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Fri 26th Jun 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Former TGI Friday’s and Parkdean Resorts backer in running for Azzurri Group: Epiris, the private equity firm, which formerly backed TGI Friday’s and Parkdean Resorts, is one of the parties bidding to acquire the Azzurri Group, the Zizzi and ASK Italian operator, Propel has learned. Epiris, which owned TGI Friday’s UK from 2014 to 2017, is believed to be have tabled a bid earlier this week for Azzurri Group. Propel revealed last week the sales process for Azzurri Group has generated significant interest. Propel understands private equity firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, which has offices in New York and London, is also one of the circa 300-strong group’s main suitors. A decision on the bids is expected within the next week. It is understood Carlyle Group, another US private equity firm, which two years ago ran the rule over Prezzo and Gaucho, has also looked at both Azzurri Group and Casual Dining Group, but it thought to have since pulled away from both processes. KPMG has been advising the Stephen Holmes-led Azzurri Group on its options going forward and began inviting offers for the business earlier this month. A sale of the business is understood to be only one of the options Bridgepoint is considering for the future of the company, which it acquired at the end of 2014 for £250m. It is thought any successful bidder for the business, which also operates the central London-based Coco Di Mama brand, would need to make an initial circa £35m investment to provide the group with further liquidity to get through the lock-down and the reopening period. Like the majority of the sector, the company had already suspended payments to landlords and is using the furlough scheme to pay most of its staff. However, like some private equity-backed companies, it is yet to discover whether it is eligible for a business interruption loan. It is thought one option that was considered is a trimming of both its ASK and Zizzi estates, and a company voluntary arrangement process has not been ruled out. Bridgepoint and Azzurri Group declined to comment.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – take Service Monitor’s reopening survey and get instant access to free consumer insight report: Service Monitor – the market research agency specialising in customer feedback for the hospitality, leisure and retail industries – this week released the biggest hospitality consumer insight report highlighting what the consumer thinks and wants to see in terms of hospitality sites managing covid-19 standards of compliance. It also showed what communications customers need to see to build their confidence to enter a site. We are now seeking your help to answer similar questions – but from the perspective of the industry. The survey will take four minutes to complete, and once complete you’ll get free instant access to the consumer insight report and an advanced copy of the industry insight report. Service Monitor has a pedigree spanning 25 years providing research programmes for clients such as Greene King, Fuller’s, Hall & Woodhouse, Laine Pub Co, Compass Group, McMullen, Remarkable Pubs, Corinthia Hotels, Elite Hotels, Park Holidays UK, Realm and Boxpark. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Mark Wingett to look at what lies ahead as sector works out reopening plan in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look back on a “quiet” week for the industry as it works out a plan for reopening – and what that may mean for the weeks and months ahead – in the latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (26 June) at 5pm. Meanwhile, Jonathan Lawson, chief executive of the Liberation Group, will give his take on what issues the reopening of pubs on the Channel Islands has thrown up while there will be the latest industry rumblings in Premium Diary. 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 regular columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Elior UK CEO to feature in latest ‘navigating the coronavirus’ video: In the latest in Propel's video interviews with leading operators about “navigating the coronavirus” pandemic, Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott talks to Catherine Roe, chief executive of Elior UK and chair of Women of the Year, about keeping in check all the moving pieces that make up reopenings for the contract caterer; working with competitors during the lock-down; taking time to think about long-term strategy; and having a chance to educate people about the business. The video will be released on Friday (26 June).

