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Tue 4th Feb 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Boxpark to announce investment partner in spring, debut BoxHall site to open in London next year: Boxpark is in advanced negotiations with investors and will announce its partner in the spring, Propel has learned. The company hired KPMG Corporate Finance in August to find an investment partner to support its expansion plans as it looks to build on its sites in Croydon, Shoreditch and Wembley. Propel revealed in December a handful of property funds and a private equity firm were all thought to have expressed an interest in investing in the business. Boxpark also expects to open the debut site for its food hall concept BoxHall in London next year year. The venues, which will be 10,000 to 20,000 square foot food and drink destinations, will be based in UK city centres and feature six to 12 street food vendors at each site. Meanwhile, the debut BoxOffice site is set to launch outside London. The developments will feature the traditional Boxpark street food and bars on the ground floor with leisure operators such as virtual reality, cinemas, crazy golf and karaoke on the first floor and between two to four floors of co-working space above. Chief executive Roger Wade told Propel: “The ‘play’ philosophy will be a core part of the business model following the launch of Boxpark Wembley, which has axe-throwing, virtual reality experiences, glow in the dark ping pong, shuffleboards, and this year we will also launch Pop Golf – a crazy golf concept. The plan is to open two sites a year across the various concepts over the course of five years. We are in advanced negotiations with investors and will announce our investment partner in the spring.” Asked whether he believed there had been an upturn in consumer confidence since the general election, Wade said: “I don’t believe in the death of the high street, it’s just changing. It’s important for us to constantly evolve. To be successful in retail you need three key things – content, touch and feel (or physical experience), and traffic and footfall. You have to understand the psychology of the customer and make them feel special – give them an experience they won’t forget and make them feel like they’ve got to come back.” Wade spoke on the back of Boxpark revealing net profit increased 22%, to £1.6m for the year ending April 2019. Turnover for the period was up 58% to £12.5m. The company’s growth was underpinned by healthy underlying sales at its operating sites and the launch of the Wembley site in December 2018. As well as growth in London, the company is targeting major UK cities such as Brighton – where it will launch Beachbox along the coast at Shoreham – along with Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Wade added: “We are delighted with our trading over the past year and our consistent year-on-year growth is evidence our strategic shift towards events and leisure-led initiatives have driven strong financial results. We continue to seek opportunities for expansion while constantly evolving the brand and sites we build and operate.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference to feature 11 great speakers, two free places for operators: The speaker line-up has been revealed for the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2020, which is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 5 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Tim Martin, chairman and founder of JD Wetherspoon, will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about the realities of success in the pub trade and business, while James Spragg, chief executive of Casual Dining Group, will talk to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about making progress in a challenging market for casual dining operators. BrewDog chief operating officer David McDowall will talk about the growth and development of the company’s bar network, franchising, USPs, training and plans, while Kerb chief executive Simon Mitchell will provide an overview of the UK’s food market scene including developing street food operators and the company’s first permanent street food site, in Covent Garden. Crepeaffaire founder Daniel Spinath will talk about the genesis, development and potential of his brand, backing from the BGF, airport locations and franchising, while Simon French, of boutique management advisory and research firm Bixteth Partners, will look at major trends affecting the sector and what lies ahead. Meanwhile, leading barrister Sarah Clover will examine the major legal challenges the sector faces and Andrew Gallagher, former marketing director at Cote and Ten Pin, will give his top ten tips to maximise the impact of your marketing budget. David Sweeney, UK head of business development at Dodo Pizza, will reveal how the company created a new pizza offer underpinned by innovative technology, while franchise industry veteran Ian Saunders will answer the question, should I take my UK business overseas and, if so, how? Andrea George, head of retail and leisure at developer Bruntwood, will talk about the company’s foodservice incubation space Hatch, the importance of experiential dining, the rise of food halls, and the role of food and drink in creating a destination. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Operators report sales boost as more than 400,000 people sign up to Veganuary 2020: Operators have been reporting an upturn in sales of vegan menu items as Veganuary, the campaign that encourages people to try plant-based food in January, said more than 400,000 people signed up to this year’s campaign compared with 250,000 in 2019. KFC said it sold one million vegan burgers in the first month the item was on sale – equivalent to one sold every three seconds – while Deliveroo said delivery orders of vegan dishes rose 78% compared with Veganuary 2019. A spokesman said: “Deliveroo has seen its highest ever demand for vegan and plant-based food. Many of our partners introduced vegan dishes that are now some of the most popular items on their menu, proving veganism is more than just a fad.” Pizza Hut Restaurants said the number of guests trying its vegan pizza in January almost doubled from the previous month, with the item set to return to its main menu on Wednesday, 26 February. Meanwhile, Greggs branded the launch of its vegan steak bake a “huge success”, with the item set to be rolled out to all its stores, and Subway said it had seen a “phenomenal uplift in sales” of its meatless meatball marinara. Veganuary head of communications Toni Vernelli said: “We are grateful to all the businesses that embraced Veganuary and made it easier for more people to eat more plant-based food more often. Together we are making an enormous difference for animals and the planet.”

