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Thu 14th Jan 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Marks – ‘government has acted like a triage department’, company looking at growth opportunities: Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK, formerly Deltic Group, has accused the government of acting like a hospital triage department – “evaluating which sectors are going to live, and which are going to die”. Talking on Propel’s Lessons & Learning for Lockdown Three video, Marks said in terms of support the late-night sector has been “sent down the mortuary”. He said: “I understand how difficult it is for the government but the only time we were being listened to in all seriousness about the state of our businesses was when everyone else was open, and we were the only people left on the subs bench. Then I felt we had a chance, but as soon as everyone else came back off the pitch and back on the bench with the lockdown in November, it was game over. Until Rishi Sunak’s recent £9,000 grant, there were 11 strands of government support and we didn’t qualify for eight of them, it was like it was trying to chisel out something that was never going to save the late-night economy, particularly a large, late-night economy business. It has been frustrating beyond belief and I don’t think it is going to give us any more money.” Scandinavian company Rekom Group, which operates circa 120 late-night venues across Finland, Norway and Denmark, acquired 44 out of Deltic’s 55 sites out of administration last year and Marks said the business is now talking about growth and ready to look at opportunities for consolidation. He said: “In many respects we have the luxury of closure now, which allows us to do a lot more in terms of integration and planning and get things right so we can hit the ground running, than you normally would if you were acquiring or being acquired because you then have to carry on your business as normal in the background. To be talking about growth, which we are, and looking at opportunities, which we will be, given the last nine months is fantastic. Rekom has spotted the UK is a good market, and a lot larger than the rest of its markets (Finland, Denmark and Norway). Clearly there will be a lot of people out there who will throw the towel in or landlords who won’t want to keep the same tenant or companies that will have to go through pre-packs, and that will bring opportunities to us. We have a different story and a different feel to our story moving forward now, and I am hugely grateful for that.” Marks also revealed the group’s site – Club Batchwood – in Batchwood Hall, St Albans, had become the first nightclub in the country to be used for the vaccination programme, after the business was approached by the local health authorities. The full interview with Marks will be released on Thursday (14 January) at 9am.

Industry News:

PM set to reject calls for dedicated hospitality minister: Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to reject the idea of having a dedicated hospitality minister. MPs across the political spectrum voiced their support for creating the position during a debate on Monday (11 January) after more than 200,000 people signed the petition #SeatAtTheTable. However, responding to Catherine McKinnell, the Labour MP for Newcastle North, who led the debate into creating the role, Johnson said: “You’re right to identify the troubles of the hospitality sector, and it has been through a very difficult time. We are doing everything we can to support it, and the chancellor, business secretary and I meet regularly with representatives of that sector. We have given all the grants, the recent increase in grants that you know of, on top of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and bounce back loans, the furlough scheme and many, many other forms of support, but the best thing for the hospitality sector is we all work together to defeat the virus, in the way I’m absolutely certain we can, with disciplined action and the vaccine roll out, and get it back on its feet, and I am sure that is the best thing for it.” McKinnell tweeted afterwards: “Unfortunately the PM hasn’t agreed to meet with @seatat_thetable @chefpublishing to discuss proposal for a dedicated hospitality minister. I will follow up with a letter and in my view, it is in his government’s interest so it can get things right for this vital sector #seatatthetable.” During the debate McKinnell highlighted hospitality was caught between “two crowded departments” – the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport – that “creates an incentive for passing the buck between departments, which reinforces the case for a minister for hospitality”. 

UKHospitality – government must extend loan repayment dates and amend furlough eligibility: UKHospitality has urged the government to extend the time allowed to pay back covid-related, state-backed loans and amend furlough eligibility requirements. The trade body has written to chief secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, with requests that would increase the chances of survival for hospitality businesses. The letter, signed by UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, stated it was thankful for the announcement of additional grants on 5 January and recommended a package that could help the sector bounce back this year. UKHospitality has asked for an extension to the eligibility date for employees on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – more commonly referred to as furlough. It added: “Many businesses in hospitality took new members of staff on during November expecting a busy Christmas. Government should extend the eligibility date for CJRS to include those employed at the end of December 2020, subject to having had a PAYE RTI submission made on their behalf (likely to be 23 December).” It also asked for an amendment to pay calculation because “pay for many still relates to the 2019-20 national minimum wage rates for some” and said this should be uprated in line with increased national minimum wage rates. It should also “allow furlough for employer-initiated notice periods” in relation to the government’s intent to prevent furlough paying wages in the notice period of a member of staff made redundant, but “where the employee has initiated the notice, we believe this should be covered”. UKHospitality added it is grateful for the government’s move to extend applications for state-backed loans until 31 March 2021 but recommended the government also extend the repayment period for all government-backed loans to ten years; increase the interest-free period on loans for a further 12 months; promote new or increased loan facilities for businesses that need to borrow more; extend the Covid Corporate Financing Facility for new entrants and ensure flexible refinancing dates; and push back the date for repayment of deferred taxation to December 2021. 

