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Wed 25th Aug 2021 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UKHospitality and BII – hospitality sector is overpaying business rates by £2.4bn per year: Trade bodies have called on the government to introduce business rates reform after estimating hospitality overpays by £2.4bn each year. UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) have welcomed the opportunity to comment on the government’s business rates revaluations consultation and support the proposal to increase the frequency of evaluations to three-yearly revaluations – however, they said this cannot come at the cost of extra reporting, restrictions on appeals and penalties. Although, the trade bodies recognised the helpfulness of the consultation in addressing one area of reform, they stressed the need for more wide-ranging reform to redress the unjust and imbalanced current system, and the need to move taxation away from property. They said the hospitality sector overpays by 300%, relative to its turnover in the current system and, following the pandemic, this already unfair system will put further pressures on heavily indebted businesses as they begin to rebuild. UKHospitality and the BII propose that businesses are not asked for more information than they currently are at revaluation because the need to report amendments mid-list is burdensome and will actively discourage investment in the sector at a critical time; the move to more frequent revaluations must be considered as part of the broader review of business rates – which should be designed to reduce, not increase, the burden on ratepayers; the Valuation Office Agency should enhance its technological systems to facilitate data returns at valuation; businesses should not be charged for challenges, nor should there be fixed windows in which to bring a challenge; and the government should consider minimising the time between the antecedent valuation date (the date set by parliament on which all valuations are based) and the new list to 18 months or lower. In a joint statement the trade bodies said: “The current business rates system has long been unfit for purpose and puts an unfair burden on pub and hospitality businesses. It’s extremely encouraging that the government is proposing to increase the frequency of revaluations, something for which we have been calling for some time. However, the proposals are severely undermined by administrative burdens, limits on appeals and penalties. It’s vital government reforms match the severity of this issue. This proposal is helpful but does not redress the wide-ranging issues with the current system that will severely hamper the sector’s ability to recover from the pandemic if not addressed. We urge the government to work closely with the sector to implement wide-ranging reform that will empower hospitality businesses, to rebuild and repair revenues, create jobs and be at the forefront of the economic recovery.” Meanwhile, a British Beer & Pub Association spokesman said: “Pubs overpaying on their business rates is fundamentally wrong, especially as it was one of the most affected sectors by covid and lockdowns. The government should be supporting pubs’ recovery, not punishing them. As our sector begins its recovery, now is the time for radical reform of business rates.”

Industry News: 

Two days until next edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database sent to Premium subscribers: The next edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, is to be published at midday this Friday (27 August). The database contains 64 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,016. The 417 sites run by those 64 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 60,133 sites. Premium subscribers will also receive a 12,000-word report on the new businesses added. 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. There are 258 new openings listed in the latest database. 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.
 
Scrap last orders for pubs and help free high streets, northern MPs demand: A group of Conservative northern MPs are calling for a raft of measures – including scrapping closing times for pubs and bars – to give high streets a fighting chance post-coronavirus. The proposals follow last month’s announcement that saw the Northern Research Group (NRG) pushing the government to level up places in the north. The NRG’s other suggestions include one year of free business rates for all new high street businesses, tailored start-up loans for new high street businesses, time-limited free parking and local discount cards sent to every resident with their council tax bill. Carlisle MP John Stevenson told the Cumbria Crack: “The government must release high street businesses from the shackles of regulation and remove the barriers that prevent many from shopping locally. It’s time we levelled the playing field to level up our high streets. Our plan for the high streets tears down the barriers and blows away the cobwebs to unlock the true potential of our town and city centres to have a post-pandemic bloom.”
 
Leicester’s first craft beer festival to take place this weekend with food delivery from city restaurants: Leicester’s first craft beer festival will be held this weekend featuring food delivery from city restaurants. Brew Beat, which will take place from Friday (28 August) to Monday (30 August) is funded by BID Leicester and delivered by three businesses – Leicestershire-based pub operator Steamin’ Billy, agency Arch Creative and HQ Recordings. Local and national breweries will feature in the festival, which will have its hub in Green Dragon Square. The event will also showcase more than 40 live music acts, covering a wide range of musical genres. Festival-goers can also visit a trail of venues around the city that will be hosting their own guest craft beers and other themed refreshments. The food offering comes from the city’s restaurants, allowing customers to order food directly from local businesses to their table in the festival hub. Restaurants include Indian street food concept Mowgli, Thai restaurant brand Giggling Squid, and Crafty Burger.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a London-based hospitality business as it looks for a head of training, based in London and paying up to £65,000. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The client has a collection of venues across London, which offer a strong mix of food and beverage sales, great service and a mixture of indoor and outdoor space. It is at the stage of its growth where it would like to bring in someone to help set up a learning and training academy, and develop and establish a great learning and development offer that is effective and long lasting. This is a stand-alone role that would suit a very organised and committed individual and offers lots of flexibility, autonomy and creativity.” Anyone interested can email Stuart@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News: 

