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Thu 18th Nov 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hospitality Rising embarks on £5m fundraise to launch sector recruitment campaign: Hospitality Rising, the project led by ex-Pret a Manger and YO! marketer Mark McCulloch to try to reignite and rescue the hospitality talent crisis, is launching a £5m fundraise this week. The fundraising will be used to launch a recruitment campaign to attract more talent into the industry as it starts to “recover and build back its muscle post Brexit and the impact the pandemic continues to have on one of Britain’s most loved industry sectors”. McCulloch has already raised £200,000 pre-fundraising launch from a range of companies backing the campaign. These include a whole range of large, medium and small operators, industry suppliers and corporate sponsors, such as Cote, Koop + Kraft, Peach Pubs, Punch Pubs, Butlin’s, Rhubarb Hospitality Group, Hilton, Buzzworks, Pizza Pilgrims, Wahaca, Arc Inspirations, Loungers, Coal Shed, Marugame Udon, Hawksmoor and PizzaExpress. McCulloch said: “The support we’ve had from the industry and some of our marketing contacts has been amazing. We now need to raise enough money to really land a high profile that will both attract people back into the industry or make those who haven’t considered our sector as a viable, exciting, creative and rewarding career.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “We’re very pleased to be working closely with Mark and Hospitality Rising to develop and promote a comprehensive campaign to address chronic labour and skills shortages in the hospitality industry with a range of short and long-term plans, and to raise awareness of the need for all-important campaign funding. It has our full backing and we’re excited to see such early and positive momentum.” The campaign has also secured £250,000 worth of pro bono creative strategy time and concept development from a clutch of top advertising agencies via the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, led by Julian Douglas. The agencies include VCCP, Ogilvy and Forever Beta.
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Garden Gourmet helps grow Whitbread’s plant-based offer: Whitbread has partnered with Nestlé Professional’s plant-based brand Garden Gourmet to launch new meat-free dishes across its hotel, restaurant and pub estate. A Garden Gourmet spokeswoman said: “The new partnership has seen the Garden Gourmet brand highlighted on menus at Whitbread’s Premier Inn sites and pub and restaurants, which serve more than five million customers a month, including Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Bar & Block sites. Garden Gourmet is already a trusted plant-based protein brand to many out-of-home operators including Young’s pubs and Subway UK. The new Garden Gourmet Sensational Burger and Garden Gourmet Cumberland Sausage, which are both 100% plant-based and have been certified vegan by the European Vegetarian Union, are appealing not only to Whitbread’s vegan customers but the UK’s ever-growing number of flexitarians. Garden Gourmet carefully selects plant-based ingredients to create the look, taste, texture and cooking properties of meat without compromise on the dining out experience. The range also includes products such as mince, meat-style balls, and fillet pieces which are all versatile enough to be used in a selection of dishes.” For more information click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Host of concepts aimed at those with a sweet tooth to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A host of concepts aimed at those with a sweet tooth are among the 54 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, 26 November, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features Jamie Scott, the 2014 MasterChef winner, who has added to his Scottish portfolio with a new doughnut shop called Wrecking Ball Doughnuts; and Berwick-based gelato parlour concept Alandas, which has opened its second site, and first city location, in Edinburgh, which features a waffle wall and flowing chocolate taps. In addition, Urban Legend, which was founded three months ago, specialises in steamed doughnuts and is set to open its third site in Clapham next month. Also added this month is luxury artisan fudge retailer and producer, Fudge Kitchen, which currently has six high street shops. Premium subscribers will also receive a 3,900-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. The database features more than 2,000 companies in total. Alongside this, Premium subscribers will also receive the fifth edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 3 December, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The fifth edition also includes a 14,000-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 group 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

Mark Wingett becomes group editor at Propel as it nears tenth anniversary: Mark Wingett has been promoted to group editor at Propel. Wingett, previously insights editor, joined Propel almost three years ago and has overseen a 500% increase in Premium subscriptions during that time – he writes a weekly insights and City Diary column for Premium readers and oversees other Premium columns. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “Propel turns ten at the end of this month and for seven years it was my ambition to have Mark join our team. He is a very fine journalist and deserves this promotion based on his outstanding contribution to our Premium offer – as well as events and news production. In his new role, he will also oversee several new initiatives we have planned for an exciting 2022.”

