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Mon 26th Jul 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Gilkes – we need a test and release scheme or the next three weeks are going to be long and painful: Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, the London-based group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s, has said that unless the government quickly introduces a test and release scheme, the next three weeks for the hospitality sector are going to be “long and painful”. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Gilkes, who last Monday reopened the group’s Chelsea-based nightclub Maggie’s after 17 months of closure, said: “We’ve gone from a lockdown to an effective shutdown. We recently had to close three of our sites for ten days and nothing feels worse than letting people down at the last minute. There is growing frustration because these rules don’t make sense. We need a test and release scheme or the next three weeks are going to be long and painful. To have waited so long for revenue and to have the demand, we count ourselves fortunate that we have lots of people wanting to come to our places, but to not be able to service that demand, and not because of a lockdown, but a kind of lockdown by the back door, has been very difficult. It has been hard on our staff, with the operations team needing to firefight rather than focus on the recovery, and horrible for our reservations team members who have to call people to change their booking. I’m looking at September and thinking that is the point where everyone has had a double jab. By then, case levels are, hopefully, still on the way down but it is going to be choppy waters for the rest of the summer. My other frustration is how nightclubs are being singled out, and seen as politically expendable.” Gilkes said it felt busier in the capital compared with last summer, with older generations returning. He said: “Yes, it’s a bit busier and some more offices have come back, but nothing like 100%, it’s more like 20% to 30% over, say, 10% last year. The difference this summer to last year is that we are seeing older generations come back. I went to one of our sites this year and I was the youngest person in there by 20 years whereas, last year, that generation – the over-50s and 60s – weren’t coming out at all.” Gilkes said he has heard people will be returning to their offices in September, after everyone has been double-jabbed. He said: “They are not returning five days a week but more probably three days a week, but when they do return, I don’t see that as a 40% drop in our revenue because they will make more regular social gatherings and team nights out and do different, more experiential things – our gin safaris have never been so busy. I think competitive socialising is going to boom.”

Industry News:

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Updated Propel Premium database of multi-site companies to include 12,094-word report on new additions, another new database also released on Friday: Propel Premium subscribers will receive an exclusive report on the new additions to the database of multi-site companies of 12,094 words when it is released on Friday, 30 July, at midday. The Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will include 71 additions and is exclusively available to subscribers. The 71 new companies operate 477 sites between them. The 12,094-word report details the new additions to the database while information on all companies has been updated during the past month. 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. Premium subscribers will also receive a new database at exactly the same time this Friday (30 July). A Guide To New Openings will focus on the newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated every month. Meanwhile, subscribers also have access to another database called Turnover & Profits Blue Book. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers already 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. Propel 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 to sign up.
Peazi founders reveal how mobile ordering is ‘revolutionising’ hospitality operations in latest The Supplier Perspective video: In the latest of Propel’s video interviews with leading sector suppliers, Niels Nielsen and Dave Pickering, founders of order and pay system Peazi, share their customer-centric solution that is “revolutionising” hospitality operations. Allowing customers to order and pay in less than 20 seconds, with no app download and no lengthy sign-up process, the duo talk about how sites using the solution are seeing a 20% increase in the sale of cocktails and 300% increase in tips. The video will be sent out as a stand-alone email on Tuesday (27 July) at 9am.
British workers now make up more than half of sector’s workforce with EU staff at lowest level since at least 2016: British workers now make up more than half of the sector’s workforce with the proportion of EU staff at its lowest level since at least 2016, according to new data from software provider Fourth. Fourth said the data highlights an ongoing shift occurring within the sector’s labour market, accelerated by disruption caused by covid-19, concerns over job security and immigration policy. The data, aggregated from the analysis of more than 700 companies across the restaurant, pub, bar and quick-service restaurant (QSR) sectors, revealed EU workers made up 37% of the hospitality workforce in June 2021, compared with 43% in June 2019. British workers made up 51% of the workforce in June 2021, compared with 46% in June 2019. The proportion of workers from non-EU countries has remained relatively steady, increasing slightly from 11% in January 2020 to 12% in June 2021. The total sector headcount in July is still down 13% compared with July 2020, and down 23% compared with July 2019. The total headcount for the second quarter of 2021 was down 25% compared with the same period in 2020. According to Fourth’s data, 45% of payroll staff remain on full or flexi-furlough, the smallest proportion of workers since the scheme was introduced. British workers account for 32% of back-of-house roles and 55% of front-of-house roles, the highest proportion seen since Fourth started recording this data in 2016. Conversely, workers from EU nations recorded the lowest proportional figures on record in the month, accounting for 52% of back-of-house roles and 36% of front-of-house roles. Over the course of June, British workers accounted for almost two thirds (63%) of all new hires across the sector, again the highest figure on record, while EU nationals made up just a quarter (28%) of new hires – a significant reduction since January 2019 (50% of new starters). Workers from non-EU nations made up 10% of new hires, a figure that has remained relatively steady since 2019. The pub sector appears to be the most resilient, with its headcount down 7% this month compared with July 2020, followed by hotels (13% down), restaurants (14% down) and QSRs (15% down). The number of hours worked in June 2021 increased by 378% compared with June 2020, yet this was still down by 26% compared with June 2019. There were 54% more starters than leavers in June 2021, a figure that has been consistent since April this year.

