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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 30th Jul 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Oakman paid just under £3m for six ex-Seafood Pub Co sites: The Oakman Group paid under £3m to acquire six former Seafood Pub Company sites earlier this year, Propel has learned. The Dermot King-led group paid £2.94m in total, including £2.88m for the long leaseholds, to acquire the sites out of administration in May. As well as restoring some 150 jobs, the deal saw Seafood Pub Company founder and former managing director, Joycelyn Neve, join Oakman Group as managing director of a new Seafood Pub division, initially based in the north. Oakman said the acquisition strengthened its aspirations to have 40 pubs in its portfolio by the end of 2021. The sites were the Alma Inn, Colne; Derby Arms, Longridge; Farmers Arms, Great Eccleston; Fenwick Arms, Claughton; Fleece Inn, Addingham; and Forest Inn, Fence. Last October, property advisory firm Christie & Co was appointed to market the ten sites formerly operated by Seafood Pub Company, which was placed into administration through BDO last June. Propel revealed in January the long leasehold of the Barley Mow in Barley Village, near Burnley, was acquired by a new independent operator. In an administrator’s progress report, BDO stated that aside from the deal to Oakman, one freehold site from the Seafood estate had been acquired for £374,201, and one long leasehold site has been sold for £494,781. In total, the eight sites sold have generated £3.44m in total. A final leasehold property reopened on 24 May 2021 and is currently being operated on behalf of the administrators by Queensway Retail Management.

Industry News:

Updated database of multi-site businesses released at midday today and another brand new database released at same time too: The updated database of multi-site companies for July, which is produced in association with Virgate, will be sent out today (Friday, 30 July) at midday. The Propel Multi-Site Database will include 71 additions and is exclusively available to subscribers. The 71 new companies operate 477 sites between them and increase the total number of companies on the database to 1,951. Subscribers will not only receive the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they will also be sent a 12,094-word report on the businesses added during July. 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. It is updated at the end of every month. Premium subscribers will also receive a new database at exactly the same time today, at midday, (Friday, 30 July). The New Companies Database will focus on the newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated at the end of every month. Meanwhile, subscribers also have access to another database called Turnover & Profits Blue Book. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month – on the second Friday of the month – 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. 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. In today’s (Friday, 30 July) Premium Opinion column, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks back at the week just gone, with a focus on the decision by NewRiver to sell Hawthorn to Admiral Taverns. Email to sign up.
Propel Friday Wrap video series with Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft: Propel continues its new Friday Wrap video series today (Friday, 30 July) at 3pm. The series, which is sponsored by innovative staffing solution provider Stint, sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel’s insights editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft to discuss current trading challenges, dealing with debt post-pandemic, how the culture of the business helped it get through the crisis, and what his and the company’s mindset is for the coming 12 to 18 months.

Furlough scheme set to wind down further: Furlough will be wound down further from Sunday (1 August) as the government asks employers to make a bigger contribution to the wage support scheme. An estimated 1.3 million people were using the scheme at the beginning of July, down from a peak of 5.1 million at the height of lockdown in January. The scheme has been extended several times but will end on 30 September. Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), known as furlough, staff receive 80% of their current salary, capped at £2,500 per month. The government has largely footed the bill for furloughed workers but, since 1 July, employers have been asked to contribute 10% towards the wages of furloughed workers for hours their staff do not work. That amount will rise to 20% in August and September. Since the start of the scheme, a cumulative total of 11.6 million jobs have been supported by the CJRS at various times. But, according to Tony Wilson, director of the Institute of Employment Studies, the number of people on furlough has been “dropping like a stone” as industries start to reopen. From the end of April to the end of May alone, those using the scheme fell by a third, from 3.5 to 2.3 million. However, he noted some industries would be more exposed than others when the scheme finally ends, such as aviation and transport, which remain subject to restrictions. Wilson told the BBC: “The answer is not extending furlough but re-skilling people to take up the record number of new vacancies being advertised.” The Trades Union Congress said it was “great” so many people had been able to return to work from furlough, but added some firms still required it. “Doubling the employer contribution is too much too soon, putting jobs at risk in some parts of the economy,” said Frances O’Grady, the union’s general secretary.
