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Tue 3rd Aug 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Individual Restaurants appoints Karen Forrester as executive chair, to close four sites: Individual Restaurants, the operator of the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill brands, has appointed former TGI Fridays chief executive Karen Forrester, as its new executive chair. Propel understands the 28-strong company appointed Forrester to oversee its next stage of growth earlier this spring. Forrester, who is also chair of the Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond, stepped down from TGI Fridays in October 2019, after leading the brand for more than 12 years. During her tenure, Forrester is credited with turning around TGI Fridays’ fortunes in the UK after years of decline, scrapping the tired image she described as “clown-like” and investing in open kitchens, oak floors and leather seating. Ice Acquisitions, the new vehicle controlled by Sir Malcolm Walker and Tarsem Dhaliwal, acquired the bulk of the Individual Restaurants business out of administration last November in a deal worth more than £40m. It has now announced it is to close four sites – the Piccolino restaurants in Clitheroe and York, and The Restaurant Bar & Grill in Manchester and The Alderley Bar & Grill, Cheshire. The business said it was entering a period of consultation with 140 staff affected. Forrester, said: “The closure of these sites is part of a long-term investment and development plan for the future of Individual Restaurants. Our main priority is to keep our people within our Individual Restaurants family by offering opportunities to relocate to other Individual Restaurants’ locations, we will be supporting them throughout this process.” In June, Propel revealed Individual Restaurants had appointed David Carroll, formerly of TGI Fridays and Whitbread, as its new property director. Carroll left TGI Fridays after 13 years at the end of 2019, where he was predominantly its property director and, more recently, its chief strategy and property officer.

Industry News:

Sponsored story – tech firms launch partnership to help hospitality and leisure businesses modernise their finance functions: Virgate, the dynamic finance team, has announced a new partnership with software provider 4PointZero to help operators revolutionise their approach to operations and finance. The partnership will give Virgate customers industry-leading, real-time financial and operational reports, via a unique 4PointZero dashboard, designed specifically for hospitality. The dashboard incorporates many sector-specific features, including insight on click and collect sales and cash-ups to help protect against fraud. Sarah Travell, founder and chief executive of Virgate, said: “We take a digital-led approach, ensuring our clients have access to the very best technology and systems to simplify their finance operations and to extract quicker, better information to drive performance. Our partnership with 4PointZero is a brilliant illustration of this – and we are delighted to be able to bring our customers live reporting, 24/7 access and some transformational analytical tools. It’s a partnership that will make a genuine difference and help our clients through the ongoing rebuild and recovery ahead, beyond the pandemic and with the further easing of restrictions.” Virgate works alongside finance directors and boards of growing SMEs to provide first-class, rapid MI to run their business better and give stakeholders a reassuring clear picture. For more information about Virgate and its dynamic solutions, please visit www.virgate.co.uk. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com 
 
Mark Wingett’s Ones to Watch a new feature in next edition of Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability: 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, 13 August, at midday, and will feature Propel insights editor Mark Wingett’s Ones to Watch. Wingett’s report will provide analysis on the companies he considers best-positioned in the UK marketplace to achieve significant growth. The next edition of the Blue Book will also 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 (30 July), Propel premium subscribers received the updated database of multi-site companies for July, which is produced in association with Virgate. The latest edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database included 71new companies, operating 477 sites between them, and increases 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. Subscribers 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. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.
 
‘Pingdemic’ app to be tweaked to reduce numbers forced to self-isolate, more than a quarter of a million sector staff members told to stay off work: The NHS Test and Trace covid-19 app in England and Wales is being tweaked so fewer contacts will be advised to self-isolate following a close contact with a positive case. The move comes as UKHospitality research showed more than a quarter of million sector workers had been “pinged” and ordered to self-isolate. The app will now look for contacts two days prior, rather than five, when someone without symptoms tests positive. A survey by UKHospitality of hundreds of sector businesses that operate around 17,000 venues and employ a total of 308,000 people has shown the difficulties operators have faced from the Test and Trace app. The results suggest six in ten hospitality businesses have had staff off work after being “pinged” and 267,000 people or 13% of the industry’s workforce have recently been, or are currently, self-isolating. This has led to operators taking drastic measures just days after being able to trade restriction-free for the first time in 16 months, with four in ten forced to either fully or partially close. Others have had to take steps to mitigate the problem, including: almost half (47%) have reduced trading hours, about six in ten are relying on remaining staff to work longer hours; others have moved to limit menus (39%) and/or offering a takeaway-only service (8%). On the update to the app, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “This intervention from government is absolutely necessary to prevent a complete loss of summer trading for the hospitality sector following prolonged periods of severely disrupted trading. This will help to alleviate some of the pressure currently being experienced by hard-hit businesses, but is not a silver bullet. The fact that fully vaccinated staff will still currently have to self-isolate is a significant barrier to venues operating viably and moving towards recovery.” Meanwhile, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The so-called ‘pingdemic’ has had a huge effect on the recovery of our sector. It has meant that as many as 1,000 pubs have had to temporarily close due to staff of pubs being pinged. On average, each pub forced to temporarily close due to staff being pinged costs £9,500 in lost trade per week and our larger venues much more. If the changes to the app do not bring about the desired shift in the severity of the pingdemic, the government must explore other options. A test to release system is critical for our sector to unlock our young workforce.”
 
