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Wed 15th Sep 2021 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

RedCat paid £16m for bulk of 42-strong CMA package: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle headed by Rooney Anand, paid £16m for 33 sites of the 42-strong package of pubs that were originally placed on the market to address competition concerns surrounding Stonegate Pub Company’s £3bn acquisition of Ei Group, Propel has learned. In an interim update from Stonegate, the TDR Capital-backed business said: “Subsequent to the period end on 31 May 2021 the group completed on the sale of 30 freehold sites and one leasehold site, and two further leasehold sites on 21 June 2021 to RedCat Pub Company for £16m as part of the Competition and Markets Authority’s requirements following the acquisition of Ei Group by Stonegate Pub Company in March 2020. The remaining nine leasehold sites are expected to complete within the next few months. The group will run a transitional services agreement for these sites for a period of four months.” In March, Propel reported the overall deal was understood to be valued at about £20m. RedCat was founded earlier this year by Anand to invest in the UK pub sector and is backed by US investment firm Oaktree Capital. Oaktree is thought to have injected £200m into RedCat, which is led by Chris Hill, the former chief executive of New World Trading Company. It has since acquired The Coaching Inn Group, which operates 18 historic coaching inns across the UK, in a deal believed to be valued at more than £60m. It has also acquired the five-strong, Leicestershire-based Little Britain Pub Company and bought four pubs from the award-winning Knead Group, plus a number of single site acquisitions including The Grosvenor in Hanwell, west London, and The Lion Inn in Boreham, near Chelmsford.

Industry News: 

Final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2021 on Wednesday 10 November open for bookings: Operators of multi-site companies can book two free tickets each for the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2021, taking place on Wednesday, 10 November at One Moorgate Place, London. Speakers are Stephen Owens, managing director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, who sets out key trends in the pub, restaurant, and hotel mergers and acquisitions sector, and the impact on the investor and valuations landscape; Emma Maile, partner at sector accountants haysmacintyre, who provides insights on the profit and loss lessons and learnings of the pandemic for the sector; Tim Shield, partner at John Gaunt, who provides an overview of the key legal developments affecting multi-site operators; Julian Metcalfe, founder of Itsu, talks about how the brand needed to evolve to grow out of the crisis, its plans for expansion, its step into franchising and the role healthy food will play going forward; Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny discusses delivery in a post-covid world, 
the challenge facing both aggregators and operators, and how consumers are changing how they use the delivery model; Tim Martin, chairman and founder of JD Wetherspoon, talks to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about the lessons he and his business has learned during the pandemic and how they are putting them to good use; Michael Harrison, co-founder of Gravity, discusses the company’s “future of the high street offer”, the thinking and launch of its 80,000 square foot entertainment venue in London’s Wandsworth; and how it offers a solution for landlords who are looking to diversify and secure the future of their assets; Andy Laurillard, co-founder of Giggling Squid, discusses how the crisis impacted the business for the better and its plans for the coming 12 to 18 months, which could see the company open a new site a month; Clare Clough, UK managing director of Pret A Manger, on how the UK’s leading grab and go brand has had to adapt its model, the development and success of its subscription model, embracing delivery and the role digital will play in its future growth strategy; Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group, on restructuring the business, the next stage of Wagamama’s growth, the strategy for its leisure division, the importance of Brunning & Price, and where the sector goes from here. Meanwhile, Fleet Street Communications managing director Mark Stretton talks to Terry Harrison, managing director of Busaba; Matt Snell, chief executive of Gusto; Simon Wilkinson, former Byron chief executive; and sector investor Luke Johnson about thriving in the new normal. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to book tickets. 
 
Host of hotel companies set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies: A host of hotel companies are among the 56 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 1 October, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features The Other House, which has stated it is aiming to disrupt the hotel sector with its “clubby feel”, and in the City of London, opening its second site, The Beaverbrook Town House is bringing features such as an art deco-inspired bar. In addition, the database adds Indian Hotels Company, south east Asia's largest hospitality enterprise with 200-plus hotels around the world and that operates two sites in London. Also added is five-strong Calcot Health, which provides luxury getaways and spa experiences. Premium subscribers will also receive a 9,000 word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and 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. It features more than 2,000 companies. Alongside this, Premium subscribers will also receive the third edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Wednesday, 6 October, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. Premium 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 plus 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.

