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Wed 28th Apr 2021 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Seasoned restaurateurs to launch concept focused on flatbread in London, plans up to 30 sites in next three years: A new restaurant concept focused on flatbread is to launch in London – with plans for 30 sites over the next three years in the capital and other UK cities, Propel has learned. Manakish & Naanza, which is a collaboration between restaurateurs Emilio Malik, who runs London restaurants Lazeez Tapas in Mayfair and Liban Tapas in South Woodford, and Javier Troitino-Ramos, who has been working in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years, managing flagship sites for brands such as Starbucks, EAT and YO! Manakish & Naanza – also branded as M&N – takes the traditional flatbread “and transforms it from humble side dish to shining star”. Customers can choose from two bases – crisp and chewy manakish or soft, pillowy naan – then add a range of eight toppings. There will also be a range of side dishes as well as flavoured coffee and freshly brewed tea. The first site will be in Covent Garden’s Neal Street, which was previously a Starbucks store, and will have options for both eating in and alfresco seating from its corner unit. A second site will also be opening “very soon”. Malik said: “We’re excited to be working with the landlord to launch our first store in such a vibrant location. The buzz of Neal Street is the perfect place because it’s got a great community atmosphere. Supporting the community is an important part of Manakish & Naanza’s ethos, so the company will be working with local suppliers where possible.” There will also be London delivery options via its app, which has been developed by the team in collaboration with a local software company.

Industry News:

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Flow Learning is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Propel Premium subscribers to receive updated multi-site database in two days’ time, 84 companies added in past month: Propel Premium subscribers will receive the updated Propel Premium multi-site database in two days’ time, on Friday (30 April) at midday. The database 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.

Wireless Social looks at using data to power your business’ recovery with Las Iguanas and Vagabond 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 Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross joined by Jen Merriken, head of digital at Las Iguanas, and Annah McKendry, head of marketing at Vagabond, to discuss the importance of using data to not just help with reopening but to make sure operators have all the tools they need to use data to drive repeat visits later in the year when trade slows down. Other companies taking part in the series are Airship, DataHawks, Reputation, S4labour, Startle, Yapster, Yumpingo and Zonal. The video will be sent at 9am on Wednesday (28 April).
Hospitality like-for-likes down 10.5% with 70% of sites trading at similar or above 2019 levels: Sector like-for-like sales in the second week of reopening were down 10.5% on 2019 levels for those businesses trading, according to S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. There was little change in the number of sites that were able to open in the second week of reopening, with 45% of sites still not trading. Despite the decline, the distribution of sites trading at similar or above levels to the same week in 2019, has jumped from 45% in reopening week, to 70% of sites last week. While like-for-likes were down 10.5% on the same week in 2019, the decline was almost entirely driven by a 19% fall in drink sales. Food sales were equal to 2019 levels. S4labour chief customer officer Sam Wignell said: “We expect 70% of open sites trading at similar or above 2019 levels to be the benchmark until operators are allowed to utilise all of their capacity if the weather holds and it’s not a surprise that sales are down, with sites being so hampered by outdoor-only rules.” Hospitality sales last week were only down 7.5% compared with the highs of Eat Out To Help Out levels, with drink down 2.6% and food, while no longer subsided by the government scheme was only down 11.6%. S4labour chief product officer Richard Hartley said: “The figures suggest enthusiasm for a first drink in the beer garden faded very slightly and so it has become even more important sites that can only operate at a limited capacity, or are not able to trade at all, get the support they need to survive.”
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

