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Thu 28th Oct 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day

Morgan Stanley – government might have reversed its mindset on the pub: Morgan Stanley analyst Jamie Rollo has suggested yesterday’s Budget might signal a reversal in the government’s mindset in relation to the pub. In a note, he stated: “We note that the largest listed pub operators have already seen their share prices jump 5-6% intraday on the back of this announcement. However, we note that as of yesterday’s close, the UK pub and restaurant sector had dropped nearly 30% since early summer, moving from one of the best to the one of the worst performing leisure subsectors year-to-date as a result of the UK’s well-documented energy, food and fuel problems, as well as the mounting labour cost/availability issues, so any positive news helps. We also think the Budget could signal a greater degree of government backing for the hospitality industry, and were encouraged by the Chancellor’s comments that many public health bodies recognise pubs as safer drinking environments than being at home, and that pubs are ‘the home of British community life’. After years of rising tax and regulatory burdens, this could signal a reversal of the previous mindset and suggest a greater probability of other support measures (such as phased rollback of VAT to previous levels). The high-profile coverage of the duty cut in the mainstream media could also boost consumer sentiment towards this struggling but generally much-loved British institution.” Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie added: “(The) Budget is a much-needed vote of confidence in the great British pub as we face into an uncertain winter, labour disruption and rising costs. Creating a draught rate and simplifying the duty system is positive news for our 2,700 pubs and the communities we serve across the UK. We welcome the efforts to reduce the burden of business rates for our tenants and small operators, but the cap on the 50% discount means there will be little benefit for medium and large pub owning businesses. The long-term health of the UK’s pubs still demands fundamental reform to lower the day-to-day cost of running a pub.”

Industry News:

One day to go before release; 66 multi-site companies set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies: A total of 66 new multi-site companies, operating 446 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday 29 October, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes a number of brands growing through franchise, regional pub and hotel operators and expanding seafood brands. Premium subscribers will also receive a 5,124-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 fourth edition of the New Openings Database, which Is produced in association with StarStock, on Wednesday, 3 November, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The fourth edition will now include a 14,700-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to another database – the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, 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 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.

Trade association welcomes ‘support worth £440m’ for pubs and breweries in Budget: The British Beer and Pub Association has saluted the business rates cuts and future revaluations, and the freezing of beer duty, announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget. However, the group also warned that some pubs will not feel the benefits of the rates cuts due to a cap; that the business rates system remains unfair for pubs; and that beer duty in the UK remains among the highest in the world. BPPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Pubs pay 2.5% of business rates despite accounting for only 0.5% of rateable turnover – an overpayment of £570m. Cancelling the rates multiplier and cutting rates for pubs by 50% for one year is a much-needed boost to our sector in its fragile recovery. That alone will save pubs £169 million. However, the cap of £110,000 per business is a huge dampener and means a significant number of pubs will not benefit from the relief at all. The multiplier freeze will save English pubs £32 million, and the announcement that business rates revaluations will happen more frequently is also welcome. However, we remain concerned that for the longer term, the inherent unfairness of the business rates system for pubs has not been addressed. The Chancellor’s decision to freeze beer duty instead of the RPI-linked increase he had planned is to be warmly welcomed. It will save £177 million and secure 9,000 jobs across the country. A 5% lower duty rate on draught beer worth £62 million is also great news for our local pubs. However, the overall beer duty rate in the UK remains amongst the highest in Europe. It is vital for Britain’s brewers that the overall beer duty burden is reduced – not just on draught beer in pubs.” UKHospitality Scotland’s executive director, Leon Thompson, added: “The Chancellor has declared his support for business, and the Scottish government much at least match this if hospitality businesses across Scotland are not to face further financial difficulty and possible closure. Our businesses remain in a fragile state and need a commitment from the Scottish government that they can look forward to the same support as their counterparts in England.” 

