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Thu 12th Aug 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Wendy’s secures Reef Kitchens as first UK franchisee, confirms next four UK sites: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, which made its return to the UK with an opening in Reading in June, has signed up Reef Kitchens as its first franchisee in the UK. The company said it had signed a development commitment with Reef to open and operate 700 delivery kitchens over the next five years across the US, Canada and the UK. It said it would build on its successful test of eight delivery kitchens that have already opened in Canada. The company expects Reef to open approximately 50 delivery kitchens in 2021 in those three regions, with the remainder being opened between 2022 and 2025. At the same time, chief executive Todd Penegor said the company was very encouraged by the early results it is seeing from its return to the UK. He said: “We are very encouraged by the early results and excitement we have seen so far in that market. We have a strong pipeline of company restaurants with several more planned for this year and have signed up our first franchisee with Reef Kitchens, which is planning to open a handful of delivery kitchens this year in the UK.” Wendy’s said it had also created a $100m strategic build-to-suit development fund, which will use additional cash obtained as part of Wendy’s debt refinancing computed during the second quarter of 2021, to drive new restaurant growth. The development fund is expected to drive about 80 to 90 franchise restaurants between 2022 and 2025. Earlier this year, Reef, which was founded in Miami, signed a deal with Capital & Regional, the London-listed landlord that owns seven shopping centres. Finding alternative uses for parts of Capital & Regional’s malls in Luton, Bedfordshire and Wood Green, north London, heads the to-do list. Discussions are also under way to utilise space at the landlord’s centres in Walthamstow and Ilford. Reef currently operates a delivery kitchen in London’s Canary Wharf. Earlier this week, Propel revealed Wendy’s is planning to open a site in Brighton. Propel understands the brand, which hopes to open five company-owned sites in the UK this year, has applied to take over the Gap store in the city’s Western Road. Wendy’s is continuing to build its openings pipeline here, with sites in London’s Camden and Wood Green on its radar. The brand is also planning to open a drive-thru site in Peterborough. The company, which hopes to eventually open up to 400 sites in the UK, has already confirmed it will open sites in Oxford and Stratford, east London, before the end of the year. It has now confirmed it also plans to open in Romford and Croydon this year. The company has a target of eventually operating about 20 company-owned branches in Britain. Abigail Pringle, president, international and chief development officer at Wendy’s, said that between five and ten sites are set to open in London by the end of the year, with the company expecting to reach up to one million households initially. She said: “The demand for convenient delivery solutions means we must look for opportunities beyond our traditional restaurant formats, especially in dense urban areas.” In addition, Wendy’s is in advanced discussions with 30 potential franchise partners to open new restaurants here. 

Industry News: 

Next edition of Propel Blue Book sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow: The next edition of the Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability for Premium subscribers, produced in association with Mapal, is to be published tomorrow (Friday, 13 August) at midday. The Blue Book features 352 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £29.6bn. 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. A total of 180 of these companies are now posting total losses of £5.95bn as the effects of the pandemic take hold. Meanwhile, on 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 71 new 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 Openings 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.

Sector faces August bank holiday beer shortage as lorry drivers vote to strike: Operators could face a beer shortage during the August bank holiday weekend after delivery drivers voted to strike. Unite the union said the drivers work for logistics firm GXO, which supplies 40% of the UK hospitality industry’s beer. According to The Sun, about 1,000 drivers, who work from 26 sites across the UK, will go on strike for 24 hours from 10am on 24 August, with a second walkout planned for 2 September. Drivers will “work to rule” from 24 August until 15 November, which encompasses the bank holiday that runs from Friday, 27 August, until Monday, 31 August, and there will also be a ban on overtime, Unite said. Army HGV drivers have been put on standby to relieve Britain’s chronic shortage of truckers, in general, and resulting food shortages because there is a shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers, exacerbated by the “pingdemic”. Unite’s members voted for strike action by 97% and for industrial action short of a strike by 99% over the company’s offer of a 1.4% pay rise for 2021. Unite national officer for the drinks industry Joe Clarke said: “The threat of a late summer beer drought now increases for Britain’s thirsty beer drinkers as our members make 40% of the beer deliveries in the country. This disruption would be on top of the ‘pingdemic’ and the well-publicised HGV driver shortages that are already hitting the sector. Now industrial action looms for late August, we call, once again, for the company to engage in meaningful negotiations regarding a decent pay increase for our members.” A spokesperson for GXO said: “We favour dialogue in all our negotiations. Discussions are ongoing in order to reach agreement, in particular for the hospitality sector that is only now emerging from the impact of the covid-19 lockdown.”