Hospitality bosses warns government against vaccine passports or ‘work from home’ guidance this winter: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has welcomed some parts of Downing Street’s plan to tackle covid this winter, but cautioned against “reserve measures” that would have a “devastating” impact on hospitality. Health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that vaccine passports could be introduced for entry to large events, but covid certification is not currently needed. He said advice to work from home could return if the situation dictates, and further lockdowns would be kept only as a reserve measure. “It’s critical for the recovery of the hospitality sector that businesses are allowed to continue to operate in viable conditions throughout this winter,” said Nicholls. “Hospitality venues are still in a fragile state with significant debts, making their first steps on the road to recovery and rebuilding broken balance sheets. Any setbacks over the coming months will result in more businesses closures. The continued focus on vaccination roll-out and boosters is much welcome, as their success has been critical to the reopening of businesses to trade without restrictions. However, we must caution the government the introduction of those measures that are left in reserve for this winter would have significant and drastic impacts on the sector. The use of vaccine passports will have a devastating effect on nightclubs and large-scale events. These sectors have been hit hardest and have been at the very back of the queue for reopening, and such measures would severely undermine their ability to recover over the winter months. Similarly, work from home orders or guidance would have a significant impact on our city and town centres.” British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “It is very welcome news for our sector that powers to close-down or apply restrictions to our pubs will be repealed. Forced closure during lockdowns and unnecessary restrictions such as the 10pm curfew, rule of six and substantial meals rule have greatly damaged our sector. ‘Plan B’ measures suggesting working from home are concerning as they would impact the recovery of our sector if implemented. It is also vital covid certification continues to be ruled out for pubs under any future plans.”

UKHospitality – latest job numbers underline the significant impact the ongoing tightness and disruption to the labour market and associated worker shortages are having across the economy: The latest official job numbers “underline the significant impact the ongoing tightness and disruption to the labour market and associated worker shortages are having across the economy”, UKHospitality has said. According to the Office for National Statistics, the hospitality’s sector vacancy rate is twice that of the economy as a whole. This is despite the sector creating 122,000 jobs between March and June. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The latest official job numbers underline the significant impact the ongoing tightness and disruption to the labour market and associated labour shortages are having across the economy. However, hospitality is clearly suffering most when compared with other sectors. The industry has been at the forefront of job creation as the economy begins to recover and rebuild. But with additional pressures and uncertainties, as well as being the last sector to reopen, hospitality has been hamstrung in its attempts to fill vacancies. With the effectiveness of the furlough scheme, the economy is also close to operating at full employment, making the need for government support on this issue absolutely vital. It’s crucial that existing initiatives, such as the Kickstart scheme, are functioning effectively as we have tens of thousands of jobs to offer people – as well as working with us to get more people into apprenticeships and training. Government must now also seriously consider temporary immigration reforms, adding chefs to the Shortage Occupation List and support the broader supply chain. The labour problems of the summer for hospitality and the wider economy are not going away. We can drive economic growth and job creation, but further support from government is required to realise this. Measures we are calling for include the long-overdue reform of business rates and a permanently lower rate of VAT for hospitality.”

3.3 million have already made Christmas reservations: One in five UK adults have already started planning for Christmas, according to a new consumer poll from research consultancy KAM Media. A total off 7% said they’ve already made a reservation at a pub or restaurant for the upcoming festive period and 17% have already invited people to their houses to celebrate. One in three adults intend to put more effort into celebrating Christmas this year compared with a normal, pre-covid Christmas. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “Christmas 2020 was a relative wash-out for most people so it’s no huge surprise that so many Brits are keen to make this year an even bigger celebration than normal. This is likely to mean that people will be spending more and planning earlier, with 3.3 million saying they’ve already made reservation for the festive period.” The research found footfall on Christmas Day itself looks set to return to pre-covid levels with one in ten intending to visit a pub or restaurant – this matches the intention level in 2019. The same can be said of New Year’s Eve, with a very similar proportion of consumers saying they intend to visit a pub or restaurant now versus 2019 (22%). Based on these current intentions, and assuming restrictions remain lifted, KAM Media predicts a net increase in people visiting restaurants this festive period compared with normal “pre-covid” times – 27% intend to go to restaurants more often over the upcoming festive period compared with 20% who said less often. The research found pubs, however, could see a very small decline overall compared with pre-covid levels – 24% of consumers said they intend to visit pubs more often compared with 26% who said less often. The decline is driven by the over-55s. However, even these results suggest overall footfall at pubs should be back up close to pre-covid levels over this festive period based on current intentions. 

