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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Tue 23rd Nov 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Metcalfe – this is a scary situation, with a lack of young staff coming into the sector: The UK hospitality sector is facing a “scary situation”, with a lack of young staff coming into the sector, Julian Metcalfe, founder of Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, has warned. Metcalfe told Propel’s Multi-Club Conference this month: “We are facing a crisis there. Collectively will we be successful in persuading the government to be more open-minded to having a two-year visa for young people to come here? For many years we found fantastic members of staff who were young, who came to this country to learn to speak English for two years. The situation we are now in is pathetic, unreasonable and stupid. But we are in that situation, now how do we help the government get us out of it? I personally would have thought that is a reasonable and sensible thing for us to try and persuade it to do. Let them come for two years and then there is at least a cap and the really hard-core Brexiteers won’t be too upset. I am very worried for our industry. I don't know how this is sustainable. We are going to have to invest a lot more money in training, developing and teaching people skills, but where are they going to come from? They are going to have to come from jobs, which frankly cannot afford to pay more, for example people in support industries, such as care homes. They can’t afford to put their prices up. I am genuinely terrified about many aspects of this.” Metcalfe said Itsu was “deep in the trenches trying to deal with the staffing issue”. He said: “Some of the things that you talk about all the time don’t really work, like doing more social, nicer shoes and better breaks, but at the end of the day we are going to see inflation, because we have to pay people more, which in some ways is a good thing. I think some of this country’s hospitality industry was a bit spoilt for too long by having too many applicants for the jobs. I know one company had 60 applicants for one job for years and years, it reached a high point where they had 100 applicants for each job. I don’t think that is great personally, but to go from 100 to zero is also not great.” Metcalfe said that he admired “the people we rely on to be managers, assistant managers, kitchen managers and head chefs”. He said: “Imagine working with a team of 15 to 20 young kids, you have to be a shrink, a disciplinarian, a head master, a matron, you have to be everything, and now you have to be a health and safety expert.”
Metcalfe is one of 24 operators in the Propel Premium Advent Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. Metcalfe features on Saturday, 18 December. 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

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Birra Moretti becomes the UK’s best-selling draught beer: Premium Italian lager Birra Moretti is now the best-selling draught beer in the UK, measured by value rate of sale, with more than four pints of Birra Moretti poured every second in the on-trade. Carling previously held the title for more than a decade, but as consumers choose increasingly more premium beer options, Birra Moretti has clinched the top spot. Now, almost £1 in every £10 spent on draught lager in the on-trade is spent on Birra Moretti. Premium continental lager is the best-performing beer segment and has been the fastest growing for the past two years. Leading this trajectory is Birra Moretti, the fastest-growing brand over the last five years and driving 74% of premium lager growth. The news comes as the brand announces its “Pint Perfection” activation, where outlets can order an activation kit worth £50 to give themselves and their customers the chance to win prizes – simply by sharing a photo of their perfectly poured pint of Birra Moretti. To enquire about stocking the UK’s best-selling draught beer in your outlet, click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Three days to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, 54 businesses being added: A total of 54 new multi-site companies, operating 369 sites, have been 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, includes a number of brands growing through franchise, expanding sports concepts, and regional pub and hotel operators. 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
Curry houses need to ditch cheap dishes in favour of ‘superior products’, warns Asian industry leader: Yawar Khan, chairman of the Asian Catering Federation, has warned curry house operators that rising costs and staff shortages mean “cheap Friday night curries” are a thing of the past. But he believes there will plenty of people willing to fork out for a superior offering and an enhanced dining experience at curry houses. Speaking at the 2021 Asian Curry Awards, Khan also said the sector would have to improve pay and conditions and upskill their staff with training programmes and career progression. He added restaurants need to compete on quality rather than price and think about how to attract customers across the week. Meanwhile, Benares was named London’s Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year at the awards, with Cambridge’s Navadhanya and Sevenoaks’ Rajdani winning similar awards for the regions and Home Counties. Heritage Dulwich scooped the Asian Restaurant of the Year for London, while Panache in Elgin won the Scottish award, and the Welsh accolade was shared by Port Talbot’s Grand Sultan and Cardiff’s Jashaan. The Vegetarian Food Studio in Cardiff was named Best Vegetarian, while Newcastle’s My Delhi took Street Food Restaurant of the Year, and Harrow’s Hakkaland won Asian Fusion Restaurant of the Year. The Just Eat national trophy for Takeaway of the Year went to Ambrette Kitchen in Ashford, Kent, and the Kushi chain of restaurants were named Local Restaurant Group of the Year.
