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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 24th May 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Punch enters joint venture with Big Smoke Brew Co, eyes similar opportunities: Punch Pubs & Co, the Clive Chesser-led, circa 1,300-strong company, has entered in a joint venture with Surrey-based brewer and retailer Big Smoke Brew Co to invest and launch a collection of craft beer and food pubs across the south east of England, Propel has learned. James Morgan and Richard Craig, who founded Big Smoke in 2014 and currently operate four pubs, said they were looking to expand their pub portfolio with a strategic partner to achieve their ambitious plans for growth. Under the new joint venture Punch and Big Smoke have so far taken on two pubs – The Prince of Wales Townhouse in Hammersmith, and the White Horse in Welwyn. The former reopened last October after a £210,000 investment, while the latter opened last month, after a £110,000 investment. The next stage of the joint venture will see The Old Wheatsheaf in Enfield and The White Lion in St Albans undergo investment in the coming weeks in readiness for reopening in time for summer trading. Speaking about the new joint venture as part of Propel Friday Wrap series, Chesser said: “We have been keen to look at opportunities to partner in a slightly more sophisticated way with some more specialist operators that do things we don’t do specifically within Punch, within our leased and tenanted model or within our managed partnership model, and it is slightly different to the Laine business, which is also within our group. Rich and James are really talented operators, they run a pub business, which is a specialist craft business, have their own brewery and a fantastic range of beers. Their bars are really specialist craft beer pubs and I would describe their food as craft food, even if I don’t think that is actually a category that exists – it matches the quality of the beer. We can help to firepower their own ambitions, find them sites and work hand in hand with them. It is their business and they will continue to run it. They are proving to be good partners. That’s our first joint venture and we are keen to find perhaps another two, three, four, there is no set number, but probably regionally across the UK where we can find more specialist operators where we operate in a closer relationship than the classic leased and tenanted model. So we are on the lookout for suitable options where we can help them because we have got the right kind of sites and support that we can provide to them and they bring something to the party that is slightly different to what we do currently.” Big Smoke co-founder Craig said: “With Big Smoke growing rapidly and our aspirations for further expansion requiring a strategic partner, Punch felt like a natural fit because they understand our brand and our vision for the future. Our fantastic working relationship and aligned values will enable us to grow the Big Smoke pub portfolio, bringing everything we love about modern beer and British pubs to the people of the south east.”

Industry News:

108 new companies added to updated database of multi-site businesses exclusively available to Premium subscribers, 14,000-word report to accompany May send-out: The updated database of multi-site companies for May, which is available exclusively to Propel Premium subscribers, will have 108 new companies added. Subscribers will not only receive the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they will also be sent a 14,000-word report on the businesses that have been added since its April update, when it is released on Friday, 28 May, at midday. The key themes covered in the latest update include companies with big growth potential entering the UK market such as US bakery Cinnabon and interactive football and entertainment concept Toca Social. Meanwhile, operators offering Italian cuisine are enjoying a strong showing, including Milan-based vegan burger brand Flower Power and sandwich and bakery business Spinata. The UK’s love for coffee also continues with companies such as London-based Hermanos Colombian Coffee Roasters and coffee and brunch specialist Mule entering the database. When the most comprehensive multi-site database in the sector was first updated at the end of March, it had 1,631 companies; by the end of May, it will have 1,824. The go-to database 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. 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 are also to receive access to a second exclusive monthly database, The Propel Blue Book. This database will provide an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. It will be available on Friday, 4 June, at midday. 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.
Success of pilot events leaves no reason for nightclubs to stay shut after 21 June, says NTIA: The success of the pilot events in nightclubs and other event venues leaves no reason for the government to keep them closed after 21 June, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has argued. Initial results showed just 15 people among the 58,000 who took part in the government-run trials for reopening large events tested positive for covid. The trials included the FA Cup final and a semi-final at Wembley, the Brit Awards at the O2 arena in London and DJ sets at the Circus nightclub in Liverpool. NTIA chief executive said: “The results have shown these environments are no different than retail and supermarkets, which are currently open and are able to trade. The government needs to have confidence in the sector’s ability to deliver safe events, and continue to stand strong with the roadmap and ensure we are open on 21 June without fail, ending the suffering of some of the hardest-hit industries across the UK. Opening the doors of these businesses is the only way we are going to be able to save these industries and safeguard the amazing people that work within them.”