Free track and trace solution launches for sector: Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social has joined forces with analytics company Purple AI to offer a comprehensive track and trace solution for all hospitality operators across the UK. The solution will ask guests to login when they first visit an operator, then deliver a unique code to confirm their successful registration. All ongoing track and trace enquiries will then be handled centrally, to remove the burden on operators. Any operators who aren’t already running Wireless Social will be invited to join the network free of charge for up to three months. Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross said: “We’ve been inundated with requests from our customers to offer a solution to help them with track and trace, and we’re delighted to be able to support the industry with our existing technology. We already had 90% of the solution built, with our existing data capture technology, so we knew we were best placed to support.” Purple AI chief executive Gavin Wheeldon added “Together we already have a large part of UK hospitality live with our joint solution and this will allow them to meet guidelines instantly.”
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Fleurets – pub operators anticipate turnover to be 50% to 75% of pre-covid levels: The majority of pub operators believe their trading performance over the next 12 months will be at 50% to 75% of the level generated before coronavirus, according to a new survey by property firm Fleurets. The research, which featured 100 operators taking in an estimated 750 sites, found almost 19% were expecting a spike in trade immediately following 4 July, against about 65% who didn’t expect one. Two-fifths expected to return to normal levels of trading only once all restrictions were lifted, with almost 28% saying 2021, about 24% saying 2022, and 3.3% stating never. Almost 48% expected to see an increase in retail price, with about 63% expecting to see an increase in the cost of goods. When it came to possible changes to operators’ trading mix, about 50% expected that to stay the same, almost 30% said it would be more wet-led, and 20% more dry-led. In terms of what government support operators would most like to see introduced/continued, a reduction in VAT came out top (45.5%), followed by business rates relief in 2021 (40%). When asked about views on new site acquisitions, 46.6% were focused on consolidating for 12 months against 44.4% that were keen to grow. Only about 9% were thinking about disposals. Ed Sandall, director at Fleurets, told Propel: “The smaller expanding multi-site operators are key to the pub market dynamic/function and while it is clear the next 12 months will be very challenging, we are delighted a good proportion of the market is keen to grow their estates at the appropriate time. This resonate with our experience, where we are still seeing transactions complete despite lock-down.”

Paul Chase – we can only hope common sense is applied: Leading sector commentator Paul Chase has argued enforcement authorities need to apply common sense to how operators adopt reopening guidance. Writing for this week’s Propel Friday Opinion column, he stated: “We can only hope common sense will prevail and enforcement authorities will have due regard for operators that are doing their best to comply with guidance and keep the public safe. But common sense isn’t that common. The wriggle room that high level and perhaps vague guidance gives to operators also creates wriggle room for enforcement authorities. Some local councils are taking a progressive and helpful stance – Liverpool City Council is an excellent example of this – providing a £4,000 grant for outside furniture and waving pavement licence fees. I suspect its enforcement will be equally as helpful. And this is where local political leadership is key. Where local politicians recognise the importance of the evening economy and want to help, enforcement will follow. And vice-versa. Wriggle room can work both ways.” Chase will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (26 June) at 11am.

Plans to promote outdoor dining will boost hospitality recovery: Simplifying plans to promote outdoor dining will provide a valuable boost to hospitality looking to bounce back after the coronavirus crisis, UKHospitality has argued. The government has announced plans to allow more pubs, restaurants and cafes to be able to serve customers outdoors. The measures include a simplification of the licensing process and cutting of red tape, alongside plans to support outdoor dining. They include fast-tracking of the tables and chairs licence procedure while off-sales will be de-regulated until 30 September 2021 and premises with existing on-premise licences will automatically get an off-sales one. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Businesses will need all the help they can get to return to healthy trading and protecting jobs, so simplifying the licensing process and reducing red tape will be a great help. Opening up outdoor spaces for venues could be a vital lifesaver and mean the difference between a successful reopening or business failures and job losses. The devil will be in the detail, so it is important we get some clear guidance to ensure consistency of implementation across local authorities nationwide. These need to ensure minimal cost and notification rather than application. It has been encouraging to see some local authorities already considering how they can facilitate this. We hope local authorities will jump at this chance to provide more space for venues as it will be hugely valuable in keeping businesses going and saving as many jobs as possible.” British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “Our pubs face a 30% reduction in capacity when they reopen under one metre-plus social distancing guidelines, so giving them more outdoor space will be a big help. For those pubs in more urban areas that do not have a pub garden, this is particularly good news.”