UKHospitality – sector facing summer of venue closures and reduced service after being left off self-isolation exemption list: The sector is facing a summer of venue closures and reduced service when it should be at its seasonal peak following the government’s decision to leave the industry off the self-isolation exemption list, UKHospitality has warned. Downing Street has released a list of 16 sectors where fully vaccinated workers may be exempt from isolation if they are told to quarantine after coming into close contact with a positive covid case – but hospitality is not among them. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, said: “It is disappointing the government has drawn the list of roles so tightly and left hospitality and the rest of the economy to face the consequences. We now face a summer of venue closures and reduced service when we should be at a seasonal peak. The sector will do all it can to provide great service but it will be with one hand tied behind our back. We all want to stop the spread of the virus but we need a more pragmatic solution from government. Those who are fully vaccinated should be able to test after a ‘ping’ and, subject to a negative result, carry on with their lives. For those not fully vaccinated two negative tests should be sufficient to return to work.” Gareth Ogden, partner at sector specialist accountancy firm haysmacintyre, added: “While larger groups have clearly experienced a very challenging past 15 months, it is the smaller groups and single-site business that are likely to be most at risk having drawn down all available resources to stay afloat to date. They lack the financial strength and diversity to survive further setbacks.”
haysmacintyre and UKHospitality are Propel BeatTheVirus campaign members
Group of Scottish hospitality businesses propose new process to guide businesses struggling with ‘pingdemic’: A group of Scottish hospitality firms has proposed a new process to guide businesses struggling to cope with the “pingdemic” forcing thousands of workers into self-isolation. It comes as a straw poll among hospitality firms by the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) found businesses are having to spend about 40% of their lost revenue to close and reopen – meaning a £10,000 bill becomes £14,000. The process is a practical flowchart that bosses can follow to assess the risk to staff while waiting for test results from colleagues with symptoms. It categorises staff as no risk, definite risk and potential risk, based on a series of prompts such as vaccination history, if they have had covid and how closely they work with others. It then provides recommended actions for each category. The recommended approach could avoid businesses having to close unnecessarily. It has shared the process with Westminster and Holyrood governments and is urging them to consider using it as official guidance to help bosses manage the staffing crisis affecting multiple sectors and which is threatening the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “Business owners want to do the right thing by their staff and the public, so the lack of clear, consistent guidance from both governments is really frustrating. The fact we need to make decisions that affect our businesses, the health and safety of our staff and customers means we can’t afford to sit back and wait for NHS Test & Trace to get in touch. Our proposed process may not be perfect but it’s better than the vacuum we have just now and it would allow everyone to make sensible decisions that balance jobs and health. As an industry, of course, we agree with the principle of testing and tracing to stop transmission but, ultimately, it has to be underpinned by a robust system that actually works.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a large international beer brand that is seeking a regional sales manager to join its north London team to act as a brand ambassador and increase growth within targeted outlets. The regional sales manager will be responsible for building the brand with key customers, identifying quality, distribution, driving throughputs and growing visibility. They will lead selling and negotiating of new distribution in the on-premise side of the business with predominantly independent free-trade and leased/tenanted channels. They will also build long-term trading relationships with the key volume and image accounts, and work closely with third-party suppliers and wholesalers. Additionally, the regional sales manager will support UK-wide customers with engagement activity and deliver brand education and training as well as support the greater business with strategy and analysis. The position is based in north London, paying up to £35,000, plus benefits. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Doppio Malto begins building UK pipeline, secures first site in England: Italian restaurant chain Doppio Malto has begun to build its UK opening’s pipeline, after securing its first site in England. The brand, which currently operates 28 restaurants across seven Italian regions and one in France, has secured a site in the Metrocentre, Gateshead, for an opening before the end of the year. In April, Doppio Malto announced it had chosen Glasgow for its first opening in the UK, the first of 100 planned sites for the brand in the UK. The brand will launch in the city’s George Square, in the 8,000 square foot site formerly occupied by Jamie’s Italian. It is currently undergoing a significant refurbishment, which will include the creation of a basement bar and a 180-seat restaurant. Doppio Malto, which translates as “double malt”, specialises in craft beer and “hearty” Italian food. The Italian business will be joined at the Metrocentre by Slim Chickens – the US brand that is operated in the UK by Boparan Restaurant Group. It will open at the scheme next month. Ben Cox of Sovereign Centros, senior asset manager for Metrocentre, said: “Both brands have chosen Metrocentre to make their regional debut highlighting the centre’s attractiveness as a complete shopping, dining, and leisure destination. Slim Chickens and Doppio Malto offer something completely different and will provide visitors with a unique new dining experience.”

