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Wed 28th Oct 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the day:

Imbiba – there are once-in-a-generation opportunities out there: Sector investor Imbiba, the backer of Farmer J, Vagabond, Temper and hotel brand House of Gods, has argued that the current covid crisis also presents once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. In the company’s newsletter, Imbiba said: “While it may sound counter-intuitive to say whilst we’re in the eye of the storm of Hurricane Covid, we at Imbiba strongly believe there will be once-in-a-generation opportunities for those businesses that can survive the chaos and who are brave enough to pounce as the world returns to some degree of normality. With less competition, the availability of great people and consumers thirsty to make up for lost time, the post-covid years could and should be very buoyant for our great sector. And we mustn’t forget the property opportunities that will fall of this – mind-blowing. History has shown great businesses are born out of the most difficult times. It is unlikely there will ever be such opportunistic market conditions for well-funded leisure and hospitality businesses to grow again in our lifetime. So if any entrepreneurs are looking for funding to repair tattered balance sheets and come roaring out of covid inspired by world domination, please get in touch.” Imbiba’s current sector investments also include Darwin & Wallace, private members’ club business Purple Dragon, Brighton food hall concept Sessions Market and pit cocktail bar concept Ballie Ballerson. The investment fund added: “Faced with continued adversity, many businesses have managed to pivot and even prosper – from DIY home kits to new takeaway concepts, to late-night cocktail bars hosting immersive drag queen events during the day – the innovation has, and continues to be, remarkable. Awe-inspiring really. However, unfortunately not all businesses have had the ability, the business model or the capital to ride the innovation wave. Inevitably, there has been and will continue to be a significant number of causalities. Of course, covid-19 will always be used as an excuse to mask the inevitable demise of some brands. Nevertheless, there are many great leisure and hospitality businesses out there that will require funding to repair their beaten-up balance sheets and in time, once again, focus on growth. Imbiba is very much here to support these businesses and the courageous entrepreneurs and teams behind them.” Imbiba also invested £1.25m in Wireless Social at the start of this year. 

Industry News: 

Revolution Bars Group sites impacted by CVA proposal identified: The 13 sites that will be impacted by Revolution Bars Group’s (RBG) company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposals include its eponymous bars in Bath, Bristol, Birmingham and Clapham High Street. The 73-strong group announced on Tuesday (27 October) it was launching a CVA process in regards to its Revolution Bar Limited (RBL) subsidiary to reduce the size of its estate and rental cost base and improve the profitability and return on capital of the group during the long term. RBL operates 50 Revolution-branded bars. Under the terms of the proposed CVA: RBL expects to exit six bars and obtain materially improved rental terms on seven others. Propel understands the six bars that will close are the Revolution sites in America Square (City of London), Birmingham, Sunderland, Bath, Clapham High Street and Solihull. The bars where RBG is insisting on reduced rents are based in Clapham Junction, Putney, Richmond, Bristol, Reading, Cheltenham and Stafford.

Most Scottish pubs and restaurants cleared to serve alcohol indoors, trade body fears lack of time to adjust: In a raft of changes made to the hospitality sector in Scotland on Tuesday (27 October), first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the easing of restrictions in levels one to three, in the new five-tier system that comes into force on Monday (2 November). However, UKHospitality has voiced concerns over a “lack of time to adjust” despite “small positives”. Hospitality sites currently in levels one and two will be allowed to stay open until 10.30pm rather than the current 10pm curfew and those in level two will be allowed to serve alcohol indoors to diners until 8pm. Pubs and restaurants under level three rules can open their doors until 6pm but cannot serve alcohol, in a bid to help sites serving food. Sturgeon said: “For all of Scotland our aim is to get to level one and then to level zero of the framework as quickly as it is possible. We know it is possible because, over the summer, we got to the very low levels of transmission that would be needed for that.” UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “There are small reasons to be positive, but the continual restrictions, lack of time to adjust and uncertainty over support is a worry. We need to stress the importance of providing sufficient guidance and time to allow businesses to get to grips with new measures. It is vital businesses know with certainty that adequate financial support will be made available.”

