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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 11th Dec 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

England leads the way as number of UK pubs rises for first time in a decade: The UK’s pub industry is reversing a decade of decline with a net growth of 320 pubs and bars, according to a new report by startup digital growth service Stampede. The report, entitled Raising The Bar, features figures from the Office of National Statistics, including data that has yet to be distributed, the company said. The study found there was a net gain of 320 pubs in 2019, the first time the number of pubs in the UK had increased for a decade. There was a net loss of 5,855 pubs in the UK between 2010 and 2018 at an average of 732 a year. The growth was led by England, which saw an increase of 345 pubs, followed by Northern Ireland (five). However, Scotland and Wales saw a fall in the number of pubs during the year – by five and 25 sites respectively. Large pub groups are driving growth in the sector. The biggest increase (205) was from pub companies with a turnover of £500,000 to £1m, while the second-biggest increase (125) was in the £1m to £2m bracket. By contrast, the UK had a net loss of 55 sites for pub enterprises with a turnover of less than £100,000. By region, the south east has the most pubs (5,340) but only grew by ten venues in 2019. The north east grew the most (85), followed by the West Midlands (80). London lost ten pubs overall but saw a net increase in ten of 33 boroughs. Licensed clubs remain on the decline, with 7,420 venues recorded in 2019 compared with 7,610 in 2018 and more than 10,000 in 2010, the report stated. Stampede founder and chief executive Patrick Clover said: “The reduction of pubs in the past decade has been heart-breaking following devastating changes to business taxes and alcohol duties. I hope these figures signpost a reversal of fortune.” Stampede launched recently with £1m in seed funding and offers digital marketing and growth services to the hospitality industry.

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2020 open for bookings: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its third year, with tickets now on sale. The event 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 is the centrepiece of the January event series and takes place on 21 and 22 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The event will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, market insights, technology and digital developments, building strong links between marketing and operations, embedding a brand throughout a hospitality business, and future trends. It is 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 60 speakers with a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs. For the full agenda, click here. Tickets for operators for the two days are £575 plus VAT and £345 plus VAT for one day. Tickets for suppliers are £795 plus VAT for the two days and £445 plus VAT for one day. Tickets can be purchased from Propel by calling Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or emailing

Propel Premium subscribers to receive Lorraine Copes video for latest in exclusive series from Multi Club Conference: Propel Premium subscribers will receive their latest video on Wednesday (11 December) featuring speakers at the final Multi Club Conference of 2019. The videos feature a spectrum of company leaders sharing insights into their strategies and plans, while industry experts look at some of the key trends shaping the sector. The latest video features Lorraine Copes, head of procurement at Corbin & King, who offers her top ten insights on procurement in turbulent times. Videos will be sent out each day at 5pm, and 3pm on Friday. Meanwhile, Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and receive regular columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Well-being and technology to head global foodservice trends for next ten years: Technology, health and well-being are at the heart of trends that will shape the global food, drink and foodservice industries over the next ten years, according to analyst Mintel. The company predicts consumers will gain a better understanding of their unique dietary needs by using health-testing services, artificial intelligence-enabled apps and increased personal data collection. Mintel said it also expects to see brands use science and technology to create new products and shorten production time, while new ingredient-growing regions such as Africa and India and agricultural innovations including floating farms would emerge to tackle global food insecurity. Alex Beckett, associate director of Mintel Food & Drink, said: “The companies which will win in the next ten years will be those that fuel the new era of conscious consumption. Tomorrow’s conscious consumers will be looking for eco-friendly packaging and products while seeking guidance on how to make their diets more sustainable. Transparency of information is essential to building trust in a future where scientists will play as integral a role as farmers. Championing the people behind the food – whether it’s grown in a laboratory or field – will remain a timeless way to build trust with consumers.”

Tourist tax will ‘hurt the Highlands’: Highland Council’s decision to move forward with a tourist tax will damage the region, UKHospitality has said. Executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said the taxes would “only undermine Scotland’s and the Highlands’ tourism offer and pile more costs on businesses”. He said: “A tourist tax will increase costs for customers and reduce choice. It will only undermine investment and put jobs at risk. It isn’t valid to point to European countries as a justification for the tax as those countries have significantly lower rates of VAT. The survey carried out by Highland Council was one-sided, opaque and gives no breakdown of who would be responsible for a tax. It contains no mechanism for targeting day-trippers to the Highlands and would only damage business confidence. It is pointless for any local authority in Scotland to push forward with measures to introduce a tourist tax until we’ve had clarity from the Scottish government.”

