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Mon 2nd Aug 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

SBPA – almost 300 pubs shut permanently in Scotland since start of pandemic: Almost 300 pubs have closed permanently in Scotland since the start of the pandemic, according to the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA). It comes as the trade body said more than 200 pubs in the country could reopen for the first time on 9 August, if restrictions are lifted, enabling them to trade viably again. The Scottish government is expected to confirm a removal of restrictions from 9 August and announce baseline measures this week. Key for the nation’s pubs is the removal of table-only service and an end to the midnight curfew, which the SBPA said must be removed if Scottish pubs are to trade viably once more. According to the industry, if these restrictions on pubs are removed, they can work with the Scottish government on other baseline measures so long as they are workable and maintain business viability. SBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “It is vital for our hospitality industry and pubs that key restrictions are removed. Scotland is estimated to have lost 285 pubs since the start of the pandemic, but a further 200-plus pubs could reopen on 9 August if enough restrictions are removed. We have been pushing the government strongly on this, particularly the need to end the curfew on trading hours, which has meant late-night premises are unable to open, and the end of table-only service – which has been devastating to many of our smaller establishments. If heavy restrictions remain in place beyond the baseline that make pubs unviable then pubs could be at risk of closing for good. It is crucial the Scottish government gets this right and aligns us as closely as possible to the other nations of the UK to ensure our recovery is not outpaced and we lose out on investment. If that support falls short though, we’ll see more business failures on top of the 285 pubs already lost.”

Industry News:

Next edition of Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability to add 73 companies: The next edition of the Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability, produced in association with Mapal Group, will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday 11 August at midday, and will add 73 companies. This means the Blue Book will now feature 352 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £29.6bn. The Blue Book has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 172 companies in profit and 180 reporting losses. The Blue Book, which is 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. Last Friday, Propel premium subscribers received the updated database of multi-site companies for July, which is produced in association with Virgate, The latest Propel Multi-Site Database included 71 operating 477 sites between them and increase the total number of companies on the database to 1,951. Subscribers received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also 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. They also received a new database on Friday (30 July). The New Companies Database, produced in association with StarStock, focuses on the newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated at the end of every month. 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 Friday’s (30 July) Premium Opinion column, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looked back at the week just gone, with a focus on the decision by NewRiver to sell Hawthorn to Admiral Taverns. Email to sign up.

Self-isolation easing in Wales a ‘huge lift’ for businesses, says UKHospitality Cymru: The easing of self-isolation requirements in Wales from later this week is a “huge lift” for hospitality businesses, said UKHospitality Cymru. Wales will become the first UK country to stop asking fully vaccinated adults to self-isolate after close contact with a positive covid case. The change will affect more than two million people who have received two jabs and under-18s will also be exempt under the new rules being brought in from Saturday (7 August). UKHospitality Cymru director David Chapman said: “This represents a real breakthrough for Welsh hospitality businesses and it’s a very positive response to our regular reporting to Welsh government of the shackles imposed on businesses by the ‘pingdemic’. The message has certainly hit home. We’re delighted our members now have a chance to fully reopen and to try to make the most of the visitor economy high season after months of economic turmoil.”

Discounts from Uber and Deliveroo will lure young people to get covid jab: Cheap taxi rides and takeaway discounts are to be deployed by the government in an effort to boost covid vaccination rates among the young, amid growing legal and political pressure on Boris Johnson over the use of vaccine passports. With figures inside the cabinet concerned about the plans already in place to enforce vaccine passports in some settings, the government’s focus has turned to using incentives to drive up vaccination rates over the summer to head off another covid wave as offices, schools and universities reopen. Car-hailing companies Uber and Bolt, as well as delivery service Deliveroo, are all involved in plans to offer consumers discounts. Latest take-up figures suggest that 60% of 18- to 25-year-olds have received at least one jab, but ministers are concerned that demand from younger age groups is levelling off.

