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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 18th Aug 2021 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Franco Manca operator paying rents on average 40% below pre-covid levels for new sites, set to sign for first international restaurant in five weeks: David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, the Franco Manca and The Real Greek operator, has told Propel the company is paying rents, on average, that are 40% less than pre-covid levels for new sites. Speaking following the company’s full-year results, Page also said the company was receiving “some very good deals” with one landlord paying the £200,000 capital investment for one of its restaurants in the south of England. He also revealed two thirds of the properties it is looking at, having identified 150 sites for its medium-term plans, are former retail units. From its current base, Fulham Shore has identified more than 125 more locations for Franco Manca in the UK and 30 more for The Real Greek. This will bring its total estate to more than 230 restaurants. Page said: “The whole relationship between landlord and tenant has changed. We are doing raising rents. So we’re paying no rent for nine months and then half of what they were getting previously over the next three to four years and gradually increasing it. Then there was a site in the south of England that the landlord paid the capital investment for. There we are paying turnover-based rent and that site is doing £40,000 a week, so the landlord is doing well out of us. While the balance has tipped firmly in favour of tenants, I don’t expect it to last beyond four or five years but, rather than go back to where we were, hopefully, things will be on a bit more of an even keel.” Fulham Shore has just exchanged on a lease for a site for Franco Manca in Baker Street in London, and Page said it would continue to look for sites in the capital. He said: “We are confident London will get back to its previous levels in 18 months’ time. The Baker Street site is a former bank, the competition is much less and the rent is about 40% down on what the landlord was originally looking for. We’re doing the ground work now for when the tourists and the office workers are back – and they will be.” Page also said the company expects to sign a deal for its first international site in the next five weeks, which will be in the Mediterranean. It comes following a summer pop-up for Franco Manca on the island of Salina in Italy for the previous two summers before covid. Page said: “Our international operations will be wholly franchised. We’ve brought in Mark Nelson (ex-Casual Dining Group international concessions and franchising managing director), who has 30 years of experience in franchises abroad and he’s building up a team that includes my son Phineas, who speaks four languages and ran our pop-up in Italy. We’ve had interest from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Far East. We’re not expecting it to add any meaningful numbers for a couple of years but we’re laying down the groundwork now. Most of the interest has been in Franco Manca, but we’ve had some inquiries in France for The Real Greek, in particular, in the Marseille region.” Page said he was particularly pleased with trading given the company has had two or three sites at a time only open for takeaway and delivery as a result of staff having to isolate due to the “pingdemic”, which was proving “very disruptive”. He added customers were still tending to favour outdoor dining. Last week, The Real Greek, which tends to have more outdoor space at its sites than Franco Manca, saw sales 30% up on two years ago whereas it was up 15% for its sister brand. Of its performance, Page said: “One of the most pleasing aspects is we are debt-free. Two and a half years ago, we were £12m in debt and now we have £3m of cash and we will fund our openings programme from our cash profits. The main sale is up, the wind is behind us and the sun is shining – and let’s hope that continues.”

Industry News: 

Updated Propel Premium database of multi-site companies to include report on new additions of 11,400 words: Propel Premium subscribers will receive an exclusive report on the new additions to the database of multi-site companies of 11,400 words when it is released on Friday, 27 August, at midday. The Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will contain at least 62 new companies – and is updated every month. The 62 new companies operate 410 sites between them. 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, which is produced in association with Starstock, 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, which is produced in association with Mapal. 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.
Restaurant Marketer & Innovator appoints advisory board for 2022 event: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, a joint initiative between Propel and Think Hospitality, is returning to London in January 2022, bringing together hospitality marketing, development and strategy executives across five events over three days. An advisory board for the event has been appointed with representatives from across multiple sub-sectors of hospitality. The 2022 advisory board is Dan Staples, chief marketing officer at Fridays; Libby Andrews, marketing director at Pho Restaurants; Russell Danks, marketing and strategy director at Punch Pubs & Co; Claire Small, head of commercial at SSP UK & Ireland; Helen Cook, director of marketing at Travelodge; Anthony Knight, sales and marketing director at Incipio Group; Alexandra Zeilinger-Good, head of marketing, PR and partnerships at Nobu Restaurants; Geoff Campion, head of communications at Chartwells UK; and Sarah McDermott, head of marketing (bars) at BrewDog. Event co-founder James Hacon said: “After a turbulent two years of trading and a very different landscape going into 2022, we felt it was the right time to appoint an advisory board for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator. We have brought together an incredibly talented and very respected group of leaders to help create an event series that really delivers on helping marketers and innovators in our sector in plotting the course of their businesses for the future. Our initial meeting was fantastic, with so many new directions and topics to consider, from how marketing teams can support with the recruitment challenge; how proactive communications can realign customer expectations at difficult times; how companies should respond to causes and political movements; and the shifts in consumer behaviour that will impact the long-term viability of different operating formats. It will be another incredibly exciting event.” More details of the event will be announced in the coming weeks.

