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Fri 4th Dec 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Birmingham operator Sam Morgan leads judicial review against government’s tier three hospitality closures: Sam Morgan, who operates Craft and 8 in Birmingham, will launch a judicial review in the High Court against the government, challenging the basis of the decision to close the hospitality sector in tier three in a bid to curb the pandemic. Morgan is being backed by 256 businesses, mostly from the second city, under the heading of the Birmingham Hospitality Group. The Birmingham Hospitality Group is demanding more scientific data to support its decision to close pubs and restaurants in tier three areas. If it cannot do so, the legal action calls for greater financial support. Morgan said: “The decision to close hospitality is unfair and inconsistent. Data shows the sector is responsible for less than 2% of transmission since July 2020. Previously, within the tier system, the government applied closure orders to numerous sectors, however, in this new system it is only the hospitality sector that is closed.” He claimed the data being used by the government, which was posted on its gov.uk website on 27 November, relies on the same information it held in February and that leans on information taken from restaurants in the Far East. He said: “If the data was known in February, why did the government allow the sector to open in July 2020, allowing the sector to reduce social distancing from two metres to one metre and initiate an economy-driven initiative such as Eat Out To Help Out. The data that relates to the infection rates per 100,000 is flawed, the flaw is fundamentally that the calculation is based on how many people live in an area at the time of the last census – that being 2011. As such, Birmingham as an example is flawed, because should I, Sam Morgan, test positive for covid-19, I would be a statistic for positive case in Birmingham, however, I would not count as a resident within the 100,000 because, in 2011, I lived in London and, as such, the data is disproportionately calculated. It is estimated the population of Birmingham has increased 15% year-on-year, therefore, it is completely plausible that the rate per 100,000 is half what has been reported.” 

Industry News:

Propel Friday Wrap video series with James Horler, chief executive of Ego Restaurants: Propel continues its new Friday Wrap video series on Friday (4 December) at 3pm. The new series sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel’s insights editor Mark Wingett discussing that week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by James Horler, chief executive of Ego Restaurants and non-executive chairman of Ping Pong and Notes Music & Coffee, to discuss the major stages of the crisis so far, engaging with MPs over tiers, working with landlords, looking after his teams and a new nickname for Boris Johnson.

Charlie McVeigh looks at how the Great Fire of London can offer lessons to operators today as part of latest Premium Opinion column: In this week’s Premium Opinion column, Draft House founder and The Breakfast Club chairman Charlie McVeigh looks at the lessons for landlords and tenants that can be taken from the Great Fire of London. While David Gooderham, director at leading property advisory firm AG&G, gives his take on a solution for the rent problem, and Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks back at Cain International’s deal for Prezzo. There will also be the latest sector rumblings from Premium Diary. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Hospitality footfall picks up immediately in tier two areas: Pubs and restaurants in England that could reopen this week under tier one and two restrictions saw footfall increase from October pre-lockdown levels, according to data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. Footfall in London, which is under tier two restrictions, has risen considerably, from 65% below pre-pandemic levels just before the second lockdown, to 54% below pre-pandemic levels on Wednesday (2 December). This trend was echoed in other tier two locations, including Liverpool, which recorded footfall at 68% below pre-pandemic levels before the second lockdown, rising to 45% below the same levels on Wednesday; and York, where footfall rose from minus 80% in November, to minus 35% on Wednesday.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

King – staggering that higher reaches of government have used hospitality as a punchbag: Dermot King, chief executive of Oakman Inns, has said he finds it staggering that political and medical strategists in the higher reaches of government have used hospitality as a punchbag. Writing in inews, King said: “Despite Public Health England acknowledging that hospitality venues account for between 3% and 5% of covid transmissions, the government consistently makes businesses in that sector pick up the tab for the failure in care homes, schools and hospitals where transmission is happening on a greater scale. And when the government is challenged to produce the evidence that damns the industry, we are pointed to international studies conducted in settings with no covid mitigation measures or to the fact the increased risk is just commonsensical. The data doesn’t exist. The government should employ the effort to evaluate the risk of every business individually, no matter what industry. It should allow safe businesses to operate and unsafe businesses to improve. That’s the big insight we need.” King said that in the four months from July to October, Oakman served some 1.6 million customers across its estate and had 10 reported cases of the virus. He said: “That’s 0.6 cases per 100,000 people over four months. Furthermore, not one employee has contracted covid-19 from a customer at work. The only two cases we experienced were of young teams who were celebrating A-level results at a party with friends. We are a safe business and that is because of all the safety measures we introduced into our operation to protect our team and customers. There is no greater supporter of the aims of the effort to protect the most vulnerable of society than the pubs, restaurants, hotels and holiday operators in the hospitality sector. Remember, this sector employs about 10% of the working population in the country and, in a normal year, is the fourth or fifth largest export earner, depending on which measure you choose. Matt Hancock’s new winter covid programme of three tiers, however, is another devastating blow to the hospitality industry.”