Danny Meyer’s restaurants to require indoor diners and staff to prove covid-19 vaccination: US restaurateur Danny Meyer has said his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) will require all indoor diners and employees to prove they received the covid-19 vaccine. He made the announcement on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” TV show as covid-19 numbers continue to rise across the US due to the Delta variant. The policy will impact restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke and Union Square Cafe. Meyer added Shake Shack “will make the appropriate decision for it at the appropriate time”, separately from USHG. “This is the most logical thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’m not a scientist but I know how to read data and what I see is that this is a crisis of people who have not been vaccinated and I feel strong responsibility, on our part as business leaders, to take care of our team and our guests, and that’s what we’re doing.” In fact, Meyer said he believed requiring proof of vaccination would actually encourage more people to dine with USHG, not fewer. He added: “I think the vast majority of people that dine out, especially indoors, don’t want to see us go back to how things were where we had either no opportunity to serve people indoors, or last September for the first time, we could serve 25% capacity. We know, right now, that the vaccine works and it’s time to make sure this economy moves forward. There’s just no going back.” USHG is among the first major companies to require proof of vaccination for indoor access. Employees have 45 days to decide whether or not to get vaccinated. Meyer said the company has offered workers eight hours of pay to simply get their shot on top of “various” other resources over the past 150 days.

Nightclubs start asking for NHS covid pass in England: Some nightclubs in England have started to ask customers to show “covid passports” before they are allowed to enter their venues. The government said it planned to make vaccine passports compulsory in some settings such as nightclubs and crowded events from the autumn. However, some venues have already started to request revellers to show their NHS covid pass for entry. The O2 Ritz in Manchester and Electric Ballroom in Camden both require guests to show a valid NHS covid pass. To get inside the venue, customers must have had a negative covid test, have existing antibodies or be fully vaccinated with two doses of a jab, reports the Standard. Other venues under the O2 chain and run by Academy Music Group, which has 18 venues across England, will tell guests anybody attending their venues will also have to show a covid pass. It stated: “While covid-status certification might not be mandated by law right now, the latest government guidance states venues, such as ours, where people are likely to be in close proximity to others outside their household, are encouraged to use the NHS covid pass to certify covid status for all visitors.” Last month, hospitality industry leaders warned the government it could face legal action over plans for compulsory vaccine passports for nightclubs and other “large crowded settings” in England.

Cumbria Tourism calls for government aid to halt ‘pingdemic effect’ on hospitality industry: Cumbria Tourism has called on the government to allow workers in the hospitality industry to continue to work if they test negative for covid-19 after being “pinged”. Cumbria Tourism said businesses were dealing with the constant fear of having to deal with sudden staff shortages at a time when they should be celebrating reopening. Alongside a severe ongoing recruitment crisis, with businesses operating at about 20% below their employment needs, the so-called “pingdemic” is often causing staff bubbles to self-isolate at extreme short notice, often leading to postponements, cancellations and even temporary closures, Cumbria Tourism said. Chairman Jim Walker said: “The industry is permitted to open and visitors are desperate to enjoy our world-class hospitality. Instead, businesses have a constant fear of having to deal with a sudden staff shortage and the knock-on effects to productivity, customer satisfaction, reputation and morale. As an industry, we have worked hard to put the safety of staff, visitors and communities first through a wide range of covid-secure practices, yet a single ping can take us back to square one. That’s why we’re calling on the government to allow the industry to bring back double-vaccinated workers following a negative test, and potentially single-vaccinated workers following two negative results.” A lack of overseas staff due to international travel restrictions and recent immigration changes has also led to Cumbria Tourism calling for a seasonal worker scheme and creation of a short-term working visa initiative to help the industry recover to a post-Brexit world. Walker added: “It’s ridiculous, and quite frankly insulting, to classify chefs and other hospitality workers as unskilled. This is a national crisis, but one that is disproportionally affecting rural visitor economies.”

Company News:

Wolstencroft – We are well-positioned to go on the front foot: Martin Wolstencroft, chief executive of Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has said the business is well positioned to go on the front foot and grow faster than “we have ever done before”. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Wolstencroft said that the business, which operates 17 venues – predominantly under its three growth brands, Banyan, BOX and Manahatta, was well-positioned to go after new opportunities. He said: “We have traded our socks off. We are in a far, far better position, one where we can kick on from and grow the business again. We are on-site in Birmingham for a Manahatta and then we hope to get a BOX opened in Deansgate, Manchester by November. That has only been brought about by our fantastic trading and how we have performed as a business over the past year, when we have been allowed to. I really want to attack now. We would like to get further funding, but banking’s tough at the moment because banks are being quite conservative, so we are working hard with them at the moment. They need to work with us and understand that for businesses like ours there are fantastic opportunities to go on the front foot and grow faster than we have ever done before.” In terms of the debt the business took on over the crisis, Wolstencroft said he thinks it helps customers to understand why this was necessary. He said: “In terms of debt it was something we had to do. You can’t hide away from it. There are not many organisations that haven’t had to take on greater debt to get through this, it is a bit like mental health, why don’t we talk about it and help each other through. I also think it helps customers to understand this. The week after we reopened, I had a customer saying ‘you must be doing well, you must be raking it in’…well what about the £5m of debt we have had to take on to get through this. So, I think it does help to bring a bit of balance into it and people knowing about it. We still have to pay that money as we are getting through this. It took a long time to secure a CBIL, there were a lot of hurdles we had to go through. Trying to financial model, that was difficult, we didn’t know when we going to get VAT support and rates support, or when we were going to reopen.”