Independent operators disappointed by scrapping of lower VAT rates for hospitality: Smaller hospitality businesses will struggle when VAT rates return to 20% next April, according to The Real Eating Company founder Helena Hudson. Many had been hoping for an extension of the lower rate of 12.5% to be announced in the Budget, but it failed to materialise. Hudson, who founded her seven-strong independent café concept in 2004, said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to implement a one-year 50% cut to business rates for hospitality businesses, as well as updates to the tax’s valuation frequency and cancellation of next year’s multiplier increase. However, it is important to note that any savings will be more than offset by the increase of VAT back to 20% in April 2022, which will be introduced at the same time as the increases in National Minimum Wage and National Insurance contributions. It was very disappointing not to see an extension of the 12.5% VAT rate for hospitality businesses past April. Larger businesses with deep pockets may be able to weather these increased costs, but they will be a huge blow to small independent businesses that are only just finding their feet after the pandemic.” Steven Alton, chief executive of the British Institution of Innkeping, was another to call for a longer-term reduction in VAT rates. He said: “Ongoing support will be needed both in the form of a fundamental reform of business rates to rebalance this unfair burden on our pub businesses with the online economy, and a long term reduced VAT rate to support our members’ recovery over the coming years.” Jane Pendlebury, chief executive of the Hospitality Professionals Association, agreed that a chance was missed to offer the sector a bigger boost. She said: At present, forecasters will need to factor in a rise in VAT in April – and I’m sure many will wince when they see the tightness of their margins. We urge the government to do what’s needed to secure and shore up one of the UK’s most important sectors – and whilst they’ve offered some support, I don't believe it goes far enough.”

NTIA – vaccine passports are decimating Scottish nightlife: New data from the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has revealed that trading levels for nightlife businesses have been decimated in the first week of the Scottish Government’s controversial vaccine passport scheme. A survey of NTIA members in Scotland revealed that nightclub trade levels have dropped by almost half (46%), with some reporting declines in excess of 60% compared to previous weeks, and that a 46% decline in trade for nightclubs would represent lost income of £506,000 per year per venue on average if this scheme continues compared to pre-vaccine passport levels of trade. It went on to say that a 24% decline in trade for pubs and bars would represent lost income of £180,000 on average if the scheme continues compared to pre-vaccine passport levels of trade. In addition, venues enforcing the scheme report their expenses to administer it would result in £31,200 per year of additional costs if it continues, while trade in pubs and bars have dropped by one quarter (24%), despite 90% of these venues implementing measures to take themselves out of remit of the scheme. The survey also found that 90% of pubs and bars with late night entertainment offerings have felt forced to remove themselves from the scope of the scheme by decommissioning dance floors, reducing opening hours or cancelling live entertainment, all at significant financial loss. The negative impact on Scotland’s cultural scene is also escalating rapidly, with numerous performances and booked shows now being cancelled due to the severe impact of reduced attendance. Gavin Stevenson, spokesman for NTIA Scotland, said: “It is utterly bewildering that the Scottish government has completely ignored the warnings from sectoral experts as to the dire consequences of this scheme. It has taken just one week for our concerns around market distortion, unfair competition, discrimination and the severe economic impact to be proven true, while the huge reduction in covid-19 cases that happened well before the scheme came into effect demonstrates that the scheme is simply not necessary to reduce cases. We’re calling on the Scottish government to scrap this flawed scheme and work with our sector to explore alternatives that are workable and allow businesses to remain viable.”