‘Pingdemic’ leaves 25% of English nightclubs facing closure or reduced hours: Almost a quarter of nightclubs and late-night venues in England face closure or reduced opening hours as the “pingdemic” continues to exacerbate already acute staff shortages across the hospitality sector. The FT reports, in the week after 19 July, the first day nightclubs were permitted to reopen since March last year, 78% of businesses were missing staff owing to the government’s covid-19 self-isolation rules, according to figures published by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). A quarter of venues had all of their staff in quarantine after being “pinged” by the NHS Test & Trace app, while 72% of nightlife businesses said they were considering temporary closures or cutting trading hours even as they began to generate revenue for the first time in 15 months. Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, described the data as “hardly surprising”. “We have seen, first-hand, the carnage brought to operations due to last-minute staffing deficiencies,” he said. “It’s an absolute nightmare. We have had to re-profile nights and move staff between venues. We are now losing revenue because we don’t have enough staff to service the customers coming,” said Aaron Mellor, managing director of Tokyo Industries, which runs 45 clubs and late-night bars across the UK. In the first week of trading after 19 July at Digital, a Tokyo Industries’ club in Newcastle, Mellor said he had 27 staff members working from a minimum needed of 45 because of a combination of self-isolation and staff deciding, at the last minute, not to return to the business when they were taken off furlough. Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK, the UK’s largest nightclub operator, said the shortage of security staff was most acute. He added that he himself had been pinged three times.

Peach introduces new profit share initiative: Gastropub operator Peach has introduced a new profit share initiative. The 19-strong group said the new initiative would see “GMs, HCs, DMs and SCs get a share of the pub profit and an uncapped share of profit growth – a real chance to share in the success of the business”. Operations director Chris Stagg said: “One of our key values in Peach is ‘Peach shares ownership’ and having 18 months to think, it was time to change the way we reward our managers. So, we introduced our new profit share initiative. Now GMs, HCs, DMs and SCs get a share of the pub profit and an uncapped share of profit growth, a real chance to share in the success of the business. We then committed to pay this, for June 2021 no matter what. June saw a like-for-like growth of 45%, taking out all government help, so a real number. Yes, we spent a considerable amount of money on our externals and kitchens, but our team delivered. For July, we paid out around £100,000 of profit share for the month. Some of the guys had £3,000 of profit share alone, just for the month. The importance of ‘team first’ and committing to promises is critical to growth.” Last month, Peach helped launch the Net Zero Pubs and Bars initiative with NetZeroNow. Aimed at helping SMEs (ie, single sites and small-to-medium multiples) reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. 
 
Levy UK to no longer use air freight: Levy UK, the sports and hospitality sector of Compass Group UK and Ireland, is bringing in plans that will mean it no longer uses air freight in the supply of produce to its portfolio of leading sports and hospitality venues across the UK and Ireland. The industry-first decision, which has been developed and deployed throughout 2021, forms part of the ongoing evolution of Levy’s wider food strategy in the new year and beyond, and represents a significant step towards the company’s carbon-neutral ambitions. The move will see an even greater emphasis placed on British seasonality by the Levy procurement team and executive chefs when designing menus across venues including Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, The O2 arena and the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. Under the new approach, dishes prepared by Levy chefs will increasingly reflect seasonality both in terms of composition and taste, using in-season ingredients when they are at their peak in terms of both flavour and nutritional value. This sharpened focus on seasonality will see Levy chefs using runner beans, asparagus and seasonal berries instead of previous imported items such as fine beans, South American asparagus and air-freighted berries from over the world. Levy has worked closely with Foodbuy, the procurement arm of Compass Group UK and Ireland, to analyse the journey of all food produce supplying Levy UK venues and ensure that point-of-origin is specified and clearly labelled on the fruit and vegetables used by company chefs. Jon Davies, managing director of Levy UK, said: “It has long been our ambition as a company to divest from the use of air freight in our procurement and supply chains. As the market leader in sports and leisure catering, we believe it is our duty to continue leveraging the power of our supply chain to drive better environmental, safety and welfare standards right across our sector. We are constantly building, shaping and refining our regional, national and international supply networks to ensure Levy remains an agent of change at the forefront of the food industry.
 
