dusted with ginger sugar. Haim, who is also behind fish and chip restaurant concept Hook, said: “I first met the real ‘Mr Ji’ while hiking up Elephant Mountain in Taiwan. He was an enigmatic character who tipped us off on where to find the best fried chicken in Taipei. I look forward to bringing my modern take on Taiwanese fried chicken to Old Compton Street using fantastic-quality chicken and punchy powders.” Shelley Sandzer acted for Mr Ji’s on the Soho site.

International cyber cafe brand Wanyoo opens second UK site, in Coventry: International cyber cafe brand Wanyoo has opened its second UK site, in Coventry. Wanyoo, which has more than 1,000 cafes across China, entered the European market in January by opening a site in Charing Cross Road, London. Now it has doubled its UK presence with a venue at the Cathedral Lanes development. Wanyoo, which also has sites in Australia, the US, Canada and Singapore, has signed a new 15-year lease for the 3,911 square foot site with Cathedral Lanes owner Shearer Property Group. Wanyoo UK director Zhaorong Chen said: “We have gone from strength to strength in Chinatown London and now, with an established student community, we are pleased to bring this concept to a whole new customer base.” Shelley Sandzer acted for Wanyoo, while Savills advised Shearer Property Group.

Jurys Inn revamps bar and restaurant at Croydon hotel as part of £2.75m refurbishment: Jurys Inn has revamped the bar and restaurant at its Croydon hotel as part of a £2.75m refurbishment. The project has also seen all 240 bedrooms at the Wellesley Road property given a facelift. The bar and restaurant offers a new contemporary dining menu, The Kitchen, which includes a range of dishes for lunch and dinner. The bar also offers a selection of drinks and features an all-day Costa Coffee bar. General manager Hazel Galloway said: “We are delighted with the results of the refurbishment, which is the start of a new chapter for the hotel.”

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