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Mon 8th Aug 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Costa taking ‘disciplined approach’ to US expansion after opening debut site: The Coca-Cola Company has told Propel it is taking a “disciplined approach” to expanding Costa Coffee in the US, after opening its first site in the States. Up to last week, Coca-Cola, which acquired the circa 4,000-strong Costa from Whitbread in a near-£4bn deal in 2018, has launched the coffee brand in the US as a retail range. Last week, it launched its first physical Costa site at the Coda Tech Square, in midtown Atlanta. A Costa Coffee spokesperson told Propel: “We are excited to bring the masterful brews from Costa Coffee to the US. We are taking a disciplined approach to the expansion, including opening our brick-and-mortar cafe in Atlanta. This cafe will help us build and share the unique Costa Coffee experience.” Coca-Cola, which has a market value of more than $275bn, is based in Atlanta, and led by the British businessman James Quincey. Last week, Costa announced it had launched its 300th drive-thru store in the UK and committed £20m to further expand its drive-thru presence in the country over the next three years. Upon announcing the milestone location at the Peel Centre in Washington, Sunderland, Costa Coffee confirmed plans to operate more than 500 drive-thru stores by 2025 as part of an effort to capitalise on a developing on-the-go coffee market in the UK. Adrian Cook, UK & Ireland chief operating officer for Costa, said: “As we continue to invest and grow after the pandemic, it is the perfect moment to be celebrating the opening of our 300th drive-thru store. We know drive-thrus continue to prove popular with consumers as the nation gets moving again.” The company also plans to install 1,000 Costa Express machines in the UK this year.

Industry News:

Next edition of Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature almost 600 companies: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, will feature 596 companies. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday, 19 August, at midday. The Blue Book shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £5.7bn being reported by 328 companies. However, a further 268 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £1.3bn. Total turnover of the 596 companies is £30.1bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive 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. Premium subscribers also now have access to 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. 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 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Food price inflation reaches 11.5%, fifth consecutive month of double-digit increases: Inflation in the foodservice sector reached 11.5% in June – the fifth consecutive month of double-digit increases, the latest edition of the CGA Prestige Foodservice Index has revealed. All ten food and drink categories in the index moved upwards year-on-year, with three – fruit, dairy, and oils and fats – recording inflation of more than 20%. Several categories surged month-on-month as the impacts on key commodities from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continued to mount. Concerns are also growing about drought conditions in many parts of the UK in the wake of the recent heatwave, the index said. Strategies from the National Drought Group to deal with very dry weather could include a ban on farmers watering their crops in the crucial period of August and September, which would put root vegetables including potatoes under particular threat. Shortages of seasonal labour are adding to growers’ problems by threatening their ability to get their product to market, while poor grass growth is impacting dairy and livestock yields. Beyond the UK, drought is already a major problem in Italy, with crops including tomatoes and durum wheat already affected, and conditions across the rest of the EU are also causing concern. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “Instability continues to be the dominant feature of food and drink markets, and we predict this will continue into 2023.”
  
Sector like-for-likes up 4.7% in July as drink sales drive growth: Sector like-for-likes were up 4.7% year-on-year in July as drink sales drove growth, according to data from S4labour, the people, productivity and payroll system. The record-breaking temperatures helped bring a 12.3% uplift to drink sales, while food sales slipped 3.5% over the same period. London’s recovery has typically been slower than rural areas over the last year. However, the warmer weather pushed sales in the capital up 21.3%, albeit up from a weak 2021 sales baseline. Outside London, hospitality like-for-likes were up by a more modest 1.7%. Richard Hartley, chief innovation officer at S4labour, said: “The like-for-like boost is welcome for the industry, even if it is from a low basepoint. Operators are still being hampered by chronic staff shortages, limiting capacity and opportunities. With the sun forecast to shine for much of the summer holiday period, we hope the industry is able to continue to capitalise on summer sales opportunities.”

