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Tue 21st Sep 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Wilks – huge growth for competitive socialising will be in the family environment: The huge growth in the competitive socialising category will come from the family environment and opening of more “big box” concepts, Tim Wilks, founder of Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, has said. Lane7 entered the family bowling market when it launched the more family-focused Gutterball Alley concept in North Shields at the end of 2019, with a second set to open at Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre. Speaking at Propel’s Multi-Club Conference this month, Wilks said: “Gutterball was conceived for that family category to go up against Hollywood Bowl etc, whereas Lane7 is more of a premium offer in comparison. I believe the next part of the market for huge growth will be in that family environment, the big family entertainment centres but for that you need big boxes of space. These things take a while to come to market, they might all be in planning now and you may have to wait 20 to 24 months to see them pop up in larger city centres and just out-of-town shopping malls, but they are coming and they will be impressive. The minimum entry will be 50,000 to 60,000 square foot. We are embarking down that road. We’ve got one that starts imminently and another following it and will be trading those hopefully by the middle of next year. We feel that is going to be a longer-term play – the US is way, way down the track on this, but we will have a lot coming because of the tsunami of retail space that has been handed back to landlords in the last 12 to 18 months.” Lane7 currently operates ten sites, and Wilks said the business had another “five or six in legals”. He said: “The standard of the customer experience and what they are willing to accept is accelerating at a terrific rate. Consumers will pull out their phones and compare whether your site in Newcastle looks better than say one in Las Vegas. We have a phrase internally that if you have been to one, you haven’t been to all. As you get to a certain size that becomes more challenging and as consumers get more and more choice, which is fabulous for them, it puts more pressure on operators to lift that bar. Every time we sign a new site all the gaming offers are different. We want that overall benefit of being unique. You will get the same service standard, but you won’t know what each site will feature or look like. If we do two fit-outs the same, I feel I would have sold my soul.”
 

Industry News: 

Host of multi-site pub operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies: A host of multi-site pub operators are among the 69 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 Red Dragon Pubs, which has acquired eight sites during the past eight months and plans to add four more to its portfolio by October. Also being added is The Poet, owned by Kent-based couple Chris and Debbie Salter, who have also purchased the Stile Bridge in Marden with plans to make it the new destination for the area. In addition, Odette and Dominic Gibson, the London-based mother-and-son team who own the Angel of Bow, have opened The Bourbon. Features include more than 40 bourbons, cocktails and a smokehouse-style food offering. Premium subscribers will also receive a 7,000 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. To subscribe, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Handful of places remaining for Propel Multi-Club Conference featuring all-female line-up of leaders on thriving in the new world of hospitality and leisure: A handful of places are left for the third Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2021. The event, which takes place on Wednesday, 6 October at One Moorgate Place in London, will featuring an all-female line-up of leaders and entrepreneurs on how they are thriving in the new world of hospitality and leisure. Operators of multi-site companies can book two free tickets each by emailing paul.charity@propelinfo.com. Speakers are Sarah Willingham, founder of Nightcap, acquirer of drinks-led businesses including London Cocktail Club and Adventure Bar; Dorothy Purdew, who is behind the Champneys brand and at the forefront of change in the spa industry; Zuleika Fennell, managing director of Corbin & King; Anna Garood, who grew PoNaNa into an international brand and is currently co-owner of The Coconut Tree; Carol Welch, managing director UK and Ireland and commercial officer Odeon Cinema Group (Europe) and non-executive director of Hammerson; Resh Sonchhatla and Heena Varambhia, founders of Chapati Club in Acton; Regina Borda, managing director at Pizza Hut Europe, UK and Canada; and Dulcie Swanston, business coach and mentor, and author of It’s Not Bloody Rocket Science, and founder of Tea Break Training and Mum’s Taxis. Meanwhile, Ann Elliott talks to Laura Morris, co-founder of Yard & Coop; Bharti Radix, founder of BloomsYard; and Judy Joo, Korean-American executive chef, restaurateur, TV chef, and founder of Seoul Bird, about how to start a business from scratch. Elliott will also talk to chef Chantelle Nicholson; Grace Regan, founder of SpiceBox; and Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of Stem & Glory; about keeping optimistic over the pandemic and building back business. There will also be a panel discussion where Romy Miller, marketing and commercial director at Gail’s Bakery; Shereen Ritchie, chief operating officer of Irish healthy fast-casual brand Sprout and formerly managing director of Leon UK; Claire Morris, global marketing head at Sodexo; and Celia Pronto, managing director of Love Home Swap; talk about developing and harnessing talent.
 
