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Thu 23rd Jul 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Dodo Pizza to relaunch in UK with Roman-style offering, opening first company-owned store in region: Dodo Pizza is set to relaunch in the UK after seeing “modest” sales at its four sites, Propel has learned. The new business model will see the company focus on delivery and takeaway rather than dine-in, with Dodo also set to open its first company-owned store in Britain. It is also switching from American-style to Roman pizza, which will allow the company to “scale the model faster”, global communications executive Max Kotin said. He added: “We couldn’t get the traction we wanted with our current model. Oddly, finances have improved during the pandemic and it was exactly what made us see the limitations of our current model. The main problem with our UK startup probably concerns our current model, which is focused on delivery and American-style pizza. This model doesn’t allow us to differentiate and stand out against more established pizza brands in the UK so we decided to pivot and try out an entirely new pizza concept. The main change is a new type of pizza. We based it on a recipe created for our China brand and this recipe, in turn, was based on so-called Roman pizza. We believe this lighter crust can win the hearts of modern customers who are more conscious about their health and what they eat. From the business development perspective, the switch to Roman pizza will allow us to scale the model faster. The parbaked crust needs much less storage space in the pizza shop so we’ll be able to open smaller takeaways conveniently located in areas with high footfall. We aim to shake things up in the takeaway pizza market and challenge the notion pizza takeaways can’t look cool and trendy.” As part of the changes Dodo, which has ambitions to be the third-largest pizza operator in the UK, will open its first UK company-owned store, in Leamington Spa. Kotin said the business remained committed to the franchise model and would look to expand through both formats. He added: “This will allow us to get insights, test new things, and have an example of good work for our partners.” Kotin said as Dodo was launching a concept focused on delivery it wanted to maintain full control over the operation so wouldn’t use third-party aggregators. He added: “We have a strong suite of digital products that allow us to offer the same level of convenience to our customers as the aggregators – without outsourcing the core part of our business.” Dodo Pizza was founded in Russia in 2011 and has 623 stores across 13 countries.

Industry News:

Beckett – sector needs to grasp opportunity to embed itself further into nation’s fabric: Will Beckett, co-founder of Graphite Capital-backed, steak house concept Hawksmoor, has said the sector has an opportunity to embed itself further into the fabric of the nation, which is something “we haven’t grasped particularly before”. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Beckett said there was also an opportunity to engage with the government and look at the “model of hospitality”. He said: “The government now realises what a huge thing this industry is, one it didn’t know a lot about before. It’s putting together specific departments to talk more to hospitality. There’s an opportunity to embed ourselves a bit more into the fabric of the nation, which is something we haven’t grasped particularly before. I hope we get to a stage, probably next year, where it becomes attractive to get into restaurants again.” Beckett said there was an opportunity to engage with the government and look at the model of hospitality, which in some cases was “addicted to debt”. He said: “It has also had rising costs and food prices and is a massive employer. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Could it look better? Yes, and that’s an interesting way of thinking about how we can engage with government rather than what we can have in the next chancellor’s statement. The rents issue has to get done but after that it’s more about what to do with the model. I also think there’s an opportunity for us to grasp what’s in our control and what we can do to do a better job. I think almost by definition the people left standing by the beginning of next year are the people in the best place to do a better job and hopefully they will be challenged by brilliant new people coming into the industry.” Beckett will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Wednesday (23 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.

Class planning system amends to provide greater flexibility: The government’s regulations amending the Use Classes Order, which come into effect in September, will offer more flexibility and opportunity to operators in terms of site selection in what will be the biggest change to the system since its creation in 1987. From September, A1 Retail, A2 Professional Services, A3 Restaurant and B1 offices will be combined into a new single business, commercial and service use Class E, which will also include gyms, nurseries and clinics. Pubs and hot food takeaways will move into Sui Generis. It is hoped the move will provide greater flexibility in terms of operators taking on new sites and in aiding attempts to revitalise the high street. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We welcome the reform of the Use Classes Order. Deregulation of current controls will provide local authorities, hospitality businesses and other stakeholders with greater flexibility as they navigate through this crisis and it will help us to plan positively and build back better. The removal of the need to seek planning permission will bring empty premises back to life and provide the services and diverse offer communities need. This reform will bring increased flexibility, which is vital if we want a dynamic and responsive high street ready to meet the challenges ahead, particularly given the potential for longer-term change to ways and patterns of working. The reforms will also make it easier to change from commercial to residential use and we know mixed-use developments are critical to revitalising many of our town centres – and hospitality has a key role to play in that. However, it’s crucial existing hospitality continues to be protected through safeguards such as the Agent of Change principle as new residential developments are considered.”