Trade bodies demand freeze on late-night levies: UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping have demanded a freeze on late-night levy charges. The trade bodies have written to crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse MP, to back the sector’s businesses that have been forced to continue paying the fees despite no venues being allowed to stay open post-10pm, and many have either been under tough restrictions or shut since March. Under current legislation, local authorities are not permitted to cancel or freeze payments for late-night levies so the demand is for the government to give them the power to do so – and to confirm companies will receive refunds for payments made while they were closed or unable to operate as late-night businesses. A spokesman said: “With businesses mandated to close at 10pm and with many late-night premises still unable to reopen at all, there is no way the late-night levy is justified. A tax that was spurious at the best of times is completely unnecessary and, potentially, very harmful in the midst of this crisis. This has been acknowledged by some local authorities and we have had pragmatic discussions about how late-night hospitality and pubs can be supported. Unfortunately, as the powers are set under national legislation, late-night levy payments cannot be frozen or cancelled. We need the government to act on this issue as a matter of urgency. Late-night venues are either closed altogether or operating at a fraction of their normal revenue. All the while, they continue to bleed money. The Home Office must recognise the levy no longer applies when much of the sector is still closed and those that are open cannot do so after 10pm in England, or at all in Wales currently. Local authorities must be given the power to cancel levy payments. That is the first step. We then need confirmation businesses will receive a refund for fees that they have been forced to pay, even though they were closed.”

Sector experts join campaign to deliver response on covid-19: A coalition of diverse people, including sector investor Luke Johnson and hotelier Rocco Forte, will come together as part of Recovery – a campaign for a balanced and measured response to covid-19. The group, co-founded by Jon Dobinson of creative business Other Creative, and Alan D Miller, honorary trustee of the Night Time Industries Association, will launch on Thursday (29 October). It will call for balance and moderation in response to coronavirus, backed by a proper public debate and a public inquiry that looks at the impact government policies have had on covid-19 mortality and other factors like cancer, mental health, the economy, and the future for children and young people. On board are senior doctors and NHS staff, leading authorities in epidemiology and infectious diseases, mental health experts, entrepreneurs and leaders of business, sporting stars and world champions, TV celebrities and chefs, stars of the performing arts and musicians. Johnson and Forte will offer their thoughts on how hospitality has been affected, along with others such as former judge Lord Sumption, oncology expert professor Karol Sikora, arts promoter Harvey Goldsmith plus many more. Dobinson said: “What raised the alarm bells for me was hearing world-leading experts on epidemiology like professor Sunetra Gupta smeared as extremists when they questioned the idea of lock-downs. When someone close to me died, it was because of the mental stress of lock-down rather than covid-19: I saw in the most tragic way that harsh restrictions carry their own threat to life.” Miller added: “Joining forces for a broad alliance means we can draw upon a strong array of business leaders from many vital industry sectors beyond hospitality as well as prominent scientists, artists and citizens who want to see a full ‘Recovery’ for all in Britain.”

Just Eat launches further support for restaurant partners: Just Eat, the online food ordering and delivery service, is introducing new measures to support independent restaurants adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the tightening Government restrictions introduced to combat the second wave. In particular, the new measures will offer support to restaurants within areas facing the most severe restrictions, which currently includes Northern Ireland, Wales and the central belt in Scotland. The measures apply to those restaurants that already use the Just Eat courier service to support delivery requirements alongside their dine-in trade. The measures will also support restaurants that are looking to partner with Just Eat to help support their business. The new measures will initially last for 30 days, starting from last Friday (23 October) and will include: a 25% discount on commission for independent restaurants that use Just Eat’s courier service; removal of commission on collection orders for all independent restaurant partners; and provision of a merchandising and supplies package, with choices including PPE, to all independent restaurant partners. Andrew Kenny, managing director of Just Eat UK, said: “We’re pleased to have launched a number of additional support initiatives including a commission discount for those restaurants that use Just Eat’s courier service, as well as helping restaurants that haven’t previously offered a delivery option or are new to the Just Eat platform to get online and remain trading while their dine-in trade remains severely impacted. Additionally, to meet increased demand from customers, we continue to invest in expanding our courier network and are offering commission-free collection on all orders. We hope these measures will continue to provide a valuable lifeline during this challenging time.” 
 
CAMRA praises pubs offering children free meals during half term: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has praised the community spirit of publicans this week for offering free meals to local children during half term. Local pubs in communities up and down the country are offering families free packed lunches and hot meals for children who may not otherwise get a nutritious meal during the half term holidays. CAMRA’s national chairman Nik Antona said: “Pubs across the country have shown that even when they are facing an existential crisis as a result of the covid-19 restrictions reducing trade and turnover, they are still selflessly supporting their communities. Despite their own financial hardship, publicans are providing help and support when times are tough. It shows just what a force for good well-run local pubs are in our villages, towns and cities. We must do everything we can to support our pubs through the difficult weeks and months ahead so they can continue to play their part as a vital part of our social fabric, and can continue to provide for our communities.” 