David Abramson appointed chair of CTA policy committee: The Commercial Tenants Association (CTA), the independent membership organisation championing the interests of more than 900,000 commercial lease and license holders across the UK, has appointed David Abramson to chair its policy committee and to its advisory board. At The CTA, Abramson, the founder of Cedar Dean Group, will work closely with the various task forces focusing on global policy and as well as individual sector policy implementation in retail, hospitality and leisure. CTA chief executive Peter Bell said: “David’s passion and commitment to championing the rights of commercial tenants is relentless and I have no doubt his knowledge and expertise will help support our ambitious growth.” Abramson added: “With The CTA’s credentials and its rapidly growing presence and influence, we have the opportunity to transform the long-imbalanced relationship between landlord and tenant. I intend to bring together leading voices across the industry to finally achieve a new system for commercial leasing based on affordability.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an event production business that is looking for a managing director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The individual will inspire and set the highest of standards, ensure legal compliance, ensure the status of going concern is maintained, and ensure day-to-day management is appropriate in skills and resources. We are looking for someone who can establish excellent relationships with other board directors, management teams, employees and customers. You will be savvy with how you manage your time and budget. A lot of this role is about influencing others to give their time and resources to support the business and establishing and monitoring policy and strategy for the company in compliance with their values and objectives. An important part of this is to establish and oversee a framework of delegation. You will also review and approve each year’s budget and annual financial accounts for presentation to the auditors prior to publication. This role is based in London and involves liaising with various government and commercial organisations. We are looking for a very credible individual who has experience at board level within a large commercial/third sector organisation.” Anyone interested can email

Company News:

RedCat adds a further six sites with rooms to its estate: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, has added a further six sites with rooms to its estate, Propel has learned. The company, which earlier this month acquired the award-winning The Turks Head near Woodbridge, Suffolk, has also taken the King William IV in Sedgeford, North Norfolk; The Green Man in Stanford, Bedfordshire; the Green Man in Fownhope, Herefordshire; and the Manor House Hotel in West Bexington, Dorset, through individual deals. At the same time, the business has secured the Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells and the Conningbrook Hotel in Ashford from Shepherd Neame for £5.75m. The six deals add a further circa 105 bedrooms to RedCat’s estate, which has now grown to more than 80 sites since the company’s launch last year. The Grade-II listed 16th Century Manor House Hotel was sold off a guide price of £1.7m. Part of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it had been owned by David and Alison Allen since 2010, who decided to sell the property – with associated four-bedroom owner’s house – ahead of their retirement. “We have thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Manor Hotel,” said David Allen. “We would like to thank our dedicated staff, customers and suppliers for their support, and wish RedCat Inns every success in the future.” Ed Jefferson from Colliers’ Hotels team acted for the vendor, while Neil Hart at Bradley Hall acted for the purchasers.
