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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 23rd Aug 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

NTIA – data shows mass participation events can be conducted safely without need for covid passports: Data from NHS Test and Trace at mass participation events that showed they can be conducted safely should give rise to the government dismissing any possibility of mandating covid-passports for such settings, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said. The data, drawn from a range of the 37 trial events that have formed the Events Research Programme over a four-month period, has shown case numbers were largely in line with or below community infection rates for the duration of the programme. Figures showed 585 cases were recorded by NHS Test and Trace at the time of the British Grand Prix, which hosted the largest crowd in the UK in more than 18 months with in excess of 350,000 people in attendance across three days. When broken down, the 585 cases from the Grand Prix show that 343 of those cases were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the event, while 242 cases are from people likely to have acquired an infection around the time of the event. In England, over this period, 1.36% to 1.57% of people were testing positive for covid-19, which equates to between one in 75 to one in 65 people. Data from the Wimbledon tennis championships, which hosted about 300,000 people over a two-week period, recorded 881 cases through NHS Test and Trace. This data breaks down to 299 cases that were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the event, with 582 cases likely to have been acquired around the time of the event. In England, over this time period, 0.31% to 1.36% of people were testing positive for covid-19, which equates to between one in 320 and one in 75 people. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’ve shown we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings.” NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “The industry is doing an amazing job of maintaining safe spaces for people to engage socially and, following a month of opening, we are pleased to see consistent figures that show a measured drop in cases and mortality rates. We hope these results will bring a renewed confidence in the key sectors, giving rise to the government dismissing any possibility of mandating covid passports as a pre-requisite of entry for cultural settings.”

Industry News: 

Operators specialising in experiential offerings added to updated Premium database of multi-site companies: Businesses that specialise in experiential and entertainment offerings have been added to the updated Propel Premium database of multi-site companies, which will be released on Friday (27 August), at midday. The Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will include businesses with an experiential or entertainment focus such as axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks, which is planning to open a site in London’s West End; and north east-based children’s soft play business Fun Shack opened its fourth venue, at Team Valley in Gateshead. Meanwhile, leisure brand Escape Live has selected Liverpool ONE for its debut venue in the north west – and fifth in total. One of its escape rooms will include the brand’s official Peaky Blinders immersive experience. The go-to database, which is updated monthly, 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, on Tuesday, 31 August, at midday. 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 Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, with the latest version having just been sent out, 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Customers returning to hospitality more quickly than last summer but businesses remain fragile in face of staffing crisis: Customers are returning to hospitality more quickly than last summer but businesses remain fragile in face of staffing crisis, according to new research. A UKHospitality survey, supported by data from CGA, found 56% of consumers visited a hospitality venue in the first ten days after “Freedom Day” in July – a much faster return to venues when compared with last summer’s reopening following lockdown when just 35% returned in the same time-frame. However, data shows that thousands of businesses are still struggling compared with pre-pandemic. The survey showed it took more than six weeks for people to return in similar numbers in 2020, and with 45% of those who haven’t yet been out saying they plan to do so in the next month, it paints a picture of growing consumer confidence when it comes to hospitality experiences. The figures suggest this is due to consumer confidence in the extensive hygiene and safety measures put in place by hospitality venues. At the end of the first lockdown last summer, hygiene and cleanliness were the number one consideration for people when deciding which venue to visit. This year, that has slipped to fourth place behind price, convenience and quality of food. Pre-pandemic, hygiene and safety was the fifth priority for customers of the on-trade. Despite this rise in consumer confidence, UKHospitality warned the industry remains in a fragile state with businesses fighting for survival on a number of fronts, not least the critical shortage of staff. The latest Office for National Statistics figures released last week showed UK job vacancies at a record high, with the hospitality sector reporting a 10% vacancy rate – equal to 210,000 roles. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “While rising customer numbers is welcome news, the hospitality sector is by no means out of the woods. Hospitality venues are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels of revenue with staff shortages hindering their recovery. In order to rebuild, the sector needs the government to put in place a supportive landscape that includes an extension of the business rates holiday until at least October and a permanently lower rate of VAT for the sector. Such measures will allow the hospitality sector and the people it supports to play a full role in the UK’s economic recovery.”