SBPA plea to Scottish government to ‘at least match’ four-times-higher support offered to pubs by Welsh government: The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has called on the Scottish government to save thousands of pubs and other hospitality businesses by “at least” matching the level of economic support the Welsh government has committed to its pubs. The trade body claimed the economic support afforded to the average Scottish pub stretches to just £2,700 for the six-week Christmas period, while the average pub in Wales will receive £11,300. Meanwhile, some pubs in Wales will be eligible for grants upwards of £17,000. SBPA said it also understood there will be no cap on multiple operators in Wales, something the Scottish government has included on previous grants. This resulted in many SMEs in the sector receiving reduced levels of support and, therefore, putting more jobs at risk. SBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Hospitality businesses are on their knees and are desperately crying out for meaningful economic support. While any grant is, of course, welcome, the current level of funding does not come close to covering fixed costs, even when closed. In order to support jobs, the Scottish government needs to at least match the support offered to pub in Wales. Every day that passes without further economic support means more pubs will stay closed for good and more jobs will be lost as a result. Pubs in Wales have been given a lifeline that we hope will now see most of their pubs reach the other side of the pandemic. Meanwhile, pubs in Scotland face devastation. The Scottish government cannot delay any further and must now announce more support for the hospitality sector, which provides more than 100,000 jobs in Scotland. It must also support the jobs of those workers who are employed by multiple operators. The current restriction on grant support means hundreds of jobs are being put at additional risk, for no reason. Some pubs, if owned by multiple operators will receive absolutely nothing. If the Welsh government can support hospitality jobs and businesses with this level of support, the Scottish government must be able to provide at least equitable support. Without it, thousands of pubs will likely stay closed for good.” The British Beer & Pub Association said a similar problem would also take place in England where pubs will receive three times less than their Welsh counterparts. The average grant payment a pub will receive in England is £3,400 for the next six weeks.
 
Hospitality group close to overturning ban on outdoor dining in LA county after judge demands proof of covid-19 link: The California Restaurant Association (CRA) has moved closer to overturning an outdoor dining ban in the county of Los Angeles (LA) after a judge said county officials must show proof that outdoor dining is linked to the rise in coronavirus cases. The ban began on Wednesday, 25 November when the county’s daily test positivity rate was 13%, up from 3.9% on 1 November. The CRA, along with other restaurant industry groups, said restaurants are being unfairly blamed for a rise in covid-19 cases. CRA president and chief executive Joy Condie said: “As we’ve said many times, the county’s order was arbitrary and targeted restaurants unfairly, without supporting evidence. The judge agreed with us that the county must bring forward evidence to support its decision to ban outdoor dining.” The ruling was made by Los Angeles superior court judge James C Chalfant. As restaurants have been hit hard by indoor dining restrictions, outdoor dining and off-premises ordering channels have been the industry’s only lifelines. Dine-in operations ceased in the city of LA last month after LA mayor Eric Garcetti issued a stay-at-home order meaning all residents must stay at home and all businesses must cease operations that require in-person attendance by workers at a workplace. The CRA said the court is expected to make a decision next week on the outdoor ban in Los Angeles county. Condie added: “If the county can’t bring forward solid evidence to support its targeting of outdoor restaurants, it’s our position that outdoor dining be allowed to resume absent any state-wide stay-at-home order.”