NTIA welcomes first weekend night of reopening but warns social distancing is preventing sites from breaking even: Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill has welcomed the reopening of the sector on its first weekend night but warned social distancing is preventing sites from breaking even. Kill added the roadmap to reopening must be maintained or late-night businesses will be put at further risk of closure. He said: “Fantastic to see so many businesses reopening across the country, particularly some businesses that have not been open since early last year and have adapted their business model to be able to trade. Feedback from members was that overall trade was strong, but social distancing is still preventing the majority of businesses from breaking even. Police and licensing authorities seemed to be taking a pragmatic approach to the difficult trading conditions and have, in most cases, worked with operators on the implementation of measures and guidelines. Customers were supportive and compliant but much of the industry is suffering from a staff shortage, which will start to escalate once we see other businesses open towards the end of June. The next few weeks will be critical to the continuation of the roadmap, with further data being released from the Event Research Programme, and the impact of stage three on covid transmissions. It is important the government stands strong and does not veer off the roadmap because this will have a significant impact on late-night economy businesses across the country and their survival.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a multi brand hospitality group that is looking for a new head of sales. This group has nine restaurants/bars in its portfolio along with an event and growing FMCG line to the business. This position will work within the head office team, and while the position is an autonomous sales leadership role, the individual will also support and work collaboratively with the marketing and operations team. This position would suit a senior sales professional who is comfortable leading budget and spend, driving business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales and can support the growth of the FMCG line of the business. The position is based in London paying circa £60,000. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

RedCat Pub Company in talks to acquire sites from Dominion Hospitality: RedCat Pub Company, the new investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, is in talks to acquire a group of pubs from Dominion Hospitality, which owns and operates hotels and pubs in the south of England under its Relax and Historic Innz brands, Propel has learned. Dominion Hospitality, which is backed by US private equity firm Stellex Capital Management, was formed through the acquisitions of Chapman Group and Saviour Inns in November 2016 and currently operates 18 sites across southern England. Propel understands RedCat is in talks to acquire a package of pubs from Dominion but not the company itself. Pubs operated by Dominion include the George & Pilgrims in Glastonbury, the George Hotel in Amesbury and the Ten & Alehouse in Worthing. Over the past few years, Dominion, which is chaired by Ted Kennedy, has disposed of circa ten pubs from its original portfolio, while adding sites on an individual basis. A Dominion spokesperson told Propel: “We have been selling a number of hotels over the past years and now have a portfolio of high-potential character inns and drink-led pubs with rooms. We are working with RedCat on a few pubs that would leave us with an estate of drink-led value hotels and bars.” Propel understands that, pre-pandemic, Dominion had been working with Savills on a sale of part of its pubs business. The company’s estate includes 300-plus bedrooms. In March, RedCat agreed a deal for the 42-strong package of pubs, which were originally placed on the market to address competition concerns surrounding Stonegate Pub Company’s £3bn acquisition of Ei Group. Propel understands the deal was valued at about £20m. RedCat was founded earlier this year by Anand to invest in the UK pub sector and is backed by US investment firm Oaktree Capital. Oaktree is thought to have injected £200m into RedCat, which is led by Chris Hill, the former chief executive of New World Trading Company. It has recently distanced itself from the sale process for Hawthorn and the 62-strong tenanted estate from Young’s. Sky News reported over the weekend that Admiral Taverns was among several parties expected to table offers for Hawthorn, which is valued at between £200m and £250m.