Foodservice price inflation steady but supply problems hit sector reopening: Food and drink supply markets have been hit by widespread distribution problems and a spike in demand following the return of out-of-home eating and drinking, according to the latest edition of the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index. In particular, the south of England was affected by supply issues in June as sector businesses began reopening, with a shortage of labour, particularly HGV drivers, as well as insufficient manufactured stocks and Brexit-related challenges with imported goods cited. Many suppliers put mitigation strategies in place, including the refusal of some orders to cap demand and improvements to wages and conditions to attract new employees. The situation stabilised in July but demand is likely to peak again in early September when schools and businesses increase order levels. The Foodservice Price Index revealed food inflation stood at 1.6% in June, having levelled off at a time of year when it typically falls. Non-alcoholic beverage prices increased month-on-month but remained below 2020 levels. The remaining months of 2021 are likely to see further increases in the level of food inflation as sector demand returns towards pre-pandemic normality, and extra supply costs and wage inflation feed into price increases. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “June brought an unwelcome realisation to operators and suppliers that availability of labour will be a challenge for the foreseeable future. The difficulties with HGV drivers has been particularly impactful, and operators should consult carefully with suppliers to ensure supply chains are as lean and efficient as possible.” CGA client director James Ashurst added: “It has been a long journey back for the foodservice sector, and the recent disruption to supply has come at the worst possible time. Labour shortages and price inflation are unwelcome challenges as consumer demand continues to increase, and fragile businesses must hope conditions start to ease in the next few months.” 
CGA Purchasing is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Scottish Hospitality Group calls for migrant worker visa scheme: The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has called for the governments of the four nations of the UK to introduce a migrant visa scheme to ensure sector employers have access to workers. The trade body has warned the end of furlough in five weeks will not be enough to address the staffing crisis facing hospitality and many other sectors. The move came as new figures revealed there are a record numbers of vacancies and wage inflation, due to the staffing shortage, is also pushing up costs by about 20% while Brexit continues to have a negative effect on both labour and the supply chain. SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “Operators can’t get staff, wage inflation is rampant and all the supply chain problems are combining to act as a brake on our economic recovery. We should expect to see more people looking for work once furlough ends but it will be too little, too late. The reality is that we need temporary one or two-year visas for EU workers to make sure all businesses can recruit the right talent. Furlough has done its job and needs to end but we still need help as we head into winter. There’s a real lack of confidence because hospitality has been the first to close and last to reopen, and people, quite rightly, don’t want to be responsible for implementing government rules that don’t make any sense. So that’s had the effect of pointing people towards other sectors.” Nic Wood, owner of Signature Group, which operates 21 venues, mostly in Edinburgh and Glasgow, added: “It is incredibly frustrating that after all we’ve been through, we can’t get enough staff to open up our venues to their full capacity or hours. The issues of furlough, lack of staff and supply chain complications are jeopardising hospitality’s ability to scramble back to pre-covid trade levels. We need a visa scheme to plug the employment void that has appeared since Brexit. It’s imperative the four nations work together to encourage people into the country that want to do these jobs so that the economy has enough staff to get back to pre-covid levels.” 