Printworks calls for urgent review after Cultural Recovery Fund snub: Printworks has called for an “urgent review” of its failed Culture Recovery Fund application, suggesting its bid for financial aid was turned down due to “a lack understanding around the company structure”. The 5,000-capacity Canada Water venue was one of a handful of major London clubs to be snubbed by Arts Council England in the first two rounds of funding. Egg LDN in King’s Cross, Cambridge Heath sister venues Oval Space and Pickle Factory, and Greenwich’s Studio 338 were also told their applications were unsuccessful. Simon Tracey, chief operating officer of Broadwick Live – the company that operates Printworks alongside fellow London venues The Drumsheds and Exhibition, as well as Depot Mayfield in Manchester – said it “was very disappointing” not to receive the aid. The Culture Recovery Fund, set up by the government to support arts venues during the pandemic, has aided a number of major clubs in London. Fabric, Corsica Studios, Phonox and Ministry of Sound are among the clubs to have been successful. “A vast number of our contemporaries and competitors of similar financial stature have been granted financial aid, so we are keen for an opportunity to provide any clarification needed to reconsider our application,” Tracey added.
 
AA unveils new rosette winners: Four British restaurants have been awarded four AA Rosettes, while a total of 26 have received three AA Rosettes – a record number for a single announcement. Receiving four AA Rosettes are The Latymer, Pennyhill Park (Bagshot, Surrey), Muse (London), Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel (Jersey) and The Ritz Restaurant (London). Restaurants awarded three AA Rosettes include The Old Stamp House (Ambleside, Cumbria), housed in the former office of William Wordsworth; Frenchie Covent Garden (London), cousin of the original Parisian eatery; and Great British Menu winner Shaun Rankin’s eponymous Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall (Ripon, North Yorkshire). Simon Numphud, managing director at AA Media, said: “This has been an immensely difficult year for the hospitality industry yet restaurants across the country have continued to provide incredible dining experiences to the public despite these considerable challenges. The dedication and hard work of the teams behind these establishments is inspiring, particularly during this time, and we are pleased to be able to celebrate them with the announcement of these AA Rosettes.”
 
Foodhub survey find burger is UK’s favourite sandwich: The much-maligned burger has been crowned as Britain’s favourite sandwich, according to new research to celebrate World Sandwich Day on Tuesday (3 November). The Burger – whether beef or chicken – came out top in a study by food delivery app Foodhub, which polled 2,000 Brits to find 2020’s most-loved sandwich. A quarter of the nation (25%) voted for the burger as their favourite sandwich, ahead of ham and cheese (23%) and cheese and pickle (22%). Foodhub spokesman Wil Chung said: “There’s been some debate about whether a burger is even a sandwich but we’ve done our research and it seems it absolutely is. The definition of a sandwich is ‘a food typically consisting of vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread or, more generally, any dish wherein bread serves as a container or wrapper for another food type’. So the humble burger falls squarely into that category.” The iconic BLT managed to poll 17% of the vote, bacon and egg butty won 16% of the poll and the classic prawn and mayo managed a commendable 18% of the vote. The ham sandwich managed 15% of the vote, the beef sandwich won 12% and the fish finger sandwich managed 14%. Brits, on average, want to pay no more than about £3 for a sandwich, according to the data. Though 15% would happily pay up to £6 if the sandwich was of sufficient quality. And despite burgers coming out on top, the UK is still fairly traditional about when it prefers to eat a sandwich – with 77% saying they eat sandwiches mainly at lunchtime. More than half of consumers usually rotate between two or three favourite sandwiches, according to the data.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is currently looking for a financial controller to join a property business is Birmingham. This property group is focused on the accommodation and hotel sector, and it is keen to speak with finance experts from this industry. The position will cover all financial reporting, analysis of data, internal controls, yearly and monthly budgeting, auditing and all management of financial transactions. This position would suite a very organised and diligent individual who has excellent attention to detail and five years’ finance experience. Anyone interested can send their CV to Oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member 
 

Company News: 

