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Thu 13th Jan 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

A third of Scottish operators ‘at risk of collapse’, Star Pubs & Bars offers its Welsh and Scottish pubs 30% rent reduction: A new poll has revealed a third of hospitality and tourism operators in Scotland are at risk of collapse. The survey, conducted by the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), also found more than two thirds of the 1,335 respondents were currently in financial difficulty, while just over half have been left with no cash reserves, or only a couple of months to help them stay afloat. More than a third said they had lost over half their anticipated business in December, while a quarter had lost more than half their bookings for the first three months of the year. The STA revealed its findings as the Scottish government announced details of a new £9m support package for the industry, following restrictions it imposed on pubs, restaurants and other indoor venues on 27 December. STA chief executive Marc Crothall said: “Emergency financial support from the government has been hugely welcomed by the sector, including the announcement of a further £9m. However, for the vast majority of businesses, this won’t touch the sides of what is evidently a gaping chasm between business failure and any sense of stability.” UKHospitality Scotland director, Leon Thompson, said the results were a “stark warning” while a Night Time Industries Association Scotland spokesman called the findings “very worrying”. Meanwhile, Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has offered all its pubs on core leased and tenanted agreements in Scotland and Wales 30% rent reductions to support them while they are subject to additional government restrictions. This follows the £62m in rent support the group has offered its tenants and leaseholders since March 2020. Lawson Mountstevens, managing director at Star Pubs & Bars, Heineken UK, said: “The end of 2021 was hugely disappointing for pubs in Scotland and Wales due to the significant additional restrictions they had imposed on them during the festive period, which has been a real body blow to the industry. With many pubs suffering a downturn in trade as a result of the reintroduction of restrictions in Wales and Scotland, we believe the best support we can provide at this time is to offer rent concessions. Throughout the pandemic, we have endeavoured to be fair, equitable and transparent with our rent support, and will continue to be so.” 

Industry News:

Next edition of Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature more than 500 companies with 48 new additions: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, will see 48 companies added, taking the total number to 507. Among the companies being added are Daisy Green Food, Flight Club and AG Restaurants. The next edition, to be published at midday on Friday (14 January), will also feature group editor Mark Wingett’s next quarterly pick of the companies well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. His latest pick of companies are Brakspear, Simmons Bars, Hub Box, Park Holidays, Vaulkhard Leisure, Hostmore, QFM Group, Caprice Holdings and Ivy Collection. The picks are also accompanied by a 2,100-word report. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, shows the full damage done to the sector by the pandemic, with 321 companies making a combined loss of £8.17bn compared with 186 companies in profit – making a combined £797m. Losses now outstrip profits in the sector ten times over. Total turnover of the companies stands at £28.5bn. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranking companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. 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. 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 single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. 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 Mark Wingett.

Propel and COREcruitment spotlight BAME entrepreneurs, Asad Khan to feature: Propel has partnered with COREcruitment to spotlight some of the leading sector individuals from the UK BAME community this week. Today (Thursday, 13 January), in a video released at 9am, Krishnan Doyle talks to Asad Khan, chief executive and owner of Snowflake Luxury Gelato. Snowflake is a fast-growth London business that has Middle East expansion plans on the cards. Khan shares his journey to date and his thoughts on how companies can increase diversity.

Office commuters shun London but trips to Soho and Bluewater soar: The number of office workers commuting into London dropped to just one fifth of pre-pandemic levels last week even as bustling crowds packed Soho’s restaurants and one of the country’s biggest shopping centres. The Telegraph reports anonymised mobile phone data collected by Virgin Media O2 showed commuter levels in the capital slumped to 20% of figures recorded in February 2020, a month before the first nationwide lockdown came into force, amid continued guidance for people to work from home where possible. In the City of London, crowd volumes reached only 25% of pre-pandemic levels last Thursday (6 January), which is now often the busiest day of the week for bankers commuting into the Square Mile. By comparison, crowd levels in Soho, a hotspot for restaurants and nightlife, were back to pre-pandemic levels over the preceding weekend and visitor numbers to the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent even exceeded them.

