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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 17th Aug 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

July sales down 6% on pre-covid-19 levels at managed restaurants, pubs and bars but rolling 12-month sales drop 20%: Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups lifted sales back close to pre-covid-19 levels in July to continue hospitality’s recovery from the pandemic, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker has revealed. The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, showed total sales were just 6% down on the same month in 2019. Restaurants had a particularly strong month, with sales only 2% below the same period in 2019, while drink-led pubs and pub restaurants were down 9% and 8%, respectively. Bars benefited from the easing of restrictions on the late-night sector, as sales ended 3% short of 2019 comparable figures. Managed venues benefited from generally good weather in July and the popularity of “staycations” at the start of the school holidays. Domestic tourism contributed to a much better July for regions beyond London than the capital – sales outside the M25 were down by 2% year-on-year but, within the M25, they dropped 15% as visitor and worker numbers remained low. July’s solid performance comes despite a host of challenges for hospitality businesses, including widespread staffing shortages relating to recruitment issues and the “pingdemic”, supply problems and ongoing caution among some consumers. The Tracker also showed the lasting impacts of covid-19 on hospitality, with rolling 12-month sales to the end of July 2021 down by 20% on the previous 12 months to July 2020 – a period that included the country’s first full national lockdown. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “While sales are still some way short of what we would expect at this time of year, July was another steady month of recovery for hospitality. Restaurants are enjoying the release of latent demand for meals out, and the return of nightclubs and late-night bars was a milestone in the journey back to normality for the drinking-out sector. Trading conditions remain difficult though, and the 20% drop in rolling sales since July 2020 highlights covid-19’s heavy toll on the sector and the need for continued support.” Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan added: “Much behaviour is different, and more time is spent closer to home, but the numbers, overall, are steadily improving. The future is getting brighter.”

Industry News: 

Food-led businesses dominate new entries on updated Propel Premium database of multi-site companies this month: Food-led businesses are dominating the make-up of the new companies being added to the next edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate. It will be sent to Premium subscribers at midday on Friday, 27 August, and will contain at least 56 new companies – and is updated every month. The 56 new companies operate 393 sites between them. New additions with a food-led bias include north west-based concept The Firepit Bar & Grill, which has opened its fourth site and plans further expansion in the region. Sania is a franchise business that operates sites for German Doner Kebab, KFC, Pizza Hut, You Me Sushi and Café Barbera, which opened its first German Doner Kebab recently. Meanwhile, Santo Remedio, the Mexican restaurant brand founded by Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes, is opening a second site in east London next month. 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. Premium subscribers will also receive the second edition of The New Openings Database at exactly the same time on Friday, 27 August. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated every month. Meanwhile, subscribers also have access to another database called Turnover & Profits Blue Book. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, with the latest version having been sent out on Friday (13 August), provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.

SLTA – Scottish hospitality sector struggling due to beer supply issues as well as lack of staff: Scottish pubs and restaurants are struggling after suffering problems with beer supply on top of a lack of staffing, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has warned. The trade body said it has received reports of delays and cancellations of orders placed with brewers and other suppliers. There is also the threat of strike action by delivery staff, which will naturally have the knock-on effect to venues, the SLTA added. On top of the beer delivery issues, there are also concerns about carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas supplies, which are necessary to serve products on tap. SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “With Scotland’s pubs and bars just taking the first tentative steps towards recovery, the last thing this beleaguered industry needs is for more restrictions to be imposed on it. The full reopening of the hospitality sector has been hit with two serious issues – a shortage of staff availability and the more recent immediate problems facing the supply chain. SLTA members are already reporting delays and cancellations of orders placed with brewers and other supply chain operators and, in some instances, beer orders that have been delivered fall short by around 75%. In many cases, packaged goods are not being delivered and we have reports of pub and bar owners travelling the length of the country to source supplies. The last thing this sector needs is another hurdle in place in the race to its recovery.” Pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises were able to reopen in April this year after the second lockdown forced closure, but various restrictions remained in place until this month.