Beckett – London is coming back, but it is a difficult moment to work out what’s good and what’s bad: Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, the upmarket steakhouse chain, has said London is coming back, but that it is a “difficult moment to work out what’s good, what’s bad”. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Beckett said: “In the last few weeks we have been 25% up on 2019. I know there is VAT in that, but we are effectively closed for a few services a week. People wanted to come back to Hawksmoor, people who work at Hawksmoor are happy to be there. We should be feeling positive but it is a difficult moment to work out what’s good and what’s bad. It is easy to sit somewhere and say we have to push forward at all costs and make stuff happen because we are feeling bullish, but the reality on the ground is it’s not like that at the moment – we have to make sure we are properly resourced all the time to do it, and if we are not doing that then I think the consequences are going to a be a lot more serious. My sense is London is coming back, but that in terms of who will benefit it pushes the winners and losers even further in each direction. People are doing hybrid working but when they come into London and go to the office, they want all the benefits of going to the office – they want face-to-face time with people they work with, with clients – and they are doing that out of the office. So even if they are in less, they make sure they use that time to go out. Our spend per head even without VAT has gone up. There are also way fewer suits, it is a lot more casual.”

Tourism and recreation sector posts sharpest month-on-month output growth: The tourism and recreation sector, which includes pubs and restaurants, posted the sharpest month-on-month rise in output in August. The sector benefited from the popularity of UK-based breaks during peak holiday season and the change to covid-19 restrictions, which reduced the need for fully vaccinated employees to self-isolate, according to the latest Lloyds Bank UK Recovery Tracker. The tourism and recreation sector saw its growth rate rise to 61.7 in August versus 55.3 in July. The output of food and drink manufacturers returned to growth, after contracting in July (53.7 in August versus 45.6 in July), due to firms experiencing increased orders from the hospitality sector and fewer employees needing to self-isolate. A reading above 50 signals output is rising, while a reading below 50 indicates output is contracting. But the number of UK sectors reporting output growth fell to a six-month low in August, as the impact of labour shortages intensified. Nine of the 14 UK sectors monitored by the Tracker saw output rise during August, down from 12 in July and the lowest number since February when the UK was still in lockdown. However, the number of UK sectors that recorded stronger output growth month-on-month increased from four to five during August due to the strong performance of consumer-facing services businesses. Meanwhile, input cost inflation eased for the first time since January. Reduced price pressures were seen in eight of the 14 sectors monitored by the Tracker during August, up from seven in July and just four in June. However, the overall rate of cost inflation was still the third highest in the Tracker’s history, as UK firms continued to experience materials shortages and higher wage costs driven by recruitment challenges.
 
Derry – businesses starting to think about stockpiling for Christmas: Restaurants are beginning to think about stockpiling for Christmas in light of supply issue challenges, including the carbon dioxide shortage, Mark Derry, executive chair of Brasserie Bar Co, which runs White Brasseries Pubco and Brasserie Blanc, has said. He told the FT: “There are increasing issues around supply. It’s getting more and more difficult. Most restaurant businesses double in December. You can just feel an impending disaster coming up.” Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Disruption to carbon dioxide supplies could not have come at a worse time, with the shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers already putting severe pressure on food production and distribution.” Producers of bakery products and carbonated drinks also face problems. Analysts at Citi said Britvic, which makes Pepsi and 7UP drinks in the UK, “has good availability of carbon dioxide supply for this week but is already looking to source additional gas from alternative suppliers”. UK poultry producers have started taking emergency measures to conserve carbon dioxide used to stun birds for slaughter as a shortage of the gas poses an increasingly grave threat to the meat supply chain. The poultry industry has said plants hold only one to five days’ carbon dioxide supply on site and warned of disruption to the chicken supply chain once that runs out.
 