Grind promotes Kyle Boyce to managing director of high street business: Coffee shop, bar and restaurant operator Grind has promoted Kyle Boyce to managing director of the restaurant side of its business, Propel has learned. Boyce has been with the David Abrahamovitch-founded business for the past four and a half years, including the past two years as its operations director. Before that, he spent more than eight years at Soho House Group. Abrahamovitch told Propel that Grind was now a “business of two halves – high street and online/roastery” with Boyce now the managing director of the seven-strong former part. During the course of the pandemic, the company has used its direct-to-consumer coffee business to subsidise its hospitality side. Last September, Abrahamovitch told Propel the group’s online coffee business had gone from being a negligible revenue stream to “significant”. He added: “It’s been phenomenal. We had been planning to expand the online business but coronavirus has seen us execute a five-year plan in five months. We’re now on track so that, by this time next year, the revenue split between online and high street will be pretty much 50:50.”

Ex-Leon marketing director Rebecca Di Mambro joins Vagabond: Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond has appointed Rebecca Di Mambro, formerly of natural fast food brand Leon, as its new marketing director, Propel has learned. Di Mambro stepped down as marketing director at Leon earlier this year after six and a half years with the EG Group-owned business. Prior to that, she worked at Nestle and Polpo. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Vagabond, which was founded by Stephen Finch, is to make its regional debut with an opening in Birmingham. The nine-strong group, which recently opened in Principal Place, Shoreditch, has secured the former Chilango site in the city’s Colmore Row for an opening later this year. Earlier this year, Finch said the business was in talks with prospective partners regarding a launch in Germany with the hope that a first site could be open there before the end of this year. At the same time, the company still hopes to launch a site on the South Bank this summer. Finch said the company was also in negotiations on a further two sites.

