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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 16th Jul 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Piper – collegiate nature of the sector will help drive its renaissance, technology use to accelerate: Consumer brand investor Piper, which backs sector companies Turtle Bay, Hickory’s Smokehouse and Flat Iron, has argued the collegiate nature of the sector will “help drive its renaissance”. Piper also gave insights into the changes at restaurant brands, with Turtle Bay and Hickory’s having to refresh their rotas several times a day to “ensure the right balance between making guests feel safe and profitability”. At Turtle Bay, an increase in the number of floor and door staff has been countered by fewer bar staff as table bookings replace vertical drinking. Piper said bottomless brunches had proved especially popular, driven by “more female and younger guests” than before lock-down. Meanwhile, Hickory’s has transformed its outside areas and large car parks by adding dining huts. Piper said: “They have been sensible about balancing safety and providing an experience not too far removed from the usual service. Guests are happy for waiters not to wear face masks and to navigate without excessive markings. The small changes can sometimes make the most impact.” During the opening weekend, bookings at Turtle Bay increased from a pre-covid level of 40% to 90%. Meanwhile, Piper said hospitality had been one of the slowest industries to be disrupted by technology – but that was set to change. Piper added Wi-Fi systems such as Wireless Social had become the norm and had given brands data on a small part of their guest base. However, data capture was set to become “universal” to support the government’s track and trace guidelines. Piper highlighted other technological advances such as digital QR menus and booking platforms – for instance, Turtle Bay and Hickory’s work with Airship and Yumpingo to collect data and obtain live guest feedback. Piper said there would also be a tweak to business models with property costs being the biggest difference and landlords “hopefully agreeing to sensible readjustments to reflect the new environment”. Meanwhile, sites being delivery and takeaway-friendly would become a “given”. Piper added: “We have been growing hospitality brands for 35 years. Of all the consumer sectors we invest in, it has always been the most collegiate. We’ve seen this come to the fore even more over the past few months. It’s this attitude that will drive the renaissance. We see a bright future. From a consumer perspective, there’s an even greater desire to share stories with others over a drink and eat great food. This will be an opportunity for challenger brands less burdened by legacy debt and unwieldy estates to emerge stronger.”

Industry News:

Graham Cook 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 Graham Cook, chief executive of All Star Lanes, about why having more time to plan your reopening strategy is a good and a bad thing; the increasing importance of technology; a need for a resolution on rents; and having backer Luke Johnson as a sounding board. The video will be released on Thursday (16 July). Meanwhile, readers can support independent sector journalism and get their news 12 hours early (at 7pm each night) with a Propel Premium subscription. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to sign up.

Davies – sector heading for explosion of CVAs and administrations in September: Morgan Davies, founder and chief executive of Mexican brand Barburrito, has told Propel unless there’s government intervention or landlords change their stance the sector will be driven “headlong into an explosion of company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) and administrations in September”. Davies said: “How can anyone commit to high base rents if they don’t know what’s going to happen to the sales line over the next six months. This point is driving the sector headlong into an explosion of CVAs and administrations in September unless there’s fast intervention from the government or a rapid change in landlord approach. Buckle your seat belts.” Barburrito started opening sites from mid-May for delivery only and Davies said this took off “really well indeed, exceeding expectations in all regards”. He told Propel: “As we brought takeaway back we saw a natural shift from delivery to walk-in trade, which was also promising. The opening of retail went much better than I expected, particularly in the big shopping centres. However, now things become less clear restaurant supply is increasing by the day, which is going to start diluting us all and I’m not sure the foot traffic in city centres is going to increase to keep pace with this. Having talked to a number of large office operators, at best 50% of office workers will return in September/October. However, with bubble rotas and physical distancing in busy offices the number could be much lower. In fact, we believe the city centre trade will be significantly down for a long time. We are well suited to delivery and our ATV (average transaction volume) should help in this period but, genuinely, it’s crystal ball time again.”

