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Tue 27th Apr 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Interactive football and entertainment concept spanning 30,000 square foot to launch at The O2 this summer: A 30,000 square foot interactive football and entertainment concept is to launch at The O2 in London this summer. Toca Social aims to fuse the worlds of football, food, drinks and live music “to create a memorable experience”. The venue will offer interactive football games that use artificial intelligence-enabled technology alongside food and drink. Guests will be able to choose from a variety of interactive football-based games, enabled by innovative ball delivery and tracking technology. Toca Social said it “bridges the physical and digital worlds in a way never seen before” and each game has been designed for all ages, abilities, and have different levels of football interest. The menu, created by Michelin-trained chef Ross Clarke, will be inspired by modern Americana “with twists from around the world”. The venue will include a dessert room filled with “Willy Wonka”-inspired creations including a DJ booth, and three bars. The concept is the brainchild of former US international footballer Eddie Lewis, who played for Derby County, Fulham, Leeds United and Preston North End. Lewis is founder of Toca, which owns 12 football training centres in the US and 18 affiliates throughout North America. Toca Social has taken a long-term lease with Waterfront Limited Partnership, a joint venture between AEG Europe and Crosstree Real Estate Partners, which own and manage Icon Outlet and the Entertainment District at The O2. Toca Social president Alex Harman said: “Toca Social fuses the worlds of football, food, drinks and live music to create a memorable experience that truly appeals to everyone – not just football fans.” Alistair Wood, European vice-president of real estate and development for AEG Europe, added: “Having only reopened our doors on 12 April, we are already seeing guests starting to return and enjoy Icon Outlet’s offer – sales were 173% higher on 12 April than sales on the first day after the original lockdown lifted in June 2020. This shows that there is pent-up demand for people to shop and enjoy The O2’s full day out destination offer, which Toca Social will pay great complement to.” 

Industry News:

Updated multi-site database to be sent exclusively to Premium subscribers on Friday, 84 companies added in past month: The updated Propel Premium multi-site database will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (30 April) at midday and has gained an additional 84 companies during the past month. Subscribers will also receive a 4,600-word report on the 84 new brands, concepts and growth companies, many of which have big growth ambitions in Britain. They include: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which was founded in the US in 1972; Japanese udon noodles and tempura restaurant company Marugame Udon; and Australia’s largest Mexican quick-service franchise Zambrero. The exhaustive database now holds the details of 1,713 companies – and is only available to Propel Premium subscribers. The go-to database has the most comprehensive multi-site operator information in the sector – 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. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Premium subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Email to sign up.

Zonal looks at using data to enhance the guest experience in latest Data Masterclass video: Propel has launched a series of videos with its partners to help operators make the most of their data as they rebuild from the pandemic. The latest video from the Data Masterclass, which is sponsored by Airship and Toggle, sees Zonal group product director Alison Vasey talk to Fleet Street Communications senior consultant Robyn Black about how important it is for operators to capture and use guest data to enhance and personalise the customer experience to build repeat visits and guest loyalty. Vasey also gives her take on the guest journey of the future and the role that automation will likely play. Other companies taking part in the series are Airship, DataHawks, Reputation, S4labour, Startle, Wireless Social, Yapster and Yumpingo. The video will be sent at 9am on Tuesday (27 April).

Managed pub and restaurant groups report robust start to post-lockdown trading in England: Managed pub and restaurant groups have made a robust start to post-lockdown trading in England, the latest figures from the Coffer CGA Business Tracker have showed. The Tracker indicates like-for-like sales in the week from Monday, 12 April to Sunday, 18 April were down 24% on the equivalent period two years ago – despite being limited to outside trading, and facing a strong comparative week in April 2019 that included Easter. Pubs performed better than restaurants across the first week back. Like-for-like sales in managed drink-led pubs were down by 11% on 2019, and by 22% in pub restaurants. The group-run restaurant segment recorded a 34% drop, and like-for-like sales were weakest of all in bars, at 37% down. With service still limited to outdoors, the managed sector remains well below capacity. The Tracker showed about two in five (39%) of groups’ venues were open for on-site dining and drinking last week, though some other venues were operating for takeaways and deliveries. Trading capacity was higher in the drink-led pubs (44%) and restaurants (43%) segments, and lower among pub restaurants (27%) and bars (25%). With the majority of sites still closed, total sales last week were 57% down on the equivalent week in April 2019. “While sales are well down on what we would expect in a normal April, managed groups are returning well after months of closure,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, which produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “However, total sales will be far off pre-pandemic levels for some time to come, and businesses will need support from local and central government as they embark on the long road to recovery.”