Backman – lunch perhaps the daypart most under threat: Foodservice analyst Peter Backman has argued the daypart facing the biggest threat from changing consumer patterns is lunchtime. He said: “It seems, not long ago, there was much talk about the discovery of breakfast as a new daypart. All it takes is one pandemic to throw that great new opportunity into disarray. Now we are left to pick up the pieces and rediscover, not just breakfast, but all dayparts. During covid, consumers have (or at least so far, appeared to have) changed their habits, perceptions and requirements to a degree that has not just upset, but overturned normal patterns of trading. Locations – city centres, suburban high streets, railway stations and many more – are being forced to reconfigure themselves to a ‘new type of customer’. And, in passing, I would add I hope there is going to be a ‘new customer’ because otherwise a lot of redevelopment activity is going to have to be thrown in the bin. And just as locations are being investigated and repurposed, so it is with dayparts. If people aren’t travelling to work – or if they are not travelling first thing – breakfast for commuting travellers will be an unnecessary offer. Likewise, if people leave work early as part of their new working lifestyle – to miss the rush hour, or to pick up the kids – then immediate post-work hospitality, in the pub or at an early evening restaurant meal, is going to become an anomaly. And perhaps the daypart facing the biggest threat from changing consumer patterns, is lunchtime. For years, this has been a major part of people’s working lives. But now since they are likely to work from home much more frequently, lunchtime eating in places where workers are to be found in offices is under threat – whether it’s a coffee shop, sandwich bar, lunchtime rendezvous, office cafeteria – all will be depleted in the months and years ahead. And yet there are opportunities, solutions, and work arounds.”
 
Holmes – ‘outdated’ business rates hold down staff wages: Taxes on business premises are making it harder for high street chains to compete on staff wages at a time of acute labour shortages, Steve Holmes, the chief executive of Azzurri Group, the ASK Italian and Zizzi operator, has said. Talking to the FT, Holmes warned business rates, which are calculated according to rent values in 2015, are “outdated” and need to be revamped to reflect “where the revenue is taken”. He said: “For all those businesses that don’t have the same tax regime as those on the high street it means they can pay staff more…it’s not just the rates bill that puts pressure on [high street] businesses, it’s the knock-on effect of that. They then can’t compete on wages so they lose their staff.” Azzurri paid about 4.4% of its overall turnover in business rates, while Amazon reported a total tax rate as a proportion of its turnover of about half that. Holmes said Azzurri, one of the UK’s largest casual dining companies, was lacking one or two chefs per restaurant on average and was finding ways to increase the productivity of existing staff instead. “Government keeps saying things like we want you to retrain and re-educate our British workforce but they are just not there,” he said. The group is spending roughly £10m across its 198 sites installing high powered ovens that halve average cooking times to four minutes and a new kitchen management system that aggregates orders for dining in and delivery and prioritises them according to cooking time. Holmes said: “It does the thinking that a head chef would have to do, which means the chefs are just available to cook rather than organise.” Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group, which owns the Wagamama chain, told the FT the company was “doing a number of things” to make sure staff pay was “particularly attractive”, such as splitting tips more evenly between chefs and waiters. 
 