Starbucks worker sues company for failing to provide protection against customer who used a racial slur: A black Starbucks worker is suing the company, which he claims did not protect him from a customer hurling racial slurs at him. Dayshawn Rodriguez claimed in his lawsuit that a customer frequently called him a word that amounts to a serious racial slur after he tried to remove her from the store’s restroom. According to the court filing, Rodriguez noticed a customer had been in the bathroom for a very long time, so he knocked on the door to check on the individual. A woman reportedly came out of the bathroom and poked him in the chest while saying the racial slur. After the incident, Rodriguez told his store manager about what had transpired. The store manager said she would alert the district manager, but he claimed nothing came from his complaint. According to the filing, the following week, Rodriguez told the district manager he did not want to serve the customer when they visited in the future but the manager allegedly rejected that request. Rodriguez claimed that, after the rejection, the district manager told him he “may be too sensitive to be a shift supervisor and said the (racial slur) is not the worst thing to be called”.
 
Hotel owners survey finds coastal and country owners more upbeat than city and town hotel owners: A survey of hotel owners by agent Fleurets has found a clear divide in optimism levels. The survey report stated: “Strong demand for staycations due to international travel restrictions are driving expectations of revenue growth and improved profitability for coastal and country hotels. City and town hotel owners are less upbeat than owners of coastal and country hotels. Staffing and recruitment is considered to be the largest obstacle to future growth, an issue being experienced across the hospitality sectors.”
However, the survey found “generally positive sentiment across the survey with an ambition for expansion through acquisition, particularly owners of larger hotels, and property capital expenditure”. Fleurets said there is a “prospect that purchaser demand will exceed supply for larger budget/limited service hotels, which should support competitive bidding and drive pricing”. The report added: “Owners of coastal and country hotels believe the value of their hotels have held up strongest despite the crisis, with a positive expectation of further improvement in the coming 12 months. Activity and change across the sector, be that operational investment, capital investment or transactional, appears set to rise. Putting covid-19 aside (if that is possible), indications are for a positive year ahead.” 

 
New York hotelier to demand proof of vaccination: Hotelier Ian Schrager has announced that all guests, visitors and staff to his downtown public hotel will be required to show proof of covid-19 vaccination upon arrival. This is the first hotel in New York City to introduce such regulations. Schrager said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff is the only thing that matters to us. Naturally, we will do everything and anything we can possibly do to protect them. After all, we have been entrusted to look after them while they are with us. We take that responsibility to heart. With these measures in place, our guests will be able to relax, enjoy and experience the hotel, and all of the exciting things it has to offer in the knowledge they won’t get sick or make anyone else sick. Indeed, we need to beat covid-19 together. After all, looking after people is our business. We just didn’t see how to fulfill this responsibility without taking action. Staff working at the property will also be required to have full vaccination.” The policy will come into effect from 5 September 2021, and all guests over 12 years of age will be required to show either a physical covid-19 vaccine card or vaccine passport before entering.
 