Weekly food and drink sales rise 21.3%: Operators who had venues open during the past week saw overall sales increase 21.3% on the previous week, with food up 32.0% and drink sales growing 14.8%. Data from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed that while week-on-week like-for-likes indicated growing public appetite, year-on-year like-for-like sales were down 34.4%. London appeared to have been ahead of the rest of the country regarding consumer confidence, with week-on-week like-for-like sales growth at 13.1% but down 27.4% year-on-year. S4labour chief customer officer Sam Wignell said: “There are some really positive signs of people returning to eating and drinking out. There’s undoubtedly an element of caution from the general public, with many of them watching closely to see the impact of pubs reopening. S4labour chief product officer Richard Hartley added: “Operators have been incredibly innovative in ways to make their sites safe and welcoming for their customers. Consumer confidence is key to the industry’s recovery so anything operators can do to lift this will help.”
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Almost one-third of furloughed hospitality workers face redundancy risk: Almost one-third (32%) of furloughed staff in hospitality could lose their jobs by the end of the year, according to a new report. Analysis by consultancy PwC also suggested GDP would drop between 10% and 13% this year. Although some people have returned to work, at least 9.5 million workers have been placed on the UK government’s furlough scheme since the coronavirus crisis began. Workers in accommodation and foodservice, where furlough numbers are high and the virus and social distancing have hit demand and capacity, appear most at risk, according to the analysis. PwC senior economist Jing Teow said the pandemic had accelerated trends such as automation. Sectors such as retail, transport and manufacturing were likely to see increased automation as firms looked to “improve resilience and maintain social distancing”, Teow said. She added that upskilling workers with a focus on the digital economy, growing sectors, and harder-to-automate skills should be made a priority. The announcement comes as separate survey data suggested the average UK firm is operating at little more than half (53%) of pre-pandemic capacity. The British Chambers of Commerce said the members’ poll showed the economy remained in “first gear”.

More than 32,000 restaurants register for Eat Out To Help Out, Boparan removes £10 limit: More than 32,000 restaurants have registered for the government’s Eat Out To Help Out (EOHO) scheme, chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed in a tweet. All restaurants that take part in the scheme will offer diners 50% off food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August to the value of £10 per person. Boparan Restaurant Group’s estate of 70 restaurants will participate in EOHO, with many of its brands offering further discounts. Carluccio’s, Fishworks, Giraffe, Slim Chickens and Ed’s Easy Diner will remove the £10 discount limit to give guests 50% off all food and soft drinks. In addition, Carluccio’s, Fishworks and Giraffe are offering £10 off any bottle of wine. The Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen Battersea and Cinnamon Bazaar will offer 50% off up to £10 per person. All offers will be valid while EOHO is live. A Boparan Restaurant Group spokesman said: “We wanted to make dining out as attractive and compelling as possible, which is why we’ve extended the 50% discount beyond the £10 cap. We look forward to welcoming back our guests and hope these added incentives, alongside the variety of safety measures we have implemented, will encourage them to return.” The group began a phased reopening of its estate earlier this month. Meanwhile Alex Reilley, executive chairman of Loungers, which operates the Lounges and Cosy Club brands, tweeted Sunak to announce all 165 of its sites would participate in EOHO. Sunak said operators wishing to take part in the scheme had until the end of August to register, although the last Wednesday in the month is the 26th.

D&D London reports almost 1,000 applicants for restaurant receptionist role: Restaurant operator D&D London has reported receiving almost 1,000 applications in 24 hours for a receptionist position at its Manchester restaurant, 20 Stories. In total, 963 people sent in an online application for the job before the window was closed due to the overwhelming response. The company said the reaction revealed the “lack of hospitality roles available in the industry and the huge rise in unemployment”. Carol Cairnes, D&D London’s director of people, said: “The sheer number of applicants is staggering. We’ve never seen such a large number come through in such a short amount of time. While it means we’ll have the pick of an incredibly large number of highly qualified candidates, it’s sad to see how many people are in need of employment.” 20 Stories reopened on 4 July and was fully booked across the weekend. Since then, the site has continued to perform well, D&D London said.