Almost nine out of ten confident in dining at restaurants post-lockdown: Some 86% of Brits said they would feel confident dining at a restaurant with either indoor or outdoor table service following the lifting of lockdown, according to data from restaurant booking service OpenTable. Research also revealed 27% plan to visit restaurants as often as they did before the pandemic, and almost four in ten (39%) were planning to visit restaurants more often than before the pandemic – with 59% of those wanting to support local businesses and 70% stating how much they missed places to eat out while they were closed. OpenTable data also showed that, of those surveyed just before the start of the second lockdown in England, 47% were looking forward to dining out in a restaurant in December, while one in five (19%) would like more of a special or unique experience when they dine out. In a previous study compiled in July, 39% of respondents said they were planning to visit restaurants more often than before the pandemic because they were keen to make the most of them in case there was a second lockdown. This supports studies that found OpenTable’s booking service platform saw an increase of 70% in reservations on the day before England’s second lockdown (4 November) compared with the same day in 2019. The group’s research has shown British fare had seen the biggest uptick in popularity year-on-year, taking the number one spot for 2020. After British cuisine came Italian, gastro-pub, American and steak. Angela Altvater, director of marketing EMEA at OpenTable, said: “We can’t wait to welcome back our diners in the next couple of weeks and when it’s safe to do so in the rest of the UK, especially as research shows that a substantial portion of the UK miss dining out when in lockdown.”
 
First minister banned from more than 100 pubs in north Wales over restrictions: Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford has been banned from more than 100 pubs in the north of the country after he announced the latest restrictions for the hospitality sector. The West Conwy Pubwatch group published an open letter on its Facebook page saying the minister was banned for his “antisocial behaviour” relating to the damage the new restrictions will cause to businesses. Drakeford confirmed the new regulations for Wales earlier this week, which include a ban on selling alcohol and a 6pm closing time for all venues in the sector from Friday (4 December). The sector has reacted angrily to the new rules with the same restrictions in place in all areas of the country despite varying levels of coronavirus transmission. Latest figures showed Conwy county had a rate of just six per 100,000. The open letter from the group said: “The licensees of the West Conwy Pubwatch have jointly decided in order to discharge their duty as referred to above they are exercising their right not to allow you entry to their premises. Should you attempt to ignore this notice and enter any of the licensed premises listed on our website the assistance of police will be sought, if necessary to eject you from the premises and an extra six months will be added to your ban. This ban will remain in force until 30 May 2022 or until your review, which will be at our meeting in the first week of August 2021.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to experienced operations managers from the leisure and fitness sector to discuss a new position. This role presents an opportunity to join a business in early stage growth, supporting the managing director and growing a passionate team and quality brand. The operations manager will have full day-to-day responsibility as well as operational oversight of new studio openings, system implementations and ongoing special projects. The position is based in Berkshire and pays up to £60,000. Anyone interested in finding out more can email David@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Scandinavia’s largest nightlife group in battle for Deltic: Rekom, Scandinavia’s largest nightlife group, has not given up in its bid to acquire The Deltic Group, the UK’s biggest nightclub operator, Propel has learned. Earlier this week, Propel revealed private equity group Greybull Capital had secured preferred bidder status for the Peter Marks-led, 52-strong group. However, it is thought that during the past 48 hours, Rekom has returned with an improved bid for Deltic, and is set to battle it out with Greybull, which has backed companies such as Monarch Airlines and British Steel, for the business. It is thought that if successful in their respective bids, Greybull and Rekom will look to back the existing management team and take on the majority of the group’s existing estate. It is thought the company may still need to go through a restructuring process as part of any deal. Rekom’s interest in Deltic, whose brands include Atik, Bar & Beyond, Eden and Vinyl, is part of its international growth strategy to become the largest nightlife group in Europe. The company currently operates circa 120 bars and nightclubs across Denmark, Norway and Finland. Propel revealed in October, Shoreditch Bar Group, which last year acquired the remainder of London bar and restaurant operator Novus’ late-night business, was working with Steve Thomas, the founder of Luminar, the at-one-time circa 300-strong chain, from which Deltic was born, on a possible bid. It is thought the process for Deltic, which was led by BDO, generated significant interest from trade buyers and private equity. Deltic has had the majority of its business closed since March due to the outbreak of coronavirus and subsequent government restrictions. Deltic was founded in 2011 after Marks and a group of investors bought the Luminar nightclub group after it went into liquidation. It is thought the group’s investors have taken a £22m hit from the impact of the crisis on the business. Deltic was worth £80m before the pandemic hit, according to Marks.