Wage inflation likely to lead to increased menu prices: Restaurant owners have sounded the alarm over worsening staff shortages that could result in higher prices for customers as they are forced to increase wages to compete for chefs and waiters. Four of the biggest restaurant chains, including Prezzo, owned by Cain International, are understood to have about 15% of posts unfilled, amounting to hundreds of jobs. Cain chief executive Jonathan Goldstein said, last week, the general manager at a Prezzo’s restaurant in Upminster, east London, had been forced to step in as an assistant chef. “This is just not sustainable over the medium term,” he said. “We are looking at a very large and important part of the economy, which is actually enjoying a relatively strong level of demand – and with the summer holidays coming to an end and university students who have been temping over the summer leaving the workforce, the situation could get worse.” Prezzo is introducing a new salary and incentives package for staff in September and October. However, Goldstein warned that wage inflation of between 5% and 10% would result in price increases. He said the issue required a “strong focus” from the government. “We need to ensure vocational training is very much at the heart of a post-covid recovery.” In the short term, the government needed to ensure people from overseas who wanted to work in restaurants could still enter the country. Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, an upmarket steakhouse chain, said his company was facing shortages of about 10% of staff. “Almost any restaurant you care to name could be open more and could be busier,” he said. “The demand is there but you can’t physically get the restaurant open because of staffing issues.”
Delivery kitchen concept Tribe Kitchen to open in Edinburgh this week: A new delivery kitchen concept from hospitality stalwart David Hall and former footballer George Wright is set to open this week in Edinburgh. Tribe Kitchen, which opens on Thursday (19 August), “brings together the best of Edinburgh’s dining with smart kitchen concept”. Hall was part of the team behind Montpeliers-owned boutique hotel, bar and restaurant Tigerlily while co-founder George Wright is a businessman who used to play for Hearts FC. With an initial investment of £250,000, Tribe Kitchen will cook food at a central location and control the entire customer journey from hob to house, all overseen by executive chef Duncan Adamson. Tribe Kitchen chefs work with partner restaurants to design and agree on a delivery-focused menu and the restaurant receives a revenue share of any sale in which their cuisine is included in orders. Punjabi street food business Pakora Bar and Mexican food firm Bodega are among the restaurants to sign up so far. Their menus will sit alongside Tribe Kitchen’s own range of restaurant-quality dishes inspired by cooking styles from around the world such as buttermilk chicken burgers from Saucy Birds, Asian fusion dishes from Soul Bowl and healthy delights from Naka. Tribe Kitchen co-founder Hall said: “Tribe Kitchen is about bringing a variety of restaurant-quality dining experiences into people’s homes, delivering what people want to eat, when they want it – all in one eco-friendly delivery. Importantly, every order is cooked then put straight on a bike, arriving with the customer in record time.” While the launch phase of Tribe Kitchen will focus on a customer base in the north of Edinburgh, it is set to launch in other parts of the Scottish capital then other cities. Co-founder Wright added: “The hob-to-home model will prove to be a game-changer.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a contract catering business as it looks for a compliance manager. The position is based in Kent, paying up to £50,000 per annum. A spokesman said: “The business is looking for a diligent and consciousness compliance manager to work with the senior management team in this healthcare catering contract. They will be tasked with taking control of all quality, health and safety and monitoring requirements, and to set the benchmark for quality and carry out relevant training to ensure consistency of approach across the contract. It is imperative the individual has previous experience within a public sector environment, ideally NHS experience. They will have experience auditing, driving compliance standards, excellent communication and accountability for contractual obligations. They will ideally have auditing or equivalent quality assurance background, and good level of IT skills. Additionally, this role would suit an excellent communicator who is results-orientated and has a proven track record of contract improvement.” Anyone interested can send their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News: 

