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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Tue 29th Jun 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector seeks greater flexibility on test and trace rules: The hospitality sector is seeking greater flexibility and clarity on test and trace rules as the current process continues to cause havoc for businesses across the industry, as entire teams are forced to isolate and sites are closed. One operator said he felt the sector was on the “verge of collapse due to test and trace and needless isolations”. Meanwhile, Steve Holmes, chief executive of Azzurri Group, the operator of the ASK Italian, Coco Di Mama and Zizzi brands, told Propel: “Test and trace is definitely causing issues. We had several different sites closed at some point last week with entire teams having to isolate for ten days. It’s painful and even if ‘Freedom Day’ happens on 19 July this won’t go away unless a test and release mechanism is introduced.” Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, told Propel: “Clearly it is working brutally well, ie pinging people left right and centre and cases of covid are rising. My view is to make sure we respect it, and so have once again limited staff visits to restaurants to essential trips only and proof of a recent negative lateral flow test is needed.” Operators are hoping that possible test to release or test while you work options can be explored. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We have raised the issue of automatic test and trace notifications and the pressure extended self-isolation is having on the sector as a matter of urgency with ministers since it first emerged more than a fortnight ago. The impact this is having on employees who have only just been able to return to work as well as business operations is significant and is exacerbating existing staff shortages to the extent that some businesses are having to close or are unable to fully function. This has a knock-on effect on business viability and long-term recovery and we have urged ministers to look again at test to release schemes, shorter isolation periods and test to remain at work for those double vaccinated. We are also working with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure the test and trace requirements are being effectively and uniformly applied across the country to ensure genuine close contact working is captured by isolation requirements.”

Industry News: 

Premium subscribers to receive updated database of multi-site businesses tomorrow: The updated database of multi-site companies for June, which is available exclusively to Propel Premium subscribers, will be sent out tomorrow (Wednesday, 30 June) at midday. It will include 63 new companies since its previous update in May – making a total of 1,880 listed businesses. Collectively the 63 new companies operate 565 venues. Subscribers will not only receive the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they will also be sent a 10,389-word report on the businesses added during June. 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 also receive access to a second exclusive monthly database, The Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. This database provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

UKHospitality calls for action on sector’s growing costs of delay to lifting restrictions: UKHospitality has called for government action on the sector’s growing costs of delay to lifting restrictions and to consider a range of mitigation measures. It comes after prime minister Boris Johnson said while he saw no reason to lift all restrictions on 19 July, he confirmed it would not happen any earlier. But UKHospitality has highlighted how the delay in lifting restrictions risks further business failures via unsustainable accrued debts, as well as compounding problems in an already challenging labour market. From this week, hospitality businesses will have to restart business rates payments, have to contribute to furlough salary costs and face VAT repayments. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Given the delay to ‘Freedom Day’, government should look again at the support measures in place for the sector. A delay of four weeks – after 15 months of restricted or no trading – feels like a lifetime for struggling hospitality businesses, as costs continue to mount. During what should be a peak trading period, we remain severely restricted, or, in some cases, forcibly closed. The knock-on impact will be felt throughout the summer. An immediate extension of the business rates holiday would settle some commercial concerns but we would still then face employment costs that threaten jobs. Following clear and confident assurances that restrictions would be lifted on 21 June, hospitality venues employed new staff in good faith but, necessarily, after the furlough eligibility date, so delay means those employees cannot be furloughed. If we must wait until 19 July to lift restrictions, and noting the recently published data from the Events Research Group continuing to show the low risk posed by hospitality and events, the eligibility date must be retrospectively changed, accompanied by a targeted furlough with zero employer contribution for those businesses that remain forcibly shut or restricted.” British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “Each week the restrictions stay in place, the likelihood of pubs being lost forever increases.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said: “During this extended period of closure businesses and workers need to be supported through the extension of current government financial reliefs. They cannot be expected to pick up further debt while waiting for the opportunity to open.”

