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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 15th Nov 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Rolling 12-month sales down 4.5% for managed pubs, bars and restaurants as October shows modest growth: The UK’s leading managed restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved modest sales growth in October despite mounting operational pressures, the latest edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals. The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, shows total sales were up by 3% on the pre-covid levels of October 2019. Sales were also 64% higher than in October 2020, when trading was subject to severe covid restrictions. October was a slightly better month for pub groups than restaurants, with total sales growth of 3% and 2% respectively, but bars performed best of all with a 13% increase as the recovery of the late-night market continued. The Tracker also highlighted a contrast in trading in London, where a shortage of office workers and tourists meant sales were down by 4% on October 2019, and the regions, where they rose by 6%. Across all sectors and regions, October delivered a third consecutive month of year-on-year increases, although the rate of growth dipped from 8% in September. This indicates the resilience of managed groups, who remain under severe pressure from rising food, drink and energy costs and distribution and recruitment problems. All businesses continue to feel the effects of covid, with rolling 12-month sales to the end of October 2021 down by 4.5% on the previous 12 months. Karl Chessell, director of hospitality operators and food at CGA, said: “Managed groups battled hard to sustain sales in October, but patchy consumer confidence and a host of external challenges are making real-terms growth elusive. Covid has taken a heavy toll on hospitality, and while some businesses have flourished since the end of lockdown, others remain extremely fragile. Hopes are pinned on a strong Christmas trading period, but the sector needs and deserves sustained support in many areas well into 2022 to help fuel its recovery.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Startle brings back Mind The Gap consumer research: Music and technology provider Startle wanted to help in these challenging times by discovering updated insights to support hospitality’s resurgence, and to bridge the customer experience gap that emerged throughout the pandemic. In the summer of 2020 after the first lockdown, more than two fifths (41.3%) of hospitality customers thought the experience was worse than pre-pandemic times. Now, some two-plus months on from “Freedom Day” and the removal of most covid protocols, only a quarter (27.6%) think the experience was worse than pre-pandemic times. Startle will be releasing weekly reports on the insight as it emerges on its free-to-access hub here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book now available to Premium subscribers: The latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, is now available to Premium subscribers. A further 31 companies have been added, taking the number of UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured to 456, with a total turnover of £30.2bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month – on the second Friday of the month – has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 191 companies reporting a profit and 265 reporting losses. The Blue Book provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. To subscribe, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com
 
London’s hotels enjoy best performance since start of pandemic, still down on pre-covid levels: London’s hotel industry reported its highest performance levels of the pandemic-era, according to preliminary October 2021 data from data analytics company STR. The figures revealed 65.4% occupancy, an average daily rate of £145.63 and revpar of £95.22. Each of the three key performance metrics were the highest for any month since February 2020, the month before the first covid-19 lockdown. However, even with this overall improvement, London’s performance remained well below the pre-pandemic comparables from October 2019. Back then, the capital’s hotels enjoyed 87.4% occupancy, average daily rate of £160.19 and revpar of £139.98. Last month, in its Hotels Forecast 2021-22, PwC predicted performance levels would not return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, but saw encouraging signs for hoteliers. Sam Ward, UK hotels leader at PwC, said: “The hotel sector recovery has a long way to go. The speed of recovery in the capital is likely to be dependent on international tourism and the speed at which business travel returns as markets lift their own restrictions on citizens travelling to the UK. Hotels that previously focused on the business market should think about how to capture domestic tourism, looking at this as a real opportunity. Recovery will not be easy or straightforward, but with the right planning and strategy, hotels across the UK can look forward to significantly better trading over the next 12 months.”
 
Uber boss flies to London to tackle driver shortage: Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi flew into London for 24 hours last week to tackle the company’s driver crisis, as it faces a shortage of 20,000 drivers ahead of the peak Christmas season. In his first international trip since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Khosrowshahi launched a charm offensive at Soho House for Uber drivers and members of the GMB trade union. “We need more of you, so tell your friends!” he said, in a speech to the drivers. Uber said it would raise driver pay in London by 10% to try to tempt drivers on to its app. Last month, it said it would hand out bonuses of £500 for drivers who refer friends on to its platform. Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times it was not clear why Uber was suffering a shortage of drivers, which has hit some users with long wait times or higher prices. But he said the shortage was “not just a London issue, but a nationwide issue” and it was a priority for him to solve. Some drivers may have quit during the pandemic, while others have complained the fuel crisis and the spike in the cost of cars have made working for Uber increasingly uneconomical. “Petrol prices are at an all-time high, the costs of operating are extremely high for drivers,” said James Farrar, a former Uber driver who has since set up the drivers’ union Worker Info Exchange. He said the problem was Uber is still “offering fares at a price that the driver is not prepared to accept” in order to maintain its market share against fierce competition.
 