Sector companies slash prices as VAT cut comes into force: A £4bn cut in VAT has come into force, allowing sector companies to slash prices. Nando’s, Pret A Manger and McDonald’s are among companies to promise reductions after chancellor Rishi Sunak made a temporary VAT cut from 20% to 5%. Nando’s said it would pass on “100% of the benefits” from the tax cut to its customers, helping to cut the price of a quarter chicken by 55p. Pret A Manger said the price of its coffee would be cut following the VAT change, with the price of hot food to be cut from Friday (17 July). Examples include an eat-in tuna mayo baguette, reduced from £3.60 to £3.15, a takeaway ham and cheese croissant (£2.40 to £2.10), and a takeaway latte (£2.75 to £2.40). The reductions don’t apply to cold takeaway food such as sandwiches and salads as those items are already zero-rated for VAT. KFC said it would cut the price of sharing buckets by £1 and certain “fan favourites” by 50p. Domino’s Pizza said it would bring in local deals in the near future and cut some prices by more than the VAT reduction. McDonald’s said it had recommended its franchisees cut prices on a number of products, including the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder. There will also be price cuts on coffee. Meanwhile, Starbucks said it had decided to pass on the full 15% discount on coffee served in company-operated stores. Other shops and venues with Starbucks licences will be left to pass on whatever reductions “suited their business”. The Treasury estimates households could save £160 a year on average but not all companies will pass on the benefit. Some businesses are expected to use the windfall to shore up finances hit by the lock-down rather than cut prices. The VAT reduction will stay until 12 January. It was part of a package of measures to help companies recover and get consumers spending.

Domino’s tells CMA revised findings on Amazon and Deliveroo deal suffer ‘critical flaw’: Domino’s Pizza Group has told the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) its revised provisional findings into Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo “suffer from a critical flaw in logic” and has called for a series of conditions if the deal proceeds. Domino’s said the deal would give Amazon “carte blanche” to increase its stake and rights in Deliveroo to 50%, potentially without “further CMA or European Commission intervention”. Domino’s said this was despite the original CMA findings stating the 16% stake Amazon would have as part of the deal would substantially lessen competition. In response, Amazon has argued acquiring or making a larger investment in Deliveroo wouldn’t lessen competition because it was unlikely Amazon would re-enter the online restaurant food delivery market in the UK while the parties’ grocery offerings were “fundamentally different”. The CMA provisionally cleared the deal in April after Deliveroo warned without the cash injection it would have to cease operations. Amazon was the lead investor in Deliveroo’s $575m funding round announced in May 2019. Its stake, thought to be worth about $500m, has been frozen by the regulator as it conducts an investigation into alleged competition concerns. Domino’s said the CMA had also “failed to acknowledge let alone address the very serious substantive concerns” it raised in its original response that the transaction would result in Amazon “strengthening its ecosystem”. Domino’s and its franchisees have called on the CMA to intervene “before these markets tip” to address its own assessment there has been “under-enforcement of merger control in digital markets”. Conditions Domino’s has asked for include stopping Amazon from directly or indirectly increasing its equity stake in Deliveroo; preventing Amazon from gaining further shareholder rights or adding directors to the Deliveroo board; and engaging in cross-selling of products. Just Eat has also called on the CMA to ensure Amazon reduces its stake in Deliveroo. Deliveroo said the CMA process had “imposed a significant burden” on the company and prevented it from “effectively competing” with its “much larger and well capitalised competitors to the detriment of consumers, riders and restaurants in the UK and other markets”. It has urged the CMA to issue its final decision “as soon as possible”. Amazon stated: “Amazon considers an acquisition or larger investment in Deliveroo would raise no competition concerns in the online restaurant food delivery space. The standard of proof the revised provisional findings relies on is unjustifiably low and the evidence cited is sparse. Amazon’s general interest in online restaurant food delivery doesn’t support a conclusion that Amazon would have re-entered that space in the UK.” 

Scottish hospitality sector starts indoor reopening: Scottish pubs and restaurants have been allowed to reopen indoors as the country began its most significant relaxation of coronavirus measures since going into lock-down in March. The reopening of indoor spaces requires anti-virus precautions to be in place and all customers will be asked to provide their name and phone number as part of the NHS Test and Protect scheme. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was the “biggest step so far” in exiting lock-down but warned it would also bring the greatest risk for potential resurgence of the virus. However, not all sector businesses plan to reopen straight away as some industry bosses have warned a lack of visitor numbers and concerns over continued physical distancing wouldn’t make it viable. Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the hospitality sector would be struggling for a long time. He added: “About a third of licensed premises still won’t be able to reopen and be viable, even with the reduced one metre social distancing restrictions in place. We are looking for ongoing support, not just for a few weeks but months or maybe even years ahead to get us back to anywhere near where we were before the pandemic.” Meanwhile, VisitScotland has launched a campaign to encourage the country to help the hospitality and tourism sectors. The Take Five For Tourism appeal asks people in Scotland to support the sector in its “time of need”. The five actions that could help restart the visitor economy are taking a trip, visiting an attraction or experience, shopping locally, dining out and booking a staycation.