Hospitality and tourism sector calls for further extension of reduced rate of VAT to avoid 310,000 job losses: The hospitality and tourism sector is calling on the government to apply a further extension of the reduced rate of VAT in a bid to avoid 310,000 job losses. A survey of 1,144 sector businesses by the Cut Tourism VAT (CTV) Campaign, UKHospitality, the Tourism Alliance and the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions demonstrated the importance of the decision by chancellor Rishi Sunak to cut VAT to 5% for the industry. A total of 90% said the VAT cut was important, very important or crucial to their businesses with more than 75% saying they might not have been able to continue trading without it. Most businesses used some of the VAT reduction to meet the additional costs of covid compliance and the next most important use was to pay wages and suppliers. A total of 72% said if the reduction continued they would use it to fund investment. The survey showed if the VAT rate reverts back to 20% in April there will be further cut-backs and job losses and the CTV Campaign estimated this could mean the loss of 310,000 jobs in hospitality and tourism. It would also likely lead to an increase in prices to consumers just before Easter. The survey results suggested turnover in the tourism and hospitality sector would be £9bn greater with VAT at 5%, compared with 20%. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The decision of the chancellor to cut VAT to 5% last July was one of the few bright spots of the year and stimulated economic growth before the second wave began to hit. If the government wants to see a turbo-charged recovery in communities right across the UK then an extension of the VAT cut is the surest way to do it.” Kurt Janson, director of the Tourism Alliance, added: “We believe there is also a huge benefit in combining a reduction in VAT for the tourism and hospitality industry with a reduction in the VAT threshold for businesses.”

Financial support must be expanded swiftly for Scottish operators following new takeaway rules, warns UKHospitality: Financial support must be expanded swiftly for Scottish operators following the tightening of rules around the sale of takeaway food and drink, UKHospitality has warned. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned people from drinking outside and making non-essential click-and-collect orders. From Saturday (16 January) people picking up takeaway meals will be barred from entering eateries, instead having to wait outside. Alcohol consumption outdoors in all level four areas of Scotland will be banned, under new regulations, meaning anyone who buys takeaway alcohol must consume it in their own home. In response, UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod said: “Only this week we warned about the need for further support to secure the future of the hospitality sector in Scotland. It is now even more important that financial support be expanded swiftly in order to save as many businesses and jobs as possible. Before this tightening of restrictions, there was precious little way for a business in the hospitality sector to generate any revenue. One of the few avenues open to them has now been squeezed. An expansion of support has to come quickly if we expect hospitality to be in any sort of shape to aid the country’s economic recovery after the crisis. An extension of the VAT cut and the business rates holiday are now a must. This has to be confirmed as a bare minimum as soon as possible.”
 
Quarter of consumers considering getting Valentine’s Day ‘takeaway’ from pub or restaurant as one-in-five intend to make bigger effort than normal: A quarter (25%) of consumers are considering getting a Valentine’s Day “takeaway” from a local pub or restaurant as one-in five intend to make a bigger effort than normal, according to a new poll. KAM Media has teamed up with Toggle to understand consumer intentions for Valentine’s Day. The poll found despite most people being in lockdown at home, 70% of UK adults are still intending to celebrate the occasion and 16% are considering a dine at home meal kit. Almost one-in-three UK adults have already started thinking about how to celebrate Valentine’s Day, including possible gift options. A total of 13% intend to spend more than usual, rising to 22% of under 35-year-olds. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “Obviously, this Valentine’s will look very different but given everything they’ve been through over the past ten months, consumers are really embracing any excuse to celebrate right now and to make one day seem different from the next! Operators and brands should already be actively communicating their offer as consumers are already researching their options.” Sam Brown, chief commercial officer at Toggle, added: “With one-in-four people planning to celebrate Valentine's with an experience, gift card or at-home kit from their local pub or restaurant, we'd encourage operators to ensure they have a Valentine's Day offering available when customers come looking.”
KAM Media and Toggle are BeatTheVirus campaign members