Beer drought fears eased as strike action called off: A strike by distributors of some of the biggest beer brands in the country has been called off – but many pub operators said shortages are set to continue. Pubs had been bracing themselves for a “late-summer beer drought” after a pay row between a major distribution company and its delivery teams threatened to see supplies halted over a series of day-long strikes over the coming weeks. But on Friday (20 August), the action was called off after the Unite union struck a deal with distribution firm GXO Logistics – previously known as XPO Logistics. The strike would have had significant effects because the firm delivers beer to about 40% of the country’s hospitality outlets. GXO distributes many major brands, among them those under the Heineken umbrella. A statement sent to suppliers from Heineken said the strikes are off, subject to a ballot of the 1,000 draymen to take place next week. However, pub operators said they are “not out of the woods just yet” after a turbulent 18 months that has seen outlets forced to close for many months due to the pandemic, and then face the twin problems of staff shortages and the “pingdemic” forcing workers to have to isolate. Phil Thorley, operations director at Thorley Taverns, which operates 19 sites, told Kent Online: “Although this strike has been called off, we have been having a nightmare for the past month with both wet and food deliveries. One, is it going to turn up? Two, is what you’ve ordered going to be there? That is proving extremely challenging alongside the driver shortage as well as staff shortages in the hospitality industry currently. We’ve had failed deliveries with no strike. It’s happening all over. The most frustrating thing is you don’t get warned about it. It just doesn’t turn up. It’s challenging times at the moment but hospitality is such a resilient industry, it’s not the last straw because we’ll always have the doors open, but it is frustrating.”
 
New platform aims to ‘revolutionise at-home dining experience’ by bringing top-end restaurants to homes: A new platform is aiming to “revolutionise the at-home dining experience”, offering chef-quality restaurant meals delivered to doorsteps across the UK. Prept allows customers to order from restaurants not available for delivery on traditional apps and finish things off at home, culminating in “game-changing, restaurant-quality meals”. Guests head to the website or app, order from its selection of “at home” menus, and can expect delivery to their dining table 48 hours later, in pre-arranged one-hour time slots. Prept said it is tapping into the diversifying restaurant landscape by offering an alternative to local food delivery platforms with its tailored-made meals, ready to heat. It said it has already garnered interest from a number of notable restaurants including Simon Wood, Quilon and Prana. Prept uses insulated fleece-lined boxes and ice packs to ensure food is kept fresh for up to 48 hours from when it leaves the restaurant. Prept founder and Meze Publishing managing director Phil Turner said: “A year and a half of lockdowns has meant businesses of all types have been forced to innovate and, in many ways, trends that were coming five years down the line have been accelerated. We think the offer of a restaurant experience in your own home is not one that will disappear from our lives just because we are no longer in lockdown but one that will run alongside the traditional in-person restaurant experience. It’s not always easy to get a table at a top-end restaurant – or afford the time and distance to get there.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a hotel business as it seeks to appoint a head of finance. The role is based in west London and will pay between £65,000 and £75,000. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The head of finance will lead and manage all financial aspects across the business with a commercial focus in order to meet company targets and drive the business forward. They will take full responsibility for the finance department, covering all companies’ and brands’ financial affairs. This job will encompass all internal and external reporting requirements. They will be tasked with creating and ensuring a strong accounting record and operational control that will safeguard assets, improve operations and profitability and manage business risks. This role will suit a fully qualified ACA/ACCA with six to seven years’ post-qualification experience. A hospitality or large hotel background is also ideal.” Anyone interested can email Oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News: 

Three Joes team completes Stable integration and restructuring: The integration of The Stable estate into Sourdough South, operators of the Three Joes sourdough pizza concept, is now complete, Propel has learned. The estate comprises ten Stable sites and a trio of Three Joes outlets, with the group now looking at the next phase of growth. Co-owner Tim Hall said: “We have spent lockdown restructuring The Stable pizza pub chain and the process is now complete. We inherited a great business from Fuller’s into which we have injected all our experience from Three Joes, Byron and Pod, and the estate is currently trading significantly ahead of our most optimistic forecasts with a £500,000 week recently achieved and record weekly revenues spread widely across the group.” Co-owner Peter Bruton added: “By introducing best-in-class operating processes and restaurant management, we have taken the capacity of The Stable chain up a level and while there is clearly some residual benefit from the beautiful locations we have inherited, in a post-covid world, you have to be properly prepared to maximise the opportunity while also delivering an excellent customer experience and this is what we have been focusing on during lockdown.” Co-owner Emma Blackmore said: “We have worked hard during lockdown to integrate a new supply chain into The Stable as well as simplifying kitchen processes to deliver a new menu and drinks range for our customers and, so far, the response has been really gratifying. The Stable has a bright future and we look forward to trading without disruption over the coming months and years.” Three Joes acquired The Stable from Fuller’s in June last year. The Stable was started in Bridport by Richard Cooper and Nikki Cooper in 2009. Fuller’s acquired a 51% stake in the then six-strong business in June 2014 for £7.3m. It subsequently acquired a further circa 24% and, in June 2018, Fuller’s completed the acquisition of the remaining circa 24% stake of The Stable, which, at that point, had grown to 17 sites.
 