BGF and Coaching Inn Group hail £60m-plus partnership: The BGF and The Coaching Inn Group, led by Kevin Charity, have hailed a partnership that led to a £60m-plus sale to RedCat Pub Company last Friday (13 August). BGF backed the group with an initial £4.5m investment in 2015, before providing follow-on funding of £10m a year later to support a planned £50m expansion across the UK. In the past six years, The Coaching Inn Group has significantly expanded its portfolio, acquiring 11 sites. These include The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, The Golden Fleece in Thirsk and The Three Swans in Hungerford. Gurinder Sunner, head of BGF in the Midlands, said: “BGF’s Birmingham team backed The Coaching Inn Group in 2015 to support its planned multimillion-pound expansion across the UK. During this time, the company has gone from strength to strength and substantially improved the profitability of every site, thanks to a strong and energetic management team, which has extensive experience in the hotel and hospitality market. We’re extremely proud to have supported the company in helping to accelerate the growth of the business and wish the team all the best on the next exciting stage of their journey.” As part of the sale, Charity will continue to lead and run the business within RedCat. Charity said: “We have created a tried and tested formula, acquiring the right properties in the best locations and sensitively restoring them in line with the character of their local surroundings. The investment from BGF has enabled us to achieve our growth plans without financial distractions or cash flow restrictions. Through the team, we have also met a number of high-calibre senior people within the hospitality sector who have provided insight and guidance to our plans. This type of strategic support has been invaluable in helping us achieve our aims over the past six years.”
Megan’s appoints Adam Truelove as people director: London-based, cafe and deli concept Megan’s has appointed Adam Truelove, formerly of Cote and Patisserie Valerie, to the newly created position of people director, Propel has learned. Truelove joins the 13-strong group after eight months with French brasserie Cote. Prior to that, he spent a year and a half as group people and culture director at Patisserie Valerie and its sister brand Bakers + Baristas. Truelove has also worked with Wagamama, brewer and retailer Greene King and Stonegate. Megan’s is going through a period of expansion with openings planned in Marlow, Buckinghamshire; Weybridge, Surrey; and further launches in London with a second Chelsea site and in Dulwich Village. In June, Megan’s said it was looking to recruit a further 100 staff, including two senior board positions of a people director and operations director. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Megan’s had appointed Christobell Harrington-Jones, formerly of Wagamama and Mitchells & Butlers, as its new operations director. The business has big plans for growth and brought in a new management team with Sarah Hills, formerly managing director of Bill’s and Wagamama, and Gill Clements, ex-finance director of Byron, both joining last year.

Deliveroo appoints new vice-president of strategic restaurant partnerships: Deliveroo has appointed Adam Bishop as vice-president of strategic restaurant partnerships. Bishop has responsibility for leading the global enterprise account management, global new business, Deliveroo Signature platform and commercial partnerships divisions within Deliveroo. He will report to chief marketplace officer Eric French. Bishop has joined from BBC Studios – the international production and content financing and distribution division of the BBC – where, over the past five years, he was the senior vice-president and chief commercial officer for EMEA key markets. He was responsible for all commercial activity of BBC Studios through its consumer-facing markets in EMEA, including the distribution of TV channels and on-demand services such as BBC First, BBC Earth, BBC Brit, BBC Lifestyle and BBC Player, as well as co-production and content licensing to major partner broadcasters and platforms. Prior to the BBC, Bishop worked at Procter & Gamble (P&G) for 13 years, covering a wide-range of senior commercial and management roles, including the cross-functional leadership of the Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco household accounts and leading the UK and Ireland commercial strategy teams for P&G’s Female Beauty brand portfolio. The appointment comes following strong growth and consumer engagement for Deliveroo this year. In the second quarter, gross transaction value in the UK and Ireland grew 87% year-on-year to £921m, while orders rose 94% year-on-year to 38 million during the same time period. A Deliveroo spokeswoman said: “Adam will lead our strategic restaurant partnerships globally and play a leading role to help Deliveroo improve and expand our restaurant proposition, and develop strategic and long-lasting relationships with our partners.”