Heritage watchdog questions alfresco dining in Edinburgh: Edinburgh's heritage watchdog is concerned temporary structures erected during the pandemic for outdoor eating and drinking could be made permanent. The continental-style platforms were allowed by the local authority to help businesses survive the impact of covid. Restauranteurs said they had spent thousands of pounds on the structures and could not afford to lose them. Edinburgh Council said it was “crucial” that all help was given to businesses. The temporary structures started appearing on the Royal Mile, George Street, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street since restrictions were eased in the spring. At the time, local authorities were urged by the Scottish government to help encourage people to eat and drink outdoors. Cockburn Association director Terry Levinthal said he was worried at the number of planning applications submitted by businesses that wanted to keep the structures all year round. He told BBC Scotland: "There are no fingers being pointed at businesses. The temporary structures were needed for covid recovery. However, there are a substantial number of planning applications now for them to be made permanent. This means public places are being given over for private use.”
 
Furlough end had smaller impact than forecast: The end of the furlough scheme has had a smaller than feared impact on unemployment. Staff who were placed on furlough are six times more likely to lose their jobs than other workers – but the end of the scheme had little impact on the levels of unemployment, an assessment of the programme has revealed. There had been concerns that with more than a million workers still on the scheme when it came to an end last month, its withdrawal could lead to a spike in unemployment and dent the UK’s stuttering economic recovery from the pandemic. However, with sectors such as hospitality, care and heavy goods transport complaining of major shortages of workers, research by the influential Resolution Foundation suggests that only around 136,000 workers moved from furlough to either unemployment or inactivity when the scheme was closed.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a client that is looking for an operations director to oversee all front of house and back of house operations across its five premium London sites. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The business has a strong mix of wet and dry sales. The hiring company is looking for a strong people leader who is ideally also a passionate foodie. You will take responsibility for ensuring the smooth running of the day-to-day operations, driving the general managers and motivating, coaching and mentoring the team. Additionally, you will be tasked with improving standards and processes and overseeing new opening and future business strategy. The ideal candidate will need to have strong hospitality experience, with previous experience managing several venues with turnover of between £30,000 and £50,000 a week per venue. The business is considering a salary of up to £75,000 plus bonus.” Anyone interested can email stuart@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Pret moves closer to launching loyalty scheme ‘Pret Perks’, appoints new CFO: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has moved closer to launching a new loyalty scheme, which is understood will be called Pret Perks. In July, Propel revealed Pret had trademarked the name Pret Perks for the “organisation, management and administration of loyalty card and reward schemes in the fields of food and drink, restaurant services and catering services” – leading to suggestions it may be gearing up to launch its first loyalty programme. Propel has now learned that Pret’s website’s terms and conditions section has recently been updated to include details of the upcoming scheme. It states: “Pret Perks, or the ‘loyalty scheme’, is a loyalty rewards programme that we operate. Under the loyalty scheme, each qualifying purchase entitles you to a digital token (which we call a ‘star’); once you have collected ten stars, you will be eligible to claim a free product or other such reward, to be decided by us.” According to the travel website Head for Points, the new scheme is set to come with the slogan “the more you Pret, the more you get”. It is thought a launch across the UK for the scheme could be announced soon. Pret declined to comment on Pret Perks. Meanwhile, Propel has learned that Pret has appointed Gustavo Piexoto as its new chief financial officer. Piexoto, who was most recently chief financial officer of Kraft Heinz’s US foodservice business, replaces Tom Mackay, who has left after just over a year in the role. A Pret spokeswoman told Propel: “Tom has made an invaluable contribution to Pret during some of the most challenging times in our history. We thank him for all that he’s done for the business and wish him well in his next role. He has been replaced by Gustavo Piexoto, a highly experienced finance leader.” 