Gail’s working on ‘few’ property deals as it sees more favourable rent terms: Tom Molnar, chief executive of Gail’s Bakery, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, has told Propel he is working on a “few” property deals as it sees more favourable rent terms. It comes as the business strengthened its London presence with an opening in South End Green. The outlet has launched in South End Road, opposite The Royal Free Hospital. Molnar said: “We are working on a few properties as we continue to grow selectively. With much lower rent costs, we are seeing more opportunities.” Gail’s was founded in Hampstead in 2005 and is run by Molnar and managing director Marta Pogroszewska. It operates circa 65 sites.
 
Gusto Italian forced to close two more sites: Italian casual dining group Gusto, which has been backed by Palatine Private Equity since 2014, has permanently closed its sites in Glasgow and West Bridgford. The landlords of the two sites asked Gusto to vacate the premises after failing to reach rental agreements. Matt Snell, chief executive of the now 12-strong restaurant group, told Propel: “This is not a decision we intended to make but, sadly, we have been left with no choice. We have been working with many of our landlords to devise a way forward for our business during these unprecedented times and we’re so grateful for the co-operation of the majority. Sadly, we weren’t able to reach an agreement in Glasgow and West Bridgford and have been forced to close as a result. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our guests for the incredible support they’ve given us over the years, we’ll truly miss welcoming them and our beloved team members who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves looking for a job.” In September, Gusto completed a company voluntary agreement (CVA) process and closed four sites in York, Lytham, Leamington Spa and Mere Green in the West Midlands as a consequence of the restructuring process. The group’s CVA proposals were supported by the overwhelming majority of creditors as 98% voted in favour.

Authentic Alehouses portfolio value drops to £2.2m: Authentic Alehouses, which entered administration last year, has seen the value of its seven-strong portfolio drop from circa £3m to £2.2m, Propel has learned. Secured creditor Crowdstacker has had the valuation updated as part of preparations to begin selling the pubs. The total market rent per annum is £227,000. Three of the four previously operating pubs – The Albert Hotel in Hull, the Countess of Rosse in Shipley and The Ponty Tavern in Pontefract – have been forced to stay shut as they sit in areas under tier three restrictions. An email to investors, seen by Propel, stated: “We have reduced expenditure where possible, but the continued covid-19 restrictions have caused a cash flow impact. We are reviewing the situation on a weekly basis and hope to open all pubs soon.” A sale of one of three closed pubs – believed to be The Wakey Tavern in Wakefield – was under way to help pay for the administration, legal and future planned refurbishment costs. The proposed sale was in the final stages of completion but has been suspended. The other two sites – the Crown Inn in Addingham and The Red Lion in Driffield – remain closed. The email stated: “The value of the pubs has unfortunately fallen due to the covid-19 impact and the strategy to refurbish may also now not be the best path forward. We have subsequently had interest and a formal offer on one of the closed pubs, which is slightly below the revised RICS valuation but has been accepted. It is anticipated the proceeds from the first sale will be used to pay for the accrued costs of administration and operations of the pubs. We expect the next pub sale will allow for the start of funds being distributed to investors. We are proactively searching for buyers on other pubs and we are also exploring residential development on at least one of the sites to increase return to investors.” Allan Harper-led Authentic Alehouses entered administration in March 2019 despite raising £6.4m in peer-to-peer loans via Crowdstacker. Simon Bonney and Michael Kiely, of Quantuma, were appointed joint administrators. Authentic Alehouses launched in July 2017 with a £5m crowdfunding campaign on Crowdstacker that was later doubled. 

Marston’s receives bondholder waivers amid latest lockdowns: Marston’s has received approval from its bondholders for waivers to help it get through the latest covid-19 lockdowns and any further restrictions over the winter. Marston’s asked holders of its secured class A notes for a limited number of further technical waivers during the first half of 2021 as a precautionary measure following the renewed lockdown restrictions introduced in Wales on 23 October, and in England on 5 November. It said the waivers being requested were required solely as a consequence of the enforced temporary reclosure of its pubs in England by the UK government as a result of the covid-19 pandemic measures, together with the continued uncertainty with regard to further potential lockdowns over the winter months. Noteholders unanimously approved the request at a meeting on Thursday (3 December). The request was the second time Marston’s has asked bondholders for support during the coronavirus crisis. It agreed waivers for 2020 when its pubs were forced to close for more than three months during the first lockdown. 