Turtle Bay to open Durham restaurant in October: Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay is to open a restaurant in Durham in October. The company has started work on the 4,850 square foot venue at Durham Riverwalk. The two-storey restaurant and bar will create 50 jobs. The restaurant will feature a central island bar, open kitchen, flaming jerk-pit and grill plus indoor veranda seating with a “beach shack vibe”. Turtle Bay operations manager Phil Dukelow told the Sunderland Echo: “The dining and social scene in Durham is about to heat up. Turtle Bay Durham is going to offer some of the most Instagrammable and jaw-dropping interiors in the city, and we think people will love the feeling of escapism that Turtle Bay brings.” The company first revealed plans to open a restaurant at the Riverwalk scheme in 2017. Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper, was launched by Las Iguanas co-founder Ajith Jayawickrema and has more than 40 sites across the UK, having opened its first restaurant in Milton Keynes in 2010.
Turtle Bay features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which was updated on Friday (13 August) for Premium subscribers. Turtle Bay has turned over an average of £61.9m in the past five years. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks the 351 companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors and now includes Propel insight editor Mark Wingett’s “Propel Pick” – his pick of the companies well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.
Wagamama to open at Telford scheme seven years after pulling out of plans: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned brand, is set to open a restaurant at the Southwater scheme in Telford, Shropshire – seven years after pulling out on plans to launch at the complex. The company is due to open in unit seven of the development, where it will join restaurant brands including Nando’s and PizzaExpress. Wagamama is currently recruiting staff for the restaurant, which has yet to announce a launch date, reports Birmingham Live. It comes after Wagamama was named as one of the new restaurants set to open in the development when it opened in 2014 – but pulled out with Coal Bar and Grill taking over the unit instead. The branch closed last year when Coal Bar and Grill underwent a restructure and Wagamama will now take its place. 

The Vurger Co to head north for fourth site with Manchester opening: Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co is heading north with the launch of its fourth site – and biggest to date – in Manchester. Founders Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts are opening the venue in the Northern Quarter and will be their most ambitious project yet. They told the Vegconomist: “Manchester has been a huge goal for us right from the start, and after spending a year sourcing the right site, we couldn’t be more excited. We’re putting everything into making this an incredible space.” Backed by Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Miray Zaki of Dismatrix Group, The Vurger Co operates two London stores – the first debuting in Shoreditch in March 2018 followed by a Canary Wharf location eight months later – and the most recent Brighton location opened in July last year. Hugh and Potts said: “Brighton has been by far the most amazing store of ours. In spite of opening during a pandemic, with people taking more holidays here in the UK we have seen how popular the seaside location has been for our customers. It is our most successful site launch to date and continues to grow every month. It’s shown us the value of picking amazing sites in great cities, and then continuing to invest heavily in innovation and menu development.” Hugh and Potts said the success in Brighton demonstrated clearly there was huge potential for growth outside of London. They added: “When we reached out to our customers on Instagram in a poll, their immediate feedback was ‘open up north please!’ So, drilling down further into our data, we realised Manchester was where our name was most searched outside of our current locations. Manchester also represented the city that our meal kits were bought the most through the pandemic.”

Mission Mars set for second Rudy’s in Liverpool: Mission Mars, led by Roy Ellis, will open its second Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza in Liverpool next month, occupying a former Sainsbury’s store in the city centre. The location is in the city’s thriving independent food and beverage district, Bold Street, and complements its first Liverpool restaurant in Castle Street, which opened in 2018. Rudy’s is currently recruiting for a range of jobs at the latest site, the ninth for the brand, which began with the opening of the group’s first location in Ancoats, Manchester, in 2015. Earlier this year, the business revealed it was expanding its portfolio with a spring opening in Stockton Heath, Warrington, on the site of a former Barclays Bank building on Walton Road. The new pizzeria will occupy 3,000 square foot, providing 120 covers.
