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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 1st Mar 2024 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Which? Sustainable Restaurants report ‘does not accurately assess sector’s progress in sustainability’: The Zero Carbon Forum has said the Which? Sustainable Restaurants report does not accurately assess the sector’s progress in sustainability. Consumer champion Which? has released its first analysis of the UK’s biggest restaurant chains’ sustainable practices, based on an analysis of their green credentials. But while the Zero Carbon Forum welcomed a spotlight on achieving net zero in hospitality, it said the report’s rankings don’t include many of the 155 initiatives the sector has identified it can take to reach net zero. “As a result, it doesn’t accurately reflect the sector’s and operators’ progress on sustainability,” a spokesperson for the forum said. “While the Which? report overall shows that positive progress is being made, the ranking isn’t helpful as it isn’t based on an accurate assessment of all the actions operators need to take. The sector’s biggest impact is food and drink, and measuring impact in the supply chain is critical. While the report questions whether an outlet sells water in glass or plastic bottles, it doesn’t ask about whether there is a net zero strategy in place, or if operators are engaging their major suppliers.  More than 60 businesses across the hospitality industry, operating 35,000 sites, representing 35% of the sector, are collaborating through the forum to reduce emissions with greater speed and efficiency than they could otherwise achieve individually. The forum has set a roadmap for members, including those ranked in this report, to reach net zero operational emissions by 2030 and supply chains by 2040. Members have already removed more than half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year through energy initiatives such as efficiency measures, onsite generation and renewable procurement. The important steps in making progress to net zero is to make a commitment and back it up with action, at pace.” The Which? report saw Wahaca top its sustainability ratings, which came from a survey of 1,168 of its members and a survey of 28 restaurant chains. Wahaca scored highly for its sourcing policies, transparency and customer choices, as well as for using free-range chicken, pork and eggs, reducing its beef offerings and championing plant-based eating. The report also endorsed the efforts of Frankie and Benny’s, Nando’s, Pret A Manger, Wagamama and Young’s, with Nando’s receiving full marks for its waste and plastics policies and Frankie & Benny’s praised for its sustainable cleaning products and restaurant fit out policy. At the opposite end of the table were Greggs and KFC, with Which? saying their scores were heavily impacted by the omission of key data on factors like electricity and water usage, food waste and landfill and renewable energy. Both Greggs and KFC said they have “ambitious” targets and their positions are not fully reflected in the report.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – meet the next generation of street food traders: In the last 18 months, the McCain FS Streets Ahead programme, in partnership with Kerb+, has supported more than 200 participants, aiming to enhance skills and create opportunities in the foodservice industry. Launched in 2022, the initiative promotes diversity and opens pathways for those considering a career in foodservice. As part of the programme, seven participants showcased their culinary skills at Mission Kitchen, New Covent Garden, presenting a hero dish from their business concept to a judging panel comprising McCain FS and Kerb+ representatives. The panel evaluated taste, quality and engaged with participants to understand their journeys. Impressed by food innovation, the panel invested a total of £46,000, providing financial support to the seven participants. Winning concepts included Vegetarian Nigerian Street Food by Stella James, who received £10,000. James, referred by The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network, shared her mother’s Nigerian recipes, aiming to celebrate the diversity of Nigerian cuisine in London. Aklima Akther, referred by Migrateful, secured a £10,000 investment for her homestyle Bengali cooking concept, Deshi, focusing on authentic south Asian cuisine to expand palates and contribute to the community. To find out more about the programme, click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Lucky Voice MD Charlie Elek to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2024, open for bookings: Charlie Elek, managing director of Lucky Voice, will be among the speakers at the first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2024. Almost 400 places have been booked for the conference, which takes place on Thursday, 21 March, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington, and is open for bookings. Elek sets out how the company’s major programme of growth, expansion and investment has been galvanised through operating systems that ensure clearer, more systematic thinking and planning. Operators can book up to three free places per company while Premium Club members who are operators can book up to four free places. To book, email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Premium Club members to receive next New Openings Database today: Premium Club members will receive the next The New Openings Database today (Friday, 1 March), at midday. The database will show the details of 64 site openings, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis and Premium Club members will also receive a 2,800-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database and the Who’s Who of UK Hospitality. All members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators will also be able to send up to four members of staff to each of our four Multi-Club Conferences for free. Premium Club members receive their daily Propel Info newsletter 11 hours earlier than standard subscribers, at 7pm the evening before. They also receive videos of presentations at eight Propel conference events two weeks after they are held. This represents around 100 videos of industry insight over the course of the year. Premium Club members will be sent a dedicated monthly newsletter that will highlight key updates in the sector and direct subscribers to all the vital content their membership offers. Premium Club members also receive exclusive opinion columns every Friday at 5pm, which include the thoughts of Propel group editor Mark Wingett and a host of industry leaders from across the sector. A Premium Club subscription costs an annual sum of £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com. today to sign up.

