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Mon 25th Jul 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Macellaio RC founder set to bring new seafood concept to London this autumn, plans northern expansion and overseas franchise: Macellaio RC founder Robert Costa is planning to bring a new seafood concept to London later this year, before expanding north and starting an overseas franchise. The Italian restaurant group, which Costa founded in 2012, recently opened its sixth site, in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. Next up is a concept called Pesce, which is “fish” in Italian, with plans to open one before Christmas and another in early 2023. “All the fish will come from the UK and Scotland,” Costa told Propel. “We’ll be using British fishmongers but adding a little Italian touch to the recipes – a very simple menu. I have two sites in mind. Right now, I want to consolidate in London, and then we are close to signing for a franchise in Saudi Arabia, for at least two franchised sites. I would like to go out of London as well, to Manchester and Liverpool, but they would be company owned. That would not be before 2024.” Costa, whose six sites are all in the capital, believes London has been hit worse than most cities in recent times, but is ready to “embrace the challenge”. He said: “In London it’s been worse than any other place in the world as we’ve had Brexit and covid together – we now have less people going into offices for sure, but less tourists too. Italian people are not coming to London, they’re not coming to the UK. We’ve had less Americans too, but we’ve had more English in. But I’m positive because I think it’s the biggest challenge ever for hospitality, and we need to embrace the challenge and change. We can’t think about profits at the moment, we have to think about keeping our concepts safe and well. There will be a time to think about money again, but right now it’s about strong management. Soho is going well – after Omicron we had to start again, but we’re doing well again now.” Costa is also preparing to relaunch the delivery concept, CasaCosta, he began during the pandemic, adding: “At the moment we’re getting the product right for delivery, and we’ll be ready to go with it again by the end of September.” 
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – S4labour launches national campaign to help pubs ‘get to grips’ with their daily labour spend: S4labour is travelling the length and breadth of the country talking to independent operators to help them with “dynamic in the week” visibility of labour management. An S4labour spokesman said: “With people costs representing hospitality’s largest variable cost and recruitment tougher than ever, managing existing team hours effectively to maximise sales, reduce team stress and optimise the customer experience has never been more important. A ‘get to grips with your daily labour spend’ campaign is being launched for independent operators and sits alongside ‘A Pint With’ interviews that S4labour is conducting, a series of two to three-minute chats with operators about their business, their views on industry challenges and other ‘views from the floor’. Videos will be released fortnightly on Fridays from S4labour’s social feeds. The campaign is being spearheaded by Chris Welham, James Rowe and Lisa Hatfield, of S4labour, who are focusing in particular on how individual, independent operators can make even better decisions about how to operate in challenging times by scheduling their teams with full visibility of people costs against forecast sales revenue, by day and by hour, in the week. A suite of options that brings a slimmed down version of the technology provided by S4labour, that supports larger operators to independents in a targeted way, is available for operators to consider.” Find out more here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

Number of hotel operators among 43 companies joining updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of hotel operators are among the 43 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 (29 July), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features boutique hotel group The Doyle Collection, which is behind The Marylebone, The Kensington and The Bloomsbury in London; The Westbury Hotel and The Croke Park Hotel in Dublin; The Bristol in Bristol; The River Lee in Cork; and The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington DC. Also added is Harry Cragoe, the owner of award-winning East Sussex pub-hotel The Gallivant, who has now acquired the Romney Bay House Hotel in the Kent village of Littlestone-on-Sea for his second site. In addition, boutique hotel brand Resident Hotels, which is owned by Mactaggart Family & Partners and currently has six hotels in its portfolio, will be featured. Also included is Cheshire hotel and gastropub group, Nelson Hotels & Inns, which was founded and chaired by Harold Nelson and operates The Pheasant Inn in Burwardsley; The Fishpool Inn in Delamere; The Bear’s Paw in Warmingham; and the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa in Pulford. Premium subscribers will also receive a 3,200-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 5 August, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 17,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and will be updated every two months. The third edition, which was sent on Friday (22 July), features 140 companies and almost 60,000 words of content. 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.