Restaurant openings set to surge in London as trading bounces back: The number of restaurants opening in London this year is set to surge as confidence floods back. Trading in August in central London has been far stronger than anticipated, and has been boosted by the easing of “pingdemic” rules that has brought chaos to the hospitality industry. The pipeline for the autumn opening season is looking particularly strong, with 38 already confirmed and the total expected to reach as high as 80. Industry observers said they have been astonished by the number and scale of new ventures, considering how badly central London was hit by lockdowns. Some of the most ambitious launches already include immersive restaurant company Wonderland’s DC Comics-themed Park Row in Soho; Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s four-venue collection of eating and drinking spaces The Lane, at Theatre Royal Drury Lane; and Big Mamma Group’s Florence-themed bar and restaurant Ave Mario in Covent Garden. Those scheduled for autumn include D&D London’s Haugen at The Pavilion in Stratford and the restaurants and bars at The Londoner Hotel in Leicester Square. Restaurateurs said stability has returned to the sector, with some West End venues now seeing levels of trading above 2019, although City destinations are lagging behind. Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D London, said overall trading last week was 10% ahead of the same week in 2019. He told the Evening Standard: “September is the key month, that will tell us what the rest of the year will look like. We have a wall of corporate events bookings that are provisional but not confirmed, everyone is waiting to see how things look.” Chris Yates, managing director at chef Angela Hartnett’s group of restaurants, said: “We’re cautiously optimistic. It feels as though London is already significantly busier than July, with domestic visitors driving demand. Our site in Covent Garden has jumped back to life in the past two weeks, and we’ll be extending the operating hours to meet demand. A spokesman for Skye Gyngell’s Spring at Somerset House, said: “We are tentatively opening for lunches on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday initially, as we’ve always heavily relied on businesses in the area for a lunchtime crowd. Bookings are gradually coming in so it’s not bad, but could be better.”

Privacy body – no need to swap data for drinks: Customers should think carefully about handing over personal data when ordering food and drink via their mobile phones, the UK’s body that oversees data privacy suggests. App and web-based ordering has become commonplace during the pandemic but the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) told the BBC customers should be aware they had a choice over whether to share information. Venues should only ask for data that is “relevant and necessary”, the ICO said. “It’s too easy to upload an app and, straight away, put your name, email address, payment details in, without actually understanding fully where that information may be shared and why it’s being used,” said Suzanne Gordon, director of data protection at the ICO. “Ultimately, this is your data, it’s your personal information and you need to be confident when you’re handing it over and the reasons why.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a growing restaurant business as it looks to appoint a head of acquisitions. The role is based in London but the remit will cover France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The position is paying £70,000 to £80,000 and requires fluency in French and English. A spokesman said: “With almost 20 sites in operation across the UK, France and Spain, the group is looking at delivering a further 100 sites in the next five years across Europe. As it approaches another growth milestone, the in-house team of dedicated developers and designers needs a highly skilled acquisitions specialist to join them and maintain the momentum. They will report directly to the chief of development and have a number of resources at their fingertips. Success in this role will be driven by making it your own and passionately understanding the company’s mission and vision.” Anyone interested in finding out more can send their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News: 

Chik’n to return to the expansion trail: Chik’n, the fried chicken concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, is set to return to the expansion trail with an opening in London’s Notting Hill Gate. Propel has learned the business, which currently operates sites in Angel, Soho and Marylebone, is set to open at 88 Notting Hill Gate. Propel revealed earlier this year that Dunstone, the backer of Five Guys UK, had become the majority backer of Chik’n, with plans to ramp up its rollout. Chik’n also currently operates out of dark kitchens in Battersea, Park Royal and Wandsworth. In May, Propel revealed John Nelson, formerly of MOD Pizza UK and Nando’s, had joined Chik’n as its new chief executive. This was followed by the appointment of Rob Cooper, formerly of Sage and TalkTalk, as the brand’s new finance director.
Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen to replace Kitty Hawk in the City: Chef Gordon Ramsay is to open a Bread Street Kitchen on the former Kitty Hawk site in the City of London. His new Bread Street Kitchen & Bar will open at the end of this month in South Place. Of the new site, the company said: “A bustling and breath-taking space composed of a restaurant and bar, Bread Street Kitchen South Place offers sophisticated yet approachable all-day dining, inspired by classic Gordon Ramsay dishes and late-night cocktails.” Restaurant and bar company Wright & Bell placed its Kitty Hawk and Lino businesses into administration earlier this summer after being unable to reach agreement with landlords. The Imbiba-backed operator’s City businesses were said to have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with Kitty Hawk remaining closed since March 2020. Earlier this week, Ramsay confirmed plans to open a site in London’s Ealing under new concept Bread Street Cafe. Propel revealed, in June, the chef and restaurateur had applied to open a site under the name Bread Street Cafe on the former Limeyard unit in Ealing High Street. Ramsay currently operates two Bread Street Kitchen sites in Southwark and Bread Street, in London. The new all-day dining site will open on Monday, 23 August. Ramsay said: “Bread Street Cafe Ealing, is inspired by the iconic Bread Street Kitchen in St Paul’s, which will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. Bread Street Cafe provides a local neighbourhood relaxed and friendly all-day dining experience, delivering some of our Bread Street classics, along with some new dishes for our Ealing guests.” Ramsay is continuing to grow his UK restaurant business having opened the largest site to date under his fledgling Street Burger brand at The O2 in London last month. He is also set to open a site under the fledgling burger concept on the former Giraffe site in Reading’s The Oracle scheme.