Nicholls – any changes to calorie labelling need a full assessment considering all factors and a cost-benefit analysis: Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, has told Propel that any changes to calorie labelling in the sector need “a full assessment considering all factors and a cost-benefit analysis”. It comes as a new modelling study suggested that more than 9,000 heart disease-related deaths could be prevented in England over the next two decades if all restaurants, fast food outlets, cafes, pubs and takeaways put calories on their menus. The scientists said under the current government policy, which only covers large food businesses with 250 or more employees, around 730 deaths from cardiovascular diseases may be prevented between 2022 and 2041. The findings, published in the journal Lancet Public Health, also suggested the current policy would reduce obesity prevalence in England by 0.31 percentage points in the next 20 years, whereas a full implementation of the policy – across all food businesses – would reduce this by 2.65 percentage points. The researchers said their results “emphasise the need for the government to consider extending this policy to all food businesses to maximise public health benefits as part of a broader England obesity strategy”. Nicholls said: “Viewing calorie labelling through a single lens, as in this report, creates a false narrative about the impact one single measure can have on the nation’s health. Any changes to calorie labelling need a full assessment considering all factors and a cost-benefit analysis, which the report acknowledges. I’m confident these claims will not stack up if that work is done. It also acknowledges it doesn’t look at costs or wider health impacts, such as eating disorders, and also assumes that universal calorie labelling will result in direct and immediate change to behaviour, which is a significant assumption. Calories are just one piece of this puzzle – we need to look at the nation’s health challenges in the round, considering all factors, and not prescribe one measure as a silver bullet solution. It should not be assumed that consumers will act and make better choices, just based on additional information.”
 
Night-time economy bounced back post-covid but support in spring Budget still vital: The UK’s night-time economy bounced back post-covid but support in the forthcoming spring Budget is still vital, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said. The NTIA has released its third annual Night-Time Economy Report, highlighting the challenges facing the UK’s nocturnal landscape. It showed that consumer spend in the UK night-time economy was £136.5bn in 2022, up from £95.7bn in 2021, showing a strong post-covid desire to socialise. However, adjusted for inflation, there has been no real growth in turnover over the last three years, despite the significant rise from £121.3bn in 2019. The report said due to the pandemic and inflation, the UK night-time economy has lost approximately £95bn. In 2022, £117bn was spent in England, £10.3bn in Scotland, £5.9bn in Wales, and £3.3bn in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, the UK night-time economy was worth £33.3bn in 2022, up from £23.8bn in 2021 but down from £37.2bn in 2019, indicating a 36% reduction in absolute terms. The report went on to say that employment in the UK night-time economy was 2.08 million in 2022 and has grown year-on-year, except for 2020, surpassing 2019 levels by about 6%. Gross value added generated by the sector was £43.5bn in 2022, falling below the £47.5bn recorded in 2019. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “The surge in consumer spending throughout 2022 signifies a robust demand, underscoring the vitality of the night-time economy. However, as we await the figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2023, uncertainties loom over the sustainability of this momentum. The significance of the night-time economy cannot be overstated, yet the formidable obstacles stemming from the covid pandemic and the prevailing cost-of-living/business crisis threaten its long-term viability. As we navigate the complexities ahead, collaborative efforts and targeted initiatives and support are imperative to ensure the resilience and prosperity of this essential sector.”
 