Kaye launches new Italian restaurant concept Storia: Former Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye has launched a new Italian restaurant concept called Storia, Propel has learned. Kaye, who until recently was chief executive of Dining Street, the formerly listed Richoux Group, which was the company behind the Richoux, Friendly Phil’s, Villagio and The Broadwick restaurant brands that was placed into administration at the start of the year, has secured two sites in Hertfordshire for his new venture. He has launched the new concept on the former Prezzo site in Tring high street in Hertfordshire. A second site under the concept is set to launch in July on the former Dining Street-owned The Broadwick in Radlett, Hertforshire. Propel believes Kaye is in talks to secure another former The Broadwick-branded site for the new concept. The business said Storia, the name inspired by the Italian word meaning story or history, connects not only with the “heritage of the stunning listed building in Tring that we once again occupy, but also with our team’s unique background in restaurants which spans more than two decades”. The restaurant’s website stated: “Storia is an independent restaurant. We are not part of any large corporate group and the personal touch is key to everything we do. Our chefs make all our food in our kitchen; each dish is prepared from scratch, whether it’s blending our sauces, rolling arancini, whisking polenta or stirring risotto. Our fresh pizza dough is made on site and proved for at least 24 hours for maximum flavour. Many of our wines are sourced from trusted family vineyards in Italy but we’re also proud to showcase a selection of home-grown and international wines including those from France, Spain, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand.” Pizzas range in prices from £9 to £14.50 while main dishes, including roasted cod, salmon caponata and steak tagliata, cost between £14 and £18. Propel revealed last week, that Naveen Handa of leisure company The Cairn Group had acquired the Richoux brand and its intellectual property, with plans to expand it in the UK and internationally, while Disnesh Nair, part of the founding family of The Leela Palaces Hotels & Resorts business, had acquired the ex-Richoux site in Mayfair. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Crown Partnership, the backer of fried chicken and waffle chain Bird, was understood to have secured more than half of sites operated by Dining Street. The catering, hospitality, retail and event services provider has acquired eight of Dining Street’s 15 former sites out of administration.

Grosvenor makes tenant investment in healthy salad bar and bowl concept Atis: Landlord Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has made its second investment in a new tenant, Atis, the healthy salad bar and bowl concept. Launched by husband-and-wife team Eleanor Warder and Phil Horner in Shoreditch in 2019, the concept will open its second site at Eccleston Yards, Belgravia. From 7 June, Atis will be open for grab-and-go as well as limited spaces for dining in, while a takeaway service will be offered through Deliveroo. As part of the new investment, Atis has committed to Grosvenor’s green lease and to work with other partners including Karma, to help reduce food waste; First Mile, to help with its zero-to-landfill mission; and Impact Trading for fair-trade cotton uniforms. Warder said: “We are so excited to be opening in Belgravia and feel very grateful for the support we have received from Grosvenor. We love the area and feel that it is a great home for the second site of Atis. We are really looking forward to joining the thriving area and being part of the community.” Earlier this month, Grosvenor announced it had provided a loan to support the opening of JKS Restaurants’ latest venture, Bibi, which will open in North Audley Street, Mayfair.

Dishoom named fourth best large company to work for in UK, host of sector business also in top 100: Indian restaurant group Dishoom has been named the fourth best large company to work for in the UK. The UK’s 100 Best Large Companies To Work For list, which was released on Friday (21 May), also ranked American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s Smokehouse 11th, coaching inn and hotel operator The Coaching Inn Group 21st, gastropub operator Peach Pubs 24th, Hawksmoor, the Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept, 27th, Indian street food concept Mowgli 28th, “single steak” dining concept Flat Iron 48th and Staffordshire-based pub-restaurant operator Parogon Group 95th. Dishoom also took top spot in the Leisure & Hospitality’s 20 Best Companies to Work For category. Dishoom said on its Facebook page: “Absolutely knocked for six to hear that we’ve just been named the fourth best place to work in the UK. After the toughest year imaginable, this good news couldn’t be more welcome. To our team: this a testament to your sheer, absolute awesomeness and how you have supported one another through the pandemic in the most big-hearted, first-class way. You’re all absolute rock stars. We cannot wait to be able to come together to celebrate in suitable fashion.”