St Austell Brewery predicts staycation boom will continue into autumn after bookings soar: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has predicted the staycation boom will continue into the autumn after it saw hotel bookings soar. The company, which runs circa 180 pubs and hotels in the south west of England, said bookings for its hotels have seen a “significant increase” for the period from September to November 2021 versus the same period in 2019. St Austell Brewery expects that, after a period of continuously changing restrictions around international travel, many travellers will stick with UK staycations in the West Country for the autumn months as a safer choice, with its most popular sites, including the Atlantic in the Isles of Scilly, the Pedn Olva in St Ives and the Mason Arms in Branscombe, being close to fully booked until December. St Austell Brewery chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “The ongoing uncertainty around international holidays and concerns about the changeable overseas travel list means holidaymakers are continuing to opt for the safer, more reliable option of a UK holiday. Concerns around the environment and everyone playing their part to prevent climate change is also encouraging more guests to book domestic holidays and minimise the number of holidays abroad. We also believe a rediscovery of the delights and adventure that the West Country has to offer, from beautiful coastlines to fantastic locally sourced food and drink, is driving the trend.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for an operations director for a leisure and hospitality operator in the south of the UK. A spokesman said: “We are very proud to be working with a national operator that is looking to make a key management hire. This role will involve looking after a large area of the business taking accountability for guest services, operational standard, guest journey and operational financial performance. The candidate will be overseeing a UK southern region with turnover of circa £50m. We are looking for a great people leader who has excellent communications and influencing skills. This is really not a first-time appointment; we are looking for a candidate who has led a similar-sized business and scaled national branded concepts. Ideally the business would be looking for candidates coming from a leisure, restaurant or entertainment background with experience managing a branded model.” Based in London or the south east, the role is paying circa £120,000, plus bonus and benefits. Email your CV to Hollie@corecruitment.com 
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Stonegate begins rollout of new bar concept Live Social: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has begun the rollout of a new bar concept under the umbrella Live Social. Described as a unique sports and gaming bar, the first variation of the format launched last year as The Hideout, on the former Walkabout site in Derby’s Market Square. Stonegate has now converted its Squares bar in Nottingham’s The Poultry area to the Huddl concept, with a Popworld housed above it. The new destination offers live sport “like you’ve never seen it, top bar gaming experiences and craveable, fuss-free food”. Alongside screens showcasing the best of sport, Huddl also offers private gaming booths and interactive darts. Three private booths feature an Xbox Series S console complete with the “Ultimate Game Pass”. The booths also come with lighting that consumers can adjust themselves. The concept also offers two new Smarts augmented darts lanes, featuring dart tracking technology. The sports booths with banquette seating also house large HD TV screens. The concept also features a street food-inspired menu and a “darts bottomless brunch”. “It’s all about people coming out socialising, not just a group coming in and ordering a drink,” general manager Phil Sparham-Simpson told Nottingham Live. “We are trying to be that little bit cooler, that little bit edgier and that is echoed in a lot of the text. It’s a very different feel. Everything is quite quirky. Rather than a typical sports bar, this is the next step on from that so we don’t pack people in like sardines. It’s all about giving people a really enjoyable experience. With the England football World Cup qualification game coming up, we will not be hitting maximum capacity here – firstly because of restrictions but secondly, even when restrictions are lifted, we don’t want the experience to be people crammed in, jumping all over the place, throwing drinks up at the ceiling, damaging equipment. It’s all about next-step quality experience.”

Neat Burger confirms Finsbury Park site plans: Lewis Hamilton-backed plant-based concept Neat Burger has confirmed plans to open a site in London’s Finsbury Park later this month. The business will open its fourth site on Thursday, 19 August, at the City North development next to Finsbury Park Station. Neat Burger co-founder Zack Bishti said: “We are thrilled to be bringing Neat to Finsbury Park this month. We think the local community will be just as passionate about plant-based food as we are and look forward to serving our delicious burgers, sides and drinks.” The company has further openings lined up in Victoria (Buckingham Place), Canary Wharf (ex-PizzaExpress in Cabot Square), Westfield Stratford and British Land’s 155 Bishopsgate development in the City. It is also in talks to take sites in the Filmworks development in Ealing and in King’s Road, Chelsea. Earlier this year, it made its regional debut with an opening in Reading, after launching a dark kitchen unit through Deliveroo’s Editions unit in the city. Talking to Propel in March, Stasi Nychas, co-founder of Neat Burger, said dark kitchens would be the best way for the brand to test the water when it comes to launching outside London. The business currently operates three bricks and mortar sites in London – in Camden, Soho and Princes Street. Marc Rogers, of MKR Property, acts for Neat Burgers. 