SpiceBox launches £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to open third London curry house: London-based vegan curry house concept SpiceBox, which started out five years ago as a street food stall, is looking to raise £350,000 through crowdfunding site Seedrs to help open a third curry house. Founder Grace Regan, who this year published her first cookbook and launched a range of sauces and condiments, opened her first SpiceBox site in Walthamstow in 2019, followed by a second, in Leytonstone, last month. The third site will be in south east London, although an exact location has not yet been revealed. The company is offering 7.57% equity for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £4.3m, and it has reported 16% year-on-year revenue growth between 2019-20. Launched on Monday (22 November), the campaign has already reached 82% of its target with 30 days left, having raised £290,357 from 74 investors. Regan told Propel: “I am delighted to announce we will be opening a third curry house early next year. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign with Seedrs in 2019, we’ve decided to give our incredible spicy community the opportunity to invest again in SpiceBox and help us get one step closer to becoming the UK’s leading curry house brand. We saw some good growth over covid, and our newly opened Leytonstone site has gotten off to a great start. Our new site presents a fantastic opportunity – I couldn’t be more excited for the future of SpiceBox.” SpiceBox also runs an e-bike delivery service through a partnership with Zedify, using re-usable tiffins. Members of The SpiceBox Tiffin Club pay a one-off £12.50 fee for a stainless-steel tiffin, and the company now has more than 1,000 in circulation.
Glee Club operator reports trading ‘substantially ahead’ of 2019 levels, scope to scale business significantly: Comic Enterprises, which operates Glee Club live entertainment venues and is owned by founder Mark Tughan, has announced since it resumed operating at full capacity, trading has been “substantially ahead” of the comparable period – which for the company was September and October 2019. Like-for-like weekend shows are up 15% and overall sales, including rescheduled shows, are up 62% across the two months. In addition, the company has signed new 20-year leases on its Birmingham and Cardiff sites and plans to move its Nottingham site to a new, more central location next summer, with no interruption of service. However, the company remains cautious over corporate Christmas bookings and is planning for a lower level of festive activity than usual. Tughan said: “All the Glee Clubs were trading their socks off and we were debt-free going into the pandemic. Thankfully, the combination of a small insurance payout, helpful landlords and being deemed culturally significant by the Arts Council (leading to several grants from the Cultural Recovery Funds), saw us able to reopen in pretty good shape after a brutal series of lockdowns. We’re the market leader now in comedy clubs, and there is huge scope to scale the business significantly from here. I’m optimistic if we can stay open at full capacity, we should have a record 2022.” As well as the Birmingham, Cardiff and Nottingham sites, Comic Enterprises also operates Glee Clubs in Oxford and Glasgow.
Rosa’s Thai launches debut retail range: Rosa’s Thai, the TriSpan-backed restaurant group, has launched its first retail range. It includes a massaman curry paste, Thai red and green curry pastes, chilli oil and a satay sauce – available online or at the 25 Rosa’s Thai restaurants across England. Rosa’s Thai was launched in Spitalfields in 2008 by chef Saiphin Moore, having brought dishes from her native Thailand to London and started out as market stall in Brick Lane. 
Rosa’s features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers. Rosa’s has turned over an average of £12.3m 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 to sign up.
Croeso Pubs to open fifth site: Cardiff-based Croeso Pubs, led by Craig Davies and Simon Little, is to open its fifth site in the city, after taking over another bar formerly operated by SA Brain. Croeso Pubs has taken over the lease of the former Bar 33 site in Windsor Place in the city centre. The business said the new venture, which will be a gastropub called Daffodil, “is one the group has done nothing like before”. It said: “A true gastropub, locally sourced produce, traditional Welsh dishes, fresh unique drinks – all in the city centre.” The site will reopen on Monday, 6 December. Earlier this year, the company took on another former Brains site, the Goat Major, the High Street opposite Cardiff Castle. Croeso Pubs, which also runs Brewhouse and Retro, restored it to its former name, Blue Bell.
Rank Group to receive £83m from refund of UK VAT: Rank Group, the operator of Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca bingo halls, has reached an agreement with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over the amount of its VAT refund. In August, HMRC decided against appealing a tribunal ruling on a refund that Rank had claimed for VAT paid on slot machine income between 2006 and 2013. Rank said it has agreed with HMRC on a £77.5m refund, to be received “shortly”. Rank previously had estimated the refund at £80m, but it also will receive £5.5m in interest on the claim. Both amounts are subject to 19% corporation tax in the UK. Rank will use the cash to strengthen its balance sheet, it said, and to invest in its restructuring programme. Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones said: “With increased investment in the estate now possible, both from operating cash flow and the VAT refund, the casino estate should exit the covid-19-affected periods in a strong position. As the consumer becomes more discerning and increasingly targets spending on experiences, as opposed to assets, we believe Rank's estate offer will offer welcoming and well-invested sites.”