Stonegate appoints new property director: Stonegate Group has appointed David Roberts as its new property director. Roberts joins Stonegate, which operates more than 4,500 sites, from the Co-op, where he was most recently managing director of Co-op Power, and previously managing director of Co-op Property. A start date has yet to be confirmed. The property director role at Stonegate has been covered internally since the untimely death of Nick Rockell last year, who had been with the company since inception. Chief executive Simon Longbottom said: “David is a great appointment for Stonegate, both in terms of his commercial and property skills and in his fit with our culture and values.”
Sir Rocco Forte – hotel business will have lost at least £100m by end of pandemic: Sir Rocco Forte has said his hotel business will have lost at least £100m by the end of the pandemic. Rocco Forte Hotels operates 15 luxury hotels in Europe, Russia, north Africa and the Middle East, including Brown’s in London and The Balmoral in Edinburgh. “We can't pay any dividends for two years,” Sir Rocco told The Telegraph. “I have people I employ, staff and so on. For the business, it will be £100m [in losses] by the time we get to the end of this. I’ve had to borrow money myself, personally, to keep going. I don’t know if the value of the business is less than before this started but I’ve always effectively been cash-poor because I’m dependent on a dividend and a salary.” The Conservative donor – who gave the party £100,000 during the last general election and even hosted Boris Johnson’s victory party – is critical of the government. He said: “The trouble is it’s fallen victim to the scientists’ groupthink and silenced anyone with a contrary view. I wouldn’t have locked down in the first place. All the government seems to want to do is terrify the population. It’s still doing it with this Indian variant stuff. If our population has been vaccinated, why shouldn’t they go wherever they like?” Sir Rocco said he remains as hands-on as ever in the business and has no prospect of contemplating retirement. He added: “I suppose I am relatively spoiled but I hate people who are rude to staff. I recently saw someone being rude to one of my receptionists and I went up and said: ‘Please don't talk to my staff like that,’ and fixed his problem myself.”
Haute Dolci planning another four sites in 2021 as it opens ninth, in Bradford: Premium dessert concept Haute Dolci is planning to open another four sites this year having launched its ninth, in Bradford. The company has opened its latest outlet in The Broadway shopping centre, creating 25 jobs. Haute Dolci is planning two of the new openings in London, having made its debut in the capital at Wembley Park in December. Haute Dolci offers a range of desserts including Belgian waffles, American pancakes and French crepes along with gourmet burgers. Yasmin Ravat, partner of Haute Dolci, Bradford, said: “This is a huge development for the local area, offering a wide variety of job opportunities and adding a splash of luxury to the Bradford high street.” 
Wetherby Whaler return to its roots for seventh site: Yorkshire fish and chip operator Wetherby Whaler, which is owned by Better Fish, has returned to its roots to open its seventh site. The company has come back to Tadcaster with the purchase of premises in Stutton Road. Founded in 1969 by Janine and Phillip Murphy, the family-owned group of fish and chip restaurants and takeaways employs more than 200 staff. Originally purchased by the pair from Philip Murphy’s uncle and aunt, the Tadcaster premises were run by the founding duo of the Wetherby Whaler until 1989 when it was sold to Ray and Rose Devaney to enable the purchase of the Whaler premises in Wetherby. The Devaneys ran the business in Stutton Road until their retirement in November 2020. The premises are now back in the ownership of the Wetherby Whaler team and have been fully refurbished. Caroline Murphy and Joanne Westmoreland, daughters of Janine and Phillip Murphy and directors at The Wetherby Whaler, said: “We’re really proud to be returning to our Tadcaster roots; it feels as though we’ve come full circle. We spent many happy times working on the counter with our mum and dad more than 30 years ago.”
Five Points Brewing closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £950,000 to finance brewery and taproom combination: London-based Five Points Brewing Company has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to help it combine its brewery with an open-air taproom after raising more than £950,000. The brewer and pub operator originally aimed to raise £350,000 for the project, offering 3.49% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £13.8m. A total of 1,672 investors have pledged £953,854. The funds will allow the business, founded by Ed Mason and Gregg Hobbs, 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 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.