Company News:

Greene King outlines next stage of evolution for its 900-strong eponymous pubs brand: Greene King, the Nick Mackenzie-led business, has set out the next stage in the evolution of its 900-strong managed pubs brand as it looks to create “the nation’s most loved pub brand”. Propel revealed at the start of last year that Greene King had undertaken a realignment of its group divisional structure, moving from five divisions to four, after “extensive work on its branded portfolio”. These changes were in line with the group’s strategy to “grow sales through compelling brands and unlock value from its existing assets”. As part of the next stage, the company plans to significantly invest in its Greene King pubs estate, which is described as the group’s “power brand”, including the roll out of a new brand identity. The company said the estate of Greene King pubs sits alongside and complements the group’s prominent managed pub brands, including Chef & Brewer, together “forming a balanced portfolio of 1,600 sites across market segments including value, mainstream, and premium”. The company said: “The ambition for Greene King pubs is to create the nation's most loved pub brand, with a customer-led approach at the centre of its offering. The brand's 900 managed pubs will serve a quality food and beverage offering, showcasing the group’s much-loved own brewed beer such as Greene King IPA and newer beers Level Head and Flint Eye. Greene King pubs will continue to build on the rich heritage and strong foundations of the Greene King brand for now and into the future, investing and refreshing the brand to increase customer reach and relevance and to improve its role in delivering great experiences to its customers in communities right across the country.” Propel understands the Greene King pubs managing director, Clair Preston-Beer, hosted an internal conference this week for more than 1,000 team members from across its mainstream pub brand, to explain the brand’s ambition and delivery targets. She told Propel: “With our pubs at the heart of communities across the country, Greene King pubs will combine our rich heritage and expertise with a new customer-led approach elevating those special moments for our guests. Our teams will take pride in delivering standout experiences for customers in a warm, welcoming atmosphere where everyone feels at home. This is very much about evolution, not revolution, as we seek to harness the value of our Greene King pubs brand.”

Marco Pierre White set to launch new pub concept as part of double opening in Suffolk: Marco Pierre White is set to open two new venues in Suffolk, including a new pub concept, following a £750,000 investment. The chef is planning to launch a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill and a pub-based venue called The Queen’s Head under the Marco Pierre White Ale House brand in Felixstowe through his franchising arm, Black & White Hospitality. These will be located in what is currently The Brook Hotel in the town’s Orwell Road, with the refurbishment set to transform what is currently a Best Western branded hotel into a boutique-style hotel called Hotel Coco. The move is set to create 20 jobs, with the new hotel, restaurant and pub expected to start welcoming guests by early summer, reports the East Anglian Daily Times. The new Steakhouse Bar & Grill will replace what was the hotel’s restaurant and follows a deal between owners, the Govindasamy family, and Black & White Hospitality. The chef wants to provide what he describes as “affordable glamour”, with the Steakhouse offerings set to include signature steaks and English and French classics alongside cocktails and wine. The new pub, meanwhile, is aimed at guests wanting to enjoy quality food and drink in a more casual setting and will serve simple classics from Pierre White’s various restaurant menus. Muralee Govindasamy, owner of the hotel since 2002, said: “We’re excited about the plans for the hotel and restaurant and we’re absolutely delighted to have someone of Marco’s calibre open one of his restaurants in Felixstowe. In addition, to be the first location in the whole of the UK to open the new pub concept is a massive privilege. We want this to become a real hub where local residents, families and community groups feel comfortable to meet up and enjoy the atmosphere of a venue that has been devised by one of the country’s most respected hospitality greats.” Nick Taplin, chairman and chief executive of Black & White Hospitality, added: “The Steakhouse is the perfect fit for the hotel’s restaurant space, not only in terms of the location, but for those who will dine in it. The Great British pub is more than just a place to drink beer – the best become hubs of their community or places where locals go out to eat. The Marco Pierre White Ale House will offer quality food in a more casual atmosphere, and we’re delighted to have teamed up with Muralee and to be opening in this fantastic location.” It comes after Black & White Hospitality last week said it planning to launch a Marco’s New York Italian restaurant within a Holiday Inn in Blackpool this spring. In October, Propel revealed that Black & White Hospitality is looking to grow its Marco Pierre White brands in the UK with a focus on Mr White’s, as well as rolling out more Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grills and Marco’s New York Italians. Black & White Hospitality features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium Club members. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 235 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Heavenly Desserts looking to ramp up European roll-out: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts is looking to ramp up its roll-out in Europe. The brand hit the 50-site landmark in the UK last summer and has so far this year launched in Sutton Coldfield and Glasgow Fort to take its estate here to 54 stores. It so far has just one overseas location, in Mississauga, Canada, but has sold master franchise rights in India, Pakistan, the US and Denmark. “Heavenly Desserts is planning some exciting new locations in the UK and Germany over the next 12 months,” said franchise consultant Raimond Roßleben. “In addition to the already planned Heavenly Desserts restaurants in Germany, we are looking for further franchise partners for about ten highly frequented locations, each in pedestrian zones with outdoor terraces from Freiburg to Hamburg. Heavenly Desserts can be realised in different formats, from the kiosk with 30 square metres to the flagship restaurant with 250 square metres. Currently, Heavenly Desserts plans to open around 20 restaurants per year across Europe with a controlled expansion. We are looking for franchise partners who are motivated to develop one region at a time.” Heavenly Desserts co-founder Yousef Aslam told Propel in January that he is has targeted 100 sites by end the end of 2026, and that he has launched a smaller scale kiosk format in a bid to attract more franchisees. He also said he is open to further menu collaborations, following a successful partnership with Itsu, and has got “a very exciting beverage one coming in the first or second quarter of 2024.”
 
