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Tue 15th Jun 2021 - Otherworld to expand virtual reality concept after securing further investment
Otherworld to expand virtual reality concept after securing further investment: Otherworld, the Imbiba-backed immersive entertainment business, is to expand nationally and internationally after raising £2.9m from leading venture capital funds. Edge Investments led the Series A round, with follow-on investment from Imbiba and participation from games industry veterans Chris Lee and Rupert Loman. Meanwhile, the company, formerly the Dream Corporation, has signed deals to open sites in London Victoria and Birmingham this summer, with plans to expand to a further three locations in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow over the next 12 months. The company is set to open in the former Sourced Market site in the Nova scheme in Victoria and the ex-Nocturnal Animals site in Birmingham’s Bennetts Hill. Internationally, Otherworld is recruiting franchise partners in Germany and the US. Despite covid-19 restrictions, the company said it was booking out weeks in advance with “market-leading footfall and revenues”. Chris Adams, chief executive and co-founder of Otherworld, said: “We’ve seen overwhelming demand, despite the pandemic. People are seeking ever-greater levels of immersion, but through social experiences they can enjoy with friends and family. We can’t wait to take the Otherworld experience to new markets around the world.” As well as national and international expansion, the company said it is using the investment to “enrich its virtual reality experiences with its one-of-a-kind heat, wind and rumble effects”. Niall Santamaria, investment manager at Edge Investments, said: “The team at Otherworld share Edge’s vision for virtual reality to become a cornerstone of story-telling in the future. The Otherworld team has the creative vision and operational acuity to continue to grow and dominate this emerging category at the intersection of creativity and technology.” Imbiba led the company’s first funding round in January 2019 and is increasing its investment. Lizzie Ryan, partner at Imbiba, said: “Chris, Ed and the team have proven the success of their vision through the first Otherworld site. There is now a significant opportunity to develop the content across a number of genres as we roll-out across the UK and internationally.” Otherworld opened its first site in Haggerston, east London, in mid-2019. Will Biggart, of Torridon, is advising Otherworld on its expansion plans.

Next edition of Blue Book for Premium subscribers to add 34 companies with combined turnover of £1.38bn: The next edition of the Blue Book of Sector Turnover and Profits database for Premium subscribers, due out early next month, will add 34 companies to take the total to 250. The database, which is updated and expanded each month, will now rank the top 250 sector operators by turnover and then by profitability – the 34 additions have a combined turnover of £1.38bn, bringing the total turnover of the 250 companies included to £27bn. New companies added to the database will include McDonald’s largest UK franchisee, which has a turnover of £128m. Other companies to be added will include Chilled Pubs, The Inn Collection Group, Inception Group, Ole & Steen, DHP Family, Pure, CG Restaurants, State of Play Hospitality, Fat Duck, Shake Shack, East Coast Concepts, Cubitt House, Vagabond Wines, We Are Bar Group and TD4 Brands. The Blue Book has a five-year overview of turnover and profit, and shows what percentage of turnover is converted to pre-tax profit – or otherwise. Propel Premium subscribers have also received their monthly update to the multi-site database, which has had 108 companies added since the last release at the end of May. They not only received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 14,000-word report on the businesses added during May. The go-to database, which now features 1,819 companies that collectively operate 58,838 sites, 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. 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. 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. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