Pizza Hut Delivery expands into ‘on-the-go’ travel market with EG Group franchise partnership: Pizza Hut Delivery is expanding into the “on-the-go” travel market through a new franchise partnership with EG Group, the forecourt and roadside operator, Propel has learned. EG Group will operate eight new Pizza Hut stores in petrol forecourt stations across the UK by the end of 2021. The first EG Group-operated store is due to open in the Hartlepool area in the coming weeks. Pizza Hut Delivery said this will allow the business to further adapt its offerings in line with customer demand and the wider industry trend towards convenience. This is Pizza Hut’s latest partnership to further grow the brand across the UK and Europe following agreements with hotel operator Nine Group and Starboard Dining. A year ago, Pizza Hut announced plans to open 125 new locations over a three-year period – creating around 2,000 additional jobs. EG Group-operated stores will offer five classic flavours – Margherita, Pepperoni, Supreme, Meat Feast, and Veggie Supreme, as well as newer addition the Beyond Meat Supreme pizza. Neil Manhas, general manager at Pizza Hut Delivery in the UK, said: “EG Group has a wealth of experience in forecourt retail, in operating foodservice and its expertise as a global leader in this specific type of retail makes it the ideal partner to lead us into this new market. This partnership demonstrates our commitment to adapting to customer demand by expanding our offerings.” Mohammed Tayab, food and beverage director – Europe at EG Group, added: “We are proud to be partnering with Pizza Hut to bring yet another global foodservice brand to our customers in convenient locations across the UK. We are excited to build on our existing relationship with Yum!, as we already work with KFC and operate a large number of restaurants across the EG Group estate. We look forward to trialling the pizza by the slice proposition and making it a resounding success.” Pizza Hut has operated as a franchiser in the UK since 1973 and now operates 600 Huts across the UK. Pizza Hut Delivery reported double digit year-on-year sales growth in the second half of 2020, with sales continuing to grow throughout 2021.

Sun Communities in £900m swoop on staycations giant Park Holidays: A US-listed real estate investment trust has won a hotly contested auction of one of Britain's biggest holiday resort operators. Sky News reported Sun Communities has agreed to pay in the region of £900m for Park Holidays, which owns 33 sites in counties such as Devon, Kent and East Sussex. The deal is expected to be announced on Monday (15 November). Sun Communities, which has a market value of $22.3bn (£16.6bn), is said to have been a late entrant into the sale process. Its winning bid for Park Holidays saw off competition from rivals including the Universities Superannuation Scheme, one of Britain's biggest pension funds, and Starwood Capital, the prominent real estate investor. The sale of Park Holidays comes several months after Intermediate Capital Group (ICG), the company's owner, hired Royal Bank of Canada and HSBC to oversee an auction of the company. Park Holidays is the biggest operator of its type in the south of England. The company offers caravan and lodge holidays, touring and camping, and holiday home ownership. In recent weeks, the Canadian owner of Parkdean Resorts, a bigger rival to Park Holidays by number of sites, has instructed bankers at Morgan Stanley to prepare a review of options for the company. Other recent deals in the sector have included CVC Capital Partners buying Away Resorts – the owner of holiday parks such as Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight and Sandy Balls in the New Forest. CVC subsequently combined Away Resorts with Aria, another operator. Meanwhile, Bourne Leisure, the owner of Butlin's and Haven, was sold in February to Blackstone, another major buyout firm, for about £3bn.

Burger King lines up banks for float in 2022: The owner of Burger King's British operations has picked two banks to serve up a London float next year. Sky News stated: “Bridgepoint has hired Bank of America and Investec to spearhead Burger King UK’s initial public offering during the first half of 2022. The precise timing and size of the deal have yet to be finalised, but City sources suggested a flotation was now a likelier outcome than a sale to another private equity firm. A sale remains possible depending on public market conditions at the time. Floating will represent a bet for Burger King's management team and stock market investors on a sustained recovery for the UK's pandemic-hit restaurant industry.”

RedCat nears 80-site mark with Suffolk acquisition: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, is close to reaching the 80-site mark. Last week, Shepherd Neame revealed the company had exchanged contracts to sell two hotels “that no longer fit our portfolio” for £5.75m to RedCat. In his City Diary, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett added: “Diary hears the Chris Hill-led business has also acquired, with the help of Everard Cole, the award-winning The Turks Head, near Woodbridge, Suffolk. The gastropub and restaurant, which is set on two-acres of land, comes with planning permission for eight letting rooms.” 
 