Pizza specialist Mozza makes England debut: Pizza specialist Mozza has opened its debut England site, at White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds. Mozza, which has sites in Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews, Silverburn and two in Glasgow, has taken a 2,273 square foot space at the West Yorkshire venue from Landsec, which owns White Rose. It has joined the likes of burger brand Frankster’s and international restaurant brands Five Guys and Wagamama. Mozza serves Neapolitan pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens. Pudney Shuttleworth and JLL acted as joint agents for Landsec at White Rose. Reis Short & Co acted for Mozza.
Liverpool-based Pub Invest Group opens Beatles-inspired bar: Liverpool-based Pub Invest Group has opened a Beatles-inspired bar in the city. Revolver is based in the former Revolution site in Temple Court and wraps around the corner from Victoria Street. The venue is named after the Beatles’ seventh studio album, which was their final recording project before retiring as live performers. It has been decorated with iconic Beatles images from the mid-1960s. General manager Oliver Wilson said: “We have worked right through to get this site ready as many new jobs, both part time and full time, have relied on us opening on time this week.”
North Yorkshire-based pub operators acquire third site: North Yorkshire-based pub operators Graham Usher and Matt Rose have acquired their third site. The duo will reopen The Inn in the village of South Stainley on Wednesday (26 May). The pub will join The Castle Inn in Cawood and the Drovers Arms in Skipwith as part of their MattGray Hospitality portfolio. Previous owners of The Inn, which closed in March 2020, had invested more than £1.5m on converting the original stand-alone building into eight luxury bedrooms, fully refurbishing the pub’s interior, and creating another four rooms on its first floor. The venue, which is the group’s first to have accommodation, will serve gastropub meals, drinks and snacks. As more staff join, it is planned to open the restaurant and function suite in July. Usher said: “For the past two years, we have been looking for at least one more pub for MattGray Hospitality to manage. However, there was nothing that really grabbed our attention, and then covid struck. For nine months, we put all thoughts on the backburner but at the beginning of the year, we started looking again and that’s when The Inn caught our eye. There is so much we want to do here but we want to do it right, hence opening gradually.”
Leon launches supermarket coffee range and subscription service: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched a Fairtrade certified and organic coffee range in an exclusive partnership with Sainsbury’s. The coffee, which is available in Blonde Roast (200g ground), with notes of smooth caramel and hints of citrus, and Dark Roast (200g whole bean and ground) can be found in 493 Sainsbury’s branches. The triple-certified coffee is Fairtrade, which guarantees a fairer price for farmers, and also organic. The Blonde and Dark Roast coffee joins the growing Leon grocery range, which already includes sauces, plant-rich dips and restaurant dishes. Leon is also launching a coffee-through-the-letterbox service next month, with twin packs of 200g bags across beans and ground for the cost of £12, including postage and packing. A restaurant coffee subscription is also available and priced at £15 per month.
Hotel operator acquires West Sussex village pub for second site: Hotel operator Rupert Burstow has acquired a West Sussex village pub for his second site. Burstow, who owns the Waterfront in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, has teamed up with childhood friend, Nick Pigott, to buy The Three Crowns in Wisborough Green off a guide price of £625,000. The grade II-listed pub, which has been closed since mid-2019, features a large beer garden with decked seating for up to 200 covers. Burstow and Piggott plan a full refurbishment of the pub before reopening in June. Christie & Co acted on the deal.
Christie & Co is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
200 Degrees opens 12th site, in Manchester: Nottingham-based coffee roaster 200 Degrees has opened its 12th site, in Manchester. The 80-seat shop is on the ground floor of The Hyphen Building in Mosley Street, part of a new office development just off St Peter’s Square. The Manchester site is the first of its shops to have its barista school in the heart of the premises. Co-founder Tom Vincent said: “After many years of trying to make this happen, we are very pleased to see the day of our Manchester coffee shop opening is here – and we hope to offer an independent and relaxing feel in our shop, which will add something memorable to a city, in which there are already lots of great coffee shops.” 200 Degrees was set up by Vincent and business partner Rob Darby in 2012 and, as well as its coffee shops, also operates a roast house near Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The company is opening sites at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock, Staffordshire; and in York city centre next month.