Team behind London restaurant Lazeez Tapas to launch new grab-and-go concept using AI: The team behind fine Lebanese cuisine restaurant Lazeez Tapas in London’s Mayfair is to launch a new grab-and-go concept using artificial intelligence (AI). Emilio Malik and Javier Troitino-Ramos are behind Tahina, which will open its first site in the capital in 2024. Tahina will fuse flavours and ingredients from a range of global cuisines “to reinvent the grab-and-go concept” with a variety of plant-based dishes. The flagship store will be fully autonomous via a range of technology, including AI, intelligent weight shelves, motion detector sensors and high-speed cloud computing. “Our dishes have been developed by an executive chef with a wealth of experience acquired through fine dining European establishments to the top premium casual British groups,” said Malik “Unlike a lot of fast food, Tahina uses quality ingredients to create grab-and-go food that’s truly delicious.” Malik said the concept can easily be rolled out across multiple sites. “We’re really excited about the possibilities,” he said. “We believe there could be two types of Tahina store: flagship stores such as the one we’re launching in 2024, plus contract stores designed to be integrated with minimal services into access-controlled environments, such as offices, shared workspaces, hospitals, university campuses and airports.” He added: “The world is changing rapidly, and we’ve crafted Tahina around these new ways of living. Our store is tech-driven, using the latest developments in autonomous retail and AI to provide a seamless and simple experience for our customers. We want to offer maximum benefit for customers, but we also want minimum impact on the planet, so we’ve built sustainability into every element of Tahina. All our dishes are plant-based, cruelty-free and seasonal, and we support local suppliers where possible. Our store will have a closed loop recycling system for packaging, and we’ll work with charities to distribute surplus food or turn it into green electricity.” Lazeez Tapas has been a fixture of Mayfair’s Duke Street for 16 years. Malik and Troitino-Ramos have decades of experience in the food industry, working for brands including Aubaine, EAT, Mitchells and Butlers and YO!
 