Backman – staff shortage problem will become even more critical as the sector wakes up: Sector analyst Peter Backman has said a staff shortage problem will become more critical as the industry wakes up and reopening rips away the cover provided by the furlough scheme. Backman said: “When the first lockdowns were put in place, it seems our lives were filled with Zoom sessions in which HR people and C-suite directors were telling us how their number one priority was staff well-being and retention. And they highlighted the many, varied and creative efforts they were putting in to keep their teams on board. And now here we are a year later, the covid numbers have been beaten down, vaccines are doing their job and the first stage of removing lockdown restrictions is under way. Alfresco dining is on the menu, which means hospitality outlets, if only a minority, are open even though, since there is no inside dining or drinking, their capacity is substantially reduced. Nevertheless, we can take comfort from the fact at least they are reopening. However, their reduced capacity means fewer servings and that, in turn, means the numbers of job positions needed to provide the reduced numbers of servings are lower than they were before covid struck. But there’s a problem. There aren’t enough people to fill even those reduced numbers of job positions. Hospitality businesses thought they had employees on their books during covid but many had crept away, perhaps they’d gone back to their home country, or perhaps they’d got another job working in an Amazon warehouse or doing rider gigs for Deliveroo. One can ask why operators have only just become aware of this situation. Furlough, the saviour of many businesses, had hidden what was actually happening. Reopening has ripped away that cover. Staff shortages potentially threaten an already precarious situation. If there aren’t the people to work in the kitchens, or work in the front of house, or manage the restaurant, or even manage the managers then there won’t be the people to serve the customers, no matter how many come knocking on the door. Some restaurants may cope by paying more but that threatens already exposed profit models and adds risks to overburdened balance sheets. So, businesses are faced with either not opening, or opening but at reduced profitability, or opening with fewer people and, therefore, lower standards of service. All of this is down to an age-old problem for the hospitality sector – not enough people, particularly not enough people with the right sort of training. And this will become even more critical as the sector wakes up. What happened to all those early-covid Zoom sessions aimed at keeping employees on board?”
NTIA accuses government of victimising night-time economy over ‘covid passport plans’: The government has been accused of victimising the night-time economy by the Night Time Industries Association over its “covid passport” plans. Prime minister Boris Johnson was reported to have said pubs and restaurants will not be required to use covid passports as a prerequisite of entry, but it has not been ruled out for nightclubs and large-scale events. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “There is a stark disparity between the way the night-time economy and other industries are being treated by the government, If retail, supermarkets, public transport, hotels, pubs and restaurants are excluded from the use of covid passports, with many of these businesses displaying similar contact and proximity environments, why would nightclubs and other environments be expected to ask customers to present covid passports as a prerequisite or requirement of entry? Initial feedback from consumers is that many are not comfortable using health information to gain access to night-time economy businesses in the UK, and the use of health passports will discourage customers from attending these environments in the future. Businesses are, likewise, frustrated at the way in which the government is communicating these potential restrictions – with many feeling a considerable number of questions left unanswered. These businesses have suffered extreme financial hardship for more than 12 months and are desperate to open, but they have been left feeling uncertain once again.”
Welsh operators issue ‘desperate plea’ for party leaders to commit to restart grants: A “desperate plea” for party leaders to commit to a restart grant in Wales has been made by the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) and the Welsh Beer & Pub Association. They have jointly written to Welsh labour leader Mark Drakeford, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew Davies and Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds stating the independent hospitality sector is facing a black hole of uncertainty on financial support, which is leading to business closures and job losses. The letter highlights while Monday’s (26 April) opening of outdoor hospitality and the setting of Monday, 17 May, for indoor opening are hugely welcome developments, the sector has been without support since 31 March, and businesses have no idea what they may receive post-election. The letter stated: “Generic promises of overall sums for post-election business support don’t cut it. Individual businesses need a clear idea of what they are likely to receive now. Waiting until post-election will cost many livelihoods.” Both trade bodies are calling for all parties to make an immediate commitment to offer similar restart grants to those being distributed in Scotland and England. Dan Warder, of Top Joe’s Pizza in Tenby and Narberth, and a founder member of WIRC, said: “We desperately need party leaders to come together now with a specific promise of support immediately after the election so businesses can rely on this while they take on yet more financial risk. If this fails to happen then there is no doubt more jobs and livelihoods will be lost.” Welsh Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “We need all the parties vying to form the next Welsh government to urgently commit to a meaningful restart grant to help get our businesses up and running again.”