Hospitality and catering courses added to level 3 lifetime skills guarantee offer: The government has added hospitality and catering courses to its new level 3 adult offer after controversially excluding the industry when the policy was first announced. Almost 400 level 3 qualifications covering sectors including engineering, construction, public services and IT have been fully funded for all adults without a full qualification at level 3 – equivalent to two full A-levels – since April, under the £95m National Skills Fund scheme. Industries such as hospitality, tourism and media were left off the original list because they were deemed to be a low priority with low wages. But following heavy lobbying, the list has been updated with 12 courses in the hospitality and catering industry. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Despite being the nation’s third highest pre-covid employer, our sector currently faces an acute skills and staff shortage. Hopefully, this announcement, hot on the heels of a bespoke hospitality strategy, can be one of many steps towards upskilling our workforce and allowing people to experience the wonderful, fulfilling roles that hospitality has to offer. Our sector will be at the forefront of the skills and job-led recovery that this nation needs and this initiative will help people transition into our sector.” British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “As restrictions are removed on pubs and they begin their road to recovery, we know they have a vital role to play in helping the communities they serve build back better. The inclusion of hospitality and catering qualifications is a great first step for this.”

One in four ‘hybrid workers’ consider hospitality an acceptable place for remote working: Almost one in four “hybrid workers” consider hospitality venues an acceptable place to work remotely, according to a snap poll from KAM Media. Pubs, restaurants and coffee shops are particularly attractive to younger “hybrid workers”, with 26% of Generation Z and younger Millennials saying they would consider working remotely from these venues, compared with just 7% of over-55s who prefer to work from home or at a dedicated co-working space. The poll found good Wi-Fi, great coffee, minimal music, plug sockets and also great lunch options are the top five things that make a venue appealing for remote working. Almost two in ten (17%) of respondents were interested in a separate dedicated space for remote workers while 16% said they need to feel confident staff are happy for them to be there. KAM Media’s poll found 12% of hybrid workers would be interested in a monthly subscription for limitless hot drinks or soft drinks. Managing director Katy Moses said: “With fewer than one-in-four companies planning on making employees come into the office five days a week, we have a much bigger pool of hybrid workers in the UK and many don’t want to spend all their time working at home. It’s great to hear so many workers see hospitality as a credible place to work. The industry needs to continue to think differently and give customers every reason to want to visit, whatever the time of day. More than ever, we can’t rely on what has worked in the past.” 
KAM Media is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Just Eat moves from fixed to variable service charge on orders from restaurants where it takes care of delivery: Just Eat has moved from a fixed to a variable service charge. The company said the change would only apply to orders from restaurants where Just Eat takes care of the delivery. The service charge will be 5% of the food order value with a minimum payment of 50p and cap at £1.99, “so customers will never pay more than this, regardless of how much they choose to order”. Just Eat told Propel most restaurants using the platform take care of their own deliveries, thereby remaining unaffected. A spokeswoman said: “To help us ensure we continue to deliver the best takeaway experience for all of our customers on behalf of our restaurant partners, we have moved from the current fixed service charge to a variable charge, depending on the food order value. The change will only apply to orders from restaurants where Just Eat takes care of the delivery and simply reflects the continued investment in our delivery service.” But the move has been criticised by rival Foodhub. Chief executive Ardian Mula said: “We never charge a service fee or a convenience fee to the consumer, unlike our rivals. Takeaway apps have been some of the most successful businesses over lockdown due to the lack of viable alternatives for food and drink in the hospitality industry. However, now we’re easing out of lockdown, takeaway aggregators need to do their part to support not only the consumer but also the rest of the hospitality industry and not put profit before progress as the economy strives to recover.”