Amazon Prime members offered free Deliveroo Plus membership for a year: A deal with Deliveroo has seen all new and existing UK and Ireland Amazon Prime members offered free Deliveroo Plus membership for a year. Deliveroo Plus is a subscription service that offers members unlimited free delivery from all restaurant and grocery partners on orders of more than £25, or €25 in Ireland. The new link-up is hoped to help Deliveroo attract new digitally-savvy customers across the UK, and increase the loyalty of its existing 3.9 million monthly users. Carlo Mocci, chief business officer UK & Ireland for Deliveroo, said: “Amazon is one of the most customer-focused and innovative companies in the world, and we are excited to launch this offer for Prime members.” Amazon UK marketing director Lisa Leung added: “We’re always looking for ways to offer even more value to Prime members, giving them the best of shopping and entertainment. That is why we are excited for this offer with Deliveroo.” Founded in 2013 by William Shu and Greg Orlowski, Deliveroo works with more than 140,000 restaurants and grocery partners. It operates in almost 800 towns and cities across 12 countries. In July, Deliveroo reported it was trading ahead of expectations as orders grew 88% year-on-year at group level to 78 million in the second quarter of 2021. In the same period, orders in the UK and Ireland grew 94% year-on-year to 38 million, and orders in the group’s international segment grew 83% year-on-year to 40 million.

Drinks Trade Regatta to return next month: The Drinks Trade Regatta will return next month after an enforced break last year due to covid. The industry’s sailing event will take place on the Solent from Wednesday, 20 October to Friday, 22 October. Operators and suppliers from the drinks and hospitality trade will be boarding a new fleet of boats out of Cowes and racing while raising money for charity. The Royal Yacht Squadron will be hosting the prestigious fleet dinner on the Thursday evening. A couple of last-minute boat availabilities have opened up and anyone interested in joining the fleet this year can contact Terry Hunt at thunt@prometheus-sailing.co.uk for details. The Drinks Trade Regatta has been running for more than 30 years and raised more than £150,000 for charity.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a supplier to the hospitality sector. As part of its growth and development, it is looking for a head of sales/sales director to join the business. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The role is paying up to £75,000 and offers great progression. This role is all about relationships and opening doors! This is less about admin work and more about networking and selling the product. The business is looking for someone with knowledge of the sector, ideally with a black book of contacts, but more than that it is looking for someone who is passionate about food, restaurants, hotels and everything about the sector. A lot of this role is about industry knowledge and commitment.” Anyone interested can email Mikey@corecruitment.com for a confidential chat.

Company News: 

Junkyard plans further London sites and US debut: Crazy golf brand Junkyard Golf Club is in advanced talks to open a further site in London and to make its international debut in the US. Speaking at Propel’s recent Multi-Club Conference, Junkyard managing director Sam Jones said the five-strong business was in advanced discussions on a site in London, and in initial talks on a further site in the capital and one in Birmingham. He said the company planned to open one or two sites a year for the next three years. He also said the group, which will open its next site in Newcastle in November, was in “relatively advanced talks, although the travel is difficult at the minute”, on a site in the US. He said: “In 2023 we will open a site internationally, almost certainly in the US, which is exciting. We are looking to open sites in London and Birmingham in the next year. We are always looking at opportunities to add to our pipeline, but in ways that don't overstretch the business. We might do three openings a year but we won’t do more than that, and two a year is our sweet spot. We will look at international expansion in the near future, but our primary focus for this year is investing in the estate and in our teams. We have a learning and development programme that is going live and are making sure we are engaging with our teams more closely. We also have a huge listening programme going on at the moment to best understand what benefits our teams and how we can best reward them for all the hard work they have done and what will motivate them moving forward through the difficult next six months, because I don’t think hundreds and thousands of people will suddenly just decide to join hospitality. We will also look to continue to evolve our offer and have a brand refresh on the way.” The company, which currently has five sites, is opening a venue in Newcastle’s Newgate Street. The site will feature three bars as well as its golf courses and is currently recruiting for staff. Junkyard has sites in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, London and Oxford.

