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Fri 19th Mar 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Bowley – the big question we are looking to crack is what’s the operating model of the future?: Zoe Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress, has said the past 12 months has allowed every bit of the business to be evaluated and has left the company asking what is the operating model of the future? Speaking at the Propel Multi Club event, Bowley said: “Going through the sale process forced you to step back and look at everything. You are having to present it and you find yourself asking ‘why do we do that?’ In some ways while I would never recommend trying to do all those things at once, it has produced some really positive things for us. One of the things we have done is structurally evaluate the business. The big one we are trying to crack at the minute is what’s the operating model of the future? Current delivery volumes will clearly be difficult to sustain when the restaurants are open, and we have to remember we are primarily a dine-in restaurant business. I went into one of our sites the other day, and it was more like a production line. Clearly if the restaurant is full of customers that changes. Clearly it will be less [volumes] when we reopen but how will we operate with much bigger delivery volumes? What’s the new normal going to look like and that’s what we are wrestling with now. There will be lots of people using delivery that never did in the past, so you have opened up the door to a whole new platform and you have a summer of sport coming. So, what is the operating model and how are we going to operate with much bigger delivery volumes? This tends to be quite challenging for us, because some of our biggest delivery sites are in London villages such as Chiswick and Wimbledon, and they are quite tiny footprints to be trying to get those volumes out of. We have done a huge amount to accelerate all of that, around packaging, speed and efficiency. Bringing this all together to say what our model will look like will provide some real upsides and I am positive about the overall profitability of the model and working in very different ways.” Earlier this week, PizzaExpress said it would reopen 118 of its sites in England for outdoor dining from Monday, 12 April. The circa 370-strong chain is yet to confirm when its restaurants in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland will welcome back customers. Propel Premium subscribers can now receive access to the video of the Propel Multi Club conference featuring Bowley and other industry leaders. They should email to receive an access code to view the conference. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. To sign up, email

Industry News:

Simon Stenning discusses why the path to the future is haphazard, and requires careful planning as part of latest Premium column: Leading sector analyst Simon Stenning discusses why the level of government support announced in the Budget has changed his forecasts for the sector, which in the short-term could be worse off, in this week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (19 March). Meanwhile, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks at the legacy the crisis will have on recruitment and company structures, alongside other key bits of news from the past week. There will also be the latest sector whispers 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. Propel is to improve its service for Premium subscribers by publishing a monthly updated list of multi-site operators – with a standalone report. The new multi-site list will be sent to subscribers at the end of each month with a report on new companies and changes in the list. A refreshed list of circa 1,600 companies will be sent out to all Premium subscribers at the end of March. It provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different, and what each business specialises in. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. The list will then be updated at the end of each month. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email
Propel Friday Wrap video series continues with UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls: Propel continues its new Friday Wrap video series on Friday (19 March) at 3pm. The new series, which is sponsored by innovative staffing solution provider Stint, sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel insights editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, to discuss what remains at the top of her list of things to do, what the sector needs in terms of economic stimulus, the future trading prospects for our cities and what the legacy of the crisis will be. 
Malkov – there’s an opportunity to ‘change the equation’ of the tenant/landlord relationship: There is an opportunity to “change the equation of the tenant/landlord relationship, Yishay Malkov, chief executive of Various Eateries, the AIM-listed Andy Bassadone-chaired business, has said. Speaking at the Propel Multi Club conference, Malkov said there was a chance to make the relationship more like that in other countries rather than that in the UK, which he said is historically one-sided in favour of the landlord. Although he said his relationship with his various landlords is good there are a couple who are “sticking” and do not understand the new scenario. Malkov said the outlook for the Coppa Club and Tavolino operator was not of a “quick win” but a long-term play. He said expected demand from diners and a myriad of opportunities to pick-up sites had given the current 11-strong business great optimism, and although there may be “lots to choose from, in no way are we gloating” about the situation. He said: “We’ll enjoy the surge but we think it’s long-term and we’ve a listed currency to grow. There is a deluge of availability from the [sector’s] decimation. It’s not new sites, because everything is going well, it’s because of the crisis now that sites are coming on to the market.” Another changed scenario from the crisis has been delivery and although Malkov said the business had been unable to create a proposition suited to delivery during covid-19, it would feature in the future. He added: “Our product is not good enough to deliver yet but we will do it. We know there are legs in both brands.” In October, Propel revealed Various Eateries believes there is potential to open up to 100 sites under its fledgling Tavolino brand, and capacity for more than 50 Coppa Clubs across the UK. Propel Premium subscribers can now receive access to the video of the Propel Multi Club conference featuring Malkov and other industry leaders. They should email to receive an access code to view the conference. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. To sign up, email
Extension of rent moratorium in Scotland by six months ‘only a stay of execution’, warns UKHospitality: The extension of the rent moratorium in Scotland by six months is “only a stay of execution”, UKHospitality has warned. The moratorium, which was introduced in March last year, prevents property owners from pursuing tenants for unpaid rent by legal means, or from evicting them. The Scottish government has gone further than other parts of the UK by extending the moratorium until 30 September. The latest extension had been due to expire at the end of this month. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod said: “As with the rest of the UK, rent debt for Scottish hospitality businesses has spiralled to frightening levels. It has become a huge burden that threatens the immediate survival and the chances of growth for businesses. Extending the moratorium was necessary to give businesses breathing room and stay alive for the forthcoming reopening. This is only a stay of execution, though. The UK government’s call for evidence must find an equitable solution that brings landlords to the table and shares out this burden fairly – and it must consider measures that also apply in Scotland. This burden is the result of a once-in-a-lifetime crisis and hospitality cannot be expected to shoulder it alone.”