Just Eat is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Extended hours of London congestion charge set to be scrapped ‘to support hospitality businesses’: The extended hours of the London congestion charge into the evenings are set to be scrapped “to support the capital’s culture, hospitality and night-time businesses”. But the 30% rise that was introduced in June last year will be made permanent under Transport for London (TfL) plans. TfL had said the rise – from £11.50 to £15 a day – was a temporary measure. But it now wants to keep the higher price but reverse the increase in the scheme’s hours. London mayor Sadiq Khan said a public consultation would be held. The plan to abolish the fee after 6pm has been welcomed by sector businesses. The charge currently applies between 7am and 10pm, every day except Christmas Day. The hours were extended during the pandemic, having previously run from 7am to 6pm only on weekdays. Under TfL’s proposals, the charge would return to those hours, but be payable seven days a week. Cameron Leslie, director of Fabric nightclub, told the BBC: “Any measure to encourage people back into central London at this time by whatever mode of transport should be wholeheartedly supported.” Khan said the congestion fee needed to be at a level where it could help the city’s economic recovery without compromising environmental improvements. He said: “These proposals support the capital’s culture, hospitality and night-time businesses, which have struggled so much, as well as encouraging people to walk, cycle and use public transport.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to established managing directors to join a boutique hotel group. This position would suit someone located on the south coast and is paying circa £120,000 base salary, plus bonus and benefits. This business currently has six hotels/inns and is looking to expand and diversify. Experience with bedrooms and food and beverage in a quality environment is key for this role. The managing director will oversee all properties including the launching of new sites across the country and be tasked with growing the overall sales as well as reputation of the brand. They will lead the overall business strategy, working on financials, marketing, property acquisitions and food and beverage development, with assistance from dedicated teams. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Urban – ‘pingdemic’ providing another layer of anxiety, ‘Freedom Day’ a damp squib: Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), said issues brought on by the “pingdemic” were providing another layer of anxiety for operational teams, but there had been a “slight softening” on the level of disruption recently. Last week, Greene King said it had been forced to close 33 pubs in the due to staff shortages brought on by the “pingdemic” of the NHS Test and Trace app ordering people to self-isolate. Urban told Propel that in terms of closures due to the “pingdemic”, M&B was at a similar range. He said: “Being a big company, we are perhaps able to manage it better and move people around – say close a smaller site to make sure a bigger one stays open. But in terms of operational issues, it has added another layer of anxiety at a time when there are plenty of other issues to face, whether that is cutting trading hours or only being able to provide a limited menu. We have seen some softening of numbers impacted by being pinged but it is too early to say whether this will continue and become a trend.” Urban said “Freedom Day” on 19 July, when all restrictions were lifted, had been a “damp squib” and that the business had anticipated and experienced “more capacity coming back over the weekend just gone”. In terms of the introduction of covid passports for pubs, Urban said he couldn’t see it happening and the threat of them was a nudge to get more young people to get vaccinated. He said: “It may be more of an issue for the wider sector, and especially the late-night sector, who may say ‘why are we being singled out and not pubs?’, but we are not set up, in the majority, to handle long queues and it would be very onerous if that actually happened.” Urban said that, this weekend, self-service would return to the group’s Toby Carvery sites, but that across its Harvester estate, team members will remain on hand to serve people from the salad bar. He said: “We are going to take our time with that in Harvester because the feedback during the crisis has been that people have liked being served by staff, which has led to a tidier salad bar but still allowed customisation.”
M&B features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has recently been updated for Premium subscribers. M&B turned over £1.475bn in its most recent financial year, making it the highest of the 280 companies featured. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks the 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 to sign up.

KFC UK system sales up 248% in second quarter and 80% year to date, largest increase of all markets: Yum! Brands has reported KFC system sales in the UK rose 248% for the second quarter, ended 30 June 2021, compared with the previous year when many of its stores were shut as a result of the pandemic. The increase was the largest in all of KFC’s markets as the business continues its recovery. In the year to date, KFC system sales are up 80% on the previous year, which is, again, the highest of all its markets. The UK accounts for 6% of KFC’s system sales worldwide. Globally, KFC like-for-like sales in the quarter increased 30% with US like-for-like sales up 11% – system sales worldwide rose 44%. For the division, like-for-like sales grew 2% compared with 2019 levels, which includes the impact of about 1% of stores being temporarily closed at the end of the quarter. Operating margin increased 9.1%, driven by like-for-like sales growth, lower bad debt expense and unit growth. KFC opened 522 gross new restaurants in 62 countries during the period. Operating profit was up 108% to $318m. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut system sales in Europe, including the UK, were up 26% – the continent accounts for 8% of Pizza Hut’s system sales globally. Year-to-date sales are down 3% in the region. Pizza Hut sales in the quarter were up 14% globally, with like-for-likes increasing 10%. US system sales, which account for 45% of global sales, were even. For the division, like-for-like sales grew 1% against 2019 levels, which includes the impact of about 2% of stores being temporarily closed at the end of the quarter. Pizza Hut opened 210 gross new restaurants in 36 countries during the period. Operating margin increased 4.5%, driven by like-for-like sales growth. Operating profit was up 18% to $103m. Taco Bell like-for-like sales increased 21% and system sales were up 24%. Operating profit increased 29% to $198m. Taco Bell opened 91 gross new restaurants in 18 countries during the period. For the division, like-for-like sales grew 12% compared with 2019 levels. Yum! Brands’ total revenue in the quarter was up 34% to $1,602m.