Former owner of Moleface Pub Company open fifth fish and chips shop: John Molnar, former owner of Moleface Pub Company, will open his fifth The Cod’s Scallops fish and chips shop next month, with this one located in Harborne, Birmingham. The new 40-cover restaurant and takeaway will be housed next to Boots chemist and Lebanese Munch on Harborne High Street. Since launching in 2011, the Nottingham-based brand has become renowned for serving “the freshest seafood in town” in a fun, family-friendly environment. It has won several awards, including its Wollaton Nottingham shop being named Best Fish and Chip Shop of the Year at the National Fish and Chip Awards 2020. Other sites are located in Wollaton, Sherwood and Long Eaton in Nottinghamshire and Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Customers can choose from more than 20 species of fish daily – all cooked fresh to order –baked, battered or “naked”. Oysters can be battered as well. The brand was founded in 2011 by John Molnar, who used his 30 years’ experience as a chef to “set sail a fish and chips concept like no other”. Molnar said: “I had been looking at opening a site in Birmingham for some time. I looked at units in Mere Green and Moseley, but as soon as I visited Harborne, I knew it was exactly the right place for The Cod's Scallops.” As well as seafood, the company serves pies, with fillings including steak and scale ale, chicken, ham and leek or vegan balti.
MasterChef finalist to open central London restaurant: Sven-Hanson Britt, a finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals, is to open a restaurant and bar in central London. Britt will launch farm-to-table concept Oxeye at Embassy Gardens in October. The venue will combine a fine-dining restaurant, bar, shop, private dining room and gallery that will showcase artwork from up-and-coming London artists. The fine-dining restaurant at Oxeye will host six sittings – three lunches and three dinners – a week, serving a full tasting menu created by Britt and his partner Kae Shibata and their team of chefs. Adjacent to Oxeye will sit Bar Rex, an informal bar and shop space. At the top of the building will be Oxeye’s private event space and art gallery, complete with outdoor terrace area. Mains will include Hen of the Woods mushrooms glazed in jus gras with wild onion; and braised wild Cornish turbot, sea kale and “sauce Tillington”. Bar Rex will operate as a wine bar and shop, with sharing plates. The bar will feature an extensive selection of more than 300 British wines chosen by Britt to complement dishes on offer. Britt, who was a finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2014, said: “Oxeye has been the best part of ten years in the making; from formulating our ideas in the fields of Park Farm in Derbyshire, to finding the perfect site in Embassy Gardens. The concept remains the same as it did all those years ago, a true celebration of the incredible bounty of produce found on the British Isles. The restaurant has its own smallholding in Derbyshire where we grow some fruit, vegetables and hedgerow crops to supplement produce from a number of tiny growers and producers across the country.”

Bristol-based bakery and cafe operator opens third site: Bristol-based bakery and cafe operator Bristol Loaf has opened its third venue in the city. Founder Gary Derham has launched the outlet within music hub Bristol Beacon. The ground-floor site has more than 100 covers, serving bakery items and coffee during the day and offering small-plate, modern European-style dining in the evening. There is also a wine bar by sister brand Native Vine, selling more than 80 varieties of wine along with soft drinks, spirits and premium beer and cider. Derham set up Bristol Loaf in 2017 with the opening of a bakery and cafe in the Redfield area of the city, before expanding into a second site, within Engine House Developments in Bedminster.