Philip Kolvin – government support for British culture is on the light side: Barrister Philip Kolvin has argued the current ban on live performances in the sector underscores the government’s lack of support for UK culture. Writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion, he stated: “Among the 9,817 words of the government’s guidance for pubs and bars, 23 resemble a casual, drive-by shooting: ‘At this time, venues should not permit live performances, including drama, comedy and music, to take place in front of a live audience.’ For the cultural sector, which is interwoven with the hospitality sector to the point of symbiosis, these words hang heavy, uttered without explanation, without reasoning, without objective justification, just heard like a gun-shot in the night. The German government has pledged €1bn to support arts establishments emerging from the crisis. France’s support fund is seven times that. Against that Britain’s zero seems a bit on the light side. British culture is one of our greatest employers, leading exports, source of soft power and prestige, and is the soul of our nation. The government should do better.” Kolvin will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (26 June) at 11am. 

Still no date for pubs and restaurants to reopen in Wales but work being done to ‘adapt’ the industry: There is still no set date for pubs and restaurants to reopen in Wales, but work is being done to “adapt” the industry, according to finance minister Rebecca Evans. At the daily coronavirus briefing, Evans was asked why no date has been given for the reopening of hospitality venues like in other parts of the UK. She said it was “so hard” to give a guarantee for a timescale. However, she added talks were ongoing with the hospitality industry as to where the next steps were heading. More seating outside has been suggested as a way of supporting businesses but she reassured “work is actively ongoing with the hospitality industry”. Pubs in England have been told they can reopen on 4 July and Scotland has announced outdoor beer gardens could open from 6 July and pubs and restaurants can serve customers indoors from 15 July. The Welsh government has also faced calls to review the two-metre social distancing rule after Boris Johnson announced England will relax the rules to '”one metre plus”. The hospitality sector is likely to be included in the Welsh government’s next review on 10 July.

US threatens tariffs on beer and gin: The US has threatened new trade tariffs on beer, gin, chocolate and olives from the European Union, as part of a long-running row over subsidies to plane-maker Airbus. The US said it was considering duties on 30 products worth $3.1bn (£2.5bn) in trade every year. It has already put 15% to 25% tariffs on $7.5bn worth of other EU goods as part of the dispute. The EU warned it would damage firms on both side of the Atlantic. UK trade minister Liz Truss also criticised the move, saying “tit-for-tat tariffs between the EU and the US is simply harming businesses on both sides of the Atlantic”. The row centres on EU subsidies given to Airbus before 2004, which Washington said created an unfair advantage over the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business that is looking to evolve. As such it is shortlisting for fantastic senior operators – ideally an operations director who has a combination of leisure, fitness or entertainment and hospitality experience. This role requires a strong skillset mix of operational excellence and business development. The incoming operational director will be tasked with partnership management, account building and openings. Anyone interested can email David@corecruitment.com with their CV.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Stonegate extends tenant support package, now worth more than £28m: Ei Publican Partnerships, the leased and tenanted business of Ei Group – now owned by Stonegate Pub Company – has extended its support for publicans, creating an overall support package, which has been implemented during the lock-down, in excess of £28m. The latest provision, in light of new government guidance and confirmation all pubs in England will be able to reopen from 4 July, includes rent credit equivalent to 75% for July and 50% for August for all tied publicans on substantive agreements. In addition, such credits have also been applied to tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rental charges, and to assist with future cash flow over the next 12 months all rent invoices will be produced weekly instead of monthly or quarterly. The company is also using its scale as a managed house operator to offer its publicans “some significant non-contractual discounts on wine, spirits and minerals for a promotional period”. This package follows the multimillion-pound rent and credit support Ei Publican Partnerships provided to publicans from April to June. Nick Light, managing director of Ei Publican Partnerships, said: “We have consistently taken a measured approach to all government advice during lock-down and implemented our support procedures accordingly. We will continue to work closely with our publicans, drawing on the expertise of our managed house teams, to ensure they emerge from this crisis as fully prepared as possible and ready to re-commence trading.” Each pub has also been provided with a free restart kit to ensure they are equipped with essential supplies such as personal protective equipment as well as a comprehensive reopening guide and checklist. There has also been the launch of Round, a contactless ordering app, across the estate.