Big Table Group appoints KFC’s Paul Stokes as head of acquisitions: Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge, has appointed Paul Stokes as the company’s head of acquisitions as it looks to grow the business. Stokes will oversee strategic acquisitions and expansion plans across the group’s portfolio of brands and joins from his role as head of franchise development at KFC UK & Ireland, where he was responsible for brand development, site acquisition and expansions for more than 13 years. Prior to his role at KFC, Stokes also held a senior position at CBRE, as director – client retail strategy. Big Table Group property director Matt Ainger said: “With his tremendous knowledge and understanding of the sector, Paul will be a fantastic addition to team as we look to grow our business.” Stokes added: “The Big Table Group is a business with big growth plans, and I look forward to taking on this new role and helping to develop its much-loved brands, particularly during this exciting time ahead as restrictions continue to ease.” Big Table Group operates more than 150 restaurants across the UK and Ireland. The group was formed in July 2020 to acquire and operate the Las Iguanas, Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia brands that were previously managed by Casual Dining Group (CDG), in concert with the existing management team.
Founder of Heavenly Desserts sells brand rights, to focus on Haute Dolci rollout: Nizam Mohamed, founder of the Heavenly Desserts brand, has sold the rights to the brand to focus on the expansion of his Haute Dolci and IceBurg concepts. Mohamed agreed to accept a seven-figure settlement to transfer his rights in the Heavenly Desserts brand to an entity operated by Mohammad Imran and Mohammed Yousif. This brought an end to High Court proceedings started by Mohamed, which began in 2018, regarding the ownership of the Heavenly Desserts brand. As part of the settlement, Mohamed agreed to rebrand the two Heavenly Desserts sites in Preston and Birmingham to Haute Dolci restaurants. The two venues, located in Miller Arcade in Preston and Ladypool Road in Birmingham, will undergo extensive refurbishment ahead of their official reopenings, which are expected to take place later this summer. Mohamed opened the first Heavenly Desserts restaurant in Birmingham in 2008 and launched his second brand Haute Dolci in 2017. Following the settlement, he stated his focus going forwards will be on the continued growth of Haute Dolci alongside IceBurg, the gourmet burger concept he also launched in 2017. The group currently has 14 restaurants across the UK with a further 15 openings in the pipeline, including some international sites. He said: “We’re thrilled to be giving the Birmingham and Preston sites a full rebrand to officially welcome them into the Haute Dolci family. We want to assure our diners in the area that it will be the same friendly faces serving you as always but the sites will be undergoing an exciting new makeover. For myself and my team, our priority is to continue expanding our Haute Dolci and IceBurg brands, starting with the rebrand of the Preston and Birmingham sites. We’ve got a lot of exciting plans in the pipeline too and are looking forward to bringing new stores to several new locations across the UK and internationally.”

Redemption Roasters lines up Dulwich Village opening: The world’s first prison-based coffee company, Redemption Roasters, is set to add to its London estate with an opening in Dulwich Village. The seven-strong company is set to open at 29 Dulwich Village this summer. Last month, the business signed for its first location in the West End of London, occupying a Mercers Company site at 40 Drury Lane, Covent Garden. Using coffee to change lives, Redemption Roasters runs barista training academies across eight prisons, and its industrial-scale roastery sits within the walls of HMP the Mount, Hemel Hempstead. Max Dubiel, who previously founded Black Sheep Coffee, launched Redemption Roasters with old university friend Ted Rosner in August 2015.

Samyukta Nair to open third Mayfair restaurant: Samyukta Nair, the restaurateur behind Mayfair’s Jamavar and Bombay Bustle, is opening her third site. Nair will launch Mimi Mei Fair within a Georgian townhouse in Curzon Street on Tuesday, 7 September. Diners will be transported to old world China “within the resplendent rooms of Mimi’s private residence”. The opening will mark the third restaurant from the newly formed LSL Capital, founded by father-daughter duo Samyukta and Dinesh Nair. The three-floor restaurant is being reimagined as the secret London residence of Empress Mimi, which means “secret” in Mandarin. The kitchen will be led by Chinese-Singaporean executive chef Peter Ho with the menu featuring contemporary Chinese dishes from across Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China. The menu of sharing dishes will include a traditional apple wood-roasted Peking duck with homemade pancakes; and lobster cooked three ways – wok-baked with spring onion and ginger, steamed with Mimi’s pickled chili or braised with “Yung Chun” noodles. There will also be a private dining room that will seat eight while the Moon Bar will offer a range of cocktails. Samyukta Nair said: “My passion for Chinese food, art and culture began while living and studying in China, and it has remained an obsession. Dreaming the individual spaces to life and curating the menu with Peter has been such a wonderful experience.”