Employers still using looks as ‘reason not to employ someone’: A number of British employers still opt not to employ someone purely because they “don’t like the way they look”, according to a new study. The survey of 1,000 bosses by brewer and retailer Greene King found of the more than half (51%) of respondents who have knowingly discriminated against someone, more than two-fifths (43%) didn’t employ the candidate because of visible tattoos, while 40% didn’t approve of their clothes. Despite 85% of respondents claiming to be “open minded”, almost two-fifths (37%) said the social class of a candidate mattered when it came to their suitability for a job and more than one-fifth (21%) wouldn’t hire someone with a criminal record. Visible piercings are a no-no for more than one-quarter (28%) of respondents, while 90% said a “smart appearance” was important for positions they normally hire for. Hair colour or style put off about one-third of bosses, while more than one-fifth (21%) said their interviewee failed to land the job because they had a disability. When it comes to qualifications, almost two-fifths (38%) are reluctant to hire anyone who has dropped out of school. Those who haven’t made their way through college lack appeal for 30% of bosses, while one-quarter wouldn’t consider a candidate who hadn’t been to university. Almost three-fifths (57%) of bosses are more lenient with an applicant’s appearance if they are younger but the average employer believes adults should take on a more “professional look” by the time they reach 24. Andrew Bush, group HR director at Greene King, said: “Our research shows many businesses still judge a book by its cover, which means those talented, intelligent and experienced applicants could be overlooked because they don’t conventionally ‘look the part’. Having a tattoo or piercing doesn’t mean you’re unable to do a job efficiently. Employers could be discriminating against brilliant candidates.”

Sector like-for-likes up 5.5% in January: Sector like-for-likes rose 5.5% in January compared with the previous year, according to S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. According to analysis of more than 1,500 restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels and cafes that use S4labour software, unlike the vast majority of 2019 sites outside London saw the strongest sales growth, with a 6.1% uplift in sales outside the capital and a 3.2% rise in London. There was also a small divergence between sales of food and drink. Drink sales in January 2020 were up 6.3% on January 2019, with food sales seeing a more modest rise of 4.3%. The strong like-for-like sales figures from the first month of 2020 should be put into the context of a relatively weak January in 2019, where sales were down 0.9% on 2018. Last year’s dip in sales could have been linked to the growing number of people undertaking Dry January and Veganuary. With evidence growing that numbers of people participated in both initiatives in 2020, this month’s figures suggest operators have managed to attract guests with a diverse range of preferences, catering for those cutting down on alcohol or meat. The figures fit in with a wider trend of the resurgence of the wet-led pub. 

Chinese restaurant trade hit by coronavirus fears: Chinese restaurants are seeing trade hit by consumer fears over the coronavirus outbreak. Sichuanese restaurant JinLi said bookings at its four UK sites – two in Chinatown and one each in Uxbridge and Birmingham – had halved. Confirmation of the first cases of coronavirus in the UK on Friday (31 January) brought “immediate cancellations” at the company’s restaurant in Newport Place, London, and general manager Martin Ma told BBC News diners had cited the virus as the reason. “It is a hard time,” added Ma, who estimated the restaurant had lost £15,000 at the weekend. “Normally you have to book ahead – we have long queues going out the door and there are pictures to prove it. Now at peak lunchtime it’s clear you could walk in off the street.” At JinLi, staff returning from China are kept home for at least 14 days with the use of sanitiser gel ubiquitous. Ma believes it will take at least a month before business returns to normal. A fellow restaurant manager, in nearby Gerrard Street, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “People are scared, they are staying away.” There’s no evidence eating Chinese food is a risk regarding coronavirus. The World Health Organisation stated the virus mainly spreads through contact with an infected person, while preliminary information suggested the virus might survive a “few hours on surfaces”. British Takeaway Campaign chairman Ibrahim Dogus branded any prejudice against takeaways as “unacceptable and misinformed”.