Black Sheep Brewery shows eco commitment by signing deal with biogas producer: Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery will be able to produce beer with renewable energy after signing a three-year deal with biogas producer Warrens Group. The agreement will give the Masham business a new income stream from its brewing process by-products. Black Sheep Brewery’s spent grains, hops and yeast will be purchased and collected by Warrens Group, as well as food waste from Black Sheep’s visitors centre restaurant, for use in the production of biogas and to fuel its fleet of gas-powered vehicles. Black Sheep Brewery head brewer Dan Scott-Paul said: “Demonstrating that 100% of our brewing by-products will support renewable energy generation is an important part of our contribution to an environmentally conscious food and drink industry. It also puts us on the road to our ambition of brewing using only renewable energy, some of which will be generated by the waste products we provide.” Black Sheep Brewery made its first beer in 1992 after being built up by Paul Theakston, whose family had operated in the area for six generations. It also runs four pubs, following the purchase of York Brewery’s assets in 2018, and a visitor centre at the brewery. 
Seventh Afrikana set for Leicester: A seventh site for Afrikana, an African-inspired restaurant, is to open in Leicester city centre. The Charles Street site will open on Friday, 27 August. Afrikana aims to offer an array of food with an African twist, along with the continent’s culture, music and art as part of the experience. Afrikana was established in the small Midlands town of Aldridge in 2018, by entrepreneur Omair Ali who felt there was a gap in the hospitality market for an African-inspired restaurant offering high-end quality food, infused with beautiful African flavours. The original Aldridge restaurant has since been joined by branches in Derby, Birmingham, Blackburn, Dalston and Cardiff.
Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group to open debut site in England in October: Scottish restaurant operator Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group will open its debut site in England in October. The company is bringing its Cafe Andaluz tapas restaurant brand to Grey Street in Newcastle. Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group secured the former Carluccio’s premises earlier this year and the new bar and restaurant is expected to create 60 jobs. Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group co-owner Tony Conetta told Chronicle Live: “This is an exciting new chapter for us all. Grey Street is a fantastic location and when the building became available, we had to make a move. A lot of people will know the brand from trips to Edinburgh and now can enjoy the best Spanish tapas closer to home.” Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group operates 18 restaurants and five food court outlets across a number of different concepts and brands in Scotland. These include five sites under the Cafe Andaluz brand, with two each in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and one in Aberdeen. The company also operates the Di Maggio’s and Amarone brands in Scotland.
Cardiff multi-site operators plan sustainable restaurant: A new, sustainability-focused independent restaurant will open in Cardiff city centre at the beginning of next month, following a two-year process of fundraising, planning and renovation. Kindle, formerly simply nicknamed “the warden’s house”, is the latest venture from Phill and Deb Lewis, the couple behind Dusty’s, an award-winning micro-chain of Neapolitan pizzerias in south Wales, and Nook, a neighbourhood bistro, also in Cardiff. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised an initial £43,000 in 2019, and with more than £350,000 of further investment from the founders, the first phase transformation of the run-down, former warden’s cottage in Sophia Gardens is now complete. Kindle will officially open to the public on 2 September. It will combine “fire food” with natural wine in a vibrant, informal and unique city centre setting. The restaurant team will work closely with local farmers, gamekeepers and gardeners to use ethical produce with an emphasis on provenance and sustainability. Head chef Tom Powell, who previously headed the kitchen of The Walnut Tree, will lead the Kindle kitchen team, creating seasonal menus that will also make the most of the on-site kitchen garden and greenhouse. Phill Lewis said: “Our vision was to create a restaurant that gives back more than it takes from the environment and to challenge what it really means to create a sustainable hospitality business from scratch.”
Fat Twins lines up Milton Keynes site for seventh opening: Burger brand Fat Twins is set to open its seventh site, this one located at Secklow Gate East, Central Milton Keynes. Its flagship restaurant is in Oldham and there are two in London, one in Slough, and one each in Cardiff and Manchester – a third London restaurant in Southall is also set to open soon. Menus at other Fat Twins stores include a variety of 17 different burgers, which are all customisable. Highlights on the menu include the BBQ Chicken Burger, which features turkey bacon with smoky barbecue sauce on a crispy chicken fillet. Fat Twins was founded by Abdul Momen in 2018.