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues to open fourth site under Bodega Cantina concept: Midlands-based multi-site operator Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues is to open a fourth site under its Bodega Cantina concept later this year, in Leamington Spa, Propel has learned. The company plans to open the new site at the start of November at 108 Parade in the town. It also operates Bodega Cantina sites in Birmingham, Leicester and Worcester. Before the Leamington Spa opening, the business will reopen its former Buffalo & Rye eatery in Birmingham’s Bennett's Hill, under a new “traditional fish and chip shop”, Fillet of Soul, in October. The company closed cocktail bar Island Bar in Suffolk Street and Buffalo & Rye last summer. Bitters ‘n’ Twisted owner Matt Scriven said: “The restaurant was too small to enforce social distancing as a restaurant but works perfectly as a takeaway. The concept is very much to offer traditional fish and chips – with highest quality ingredients doing our national British dish proud. Fillet of Soul will be very much in the ethos of traditional fish and chips shops that you'll find in most suburbs, but the difference will be everything will be made fresh to order.” Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues’ other sites in Birmingham include The Victoria and The Jekyll & Hyde.

Popeyes UK appoints Vicky Barber as chief marketing officer: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service restaurant brand, has continued to strengthened its UK management team with the appointment of Vicky Barber, formerly of Franco Manca and PizzaExpress, as its chief marketing officer, Propel has learned. Barber joins Popeyes UK after almost five years at Franco Manca, the Fulham Shore-owned pizza concept, including half that time as its marketing director. Previous to joining Franco Manca she spent more than two years at PizzaExpress, including a stint as restaurant marketing manager. Earlier this summer, Popeyes appointed Tom Byng, formerly of Fulham Shore, as its chief development officer; David Carey, ex-The Restaurant Group, as chief technology officer; Neil Williamson, formerly of Krispy Kreme UK and McDonald’s, as chief operating officer; and Lucy Craig, formerly of Grind & Co and Bill’s Restaurants, as its head of people. The company, which is led in the UK by Tom Crowley, announced plans in April to enter the UK this year, with the goal of opening 350 new restaurants in Britain over the next ten years.

Five Guys secures pair of former GBK sites: Better burger brand Five Guys has further added to its UK openings pipeline, after securing two ex-Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) sites. The circa 113-strong brand, which recently opened in Hemel Hempstead and in the York Designer Outlet, has secured the former GBK sites in Basingstoke and in the Heart Shopping Centre in Walton-on-Thames, with the latter set to open later this year. The company, which this week opened a site in Livingston’s The Centre, also has sites in its openings pipeline in Brixton, Bristol, Bishopsgate and Manchester Piccadilly. Five Guys, established in the United States in 1986 and launched over here in 2013, is looking to boost its portfolio across the UK. In May, UK chief executive John Eckbert said the brand was looking to open up to 25 new sites in Britain this year. Last month, the business opened its first UK drive-thru at Teesside Park in Stockton-on-Tees.

Poké House launches debut UK site for eponymous restaurant brand: Milan-based, fast-casual brand Poké House has launched the debut site for its eponymous brand in the UK. The company, which acquired the six-strong, London-based Ahi Poké business earlier this year, has opened the restaurant in London’s Notting Hill. Located in Portobello Road, the restaurant adds to the 55 Poké House stores across Europe. The ever-evolving menu includes a core range of house specials selected by public demand. These include the Sunny Salmon – sushi white rice, salmon, avocado, edamame, red cabbage, special dressing, avocado cream and sesame seeds – and the Spicy Tuna – sushi white rice, tuna, goma wakame, red cabbage, carrot, cucumber, spicy peanut dressing, ponzu dressing, jalapeño, crispy onion, tobiko and sesame seeds. Customers can also make their own recipes. Poké House previously said it plans to expand into city locations, shopping centres, outdoor kiosks and dark kitchens in the UK. In April, Poké House closed a €20m (£17m) Series B funding round led by Eulero Capital, with backing from FG2 Capital and reinvestment from Milano Investment Partners. The proceeds from the investment are intended to fuel and accelerate the international expansion of the company, with the acquisition of Ahi Poké representing a key step in a broader plan to open 200 new stores across Europe.

