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Wed 16th Dec 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Burger & Lobster promotes Dino Sura to MD, eyes expansion opportunities: Burger & Lobster has appointed Dino Sura as its new managing director, as it looks at opportunities for expansion both in the UK and internationally in 2021. The company, which operates nine eponymous restaurants in London, has promoted Sura from operations director, after more than two years in the role. Sura was previously an adviser at the Chef Academy of London, and had stints at Bill’s and Strada. His promotion comes as the company gears up to explore expansion opportunities over the next 12 months, including plans to open a further two to three sites in Greater London. The company is also hoping to add to its two sites in Singapore and two restaurants in the US, with a potential new concept in the works for its international expansion play. Sura told Propel: “As it has been for everyone in the hospitality sector, 2020 has been a very challenging year, but one where we have taken the opportunity to take a real look at what Burger & Lobster is about, what we can improve and what new areas we can explore. This has included launching our DIY home kits and moving into dark kitchens. 90% of our landlords have also been supportive and I believe we are in a good position to look at new opportunities as 2021 progresses, both in the UK and internationally.” The company, which will celebrate its tenth birthday next year, currently operates from three Deliveroo Edition sites – in Battersea, Cambridge and Reading, and Sura said the company hoped to open further dark kitchens through its partnership with Deliveroo. The business came into 2020 off the back of a strong performance in its previous 12 months, encouraged by like-for-like growth in the UK and the US, and the solid start in Singapore. The company said its worldwide Ebitda for 2019 stood at £7.3m, up by £397,000 on the previous year, while revenue grew £4.6m to £58.2m. In the UK, like-for-like sales increased by 1% in 2019. During the year, it ended the lease of Smack in Soho. Deliveroo sales increased by 1% versus 2018 of the total sales. It said restaurant contribution was 1.2% lower than 2018 mainly due to a “significant increase in lobster prices”. Last year, it also opened two restaurants in Singapore, which generated 24% restaurant contribution – in Jewel Changi Airport in May and Raffles Hotel in September. Revenue across its two US sites increased by 8% during the year. 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – The Full Range partners with GoodOrder and Delivita for ‘return to business’ offer: UK procurement business The Full Range has partnered with GoodOrder and Delivita to provide a “return to business” offer. This will provide hospitality venues across the UK with the tools they need to restart, including the facilities to provide the all-important “substantial” meal at a significantly reduced cost with a custom branded app to deliver additional revenue streams. Elements can be tailored to your needs and includes a Delivita wood-fired pizza oven, discounted purchase price of £1,250 (saving £100) plus 100 times complimentary organic vegan pizza dough (equivalent to £1,000 worth of pizza); and complimentary access to the GoodOrder app, customer branded, until April 2021 (including track and trace compliance, table ordering, delivery and click and collect options). In providing complimentary use of the app until April next year, in line with when various vaccines are hoped to be more readily available – and further tools to mean businesses meet government restrictions, GoodOrder and Delivita said they hope the above “return to business offer” creates a tangible solution for the hospitality sector. Following Tuesday’s (15 December) Propel article, the Full Range team has also negotiated some very competitive Scotch egg prices via Brakes! If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Hospitality accounts for more than a third of job losses since pandemic began: More than a third of jobs lost across the UK between February and November came in hospitality, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of the 819,000 fewer workers on company payrolls in November, compared with February, hospitality’s decline accounted for 297,000 of those job losses. ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan told the BBC’s Today programme: “If you look at the number of people losing their jobs, the number of people on furlough and the vacancies available for people looking for jobs in the hospitality sector, all that adds up to a very difficult time for that industry.” The figures also showed the UK’s unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in the three months to October. The rate was up 0.1% from the three months to September. Redundancies rose to a record high of 370,000 for the same three-month period, a jump of 217,000 people in the quarter. Hospitality accounted for a third of the job losses, followed by retail. Economists said the huge jump in job losses was due to the expected end to the government’s furlough scheme, which has protected millions of jobs during the pandemic. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate is now 1.2% higher than it was a year ago. It has also increased by 0.7% during the past quarter, the ONS said, as the government’s landmark job protection schemes were eased back. Firms began to lay off more staff in anticipation of the furlough scheme ending on 31 October, but it was subsequently extended due to further lockdown measures. The number of vacancies continued to rise. A further 110,000 jobs were added over the quarter, meaning the total number of vacancies is now at 547,000. This, however, is still lower than prior to the pandemic, and 31.5% down on 2019 levels.