Sharp rise in number of firms in ‘critical distress’, bars and restaurants among those struggling the most: The number of UK businesses in “critical financial distress” has risen by more than a third over the past year, with those sectors most exposed to consumer spending, such as bars and shops, struggling the most. The Times reported in the three months to the end of June, 1,957 companies were deemed to be in critical financial distress, according to the latest red flag report from Begbies Traynor, the insolvency and restructuring adviser. That is 37% more than the same period last year. Almost every business is grappling with supply chain issues, surging costs of everything from fuel to food and labour shortages. Three quarters of companies reported inflation was having a negative impact on their trading, according to a recent poll by the Centre for Economic and Business Research think-tank. The ending of government-backed support schemes, which got many businesses through the pandemic, has heaped on further pressure, Begbies said. Some are faring worse than others, especially those whose trading is more closely tied to consumer confidence, which has plunged to record lows in recent weeks with recession looming and inflation eating away at their disposable income. Begbies found there are 70% more bars and restaurants in critical financial distress than at this point last year, while there has been a 48% rise in the number of retailers struggling.

Raymond Blanc funds local bus service to restaurant: Chef Raymond Blanc has helped fund a new bus route that passes Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – his Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside. The Guardian reported route 46, which launched earlier this summer, is funded in roughly equal parts by the chef, the county council and passenger fares. Fares cost £3.50 one-way, with discounts bringing the cost down to £2 for staff who travel regularly, and the seven-day, hourly bus can be tracked online as it runs from Oxford through neighbouring villages to Le Manoir in Great Milton about ten miles away. The funding deal should guarantee services for at least three years – and allow other rural residents access to jobs in Oxford, as well as bringing people out in the other direction to work at the hotel. Passenger numbers so far have reportedly been strong, and exceeded the bus company’s expectations. Beyond the business case to attract staff, and the welcome addition to the communities’ connections, Blanc’s input has been driven by another pressing need. Le Manoir is intending to expand its premises significantly, and needs to reassure its village neighbours that those plans will not bring in more traffic. A spa is planned, as well as a training academy. Sustainable transport helps it fulfil section 106 agreements in planning applications, which details measures a developer must take to reduce their impact on the community.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business based in Ireland that is looking for a finance director. The role will be covering a multimillion-euro business across Ireland that is rapidly expanding. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The position will be about more than just the numbers and have dotted lines into all aspects of the business including but not limited to health and safety, compliance, contract expansion and retention, and long-term strategy. The responsibilities of the finance director will be to manage and develop the operations support team, be a strategic business partner for the operations hierarchy, lead and mentor a large team, annual planning, monthly projection and month end processes, analysing and reporting on trends within the business, and helping shape the future strategy. You will be comfortable with presentations at all hierarchy levels on the results and financial performance with sound health and safety and compliance knowledge.” The salary is up to €140,000. For more information, email dan@corecruitment.com 
 

Company News:

Hofma – Itsu sites are in the group’s top quartile in terms of performance, on lookout for further brands: Jens Hofma, chief executive of the Heart with Smart Group – operator of Pizza Hut Restaurants – has said the company’s initial four Itsu franchise sites are currently in the top quartile of the best operated restaurants in the country for the circa 70-strong brand. Hofma told Propel that during last year, the company, which operates circa 170 Pizza Hut restaurants, completed the reframing of its business as “one of the largest and most professional restaurant franchisees in the UK”. It currently operates Itsu sites in Aberdeen, Chelmsford, Edinburgh and Reading. Hofma anticipates opening a further two sites this year, with one set to be in Greater Manchester, and an acceleration of this development programme next year. Hofma said: “We're currently operating four Itsu restaurants, all four are in the top quartile of the best operated Itsu restaurants in the country. They've historically always been very reluctant to take on franchisees but we've demonstrated to them we can do as good a job as they can in terms of providing high-quality operations. For our organisation it’s been a revelation. People who have doing pizza for 30 to 35 years are now realising their expertise can be carried across to other brands and other businesses as well. So, it's been a very positive and motivational development for the organisation. Both in Edinburgh and Aberdeen we’re far ahead of what we expected and the relationship with Itsu is off to a very good start. And I'm particularly pleased that, you know, we didn't drop the ball in any way from an operational perspective. We're still on the lookout for the third and potentially a fourth brand.” Reporting its accounts for the year ending 5 December 2021, the group said turnover rose 0.2% to £129.6m, while it reduced its losses by £28.5m to £2.9m. Hofma told Propel: “I'm happy with the bounce back post covid. Our sales continue to be strong, ahead of our expectations, and ahead of 2019 as well. That is underpinned by a high level of operational performance and a high level of staff retention. But our operating metrics, whether that is the quality of the guests experience or quality of the operations, we're delivering right now is better than it's ever been. But let's make no mistake, I am extremely concerned about the pressures the sector has now. It is a completely toxic mix of influences that are going to be hitting the sector.”