Nottingham coffee shop Blend opens second site: Nottingham coffee shop Blend has opened a second site, taking over a pub dating to the 1970s. After a chequered history in recent times, the Toll Bar – also known as the Gatehouse for a spell – closed in 2018 after a spate of management changes and temporary shutdowns. Blend Coffee Shop, which has run a rustic-style cafe at Sneinton Market for almost five years, has opened the site under the name Blend at EastWest. Blend area manager Dani Von Suskil said: “I would say this is Blend’s older sister – tailored for young professionals. Sneinton is a bit more family-orientated. The whole place has been designed to be like a workspace for both office workers and the public – there are power points, literally, everywhere. We will branch out into office catering at some point but we want to grow slowly with the building as people come back. We’ll see what people upstairs want and tailor to our audience. I think it will be a different demographic here from what we get in Sneinton but still people who appreciate homemade and the localness of it.”
BrewDog makes London deliveries with UK’s first all-electric lorry: Logistics and distribution group Gregory is breaking new ground in partnership with BrewDog and operating the first all-electric 19-tonne rigid refrigerated vehicle in the UK. Electric vehicles form part of Gregory’s five-year sustainability strategy, which has already seen the introduction of electric pool cars and a number of gas-powered vehicles to reduce its environmental impact, with 15% of its new orders now for alternative fuel vehicles. ARR Craib Transport, a Gregory group company based in Aberdeen, provides transport services from BrewDog’s production sites. The electric vehicle is being used to distribute beer to BrewDog’s central London bars. “We are excited to continue to expand our fleet of both electric and alternative fuelled transportation,” added Ross Watson, BrewDog’s head of supply chain. “BrewDog is proud of its sustainability journey to ‘Make Earth Great Again’ and is already a carbon-negative company.”
Children’s soft play business opens fourth site: North east-based children’s soft play business Fun Shack has opened its fourth venue, at Team Valley in Gateshead. Following a six-figure investment, the 13,000 square foot indoor adventure playground features a range of children’s entertainment, including a three-storey giant play frame, interactive toddler village and volcano slide. Other activities include trampolines, go-karts, cannonball arenas, football courts and a rubber dingy slope. Craig Freeman, director at Fun Shack, told Insider Media: “We are thrilled to be able to bring a new centre to the Gateshead and Team Valley Area. This site includes all our customers’ favourite attractions from our other venues, so we feel it offers the best soft play experience for families in the entire region.” Fun Shack also runs sites in Newcastle, Seaham and Stockton. The Gateshead site has created 30 jobs.
Boom: Battle Bar opens in Eastbourne: Boom: Battle Bar has opened at The Beacon in Eastbourne. Rudra Mishra, who is running the bar, said: “The fit-out is looking fantastic and everyone here is really excited to do what we do best and see people enjoying themselves in a safe and secure environment. Yes, we have axe throwing, but we have strict rules around participation. We ensure no customer is allowed to consume alcohol prior to taking part, there is a full safety run down, and a trained member of the team will oversee the activity at all times.” For safety reasons, there is a caged exterior around the axe lanes at the bar, which occupies the first floor of The Beacon. The opening of the bar, which will serve food and drinks, has also created 30 jobs. The Beacon director James Roberts said: “It’s a new concept and, as covid restrictions ease and life starts to get back to normal, it’s just what Eastbourne needs.” The other activities include electric darts, interactive twist, mini games and extras, and a variant of crazy golf with challenges for each hole. Shuffleboards and beer pong are also on offer, while new games will be unveiled throughout the year. Boom: Battle Bar has sites in Norwich, Cardiff, Liverpool and Lakeside. Another 20 bars are planned for this year with further expansion plans to almost 100 venues within the next three years. 
