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Wed 27th Jul 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

McDonald’s reports global like-for-likes up 9.7% in second quarter, end of VAT benefit impacts UK comps: McDonald’s has reported global like-for-likes were up 9.7 % in its second quarter ending 30 June 2022, but said the end of the VAT benefit impacted “comp sales” in the UK during the period. Kevin Ozan, the brand’s outgoing chief financial officer, said: “In the UK, the return of the McSpicy Chicken Sandwich and Big Tasty promotions drove significant incremental sales. A daily digital sales calendar also helped build our digital customer base, leading up to the recent launch of Loyalty (rewards scheme). While the expiration of VAT benefits impacted our quarterly comp sales in the market, we continue to grow QSR market share.” Chief executive Chris Kempczinski said: “The McDonald’s system continues to demonstrate strength and resiliency. Our second quarter performance reflects outstanding execution against our Accelerating the Arches strategy. By focusing on our customers and crew, enabled by a rapidly growing digital capability, we delivered global comparable sales growth of nearly 10%. Nonetheless, the operating environment across the competitive landscape remains challenging. While we are planning for a wide range of scenarios, I am confident that our plans and people position McDonald’s to weather this environment better than others.” Digital systemwide sales in the brand’s top six markets exceeded $6bn for the quarter, representing nearly a third of its total systemwide sales. Second-quarter like-for-likes were up 3.7% in the US, driven by “strategic menu price increases and value offerings across both our everyday menu and digital offerings”. Like-for-like sales in the quarter for the “international operated” segment, which includes the UK, were up 13.0%. McDonald’s said strong operating performance drove positive comparable sales across the segment, led by very strong comparable sales in France and Germany. Kempczinski said he was “very happy” with how the group’s European business is performing. He said: “We’re gaining share in beef and chicken, which were priority areas for us, and we’re doing quite well in delivery. And I expect digital, particularly as we bring on the UK, is going to be a performer for us. So, the headline is, Europe is doing very well for us. I think what is weighing on our minds, and we’re certainly attentive to, is consumer sentiment as one area. A number of markets in Europe – France, as an example, Germany is another and Spain another – we’re seeing consumer sentiment down, and in many cases, down at record levels, so that’s one area of concern. The second is, we do know that the inflationary pressures in Europe are elevated even beyond what we’re seeing here in the US, and that has an impact on sentiment, but that also has an impact on what we’re needing to do from a menu board standpoint and pricing. And so, I think while we look at Europe right now and we’re seeing strong results, it is a challenging situation.” In the international developmental licensed segment, first-quarter like-for-like sales were up 16.0%. The company said the quarter “reflected strong comparable sales driven by Brazil and Japan, partly offset by negative comparable sales in China due to continued covid-19 resurgences and related government restrictions”. 
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Wahaca and JD Wetherspoon announced in first line-up of Casual Dining speakers: Casual Dining – the definitive trade event for the restaurant, pub and bar sector – has revealed Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, and Thomasina Miers, co-Founder of Wahaca, will be part of the 2022 keynote programme. Commenting on the show, Miers said: “Casual Dining is a great opportunity for the industry to meet, share best practice and discover the latest innovations. I’m really looking forward to speaking at the show in September!” Providing vital insights and inspiration to the sector, other big names to be confirmed include Clive Watson, chairman of City Pub Group; David Campbell, interim chairman of Hospitality Rising; Andrew Hazel, head of food and beverage development at Boparan Restaurant Group; and Ollie Rosevear, head of sustainability at Fuller’s. Casual Dining, co-located with sister shows lunch! and Commercial Kitchen, will return to ExCeL London on 14-15 September 2022. To register for a free trade ticket, click here. Quote VCD15 to save the £20 door fee. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.  
 
Number of coffee shop operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies: A number of coffee shop 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 global coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts, which has more than 20 UK sites, with openings also “coming soon” in Leeds and West Bridgford. Also added this month is Elsewhere, the south London coffee roaster concept founded by Jack Howells, which opened its first cafe, in Herne Hill, in 2021, and has expanded its offering with a second cafe, at 361 Brockley Road, in Deptford. In addition, Eastbourne coffee shop Nelson Coffee, which is owned by Ben and Lucy Nicholson and operates sites in Terminus Road and Station Parade, will be featured. 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 18,000-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. Premium subscribers have also been given exclusive access to a new database. The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database 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, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. 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.
 