Loungers planning Isle of Wight opening: Cafe bar operator Loungers is planning to open a site on the Isle of Wight. The Nick Collins-led group has applied to open on the ex-Prezzo site on Newport High Street. Prezzo closed its Isle of Wight branch officially in February. Last month, Propel reported Loungers would open Gatto Lounge at 3 Llys Cadwyn in Pontypridd. Earlier this year, the business opened its 15th site in Wales, in Aberystwyth, and will open a further site in the country next year, in a converted grade II-listed toilet block in Barry Island. The company opened its 176th site, in total, at the end of last month, when it launched the Condado Lounge in Devizes, Wiltshire. It has further Lounge openings lined up in Basildon, Colchester and Ealing, while it also plans to open a further Cosy Club site in Chester.

Seren to introduce four-day week: West Wales hotel and restaurant group Seren is introducing a four-day working week for staff. The hospitality group, which employs 65 people, operates the five-star hotel Grove of Narberth, the Michelin-starred Beach House Restaurant in Oxwich and Coast restaurant and kiosk cafe in Saundersfoot. The business will transition towards its new working model ahead of new contracts from next January. In practice, it will mean staff working a 40-hour week can instead of working five eight-hour shifts move to four ten-hour shifts. Staff who wish to continue working on their existing five-day week working patterns will be able to do so. Seren will also introduce a profit share scheme in 2022. In 2016, the Grove was among the first hotels in the UK to introduce a four-day working week for chefs, where extra days worked are paid. However, achieving this goal in its stand-alone restaurants has been a much harder challenge due to affordability and the impact of high seasonality and traditionally tight sector margins. Managing director Neil Kedward said: “We’re humbled each day, knowing our success is deeply linked to our special team members who, individually and collectively, create the incredible experiences and memories that guests take away with them. We know how much valuable time they commit and how their exceptional skills and loyalty to our venues help make it all happen. We’ve always been passionate about rewarding this commitment and the extraordinary level of professionalism in our teams by offering the best remuneration packages for the sector in Wales. But we need to go further so, for us, there has never been a better time to make these transformative changes.”

Arc Inspirations appoints Nazareen Johnson as its new people and culture director: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has appointed Nazareen Johnson, formerly of Next, Morrisons and Asda, as its new people and culture director. The company said the new role had been created to support its commitment to “putting people first at the heart of its business”. Johnson joins Arc Inspirations with more than 25 years’ experience in a number of senior HR and people roles at leading businesses including Next, Morrisons and Asda. Prior to her appointment, she served as head of learning and development and then head of business change at Pets at Home, which has previously been voted the Sunday Times Best Big Company to work for, where she was responsible for leading HR and business transformation initiatives. The company said Johnson’s role focuses on the development of Arc Inspirations employees across the business, helping “harness fantastic talent as well as development programmes that support employees with personal and career progression”. Arc Inspirations co-founder and chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “We’re thrilled to have Nazareen come on board and join the Arc family. She embodies the passion and values we have here at Arc and brings with her a unique wealth of knowledge and experience, which will be invaluable as we look to build our team and grow the business.” Johnson said: “I’m delighted to be joining the wonderful Arc team and to build on what’s already a great culture. I want to add value through unlocking talent, and help to make a difference throughout after what’s been a tough year for the hospitality sector. Martin and the team have created a truly innovative business with a winning culture and passion at its core, and I instantly had a sense of belonging. Arc offers fantastic rewards and incentives for its teams, which makes it stand out from the rest. I’m excited to help people make a career for themselves within this fantastic industry and at a wonderful business like Arc Inspirations.” Last week, the company confirmed a brace of new openings, including its first venture into Birmingham. The business, which operates 17 venues – predominantly under its three growth brands, Banyan, BOX and Manahatta – will introduce its Manahatta brand to Birmingham, its first venue in the Midlands, in September, followed by a BOX site in Deansgate, Manchester, in October.

Design District Canteen to open next month: Design District Canteen, a new food and drink destination on the Greenwich Peninsula, will open next month, bringing to the area a selection of independent food operators. The architecturally impactful food hall will be centred around a transparent structure created by Spanish architects, Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano. It aims to provide a platform in a key London location for up-and-coming food operators to grow and develop. Operators are Eat Lah, Ehla, Guasa, Sugo, Raastawala and Toasted. Design District is London’s first permanent, purpose-built hub for the creative industries. Conceived and developed by Knight Dragon, and designed by eight leading architects, the Design District’s collection of 16 unique buildings supports an ecosystem of 1,800 creatives, encompassing individual makers, ambitious start-ups and ground-breaking enterprises.