UK hotel sector recovers more rapidly than anticipated but businesses may feel the pinch towards end of year: The UK hotel sector has recovered more rapidly than anticipated in the first half of 2022, according to Christie & Co, but businesses are likely to “feel the pinch” in the final quarter of the year due to the cost-of-living crisis. Its Hotels: 2022 Mid-Year Review, showed occupancy rates have been nearing 2019 levels in most markets since May. Additionally, operators have focused on maintaining high average daily rates to absorb some of the increasing cost pressures. This has positively impacted revpar in both city centre and regional UK hotel markets, and the summer season is looking positive as a result. Off the back of this uptick in operational performance, the transactional market remained active, notably during the first quarter of 2022. However, the war in Ukraine and growing economic uncertainty started to impact transactional volume during the second quarter, meaning the total volume transacted in the first half of 2022 is slightly behind the same period in 2021. Regional UK transactions dominated, with almost three quarters of total volume. Christie & Co is currently instructed on more than £1bn worth of hotel assets across the UK and has sold almost 50 hotel businesses in Britain in the first half of 2022. Looking ahead, operators are anticipating a good summer season, albeit below the record highs of 2021. However, as uncertainty continues to creep in during the second half of 2022 due to inflation and the effects of the cost-of-living crisis on disposable income, this is likely to influence trading performance from the fourth quarter. Therefore, there may be an uptick in distressed activity, which remains at an all-time low. Carine Bonnejean, managing director of hotels, said: “The pace of the recovery was completely unexpected, with performance ahead of 2019 already, a far cry from the two to three years originally anticipated. However, we may be entering another phase of the cycle by the end of 2022.”

Glimmer of hope amid consumer gloom: Consumer confidence remains at a record low, although Brits have more hope their personal finances could improve in the next year, despite the gloomy outlook for economic growth. The Times reported confidence remained at minus 41 on the barometer calculated by GfK, the market researcher, based on its online survey of more than 2,000 over-16s between 1 July and 12 July. It is the second consecutive month the index, which has been running since 1974, has hit a record low, adding to concerns a fall in consumer spending could push the UK into a recession. People said they were slightly more likely to buy big-ticket items such as furniture or electrical goods than they were last month, but confidence levels about such purchases remained low at minus 35. Their views of the country’s economic prospects over the next year were unchanged from June, but their perception of the health of the economy over the past year fell by one point to minus 66. The figure is even lower than the same month last year, when perceptions of the health of the economy were at minus 43 after the lockdowns. Inflation reached a new 40-year high in the latest figures for June and is expected to reach 12%, forecasters have warned, when winter energy bills are calculated in October. The economy narrowly avoided its first quarterly decline since the depth of the pandemic in the three months to May, but a contraction is expected in the second half of the year as the rising cost of living bites. 

CMA approves BT Sport and Eurosport UK JV: The Competition and Markets Authority has approved the BT Group agreement with Warner Bros Discovery to form a 50:50 joint venture company that will create a new sports offering for the UK and Ireland. BT Sport and Eurosport UK will be brought together to provide one of the “most extensive portfolios of sports rights in the UK and Ireland”. Both BT Sport and Eurosport UK will initially retain their separate brands and product propositions in the market before being brought together under a single brand in the future. Marc Allera, future chairman of the joint venture and chief executive of BT's consumer division, said: “This is a huge milestone, as we now look towards day one of the new business, which we hope to be in the coming weeks.” Andrew Georgiou, future board member of the joint venture and president and managing director, Warner Bros Discovery Sports Europe, added: “Combining the capabilities, portfolios and scale of BT Sport and Eurosport UK will be a big win for fans in the UK and Ireland, offering a new destination that will feature all the sport they love in one place. We now look forward to closing the transaction and having the opportunity to further engage all stakeholders in the process of forming and developing the joint venture.”