Poké House strengthens as market leader in Europe with Poke Perfect investment: Milan-based, fast-casual brand Poké House, which made its debut in the UK after acquiring the Ahi Poké business earlier this year, has further strengthened its position as the market leader in Europe with an investment in Poké Perfect, the largest poké brand in the Netherlands. Poké Perfect, which launched its first store in 2016 and now has 11 sites, with another three openings imminent, said the new investment would accelerate its expansion plans with 25 new Poké Perfect locations planned across Benelux over the next three years. Matteo Pichi, co-founder and chief executive of Poké House, said: “We decided to invest in Poké Perfect because we see in its approach and model many synergies with our concept: fresh and high-quality recipes served in stores with a design and layout that reflects the brand’s philosophy. And that innovative and passionate spirit typical of a start-up that wants to take its business further and further away with speed. This collaboration will allow us to further accelerate our growth in other markets that are interesting for us.” Poke House currently operates circa 50 sites across Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and the UK. It said the acquisition of the six-strong Ahi Poké represented a key step in a broader plan to open 200 new stores across Europe. It said it planned to launch seven venues in London this year, with the first UK Poké House restaurant planned to open in Notting Hill. 

Windsor & Eton Brewery closes crowdfunding campaign as it raises more than £760,000 to help expand pub and bar portfolio to 20 sites in five years: Brewer and retailer Windsor & Eton Brewery has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it looks to expand its pub and bar portfolio to 20 sites across the Thames Valley within five years. The company, which was founded in 2010 and operates three pubs and two bars, was initially aiming to raise £300,000 and was offering up to 10% equity, giving a pre-money valuation of £7.5m. But within three and a half hours of launching the campaign privately, more than £350,000 was invested. The business has now closed the campaign having raised £762,963 from 561 investors. Managing director Will Calvert said: “Crowdfunding gives our many fans and followers the opportunity to own shares in the brewery and will allow us to expand our pubs and bars beyond Windsor and across the Thames Valley.” The brewery now produces 1.5 million pints a year.

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New York-based restaurant Sunday makes UK debut: New York-based restaurant Sunday has made its UK debut. Founders Todd Enany, Adam Landsman and chef Jaime Young have launched the venue in London’s Notting Hill. It has taken over the site previously occupied by French brasserie Cote in Westbourne Grove. The two-floor venue “aims for a vibe that echoes the Brooklyn original”. Its menu includes dishes such as littleneck clams, garlic bread crumb and smoky bacon; and grilled swordfish, charred broccoli greens and butter bean pistou; along with its famed Sunday pancakes with hazelnut maple praline and brown butter. Drinks include an all-natural wine list and cocktails. Enany said: “We are excited to be opening in London, a city with a phenomenal food scene. We’ve brought a big taste of Brooklyn with us but are also working with new ingredients and local producers to make this a true London edition of Sunday in Brooklyn.” The original Sunday restaurant was launched in Brooklyn in 2016. Jake Bernstone, of Stonebrook London, acted on the Notting Hill deal.
Domino’s store growth slows amid labour challenges with additional wage increases ‘expected’: Domino’s Pizza continued its covid-era sales momentum with second-quarter international like-for-like sales up 13.9% despite a “very difficult staffing environment”. US like-for-like sales increased 3.5% during the period, but store expansion – a key aspect of the company’s strategy – slowed significantly with 35 net store openings over the previous quarter in the US. The slowdown is, in large, part due to labour challenges but also construction and permit hurdles. As a result, chief executive Ritch Allison said the company “expects to implement additional wage increases” this year to offset some of the increased demands from potential workers, and hopes to continue store opening acceleration in the second half of the year. Domino’s is also seeing an upward trend in off-premises sales in the US – particularly takeout over delivery – even as most areas of the country have gone back to normal. The bulk of that growth comes from pre-existing customers. Allison added: “We see the third-party delivery companies as our real competitors. We use a single transparent delivery fee [that does not] change based on what city you’re in, or any hidden fees.” Domino’s reported a 12.2% increase in company-wide revenues in the quarter, to $1.03bn, compared with the previous year, driven by US and international like-for-like sales growth and increases in the number of global stores.
BrewDog to open first beer hotel in England next month: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will open its first beer hotel in England, in Manchester next month. The company will launch the bar, restaurant and hotel at Bruntwood Works’ new Bloc development in Fountain Street. Called DogHouse Manchester, the venue will open on Friday, 6 August, and become BrewDog’s third site in the city. The 18-bedroom hotel will be set over three floors. At reception, guests will receive a welcome beer on arrival. Rooms will be furnished with shower beer fridges and draught beer taps while room service will offer food and drink from the restaurant and bar. A rooftop terrace will host another bespoke bar plus a taco food offering. The ground floor will comprise a 3,512 square foot bar and restaurant featuring a large outdoor terrace with 28 taps of draught beer. DogHouse Manchester is carbon negative.