Immersive DC-inspired restaurant opens in Soho: Park Row, the first fully immersive DC-inspired restaurant created in partnership with Warner Bros, has opened in Soho’s Brewer Street. A spokesman said: “Featuring five premium restaurant and bar spaces, Park Row combines multi-sensory storytelling with world-class food and drink that draws from some of Gotham City’s most famous (and infamous) residents, creating a gastronomic theme park for comic book fans and foodies. Situated within a stunning grade II-listed art deco venue within the heart of London’s theatre-land, guests will step off the streets of Soho and descend into the DC universe via a secret door in Wayne Manor, home to the famous billionaire. While the main spaces within the venue are inspired by DC, the halo concept, The Monarch Theatre, is a fully immersive restaurant experience, with state-of-the-art floor to ceiling projection mapping and an incredible tasting menu. With a focus on first-class dining and storytelling, each of the five spaces takes the guest on a journey from the streets of London to the depths of Gotham City’s underworld. Drawing inspiration from Gotham City residents, including The Penguin, Harley Quinn, The Joker, Catwoman and more, each space has its own signature style, providing a whole host of options for guests, from signature cocktails and spirit collections, to dining and live music.”
 
Livelyhood and DistriAndina sign for sites at Elephant Park: Two operators have signed for new sites at Elephant Park – the £2.5bn regeneration project being delivered by Lendlease in partnership with Southwark Council. Independent south London pub group Livelyhood and local Latin American grocery and cafe DistriAndina will each open venues at the development. Livelyhood will launch its eighth site there later this year, called The Rosy Hue. The dog-friendly 3,100 square foot venue will have a large bar and dining space serving food and drink from local suppliers and producers, a dedicated sports area featuring giant screens and a heated outdoor terrace for 54 covers. DistriAndina has signed for a 2,100 square foot unit on Elephant Park’s Ash Avenue. DistriAndina has become a popular local business from its site within Elephant & Castle’s railway arches, serving authentic South American street food dishes such as arepas and empanadas, and selling an array of grocery and snack items imported from across Latin America. They will join South London-based sourdough pizza and craft beer restaurant concept Four Hundred Rabbits, as reported by Propel in May. Guy Thomas, head of place assets at Lendlease, said: “Signing Livelyhood, Four Hundred Rabbits and DistriAndina bolsters the offer to our local community, and highlights our commitment to building a diverse and balanced array of operators within Elephant Park. Each of these brands has roots in south London and will bring something unique to Elephant Park. They join the emerging dining and lifestyle hub on Ash Avenue which, given its unique parkside location on the brand new two-acre park, will provide an alfresco drinking and dining experience that you cannot find anywhere else in London.” 

Estabulo Rodizio lines up ninth site: Brazilian steakhouse Estabulo Rodizio Bar & Grill is set to open its ninth site, this time in Norwich, this September, opening on Riverside. The brand specialises in authentic Brazilian Rodizio, where customers pay a set rate and have unlimited access to different types of meat served table-side by waiters. The 15 cuts of local meat on offer are served off of a cooking spit and carved in front of the customer. There is also a selection of vegetarian, vegan, halal and fish dishes available. Estabulo also offers unlimited sides, as well as a gourmet hot and cold salad bar. Customers are given cards to indicate when they’re ready to be served again, with a green and red side to signal to waiters.

The Rocca Group appoints executive chef: Independently owned Scottish restaurant group The Rocca Group has appointed a new executive chef to oversee the food offering of its four Edinburgh venues. The Rocca Group – which owns The West Room, The Broughton, Rico’s on North Castle Street and Rico’s Pasta Bar within the Bonnie & Wild Scottish Marketplace – has promoted chef Paul Barber to lead its portfolio of restaurants in the capital city. Barber, originally from Manchester, has 20 years of experience in the industry, with stints at multiple award-winning restaurants and iconic Edinburgh hotels The Balmoral and The Scotsman on his CV. He made the move to Scotland in 2004 to work for the Pieraccini family, owners of The Rocca Group, which also includes the award-winning Seafood Ristorante in St Andrews. Barber was head chef at both The West Room and The Broughton.