Campaign pushing for hospitality minister smashes 100,000 signature target to secure parliament debate: A dedicated campaign to push for a minister for hospitality has smashed through its target of securing 100,000 signatures, meaning the petition is one step closer to getting its voice heard in parliament. The Seat At The Table campaign was founded by Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive of Home Grown Hotels and the Lime Wood Group, who stated the sector “needs a seat at the highest table of government because so many enjoy a seat at the tables of hundreds of restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars throughout the UK”. The 30-day social media campaign, which started last week, was designed to drum up support for the creation of a minister of hospitality role, which would enable the hospitality industry to have a proper “seat at the table” when discussions take place in parliament. Now the petition has garnered support far and wide, with more than 143,000 signatures as of Tuesday (15 December). In parliament, representation for hospitality is currently split between two government departments – the department for business, energy and industrial strategy and the department for digital, culture, media and sport. A minister of hospitality would be the champion and guardian of the sector in parliament, promoting the importance of the economic, social and employment contribution of the industry to society, sector bosses have said.
Minor restriction changes could double viability of Scottish hospitality industry, economic impact study finds: The viability of Scotland’s hospitality industry could be doubled – securing thousands of jobs in the process – by relatively minor changes to restrictions policy, according to a new economic impact study. The independent study by Biggar Economics found adjusting opening hours by about two and a half hours and allowing alcohol to be served under strictly controlled conditions would increase hospitality business turnover from £419m to £1.1bn; increasing the number of jobs supported from the current 28,300 to 60,800; and securing the viability of 1,816 businesses. UKHospitality Scotland, the Scottish Beer & Pub Association and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association are calling for the Scottish government to urgently implement the changes, adding changes would also turn a £261m fiscal cost of subsidy into a £63m positive tax contribution. In contrast, returning to the previous restrictions would cost thousands of jobs, at a cost of £347m. The economic impact study examined several scenarios, all of which maintain covid-secure public health measures while allowing longer trading hours, with alcohol served, in Scotland’s levels one to three restrictions regions. The study, which was commissioned by Diageo on behalf of the hospitality sector, revealed the enormous economic cost the current restrictions policy is having on the hospitality sector, reducing annualised turnover from £2bn pre-covid to just £276m under the restrictions that were in place in November, with the number of jobs supported collapsing from 83,400 to 19,100. The first alternative policy scenario looked at extending closing times from 8pm to 10.30pm and allowing alcohol to be served with food in levels one to three. This scenario supports £927m in turnover and 53,100 jobs; however, it represents a fiscal cost of £14m. The second scenario looked at also allowing wet-led pubs and bars that don’t serve food to be open until 8pm. This supports £1.1bn in turnover, 60,800 jobs, and a fiscal benefit of £63m. The third looked at allowing all hospitality businesses to be open until 10.30pm and to serve alcohol. This supports £1.2bn in turnover, 65,400 jobs, and a fiscal benefit of £105m. In 2019, prior to the global pandemic, Scotland’s hospitality industry contributed £1.8bn gross value added to Scotland’s economy. The sector also supported 83,400 jobs and was associated with £812m in tax revenues. Graeme Blackett, director at Biggar Economics, said: “Minor adjustments to the restrictions could get thousands of people back to work and allow the sector to generate turnover, and contribute significantly to the public finances in 2021.”
£14m Scottish hotel support package ‘overwhelmed’ by demand as almost 300 venues apply: A flagship £14m fund for Scotland’s hotel industry has been overwhelmed with applications prompting claims of a “catastrophic miscalculation” about the level of support needed. Almost 300 establishments have sought assistance through the Scottish government’s Hotel Support Programme – five times as many as the scheme was originally envisioned to help. The Scottish government has said it expected to provide support for more than the 60 hotels earmarked for help, but it is not clear if this will meet demand. The figures emerged in a parliamentary question obtained by Labour’s deputy leader and finance spokesman Jackie Baillie. She said: “The SNP’s catastrophic miscalculation on the level of support needed risks leaving scores of hotels high and dry and puts the jobs of thousands of workers at risk. Tourism is pivotal to Scotland’s economy, but the SNP are playing fast and loose with the very future of the industry by providing such limited support. Frankly, the support on offer doesn’t touch the sides. It’s time for SNP ministers to go back to the drawing board and come up with a proper plan to protect our hotel industry.” Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said in response it remains unclear how many hotels will get support because talks are continuing with a “small number” of applicants about the detail of their support package. But he added: “Originally, the Hotel Support Programme was expected to support in the region of 60 hotels. Despite the programme being heavily oversubscribed following the submission of 295 expressions of interest, our expectation is we will be able to exceed the original expected number of hotels supported.”