OrderPay buys out Butlr following £34.6m growth: Pay-at-table app OrderPay has acquired the entire estate of competitor Butlr, comprising 578 venues across the UK, for an undisclosed amount, bringing its total venue network to just over 3,100. This follows a strong fourth quarter in which the company closed with more than £34.6m in growth. OrderPay was founded in 2019 by CRM, business development executive Richard Carter and digital innovation expert Rene Batsford, and is currently live in more than 2,500 sites. It will now work with all venues in the Butlr portfolio to transition to the OrderPay network between now and the end of March. Its new portfolio includes The Hut Group, London’s Electric Ballroom and Strongroom Bar, Komedia comedy venues and several bars and clubs in Manchester’s Gay Village. “This is a real signal of intent from us and a big development in the evolution and growth of the business,” said chief executive Carter.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a bar and restaurant concept to find a chief operating officer. The role is London based with national travel. A COREcruitment spokesman said, “We are looking for a savvy commercial director who excels in growth, strategy, finance, and service excellence as well as building teams. This is a complex and layered role – taking a concept from a small thriving business and scaling this up. The role will be inclusive of site development, operations, recruitment, financial systems, people, culture, and process. This all centres around an excellent food offering with amazing cocktails and an entertainment element with huge rollout plans nationwide.” The role is paying up to £150,000. For more information and to apply, email kate@corecruitment.com 

Company News:

Admiral Taverns reports trading showing ‘continued strong momentum’: Admiral Taverns has said current trading is showing “continued strong momentum” with volumes “in line with pre-pandemic levels”. The company said it was continuing to manage the ongoing impact of supply chain disruptions while the integration of the Hawthorn business was ongoing following the agreement with the Competition and Markets Authority for Admiral to dispose of seven pubs. Admiral said the enlarged community pub business had shown resilience over the recent Christmas period “in very challenging external circumstances”. It comes as Admiral reported group turnover of £40.2m for the year ending 29 May 2021 with its pubs only permitted to trade for 24 weeks of the period. The company posted an operating profit of £3.7m and a loss after tax of £5.2m. The business said its highly supportive, licensee-centric approach throughout the pandemic had positioned its pubs for sustainable recovery and underpinned positive momentum as restrictions lifted. More than £10m was invested in licensee financial support throughout the year while the business continued its capex investment across the estate throughout the pandemic. The estate valuation of £338.3m was in line with the prior year, despite the disposal of 64 pubs during the period. Post-year end, Admiral acquired Hawthorn from NewRiver for £222.3m, welcoming a further 674 community pubs and their licensees into the Admiral estate to give a total of 1,635 pubs. Net debt at the period end stood at £192.8m (2020: £202.4m) “reflecting equity support from shareholders and strong cash management throughout the period”. Admiral chief executive Chris Jowsey said: “With the support of our investors, we acted early to offer our licensees proactive and extensive financial relief to enable them to emerge strongly from the lockdown periods and it has been encouraging to see this manifesting itself in strong trading recovery when restrictions lifted. As we look to the future, while we remain appropriately cautious on the immediate outlook given the potential threat of the new Omicron covid variant and the current supply chain disruptions, we remain excited for the long-term opportunities for the business.”

Punch sees turnover fall to £118.2m in full year before sale: Punch Pubs & Co, led by Clive Chesser, has reported revenue of £118.2m for the year ending 15 August 2021 versus £145.5m the previous year as its sites faced trading restrictions due to the pandemic. Food and drink turnover in the period totalled £100.4m (2020: £116.7m) while rental income totalled £14.9m (2020: £24.1m). Ebitda before non-underlying items in the leased and tenanted business stood at £34.8m (2020: £51.8m) and at £8.5m in the managed division (2020: £9.2m). Net assets in the leased and tenanted business at the year end stood at £647.5m (2020: £627.4m) and at £209.7m (2020: £181.1m) in the managed division. The company invested £23.5m (2020: £35m) in the estate. Punch currently operates 1,300 pubs across the UK, having acquired 56 pubs from Young’s Ram Pub Company in July last year for £55.5m. As previously reported, Punch secured a £600m bond refinancing deal last year. In December, Punch was acquired by Fortress Investment Group, the US-based investor owned by Japan's SoftBank, from Patron Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum, thought to be in the region of £1bn.