The Ivy Collection eyes Chichester opening: The Ivy Collection, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant business, is eyeing an opening in Chichester, West Sussex. The 37-strong business has applied for a licence to open at 89-91 East Street, a site previously occupied by Topman/Topshop. Earlier this summer, the company opened a new site in Exeter’s High Street. It is also believed to be in talks on a site in Liverpool. At the weekend, Wales Online reported the Ivy Collection had submitted plans to open an Ivy Asia restaurant as part of its current The Ivy site in Cardiff’s The Hayes scheme. 

Bean secures Liverpool ONE site for debut ‘coffee retail’ concept: North west-based independent coffee company Bean has secured a site at Liverpool ONE. The company, which has its headquarters and roastery in Liverpool, has agreed a deal with Grosvenor Britain & Ireland for a 3,000 square foot space in South John Street. The new space will be home to a coffee shop and a new retail space for customers to trial and buy coffee making equipment from filters to espresso machines, incorporating coffee tastings and individual barista masterclasses. Joining Bean are Irish athleisure brand, Gym+Coffee, and local jewellery brand, Say it with Diamonds. The three operators total 6,300 square foot of space. Bean managing director Jon Whyte said: “We are so pleased to have signed for our latest coffee shop at Liverpool ONE, which marks a debut for our new ‘coffee retail’ concept. Having started in Liverpool, we knew we wanted to launch this concept in the heart of the city, and look forward to opening our doors here alongside so many other superb hospitality names.” Metis and CBRE acted for Liverpool ONE. Bean dealt direct.

Jamie Oliver plans to open new restaurants: Chef Jamie Oliver has promised to open new restaurants including a new version of his not-for-profit restaurant concept Fifteen. Oliver told the Radio Times: “I’m watching for now but I’ll definitely get back in the game. We’ve got some exciting ideas for Fifteen to reimagine itself, and we still have restaurants abroad. I’ve had a lot of trial and error but you can’t stop trying. Fifteen was trail-blazing. Everyone said ‘Don’t do it’, but it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done.” The chef’s restaurant empire, which included Jamie’s Italian, Barbecoa and Fifteen, collapsed into administration in May 2019. Oliver admitted he had experienced both “great successes” and “great fails” across his career. He said: “2019 was the 20th anniversary of The Naked Chef, so I’m wondering what the next 20 years will look like. I’m a more measured Jamie now. I just want to do things that make me happy.”

Stem & Glory accelerates zero-carbon pledge, helps other businesses follow suit: Vegan restaurant Stem & Glory has brought forward its pledge to become carbon negative by nine years to the end of 2021. Having signed up to the mayor of London’s Better Futures+ programme, which assists businesses in getting to net zero by 2030, Stem & Glory has opted for more urgent action and is aiming to reach the target by the end of this year. In addition, restaurant founder Louise Palmer-Masterton is assisting as many other businesses as possible to make similar changes to the ones she has introduced. She said: “One of the simplest and most significant actions is to move electricity supply to a 100% renewable tariff and stop cooking on gas. The second is reduction in the consumption of animal products across the board. With beef and lamb products producing more than 30 times the emissions per kilogramme as plant-based protein, and dairy more than seven times the emissions of plant-milk, we all need to be serious about how we feed ourselves sustainably for the sake of future generations. At Stem & Glory, we intend to completely decarbonise eating out so our customers know their dining choices are sustainable ones, and we urge restaurants everywhere to join us on this journey.” Stem & Glory, which operates sites in Cambridge and London, is already operating at significantly lower emissions than the average restaurant (less than 20%) thanks to initiatives such as furniture made from recycled waste, removing single-use coffee cups and introducing reusable lunch boxes. Future strategies include carbon labelling on all menus via a partnership with Foodsteps, which will allow customers to further offset the emissions of their meal via an optional levy. 