New AA Rosettes for 19 restaurants: Three restaurants this week received four AA Rosettes, marking them as among the top restaurants in the country. They are Forest Side in Cumbria, Mana in Manchester and Tuddenham Mill in Newmarket. Alasdair Elwick, general manager at The Forest Side said: “The past few years have been a roller-coaster and our team have taken each hurdle in their stride and it’s great to see their hard work being recognised.” A further 16 have been awarded three AA Rosettes in recognition of their outstanding culinary standards, including Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay (London), new Glaswegian dining destination Unalome by Graeme Cheevers (Glasgow), and French bistro L’Ortolan (Berkshire). The Princess of Shoreditch, a Noble Inns pub run by Great British Menu finalist Ruth Hansom, also became the only pub in London to hold three Rosettes. Simon Numphud, managing director at AA Media, said “As the hospitality sector reopens after a challenging year, it is an honour to be able to recognise those restaurants achieving the highest levels of gastronomic excellence.”

Company News: 

Francis-Baum – we will continue to grow Barworks and do interesting things: Marc Francis-Baum, co-founder and managing director of Barworks, which sold 13 of its 19 sites to Urban Pubs & Bars, has told Propel that the company will continue to grow and “do interesting things”, including the opportunity to do “another Mare Street Market”. After the deal with Urban, Barworks will continue to operate with an estate of six sites that includes Mare Street Market, plus the opening this week of Gas Station in Kings Cross and a site in Heddon Street, in Mayfair, in the coming months. Francis-Baum told Propel: “We will grow again and will always do very interesting things. I love pubs, and any pub opportunities that come I will do, for sure. But we have another Mare Street Market opportunity also, and I think it’s very exciting. Mare Street Market is such a colossal business for us. Gas Station is a drink-led business but not a pub. It has a huge beer garden on the canal, so drink is always at our forefront. Heddon Street will be a lovely pub/boozer. Mare Street Market in Hackney is a 10,000 square-foot restaurant/bar with a strong retail element consisting of record shop, florist, hair salon, tattoo parlour, deli shop and on-site coffee roasting company, with large communal seats serving pizza, deli and veggie cuisine plus a beer garden. We also opened our first hotel partnership with Montcalm in Old Street and are due to open near Lancaster Gate soon.” The deal for the 13 London-based sites comes on the back of Urban’s recently-announced partnership with Davidson Kempner and Global Mutual. The joint venture was established to support and accelerate the growth of Urban, and the Barworks transaction is the first acquisition of scale, increasing Urban’s number of sites by more than 50%. Following the acquisition of the Barworks sites, Urban comprises 34 pubs, bars and restaurants across flexible trading formats including the highly-acclaimed Salt Yard Group in the West End, Bat & Ball at Westfield (Stratford) and neighbourhood pubs in affluent locations such as Balham and Highgate. In addition to the Barworks acquisition, Urban has recently opened two new sites – Fleet’s at St Paul’s and Nest in Bishopsgate. Barworks was founded in 1996 by Andreas Akerlund, Patrik Franzen and Francis-Baum. Sapient Corporate Finance advised Urban Pubs & Bars on the transaction, while Michael Penfold at AG&G advised Barworks.

Restaurant Group to name former Cadbury finance director Ken Hanna as chairman: Ken Hanna, a City stalwart who has presided over a string of recent takeover deals, is set to be named as the next chairman of Restaurant Group, the London-listed owner of Wagamama. The former finance chief at Cadbury has been identified as the successor to Debbie Hewitt, who will step down at the end of the year to chair the Football Association. One of the most experienced figures in British boardrooms, Hanna has recently overseen the sale of Aggreko to TDR Capital and Isquared Capital, and the disposal of RMD Kwikform to Altrad, the French industrial group. He also chairs Arena Events Group, which agreed a takeover by a Gulf consortium earlier this month. Hanna takes the helm of a company that has faced severe financial challenges during the pandemic, twice raising money from shareholders to steer it through lengthy periods of closure for its brands, which also include Chiquito, Garfunkel’s and Frankie & Benny’s.