Independent pubs set to win customers back first: The independent, local pub sector will be the first to win back customers when they fully reopen in May, according to a snap poll by KAM Media. The research, which looked at what proportion of customers are likely to return to different hospitality venues in the first three months of full reopening, showed 62% of pub-goers intend to visit an independent, local pub in that time. Cafes and coffee shops came in second with 55% of their customers saying they’d visit in the first three months of reopening, followed by independent restaurants (48%). Meanwhile, 45% of those who visit “chain” pubs said they intend to visit them in the first three months along with 42% of “branded” restaurant customers. Quick service restaurants were slightly lower with 39% of their customers stating they’ll be back within the same timescale. Customers of nightclubs are more hesitant to return, with 21% saying they intend to visit in the first three months of reopening. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “The results are really positive specifically for both independent pubs and restaurants. This goes hand in hand with other research that suggests customers will choose local, independent options first for a while.”
KAM Media is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Young’s to join National Day of Reflection: Young’s, the Patrick Dardis-led pub company, is to join the National Day of Reflection on Tuesday (23 March) to mark the one-year anniversary of the first UK lockdown. Coming together for a day of remembrance, Young’s will shine a beacon of solidarity by lighting up more than 140 pubs across London and the south east at 8pm for the first time since the December lockdown. Organised by charity Marie Curie, and backed by prime minister Boris Johnson, the National Day of Reflection will mark the nation’s collective loss during the pandemic, At noon, a minute’s silence will be held across the UK, while from 8pm, all are encouraged to shine lights into the night sky as a symbol of remembrance. Dardis said: “We are proud to be returning to our pubs, unlocking our doors and switching on our lights, for the first time in months, to come together with the nation to remember all those who have been tragically affected by the pandemic and to shine a light on better times.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a food and drinks brand that is on the lookout for a commercial manager. The company has been developing its e-commerce business and has seen consistent sales growth over the past 12 months. The ideal candidate will have a strong knowledge of the food and beverage industry as well as a good understanding of online business and product development. Knowledge across supply chain, e-marketing, cost saving, product development, and account management would be very desirable. This position is a home working role with regular meetings in the London area. A salary of between £45,000 and £75,000 will be considered. Anyone interested can email with their CV.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Five Guys UK examining drive-thru opportunities: Five Guys, the fast-growing burger concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, is exploring opportunities to open its first drive-thru sites in the UK, Propel understands. The circa 100-strong brand, which recently opened a new site on the former Frankie & Benny’s unit in High Wycombe, is believed to be in talks on two or three possible sites for its drive-thru debut in the UK. Its move into drive-thrus will come on the back of the success of its “kerbside” pick-up option, which it launched in Britain in May, and so far operates from 21 sites, including the new High Wycombe outlet. Over the course of the pandemic, drive-thrus have become one of the most hotly contested parts of the UK property market as businesses including Greggs, McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Tim Horton’s have looked to up their presence in the category. Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, which plans to re-enter the UK market this year with up to five new openings, has also expressed an interest in launching drive-thru sites in Britain. Five Guys also has openings in Chichester, Stevenage Leisure Park, McArthurGlen Designer Outlet West Midlands and Edinburgh St James lined up for this year.