Mac & Wild co-founders launch food and drink kit platform: A new e-commerce site has launched delivering food and drink kits from UK independent restaurants. Restaurant Kits is the brainchild of Andy Waugh and Calum Mackinnon, who founded game specialist Mac & Wild with Edward Alun-Jones, the hospitality technology entrepreneur behind Top City Bites and digital ordering system Orderu. They have been joined by restaurants including Pizza Pilgrims, the London-based sourdough pizzeria concept founded by Thom and James Elliot; Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell, founders of Indian small plates concept Kricket; and James Cochran, founder of 12:51 and Around the Cluck. Restaurant Kits said it was dedicated to making sure the new at-home, DIY restaurant kit category “not only worked for the consumer but also as a financially and operationally stable new opportunity for restaurants”. Alongside food, the drinks list covers ready-to-drink and mix-at-home offerings. Mackinnon said: “We see the Restaurant Kits solution working for restaurants and diners for the long term, not only to support our partners through a tricky time but as the infrastructure to endure long after. By offering two options we hope to be able to support any restaurant with a great at-home kit looking to share and scale that new element of their business. For some, the logistics of posting and fulfilling may not be an issue and that’s cool – they can still benefit from the centralised voice and leverage of the platform. But for many, we’re finding they need the end-to-end solution to make this a sustainable option. They can get back to focusing their efforts on getting things running in their physical restaurants and ensuring the safety and welfare of staff.” Restaurant Kits has launched in partnership with Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept that ensures all tips added to purchases go directly into the pockets of restaurant staff.

Noodles & Company and Panera Brand become latest US restaurant brands to make customers wear face masks: US fast casual brands Noodles & Company and Panera Bread have announced plans to formally require all customers to wear face coverings when entering their restaurants. Noodles announced on its website the new policy had come into effect at its 374 company-owned sites – even in jurisdictions that didn’t require face masks in public. However, it said the requirement wouldn’t be enforced. Panera’s policy is similar to the one enacted by Starbucks, in which wearing face masks is compulsory inside company-owned sites. Since dine-in areas began reopening, many restaurants have been asking customers to wear face masks when entering its venues – but enforcement has been challenging as some diners have refused. Some US restaurants have closed again after it became too difficult to get diners to agree to wear face coverings, according to a Business Insider report.

Westminster Lib Dems call for national smoking ban in alfresco dining areas: A petition has been launched calling for Westminster Council to ban smoking in alfresco dining areas as a condition of granting licences for additional tables. Westminster & City of London Liberal Democrats, part of the Liberal Democrat party, is behind the move and wants to see a ban taken up nationally. It said outdoor dining space should be treated in the same way as indoors when it came to licensing conditions. The call comes after the government announced there would be no outright alfresco dining smoking ban but a “compromise” instead that saw restaurants provide outdoor smoking and non-smoking sections. The Lib Dem group stressed its intent wasn’t to ban or alter existing outside designated smoking spaces but it said those areas might need to be “relocated”. It stated: “The government’s compromise of outdoor dining space for smokers and another space for non-smokers adds to rather than reduces red tape, creates confusion and is unpractical in all but the biggest outdoor dining areas, of which there aren’t many in city-centre locations such as Westminster. In making outdoor dining and drinking space non-smoking, Westminster City Council has an opportunity to take the lead nationally to ban smoking at all licensed outdoor events and improve the welfare of its residents.”

Sturgeon names hospitality businesses linked to coronavirus outbreak in Lanarkshire: Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has named the businesses linked to a coronavirus outbreak in Lanarkshire. They include Owen’s bar in Coatbridge, The Railway Tavern pub and Merlin’s Bar, both in Motherwell, and a Costa Coffee store in Carfin. Environmental health officials visited the businesses after 15 workers at the Sitel call centre, near Motherwell, tested positive for the virus. All had taken satisfactory precautions and transmission risks were “low”, the Glasgow Times reports. During her daily briefing, Sturgeon made a plea to people who had visited the businesses to be “vigilant” for the next fortnight, to take a test, and to monitor symptoms. She said the outbreak was being dealt with by “vigorous” test and trace, with no plans for a local lock-down in North Lanarkshire.