SPBA again calls for removal of curfews on day Scottish hospitality reopens: The removal of curfews in Scotland has again been called for by the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SPBA) on the day the sector began reopening. The trade body is asking for the extension of opening hours back to normal licensing times, which at the moment is not scheduled to be reintroduced until level 0. Venues have to close at 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors, and alcohol is only be allowed to be served outside. The SPBA said the changes can be justified by positive progress continuing to be made and the sector demonstrating its ability to trade safely and responsibly. SBPA president Edith Monfries said: “For many premises the ongoing restrictions mean they still cannot open and even for those who are opening their doors again, the restrictions make a return to profitability difficult, and many will operate at a deficit until further progress through the levels. The current decline in prevalence of the virus coupled with the vaccination roll-out give reasons to be optimistic. That is why we are requesting t if we continue to see positive progress and if there are no major hospitality related incidents, the government considers allowing a return to licensing hours. Removing the curfew restrictions in time for 17 May would provide an enormous boost to the whole licensed trade and deliver renewed confidence in the sector, which would be hugely welcomed by everyone in the trade. Let us show we are safe, and then let us trade viably so we can kickstart Scotland’s recovery together.”

Company News:

Everards managing director calls for tax reform during update of past 12 months: Stephen Gould, managing director of Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards, has called for “a long overdue opportunity to deliver lower taxation for beer duty, property rates and VAT for pubs” as he gave a 12-month update on how the business has fared during the pandemic. Gould explained the business has sold 14 pubs for an undisclosed sum to community pub company Hawthorn and 71% of its sites began trading again on Monday, 12 April. Meanwhile, continued investment has seen Everards develop a new home based at Everards Meadows that will open in June. It will house its offices, breweries (main and pilot), shop and a beer hall – creating 57 new jobs. It has created a public park on land owned by the business with planning permission sought for a further six-acre area to be developed into a mixed-use scheme incorporating a hotel, offices and bespoke buildings developed for education, health and well-being uses. Gould said: “The past 12 months have been intensely challenging for the hospitality industry. I would like to thank our employees, business owners, shareholders, bank, advisers, brewing partners, suppliers, trade associations and the government for their support and partnership. We are as well placed as we can be as we emerge from the lockdown. However, it is imperative the government roadmap is delivered so that, by 21 June, all of our pubs can operate without covid-related restrictions. That will be the first step to recovery. Working with the government, I think there is a long overdue opportunity to deliver lower taxation for beer duty, property rates and VAT for pubs. Such reform will directly invest into the unique and special UK pub and brewing industry creating jobs, stimulating investment, strengthening communities and positioning pubs and breweries for long-term sustainable growth”. In its update, Everards said its tenants had received rent cancellations, advice and services, with 73% of the pub estate rent roll cancelled. It had made use of government financial support such as furlough, grants and loans, including a £5m Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan. And the Everards Family Foundation contributed £50,000 in April last year to support the Age UK Leicestershire & Rutland Charity, £25,000 to support a new children’s hospital at Leicester Royal Infirmary and working with its partner Molson Coors, a further £40,000 (£20,000 each) will be committed to support local community causes in April and May 2021.

Peach reports strong trading post-lockdown, looking to open three or four new pubs in next nine months: Gastro-pub operator Peach has reported strong trading post-lockdown and is looking to open three or four new pubs over the next nine months. The 19-strong group, which reopened all its sites on 12 April, said it was building solidly for the long-term and has cleared all landlord, government, creditor and supplier debt. Managing director Hamish Stoddart said: “When we worked out only one pub looked like a big loss-maker in April, we decided every one of our team deserved a chance to work, to serve their community. That town centre pub with only 18 outside covers did £12,000, profitably. Another pub did its all-time record week of £65,000, beating its previous £50,000 record – a well over 250% like-for-like increase. We achieved £725,000 and £690,000 of sales in weeks one and two across all our pubs outside only, including the town centre ones. That’s 131% like-for-like versus the equivalent Easter weeks in 2019. Peach is ideally situated outside London to benefit from all the macro trends of working from home, digital and data and outside eating. Financially, we are strong and safe. HSBC UK facilitated loans through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme of £2.25m. So, as we restart our cash flow looks excellent. And we are safe for another variant lockdown, all the while looking after our landlords, supply chain and IT partners too. There are challenges, not least getting the right team in place to cope with what we anticipate to be our best summer ever. Despite the pandemic, our team has emerged strong. A total of 96% of our chefs and managers have stayed with us this year. However, our Australian team has mainly gone and not returned, and we aren’t super strong in commis and kitchen porters. So, we are building the team size for the growth by taking on talented people, particularly deputy managers and junior chefs looking for their next step up who are willing to grow with us.” Stoddart said the company had been working on its environmental and social responsibility plan and would share its progress with other operators “as saving the planet is going to be an industry-wide effort”. He added: “All in all, covid has been a blessing for Peach. They say ‘never waste a crisis’. We didn’t. We are in a great position to take full advantage of pent-up demand and are 100% confident of even greater success and profitability in the next quarter.”