Wadworth reduced cash burn from £1.5m to less than £500,000 per month following £4m restructure: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth was burning through £1.5m a month at the beginning of the pandemic, newly filed accounts have revealed. However, the company managed to reduce its losses to less than £500,000 per month following a restructure that incurred costs of almost £4m and saw the number of staff more than halve. The company has reduced its bank borrowings to £25m following the reorganisation of its “underperforming” managed house division that also saw 21 pubs sold to Channel Islands-based brewer and retailer Liberation Group in December last year and a number transferred to its tenanted estate. Wadworth revealed further details about the restructure in its accounts for the 15 months ending 2 January 2021. It stated: “The board was undertaking a strategic review of the managed house division due to the underperformance in the first half of the financial year when the pandemic started. This led to our decision in June 2020 to transfer a number of managed houses to tenancies and to start negotiating to sell 21 managed pubs. During the period, the company was significantly impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus, resulting in the closure of its pubs for several months and a corresponding drop in trade. The steps we took throughout the year ensured our initial cash burn rate of £1.5m per month at the beginning of the pandemic was reduced to less than £500,000 per month by December 2020. The company reviewed its operations, debt structure and pub portfolio resulting in the costs incurred of £3,897,000. The average number of employees was significantly different before and after the restructuring. The average number of employees from October 2019 to June 2020 was 1,002, whereas the average number of employees from July 2020 to December 2020 was 461. The impact of the above is reflected in our results with a turnover of £39.2m, compared with £66.6m in the previous financial year. Editda showed a loss of £4m and the overall loss before tax is £19.7m, which includes exceptional items as a result of the review of our operations, debt structure and pub portfolio. In December 2020, we completed on the disposal package of 21 pubs. This has enabled us to pay down debt, to align the business with the outcome of our strategic review, and to have working capital available for the further lockdowns that came imminently after the deal concluded. Having transferred a number of pubs to tenancies, this has left us with a managed house estate of 19 pubs and 131 pubs in our tenanted estate. With the impact of covid, we put the search for a new brewery site on hold while we reviewed the requirements going forward and the type of site required. We are now actively looking for a site to move to that will be efficient to operate as well as appropriate for the size of our business going forward.”

Comptoir to return to expansion trail with Shawa Lebanese Grill launch at Westfield London: Comptoir Group, the owner and operator of Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean restaurants, is returning to the expansion trail with the launch of its second Shawa Lebanese Grill, Propel has learned. The company will open the site in the food court at Westfield London next month. Shawa Lebanese Grill is a shawarma bar concept, created by Comptoir Group founder Tony Kitous and chief executive Chaker Hanna. Having had three lockdowns to evaluate the business strategy and brand roll-out plan, Kitous and Hanna are keen to expand the group. They took the time in lockdown to build back their business better, including overhauling systems and menus and refurbishing a number of the restaurants. With a site already in Bluewater, Shawa Lebanese Grill in Westfield aims to “change the perception of the shawarma as a post-nightclub kebab”. Shawa’s menu features traditional shawarma dishes, featuring tender lamb shoulder and chicken breast, as well as vegetarian options and new burger versions. Hanna said: “We’re delighted to be opening Shawa Lebanese Grill in Westfield, who we have a great relationship with already, and to be bringing our family-friendly shawarma concept back to London. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that relationships are so important. It’s good relationships with our staff, suppliers, landlords, banks and sites like Westfield that have meant we are able to come out of the past year with a view to keep on growing the Comptoir Group, and this starts with the opening of Shawa.” As well as Shawa, Comptoir Group operates 24 Comptoir Libanais sites. The group also owns Yalla Yalla and Kenza. 
Comptoir features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has just been updated for Premium subscribers. Comptoir has turned over an average of £26.3m 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, and 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.
 