Paragon Hospitality opens Brighton restaurant offering a ‘new dining experience’: Paragon Hospitality has opened Socialite Restaurant and Bar in Brighton, which promises a “new dining experience”. It occupies a site in East Street that was previously home to a Cath Kidston store before it moved to North Street. A spokesperson for the new venue said: “Executive head chef Alex Puddifoot has created a seasonal menu offering contemporary British dishes with global influences, using the freshest local ingredients with a Brighton touch.” The restaurant seats 90 diners, and also includes three private dining rooms. Adam Elliott and Barry Vera launched Paragon Hospitality in 2018. Barry Vera was managing director for Create, an event caterer hosting more than 700,000 covers per year in exclusive venues and locations, and was also winner of the Caterer of the Year in 2017. Prior to this, he was culinary and creative operations director for The One Group Europe, Middle East & Asia, a New York-based company that is rapidly growing in the US, UK and across Europe, the Middle East and Asia with its ME hotels and restaurant brands STK, Cucina Asellina and Radio Rooftop. Vera has also worked in Cape Town, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; and was voted an Icon of Australian food by Vogue Entertaining & Travel magazine. Elliott worked for 15 years in key leadership roles across a number of hotels and stadia in high street concepts to venue management.

The Climbing Hangar completes new funding round: Boutique leisure advisory business Tamweel has assisted indoor climbing operator The Climbing Hangar, which has five sites, on a multimillion-pound funding round. A spokesman said: “The Climbing Hangar was established in a Liverpudlian warehouse in 2011. Since then, it has grown to an estate that spans the length and breadth of England. Indoor climbing is one of the UK’s fastest growing lifestyle sports and with a site opening soon in Sheffield and a growing pipeline of new venues. Tamweel advised the management team on negotiating the terms of the transaction and supported it in getting the deal over the line alongside incumbent investor Mercia.” Ged MacDomhnaill, founder and chief executive of The Climbing Hangar, said: “It’s incredibly exciting that we get to accelerate our growth journey with Mercia as indoor climbing has come into the Olympic limelight. I’m proud The Climbing Hangar team has delivered excellent results and our customers have shown they’ve lost none of the love for our community throughout this difficult covid period. Tamweel not only did a great job in helping us close a crucial deal in uncertain times but did so by strengthening the relationship between The Climbing Hangar and Mercia, helping us come out of the blocks fast and get growing.”
 
Creative Dining Group to expand with new Swansea bar: Creative Dining Group has acquired the former Idols nightclub in Swansea – and is to open a new bar. Leon Hogan, chief executive of Creative Dining Group, which runs both Gin Ne Sais Quoi and Positano Italiano in Swansea, has purchased the six-floor building. He revealed he planned to turn it into 65 flats, while creating a new base for Gin Ne Sais Quoi on the lower floors, with more of a nightclub and bar feel. The new venture will create between 50 to 75 jobs, and the businessman – a stockbroker originally from Llanelli – explained how the company was aiming for an official opening date of Beaujolais Day on 18 November. He said: “Someone told me the Idols building might become available, and I managed to find the owners and get a deal over the line. After the deal was agreed, I had offers with more money from Bank Statement and Nando’s to buy the building from me, but this represents a big opportunity for our brand in a big building. We've got plans to develop 65 flats at the back, and a late-night bar and club downstairs under the Gin Ne Sais Quoi name. It will be a bit of a different vibe. Gin Ne Sais Quoi is predominantly a cocktail bar and, while there will be some similarities, this will have an after-dark feel. We’re very excited to keep expanding the business, and we’re hoping to create another 50 to 75 jobs. We currently have 200 people on the books in Swansea alone – suddenly the company is becoming a good employer for careers in the city.”