Wetherspoon to slash prices in November: JD Wetherspoon is launching a major sale on drinks from next month, with whisky, beer and coffee costing just 99p each. Some 671 of its pubs will be serving either a pint of Ruddles Best or Greene King IPA; a bottle of Beck’s beer and a 25ml Bell’s whisky with a mixer all for the low price. At a further 99 of its pubs, a pint of real ale will cost £1.10, while the Beck’s and whisky will still be 99p each. The discount is set to run throughout the whole of November. Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoon, which has a total of 861 pubs, said: “Our pubs are known for their excellent choice of drinks at value-for-money prices at all times. Throughout November, our customers will be able to choose from a great choice of drinks and save themselves some money too.” All hot drinks at its pubs, including coffees, tea and hot chocolate, will cost 99p with free refills – with the announcement made on the day of the Budget. At each of the 770 pubs, a 25ml Gordon’s gin, including a mixer, will cost £1.99, while a 175ml glass of Coldwater Creek wine, including red, white and rose, will cost £1.69. The company also said a bottle of Hardys wine, including red, white and rose, will be available for £6.99. Wetherspoon's said pints at its remaining pubs will also be reduced but will vary in price. In the remaining pubs, a pint of real ale will cost from £1.49 to £1.99, a glass of wine from £1.99 to £2.79 and a Gordon’s gin with mixer from £1.99 to £2.99. The pubs serving the real ale at £1.10 and not 99p are in Scotland and Wales, which both have minimum unit price restrictions. 

McDonald’s reports global like-for-like sales up 12.7% in third quarter: McDonald’s has reported its global like-for-like sales rose 12.7% in its third quarter to 30 September (10.2% on a two-year basis). Like-for-like sales in the US rose 9.6% (14.6% on a two-year basis). International Operated Markets segment increased 13.9% (8.9% on a 2-year basis), while International Developmental Licensed Markets segment increased 16.7% (4.9% on a 2-year basis). “Our third quarter results are a testament to our unparalleled scale and agility,” said McDonald’s president and chief executive Chris Kempczinski. “Our global comparable sales increased 10% over 2019, which was delivered across an omnichannel experience that is focused on meeting the needs of our customers. We continue to execute our strategic growth plan and run great restaurants so that we can drive long-term, sustainable growth for all of our stakeholders.” Consolidated revenues increased 14% (13% in constant currencies) to $6,201 million, while systemwide sales increased 16% (14% in constant currencies) to $29,948 million. Of the “international operated markets” segment, the company stated: “Segment performance was led by very strong positive comparable sales in the UK, as well as positive comparable sales in Canada, France and Germany, driven by strong operating performance and significantly fewer restaurant closures with the easing of covid-19 restrictions. Restrictions in the quarter muted comparable sales in Australia. Comparable sales increased 8.9% on a 2-year basis.”

Charro de Cuba lines up second site: Rodizio restaurant operator Charro de Cuba is to open at Wembley Park – its second site. The dining concept will occupy a 5,500 square-foot space, with a restaurant covering the ground floor, and a state-of-the-art Cuban cocktail bar serving small bites occupying a mezzanine level. Like its popular sister restaurant, Charro de Rio in Belsize Park, Charro de Cuba will feature an all-you-can-eat menu for a fixed price point, offering diners a wide range of charcoal barbequed meats and vegetarian alternatives. Vered Mass, owner at Charro de Cuba, said: “Having built up such a loyal customer base in Belsize Park, and with the rising popularity of Latin American cuisine, we wanted to open our new restaurant somewhere that could match our ambitions – and Wembley Park was a natural fit. We look forward to opening our doors amid the hustle and bustle of this vibrant neighbourhood, welcoming new customers from the area’s growing residential population, and the millions of people who visit every year.” 