Hawthorn brings managed operations together with Proper Pubs platform: Community pub operator Hawthorn, now part of Admiral Taverns, has created a new platform – Proper Pubs – to bring together its managed operations, Propel has learned. Consisting of about 20% of the Hawthorn estate, which Admiral Taverns completed the acquisition of for £222.3m last week, Proper Pubs are wet-led community pubs, “focused on providing a great range of drinks at good value prices, with entertainment offerings for the whole community”. Operators receive an “industry-leading” percentage of the weekly net turnover to pay the team and themselves, while Proper Pubs “takes care of the pains of the rest”. Over the past few years, Hawthorn has developed a well-established, successful and scalable operator-managed division. This has included a number of successful conversions from the leased and tenanted model using clear site selection criteria, and supported by a significant capex programme. Proper Pubs is run by director of managed operations, Mark Brooke, who joined Hawthorn last year having previously been responsible for growing Beacon in the Ei Group from 165 pubs to 300 pubs, operating in the wet-led, value-driven market. Proper Pubs will support Hawthorn’s new corporate charity partner, Chasing the Stigma, a national mental health charity that works to reduce suicide, eradicate stigma and enable everyone in the country to be able to access clear pathways to mental health care. Proper Pubs will raise funds for important community initiatives. To start with, all Proper Pubs will raise money to install a defibrillator in the pub for community use, with further initiatives to follow. Brooke said: “You can’t beat a Proper Pub, and this platform will bring our entire division together. The brand builds on the strong foundations of the original Hawthorn operator-managed model, and applies learnings from Bravo Inns, which we acquired in 2019, and how that business was successfully grown.” Hawthorn has placed a huge amount of importance on support for its operator-managed estate, particularly during the covid-19 pandemic, providing £1.6m worth of support for operators. The Proper Pubs capex programme will continue, with investment in refurbishments and renovations across the portfolio.

Black and White Hospitality to launch new restaurant concept after securing Leicester Square site: Black and White Hospitality, which operates and manages the Marco Pierre White group of franchised restaurants, is to launch a new concept after securing a site in London’s Leicester Square. The restaurant, which will create up to 80 jobs, will be located next door to the Odeon cinema and heralds the return of the brand to the capital’s West End in more than ten years. Called Mr White’s, work will begin next week on the transformation if the 14,500 square foot, four-storey property with the restaurant set to open by October. With British heritage at its heart, the menu will centre on steak, grills and chops but also includes an Italian influence with handmade pizza. The restaurant will also serve a range of gin including Mr White’s London Dry gin, a new drink that has been developed by Pierre White and launched earlier in the year. Nick Taplin, chairman and chief executive of Black and White Hospitality, said: “Opportunities like this are very rare so we had to act fast and are delighted to have got the deal over the line. This is arguably one of the most iconic areas of London. About 2.5 million people visit Leicester Square every week so is one of the capital’s busiest places. That level of footfall therefore makes this new venue a very exciting proposition. Mr White’s is the perfect fit for Leicester Square. It’s an evolution of taking tradition and quality ingredients and placing it in an easy-to-access, relatable and charismatic setting that been created purely for the guest who wishes to enjoy easy and affordable dining. It was an easy decision to launch a new international brand here.” Kenningham Retail acted on behalf of landlord Soho Estates.
 
Lake District-based operators to open Italian restaurant in Kendal for fourth site, eye further expansion: Lake District-based operators Nick Ward and Giuseppe Sepe are opening an Italian restaurant in Kendal for their fourth site – and are eyeing further expansion. The duo will launch Sapore, in Stramongate, in the former Little Italy restaurant premises within the next six weeks, creating 30 jobs. Sapore, which is Italian for “taste”, will serve “authentic Italian food, including some of the more modern dishes and cooking techniques currently being used in Italy” alongside a selection of wine. The premises will include a restaurant with about 60 covers, a bar area downstairs that can be used as an additional restaurant area for parties and a lounge bar upstairs where customers can also order sharing platters and antipasti. The duo plan to make their own deli produce for sale in the restaurant and, eventually, online. Ward and Sepe also run Urban Food House in Bowness; Hooked, a seafood restaurant in Windermere; and The Estuary in Main Street, Grange-over-Sands; which employ a total of 42 staff. Sepe said: “We wanted an Italian restaurant in our portfolio. We are aware of the plans to revamp Kendal over the next few years and we believe this restaurant will fit well into the environment that is being created.” Ward spent ten years in the hospitality industry in London and managed restaurants in Manchester and the Lake District before he and Sepe bought Urban Food House three years ago. Sepe grew up in Naples and worked in high-end hotels and restaurants in Italy and Switzerland for several years before moving to the Lake District and working in hospitality in Windermere and Ambleside.
 