Pricing strategy shifts as heightened demand ‘pushes power back’ to hoteliers: Hotel pricing strategy has shifted in the wake of heightened demand as lock-down restrictions ease and power “returns to hoteliers”, according to a study by Profitroom. The company, which provides hospitality booking solutions, has analysed data from more than 3,500 hotels to reveal venues are reverting to a fixed pricing strategy to improve margins and profitability. Profitroom said Port Lympne in Kent, for example, had seen a 387% year-on-year increase in bookings following the prime minister’s reopening announcement. The value has jumped even further, increasing 469%, with much of the spike attributed to pricing. Samantha Williams, of Profitroom, said: “In the wake of covid-19 we’re starting to see a shift in the power balance. With social distancing measures limiting hotel capacity combined with high domestic demand due to travel restrictions, our data suggests hotels are increasingly able to charge higher rates – with guests still willing to pay provided the hotel or wider brand is able to demonstrate sufficient safety measures.” Profitroom said the rise of average daily rate had accelerated since lock-down eased, with a 56% increase on this time last year. However, Williams said the power shift was likely to be temporary. She added: “As the market continues to reopen and the risks associated with covid diminish, hoteliers will almost certainly have to revert to pricing more attractively.”

Leading chefs contribute to cookbook supporting hospitality workers: Some of the UK’s leading chefs have contributed towards a project that is raising funds for hospitality workers affected by coronavirus. The charity cook book – Feast With Purpose – includes recipes from Michel Roux Jr, Tom Kerridge and Rick Stein and is the latest initiative from chef Simon Boyle, the man behind the Beyond Food Foundation. Beyond Food helps disadvantaged and vulnerable adults get the training required to work in the hospitality industry, with a number of recipes from its apprentices appearing in the book alongside those provided by the chefs. Another aim of the book is to “celebrate food with recipes that suit everyone”. Boyle said: “It has been a labour of love but has reminded me what’s at the heart of what we do – the power of food to inspire, bring people together and give purpose to our lives. However, it’s not just about cooking, this is also about doing our bit to support an industry that’s seriously struggling. Since 2005, I have seen first-hand the power of food as a catalyst to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Now we’re working to prevent those in the industry from becoming homeless.”

Company News:

Coffeesmiths Collective businesses placed into liquidation: Several businesses run by Coffeesmiths Collective, including Filmore & Union Restaurants, have been placed into liquidation, Propel understands. Filmore & Union Restaurants, which comprises five of the brand’s sites including all of those in John Lewis stores, has been placed into liquidation as well as Brew & Bake, Brew Coffee Co and Crazy Fox Espresso. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Coffeesmiths Collective, owner of the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (DoCaSA) business, had undergone a restructure. The company, which has spent the past two years acquiring coffee shop and wholesale brands across the UK, was believed to have been working with adviser Quantuma on its options during the past few months. Propel understands a number of the group’s brands, such as Filmore & Union and Small Batch Coffee, have been moved to recently incorporated companies still overseen by Coffeesmiths Collective directors. However, it’s thought the restructuring has led to a number of permanent closures and redundancies, including a significant number of sites under the group’s core DoCaSA brand and single-site operations such as Timberyard in Seven Dials. Propel understands CCL 002, which was previously known as Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, is also set to be placed into liquidation. Coffeesmiths also operated Bea’s of Bloomsburg, Baker & Spice, Roasted Rituals, Nordic Bakery, La Bottega Milanese, Spring Espresso and CoffeeWorks Project.

Tasty reopens more than half of estate: Tasty, the AIM-listed operator of the Wildwood and Dim T brands, has reopened 33 sites for dine-in across both its brands. The company, which earlier this month revealed it was exploring ways to strengthen its balance sheet as it announced 284 redundancies, has now reopened 29 of its 51 Wildwood restaurants for dine-in. At the same time, ten of its Wildwood sites are offering delivery through Deliveroo, while its Whiteley restaurant is offering click and collect. Tasty has also reopened four of its five Dim T restaurants for dine in, with only its site in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, still closed. At the start of the month, the company said it was exploring ways to minimise costs and strengthen the balance sheet including investigating the possibility of new debt and/or equity capital and discussing terms with landlords and trade creditors.