Coconut Tree confirms date for eighth opening: Sri Lankan street food restaurant group The Coconut Tree will open a new site in Reading town centre on Thursday, 26 August. It is the eighth restaurant in its portfolio – which follows hot on the heels of its Bath opening in May – with other branches in Cardiff, two in Bristol, Oxford, Cheltenham and Bournemouth. Brand director Anna Garrod said: “Sri Lankan food hasn’t yet been taken to the heart of British culture in the same way Indian food has, and we really want to be the ones to change that, we want to hear people in Reading say ‘let’s go for a Sri Lankan tonight’. 
 
Mojo lines up sixth site: Bar group Mojo has announced plans to open a sixth Mojo bar, this time in Sheffield in September. A spokesman said: “Taking up residence in the former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) building on Holly Street, the eclectic new venue has recently undergone a £750,000 refurbishment, and even the brand’s iconic trademark skull has been given a fitting refresh look ahead of its arrival at its new home. Set over two floors, the new 4,400 square foot premises provides covers for 350 with additional seating on the ground floor and first floor terrace, and is the sixth bar in the Mojo group, with successful venues in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Harrogate and Nottingham. The latest addition to the Mojo portfolio offers entertainment in the form of shuffleboard, beer pong, as well as large screens for sports fans to watch those all-important matches and a private event space for more intimate gatherings. Guests at the new Sheffield venue will experience a new menu with a firm focus on American-style pizzas.” Mojo managing director Martin Greenhow said: “Rock ’n’ roll is in our soul, it’s part of our DNA. Sheffield is an obvious Mojo location with its fabulous music heritage. The city has a great culture around its diverse music scene and that’s something we’re very much looking forward to being a part of. Life is finally returning to normal and we’re excited to help bring cities back to life and see people enjoying the electric atmosphere that we’re known for. To be opening our sixth bar as we’re just coming out of a nationwide lockdown is a massive achievement, the hospitality industry has definitely been one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic and we’re just as excited as our guests to be back dancing on tables and bars, especially in this vibrant city.”
 
Open House to launch restaurant and bar at White City next month: Open House, the London-based restaurant and bar operator that operates The Lighterman and Percy & Founders, will open a four-storey restaurant and bar at White City Television Centre. The Broadcaster, which is set to open at the end of September, is a new-build site at the entrance to the Wood Lane site. The ground floor will be a pub while the first floor will offer a more formal dining room. There will also be a large pergola rooftop bar – set to open in spring next year – that will serve bar snacks and barbecue food. All the food will focus on “sustainable, local British produce” and the beer and spirits offering will follow a similar path, according to Hot Dinners.

Levy UK secures five-year deal with Nottingham Forest FC to enhance F&B experience: Levy UK, the hospitality arm of Compass Group, has been appointed as the new catering and hospitality partner of Nottingham Forest FC. The five-year deal will see Levy supporting Nottingham Forest to deliver the match-day food and beverage experience at the City Ground stadium, as well as bolstering the venue’s conference and events operations. Central to the new food strategy, Levy will be in discussions with a number of local food and beverage companies about partnerships and supplies. Levy will also work to deploy new technology to enhance fan experiences at the City Ground. This will include the introduction of a new till system and digital screens that will speed up service and also reduce physical contact. Levy will additionally work to support events at the City Ground on non-match days. Levy UK managing director Jon Davies said: “A big focus for us in our work will be to support and nurture local food and hospitality talent in Nottingham. We’ll be working closely with Nottingham Forest to bring a fresh, modern approach to food and drink.”
 
Caffe Nero eyes new Coffee#1 site in Oxfordshire: Coffee#1, which is owned by Caffe Nero, is applying for planning permission to create a new shop in Witney, Oxfordshire. The site at 15 Market Square was formerly occupied by Well Worth It discount kitchenware shop and has been vacant for more than a year. Under planning changes introduced in September 2020, buildings on high streets and town centres can be repurposed without the need for planning permission. The application said the change of use from a retail unit to a coffee shop would reflect the changing retail requirements of high streets “therefore injecting vibrancy and vitality back into the building and surrounding area”. Internally, the proposed cafe will accommodate about 105 covers with a further four directly outside the front of the building. 

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