Disappointment at rise in fees for background music in hospitality venues: UKHospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) have expressed disappointment at the rise in fees for the playing of background music in hospitality settings. Changes to the Specially Featured Entertainment (SFE) Tariff, which covers fees for recorded music in nightclubs, pubs, bars, restaurants, cafe and hotels, will come into place on 1 January 2023. The Phonoraphic Performance Ltd (PPL) has said fees will rise in direct proportion to the size of the audience. The new fee is 88p for every hour of the event and every 1-25 people in attendance, with temporary discounts kicking in when the audience is more than 300. The fees will also increase in direct proportion to the duration of the event, in 30-minute bands after the first hour. The fee increases will be phased in over a number of years. The PPL said it is making the changes as the existing tariff “undervalues the contribution of PPL’s repertoire to SFE events”. But in a joint statement, UKHospitality and the BBPA said: “At a time where our pubs, bars and nightclubs are under immense financial pressure, it is a shame fees have increased, but we welcome the longevity of the new structure and hope they will provide clarity in the longer-term for our members looking to play music in their venues.” They added: “We are pleased to have reached agreement with PPL on this new tariff and hope it will end uncertainty around costs for music licensing.”

Job of the Day: COREcruitment is working with a growing company in the property sector based in Central London seeking to recruit a financial controller. They will be responsible for the day-to-day finance operations and managing a team of one. Duties will also include the preparation of monthly management accounts pack and associated commentary, forecasting and managing cash positions across the business, monthly payroll and VAT returns. The company is looking for a fully qualified accountant (ACA, CIMA, ACCA or similar) with a significant experience of providing financial support to senior stakeholders. The salary for the position is up to £80,000. For more information, please contact oliwia@corecruitment.com
 

Company News: 

Tomazos – Bone Daddies approached on external investment, regional launch firmly on agenda: Demetri Tomazos, founder and chief executive of the Bone Daddies Group – which comprises the eponymous ramen restaurants, Shack-Fuyu and Flesh & Buns – has told Propel the business has been approached in regards to securing external investment, but insists a funding partner would need to be “the perfect fit”.  He also said that a regional launch for the group’s seven-strong eponymous brand, which will open in Waterloo and High Street Kensington before the end of the year, was still on the agenda. Tomazos said: “We’ve been approached. Much like with our collaborations, if we were to partner with someone, it would have to be the perfect fit. Pre-pandemic, we were actively looking for restaurant sites outside of London; almost closing a deal in Brighton. That was put on hold for a while, but branching outside of London is firmly on our agenda. It’s all about finding the right regional or national location where our guests want to see the brand and our team are happy to be. 2023 holds a new opportunity, and if it’s right for the guest, company, and team we’ll make it happen.” On expanding the group’s other concepts, Shackfuyu and Flesh & Buns, he said: “Shackfuyu is an independent Soho spot that fits where it is and has a fiercely loyal clientele – that isn’t something we intend to change any time soon. Flesh & Buns can be scaled at the right location in the UK or internationally. However, as has always been, the nurturing of our people is top priority.” On the current trading landscape, he said: “We’re still here, we’re standing, and we’re amazed and thankful on a daily basis at the continued support we have from our guests during these times. It’s a tough time and it continues to be tough, as it is for everyone; I’m thankful our outstanding, resilient team is still delivering an exceptional experience and product to our guests.” As revealed by Propel earlier this month, the business has lined up an opening under its eponymous brand in The Sidings scheme within the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station. The company is also relaunching its Flesh & Buns site in High Street Kensington under its eponymous brand next month.

Miso Group secures first UK site for Operation:Falafel concept: Miso Group, from chef Adria Wu and Dubai-based investor Tamer Bazzari, has secured the first UK site for the Dubai-founded Operation:Falafel concept in London’s Camden, Propel has learned. The concept, which was founded by Manhal Naser, has secured a site at 59 Chalk Farm Road for an opening later this year. Operation:Falafel currently operates sites in the Middle East and the US. The concept balances “traditional old-street Arabic flavours with fresh tastes” through an offering including shawarma pitas, kofta bowls, salads and flavoured hummus. Its UK debut site will embrace new technology, with orders collected in contactless lockers opened by a QR code. Miso Group is targeting ten Operation:Falafel UK franchises by 2024, which will include a second flagship store in central London. Wu launched grab-and-go natural food concept Maple&Co in London in 2015, which has grown to six sites across the capital. Last year, Miso Group launched Maple Street Eats, with the aim of building on Maple&Co’s foundation of “natural, healthier feel-good food delivered direct to your door”. Having formed Miso Group and secured £1.6m investment in 2020, Wu talked last year about her ambitions for an aspirational rollout of both Maple Street Eats and Operation:Falafel. She said: “We are delighted to build on the success of Maple&Co, and the launch of Maple Street Eats enables us to better service the strong customer base we have grown over the past six years. The time is right to innovate and offer consumers convenient alternatives, and we’re really excited to realise this with the UK launch of Operation:Falafel too.” Property advisor Etch acted on the Chalk Farm Road deal. 