More than 150 Welsh pubs could reopen on 7 August: The Welsh Beer & Pub Association has claimed more than 150 pubs in Wales could reopen on 7 August, if the Welsh government presses ahead with the planned removal of most covid restrictions on that date. The Welsh government has previously stated it intends to review and remove most of the remaining restrictions from 7 August. In total, there are just over 3,000 pubs in Wales, meaning 5% of the pub sector in Wales has still been unable to reopen and trade for nearly 17 months. The Welsh Beer & Pub Association has held constructive and encouraging meetings recently with the Welsh government to highlight the restrictions that are limiting the viability of pubs, but also baseline mitigations that can remain in place, keeping customers and staff safe. Key for the nation’s pubs is the removal of table-only service and social distancing. The calls from the Welsh Beer & Pub Association come as first minister Mark Drakeford announced all adults who have been fully vaccinated would no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone with coronavirus from 7 August. The Welsh Beer & Pub Association and British Beer & Pub Association are now urging other UK nations to follow the lead of Wales and ensure consistency across the UK.
 
Johnson – discounts and incentives to drive vaccine uptake is the lesser of the evils: Serial sector investor Luke Johnson has said the government’s initiative to work with businesses including Deliveroo and Pizza Pilgrims to offer discounts and incentives to customers who get a covid-19 vaccine in a bid to further drive uptake among young people is the “lesser of the evils”. Talking to GB News, Johnson said: “I think it is far preferable to real coercion like vaccine passports and preventing people from getting access to all sorts of things, like university lectures or nightclubs. I would prefer this sort of persuasion – call it a bribe if you want – to compulsion, which effectively vaccine passports would be. If the government is so determined that every single [person aged over] 18 should get vaccinated then I suppose this is the better of the two choices.” Johnson said there were “two severe impacts of the ‘pingdemic’”. He said: “One is that many companies are seeing up to 10% or more of their staff self-isolating, the vast majority I believe who are not really showing symptoms of illness but are having to stay at home and are unable to work. And that is damaging many companies’ abilities to function properly. I have also recently read research that actually quite a large proportion of the population, perhaps 35% or more are reducing the amount they go out because they are afraid of being close to someone who might have a positive test and they might get a ping and, therefore, they have too self-isolate. The industrial-scale testing we are doing in this country is unnecessary and overkill, and the sooner they cut back on it and reduce the self-isolating times and so forth, the better.” When asked about the end of the furlough scheme and whether we are about to see a lot of people told there is no job to go back to, Johnson said: “I think for a certain number, yes. To give the government credit, unemployment never rose nearly as high as people like me thought it would and, in many sectors, like the hospitality industry for example, there are many jobs available and a shortage of workers. I think for the vast majority who are laid off at the end of furlough, if that’s what it means and they don’t go back to work, there is work for most around and unemployment is much lower than we feared. The economy is seemingly still strong and that is encouraging. We should be optimistic that the worst impacts of lockdowns, in terms of job losses, were not experienced.”
 
PizzaExpress launches its own dough into supermarkets: PizzaExpress has launched its own dough into supermarkets. Shoppers can choose from two formats: ready-rolled (RRP: £1.75), for those that prefer to top and cook; or as a puck (RRP: £2). Each pack contains enough dough to make two 200g pizzas. The dough is available in Tesco and Asda, and is accompanied by a new cookbook called PizzaExpress: From Italy with Love, which is available from 16 September. Richard Mills, retail director at PizzaExpress, said: “The launch of our dough into supermarkets is a natural step for us, giving shoppers even more ways to enjoy the taste of PizzaExpress at home, whether they’re recreating a restaurant recipe that they know and love, or are creating their own.”
 