Low-alcohol beer set to have more strength: Beers described as “alcohol free” and “low alcohol” will be allowed to be stronger under plans designed to tempt drinkers into switching to healthier alternatives. The Times reports that a relaxation of alcohol by volume (ABV) limits covering the products is awaiting sign-off by the next prime minister. At present, “no alcohol” beer must contain less than 0.05% ABV, and “low alcohol” less than 1.2%. These limits could be increased to between 0.5 and 1% and up to about 3% respectively. The shift in policy is designed to help people cut down on their alcohol intake by helping brewers make low-strength options more appealing. Ministers believe encouraging people to opt for weaker beers will improve health by reducing alcohol consumption without attracting accusations of “nanny-state” restrictions on freedom. The plans were days away from being published as part of a health disparities white paper drawn up by Sajid Javid before he quit as health secretary. When Boris Johnson resigned as prime minister, the paper was paused until his replacement takes office in early September. However, neither the Treasury under Rishi Sunak, nor the Foreign Office under Liz Truss, raised objections when they were sent for approval by ministers before being formally signed off by the government. Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, is said to be pushing the policy within government. While the promotion of lower-alcohol drinks has been welcomed by the industry, health campaigners say it is “tinkering round the edges” and only restrictions on advertising and price are likely to cut consumption significantly. Consumers have increasingly been moving towards lower-alcohol drinks, with the market doubling over a five-year period to an estimated £171m in sales last year. Figures from the market research company Mintel show that more than a third of drinkers say there are not enough low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers available in pubs and bars.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a creative events and catering business focused on the London market that is now expanding across the UK. The business is seeking a chief operating officer to lead across private, public, and corporate events as well as taking on existing and future partnership projects across the country. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “Events experience is essential for this role, someone with excellent understanding of the logistics that goes into working with and across multiple locations and teams. This would be absolutely perfect for an operations director looking to take their next step.” The role is based in London and will include national travel. The salary is up to £95,000. For more information, email marlene@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Pesto MD steps down: Menesh Modhwadia has stepped down as managing director of Italian restaurant business Pesto, Propel has learned. Modhwadia, who joined the ten-strong business, led by Neil and Sara Gatt, in July last year, has left for “non-work related personal reasons”. Before joining Pesto, Modhwadia was with Mission Mars, the north west bar and restaurant operator led by Roy Ellis, where he had been director of operations since 2017. Neil Gatt told Propel there were no plans to replace Modhwadia at this time, with its two long-standing operations managers now reporting to himself and Sara. Earlier this year, he said it remained “very much our intention” to grow the business, but the difficulty had been finding the right quality of site.

Oakman explores refinancing options: Oakman Group, the Dermot King-led pub-restaurant operator, is hunting for a cash injection as it feels the pinch from rising costs, illustrating the pressure felt across the hospitality sector. The Sunday Times reports that Oakman is working with advisers from Forster Chase to explore refinancing options in a mission to refurbish a string of new pubs. Propel understands that BGF, the former backer of Coaching Inn Group, which earlier this year invested in Arc Inspirations, had previously been in talks with Oakman regarding a cash injection. In a trading update this month, Oakman, which runs 35 rural and suburban pubs, said it had slowed its opening programme as inflation threatened profits. It reported £65.1m of sales in the year to 4 July, up 55.4% on pre-pandemic levels. Oakman raised more than £4m from hundreds of customers in 2021, selling shares in the business to backers. Last year, it raised £14.2m of new equity, including £8.3m of shareholder loans that were converted to equity. King said Oakman was “exploring options to refinance”, in a bid to raise funds to refurbish new sites. In February, the company completed a £29m refinance of its freehold estate with Cynergy Bank, providing new funding of £18m.

Page – chains ‘should have been bolder’ in restructuring: David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, the Franco Manca and The Real Greek owner, has said that many chains in the sector “should have been bolder” in recent restructurings. Talking to the Sunday Telegraph, he argued that some should have doubled how many restaurants they shuttered, saying the property market is the best it’s ever been. Recent changes in planning rules mean restaurants can easily find former retail sites vacated during the pandemic downturn – a step which Page said has “cut the legs away from the landlord’s values on rents”. He said: “Once you’ve come back to your core business, now you could start expanding again, and those sites will be a third of the rent of the ones you lost in the CVA [company voluntary arrangement]. But I’m not here to tell other people how to run their business.” Page was a key part of the key team which took PizzaExpress from a handful of branches to around 300 restaurants in the 1980s and 1990s. He said: “The whole market was different because there was less competition back then. I think, now, 200 is the maximum you can open in the UK, because it is so much more crowded.” PizzaExpress still has more than 350 restaurants in the UK, and Page added: “Obviously, in my opinion, that may be too much.” Page went on to say that there are “so many sites available” that only once has Fulham Shore faced any competition from a rival restaurant business for a property. In others, it is getting the property for much less: “In Kingston, in the old Oasis, we’re paying half the rent they did,” he said. “And so, when utilities go up, we can afford it because the rents are much lower.” Talk of a potential takeover of the business was also shrugged off by Page, who when asked if he would sell, added: “Not at the price the stock is currently at. Of course, we’re a public company, so people can buy shares whenever they like.”
 