Island Poké sets out expansion plans for France as it reports encouraging initial trading: White Rabbit Fund-backed concept Island Poké has said it plans to have eight sites open in France by the end of this year after being encouraged by the first few weeks’ trade at its debut site in Paris. The company opened its second and third sites in France earlier this month, in La Rochelle and Montpelier. Further openings this year include another site in Paris, two in Lyon and sites in Rennes and Nantes. The company will also open restaurants in Belgium and Luxembourg in 2021. Island Poké plans to open 42 sites in the next five years in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland under a joint-venture agreement, with the majority of sites in France. The business said it was also looking to expand across the UK from its eight-strong London base and explore new ways to enter new territories in the coming years. Island Poké founder James Porter said: “We are thrilled to continue our French roll-out plans, despite everything that’s happened to the industry during the past few months. It really demonstrates the faith our partners and customers have in our brand and offering. We’re encouraged by the first few weeks’ trade in Paris and look forward to bringing our unique Island vibes to the rest of France throughout the remainder of the year.”

Barkby Group secures £1m loan to support pubs business, eyes expansion opportunities: Premium gastro-pub operator Barkby Group has secured £1m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from HSBC UK and is looking at opportunities to add to its seven-strong estate. The company said it had used the lock-down period to make a “number of structural and operational changes” including accelerating plans to streamline the business, cutting its number of suppliers, and renegotiating key supplier contracts. Barkby Group used CBILS to furlough the vast majority of its workforce, while it has also benefited from business rate exemptions. The company has implemented a new room reservation system across its estate and redesigned pub websites. Refurbishment of the Rose & Crown Inn in Ashbury, near Swindon, has also been completed. The company stated: “We worked quickly to minimise cash outflows during this period but some ongoing monthly costs were incurred, such as utility costs, reduced rent and insurance. Following the relaxation of lock-down, our pubs reopened on 4 July. Various government incentives and the continued support of the majority of our landlords lead us to be optimistic about the trading outlook, subject to no further restrictions being imposed. We have been taking bookings for accommodation and initial demand has been better than anticipated. We’re taking this opportunity to add to our pub portfolio and carefully reviewing leasehold and freehold opportunities.” Regarding its Workshop Coffee business, Barkby said online sales grew 300% in the three months to June compared with last year, while the company said it was seeing that trend continue even as restrictions were lifted. Barkby added: “While business-to-business wholesale volumes were significantly down year-on-year for the last quarter, we started seeing an increase in May and this has continued into June. The performance of the online business has helped to partially offset the temporary decline in wholesale volumes. We look forward to seeing performance further improve as our own retail sites and those of our business-to-business partners reopen.”

Boparan to begin gradual reopening of Carluccio’s sites next week: Boparan Restaurant Group is to begin gradually reopening its Carluccio’s estate, starting with its Richmond and Beverley sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will reopen the sites on Thursday, 30 July followed by venues in Walton-on-Thames, South Kensington and Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday, 6 August. New safety measures will see the temperature of all team members screened daily; no staff travelling to or from work in their uniform; staggered shifts to ensure teams maintain a safe distance during start and break times; and all teams having access to gloves and face masks. The venues will also operate a reduced menu. 

Roxy Leisure and Electric Playbox to expand concepts with new Manchester sites: Roxy Leisure, operator of Roxy Ball Room, is to open a second site for its Roxy Lanes concept, in Manchester. Roxy has signed a 20-year lease for 14,000 square feet of space in Withy Grove with M&G Real Estate and Intu, joint owners of Manchester Arndale, in a move first reported by Propel in October. Roxy Lanes, which has its debut site in Leeds, offers competitive games such as bowling, gaming and indoor golf alongside food and drink. The venue will be Roxy Leisure’s tenth UK venue and second in Manchester. The company, which is led by Matthew Jones, operates Roxy Ball Rooms in Deansgate, two each in Liverpool and Leeds, and one each in Birmingham and Nottingham. It also operates The Loop in Leeds. All its venues will reopen on Saturday, 1 August. A Roxy Lanes spokeswoman told The Business Desk: “We have always wanted to open a second site in the city and Manchester Arndale is perfect. It’s a great space for our customers to enjoy our fun and exciting activities.” Meanwhile, Electric Playbox has signed a ten-year lease for a 3,047 square foot unit in Halle Place at Manchester Arndale. The concept is an interactive digital adventure with each “playbox” offering a different theme. Visuals and graphics are projected on all four walls in each booth, with customers’ movements tracked by motion sensors. The concept has been co-founded by Will Dean, who created endurance race series Tough Mudder. It will be Electric Playbox’s second site after making its debut in London. Dean said: “Manchester is the perfect location for our second venue in the UK. We’re confident customers will enjoy everything we have to offer.” Intu regional managing director Colin Flinn said: “Consumer behaviour will continue to change and shopping centres will no longer just be about retail – our customers are looking for a day out and something to entertain the whole family. Extending our leisure offer means we’re providing something people can’t purchase online.”