Company News: 

ThinCats provides IndaPubs with £3.5m funding package: Alternative finance provider ThinCats has provided a London pub group with a £3.5m funding package. Founded in 2012 by James Corbett, the IndaPubs Group runs seven pubs in west London, including The Larrik in Marylebone; The Hillgate, Notting Hill Gate; The Mitre, Fulham; The Selkirk in Tooting; The Island, Kensal Rise; The Portman, which opened this week and The Wilton Arms in Belgravia, which is due to open in mid-August. The funding has allowed the company to purchase The Island pub, which had been operating as a leasehold. Corbett said: “We have big plans to evolve the business, to explore new neighbourhoods and new styles of operating to meet the growing London market, especially now that restrictions have been lifted. Having access to the right funding to enable these plans to come to fruition is imperative, and we appreciate the support from Axis and ThinCats in arranging this funding package.” Dave Sherrington, regional head of sales in London at ThinCats, added: “IndaPubs are well-run and popular community pubs with a focus on good food, which is appreciated by their growing clientele. The management team are experienced, knowledgeable and passionate, and the plans they have for the company are based firmly on what they do best. The latest easing of restrictions puts them in an even better position to succeed."
 
Five Guys opens first UK drive-thru site: Five Guys, the fast-growing burger concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has opened its first drive-thru site in the UK, on Teesside. The circa 110-strong brand opened the new site on the former Chiquito restaurant at Teesside Park. Last month, the company lined up a second site in Bristol. It secured a new ten-year lease at 67-69 Queens Road, the former Bill’s restaurant, with an annual rent rising to £70,000. In June, Propel revealed the company had secured a new flagship site in the City of London at the former Wasabi site at 186-190 Bishopsgate. It will be a circa 4,000 square foot site spread over ground and first floors. At the same time, it has been confirmed that Five Guys has secured a further site in Manchester. As previously reported by Propel, the company has taken a unit at the former Yorkshire Building Society site in the city’s Piccadilly area. It has signed a 15-year lease on the new site. In May, Five Guys UK chief executive John Eckbert said the brand was going to open up to 50 new sites in Europe this year, including up to 25 in Britain.

Staffordshire & Cheshire Leisure Group acquires fifth The Grill Co site: Staffordshire & Cheshire Leisure Group has acquired a fifth site for its The Grill Co concept. The company has added The Horseshoe Inn, Uckington, in Shrewsbury, to its portfolio. It is currently transforming the interior into a modern country pub and grill – similar to its existing The Grill Co sites. It is planning to open The Horseshoe Inn in October. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the group plans to accelerate growth over the coming years with more openings in the pipeline. Managing director Leon Burton told Propel last year the company was opening one site annually at present but hoped to increase to two or three a year, because he believed more suitable properties would be thrown up from other operators closing. He said: “We hope to expand further throughout Staffordshire and Cheshire before a nationwide rollout of The Grill Co concept. We are working with a number of commercial landlords to find suitable properties and are also on the lookout for further investment.” The Grill Co also operates the Staffordshire Grill in Brewood, The Milehouse in Newcastle-under-Lyme and the Cheshire Grill in Lach Dennis. Last October, it added The Davenport Arms in the village of Marton, in Cheshire, to its portfolio.
 
Happy Lamb Hot Pot to open third UK site: Chinese chain Happy Lamb Hot Pot, which made its UK debut in 2019, is to open a second site in London, in Bayswater, Propel has learned. The business, which originated in Mongolia and has circa 100 sites in the US and Canada, will open at the Bishop’s Quarter scheme in Bayswater in units earmarked for Alan Yau’s Babaji Pide concept. Happy Lamb Hot Pot opened its first UK restaurant in The Office Group building in Bloomsbury Way. Earlier this year, it opened a second UK site, in Birmingham. It opened on the former Le Truc site in Ladywell Walk in the city centre. The concept offers meat, fish and vegetables to dunk in a pot, with cuts of meat such as pork belly, lamb shoulder and offal. Combination platters on offer in the US include a seafood version (white fish, squid, scallops and whole shrimp) and a vegetarian version featuring spinach, lettuce, daikon wedges and mini corn on the cob. There are four soup bases – “milky” bone marrow broth; spicy bone marrow broth; a half-and-half pot featuring a combination of both; and a pickled cabbage broth.
 