Delivery and takeaway sales growth slows as eating-out confidence builds, revenue still at almost double 2019 levels: Growth in delivery and takeaway sales has eased as consumers return to pre-covid eating-out habits, the latest edition of the CGA and Slerp Hospitality at Home Tracker shows, but revenue continues to run at almost double 2019 levels. The Tracker, which measures sales at Britain’s leading managed restaurant and pub groups, shows combined sales by value for October were 98% higher than in October 2019 and 13% above October 2020, when businesses were operating under severe covid restrictions. The rate of 2021-on-2019 growth has steadily slowed from 206% in July to 176% in August to 130% in September. The Tracker shows the increase in delivery sales since 2019 has been seven times higher than takeaways—a result of consumers becoming more used to having food and drink delivered rather than picking it up. Put together, deliveries and takeaways accounted for just over 27 pence in every pound of spending at managed groups in October 2021. Growth in deliveries and takeaways continues to be much higher than in eating and drinking out, with the October edition of the separate CGA Coffer Business Tracker indicating that managed restaurants, pubs and bars grew their sales by 3% on October 2019. CGA director Karl Chessell said: “Deliveries and takeaways have boomed ever since lockdowns began in spring 2020, but sales are now starting to settle into new patterns. However, with many people growing accustomed to the convenience of deliveries, and concerns about eating and drinking out lingering for others, these channels are going to remain central to trading. For all managed groups, balancing at-home and eat-in business, and growing both without compromising either, is going to be an operational priority as we move into 2022.”

New wave of staycationers demand better technology in holiday parks: Fewer than half of holiday park guests said technology for at-table ordering (45%) and table bookings (42%) was available on their latest visit, yet 64% of them agree that, when provided, the availability of such tech services improves the quality of their stay, according to new research. Moreover, the findings by Zonal and CGA showed when holiday park operators do offer tech solutions on-site, guests rate them highly. When asked to rate the solutions on offer, three quarters said their experiences of technology in holiday parks was “excellent” – in particular their encounters with on-site delivery orders (77%), table bookings (77%), and at-table ordering (78%). Only 18% of holiday park visitors are currently signed up to a park loyalty scheme, yet of those that are not signed up, 45% said they would be interested in signing up to a scheme. Alison Vasey, group product director at Zonal, said: “The staycation boom is a huge opportunity for UK holiday park operators. Providing holidaymakers with a fantastic experience and a frictionless customer journey now, will reap rewards in terms of returning customers in the years to come.”

Scottish hospitality operators welcome delay to deposit return scheme: The hospitality sector in Scotland has welcomed a delay to the introduction of a deposit return scheme (DRS). The project – which would see people pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink in a single-use container and get it back when they return the empty bottle or can – was due to go live in Scotland from July next year. A new timeline has not yet been set, but Scottish economy minister Lorna Slater admitted those businesses instrumental to the scheme’s success are still “badly affected by the pandemic and the mismanagement of Brexit”. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “Given the issues besetting businesses right now, a start date of July 2022 was never going to be achievable. Businesses are committed to playing their part in all aspects of environmental sustainability, and a delay to the start of DRS until later in 2023 can ensure the scheme works for business, consumers and the environment.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, added: “We all share the ambition of the Scottish government to reduce emissions, improve recycling and speedily move towards a more circular economy – this delay is crucial in that. DRS will have massive impact on both brewers and publicans, so to ensure a successful roll-out of the scheme, a delay until at least September 2023 is required.”

London nightclub offers urine and drinks testing amid increasing reports of spiking: London nightclub XOYO has resorted to offering urine and drinks testing amid increasing reports of women being spiked by injection. Revellers can access the urine and drink tests at the club in Islington through a medic on-site each night. The test service has only been used once since it was introduced and that result was negative, reports the Daily Mail. David Vickery, XOYO's general manager, said he wants to ensure all his customers feel safe and secure on a night out. Across the country, reports of suspected spikings by needle injection are on the rise, with 274 suspected cases recorded across the UK in the past two months alone, new figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) have revealed. NPCC lead for drugs, deputy chief constable Jason Harwin, said police forces continue to work with pubs and clubs to increase searches and guidance to staff. 

Licensing update: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners has produced a useful monthly summary of licensing news, including a piece about spiking’s along with various articles relating to covid. This can be accessed here.
 