Mosaic opens second site for social darts concept, in Cheltenham: Mosaic Pub and Dining, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, has opened a second site for its social darts concept, 180 Club. The company has opened the venue in Cheltenham. It is housed in The Fire Station in St James’ Square. The 180 Club has five oches for up to 25 guests, offering social, interactive darts games. McDonald said: “We couldn’t be happier to have our 180 Club concept up and running in this fantastic town. The Fire Station is an amazing venue, with fantastically loyal customers and we want them to know we’re still The Fire Station, with all the elements that they enjoy – fantastic food and drink and an incredible atmosphere.” Mosaic launched 180 Club in Birmingham in April 2019. Aiming to attract a new demographic to darts, 180 Club also offers cocktails, gourmet street food and sharing platters. In May, Mosaic, which operates circa 30 sites, acquired the freehold of The Larkshall in Chingford, which was previously let to brewer and retailer Greene King.
Mission Mars commits to Paradise Birmingham landing for Albert’s Schloss concept: Mission Mars, the north west bar and restaurant operator led by Roy Ellis, is set to open a second Albert’s Schloss site. It will be the fourth operator to commit to taking a site at Paradise Birmingham. The Bavarian beer hall concept joins Vinoteca, Dishoom and Rosa’s Thai – which have all committed to opening at the £700m Paradise Birmingham complex. Albert’s Schloss will open at a 10,000 square foot location on One Chamberlain Square in autumn. Mission Mars chief executive Ellis told The Business Desk: “Our establishment’s namesake, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s main squeeze, championed truth, beauty, freedom and love. Launched into many years of mourning by his untimely death, Queen Victoria named buildings up and down the country in his honour. Albert’s Schloss (or palace) in Birmingham will celebrate the beloved Prince’s values every day and all night long. We’re creating a retreat from the modern world where we invite guests to discover new things, celebrate one another and revel in the wunder of our magnificent Schloss. Influenced by our travels across Bavaria, Bohemia and Alpine European retreats, expect roaring fires, raucous musical performances, tankards of Europe’s finest beers and robust Bavarian food in our wonderful Paradise surroundings.” Rob Groves, regional development director with MEPC, developer-manager of Paradise, said: “[Albert’s Schloss] will offer a whole experience around eating, drinking, music and more to its customers and be an exciting new venue for the centre of Birmingham.” Paradise Birmingham plans to deliver up to ten new flagship buildings, offering offices, shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and a hotel across 17 acres in the heart of the city, together with a proposed 49-storey Octagon residential building.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe lines up York opening: TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Cafe has lined up a new site in York. The London-based company has made an application for a premises licence to City of York Council for a site at 1-3 Coney Street, which was previously Joe’s Kitchen. Earlier this month, the Gavin Adair-led company added to its London portfolio with an opening in Baker Street. Propel revealed last month Rosa’s is set to further add to its presence in London, with openings in Bloomsbury and King’s Cross. The company has secured the former ASK Italian unit in Grafton Way for an opening later this year, and a shell unit off Caledonian Road. The 25-strong group, which was founded by Alex and Saiphin Moore in 2008, also operates a handful of delivery kitchen sites. The business plans to open up to six new restaurants this year and continue to add to its delivery kitchen estate. 