Former M&S boss Stuart Rose invests in Roasting Plant Coffee: US coffee shop concept Roasting Plant Coffee has secured £1m of growth capital, including investment from former Marks & Spencer chairman Lord Stuart Rose, to aid its further expansion, Propel has learnt. First developed by US entrepreneur Mike Caswell in 2007, the brand currently operates two sites in London and five in the US. It will open a third site in the capital in the Foodhall at Selfridges, Oxford Street, London, at the end of this month. This will be followed by an opening opposite the Rosewood Hotel in High Holborn. It is also in advanced talks on a site in the West End. The business made its UK debut in London, in Borough High Street under the stewardship of chief executive Jamie Robertson in January 2019. It launched a second site in London last year on The Strand. Robertson told Propel that the company plans to expand in the UK, the US and into continental Europe. Roasting Plant’s concept revolves around its patented Javabot technology, a largely automated roasting and brewing system that integrates every stage of coffee craft from green bean to beverage. Robertson said: “One of the biggest industry issues is that not many artisans make money, so they find it very hard to do the volumes. Hence, you have amazing coffee shops turning themselves into restaurants. Our economic model and business operations solved many of those issues. Using automation, we’re able to deliver specialty just-roasted coffee with personal choice at volume, at speed and with consistent quality, and we can do that in every single store.”

Real Eating Company to be open on The Strand: Real Eating Company, the independent cafe and coffee concept led by Helena Hudson, is to open a site on The Strand, London. Propel understands that the company has secured the ex-Starbucks site opposite Charing Cross Station for an opening later this year. The business, founded by Hudson in 2004, recently launched its latest site, its eighth in total, in Petty Cury, Cambridge. It followed the milestone opening of the brand’s first London site in 2020, located in King’s Road, Chelsea. Real Eating Company plans to open further sites “in desirable locations”, including expanding its footprint in the capital. The rollout will bring the brand’s hyper-local proposition to more consumers across the UK, the company said. Hudson said: “We are proud to have enjoyed a period of strong growth over the past two years and believe our recent openings, in London and now Cambridge, will add real value to local high streets while also offering a change from the big chains and corporates. I am looking forward to continuing this momentum through 2021, growing our business, creating jobs and supporting smaller British producers along the way.” Since the opening in Cambridge, the business has continued to strengthen its operations team, with the appointments of John Ng, formerly of Pret a Manger as its new head of brand and creative; Jana Jakubcikova, ex-operations from Itsu and Pure; and Elvira Trindade, formerly of Nando’s and EAT, as a general manager. Hudson said: “They have all already made a significant contribution in helping us make the leap to a bigger, better business, primed to grow.”

Small Batch Coffee to return to expansion trail, plans London opening: Small Batch Coffee, the Brighton-based company backed by the former owners of Coffeesmiths Collective, is to return to the expansion trail with up to four new openings, including its first outside the south east. As revealed by Propel earlier this spring, the seven-strong company will start its new roll out plans with the launch of a new bar and kitchen concept – Small Batch Bar and Kitchen – at 7 Duke Street, in Brighton in the final quarter of 2021. It will follow this with an opening on the former Nordic Bakery site in Golden Square, London, before the end of the year. The business then plans to open further sites in Bristol and York. Propel understands that the latter site will open at 21 Coppergate, York. The expansion of Small Batch is being led by Stefan Allesch-Taylor, the founder of Coffeesmiths Collective and the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. Its new bar and kitchen concept will be centred around “great food, great coffee, great cocktails and great times”. Several businesses run by Coffeesmiths Collective, including Filmore & Union Restaurants, were placed into liquidation last year. Small Batch Coffee was moved to a newly incorporated company still overseen by a number of former Coffeesmiths Collective directors. Coffeesmiths also operated the likes of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Baker & Spice, Roasted Rituals, Nordic Bakery, La Bottega Milanese, Spring Espresso and CoffeeWorks Project.