Firms plead for help to beat jobs and supply chain crunch: The government is facing mounting calls to help businesses as the crunch in the jobs market and disruption to supply chains threaten to stifle the economic recovery from the pandemic. About three in four companies believe that access to labour is a threat to the competitiveness of the jobs market, according to an annual survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the country’s biggest business lobby group, and Pertemps Network Group, reports The Times. Addressing the problem by making it easier for firms to fill short-term vacancies while boosting training for the long term was “vital”, the authors said. Make UK, the manufacturing trade body, also warned about growing problems in supply chains. Although the economy has staged a strong recovery from covid-19 lockdowns, there are worries that problems are weighing on growth. The CBI and Pertemps surveyed 422 companies last month and found 87% were planning to recruit to fill permanent positions this year. However, more than three quarters of respondents were concerned about a shortage of skills, while 47% thought labour costs were weighing on the competitiveness of the jobs market, up from 34% a year ago. Almost a quarter (24%) of businesses are expecting to lift pay above the rate of inflation, while 44% are planning increases in line with inflation. Prices are rising sharply, with the consumer prices index of inflation climbing to 3.2% last month from 2% in July, a record jump. Matthew Fell, the CBI’s chief policy director, said: “While firms have been stepping up to address labour shortages through further investment and training, these steps take time and do little to ease the pressure firms are facing now. From logistics to hospitality, firms are feeling strain across the whole economy and expect this to continue not just for two months but two years.” He called on the government to review the shortage occupation list, which gives employers more freedom to hire people from overseas.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a retail concept that is looking at the next phase of its development and expansion. The business is looking to develop further into Europe with a series of new openings and partnerships. To support this growth COREcruitment is looking to support the brand appoint an international managing director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “We are looking for a strong retail focused, multi-site manager who has lots of international opening experience and can really drive the business forward. This role would suit an individual who understands brand development and techniques to raise brand profile, partnership and sales generation and international, multi-location people management. The position is ideally based in London or UK-wide with London access and is paying up to £150,000.” Anyone interested can email Sonny@corecruitment.com
 

Company News: 

Farmer J secures West End site: All-day market concept Farmer J, which is backed by Imbiba, has secured its first site in London’s West End. Propel understands the Jonathan Recanati-led, five-strong, business has secured the former EAT site in Regent Street for an opening later this year. The company recently doubled up in Canary Wharf, with an opening in Jubilee Place. It already operates a site in Canada Place. Earlier this summer, Propel revealed Farmer J had secured the Wasabi site at Paternoster Square for an opening later this year. It is thought the business is also close to securing a site in London Bridge. Recanati told Propel in July the business had always been developed with expansion outside central London in mind and the group was looking to build its pipeline further. He said the resilience of the business during the crisis had given it the confidence to explore further expansion opportunities. Richard Willcox, at Etch, acted on the Regent Street deal for Farmer J. 
 
Wagamama secures first Florida site: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned brand, has secured its first site in Florida. The company, which expects to open three to four new US sites in FY22 under the joint venture partnership it entered last year, will open a site in Water Street in downtown Tampa. The new 4,200 square foot restaurant will be at 1050 Water Street and will open in early 2022. In August, the company secured its first site in Georgia, when it agreed to take a unit in the newly-built Star Metals District in West Midtown, Atlanta. Wagamama made its US debut in April 2007 and currently operates three sites in both Boston and New York. Last February, Wagamama entered a new partnership with Conversion Venture Capital (CVC2) as financial partners and Robert Cornog Jnr and Richard Flaherty as operating partners, as part of a joint venture to aid its growth in the US. Under the terms of the agreement Cornog Jnr and Flaherty, who most recently led Punch Bowl Social, one of the “hottest” concepts in US, assumed majority ownership and lead operations of Wagamama’s existing US business as part of a 20:80 joint venture partnership, with TRG as minority partner. While the joint venture board will decide the scale of the expansion plans, Wagamama expected the new partnership to be opening between 30 and 40 restaurants over a five to six-year time period. TRG retains the option to repurchase the remaining 80% of the business starting in 2026.
 
Megan’s plans to almost double portfolio by end of 2022: London-based, cafe and deli concept Megan’s has announced plans to expand to 22 sites by the end of next year, which would almost double the size of its estate. The brand currently has 13 sites, with Dulwich Village expected to become its 14th in November, and further opening are planned in Richmond and Marlow by the end of 2021. To help with this growth, the group is looking to employ 200 more staff and recently appointed two new directors. Former Wagamama and Mitchells & Butlers operations director Christobell Harrington-Jones and ex-Cote Brasserie head of people Adam Truelove both joined the board in August. Megan’s chairman Rod McKie said: “With such a talented team in place, we are excited to be expanding the Megan’s quality cafes to more local neighbourhoods over the ensuing months.” One of the sites Megan’s will open at next year is the former Laura Ashley store in Church Street, Weybridge, while it also plans to open a second Chelsea outlet alongside its Kings Road one, opposite Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. Earlier this year, the group opened new venues at the former PizzaExpress site in Wandsworth Old Town, the ex-Le Pain Quotidien site in Chiswick High Road and a derelict 1930s cafe in Clapham Common.
 