Platinum Lace boss says many lap-dance clubs no longer profitable, company could be hit with historic £6.4m tax bill: Simon Warr, owner of lap-dancing business Platinum Lace, has said many gentleman’s clubs are no longer profitable due to heavy regulations and changes in culture. In parent company Koru (Holdings) latest accounts, for the year ending 31 December 2020, Warr said they now operate as a “niche market”, which is “heavily regulated”, leading to less clubs opening and many no longer turning a profit. He blamed increased regulation and supervision from local authorities, a change in popular culture and a reduction in the amount consumers spend on leisure activities. Warr also pointed to the novelty of lap-dance clubs wearing off and the difficultly of putting visits through business expenses, and said dancer numbers are down due to HM Revenue & Customs inspections of their income. The accounts also revealed the company, which operates six UK venues, including two in London, could also face an historic tax bill for £6.4m involving VAT on money chips. During the pandemic, the group was not eligible for support under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme as it was classed as a business in distress but did receive £1m in government grants. Warr said considering his clubs could open for only three of the 12 months in question, they had “traded satisfactorily in a difficult economic climate”. The group made a pre-tax loss of £3.6m and had net liabilities of £2.3m. Some £6m was written off through discontinued operations, making for a total profit of £2.3m for the period. Turnover was down from £12.2m in 2019 to £2.2m.

Junkyard Golf sees ‘better than expected’ trading figures in first half of current financial year: Crazy golf brand Junkyard Golf Club has seen "better than expected trading figures" during the first half of its current financial year. The company – which has locations in Manchester, London, Oxford, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle – added its performance in the six months to the end of September 2021 proved “when allowed, the business remains popular and profitable”. The business provided the update as it reported turnover of £3.7m for the year ending 31 March 2021 and pre-tax profits of £1.3m. That compares with a turnover of £13.6m and pre-tax profit of £2.3m for the period from 1 December 2018 to 31 March 2020. In his report accompanying the accounts, founder Mat Lake said “given the limited trading conditions as a result of the covid-19 pandemic”, its results are “in line with expectations”. He added: “The principal risks to the business remain covid-related, with uncertainty surrounding any future restrictions on trading leading to reduced trading over the year following calendar year and into FY23. The negative impact on sales and profitability have been offset with better than expected trading figures through the first half of FY22, proving that when allowed, the business remains popular and profitable.” The company received government grants totalling £2.4m.

Laine Pub Company increases Ebitda despite pandemic restrictions: Laine Pub Company has reported it generated positive Ebitda before underlying items of £5.5m for the year ending 15 August 2021, compared with £4.6m the year before. Turnover was down to £28.2m versus £32.4m the previous year as a result of the various restrictions in place due to the pandemic. At the end of the period the group operated 53 pubs across Brighton, Birmingham and London, down from 55 the year before. During the period, £1.3m was invested in the estate, down from £3.9m the previous year. As well as the pubs, the company also operates the Laine Brew Co business, which produces a portfolio of craft beer at its production brewery in Sussex. The group also operates five pubs in its Mash Inns partnership with Stonegate. Laine is now owned by Fortress Investment Group, the US-based investor owned by Japan's SoftBank, which acquired Laine along with Punch Pubs & Co from Patron Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum in December.

Pret sales plummet in London’s financial districts: Pret A Manger’s coffee and sandwich sales in London’s financial districts fell to their lowest point in months last week as workers chose to stay at home, according to Bloomberg’s Pret Index. Transaction in London’s City and Canary Wharf districts fell to below a third of pre-pandemic levels during the first week of January, the Index shows, as bankers shunned their desks in the wake of the government’s “work from home if possible” advice. Excluding the weeks including Christmas and Easter, sales last week were at the lowest level since March. The chain registered a similar drop in the New York regions, which take in Wall Street and Tribeca. “The here and now is a challenge because businesses had support last time this was the case, and now they don’t,” Pano Christou, Pret’s chief executive, told Bloomberg. “Businesses have depleted funds because of the current pandemic so people are in a worse position than they were 18 months ago.” Pret, which is raising pay to more than £10 an hour for 6,900 staff as part of its biggest pay and benefits increase in its 36-year history, also reported a slowdown in sales at key transport hubs, including London’s airports and major railway stations. According to its data, City footfall was recovering well until around mid-December, when workers avoided the office in a bid to avoid covid ahead of Christmas. “Plan B” measures are presently set to expire on Wednesday, 26 January and due to be reviewed then, with ministers keen to lift the “work from home” instruction to invigorate city centre businesses.