SpiceBox to double up with Leytonstone launch: SpiceBox, the London-based vegan curry house concept, is to double up. Founder Grace Regan will launch the site in Leytonstone this autumn. Having opened the original restaurant in Walthamstow in January 2019, SpiceBox plans to build on its success nearby, with an expanded dinner menu and a revamped weekend brunch. Taking over what was previously Vietnamese restaurant District Mot, the new SpiceBox is significantly bigger than its Walthamstow sibling, with up to 90 covers. As well as new dishes, the Leytonstone restaurant will offer favourites such as Jackfruit Jalfrezi and Shroom Keema – a rich mince of chopped mushrooms, walnuts, soya and peas. Its Tiffin Club, which allows guests to get their takeaways in a reusable metal tiffin time and time again, will also be running along with its in-house deliveries via electric bike. Regan published her first cookbook in April 2021 while SpiceBox has also launched a retail range of sauces and condiments. Available at local independent shops in London, the range will be expanded and offered nationwide from September.
Essex-based operator Oysterfleet lines up fifth site: Essex-based operator Oysterfleet is lining up its fifth site. The company has submitted an application to Castle Point District Council for a premises licence for an empty unit in High Road, Benfleet. It wants to turn the property, which was once a Co-op supermarket, into the Oyster Grove Brasserie and Bar. Oysterfleet has applied to be able to provide “late-night refreshment” until 11pm, along with licences to hold live music nights, reports Essex Live. The business operates the 41-bedroom Oysterfleet Hotel and adjoining Lighthouse restaurant, as well as Oyster Bay Brasserie and Sports Bar in Canvey Island and the Oyster Court Brasseries and Sports Bar in Southend.
Rohit Ghai to launch new venture next month as he returns to Mayfair: Rohit Ghai, former executive chef of Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Jamavar, will launch his new venture next month as he makes a return to London’s Mayfair. Ghai and business partner Abhishake Sangwan will open Manthan, an Indian restaurant with a focus on sharing plates, cocktails and mocktails, in late August. Taking over the former Lucknow 49 premises in Maddox Street, Manthan, which means “to churn and reflect” draws on Ghai’s childhood in Madhya Pradesh as well as his experience in some of London’s best Indian restaurants. The menu will feature “traditional flavours with a contemporary twist” while almost half of the dishes on the menu will be vegetarian. Dishes will include goat shami kebab in bone marrow sauce, and a Burford brown egg curry. The cocktail menu will be inspired by the seven oceans of the world. Asian spirits, fine and new world wine will also be available along with an extensive non-alcoholic cocktail menu. Ghai said: “I’ve never cooked this way before in London – dishes that truly speak to my past, as well as my present. Manthan is a culmination of many years of work and I hope it speaks to Londoners as being representative of the comfort food I love from home, as well as the food I have made my name cooking here.” In 2018, Ghai launched his first stand-alone restaurant with Sangwan, Kutir in Chelsea. Ghai, who also operates Koolcha at Boxpark Wembley, will also open Ishka 360, in Doha, later this year.
Whitbread to open Bar + Block restaurant in Edinburgh as part of Premier Inn extension: Whitbread is set to bring its steakhouse brand Bar + Block to Edinburgh later this year. The company is opening the restaurant in Princes Street as part of an extension that will also see 60 bedrooms added to its neighbouring Premier Inn hotel. Work is well under way on the conversion of the ground floor of the former New Look store into the restaurant. On opening, the restaurant will be the second Bar + Block in Scotland following the launch of the first in St Enoch Square in Glasgow in June. It will be 18th to open across the UK, all of which are located adjacent to Premier Inn hotels. The brand offers steaks hand-cut to order as well as a “butcher’s block”, burgers, grills, grazing plates and rotating specials and an extensive drinks list. Whitbread has been expanding Premier Inn across Scotland this calendar year with new hotel openings at the west end of Princes Street, St Enoch Square in Glasgow, Hamilton town centre and Thurso in the Highlands. Together, the new openings have added 566 Premier Inn bedrooms to its network of hotels in Scotland. The Bar + Block was the first planning application for a new restaurant in Princes Street to be approved following revisions to planning guidance by City of Edinburgh Council. 