Former M&B boss switches sectors: Former Mitchells & Butlers and SA Brain boss Alistair Darby has swapped sectors. In his Propel Premium City Diary column, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett wrote: “In February, Alistair Darby stepped down as chief executive of Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain following the completion of the deal that saw Marston’s take over the running of the company’s pubs. Darby was succeeded by Jon Bridge, who was promoted from operations director. Darby joined SA Brain in July 2018 having held senior positions at a number of major companies in the sector, including managing director of Camerons Brewery, chief operating officer of Marston’s and chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers. He told Propel at the time: ‘My work is done here, having found a way to safeguard the future of the Brain’s pubs and 1,300 jobs.’ It seems time out from the sector has increased Darby’s desire to try different things, including working in a different sector. As Darby explains: ‘After 30 wonderful years working in hospitality, I yearned to do something different and to use my skills in a different environment. I have long had an interest in health and well-being and have twice applied to be chair of NHS hospital trusts without success. But third time lucky, I was delighted and honoured to be invited to become chief executive of Newson Health, an outstanding menopause clinic. Quite a change from pubs and beer and an amazing opportunity to make a difference to 1.2 billion women across the globe’.” 
 
Gladwin brothers open Richmond site: The Gladwin brothers – Richard, Oliver and Gregory – have opened a fifth site in London, in Richmond. As revealed by Propel in August, the brothers have opened a new lounge bar and dining venture just off Richmond High Street on the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Hill Rise. The new venture is called The Fat Badger. It is an extension of the company’s “Local & Wild” concept with a “distinct countryside-luxe style serving modern farm-to-fork food in an atmospheric, sprawling space overlooking the Richmond riverside”. The food menu takes inspiration from the group’s Notting Hill institution, The Shed, and Nutborne in Battersea, with dishes including Dorset lamb saddle, mint gel, heritage carrot salsa and charcoal cream; and sticky spatchcock partridge, barley, sweetcorn, ground elder and pesto. The wine menu features a range of award-winning English wine from the Gladwins’ family-run boutique vineyard in West Sussex. There are also cocktails and craft beer on tap. Richard said: “The pandemic has further proved that local is sustainable and this is how we intend to foster growth in our business and the communities surrounding it. We look forward to a long, successful relationship with Richmond and its locals, offering them a familiar space to enjoy the taste of modern Britain with great food, and fine wine in the company of friends and family.” The brothers also operate Rabbit in Chelsea and Sussex in Soho.
 
Shepherd Neame among businesses to sign up to ‘brand showcasing space’ at Bluewater: Kent-based brewer and pub retailer Shepherd Neame is one of several businesses signed up to a new concept at Bluewater, showcasing brands from the county. Maidstone Distillery, Coffee Bean Shop, Fudge Kitchen, Kentish Pip and Meopham Valley Vineyard are also among the initial roster. A 2,000 square-foot store has been set aside for six months for the project – a partnership between Bluewater owner Landsec and local trade organisation Produced in Kent. It will feature dedicated demonstration spaces, tasting stations and other interactive features and work on a rotating basis, regularly introducing new brands. Shepherd Neame chief executive, Jonathan Neame, said: “We are proud to be part of this exciting new venture. Our county boasts some of the finest food and drink producers in the UK, and the shop will offer a fantastic opportunity to showcase what we have to offer.” Produced in Kent chief executive, Floortje Hoette, added: “We are thrilled to finally have a physical space in Kent to showcase our members’ products. We are enormously proud of what our producers are achieving in a challenging trading environment.” Landsec’s portfolio director for Bluewater, Rob Hardie, said: “Our latest concept will elevate local brands in a creative and dynamic way.”
 
The Chelsea Pig reopens: Historic Chelsea pub The Chelsea Pig has reopened, with a new design by Timothy Oulton. The pub marks the first foray into the London hospitality scene for Oulton, who has 46 stores worldwide and has recently opened in Miami, Malibu and New York. An all-day menu of classic British favourites by head chef Fionnan Flood, using locally sourced ingredients, includes a Cornish hen pot roast, Hereford dry-aged rib-eye with treacle marinade and café de Paris hollandaise, Salisbury Chicken with spiced bread sauce, and Hampshire pork belly with toffee apple sauce. A drinks and cocktail menu curated by general manager Michele Ridolfi, formerly of Scarfes, Claridge’s and The Arts Club, sits alongside an extensive wine and Champagne list, plus classic beer and spirits. A spokesman said: “Quick to realise the potential of The Chelsea Pig to extend this ethos from interiors to hospitality, Timothy has added his expert eye to every corner of the pub, and The Chelsea Pig will take its place as one of London’s newest and most enticing dining experiences – attracting local and global design enthusiasts and lovers of premium food, drink and expert hospitality.”
 