Company News:

Soho House owner posts increases in revenue and membership, but prices set to rise: Soho House owner Membership Collective Group (MCG) saw revenues increase by 57% to $180m in the quarter to 3 October compared to the previous year, boosted by spending by members as they returned to its “Houses” across the world. MCG’s membership base increased by 16,663 to 144,503 over the third quarter, and the company also saw a 94% retention rate. Membership revenue grew by 21% to $51m, while in-house revenue, which includes food and drink, was up 122%. MCG, which operates 32 Soho House clubs as well as The Ned in London, also reported record numbers of applicants for membership, with about 10,000 prospective members added to its waiting list in the three months to October. Membership has been boosted by the opening of new properties in Rome, Paris and Tel Aviv. The company reported a net loss of $76m as it continued to invest in new venues, while adjusted ebitda stood at $9m up $5m from the third quarter 2020. The business aims to open seven Soho Houses, two Ned clubs – including one in the shuttered NoMad hotel in New York – and a second Scorpios beach club next year. Upcoming Soho House openings include Brighton (Q1), Nashville, Mexico City, and Stockholm. Nick Jones, chief executive of MCG, said: “Looking ahead, we expect 2022 will be another exciting year of growth for MCG. We’re putting a big focus on North America as we anticipate opening new Soho Houses in West Hollywood and Nashville, as well as bringing The Ned and Soho.Home.Studio to New York.” However, the company warned that membership fees will go up next year because of sharply rising food, drink and labour costs. It said room rates in some of its properties had already risen as much as 30% in the last quarter, while food and drink prices were up between 5 and 10%.  Andrew Carnie, MCG’s global president, said that the group was “looking to increase membership pricing globally, taking into consideration all the inflationary pressures we are under” and it would likely be a “single-digit” percentage rise.

Roxy Leisure plans Sheffield opening: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ballroom concepts, is planning to open a site under the latter brand in Sheffield. Propel understands Roxy Leisure has applied to open a site at 40 Charter Square in the city. In October, Propel revealed Roxy Leisure was eyeing an opening in Bristol for its Roxy Lanes brand. The company is believed to have lined up the former Fitness4Less site in the city’s Union Street. The business also has plans for further venues in York’s St Mary’s Square and Edinburgh’s Princess Street. The company has also this year unveiled plans to double its Roxy Ballrooms presence in both Nottingham and Birmingham. In September, Roxy Leisure chief executive Matt Jones told the Experiential Leisure in Casual Dining panel at Casual Dining 2021 that he believed he could “easily” triple the number of sites he runs from ten to 30 in the coming years, and that trade was 50% up on pre-covid levels.

Loungers set to open Wembley site: Cafe bar operator Loungers is to open a new site near Wembley Stadium under its Lounge brand. The Nick Collins-led group, which opened its 150th Lounge site last month in Ringwood, Hampshire, is set to open Estadio Lounge in Wembley Boulevard. The circa 185-strong company, which also operates the Cosy Club brand, recently launched Corzo Lounge in Reigate, Surrey; Romano Lounge, Colchester; and Ferro Lounge in St Neots, Cambridgeshire. It will open Bardo Lounge before the end of the year in Maidenhead. Further Lounge openings are planned in Basildon, High Wycombe, Ealing, Gainsborough, Uxbridge, Barry Island, Bognor Regis and Shrewsbury, while the business is also set to open a Cosy Club site in Chester.

Bill’s adds Ben Rushworth to ranks of operations directors: Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed group, has added Ben Rushworth, formerly of Red’s True Barbecue, Wahaca and Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, to its growing list of operations directors, Propel has learned. Rushworth joins Bill’s from Albert Bartlett, the Spud U Like owner, where he has spent just under a year and a half as its operations director. Before that, he was senior operations, out of London, at Wahaca, head of operations at Red’s, and spent almost eight years at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group. Earlier this month, Propel reported Tom James, formerly of Jamie’s Italian, Strada and Coppa Club, had joined Bill’s as its new director of operations. In September, Bill’s appointed Antonio Cipollaro, formerly of Cote and PizzaExpress, as a new operations director. Joel Claustre and Dan Wonfor are also operations directors at Bill’s. 