Origin Coffee to make debut in Scotland: Cornish coffee roaster and retailer Origin Coffee, which secured £3.1m of investment last October, is to make its debut in Scotland, with an opening in Edinburgh. The B Corp speciality coffee roaster, which operates six sites, including three in London, will open in South College Street on the edge of the city’s old town. The business will open on the former Union Brew Lab site later this spring. Origin Coffee founder Tom Sobey said: “Expanding into Scotland has been a big dream for us. We’re excited to be part of the next chapter of this incredible coffee shop, which has been such an instrumental part of the speciality coffee scene in Edinburgh over the years. We’re lucky enough to have an existing network in the city of incredible wholesale partners, working with The Milkman, Stuart Ralston’s portfolio of restaurants as well as Gleneagles Townhouse, Ondine and The Fishmarket. As well as creating a beautiful coffee shop for the local community to enjoy, our new cafe will be a hub for education, allowing us to offer an even better level of service to our wholesale partners in Scotland and deliver a range of ‘how to brew’ courses for home enthusiasts.” Speaking last year, the business said the new investment would support the growth of its direct-to-consumer retail rollout and expansion of its wholesale channel while continuing its commitment to sustainability. The deal saw Origin sell part of its ownership for the first time. Majority owner and chief executive Sobey remains as majority shareholder but is supported by new partners, which included Create Impact Ventures, Yeo Valley and The Cornwall & Isle of Scilly Investment Fund. 

Anglian Country Inns acquires new site: Gastro-pub operator Anglian Country Inns (ACI), led by James Nye, has acquired a new pub on the north Norfolk coast. The family run business bought the freehold of The White Horse in Holme-next-the-Sea from Punch in October last year and has now acquired the operating lease from the tenant. “It’s a beautiful grade II-listed pub with a great beer garden, and after a bit of TLC and the ACI touch, we are planning to reopen the pub, which is currently closed, after Easter,” Nye said. “We are very excited that one of our homegrown talents, Will Pryke, will be running the new venture, and he has had great success in management roles at our other sites. Joining him to head up the kitchen will be Ian Daw, who has been head chef at The Hut on the Isle of Wight for the last three years, who is relishing the challenge of creating a menu that showcases the best of Norfolk’s amazing quality producers. Having operated pubs on the north Norfolk coast for the 27 years, ACI has forged great relationships with local suppliers, some of which we are still working with since the day we started. The bar will feature local cask ale as well as beer from Duration Brewery, one of Norfolk’s most exciting brewers. It is an exciting opportunity to add a beautiful pub in a beautiful location to the ACI family and very much looking forward to making it a big part of the north Norfolk community.” It comes after ACI reported in December trading was 15% ahead in its current financial year compared with the previous year. The ten-strong business had reported revenue growth of 25.8% to £18m for the year ending 30 March 2023 (2022: £14.3m), while site Ebitda for the year was £3m (2022: £3.9m).
 
Five Guys adds Croydon and Wembley Park sites to openings pipeline: Better burger brand Five Guys has added sites in Croydon and Wembley Park to its 2024 UK openings pipeline. The circa 160-strong brand will open in part of the former Chiquito unit in Croydon Valley Leisure Park, alongside Wingstop. At the same time, Five Guys has secured a site in Wembley Park Boulevard. The brand plans to open a further 15 to 20 sites in the UK this year. It will next open on the former Giraffe site at the Trinity scheme in Leeds. Earlier this year, Propel revealed that Five Guys had appointed Marc Sherman, formerly of Boparan Restaurant Group and MOD Pizza, as its new UK property director. David Muslin, of Ecliptic, acted on the Croydon deal.
 
Açai brand Oakberry opens fifth UK site: Açai brand Oakberry has opened its fifth UK site, in Clapham, south London. Oakberry – which was founded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2016 and has grown to 600 locations in 35 countries – made its UK debut in 2022, in Brighton. Towards the end of 2023 it opened two London locations – in Rathbone Place and Portobello Road – and also made its Northern Ireland debut, in Belfast’s Lisburn Road. It has now opened at 98 St John’s Road in Clapham Junction, serving up healthy açai bowls and smoothies. In October, Angela Bernardes, national sales and marketing director for Oakberry UK, the brand’s master franchisee for the territory, told Propel it is seeking franchise partners to roll out across the UK. “Our UK launch has been strong, and we’ve seen consistent growth over the last 12 months,” she added. “We don’t want to put a number on it, but people from all across the UK have fallen in love with our bowls when travelling abroad, so we want to bring our brand to as many people as possible.”
 