Peter Backman – inflation is a nuisance not an existential threat: Foodservice analyst Peter Backman has argued operators should keep the threat of increased inflation in perspective. Referring to the last peak of inflation in the 1970s, he wrote: “Look at what was happening in foodservice. This was when KFC arrived in the UK, followed by McDonald’s and then Burger King and Pizza Hut. They grew rapidly. McDonald’s had a single store in 1975, by 1985 it had almost 200 stores. And significantly it was the time when pubs started bootstrapping their food offer with salad bars and lasagne served out of gastronorm trays. Chains such as Beefeater, then Harvester and Toby Inns emerged at this time, as did proto restaurant chains such as Pierre Victoire. The lesson is the rise of the inflation beast is something to be concerned about but it is unlikely to hold back the restaurant sector in the long run.” 
 

Company News: 

Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees opens in York as it eyes 100 UK sites: Starbucks first UK franchisee, 23.5 Degrees, has opened its latest site – a drive-thru in Bilbrough Top services, York. The company opened its first store in February 2013 and now has 74 stores – 32 of which are drive thru – across the UK with another 23 in the pipeline over the next year. The company is actively seeking freehold and leasehold drive-thru opportunities sitting on main arterial routes, close to major retail destinations or on large industrial estates. It will also consider retail park and “drive to” destinations, as well as high street units in prominent high footfall locations. 23.5 Degrees currently has the rights to develop in the following counties: Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Essex, Dorset, East Anglia, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Somerset, Derbyshire, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Durham and Northumberland. Managing director Mark Hepburn has a track record of success in foodservice franchise businesses, including Burger King and KFC. In its most recent full year to 31 August 2020 the company has been on track at the six month point to deliver sales up 27.4% to £42m and £4.2m Ebitda (48.5% up on the previous year of £2.8m). The pandemic meant sales were up 6.8% to £35.7m and Ebitda was £3.6m excluding the costs associated with opening new stores. 
23.5 Degrees features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is now available to Premium subscribers. 23.5 Degrees has turned over an average of £26.0m in the past five years with an average pre-tax loss of £2.1m. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors earnings and highest paid directors. 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.

Goodbody – Greggs’ unscheduled trading update points to a continued strong recovery and material upside to earnings: Goodbody leisure analyst Patrick Higgins has said food-to-go operator Greggs’ unscheduled trading update points to a continued strong recovery and material upside to earnings. Greggs reported in recent weeks like-for-like sales growth in company-managed shops has remained in positive territory ranging between 1% and 3% when measured against the same period in 2019. Higgins said: “This is stronger than anticipated (circa 5% better) and if it were to continue would have a materially positive impact on the financial result for the year. This is another positive update from Greggs highlighting the strength of the model and offering. If current momentum was to continue through the second half we estimate the upside to FY21 earnings would be circa 15% to 20% versus our current forecast.”

Taco Bell wins 5am licensing hours appeal in Newcastle: Sheffield-based food franchisee QFM Group has won an appeal for a late licence at its Taco Bell restaurant in Newcastle with support from licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners. The site in Grainger Street can now provide eat-in and click and collect services until 3am and delivery until 5am. The original licence was granted by Newcastle City Council on 22 October 2018, which permitted the venue to serve food until midnight. On 20 March 2020 an application was submitted to alter the existing licence restrictions regarding the operating times. The amendment sought to extend the closing hours to 5am daily but did not adjust any other conditions or the permitted alcohol sale hours. The application was refused by the council. The application was then revised to consider a 3:30am closing time, but the licensing sub-committee only granted an extension to 1am. QFM Group decided to appeal and instructed licensing counsel Leo Charalmbides along with Chris Grunert, of John Gaunt & Partners. Grunert explained the area's cumulative impact policy restrictions do not apply here based on the sub-committee's previous statement the venue was defined as a restaurant rather than a takeaway. Charalmbides highlighted deficiencies with the Newcastle policy in the context of the Public Sector Equality Duty. This is the public authority’s responsibility to consider how their decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. Both of these arguments found favour before the appeal court. QFM Group head of operations Jennifer Baines said: “As a company we take very seriously our responsibilities to promote the licensing objectives, every day. I am excited about the extended service we can now offer to our Newcastle customers and believe we will assist in the further positive diversification to Newcastle’s night-time economy.”
John Gaunt & Partners is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Kricket launches pair of delivery-only kitchens: Indian small plates concept Kricket has launched a pair of delivery kitchens in London, Propel understands. The Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell-led, White Rabbit Fund-backed business is understood to have launched a delivery kitchen in the former Dive In unit in Tooting High Street. It is thought to be sharing the space with Pasta Evangelists. Meanwhile, Kricket is also believed to have opened a delivery kitchen in London Fields, in Helmsley Place. Bowlby and Campbell have just announced they will launch a stand-alone bar called Soma in London’s Soho. The new bar, which is named after the Hindu moon god, will open in September in a site adjacent to the pair’s existing Kricket site in Denman Street. Kricket also operates restaurants in Brixton and White City.