Three Cheers Pub Co extends Eat Out To Help Out until end of September: Three Cheers Pub Co, led by Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, is to extend the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme by giving customers 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks in September as well as August. All diners will be able to benefit from the discount of up to £10 per person at each of the company’s nine sites during the two-month period. Peake said: “Lock-down has meant our customers haven’t been able to go out for a long time. It has also been a financially challenging time for us all. By doubling the period of the offer and subsiding the discount out of our own pockets, we hope to see more of our lovely customers back. We’ve missed them!”

Benares team to launch Indian concept as one of three Camden Market openings: The team behind Michelin-starred restaurant Benares is to launch a concept at Camden Market. Situated in The Stables, The Indian Alley will be the first food and beverage concept to launch in Camden Market after lock-down restrictions eased. It will be joined by Lewis Hamilton-backed, plant-based Neat Burger and Spain-inspired creperie Prep’ La Crepe, which have also agreed deals with Camden Market owner LabTech. Located in a grade I-listed building and created by Benares’ in-house team, the plan is to open the restaurant next month and refurbish it in early 2021. Neat Burger has signed for a 500 square foot unit for its second dine-in outlet in London, after Mayfair. The outlet is due to open in August. Prep’ La Crepe will open a dedicated grab-and-go kiosk for its debut London site. Camden Market is the brand’s third overall, joining its two Spanish branches including a recently opened 100-cover restaurant in Madrid. Its Camden restaurant will pay homage to the success of its French menu – sweet and savoury crepes, salads and smoothies. It will be an all-day dining concept offering main meals and snacks. Maggie Milosavljevic, food and beverage commercial director at LabTech, said: “The Indian Alley, Neat Burger and Prep’ La Crepe all have something distinctive to bring and we’re excited to welcome them.” LabTech, The Indian Alley, Prep’ La Crepe, and Neat Burger all dealt direct.

Innis & Gunn lodges plans for second Taproom in Edinburgh: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has lodged plans to launch a second Taproom in Edinburgh. The company has applied to the city council to refurbish the former Finn & Bear cafe in The Shore. It would bring Innis & Gunn’s estate of bars in Scotland to four following the Taproom in Lothian Road, Edinburgh, and venues in Dundee and Glasgow. An Innis & Gunn spokesman told Propel: “We can confirm we’re in the initial planning stages for a second Taproom in Edinburgh. The expansion of our retail footprint has always been a key pillar of our overall growth strategy and we look forward to unveiling more detail on what we have planned in due course, subject to relevant permissions.” In May, Innis & Gunn submitted plans for its new brewery. Located at Heriot-Watt University’s Research Park to the west of Edinburgh, it is set to be the first major brewery to open in the city for 150 years.

Wright & Bell to resurrect South Bank’s Green Room: Restaurant and bar company Wright & Bell, which is backed by Imbiba, is set to launch a 2.0 version of the Green Room bar on London’s South Bank. The Green Room #2 will launch on Friday, 31 July as a summer garden space offering pizza and cocktails. The original Green Room bar closed last year but the reopening will allow Wright & Bell to get furloughed staff back into work, Hot Dinners reports. Ben Hughes-Gage, head chef of Smithfield restaurant Lino, and his team will bring their bread oven to the venue to make red-and-white-based pizzas with toppings such as grilled leeks, courgette, tarragon and truffle; and passata, confit aubergine, cashew, semi-dried tomato and basil. Green Room #2 will also offer dishes from other Wright & Bell venues such as Carnaby bar Whyte & Brown’s crispy chicken burgers and Lino’s house croquettes. Drinks will come from the team at City of London bar Kitty Hawk and use herbs and botanicals grown in the bar’s garden such as mint in the Herbaceous Spritz and elderflower in the Elderflower Classico. The venue will have capacity for 100 socially distanced customers. Wright & Bell, which is led by Sarah Clark, also operates The Back Room Wine Bar.