Page – Franco Manca exploring smaller format due to high demand for delivery: David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, the owner of Franco Manca, has said the business is set to trial a smaller “light kitchen” concept due to allow the pizza brand to match increasing demand for delivery. Page told Propel some of the group’s restaurant sites were having to switch off delivery platforms because the level of delivery demand was so high it was getting in the way of focusing on customers eating in. He told Propel: “It’s described as having a ‘good problem’. We want our restaurants to be focused on people who want to eat in. We tried dark kitchens, but we didn’t like them and neither did our chefs – even when offered a pay raise they said they would rather work in the restaurants. So, we needed to come up with a solution, that was a hybrid of both, which could go into secondary, densely populated locations, where rent is cheaper. Our sites aren’t traditionally that big anyway, but rather than have 60 to 70 covers, these will have circa 20. They will also release the pressure on existing restaurants.” Propel understands the company is in talks on up to five sites for the new format, with two close to being secured – off Kilburn High Street and in Hampton Wick. Page said: “We have a Franco Manca restaurant in Kingston in the pipeline, but it may be that the Hampton Wick site comes on line first and we just do delivery out of it, which would include covering Kingston to grow brand awareness.” Page also intimated a site the business has secured for Franco Manca in Didsbury may also start with a more delivery focus. Last month, the listed company announced plans to open a further 150 Franco Manca restaurants both in the UK and overseas, but Page said no number had been put on how many of these could be under the “light kitchen” format as yet. The company plans to open ten sites in its current financial year across both its Franco Manca and The Real Greek brands, but Page said they might go above that target. Franco Manca will open its next site in Blackheath Village in the second week of October, which will be followed by an opening in Baker Street in November. 

Aluna owner reopens former Carluccio’s site in Birmingham as Chinese restaurant and cocktail bar: The team behind Birmingham bar and restaurants Aluna and Siamais has opened a new Chinese restaurant and specialist cocktail bar. Lulu Wild has launched in the former Carluccio’s site in Brindleyplace. The venue is the latest venture for Nishil Nathwani, who first launched cocktail bar concept Aluna in Birmingham in 2015 before expanding to a second site in Bristol. He followed this in 2017 with a second Birmingham venue, Thai bar and restaurant Siamais, at the site of Thai Edge, a restaurant formerly owned by his parents. Nathwani said: “The cocktails will be full-on theatrics, enough to envy Lulu’s big sister, Aluna, with twists on traditional cocktails with a Chinese influence. Our mixologists have created an extensive list of cocktails including the classics and bespoke creations, with many offering an interactive experience for the guests.” The new site has a capacity for 160 people downstairs and 80 upstairs, while head chef Derrick Chen has honed his skills at restaurants such as Hakkasan, Yauatcha, and the Ritz Carlton in Singapore. His signature dishes include black truffle roast duck with shimeji and roast free-range chicken in satay sauce. 

Grindsmiths opens second MediaCityUK outlet and fourth in total: Independent artisan coffee business Grindsmiths has opened another site at Manchester’s MediaCityUK, by taking over the catering at Host Social. Founded in Salford seven years ago by Pete Gibson and Luke Tomlinson, Grindsmiths already boasts outlets in Manchester’s Bridge Street and Deansgate areas, in addition to its original MediaCityUK site. It has now linked up with innovation hub Host Social, whose events space includes a 20-seat private cinema, meeting snugs, conference rooms, a bar and a members-only business lounge. Its upgraded kitchen also offers up a new menu. Gibson said: “Our MediaCity store is our most successful site, and with the continual developments around Salford, we are very proud to be recognised as a key partner for Host Social and its innovation community. This is a new opportunity to showcase our talents. To think we started in a kiosk serving flat whites, to now doing private six-course tasting menus, is a very exciting prospect for us.” Grindsmiths now has a team of 21 people and serves about 6,500 cups of coffee across its business every week. Its latest expansion follows a recent collaboration with Nescafé Azera, which saw the UK’s first instant craft coffee rolled out to supermarkets across the nation. Mo Isap, chief executive of IN4 Group, operator of Host Social, added: “It’s part of our culture and vision to support local businesses, and Pete and the team at Grindsmiths are a perfect match for us.”

Taco Bell tests taco subscription: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is testing a new taco subscription. Any customer who pays between $5 and $10, depending on location, is eligible for a free taco daily for 30 days. The trial is under way at 17 participating locations in Tuscon, Arizona, and will continue until Wednesday, 24 November. Other companies have tested out subscriptions as a way to keep regular customers coming in and spending money in what some experts have dubbed the “subscription economy”. Restaurants are following the success of subscription models from Netflix and Amazon in the subscription sales industry, which is projected to hit $263bn by 2025 according to Juniper Research. Panera launched a daily coffee subscription for $9 per month in 2020, followed by Pret A Manger's similar programme in the UK.