London has highest footfall in all tier two areas but move to tier three will likely see figures drop: London stood out as having the highest footfall of all tier two restricted regions at the weekend but will likely fall as the capital enters tier three, according to data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. London recorded footfall on Saturday (12 December) down by 34% versus the level seen in February pre-covid, which was two percentage points higher than the previous weekend and a rise of about 25 percentage points when England’s second lockdown was in operation. England, in general, had similar footfall at the weekend compared with the previous weekend as non-essential shops opened for Christmas shopping and, in certain areas, bars and restaurants allowed to reopen with restrictions. On Saturday (12 December), footfall was down 42% on the footfall seen in February, and on Sunday (13 December) the footfall was at minus 47% of February’s footfall. York, like London, was in tier two restrictions and saw footfall down 34% on February on Saturday (12 December) and a fall of 42% on Sunday (13 December). Footfall in tier three saw regions stay roughly the same as the previous weekend with Manchester down by 65% of February’s footfall on Saturday (12 December) and a drop of 67% on Sunday (13 December). Bristol had the highest footfall from any of the tier three cities Wireless Social studied, with Saturday (12 December) seeing a fall of 43% versus February. Cardiff is currently under restrictions with hospitality venues not allowed to sell alcohol and they must close by 6pm. This was reflected by a 51% drop in footfall on Saturday (12 December) and a fall of 47% on Sunday (13 December) versus February. However, some areas were removed from level four restrictions on Friday (11 December) in Scotland, meaning non-essential shops were allowed to reopen for the first time in three weeks, and pubs and restaurants reopened but were not allowed to sell alcohol and must close by 6pm. This is reflected in the data for Glasgow as footfall jumped by 30 percentage points, to minus 53%, on Saturday (12 December) footfall compared with the previous Saturday, which was down 83% on February figures. 
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
More than 100 MPs urge government to reconsider changes to small breweries’ relief: A cross-party group of MPs have called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to reconsider changes to small breweries’ relief (SBR). In a letter signed by 103 MPs, they argue altering SBR will put many businesses at risk when they are struggling to survive. Under the current system, small breweries pay a proportionate amount of tax on the small amount of beer they produce compared with the global companies that dominate the industry. Brewing up to 5,000 hectolitres – which is about 900,000 pints – means they pay 50% of beer duty to the Treasury. Plans announced by the Treasury in July will see the 50% threshold reduced from 5,000 hectolitres to 2,100 hectolitres – meaning more than 150 small breweries will have to pay more tax. At the same time, those larger in size will pay the same amount of tax or less. The Treasury also proposes converting the relief to a “cash basis”, which could see support for all brewers receiving SBR being “eroded away”. More than 50,000 people from across the UK have also signed a petition calling for the government to reverse the decision. The letter comes as the Treasury announced plans to plough ahead with the changes and has launched a technical consultation to consider how to implement them. Former pubs minister Andrew Percy, who organised the letter, said: “The brewing sector has been hurt badly by covid and needs Treasury support to thrive. Now is not the time for the government to turn its back on our small breweries by introducing potentially damaging changes to SBR.” Society of Independent Brewers chief executive James Calder said: “The chancellor is forcing destructive changes on small breweries, which we have not asked for and do not support. The Treasury needs to urgently reverse course and give the industry something to cheer about.”
London hotels see average daily rate and revpar at lowest level of 2020 in November amid latest lockdown: Hotels in London saw average daily rate and revpar at their lowest level of 2020 during November amid the latest lockdown, according to data from STR. Average daily rate was down 54 percentage points year-on-year, at £72.83 while revpar fell 87.5 percentage points to £16.97. Occupancy was down 72.8 percentage points to 23.3% – the lowest for any month since July. 