HOP opens new site in the City: London-based Vietnamese street food concept HOP has opened a new site in the City, at London Wall, Propel has learned. The company, which last month appointed Richard Franks, formerly of Chilango, as its new managing director to aid plans to open up to 20 new locations in the capital over the next five years, has opened at 60 London Wall. It follows the closure of its site at 2 Finsbury Avenue Square, Broadgate, last month. It also operates a site at 10 Queens Head Passage, in the City. HOP also recently appointed Nick Ayerst – formerly managing director of TRG Concessions and Leon – as a strategic advisor to explore franchising as a growth route for the brand.

Four Star Pizza set to pass 100-mark with 45 new stores in Ireland by 2025: FourStar Pizza, the Dublin-headquartered concept, has laid out plans to pass the 100-mark with 45 new store openings in Ireland over the next three years. Founded in 1986, the chain currently operates 42 outlets in the Republic of Ireland and 14 in Northern Ireland, and wants to add a further 27 in the Republic and 18 in the North. It is aiming to start with four new stores this year, followed by a further 16 in 2023 and 25 more in 2024 – creating more than 900 new jobs altogether. “It’s been an extremely busy but very productive first few months in the job,” said chief executive Colin Hughes, who has been carrying out a root-and-branch review of the business since being appointed in January. “Our ultimate goal is for virtually everyone in Ireland, north and south, to have access to a Four Star Pizza outlet. From the outset, my priority was to carry out a full review of the business and speak to every one of our valued franchisees, who have been amazing in helping me understand the many facets and challenges of running one of the country’s biggest franchisee networks. Add the current situation in Ukraine and a cost-of-living crisis into the mix and we’re currently in the midst of a perfect storm, but the frontline feedback from our franchisee base remains positive, with sales volumes and average transaction spends holding up well. We are operating from a position of strength, having just enjoyed our best year to date in 2021, and I am very excited at the potential to grow the business across many areas, not least geographically.” Hughes is also focusing on delivering improved franchisee training, quality control, menu offerings, new product development and innovation, brand refreshment, store refurbishments, delivery options, digital proposition securing supply chains. The company is currently actively seeking new store locations and recruiting potential franchisees. Four Star Pizza features in Propel’s UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is available exclusively to Propel Premium subscribers. An exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK, the third edition was published last Friday (22 July) – providing insight on the offer, locations, cost, business background, contacts and other key details. It will be updated and sent out again every two months. 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.

Whitbread CEO Alison Brittain to become Premier League chairwoman: Alison Brittain, who is stepping down as chief executive of Whitbread, is to become chairwoman of the Premier League, England’s top football league, from early next year. Earlier this month, it was announced that the outgoing chief executive of the Premier Inn operator had been appointed as an independent non-executive director and chair designate of Dunelm, the homewares retailer. Whitbread last month appointed Dominic Paul as its next chief executive to succeed Brittain, who has decided to retire from full-time executive life at the end of the financial year 2023. Brittain, who has led Whitbread since 2015, will join the Dunelm board on 7 September 2022, and it is expected that she will succeed Andy Harrison as chair comfortably in advance of the expiry of his nine-year term in September 2023. On her latest appointment, Brittain said: “I have been a football fan since I was a child and so am absolutely delighted to be appointed chair of the Premier League. It will be a real privilege to be able to help to develop plans for the future and work with all the key stakeholders in the game to ensure its long-term sustainability and success.”