Yori to open in Fulham for seventh site: Korean barbecue brand Yori is to open its seventh site, in Fulham Broadway, south west London. The company is opening the outlet in Fulham Road in the premises previously occupied by the MeMe restaurant. It follows an opening in Clapham Junction earlier this spring. Yori, which means “cooked food” in Korean, was founded in 2016 by Jong Soon Kim, who is also behind Japanese restaurant Nori and Korean dessert cafe Cake & Bingsoo, both in New Malden, Surrey, and Japanese dessert parlour Cafe Mori in Wimbledon. Yori also operates sites in Ealing, Richmond, Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Wimbledon. CDG Leisure acted on the Fulham deal.

Odeon to open state-of-the-art cinema at boutique hotel The Londoner: Cinema group Odeon has announced its new venue will be part of super boutique hotel The Londoner, which will open in Leicester Square in September. The £300m development will be home to the new Odeon Luxe West End, which will boast a new Dolby cinema, powered by a dual laser projector and an immersive audio system. The cinema will be the second in London and will have 168 seats, comprising 166 luxury recliners and two for wheelchair access. It will have a 13.3-metre screen and 67 speakers. The new screens are part of the continued rollout of Odeon Luxe, a premium proposition that combines the best in cinematic experience with enhanced food and beverage options. Earlier this month, The Londoner announced it was set to unveil six unique hospitality offerings. Concepts will include Whitcomb’s (a day-to-night brasserie and bar), The Stage (a champagne-centred breakfast, tea and caviar spot), The Residence (a private club and whisky bar for residents only), Refuel (healthy snacks site, including post-workout smoothies), 8 at The Londoner (world-class Japanese rooftop dining and cocktails) and Joshua’s Tavern (neighbourhood pub and gin bar). The Londoner will be spread across 16 floors, with its food and beverage concepts created by Amir Jati, creative director at Edwardian Hotels London, and The Londoner’s executive chefs Matt Downes, Shailesh Deshmukh and Neil Armstrong.

Former Soho House director launches at-home entertainment experience platform: Former Soho House director Antoine Melon has launched an at-home entertainment platform. HOMEtainment offers an elite selection of hosts to come into people’s homes. Grouped into four main categories, there are specialists in food and drink; a range of musical talent from DJs to opera singers and pianists; and the “play” experiences, including a crystal healing ceremony; and a build-your-own cellar session. Melon said he wanted to “put the excitement back into entertaining at home while helping to reinvigorate the hospitality industry”. He added: “After each crisis, there are opportunities. Entertaining at home will have a different meaning after covid restrictions. My mission with HOMEtainment is to provide hospitality freelancers a platform to offer their services directly to the customer, while simultaneously meeting the needs of the new consumer who wants to enjoy fun and refined experiences in the comfort of their own home.” HOMEtainment is available within the M25. Melon has more than 25 years of hospitality experience behind him, working for lifestyle and luxury brands such as Soho House, Six Senses, Mandarin Oriental and Conran Restaurants.
 