Frankie & Benny’s launching ‘meat free Monday’ campaign throughout November: Italian-American restaurant brand Frankie & Benny’s, owned by The Restaurant Group, will be urging its customers to go meat-free on Mondays next month. It will offer guests the chance to swap their sticky chicken wings for crispy-fried “jackfruit wingz” from vegan fast foods brand Biff’s for just £1 – a £5 saving on both dishes, which normally cost £6. All proceeds will go towards planting trees with Carbon Neutral Britain, which helps businesses and individuals offset their environmental impact. The first day of the campaign will be 1 November, which is World Vegan Day, and will run each Monday throughout November, which is World Vegan Month. Jon Knight, managing director at Frankie & Benny’s, said: “This is an exciting partnership and one we’re really happy to be embarking on with Biff’s, while supporting Meat Free Monday. Meat Free Monday is a great vehicle for encouraging positive change in the community and as a brand we’re proud to be doing our part.” Biff’s co-founder Biff Bloom-Burrows added: “We’re excited to be coming together with Frankie & Benny’s, celebrating Meat Free Monday and challenging customers around the country to try something different and make a positive impact on the environment.”

Bread Meats Bread lines up third site: Better burger brand Bread Meats Bread is to open as third site in Edinburgh. The brand currently has two sites in the city, with one on Lothian Road and the other situated at Fort Kinnaird retail complex. It will now be taking over a new premises on North Bridge, which was formerly occupied by Prezzo. On social media, the brand stated: “We’ll be opening our flagship and third BMB in the capital at the former Prezzo on North Bridge (across from The Scotsman), also known as ‘the gateway between the old and new town’.”

PizzaLuxe to make roadside debut in Peterborough next month, Cambridge site to follow in December: PizzaLuxe, the Paul Goodale-led premium fast casual concept, has announced a November opening for its roadside debut at Peterborough (M1 junction 17). The launch follows the signing of a partnership agreement with Extra Motorway Service Area (MSA) Group earlier this year, as Propel revealed in July. The Peterborough site will be swiftly followed by one in Cambridge (M11 junction 24), which will open in December, with both sites bringing a total of 50 new jobs to the region. Open from early morning through to late night, the cocktail and pizza bars will also serve salads, coffee, cake and several takeaway options, including bake-at-home pizzas. PizzaLuxe received a £1.5m investment from Edition Capital last year and has a franchise agreement with global travel partner SSP, which led to an inaugural franchise site at Manchester Airport in 2018. Another Manchester site, at the new £11m food quarter Halle Place in the Arndale, opened in July as part of the group’s plan to expand across the north of England. An anchor tenant of Leeds Trinity Kitchen since it opened, PizzaLuxe is planning exponential growth over the next two years, including further franchising and licencing opportunities. Goodale, a former director of restaurants at Harrods, said: “What we are seeking to create, with the vision and support of our partners at Extra MSA Group, will be a unique first within the UK motorway service market. We have a proven breakfast offer from our work airside with SSP, a core daytime offer and a late-night cocktail bar offer. These new venues will join these elements together under one roof for the first time, and we hope to turn both our Peterborough and Cambridge MSA sites into destinations in their own right. We have taken time to reflect and refine every part of the PizzaLuxe concept, and as such, we are well placed to grow the business and take new opportunities as they present.” Andrew Long, chief executive at Extra MSA Group, added: “We are extremely pleased to be welcoming PizzaLuxe to two of our motorway service areas. It is a business that shares in our values, bringing a high-quality food and drink offer to visitors with a ‘restaurant’ feel.”

Provenance Inns and Hotels acquires eighth site in North Yorkshire: Yorkshire-based Provenance Inns and Hotels has acquired the historic Coach & Horses pub in Harrogate for its eighth site, and second in the town. The pub, which like its fellow Provenance site The West Park Hotel is based on West Park, has been closed since March 2020. Group operations director Karen French said: “We are delighted that we could take on such a fantastic building and have the opportunity to bring The Coach and Horses back to life. We are currently agreeing a plan for refurbishment and reopening, and this opportunity will create more than 50 new jobs. Formed by Chris Blundell in 2010, Provenance uses its own kitchen garden at Mount St John, Felixkirk, to supply much of its fresh and seasonal veg. It also runs The Black Bull in Moulton, The Crown & Cushion in Welburn, The Carpenters Arms in Felixkirk, The Punch Bowl in Morton-cum-Grafton, The Cleveland Tontine in Cleveland and The Oak Tree in Helperby. The Punch Bowl was a recent recipient of an AA Rosette, and general manager Paul Neesam said: “The hospitality industry has experienced such a tumultuous time so it’s a real honour to be recognised in such a way. We hope that this AA Rosette award encourages more people to come and taste the delights on offer at The Punch Bowl Inn.”