Big Table Group to launch second Rouge trial site, in Birmingham: The Big Table Group, operator of Las Iguanas and Bella Italia, is to launch a second trial site of its new Rouge concept, later this quarter, in Birmingham, Propel has learned. The Alan Morgan-led company is set to refurbish its existing Cafe Rouge site in the Upper Mall West of the Bullring scheme, with a reopening scheduled for the end of February/start of March. The new pilot site will build on the findings from the first pilot site under the Rouge name, which opened in November in Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Speaking about the new Rouge concept last year, Morgan, chief executive of Big Table Group, said: “We conducted a lot of research into perceptions of Cafe Rouge, and our Haywards Heath restaurant will be the first of several sites where we will be piloting new concepts and ideas. One piece of feedback that came through strongly was the word ‘Cafe’ made people think we were more of a breakfast and lunch place. We are simply exploring what happens if we remove the word ‘Cafe’ from the name.” 

Wahaca seeks managing director for DF Tacos concept: Mexican restaurant group Wahaca is seeking a managing director to oversee the growth of its DF Tacos concept, Propel has learned. Launched initially as DF/Mexico at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, east London, DF Tacos now also operates in Tottenham Court Road, Brixton, and Market Halls Victoria. The group is now looking to appoint a managing director to take the business forward, with two new openings being mooted for the first half of this year. Co-founder Mark Selby told Propel the company was “excited” about the concept, and how it sits alongside Wahaca. The new managing director would report into the group managing director Gemma Glasson. The concept was originally inspired by a US/Mexico road trip by Wahaca’s founders Thomasina Miers and Selby, who spotted that chefs crossed the borders both ways for inspiration and decided they wanted to bring that influence to the food. 

SFG Club to launch second site under Birdies concept: SFG Club, which operates competitive socialising venue Roof East in Stratford, east London, is to launch a second site in the capital under its crazy golf experience, street food eatery and cocktail bar concept Birdies. Propel understands SFG is taking on the former JD Wetherspoon site, The Glass Works, at the Angel Central shopping centre, for an opening later this year. SFG launched its first nine-hole Birdies site under the arches at Battersea Power Station in November 2019. Last summer, the business launched the first stand-alone site for its baseball-themed bar Sluggers at Boxpark Croydon. SFG operates a Sluggers as part of Roof East. Piers Finley at CWM acted on the Angel deal. 

Truffle to open second bricks-and-mortar site, plans further expansion: Burger specialist Truffle will open its second bricks-and-mortar burger restaurant in London’s Bishopsgate, Propel has learned. The Tom Bickers-founded concept launched its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant, in Soho’s Bateman Street in 2020 It also operates pop-up sites in Seven Dials Market and on the Southbank. The company has now secured the ex-Badolina site at 206-210 Bishopsgate for an opening later this spring. Bickers told Propel the company would ideally aim to open a new site every eight months, with an initial focus on London. He said he would like the next opening to be in a neighbourhood location, in order to “test the concept further”. Badolina, which is a sister concept to falafel bar Pilpel, also operates a site in Lime Street in the capital. Sammy Weinbaum, at CDG Leisure, and Jake Bernstone, of Stonebrook London, acted on the Bishopsgate deal.

Peel Hunt – Whitbread’s trading update shows Premier Inn’s potential to recover quickly once covid restrictions are removed: A note from analysts at Peel Hunt has said Whitbread’s trading update shows the potential for Premier Inn to recover quickly once covid-19 restrictions have been removed. They stated: “Current trading shows accommodation revenue in growth (relative to FY20) despite a drag from Omicron. Cost inflation is increasing but at a level that can be absorbed by upgrades to the revenue outlook. We are upgrading our low-end forecasts and reiterate our ‘Buy’ recommendations and 3,600p target price.” Accounts from owners Whitbread covering the period September to November 2021 showed accommodation sales up 10.6% and food and beverage sales down 11.1% compared with the previous year. In its first half, total UK sales were down 39.4%, with accommodation sales down 33.1% and food and beverage sales down 51.2%. The note added: “This turnaround in the trajectory of trading relative to pre-covid levels was clearly boosted by high levels of demand for leisure travel, both staycations and family events. Continuing covid restrictions in Germany are holding back market progress and Premier Inn occupancy was 36.4% in most recent trading. However, it is encouraging this relatively new brand, now with 32 open hotels, is performing in line with its market.” 