Chick-fil-A is most-loved eating out brand in US: Chick-fil-A, the largest chicken and third-largest US fast food restaurant chain, has been named the most-loved eating out brand in the US. The research by Savanta’s market intelligence platform BrandVue Eating Out features the top 100 brands and is based on 60,000 interviews with diners. Chick-fil-A came top despite facing protests and boycotts at some of its restaurants after it was revealed the company donated almost $1.8m to alleged anti-LGBTQ groups. Last month the company said it had changed its charity policy and was now “committed to organisations with a focus on education, homelessness and hunger”. Starbucks was ranked second in the list, followed by Olive Garden, Krispy Kreme and Texas Roadhouse in a league where quick service restaurant and coffee house and dessert giants feature prominently. The rest of the top ten was made up of Subway, The Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin’ Donuts, In-N-Out Burger and Taco Bell. Vin DeRobertis, chief executive Americas at Savanta, said: “Our ranking table of loved brands reveals who is ‘winning’ in the brand space.”  

Job of the week: COREcruitment is seeking a chief financial officer on behalf of a London-based restaurant company as it positions itself for growth. It is looking for an experienced chief financial officer who has extensive knowledge of investments, refinancing, sales and acquisitions, specifically in the hospitality sector. The salary is negotiable and the position is for three days a week. For more information or a confidential chat, email

Company News:

The Breakfast Club reports record sales, appoints McVeigh as chairman: All-day concept The Breakfast Club has reported record sales in its current financial year while it has appointed Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh as chairman, Propel has learned. The 12-strong company, which was founded in 2005 and is led by Jonathan Arana-Morton, reported sales for the first seven months of its current financial year of £9.7m, an increase of 5.7% on the previous year or up 4.3% on a like-for-like basis. The company operates no delivery services from its sites. Audited accounts for the year ending March 2019 will be filed imminently and show sales of £15.7m, an increase of 3.3% on the previous year. Group Ebitda for the year was £744,000, up 39%. The company opened no sites in the year. Meanwhile, Propel understands the business has negotiated a new facility with Santander that, together with positive cash flow, should allow further expansion of the business in 2020. The company opened its 12th cafe – The Breakfast Club on Berwick Street – in Soho in the autumn. It is a short walk from the company’s debut cafe in d’Arblay Street, where queues of up to 90 minutes continue to be a feature 14 years after its launch, the company said. It’s understood the Berwick Street site is now outperforming the original, which itself remains in like-for-like growth. Given the double-digit growth of the company’s cafes in Oxford and Brighton, it is believed a particular focus for the company is to find similar locations outside London. It’s thought the business is looking to open one or two sites a year and is currently in talks on a site outside the capital. The business also feels there’s significant scope for expansion in London. McVeigh is a serial hospitality entrepreneur having founded and sold five businesses in the sector since 1998. Most recently he created The Draft House group of pubs with co-investor Luke Johnson, which he sold to BrewDog in 2018. At that stage the group numbered 16 sites with 13 trading under the Draft House name. Arana-Morton said: “As always we are cautiously optimistic about the future of The Breakfast Club. We have negotiated some fairly choppy waters and I’m delighted with the resilience the team and this business has shown these past few years. We’re no longer the ‘new kid on the block’ but to still have queues across all our 12 cafes on a weekly basis, 14 years after we first opened, shows the huge affection for the brand. We’re delighted by the appointment of Charlie. He brings ‘the plan’, the discipline, a network and years of industry experience and, while we’ll always do things The Breakfast Club way, it’s part of the process of growing up from a cheeky upstart into what we hope will be a classic restaurant brand for many years to come.” McVeigh said: “I have been working closely with Jonathan over the past six months and I’m immensely excited to join the board of what many regard as one of the strongest brands in the sector. During that time we have seen good improvements in sales and profitability with, I hope, more to come. Jonathan and his team have built one of the deepest company cultures I’ve come across in my 20 years in hospitality, with legendary levels of staff engagement and retention. The group’s strong trading performance in and outside London suggests further expansion is an option.”

Coaching Inn Group seeks additional sites following £22m refinance: Coaching inn and hotel operator The Coaching Inn Group has secured a £22m refinance with current bankers NatWest. The company, which is led by Kevin Charity, said the deal – together with the continued support of equity partner the BGF – had put it in a position to push forward with acquisitions to add to the 15 sites in its estate. Finance director Edward Walsh added: “This new deal provides us with the additional funding capability to increase the size of our estate as we look to acquire a number of sites already identified as part of our pipeline. We would like to get our current bedroom count of 431 over the 500 mark during the next 12 months and this deal should allow us to achieve that. This year has seen a 10% rise in bedroom like-for-likes and therefore every additional bedroom allows us to put our central reservations platform to work. In the summer we opened our first independent coffee shop – in disused space at the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury – and this trial has proved very successful, creating a clear fourth revenue stream that maximises the asset fully. Therefore, we will also look for further sites where we can add coffee shops for this additional revenue stream.”