Cafe Rouge appoints Lauren Burrill as new marketing director: Cafe Rouge, The Big Table Group-owned brand, has appointed Lauren Burrill, formerly of GLH Hotels and Royal Caribbean International, as its new marketing director. Burrill joins the brand after three and a half years at GLH, where she was, most recently, its marketing director. Prior to that, she spent more than four years at Royal Caribbean International, with the majority of her time as its brand manager. At the end of last month, The Big Table Group appointed Paul Stokes, formerly of KFC, as the company’s head of acquisitions as it looks to grow the business. Big Table Group operates more than 150 restaurants across the UK and Ireland. The group was formed in July 2020 to acquire and operate the Las Iguanas, Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia brands that were previously managed by Casual Dining Group (CDG), in concert with the existing management team.
Whitbread – we are confident Adam Crozier can chair us and BT: Whitbread has issued as statement in which is insists it is happy that Adam Crozier has the time to be its chairman and chairman of BT. A statement from Whitbread said: “We note Adam Crozier, chairman of Whitbread, will join the board of BT Group as independent non-executive director and chairman designate on 1 November 2021, before becoming chairman with effect from 1 December 2021. Following discussions with Adam, and taking account of the planned changes in his portfolio, the board is delighted he is continuing as chairman of Whitbread and is fully satisfied he can continue to devote sufficient and appropriate time to the group.”
Whitbread features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which was updated on Friday (13 August) for Premium subscribers. Whitbread turned over £589.4m in its most recent financial year, making it the 12th highest of the 351 companies featured. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks the companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors 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.

Bird & Blend Tea Co raises almost double £300,000 crowdfunding target to support store expansion within 24 hours of campaign launch: Brighton-based tea business Bird & Blend Tea Co has raised almost double its initial £300,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within 24 hours of its launch as it looks to add further shops to its portfolio. Bird & Blend Tea Co was founded in 2012 by Kristina Smith and Mike Turner with the couple setting up the business in their bedroom. It now operates 13 stores, including a flagship site in Brighton as well as a growing e-commerce business. To support its expansion, Bird & Blend Tea Co was aiming to raise £300,000 and was offering 2.97% equity, giving a pre-money valuation of £18m. But the campaign has already raised more than £567,000 from almost 900 investors and is “overfunding” with 30 days remaining. This is the second fundraise by Bird & Blend Tea Co, with its last campaign only fully live for four hours before closing. The pitch stated: “We’ve grown from packing tea in a back bedroom and selling at market stalls, to operating multiple retail stores, employing 125-plus people and running a global e-commerce platform attracting 100,000 monthly users. We achieved £3.97m turnover in FY21 despite lockdown closures of our retail stores, with £271,000 net profit and £362,000 Ebitda. Since our 2017 crowdfund, we’ve continued to grow our retail portfolio and now have 13 experiential retail stores across the UK and grown digital revenue 143% year-on-year during the pandemic. We’re proudly championing the concept of tea mixology. We’re well on our way to becoming the UK’s top brand for earth-friendly, innovative tea blends, gifts, accessories, experiences and drinks. We’re raising funds to expedite the growth of our brand with investments in digital innovation, our tech stack and our team; continue investing in local communities and experiential retail by opening more multi-sensory stores; and undertake impactful ethics and sustainability projects and achieve B Corp status.”