Scottish islands hotel goes into administration: The Glenburn Hotel on the Isle of Bute in Scotland has filed for administration. Originally built in 1843 on a hilltop location overlooking Rothesay, it opened as a seaside hotel in 1892 and later became Scotland’s first “hydropathic” hotel. The hotel has been closed since November 2020, with staff initially being placed on furlough. However, all staff members have now been made redundant with immediate effect. The property was extensively refurbished in 2016 and features 121 bedrooms, ballroom, restaurants, bars, terrace, conference facilities and terraced gardens. The administration has been caused by significant operating costs, coupled with the fall in revenue due to the covid pandemic while still having to meet significant maintenance and running costs. Joint administrators Stuart Robb and Chad Griffin, of FRP Advisory, are marketing the hotel for sale. Robb said: “While this is a sad day in the hotel’s history, this is an outstanding opportunity to acquire an iconic hotel on one of Scotland’s most accessible islands.”
Manchester-based aparthotel operator CitySuites to open second site: Manchester-based aparthotel operator CitySuites is to open its second site in the city. CitySuites Two, which opens in October, will occupy a site in Embankment West, and will be adjacent to its existing property. CitySuites Two will feature 142 apartments, from studios of 33.5 square metres, up to three-bedroom apartments of 105.8 square metres. Also, under the roof of CitySuites Two will be five “ultra-luxurious” penthouses, occupying the top three floors of the aparthotel. The largest of the five suites will be a three-bedroom duplex penthouse that occupies 256 square metres of the 16th and 17th floor, boasting a wrap-around balcony with views of Manchester’s skyline. CitySuites Two will also have an 18-metre pool as well as spa pool, steam room and gym. There will also be a bar and co-working spaces. CitySuites operations director Gavin Bailey said: “CitySuites Two will be an evolvement of CitySuites, as you know it, in Manchester – everything we already are and more. Manchester is the fasting growing city in the UK and the level of hospitality needs to rise alongside this.”
Freeholds of Pizza Hut and KFC units sold for £2.55m: The Pizza Hut and KFC units at Solstice Park in Amesbury have been sold for a total of £2.55m. Family-owned trading company, the RO, announced the sale of its units to London Investment Holdings. Both units are let to the food retail brands on long leases expiring in 2030 and 2031, respectively. David Kershaw, the group real estate director at the RO, said: “The proceeds from this off-market disposal represents a healthy premium to book value and, when added to the cash generated from other recent disposals, leaves us in a healthy position to look at new acquisition opportunities. In tandem, we will continue our programme of investment in our existing assets.”
Sushi restaurant targets south Wales with new delivery service: Cardiff sushi restaurant Tenkaichi Sushi & Noodle bar is looking to expand across Wales with its delivery service called Sushi Wales. The restaurant came up with the idea during lockdown but is now ready to start rolling out the service in collaboration with Aberystwyth digital marketing agency InSynch. Tenkaichi director Lloyd Watkins said: “My daughter kept telling me about the great restaurant-quality food she was getting delivered to her door and suggested our sushi might present a delivery business opportunity. She felt high-quality sushi and sashimi was, generally, unavailable unless you happen to live very close to a sushi restaurant and so able to order from one of the big delivery aggregators. She said, chain sushi or supermarket sushi is machine-made and not so fresh, and suggested there must be an unmet demand for the quality of sushi we have been known for, over the past 20 years.”
Oswestry-based mobile pizzeria business to open debut restaurant: Oswestry-based mobile pizzeria business Amber’s Wood Fired Kitchen is to open its first restaurant. The company, which has been running its mobile catering service for ten years is launching the venue in Beatrice Street in the town. Owners Amber and Jolyon Iles are moving into the building formerly occupied by Hayes Kitchen and are set to open next month. Amber Iles told the Oswestry & Border Counties Advertiser: “We’ve been a business for a decade, so opening a restaurant feels like the right progression for us now. Prior to starting the events catering business, my husband and I were both in the hospitality industry, so we’ve got a lot of experience between us. There’s a great vibe in the area of Oswestry that we’re in, and we’re just really excited to be able to give Oswestry somewhere else to go that is relaxed with good food, good drinks and good atmosphere.” 

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