Red Lion Holdings brings Grosvenor Pubs & Inns under its control: Red Lion Holdings (RLH), the newly formed pub investment vehicle led by ex-Busaba chief executive Jason Myers and sector investor David Ramsay, has taken full control of Grosvenor Pubs & Inns, Propel has learned. Myers and Ramsay launched Grosvenor Pubs & Inns, with backing by Downing, in 2018. The company originally operated the Surrey-based sites The Kings Arms in Egham and The Cricketers on the Green in Pirbright, but Propel understands it added the Hare & Hounds, near Newbury, and the Crown of Crucis, near Cirencester, to its portfolio last year. RLH, which is a joint venture with European real estate private equity investor Revcap, has acquired Downing’s stake in Grosvenor Pubs & Inns, and will run the group’s four pubs. Propel revealed in January that RLH had acquired a majority stake in Red Mist Leisure, the south east-based pub group founded by Mark Robson and Mark Williams, Red Mist, which was founded in 2004 by long-time friends Robson, Williams and Julian Clarke, currently operates ten pubs across Surrey and Hampshire. In February, Red Mist acquired its 11th site, The Parrot, near Shalford, Surrey. Earlier this year, Myers told Propel that RLH had been created as a specialist hospitality investment group that invests in independent boutique pubs and inns, “utilising its expertise and shared services to support its investments”. Ramsay said the new investment vehicle has “very strong ambitions of bringing more groups to the Red Lion family, as well as continuing to acquire high-quality individual pub assets”.
The Beautiful Pubs Collective to launch its biggest multi-site recruitment campaign: The Beautiful Pubs Collective, the privately owned Leicestershire based independent operator led by Sam Hagger, is to launch its biggest multi-site recruitment campaign on the anniversary of its initial closure of its pubs due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic last year. The campaign, which will see the company create an additional 40 full and part-time positions ahead of its pre pandemic employee numbers, aims to ensure its planned return to full operational status by the end of May will deliver a “guest and employee experience that will lead the way locally”. Hagger said: “Throughout the pandemic we have fought hard to ensure the survival of our business, worked with indefatigable energy to retain and support our amazing pub teams while doing everything within our resource to play our part in supporting the communities that our pubs are part of the fabric of. Through the pandemic we have learned with intimacy so much about our brilliant people and have now formed what we believe is our own roadmap to recovery and beyond.” The campaign aims to attract a plethora of talent ranging from front of house hosts to deputy general managers and head chefs. During the pandemic, The Beautiful Pubs Collective has continued to invest heavily in its sites, including a new internal kitchen and external pizza kitchen at the company’s original pub – The Forge Inn, Glenfield; a new “venue within a venue” at Knight & Garter as well as a range of delivered, finish at home, meals.
Ovo Energy founder Stephen Fitzpatrick behind new club for Kensington Roof Gardens: Stephen Fitzpatrick, the founder of OVO Energy, is behind the new venture that is set to open a private members’ club at London’s Kensington Roof Gardens. At the start of this year, German family investment vehicle Sirosa let the 15,000 square foot space and 0.6 acres of garden area to a new private members’ club business. Fitzpatrick, who has set up new company Kensington RG for the new venture, is the former owner of the Manor Racing team and the president of Vertical Aerospace, which is working on “flying taxis” using electric power. It is thought he is looking to make the new members’ club as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.
Pizza Pilgrims to open second site under new NYC-influenced concept Slice, in Finsbury Park: Pizza Pilgrims, the London-based sourdough pizzeria brand founded by brothers James and Thom Elliott, has secured a second site for its fledgling New York City-influenced concept Slice in London’s Finsbury Square. The business launched the new concept at the turn of the year as a 12-month pop-up on the former YO! site at Festival Riverside, Royal Festival Hall. It has now secured the former Quality Fish Bar in Seven Sisters Road for a permanent opening under Slice. The opening at Festival Riverside was described as “a haven for London’s largest slices, alcoholic slushies and 90s arcade games”. Last August, Propel revealed Pizza Pilgrims had secured a site for its eponymous brand in London’s Queensway as part of the West Walk Estate. Jake Bernstone, of Stonebrook London, acted on the Finsbury Park deal.
Former hardware store could be next site for Caprinos: Pizza concept Caprinos is thought to be working on taking a site in Uckfield, East Sussex. The Surrey headquartered business that operates circa 35 pizzerias across England and Wales is believed to be targeting a former hardware store in the town’s High Street. Chris Lawson, of commercial property agents Lawson Commercial, said the premises are under offer but the legal process is taking a long time to go through. He told Uckfield News: “It is taking at least three months through from heads of terms to the point of completion.”
High-end sushi concept launches in south west London, set for further growth after securing ‘substantial’ investment: High-end sushi concept Oro Sushi has launched with a delivery kitchen in Wimbledon, south west London, and is set to further growth after securing “substantial” investment. The concept is the brainchild of Alexandre Santamaria, founder of Aware Hospitality; ex Zuma Global executive chef Anthony Garlando; and sustainability entrepreneur Nick Yeatman. Oro Sushi concentrates on “restaurant-quality sushi – made with sustainable ingredients – available at affordable prices”. The menu features dishes including spicy bluefin tuna maki with chilli mayonnaise and shichimi pepper; prawn nigiri topped with macadamia and tahoon pesto; and nori crumbed lemon sole with crispy potato, black garlic mayonnaise and lemon. Currently delivering to Wimbledon and the surrounding SW18 areas, Oro Sushi will be available in other parts of London “in the very near future”. In addition, the concept is set to expand overseas, with premises in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia already secured. Oro Sushi is also getting ready to launch DIY kits and a selection of bespoke bottled cocktails.