Glasgow coffee retailers join initiative to increase city cup recycling rates: Coffee retailers in Glasgow are joining forces with environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful and the city council to increase cup recycling rates. The #TakeItBack initiative points people to 65 major coffee chain stores in the city centre that will take back any cup for recycling. By raising awareness of the #TakeItBack facilities available in Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, Pret A Manger and Starbucks stores, cup recycling rates are expected to rise. Single-use cups are not accepted by the city’s blue on-the-go recycling bins and must therefore be sent to landfill. The #TakeItBack initiative is part of a Keep Scotland Beautiful campaign that has so far collected more than 300,000 cups for recycling through its Simply Cups recycling scheme. Paul Wallace, campaigns and social innovation manager at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: Initial data from Pret indicates it is recycling an average of 15,000 cups per month across its five participating stores. We hope by raising awareness of the in-house cup recycling facilities available we will see more and more people holding on to their cups to ensure they get recycled.”

Company News:

Honest Burgers to open at St Katharine Docks: Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers is to further strengthen its central London estate after securing a site in St Katharine Docks, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded in 2011 by Tom Barton and Philip Eeles, is to take over the former CAU site at the mixed-use district. The 37-strong company will be on site soon with three new central London restaurants, which will take the business up to the 40-site mark. Alongside the St Katharine Docks opening, it will also open at the former Ernest Jones site in Paternoster Square, St Paul’s, and at the ex-Simurgh restaurant in Garrick Street, Covent Garden. Honest Burgers opened a venue at the former Gow’s restaurant in Old Broad Street in November following launches in Manchester, Liverpool, London Bridge and Cardiff in 2019. The Sunday Times reported in November that Honest Burgers had held meetings with potential investors including private equity firm TriSpan to fund its next stage of expansion. Sales at Honest rose 38% to £31m in the year to the end of January 2019, while pre-tax profits jumped 22% to £873,266. Honest sold a 50% stake to Caravan and Leon investor Active Private Equity in 2015 for £7m.

Leon to replace Prezzo in New Oxford Street: Natural fast food brand Leon is to open a site in London’s New Oxford Street after securing a former Prezzo unit, Propel has learned. Prezzo closed the site at 34 New Oxford Street last month. The John Vincent-led company is set to reopen the site this spring. Leon operates 61 sites in the UK, with openings in the Skelton Lake services near Leeds and in Southbank Place also lined up for this quarter. AG&G acted on the New Oxford Street deal.

7Bone Burger Co eyes Canterbury opening: 7Bone Burger Co, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, is eyeing an opening in Canterbury, Kent. The eight-strong business, which was founded by Rich Zammit and Matt Mollicone, has applied to open in Butchery Lane in units previously earmarked for Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay. The company is set to open its next site, in Northampton, after securing the former Mumu site in Giles Street. The venue was gourmet burger concept Mumu’s second site when it opened at the end of 2015 after launching in Kettering the year before. 7Bone opened its first restaurant, in Southampton, in 2013 followed by Bournemouth the following year. Kings Park Capital took an equity stake in the business in August 2016.

ETM Group closes Ealing Park Tavern: ETM Group, the London-based pub and restaurant group, has closed Ealing Park Tavern. The pub in South Ealing Road had been operated by the group since 2015. A major refurbishment was undertaken including a new micro-brewery. However, the Long Arm micro-brewery closed two years ago and ETM Group has now withdrawn completely. A spokeswoman told Propel: “The Landlord (R&S Properties) has decided to take back the lease, paying a significant premium to do so and will reopen the site in the near future. The group will use the premium to invest in venue enhancements across its estate and future growth.” In November, the group, which operates 14 sites, reported turnover grew 16.7% to £31.5m for the year to 24 February 2019, driven by like-for-like growth of 5.8%, an increase in events sales and continued site expansion. The company saw group Ebitda increase 56.2% to £2.6m from £1.7m the previous year.

Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co secures expansion funds: Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co has secured £1.4m of investment towards its expansion, including its first site outside London. The investment has come from a group of investors led by Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Miray Zaki, of multi-national private equity firm Dismatrix Group. The funding will help the concept founded by Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts open two sites in the first quarter of 2020, the first of them set to open in Brighton in March. Vurger Co opened its first site in Shoreditch in March 2018, followed by a sister site in Canary Wharf in November that year. Hugh said: “We are so proud to have reached this huge milestone for our business. This investment will allow us to expedite our growth plans, open sites and grow our retail business as we head into 2020. It’s an honour to work with Miray and Sebastiano, of Dismatrix Group, who not only believe in our vision but bring a wealth of proven experience and knowledge of the vegan market. They have invested in most of the biggest and best plant-based brands in the world. We are ready for the next phase of The Vurger Co.” The Vurger Co’s mission is to “revolutionise fast food forever through the power of plants”. In 2017 the business produced the then “fastest restaurant fund-raise” on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, raising £300,000 in 55 hours.

D&D London to make east of city debut, at IQL development in Stratford: Restaurant operator D&D London is to open its first site in the east of the capital. As first flagged in Propel Premium Diary in September, D&D London has agreed a deal to launch its latest dining concept within the Pavilion at International Quarter London (IQL), the £2.3bn joint venture between Lendlease and LCR, in Stratford. The Pavilion is under construction and will be a landmark building within IQL. The 17,000 square foot space will be split over three floors. D&D London’s venue will incorporate a ground-floor cafe and brasserie, first-floor restaurant and a rooftop bar. The building will include a 3,000 square foot roof terrace with views across the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, said: “We see Stratford as an exciting new cultural and leisure quarter of London, particularly following the 2012 Olympics, and we’re admirers of Lendlease’s bold vision for IQL. We look forward to occupying what will be some beautiful spaces and hope to develop restaurant, cafe and bar concepts to do justice to a building that’s sure to become an iconic landmark for Stratford and London.” Guy Thomas, head of retail at Lendlease, added: “The Pavilion will be the beating heart of IQL and our goal was to sign up a tenant with enough gravitas and vision to establish a concept that would complement the thriving and diverse community we are building and nurturing. D&D London will make the Pavilion a focal point for IQL and Stratford and will offer something for everyone.” Gunewardena and David Loewi founded D&D London in 2006. The company operates 43 restaurants and bars globally as well as a hotel, in London. Last month it revealed it had secured its first site in Birmingham, while this year it will also open a venue in Bristol. Shelley Sandzer represented IQL on the Stratford deal, while D&D London represented itself.

Fuller’s appoints Kate Eastwood as operations director: Kate Eastwood, who recently stepped down as sales and marketing director at Revolution Bars Group, has joined Fuller’s as operations director, Propel has learned. Eastwood stepped down from Revolution Bars Group last month after more than six years with the company. She previously had stints at Bramwell Pub Company, Barracuda Pub Company, Roadchef and Laurel Pub Company. Eastwood has joined Fuller’s as operations director for its City division. Fuller’s retail director Fred Turner said: “Kate has an impressive track record and I’m delighted to add her to my senior team. I know she will bring fresh impetus to a team operating in an ultra-competitive market place.” Last week Fuller’s reported like-for-like sales in its managed division were up 4.3% for the six weeks encompassing Christmas and New Year. For the 42 weeks to 18 January 2020, like-for-like sales in managed pubs and hotels have risen 2.5%. All areas of the business – food, drink and accommodation – have been in like-for-like growth. Tenanted like-for-like profits are down 3% for the period.

El Gato Negro team to open Middle Eastern-influenced restaurant: Mills Hill Developments (MHD) and Simon Shaw, chef patron and creative director of tapas concept El Gato Negro, are to open Habas, a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant in Manchester. MHD lodged plans last year to convert the former Panama Hatty’s unit in Brown Street. The company has now submitted a licence application stating the new venture will trade as Habas. Shaw has previously revealed his ambition to open a restaurant blending North African and Middle Eastern influences. El Gato Negro, which is a partnership between Shaw and MHD, operates three restaurants – in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. The latter venue launched last year at the former Jamie’s Italian site. The partnership also operates Portuguese sister site Canto in Ancoats, Manchester.