ProVeg and Veg Capital join forces to fund food start-ups: Food awareness organisation ProVeg International and venture capital firm Veg Capital have joined forces to invest in mission-driven food and food-technology start-ups. The partnership has already invested in two alumni companies of the ProVeg Incubator. The latest investment is a funding package of €180,000 for the sugar-free, plant-based desserts start-up, Zveetz. Christian Krause and Vishal Kawatra founded Zveetz in Berlin, after battling with personal and family health issues stemming from the overconsumption of sugar. The start-up graduated from the ProVeg Incubator last year. At the end of 2020, ProVeg International and Veg Capital were also part of a group of investors that injected funding into another ProVeg Incubator alumni start-up – Hooked. The Swedish plant-based seafood company raised $600,000 to launch its fish alternatives. ProVeg International has also invested in the Israeli start-up Remilk. The precision fermentation company raised $11.3m to further develop its alternative dairy products. ProVeg International president Sebastian Joy said: “By investing in innovative and impactful food start-ups such as Zveetz, Hooked, and Remilk, ProVeg is driving the positive change that our food system desperately needs. Our mission is to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50% by the year 2040. Ensuring consumer access to attractive, affordable, and available plant-based alternatives is key to achieving that.”

Bella Italia ranked highest hospitality company in Glassdoor awards: Bella Italia, The Big Table-owned brand, was ranked the highest hospitality company in the Glassdoor awards for the best places to work. The brand was named eighth in the awards, which are based solely on the input of employees, with one remarking it provided a “fantastic work-life balance that is hard to find in hospitality”. Other hospitality companies to feature in the list were Nando’s (12th), Just Eat (20th), Wagamama (43rd) and Greggs (49th).

Seedrs raises record £293m: Crowdfunding platform Seedrs has reported a record-breaking year with £293m invested into pitches on the site in 2020. The total represents a 16% rise in investment against 2019, despite the economic challenges brought by the covid pandemic. Seedrs completed 265 deals in 2020, as well as almost 14,000 investor exits on its Secondary Market. In 2020, Seedrs helped businesses from 18 different countries raise funds, and received investment from 75 different countries. Jeff Lynn, executive chairman and co-founder of Seedrs, said: “Given the huge challenges 2020 posed for all businesses, it is a source of great pride for the Seedrs team that has come to the end of the year having delivered meaningful growth across all key metrics. The fact we continued to break records even in these tough conditions are a validation of our founding hypotheses – that equity investment in growing private companies is a largely non-correlated activity that can thrive in good times and in bad; but equally, they are a testament to the hard work and tremendous dedication of our whole team, working under unprecedented circumstances to deliver the best possible outcomes for our entrepreneurs and investors.”
 

Company News:

Morris – we are in the eye of the storm like never before, signs on Edinburgh site: Richard Morris, managing director of Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast casual Mexican concept, has said the business was managing the ongoing challenge of covid “better than most” in the industry, but believes “we are now in the eye of the storm like never before”. Morris said: “Last year was unprecedented for everyone in the hospitality sector and the new year has started out even more challenging. We are fortunate our business was able to adapt to the restrictions of the pandemic, with a large focus on delivery. While we’re not through it yet, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and are gearing the business up for an exciting pipeline of opportunities.” In preparation, the company has appointed current finance director Andy Naylor to the new role for the business, of commercial director, while making a number of additions to its operational team. The company said Naylor will oversee all areas of business development, working alongside franchise partners and reviewing the “many alternative revenue driving opportunities”. Chris Nunn, currently the brand’s financial controller, has been promoted to head of finance, and two new recruits have joined as facilities manager and regional operations manager for the south west. Carlwin Smith, formerly of Pret A Manger and Wasabi, joins Tortilla to manage facilities while Justin Ward, previously from The Restaurant Group, will take over the growing region of the south west. Following full closure in March 2020, Tortilla is currently operating takeaway and delivery in 34 of its 43 restaurants across the country, including three delivery-only kitchens. It opened its latest site in November in Reading. Propel understands the group has signed on its second site in Scotland. The company, which already operates a site in Glasgow’s Silverburn scheme, has taken a site in the Edinburgh St James development for an opening later this year.