Company News:

Tasty achieves rent reductions and lease concessions on more than half of estate: Wildwood operator Tasty has reported it has now achieved rent reductions and lease concessions on more than half of its estate. The company said it is continuing consensual negotiations with landlords and other creditors in respect of outstanding rents and anticipates the process will now be completed in January. In a trading update, Tasty said 38 restaurants had reopened after the latest lockdown with an additional five sites providing takeaway and delivery services only, due to government restrictions. It is expected a further nine outlets will move to providing takeaway and delivery services only with the additional tier three restrictions being introduced in London and Essex on Wednesday (16 December). Tasty stated: “Certain restaurants within the company’s estate have remained closed due to poor trading conditions in their locality. The company continues to monitor developments affecting both the open and closed restaurants in line with the continually changing UK tier restrictions. Trading across the business continues to be challenging with Christmas parties cancelled and the differing levels of restrictions significantly reducing the number of customers eating out and related restaurant capacity restrictions. The company will again be relying on government support for employees’ pay and VAT, and business rate holidays and grants, where available.”
Plant-based brand By Chloe UK sites to continue operations as company files for bankruptcy in US and is put on market: Plant-based concept By Chloe has filed for bankruptcy in the US and has been put on the market. Chief executive Jimmy Haber has stepped down but debtor-in-possession financing will allow operations in the US to continue unaffected. The three UK sites that are owned by Qoot International will also continue to operate unaffected. Blaming coronavirus, the 14-unit plant-based concept By Chloe filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday (14 December). New York-based parent company BC Hospitality Group also said it has put the chain up for sale as part of the bankruptcy proceeding. It has also obtained debtor-in-possession financing to continue operations from existing investors that includes Bain Capital Double Impact Fund LP, Qoot International, Kitchen Fund and Lion Capital. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the company is seeking an auction by mid-February 2021. While the company searches for a new chief executive, Catey Mark Meyers, who is chief of staff, will take the role in the interim. The brand grew to include locations in Boston, Los Angeles and Providence, Rhode Island, as well as licensed units in the UK and Canada. Three By Chloe US restaurants have been closed entirely since March, with others operating at reduced capacity, the company said in the filing. Cheryl Sheppard, managing partner of By Chloe’s international business, added: “The popularity and appreciation of plant-based dining has gained significant momentum since By Chloe’s debut in 2015, and even more so during the pandemic as consumers have altered their eating choices to reflect realigned values. From our Guac Burger to the newly introduced Chicky sandwich, we know our product resonates across diverse audiences and are proud to extend our trailblazing role in the industry. The working capital support from deeply experienced restaurant owners and operators is a clear demonstration of the brand’s future viability and allows us to lay the groundwork for sustainable success.”

BrewDog launches $10m fundraise to fuel growth in Australia: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is aiming to fuel its growth in the southern hemisphere by raising up to $10m (£5.5m). The company has launched Equity for Punks Australia, which has a minimum target of $300,000. There are up to 100,000 Class B shares available in BrewDog Group Australia at a price of $100 per share. The shares make up 10% of the total shareholding in the company. BrewDog stated: “We broke ground on our amazing river-front site on the banks of the Brisbane river in November 2018 and have been working tirelessly on building our Australian headquarters. We’re excited to start making Australia-brewed beers and becoming part of the vibrant beer scene that already exists in Brisbane. Everything about the brewery is set up for rapid growth. We’ve also got plenty of space available on the site, readying us for expansion. On top of our epic brewery, we’re looking to expand our bar network across Australia, with our sights on Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to start with, as well as plans for a brewpub in Perth to supply demand we have seen in Western Australia. We want to create a template for the future and open the world’s most sustainable bars – zero waste, carbon neutral, and a depot for closed loop delivery solutions. We plan to launch a series of these craft beer venues across Australia.” BrewDog also plans to use the funds to invest in a new canning line at the brewery in Brisbane as well as install solar panels on the roof. It also plans to build an eco-friendly beer hotel in Brisbane following on from its DogHouse in Columbus in the US.