DoorDash offers lower-priced delivery plans to US restaurants amid criticism: DoorDash is launching lower-priced delivery options for US restaurants, responding to criticism the commissions it charges are too high for the industry. The delivery company said it would offer a new basic plan that will charge restaurants 15% per order for delivery, or about half the cost of previous plans. That plan will limit the delivery area and shift more delivery costs to customers – they might pay $4.99 instead of $2.99, for example. Restaurants can pay more – commissions of 25% or 30% – for other plans if they want a larger delivery area, more visibility in DoorDash’s app or lower customer delivery fees. DoorDash said local restaurants and chains with fewer than 75 locations are eligible for the new rates. The company wouldn’t say how many of its partner restaurants meet that criteria. DoorDash delivers from almost 400,000 restaurants using a network of one million freelance drivers. Officials temporarily capped delivery companies’ commission fees – generally at 15% – in dozens of cities and states during the pandemic in an effort to help restaurants. In those cities, DoorDash said the new rates would go into place once those caps expire. But DoorDash insisted the caps weren’t the reason it changed its fees. Instead, the company said it was acting in response to restaurant owners who wanted more options. DoorDash chief operating officer Christopher Payne said the company spent the past six months developing a plan that would help restaurants but still ensure drivers – and DoorDash itself – can make money. Payne said restaurants could change their plans depending on their needs at any given time. DoorDash said it is also dropping its commission fee for pick-up orders – which customers place through the DoorDash app but pick up themselves – to 6% from 15%. DoorDash rival UberEats has also been experimenting with lower-priced plans in recent months. A light plan – with a 5% commission fee – lets restaurants use their own drivers, for example.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for a creative, organised and engaging head of community for a co-living business. Its venues offer state-of-the-art gyms, cafes and hubs among its properties, and the company is growing at pace. The individual will be tasked with building relationships with multiple stakeholders and developing a programme for engaging customer-centric events. They will need to be a self-starter with excellent communication skills and have a collaborative and enthusiastic approach. Ideally, they will have experience in leading a small team across a number of venues and a good understanding of property management. The main aim is to ensure a seamless and positive customer journey, and ensure the properties and services deliver. The position is based in London, paying £40,000 to £50,000. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Prezzemolo & Vitale lines up a fourth London site: Family-run Italian operator Prezzemolo & Vitale (P&V) plans to open its fourth site in London, in Wimbledon, Propel has learned. The company is set to open on the former Le Pain Quotidien site in Wimbledon High Street. Founded in Italy 30 years ago by husband and wife team Giuseppe Prezzemolo and Giusi Vitale, the brand offers Sicilian and Italian delicacies, including takeaway ready-made meals, sandwiches, charcuterie and cheese boards. Its debut London site was at the Mercato Metropolitano market in Southwark. It has since moved out of the market and opened sites in Chelsea, Borough and Notting Hill. The Chelsea site features a coffee bar and wine cellar, which offers “classics and rarities” as well as Giù Giù, P&V’s own-brand wine. The company also operates seven shops in Palermo, Sicily.

Brittain – 15% of Premier Inn hotels in UK holiday hot spots ‘practically full’ for summer holidays: Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain has said 15% of Premier Inn’s hotels based in UK holiday hot spots are “practically full” as families plan staycations again this summer. Brittain also said a full-scale recovery for the business, which suffered a £1bn loss in the year of covid, will not happen until lockdown restrictions ease. But she said booking patterns were strong for the school holiday periods “into anything that’s coastal; historic centres; mountains – anything with a view, frankly”. Speaking following the company’s full-year results, Brittain said the hotel sector would struggle while sporting and music venues remain closed and large weddings are on hold – and is in favour of covid passports for large-scale events. She said: “It’s quite hard to just do a socially distanced way of managing a big pop concert or sporting event. So, that’s an area I would be very pro the passporting arrangements in order to have those events return for those industries that have been incredibly badly hit through the pandemic, but then also through all the add-on places like hotels and restaurants that support them. Family events, weddings, sporting events, pop concerts – we will need to see a resurgence in demand for them and, for that, we need to be out of lockdown.” Festival-goers are also thinking ahead, she said, with bookings for rooms for the Cheltenham racing in 2022 selling out within 48 hours of going live. Brittain said she hopes to see Premier Inn benefit from the proposed investment in new infrastructure projects announced by the government. She said: “We’re expecting more investment-led activity in the UK and we would expect to benefit from that [but] the white-collar market is going to take quite some time to come back – if at all fully.” To combat the expected fall, Premier Inn has launched relationships with travel management companies to get more bookings, she added. She said: “There will be a move to a different way of office working. I don’t think it will be the pendulum swing where there will be nobody back in an office and there will be no more offices. I think there’s a middle ground where people will demand, in their employment, a bit more flexibility but equally will be in the office for collaboration and training.”