Betty & Taylors achieves £250m sales for first time in its history: Family-owned Bettys & Taylors Group has grown to more than £250m for the first time in its history, its latest accounts reveal. The Harrogate company comprises five Bettys Café Tea Rooms, Bettys Craft Bakery, Bettys Cookery School, Bettys mail order service and tea and coffee merchants Taylors of Harrogate, which produces Yorkshire Tea and a range speciality coffees and teas. Its accounts for the year 31 October 2021 showed turnover of £252,656,000, up from £232,070,000 in 2020. Pre-tax profits were £10,316,000, compared to £14,128,000 the previous year. Group finance and resources director Paul Cogan said: “Thanks to the commitment and passion of our people, the loyalty of our customers and the strength of our family business values, we were able to successfully navigate these turbulent times and deliver a robust financial performance, achieving a quarter of a billion sales for the first time in the group's history.” The sales performance was underpinned by strong growth for Yorkshire Tea, which grew its annual value share to 33.7%, as well as Taylors of Harrogate coffee and Bettys online mail order service. Although Bettys branches were forced into periods of closure due to the pandemic, when restrictions were lifted, the cafés remained busy. Cogan added: “Like many other businesses, we have faced considerable challenges, and the proactive decisions taken during the year to pay all our people in full during the enforced closure of our Bettys branches, and not to claim any financial support from the government, had an impact on operating profits.” The Bettys business was founded in Harrogate in 1919 by Frederick Belmont and purchased Taylors in 1962. It is still owned by the founder’s family.
 
JD Wetherspoon launches summer drinks deals: JD Wetherspoon has launched a summer sale, reducing 28 drinks to only £1.99. The deal is set to run all summer long, ending on 30 September. The whole list of drinks included in the deal is yet to be released and some city centre pubs may be priced slightly higher. Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “We are always keen to offer our customers the best possible range of drinks at excellent value-for-money prices. As always, staff will serve customers responsibly.”

Leeds bakery kiosk concept opens 19th site inside a year and first standalone store: Leeds bakery kiosk business Batch’d, which champions small-batch bakeries in the north, has opened its 19th site inside a year and first standalone store. Founded by Dave Richmond in 2021, Batch’d operates kiosks in Manchester, London, Bradford, Newcastle, Birmingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Gateshead, Dudley, Milton Keynes and Hull. The standalone store is in Trinity Leeds shopping centre, the company’s second site in its home town following its debut kiosk in the White Rose shopping centre. Its menu features baked goods and artisan desserts from the likes of Doboy Donuts, Brown & Blond Brownies, 42nd East Bakehouse and Sweet Tooth Bakery. Harry Clavane, managing director at Batch’d, said: “We’re proud to offer something completely different from the mass-produced baked goods you often see. We do pick-ups from our independent, small-batch bakeries in the north every morning, and deliver them straight to our kiosks and stores to ensure they’re at their freshest. Opening our first standalone store at the same time as celebrating the first anniversary of our first kiosk feels like a momentous milestone, and we’re excited to give local artisan bakers a platform in such an iconic location.”

Thai Leisure Group to invest £1m before Christmas, delivery main focus in next 12 months: Thai Leisure Group is to invest £1m into its most popular Chaophraya and Thaikhun restaurants, to be completed before Christmas. Key changes will include redesigning and modernising the front of house and entrances, as well as the dining and bar areas of several key restaurants. Managing director at Thai Leisure Group, Ian Leigh, said: “We are excited to unveil the refurbishment works taking place across several of our core restaurants, and look forward to welcoming new and returning customers over the coming months.” In addition, every Chaophraya site will be refurbished over the next three years, with renovations set to start in the coming months. Thai Leisure Group recently extended its portfolio with its first Thaikhun street food buffet restaurant, Thaikhun Buffet, located in The Trafford Centre, Manchester. Additionally, the brand has plans to open more Chaophraya sites in the next five years. The group also has a growing presence in the delivery space, with Chaophraya and Thaikhun now on Deliveroo. This is proven to be a key revenue stream and is a main focus in the company’s marketing strategy for the 12 months ahead.

SSP secures eight-unit F&B deal with Guadeloupe airport: Travel hub company SSP Group has secured a deal to develop eight food and beverage units at Guadeloupe Pôle Caraïbes airport, including a new indoor terrace and outdoor food court. It will introduce concepts tailored specifically to the airport and promoting the region’s flavours and cultures. These will include the Rhumba restaurant, which will focus on local rums, cocktails and aperitifs, and the Place Créole food court, which will offer a range of Guadeloupean street food. The Bleu Caraïbe restaurant will offer a more formal dining experience from award-winning chef Jimmy Bibrac, while Comptoirs de l'île will feature traditional French and Creole flavours in its sandwiches and snacks. There will also be a selection of national and international brands, such as Carrefour Express and Starbucks, for passengers on the go. The renovation works will begin this month and are due to be completed in 2023. Gérard d'Onofrio, managing director of SSP France, Belgium and Luxembourg, said: “As the gateway to the Caribbean, we are delighted with this development, where we will offer local food and beverage concepts inspired by the culinary heritage of Guadeloupe.” Alain Bièvre, chairman of the board of directors of the Société Aéroportuaire Guadeloupe Pôle Caraïbes, added: “The innovative concepts proposed by SSP will really change the face of the airport and significantly improve the food and beverage offering at Guadeloupe Pôle Caraïbes.”