Leeds Brewery founders return to pubs market after taking over London site from MJMK: Sam Moss and Michael Brothwell – who founded Leeds Brewery in 2007 – have taken on their first site since selling their pub business to Camerons. Moss and Brothwell have taken on The Belrose in Belsize Park, north London, as a project separate from their brewery business in Leeds. The property was sold by Davis Coffer Lyons on behalf of London-based hospitality company MJMK, which is behind piri-piri concept Casa do Frango. Davis Coffer Lyons assigned the leasehold interest of the free-of-tie property, which is held on a 25-year lease from February 2002. The lease includes the ground floor and basement, private function room and trading terrace. MJMK, led by Marco Mendes and Jake Kasumov, continues to operate Casa do Frango in London Bridge and New Oxford Street. MJMK also owns and operates S11 bar and health food cafe Homegrown, both in Brixton. Mendes and Kasumov will grow Casa do Franco by opening a site in King John Court, Shoreditch, this month. Moss and Brothwell sold their seven-strong pub estate to Camerons Brewery in 2016.

Vaulkhard Group set for expansion following £7m funding package: Newcastle-based leisure firm Vaulkhard Group is set for expansion after securing a £7m funding package from HSBC UK. Vaulkhard Group owns and operates 15 venues in Newcastle and the north east, including Pacific House, Bealim House, Central Bean, Mushroom and Perdu, employing about 280 staff across the region. The group is using working capital from HSBC UK to expand and refurbish venues and explore potential additions to its portfolio. The funding has allowed Vaulkhard Group to refurbish Barluga in Gosforth and secure a nine-bedroom building next to its Ponteland venue, The Diamond, to provide guest accommodation. The company also recently refurbished its Barluga bar in Grey Street, Newcastle. It will also expand Blake’s Coffee & Kitchen in Newcastle by converting a vacant retail space next door. Vaulkhard Group managing director Ollie Vaulkhard said: “The support from HSBC UK has been invaluable in allowing us to continue to improve and grow our venues while keeping an eye on sound business opportunities that will add to our portfolio.”

Hungarian dessert cafe secures debut UK site: Hungarian dessert cafe brand House Of Chimney Cakes has secured its debut UK site, in London. The company will open the outlet in Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End on Friday, 27 December. Deniz Bozgeyik, who owns the London franchise, worked with CDG Leisure agent Emma Wright to find a suitable site. House Of Chimney Cakes offers a take on the traditional Hungarian dessert kurtoskalacs, which pairs a “chimney cone” with soft serve ice cream and toppings. The cones resemble a hot chimney when they come fresh out of the oven. Bozgeyik said: “We are excited to bring House Of Chimney Cakes to the London food scene. As soon as I tried these desserts, I knew I had to bring them back to the UK.”

Yorkshire-based restaurant group Mumtaz eyes expansion to London and Birmingham: Indian restaurant group Mumtaz, which operates venues in Bradford and Leeds, is set to invest a seven-figure sum to open a site in Mayfair or Knightsbridge in the capital next year as well as a site in Birmingham in 2021. The business was founded 40 years ago in Bradford and opened its second restaurant in Leeds in 2009. The 300-capacity restaurant is one of the largest in Leeds, while the company invested about £3m on the fit-out. The company briefly opened a pilot in Manchester in 2016 but later abandoned the franchise model. Maryam Mumtaz, executive director of the family business, which has £12.7m turnover and 200 staff, told The Yorkshire Post: “Over the past year we have been consolidating the business to make sure we are in a strong position. Yorkshire is well covered by Mumtaz – customers come to our restaurants from all over the region – now it’s time to conquer the south. We’ve always had demand to open in London and Birmingham and we’re at the final stages of finalising our London site.” The company is also refurbishing its Bradford restaurant and will relaunch its sauces and marinades division at a facility next door after closing its overseas factories.