Oakman makes ‘excellent progress’ on latest fundraise: Oakman Inns, the Dermot King-led pub-restaurant operator, has made “excellent progress” on its latest fundraise, welcoming 120 new investors to the business since launching the round about a month ago, Propel has learned. Oakman’s chief investment officer Steven Kenee said: “Despite both being forced to close again and the negative newsfeed, we have received applications for more than £2.9m of shares and have welcomed 120 new investors to the Oakman family since launching a little over four weeks ago. In light of the excellent progress made to date, we have taken the decision to close the current round on 16 February.” Propel revealed in December that Oakman Inns was looking to tap into its customer base to raise further funding toward its next phase of growth, with an eventual aim of doubling the size of its existing 27-strong estate by 2026. As well as buying shares, new shareholders also receive access to exclusive events, new menu tastings, meet the supplier events and an investors’ card that will give them a range of all-year discounts based on the amount invested. Propel understands Oakman Inns will use the new funding toward the purchase and development of its next seven sites and deliver £3m of additional Ebitda. The company has already secured five new sites and is in advanced negotiations on a further 12. The five sites, four of which are freehold, are a Beech House in Epsom, the Grand Junction in Buckingham, The Rose in Wokingham, a Beech House in Hampton Hill, and Bush Hall in Hatfield. 

Domino’s cites continued fortressing strategy and keeping delivery in-house as key reasons for success during pandemic: Domino’s Pizza has cited its continued fortressing strategy and keeping delivery in-house as key reasons for its success during the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, Domino’s second quarter 2020 sales were up 7.1% despite covid-19-related woes, with digital sales soaring to 75% to 80% of total revenues at this time. By the end of 2020, the company reported its strongest quarterly performance in decades, attributing much of its fourth-quarter success to growing delivery demand and loyalty memberships. In a presentation at the 23rd annual ICR Conference, executive vice-president and chief financial officer Stu Levy said the company was confident in its ability to succeed by going against the crowd in some of its strategies. For example, whereas many of their competitors have been focused on expanding their delivery zone, Domino’s has stuck with its fortressing growth strategy to appease both delivery and takeout customers. Fortressing involves adding more stores to existing markets in an effort to cut delivery times and be closer to customers, which in theory keeps out competition. Levy said: “We offer a great product, great value, and great service – if we can do that then everything else will fall into place. How do you provide great service? By getting as close as you can to the customer.” While its competitors and indeed, much of the restaurant industry, has scrambled to secure third-party delivery partnerships both before and during the pandemic, Domino’s has stuck with its in-house-only strategy. Among other reasons, saying no to third-party has allowed it more flexibility and control over fees and customer experience, Levy said. The final key aspect of Domino’s differentials is thoughtful menu strategy, Levy said. He added: “For us to put something on the menu it has to have staying power. We want to make sure we have a product that we can do profitably.”

Thunderbird Fried Chicken launches virtual delivery brand: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, has launched a virtual delivery brand based around burgers and wings called Jackfruit Junkie, Propel has learned. Available through Deliveroo and UberEats, out of the Foodstars kitchen in London’s Shoreditch, the new vegan virtual brand features burgers for £9 to £10 and wings made by Biff’s Kitchen, for £8.50. Thunderbird, the Paul Gilchrist-led brand, launched a delivery unit out of the same Foodstars kitchen last summer. It also operates a dark kitchen site in Battersea, plus bricks and mortar sites in Charing Cross, Paddington and at the O2.

Starbucks invests $100m in community fund to support businesses owned by ethnic minorities: Starbucks is to invest $100m towards the launch of the Starbucks Community Resilience Fund. It intends to support businesses and community development projects in ethnic minority neighbourhoods in 12 major metropolitan areas including New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington DC. By 2025, Starbucks will have invested $100m toward racial equity and community-based environmental causes. President and chief executive Kevin Johnson said: “Starbucks has always been a company focused on caring for our partners, creating experiences for our customers and playing a positive role in our communities and throughout society. We are excited to make this investment as it aligns with our mission and values and supports our aspiration to advance equity and opportunity in the communities we serve.” Starbucks will partner with Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) that historically support communities with less access to capital. From there, CDFIs will use these funds to support small business growth, including businesses and development projects that support environmental change. The long-term goal, Starbucks said, is to support “community inclusivity and resiliency”. In 2019, Starbucks committed to investing in four Chicago-based CDFIs and this will expand upon that commitment to new lenders in needful communities nationwide. In October last year, Starbucks committed to having an ethnic minority workforce of at least 30% by 2025.