Redcomb founders add third site to Prospect Pubs & Bars business, plan to open three more in 2021 and five to seven venues a year from 2022: Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, former owners of Redcomb Pubs, which was sold to Young’s in 2019, have taken on the third site for their Prospect Pubs & Bars business – and plan to open three further sites this year and between five and seven sites a year from 2022. The duo have acquired The Blue Ball in the Surrey village of Walton-on-the-Hill, which was operated by Whiting & Hammond before the company went into administration last year. Prospect Pubs & Bars has also acquired three other sites for opening this year. Propel understands one is in Buckinghamshire, one is in north Oxfordshire and the other is in Hampshire. The Blue Ball is undergoing a £250,000 facelift and will reopen on Sunday, 24 May. It will feature a covid-safe, 100-cover restaurant and bar, while outside The Blue Ball are three heated Tiki thatched huts, a large terrace and garden with a kids’ play area. Shotton said: “While covid may have messed around a little with our opening and growth plans over the past year, we’re eager to get this country pub back up and running, and back as the rightful hub for the local community. We’re also delighted to say we’re back on track in terms of Prospect’s expansion plans, with three other sites already acquired for opening this year and future plans to acquire five to seven sites per year from 2022 onwards. This has been a devastating year for the entire hospitality sector, but it has also reinforced the importance the British public places on its neighbourhood pubs, demonstrated by the huge support we’ve seen across both of our current sites during the short periods that we have been able to trade.” The acquisition of The Blue Ball follows on from the launch of the second pub under the Prospect Pubs & Bars banner, The Victoria in Woodham, which opened in November 2020 and its debut site, The Evenlode in Eynsham on the outskirts of Oxford, in 2019.
German Doner Kebab secures prominent London and Manchester sites: German Doner Kebab, the Hero Brands-backed business, has secured prominent sites in London and Manchester, as it looks to reach the 100-store mark in the UK by the end of this year. Propel understands the circa 60-strong business is set to take one of the three units on the former PizzaExpress site in Canary Wharf’s Cabot Square. Propel revealed last week that Doma Hospitality was to open a debut site for its Gallio pizza concept on another of the units. At the same time, German Doner Kebab is also understood to have secured the former Revolution site in Manchester’s Fallowfield for an opening later this year. Earlier this year, the brand announced it planned to open 47 new restaurants by the end of 2021. The company said it planned to almost double its network of stores to nearly 100 sites, with the expansion plans set to create 1,800 jobs. It said the accelerated expansion comes after a resilient year that saw it open 12 restaurants despite pandemic restrictions. The Glasgow-based business has 76 global restaurants and is also looking to open more sites in the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Ireland. Marc Rogers at MKR Property is thought to have acted on the Canary Wharf deal.
Wright & Bell launches its fifth site, Marsha, on London’s South Bank: Restaurant and bar company Wright & Bell, which is backed by Imbiba, has launched a fifth site in the capital, Propel has learned. The business, which is led by Sarah Clark, has opened Marsha, a chicken-focused restaurant on Gabriel’s Wharf. Opened last week, the new site features a waterfront balcony and terrace that overlooks the River Thames. The company said: “We chose to be in the eclectic, indy-design world that is Gabriel’s Wharf because of its good vibes and great river views. But also because of the chance to take a beautiful old building and re-use, re-love, and re-imagine it into life again. We always salvage light fittings and use sustainably sourced materials to give overlooked pieces a chance to shine. This time, we get to do it with an overlooked place, too. As for our food, we source ingredients ethically – buying only higher-welfare chickens from the Soane family farm in the Yorkshire Wolds. And we use every part of them so that nothing is wasted. We’re big on vegan, too. For us, this balance makes sense – it’s about eating ethically.” Wright & Bell also operates the South Bank’s Green Room bar and restaurant, Whyte & Brown in Soho, City of London bar Kitty Hawk, and Lino in a Linoleum factory located between Barbican and Farringdon stations.