Caring confirms Scott’s for Richmond plan; to invest a further £10m in Bill’s: Serial sector investor Richard Caring has confirmed he is to take on the former Revolution site in Richmond to open a second site for his Scott’s concept. As Propel revealed in May, Caring has taken on the site Whittaker Avenue for a Scott’s on the River concept he has been toying with for a while. The backer of Caprice Holdings, Bill’s and the Ivy Collection, already operates an Ivy Cafe and a Bill’s in the area. In January, Propel revealed Caring had lined up at least three new openings, including plans to open on the former La Brasserie site in London’s South Kensington. Caring is believed to have secured the La Brasserie site in Brompton Road, which closed in 2017, for a yet unspecified, new restaurant project. He is also set to open a new restaurant venture in Mayfair, after it was confirmed he had secured the former Porsche Garage in North Audley Street. He is still working on plans to reopen the former Princess Garden of Mayfair site in North Audley Street, which he acquired in 2016. It had previously been earmarked for a Caprice Cafe concept but may now become another Ivy Asia. At the same time, Caring told the Sunday Times that he plans to plough £10 million into refurbishments of his Bill’s estate. Eight of the 52 restaurants will be fitted out with bars and will feature DJs and live music. “Not to turn them into a nightclub,” he added hastily. But “some of the Bill’s need a lot of help”. 

Franco Manca plans Chelmsford opening: Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned pizza brand, which is looking to add another six to seven sites to its 55-strong estate by next March, is looking to open in Chelmsford. The David Page-chaired business has applied to take on the former The Works site in the centre of the town. Propel revealed last month that Franco Manca had lined up a new opening in central London, at 91-93 Baker Street. The 55-strong brand, which recently opened in High Holborn and Glasgow, is also understood to be exploring openings in St Albans and Cardiff. Parent company Fulham Shore is currently on site in Norwich, building what will become the 20th site under its The Real Greek brand when it opens in September. It plans to secure a further four to five new The Real Greek sites before next March, with a site in Manchester mooted. It is thought the company currently has six sites in solicitors’ hands across both its brands. 

The Restaurant Group partners with Joseph Holt to open £3m pub at Manchester airport: The Restaurant Group (TRG) Concessions has opened a pub at Manchester airport in a new partnership with north west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt. The Bridgewater Exchange is a £3m, 972 square metre, pub in the new terminal two and is the largest airside bar. It offers an all-day menu that champions local flavours and products alongside the full range of Joseph Holt beer. In addition to the traditional pub operation, The Bridgewater Exchange features Europe’s first airside microbrewery. Located at the end of the bar, the brewery is built behind bomb-proof glass with the huge steel brewing barrels in full view of the bar area, giving guests the opportunity to witness the house beer in the making. Joseph Holt chief executive Richard Kershaw said: “Our brewery is now in its 172nd year – and so forms an integral part of the history of Manchester. The opening of the Bridgewater Exchange confirms our commitment to the future and success of the city.” Jonathan Knight, managing director of TRG’s leisure and concessions division, added: “After three years in development and a number of delays following the coronavirus pandemic, we’re proud to open a fantastic new brand showcasing the best that Manchester has to offer. Our exciting new partnership with Joseph Holt has allowed us to really take our operation and range at The Bridgewater Exchange to a whole new level and after a very positive first week’s trading, I’m looking forward to seeing the great things that this location will deliver.”