Whistle Punks secures Leeds site: Axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks has secured its fifth site, in Leeds. The company, which is backed by Edition Capital, is opening at The Electric Press development in Great George Street. Whistle Punks has agreed a ten-year lease for a 7,275 square-foot site at the venue, adding to its sites in London, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham. Also opening will be Baby Doll, a new restaurant-bar from DJ Tom Zanetti – also on a ten-year lease and in a site measuring 4,754 square feet. This will complement his existing cocktail bar and brunch venue Dollhouse, located in the city’s Call Lane. Savills and Pudney Shuttleworth acted on the deals, on behalf of DTZ Investors. 
Poke House opens four new London sites, plans nationwide roll out: Poké House, Europe’s most popular poke bowl chain, which acquired the six-strong, London-based Ahi Poké business earlier this year, has opened four new sites in the capital, as part of plans to open 65 sites across the UK. The company, which launched its debut UK site earlier this summer in Portobello Road, has opened in Spitalfields, Victoria, Canary Wharf and Bloomberg Arcade. It is planning a further 15 openings across London. The company said in terms of expansion outside the capital, it was “eyeing all major UK cities as part of the expansion including – but not limited to – Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Brighton”. Poké House previously said it plans to expand into city locations, shopping centres, outdoor kiosks and dark kitchens in the UK. In April, Poké House, which operates circa 55 sites across Europe, closed a €20m (£17m) Series B funding round led by Eulero Capital, with backing from FG2 Capital and reinvestment from Milano Investment Partners. The proceeds from the investment are intended to fuel and accelerate the international expansion of the company, with the acquisition of Ahi Poké representing a key step in a broader plan to open 200 new stores across Europe.
Ex-Starbucks and Patisserie Valerie executive Ileys launches new coffee business: Rhys Ileys, formerly of Starbucks and Patisserie Valerie, has launched a new specialty coffee business in Wales. Iley, formerly retail and operations vice-president at Starbucks in Europe, and ex-group commercial director of Patisserie Holdings, has recently launched Cribyn Coffee Company. Located in a converted coach house in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, Cribyn Coffee uses a state-of-the-art Probat Roaster – the only one of its kind in the UK as of last month – and is the only speciality coffee roaster in Wales to receive the SALSA certification. Iley said: “Cribyn Coffee Company can be found in hospitality venues across Wales as customers increasingly care more about both the provenance and the quality of their products.” Ileys said despite only being going a few months, Cribyn Coffee Company is already getting quite a following, “not just in Wales but across the whole of the UK”.
Hall & Woodhouse to open new pub on Hampshire/Surrey border: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse is to open a new pub on the north Hampshire/Surrey border next spring. Called The Frog in Mindenhurst, near Deepcut, the pub is scheduled to open in March. The company said: “The pub takes inspiration – and its name – from the adjacent pond. The site overlooks the village green and is roughly one acre in size. Key features include an extensive glazed gable end with an inside/outside fireplace and a large veranda.” Last month, Hall & Woodhouse reported its managed pubs outside London had traded strongly since reopening “albeit hampered in some locations by seasonal team shortages and supply issues”. The company refinanced all its banking facilities, with Barclays providing a £45m facility with a tenor of three years. Hall & Woodhouse operates about 170 pubs across the south of England.

Newcastle restaurant let to Mitchells & Butlers sold for £3.2m: The freehold investment in the property housing the Miller & Carter restaurant in Newcastle’s Mosley Street has been sold for £3.2m, Propel has learned. The price reflected a net initial yield of 5.35%. Miller & Carter is the fast-growing steakhouse brand owned By Mitchells & Butlers. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, who advised a private client on the sale, said: “We have seen limited activity in the restaurant investment market this year. While initially this was attributed to lack of confidence in the casual dining sector, we believe it is now down to the shortage of quality stock. The underlying property fundamentals are key more than ever – well-configured units in good locations will always be re-lettable. Rents need to be sensible and serviceable. Many investors would rather buy the best sites at significantly sharper yields than secondary sites which could prove challenging down the line. The former will always be in demand and should prove to be safe, long-term investments.” CBRE acted on behalf of the purchaser, a private client.