NYC will require delivery companies to share customer data with restaurants: Third-party delivery providers will have to share more customer data with New York City restaurants under a new bill approved last week. According to Restaurant Business, the legislation is the first of its kind to win approval in the US, and was part of a group of bills passed on Thursday (29 July) intended to limit the power of third-party delivery companies. Under the bill, companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub will be required to share customers’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, delivery addresses and order contents on a monthly basis with restaurants that choose to receive it. Customers will be able to opt out of sharing their data with restaurants. The bill awaits final approval from mayor Bill de Blasio, who is expected to sign it. It will go into effect 120 days after it becomes a law. Council member Keith Powers, the bill’s sponsor, said: “After such a devastating year for restaurants, this bill will finally give them some much-needed relief and leverage in the delivery market. Local restaurants will not only gain a better understanding of who is ordering from them, but it will be much easier for them to manage relationships with their customers.” In a statement following the decision, Grubhub reiterated its own concerns about consumer privacy: “Despite repeated warnings from privacy experts, restaurant owners, small business advocates and everyday New Yorkers, the city council today chose to compromise the safety and security of millions of people across the city. It’s wrong and Grubhub will continue to protect the privacy of those who entrust us with their data.”
 
Welcome Break adds Ben & Jerry’s concessions to brand offer: Motorway services provider Welcome Break has added Ben & Jerry’s ice cream concessions to its brand offer. The company said that Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops have launched at five of its sites along key holiday routes. These include South Mimms (M25/A1(M)), where an ice cream van was introduced to the food court. Three more can be found at Gordano (M5), Hopwood Park (M42) and Fleet (M3), where Ben & Jerry’s first agile format stores are now located. The largest unit was launched at Oxford Services on the M40. The company said: “Customers have responded incredibly well to the opportunity to start their holidays early by choosing their indulgent dessert of choice and then continuing their journey.” Martyn Brett-Lee, commercial director at Welcome Break, said: “Supporting the British staycation boom this summer is important to us and Ben & Jerry’s adds an exciting new element to our brand offering through its iconic selection of world-famous ice creams. We are giving customers an early treat as they set out for their holidays over the summer. I am delighted to see this global brand joining our already impressive portfolio of world-class food and beverage brands. I’m so pleased with this innovative launch and proud of everyone involved in the project.”
 
Tipjar to launch second crowdfunding campaign: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, is to launch its second crowdfunding campaign, as it plans further expansion in the US. The business, which was founded by James Brown of BrewDog, backed by Alex Moore of Rosa’s, Gary Dolman of Monzo and Simon Bocca, formerly of Fourth, is seeking a minimum investment of £500,000 through Crowdcube, which has already been achieved from its current suite of anchor investors. The pre-money enterprise value for investment is £11m. Since its last raise only 11 months ago, the company said it had more than doubled their initial investors share price. Current backers include Honest Burgers co-founders Phil Eeles and Tom Barton, plus a host of other industry experts who “back the vision of bringing transparency and staff control over their tips, via Tipjar’s unique and HMRC-cleared platform, which connects customers and staff directly”. Tipjar has now launched in more than 1,650 venues across four countries, and plans to use the funds raised to further expand into the US market where it has recently partnered with Visa to help workers who are earning less as cash payments decline. Ben Thomas, chief executive of Tipjar, said: “We have seen some incredible levels of traction both in Europe and the US, with 20,000 users now benefiting and collecting tips via our platform. We are excited to share our story so far with the Crowdcube community and raise funds to allow us to continue to develop our product road map and open in new territories to deliver further growth.” The company is planning to go public with its latest raise at 10am on Thursday, 5 August.
 
DoorDash launches evolution of the ghost kitchen format: DoorDash, one of the largest delivery firms in the US, has opened a new ghost/delivery kitchen trial site, which it said was a further evolution of the format. The new kitchen in San Jose, California, is the second to open for the delivery firm, but the first that sees DoorDash doing most of the work, from hiring to cooking to supply chain and logistics. The kitchen, which will be open until November, currently houses six restaurants including Canter’s Deli, Milk Bar and Curry Up Now, which have licensed their brands to DoorDash and worked with the company to optimise their menus. The company takes on the full cost of operations and shares some revenue with the restaurants. Unlike its other ghost kitchen in Redwood City in the same state, which is divided into multiple kitchen units, the San Jose site has one large kitchen that is used to cook for all six brands. It offers both delivery and pick-up through the DoorDash app. DoorDash said it will work with restaurant partners to learn how to cook their food, reproduce their recipes, recreate their supply chains, and secure the chefs, on top of providing the usual marketing and delivery.
 