McDonald’s runs out of milkshakes in UK restaurants: McDonald’s restaurants across the UK are unable to serve milkshakes after the company was hit with supply issues. The company has also run out of bottled drinks at some 1,250 locations in Britain. A McDonald’s spokesman said staff were “working hard to return these items to the menu as soon as possible”. He added: “Like most retailers, we are currently experiencing some supply chain issues, impacting the availability of a small number of products. Bottled drinks and milkshakes are temporarily unavailable in restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales.” McDonald’s is the latest company to be hit by supply issues thought to be caused by a shortage of lorry drivers due to new EU immigration rules brought in after Brexit and covid restrictions. Last week, Nando’s was forced to close about 50 restaurants because of chicken shortages. Lobby groups for the retail and transport industries have written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng with a stark warning about Britain’s lorry driver shortage and the knock-on effect to supply chains. They want a review of plans not to grant temporary work visas to drivers from the EU.

Just Eat invests £100m-plus to create 1,500 jobs in north east: Just Eat has announced it will invest more than £100m in the next five years to create in excess of 1,500 customer service jobs in the north east during the next 12 months. The new roles will be based in Houghton-le-Spring, near Sunderland, at a 20,000 square metre state-of-the-art building that is equipped with a gym, catering area and a lounge across four floors. Employees will begin working from home with plans to operate a hybrid model in the coming months. Recruitment is under way with about 300 jobs already created to date. A variety of positions from customer service advisers to team leadership, specialist support roles and management are available. All employees will take part in a bespoke training programme before they start their new roles. Just Eat’s UK customer care team supports its 58,000-plus restaurant partners and millions of customers. Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny said: “As part of our ongoing investment in our UK business, we’re delighted to be creating upwards of 1,000 new employment opportunities in our customer care department over the next 12 months. As a platform that covers 95% of UK postcodes, we also know the importance of increasing career opportunities outside of London and the south east.” Business minister Paul Scully said: “This investment drives forward our plan to level up the whole of the UK, ensuring all our regions and nations thrive as we build back better from the pandemic.” Just Eat’s employment boost in the north east builds on the business’ new worker model for couriers in the UK, which now has more than 4,500 roles. Initially launched in London, the model has since rolled out to Birmingham, Liverpool, Brighton and Cambridge, with further cities in the pipeline across 2021. All couriers contracted through this model are entitled to hourly pay, minimum/living wage, pension contributions and certain statutory benefits including holiday pay and sick pay.
Just Eat is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Japanese robatayaki restaurant Yatay to make debut in Chinatown: Japanese robatayaki grill restaurant Yatay will open its debut site later this year on London’s Wardour Street. The Chinatown London location will span 3,900 square foot across three levels. The ground floor will be centred around Yatay’s charcoal-powered robatayaki grill, offering street food inspired Japanese dishes, including more than 20 different preparations of chicken yakitori, and sharing cocktails. The first floor will seat up to 50 guests in a more traditional dining setting, dubbed the “Izakaya Sake Shop”. Customers will be offered a range of sharing plates, including Japanese delicacies from a traditional robata charcoal grill. The menu includes fried gyoza, tempura vegetables, Asian salads, pickles, and more, to be paired with sake or Japanese sangria. Meanwhile, the basement will be a late-night bar inspired by “roller zoku” – Tokyo’s underground street culture – offering Japanese craft beverages. The bar will sit alongside the record room, containing a DJ booth. Andy Cook, co-founder and head of culinary at Yatay, said: “Inspired by the streets and the underground culture of Japan, we are delighted to be bringing this unique and delicious offering to London for the first time.” Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director at landlord Shaftesbury, said: “Yatay has a distinct identity, highlighting the variety of flavours and items a chef can create using a robata grill.” Camilla Topham and Disrtkt represented Chinatown London. DCL acted for Yatay.

Moscow-based Italian restaurant group Piazza Italiana opens debut UK site: Moscow-based Italian restaurant group Piazza Italiana has opened its debut UK site. The company has launched the venue in London’s Threadneedle Street. Set in a grade II-listed former British Linen Bank building, the restaurant offers classic Italian dishes including sea bass carpaccio, risotto al funghi porcini and a selection of pizza. The wine list features about 500 varieties, including 40 by the glass. The bar and a private dining area – seating up to 12 – are on the ground floor with the main dining hall, which can accommodate up to 40 guests, and a smaller private dining room on the upper floor. The website stated: “Originally opened in the historical district of Moscow then successfully spread over the Baltic Sea to Riga, Piazza Italiana has now arrived right in the heart of the City of London. The heritage of Italian culinary art at Piazza Italiana starts with the chef Remo Mazzucato and his extensive experience of more than 50 years across the world. Piazza Italiana brings the ambience of classic Italian cuisine – palate-enlightening and focused on quality and seasonal ingredients. Polished service and extensive wine list culminate in an Italian dining experience unlike any other.”
 