US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee builds London openings pipeline: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its UK debut earlier this month with a double opening, has secured another two sites in the capital, Propel has learned. The fast-growing, New York chain, which is looking to quickly build a presence in London, is understood to have secured the ex-Co’m Vietnamese site on The Strand. At the same time, the business, which has “two-dozen shops slated to open this year”, has taken the ex-Knoops site in Clapham for an opening later this summer. The business, which earlier this year said it plans to make London its “second-biggest city”, launched in the UK with openings on the former EAT/Cubitts site on the corner of Goodge Street and Charlotte Street, and 3 Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, on 5 July. Propel understands it is also currently in talks on five further sites in the capital. The small-format, specialty coffee brand will offer a selection of takeaway sweet and savoury pastries, with prices starting at £3 or under for a small coffee – from an Americano to an oat flat white. Blank Street Coffee was started in Williamsburg in 2020 by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha and has already grown to 40 locations across Brooklyn and Manhattan. In May, Propel revealed Blank Street Coffee had hired Ignacio Llado, formerly of the Singapore-based Flash Coffee, as managing director to oversee its UK expansion. Simon Carson, of Harper Dennis Hobbs, represents Blank Street Coffee.
 
Stay Original Company secures Somerset’s At The Chapel for sixth site: South west boutique hotel and pub group Stay Original Company has acquired At the Chapel, the restaurant with rooms in Bruton, Somerset, founded in 2008 by Catherine Butler, Propel has learned. The acquisition marks the sixth property for Stay Original Company, which was founded in 2011 by Rob Greacen and James Brooke-Webb. The Somerset company now has more than 200 staff, sales of approximately £9.5m and 80 rooms. At the Chapel will join The Swan in Wedmore and The White Hart in Somerton, both in Somerset; Timbrell’s Yard in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire; The Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury, Dorset; and the group’s most recent opening, The King’s Arms, a 35-bedroom hotel in Dorchester, Dorset. The company plans to retain At the Chapel’s current format of bakery, restaurant, wine shop, downstairs clubroom, and eight bedrooms. Greacen, Stay Original’s managing director, said: “Catherine and I have known each other for many years, and I’ve always hugely admired what she’s done in creating a ground-breaking and well-loved institution. It’s an ideal fit for the Stay Original Company. We operate to a similar model, reviving beautiful old west country buildings and converting them into vibrant places to eat and stay. I know what a labour of love it has been for Catherine, and we’re proud to have At the Chapel become part of our group.” Butler said: “I’m sad to be leaving At the Chapel, it’s been an amazing journey. That said, I’m happy to be starting a new stage of my life and pleased to be handing it over to Rob and the team at Stay Original. They are serious about food and service. They already run an exclusive collection of restaurants and hotels and I firmly believe the future is bright for At the Chapel.”

UK’s largest Costa franchisee appoints Paul Turner as new chief operating officer: Scoffs Group – the largest Costa Coffee franchisee in the UK – has appointed Paul Turner, formerly managing director of You Me Sushi, to the newly-created role of chief operating officer, Propel has learned. Turner joins Scoffs after a brief stint as managing director of You Me Sushi, the London restaurant and takeaway concept. He joined the then 12-strong You Me Sushi earlier this spring after more than six years at Costa, most recently as regional operations director for London, East Anglia and the south east. He has also had stints at The Entertainer and Marks & Spencer. Scoffs Group said Tuner will be instrumental in the company’s next phase of “accelerated and exciting growth plans”. Turner said, "I am delighted to be joining Scoffs at such an exciting time of growth. Over the next few weeks and months, I will be working closely with the teams, listening to all thoughts and ideas and getting to know everyone across the business”. Antony Tagliamonti, chief executive of Scoffs Group, added: “Paul has a wealth of leadership experience in Costa and is a well-respected high calibre individual within the industry. He is known for his ability to lead high-level strategic projects and deliver first-class operational standards. Scoffs Group is moving into an exciting new phase as we continue to expand aggressively as a multi-unit franchise business, and so Paul’s timing couldn’t be better for us.” Propel revealed in February that Scoffs Group had passed the 100-site mark with Costa after acquiring a further nine stores from the global coffee brand. The nine stores based in Cornwall were previously owned and operated by Costa as “equity” stores. In March, Propel revealed that south west operator Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken had secured a franchise partnership with Scoffs. The ten-site deal encompasses Southampton and the south east region.
 