Red Oak and Valiant Pub Co among interested parties in Marston’s package: Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, and Valiant Pub Company are among the parties to have expressed an interest in acquiring the circa 50-strong package of pubs placed on the market last month by Marston’s, Propel understands. At the start of last month, Propel revealed that Marston’s had placed a circa 50-strong package of non-core pubs on the market, which “no longer satisfies our pub strategy”. It is understood the tenanted pubs, which are predominantly wet-led community sites, are spread across England and Wales. Propel understands first round bids/expressions of interest in the package, which is being marketed by Sapient Corporate Finance and comes under the name Project Atlas, were due at the start of last week. It is thought Red Oak Taverns, which last week secured a £110m six-year loan to fund its expansion plans, and Valiant Pub Company, the Njord Partners-backed, circa 30-strong business, are among a handful of suitors to have put forward bids for the portfolio. It comes as Propel also understands that last Friday (5 August) was the deadline for first round bids for Amber Taverns, the wet-led, freehold community pub operator, which began assessing its options earlier this spring. The Fortress Group-backed Punch Pubs has been heavily tipped as one prospective bidder for the circa 160-strong Amber Taverns business.
 
Poke House targets Cambridge for start of regional UK expansion: Poke House, Europe’s largest poké restaurant chain, is targeting an opening in Cambridge for the start of its regional UK expansion. The brand, which has more than 100 restaurant sites across the globe, made its UK debut in September 2021 and currently operates four sites in London. Last month, it appointed advisors to assess its investment options as it looks to further accelerate its growth, including a new investment round of around €100m (£85.3m). “The UK market is really important for us,” co-founder Matteo Pichi told Propel. “The next store has been signed and will be open before October, and the next opening will be in London, but we’re already working on a Cambridge opening. We’re also looking at signing deeds in Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Brighton. We think we can make Poke House a lot bigger, and we have a lot of investors interested. It’s been received very well in the UK, and we’ve spent a lot of time showing we’re different to the other concepts. People seem to love what we are doing.” For now, Poke House’s UK operations remain London based, with its latest site, in Covent Garden, set to be followed by openings in Battersea Power Station, Borough Market, St Paul’s, St John’s Wood and Mayfair. And while hybrid working has changed the landscape in the capital, Pichi said the Covent Garden site, which opened in June, is trading well. Earlier this year, Poke House said it planned 65 new sites in the UK over the next 24 months and to grow to 170 new sites across the US and Europe by 2023. Michi added: “Now we have one big market in the US and have a big opportunity, things are going well and we are probably going to invest a lot in the US. Between these new markets and existing ones, we’re looking to double our estate over the next few years. We are also open to discussion for new markets too.”
 
RedCat expands The Coaching Inn Group portfolio with two more south west sites: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, has added another two sites in the south west to its portfolio. The company has acquired the Mooreland Hotel and the Swan Hotel, adding to its purchase of The Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. They take the portfolio of The Coaching Inn Group, which was acquired by RedCat last August, to 32 sites. The Mooreland Hotel is in Dartmoor, sitting at the base of Haytor. The hotel was renovated in 2017 and the sale was brokered by Savills, acting on behalf of the owners. The Swan Hotel is a four-star, boutique hotel in Wells, Somerset. The hotel has recently benefited from investment to restore and extend the 50 bedrooms, suites and apartments. The Swan is thought to be the oldest permanently trading hostelry in the UK, after welcoming its first guests more than 600 years ago. Contracts have been exchanged on the property, pending completion. The sale was brokered by SSA Hotels, acting on behalf of the owners. RedCat has grown strongly since inception in February 2021, having acquired more than 100 pubs and pub hotels, now amounting to a hotel room estate of in excess of 1,200 rooms. Kevin Charity, chief executive of The Coaching Inn Group, said: “We are continuing to work alongside RedCat to expand our portfolio in popular holiday locations in the UK focusing on areas of natural beauty.” Anand added: “RedCat and the Coaching Inn Group are delighted to be increasing our footprint through these exceptional pub hotels. Together, we have nearly doubled the portfolio since RedCat acquired the business last year and it continues to go from strength-to-strength.”