Hertfordshire-based Beer Shop to open third site, in Bishop’s Stortford: Hertfordshire-based Beer Shop is to open its third site, in Bishop’s Stortford. Owners John Gudgin and Ben Hudson are opening the venue in the former Body Barre fitness studio in Northgate End. East Hertfordshire Council has granted a licence for the premises. Gudgin and Hudson said the site was ideal because they need space for a nano-brewery – small-scale production on-site – and to accommodate barrels for a beer-ageing programme. The outlet will also sell speciality bottles, cans and beer from tap produced locally and from around the world, and has a bar for up to 50 people. The shop will also fulfil online orders, reports the Bishop’s Stortford Independent. Beer Shop currently has branches in St Albans and Hitchin.
 
Kokoro to open in Newbury: Sushi and bento brand Kokoro is to open a site in Newbury, Berkshire. The company is launching in the former Ginsters pasty store in Northbrook Street. Kokoro has already started work on the property and hopes to open towards the end of October. A spokesman told Newbury Today: “We are excited to be a part of the vibrant historic market town of Newbury as we expand after the major setback from the pandemic last year. Our food could be a nice addition to this peaceful town for those who enjoy sushi and Asian hot food.” Kokoro was founded in 2010 by Ray-Kyu Park and now has circa 40 restaurants nationwide. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Kokoro was strengthening its presence in London with openings in Hounslow and Wood Green.
 
Boujee targets Chester for third site: Boujee, the north west-based bar and restaurant concept, is lining up its third site, in Chester. Boujee, the pink-themed concept partly owned by Real Wives of Cheshire star Lystra Adams, is looking to open the venue in Pepper Street, known as the city’s dining quarter. An application for a premises licence has been submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council, reports Cheshire Live. Adams is one of the newest members of the Real Housewives of Cheshire cast and her Boujee concept is a regular feature on the ITV2 show. Boujee was incorporated in September last year with Adams listed as one of three directors. The first restaurant and bar launched at the Liverpool ONE complex towards the end of last year before the opening of the outlet in Bridge Street in Manchester earlier this year.
 
Team behind Birmingham’s former Opus restaurant start new chapter: The team behind the Opus restaurant in Birmingham that closed earlier this year is launching a new venue in Edgbaston. Opus, in Cornwall Street, which had been in business for 15 years, announced in May, it was not reopening after lockdown. But restaurateurs Ann Tonks, Irene Allan and Ben Ternent are cooking up a new culinary landmark for the city with the planned opening of a kitchen, bar and terrace at 5-6 Greenfield Crescent within Edgbaston Village on the Calthorpe Estate. The restaurant – Chapter – is being made possible by a diverse range of funding, including shareholder investment and club membership opportunities, a number of which have already been taken up by Birmingham’s dining community. The restaurant is expected to open in December. Tonks said: “We are excited to have been presented with this opportunity by Calthorpe Estates to bring a new independent bar and restaurant to Edgbaston Village’s thriving neighbourhood. After the heartbreak of losing our long-established restaurant earlier in the year, Calthorpe reached out to give us a new lease of life. We’re starting this new chapter from scratch and have already had a huge amount of love from our community. Calthorpe Estates chief executive Haydn Cooper added: “The team’s ethos strongly aligns with our vision and it will be a fantastic addition to Edgbaston and Birmingham’s gastro scene. Chapter will be the centrepiece of the newly improved Greenfield Crescent.”
 
Showcase Cinemas operator sees sharp decline in turnover and pre-tax profits as covid bites: Turnover and pre-tax profits at the UK arm of the company behind Showcase Cinemas experienced a sharp decline as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. NATL Amusements (UK), which also operates the Cinema De Lux brand, posted a pre-tax loss of £30.1m for the year to 31 December 2020, down from a loss of £2.5m in the prior period. Turnover at the Nottingham-headquartered business fell from £105.7m to £28.6m during the same period. A report accompanying the accounts stated: “The covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented business disruption through government-mandated temporary closure of all of the company’s theatre operations in the UK. The company resumed operations in the remaining 18 theatre locations on 17 May 2021, when the government lockdown was lifted. There is uncertainty in consumer demand as the business begins to reopen. The company’s operating results have been negatively impacted and the related financial impact and duration cannot be reasonably estimated at this time.”
 