Loungers secures Maidenhead opening: Cafe bar operator Loungers has lined up an opening in Maidenhead before the end of the year. The Nick Collins-led, 180-strong, business will open the Bardo Lounge at Shanly Homes’ Waterside Quarter development in the town, in December. The addition of Bardo Lounge to the scheme follows the opening of Coppa Club nearby and artisan cafe Bakedd in the Berkshire town. Loungers reached the 180-site mark last week with two openings. The company opened a site for its Cosy Club brand in Chelmsford, followed by the opening of Claro Lounge in Ripon, North Yorkshire. Loungers has further Lounge openings lined up in Basildon, Colchester, High Wycombe and Ealing, while it also plans to open a Cosy Club site in Chester.
 
Hermanos Columbian Coffee Roasters opens seventh London site: Hermanos Columbian Coffee Roasters, the London-based cafe concept, has opened its seventh site in the capital, in Notting Hill. The company, which was founded by brothers Victor and Santiago Gamboa in 2018, has opened at 127 Portobello Road. It is the second opening for the business this year after it opened a coffee roastery and cafe at Angel Lane, SE17, earlier this summer. The business also operates sites in Broadway Market, Victoria Station, Blackhorse Lane, The Loom (Aldgate East) and Columbia Road.
 
Wright & Bell business renamed as Wellfound: Restaurant and bar company Wright & Bell has renamed itself as Wellfound, Propel has learned. The Imbiba-backed, London-based, operator is now made up of three sites – Green Room on the South Bank, which was acquired in July 2020; the recently opened Marsha in Gabriel’s Wharf; and Whyte & Brown in Kingly Court. Earlier this year, the business placed its Kitty Hawk and Lino businesses into administration after being unable to reach agreement with landlords. Chef Gordon Ramsay subsequently opened a Bread Street Kitchen on the former Kitty Hawk site in South Place.
 
Curious Restaurants to open Jones Family Kitchen near Covent Garden: Curious Restaurants is to open a second site under its Jones Family Kitchen concept next month, near London’s Covent Garden, Propel has learned. Curious Restaurants, which previously operated the Jones Family Project in Shoreditch, is set to open in the former Les Deux Salons site in William IV Street. The company operates the Jones Family Kitchen site in Eccleston Yards in Belgravia. The company was founded by Duncan Watts and Amit Joshi, who have built and sold a number of businesses in the restaurant and bar sector. Watts qualified as a chartered accountant before becoming investor/director of Pitcher & Piano, which he sold to Marston’s in 2011 for a multiple of 25 times earnings. He went on to create Rocket Restaurants with Joshi, which they sold to sector investor Luke Johnson in 2011. Rob Meadows at Davis Coffer Lyons has been marketing the Les Deux Salons site.
 
Aston Manor reports record revenue figure of £154m, completes £6.6m production site revamp: Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor has posted record revenues of £154m for 2020, up from £137m in 2019, during what the company has described as the toughest trading period in its 40-year history. Central to the success was the company’s £6.6m project to install a new packaging line and works to reduce energy usage and transport movements at its Aston site. This helped support the development of the company’s Aston Manor private label drinks products, as well as its capability as an expert contract packer. Aston chief executive Gordon Johncox said: “We pride ourselves on our teamwork and being ambitious in what we can achieve, though even with high standards, the response throughout 2020 and since has been remarkable. I am enormously proud of how people in all parts of Aston Manor stepped up in the face of a trading environment never encountered in our history. The whole hospitality sector has had to close for extended periods and has suffered terribly since March 2020 – and we are doing all we can to support a return to sustainable business levels in such a vital sector of the UK economy. In the take-home sector, there was considerable disruption at the outset and during the three lockdowns everyone experienced. And while some of the sales lost in the hospitality sector did switch to supermarkets and other stores, alcohol sales were markedly down in both 2020 and so far in 2021. We continue to invest in our focus areas of product quality, sustainability and manufacturing excellence, and we will develop new drinks and target new markets to ensure we remain a flexible, capable and successful business.”
 