New pan-African concept to open in London: Ghanaian-British restaurateur Akwasi Brenya-Mensa will open his debut London restaurant and bar, Tatale, in January next year. Celebrating African flavours and “chop bar” cooking traditions, the venue will be based at The Africa Centre, a charity that has recently moved to Gunpowder House, a former 1960s office block in Southwark. The restaurant and bar will be situated on the ground and first floors, featuring an outside terrace and balcony too. It will be open all day to cater for visitors to The Africa Centre’s events and exhibitions, as well as operating as a stand-alone restaurant in the evenings for up to 50 diners. Taking its name from a popular Ghanaian plantain pancake dish, Tatale’s signature dishes will include a chicken burger where buttermilk-fried chicken is topped with shito chilli, citrus yogurt and basil oil. “I remember seeing headlines and rolling my eyes – this is not a trend,” said Brenya-Mensa, who made his food debut via a street food pop-up ten years ago before opening the multi-function restaurant and arts space Fear X Loathing in Sheffield. “This is our heritage and culture over hundreds and thousands of years. In my experience of British culture, the hub has always been the pub. That’s where the chop bar reference comes from – a hub of conversation set literally around food.”

Great Portland Estates secures Qbic London City leasehold, RBH to manage hotel: Property landlord Great Portland Estates has secured the leasehold to eco-friendly hotel Qbic London City following two rounds of bidding. RBH Hospitality Management has also been assigned as the new operational management team for the asset, based in Whitechapel in the heart of London’s east end. The sale was handled by Christie & Co, which received 75 signed non-disclosure agreements and called for two rounds of bids before a final deal was signed in excess of the original guide price. Jeremy Jones, director and head of brokerage at Christie & Co, who led the sale, said: “The interest generated in the Qbic London City really took us by surprise, particularly considering the challenges the pandemic has created. However, it’s not every day that you get such a sizeable leasehold asset come to market in the heart of the city that is free and clear of its current branding.” Late last year, Qbic announced it would be launching the 261-bedroom Qbic Manchester in John Dalton House in Deansgate in March – an opening that was delayed by a month or so due to the pandemic. It became the business’ fourth hotel, joining the London site plus further ones in Brussels and Amsterdam.

Elior lands £18m contract to manage historic Cleveland site, including café and catering academy: Contract caterer Elior has won the ten-year contract to manage the newly refurbished Kirkleatham Walled Garden, which includes a cafe and shop selling produce from the site. Its plans also feature a catering and horticultural academy, which will provide 160 traineeships and apprenticeships for locals. Elior’s vision is for a real garden-to-plate attraction, persuading Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council to award it the £18m contract. The grade II-listed site reopened to the public last month after being shut for some 30 years and following an extensive six-year refurbishment. Also featuring a 350-seat events pavilion, it is expected to attract more than 30,000 visitors a year. Visitors will be able to attend horticultural and crafts workshops, while the garden shop will sell seasonal produce and plants from the gardens. Food from the garden will also be available in the cafe, which will serve a whole range of meals in the 350-seat Turner Pavilion. Council leader, Cllr Mary Lanigan, said: “We’re excited about Kirkleatham’s potential, not just as a tourist attraction, but also as an opportunity to create job opportunities and apprenticeships.” Kenny Finlayson, managing director at Elior, added: “We’re looking forward to creating a venue that will boost the economy in the region, inspiring and exciting visitors while providing valuable skills and experience for local learners.” 

Former Devon JD Wetherspoon pub to be sold at auction with £450,000 guide price: Auctioneers Pugh will oversee the sale of a former JD Wetherspoons pub in Pakington, Devon, later this month. The Isaac Merritt, named after the 19th century American inventor who founded the Singer sewing machine company, was one of 16 pubs put up for sale by Wetherspoons in 2019 and has been refurbished during lockdown. The pub, which has been given a £450,000 guide price, is let on a seven-year lease that runs until 2027, at a rent of £67,600 a year. Subject to planning permission, there are also proposals to build a five-storey residential development above the 7,000 square foot site, housing 33 apartments. Pugh associate director Paul Parker said: “With the UK holiday boom set to be here to stay, the Isaac Merritt represents an excellent opportunity for investment in a thriving seaside town. After all the challenges of lockdown, pubs and restaurants in visitor hotspots such as Paignton have been doing excellent business this summer, and that is forecast to continue. The new accommodation scheme that could potentially be developed above the Isaac Merritt would also be beneficial in increasing footfall. Needless to say, we have had a great deal of interest in this property.” Bidding on the pub opens on Tuesday, 21 September and closes the following day. 

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