Ennismore to open Canary Wharf hotel with all-day restaurant: Gleneagles and Hoxton hotels owner Ennismore is opening a hotel in London’s Canary Wharf. The Tribe hotel will launch in Water Street on Monday, 1 August. Taking over the ground floor will be Feels like June, the hotel’s new all-day dining spot. Billed as “a hit of California sunshine in Canary Wharf” on its Instagram account, the menu will include seasonal crudités with green goddess dressing, and shrimp taco with tarragon and old bay served in a parker house roll. In the evenings, there will be cocktails on tap.

Brighton Pier Group says trading ahead of expectations, posts record revenues: Brighton Pier Group has reported trading ahead of expectations, as it posted record revenues of £40.1m for the 52-week period ended 26 June 2022 – up 196% on the equivalent period in 2021 and up 25% on 2019. The company said: “Furthermore, with Ebitda for the same period expected to be at £10.8m, the group has again exceeded market expectations. This robust performance underlines the continued strong demand for the group’s diverse offering of leisure experiences across a range of demographics in the UK. On a divisional basis: Brighton Palace Pier like-for-like sales are up 12% on 2019; The Bars Division’s like-for-like sales (for 49 weeks, division re-opened from end of July) are up 21% on 2019; The Golf Division’s like-for-like sales are up 23% on 2019; and Lightwater Valley theme park, acquired in June 2021, continues to trade ahead of our expectations at the time of acquisition. The group continues to generate strong cash flows, enabling the repayment of £7.7m of debt (37% of borrowings) during its financial year. This leaves the group well-positioned for the future, with a strong balance sheet, underpinned by high quality assets.” Anne Ackord, chief executive, added: “I have been delighted by the strength of the group’s recovery following the covid-19 pandemic and am pleased that we have surpassed £40m of sales for the first time in the group’s history. This must be attributed to the endeavours of all the group's employees, for which we are very grateful. This trading period has been exceptional, benefiting both from pent-up customer demand and from hospitality-targeted government recovery packages. The cash-generative nature of the group’s diverse businesses puts us in a unique position to capitalise on new opportunities as and when they arise.”

Fuller’s opens first landside airport pub and reopens Kent coaching inn following £2.5m revamp: London pub operator Fuller’s has opened its first landside airport pub, The Queen’s Arms at Heathrow Terminal Two. The pub dominates one end of the departure hall at the terminal and offers an international menu from 5am to 11pm. The new opening creates 40 new jobs and will run as a sister site to Fuller’s airside pub at the same terminal, London’s Pride, with general manager Ryan Moore overseeing both. The company has also reopened The George & Dragon at Westerham, Kent, the eighth site in its Bel & The Dragon portfolio, following a £2,5m refurbishment. Formerly a Fuller’s tenancy, the 16th century coaching inn, which also has 13 bedrooms and a private dining space, has a team of 50 led by Tom Baines, formerly deputy manager at Bel & The Dragon in Odiham. Chief Executive Simon Emeny said the sites “both perfectly complement our existing business”. He added: “The Queen’s Arms at Heathrow demonstrates our commitment to transport hubs and gives us our first landside airport site, and it further strengthens our relationship with the UK’s biggest airport. The George & Dragon in Westerham is an outstanding example of how a great pub can breathe life into a high street and underlines the strength and potential of the Bel & The Dragon brand. Across these two sites, we have created 90 new jobs – reinforcing the fact that hospitality is an engine for growth.”

Restaurant Associates makes three new managing director appointments: Restaurant Associates, part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, has appointed three new regional managing directors across its nationwide estate. Sara Senior, having worked for the business for several years and previously been sales and retention director, will oversee its key London clients. Ming Lai who joined Compass Group Australia more than a decade ago before coming to the UK in 2014, will be responsible for national and international contracts from across the Restaurant Associates portfolio. Kerry Ford, meanwhile, joins the business as managing director responsible for Chartwell’s Universities & Colleges, as well as its venues collection, in a newly created position. Matt Thomas, managing director of Restaurant Associates, said: “Restaurant Associates has enjoyed an exceptional 18 months of expansion alongside retention of existing business. I have every confidence that Sara, Ming, and Kerry will continue to exceed our client promises by adding value and delivering exceptional food, drink, and services.”