Carbon-neutral burger range launched at Leon: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched a carbon-neutral burger and fries range. The move allows customers to learn more about their environmental impact and choose food based on their own carbon footprint. This is done, with support from solution provider ClimatePartner, by measuring the carbon dioxide emissions from the entire supply chain, which includes all Leon’s ingredients, packaging used and its waste, as well as emissions from prep in their restaurant kitchens. Options available are the new Crispy Chicken Parm and Vegan Sweet Carolina BBQ burgers, the new recipe LOVe Burger, Fish Finger Burger and Chargrilled Chicken Burgers, and baked waffle fries. The LOVe burger is now made with a new recipe pea protein patty from plant-based producer Meatless Farm, which has also helped the menu item have a lower impact on the environment. Leon values and sustainability director Kirsty Saddler said: “We are working to reduce our emissions and achieve a net zero target by 2030, offsetting unavoidable emissions, with reforestation and afforestation projects, is an important commitment for us as we work towards that long-term target.” 

Harewood Group departs Bierkeller site in Lincoln: Nightclub operator Harewood Group has closed its Original Bierkeller site in Lincoln after disagreements over a new lease with Lincolnshire Co-op. The bar brought a slice of German culture to the city when it first opened in Silver Street in June 2017 and news of its closure was met with disappointment, attracting more than 2,000 comments on social media. Lincolnshire Co-op owns the building and JD Wetherspoon was the most recent tenant, which in turn sublet it to Harewood Group, trading as Bierkeller. Wetherspoon exercised the right to bring that tenancy to an end in October last year, leaving Bierkeller to try to sort one with Lincolnshire Co-op, but an agreement could not be reached. A statement from Bierkeller said: “We are very sad to announce the Original Bierkeller in Lincoln has closed and will not reopen. We are seeking a new home. This was a decision forced on us by our landlord the Lincolnshire Co-op, which, after 12 months of negotiations for a new lease and resulting in us spending more than £35,000 in preparations (money we could ill-afford as we have been closed since March due to government covid restrictions), decided at the last minute it didn’t want to complete the new lease after all. As a result we had only three working days to close down, make remaining staff redundant and remove our fixtures and fittings to store.” A Lincolnshire Co-op spokesman added: “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our team has been talking to tenants individually so we can understand their situation. We have offered a wide range of support including rent concessions, payment plans and practical help.”

Cobra Beer ‘likely’ to require short-term funding in early part of 2021: Cobra Beer, which was founded by Lord Karan Bilimoria in 1989, has said the business is “likely” to require short-term additional cash funding in the early part of this year to support it through the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it had various funding options if required, including extending its existing bank overdraft arrangements and access to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility. During the various lockdowns, the company closed all non-essential breweries, furloughed impacted staff and restricted production to prioritise key off-trade product lines. With the ongoing restrictions, particularly the closure of the on-trade, Cobra Beer said the market was “extremely challenging”. Despite the decline in trade, the directors said as the impact was short-term and the market would recover once the current crisis is over, there was no impairment on the business. Cobra Beer provided the update as it reported turnover was down 2.2% to £53.4m for the year ending 31 December 2019, compared with £54.6m the previous year. Gross profit fell 3.5% to £15.6m, compared with £16.2m the year before, while pre-tax profit was down 12.6% to £9.3m, compared with £10.7m the previous year. During the period the company paid dividends amounting to £8.5m, down slightly from £8.7m the year before. Beer manufactured by the company is sold across the UK, India, Europe, Middle East and East Asia, while Molson Coors holds a controlling interest in the company. Molson Coors is Cobra Beer’s only customer and acts as its distributor. Lord Bilimoria, who is the company’s chairman, has also served as its chief executive and was created a life peer in 2006. In 2009, Molson Coors paid about £14m for a 50.1% share, leaving Lord Bilimoria and other shareholders with the remaining stake.