Burger King UK gives over Instagram account to support independent restaurants in tier three: Burger King UK is supporting independent restaurants forced to close under tier three restrictions by offering them the chance to advertise on its Instagram account for free. The company is following in the footsteps of its French business, which made the gesture this week to support struggling businesses and show solidarity. To participate, restaurant owners post a photo of their signature dish with the hashtag #WhopperAndFriends and Burger King UK will share it. Burger King UK stated: “There’s more to life than the Whopper. There’s Roti King, Sultan’s Palace, Tayyab’s, Eco, Dumplings Legend, Ochi’s, Damak, Platzki – in short, there are many great dishes that deserve to be as famous as the Whopper. As we head into tier three across more parts of the country, it’s clear independent restaurants need all our support. So we’ve decided to give you a break from our burger pics and make our Instagram available to all these restaurants. Until they can reopen, they can advertise on our Instagram for free.”
Domino’s to distribute $9.6m in bonuses to its front-line staff in US: Domino’s has announced it will pay 11,500 front-line staff a December bonus of up to $1,200 (£900) each – totalling $9.6m (£7.2m). Those in line for the pay-outs include hourly paid team members and delivery drivers in the US. Domino’s chief executive Ritch Allison said: “We strive every day to uphold our values of doing the right thing and putting people first. We have the honour and privilege of being open and operating throughout the US during this crisis, and we recognise that we could not be doing it without the hard work and dedication of our team members. This is our way of saying thank you to these remarkable people.” According to Nation’s Restaurant News, this is the second time Domino’s has offered extra compensation for hourly paid front-line workers. From March through to May, Domino’s paid regular “thank you” bonuses to supply chain and company-owned store workers, in addition to offering paid time off for both full and part-time workers impacted by covid-19. Earlier during the pandemic, Domino’s also increased staff numbers by committing to hire 30,000 workers between March and August as demand for delivery grew, and that these new positions would help those made redundant from other restaurant businesses. Domino’s reported, in October, its “strongest sales performance in decades” for the third quarter, ended 6 September. Domino’s is not the only restaurant chain that has offered bonuses to its front-line workers. In March, Yum! Brands gave out $1,000 (£750) bonuses to all restaurant general managers, and Starbucks announced a $3 (£2.25) pay raise in March for all working employees during the covid-19 pandemic. McDonald’s also gave out “appreciation bonuses” to workers at company-owned stores in May. Domino’s has 17,256 stores globally.
Indian fine-dining restaurant Kuti’s Brasserie seeks London location for fifth site: Hampshire-based restaurateur Kuti Miah is looking to open another branch of his Indian fine dining restaurant Kuti’s Brasserie in London. Miah said opening a restaurant in London would be the “final highlight” in his near 40-year career in hospitality. It is understood the restaurant has been in talks with a number of London hotels and capital management groups but has yet to make a decision on where the home of the London restaurant will be. It would be his fifth site, with Kuti’s Brasserie and Kuti’s Express in Southampton, Kuti’s Noorani in Eastleigh and Kuti’s of Wickham, near Portsmouth. His Southampton brasserie was awarded the Tiffin Cup last year, which is a competition to find the best south Asian restaurant in the UK and is voted for by members of parliament. 
West Berkshire Brewery sees turnover down just £400,000 so far in current financial year, business now cash generative: West Berkshire Brewery, the David Bruce-chaired group, has reported turnover for the first six months of its current financial year to the end of September of £2.6m – only £406,000 down on the previous year. The company also revealed that following a £750,000 fundraise earlier this year and a recent improvement in trade, the business was now cash generative. It has also found another buyer for The Old Suffolk Punch in Fulham, west London, which operates under its Mavericks Pubs portfolio after a previous sale in place when the pandemic hit fell through. The company switched its focus to online sales when covid-19 struck. Its pipeline of contract customers now exceeds 79 million cans/bottles annually – a 4,000% year-on-year increase – and has created 23 production jobs, bringing the number of staff to 122. E-commerce sales are on the up, having increased more than 23 times during lockdown. Bruce said: “With the first six months (including September) of the 2021 financial year only just ended, we can announce turnover was £2,595,836, only £406,124 down on last year in spite of the negative effects of lockdown. We are also pleased to announce our pipeline sales for November are £560,000 and we expect the growth to continue.” Managing director Tom Lucas told Propel: “The challenge of covid-19 and the economic climate has seen too many of our talented industry colleagues suffer. As champions of British beer, our driving force is to protect and fly the flag for home-grown brewing. We’re proud to attribute this year’s success to our fantastic team, and are looking forward to revealing more exciting projects in the pipeline.” West Berkshire Brewery provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 29 March 2020 fell to £5.8m, compared with £6.2m the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £4m from £3.3m the previous year. 