Plymouth beer shop owners submit plans for microbrewery and bar: The husband-and-wife team behind Plymouth’s Vessel Beer Shop are planning to open a microbrewery and bar three doors away. Sam and Katie Congdon, who opened their craft ale shop in Exeter Street in 2016, have outlined plans to create Pilgrimage Brewing, which would hold a maximum of 50 people. A pre-application request is currently with Plymouth’s planning team, and officers have said they have no objection to the proposed change of use, so a full planning application will now have to be made. The couple aim to provide only a cold food offering and will have no kitchen or cooking equipment installed, but plan to occasionally invite local vendors to serve food. They have also held successful beer festivals at Plymouth Guildhall over the past two years and are looking to attract a similar clientele to their bar. In a document submitted to the council, they said: “We are looking to expand our business opportunities by starting Pilgrimage Brewing and will be positioning the tap room to attract a similar customer base, but with an even greater focus on working with local independent businesses.” Plymouth has enjoyed a recent wave of microbrewery and tap room openings, including Steel Brew Co in Royal William Yard, Roam in New Victoria House and Bulletproof Brewing in Mutley Plain.

Sarap to double up with Heddon Street site: Filipino restaurant Sarap Baon is to get a sister site, with founder Ferdinand “Budgie” Montoya taking over 10 Heddon Street, the site formally occupied by Fallow. Montoya will open Sarap Filipino Bistro in its new home, which is just off Regent Street, with a soft launch running for two days across 17 and 18 November. It will then open in full from Tuesday, 23 November, opening for lunch and supper every day apart from Mondays, when it will be shut. The new opening will look to continue the success of Brixton-based BAon, which managed to weather the pandemic despite only opening in late January 2020. Like its Brixton sister, the new Sarap will serve a modern riff on traditional Filipino flavours. However, the offering will be slightly more formal, operating as a full sit-down site with room for approximately 40, and an estimated spend-per-head of £35. Montoya said: “I’m so excited to be opening Sarap Filipino Bistro at 10 Heddon Street, it’s a fantastic site with a great track record in launching some great restaurants. I want to build on our work at Sarap BAon Brixton of championing FIlipino cuisine and showcase our cuisine in a modern and progressive light. This is not about elevation, this is about representation!”

Berwick-based gelato parlour concept opens in Edinburgh for second site: Berwick-based gelato parlour concept Alandas has opened its second site, in Edinburgh. The outlet has opened in Forrest Road. As well as marshmallow-topped hot chocolate, the gelateria serves various flavours of Italian gelato including cranachan, Scottish strawberry, and Belgian chocolate and salted caramel, along with sorbet, with flavours ranging from pink grapefruit to poached pear. The shop features a waffle wall, cone pendant lights and flowing chocolate taps, reports the Edinburgh Evening News. The Berwick shop, which is in Quality Street, opened in 2014.

Idris Elba’s new London bar opens: Porte Noir, the debut bar and wine shop from actor Idris Elba and Connaught Wine Cellars founder David Farber, has opened its doors. Located at the foot of the Gasholders London building at Coal Drops Yard, Porte Noire, named after the pair’s signature champagne brand, features an outdoor space, dining room and bar for up to 70 guests. The menu focuses on small plate offerings, while high-end cheese platters and cocktails will also be available. Farber said: “Since launching our brand Porte Noire we have seen some incredible reviews of the product, and we’re looking forward to creating a space to match.” Elba added: “David has been working in the wine space for a long time, I know he is going to take the Porte Noire name and create something special.” This will not be Elba’s first foray into the London bar scene as in November 2018 he teamed up with twin brothers Lee and Nicky Caulfield to open The Parrot, a cocktail bar and live music venue within the walls of The Waldorf Hilton in Aldwych, but it has now permanently closed.