Paul Ainsworth becomes latest restaurateur to highlight ‘real cost’ of no-shows after 27 customers fail to fulfil bookings: Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth has become the latest restaurateur to highlight the “real cost” of no-shows after 27 customers failed to show up. Ainsworth, who runs a number of restaurants in Cornwall with wife Emma, wrote an emotional post on Instagram after The Mariners in Rock suffered an underwhelming night. Just days before, fellow Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge had written a similar post criticising dozens of people who failed to turn up after booking at his restaurant during the weekend. Ainsworth said he “couldn't believe” he had seen so many no-shows after the “awareness generated” by Kerridge’s earlier post. Ainsworth said: “After the efforts our teams have put in to make our restaurants a safe environment and the money Emma and I have spent to make it possible, disappointed doesn’t even cut it. To those 27 people who thought it was ok not to show and that no-one would miss you – you are very wrong. We were ready for you. The restaurant rota had been written for you. The team were waiting to welcome and take care of you. Such a shame you thought this was an ok thing to do.” Ainsworth employs 132 people and said he hadn’t made any redundancies so far. He added: “These people rely on Emma and I to pay their mortgages, rent and bills. Many of them are the sole income earners for their families so the number of people you are affecting is far greater than the 132 employed. This post is an insight to the real cost of a no-show.” Kerridge was among many chefs to support the post, while Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown said: “What is wrong with people? Don’t they get it?”

NRA calls for industry support measures: The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has called for a targeted relief fund for US operators with 20 or fewer sites, liability protections, payroll tax relief for industry workers and other measures in its new Blueprint For Restaurant Revival. The trade body sent the “comprehensive policy and legislative plan” to Congress on Wednesday (15 July) outlining a number of actions to stabilise the industry and provide relief in the short-term and build a foundation for the long-term. These areas include short-term relief to restart the restaurant industry by creating a targeted Restaurant Recovery Fund; creating a mechanism for restaurants to access a second round of Paycheck Protection Programme loans; addressing liability protections for businesses; and other tax, insurance and loan needs. It also called on the US government to ensure the stability of America’s food supply chain from farm to table by prioritising food and agriculture employees for testing and providing payroll tax relief for restaurant employees as essential workers. The NRA also called for support for restaurants to support at-risk communities by funding programmes to feed at-risk populations and provide greater access to restaurant meals for low-income Americans. Sean Kennedy, executive vice-president of public affairs for the association, said: “In just the past two weeks, state and local government mandates have shut down almost 100,000 restaurants. Despite losing more jobs and revenue than any other industry in this country, Congress has chosen not to advance a recovery package that is tailored for the unique challenges of a restaurant on the cusp of bankruptcy.” In the first three months of the pandemic, which was declared in March, restaurant and foodservice sales likely fell more than $120bn from the same period last year, the association said, and the industry expected to sustain $240bn in losses for the year.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a restaurant and bar group that’s seeking to appoint an HR director. Based in the Home Counties or London, the HR director will have a national remit and be responsible for the full HR function as well as collaboratively working with the executive team on group strategy. As well as supporting a large and dynamic workforce, the HR director will manage a passionate people team. The right candidate must have significant food and beverage experience and more than three years in a senior HR role. Salaries between £85,000 and £90,000 will be considered. For more details, email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Turnaround funds run early rule over Prezzo: Turnaround funds RCapital and Endless are believed to be among parties to have run an early rule over Prezzo, Propel understands. Earlier this month the Karen Jones-led chain became the latest sector operator to push the start button on a sale process. Until recently, Endless was believed to be working on a bid for Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas with former Revolution Bars Group chief executive of Mark McQuater. The turnaround expert formerly backed West Cornwall Pasty Co and was also in the running to acquire Jamie’s Italian. RCapital, former backer of Little Chef, also ran the rule over Busaba and Bistrot Pierre recently. Earlier this week Propel revealed Prezzo is looking to secure £15m of funding to restart the business and accelerate sales growth. Before the pandemic the business is thought to have been posting like-for-like sales growth of 3% and, with its 180-strong estate weighted towards the south east and smaller towns and cities, the company believes it is well positioned to benefit from the growing trend of working from home as the sector reopens. Propel understands about 80% of its estate is generating positive branch Ebitda and, out of the circa 35 underperforming sites, management believes only 15 are structurally challenged and it is seeking to exit those leases. The company, which started a phased reopening of its estate on 4 July, plans to have 35 sites reopen in the coming weeks, with the remaining 145 set to relaunch during the summer.