No1 Lounges acquired by Airport Dimensions and Swissport: Travel and passenger experience company Airport Dimensions has reached an agreement with joint venture partner Swissport, owner of Aspire, to acquire the No1 Lounges business, the British airport lounge operator. The acquisition will see Airport Dimensions and Swissport operate nine No1 Lounges portfolio spaces at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and Birmingham airports. As part of the acquisition, Airport Dimensions and Swissport will be taking on No1 lounges as well as the exclusive Clubrooms brand, which offers guests a “first-class, luxury lounge experience in a private and intimate setting”. No 1 Lounges chief executive John Upton said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, we welcome this transaction that enables us to strengthen and secure our business and carry on our mission to make it easier for our customers to eat, drink and relax in style before they fly. The new funding will enable us to further enhance No1’s lounging experience so we continue to offer industry-leading innovation and choice for our customers.” Airport Dimensions chief executive Mignon Buckingham added: “The acquisition of No1 Lounges cements our position as a leading provider of premium airport lounges and experiences globally. Running alongside our Club Aspire offer, No1 Lounges will enable us to provide greater variety and a differentiated and unrivalled travel experience proposition for passengers and airports. This investment is just one of many Airport Dimensions continue to make to enhance the experience for the traveller, offering them choice and control while driving increased revenue performance for the airport.” The No1 Lounges brand will retain its own identity but means members of Priority Pass, the world’s largest independent airport lounge access programme, will again be able to enjoy access to the No1 Lounges network.

Five Guys secures flagship site in the City: Five Guys, the fast-growing burger concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has secured a new flagship site in the City of London. The circa 120-strong business will open on the former Wasabi site at 186-190 Bishopsgate, which is located on the east side of Bishopsgate at the corner with Victoria Avenue. It will be a 3,500 square foot site spread over ground and first floors.  Five Guys opened its latest UK site last week in the Edinburgh St James scheme. The brand’s next opening – at the former Chiquito restaurant at Teesside Park – is set to be its first UK drive-thru location. Propel revealed earlier this year Five Guys was exploring opportunities to open its first drive-thru sites in the UK on the back of the success of its “kerbside” pick-up option, which it launched in Britain last May. The company, which recently opened in Coventry and Glasgow Fort, has secured sites in the York and East Midlands McArthurGlen Designer Outlets for openings in the second half of this year. In May, Five Guys UK chief executive John Eckbert said the brand was going to open up to 50 new sites in Europe this year, including up to 25 in Britain. Shelley Sandzer acted on the Bishopsgate deal. 