Imbiba-backed arcade bar concept NQ64 lines up Newcastle site: NQ64, the immersive retro-arcade bar concept, which earlier this year received backing from hospitality investor Imbiba, has lined up a site in Newcastle. The three-strong concept, which was founded by Matt Robson and Andy Haygarth, has applied to open in the former La Vina unit beneath Zizzi’s at 42-50 Grey Street. The business is also believed to have lined up the former Club Liv unit in Manchester’s Peter Street for a new opening, which would be its second in the city. It already operates a site in Short Street, in the city’s Northern Quarter. At the start of February, Propel revealed Imbiba had invested £1.4m in NQ64 to aid its further growth plans. As part of the investment, David McDowall, chief operating officer at BrewDog, became its new chairman, with Andrew Stones, ex-managing director of Be At One, representing Imbiba on the company’s board. It also operates sites in Liverpool and Birmingham. Imbiba said the new investment would fund the development of a strong property pipeline of sites in Newcastle, Leeds and Edinburgh.

Brighton-based steakhouse concept to open site in London: Chamuyo, the Brighton-based steakhouse concept, is to open its second site later this year, in London. The business is understood to have secured a site in Inverness Mews, Bayswater, for an opening later this summer. The company, which is led by Martin Barg, formerly of Franco Manca, launched its debut site in Brighton’s Middle Street three years ago.

Tim Hortons to make Black Country debut with Wolverhampton launch: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons is to make its Black Country debut with an opening in Wolverhampton. SK Group, which is leading the rollout of Tim Hortons in the UK, will open the drive-thru in the suburb of Wednesfield this summer, creating 40 jobs. The site at the Bentley Bridge Retail Park will also offer dine-in seating for up to 128 guests as well as delivery options to the local area. The launch forms part of the brand’s plan to create more than 2,000 jobs across the country, bringing Tim Hortons restaurants to every major town and city by 2022. Kevin Hydes, chief commercial officer of Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “Having successfully opened our first restaurant in the West Midlands back in 2018, it brings me great pleasure to announce another opening within the region. We have always seen huge enthusiasm and support from our guests in Birmingham and know the wider community are keen for more.” Tim Hortons currently has 27 restaurants in the UK.
Five Points Brewing launches new £350,000 crowdfunding campaign towards new combined brewery and taproom: London-based Five Points Brewing Company has launched a £350,000 fundraise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube towards its new combined brewery and open-air taproom, Propel has learned. The move allows Five Points Brewing Company to merge its separate production and warehousing sites into a new flagship headquarters in Mare Street, Hackney. The new taproom will host visitor tours and beer tastings, and will have a large outdoor area for open-air hospitality. The company, founded by Ed Mason and Gregg Hobbs, is offering 2.48% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £13.8m. Existing investors are currently being given the opportunity to invest ahead of the campaign’s public launch. The pitch stated: “Covid has been challenging for the hospitality industry, and we have worked hard to adapt, developing a successful e-commerce site with online sales of more than £300,000 since March 2020. Our comprehensive, ambitious restructuring plan will allow us to open our new on-site taproom with a large outdoor area for beer sales direct to the public; build a new flagship brewery site in Hackney; become more efficient, save costs, and drive new sources of revenue; and maintain our commitment to east London.” The company said despite the impact of coronavirus, revenue for 2020 stood at £3m with Ebitda of minus £69,000, compared with pre-covid full-year revenue for 2019 of £4.8m, with Ebitda at £120,000. In 2018, Five Points Brewing Company raised more than £1m on Crowdcube for new brewing equipment and used to open its first pub, The Pembury Tavern, in Hackney. 