Restaurant residency host Carousel to move to larger site in Fitzrovia this month: Carousel, the restaurant from brothers Ed and Ollie Templeton that hosts rotating chef residencies, is relocating from Marylebone – where it has been for seven years – to Fitzrovia this month, and adding a wine bar. The new venue – which launches on Friday, 26 November – is taking over three townhouses in Charlotte Street in total. Alongside the main restaurant space will be a smaller area that will seat ten diners, which will house pop-ups and be used as an incubator space for new concepts. Its new wine bar will be open all day and will boast a menu by Ollie, including snacks and small plates inspired by the food of the Mediterranean. The new residency area will be built around a kitchen island, which will allow the chef to be the centre of attention. The line-up of chef residencies will start on Tuesday, 30 November, with Carl Ishikazi, who is behind Michelin-starred Stockholm restaurant Sushi Sho. Ed said: “We’ve been dreaming about this move for a long time. We loved being a part of the Marylebone community, but we genuinely couldn’t have imagined a more exciting neighbourhood, or a more fitting home, to be moving into. You’ll find all the best bits of the old Carousel in the new space, with some fun additions like the neighbourhood wine bar, where you’ll finally be able to experience the kind of food that Ollie likes to cook, in an easy going all-day setting.”

Frankie & Benny’s festive menu launches this week with new items: Italian-American restaurant brand Frankie & Benny’s, owned by The Restaurant Group, will on Tuesday (16 November) launch its festive menu for 2021, which will run until Tuesday, 4 January. New items include a pulled turkey mac ‘n’ cheese, a brie and cranberry veggie burger, a festive hot dog topped with pulled turkey and stuffing, a four cheese fondue, and a sticky toffee Christmas pudding with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Guests will also have the option of two and three-course set menus, costing £16.90 and £18.90 respectively. Festive drinks such as the cherry cobbler and alcohol-free winter no-jito “mocktail” will be available too. Jon Knight, managing director of leisure and concessions at Frankie & Benny’s, said: “Christmas comes but once a year, and with celebrations delayed in 2020, as a brand we’re very much looking forward to welcoming back friends and families across the UK to enjoy what will essentially be a double celebration with their loved ones.”
 
Acquisition of the Belfry Hotel & Resort confirmed: Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Cedar Capital Partners have confirmed their acquisition of The Belfry Hotel & Resort in Sutton Coldfield. The site, with its three 18-hole golf courses, is a four-time host of the Ryder Cup. The full-service resort, sold by an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners, also features 320 guest rooms, five restaurants, a spa and multiple leisure amenities. It is situated within a 550-acre estate. Nabil Aquedim, executive director in the real estate team at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said: “This investment aligns with our strategy of purchasing high-quality assets that are well positioned to benefit from post-covid hospitality and leisure trends. We look forward to working with Cedar and the hotel's management team to build on the Belfry's strong reputation as a golf resort and enhance the leisure offering.” Raphael Bihler, vice-president at KSL Capital Partners, added: "We are very proud to have owned the resort for almost ten years, during which time we completed a substantial renovation and repositioning, and developed an outstanding operating team.”

Curzon opens cinema at Hawley Wharf development in Camden: Boutique cinema chain Curzon has opened a site at the Hawley Wharf development in Camden, north London. The company has launched the 6,000 square foot site spanning eight of Camden’s 30 historic railway arches having agreed a deal with landlord LabTech earlier this year. Encompassing five separate cinema theatres, each with 30 seats, it forms a landmark cinema for Curzon, which is its 15th in the UK and ninth in London. The cinema has a menu of pizza, hot dogs, small plates, and milkshakes, alongside a full drinks selection. The cinema stands alongside more than 60 new food and beverage outlets, 150 independent and branded stores and 195 serviced apartments as part of Hawley Wharf’s 580,000 square foot venture. Curzon chief executive Philip Knatchbull said: “We are excited to have opened our landmark location at Camden Market Hawley Wharf. The dynamic and unique space mirrors the atmosphere and character of Curzon, and sitting at the heart of this new cultural hub for one of London’s most iconic towns is a great step for us, and a positive one for the cinema industry as a whole.” Colliers and CBRE represent Camden Market Hawley Wharf.