Stack & Still opens fourth site: Glasgow-based operators Paul Reynolds and Graham Swankie have opened a fourth site for their pancake house concept Stack & Still. The venue has opened at Glasgow’s Braehead Shopping Centre. Stack & Still Braehead, which features 120 socially distanced covers and creates more than 20 new jobs, has taken over from Handmade Burger Co. Reynolds said: “The current challenges for the hospitality industry really allowed us to take stock of our business and we could see how much our loyal customers were crying out for us to reopen, and the response to our reopening was so inspiring for us as a business to show us we have something truly special to offer. Expansion has continued to be on our minds, and if the recent crisis has taught us anything, it would be how much our customers rely on a safe and comfortable space to connect, laugh, and, of course, enjoy our pancakes. We are confident Glaswegians both young and old, will enjoy our fresh pancakes in Braehead, in the same way they have loved them at Silverburn, Glasgow Fort and our West George Street branches.”

Upside Down House UK hits £100,000 crowdfunding target to support expansion plans: Upside Down House UK, the two-storey “inverted home” concept that offers customers a “zero-gravity experience”, has hit its £100,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it aims to expand across the UK. The company, which operates five sites and has planning permission for two more, is offering 3.3% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. So far, 72 investors have pledged £100,090 and the campaign is overfunding with 22 days remaining. The business has achieved turnover of £1m since launching in 2018. The pitch states: “With five houses already – in Brighton, Bristol, Essex, Manchester and Great Yarmouth – Upside Down House is at an exciting stage of growth with further locations to be announced. The striking two-storey house structure, complete with furniture on the ceiling, captures the interest of guests from the street. Inside, creativity runs wild as guests take surreal images of themselves hanging from the ceiling to share on social media. The business is looking to raise funds so it can expand and reach its aim of having houses nationwide. A total of 60% of the funds is to be spent on procurement of new sites. This will help us achieve our aim of having a house easily accessible from all areas of the UK, allowing us to expand to new locations and help with the organic growth of our brand. We plan to spend 15% of the funds on marketing to help grow our social media presence and brand awareness and 25% on personnel to further invest in growing our team to support the experience.”
Cookie concept Blondies Kitchen boosts sales by 1,700% after pivoting to online sales only: Milk and cookie bar concept Blondies Kitchen has increased sales by 1,700% after it switched to online sales only when the pandemic forced the closure of its shop. Blondies Kitchen was launched in 2016 in London’s Selfridges Food Hall and sold more than one million cookies in its first two years. But coronavirus forced the closure of Selfridges and founders Kristelle Levy and Chelsie Collins made the difficult decision to move their operation to an online-only model. After launching its online store and nationwide delivery service – and with the help of celebrity fans such as Little Mix and Joe Wicks on social media – sales soared by 1,700%, from £500 per week to £9,000 per week. Blondies Kitchen has turned over £250,000 since June 2020, which has seen the brand 70% up on profits from the previous year and growth of 40% year-on-year since the business’ inception four years ago. Festive treats available include Mince Pie Cookie Cups and Limited Edition Praline Christmas Cookies, plus its staple Stuff It Yo’self DIY Kits – which has proved such a hit, more than 100 per day are being dispatched daily.
Dayashankar Sharma to open fine dining restaurant in West Dulwich: Dayashankar Sharma, who has worked at Michelin-starred Tamarind and Kensington venue Zaika, is to open a fine dining Indian restaurant in West Dulwich, south east London. Sharma will launch Heritage next month in Rosendale Road. Offering regional small plates, kebabs, tikkas and curry dishes, the menu will include char-grilled truffle murgh kebab, vegetarian and vegan options such as broccoli ke kofte and Indian bread, including the gruyere and chilli naan. The drinks menu will offer Indian-inspired alcoholic and zero-proof versions, a range of fine wine and a number of Indian whiskies and beer. The 48-cover space will feature a central copper bar while Heritage will also offer takeaway and home delivery across a range of south east London postcodes. Sharmar said: “This food is very close to my heart – I have spent many years developing dishes that my mother taught me as a child, and taken inspiration from my early career at some of the finest establishments in India and Sri Lanka. This restaurant is about exploring the myriad cuisines of regional Indian, and sharing that heritage with our customers.”