BrewDog hits latest £7.5m crowdfund target: Scottish craft brewer BrewDog has hit its initial crowdfunding target of £7.5m for its crowdfunding investment programme, Equity for Punks Tomorrow, which launched in September. The brewer recently announced its carbon negative status as it continues to break from conventional business models and become the world’s most sustainable beer business. Equity for Punks Tomorrow launched on 10 September with the initial goal of raising £7.5m. It raised £1m in less than 48 hours, and has now hit its target in just over a month as investors show their belief in the brewer’s commitment to state-of-the-art sustainability projects. With its initial target surpassed, the brewer will be able to fund projects including direct wind power for its breweries, CO2 recovery, electric vehicle fleets and converting waste into energy. James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, said: “As investors continue to join our thriving community of Equity Punks, it proves people believe in our ambition for the business and want to be a part of our story. Announcing our carbon negative status earlier this month was the first step in ensuring that, as a business, we’re holding ourselves accountable for how our actions impact the environment. Equity for Punks Tomorrow is a critical part of the evolution of BrewDog because it allows us to fund the next step in our sustainability plans. Every penny from the raise goes towards ground-breaking sustainability initiatives. Our aim is for our business to grow while simultaneously reducing our emissions – our success won’t be to the detriment of the planet.” Having secured more than £73m from previous crowdfunding rounds, BrewDog has now set its sights on overfunding beyond its £7.5m goal, with a maximum potential raise of up to £50m before it is scheduled to close on 28 January, 2021.

Whitbread – we have line-of-sight to grow to 60,000 rooms in Germany: Whitbread has reiterated its confidence that it can become the number one budget hotel operator in Germany. In its half-year results, it stated: “Premier Inn’s aim in Germany is to leverage the strengths and capabilities of the UK business to create the number one budget brand in the German hotel market. We believe all of the six UK success factors detailed previously are either already present in Germany, or, in the case of the ‘strong brand’ and ‘direct distribution model’ there is a compelling opportunity for Premier Inn to develop those characteristics as the business grows in scale. Our current pipeline of just over 10,000 rooms in Germany equates to around 1% market share (compared to circa 11% in the UK). At this early stage in the business’ growth, we have an initial line-of-sight to around 60,000 rooms, which would equate to around 5% market share, still less than half that achieved in the UK. The German hotel market has many attractive characteristics. The market is a third larger than the UK and even more fragmented, with almost three quarters of the market still consisting of small independent operators, which are experiencing a structural decline to the benefit of branded hotels. Despite this, the branded budget hotel sector still only represents 9% of the market, compared with 28% in the UK, as franchise operators have historically struggled to expand with limited property financing options available. To date, we have committed almost £800m of capital to the German market. Given the scale and characteristics of this market, and despite the significant impact covid-19 has had on the sector, we remain focused on continuing our expansion in Germany and delivering on our ambition to be the number one budget hotel operator in that market.”
 
Euro Garages confirms NKD Pizza link up for grab-and-go concept trial: Euro Garages, the forecourt and roadside operator, which is part of the EG Group, has confirmed it is to trial a new on-the-go concept “Slices by NKD pizza”. As flagged up by Propel earlier this month, the company is to trial the new concessions in two of its sites. The first will open on Thursday (29 October) at its site in Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, with the second opening on 12 November at its Beehive Service Station in Blackburn. Mohammed Tayab, EG Group food and beverage director for Europe, said: “We are very pleased to be partnering with a global brand like NKD Pizza and are very excited to trial its fresh pizza product across a number of our sites. Upon completion of a successful consumer trial, the intention is to open more locations serving NKD Pizza across our network. We firmly believe offering pizza by the slice will be very popular, particularly in our more transient locations.” NKD Pizza was founded in New Orleans in 2006 and is now headquartered in Edinburgh. It said it had a “committed growth plan of 750 stores across the global stage” and was continuing to grow its franchise network. NKD Pizza global chief executive Grant Clouston said: “We believe we’ve created a product that delivers not just on taste and quality, but that also offers our customers a convenient and satisfying on-the-go option while travelling. We’re delighted to be partnering with EG Group to bring this creation to life.”

Kerb to launch a new market in Mayfair: Street food collective Kerb is to launch a new market next month in Mayfair. Launching from 4 November on South Molton Street and open Wednesday to Friday, from noon until 7pm, the new market will be home to six traders – Arnabeet, Liberty Kitchen, Ehla, Kolkati, Ground and Piddaji. Earlier this month, Levy UK, the hospitality arm of Compass Group, had inked a deal with Kerb to bring exciting food options to Levy’s sporting, events and conference venues. The move will also help Kerb – which currently operates six street food markets across the capital, including its flagship indoor site, Seven Dials Market – expand into cities outside London.