By Chloe to be reborn as Beatnic: The By Chloe business is to be reborn in the US under the new name Beatnic. The US plant-based brand’s parent company, BC Hospitality Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, citing the impact of the pandemic. The plant-based restaurant chain will now return under the new name Beatnic in a nod to the original location's roots in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood. “We wanted a name that was reflective of the brand’s personality,” Beatnic president Catey Mark Meyers told US magazine Fortune. Prior to the pandemic, By Chloe had 14 sites, but has since been reduced to ten across New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The flagship location in Greenwich Village will reopen next month. Beatnic has also enlisted Saudi investment holding fund Sisban Food and New York-based venture capital firm Kitchen Fund as lead investors, as it looks to kick start expansion plans. In May, Qoot Restaurant Group, which was among a group of investors that agreed to acquire plant-based concept By Chloe out of bankruptcy in March, announced the closure of the UK operations of the brand. Qoot director of people and talent Marco Galer-Reick told Propel at the time: “Due to the bankruptcy of the brand parent company in the US and subsequent loss of name rights, we have made the difficult decision to close the UK operations of By Chloe.”
 
Lynsey Benton joins I am Doner: Lynsey Benton, former head of marketing at Thai Leisure Group has joined I am Doner, the Think Hospitality-backed better kebab brand. Benton will take on responsibility for brand and franchising at the burgeoning brand as the company progresses several live opportunities in the UK and overseas. The role will see her reunite with former Thai Leisure Group Director James Hacon, who is an investor and non-executive chairman at I am Doner. “I am thrilled to be joining I am Doner at such an exciting time for the company. I am looking forward to working with the team to further develop the already brilliant brand and cannot wait to see us grow,” said Benton.
 
Essex-based, celebrity favourite Sheesh eyes Knightsbridge launch: Sheesh, the Essex-based restaurant and bar, which has become a celebrity favourite, is planning a launch in London’s Knightsbridge, Propel has learned. The concept, which is the brainchild of Dylan Hunt, is understood to have applied to open on the former Topshop site at 70 Brompton Road – a mixed-use building in Knightsbridge. The proposed venue will comprise a restaurant that will span the ground floor and up into the first floor where it meets a private members’ lounge. On the new venue, the company said: “Sheesh is a unique proposition and our new restaurant will bring a sensory journey to Knightsbridge through our unique offer of delicious food and outstanding service. Sheesh London will offer a stylish dining experience and an exclusive private members’ lounge. The ambition is to bring Sheesh’s spirit to the centre of London.” Sheesh’s current home in Chigwell, is Ye Olde Kings Head – the second oldest public house in England and immortalised in Charles Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge as the Maypole Inn. Hunt, who began his career working on fruit and vegetable stalls in London’s East End, purchased the site in Chigwell 2009.
 
Las Iguanas to relocate in Plymouth: Las Iguanas, the Big Table Group-owned brand, is to open a new site in Plymouth, Devon. The 43-strong brand, which closed its site in the city’s Royal William Yard scheme, last year, is set to open at The Barcode, the new leisure and entertainment development, located next to Drake Circus in Plymouth’s city centre. New World Trading Company opened its The Club House concept on the former Las Iguanas site in Royal William Yard earlier this year. Las Iguanas will join a range of restaurants and leisure brands at the new Barcode development, including BrewDog, Five Guys, Nando’s, Cosy Club, Zizzi and Paradise Golf. Last week, the circa 150-strong Big Table Group, which also operates Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge, 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. 
 
200 Degrees Coffee opens in York: Nottingham-based 200 Degrees Coffee has opened in York. The 82-seat shop has created 15 new full-time and part-time jobs in the heritage retail setting of 68 Low Petergate, just a short walk from many major tourist attractions including York Minster and The Shambles. 200 Degrees director Tom Vincent said: “This shop should have been open last April but we’re finally here and we hope our independent attitude and relaxed way of doing things will add to this fantastic area.” 200 Degrees was set up by Vincent and his business partner Rob Darby in 2012 and now has 14 “distinctively independent” coffee shops as well as its Roast House near Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The York coffee shop follows the opening of 200 Degrees Manchester and Cannock, which opened in May and June respectively.

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