Rosa Thai’s Cafe extends plant-based sister concept to Birmingham: Rosa’s Thai Veggie – the plant-based delivery and takeaway-only sister concept to restaurant group Rosa’s Thai Cafe – has expanded to Birmingham. Rosa’s Thai Veggie began as a three month-long vegetarian-only pop-up at its London restaurant in Dean Street, Soho. The concept returned as a virtual brand in London Fields in March this year, and is also available for home delivery, exclusively through Deliveroo and for takeaway via click and collect from Rosa’s Thai Cafe Birmingham, located at Two Chamberlain Square. Although running alongside the current Rosa’s Thai Cafe delivery option, Rosa’s Thai Veggie is a separate offering, and the concept has ambitions to expand to further cloud kitchens and explore bricks and mortar opportunities down the line. The menu combines reworked Rosa’s Thai Cafe classics, including founder Saiphin Moore’s signature stir-fried aubergine dish and tofu pad Thai, alongside new dishes including Chu Chi tempeh, a thick and creamy Panang curry with kaffir lime leaves and fresh chillies. Moore said: “Growing up with meat was a bit of a luxury for us – we ate a lot of vegetables and if we did eat meat, it was locally farmed. I’m pleased to see a trend of more and more people trying to eat a plant-based diet and am happy to be able to offer some amazing vegan and vegetarian Thai dishes, still true to my family recipes, but with a couple of small changes so more people can enjoy them.” Rosa’s Thai Cafe, which is backed by TriSpan, operates 25 sites across London, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester, with plans to open up to six new restaurants this year and continue to add to its delivery kitchen estate.

Burhill Group to open third Ninja Warrior UK site, in Leeds: Burhill Group, owner and operator of 22 golf courses across ten UK golf clubs, as well as ten Adventure Leisure facilities, is to open its third Ninja Warrior UK site, in Leeds. The site at Ramshead Approach in the Seacroft area of the city will open on Thursday (5 August) and will be the largest to date. Visitors will be able to jump, climb, balance and swing across various obstacles using ninja skills. As well as a warped wall, Ninja Warrior UK in Leeds will feature a ninja cafe and inflatable “airpark” with bouncy balls, tunnels and a battle zone. In May, Burhill Group became an officially licensed operator of two of ITV’s Ninja Warrior UK adventure parks in England. The appointment saw Burhill Group and Adventure Leisure take over operations at the Ninja Warrior UK venue in Sheffield, as well as the facility in Southampton, with an agreement in principle to develop three new sites per year over the initial five-year partnership period. As part of the deal, Burhill Group will also explore opportunities to license other ITV Studios programme brands. The Leeds opening will mark the 12th Ninja Warrior UK site with offerings in Harlow and Bradford to follow.

Burger & Lobster appoints executive development chef: Burger & Lobster, the 16-strong surf and turf restaurant group with locations in London, New York, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuwait and Malaysia, has appointed Paul Greening as executive development chef. Greening, who has almost 30 years’ experience in the industry, will be responsible for menu development and implementation, chef recruitment and training, and will work closely with suppliers “to ensure the brand’s commitment to serving the highest standards of food and best possible sourcing practices are met”. Managing director Dino Sura said: “We are committed to evolving our menu and ensuring we deliver impeccably sourced, quality food consistently. We look forward to seeing some exciting new dishes from Paul.” Greening’s career date has taken him across the globe with his UK experience, including group executive chef roles at Aqua Restaurant Group, Australasia in Manchester and Novikov in London, as well as other positions held at La Tante Claire under Pierre Koffmann and Bibendum.

Sustainably focused gin brand expands to retail with founder believing ‘time for bricks and mortar sites to make a comeback’: Norfolk-based, sustainably-focused, gin brand Bullards Spirits is expanding to retail with its founder believing “it’s time for bricks and mortar sites to make a comeback”. Starting primarily in Norwich, the 2020 festive pop-up shop is now a permanent fixture in Chantry Place shopping centre in the city, and Bullards Spirits recently opened a Gin Shop & Tasting Room concession in the Jarrold department store in nearby London Street. Bullards Spirits is also heading to the capital with a retail unit opening in Westfield London in White City on Tuesday, 10 August. The company plans to open other retail units in key shopping destinations in the UK in the coming year. Driven by founder Russell Evans, 2021 has seen the team working to adapt and evolve the business model to deliver the Bullards Spirits experience to shoppers across the UK. This shift to retail through a new and evolving omnichannel strategy aims to create sales by transforming the purchasing process through new sensory touchpoints. Evans said: “We are embarking on this new project to better connect with our customers. At the tail end of last year, we saw, first-hand – through our customer feedback and the success of the Christmas pop-up at Chantry Place – how physically bringing the Bullards Spirits experience to our customers really works. Shopping habits are changing. Consumers want to have a share in the whole brand experience, rather than just having their eyes on the end product. We believe the time has come for brick and mortar stores to make a comeback and we want to lead the change in the drinks sector with this revolutionised new model of shopping.”