YO! to change name to Snowfox Group, eyes IPO: YO!, the global multi-channel, multi-brand Japanese and Asian food group, is to change its name to the Snowfox Group, as it considers a possible initial public offering (IPO). As first reported by Sky News, the company is changing its name to reflect the rapid growth of its US operations, with circa 75% of its profits coming from the US. Meanwhile, the Richard Hodgson-led business has appointed bankers at Numis to advise on its strategic options, which could result in a potential IPO in London. The newly named Snowfox Group will bring together four businesses in the US, UK, Canada, and will be the corporate entity to sit above the company’s four brands – Snowfox, Taiko, Bento and YO!. The company said it also reflects the business is now the leading international, multi-channel Japanese food business, selling more than 60 million trays of sushi a year. Propel understands the group is growing at twice the rate of the market, and has been for the past five years. The three strands to its business are running 1,900-plus in-store sushi kiosks with partners including Costco, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose; supplying fresh, pre-packaged Japanese food to more than 3,700 foodservice and grocery outlets – via its eight factory production sites; and operating 65 restaurants, which will continue under the YO! name. Snowfox is majority-owned by Mayfair Equity Partners, which acquired the YO! Sushi business in 2015, and funded the subsequent takeover of Canada's Bento Sushi, and the merger with Snowfox in the US last year. In February, the company appointed John Walden, formerly of Naked Wines, Holland & Barratt and Argos, as its new chairman, stating at the time it saw “significant opportunities” to further progress its multi-channel strategy. Former Whitbread finance director Chris Rogers has also joined the group's board.

Pub chiefs warn staff cannot control customers after reopening delay: Beleaguered pub workers cannot be expected to force customers to obey lockdown rules after prime minister Boris Johnson delayed the final step of reopening, sector bosses have said. The chief executives of some of Britain’s biggest pub and bar companies told The Telegraph it is becoming “increasingly difficult” to police customers and prevent them from meeting in groups larger than six or attempting to order at the bar. Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young's, said the government was asking too much of pub workers who are already struggling to ensure customers continue to abide by covid restrictions – a challenge made even harder by crowds during the European Football Championship. He said: “People have got used to the idea of having some of their liberty back, and they want the rest of it back now. We have the Euros and people are getting very excited about a summer of sport, so it will be extremely difficult for the government to keep putting a lid on it.” Clive Watson, executive chairman of the City Pub Group, which has sites across Wales and the south of England, added: “The British public have been amazingly compliant, but during the football tournament, it will be very difficult. If England, or Scotland or Wales progresses through the Euros, then it's inevitable that people will want to celebrate standing up or in big groups.” Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars, said rising vaccination rates had made it tougher to persuade young people to comply with the remaining restrictions. He added: “It is becoming increasingly more difficult to police it. People are behaving themselves but it's about a personal choice. If you're young and have your life ahead of you, you're largely not at risk of the virus and therefore people will feel like they've done their bit.” Meanwhile, experts warned the one-month postponement to “Freedom Day” risks heaping inflation on consumers by worsening labour shortages in the hardest-hit industries, pushing up wages and therefore ultimately prices. Simon French, UK economist at stockbroker Panmure Gordon, said the extra four weeks of restrictions could force foreign workers to scrap hopes of summer work in Britain and go elsewhere instead. He added: “If you're looking at seasonal workers coming to the UK to take up slack in the hospitality sector, they may write off the summer.”

Mohan Mansigani awarded an OBE: Bob & Bert's chairman Mohan Mansigani has been made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). He became a St John trustee in 2016 and has had a career in corporate business, operations and finance, leading major retail and hospitality names such as Costa Coffee and Café Rouge. He is currently chairman of coffee shop business Bob & Berts. A spokesman said: “Since becoming a St John trustee, Mohan's extensive experience has brought invaluable benefits to the national healthcare charity, St John Ambulance, ultimately putting the organisation in the strongest of positions to be able to focus on responding to the covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Overnight, the charity’s event first aid and training operations ceased, but Mohan’s expertise enabled St John to continue to operate while deploying its largest ever peacetime operation in support of the NHS. Mohan’s skills and ability to secure funds and resources at the highest levels has in particular ensured the charity’s volunteer team has been able to embark on the national vaccination programme, which has been rolling out since January this year. Alongside his St John work, Mohan has continued in his trustee leadership at The Migration Museum, once again providing his skills and advice to ensure the sustainability of this important initiative focused on the story of migration in British society.” Speaking of his inclusion in the birthday honours list, Mansigani said: “It is a real honour to have been recognised with this award. However, in my mind this is all about the St John volunteers, who are the backbone of the organisation. It has been a privilege to be able to play a part in facilitating their work and in particular in enabling them to drive forward the national vaccination programme. I’m immensely proud to be associated with St John and of everything the volunteer and staff team are doing to respond to the pandemic.”

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