Deliveroo makes Miller its permanent chief financial officer: Deliveroo has appointed Adam Miller as permanent chief financial officer. Miller, who has been with the company since 2019, had been holding the role on an interim basis since Raif Jacobs left in October, reports Sky News. Deliveroo founder and chief executive Will Shu announced Miller’s appointment as part of a broader shake-up of the company’s senior management ranks. The changes include the elevation of Thea Rogers, a former senior Treasury adviser, to chief customer officer, responsible for communications, policy, marketing, insights and loyalty. Its general counsel, Chantelle Zemba, will also be promoted to the company’s executive committee. Shu reportedly told staff: “Deliveroo’s vision is to be the definitive food company. From our global expansion to developing industry-leading innovations such as Editions, we have made huge strides. After a period in which we have had to adapt our offer to restaurants, riders and restaurants, we can look to the future with confidence and I’m excited about what this new structure will enable us to accomplish.” Deliveroo has been grappling with the impact of the pandemic on its restaurant partners, sparking a series of initiatives aimed at demonstrating support for the industry. New services include a direct tipping function to boost local restaurant operators. Last month the Competition and Markets Authority announced it would provisionally approve Amazon’s acquisition of a 16% stake in Deliveroo. A final decision is due shortly. Sky News said the appointment of a number of new executives would stoke speculation Deliveroo was edging closer to a stock market listing, with next year looking a realistic option, according to bankers. One insider said Deliveroo was positioned for a “period of sustained and profitable growth”.

Football-inspired restaurant concept Players to double portfolio: Football-inspired restaurant concept Players is to double its portfolio with two new sites. The company will launch the venues in Manchester city centre, adding to its venues in Rochdale and Cheetham Hill. The first opening will be in Portland Street in premises previously occupied by dessert parlour operator Creams. The site is expected to open in mid-August before the team moves on to another opening in Deansgate, reports the Manchester Evening News. Players’ venues feature turf walls, Perspex-clad football shirts covered with footballers’ signatures, and a sports-influenced menu of burgers, chicken wings and loaded cookie dough and waffle desserts.

Stafford Collection to reopen Fitzrovia restaurant Norma next month: The Stafford Collection, the luxury hospitality group that includes the Stafford London and Northcote, has announced its Sicilian-inspired restaurant Norma will reopen on Monday, 3 August. The restaurant in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, has been adapted to meet government guidelines. The dining room on the top floor is bookable for parties of up to 12 guests. Culinary director Ben Tish and his team have created a seasonal menu with a taste of Sicily. Dishes will include grilled octopus with preserved lemon and wild fennel, and mafalde with Cornish crab, chilli butter and lemon.

Mindful Chef sees 387% frozen meal sales spike during lock-down, secures first retail listing: Healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef has said it saw a 387% week-on-week increase in sales of frozen meals when the UK went into lock-down. The move has seen Mindful Chef expand its frozen foods range to 25 ready meals and 13 smoothie mixes. The company introduced frozen meals to its offering last year. The company has also secured its first retail listing. Mindful Chef will launch three frozen ready meals with online supermarket Ocado this month. The meals feature ingredients used in its recipe boxes that are 100% free from refined carbs, gluten and dairy. The meals are spicy panang chicken curry with black rice, chicken tikka masala with brown rice, and creamy coconut fish pie with sweet potato mash. Mindful Chef chief executive Tim Lee said: “We have also reported a significant increase in basket size, with multiple customers spending more than £500 in one order, equating to over 80 frozen meals. We are also excited to introduce our healthy frozen ready meal range to Ocado. This is a significant move into retail for the brand and one we hope to expand in the future.” Earlier this month Mindful Chef partnered with City Pantry, the business-to-business catering market place owned by Just Eat. City Pantry’s home delivery service, which launched in April, allows businesses to deliver meals, gifts and perks directly to employees’ homes. In June, Mindful Chef teamed up with Nando’s to launch a limited-edition recipe box of peri-peri favourites.

MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Olivia Burt to head kitchen at new Chelsea wine bar: MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Olivia Burt is to head the kitchen at Chelsea wine bar Stanley’s, which will launch in Sydney Street on Thursday (23 July). Burt comes to the venture from Fera at Claridge’s, with her menu focusing on British seasonal produce and ingredients in a “relaxed contemporary style”. Small plates will include whipped smoked cod roe with buttermilk flatbread; sourdough crumpet with Cornish crab; and hen of the woods mushrooms with smoked mustard cream. Drinks will include an own-label sparkling wine in partnership with English producer Coates & Seely, Hot Dinners reports. Stanley’s has taken over The Chelsea Courtyard, just off King’s Road, and will offer 60 covers in the outside space, which has been socially distanced using booths for groups of six and screens to separate diners. The courtyard will also feature its own bar, while inside there will be an orangery-style room with a large central banquette and private dining room. The operator is Hugh Stanley, of the renowned Stanley horse-breeding family, who ran the nearby Sydney Arms for three years.