Taco Bell unveils four drive-thru lane design: Taco Bell has unveiled a new restaurant design that will include four drive-thru lanes, three dedicated to mobile and delivery order pick-ups. The reimagined Taco Bell will launch with a location in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, this month. It will span 3,000 square feet and two levels and also feature a proprietary lift system, created in partnership with Vertical Works, which will offer a high-tech way to get orders to customers in a contactless way. Digital check-in screens and audio/visual interaction with Taco Bell workers are among the other tech upgrades. Taco Bell began to transform its locations in order to provide increasingly digital experiences in August 2020, with 13 of these Go Mobile locations currently operating and another 85 coming.
Manchester-based vegan restaurant Vertigo to make Yorkshire debut: Manchester-based vegan restaurant Vertigo is to open its first site in Yorkshire, in Harrogate. The concept, which was founded by Michael Jebelli, will open its fourth site in total at the end of this month in the former Stevie’s Bar unit under the Everyman Cinema on the town’s Station Parade. The business currently operates three sites in Manchester, in First Street, Royal Exchange and MediaCity UK. Pudney Shuttleworth advised landlord 4Urban on agreeing a new ten-year lease to let the Harrogate unit to Vertigo.

Matt Wells launches permanent site for ‘Detroit-style’ pizza concept: Matt Wells, who co-owned former London restaurants The Dairy and Dandy, has launched a permanent site for his “Detroit-style” pizza concept, Party Store Pizza. Wells teamed up with music promoter Fred Letts to launch the concept as a pop-up last year. Now the duo have opened a permanent site, in Maltby Street, Bermondsey, in the former Dandy restaurant premises, which Wells partnered with chef Dan Wilson to relaunch in December 2019. Party Store Pizza offers “Detroit-style” pizza – baked in bespoke deep rectangular steel pans so the dough is focaccia-like and has a very crispy crust. The menu includes the Top Boy – vodka sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, ’nduja, pepperoni and honey; and Smacks of Mac with ground seasoned beef, pickled gherkin, white onion and burger sauce. Vegan options include the Bombay Bad Boy with curried aubergine, vegan mozzarella, green chili, pickled red onion, raita, coriander and Bombay mix. The drinks offer features natural wines, beer and a range of soft options. The restaurant features an open kitchen and a DJ booth. Wells also founded The Dairy and Counter Culture, which both shut last year, with Robin and Sarah Gill. He also created Knife Steakhouse and backed 24 The Oval. 

The Avocado Show to open debut UK site next month: The Avocado Show restaurant franchise will open its debut UK site next month. As revealed by Propel in June, The Avocado Show, which, last year, announced it would make its UK debut in 2021, has secured a site at 6 Princes Street, located between Regent Street and Hanover Square. The 50-cover site will offer sustainable avocado-based dishes throughout the day. The brand currently has three restaurants in Amsterdam and one each in Brussels and Madrid. Founded by Ron Simpson and Julien Zaal, the restaurant serves sustainable avocado-based dishes and, last year, said it had signed on 19 franchise locations in the UK and Europe, with the possibility of sites in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Guildford and Brighton. Simpson said: “We are excited to finally welcome London to The Avocado Show family. It has always been a dream of ours to open a location here. We are looking forward to establishing The Avocado Show globally as a socially responsible and profitable venture that will bring joy to ‘avo’ lovers for years to come.” The company has produced a cookbook, merchandise, a hologram app, a line of avocado fries and filmed a documentary about its supply chain. The Etch Group is believed to have acted on the London deal.
London-based restaurateur Igor Matrosov launches Italian fusion concept in Ealing: London-based restaurateur Igor Matrosov has launched a site in Ealing. Matrosov has opened Meadow, which is described as an “Italian fusion braseria and cocktail bar”. The 111-cover venue in The Green offers a contemporary take on traditional Italian cuisine with a menu from executive chef Oliver Pollard that uses a charcoal grill. The menu features traditional favourites such as bigoli with St George’s mushrooms; and Mafaldine with roast beetroot, almond, breadcrumbs and chilli. All handmade pasta, inspired by regional dishes in Italy, are freshly prepared each morning. Pollard said: “I wanted to create a menu that takes inspiration from Italian dishes, while having the freedom to interpret them in my style, and not be too tied down to tradition. I want to cook the food that I love to eat.” Matrosov is behind London’s brunch spot Las Banderas and also consulted for the holding company of Covent Garden’s Avobar and Pancs Cafe, with locations in London, Switzerland, the US and Hong Kong. 