Wendy’s opens 1,000th international site, in Croydon: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has opened its 1,000th site internationally, and fourth on its return to the UK, in Croydon. The site opened on Tuesday (16 November) in Wellesley Road, and follows openings in Reading, London Stratford and Oxford. The company, which earlier this month secured its first UK drive-thru site in Colchester, is set to open in Romford before the end of the year, and has also secured a site in Brighton’s Western Road. It is thought the business is in talks to open further restaurants in Watford, Ilford and Maidstone, with Savills aiding the brand’s UK expansion. Last week, Todd Penegor, chief executive of Wendy’s, said the business was seeing “extremely strong sales across our UK restaurants”. The business has also opened four dark kitchens in the UK since June under its fledgling franchise agreement with Reef Kitchens. 

The Breakfast Club to open new Chelmsford site next week: All-day dining concept The Breakfast Club will open its latest site, in Chelmsford on Monday (22 November). Propel revealed in September that The Breakfast Club had secured the former Cafe Rouge premises in Moulsham Street for its 13th site overall and third outside of London. The site measures 4,500 square feet and will seat more than 100 customers across two floors. The group said it has seen “great success” at its other two out-of-London sites, in Oxford and Brighton, which it hopes to emulate in Chelmsford. Co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton said: “We are, at our core, neighbourhood cafes, and throughout our 16 years we’ve stayed true to what we believe in.” Founded in 2005 by Arana-Morton and Alison Rooney, The Breakfast Club is currently in talks on two more sites as it looks to triple in size over the next five years. 
The Breakfast Club features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers. The Breakfast Club has turned over an average of £14.9m in the past five years. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks 456 companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. 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.

JD Wetherspoon launches Nando’s-style chargrilled chicken range at almost half the price: JD Wetherspoon pubs have launched a new range of marinated and chargrilled chicken meals at almost half the price they cost in Nando’s. The half-chicken dishes are served with a choice of chips, spicy rice or salad and start at £7.99 with a soft drink, or £9.29 with an alcoholic one. It also comes with coleslaw and either a lemon and herb glaze and a garlic and herb dip, or with a spicy Naga chilli and citrus glaze and Sriracha hot sauce. Customers can add a portion of five chicken wings for £2.50 and request a spicy seasoning for their chips too. The majority of the company’s pubs – 644 in total – will be serving the dish at the stated price, although it will be more expensive in 170 and cheaper in 14. Nando’s offers a similar meal for £12.45 plus £1.65 for a soft drink, or beer from £3.95 and wine from £3.15. Matt Elsdon, Wetherspoon’s senior food development manager, said: “We strive to offer our customers the widest choice of meals. We believe the chargrilled chicken dishes will be a great addition to the food offering in our pubs.” Earlier this month, Wetherspoon reported like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks to 7 November 2021 were 8.9% lower than the record sales achieved in the same period in 2019 – with bar sales down 9.6% and food down 8.1%. The company has slashed meal prices across 660 of its pubs for three months (10 November to 28 February) and cut drink prices throughout November, with some beers and spirits costing just 99p each.

Brunning & Price continues expansion with two pub purchases, first to open next month: Brunning & Price, the pub operator owned by The Restaurant Group (TRG), has added two more pubs to its portfolio – with the first set to open next month. The 80-strong group, which started in the north west of England and north Wales but now with a substantial footprint in the Midlands and south, is nearing the completion of its refurbishment of the Rake Hall in Little Stanley, Cheshire. The pandemic delayed the company’s plans for the 17th century grade-II listed site – which include a development kitchen for a training scheme with Cheshire College South and West – but they have finally come to fruition for a Wednesday, 8 December opening. Brunning & Price’s second purchase is also a 17th century grade-II listed building, Tidbury Green Farm near Solihull, which will be named The Mallard after a large duck pond at the front. The company plans to start restoration works next year. A spokeswoman said: “We have been interested in this property for a long time, first talking to the village residents in 2017. They share our belief that Tidbury Green needs a heart, and a Brunning & Price pub would be a great addition to their community, giving them a central hub.” Propel revealed in September that Brunning & Price had begun a push for new sites, having put its expansion plans on hold during the pandemic.