Alderin steps down as Abokado managing director: Kara Alderin has stepped down as managing director of London-based healthy eating chain Abokado after a year and half in the role. She is set to take up a role with an as-yet unspecified national pub group. Alderin joined 19-strong Abokado as operations director in early 2018 after almost nine years at Fuller’s. She was promoted into the newly created role of managing director in March 2019, taking overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of the business. She also took a position on the company’s board. Abokado said it currently had no plans to fill the managing director’s role. Chief executive Mark Lilley said: “Kara has been given an opportunity to take up an exciting role with a well-regarded brand. As much as it’s a shame we’re losing her it’s the right decision for Kara and she leaves with my blessing and good wishes. I’ll miss her professionally and personally having thoroughly enjoyed mentoring her and, in return, being tested, challenged – and sometimes told off! Most importantly, she has supported me throughout with incredible loyalty, energy, intelligence and positivity during what has been a period of great highs and lows. I’m sure a piece of her will always remain with Abokado and I know she will continue to be a fan, loyal customer and advocate for our vision and purpose.” Alderin said: “I’m incredibly thankful to Mark and the board for the past three years, which has seen us achieve a great deal as a team.”

YO! ramps up Panku roll-out: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to ramp up the roll-out of its pan-Asian street food concept Panku with Asda, Propel has learned. The company started a trial of the concept earlier this year in 20 of Asda’s larger stores. Propel understands it now plans to have 50 units open in partnership with Asda by the end of the year. The concept was developed by Andy Upton and Neil Nugent through YO!’s Taiko Foods arm and offers street food from Japan, Korea and Thailand including katsu curry, hand-rolled sushi, plant-based meals, Korean bulgogi and noodles. The first concession for Panku, which is Japanese for “punk”, launched in March as part of Asda’s “test and learn” partnerships with brands such as Greggs, Just Eat and KellyDeli brand Sushi Daily to offer new food-to-go options that complement Asda’s existing range. In January, YO! launched its YO! To Go range in more than 300 Sainsbury’s stores following the roll-out of YO! manned kiosks in 50 Tesco stores. YO! acquired Taiko Foods, the first company to produce sushi for a supermarket, in April 2018.

Taco Bell UK to launch free tacos offer for Tuesdays in August: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is to launch a free tacos offer that will be available on every Tuesday in August. The offer at its 45 UK sites will run up to and including 25 August. Gino Casciani, regional director for Taco Bell Europe, said: “Our brand is about treating our fans with unexpected good and what better way to do that than with free tacos? This is our way of thanking our fans for coming together during such a difficult time and prevailing together as a nation.” Customers will receive one free Crunchy Taco every Tuesday for dine-in or takeaway, with the offer redeemed through its app. Last week Taco Bell began rolling out an overhauled rewards programme in the US after experiencing a surge in app usage during the pandemic. The beta test, dubbed Taco Bell Rewards, will offer fans ten points for every dollar they spend via the app. In the UK, Taco Bell franchisees have also committed to giving a substantial donation to the NHS to thank them for their hard work and dedication during the pandemic.

Hickory’s begins phased reopening: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s Smokehouse, which is backed by Piper, has begun a phased reopening of its estate, Propel has learned. The company has reopened its Chester, Poynton, Shrewsbury, West Kirby and Worcester restaurants, with Southport and Wall Heath to follow on Friday (17 July). Its Burton Green, Castle Bromwich, Gresty Green and Rhos-on-Sea sites are due to follow later this month. Hickory’s has continued to operate in a reduced capacity throughout lock-down. In April it partnered with north west-based charity Cash For Kids, raising more than £65,000 to help local families affected by the pandemic. The team also delivered and served thousands of free meals to those in need. All salaried team members took wage cuts, ranging from 50% for the senior team to 5% for the most junior roles, while the company postponed the launch of its Wilmslow site. The group has introduced a number of measures to satisfy health guidelines such as a safety pledge for guests, a “kerbside” takeaway concept and redevelopment of the majority of its outdoor spaces, including adding new dining huts and transforming car parks into additional dining areas. Managing director John Welsh said: “We have had to make sacrifices but rebuilding and going on the journey together after sharing some of the pain has made us stronger as a team. We believe the size of our restaurants, their ‘local’ locations, outdoor spaces and family friendly environment set us up well for the future.”