Marston’s shareholders overwhelmingly back Carlsberg joint venture: Marston’s shareholders have overwhelmingly backed its joint venture partnership with Carlsberg UK to create a “best in class, brand-led UK brewer of scale”. A total of 98.7% of shareholders voted in favour of the proposal at a general meeting on Thursday (25 June). The deal remains conditional on clearance by the relevant competition authorities but the transaction is expected to complete in the third quarter of 2020. The move, which was announced last month, will allow Marston’s to focus on its “high-quality, well-invested pub and accommodation business while retaining a 40% interest in a larger, more attractive brewing business”. Earlier this week Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay said he expects it will reopen 80% to 85% of its 1,400 premises from 4 July after being given the go-ahead to open sites with “one metre-plus” distancing in place. He said: “If two-metre distancing had stayed in place we would have only been able to reopen about 25% of our pubs.”

Mitchells & Butlers – all brands open on 4 July: Mitchells & Butlers has reported all its brands will reopen in England on Saturday, 4 July. In a message on its website, it stated: “We very much welcome the decision made by the government to allow pubs and restaurants in England to reopen on 4 July with the distancing guidelines being reduced from two metres to one metre-plus. We are taking great care to make sure the safety and well-being of our guests and colleagues remains at the very forefront of all of our preparations for reopening. Given the different sizes and shapes of our businesses the one metre-plus guidelines will allow us to more effectively plan how we will operate our bars, pubs and restaurants. All our brands are now accepting bookings in England from 4 July onwards for up to six guests.”

McDonald’s UK rejigs marketing team after CMO announces departure: McDonald’s UK chief marketing officer Gareth Helm is leaving the business, prompting a rejigging of the marketing team as it looks to rebound following the coronavirus lock-down. McDonald’s does not plan to directly replace Helm’s role. Instead, Michelle Graham-Clare – its UK and Ireland vice-president of food, beverage, product development and marketing – will take over from Helm in an expanded role but retain her current title. The restructure was prompted by Helm’s resignation, rather than the other way round. He will leave the business on 3 July, reports Campaign. Graham-Clare has previously worked at Weetabix and was head of marketing at coffee house Harris & Hoole before joining McDonald’s in 2015 as a marketing manager. She was promoted to her current role in August last year but has also held the roles of head of marketing and marketing director in her four years at the company. Helm joined McDonald’s in May 2019 after leaving property company Zoopla. While the UK may be cutting the chief marketing officer role, it has just recently brought back the global chief marketing officer position after less than a year. Former UK marketing boss Alistair Macrow is taking on the job with a remit over both marketing strategy and the career development of the brand’s marketing teams. Meanwhile, McDonald's USA has launched a $500,000 fund to help students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities continue their education this autumn, despite the impact of coronavirus. Facilitated by Thurgood Marshall College Fund, scholarships from the Black & Positively Golden Scholarship Fund will be distributed for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

JW Lees launches ‘C-19 safe’ campaign as it prepares for staggered reopening: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees has launched its “C-19 safe” campaign to assure colleagues and guests they will be safe when returning to its pubs in England as they start to reopen on 4 July. The company is now planning to reopen pubs over a five-week period with one metre-plus distancing. All sites will be individually risk-assessed with the “C-19 safe” guidelines that have been developed over the past three months being applied. JW Lees has also sent out its first beer deliveries to pubs as it begins navigating the reopening period. Managing director William Lees-Jones said: “It feels slightly surreal to be welcoming colleagues back to work after such a long time – I’ve only been to the brewery three times since lock-down started and we will all now need to get used to new ways of doing things. We have been planning for this day for such a long time and I feel confident the team will now execute the plan we have been carefully crafting.”

Drake & Morgan to begin reopenings with two London sites: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group backed by Bowmark Capital, is to begin the reopening of its 23-strong estate with two sites in London on 8 July. Propel understands the company will open The Folly in Monument and The Parlour in Canary Wharf. It is understood the company will look to open further sites as next month progresses, leaning more towards those with outside areas. The company has 20 sites in London, plus two sites in Manchester and one in Edinburgh.