Loungers promotes Rick Gray to operations director for Cosy Club brand: Listed cafe bar operator Loungers has promoted Rick Gray to operations director of its 30-strong Cosy Club brand, Propel has learned. Gray, who will report to Cosy Club managing director Amber Wood, joined the business in March 2018 as a regional operations director for the north, and the promotion is recognition of his work over that period. He was previously at Revolution Bars Group for more than 15 years, as a general manager and then latterly an area manager. Gray replaces Paul Alexander, who after more than 11 years with Loungers is leaving the company to pursue a new challenge. Alexander spent the past four years as operations director of Cosy Club. The Nick Collins-led Loungers has so far reopened 87 of its circa 170 sites for outdoor hospitality, with a further four sites set to follow this week.
Mitchells & Butlers launches virtual delivery brand through O’Neill’s estate: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has launched a new range of virtual delivery brands through its circa 40-strong O’Neill’s pub estate, Propel has learned. The company has launched four variations under the Dudes banner – Veggie Dudes, Pizza Dudes, Burger Dudes and Chicken Dudes, through the O’Neills sites, which are spread across the UK and available on Deliveroo. Talking to Propel last October, Susan Martindale, group HR director at M&B, said that since the impact of covid-19, the company’s delivery and takeaway sales had more than doubled and that it had seen the average order value through its delivery business increase by more than 10%. At the time, Martindale said the company had 18 brands and formats on its delivery platform, and “there is more to come”.
200 Degrees to open 13th coffee shop at Staffordshire shopping mall in June: Nottingham-based coffee roaster 200 Degrees will open its 13th coffee shop at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock, Staffordshire, in June, Propel has learned. The site marks the second store in conjunction with the retail outlet group and follows its venue at East Midlands Designer Outlet. The new site will create 12 full-time and part-time jobs. The shop will be housed in a vintage-style kiosk with seating for 36, plus exterior seating for another 60 and a dedicated takeaway hatch that will be open at peak times. 200 Degrees managing director Tom Vincent said: “We’re definitely looking to the future and this shop is the second with McArthurGlen – we’re keen to form a strong partnership with them. It’s been a very tough year for everyone but our people have been fantastic and adapted to every new challenge thrown at them. This one’s a bit of a unique venue with a lot of outside space and an interesting shape; for anyone who’s been home-schooling for a year, it’s an octagonal-based prism. There will be lots that’s familiar, including our hand-roasted coffee with fresh food all day and we’ll be open early for our usual range of breakfasts. We also expect to be under pressure to serve high-quality takeaway to lots of shopped out people, so we’ve been warming up and fine-tuning our service style at our barista school in Birmingham.” 200 Degrees was founded by Vincent and business partner Rob Darby in 2012, and has 11 coffee shops as well as its Roast House near Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The company is due to announce further plans for growth with more coffee shops, including one in The Hyphen Building in Manchester, to open later this year.
Hermanos Columbian Coffee Roasters secures sixth London site: Hermanos Columbian Coffee Roasters, the London-based cafe concept, has secured its sixth site in the capital, in Walworth. The company, which was founded by brothers Victor and Santiago Gamboa in 2018, is set to open a coffee roastery and cafe at Angel Lane, SE17. The brothers said: “Under the grand railway arches, this great big space represents our steady growth as a business and is perfect to help us roast more coffee and create a coffee lab for experimenting, innovating and connecting with our customer. We kept our head down and stayed focused through the pandemic to keep the business going and, hopefully, now is the time to rise up and grow as we slowly move back to normal.” The business also operates sites in Broadway Market, Victoria Station, Blackhorse Lane, The Loom (Aldgate East) and Columbia Road.
AfterDark Promotions plans rollout for Junkyard Market concept, to launch in Chiswick: Events business AfterDark is to roll out its street food market concept, Junkyard Market, this summer, starting with an opening in London’s Chiswick. The business, which is the brainchild of Michael Femi-Ola, will make its London debut on Friday (30 April) with an opening at Power Road Studios, with food available from Dough Lads, Wok Boy and the Mac Factory. It is thought the business is looking to open up to five more sites over the course of the summer, with openings in Chelmsford and Colchester previously mooted. The business also operates sites in Ipswich and Norwich, and describes itself as “a global street food and drink market, housing a cluster of stalls serving forward-thinking street food with high-end cocktails”. It said: “We aimed to transform under-used spaces into a buzzing day and evening street food market.” 