Yard Sale Pizza opens in Lewisham for ninth site: Yard Sale Pizza, the restaurant and delivery concept that includes sector investor Paul Campbell as non-executive director, has opened a restaurant in Lewisham, south east London. As revealed by Propel in September, the Johnnie Tate-led business, which opened in Crystal Palace this summer, has taken over the former Fish Bar site in Brockley Road, Crofton Park. The opening marks Yard Sale Pizza’s ninth site and fourth south of the river. The restaurant offers the brand’s signature menu of 12-inch and 18-inch pizzas, including favourites such as the “Holy Pepperoni” topped with smoky gyula pepperoni, regular pepperoni and nduja; and the “TSB”, topped with tenderstem broccoli, pine nuts, garlic oil and parmesan. The venue offers delivery and collection, along with a small area for dine-in. The company opened its debut restaurant in Clapton in 2014. Casey Phillips, of Casey Phillips Property Partnership, acted on the Lewisham deal.
Premium Japanese restaurant Roketsu Kaiseki to open debut site next month: Roketsu Kaiseki, the premium Japanese restaurant concept, will open its debut site in London’s Marylebone next month. After holding a pop-up event at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair last year, chef Daisuke Hayashi is will launch the restaurant on Tuesday, 7 December in New Quebec Street. Hayashi came to London after training at the Kikunoi Ryotei restaurant in Kyoto and has been executive head chef at Tokimeitē in Mayfair. Roketsu, which also held a series of dinner events at Louis Vuitton in Bond Street last year, will be all about Japanese Kaiseki (multi-course) dining. Split across two floors, the restaurant will also include a dedicated area where customers can witness and engage in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The menu had been previewed through delivery Gozen dinners during lockdowns.
Liverpool restaurateur Paul Askew part of team behind new city restaurant opening at GSG Hospitality’s Duke Street Market: Paul Askew, chef-patron of the Art School restaurant in Liverpool, is part of the team behind a new venue in the city opening at GSG Hospitality’s Duke Street Market. Barnacle will launch next Wednesday (1 December). Led by Askew, Bone and Block’s Harry Marquart, and chefs Kieran Gill and Jake Lewis, Barnacle will tell the story of Liverpool's food and drink provenance. The restaurant, which will also have two apprentice chefs, will feature modern dishes drawn from the locality's producers, farmers and artisans to ingredients linked to the port's bustling trade over the decades. Askew said: “While we are already working with brilliant people who are doing amazing work in food and drink across the farms and fields around the region, we also are assembling a great team to work at Barnacle.”
Travelodge to open four new hotels before Christmas: Travelodge has announced four new hotels will be open in time for Christmas as bosses hope to cash in on families looking to travel during the festive season. Two new sites have already opened in London – in Elephant and Castle and Manor House – with a further one in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. The final site is at the Cobalt Business Park in Newcastle. It means Travelodge will have opened 17 new hotels across the UK in 2021, creating 360 jobs with an investment of £175m, bringing it to a total of 595 locations across the UK, Ireland and Spain. Bosses said the London hotels are the latest rollout of their more upmarket sites, known as “budget chic”, where some rooms are bigger as they attempt to tap into the growing market for travellers looking for a bit more luxury. Travelodge chief executive Craig Bonnar said: “This year we have opened new Travelodges across the length and breadth of the country and many of these new hotel openings have played a pivotal part in regeneration programmes across the UK.” Travelodge is rebuilding the brand after pushing through a company voluntary arrangement last year to slash costs after being hit during the pandemic. Landlords approved the deal that knocked around £144m off its rent bill.