McDonald’s appoints international president, launches first vegan meal: McDonald’s has appointed Ian Borden as president of its international division. Borden was previously president of the company’s international developmental licensed markets and his promotion follows Joe Erlinger’s appointment as president of the US business. Borden will assume oversight for all international markets in addition to the 80-plus markets he previously oversaw. Chief executive Chris Kempczinski said: “Ian has a proven record of focusing on the customer to deliver profitable business growth while strengthening collaboration with our global franchisee community. His experience leading McDonald’s in markets across the world positions him to connect the dots to drive strong results.” Borden added: “I look forward to working closely with franchisees, suppliers and company teams across all our international markets to strengthen the ties between McDonald’s and our customers.” Meanwhile, McDonald’s is to launch its first vegan meal. Veggie Dippers, which despite the name are fully vegan, are made with red pepper, rice, sundried tomato pesto and split peas surrounded by breadcrumbs. They will be available in UK restaurants from Thursday, 2 January. McDonald’s said it had seen an 80% uplift in UK customers ordering vegetarian options in the past 12 months. McDonald’s is already trialling plant-based Beyond Meat burgers in 28 restaurants in Canada and analysts at UBS estimated the company could sell more than 250 million of the burgers a year if it rolls out the product to its almost 14,000 US outlets. McDonald’s is selling only 20 to 30 of the Beyond Meat burgers per day in Canada, although sales are reaching 100 a day in more densely populated areas, UBS said. 

Daughter of Chris Corbin to start expansion of Kudu concept next month: Amy Corbin, daughter of Corbin & King co-founder Chris Corbin, is to start expansion of her Kudu concept next month. Corbin and her partner Patrick Williams launched Kudu in Peckham, south London, in January 2018. The restaurant in Queens Road offers South African-inspired dishes with locally foraged ingredients. Now the pair will open two more sites in Peckham. Smokey Kudu will be a “chic cocktail bar”, which will open in the arches by Queens Road station on Wednesday, 15 January. The 37-cover venue will feature a central horseshoe bar, green velvet booths, and red marble-topped tables and offer 15 cocktails with South African influences and snacks. Little Kudu, a 30-capacity tapas restaurant and wine bar with an open kitchen, will open in March next door to Kudu. Eloise Dawes’ menu will include whole braai fish with homemade roti and market greens, and lamb belly with panko crumbs and glazed onions. 

Graffiti Spirits Group taps into delivery market with gourmet chicken takeaway and retro arcade concept: Graffiti Spirits Group has tapped into the delivery market by converting its Slim’s Pork Chop Express in Liverpool into a gourmet chicken takeaway and speakeasy-style retro arcade. The company has transformed the Seel Street property into Super Megabite. As well as serving fried chicken pieces and burgers, which can be delivered, eaten in or taken away, the venue features an arcade featuring 20 retro games including Pac-Man, Point Blank, Time Crisis and Golden Axe. Co-founder John Ennis told The Guide Liverpool: “So many guests visit our other venues wanting food delivered so we created Super Megabite to cater for the growing demand for home delivery. We’re doing things differently at Super Megabite and the takeaway menu has been created from high-quality ingredients to offer an alternative to greasy, poor-quality food.”

Pure Leisure Group reports continued positive trading as turnover and pre-tax profits jump: Pure Leisure Group has reported trading has continued to be positive in its current financial year as it saw a jump in turnover and pre-tax profit. Revenue increased 45% to £59.8m for the year ending 31 January 2019, compared with £41.3m the previous year. Underlying operating profit rose 135% to £13.3m, compared with £5.7m the year before. Pre-tax profit more than doubled to £12.6m, compared with £5.3m the previous year. In the UK, Pure Leisure Group operates a host of holiday lodge and caravan parks in the Lake District with a further three in Northamptonshire and East Anglia. Tydd St Giles Golf & Country Club in Cambridgeshire and Bridlington Links Golf & Leisure Estate in West Yorkshire complete the portfolio. Overseas, its flagship site is Royal Westmoreland in Barbados – a 750-acre estate comprising a golf course and newly built properties. Reflecting on the year, Pure Leisure noted the overall trading performance had been “impressive”, with the UK holiday parks in particular continuing to show growth. The Barbados site improved with an increase in property sales set against a background of continuing falls in the value of sterling. However, conditions “remain challenging”. John Morphet founded Lancashire-headquartered Pure Leisure Group in 2004.