Just Eat expands new worker model to Cambridge: Just Eat is planning to create more than 150 jobs in Cambridge over the coming months as part of its expansion of the new UK worker model for couriers. Cambridge is the fifth city in the UK in which Just Eat is offering the new model, following its launch in London, Birmingham, Brighton and Liverpool. The move has already created more than 4,500 jobs and will continue to be rolled out to further cities. All couriers contracted through this model are entitled to hourly pay, minimum/living wage, pension contributions and certain statutory benefits including holiday pay and sick pay and benefit from bespoke training. To help protect couriers, they are covered by the relevant insurance. Alongside this, couriers are provided with pedal bikes for launch, helping to reduce takeaway delivery contribution to UK emission levels. Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny said: “We believe giving couriers access to the benefits and security associated with a model like this is the right thing to do and we’re hugely ambitious to grow this further out across the UK.” Couriers will have the option to work remotely or operate from a central hub, located in Coldhams Road, a space they can also use to take breaks. Just Eat Takeaway.com operates the model across 160 European cities.
Just Eat is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Bluewater launches first of host of experiential leisure experiences: The longest and fastest zip wire in England, Skywire, has opened at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. Landsec is redefining the Bluewater experience and Skywire is the first of nine attractions that will comprise Hangloose Adventure, a new large-scale leisure offer at Bluewater. Skywire is the focal point and includes four individual 725-metre-long zip wires linked to a 15.5-metre high dispatch tower situated on Bluewater’s 40-metre high chalk cliffs, creating a vertical drop of 55 metres. Riders of the Skywire will achieve speeds of up to 60 mph as they make their descent. Three more Hangloose Adventure experiences are set to launch at Bluewater over the next 12 months. First, Europe’s largest rock climbing wall will open, providing Bluewater’s guests with an opportunity to safely scale the cliff walls. This will be followed by another European first when a giant swing opens. Reaching a height of 45 metres, equivalent to a 12-storey building, the swing is twice as high as Hangloose’s original giant swing at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Completing the first wave of experiences is Skydive, in which guests can fly up to ten metres high and free-fall in a 200mph column of air. The only one of its kind in Europe, Skydive will open early 2022. These will be followed by five more experiences – a bungee tower; giant slide; clip and climb; waterdrop boulding wall; and Via Ferrata, a route-marked climb using metal rails and rungs embedded in Bluewater’s cliff walls. Bruce Findlay, managing director of retail at Landsec, said: “Delivering new and unique experiences that our guests simply can’t find elsewhere is a vital part of our approach to continuously evolving our retail proposition. Hangloose is a fantastic example of an innovative leisure attraction that will draw people from further afield.”

Richard Turner secures second kitchen for delivery-only service: Dickie’s At Home, the new premium delivery-only service from chef-restaurateur Richard Turner, who is behind London-based butcher Turner & George and is involved with Hawksmoor, Pitt Cue Co and Blacklock, has launched its second kitchen site. Based in Zennor Road in Balham, the new kitchen will service Balham, Brixton, Clapham, Wandsworth, Tooting and Streatham. It follows the “hugely successful” launch of Dickie’s in Battersea in April and is thought to be the next in a series of new openings that will expand the fledgling concept’s coverage across London this year. Dickie’s serves an ethically sourced meat-led menu delivered in bespoke sustainable packaging. Dickie’s is the first brand developed by Out In Collective, formed by industry friends and colleagues from a number of leading hospitality businesses including Hawksmoor and Blacklock. Launched earlier this year under the slogan “Meat. Done. Right”, the new venture was launched to provide “resource, infrastructure and logistical expertise to high-profile and highly regarded chefs and restaurateurs who want to develop new delivery brands”. Out In Collective said, over time, it will “nurture a family of chef-led delivery brands with an emphasis on fantastic at home experiences, high-quality ingredient sourcing and sustainability”. 

Australia’s largest Mexican food franchise Zambrero makes UK debut: Zambrero, Australia’s largest Mexican quick-service franchise, which donates a meal for every burrito or bowl purchased, will open its debut UK restaurant, in London, on Tuesday (29 June). The company-owned site will open at 198 Kentish Town. The company, which operates more than 200 restaurants globally, said the 15-cover restaurant will offer “a fresh take on Mexican favourites, a focus on modern superfood ingredients, specially crafted marinades and distinctive sauces”. Through its Plate 4 Plate initiative, Zambrero said its mission is to stop world hunger by donating a meal to someone in need for every burrito or bowl purchased. To date, Zambrero has donated more than 49 million meals via its humanitarian partner Rise Against Hunger. Zambrero UK chief executive Emily Teh said: “We’re thrilled to be launching Zambrero in the UK and are excited to have chosen Kentish Town for our first restaurant. We look forward to introducing our Mexican-inspired food to the local community who will help us move ever closer to our goal of donating a billion Plate 4 Plate meals by 2025.” Founded in 2005 by then-medical student Dr Sam Prince, Zambrero offers a fresh, modern interpretation of classic Mexican food. 