Kibou Restaurants acquires Cheltenham business for second site, plans further expansion: Kibou Restaurants, led by Regent Inns founder and chief executive David Franks, has acquired Japanese restaurant KIBOUsushi in Cheltenham for its second site. The move adds to its existing site, Kibou Japanese Kitchen & Bar, which opened in Northcote Road, Battersea, south London, in August 2019. Further acquisitions are planned to meet a gradual and sustained five-year expansion strategy. KIBOUsushi has operated in Cheltenham’s Regent Street since Emma Graveney launched it in August 2013. Presently operating as takeaway only, the future of the 25-cover restaurant was in the balance as its limited size restricted dine-in options while maintaining social distancing. The acquisition by Kibou Restaurants means KIBOUsushi will move to larger premises as it has taken on the lease of the former Carluccio’s site in Regent Arcade. After undergoing a £450,000 renovation, the new 80-cover restaurant and 150-capacity bar is scheduled to open in September, employing 20 staff. The menu will focus on classic and contemporary Japanese dishes and an expanded cocktail and drinks offering with a late licence. More recently Franks was chairman of Redcomb, where in 2019 he was instrumental in the sale of the 15-strong pub estate to Young’s. He said: “I have been a long-time visitor to KIBOUsushi and a long-time supporter of what the brand stands for. Its vibrant approach offers an authentic yet accessible slice of Japan that we believe is ripe for expansion within the premium casual dining sector. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to build on the steady bedrock created by the KIBOUsushi team in Cheltenham and extend the brand’s reach to new customers.”

Corbin & King expands home dining service as it sets Soutine reopening date: London restaurant operator Corbin & King is expanding the home dining service it launched in June and adding new dishes to the offer. In a message to customers, co-founder Jeremy King wrote: “You might be aware we recently launched Corbin & King Home Dining classic dishes from our restaurants to be finished at home by you. Delivery has been extended to a six-mile distance from Colbert, SW1W 8AX. Ordering is now available seven days a week from 9am to midnight and you will receive a text on the day of your delivery with a two-hour window. We also have some new dishes available, including The Wolseley’s goujons of haddock, Fischer’s Black Forest gateau and Zédel’s steak haché et frites.” Meanwhile, the company will reopen its St John’s Wood restaurant Soutine on Thursday, 23 July offering an all-day menu from 11am to 9.30pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Corbin & King reopened five sites on 4 July – The Wolseley, Colbert, Brasserie Zédel, Fischer’s and Café Wolseley in Bicester. Co-founder Jeremy Corbin said at the time: “If people are willing to go to restaurants, we should be open for them to be able to.” He said The Delaunay had yet to open as it was a “monster of a restaurant to crank up and operate”. Corbin also revealed its new Soho seafood restaurant, Manzi’s, would open in October “barring the unforeseen”. 

Stonegate to launch The Hideout in Derby on Friday: Stonegate Pub Company is to launch its latest venue, The Hideout, in Derby on Friday (17 July). The bar in Market Square will combine “retro and new technology with childhood nostalgia”, feature a zoned layout and tunnel booths, and offer table service. Options in the bar’s gaming room will include a speed-reaction wall, I-pool, a circular ping-pong table and an extensive programme of events including open-mic nights, DJs and hip-hop brunches. The Hideout will also screen live sports. General manager David Hancock said: “We are so excited to finally open The Hideout. While our launch is a little later than planned, we believe it offers a blueprint of how pubs will evolve in years to come. We can’t wait to see the reaction.” Following the acquisition of Ei Group in March for £1.27bn, Stonegate Pub Company is the largest pub company in the UK. Its portfolio is comprised of 1,270 sites within the managed division and 3,457 leased and tenanted businesses.

Bingo operator Buzz to permanently close 26 sites as part of CVA: Bingo operator Buzz is set to permanently close 26 of its sites as part of a restructure, putting 573 jobs at risk. Buzz, which was formerly known as Gala, said the move was part of a proposed company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to secure its long-term future that would see backer Caledonia Investments inject £22m in the business. Buzz said 91 of its clubs would continue to trade, with plans to reopen 12 sites from Thursday, 6 August. Chief executive Chris Matthews said: “The pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for the entire leisure and hospitality sector and an immediate and significant impact on our business. Following a thorough review of our options, the proposed CVA will restructure our retail portfolio to ensure we are well positioned for a return to growth while adapting to the ongoing challenging environment as we start to reopen the majority of our clubs. The restructure will, very sadly, have an impact on a number of our colleagues and my priority is to support all those affected and keep them fully informed as we continue with this process.”