McDonald’s sets diversity goals with largest suppliers: McDonald’s and its franchisees have committed, along with more than 20 of the company’s largest US-based suppliers, to increasing purchases of goods and services from diverse-owned vendors by 10% between now and 2025, setting a goal of $3.5bn – or a quarter – of their annual supply-chain spend. McDonald’s said its largest suppliers joined the new Mutual Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programme, which includes “the shared goals of supporting and empowering diverse-owned businesses, creating new pipelines of diverse talent, driving greater innovation and competition, and building economic growth in diverse communities”. McDonald’s said its US system, in 2020, spent about $14bn in its US supply chain, of which about 23% was with diverse-owned suppliers. It expects to increase purchases of goods and services from diverse-owned suppliers by almost 10% by 2025 from that 2020 base year. The company said it currently has about 385 diverse-owned businesses that supply goods and services to the company. In February, McDonald’s committed to leadership diversity and equity, with a goal of having 35% of its leadership roles, from senior director and above, filled by people from under-represented groups by 2025.
Hotel Chocolat raises £40m through shares placement: Hotel Chocolat, the premium British chocolatier, has announced that following placement of 11,267,605 shares, the company raised £40m to invest in its digital-led sales strategy. Hotel Chocolat, which operates circa 130 stores, completed the placement of 11,112,913 new shares priced at 355p per share. In addition, retail investors in the UK subscribed via a PrimaryBid offer for a total of 154,692 new ordinary shares at the placing price. All shares issued represents approximately 9% of the existing issued ordinary share capital of the company. Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive officer, said: “The £40m growth capital raised will be invested in our fast-growing business, furthering our aim of becoming a global digital-led chocolate brand. I'm delighted that our issue was oversubscribed, demonstrating the support Hotel Chocolat enjoys with its investors.”

Team behind Shepherd Market Wine House doubles up: The team behind the Shepherd Market Wine House in London’s Mayfair has doubled up. It has launched Brooks Mews Wine House in nearby Brooks Mews. The venue offers a carefully curated range of fine wine, champagne and spirits, which are paired with cheese and charcuterie. Head sommelier Gabor Juhasz said: “During the past year, we’ve had time to take a breath and work on our next move at Brooks Mews and we are excited to finally launch our new location. We wanted to shake up the wine bar concept and offer our customers an even more diverse, globally inspired cellar, in the very heart of the city.” 
Giggling Squid to open debut Nottinghamshire restaurant next month: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by BGF, will open its debut Nottinghamshire restaurant next month. The company, founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard will open the outlet in West Bridgford on Monday, 16 August, having previously secured the former Gusto Italian premises in Bridgford Road. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Giggling Squid would make its debut in the north west, with an opening in Manchester. The 38-strong company will open at the former Carluccio’s site in the city’s Spinningfields area. Propel understands Giggling Squid has another four sites in legals and is looking at locations in Liverpool and the north east, with Harrogate, York, Newcastle and Durham previously mooted as possible destinations for the brand. BGF invested in the business in 2015. Andy Laurillard told Propel, in May, he expects Giggling Squid to undergo some sort of process next year, with an initial public offering thought to be a possibility.
Thai Express opens site at Leicester’s Fosse Park: Thai street food concept Thai Express has opened a site at Fosse Park in Leicester. As revealed by Propel last month, Thai Express has launched within Food Central at the development. The 80-seat restaurant’s menu offers soup, noodle and rice dishes and sides, as well as the traditional pad Thai. Thai Express started in Montreal, Canada, in 2001, and was brought to the UK by master franchisees Uzma and Sachin Pattani in 2012. The brand now has more than 300 branches internationally, including eight in the UK. Last month, Propel also revealed Thai Express is lining up a site in the Edinburgh St James Quarter scheme for its debut restaurant in Scotland. The company is also thought to be planning an opening in Camden, north London.
Loungers to open site at new Essex complex alongside ten-screen Empire cinema: Listed cafe bar operator Loungers has been named as the first of six food and beverage operators to take a site at Basildon’s new East Square scheme. Independently owned cinema operator Empire Cinemas will run a ten-screen site at the Essex venue as well, which is expected to open in February 2022. A spokesperson for Loungers told Essex Live: “We are excited to be an anchor tenant for the East Square scheme in Basildon. We think this scheme will be a great addition for the town centre, and are looking forward to welcoming customers to our Lounge here”. Cllr Andrew Baggott of Basildon Council added: “The progress on this scheme is exciting and the cinema and restaurants will breathe new life into this part of the town centre. We want East Square to become a real destination of choice for our residents and I am delighted Loungers has chosen our town to expand its offer.” Cllr Anthony Hedley added: “East Square will be a vibrant development, which will bring a night-time economy and more life into the town centre while boosting trade for local shops and providing new jobs for our residents. It’s excellent to have Loungers confirmed as our first restaurant and we look forward to more announcements of this kind in the coming months.”