Leon disputes claims after scientists question environmental credentials of its ‘carbon-neutral’ burgers: Natural fast food brand Leon has disputed claims after the environmental credentials of its “carbon-neutral” burgers were questioned. In January, Leon announced it would become the first restaurant chain in the UK to serve carbon-neutral burgers and fries at more than 60 locations by reducing and offsetting the emissions they produce. Alongside excluding high-carbon meats such as beef from its menu and using more sustainable energy sources, the company pledged to neutralise emissions by purchasing carbon credits from three rainforest conservation and tree-planting schemes. But scientists and carbon market specialists have raised concerns about Leon’s claim and some of the credits it has used to substantiate its advertising. One rainforest conservation project, the Peruvian Amazon, run by a partnership between two logging companies and a conservation non-government organisation, was featured in a joint Guardian and Unearthed investigation that uncovered serious concerns about the project’s credibility. The investigation found the Redd+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) carbon credits, which are generated by preventing hypothetical deforestation, were unlikely to represent real emission reductions and threats to the forest had been overstated. The findings, at the time, were fiercely criticised by Verra, a US non-profit group that administers the world’s leading carbon credit standard, VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). Britaldo Soares-Filho, a deforestation modelling expert and professor at the Institute of Geosciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, whose software was used to model the hypothetical deforestation the project selected by Leon was preventing, warned they were “phantom credits” with little benefit to the climate. However, Leon told The Guardian it was confident the credits accredited by Verra helped “prevent greenhouse gas emissions, protect vital biodiversity and create sustainable livelihoods for forest communities”. Leon added it was aware of The Guardian’s investigation into the project, which was one of many it backed, but was confident the credits were helping to protect threatened rainforest.
 
C&C Restaurant Group to open new Italian concept in Glasgow: Glasgow-based C&C Restaurant Group is to open a new Italian concept in the city next month. The company is transforming the former Iberica site in St Vincent Street into Roberta’s. It will serve Neapolitan pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired oven, and “playful and nostalgic” pasta dishes. Also on the menu will be grill-inspired plates, decadent Italian desserts and cocktails “that bring a touch of New York-style and substance to Glasgow city centre”. The wine list will feature Italian labels as well as new names that will also complement the restaurant’s focus on Italian lifestyle and cuisine. Roberta’s will be set within a 100-plus cover space spread across the bar, main dining room and private dining area. C&C Restaurant Group director Toni Carbajosa said: “Roberta’s Glasgow will take a fresher approach to the traditional Italian ristorantes and trattorias that can be found throughout Glasgow. Roberta’s will be lively and gallus, mixing Italian style with a strong dose of modern Glasgow attitude.” The group is also behind restaurant and bar Cranside Kitchen, Spanish concept Rioja and Greek-inspired venue Halloumi in the city.
 
Bijoux operator announces plan for new members’ bar at former PizzaExpress: The team behind three-strong bar operator Bijoux has announced plans to turn a former PizzaExpress site into a members’ bar called The Cad Club. An application for a premises licence for the site on Dean Street, Newcastle, has been lodged with Newcastle City Council that will serve “high-end food, drinks and service”. Documents also stated hostesses will be “scantily clad” but that there will be no lap dancing or private rooms at the site. The statement read: “The Cad Club will trade as a members-only bar (a member can sign in two guests on the night, although they must have the relevant identification and can only sign in on the same day that identification has been approved). The premises will have a food offering until 9.30pm daily and drinks will be served until close. We will be offering a high-end food menu with restaurant-style seating throughout both floors.” It added the high-end nature of its service, food and drinks would be reflected in its pricing structure. It added the premises may have performances from live singers and DJs, and that recorded music will be played “at a level for customers to talk in comfort”. According to Chronicle Live, the venue would open in the morning for breakfast and alcohol sales would start from 11am after the breakfast service. Bijoux operates sites in Mosley Street, Newcastle; the Sauchiehall Centre building in Bath Street, Glasgow; and in Marbella, Spain.

Itsu opens St Albans site: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Julian Metcalfe, has opened a site in St Albans, Hertfordshire. As revealed by Propel earlier this month, Itsu has opened the outlet in St Peter’s Street. Metcalfe said: “As the rise in health continues and more of us keep shopping local, we hope it won’t be long before an Itsu could be on all local high streets, helping people make better food choices.” The business, in which Bridgepoint invested in June, opened its first franchise restaurant, in Reading this month. The restaurant is located at the Reading Gate Retail Park and is in partnership with Heart with Smarts, which is operated by the team behind Pizza Hut Restaurants. Last month, Propel revealed Itsu had signed an agreement with Savvi Dining Group to open the brand’s second franchise restaurant in the UK. The new restaurant, scheduled to open in late September, will be located at Food Central, the recently completed £168m expansion to Leicester’s Fosse Park shopping and leisure destination. Itsu’s first international franchise site will open in Brussels Airport in partnership with Autogrill. Itsu plans to open 100 new outlets, creating 2,000 jobs in the UK alone, within the next five years.
 