New delivery kitchen concept headed by triple Michelin-starred chef launches in Barnes: A new delivery kitchen concept headed by a triple Michelin-starred chef has launched in Barnes, south west London. My Local Kitchen makes everything from scratch with dishes including Keen’s cheddar souffle, lamb shank shepherd’s pie, and French puff pastry pizza with aubergine and cherry vine tomatoes. The venture has Garry Hollihead as its culinary director. Over the course of his career, Hollihead has won three Michelin stars at previous restaurants, including L'Escargot in Soho. Delivery is currently available in a six-mile radius of Barnes – but is looking to expand across London.
Heineken UK limits licensees to three kegs of Birra Moretti per week as demand soars: Heineken has imposed order limits on its Birra Moretti kegs as demand for the lager has soared since pubs have been allowed to reopen for outdoor drinking. The brewer said demand has “surpassed our most optimistic forecasts” for its Birra Moretti and Amstel beers, and has limited licensees to just three kegs of Birra Moretti per week. A Heineken UK spokesman told the Evening Standard: “Demand for Birra Moretti and Amstel has totally surpassed our most optimistic forecasts, and our breweries are working round the clock to deal with this high level of demand. We are working with our customers to offer alternative beers from the extensive Heineken UK range of brands as we increase production.”

Burger King launches vegan burger and plant-based Whopper to menu, fries certified vegan too: Burger King has added a vegan ‘chicken’ burger and a new plant-based Whopper to its menu. The Vegan Society-certified burger, which is called the Vegan Royale, was launched on Tuesday (27 April). The “chicken burger” is a crispy coated, plant-based “chicken” that has been devised by The Vegetarian Butcher. It is topped with iceberg lettuce and vegan mayo in a toasted sesame seed bun. Strict cooking processes, which ensure it’s kept completely separate from meat, dairy and egg products, have earned the new burger Vegan Society certification. Burger King UK marketing director Soco Nunez said: “We’ve purposefully taken our time with the Vegan Royale to make sure it’s the best on the market. In fact, we would go as far as to say it’s an identical taste experience to the original Chicken Royale. Burger King’s fries are also certified by the Vegan Society.” Meanwhile, the new plant-based Whopper is made up of a flame-grilled soy-based patty, topped with tomatoes, lettuce, vegan mayo, pickles, ketchup and sliced onions on a sesame seed bun.

Bloomsbury Leisure opens Hackney Tap craft beer pub in east London: Craft beer bar operator Bloomsbury Leisure, which runs the Euston Tap and Holborn Whippet in London and the Piccadilly Tap in Manchester, has opened Hackney Tap in east London. The craft beer pub is located in the old Hackney Town Hall Building (which then became the Midland Bank) on Mare Street. Although only the terrace is permitted to be open currently, Hackney Tap has 22 different brews on offer, including Five Points, Beatnikz Republic, Marble Brewery, Redemption, Adnams and Northern Monk, according to London On The Inside. The pub is also offering gyoza, made from scratch, from its kitchen. 