Former Fuller’s managers launch sourdough pizza concept in Sweden: Dan Allen, former operations manager at premium pubs and hotels business Fuller’s, has launched a sourdough pizza concept in Sweden. Allen and his partner Kerstin Hörnfeldt, who was previously Fuller’s customer experience manager, have opened Vintercafe. The restaurant is based in Hörnfeldt’s home village of Tavelsjö, in northern Sweden. Central to the offer is its sourdough recipe, which takes four days to prepare and has been illustrated as the “sourdough saga” on boards around the restaurant. Since launching last month, the concept has proved popular with sales “far surpassing expectations”. Allen told Propel: “When we met while working at Fuller’s we realised we shared a dream of creating something, initially for the London market. But as it started to look more likely we would leave the EU we started visiting Sweden to explore opportunities there. We were initially going to do a plant-based concept and open five sites in five years. The pizza idea was intended to be a pop-up but was so successful and people were travelling quite a distance to us we decided to continue with it. The pizza market in Sweden is fragmented and we think we might open another in a nearby city. We have been lucky to recruit a great team of people, some of whom are capable of being developed into management roles if we do that.” Allen spent two years at Fuller’s in its City division and before that was with Noble Inns. Hörnfeldt joined Fuller’s in 2004, initially in the kitchen at The Melton Mowbray – now The Inn Of Court – in Holborn. Her last role there was as customer experience manager, which saw her responsible for the central inbound customer service team as well as the booking system she rolled out across the group.

Safestay reports full-year F&B sales up 43%, agrees new £23m loan facility: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has reported food and beverage revenue grew 43% for the year ending 31 December 2019. The company has also agreed a new £23m loan facility to support its expansion plans. Food and beverage now represents 14% of the company’s total revenue, which increased 25% to £18.3m, compared with £14.6m the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda was up 11% to £3.8m, compared with £3.4m the year before. Occupancy rose to 77.3%, compared with 75.6% the previous year. Safestay stated: “Food and beverage, previously identified as a growth opportunity, was up 43% in 2019 and supported by the refurbishment of three restaurants – in Barcelona, Elephant and Castle, and Edinburgh. These enhancements were part of the £1.8m refurbishment and renovations programme for 2019 and 2020. In January 2020, a new five-year £23m loan facility was agreed with HSBC. The new facility is on the same terms and replaces the £18m five-year loan facility agreed in 2017, also with HSBC, with an interest rate of 2.45% plus Libor providing the company with additional headroom to support its commercial objectives. Performance in the first month of 2020 and forward bookings for the first quarter are very encouraging, a positive signal for the coming year, which will also benefit from the acquisitions made last year.” The company completed six transactions during the year, adding eight hostels – increasing the portfolio to 21 sites and more than 5,100 beds. Safestay has five UK sites – two in London and one in Edinburgh, Glasgow and York – and 13 in Europe. The company has three sites in development – in Prague, Paris and Venice. Chairman Larry Lipman said: “Trading in 2019 was good and all key indicators were strongly positive, in particular the organic growth performance and, critically, we have yet to really benefit from the recent acquisitions agreed towards the end of the year. Safestay is therefore well placed to grow substantially in 2020 and take advantage of the increasing popularity of the modern hostel sector.”

Really Local Group to open two venues: Cultural infrastructure developer Really Local Group (RLG) is to open two venues. The company is set to transform 14,000 square feet in Reading’s Broad Street Mall into an independent cinema, music and events centre. RLG has signed a deal with mall owner Moorgarth ahead of the development’s opening in the summer. RLG will repurpose the ground and first-floor unit of a former Argos store to provide a four-screen cinema. The new space will also include food kiosks, terrace seating and a cafe bar run by Compound Coffee – its first venture outside London. RLG founder Preston Benson said: “Working with Moorgarth and Reading Borough Council, we hope to curate a new ‘cultural quarter’ for the town and secure collaboration opportunities with local independent businesses, artisans and traders.” RLG also recently acquired the former Pressing Plant unit at The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, west London, from U+I. The site will provide a cinema, live music venue, community spaces, cafe and bar. RLG intends to collaborate with the EMI Archive trust to provide an interactive exhibition space celebrating the music label’s history. The projects follow RLG’s launch in September of Catford Mews, which features a three-screen cinema, live entertainment space, pop-up food market and full-service bar serving local brands.