House of Gods to open destination restaurant and cocktail club next month: Boutique hotel brand House of Gods, which is backed by Imbiba, will open Casablanca Cocktail Club on 16 September. Set across the courtyard from House of Gods on Cowgate, Edinburgh, the new “destination restaurant” is inspired by the “celebrity-fuelled club scene” of Los Angeles and will aim to be part restaurant, part late night hotspot. The menu, created by head chef Andrew Logie, will feature a 24-carat gold Wagyu burger served on limited-edition Versace plates and Scallop Chicken Wings marinated in Dom Perignon champagne. House of Gods co-founder Mike Baxter said: “We wanted to create a truly hedonistic dining experience; a space where you could go for an incredible meal, have a few drinks and end the night dancing on the tables. With operating hours that see the restaurant open until the wee small hours, it’s fair to say diners won’t have to find somewhere else to head to for a post-meal nightcap.” Last month, Imbiba invested an additional £5m in House of Gods as part of a £9.8m package to expand its offering, including two new sites. House of Gods, which was founded by brothers Mike and Ross Baxter in September 2019 and opened its Edinburgh property that year, also secured a £4.8m loan from OakNorth Bank. The funds are helping the Baxters create two, four-star, boutique hotels in Manchester and Glasgow, and launch Casablanca Cocktail Club, with the intention of further expanding the brand to other UK cities.

Kenny Tutt to open Worthing restaurant next month with ‘risky’ outdoor dining space: MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt has confirmed he will open his latest restaurant in Worthing next month, which will have a “risky” outside dining space. Inspired by modern beach clubs and the art deco scene on Miami’s South Beach, Bayside Social will have 180-degree beach views from the glass-fronted building and terrace, as well as offering indoor seating for 40 diners. It was due to open in July but will open its doors on 4 September. Tutt told The Argus: “Bayside Social will be an all-day dining restaurant. In the morning, we will serve breakfast and brunch and, into the evening, it will be more of a small plates and sharing menu. I’m also going to have a takeaway hatch doing nice seaside treats like fish and chips, calamari and some vegetarian and vegan bites too. The building is a lovely design. Half of it opens so that the diners who are sat inside still have the nice views. We also really focused on making a nice outside space which is risky being in the UK but, at the same time, we’ve invested a lot into making it as weatherproof as possible and being able to move the furniture and keep customers protected from the wind.” Tutt, also runs Pitch restaurant in Worthing, West Sussex, and also recently opened his first Brighton venture, Ox Block, as part of the recently refurbished Shelter Hall – the debut venture by Sessions Market, the ethically driven and immersive food hall concept backed by Imbiba and led by former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne.

BrewDog opens in Bath: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened a site in Bath. The company has launched the bar in the SouthGate Bath shopping centre after taking over the former Absurd Bird restaurant premises in St Lawrence Street. The bar has 28 taps of draught beer from BrewDog and other craft breweries, alongside canned and bottled offerings to drink in or take away. There is also cider, soft drinks, wine, spirits and coffee. The traditional BrewDog menu of burgers, buffalo wings and salads, alongside a weekend brunch is available. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Thanks to our amazing team for all of their hard work in making this new, beautiful location happen. With BrewDog Bath, we continue to create many new real living wage jobs in the UK. All of our team also share 10% of our profits via our Unicorn Fund. And, of course, like everything we do, the new bar is carbon negative.”
 
Heavenly Desserts opens Birmingham site: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has opened a site in Birmingham. The company has opened the outlet in Soho Road. Heavenly Desserts’ menu includes pancakes, waffles, fondants, cakes and slices as well as tea, coffee and soft drinks. Heavenly Desserts previously operated a site in Birmingham, in Ladypool Road, but this is being rebranded to Haute Dolci. It comes after Nizam Mohamed, founder of Heavenly Desserts, sold the rights to the brand to focus on the expansion of his Haute Dolci and IceBurg concepts. Mohamed agreed to accept a seven-figure settlement to transfer his rights in the Heavenly Desserts brand to an entity operated by Mohammad Imran and Mohammed Yousif. This brought an end to High Court proceedings started by Mohamed, which began in 2018, regarding the ownership of the Heavenly Desserts brand. As part of the settlement, Mohamed also agreed to rebrand the Heavenly Dessert site in Preston to Haute Dolci. Heavenly Desserts operates circa 30 sites with openings “coming soon” in Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
 