Gousto plans to double workforce after sales surge: Recipe box subscription service Gousto is planning to double the size of its 1,000-strong workforce after sales soared last year during the pandemic. The company said it won market share from supermarkets during 2020 as lockdowns spurred demand – and it expected the trend to continue even as restrictions ease. Gousto said annual revenues jumped by 129% to £189m, representing about 53 million meals, and it made a profit for the first time, with underlying Ebitda of £18.2m. Founder Timo Boldt said the strong growth continued into 2021, with more than 25 million meals sold in the first three months of the year. He added: “We had incredibly positive growth prior to the pandemic so can see that continuing, even as things ease. Like anyone, we are really happy to see hospitality reopen and don’t expect a major shift – we are still looking at hundreds of millions of meals being eaten at home across the UK. Gousto said it expanded its capacity with the launch of a second fulfilment centre in December and expects to open two new distribution centres, in Essex and Cheshire, by 2022. That will mean more recruitment, with about a fifth of the new jobs planned in technology roles.
Premium Japanese restaurant Roketsu Kaiseki announces autumn opening for debut site: Roketsu Kaiseki, the premium Japanese restaurant concept, has announced an autumn opening for its debut site in London’s Marylebone. After holding a pop-up event at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair last year, chef Daisuke Hayashi is set to open Roketsu Kaiseki in the third quarter of 2021 in New Quebec Street. Hayashi came to London after training at the Kikunoi Ryotei restaurant in Kyoto and has been executive head chef at Tokimeitē in Mayfair. Roketsu, which also held a series of dinner events at Louis Vuitton in Bond Street last year, will be all about Japanese Kaiseki (multi-course) dining. Split across two floors, the restaurant will also include a dedicated area where customers can witness and engage in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The menu has been previewed through delivery Gozen dinners during lockdowns but those are on hold while the restaurant is being prepared for its opening. 
Stonegate resurrects plans to turn city centre pub into two venues: Stonegate Pub Company has resurrected plans to turn its Squares bar in Nottingham into a double-venue site. The company has applied for a licence to transform the first floor of the city centre pub into its Popworld brand while the ground floor would become a sports bar with kitchen called Huddl. Stonegate first mooted plans to revamp Squares in March 2020 but they were put on hold when the pandemic struck. At the time, Stonegate said it would be spending £500,000 on an internal renovation that would include a new DJ booth on the ground floor as well as a reduction in the size of the bar. On the upper floor, alterations included adding a VIP area, dance floor and DJ booth.
Vapiano reopens Centre Point site after more than a year of closure, offers free meal to NHS workers: Italian casual dining brand Vapiano, which was acquired last year by the Mario C Bauer-led consortium Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, has reopened its site in London’s Centre Point after more than a year of closure. To mark the occasion and the easing of lockdown restrictions, the company is giving a free meal to NHS workers on Wednesday (28 April) at four of the Vapiano sites in the capital – Bankside, Centre Point, Great Portland Street and Tower Bridge. NHS workers will receive their dish on presentation of a valid NHS ID. Vapiano opened its first London restaurant in 2008, in Great Portland Street. The brand also operates restaurants in Manchester and Edinburgh. 
Cafe operator doubles up with site on west coast of Scotland: An experienced cafe operator has opened a coffee shop in Largs and created six jobs. Arkan Gumbat, who moved to Scotland from Turkey six years ago and runs a cafe in Edinburgh, cited busy summers as a reason for opening at the seaside destination in west Scotland. The Bean and Leaf had been operating as a bistro for 15 years before Gumbat took the site over. He told Largs & Millport Weekly News: “I have a cafe in Edinburgh and I visit Largs because my wife works here. I have seen how busy it can be in the summer months and thought it would be great to expand into the town. I will keep the name for now, later on, I don’t know, but I will go with the name as it is recognised.” Jobs created at the coffee shop that opened on Monday (26 April), include kitchen and waiting staff positions.