Prezzo appoints Mary-Helen Waldron as people director: Prezzo, the Cain International-backed restaurant chain, has appointed Mary-Helen Waldron, formerly of Greene King, as its new people director, Propel has learned. Waldron joins the circa 180-strong business after just over four years with Greene King, including the last two years as HR director of its Local Pubs division. Previous to that, she had stints at Gala Bingo and Rank Group. Earlier this year, Prezzo announced the appointment of Dean Challenger as its new chief executive alongside the promotion of Gwion Iwan as operations director. The company said Karen Jones, executive chair and the “architect of this transition”, will continue to work closely with the management team on longer-term strategy, brand, design, and the development of Prezzo’s food and drink as well as supporting and coaching Prezzo’s senior team and others within the business. Challenger was previously chief operating officer of the company having joined in 2018. He was initially appointed finance director before becoming chief operating officer in 2021.

Stem & Glory launches two schemes that explore alternative routes of employment: Vegan restaurant Stem & Glory has launched two programmes that explore alternative routes of employment that it said benefits the business and workers alike. The company, which will open its third site this October, in London’s Broadgate, has already become a tier-two sponsor, and to date, It has sponsored the migration of 13 skilled workers across its sites. Workers include skilled sous and head chefs, assistant managers, and chef de parties from countries including Sri Lanka, Tanzania, United States, South Africa, Lebanon, and more. Stem & Glory estimates it will have 40% of its workforce made up of migrant workers on a tier-two visa by the time of the Broadgate opening. The company has also launched a degree apprenticeship scheme that will see workers join its team, balancing employment, and study for three years before being awarded a BA in business management. The group said three placements opening in January seek to offer an alternative path into the workforce, and a degree earned while gaining work experience and being paid a salary. The degree apprenticeships are fully funded by the company and the government. Founder Louise Palmer-Masterton, who was crowned Hospitality Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2022 Food and Drink Heroes awards, said: “Becoming a tier-two sponsor has opened up a global talent pool to Stem & Glory, which has transformed our business. We have been able to access exceptional talent from literally every corner of the world. It brings a new level of diversity with it too, and our incoming workers are brimming with new ideas and styles of cuisine. They all have their stories, which are also completely diverse, but one thing they all have in common is their excitement to come and work in the UK. This country is seen by people all over the world as the land of equality and opportunity and we are so happy to be a part of that.”

JD Wetherspoon to open pub at White Rose shopping centre in Leeds: JD Wetherspoon is to open a pub at the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds this autumn. The Scribbling Mill will be located in The Village, White Rose’s outdoor leisure area. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are set to start development work on the site, and the new pub will create more than 50 jobs. Wetherspoon has enjoyed great success with its pubs in the region and we are confident The Scribbling Mill will be a great addition to White Rose shopping centre.” Last month, Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin told Propel the business expects to open 15 pubs in the next 12 months.
 
BrewDog secures Durham site: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has secured a site in Durham. The company will open in a 3,736 square-foot unit at the Milburngate development, overlooking the River Wear and will include a large outdoor seating area. BrewDog has 67 UK sites, in addition to bars in more than 20 countries. Milburngate is part of BrewDog’s planned expansion with a further dozen sites in the pipeline. Phase one of Milburngate will be completed in the autumn. The scheme, which is a joint venture between Arlington Real Estate and Richardson, will also be home to an Everyman cinema and Whitbread-owner Premier Inn and Bar + Block steakhouse restaurant. Allan Cook, managing director of Arlington Real Estate, said: “We're delighted to have secured another premium brand like BrewDog at Milburngate. It's a perfect fit for Milburngate and its arrival will certainly bring something new and fresh to the city.”
 