Roxy Leisure targets family crowd with site lined up in York: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ballroom concepts, has lined up an opening for a bowling alley in York. The Leeds-based company has applied for a premises licence at the former Topshop at 3 St Mary’s Square in the Coppergate Centre. It wants permission to screen films, play recorded music indoors and serve late light refreshment and alcohol. If approved, Roxy Leisure said it hoped to create a family-friendly bowling alley concept, with other mystery ball games within the same unit, according to York Press. It would have a midday opening time in a bid to target family crowds rather than its “Booze & Ball Games” tagline offering at Roxy Ball Room for its over-18s concept. If successful, the company plans to use 15,000 square foot of the former Topshop building, although designs and planning applications will not be submitted for some time. Earlier this month, it was reported Roxy Leisure was lining up a site on Princess Street, Edinburgh, that would see the site’s basement converted to include six bowling lanes, two duckpin bowling lanes, ten American pool tables and five ping pong tables.

Taco Bell franchisee Adil Group opens drive-thru restaurant on former Pizza Hut site in Lincoln: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has opened a site in Lincoln. Franchisee Adil Group has opened the outlet on land to the south east of Nettleham Road following the conversion of a Pizza Hut restaurant. The Adil Group operates more than 130 sites in the UK with partners KFC, Costa Coffee, Burger King, Taco Bell and Anytime Fitness. Meanwhile, Taco Bell will open a drive-thru at a new retail development in Kirkby town centre in Merseyside on Tuesday (24 August). Lucy Dee, head of marketing at Taco Bell UK, said: “Liverpool has been crying out for more Taco Bells and we’re very pleased to be able to deliver; creating jobs despite challenging circumstances.” Taco Bell operates 66 sites in the UK. The company has more than 7,500 restaurants across the globe with Glen Bell having opened the first in Downey, California, in 1962. 
 
Cardiff casino reports positive results despite covid challenges: Long-established Cardiff casino, Les Croupiers Casino, has reported positive financial results after a period when it responded to the challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic. In the 18 months to 31 September 2020, the casino, known locally as The Croups, made a gross profit of £5.3m on turnover of £24.5m. Allowing for one-off costs, the business made a pre-tax loss of £66,500. Direct costs associated with the pandemic included £32,000 spent on personal protective equipment and £68,000 in relation to redundancies. The business also incurred costs associated with a now-completed review of its operating licence by the Gambling Commission. In accounts filed at Companies House, the directors said considering the operation was forced to close for five months as a result of covid restrictions, they were satisfied with the performance. The results were said to reflect The Croups’ attention to customer service, an increasing technology-based gaming environment and an ability to react to changing needs. Customer interest in enhanced slot machines continued to grow during the 18 months. Looking ahead, the casino plans further investment into the gaming experience.
 
Red Engine opens second London site for Electric Shuffle: Red Engine, the team behind Flight Club, has opened the second London site for its Electric Shuffle concept. The venue comprises more than 8,000 square foot of space in Bermondsey Street, located directly under the concourse of London Bridge station within five historic Victorian brick vault arches. Ellis Design Studio has designed the site, which has two bars and ten shuffleboard tables. Having reimagined the game of shuffleboard in a spectacular bar, Electric Shuffle sees teams of up to 16 players competing against each other in three games. In June, Propel revealed Red Engine is to launch the first international site for Electric Shuffle, in the US, in Texas. Headed by US chief executive Gene Ball, formerly of Topgolf, the site will open in October in Deep Ellum, Dallas. Electric Shuffle launched in London’s Canary Wharf in November 2019. Red Engine is also behind darts concept Flight Club.
 
Livelyhood launches Bromley site: Independent south London pub group Livelyhood has opened a site in Bromley. Operating in the High Street space that was once a famous wine merchant owned by George Pamphilon in the mid-18th century, The Artful Duke is a “classic neighbourhood pub” in the heart of the south east Greater London town. The 3,000 square foot venue, which has created about 30 jobs, has 150 covers inside and a 60-cover heated outdoor terrace. As well an all-day menu, the pub serves a range of cocktails, beer, wine and spirits. The new opening brings Livelyhood’s portfolio to seven, which currently includes The Clapham North, The Regent in Balham, The Perky Nel in Clapham, The Faber Fox in Crystal Palace, The Mere Scribbler in Streatham and The Old Frizzle in Wimbledon. An eighth opening is planned with The Rosy Hue opening on the corner of the new two-acre park within the Elephant Park regeneration scheme in February 2022.
 