Wing Shack to open fourth London site, at Selfridges on Monday: Wings concept Wing Shack will open its fourth London site, in Selfridges on Monday (7 December). The latest outlet from Wing Shack founders Joshua Jarvis and Larry Shiro will be located on the fourth floor of the department store in Oxford Street. The menu features Wing Shack’s classic dishes including its signature Jarvis tangy buffalo wings and boneless chicken fillets covered in southern rub. Its plant-based menu, including jackfruit wings, jackfruit burgers, seitan burgers and fries will also be available. Wing Shack has also put together two meal kits, suitable for four people. They contain 1.5kg of marinated raw chicken wings, Chang’s Honey and sesame sauce or Jarv’s tangy buffalo sauce, chives, toasted white sesame seeds, spring onions, and, to avoid any clothing mishaps, four Wing Shack bibs. The company operates three other outlets – in Clerkenwell, Loughton and a residency within the Sebright Arms pub in Hackney.
 
Columbo Group targets spring opening for The Blues Kitchen in Manchester: The Columbo Group, led by Steve Ball and Riz Shaik, has announced it will open its first regional site of The Blues Kitchen in spring 2021, in Manchester. The London-born bar, live music venue and barbecue restaurant will be recruiting 120 staff. Hiring begins in January with roles to fill including management and supervisory positions, kitchen, restaurant, bar, reservations, sales, security and cleaning vacancies. The Columbo Group chief executive Steve Ball said: “Manchester is renowned for its buzzing restaurant, bar and music scene and that is because of the people that work in the hospitality industry in the city. We are delighted to be able to provide employment prospects for those who have been affected by the pandemic.” The Blues Kitchen will take over the former Walkabout site in Quay Street, in Deansgate. The Columbo Group operates three other Blues Kitchen branches, all in London.
 
Italian restaurant Figo to open third site, in Leyton: Italian restaurant Figo, part of The Romet Group owned by Tony Manconi, is to open its third site, in Leyton, east London. The family-owned business aims to launch the restaurant, in High Road Leyton, in the spring and it will have between 120 and 130 covers. It builds on the Figo sites in Stratford, which opened in November 2019, and Brentwood, which launched in September this year. Operations director Andy Dempster told Propel he hoped the Leyton restaurant would be able to open without restrictions following the “stop-start” experience it has had with Brentwood. “We think we will fit really well into the Leyton community,” said Dempster. “It’s been a tough year for hospitality and team Figo has been able to build on its strengths, focus and growth – ensuring our restaurants reach more customers in the new year.” Dempster said he hoped a further Figo restaurant would open in 2021, but added: “We’re taking it one at a time. The location has to fit within the spirit of the brand – great food complemented by great service, the latter of which we have worked really hard to improve.” The Brentwood and Stratford sites have reopened following lockdown in line with local restrictions. Manconi also owns neighbourhood Italian restaurants Bella Vita in Hackney and Venerdi in Homerton. 
 
KFC to install electric vehicle charge points at 450 drive-thru sites: KFC UK & Ireland will install rapid electric vehicle charge points at 450 of its drive-thru restaurants across the UK. The tie-up with InstaVolt will see the rollout increase from existing chargers at KFC restaurants in Sheffield, Nottingham, Rotherham and Crewe. Locations in London and Hampshire are expected to come online during the next few months. The charging points means diners can have a meal while waiting for their vehicles to charge up at “easily accessible locations on the major road network or in busy urban areas”. KFC UK & Ireland chief development officer Matthew McCormick said: “We are committed to sustainability, and installing electric vehicle rapid chargers at our restaurants is strategically very important. Reducing pollution and harmful emissions is a major priority and giving our loyal fans the opportunity to enjoy our iconic fried chicken while charging their electric cars is a perfect combination.” InstaVolt operates an “open charger” model, so anyone can use its charging points on a pay-as-you-go basis.
 