Incipio Group promotes Josie Adams to people director: Incipio Group, the Edition Capital-backed operator of venues including The Prince and Lost In Brixton, has promoted Josie Adams to people director. Adams joined the business in August last year as head of people from London pub operator Young’s, where she was head of learning and development. Incipio Group chief executive, Ed Devenport, said: “Since joining Incipio, Josie has rapidly progressed and developed the framework within which our team operates while engraining a robust training and development plan – a plan that is worthy of the great people who work at Incipio to help ensure that internal progression underpins our growth and ambitions as a group. The people and with it the culture at Incipio will be paramount to our success as a group and with Josie’s progression to people director, this reinforces the company’s commitment to our teammates and all those involved with Incipio; that our people truly are at the heart of everything we do.”

The Coconut Tree extends half price discount: Sri Lankan street food operator The Coconut Tree will be offering 50% off all food (Monday to Wednesday, eat-in only) until the end of January 2023.The seven-strong group first offered an early-week discount in 2020 and has decided to extend it after finding a marked increase in new customers trying Sri Lankan food for the first time. Operations director Rashinthe Rodrigo said: “In the UK, Sri Lankan food is not as widely available or understood as, say, Indian or Chinese cuisine, and we want to change that. We want to be the ones to make it mainstream and shape Sri Lankan eats in the UK. This offer gives people the confidence to try our authentic street food, and we’ve met so many new customers as a result.” The Coconut Tree’s take on Sri Lankan street-food is made up of small and large tapas-style dishes embracing plants, fish and meat. Dishes include hot battered spicy cuttlefish and a diced pork belly cooked in 30 roasted spices. The Coconut Tree now has restaurants in Cheltenham, Bristol, Oxford, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Reading and Bath and plans to open in Birmingham this spring. In October, brand director Anna Garrod told the Propel Multi-Club Conference that four new openings are being planned in the next 12 months.

Better burger brand Fat Hippo to open in Glasgow: Better burger brand Fat Hippo is set to open its second site in Scotland, in Glasgow. The company, which made its Scottish debut last July with a concession site in the newly launched Lane7 site in Edinburgh’s new St James Quarter, is set to open at 86 St Vincent Street at the end of spring. The business, which was established in Newcastle in 2010 by founder and managing director Mike Phillips, will also make its debut in Wales later this year, with an opening on the ex-Bub’s Bar and Kitchen in Cardiff’s Church Street. Phillips said: “When we were given the opportunity to bring Fat Hippo to Glasgow city centre, we couldn’t turn it down. The building in St Vincent Street is the ideal location for our new restaurant, and we’re excited to be able to welcome everyone for a taste of ‘the good kind of gluttony’.” The ten-strong Fat Hippo also has restaurants in Newcastle, Liverpool, Headingley, Nottingham, Durham and Jesmond, plus further Lane7 concession sites in Manchester and Sheffield and a further Sheffield concession site with Kommune. Its menu includes more than 15 different beef, buttermilk chicken and vegan burgers, including the signature Fat Hippo burger with American cheese, smoked bacon, chorizo, onion rings and Fat Hippo sauce. 

Orton’s Hospitality secures fourth site, opening next month: Orton’s Hospitality, the Leicester-based bar and restaurant owner, has secured a fourth site after buying The Queen’s Head in Bulwick, Rutland. Orton’s – which owns Orton’s Brasserie in Leicester city centre, The Carrington Arms in Ashby Folville and the Dewdrop Inn in Hathern – has acquired the 17th century inn. The new venue will be opening next month, serving traditional British classics with a contemporary twist via a menu from former MasterChef: The Professionals chef, Andrew Greasly. Guy Kersey, managing director, said: “We here at Orton’s Hospitality have decided to start the year with a bang. Some might say we are mad expanding in this time. But we think now, more than ever, communities need their local pubs back. We need to rebuild our communities, and the best way is over a great meal and a few pints.”

South east London-based boutique nightclub launches sister restaurant: Pure Lounge Club, a boutique nightclub in Bexleyheath, south east London, has launched a new sister restaurant, Signature Dining by Pure. The venue, which promises a “sensory journey from east to west”, is based above the nightclub on the first floor of 239 Broadway. A menu focused on steak ‘n’ sushi Brazilian and Japanese cuisine will change with the seasons, while a cocktail menu will be curated by Tony Adams, the former world number one cocktail bartender. Live music events and DJ sets are also being planned. “The opening of Signature Dining By Pure represents an exciting time for our brand and for the discerning diners of Bexley,” said Dean Lee, who owns both venues. “Bringing the concept to life has been hugely rewarding, with every detail painstakingly developed to create a unique dining experience that fuses east and west in a truly memorable and engaging way. We are very much looking forward to sharing our seasonally inspired menus and hand-crafted cocktails with our guests.”