Jolene Bakeries to open three new sites: Jeremie Cometto and David Gingell are set to open three new sites this year for their Jolene Bakery concept. The first will be next month, in Shoreditch in Redchurch Street, followed by Colebrooke Row in Islington in August and then Well Street in Hackney at the end of October. All three are “bakery satellites” to their Big Jo bakery in the capital – with the intention of providing more space to sell baked goods made from the raw materials supplied by farms that subscribe to “a sustainable and soil positive regenerative system”. Cometto told Hot Dinners: “Each one will also have its own unique character by performing one considered activity – one making jams, another playing with booch, kefir and ferments, the other making chocolates and serving small bits with wine into the early evenings.” The duo are also behind London restaurants Primeur, Westerns Laundry and Jolene as well as Fitzroy in Cornwall.

Chef Florence Knight joins forces to open Clerkenwell restaurant: Chef Florence Knight, the wife of Polpo co-founder Richard Beatty, is to open a restaurant in Clerkenwell, east London. Florence has joined forces with Cabin Studios and Sätila Studios to launch Sessions Arts Club, “bringing together the best of art, design and food”. Housed in the restored Old Sessions House, the creative studio will house a restaurant, wine bar and art gallery space. Situated on the fourth floor of the 18th century grade II-listed building, Sessions Arts Club will launch on Wednesday, 28 July. Knight will head up the kitchen, offering a refined, seasonally led menu inspired by British, French and Italian cooking. Dishes will include pork belly cooked with fennel and orange; and lamb sweetbreads with lettuce and lovage. There will be a 60-seater dining room along with a roof terrace that will seat 20 and lead out to a bar and rooftop pool. The artwork will build up through various events, workshops and dinners and over time new work will be added, moved, commissioned and occasionally sold. 

Kerridge opens debut site for Bad Vegan: LabTech, owner of Camden Market, has announced the opening of plant-based restaurant Bad Vegan for its first site, at Buck Street Market, the UK’s first eco-conscious consumer market. The “fast-food” restaurant has taken two of Buck Street Market’s shipping containers, covering 415 square foot on its top floor. The Bad Vegan ethos is “no judgements” – the menu has been designed to appeal to vegans and meat-eaters alike, centred on plant-based dishes as the hero element. The brand aims to encourage non-vegans to consume more plant-based food as part of their diet, making the cuisine more accessible by including a limited amount of non-vegan toppings or sides for a sense of familiarity, while retaining a fundamentally vegan offer. The menu, designed by experienced brand creator Mark Emms and the Tom Kerridge team, features fresh and high-quality ingredients, focusing on innovative and creative use of seasonal vegetables. There are also vegan milkshakes served with a coconut foam, and Bad Vegan has partnered with Camden Town Brewery for an exclusive collaboration beer. Emms said: “For so long there have been such limited vegan options at restaurants, and dishes almost always feels like an after-thought. Bad Vegan flips the emphasis around, creating a space where plant-based food leads the menu, but still somewhere that both vegans and non-vegans would be excited to visit. Our menu at Buck Street Market showcases the potential of vegan food, and we hope it will inspire non-vegans to become more aware of their meal choices and feel more comfortable adopting a more plant-based diet.” Kerridge added: “When designing the menu, we knew we wanted to create something that brought out the delicious flavours of seasonable vegetables, while ensuring it would be filling and affordable for a large audience.”
 
German Doner Kebab to open flagship site at O2: German Doner Kebab, the Hero Brands-backed business, is to open a flagship site at The O2. The restaurant is scheduled to open early July and will create in the region of 40 jobs. The opening has been announced as German Doner Kebab forges ahead with plans to open 47 new restaurants in the UK during 2021, building significantly on the 12 opened during 2020. The new restaurant will be the brand’s 65th site in the UK as it continues to bring the German Doner Kebab experience to more locations throughout the country. Daniel Bunce, managing director for UK and Europe, said: “We’re delighted to officially announce plans to bring the German Doner Kebab experience to The O2, which has long been in our sights. To be launching our new flagship restaurant in such an iconic London location represents a landmark moment in the growth of German Doner Kebab. Our game-changing kebabs are revolutionising the kebab in the UK and we are excited to be bringing a new fast-casual experience to The O2.” 