JKS Restaurants to reopen Michelin-starred Trishna next week: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, will reopen Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Trishna on Wednesday, 22 July. The Marylebone restaurant will be offering it’s a la carte and Koliwada tasting menus, while its wine cellar has been refreshed with a new selection from emerging and classic regions. Guests will be able to dine in the restaurant, which is being rearranged to adhere to social distancing guidelines, or on the heated terrace overlooking Blandford Street. JKS Restaurants has started to reopen its sites, starting with Hoppers in King’s Cross and Indian barbecue, beer and whisky bar Brigadiers. The Hoppers site in Marylebone is also due to reopen next Wednesday, with the Soho venue following in due course.

Chipotle plans to hire 10,000 staff: Chipotle has said it plans to hire as many as 10,000 employees during the next few months to help support the expansion of drive-thru lanes at its restaurants. The coronavirus pandemic has curtailed dining-in at restaurants across the US, resulting in a surge in online orders. Chipotle said it intended to cater to this demand by speeding up plans to add drive-thru lanes at its outlets. The company said 60% of its new restaurants would feature a drive-thru, or “Chipotlane”, where customers can pick up orders without leaving their car. Chipotle’s online sales jumped 80% in the first quarter and the company said demand wasn’t expected to “fall any time soon” as virus cases spike in many southern and western states. California, which is Chipotle’s biggest market, rolled back reopening plans on Monday (13 July) and banned indoor restaurant dining. Other restaurant companies, such as Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s, have also said they will hire thousands of extra workers.

Restaurateur to launch brasserie and wine bar at former Green’s site in St James’s in September: Restaurateur François O’Neill is to launch a brasserie and wine bar at the former site of Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar in St James’s, central London, on Monday, 14 September. Originally scheduled to open in the spring, O’Neill will launch Maison François paying homage to the grand brasseries of Paris, Lyon and Alsace. O’Neill’s father, Hugh, launched Brasserie St Quentin in Knightsbridge in 1980 with his cousin Quentin Crewe, a former Evening Standard restaurant critic. François O’Neill took over the restaurant in 2008, turning it into Brompton Bar & Grill. Matthew Ryle, a finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2018, will head the kitchen at Maison François, which will open in Duke Street featuring an in-house bakery, dispensary bar and a menu of brasserie classics, handmade pasta dishes, and fish and meat cooked over a wood-fired grill. There will also be a dessert trolley. Downstairs wine bar Frank’s will offer more than 250 bottles and a 16-cover private room. Interiors will feature art deco chandeliers and a 1970s-inspired bronze clock above the open kitchen. François said: “Brasserie St Quentin is a hard act to follow but I’m looking forward to putting my own stamp on the brasserie tradition.” Simon Parker Bowles closed Green’s in 2016 after landlord The Crown Estate announced redevelopment plans.

Michelin-starred Mãos to reopen next month, launches membership programme: Mãos, the Michelin-starred restaurant located at the Blue Mountain School in Shoreditch, east London, will reopen on Wednesday, 19 August. James Brown and Nuno Mendes launched the restaurant in 2018 with the layout focused around a communal dining table. During lock-down, the space has been reimagined to allow a maximum of eight guests in the main dining room to enjoy executive chef Edoardo Pellicano’s new 14-course menu. A private dining room with a chef’s table has been added to the site featuring a handmade wall and floor tiles, a porcelain chandelier and solid walnut table for six diners. New general manager Charlie Sims has joined from Noma, where he worked in the first iteration of the restaurant as well as travelling to Mexico and Australia for residencies. Mãos will also launch a monthly membership programme, with benefits such as advance reservations, members’ only workshops and talks, exclusive lunch bookings and a monthly membership box. Containing ingredients, condiments, kitchen essentials, a digital cooking demo and “seasonal surprises”.  Brown said: “We opened Mãos with the intention of redefining what it means to visit a restaurant and we’ve used our time away to reconsider every element of the dining experience. We are also excited to unveil Mãos Membership and look forward to welcoming our regulars and immersing them in our new and improved world.” Mendes stepped down from Maos earlier this year.

Webb Hotel Group secures funding to help maintain cash flow: Family-owned Webb Hotel Group has secured funding through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from Yorkshire Bank to help maintain cash flow. The company owns Moor Hall Hotel & Spa in Sutton Coldfield, The George Hotel and The Cathedral Hotel in Lichfield, The Gables Hotel near Bristol, and The Red Lion pub in Newborough, Staffordshire. All sites reopened on 4 July in line with government guidance following a 15-week closure because of lock-down. The company’s 250-strong workforce has returned to work from furlough and has been preparing venues by implementing measures based on the hotel and accommodation guidance provided by the government. Owner and chairman Michael Webb told Insider Media: “We had to maintain a skeleton staff during lock-down to handle a large volume of enquiries from people who wanted to move their dates and make future bookings. However, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around events such as weddings, corporate functions and entertainment and we don’t know when we can resume that side of the business. The CBILS funding will be vital to maintain cash flow if we don’t see enough return business. It has also covered the cost of reopening, which has been considerable with all the new measures we need to implement to keep our employees and guests safe.”