UK’s largest ice rink operator to open site in Bristol: The UK’s largest ice rink operator, Planet Ice, is set to open a new ice rink at Bristol’s Cribbs Causeway in autumn. The company, which currently runs 14 sites across central and northern England, will provide international-standard skating facilities that will accommodate a range of ice-related activities and sports, including being the home of the Bristol Pitbulls ice hockey team, which has played its home matches at Oxford Ice Rink since 2012 due to the closure of the former Bristol ice rink in Frogmore Street. The rink at Cribbs Causeway shopping centre, off Merlin Road, will have capacity for 1,300 spectators. A Planet Ice spokesman told Bristol Live: “We’re excited to be working towards an opening of September for Planet Ice in Bristol and fit-out is currently under way. We’ve been concentrating on reopening all our sites since the easing of restrictions, and the timeline for our new Bristol venue has been adjusted slightly because of this.” Construction of the main building was completed in autumn 2020, before developer Baylis Estates handed the site over to Planet Ice. David Mace, managing director of Baylis Estates, said: “This is fantastic news for Bristol and something for ice skating and ice hockey fans to look forward to following the closure of the old Frogmore Street rink back in 2012.” 

Experienced hotelier and restaurant operator takes former PizzaExpress site in Kent: Experienced hotelier and restaurateur James Thomas is set to open a new site at the former PizzaExpress in Ramsgate. Thomas, who owns the Royal Harbour Hotel, which houses the Empire Room restaurant, and seafront diner Little Ships, will reopen the Harbour Street venue as Travellers in Italy in mid-August. Thomas told The Isle of Thanet News: “Formerly a bank, it’s an iconic Ramsgate building and sits proudly next to our current restaurant, Little Ships, right on Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour. It will be called Travellers in Italy – we inherited a pizza oven. It will allow us to offer another restaurant experience to our guests at the Royal Harbour Hotel and to our visitors and customers who know us well through the Empire Room and Little Ships.” Travellers in Italy is named after a picture Thomas bought many years ago by late Ramsgate artist Michael Blaker. Thomas bought a former bed and breakfast site, which is now the Royal Harbour Hotel in 1999. He expanded into adjoining properties on Nelson Terrace and, in 2014, the Empire Room restaurant also opened in the property. Meanwhile, Little Ships opened in 2018.

Birmingham-based Global Venues to open new 3,500-capacity music spot in city in September: Birmingham-based Global Venues is to open a new 3,500-capacity music spot in the city in September. Forum Birmingham is taking over the space previously known as The Ballroom, which has lain dormant for a decade having had a spell in the 2000s as Carling Academy Birmingham. Global Venues, owned by the Chauhan brothers, has extensively renovated and modernised the space, ready for launch on Friday, 3 September. Some of the upgrades include restoration of the original woven wooden sprung dance floor, a steel mezzanine and new sound system and LED screens. Global Venues’ other sites include Que Club, Void, The Monastery and 52 Gas Street.
South Shields-based pizza trader to open debut bricks and mortar site: South Shields-based street food trader Up North Pizza Company is to open its first bricks and mortar site. The business has agreed a ten-year lease agreement for a unit at Westoe Crown Village in the town in a deal brokered by CRT Property Investments. Up North Pizza Company uses the site as a base for its catering operations, as well as a shop. A spokesman said: “This is ideal for us as we have a base and location that we can work from, while also operating a mobile catering unit. The shop will be an extension of our already successful pizza business and will allow us to offer our local community additional services such as coffee, baked goods and deli produce.”

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