Revolution’s Leeds site to reopen this week following £300,000 revamp, new cocktail menu to be introduced: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 66 bars trading mainly under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, will on Thursday (14 January) reopen its Leeds Electric Press site following a £300,000 refurbishment. The vodka-land themed overhaul of the site will include new dining spaces, an open-plan dancefloor and DJ booth, a deluxe VIP area and a heated outdoor courtyard. A new cocktail menu featuring 22 new drinks will also be introduced, including a millionaire’s martini, a salted caramel colada, a peach margarita and a flat white martini, as well as low and no-alcohol options. Among the food offering will be the signature Brooklyn mac ‘n’ chicken burger, sharing platters and an extensive pizza menu. The brand is also continuing its mission to be carbon neutral by 2030, having last month taken the decision to replace the passion fruit halves in its martinis with a rice paper alternative, as revealed by Propel. Revolution Electric Press manager, David Berry, said: “Revolution has been bringing the party to Leeds for more than 15 years, and we want to ensure we keep it fun for years to come with this refurbishment. Since reopening after the lockdowns, we’ve seen a change in people’s socialising habits and expectations when it comes to going out, and we want to make sure we can exceed all of them.” 

Lane7 plans to double up in Middlesbrough with larger entertainment offering: Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, looks set to launch a second site in Middlesbrough, with more entertainment offerings over two floors. The Tim Wilks-led company already has a bowling alley, American pool, ping pong and retro arcade site in the town’s Albert Road, which opened in 2017. It now plans to transform the vacant former TJ Hughes store in Captain Cook Square into a new 55,660 square-foot “family entertainment centre” with a ground floor bowling alley plus a first-floor electric go kart track and indoor golf. The plans are set to go before Middlesbrough Council on Friday (14 January), with the recommendation for approval subject to conditions. The company currently operates ten sites, mainly across the north of England, and has further sites in Durham, Dublin, Nottingham, Belfast, Cardiff and York “coming soon”, as well as another “family entertainment centre” in Glasgow. Founder Wilks told Propel in September he was aiming for different gaming offers with each new site he signed, saying: “If we do two fit-outs the same, I feel I would have sold my soul”. 

The Sea, The Sea to launch weekly fish market: The Sea, The Sea – the fish shop, deli and seafood bar concept launched by Bonnie Gull co-founder Alex Hunter – is launching a weekly zero waste fish market. It will operate on Saturdays, starting from this week, at its Hackney site. The company, which opened its fishmonger and seafood bar in Chelsea’s Pavilion Road in 2019, expanded with a chef’s table restaurant and wholesale facility in Hackney’s Acton Mews in August last year. The fish market, which will be open from 10am to 2pm, will give people the chance to buy fish at the same price it is sold to the company’s wholesale restaurant customers. The Sea, The Sea sources its produce direct from day-boat fishermen and from regional markets around the UK. Unlike the retail service in Chelsea, the fish market will not be offering pre-orders or a filleting service to its customers. However much of the available fish will be filleted in advance, ready to cook at home. In parallel with the wholesale fish market, the chef’s table at The Sea, The Sea Hackney will launch a Saturday lunch service consisting of set four courses plus snacks for £60 per head. 

Elior appoints director of innovation: Contract caterer Elior has appointed Claire Small to the newly created role of director of innovation. She leads Elior’s new eight-strong innovation team, which is responsible for delivering digital, concept development, photography and menu management across its UK business. Prior to Elior, Small held senior roles with hospitality brands including UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group, The Restaurant Group and ETM Group, helping translate consumer trends into creative commercial solutions. At Elior, Small is responsible for digital strategy across the company, including the rollout and optimisation of its proprietary Breaz mobile ordering app, scan and go technology and digital kiosk ordering. Using consumer insights from these, she will be driving concept development in branding and menus – for new and existing food concepts, pop-ups and standalone brands across Elior’s sectors. Her role also involves forging partnerships with brands, chefs and suppliers. Catherine Roe, chief executive at Elior, said: “Our new innovation team along with Claire’s appointment, represent an exciting new direction for Elior. The team is working on several inspiring new projects which will spur the business on for sustained growth over the coming years.”

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