Socially distanced events space to launch as Leeds’ largest beer garden: A socially distanced venue for eating and drinking is to launch in Leeds. Chow Down will run for ten weekends from Thursday, 30 July and will be the city’s “biggest beer garden”. The project is a collaboration between events company New Citizens, online directory Leeds Indie Food, and food and lifestyle agency Chapter 81. After New Citizens saw all plans for a “bumper 2020” cancelled, it is now working with developer CEG to create Temple Arches, a 22,000 square foot open-air venue in Globe Road. Chow Down has previously been hosted by The Piece Hall in Halifax and Lincoln Castle. Matt Long, director of New Citizens and Chow Down, told The Business Desk: “We saw all our events cancelled during the pandemic and brainstormed ideas to create a permanent space for Chow Down. The team has designed an amazing venue at Temple Arches using shipping containers and pergolas to create an alfresco setting that’s socially distanced and safe but also fun. It will be a great environment in which to enjoy all the great street food, drink, music and live art we have to offer.” Emma Clarkson, place-making manager at CEG, added: “This outdoor events space will host a series of creative, cultural and social activities in a safe way. It’s part of CEG’s ambition to breathe renewed life into the Temple area.”

Former England rugby captain Phil Vickery launches debut restaurant: Former England rugby captain and World Cup winner Phil Vickery has opened his debut restaurant. Vickery, who won Celebrity MasterChef in 2011, has opened No.3 in Cheltenham at the former Star Bistro site in Royal Crescent. The restaurant has room for 26 covers inside with another 12 spaces outside and two private dining rooms upstairs. No.3 will also continue to offer the collection service it launched in May. Vickery told So Glos: “Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere quick. Having an offering people can take away is important and something I want to do. The biggest thing we can do as individuals is wanting to make a difference. We’re going to be the ones to get ourselves out of it and move on.”

National gym chain Xercise4Less sold in pre-pack administration: National gym chain Xercise4Less has been sold in a pre-pack administration deal. Xercise4Less and parent company Wright Leisure Topco appointed Toby Underwood and Rob Lewis, of PwC, as joint administrators. They confirmed the sale of the business to a subsidiary of JD Sports Gyms. The sale included the majority of business and assets of Xercise4Less Group, including 50 of its 51 gyms. The chain’s site in Wakefield wasn’t included in the sale as it closed before administrators were appointed. The business employs 400 staff, who will all transfer to the new business. Xercise4Less faced “financial difficulties caused by an increasing competitive market, which was exacerbated by coronavirus”. The administrators confirmed there would be no interruption to customer memberships. Underwood said: “Following our appointment we immediately completed a sales process that had been running for some time. This sale puts the business on a firmer financial footing and JD Sports Gyms will work with the existing team to continue to grow and develop the new business.” Alun Peacock, managing director of JD Sports Gyms, added: “This acquisition enhances our position in the highly competitive gym market and will ensure the continued employment of many hundreds of people. We look forward to reopening the gyms and welcoming our new colleagues and members over the coming weeks.”

Shuk to launch alfresco evening dining experience at Borough Market: An alfresco evening dining experience is set to launch at London’s Borough Market on Friday, 31 July. Erev, which means “evening” in Hebrew, is the brainchild of the team behind Borough Market stall Shuk and will offer small sharing plates and houmous using produce from the market. Inspired by Tel Aviv’s street food, Erev will offer eight covers overlooking the stall’s open kitchen and 24 alfresco covers in front. Erev’s small plates will include beetroot, horseradish, orange and dill; sea bass, schug and pickled cucumber; and rare beef, smoked pickled mushrooms, zaatar and truffle pecorino. Houmous will be served with steamed pita, while desserts will include poached rhubarb and pistachio crumble. The drinks list will feature wine, Israeli beer and “market soda” cocktails. Chef Mark Jankel and operator Richard Littman launched Shuk in December 2019.

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