Fuller’s celebrates birthday with one-day drinks offer: Fuller’s will be celebrating its 176th birthday on Tuesday (16 November) by offering all its customers the chance to raise not one, not two, but three glasses in celebration for just £1.76 each in the 2021 Fuller’s Get Together. The Fuller’s Get Together started in 2018, and each year the price of the three drinks reflects the age of the company. Customers can register for their £1.76 drinks voucher by visiting the Fuller’s website. The voucher can be taken to any Fuller’s pub on the day and redeemed for a range of drinks.
 
Poshest JD Wetherspoon gets £700,000 restoration: Britain’s poshest JD Wetherspoon has had a £700,000 restoration of the ornate domed ceiling at a former opera house. The pub, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, originally had a capacity of 1,100 and was built in 1902 before being turned into a cinema in 1931. During the Second World War, a Luftwaffe pilot dropped an incendiary bomb to save fuel on his way back to Germany. While the bomb did not explode, the stage was set on fire as it was caught in the proscenium arch. Wetherspoon later bought the historic site in 1996. Ross Markwick, pub manager at the Opera House, said: “Our pub is housed in a local historic landmark enjoyed by so many people. As the current custodians, Wetherspoon is responsible to ensure its preservation for now and the future.” Craig Beardmore, the pub's property manager, added: “With all historical buildings, essential improvements are required to ensure they never reach that critical stage.” 
 
Costa Coffee launches mobile van service: Costa Coffee has launched its first mobile van service, the Grocer has reported. The six-metre-long vehicle started operations in Oxford and forms part of a trial that will see two more vans launch over the next six weeks that will explore different opportunities. The Grocer added: “The first in Oxford is to test the ‘coffee van legacy’ in areas such as business and retail parks, and outside colleges or offices at lunchtimes. The next one, which will be launched with a franchise partner, will be located in rural and seasonal locations. The third van will be trialled at events for private hire as well as with corporate partners located on ferries, cruise ships, train stations and theme parks. It will also support trials with the former two.” Costa Coffee head of propositions, Jamie Awdry, told The Grocer: “We want to really get into the detail of how these three trade and perform and once we’ve proven that, we want to go out to our high-performing franchise partners and work with them to scale this across the UK and Ireland.” The vans will feature the same equipment, processors, grinders and machinery as an ordinary Costa Coffee store and offer a range of food including cakes, biscuits and toasties.

Chef Bayram Yuce secures third Liverpool site and sixth overall: Turkish chef Bayram Yuce will return to his home town of Liverpool for his sixth restaurant after focusing on expansion outside the city. Yuce already operates branches of his Macello Meathouse in Allerton and West Derby, on the outskirts of Liverpool, and the Kassap Meathouse in the city centre. Earlier this month he opened his first non-Liverpool site, the Beefalo Meat House in Astley Bridge, Bolton, and announced a fifth site would open in Warrington next month, followed by a sixth early next year. Yuce has now revealed this sixth site will be called Elite 60 and will be set across three floors at 60 Hope Street. He is also now hoping to have it up and running by the end of this year. “In all the restaurants I have opened so far, I have always focused on good quality steaks, but I have never stuck to a traditional steakhouse concept,” Yuce told the Liverpool Echo. “That’s why all my restaurants are called Meathouse rather than steakhouse. With Elite 60, I wanted to bring a new colour to fine dining, so I am going to call this concept ‘fine food’. The menu will have inspiration of many different cultures and will be combined with my unique cooking styles. The ground floor will be the main dining area, and downstairs will be an upmarket cocktail bar where diners can have their drinks before or after their meal. The first floor will give an opportunity for groups to have a private dining experience.” 60 Hope Street was previously home to a restaurant of the same name for 22 years before it closed permanently in 2020.
 
Norfolk-based operators open cheese-inspired restaurant for third site: Norfolk-based operators, Tim and Heather Ridley, have opened a cheese-inspired restaurant for their third site. The couple, who run the Station Smokehouse in Hoveton and at Wroxham station, have launched Fizz and Fromage. The restaurant is based in the former Bijou bottles premises in Station Road Business Park in Hoveton. Fizz and Fromage features a range of “cheese tapas” pairing plates, with 25 varieties on offer, alongside wine, craft beer and spirits, reports the Eastern Daily Press.

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