Award-winning nightclub operator to open bar and virtual shooting range: The owner of the award-winning Home nightclub in Lincoln has begun transforming the former Ruddocks store in the city into a new cocktail bar and shooting range. A planning application has been approved by the City of Lincoln Council for the site to become “Carousel” bar and Quickdraw virtual shooting range, with work already starting on the site. The council has approved internal and external alterations to the building, including a new cocktail bar, beer garden and cellar, kitchen, toilets, and flagstone-tiled flooring. Carousel was supposed to open in September, but was delayed due to the pandemic so, in October, a pop-up simulation shooting range opened at Home nightclub, with the technology used by US police and replicas of real guns. It's a new concept from Lindum Leisure, which operates Home. John O'Donoghue, who runs Home nightclub and now Carousel, told Lincolnshire Live: “It's stood empty since 2017 and it's a fantastic building. It will have a Victorian theme and it represents a sizeable investment that will create 30 to 40 jobs.”

The Acai Girls launches second dark kitchen, Veganuary menu available for south west London: Healthy plant-based food delivery service The Acai Girls is launching its second dark kitchen with a Veganuary menu. Sisters Megan and Georgia Salamat will open at the Deliveroo Editions site in Battersea, south west London. It will join Acai Girls’ Chelsea kitchen in reaching more customers with its acai bowls, salads, juice and shakes, all of which are priced under £10. There is also a make-at-home kit for Vegan Oreo Chocolate Brownies. On the Veganuary menu are Rainbow Nachos £8.50, Cacao, Hazelnut and Banana Pancakes £9 and Acai Girls Golden Mylk £3.75. Megan Salamat said: “The menu is a celebration of all the fresh, delicious, local food inspired by our travels around the world. No matter where we went, food was the universal language that brought people together and the dishes on our menu takes us back to those happy places and little pieces of paradise. We’re excited to be sharing our journey with others and couldn’t be happier to see The Acai Girls open a new kitchen in the space of six months.” There will be 20% off orders during the first week of the launch of the Battersea site.

Flesh & Buns launches first at-home kit: Flesh & Buns, the Japanese izakaya-inspired restaurants in Covent Garden and Fitzrovia owned by Bone Daddies Group, has launched its first at-home kit, with nationwide delivery. The bao kit contains everything needed to recreate Flesh & Buns’ signature crispy piglet belly buns at home, including six buns, piglet belly, pickled apples, karashi miso and shiso leaves. The kit is available from Restaurant Kits, for delivery two days after ordering.

Chiquito reimagines classic Mexican dishes as part of Veganuary menu launch: The Restaurant Group-owned Chiquito has launched its Veganuary menu by replacing some of the ingredients in its classic Mexican dishes. The chain is also offering 30% off all click and collect mains in January. Chiquito said: “Mexican food is already packed with fresh, natural ingredients so we know it lends itself naturally to those looking to incorporate less meat in their diet. Our aim is to make vegan appealing for all guests.” The company said it had a “great response” to its first vegan menu in 2019. Diners can enjoy dishes such as Loaded Vegan Wedges – crispy baked sweet potato wedges, loaded with vegan chorizo, sweetcorn and vegan cheddar melt as a starter. Mains include Vegan Paella – pibil jackfruit, vegan chorizo and sweetcorn with rice, black beans and tomatoes in a hot ancho sauce; and Vegan Enchilada – two tortillas filled with rice and black beans, baked and topped with tomato sauce, vegan cheddar and mozzarella mix and Oatly fraiche. Desserts include Vegan Mexican Mess – creamy vanilla vegan torte on a crumbly biscuit base served in a crisp tortilla basket, topped with vegan ice cream, chocolate sauce and frozen raspberries. Meanwhile, motorway services operator Welcome Break is getting behind Veganuary with new vegan choices joining the existing 150 vegan products available at selected brand partners across its 39 sites.

Africana to open seventh site: Africana is to open its seventh site, this time in Leicester in April. The African-inspired restaurant group is opening a branch in Charles Street. Afrikana offers an array of food with an African twist, along with African culture, music and art as part of the experience. The brand was established in the small Midlands town of Aldridge in 2018, by entrepreneur Omair Ali. He felt there was a gap in the hospitality market for an African-inspired restaurant offering high-end quality food infused with beautiful African flavours. In 2019, the original Aldridge restaurant was joined by three more locations. According to an Afrikana spokesman, the brand had another good year in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, opening branches in Blackburn and Cardiff. 

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