Ponti’s Restaurant secures support package to stay afloat: Ponti’s Restaurant, which has been run by the same family for almost 50 years, has survived the pandemic with backing from a flexible finance solutions provider. Ponti’s, which has restaurants in Sheffield and London, negotiated a short-term working capital injection of £100,000 from Reward Finance Group to cover its costs when normal service was interrupted because of the lockdowns. The money was used to pay suppliers, rent, utilities and those staff who continued to work throughout the pandemic. From the moment Ponti’s could serve customers outside in April, through to the restrictions being lifted completely on 19 July, trading has exceeded expectations in both restaurants, enabling it to fully repay the loan. Son of the founder, Stefano Ispani, who now owns and runs the restaurants, said: “We have extremely loyal customers who we knew would support us once we could start trading normally again, so it was just a question of keeping our nerve until things started getting back to normal.”

MJMK opens Cuban-influenced bar on former Sweet Chick site: Bar operator MJMK – the team behind piri piri brand Casa do Frango – has opened La Rampa, a Cuban-inspired bar and restaurant just off London’s Oxford Street. The company, which opened Bar Bolivar in the Reuters Plaza space that was home to Carluccio’s in Canary Wharf last year, has launched the new venture on the former Sweet Chick site in Market Place. MJMK said La Rampa is a “homage to the decadent history of Havana, when the rich and famous flocked to the city in search of a good time”. Drinks, which are mainly cocktail-led and have a particular emphasis on rum, have been created by Marcis Dzelzainis of Sager + Wilde, while the food offering has been developed by Tata Eatery, and “reimagines Cuban cuisine, taking influence from the entire Central American region and focusing on small plates to be shared and eaten without knives and forks”. The site itself spans more than 4,000 square foot on two floors, with a large, south-facing terrace at the front. Sweet Chick, the US concept backed by rapper, Nas, closed last year. Earlier this month, MJMK revealed it is set to launch a permanent site for AngloThai, the concept from husband and wife team John and Desiree Chantarasak. Following a series of supper clubs and festival appearances, The Chantarasaks will open their new home in central London at the start of next year.
Three Thistles pub group chairman buys Glasgow bar: David Low, chairman of the Three Thistles pub group, has bought The Arlington in Glasgow. The property, which has been operated continuously on the same Woodlands Road site since 1860 – making it one of the city’s oldest surviving pubs – was sold for an undisclosed sum by former owner, sports agent and publican John Lonergan. Famous customers over the years have included Sir Billy Connolly, Frankie Miller and punk band The Clash. Low’s brother, Kenny, is the sitting tenant in The Arlington, which was the spur for acquiring the property. Low, whose investment portfolio includes a significant holding in Scotland’s only cryptocurrency, Scotcoin, told The Herald: “It’s one of the city’s oldest, continuously operated pubs. I’ve been a customer for many years and it’s an honour for me to see it through the next stage of its journey. In this age of corporately owned theme bars and faceless chains, The Arlington is a rarity – a traditional, community pub for real people and, with the exception of perhaps a few cosmetic touches, I intend to leave it as it is.” The Three Thistles group of pubs includes The Clockwork, Dram! and Bauhaus in Glasgow and The Steading in Edinburgh.
Leicester-based operator to open second site for Black Iron restaurant concept: Leicester-based operator Kiran Parmar is to open a second site in the city for his Black Iron restaurant concept. Parmar will operate the bar and restaurant at The Gresham – a new aparthotel in Market Street – as Black Iron Social. The 80-cover restaurant based in the main ground floor lobby of The Gresham will be open to the public as well as aparthotel guests. Parmar, whose business ventures extend to The City Rooms as well as the Black Iron restaurant at Winstanley House, said: “Having first opened in 2017 at Winstanley House, we are thrilled to be expanding and opening a second location within The Gresham. It’s a very exciting time for the Black Iron team as we make the final preparations for the launch of Black Iron Social this autumn and join a number of other fantastic businesses on Market Street.” The Gresham is a grade II-listed Victorian building, formerly home to retailer, Fenwick. It is being restored by developer, Aimrok Holdings. Director Mark Copson said: “The concept behind the Black Iron Social with its contemporary feel and very best of British cuisine, fits perfectly with The Gresham’s traditional, luxury upmarket brand.”