Maguro Group set for sixth London site with casual Korean BBQ concept debut: Maguro Group, which already operates five sites across London, is set to debut its new casual Korean BBQ concept, Pochawa Grill, in London’s Chinatown. Inspired by Pocha – a shortened version of Pojangmacha, which refers to a Korean street food stall or restaurant on wheels – it will open at 29 Wardour Street later this year. The 1,670 square foot venue will “champion Korean culture in food, drink, and music” and have space for 50 covers. The menu will include tofu kimchi and a ramen-tteokbokki hybrid called rabokki, alongside sharing dishes such as a spicy squid and pork stir-fry known as osam-bulgogi. As well as exclusively importing Korean spirit Soju, the restaurant’s drinks menu will feature traditional East Asian drinks and a cocktail menu. Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director at landlords Shaftesbury, said: “Maguro Group’s Pochawa Grill will be a great addition to the bustling Wardour Street, further reflecting the trends and traditions our community love, and have come to expect from Chinatown London.” Jae Cho, Maguro Group director, added: “Pochawa Grill is something we have been extremely excited about for a while now, and we are delighted to be announcing the next step in Maguro Group’s culinary journey.” Other new openings in Chinatown include Hong Kong café and restaurant The Eight, Korean supermarket and eatery Seoul Plaza, hand-pulled noodle concept Kung Fu Noodle, and Sichuan soup restaurant Zhang Liang Malatang.
 
Champneys secures £108m loan as it undergoes refinancing: Champneys, the spa resort business owned by Dorothy and Stephen Purdew, has secured a £108m loan to refinance and consolidate its existing facilities. Champneys has six resorts and hotels in the UK with a combined total of 538 beds and 249 treatment rooms. The funds, provided by global alternative asset manager Cheyne Capital, will also support the group's five-year business plan, including renovations of the grade II-listed Mottram Hall in Cheshire and the Springs property in Leicestershire. Set within 270 acres of landscaped gardens, Mottram Hall incorporates an 18-hole championship golf course, a gym and a Champneys Spa featuring a range of health and beauty treatments. Alan Whiteley, chief executive at Champneys, said: “Part of Champneys’ long and successful legacy as the UK’s original and largest spa group has been its ability to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. With many new facilities and innovative treatments in development, we’re delighted to be entering into this exciting new chapter with Cheyne Capital.” Duxhill Associates arranged the deal.
 
You Me Sushi makes franchise debut outside of London: Sushi chain You Me Sushi has made its franchise debut outside of London – opening in a former STA travel shop on Friar Street in Reading town centre. Opened by Berkshire business partners Torban Cane and Jeremy Rose, it marks the first time the franchise has opened a branch outside London, where it has 13. School friends Cane and Rose, who were previously the youngest to ever be awarded a franchisee contract by Subway when they were just 22, have previously opened a number of gyms in city centre locations. The pair said their return to the county has been “beautifully nostalgic” and they are shocked at just how much Reading has changed “for the better”.

Rio to open fourth site this Friday: Steakhouse brand Rio will open its fourth site this Friday (29 July), this one located in Durham’s Walkergate. The business, which already has restaurants in Middlesbrough and two places in Newcastle, will offer customers a range of steaks as well as cocktails and desserts.