Wagamama opens new Stoke restaurant: Wagamama, which is owned by The Restaurant Group, has opened a new restaurant in Stoke, which it said demonstrates the brand’s “confidence after the pandemic” and the need to meet demand for its “iconic dishes”. The restaurant, which is at the Junction Leisure Park, has 144 internal covers with an additional 46 outside. Wagamama regional marketing manager Alice Eagle said: “We are excited to be opening our new restaurant in Stoke. With all of our restaurants surrounding Stoke experiencing such high demand, we knew we needed to expand further into Staffordshire.”

Persian restaurant concept Diba secures third London site: Diba, the London-based, Persian restaurant concept, has secured its third site in the capital, in Chelsea. The concept, which is led by Hamed Meybodi, has secured a lease on 386 Kings Road, for its third site, with an opening planned for later this year. The business currently operates sites in Paradise Road, Richmond, and The Broadway, Wimbledon. CDG Leisure acted on the Chelsea deal. 

Papa John’s franchisee opens third Bristol site and 11th in total: Papa John’s franchisee Atif Maroof Zar has opened his third Bristol site and 11th in total. Zar has opened the outlet in Lawrence Weston in the north west area of the city. He said: “Bristol is a busy, buzzing place and my other two Papa John’s in the city have been very successful. The Lawrence Weston opening now means we can offer an even better service for our valued collection and delivery customers.” Zar previously worked at two rival pizza companies before becoming a Papa John’s manager and then a franchisee in 2017. His other stores include Evesham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Redditch, Bromsgrove and also Droitwich Spa and Stourbridge, which both launched earlier this year. Papa John’s has more than 500 UK sites.
 
Restaurant Brands International – Burger King tops QSR preference for our guests in UK, digital now a third of global sales: Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the owner of Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, has said its guests in the UK consider Burger King as “their top quick service restaurant (QSR) preference”. It comes as RBI reported that during the second quarter almost a third of its system-wide sales were digital. Digital sales for the business grew double digits year-on-year to more than $3bn (£2.44bn) during the period. Overall system sales for the business grew 14.2%, representing an increase of almost $1bn year-on-year to $10.1bn. Burger King specifically saw a 14.6% system sales increase globally to $6.44bn. While total growth in digital sales across Burger King was in the double digits, RBI said international growth in digital sales was well above that. It said particular areas of growth were delivery, mobile order and pay, and loyalty. RBI chief executive José Cil said: “Our guests in France, Germany, UK and Italy consider Burger King as their top QSR preference. We attribute the strong brand affinity we've established to the hard work our teams and our franchisees have done to deliver a memorable and enjoyable guest experience. Our modern brand positioning has also contributed to fostering a positive experience for guests. We have strong digital capabilities internationally with many of our largest markets generating more than 50% of sales through digital channels. We expect our digital sales to continue to grow over time given the significant development runway we see in key international markets. We have an incredible business internationally and one that we expect will continue to be a powerful growth driver for the brand for the years to come.”
 
Really Local Group closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £565,000 to support expansion plans: Cultural infrastructure developer Really Local Group has closed its crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £565,000 to support its expansion. The campaign on Seedrs formed part of a wider fundraise, with the business aiming to raise £4m in investment. Really Local Group is committed to “putting the heart back in the high street” and has invested £10m in projects, including in Canning Town, Ealing, Hayes and Sidcup. The business has plans to open a total of ten sites by early 2024 and ambitions for a further 30 by 2027. The crowdfunding campaign raised £566,495 from 130 investors. Really Local Group’s first venue, Catford Mews, opened in September 2019, establishing a cultural venue for Lewisham as its only cinema, as well as a pop-up food market and full-service bar showcasing local brands. The group has previously announced a partnership with Southwark Council to restore the iconic central marketplace in Bermondsey. It has a further five sites in the pipeline.
 