Compass Group UK & Ireland appoints former Searcys boss as MD of RA Group: Contract caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland has appointed Matt Thomas as managing director of RA Group. Thomas will join RA Group, which is a collection of specialist food and guest services companies, on Monday, 4 January. He arrives from WSH, the holding company for brands such as BaxterStorey, Benugo and Searcys, where he has held senior roles for more than a decade. Thomas was previously managing director of Searcys, a collection of restaurants, events and workplace venues, where his brand relaunch included a champagne school and sustainability accreditation. Previously, he was managing director, London for BaxterStorey, the UK’s largest independent foodservice provider. Thomas is taking over from Alice Woodwark who is moving on from Compass Group after seven years with the company in senior strategic and management roles. Robin Mills, Compass Group UK & Ireland managing director, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Matt and are excited about what lies ahead. We look forward to Matt’s leadership and creativity in building RA Group for the future, and his contribution to the future path for Compass Group UK & Ireland. I would like to thank Alice for her exceptional stewardship of the RA Group and the legacy she leaves of a hugely respected and innovative brand that has become a leader in community social enterprise, sustainability and contemporary food.” Thomas added: “I admire what the RA Group stands for, its strong heritage and relentless pursuit of excellence. I look forward to meeting the teams, clients and customers, with a view to influencing the future direction and growth of RA Group brands.”
 
Filipino-inspired restaurant Sarap launches spin-off site: Ferdinand Montoya, founder of Filipino-inspired restaurant Sarap and former head chef of Fitzrovia restaurant Foley’s, has opened Sarap BAon in Brixton Village. Sarap BAon is a “reimagining of Montoya’s Filipino restaurant Sarap”, which opened at Brixton Village in February. The food at Sarap BAon is inspired by the street food and mega mall food halls of the Philippines. The menu focuses on Montoya’s signature “Lechon” – slow-roasted pork belly, rolled and stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, chilli and ginger, served with lechon liver sauce and spiced coconut vinegar, priced by weight for up to six people and with the option to add rice and atchara (pickled papaya), and rice bowls. Toppings include fried chicken sinigang with a sour tamarind and tomato seasoning and sour sinigang soup, and beef longganisa with fried egg and spicy cucumber relish. Small plates are also available as a grab-and-go snack or appetiser, such as barbecue pork skewers marinated in soy sauce, 7up, banana ketchup and calamansi; and sisig scotch quail egg. Drinks include low-intervention wines and Filipino-branded and local craft beers. In addition to takeaway and delivery, Sarap BAon will initially offer eight counter-dining seats with an additional four seats outside in Market Row.
 
Operators of cask and curry concept Hen & Chickens to open bar and restaurant site in new year: The operators of Indian curry and cask beer concept Hen & Chickens in Birmingham have announced they will open a bar and restaurant called The Rolling Mill early next year. The new venue from brothers Sonny and Sonu Rull will be in the city’s Jewellery Quarter in a 7,857 square foot space at the junction of Warstone Lane and Water Street, will have an indoor area and an outdoor space, covered courtyard, heated mezzanine rooftop, two bars and a private internal terrace. Food will be “a take on European flavours and classics with a vintage twist”. The 280-cover site is having a six-figure sum spent on its refurbishment before opening. Sunny Rull said: “We hope this provides some much-needed good news for the hospitality sector in Birmingham. This year has undoubtedly been tough for all, particularly in our industry, and we know there is still a lot to battle in the coming months.” The Rolling Mill is expected to create between 40 and 60 new jobs.

Michelin-starred Scottish chef Graeme Cheevers to open debut restaurant: Michelin-starred Scottish chef Graeme Cheevers is to launch his debut restaurant. Cheevers, who has worked with Geoffrey Smeddle at fine dining restaurant Étain, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond and at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, will open Unalome in Glasgow. The venue in Kelvingrove Street will take the place of The Sisters restaurant following owner Jacqueline O’Donnell’s retirement. The site will undergo a significant refurbishment before reopening in February with about 60 covers. The estimated £350,000 investment will also create 50 jobs. Unalome is a Buddhist symbol that represents the path each person takes in life. Cheevers said he has chosen Unalome as the name to signify “something new and completely different for Glasgow’s food scene”. The offer will be modern European and the menu is set to change weekly. Cheevers won Michelin stars at both Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond and the Isle of Eriska Hotel and hopes to win Glasgow’s first star since 2004. He said: “There is nowhere else I would rather launch my own restaurant than in my home city of Glasgow. It is scary going solo but I feel like I’m now at a point in my career where I’m ready and I have the confidence and experience to take it forward and make it a success.” Co-director James Newton added: “We’re hugely optimistic and excited about investing in the long term within Glasgow’s vibrant food and drink scene.”
 