Passyunk Avenue launches crowdfunding campaign, lines up Waterloo opening: Passyunk Avenue, the Philadelphia-style bar and restaurant concept, has launched a crowdfunding campaign as it looks to open a new flagship site in London’s Waterloo. The concept, which is the brainchild of JP Teti, is looking to raise £150,000 to aid the business in opening a new 3,000 square foot site in Leake Street. Teti said: “Having uncovered some great opportunities for new Passyunk venues, the focus for our next location is Leake Street in Waterloo, where we have secured a 3,000 square foot site and want your help to build London’s biggest American dive bar. This legendary, graffitied thoroughfare recalls similar gritty streets back home and provides the perfect setting for the next instalment of our brand’s story. This exciting project gives us the opportunity to scale the iconic Fitzrovia dive bar model that has been so embraced by customers, in a site that has far fewer constraints, due to its size and location. We are seeking to raise £150,000 to part finance the launch of this new site, with a goal to open it in the summer 2021.” Passyunk launched its debut site in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, in 2018, which was followed by a quick-serve version of the concept in Westfield Stratford City, in January 2019. Last year, the company teamed up with Major League Baseball to launch a themed pop-up at Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London. Home Run House is described as an “activity-led retail experience” and would operate for 12 months offering a space to watch, play and experience baseball.
Spianata & Co placed into administration: Spianata & Co, the London-based Italian sandwich and bakery concept, has been placed into administration, Propel has learned. Joanne Hammond and Kris Wigfield from Begbies Traynor are understood to have been appointed joint administrators to the business, which was founded by Stefano Nicolai. At one time, the concept had grown to six sites across the capital, but currently operates sites in More London Place and King William Street. It previously operated sites in Watling Street, Brushfield Street, Holborn Viaduct, Mayfair and Blomfield Street.
Plant-based restaurant group Erpingham House to make Scottish debut, other sites to reopen in May: Erpingham House, the UK’s largest plant-based restaurant, is to make its Scottish debut by opening a new site in Edinburgh in late June and reopen its Brighton and Norwich sites for indoor dining next month. The business, which was founded by Loui Blake, is set to open its Scottish restaurant in Bonnie & Wild’s Scottish Marketplace – the Edinburgh food hall in Leith Street, St James Quarter, which brings together independent food and drink producers. Erpingham House was founded in 2018 by Blake and ex-Norwich City footballers Declan Rudd and Russell Martin. Its mantra is “eat plants and be kind” and is free from single-use plastics and offsets its carbon emissions by planting trees. Its menu is 100% plant-based and focuses on modern vegan cuisine that appeals to all diets and lifestyles. Spearheaded by 21-year-old head chef Meg Greenacre, Erpingham House creates minimal wastage and uses locally grown, fresh, seasonal produce.
Bristol-based Greek concept heads to the south coast: Taka Taka, the Bristol-based Greek restaurant and takeaway concept, is heading to the south coast, with an opening in Bournemouth. The company, which is led by George Kotsias, who also owns the Opa restaurant in Bristol’s Baldwin Street, is understood to have lined up an opening in the Old Christchurch Road, on the site of a former Carphone Warehouse unit. Taka Taka, which serves fresh kebabs and other Greek speciality dishes, including souvlaki, salads and gyros wraps, currently operates three sites in Bristol and one in Bath. 
Kitchen Ventures lines up three new locations: Kitchen Ventures, the new cloud kitchen and virtual dining start-up from Jonny Boud, co-founder of what was Goodlife Projects, the brand, marketing and consultancy business that helped launch Rum Kitchen, Passo, Foley’s and Island Poké, has lined up three further locations in London, Propel understands. The business that, at the start of this year, secured $2m (£1.47m) of new funding, is set to open kitchens in Clapham, Camden and Queensway during the course of the next three months. London Impact Ventures, which has previously invested in Uber and Impossible Foods, was the lead investor in the seed funding round in January this year. Kitchen Ventures said it is on a “mission to make fresh, delicious, chef-cooked food accessible to every neighbourhood via our network of cloud kitchens”. The new funds will be used to expand its network of kitchens across London and select international markets, in addition to adding to its growing portfolio of owned and operated virtual brands. Virtual brands the business is currently working with include Giz ’n’ Green, the pizza collaboration between chef Gizzi Erskine and rapper Professor Green; a chicken concept from Lucy Pearce (ex-Petersham Nurseries and Rawduck) called Farmbird; salad concept Local Greens; and Tacos El Ray from Breddos Tacos founders Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney. Current kitchens are located in Kensington Olympia in west London and Bethnal Green in east London.

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