Restaurateurs launch franchise model to expand wine delivery service across UK: Restaurateurs Ian Campbell and Will Palmer are launching a franchising model for their wine delivery service, Drop, as it aims to expand across the UK. Under the plan, franchises will be encouraged to open their own bar and store, which will function as a delivery hub. Drop is aiming to operate 85 sites nationally within the next three years, with plans to open 15 new franchise sites over the next 12 months across the south east. The national franchise expansion follows a crowdfunding campaign that saw Drop raise more than £500,000. Co-founder Ian Campbell said: “We have seen a significant increase in sales over the past year as customers not only opt for the convenience of one-hour delivery, but also our feature-rich virtual wine cellar experience that allows them to discover the unique, quality wines without feeling overwhelmed or confused. Lockdown has transformed consumer expectations around convenience and speed of delivery. What initially became a solution to supermarket queues and booked out delivery slots, has since become a long-lasting shift in customer behaviour.” Campbell and Palmer, who are behind 10 Cases wine bar and bistro and Parsons seafood restaurant in Covent Garden, launched Drop in 2016. 
Teesside-based events company to launch ‘mini super club’ in Middlesbrough: Teesside-based events company Wynyard is to launch a “mini super club” in Middlesbrough. The company has revealed plans for Stereo, which will open in the former Atik site in Zetland Road. The club will create more than 40 jobs on its launch, and will collaborate with club brands from across the north east, including La La Land, Yoyo and Sinners Club. The company said this would be a “welcome shot in the arm” for the region’s nightlife industry. Co-founder Stephen Spensley said: “Our mission with Stereo is to rebuild that social aspect of escapism through clubbing and the tangible sensation of being in a room filled with happy people.” Co-founder Kane Ayton added: “After more than 20 years of practice, this club and the events inside will be our finest work. It’s entirely purpose built for the customer experience. Regardless of the person or the genre, they will instantly feel at home. With the help of the best designers and installers, we have created what we think is the best mini super club in the area.”
ASM Global set to operate new 4,000 capacity venue in Derby: ASM Global, which operates the AO Arena in Manchester and SSE Wembley Arena as part of its global portfolio, is set to manage a new 4,000-capacity venue being built in Derby. The company has been awarded preferred bidder status to manage, operate and programme the new Becketwell Derby venue. Derby City Council has assisted with land assembly for the development and St James Securities will deliver the performance venue, with ASM Global to sign a 30-year lease, which will remove the development and financial operating risk from the council. The new venue, which will create about 200 jobs, will be capable of staging concerts, stand-up comedy, family shows, musical theatre, conferences and exhibitions. It comes after St James Securities exchanged contracts with the council to forward-fund the project to the tune of £48m. Work on the performance venue is set to commence in early 2022, with handover to the operator in 2024. Paul Morris, development director of St James Securities, said: “We are tremendously excited to be working with Derby City Council and ASM Global on this ambitious project, which will fill a significant gap in the city’s cultural landscape and bring an outstanding, modern performance venue to the city.
Finance outsource company Virgate appoints Mark McQuater as chairman as it gears up for growth: Virgate, a supplier of full service outsourced finance teams to more than 50 companies in the industry, has appointed former Revolution Bars Group chief executive Mark McQuater as chairman as it gears up for growth. The company has seen 20% growth in the past year as more companies outsource the finance and administration functions of their businesses. Virgate has comprehensively rebranded, created a new website and invested in its technology stack to give state-of-the-art reporting for clients. Virgate has also added Alison Cooper, of People Puzzles, to the board to support the expansion in recruitment and to strengthen work culture and practices. Sarah Travell, founder and chief executive of Virgate, said: “We are seeing a real shift now as hospitality companies focus on growing business rather than accounting and administration. I am delighted to welcome Mark McQuater and Alison Cooper to our board – their experience and support will be invaluable in supporting the planned growth of Virgate in this new digital age.”

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