Joseph Holt makes raft of changes to pubs to prepare for reopening: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has made a raft of changes to ensure its pubs are covid-19 secure so customers can start ‘”safely socialising” again. Reconfigured beer gardens, food drop-off tables and an app-based ordering system in food-led pubs are just some of the changes that are being introduced as the company prepares to reopen pubs from 4 July. Chief executive Richard Kershaw said the company had been touched by customers’ support during lock-down through participation in its online pub quiz and using its online beer shop “Holts At Home” as well as sending e-mails and messages. He added: “The Great British pub is at the heart of our communities, and since brewing our first drop back in 1849, customer safety and happiness has always been important. And now, more than ever.”

Mowgli shelves Preston opening, reviewing Edinburgh: Indian street food concept Mowgli has shelved its plan to open in Preston city centre – and is reviewing plans for Edinburgh. Founder Nisha Katona revealed the Preston restaurant will not open with wider city centre redevelopment plans now “mothballed”. Rent costs have been cited as the reason, with Katona also saying she is considering the future of a planned restaurant in Edinburgh. On Facebook, she said: “The aim of Mowgli’s existence is to enrich lives in the cities that we go to – our employees, our communities through our charitable giving and our guests by feeding you delicious healthy home from home reasonably priced food. These things we can only do if our rents do not haemorrhage our ability to share any success generously and fairly. I'm afraid Mowgli Preston is now not on as the overall Fishergate project is mothballed. I will finish building Bristol by November. I am considering my position regarding Edinburgh at the moment.” She added: “I am in earnest looking at Glasgow, Brighton, Newcastle, Cheltenham, Chester, Cambridge and York. Note that London does not yet feature – that breaks my heart but if my guiding star is to enrich the lives of the people around us, then taking on a swaggering, cuckoo-sized London rent will starve other fledgling Mowglis. It is because we have had great relationships with reasonable landlords that we are in a position to open at all.”

Butcombe to reopen four sites as start of phased programme: Butcombe Brewing Co, part of Liberation Group, will start the phased reopening of its pub estate with four sites on 8 and 9 July. The company will reopen The Ostrich in Redcliffe, Bristol; The Swan in Winscombe, Bristol; and The Methuen Arms in Corsham, Wiltshire on 8 July; with The Castle Inn in West Lulworth, Dorset, opening a day later. The remaining sites in the group will reopen as part of a staggered opening schedule. Butcombe Brewing Co said it has brought in a number of new health and safety measures that include hand sanitiser easily available to all; cashless payments; table service only; reduced furniture and increased spacing between tables; constant capacity monitoring to prevent overcrowding; and strict social distancing for all team members in kitchens and service areas. In order to comply with track and trace regulations, contact details from each party will be collected from customers and kept on file for 21 days. Jayson Perfect, managing director, Butcombe Pubs & Inns, said: “We’ve always said there are no gold medals for opening first so we’re busy making sure our team members and customers are happy and comfortable with the new procedures we’ve put in place to keep them safe.”

Ivy Collection to open two further sites on 4 July: The Ivy Collection, the Richard Caring-backed group, will reopen two additional restaurants in London on 4 July. The Ivy Asia, St. Paul’s; and Brasserie of Light, in Oxford Street, will open alongside the previously announced The Ivy Chelsea Garden. As with the latter site, the company said while service will still remain a priority, the restaurants will be implementing the “highest standards of health and safety, ensuring both guests and employees will be dining and working in confidence and in a safe environment”. Measures will include thermal cameras for temperature checks, the use of tracking software for all employees logging daily temperature readings over a seven-day rolling period, and professional deep cleaning and disinfecting on a daily basis. Air filtration units have also been fitted (99% effective in killing the MRSA and H1N1 viruses, which are part of the same RNA coronavirus family) and dedicated members of staff have been appointed to ensure health and safety is at its highest standard on an ongoing basis.