Greenclose Hotels reports trading remains ‘resilient’: Greenclose Hotels, which operates three four-star properties, has said trading has remained “resilient”. It comes as the company reported turnover of £10,468,241 for the year ending 31 October 2021, compared with £10,200,910 the previous year as the business was adversely impacted by covid-19 lockdowns. It made a pre-tax profit of £431,271 compared with a loss of £692,498 the year before. The business – which owns The Montagu Arms Hotel and Careys Manor & SenSpa, both in the New Forest, and the Imperial Hotel in Llandudno, North Wales – received government support totalling £1,862,647 (2020: £1,740,180). A dividend of £340,000 was paid (2020: £297,000). 
 
Rishim Sachdeva raises almost £240,000 to open permanent London restaurant for ‘mostly vegan’ concept: Vegan chef Rishim Sachdeva has raised almost £240,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to open a permanent London restaurant site for his “mostly vegan” concept, Tendril. The plan comes after a residency for Tendril at Soho’s Sun & 13 Cantons – a starting ground for notable restaurant success stories, such as Sambal Shiok, Sarap and Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express. Tendril’s menu focuses on fresh, seasonal produce, and takes inspiration from Sachdeva’s kitchen experience in London and India, as well as the food he likes to eat at home – having been a (mostly) vegan himself since early 2019. Signature dishes on Tendril’s menu include Tostada, with muhamarra, winter squash and chard kimchi, and Chipotle mushroom, barbecue kale, walnut, crispy potato and gremolata. Sachdeva was offering 17.94% equity for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £800,000. He has raised £237,244 from 178 investors. Sachadeva is currently running a pop-up for Tendril at 5 Princes Street, just off Regent Street, while he looks to secure a permanent home.
 
Deliveroo partners with Asda as it expands grocery service: Deliveroo has partnered with Asda to deliver on-demand groceries to households across the UK. The partnership launches in 15 Asda stores this month with households in Wakefield, Leeds and Manchester among the first to be able to choose from more than 2,400 products from the Asda range. There are plans to have 300 Asda stores on the Deliveroo platform by the end of the year. Simon Gregg, senior vice-president of e-commerce at Asda, said: “We want to create more opportunities to conveniently shop for Asda products and offer the broadest range of delivery options of any grocer, giving customers the flexibility to choose how and when they shop with us.”
 
Aparthotel operator iStay Liverpool set to open new site in city: Aparthotel operator iStay Liverpool is set to open a new site in the city. The company has acquired 17-21 Castle Street, a five-storey grade II-listed building, for an undisclosed sum. The building is set to be converted into 33 apartments, including an accessible unit within the ground floor, where there will also be a lounge, boutique working area and dedicated food and beverage area. Ann Chambers, founder and chief executive of iStay Liverpool, is preparing her business for the expansion, having built a growing portfolio of luxury aparthotels across key locations in the city. These include Temple Court, Water Street, Duke Street, Bold Street, Rodney Street and the recently launched Harrisons Aparthotel in Victoria Street. She said: “iStay Liverpool is building on its success in the city and this new development in Castle Street is a major investment for us, and one which was impossible for us to pass up, as this is such an iconic building.” Work will start later this summer, with the aparthotel expected to open in the second quarter of 2023.
 
Shakespeare Distillery to expand business with rum school launch: Shakespeare Distillery is expanding its business by opening a rum school in September. The independent artisan spirit producer is taking on a long-term lease at 1 High Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, which houses its retail shop on the ground floor. Initially seen as a pop-up shop, Shakespeare Distillery is converting two additional floors above the retail premises into a rum school and tasting room named Judith’s. The expansion follows the success of the distillery tours and gin school at its other premises in Drayton Manor Drive, Stratford-upon-Avon. The High Street building was once home to Judith Shakespeare, daughter of William Shakespeare. Peter Monks, director at Shakespeare Distillery, said: “Stratford-upon-Avon is once again a busy and vibrant town after the pandemic and so now presents the perfect opportunity for us to expand our business. We look forward to starting an exciting new chapter, not only for the distillery but for this historic building.”

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