Boom: Battle Bars plans Coventry opening: Boom: Battle Bars, the adventure bar concept from the team behind trampoline park business Flip Out, is set to open a site in Coventry. The company has confirmed it will open an outlet in the Cathedral Lanes complex in the city. Along with Coventry, there are plans to open Boom: Battle Bars in several other UK locations including Bath, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull, Ipswich, Leeds and Oxford. Boom: Battle Bar venues feature a mix of games including augmented reality darts, shuffleboard, axe throwing, karaoke, beer pong and indoor curling alongside a range of craft beer, cocktails and street food. There are currently Boom: Battle Bars in Cardiff, Liverpool, Norwich, Swindon, Wandsworth and the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. Earlier this month, XP Factory, formerly known as Escape Hunt, announced it is set to acquire Boom: Battle Bars in a £17.38m deal with Elliott Shuttleworth, chief executive and founder of Boom: Battle Bars, telling Propel the deal was the first of “many giant steps we plan on taking in the leisure and hospitality sectors”.
Independent hotel, restaurant and bar to open in London’s Soho next summer: Broadwick Soho, a 57-bedroom “townhouse” hotel, restaurant and bar, will open its doors next summer. Broadwick is a collaboration between friends Noel Hayden, owner of the hotel and chairman of Anzo Group, and Jo Ringestad, managing director of Broadwick Street Holdings. Both have backgrounds in hospitality thanks to their respective family hotels in the French Riviera and Bournemouth. Originally due to open in September before being pushed back, the venue will feature a Sicilian-inspired restaurant and terrace, rooftop lounge, speakeasy bar and intimate dining room with views overlooking Soho. The food and beverage concepts will be operated in partnership with Jamie Poulton and chef Ed Baines, founders of Randall and Aubin in nearby Brewer Street.

Lucky Club Mayfair team to open in Camden for second site: The team behind The Lucky Club in Mayfair, which serves cocktails and bao, is to double up in the capital. It has taken on a roof terrace space across the Chalk Farm entrance to Camden Market, in the former Fest premises. The Lucky Club Camden will specialise in margaritas and mezcal cocktails, with the Frozen Naranjarita, Pepino Margarita and the spicy Guajillo Paloma planned for the drinks list. To go with the cocktails will be a range of seasonal tacos such as the pineapple and lardo, and cochinita pibil pork belly. The site is set to open in April and is part of Camden Market’s £1.2m refurbishment of The North Yard, reports Hot Dinners.

Administrators ‘not in position to complete’ Belfast’s George Best Hotel development: The administrators of the former George Best Hotel in Belfast have announced they are not in a position to complete the venture. Launched by aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living in 2017, the 59-bedroom project collapsed in April 2020 when finance firm Lyell Trading, concerned over a £7.2m debt, appointed Duff & Phelps to Bedford Hotel, the trading name for the former Scottish Mutual Building. The process uncovered £12.2m owed to unsecured creditors, including £4m to so-called “bedroom investors”, who effectively bought shares in the hotel through a scheme to invest in individual rooms. Around £4.76m is now thought to be owed to the bedroom investors. The administrators initially explored completing and opening the hotel as the best way to increase the value of the asset and recover the loan. But a new report from Duff & Phelps said that goal “cannot be achieved as it is not currently financially viable for the joint administrators to progress the hotel development to completion and subsequently commence trading”. The administrators said they anticipate a distribution will be made to one or more secured creditors “via the realisation of the hotel”. However, that outcome would likely leave unsecured creditors with nothing. Court proceedings are currently ongoing to ascertain where the bedroom investors would stand in relation to Lyell Trading, as the secured creditor, in the event of a sale. In July, the UK Accommodation Group (UKAG), a company with links to Signature Living co-founder Lawrence Kenwright, announced it had the support of a 50-strong group of bedroom investors as part of a bid to refinance and complete the project. Duff & Phelps’ report states 51 out of 57 agreements in respect of the bedroom investments have now been assigned to UKAG.

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