Social bubble dining concept featuring some of London’s leading chefs launches: A social bubble dining concept with some of London’s leading chefs has been launched. Apt, which has been devised by brand consultant Richard Lee Massey, offers the opportunity to hire an apartment at Town Hall Hotel in Patriot Square with a leading chef of their choice who will create a bespoke menu for up to ten guests. Massey said the concept was a new way of getting together with friends in a “safe yet stylish environment”, while also supporting the hospitality industry and allowing chefs to get back to “what they love to do”. Chefs available include Claude Bosi, Jackson Boxer and Skye Gyngell. Massey said: “I came up with Apt about a month into lock-down. The pandemic brought the industry to its knees, so I guess the idea was born from a love for my chef friends and all their restaurants. I was eyeing up restaurant projects pre-lock-down, but even as government guidelines change, the future of restaurants is yet to be determined. Social distancing measures have been tweaked, but there are still so many hurdles. So, coming up with a creative solution for getting together is what I was aiming for. I also wanted to provide a platform that offered safe spaces for my chef friends to get back to doing what they do best.”

BrewDog to open three UK sites at one minute past midnight on 4 July: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will reopen three of its sites in the UK, which have licenses until 3am, at one minute past midnight on 4 July. The company said it would open its bars in Shoreditch, Manchester and Newcastle at that time. It will be a ticketed event, with limited attendance and all proceeds going to the Hospitality Action charity.

Flight Club to reopen entire estate on 1 August: Darts concept Flight Club will reopen all six of its sites from the start of August. The company’s four venues in London, plus sites in Manchester and Birmingham, are now open for bookings for reopening on 1 August. The group said it was working hard to ensure customers “can come together with their friends safely without compromising on the experience”. Measures Flight Club has taken include adopting a covid-secure venue with bookable semi-private playing areas; bookable tables for dining and drinking; pre-order and pre-pay food and drink; and sanitiser stations throughout the venue. It said team members will keep “an eye on social distancing measures around the clock” and its kitchens will also be offering a reduced menu of pizzas and sharing fries. Steve Moore, co-founder of Flight Club, said: “We were founded on the idea of bringing joy to as many people as possible, which we all need now more than ever, so we are excited to be opening our doors again and show what we have on offer. We want to help people make up for those missed moments, so we've been working behind the scenes to ensure we can still give the best experience possible and can't wait to delight and surprise every customer that joins us from August.”

Shake Shack returns to expansion trial and tests new veggie burger: Shake Shack has returned to the expansion trail after pausing its plans during the coronavirus pandemic and is testing a new veggie burger. The company has recently opened four new stores, including one in Sacramento, California. “We’re starting to get back on the development schedule,” chief executive Randy Garutti said during the Jefferies Virtual Consumer Conference. Garutti did not offer guidance on store development, only stating new growth would be far fewer than the initial 40 company stores planned for 2020, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Garutti said its restaurants continue to be challenged by the pandemic, especially those located in high footfall areas such as New York City and Las Vegas. He noted Shake Shack restaurants are centred around “coming together places that encourage gathering”. As such, “our tail will be longer” when it comes to recovery than a traditional fast food format, Garutti said. As previously reported, Shake Shack is adjusting its service model by developing Shack Track stores. These restaurants have been modified to include drive-up lanes designed for pick-up of digital orders. Some will have walk-up windows as the brand pushes “convenience” at all Shacks. The company said it will continue to fit-out stores with kiosks, though it would monitor usage given some people might not want to touch screens during a pandemic. Shake Shack has offered a limited menu to ease operations in its kitchens but as dine-in operations return it will loom to bring back more dishes. The company has also continued to develop new items at its Innovation Kitchen and is now testing a veggie burger at two locations – one at its Innovation Kitchen restaurant in New York City and the other at a store in New Jersey. “We’re excited at seeing where that goes,” Garutti said. “That’s a big category for us.”

Restaurateur and event catering business owner acquires Knaresborough restaurant out of administration: Restaurateur and event catering business owner Sam Pullan has acquired a North Yorkshire restaurant and bar that entered administration earlier this year. Pullan, who is founder and head chef of alternative event catering business Bears Pantry, is to reopen Carriages in Knaresborough, which suffered from difficult trading conditions and was forced into administration following closure in February. Pullan has teamed up with brother-in-law John Dixon, founder and operator of Craft Bar, a mobile craft bar and cocktails specialist, to take over and launch The Bear at Carriages. Rich Kendrick has been appointed as general manager having run the Bears Den restaurant in Bradford with Pullan for the past two years. A reopening date in July is being targeted for the restaurant.