Former Hill & Szrok general manager opens bottle shop and wine bar in Hackney: Jimmy Stephenson, former general manager and partner at Hill & Szrok, has opened a bottle shop and wine bar in Hackney, east London. Stephenson has launched Hector’s in Ardleigh Road after spending the past seven years building the wine list at Hill & Szrok Butchers and Cookshop, taking it from six to 300 and an award-winning list. Much of the wine has followed him to Hector’s, where Luca Mathiszig-Lee, owner of Hill & Szrok, is on board as a partner. Influenced by the cave à mangers of Paris and his favourite drinking holes of San Sebastian, Stephenson sells a mixture of natural and classic European wine, with an emphasis on Italian, French and Spanish varieties, plus a selection of grower Champagne. Opened with his wife, actress Anna Shaffer, Hector’s operates as a bottle shop from Tuesday to Sunday, with the wine bar launching on Thursday, 22 July. Alongside the wine will be a selection of small plates that draw on Stephenson and Shaffer’s travels and love of European bar food. Dishes set to feature are Cantabrian anchovies soaked in olive oil with rose petals; and courgette carpaccio with fresh cheese. The back room will be a feature cellar that doubles up as a private dining room and tasting room. Hector’s will also have outside seating for the summer months.
 Stephenson said: “Not only do I love the relaxed but enthusiastic European way of eating and drinking but the cultural emphasis on family. This is our family business and it’s all about unfussy but tasty food and classic and exciting wine.” 

Andreas Kizoub to open Mediterranean restaurant in former Inamo premises in Camden for second site: Restaurateur Andreas Kizoub, who owns Ormos in London’s Notting Hill, is to open a second site in the capital. Kizoub is launching Mediterranean restaurant Azura in Camden later this summer. Taking over the Mornington Crescent site previously occupied by London-based futuristic restaurant brand Inamo, Azura will “bring the taste of Mykonos, Santorini, Bodrum and Alacati to London”. The restaurant is expected to have a mezze-style sharing menu alongside a cocktail list and will feature a roof terrace, reports Hot Dinners. Inamo now operates two restaurants – in Covent Garden and Soho.

Landmark entertainment centre sold for £25.1m: A landmark entertainment centre in Birmingham has been acquired for £25.1m. The 3.14-acre Fiveways Entertainment Centre in Broad Street has been bought by AEW UK Core Property Fund. The site is let to 11 leisure tenants – Cineworld, PureGym, a casino, nightclub and seven restaurants. This is accompanied by two leases to Euro Car Parks. Edward Long, director at AEW, said: “We are pleased to have acquired this prime leisure asset located at the heart of Birmingham’s bustling night-time economy. The city has seen a renaissance over the past ten years, with significant developments such as Grand Central, Birmingham Library, Brindleyplace, and numerous office and residential schemes. We believe the fundamentals remain very attractive, with Birmingham’s growing young professional and student population driving demand for entertainment and residential accommodation. Covid-19 restrictions have had a huge impact on the leisure sector, however, leisure is fundamental to people’s well-being across all demographics. Leisure activities are no longer just for special occasions, most UK consumers regard leisure as an integral part of daily life. As such, we look forward to covid-19 restrictions lifting and a return to normality and anticipate a strong bounce back in the leisure sector.”

JD Wetherspoon set to win Bristol pub approval despite 230 objections: Plans for the redevelopment of a disused retail building in Bristol to make way for a JD Wetherspoon pub have been recommended for approval despite objections. Acting on behalf of the company, Nineteen47 is seeking a change of use permission for a site at 349-353 Gloucester Road in Horfield, which was built in the early 1960s as a supermarket. A roof terrace area for outdoor drinking and dining would be formed through the enclosure of what is currently a first-floor flat roof. Despite more than 230 objections, the application, which also attracted about 60 letters of support, has been recommended for approval ahead of a Bristol City Council planning meeting later this week. In a report to be scrutinised by councillors, the redevelopment as a pub is expected to result in significant improvements to the external appearance of the building, which would in turn enhance the appearance of the street. Overall, there is found to be minimal conflict with national and local planning policy and no relevant material considerations that would warrant the refusal of planning permission.