Kudu Collective to open fourth site next month: South African restaurant brand Kudu Collective is to launch a braai restaurant in Peckham next month. Kudu Grill will open in Nunhead Lane in the former Edinburgh Castle pub, which was operated by east London-based brewer Truman’s. Launching on Wednesday, 1 September, the 50-cover restaurant will offer a menu that centres around the braai – a South African grill using only wood and charcoal. Dishes, which are designed for sharing, will include dry-aged T-bone with beer pickled onions and onion treacle bordelaise; and whole black bream with zhug butter rotis. There will also be a range of sides, snacks, starters and desserts. The concise 30-bin wine list will focus on mainly South African varieties sourced from family-owned wineries. There will also be a six-seater bar counter, overlooks the custom-built braai. Kudu Collective is owned by Amy Corbin, daughter of Corbin & King co-founder Chris Corbin, and her partner Patrick Williams. The company operates Kudu restaurant; cocktail bar Smokey Kudu; and Curious Kudu, a gallery and private dining space accommodating up to 14 guests, all in Queen’s Road, Peckham.

Heavenly Desserts returns to Preston: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has returned to Preston. The company has opened the outlet in Cheapside. 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 Preston, in Miller Arcade, 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 Desserts site in Ladypool Road in Birmingham to Haute Dolci. Heavenly Desserts operates circa 30 sites with openings “coming soon” in Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
 
Fireaway looks to open site in Horsham: Fast pizza brand Fireaway is looking to open a site in Horsham. The company has applied to Horsham District Council to change the use of a former bathroom and plumbing shop in East Street into a restaurant and pizza takeaway. If approval is granted, the restaurant plans to open from 10am to 11pm from Sunday to Thursday and from 10am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, reports the West Sussex County Times. Fireaway offers four different bases, four types of cheese and four types of meat as well as 20 toppings for diners to customise their pizza with the price remaining the same regardless of the combination. The pizzas are cooked in 180 seconds. Founder and chief executive Mario Aleppo opened the first site in 2010 and, earlier this year, said he would like to see several Fireaways in every city in the UK. He also believed global growth for the brand was “unlimited” with Fireaway set to head abroad with master franchisees signed in Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. 
 
Oakham-based cafe concept Fika to launch in Stamford for second site: Oakham-based cafe concept Fika is opening a second site, in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Brother and sister Teodora Naneva and Ivo Nanev took over Fika in Mill Street, Oakham, East Midlands, about a year ago. Now they have acquired the former Carphone Warehouse premises in High Street, Stamford, with the cafe set to open in October. Fika serves coffee, a range of brunch dishes and lunch. Naneva told the Rutland & Stamford Mercury: “Stamford was always on the cards – it’s always busy on the high street.”
 
Team behind Diogenes the Dog opens new wine bar and cafe in Battersea: The team behind wine bar Diogenes the Dog has opened a new site called Aspen & Meursault in Battersea. Natural wine is the focus of the wine bar in Westbridge Road, which opens during the day as a cafe and as a wine bar by night. Day service includes Guatemalan roast coffee from its sister site Diogenes the Dog in Elephant & Castle, south London, and a deli opens until 5pm, serving fresh organic bread, pastries, charcuterie meat, cheese and its wine will also be sold to take away at reduced retail prices. In the evening, the majority of wine will be available by the glass from a list of low intervention varieties, “which prove natural wines don’t have to be funky”. The food menu includes “boozy” cheeseboards, south London-cured meat, camembert and morcilla. Sunny Hodge, who helped set up Michelin-starred Fordwich Arms, near Canterbury, Kent, opened Diogenes the Dog in a former pub in Rodney Road in 2018.

Plans revealed for 200-bedroom aparthotel in Birmingham: Plans have been revealed for a new 198-bedroom aparthotel in Birmingham, on the site of the former Lee Longlands car park. Called Lead Works, the scheme could be built on the corner of Granville Street and Tennant Street, and rise to 12 storeys in height. The developer behind the scheme is the Soller Group, which built and then sold 211 Broad Street, reports The Business Desk. A statement with the planning application read: “The development is shown to be an appropriate design solution for the site, demonstrating high design quality, enhancing local distinctiveness and making efficient use of a brownfield site in an accessible location, with an appropriate mix of dwellings. It ensures the revitalisation of an inner-city location in accordance with policy.”

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