Whitbread continues expansion as it completes two Premier Inn projects: Whitbread has continued its Premier Inn expansion as it reached practical completion on two new hotels, adding 450 rooms to its estate. The new properties – in Milton Keynes and London respectively – will feature its Bar + Block steakhouse restaurant brand. Part of Frogmore’s £85m New Marlborough Yard development at The Cut in Southwark, the new 274-bedroom Premier Inn will be Whitbread’s largest opening in London this financial year. Featuring a public courtyard and park, the hotel and restaurant will create about 90 jobs. Whitbread’s sixth Premier Inn hotel in Milton Keynes is located in Avebury Boulevard in the city centre. Developed in partnership with Dominvs Group, the ten-storey 180-bedroom hotel and restaurant will generate between 75 and 80 jobs on opening. Whitbread will now start fitting out the interiors of the hotels and Bar + Block restaurants, with the two sites expected to open in the autumn. 

Michelin-starred Sabor to launch at-home service: Sabor, the Michelin-starred restaurant in London’s Mayfair, is launching an at-home service. With owners Nieves Barragan Mohacho and Jose Etura still making preparations to re-introduce dine-in at the Heddon Street restaurant, they are introducing Sabor en Casa from Monday (29 June). There are two boxes featuring the restaurant's best known dishes. The boxes, like the restaurant itself, are split into Counter and Asador, with the dishes “just requiring a finishing touch”. The Counter box consists of four prawn croquetas, tortilla mix, Gambas al ajillo, Pulpo a la Gallega, Presa Iberica, veal jus and mojo verde and beetroot salad and horseradish cream. The Asador box contains four prawn croquetas, tortilla mix, Gambas al ajillo, Pulpo a la Gallega, Arroz negro, Churrasco de Crodero (milk-fed lamb ribs) with chimichurri sauce and beetroot salad and horseradish cream. Other dishes can also be added alongside pantry items and a selection of Spanish wine and sangria. Boxes can be ordered via Sabor’s website each Monday from 9am to 5pm, and deliveries will at first be London-based before delivering nationwide, each Friday. There is also the added option of picking a box up from the restaurant.

Sumosan Twiga to reopen on 4 July with new offer: Sumosan Twiga, the Japanese and Italian crossover concept in London’s Knightsbridge, will reopen on Saturday, 4 July. During lock-down, the restaurant has been developing a new offer that “celebrates the best of Sumosan Twiga”, with a choice between its renowned Japanese dishes; Italian classics; or a selection of both. The bar at the Sloane Street restaurant will offer cocktails with the downstairs club at Sumosan Twiga transformed into a new private dining room. The restaurant will also continue to operate a takeaway menu. Sumosan Twiga launched in London in November 2016, as an extension of the Sumosan restaurant and a joint venture with former Formula One chief Flavio Briatore’s Twiga brand. Meanwhile, restaurant, bar and members’ club Coya Mayfair will also reopen on 4 July. The period of closure has allowed for an extensive refurbishment of the Piccadilly premises. Global chief executive Olivier Flamant: “We’re coming up to almost a decade from the inception of Coya and opening our flagship site in Mayfair; the refurbishment marks an important milestone and start of a new chapter, not only for London, but for the brand globally. This is an opportunity to re-energise the guest experience and signifies the first of many exciting new plans.”

Somerset country hotel seeks new operator after going into administration: A luxury country house hotel in Somerset has closed due to the effects of the coronavirus lock-down, with administrators now seeking to find a new operator. Insolvency practice Portland Business Recovery has been appointed administrators of Ston Easton Park Hotel in Wells. Established in 2012, the hotel found its financial position and cash flow severely compromised following the outbreak of coronavirus and the lock-down measures that were put in place, the administrators said. With no income and the uncertainty of the future trading environment, it was subsequently concluded it was no longer viable for the business to continue. The director sought Portland's advice and then made the decision to place the company into administration with all staff made redundant, reports Insider Media.

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