Liverpool operator AR Leisure to open fourth site: Liverpool operator AR Leisure is opening a live sports and music venue in the city for its fourth site. The company is launching Irish American themed venue Scruffy Murphy’s in Harrington Street at the end of the month. The company has invested significantly in the development of the site, which will include 17 screens of live sport, two pool tables and retro arcade machines. The bar will also serve food and feature live music every evening. AR Leisure operates Abbey Road Bar & Kitchen, Dwntwn and Harrison’s Bar & Kitchen & Aparthotel in the city. Nicola Leppert, business development manager for AR Leisure, said: “Due to the success of our sister venues, Abbey Road and Harrison’s, we decided to keep the theme of providing live music and sports as they have proven to be hugely popular with our customers. Scruffy Murphy’s will offer something slightly different, with a larger stage area to showcase local music talent, and we will have karaoke with a twist, as guest singers have the chance to sing along with a live band.”

Chef couple open Japanese restaurant in Mayfair with backing from Chisou team: Chef couple Tomoko Hasegawa and Tamas Naszai have opened a Japanese restaurant in London’s Mayfair. Roji, which has just ten seats, is tucked away in a courtyard off South Molton Street. The venture is backed by London restaurant group Chisou, which is behind the eponymous restaurant in Mayfair and Sushi Atelier in Great Portland Street. The menu at Roji is dominated by fish sourced from Cornwall, including a sushi course, alongside vegetables, accompanied by sake or wine. Hasegawa and Naszai met while working at another Japanese restaurant, Tokemiete. Hasegawa worked in top kitchens in Tokyo and Paris before coming to London, and Naszai is a two-time winner in the Japanese Culinary Art competition.   

Liverpool venue owned by Signature Living owed more than £9m when it collapsed into administration: A Liverpool venue owned by aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living owed more than £9m when it collapsed into administration, new documents have revealed. Alma De Cuba is a restaurant and bar as well as private hire and events venue based in the grade II-listed former St Peters Church in Seel Street. It first opened in 2005 and was acquired by Signature Living for £3.1m in 2017 to become one of its 60 entities that trade as hospitality, hotel and residential property operators and developers. However, according to documents from administrators Kroll, the company faced a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs due to “unpaid historical and current tax liabilities”. That prompted its secured creditor to demand its outstanding debt of more than £2.7m be repaid. Signature Living did not challenge the winding-up petition and the secured creditor appointed Kroll as administrator of Alma De Cuba in May 2022. Up until then, the venue was operated by UK Accommodation Ops under a management agreement with Signature Living. Avensis Hospitality is engaged by UK Accommodation Ops to look after the day-to-day operations, which will continue until further notice, Kroll said. According to documents from Kroll, Alma De Cuba owed more than £2.7m to its secured creditor and in excess of £6.6m to unsecured creditors. There is expected to be enough funds to pay back the secured creditor, but not anyone else. Six parties have registered their interest to buy the business and its assets, but a date for preliminary offers has not yet been set. All 48 employees have been retained to assist UK Accommodation Ops trade the business while it is in administration.

Westmont Hospitality secures £34m loan to acquire leasehold of Oxford Circus hotel and upgrade offer: Hotel operator Westmont Hospitality has secured a £34m loan to finance the acquisition of the leasehold interest and refurbishment of an Edwardian Holiday Inn hotel in London. The refurbishment will reposition the hotel in Oxford Circus, as an upscale boutique offering, increasing the number of rooms to 171. The loan has been provided by Leumi UK, the UK subsidiary of Israel’s largest financial institution. Westmont Hospitality, a part-owner of JHHL, owns and operates hotels across three continents totalling 56,000 rooms. Stephan Jaques, transaction associate, at Westmont Hospitality, said: “There is immense value given today’s hotel market in pivoting hotels towards a luxury offering.”

Movement Group opens third site in Liverpool following final £200,000 investment: Liverpool independent operator Movement Group has opened its third site in the city. Asian-inspired restaurant and bar Zenn Liverpool has launched following a final £200,000 investment. Propel reported in April that a 350-seat, 500-cover venue featuring a rooftop space, restaurant, bar and garden was being planned for a site in Victoria Street. Zenn Liverpool had already secured £2.5m of capital investment, including contributions from shareholding directors and trade sponsors including Heineken and Bacardi, but a final £200,000 was needed to ensure work was completed to deadline. This led to a £200,000 five-year asset finance deal being secured with Bathgate Business Finance. Movement Group, which has brought in head chef Gavin Skeoch from Australasia in Manchester to run the kitchen at Zenn, also operates Ink Bar at 78-82 Wood Street and 54 Liverpool at 19-21 Seel Street. 

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