Casual Dining Group launches Leadership Academy Plus programme: Casual Dining Group (CDG), the operator of circa 260 mid-market restaurant brands including Bella Italia, Las Iguanas and Cafe Rouge, has launched its Leadership Academy Plus programme, which combines its internal talent and leadership programmes with apprenticeships. The launch coincides with National Apprenticeship Week 2020 and has been developed in partnership with Remit Group to provide internal targeted training programmes for CDG employees at each stage of their career. The Leadership Academy Plus programme has been created in line with national apprenticeship standards and is available to all employees, with a focus on key areas such as back of house hospitality, food production and management. Group HR director Claire Clarke said: “Investing in our people and providing them with the opportunity to progress in their careers while gaining recognised accreditations in the process is something we’re incredibly passionate about. These structured courses will give clear guidelines and support for identifying and elevating hard-working, talented employees throughout our business.”

Ellen Chew to double up Singapulah & Arôme with Victoria launch: Singaporean restaurateur Ellen Chew is to double up on her Singapore bakery and restaurant concept, Singapulah & Arôme. Chew launched the concept in November in Soho after taking on the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Frith Street. Now she is set to open a second site, in Victoria this spring, reports London On The Inside. Singapulah & Arôme consists of a bakery by day and restaurant by night. At the Soho site, Arôme offers bread and sweet and savoury pastries while the space transforms into Singapulah featuring hawker dishes by head chef Lynette Zheng. Dishes include Bak Chor Mee (noodles tossed in a chilli vinegar sauce and topped with minced pork, pork belly slices, pork liver and pork balls), and Chwee Kueh (savoury rice cakes with preserved radish, umami and sambal chilli). Chew is also behind Rasa Sayang in Chinatown and Lobos Tapas in London Bridge and Soho.

Punch reports bumper first year for training academy: Punch has reported a bumper first year for its training academy. Since the facility launched at the company’s Burton-upon-Trent headquarters in September 2018, it has held more than 80 events for publicans and their teams and welcomed more than 1,000 visitors in its first year. The purpose-built space features two fully fitted bars, a food development kitchen with multiple training stations, a lounge, coffee centre and live training cellar. The academy also contains several training rooms and a 300-seater conference room. Punch also launched a digital training package, which includes the Punch Academy console and app. The online portal connects publicans to academy workshop events, bookings and pathways through e-learning, videos and other on-demand templates and materials. Since its launch, Punch has seen 8,160 online training courses completed by its publicans and their teams. Jackie Burn, HR director at Punch, said: “Publicans are seeing the benefits of the training available at the academy or with our online package and, as such, we’re going to continue to develop and innovate the training packages available.”

Roxy Leisure launches Birmingham site: Roxy Leisure, the Leeds-based competitive socialising concept, has opened a site in Birmingham. The company has launched the venue in Heath Mill Lane in Digbeth featuring leisure facilities such as tenpin bowling, mini-golf, ping pong, pool, beer pong, shuffleboard and arcade games. Roxy Leisure co-founder Matt Jones said: “Digbeth shares our rebellious spirit and, as the creative quarter of the city with a really interesting retail, food, drink and leisure offer, it feels like the perfect home for us.” Matt and Ben Jones launched the first Roxy site in 2013 and it operates nine venues across five cities – Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and now Birmingham. Earlier this month Roxy Leisure secured £7.5m investment from private equity firm Foresight Group to support its expansion plans, which include second sites in Manchester and Nottingham.

Former delivery driver acquires three Papa John’s franchises in Gloucestershire: Reza Tohidi has taken over a Papa John’s store in Cheltenham and two others in Gloucester. Tohidi managed the stores for several years before raising funds to purchase the franchises. He said: “I have a background in food sales as I was an Italian restaurant manager for four years and worked at a takeaway in Birmingham for nine years. However, I was hungry to run my own business. To get to know the business, I applied for a job as a delivery driver. It has been a long road but I secured funding from NatWest to buy the franchises.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and has more than 400 stores in the UK.