Labron-Johnson to open Somerset restaurant and shop: Merlin Labron-Johnson, former executive chef of the Woodhead Restaurant Group, is to open a restaurant and épicerie in Bruton, joining his farm-to-table restaurant Osip in the Somerset town. Named after the 16th century building in which it’s housed, and inspired by the épiceries of rural France, The Old Pharmacy will launch in January. Working alongside Labron-Johnson on this project will be David Durban, who manages operations at Osip, and who previously worked at Petersham Nurseries and Frenchie. Labron-Johnson said: “The Old Pharmacy feels like a natural progression from Osip. At the restaurant, we let the home-grown, seasonal ingredients shine, so I wanted The Old Pharmacy to continue in this vein and allow locals and visitors alike to be able to take home the same produce we use at the restaurant just a few doors down. I love the idea that you could drop into The Old Pharmacy and pick up some supplies to take away like some local cheese with beautiful charcuterie and a jar of pickles, and go off into the Somerset countryside to enjoy a picnic with loved ones, or choose to stay and settle in for the night with some wine, cider and small plates.” During his time with Woodhead Restaurant Group, Labron-Johnson opened its Portland restaurant in 2015, winning a Michelin star 12 months later.
Former Derby Chiquito site to become Indian tapas restaurant and cocktail bar: A former Chiquito site will be converted into an Indian tapas restaurant and cocktail bar in Derby. Entrepreneur Sanj Kumar will invest £500,000 into the venue at Derby’s Pride Pride Park to create Nicco Restaurant and Bar, which will create more than 20 jobs and with space for about 250 covers. Kumar, who is the managing director of a car dealership told Derbyshire Live: “One half of the restaurant will be dedicated to modern Indian cuisine, and the other will be a lively cocktail bar. We’re going to have a dedicated DJ deck to offer live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.” Nicco will offer mixed grill dishes and tapas sharing plates and is set for an opening date in the spring next year.
Model Mandy Lieu launches ethical cafe, deli and restaurant in west London: Malaysian-American model Mandy Lieu has launched a cafe, deli and restaurant in Notting Hill with an emphasis on being ethical and sustainable. The Good Plot is located on Westbourne Grove, and Lieu has also acquired Ewhurst Park in Hampshire with plans to use produce from there for the Notting Hill restaurant. Meanwhile she is using British farmers to supply The Good Plot. A statement on its website describes the site as “a wholefood kitchen using seasonal ingredients and a place to find ethical produce sourced from predominantly British farmers and makers. We care deeply about provenance and the role of the land in what we eat”. Breakfast and lunch is served Mondays to Fridays, brunch is available on Saturdays and evening dinner service runs on Thursdays to Saturdays. The Good Plot also offers an organic milk delivery service to those who live nearby.

Heineken appoints new UK managing director: Heineken has appointed David Flochel as managing director of its UK business. Flochel joins from the Selecta Group, the European unattended self-service retailer that provides coffee and convenience food solutions in the workplace and in public spaces, where he has been chief executive for the past four years. He has significant experience in consumer goods and business services across Europe and North America having previously held roles at Unilever and, more recently, as regional president in Europe and North America of the Mars Drinks segment at Mars. His appointment is effective from Friday, 1 January and he will take over from Simon Amor who has been operating as interim managing director for Heineken UK since the departure of David Forde in July. Flochel will report to Søren Hagh, president Europe, Heineken, and join the Europe management team. Hagh said: “David’s authentic leadership style, customer-centric approach and passion for developing talent are a great fit with Heineken as we continue our journey as Britain’s leading pubs, cider and beer business.” Flochel added: “Our portfolio of brands, our route to market strength, and our great people and culture are unique and very inspiring to me. I am confident together we will emerge even stronger.” Amor will hand over to Flochel during the early part of 2021 while reverting to his position as off-trade director for Heineken UK.

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