Pub snack brand Serious Pig launches second fundraise to ‘turbo-charge the business’ after revenues triple: Pub snack brand Serious Pig, which is backed by James Watt, co-founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has announced it will launch a second fundraise with a minimum target of £400,000. The company’s first raise in 2019, which was also through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, attracted more than 1,600 investors and raised £895,000 after setting an initial target of £350,000. Serious Pig said the capital raised allowed the company to expand its range, grow its sales and marketing operations, and helped to treble its revenues. Serious Pig founder George Rice said: “Our first crowdfunding with Crowdcube was a huge success and gave us the ability to massively grow the business, despite the challenges of covid. Now, we want to build on our momentum and turbo-charge the business. Our plans are to invest in sales and marketing, move to a bigger and better site, add tasty new products to our range and become a more sustainable business.” The minimum investment is £10 with a range of rewards and benefits available, depending on the size of the investment, including an investors’ dinner with Rice. Its products include Snacking Salami, Snackling – a lighter take on the pork scratching, and a new version of its original snacking salami called Snackalami, which is made with even higher welfare pork (outdoor reared rather than outdoor bred). It also sells a range of non-meat products, including Crunchy Snacking Cheese, Snacking Pickles and Sourdough Snacking Croutons.
West Yorkshire-based indoor climbing centre seeks permission to open seventh site: West Yorkshire-based indoor climbing centre Depot Climbing is set to open its seventh site, with an opening in Leeds. The company has submitted plans to the city council to convert a unit on Maybrook Industrial Estate. Planning permission is sought for the conversion of the 19,700 square foot unit to enable it to be used as a climbing and bouldering centre. The plans are reported to include an external climbing wall on the west elevation of the building, as well as a cafe, shop and gym area and would create 20 jobs. A planning statement submitted as part of the application said: “The application is a positive proposal to re-use previously developed land that will provide a high-quality sport and recreation facility that will contribute to the health and overall well-being of residents in Leeds.” Depot Climbing has two other sites in Leeds, one in Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham.
North west London-based Jewish deli Harry Morgan shuts: North west London-based Jewish deli Harry Morgan has closed. The outlet in St John's Wood High Street first opened in 1948 and is now owned by Alex Chesterman, founder of Zoopla and LoveFilm. Reports on social media suggested the closure was linked to a dispute over rent with the landlord.
New owners of Hothorpe Hall hotel revealed, 36 jobs saved: The new owner of weddings and meetings venue Hothorpe Hall hotel has been revealed after rescuing the business and saving 36 jobs. New company Hothorpe Hall (Venues), which is part of the KCT Group, acquired Hothorpe Hall hotel in Leicestershire for a cash consideration of £3.55m. The deal follows a marketing process conducted by Yasmin Bhikha and John Lowe, partners at business advisory firm FRP, following their appointment as joint administrators in December last year. All 36 staff members have transferred to the buyer as part of the transaction, which will honour existing wedding bookings. Bhikha said: “The reopening of the UK economy after lockdown couldn’t come soon enough for venues like Hothorpe Hall, which have been hard hit by the pandemic. Now, armed with fresh investment and a new ownership team, the venue is gearing up to open its doors once again and welcome guests.” Property agent Savills acted on behalf of FRP.
Industry veteran Mark Butler launches hospitality management turnaround company: Industry veteran Mark Butler has launched a hospitality management company specialising in turnaround, restructuring and operational support for the industry. Butler, who has been involved in the sector for more than 30 years, has formed Hospitality Options with Tony Sanders and Trevor Foster. Prior to launching the venture, Butler ran his own estate of pubs and hotels. He has raised and invested £70m to acquire freehold pubs through private equity and EIS schemes. Butler has also managed in excess of 400 cases in administration for major blue chip companies. Sanders has managed and operated more than 300 licensed premises while Foster is a business leader with a senior background in financial and professional services. As well as supporting businesses, Hospitality Options is also looking to work with investors in the leisure sector to turnaround underperforming assets.
Crieff Hydro invests £1.3m in Highlands hotel: Crieff Hydro, the seven-strong Scottish hotel operator led by Stephen Leckie, has invested £1.3m redeveloping its Ballachulish Hotel in the Highlands. The cash injection at the hotel, which dates to 1877, has resulted in extensive refurbishment of the 53 bedrooms and facilities of the hotel, including the restaurants. Leckie said: “We are committed to investing, not only in our portfolio, but also in Scottish tourism as it begins to rebuild.”

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