JD Wetherspoon introduces new breakfast range: JD Wetherspoon has introduced a new breakfast range to its pubs. The new menu offers customers a chance to grab a cup of coffee or tea for 99p, and a breakfast muffin, from £1.99. Customers are able to choose from four new breakfast muffins – filled with either egg and bacon or egg and sausage – that range in price from £2.39 to £3.79. Muffins with bacon and Lincolnshire sausage cost between £2.59 and £3.99, and the egg and cheese muffin ranges in price, from £1.99 to £3.39. Wetherspoon said all options are served with a free-range, RSPCA assured, freshly cooked fried egg and American-style cheese, in a toasted English breakfast muffin, and are all under 500 calories each. Alongside the muffin range, customers can order coffee from Wetherspoons’ 99p Lavazza self-service coffee range, or Tetley tea. They can also have unlimited refills on any tea or coffee. The new breakfast menu is served until 11.30am daily.
 
Tejada and Scott open permanent residency for Hot 4 U, in east London: Eddy Tejada, formerly of St John and Silo, and Matthew Scott, ex-head chef of Cub, have opened a permanent residency for their zero-waste and “high-grade” produce concept, Hot 4 U. Having hosted pop-ups at venues such as Carousel and Chicken Shop in London as well as 4850 in Amsterdam, Hot 4 U has found a new home. It took over the kitchen of The Plough in Homerton High Street in east London on Wednesday (2 December). Hot 4 U will be cooking an ever-changing menu from Tuesday to Saturday each week, as well as a Sunday roast. Dishes on the menu for the first week will include oysters with green glitter sabayon; chicken offal skewer with smoked mayo; and grilled salsify, romesco and aged cheese.
 
Hotel Du Vin alumni to open restaurant within East Sussex pub: Sam Maynard, who has worked at Hotel Du Vin and boutique Sussex hotel The Gallivant, is to open a restaurant in the East Sussex village of Wadhurst. Maynard has teamed up with Adam Sear to launch Sussex Pass this month, situated within The White Hart pub in High Street. Comprising 30 covers, the restaurant is “designed to showcase the finest produce in Sussex and Kent”. A small and focused menu will comprise cuts of meat and large fresh seafood platters paired with seasonal vegetables and sides, designed to be shared. Alongside these will be an ever-changing à la carte menu that celebrates local game, fish, cheese and crops. There will also be a bespoke Sussex cheese trolley, Sussex Pass will also feature a brunch menu as well as charcuterie and cheeseboards. These will sit alongside a drinks menu of cocktails, beer, wine, gin and coffee from local suppliers.
 
CitizenM to open fifth London hotel in £1.3bn redevelopment of London Olympia: CitizenM will open its fifth hotel in the capital, at London Olympia exhibition centre, as part of a £1.3bn redevelopment. The 145-bedroom hotel, which promises luxury accommodation in a prime urban area at affordable prices, will take up the first floor with front of house and three guest room floors on top of the existing structure in Hammersmith Road, and is slated to open in 2023. It will be joined in the “new neighbourhood” within the famous Olympia building by a four-screen cinema, 80,000 square foot performing arts space for live concerts, 1,500-seat theatre, restaurants, shops, cafes and 550,000 square foot of office space. The project is being led by real estate businesses Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance International. CitizenM hotels chief executive Klaas van Lookeren Campagne said: “We’re taking a strategic approach to expansion in London. Despite the current challenges in both the hotel and conference industries, we are confident in the positive future outlook. Our offer of affordable luxury accommodation will appeal to visitors of the conference centre, as well as the theatre and music venues.” Yoo Capital chairman John Hitchcox added: “Having CitizenM as an anchor operator is a huge positive for the Olympia project. They are an ideal partner to have on board.” 

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