Deliveroo set to shut down Spanish operations: Deliveroo is set to shut down its operations in Spain, months after the government announced changes to the legal status of gig economy workers. The company, which listed in London earlier this year, said it would consult on pulling out of the market due to the high levels of investment needed and uncertainty over future returns. Deliveroo stated: “The company has determined that achieving and sustaining a top-tier market position in Spain would require a disproportionate level of investment with highly uncertain long-term potential returns that could impact the economic viability of the market for the company.” It comes after the Spanish government ruled that workers for food delivery platforms and other companies should be classed as employees. A court ruling last month found Deliveroo employees in the UK should be classed as self-employed. However, Uber drivers have successfully won the right to be treated as employees. Deliveroo operates in 12 markets worldwide, with the vast majority of its gross transaction value (GTA) coming from countries where it holds a number one or two position in the market. Spain, where it faces competition from companies including UberEats, Just Eat and Glovo, represented less than 2% of its overall GTA in the first half of this year. Deliveroo said its proposal to exit the country reflected its plans to focus investment and resources on its other markets, with further growth of consumers, drivers and restaurant partners as well as launching in more towns and cities. It comes after Deliveroo pulled out of Germany in 2019 amid tough competition from Dutch-owned Lieferando. The company added the plans would not impact its previously announced full-year guidance on GTV growth and gross profit margin.

Black Axe Mangal to return as FKABAM: Lee Tiernan-led Islington restaurant Black Axe Mangal is set to return under the new name – FKABAM. The Canonbury Road, north London, restaurant that served favourites such as squid-ink flatbread and grilled hispi with fermented shrimp butter has been closed since the first lockdown in early 2020. Black Axe Mangal has appeared during the pandemic with a ready-to-bake smoked ox cheek pie kit for delivery and, more recently, with monthly changing meal kits of its classic dishes such as lamb offal flat bread. No date has been announced on the opening of FKABAM, which stands for Formerly Known As Black Axe Mangal.

Flight Club opens in Bristol for eighth UK site: Flight Club, the darts concept owned by Red Engine, has opened a site in Bristol for its eighth UK venue. Located in Corn Street, the venue is home to seven oches, a total capacity of 200 and a bar with bookable tables for drinks. Flight Club said it “blends the nostalgia and warmth of a British pub with the energy and excitement of a fairground in its atmosphere and decor”. Each oche is a semi-private area so guests have their own space. The food offer includes sharing platters, pizzas and sides with cocktails to drink. Flight Club Bristol has a brunch offer as well. Chief executive Steve Moore said: “Bristol is a city that excites us a lot. The area is famous for its lively hospitality scene and we’re just thrilled to be a part of it.” The brand is set to open sites in Dublin, and Perth in Australia. Flight Club is also opening a third US site, in Las Vegas, with its licensed partner State of Play Hospitality.

D’Acampo opens restaurant named after his son in The Strand as part of Melia partnership: Chef Gino D’Acampo has opened his latest restaurant – Luciano – at the five-star ME London hotel in The Strand. Named after his eldest son, 19-year-old Luciano, the open-plan 100-cover restaurant is the chef’s fourth collaboration with hotel group Melia Hotels International and the first with ME by Melia, which has created 60 jobs. The venue has its own private entrance that houses a glass wine wall displaying an extensive selection of premium Italian wine. Executive head chef Lorenzo Minini, who has worked at StreetXO, C-London Cipriani and Osteria San Lorenzo, leads the kitchen. D’Acampo and Minini have designed the à la carte menu, which has ten key sections – cicchetti; antipasti; carpaccio and tartare; insalata; pasta, risotto and gnocchi; pizza Napoletana; dal mare; bistecca; and dalla terra. Signature dishes include braised beef cannelloni, spaghetti lobster and rose veal cutlet Milanese. An in-room dining service is available to hotel guests too. Salt of the Earth mixologist Chris Edwards has created the cocktail menu that includes signature Luciano cocktail – Goodfellas – featuring Maker’s Mark, Ancho Reyes red, thyme sugar, fresh lemon, miraculous foamer, red wine float, mozzarella, basil and pepperoni. D’Acampo said: “Every opening is an important occasion but this launch, in particular, has a personal and special place, it being named after my first born, Luciano, and it being my first with the world-renowned ME by Melia.” The opening is D’Acampo’s second new restaurant to launch this year, with a third new opening set to take place in Liverpool in August.

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