Whitbread starts work on all-electric Premier Inn: Whitbread has started construction of what it is describing as “the first all-electric Premier Inn hotel”, in Swindon Town Centre. The five-storey, 195-bedroom hotel is the first Premier Inn to be designed without a connection to a natural gas supply. Instead, the hotel will be fully heated and powered by grid energy generated from renewable sources and by on-site photovoltaic (PV) cells. A suite of energy and heat recovery systems, including air-source heat pumps and a new water-heating technology from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries [Q-ton] will also be included in the thermally efficient hotel building. Whitbread, which owns and operates a network of more than 840 budget hotels in the UK and Ireland, has highlighted the importance of removing natural gas from its estate in achieving its target of net zero emissions by 2040. “If we are to achieve our target, we need to find a replacement for natural gas across our estate,” said Alex Flach, UK development director. “This is a considerable challenge as we rely on natural gas to heat water in our network of hotels and power many of our restaurant kitchens across the country.”

Chicken & Blues to launch delivery-only in Bristol: BBQ chicken brand Chicken & Blues is launching a delivery-only operation in Bristol from early September, as part of a blossoming partnership with Deliveroo. The brand currently trades in Bournemouth and Poole. Alongside the satellite kitchen expansion, the founders have also announced the development of what they describe as a ‘high impact food truck’, which is due for completion in September and set to appear at a variety of Dorset-based public and private events throughout the year. Bournemouth-based Aviary Hospitality, which includes both Chicken & Blues and new all-day café bar concept Flamingo, says average group turnover is set to exceed £100,000 per week. Co-founder Joshua Simons said: “Navigating the pandemic over the last few years has given us time to transform our businesses operationally and to reassess our strategy. We’re delighted to be taking Chicken & Blues to Bristol. Deliveroo has given us an opportunity to set up shop in a vibrant city with a dynamic independent food scene. This project, alongside the arrival of the C&B food truck, gives our team plenty to be excited about. We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead”. 

Papa John’s lines up Stroud opening this summer: Papa John’s is set to open a branch in Stroud, Gloucestershire, this summer. It will open in unit four at Clarendon Court on London Road, creating 15 new jobs. Amit Pancholi UK director of business development at Papa John’s, said: “As a brand, we continue to expand throughout the UK, and the Stroud opening follows the successful launch of Glastonbury and Midsomer Norton in the region this year.”
 
Duck Duck Goose founder opens restaurant with rooms in Kent: Oliver Brown, founder of the former Duck Duck Goose Cantonese restaurant in London, has opened a restaurant with rooms in Kent. Brown, who has also worked with Rowley Leigh at Le Cafe Anglais, has opened Updown at a former farm near Deal with partner Ruth Leigh, who has worked with Stevie Parle and Henry Harris in the past. The couple have spent the last few years carefully restoring the 17th century, grade II-listed farmhouse and grounds to house seven rooms, including two cottages. While the works have been taking place, the space has been used to host a series of supper clubs featuring the likes of Anna Tobias, Will Bowlby and Alex Jackson. The success of these further cemented the couple’s dream to make Updown a permanent fixture to share their seasonal menus. Brown heads up a menu of Italian leaning hyper-seasonal food using local ingredients, while an equally seasonal drinks menu features cocktails made with produce from the garden and local wine.

Ambrette owner rebrands Canterbury site and introduces Chaucer-inspired menu concept: Dev Biswal, chef-owner of the Anglo-Indian Ambrette restaurant in Canterbury, has rebranded it The Cook’s Tale and introduced a menu concept inspired by Canterbury Tales author Geoffrey Chaucer. This will include a special 12-course Chaucerian Feast tasting menu featuring “fortified Kentish wine served with cake; wastel breed with flavoured beef drippings; pyk in brasey; pigeon with wortes and marybones; salat of sawge with chybollus, pesen pottage; mushroom bake with fecces; Tamworth pork mortreux, venysoun with roasted chasteynes and Walsh-notes; and poached peres and chese”. Biswal’s delivery kitchen in Ashford, which he opened during lockdown, will also be separately rebranded as Bombay Cooks. Biswal, the 2019 Asian Chef of the Year, shut his other Ambrette site, in Margate. earlier this year, saying he was seeking a “better work-life balance”. He was a partner at the restaurant, then located in King Street and called The Indian Princess, before becoming the owner and rebranding it The Ambrette in 2010, ahead of relocating to the former Hoy pub in Fort Hill in 2018.

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