Gail’s and Kokoro sign up to open at The Lexicon, Bracknell: Gail’s Bakery and Kokoro have signed up to open sites at The Lexicon scheme in Bracknell. Kokoro, the Korean Japanese takeaway concept founded by Rak-Kyu Park, has taken an 803 square foot site at the scheme, while Gail’s will open a 2,634 square foot unit, which will open by the end of the year. Finally, Yi Fang will take 954 square foot to bring its traditional fruit tea and tapioca pearl bubble drinks concept to the scheme. The Lexicon is a joint venture partnership between Schroder UK Real Estate Fund and Legal & General Capital.
 
Parkdean Resorts introduces elite leadership and management training programme: Parkdean Resorts has teamed up with Cranfield Executive Development to offer a bespoke talent development course within its business – the first of its kind in the holiday park sector. The two-year programme will see £30,000 each invested in eight candidates – seven senior managers earmarked as future business leaders and one who started out as a resort lifeguard. After completing a leadership programme with Cranfield, each delegate will select a further development course for the second year, and upon completion, all will be awarded a special “one to watch” award. Lisa Charles-Jones, Parkdean Resorts’ HR director, said: “Nurturing and cultivating our next generation of talent in the business is crucial to ensure future growth and the long-term health of Parkdean Resorts. This programme is a real feather in our cap and will provide leading development and training to the exceptional talent in our business. It’s also a tremendously important signal to all our existing and future employees that we, as a business, are a place where people can grow, develop and forge a career.”
 
Independent pub and hotel group plans fifth West Midlands site: Suburban Inns, which runs four pubs, restaurants and hotels across the West Midlands, has earmarked a former office block in Sutton Coldfield as its fifth venue. The group has submitted plans with Birmingham City Council for a 50-bedroom hotel on the former Quality House site at 47 High Street. The existing three-storey building would be demolished under the scheme and replaced with a four-storey one. The application states: “The scheme would replace a building which has a negative impact on the character of the conservation area with a well-designed, high-quality scheme which would make a positive contribution to both the setting of the adjacent listed building and the conservation area itself. There are no sustainable grounds that would warrant refusal of the application.” The group already runs The Village in Moseley, The Durham Ox in Shrewley, The Townhouse in Sutton Coldfield and Saint Pauls House in Birmingham.
 
Joro operators launch Japan-inspired restaurant in Liverpool: Chef Luke French and wife and business partner, Stacey Sherwood-French, have opened their latest venture. Located in the new GPO Food Hall in Liverpool’s MetQuarter, which is operated by The Milestone Group, Nama is a contemporary Izakaya-inspired dining and drinking concept. Meaning raw in Japanese, Nama uses only premium quality, sashimi-grade fish. French said: “I’m excited we’ve been able to open our next venture Nama in Liverpool. The city’s got such a rich culinary legacy, and it’s amazing we’re now a part of that. Launching within Liverpool’s biggest food hall, GPO, means we can reach an entirely new audience, and one that will hopefully keep coming back for more.” French and Sherwood-French are behind the Krynkl restaurant Joro based in their home town of Sheffield, where they also opened street food concept Konjo in 2019 and are due to open another venue, at The Milestone Group-operated Cambridge Street Collective. Earlier this year they launched boutique hotel House of Joro, while during the lockdown, French collaborated with rapper Professor Green on a series of home-cooking kits.
 
The O2’s Entertainment District reports 41% increase in net sales compared with 2019 levels: The Entertainment District, the food and beverage element of The O2’s Icon Outlet shopping centre, has reported a large growth in net sales. The district, which houses more than 30 bars and restaurants, including the recently opened debut of Toca Social, experienced a 41% increase in net sales compared with August 2019. The uplift was driven by the growing appeal of Icon Outlet, the return of live events and The O2’s impressive leisure offering, according to Icon Outlet and Entertainment District managing director Janine Constantin-Russell. This summer also saw Gordon Ramsay’s Street Burger open its doors in the Entertainment District, which will be followed by several new leisure and dining concepts later this year, including Boom: Battle Bar, Soukra and Marugame Udon. Boom: Battle Bar, which is currently under construction, will feature Bavarian axe-throwing, crazy golf and electric darts, while Soukra will offer Middle Eastern dining and Marugame Udon will specialise in Japanese udon noodles and tempura.
 