Administrators market Lorne Hotel in Glasgow: The joint administrators of the Lorne Hotel in Glasgow have appointed Christie & Co to sell the property. The hotel, in Sauchiehall Street, was forced to close in December 2020, due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic. Prior to closing, the business traded profitably as a three-star hotel with an independent bar and restaurant, Bukharah Restaurant and the Bilberry Cocktail Bar, which also ceased trading following the appointment of the administrators, Alistair McAlinden and Blair Nimmo, of Interpath Advisory. The hotel comprises 102 en-suite bedrooms, a hotel reception with lounge seating and a large modular function room with capacity for 170 guests. This space can also be split into three smaller rooms. Brian Sheldon, Scotland and north west regional hospitality director at Christie & Co, who is handling the sale, said: “This sale presents a fantastic opportunity to secure a large-scale hotel in a prime position that is surrounded by numerous leisure drivers in a thriving part of Glasgow. Planning permission has also been secured to develop an additional number of guest rooms, creating plenty of opportunity for prospective buyers.”
Christie & Co is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Xercise4Less founder to open second site for new fitness studio concept with plans for UK rollout: Former rugby union player Jon Wright, who founded the Xercise4Less gym chain, is to open a second site for his new fitness studio concept, with plans to roll out across the UK. Feel Electric Wellness studios, which opened a couple of months ago in Harrogate, is to launch an outlet in Roundhay, Leeds. After suffering a string of back injuries, Wright hung up his Harlequins shirt to become an entrepreneur. He started by selling gym memberships. He then opened his own fitness club in 2006 and went on to establish Xercise4Less, one of the pioneers of budget clubs. Wright built this chain up to more than 50 clubs and between 2015 and 2019 sold it in a series of private equity deals. Feel Electric Wellness offers Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) technology, which is currently only available in a handful of places across the UK. It focuses on four areas – overall strength and fitness training; rehabilitation; weight loss; and toning and sculpting. The company’s current site is in Leeds Road, Harrogate, and the venture’s second studio will open on Tuesday, 31 August, in Street Lane in Leeds. Wright said: “Once I had tried and seen the results from this revolutionary training, I realised there is a fantastic opportunity to bring this to the UK market. Like we did with Xercise4Less, we plan to roll this concept out across the UK as market leader.” The Leeds Feel Electric studio will house multiple training stations and accommodate up to 400 clients per week.
Deep Beat Entertainment to take over running of Burnley cafe: Deep Beat Entertainment, which operates from 13 cafes across the UK in parks and leisure centres, is taking over operations at a Burnley cafe. The company has been appointed by Burnley Borough Council to run the Stables Cafe at Towneley Park. A temporary outdoor catering chalet will serve hot and cold drinks, cakes and bakes and pizzas, while the interior of the cafe is fitted out by Deep Beat Entertainment and external repairs to the listed building are also carried out. This work is expected to take about eight weeks. Last year, Deep Beat Entertainment secured funding to support its expansion into the holiday park market. The business, founded by Louis Dixon, received £550,000 from Leeds-based Fresh Thinking Capital towards the acquisition of Watermouth Lodges in Ilfracombe from a private vendor. The north Devon holiday park is the first site to operate under the new Park Life Resorts brand. Deep Beat Entertainment was established in 2018 after a gap in the market was identified for a socially conscious cafe that could operate sustainably in seasonal trading environments such as public parks. 
Tipjar sees fundraise hit twice its initial target as it passes £800,000 mark: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has seen its fundraise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube pass £800,000 – twice its initial target – as it plans further expansion in the US. The business, which was founded by James Brown, of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, is backed by Alex Moore of Rosa’s Thai Cafe, Gary Dolman of Monzo and Simon Bocca, formerly of Fourth. So far, the campaign has raised more than £809,000 from in excess of 620 investors with 17 days remaining. Tipjar initially aimed to raise £400,000 and was offering 3.89% equity, giving a company pre-money valuation of £11m. This is the second fundraise Tipjar has listed on Crowdcube and, since its last campaign only 11 months ago, the company said it had more than doubled their initial investors’ share price. 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. The company said that since its first raise last year, it had “received clearance from HM Revenue & Customs defining digital tips equivalent to cash, launched in the US with a partnership with Visa, launched in the EU, launched a dedicated tipping device ‘Tap To Tip’ and became the first tipping solution to use open banking”.

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