Silo co-founder launches sustainable food and event space in Hackney Wick: Josh Bowles, co-founder of Silo, the world’s first zero-waste restaurant, has launched a sustainable food and event space in Hackney Wick, east London. Bowles has teamed up with DJ Dan Howells to launch Two More Years in Roach Road. Named after the amount of time that was on the lease before the property was due to be redeveloped, Two More Years has taken on the site formerly occupied by event space the Stour Space. Set across three floors, there’s room for up to 300 people, with all-day alfresco dining and drinking available. The menu includes offerings from Burger & Beyond, such as The Bacon Butter Burger – a 45-day dry-aged beef patty, double American cheese, crispy bacon, burnt butter mayo and pickled onions. There is also a choice of 17 organic and biodynamic wines, including four on tap, as well as craft beer, reports Hot Dinners.
Eclectic Bars reopens Putney nightclub for first time since lockdown: Eclectic Bars, part of Brighton Pier Group, has reopened its Le Fez nightclub in Putney, south west London, for the first time since lockdown. The company has spent the enforced months of closure developing and refurbishing the space. Le Fez underwent a £1m refurbishment in 2018. Now, the separate early evening bar and club room, Le Jardin, has been further enhanced with an extra £100,000 investment. As well as a new drinks list with a selection of cocktails, champagnes and spirits, the Le Jardin space also has the Secret Garden area. Meanwhile, the club offers its own premium drinks range, VIP service and private booths along with weekly DJ-led nights and comedy nights. Eclectic Bars chief executive Anne Ackord said: “After such a long period of closure and all the stresses that has involved, I am delighted to welcome guests both old and new to the amazing experience that is Le Fez.”

Chef Florence Knight joins forces with studios to open Clerkenwell restaurant next month: Chef Florence Knight, the wife of Polpo co-founder Richard Beatty, will open her new restaurant in Clerkenwell, east London, next month. 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, 11 August. 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. Accompanying the menu will be an extensive wine list. 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.
Hard seltzer company receives six-figure investment: Hard seltzer company The Alcoholic Water Company has secured a six-figure investment from Scotmid Co-op and Scottish Enterprise. The Alcoholic Water Company, which was founded in late-2019, is a collaboration between Glasgow-based innovation facility The Start-Up Drinks Lab and London-based drinks-marketing agency Whitelabel Group. Craig Strachan and Hannah Fisher, founders of The Start-Up Drinks Lab, and Drew Shannon and Greg Saunders, founders of Whitelabel Group, have all previously established drink businesses in their own right. Purchasing a minority stake in The Alcoholic Water Company is Edinburgh-based retail chain Scotmid Co-op, which will also provide mentoring and support to the founders. Scotmid Co-op chief executive John Brodie said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the founders to establish this start-up. They bring not only experience but drive and passion to the brand. We can see from our retail insight this is a fast -growing sector of the market and there are opportunities to establish a brand at the premium end.” Also investing in this initial round is Scottish Enterprise, Scotland’s national economic development agency. Jan Robertson, interim director of growth investments, said: “The founders’ industry experience and entrepreneurial vision has seen them recognise and quickly capitalise on a great opportunity in the drinks market. This investment will help them build on their solid start by supporting the growth of their footprint in the UK and overseas.” Fisher said: “This seed investment will support our ambitious growth plans, including extending our presence in UK grocers, expanding internationally and cementing our commitment to a better future for all through achieving our B-Corp accreditation.”
New tapas bar concept to open in Malvern: A new tapas bar concept is to open in Malvern, Worcestershire. Lucy Dunlop will launch Bar Limon in Church Street in the coming weeks in the former Clarks shoe shop. She has signed a five-year lease on the premises through agent Fisher German, acting on behalf of a private client. The bar and restaurant will feature indoor seating as well as a secret garden area at the back of the property where customers will be able to enjoy a range of tapas and drinks, including an extensive range of Spanish wine. There will also be live music as well as a gallery space for local artists to display their work. Dunlop said: “When living in Spain and South America, I fell in love with Spanish food and have always wished there was a lively tapas bar in Malvern so, after being made redundant from a corporate role in senior management, I decided to invest in launching my own.”

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