Star Pubs & Bars launches biggest event support package for licensees: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has launched its biggest event support package for its leased and tenanted pubs to meet pent-up demand from consumers wanting to celebrate key occasions that were restricted last year. After more than 18 months of disrupted trading, the programme is designed to increase sales in the fourth quarter of 2021. It focuses on sport, Halloween and Christmas. Called “What’s the Occasion?” and accessed via Star Pubs & Bars’ website, it features staff and licensee training videos on topics such as upselling and cross-selling, and a one-hour webinar on maximising Christmas retailing opportunities delivered by industry experts. There is also a section of insight and stocking advice for all drinks categories. Marketing is another big component, with half-price point-of-sale material, free social media assets and free ready-made promotions. John O’Connor, Star Pubs & Bars head of digital and retail marketing, said: “We are starting to emerge from the most challenging period pubs have ever faced. Following all the closures and restrictions, licensees are concentrating on rebuilding their business. We are introducing this package of support to help our licensees capitalise on the golden sales-boosting occasions that will take place in the last few months of the year.”
 
Merlin opens debut Peppa Pig World of Play in the Netherlands: Merlin Entertainments has opened its debut Peppa Pig World of Play in the Netherlands. The indoor play centre has launched in Westfield Mall on the outskirts of The Hague. The venue, aimed at children aged one to six, spans more than 1,500 square metres and features 12 free-roaming play areas. The centre also features a themed campervan cafe and picnic area and an independent retail store. Vincent Pronk, attraction manager at Peppa Pig World of Play, said: “It’s guaranteed to be a truly memorable experience for families and something to really look forward to visiting.”
 
Hollywood Bowl announces December opening for new Birmingham site: Hollywood Bowl, the UK’s largest ten pin bowling operator, plans to have its new venue at Birmingham’s Resort World open by the Christmas holidays. The company, which announced earlier this year it had signed three new sites – including a Harrow launch for its Puttstars mini golf brand – has signed a 15-year lease at the entertainment resort, based in Birmingham’s NEC campus. The 26,000 square foot site will include 17 bowling lanes, a bar, diner and large amusements arcade. Laurence Keen, chief financial officer at Hollywood Bowl Group, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing the brand experience to Resorts World and to be a part of this exciting development in Birmingham.” For Resorts World, which opened in 2015, the leasing is a move further in the direction towards more leisure offerings. Jason Kirsch, Resorts World operations director, said: “Welcoming Hollywood Bowl forms part of our strategy to further strengthen our leisure offer. Resorts World sits within the UK’s premier destination for exhibitions and events, and this will add to the attraction and support the NEC Group’s proposed masterplan.” The lease was handled for Resorts World owners Genting UK by Colliers and Realm. Ross Kirton, head of leisure agency at Colliers, added: “Genting UK has understood the change in consumer demands for shopping centres to become a destination for both day and night-time by providing a broad range of entertainment, food and beverage offers alongside retail choices that can cater to all age ranges.”
 
NZR Group unveils further plans for San Francisco Chotto Matte, confirms 2022 opening: NZR Group, the Kurt Zdesar-led business, has revealed its new Chotto Matte restaurant in San Francisco will be on the rooftop of the former Macy’s department store in Union Square. The site, which measures 16,500 square feet and offers views over the Bay Bridges and Twin Peaks, has been secured by agent Shelley Sandzer, with a 2022 opening being earmarked. Plans for another US-based sister location for the original Chotto Matte restaurant, in London’s Soho, were unveiled earlier this month, along with plans for sites in Doha and Riyadh. The Chotto Matte brand, founded by former Nobu European director and Hakassan founder Zdesar, also has restaurants in Miami and Toronto alongside its London flagship. Zdesar said: “We are delighted to continue our expansion plans for Chotto Matte internationally. Shelley Sandzer has been the perfect partner for our US expansion plans and has secured the best location in San Francisco.” Shelley Sandzer co-founder Philip Sandzer added: “We are very excited to have secured a unique site for Chotto Matte’s debut on the west coast of America. This is going to be one of the most significant openings in the US next year.”

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