Maki & Ramen to close two sites: Edinburgh Japanese restaurant concept Maki & Ramen is to close two of its sites in the city, including its debut venue. The nine-strong group, which was founded by Teddy Lee in 2015, has announced it will soon close its sites in Edinburgh’s West Richmond Street and Nicolson Street. The former was the group’s first venue, and the business has since opened sites in Glasgow, Manchester and, most recently, Leeds. Maki & Ramen will still operate sites in Edinburgh’s Leith and Fountainbridge. In a statement on its Instagram page, the business said: “Attention Edinburgh. Our West Richmond Street and Nicolson Street branches will be closing soon. We want to thank all of our local rameniacs who have been with us from the beginning of our journey. West Richmond Street being our first Maki & Ramen branch we are sad to be closing its doors to you all but excited for our next journey to take you all on. We hope to see you soon.” The business bills itself as “Scotland’s favourite Japanese dining experience”. 
 
Social media influencer set to open second Middle Eastern bar and restaurant, more to follow including London debut: Social media influencer and boxer Abdu Rozik is set to open his second Middle Eastern bar and restaurant, with more to follow, including his concept’s London debut. Dubai-inspired restaurant and shisha bar Habbibi will be opening in Manchester following a successful launch in Leeds at the start of the year, in the former East 59th restaurant and bar unit in Victoria Gate. It is set to open its doors within the XYZ building in Spinningfields in March, reports the Manchester Evening News. Rozik has more than eight million followers on Instagram alone and is best known for an appearance during KSI and Timmy Fury’s boxing match in Manchester last year. Born in Tajikistan, he is also reportedly the world’s smallest professional boxer and singer at just three feet tall. On its website, Habbibi, which also counts British DJ and producer Tom Zanetti as a partner, is described as being a “haven for food enthusiasts” with a menu featuring a “fusion of global flavours inspired by [Abdu’s] extensive international journeys”. Dishes served at the Leeds restaurant include grilled sea bass, beef fillet medallion, Greek salads, lamb burgers and chicken kabsa. There are also extensive shisha, dessert and cocktail menus. Speaking about the Leeds restaurant, a spokesperson for Habbibi said: “Habbibi by Abdu Rozik stands as a captivating haven that seamlessly blends Middle Eastern allure with a touch of Dubai-inspired opulence. This shisha bar and restaurant will definitely be a go-to destination, enticing guests with an array of shishas, delectable Mediterranean cuisine, tempting desserts, and a selection of Middle Eastern inspired cocktails and mocktails.” There are already plans in motion to open a further two Habbibi restaurants, in London’s Mayfair and Dubai, later this year, as the concept is rolled out.
 
Bristol pub operator who received national acclaim for Sunday roast secures third site: Bristol pub operator Sam Gregory, who recently received national acclaim for his Sunday roast, has secured his third site. Gregory has received a six-figure funding deal from Reward Finance Group to acquire and refurbish The Crown Tavern in the St Jude’s area of the city. The property joins The Bank Tavern and The Bell Inn in Gregory’s portfolio. The Bank Tavern made national headlines after opening its 2024 Sunday roast bookings after a four-year waiting list. The bookings for the entire year sold out in just a matter of hours. Gregory started his career as a part-time staff member at The Bank Tavern before accepting the opportunity to take the pub on as his own. Now, 15 years later, Gregory has turned his attention to purchasing and redeveloping The Crown Tavern following its closure in April 2023. Originally built in the 18th century, the pub is best known for being the home of St Jude’s Boxing Club. The former landlords, Dominic and Gloria O’Connor, had run the historic pub for more than 30 years and were concerned that it would be redeveloped into flats, until Gregory stepped in. He aims to reopen the site this month. He said: “To be able to purchase The Crown Tavern is a real privilege as it is steeped in history and complements our growing portfolio of successful pubs. We’re currently in the process of sensitively redeveloping the property while ensuring it retains its heritage, traditional features and local charm.”