Southwark rooftop restaurant Seabird reopens with new head chef and menu: Seabird, the rooftop restaurant at The Hoxton, Southwark, which is run in collaboration with the team behind New York’s Maison Premiere, has reopened with a new head chef and menu. Javier Duarte, who previously headed up Barrafina Adelaide Street, is now running the kitchen. Bringing a taste of his native Barcelona to Seabird, Duarte’s new dishes include a classic pan con tomate, fried baby squid and a charcoal-grilled Iberico pork presa with Jerusalem artichoke puree, red wine sauce and apple compote. Seabird’s signature octopus roll – chargrilled octopus with padron peppers and smoked aioli in a brioche roll – and its whole John Dory cooked on the charcoal grill served with mojo verde remain on the menu. The drinks list features cocktails and biodynamic wine. Seabird will also offer a weekend brunch menu from Saturday, 1 August, with dishes set to include Iberian ham with egg and chips, and morcilla on toast with green peppers, goat’s cheese and a fried duck egg. Seabird was created in partnership with Premiere Enterprises and founded by Joshua Boissy and Krystof Zizka, of Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere.

Zuaya reopens in Kensington: Latin American restaurant and bar Zuaya has reopened in Kensington, west London. The concept is the brainchild of Spanish twins Alberto and Arian Zandi, whose venue off High Street covers 2,500 square feet and includes a ground-floor marble bar, a dining area spread across two floors, and a terrace with separate bar. New safety measures include table service only, no customers at the bar, single-use menus, hand sanitiser, and only one staff member providing service in a single zone. Groups will be limited to a maximum of ten. The Zandis launched Zuaya in July 2018 offering signature cocktails and a Latin American-inspired sharing menu including sea bass truffle ponzu. They said: “We are very excited to welcome everyone back to Zuaya in the safest and most comfortable way possible.”

St Austell promotes Georgina Young to brewing director: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has promoted Georgina Young to brewing director. Young will oversee brewing and operations at both St Austell Brewery and Bath Ales having joined the business in May last year from Fuller’s to become Bath Ales’ head brewer. She was recruited by Roger Ryman – St Austell’s previous brewing director – who passed away in May. Young will continue to be based at Bath Ales’ headquarters – Hare Brewery – while overseeing operations in St Austell. She will report to Andrew Turner, managing director of St Austell’s beer and brands business, who joined the company from Heineken earlier this year. St Austell chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “We are delighted to have Georgina as our new brewing director. As one of Roger’s oldest friends in the industry, he was thrilled when she joined the business last year. He held her in the highest regard and we know he would be very proud to see her take the helm and steer us forward.” Turner added: “Since welcoming Georgina to the business she has been instrumental in helping us realise the full potential of Bath Ales’ beer brands. She’s respected throughout the industry and is the perfect guardian for St Austell Brewery’s portfolio of beers.” Young said: “I feel honoured to be taking up the reins from Roger. I look forward to this next chapter and working more closely with the brilliant team in Cornwall.”

Coal Rooms reopen: South London-based chargrilled meat concept Coal Rooms will reopen on Thursday (16 July) featuring a five-course chef’s tasting menu. Created by head chef Adrian Hernandez Farina, previously of Temper and Breddos Tacos, and Liam Walker, formerly of The Ritz, the menu will initially be available at the Peckham Rye restaurant from Thursday to Saturday evenings. From August, the menu will also be available on Wednesday evenings to be eligible for the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Dishes will include 58 day-aged ex-dairy rump with mushrooms, celeriac and confit onion; and ember-roasted beetroot with ajo blanco foam, hazelnut oil, black garlic and nasturtium. The restaurant, which is in a former railway ticket office in Station Way, will operate at a reduced capacity with enhanced hygiene measures in place.