Pret unveils new brand identity for the US, to launch order ahead service: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has unveiled a new US brand identity, with a new logo showcasing the chain’s London heritage and founding in 1986. The new look was launched at the reopening of Pret’s redesigned shop on 29th Street and 7th Avenue, New York City. The company said the refurbished and reimagined shop offers a “new, smoother way of serving organic coffee and freshly made food to busy New Yorkers on the go”. The format of the shop has evolved to allow for a simpler and frictionless in-shop experience, factoring in Pret’s new coffee subscription programme and order ahead capabilities launching later this year. The refurbished New York site will serve as a testing hub for new ideas, digital innovations and future propositions. This marks the beginning of a refurbishment programme across Pret’s US shop estate, which will revamp select shops in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. Customers will begin to see changes in the coming weeks, with a designated area for Pret Pick-Up, the brand’s order ahead service. Pret will also be relaunching its new app and loyalty programme in the upcoming months. Jorrie Bruffett, president, Pret A Manger USA, said: “What I love about the new shop is we’re getting back to what makes Pret special. What we’re bringing is that touch of London while serving delicious food with friendly service that lifts you up without slowing you down. It’s been an incredibly tough few years, but we are focused on reinvesting and innovating to improve the customer experience while staying true to what we do best. We’ve got a great future ahead.”

Ceru to open site in Queensway: Eastern Mediterranean fusion restaurant Ceru will open a second London site. Ceru has taken the former Royal China site in Queensway and will launch the new restaurant and bar at the end of this month. Ceru was founded by husband-and-wife team Barry and Patricia Hilton in 2014, opening their first permanent restaurant in South Kensington in December 2016 after a series of pop-ups across London. The Hiltons opened a second site in the capital in D’Arblay Street, Soho, in 2018 but are now swapping that for the new outlet in Queensway. Gabriella Sether, of Restaurant Property, acted on the deal.

Benihana to invest £2m in new international flagship site in Covent Garden, plans franchise roll out: Benihana, the worldwide Japanese teppanyaki restaurant chain, is to invest £2m in its new site in London’s Covent Garden, which will become its international flagship. Meanwhile, the company said it was planning to open in other locations in the UK under franchise agreements. As revealed by Propel in September, the Covent Garden site will be in the former Fire & Stone site in Maiden Lane. Benihana said £2m is being invested in the site, allowing for the development of the “Benihana of the future”. The 7,717 square foot building is being transformed. As with all Benihana’s restaurants, guests are served at “Teppan” tables each of which can seat up to eight people. The restaurant will feature 80 covers in the lower ground floor level, which includes two dining rooms. The ground floor also has 84 covers in the main area. Managing director Jason Wischhoff said: “Anyone who has visited Benihana will know that theatre is at the heart of the experience, where the chefs are the entertainers, and our guests are the stars of the show. We guarantee the performance will be elevated to new heights that will set a new global standard in the world of experiential dining, or as we like to call it ‘eatertainment’. Benihana is a truly international brand that is now scheduled to open in Morocco, Qatar, UAE, Egypt, Fiji, Vietnam and other locations in the UK under franchise agreements. In 2020 we opened in Phuket, Thailand; and in 2021 in Niagara Falls, Canada.” Last month, the business announced it was closing its site in Piccadilly and moving to Covent Garden. Benihana's sister site in King's Road, Chelsea, continues to operate. In 2018, Minor International acquired a 75% stake in Benihana to spearhead the business and oversee its expansion programme. Last year, the company closed its only UK site outside London, in Glasgow, less than a year after its launch.

Greggs reports vegan sausage roll shortage, London stores ‘hit particularly hard’: Food-to-go operator Greggs has warned of shortages of its vegan sausage rolls due to supply chain disruption. The product, which was launched in 2019 and has a seasoned Quorn filling, has been particularly absent in London stores, according to Reuters. The news agency noted branches in Twickenham, Richmond, Earls Court, Canary Wharf and South Woodford ran out of the snack at various points this week. “Some shops may not have them or may not have them throughout the day – it varies,” a Greggs spokesman said. Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside admitted last month the company had not been immune to supply chain issues but was doing all it could to restore normal service. He added the pandemic recovery had “exposed the just-in-time mode of supply chains” and Greggs was looking at renegotiating its long-term supply contracts to keep costs down.