Molson Coors launches equal parent leave policy in UK: Molson Coors, the brewer of beer brands including Carling, Coors and Madrí, has launched an equal parent leave policy in the UK that will entitle all new parents to up to 52 weeks of leave regardless of gender or path to parenthood. All new parents will be offered up to 52 weeks of leave, 26 of which are fully paid, and a further 12 weeks fully paid for neonatal care if needed. In addition, all parents will qualify for up to ten paid keeping-in-touch days and paid antenatal appointments, while those taking more than 26 weeks leave will qualify for a phased return to work for the first four weeks, working 80% of their hours while receiving 100% of their pay. Molson Coors employs more than 2,200 people across the UK, including at its manufacturing sites in Burton-on-Trent, Tadcaster, the Aspall Cyder House in Suffolk and Sharp’s Brewery in Cornwall. The new policy is the latest step in its ambition to become a more inclusive employer, following its decision last year to scrap CVs for certain roles to encourage a more diverse range of applicants. In 2019, the brewer also launched “life leave”, giving employees an extra two weeks of annual leave for significant life moments like moving house or helping to settle a loved one into a new care home. Phil Whitehead, managing director for western Europe at Molson Coors, said: “At its most simple and powerful level, equal parent leave recognises that parents should be able to choose how to care for their young children, rather than it being a decision made for them by their employers largely rooted in traditional assumptions about primary and secondary carer roles. As a business that is part of a typically male-dominated industry, we have an opportunity to help break down those stereotypes and help to challenge the ‘secondary carer’ label, which is often taken on by new fathers. We want to make it easier for fathers to be able to take more time away from work as a new parent, giving families the opportunity to start that parenting journey on a more equal footing.”
 
Toca Social to open second UK site this summer: Toca Social, the interactive football bar, will open its second UK site, in Birmingham, this summer. Founded in 2016 by two-time US World Cup player Eddie Lewis, the concept launched at London’s The O2 in April 2021 and revealed six months later that it was planning a Birmingham site. It will now open in the city’s Bullring centre in June, with prices starting at £12 per person. Taking over a former Debenhams site, Toca Social Birmingham will feature 23 interactive football boxes and four bars across two floors. Choosing from a variety of interactive games, enabled by innovative ball delivery and tracking technology, Toca offers guests five games designed for all ages, abilities and football interests. It also offers a “creative food menu” of sharing dishes and classic cocktails. Alex Harman, president at Toca Social, said: “We’re thrilled to finally announce that Toca Social will be officially opening in Birmingham this summer. Birmingham is not only a fantastic city for football but is also famed for its culturally rich and diverse hospitality scene, so it felt only right to launch our second site there.” In April 2023, Toca said it would make its international debut with an opening in Dallas, and later that year, it unveiled plans for a second London site, at Westfield White City. Harman also told Propel that the business is aiming for 20-30 sites and that it is “just scratching the surface of demand in London”.
 
Wingstop confirms March opening for Watford site: Lemon Pepper Holdings, the company behind the rollout of Wingstop in the UK, has confirmed its new site in Watford will open this month. Propel revealed in January that the former Honest Burgers site in Market Street had been added to its pipeline of openings for the brand in 2024. It will now open on Saturday, 30 March, one of 15 new openings it is planning in the UK this year. The others include Hounslow, Clapham High Street, Croydon Valley Retail Park, Wood Green, Lakeside shopping centre, Westfield Stratford City, Merry Hill and a second site in Leeds, with a six further unnamed sites under negotiation. Michael Skipworth, president and chief executive of Wingstop, said last month that the brand’s international business, which includes the UK, is “building some momentum and is supercharged for growth”. Wingstop operates in ten countries outside the US, and currently operates 40 sites in the UK.
 