Former Boparan Restaurant Group chief finance officer joins Greene King: Simon D’Cruz, who earlier this year stood down as chief financial officer of Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), has joined Greene King, Propel has learned. D’Cruz, the ex-head of financial planning at Domino’s, joined Greene King as finance director of its Premium, Urban and Ventures division, which is led by Karen Bosher. He stepped down from BRG, the Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, GBK and Slim Chickens operator, prior to its takeover of Carluccio’s. He joined BRG at the start of 2018.

Vapiano appoints Alan Laughlin as new chief executive: Italian casual dining brand Vapiano, which was acquired earlier this year by the Mario C Bauer-led consortium Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, has appointed Alan Laughlin, former president of Burger King for AmRest, as its new chief executive, Propel has learned. The company said Laughlin has many years of experience in leading international quick service restaurants and casual dining brands in Europe and the US, including the growth and expansion of Burger King across central Europe. He is joined in the brand’s new management team by Monika Czyz, former president of Pizza Hut in AmRest, as chief operating officer; Hassan Mechmechani, chief franchising and development officer; Pawel Szczepaniak as chief information officer; and Alexander Eberl, vice-president of mergers and acquisitions. Bauer will continue to be involved in the business as shareholder, brand ambassador and strategic partner. He said: “My personal motto is that I only want to work with people with whom I would also go on vacation. This is exactly the case with Alan, Monika, Hassan, Pawel and Alexander. I have known them very well for many years and know about their extraordinary expertise. With these five, we are now forming a management team that not only brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from the industry with them, but also the passion to bring Vapiano back to its former greatness. We are thrilled we now have the right team together that will lead Vapiano into a new time.” Laughlin said: “Our goal is to make it clear again what Vapiano stands for: first-class product quality and guest service as well as perfect pasta. We want to inspire our guests worldwide and thus herald a new era of Vapiano. Especially in times of the covid-19 pandemic, this is our most important endeavour to ensure long-term success. The franchisees are important partners for Vapiano. They contribute significantly to the success of the brand and are also relevant for the future. They know the specifics of the respective market better than anyone else.” Vapiano said it also intended to improve and expand its efforts in the areas of digitisation as well as delivery and takeaway services. Currently, 162 of the brand’s stores in 29 countries have reopened.

Neilson steps down as development director at Bill’s: Louise Neilson has stepped down as development director of Bill’s, after more than 11 years with the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group. Neilson joined the 78-strong business in 2009 soon after Caring invested in the business alongside Andy Bassadone and Chris Benians, as its head of projects and development, before becoming its development director at the start of 2018. She previously worked at Cote and Strada. Bill’s, which has been working with KPMG on the future shape of its estate, currently has 11 sites still temporarily closed.

Malhotra to unveil Three Mile Inn site after £7.5m upgrade, 75 jobs created: Newcastle-based operator Malhotra Group will open its Three Mile Inn site after a £7.5m transformation. The north east venue in Gosforth, which will house a state-of-the art hotel, bar and restaurant, will open to the public on Thursday, 12 November. It will also be home to a Pizza Dough Co restaurant and coffee shop The Great North Bakery & Coffee Co. Meanwhile, the heart of the site is the Great North Hotel – a three-storey extension with 64 luxury en-suite bedrooms. Around 75 full and part-time jobs will be created. Operations director Atul Malhotra, who has overseen the project, said: “Built by brewer James Deuchar in 1938, it has been a visual and much-loved landmark for travellers heading up and down the Great North Road ever since. And not only have we taken great care to restore and preserve its spectacular pillared portico, there are pictorial references to both the site and the wider Gosforth surroundings throughout the interior.” External TVs, heated umbrellas and table service have been added to the extended site, which is expected to become a sought-after wedding and conference venue that also has an independently accessed function room, private dining facilities and a residents’ lounge. 

L’eto Caffe founders open My & Sanne concept in Knightsbridge: The team behind L’Eto Caffe, including founder Artem Login, have launched a new restaurant concept in Knightsbridge. Login, who operates five L’Eto sites in London and a handful overseas, has launched My & Sanne on the former Patisserie Valerie in Brompton Road. The restaurant’s offer is described as “Mediterranean cuisine with hints of Greek, Italian and Asian flavours”. It also features all natural-botanical cocktails. Davis Coffer Lyons acted on the deal on behalf of landlord South Kensington Estates.