Domino’s Pizza to roll out GPS tracking technology across US: Domino’s Pizza is to roll out its GPS car-tracking technology for delivery drivers across the US by the end of 2020 in a move to compete with third-party delivery companies. The move follows an initial trial of the system in Arizona earlier this year that was expanded to 400 stores in the US in October. The feature allows customers to see the location and status of their order on an interactive map, while those who opt into receiving text alerts receive two notifications – when their order is two minutes away and when it has arrived. On the operational side, store managers can see where their delivery workers are, while drivers can use the GPS technology to help with navigation and to contact customers. A Domino’s spokesman told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We think the technology gives customers, delivery experts and managers more transparency and a better delivery experience, which is beneficial for everyone.” Domino’s launched an “innovation garage” in August to test delivery and in-store technology. The 33,000 square foot centre at the company’s headquarters in Michigan is a fully functioning Domino’s site fitted with customer-facing technology.

Michelin-starred chef launches five-course honesty menu: Michelin-starred chef Richard Phillips has launched a five-course honesty menu at his Thackeray’s restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The menu will launch on Tuesday, 14 January and run until March. Phillips said: “We want to challenge our guests to see food in a new light. I think it will entice new diners as well as regulars to try something new and exciting.”

Amsterdam-based steakhouse makes UK debut: Amsterdam-based Toro Dorado Quality Steaks has opened its first restaurant in London after securing a £2.3m funding package from HSBC. The company has launched the site at Albert Embankment in the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea development. Occupying a 3,200 square foot space, the steakhouse offers 120 covers and has created 25 jobs. Toro Dorado Quality Steaks was founded in Amsterdam in 1994. Shareholder and director Khalil Qaiser told BDaily: “Like Amsterdam, London is a melting pot of culture and diversity and we’re excited to welcome customers to our second exclusive location.”

Black and White Hospitality adds first aparthotel to portfolio: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to eight restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has added a first aparthotel to its rapidly expanding portfolio of hotels. Black and White Hospitality Management has taken over the operation of Hy Hotel in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, a five-star aparthotel that comprises one, two and three-bedroom apartments. Due to open soon, the venue will also offer a round-the-clock concierge team, swimming pool and gym. This year, Black and White Hospitality Management has also signed up London hotels The Lansbury Heritage, near Canary Wharf, and The Westbridge in Stratford. It also manages The Cube in Birmingham and Cadbury House in Congresbury, Somerset. Black and White Hospitality chairman and chief executive Nick Taplin said: “We have a healthy pipeline of new enquiries and look forward to adding more venues to our portfolio in the new year.” Hotels managing director Shezan Aslam added: “We will work closely with the hotel’s owners to maximise its all-round operation, revenue and profitability.”

Las Iguanas ranked highest hospitality company in Glassdoor awards: Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas has been ranked the highest hospitality company in the Glassdoor awards for the best places to work. The brand was named 11th in the awards, which are based solely on the input of employees. Las Iguanas managing director Julie McEwan said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised as the UK’s top hospitality company to work for and it is even more special the recognition has come directly from our own team based on their Glassdoor reviews.” Other hospitality companies to feature in the list were Nando’s (23rd) and Wagamama (31st), while Casual Dining Group brands Café Rouge and Bella Italia ranked 42nd and 45th respectively.

Fourth announces new chief executive and chief financial officer: Fourth Enterprises, parent company of HotSchedules and hospitality software provider Fourth, has appointed Clinton Anderson as chief executive. Anderson takes over from Fourth founding chief executive Ben Hood and joins from Sabre, where he has held multiple roles including latterly as president of its hospitality solutions business. Hood said: “While stepping away from a company and customer base I’ve grown and been passionate about for more than 20 years is never easy, one of the key aspects of a good leader is to know the right time to transition. Clinton is the right person to lead the organisation into the future given his strong experience and proven ability to drive results at scale.” Meanwhile, Fourth Enterprises has appointed John Whitmarsh as chief financial officer. Whitmarsh has more than two decades of financial management expertise having played a pivotal role in growing private equity-backed technology companies. He joins from Vyze, which was recently acquired by MasterCard.

Dishoom reveals more details of Covent Garden restaurant overhaul: Indian restaurant Dishoom has revealed more details of the overhaul of its Covent Garden restaurant that will coincide with its tenth anniversary. The restaurant in Upper St Martin’s Lane will close on Wednesday, 1 January and reopen in the summer featuring a new design and layout. The site opened in July 2010 drawing inspiration from Bombay institutions such as Britannia & Co, Olympia Coffee House and Kyani & Co. The redesigned site, which will have a larger footprint after the company took on the former Jamie’s Italian next door, will also “tell a new story” following numerous trips to Bombay for inspiration. All team members will move to other Dishoom sites until it reopens. Dishoom operates five London restaurants and one each in Edinburgh and Manchester. It will also open a site in Birmingham next year. 

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