Travelodge completes £210m acquisition of freeholds of 66 of its hotels: Travelodge has completed the £210m acquisition of the freeholds of 66 of its hotels from LXi Reit. The majority of the sale proceeds will be used to pay down debt, reducing LXi Reit’s group loan-to-value to 34% from 38%, and reducing the Travelodge proportion of LXi’s total rent roll to 11% from 18%. At the time of the deal being announced, Jo Boydell, chief executive of Travelodge, said: “The acquisition of 66 Travelodge hotels from LXi Reit, with support from our owner GoldenTree Asset Management, will mark a positive step for Travelodge as we seek to optimise our hotel portfolio and diversify our freehold/leasehold split to enhance value. The new structure will provide us with a platform to explore further freehold acquisitions. We have nearly four decades of expertise in operating budget hotels and we look forward to continuing to invest in our hotel network to drive growth.” Simon Lee, chief executive of LXI Reit, added: “Travelodge operates a best-in-class hotels business and the firm commitment of its owners to the business is demonstrated by their support to enable the purchase of 66 of its assets.”
 
Derbyshire golf club and hotel complex sold to private investor: Horsley Lodge Golf Club, the Derbyshire complex that includes a golf course, country hotels and wedding venues, has been sold after 34 years in private family ownership. The club opened in 1990 and the course at the 160-acre site was originally built to the same USPGA standard as some high-profile links courses both in Scotland and in the USA. Richard and Malcolm Salt, who created the 18-hole course and restored the range of character buildings that now comprise the club house and a wedding and hospitality venue, made the decision to sell in September last year. The sale was brokered by HMH Golf, which acted for the Salt family, with Russell Rigby, of Rigby & Co, representing a local private investor, Staton Young, which has bought the site. Richard Salt said: “My brother and I have really poured the last 34 years of our life into Horsley Lodge, and when we made the decision to sell, we were particularly keen to explore whether it could remain in local ownership.”
 
Bristol coffee house opens second site: Bristol coffee house One B has opened a second site. The concept, which is currently located in Pitville Place in Cotham, has secured the keys to a new home at 13a Gloucester Road, which was once home to the Sheesh Mahal restaurant. One B recently changed its name slightly, to coincide with its new opening, from 1B Pitville, reports Bristol Live. Operations director Mikey Farrer, who operates the company with business partner Matt Read, said: “It’s quite a big step for us, going from a coffee machine on the counter with a couple of guys to where we are now and where we’re heading potentially in the next couple of months. We made the decision to rebrand – we felt that once we step into the territory of two shops, retaining the original name, which is basically just the address of our first property, seemed a bit strange. At the start, Matt and I wanted to make speciality accessible to a wider, bigger percentage of the coffee drinking market, and that was received really well, which has enabled us to really grow a community. I’ve worked in hospitality for about 11 years now and this is the first place I’ve operated in that’s had such a strong sense of community, beyond the usual stuff you get from a coffee shop.”
 
Former The Fat Duck junior sous chef set to open first permanent site for his modern Welsh pop-up concept: Tom Waters, former junior sous chef at Heston Blumenthal’s flagship The Fat Duck restaurant, is set to open the first permanent site for his modern Welsh pop-up concept, Gorse. Waters – who has also worked under Bryn Williams at Odette’s, Phil Howard at The Square and at Bonham’s in Mayfair – has operated Gorse as a pop-up at various independent venues including Ground Bakery in Pontcanna, Insole Court in Llandaff and Waterloo Tea in Roath. He is now opening its debut bricks-and-mortar location, at 186 Kings Road in Cardiff, in the former site of dog-friendly cafe, Fido. “After having spent three years working at The Fat Duck, Tom felt the time was right to move back home to realise his ambitions and open his own restaurant in the nation’s capital,” a spokesman for the restaurant said. “The offering at Gorse is driven by the abundance of incredible produce that Wales and the wider UK has to offer.” Fido had been run since September 2022 by Vicky Griffin in the former site of the long-standing Kemi’s cafe. “We are saddened to announce that we have made the extremely hard decision to close Fido,” Griffin told Wales Online. “Despite our best efforts, the well-publicised pressures on hospitality that are plaguing the industry has made our future in Kings Road impossible. I’ve had businesses in Cardiff for more than 25 years and I’ve never known a period where it seems hospitality particularly is being squeezed from all angles.”

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