PizzaExpress Live cancels live jazz until spring: PizzaExpress Live has announced it is closing its four live jazz venues until the spring of next year, with immediate effect. All planned gigs at the four branches – the PizzaExpress Jazz Club Soho, The Pheasantry in Chelsea, PizzaExpress Live in Holborn and PizzaExpress Live Birmingham – have been cancelled or postponed. The company said that despite a successful trial reopening of the Holborn site earlier this month, it felt it would be impossible moving forward to comply with increasingly strict anti-pandemic measures and ensure the safety of customers and artists. “It has been a difficult decision,” PizzaExpress Live said in a statement. “Despite the trial and working hard to implement extensive safety measures, we believe these precautions could become increasingly intrusive in our small, intimate venues – particularly if national restrictions increase as covid cases rise nationally. We remain devoted to supporting live music and will be sure to rearrange dates for the new year, once the situation has improved. This is the last decision we wanted to reach – we know the disappointment it will bring to our valued customers and the incredibly talented artists who were scheduled to play – but safety and caution must prevail. We’ll be back and the shows will go on when we come out of hibernation.”

Luke Johnson invests in property firm: Serial investor and Sunday Times columnist Luke Johnson, the former chairman of collapsed cafe chain Patisserie Valerie, is one of a group of investors who have bought into Birmingham-based property firm Real Estate Investors (REI). The stake of 14.64% in REI held by former fund manager Mark Barnett at Invesco has been acquired at a price of 28p per share by a group including Allianz, Oxburgh, Hargreaves Hale and Luke Johnson. Johnson has invested £750,000 in AIM-listed REI, and the company has announced the entire board has also bought into the share buyback. Chief executive Paul Bassi said: “The opportunity to invest in REI is timely and also picks up on the decision by Invesco to disinvest in REI.” It is not the first time REI’s board directors have backed the company, reflecting their medium to long-term confidence in the business post-pandemic and as Birmingham approaches landmark events such as the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and the development of HS2 and all the facilities it requires on the east side of the city centre. “Despite all the underlying uncertainties with which we all have to live at the moment, the regional economy is strong and the crane count in Birmingham speaks for itself,” said Bassi. “The commercial property market is changing and we are fleet footed and flexible enough to respond both to the challenges and the opportunities.”

Ex-Wagamama marketer joins board at Little Moons: Former Wagamama chief marketing officer Ross Farquhar has joined mochi brand Little Moons as its marketing director. Farquhar also has client-side experience from working at Cadbury and Diageo as well as agency experience at brands including 101 and Grey London. Little Moons, which unveiled a new state-of-the-art £3.5m London factory in February this year, came to Europe ten years ago and has sold more than 25 million mochi ice creams during the past year. Farquhar said: “Little Moons is enjoying phenomenal growth so this is such an exciting time to join the team. Everyone that tries mochi ice cream bites falls in love with them, so I’m thrilled to be tasked with letting millions more people in on the secret and embedding the brand into culture.” Little Moons co-founder Howard Wong added: “The business is in great shape and we are ambitious for growth and deeper consumer engagement for Little Moons. Ross’s credentials are impeccable, and he has the experience to help us elevate the brand, accelerate growth and take the business to the next level.” Little Moons’ mochi is made from short-grain glutinous mochigome rice.

Mark Crowther becomes chairman of Portobello Brewery: Veteran leisure operator Mark Crowther has been appointed chairman of Portobello Brewery. Crowther, 52, brings almost 30 years’ food, drink and hospitality experience to the business. Most recently, he was chief executive of Liberation Group for 11 years. Having led the original buyout of the Channel Islands business, he doubled the scale and profitability of the group through investments and acquisitions, including the Butcombe brewery and pubs business in the West Country. He oversaw the sale of the Liberation Group resulting in 2.8x return on investment for his original backers. Previous industry roles include on-trade managing director for Carlsberg UK and general manager for Diageo’s northern European beer business. He is also non-executive with Downing LLP, supporting its London Antic investments. Portobello Brewery was founded in 2012 by Rob Jenkins and is based in the heart of the Portobello area of west London. Its award-winning beers include London Pilsner, Notting Helles, London Pale Ale, Market Porter, Stiff Lip IPA and Star best bitter. Mark Crowther said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as chairman, giving me the opportunity to work with a talented and experienced team at one of London’s leading independent brewing companies. Despite the current economic challenges, we are looking forward with excitement to implementing our plans to grow this business in the coming years.” On his appointment, founder and managing director of the brewing division Rob Jenkins said: “We are delighted Mark has agreed to join and invest in the company. His wealth of experience in the brewing industry will help support our next chapter of growth.” Richard Stringer, managing director of the fledgling pubs division, added: “Mark’s track record of senior management across various roles is already providing us with valuable insight as we position the business for further expansion.”

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