BrewDog gets go-ahead for bar and museum: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has been given the go-ahead to build a bar and museum next to its Ellon headquarters. The company has been granted permission by Aberdeenshire Council for its plans for the former Power Jacks building on the Balmacassie Industrial Estate, reports the Evening Express. BrewDog applied for permission to move into the vacant building in December and said a new bar was required because its current facility was “no longer big enough”. The new bar will also feature a shop, a kitchen offering hot food, a dedicated events area and a beer museum, which would give insights into the brewing process. A planning statement lodged with the application said the rest of the building would be used as a warehouse and production facility. 

Scottish brewer WooHa closes crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £630,000: Scottish brewer WooHa has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising almost £630,000 to support its next stage of expansion. The company set an initial £600,000 target and was offering 10.71% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £5m. In total, 243 investors pledged £629,950 and the campaign has now closed. WooHa Brewing Company was founded in 2015 and moved to a larger, 6.2-acre site in the Highlands in 2017 to “accommodate rapid expansion”. The pitch stated: “With an established portfolio of export partners, funding is required to continue to build our sales team, support and grow our international customer base, and fund promotional activity. The funds will also go towards the production of our new 500ml can for the China market.” The company raised more than £180,000 on Crowdcube in 2018 to upgrade its packaging equipment and boost sales efforts in the US.

Bibendum launches partnership with Bordeaux fine-wine estates targeting on-trade: Drinks distributor Bibendum Wine has launched a project that “shakes up” the sale of Bordeaux fine wine to the on-trade and independent retail markets. Customers will be able to buy a selection of wine from Bordeaux, sourced directly from the cellars of leading estates. Bibendum said the activation and support programme forged a “new link between Bordeaux and the on-trade”. Bordeaux estates from the Cruse and Lorenzetti families and Baron Philippe de Rothschild are the first to join the project, with more set to be announced in the “coming weeks”. The partnership has been launched to re-energise the sales of top Bordeaux wine into the on-trade. Bibendum Wine chief executive Michael Saunders said: “By creating a focused range of top wine, we will be able to put forward an offer that hasn’t been seen before by the UK on-trade. With the majority of Bordeaux Cru Classé wines bought en primeur, we wanted to facilitate better working relationships between the chateaux and the restaurants their wines are sold in. Having the wine come direct from the cellars at competitive market prices is a first. This is just the start and we plan to broaden this range with ongoing availability across the year.”

Elior UK wins contract with SkyTeam Lounge at Heathrow: Contract caterer Elior UK has secured a two-year partnership with SkyTeam Lounge at Heathrow airport’s Terminal 4. Serving more than 900 domestic and international guests daily, the lounge offers two buffets, a wine bar, sleeping pods, a spa and a VIP suite. Elior has introduced a new menu and updated the VIP offer, while other menus will support national days with pop-up counters celebrating international holidays and themes. Elior UK managing director Robin Givens said: “We are excited by this market first for Elior UK and look forward to growing our partnership with SkyTeam.” In November, Elior united its services for owners and operators of attractions, venues, events and stadia under its Foodsmiths brand. 

Belushi’s donates 100% of Australia Day profits to bushfire relief appeal: Pan-European hostel and bar operator Beds and Bars, led by Keith Knowles, has donated all profits made at its Belushi’s bars on Australia Day to the nation’s bushfire appeal. The money has been donated to the Australian Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross and WWF Australia. In addition, Beds and Bars organised an internal fund-raiser that raised more than £3,500 towards the charities. Knowles said: “We would like to show our appreciation to all the customers who helped us raise money on Australia Day. We’d also like to thank everyone within the company who has shown their support for our staff-based initiative. We’re overwhelmed with the generous donations.” Australia Day is traditionally one of Belushi’s biggest trading days of the year. Another Beds and Bars brand, St Christopher’s Inns, is also offering Australian firefighters, volunteers and emergency services 20% discount at its UK and Europe hostels when they find time for a much-needed break. 

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