Labron-Johnson to reopen Osip this month: Merlin Labron-Johnson, former executive chef of the Woodhead Restaurant Group, is to reopen his solo Somerset restaurant, Osip, on Thursday, 30 July. The venue will make use of a nearby walled vegetable garden he acquired during lock-down. Labron-Johnson launched the farm-to-table concept in Bruton in September 2019 focusing on hyper-local ingredients. Part of the staff’s daily routine at Osip will now involve a gardening rota. Ingredients will also be produced at an aquaponic farm outside the town. The menu will change daily according to ingredients available. The venue is next to boutique hotel Number One Bruton. In 2015, Labron-Johnson opened Portland restaurant in Great Portland Street in London, which was awarded a Michelin star nine months after opening. He also received critical acclaim for sister restaurant Clipstone, which opened in 2016. Merlin-Johnson left Woodhead Restaurant Group in October 2018. 

Former Michelin-starred chef opens coffee house in Rothbury: Former Michelin-starred chef Kevin Mulraney has opened a coffee shop in Rothbury, Northumberland, following a three-month delay caused by lock-down. Bewick’s Kitchen & Coffee House has launched in Church House, which is a 140-year-old Northumberland National Park visitors’ centre. The building is shared with the Northumberland National Park Authority. Mulraney told BDaily: “I never imagined I’d host diners in such a unique and historic location. I’m grateful to Northumberland County Council and Northumberland National Park Authority in helping to make Bewick’s Kitchen & Coffee House a reality.” Tony Gates, chief executive of the Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “We are passionate about local businesses and showcasing the great local produce we have in Northumberland. Rothbury has enjoyed a resurgence of visitors during the past few years, being one of the most scenic and accessible parts of the park. Developments like this will continue to bolster what the area has to offer to locals and visitors alike.” Mulraney earned his Michelin star at Lindsay House in Soho.

A dinner experience called Wanda to launch next week: A dinner experience delivery service called Wanda is to launch on Monday (20 July). The concept is the brainchild of Natalie Jones, founder of lifestyle and design brand Caro. Each box in the collection will be themed by country and contain a seasonal menu and dinner recipes plus a variety of objects and accessories “Wanda” has selected. Wanda’s first collection will be themed on Mexico, with a two-course menu created by Merlin Labron-Johnson, chef patron of Osip and former executive chef of the Woodhead Restaurant Group. The box will also include chipotle chillis in asado sauce, syrup for a cocktail and chilli salt to line the rim of the two cocktail glasses inside. To set the table, Wanda will provide a Mexican salsa bowl, a cake plate, two linen napkins, a vase with dried flowers and a sea-grass wall hanging. There will also be a ready-made playlist to provide a soundtrack for the evening. September’s box will focus on Greece and feature a menu created by Marianna Leivaditaki, head chef of Hackney restaurant Morito, while October’s box will take guests to Vietnam thanks to Anais van Manen, head chef of London restaurant Bao.

Bespoke Hotels to reopen Manchester’s Hotel Brooklyn next month: Independent hotel group Bespoke Hotels is to reopen its newest venue in Manchester, next month. Hotel Brooklyn only launched in mid-February before covid forced it to close again. The design-led hotel in Portland Street will reopen on Friday, 21 August, offering 189 rooms inspired by New York’s “loft look”. The hotel operates bar and restaurant Runyon’s offering dishes such as Crab Flake A La Newberg and Billy’s Bacon Fried Rice. The top floor features Salvation Bar, with panoramic views of the city, and dedicated private events space Brooklyn Heights. General manager Paul Bayliss said: “We already have lots of features designed to allow for an environment where personal space is a key factor, including a self check-in facility. In addition, we have best practice in cleanliness lined up including UV lamps and misting of rooms. We have large restaurant and banqueting spaces, several separate kitchens and four lifts, allowing us to plan for continued social distancing. It’s time for the beleaguered travel and hospitality industries to get back on their feet. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Manchester’s little piece of the Big Apple.” Last week, Bespoke Hotels promoted Thomas Greenall to chief executive from commercial director. The move saw Bespoke Hotels founders Haydn Fentum and Robin Sheppard step up. Fentum became chairman, while Sheppard became president and will focus on expanding the Gotham and Brooklyn brands. Bespoke Hotels manages more than 100 UK hotels as owner, joint venture, contract operator or turnaround consultant.

Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels launch family package in partnership with treasure hunt specialist: Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels have launched a family package at a select number of its sites in partnership with treasure hunt specialist Treasure Trail. The package includes a self-guided treasure trail managed by digital download, a family movie night in a private, pre-booked meeting room, additional children’s menus and a free hot chocolate voucher on check-in. The treasure trail takes place in a specific area of the hotel, with families having to solve a mystery. Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland operates 36 hotels under the Jurys Inn brand and 12 hotels under the Leonardo brand – 48 in the UK and four in Ireland. It is a member of the Fattal Group.

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