ThinCats provides funding for Bob Bob Ricard: Alternative lender ThinCats has provided a capital funding package to Bob Bob Ricard in London. Opened in 2008 by chief executive Leonid Shutov, the Soho branch of Bob Bob Ricard serves a British and Russian menu to diners in its all-booth dining room, and the second branch to open serves a French and Russian menu from its City venue. Following the prolonged closure of all hospitality venues across the country throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, the business sought working capital funding to support the reopening of both venues. Shutov said: “This has been a very difficult time for the hospitality industry but we are seeing a huge resurgence in bookings now that the restrictions are lifting. We have very high hopes, not only for a return to our previous levels of business, but in fact signs are good for even higher numbers of people looking for our unique combination of private booths, great food and champagne on tap.” Dave Sherrington, regional head of sales in London at ThinCats, added: “I’ve known Leonid for many years and always been an admirer of what he and his team have consistently achieved. Their passion and commitment, and their knowledge of what was going to be required to get the business firing again once restrictions were eased, are second to none.”

Franco Manca freehold in Bromley sold for £1.8m: The freehold of a building occupied by Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned pizza brand, at 10 Widmore Road, Bromley, has been sold for £1.8m, reflecting a net yield of 5.23%. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, who acted on behalf of the vendor, a private client, said: “There is huge pent-up demand from private investors and property companies who have held back from commercial purchases since the pandemic hit. While many sectors – such as offices and retail – are facing huge long-term challenges, we believe hospitality businesses who are able to weather the storm will bounce back even stronger post-pandemic. Pubs and restaurants in the best locations will continue to be highly sought after and will continue to provide safe, long-term rental income.”

Edyn Group launches ‘next generation’ aparthotel brand: Aparthotel operator Edyn Group has enhanced its portfolio with the launch of a “next generation” brand, Cove. The company said Cove, which embodies the notion of flexible living – “combining considered design with seamless technology” – would also provide new growth opportunities for the business, which is rapidly expanding its presence throughout the UK and Europe. In the first half of 2021, the group built upon its resilient 2020 performance when it achieved an average occupancy exceeding 70%. Cove will continue to serve a base of corporate clients looking for extended stays, while refocusing on leisure travellers. The first full Cove opening will be a new acquisition in the Liverpool ONE development. Cove Paradise Street will comprise 77 contemporary one to three-bedroom apartments and a large communal courtyard. Edyn will also transform eight of its existing Saco properties to Cove, with new fixtures and furnishings and branding. Saco properties in Reading, Nottingham, London (Covent Garden, The Cannon, St Martin’s Lane), Cardiff, Bristol (West India) and Manchester will all transform to the new brand. Edyn chief executive Stephen McCall said: “We have a tremendous opportunity to evolve and grow Edyn at a time when flexible, thoughtfully designed accommodation has never been more in demand. Combined with the foresight of our investors behind us and a world class team leading the brand, the launch of Cove will allow us to transform the traditional serviced apartment model and bolster our portfolio.”

Essex-based Turkish restaurant Kervan Kitchen heads to Basildon for third site: Essex-based Turkish restaurant Kervan Kitchen is opening its third site. The company, which specialises in traditional Turkish food, cooked over hot charcoal on a mangal grill, will launch the restaurant at Festival Leisure Park in Basildon. Construction work is well underway inside the former Moza Indian Buffet and Restaurant location, which closed in 2017. Kervan Kitchen announced its intention to come to Festival Leisure Park in 2019, but the opening was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, reports Essex Live. Kervan Kitchen currently operates sites in Brentwood and Romford.
 
Nottinghamshire wedding and events venue ceases trading after calling in administrators: A weddings and events venue in Nottinghamshire has ceased trading. Kelham Hall, in Kelham village, near Newark, has called in administrators in, leaving those who had booked weddings at the 19th century venue scrambling to make last-minute alternative arrangements. A statement on Kelham Hall’s website stated: “Please be advised that Kelham Hall ceased trading on Wednesday, 23 June as a result of the continuing effects of the covid-19 pandemic. The mortgagee has now taken possession of the property and the campsite and fishing pegs are closed. We are extremely sorry we are unable to continue with your booking. Insolvency practitioners have been appointed to place the company into liquidation and they will be in contact with all creditors in due course.” The grade I-listed building was built in 1863 and was the headquarters of Newark and Sherwood District Council for 40 years before being taken over by Kelham Hall in 2014 in a deal thought to be worth about £3m. It was then sold on to hotelier Jonathan Pass in 2018 who revealed plans to create a business centre and a boutique hotel.

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