Ivan Simeoli renames seafood bar and fishmonger concept as he prepares to open second site: Chef and restaurateur Ivan Simeoli is to rename his seafood bar and fishmonger in London’s Brick Lane – and open a second site. Simeoli launched Crudo in December. Now he is changing the name to Raw and converting his Laboratorio Pizza restaurant in Great Portland Street into a second outlet, which is due to open on Monday, 17 May. Dishes will include sea bream ceviche and tuna tartare sea buns. The sea theme will also be reflected in the cocktails with drinks such as kombu seaweed martinis and nori pisco sours. As with the Brick Lane site, the new Raw will also feature a seafood counter, reports Hot Dinners. Simeoli also operates a Laboratorio Pizza restaurant in Brick Lane.
Malhotra Group to launch £7.5m Gosforth venue with phased opening from next month: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group is to open its new £7.5m venue from next month. Three Mile, in Gosforth, has been transformed to create a hotel, bar and restaurant. In a phased opening in line with covid regulations, the outdoor terrace will open on Monday, 12 April. The terrace – which was extended as part of the refurbishment – features external TVs and heated umbrellas and will offer a drinks-only table service. The 64-bedroom Great North Hotel will open on Monday,17 May along with restaurant, the Pizza Dough Co. Taking its influence from American-style pizza restaurants, it has an open plan design so customers can watch pizzas being prepared and cooked in traditional stone ovens, with rotating plates. In addition, a coffee shop, The Great North Bakery & Coffee Co, has also been created, offering hot and cold drinks as well as toasties, paninis, cakes and snacks. Operations director Atul Malhotra said: “A vast amount of thought and investment has gone into creating Three Mile and always with the customer and guest in mind.”
All-day brasserie and cookery school to launch in St John’s Wood: A new all-day brasserie is to open in St John’s Wood, north west London, in May. Created by Maggie Bolger, AT feast, located in St John’s Wood High Street, will also feature a grab-and-go bar and cookery school. It will be housed within B_Together, a child learning development space by Bolger that will include an on-site nursery, eco-led retail area, meeting spaces, bookable workspace, studios for workshops and classes, children’s soft play zones, a designated members’ space and an apartment for short stays, all situated across four floors. AT feast will offer seasonal menus that will be as close to zero waste as possible through recipes and reusing food scraps that would normally be thrown away. Dishes will include top to tail tempura vegetables with sticky vegetable soy; broccoli margarita flatbread with secret tomato sauce; and meatless shepherd’s pie served with a garlic root mash. The cocktail menu will also champion the AT feast zero waste ethos, with tipples including a Gin Campari Sour using the leftover egg whites from the production of the Cambridge burnt cream dessert and topped with grated burnt toast. The grab-and-go section will include a coffee bar serving a range of coffee, tea and juice as well as sandwiches. AT feast will also house a cookery school for all ages. The cookery classes will include brunch, bake and a supper club for babies to teens. 
The Dusty Knuckle to open bakery and pizza restaurant in Haringey: East London-based bakery and cafe The Dusty Knuckle is to open a bakery and pizza restaurant. The company is opening the outlet in Haringey in the former Yaalu premises in Green Lanes in May. As well as selling its potato sourdough and other baked goods along with sandwiches, the space will also operate as a pizza restaurant, three nights a week, reports Hot Dinners. Dusty Knuckle operates its bakery and cafe in Abbot Street, Dalston. 
The Celtic Collection to manage new Pembrokeshire hotel under its Ty Hotels brand: The Celtic Collection, which operates a number of hotels including Celtic Manor, has been appointed to manage a new 100-bedroom hotel at Milford Waterfront, on the Pembrokeshire coast. As part of The Celtic Collection’s Ty Hotels group, the new hotel is expected to be complete by spring 2022 and will create about 50 permanent jobs. When the 46,000 square foot property, owned by Port of Milford Haven, opens in 2022, the premises will comprise four floors of a variety of bedroom accommodation types and have views across Milford Marina. The Celtic Collection chief executive Ian Edwards said: “After such a difficult year for tourism and hospitality, it is fantastic to announce this positive news. This is a brilliant opportunity for The Celtic Collection to expand our horizons and bring our expertise in hotels and hospitality to Pembrokeshire.”

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