Plans for £40m cinema and leisure complex in Preston take step forward after funding package agreed: Plans for Preston’s £40m cinema and leisure complex have taken a step forward as councillors agreed a funding package for the project. The new development, called “Animate”, will be located on the site of the former indoor market and will feature an eight-screen cinema and bowling alley along with five restaurants and bars, a street food hub, car park and new public square. The scheme will bring growth and development to the city centre as well as bringing in more than £7m of extra economic activity every year while creating 125 full-time equivalent jobs. Council leader Cllr Matthew Brown said: “The new development will breathe life into the city centre and reinforce the Harris Quarter as a premier cultural and leisure destination in Lancashire. Developments like this show we remain ambitious in our plans to develop the city centre and bring investment and jobs to the people of Preston supporting our local economy as we recover from the pandemic.” The announcement comes after councillors voted to approve a development and funding agreement for the Animate scheme, which is being developed by the council in partnership with Maple Grove Developments, part of the Preston-based Eric Wright Group.
 
North east-based cafe concept to double up: North east-based cafe concept Rosie’s is to double up. Rosie’s, which is based in Jarrow’s Viking Centre, will open its second site in Ocean Road in South Shields in the former Frankies Diner premises at the end of August. The new cafe, called Rosie’s II, will also offer an upstairs function room alongside its as it looks to host events such as weddings and christenings. Manager Leanne Baker told The Shields Gazette taking over the building’s lease was an “exciting” time for the business, which first opened in Jarrow six years ago. Rosie’s in Jarrow, which is owned by Baker’s dad, Robert, caters for events across South Tyneside and provides a daily meal delivery service. The business plans to move all of its catering services to the new, bigger, premises in South Shields, but will continue to cater for customers across the region.

‘Highest inn in Cornwall’ changes hands: An inn overlooking Bodmin Moor that is thought to be the highest altitude venue of its kind in Cornwall has changed hands. Wheal Tor sits in 2.5 acres of grounds and has eight letting rooms, along with a 45-cover restaurant and a large function room. It was acquired by Charlotte Kenilvort alongside her husband Adriano and her parents, Paul and Winsome Riddle. Charlotte Kenilvort said: “We have taken this project on as a family, having spent many holidays in Cornwall. We will create a beautiful, comfortable, relaxed place for our guests to enjoy. We also intend to host weddings and events.” The sale off a guide price of £590,000 was handled by Colliers.
 
Everyman to open cinema in Northallerton: Cinema operator Everyman is to open a site in Northallerton in North Yorkshire. Work will start next month on the cinema, which is part of the £17m Treadmills scheme set to transform the former Northallerton Prison site. It is being brought forward by Central Northallerton Development Company, a joint venture between Hambleton District Council and Yorkshire developer Wykeland Group. The cinema will have four screens with a total of 276 seats, showing mainstream, classic and independent films. It will also have its own restaurant and licensed bar and is expected to open next summer. Three new restaurants units will also form part of the scheme. Wykeland Group development director Jonathan Stubbs said: “Everyman is one of the UK’s most prestigious cinema operators and its venues are destination attractions, drawing filmgoers from many miles around. The new cinema will provide local people with a high-quality leisure experience, deliver a major boost to the evening economy in Northallerton and enhance the town’s appeal to visitors.” The Treadmills development already includes Lidl, Iceland, a higher educational campus and digital hub C4DI Northallerton.

Only Fools & Horses TV sitcom pub to be recreated for one weekend next month: TV channel Gold is opening an “Only Fools & Horses” pub in Farringdon to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the classic TV sitcom, with the price of pint at just 83p. The Nag’s Head will be a replica of the show’s pub but will only be open on Friday, 3 September, until Saturday 4 September, between midday and 9pm. Bookings are being taken now with customers able to take part in a quiz with special prizes or simply pretend they are in the show. Snacks such as Scampi Fries and Cheeselets will help create the 80s vibe when the show was first screened. Visits to the pub will only last for 45 minutes for a table of four.

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