Hotbox team open Mexican street food restaurant in Camden: The team behind American barbecue restaurant Hotbox has opened its second Chingón site, at Camden’s Hawley Wharf development. The first Chingón venue opened in Hatch End last February when the team converted its Chuck Burgers site in Uxbridge Road to the Mexican taqueria concept. Hotbox launched as a street food venture before opening its permanent restaurant in Spitalfields. The team opened a permanent site for Chuck Burgers, also in Spitalfields, in 2016, which has since closed, although the lives on with residencies at Big Chill Bar sites in Brick Lane and King’s Cross.

Papa John’s partners with Tipjar for cashless tipping roll-out: Pizza chain Papa John’s is rolling out cashless tipping across its UK stores after partnering with digital tipping platform Tipjar. Customers can leave tips without having to download an app, instead using QR codes on order trackers, email confirmations, in-store posters and stickers on pizza boxes. Every tip is wholly owned by the staff rather than passing through the business, allowing for more transparency on how tips are handled. Justin Gilbert, senior operations director at Papa John’s UK, said: “Cash transactions are reducing, and as a brand we wanted to address the issue of tipping in the fairest way possible. Following a successful trial over the past year in 20 of our UK stores, we are now investing in a phased roll-out of Tipjar.” Tipjar chief executive Ben Thomas added: “Tipjar exists to ensure 100% of tips go directly to staff, so we’re really excited to welcome over 5,000 new users to our platform though this partnership. Papa John’s is the first large food franchise we have worked with, and this collaboration proves that hospitality is evolving towards a fairer industry that promotes transparency surrounding tips.” Papa John’s now has more than 500 stores in the UK and is looking to recruit more than 1,000 new team members following an uplift in sales and new openings. Tipjar, meanwhile, was recently awarded ninth place on Business Cloud’s ranking of the top 50 most innovative financial technology businesses in the UK. Founded by James Brown of BrewDog, it is backed by Alex Moore of Rosa’s, Gary Dolman of Monzo and Simon Bocca, formerly of Fourth.

Cycas extends London portfolio with three properties, partners with London Town Group: Pan-European hotel operator Cycas Hositality has signed a partnership deal to operate three London Town Group (LTG) hotels, increasing its portfolio to eight venues in the capital and 18 across the UK. It will operate LTG’s first two Mercure properties – in Hyde Park and Paddington – and its second Hotel Indigo, also in Paddington. The 72-room Mercure London Hyde Park is set within a grade-II listed building and recently underwent a multi-million-pound refurbishment, while the 86-room Mercure London Paddington is scheduled to start a fully renovation programme next year, including upgraded food and beverage facilities and a rooftop bar. The 64-room Hotel Indigo London Paddington, meanwhile, becomes Cycas’ first Hotel Indigo in London and joins Hotel Indigo Dundee as its second in the UK. All three properties offer a wide range of dining options, meetings rooms and state-of-the-art fitness centres. Cycas has appointed Tanja Furby as cluster general manager for all three London hotels. LTG founder Koolesh Shah said: “As our business diversifies and grows, I felt now was the time to bring on board a recognised industry leader in hotel operations to partner on the transformation journey of our hotels.” Matt Luscombe, chief executive at Cycas Hospitality, added: “I’ve known and admired Koolesh and his team for many years, since he opened the first Hotel Indigo outside of North America in 2009. With their central locations and exceptional transport links, these three hotels are ideally positioned to capitalise on the recovery in business and leisure travel.” Cycas Hospitality has now opened or taken over 17 hotels in the past 12 months.

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