Leon to opens first drive-thru next week, offers menu exclusives: Natural fast food brand Leon, which is owned by EG Group, will open its first drive-thru restaurant, in Gildersome, Leeds, next Wednesday (24 November). More gluten-free and vegan options are being added to the menu, which will also include a range of exclusive dishes and Leon firsts. A completely vegetarian breakfast menu is headed up by a vegan Cumberland sausage muffin for £3.65 and an egg and cheese muffin for £2.75, while the rest of the all-day menu will feature Leon favourites such as carbon neutral burgers, baked waffle fries, warm salads and grilled wraps. A Christmas menu will be available too – a week ahead of the rest of the Leon estate – with blood orange and cacao porridge (£3.25) and a vegan sNOw turk*y burger (£5.75) on offer alongside marzipan latte and cinnamon and salted caramel hot chocolate (both £3.45). The drive-thru will also offer a range of ethical and additive-free sodas from £1.45, alongside its own range of vegan shakes at £3.95 each. A children’s “pick ‘n’ mix” menu will also be available, from £3.45. Glenn Edwards, managing director Leon Restaurants, said: “This is a significant milestone for Leon. We are excited to be opening our first drive-thru restaurant, expanding our Leon family where we already have such a loyal fanbase.” Founded in 2014, Leon has since grown to 70 sites throughout the UK and in the Netherlands, Ireland and Gran Canaria. It has also recently begun a concession at the new Asda on the Move site in Holtspur, Buckinghamshire, while a further opening in London’s King’s Road is in the pipeline. EG Group was founded by the Issa brothers in 2001 and acquired Leon in a circa £100m deal earlier this year.

Papa John’s launches new store design in US to streamline ordering and pick-up options: Papa John’s is celebrating its ninth quarters of global growth with a fresh store design – including an open floor plan and easier access for different ordering and pick-up options. Called “Hungry for Better”, the project is aimed at a more modern, customer-centric focus for the brand. Customers can now collect their orders either at the drive-thru, at the separate “pick-up” lane for orders placed in advance or at the indoor counter, which is now self-service. “The goals of our new restaurant concept are to create a streamlined and flexible environment for team members to create quality food more efficiently, and for customers to enjoy seamless purchasing and pickup experiences,” Kate Carpenter, Papa John’s senior director of brand advertising and design, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Our customers want choice and control over the experience. We translated that to create a customer-centric design that offers a range of fulfilment options, making it easier for our customers to place their orders, get in and get on their way.” The new restaurant design – which is set to be rolled out gradually across Papa John’s stores, with an emphasis on new restaurants – is accompanied by a refreshed logo and colour scheme. Existing stores will have the choice whether to update their signage and other store designs. Papa John’s, which has more than 5,000 stores worldwide, opened its 500th UK branch – in Ormskirk, Lancashire – in September.

Fridays and The Botanist launch virtual Christmas crackers: Fridays and The New World Trading Company brand The Botanist have launched alternative, environmentally friendly, virtual Christmas crackers. Fridays has partnered with comedian Olaf Falafel to create a range of virtual Christmas crackers containing new and exclusively crafted jokes available only in its restaurants. Guests will be able to pull a virtual cracker at their table by scanning a QR code on their festive three-course set menu until Boxing Day. This will unlock the “12 jokes of Christmas”, written by Falafel. Meanwhile, The Botanist has launched an “e-Cracker”. Guests dining on the brand’s festive set menu until Christmas Eve will receive an e-Cracker and, as with a traditional cracker, two players unite to compete and pull the cracker first to be crowned the winner. Both players scan the e-Cracker QR code using a mobile device; one player starts the game and the other joins. Following the countdown, players tap the cracker screen aiming to pull the cracker first and win one of more than 75,000 prizes. Both players receive a joke plus the chance to capture a selfie with Botanist props. The Botanist’s Christmas drinks menu includes spiced mulled wine and festive cocktails to accompany festive food favourites such as turkey hanging kebabs and a chocolate orange cookie dough dessert. 

Zetland Capital Partners acquires two Macdonald hotels: London-based private equity firm Zetland Capital Partners has acquired the 338-bedroom Macdonald Manchester Hotel and the 156-bedroom Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from Macdonald Hotels & Resorts. The acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, will see the hotels managed by Zetland’s joint venture partner, Hamilton Hotel Partners. Ahmed Hamdani, Managing Partner at Zetland Capital Partners, said: “Our strategy is to provide significant investment to refurbish and reposition these hotels. This acquisition aligns with our investment strategy to purchase and invest in well-located hotels across the UK, where we can materially enhance the product offering and benefit from the recovery of demand in the UK’s key cities.” Aaron Falls, chief financial officer at Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, added: “The sale of these well-known hotels is a major milestone in our strategic business plan, which will see a substantial reinvestment in upgrading the remainder of our 28-strong hotel portfolio and nine resorts, together with further debt reduction.”

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