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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 13th Mar 2024 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Domino’s CEO – lunch is a growth opportunity for us, looking to enter more villages: Andrew Rennie, chief executive of Domino’s, has said the business sees the lunch daypart as a key opportunity for growth as it gears up to offer new £4 lunchtime deals. It comes after Domino’s upgraded its growth targets for the UK and Ireland, targeting to have in excess of 2,000 stores by 2033, as it reported a 5.7% increase in like-for-like system sales in the year to 31 December 2023. Rennie said: “We haven’t really gone after this daypart before and it’s an underutilised part of our business. The franchisees are fully supportive, and I think will really help us take more market share. Our stores are open, but our share of lunch is small, so this is a growth opportunity for us. As a result, we have developed a new lunch menu, including wraps, which meets consumer needs for a taste of Domino’s, which is easier to eat on the go and at lower price points than their weekend favourites. We will be launching a new £4 lunch offer in April, supported by an integrated national media campaign.” The lunchtime offer will include 600-calorie pizzas, 450-calorie wraps, chicken and cookies. Rennie told The Telegraph: “There’s a lot of consumers out there that have never accessed Domino’s because of the price point. This is their access point. If you look at some of the other Domino’s markets around the world that run 20%-25% of their sales at lunch, we’re only at 15%.” The business, which currently operates circa 1,300 sites in the UK and Ireland, said it now expects to have in excess of 1,600 by the end of 2028, with the potential for this to be in excess of 2,000 stores in 2033. Rennie said: “We have had a lot of success this last year with going into smaller territories, villages where Domino’s has never been before, but they already know the brand. And the brand has such value now that when you get there, they blow the doors off. We’re seeing sales in some of those villages, where they only have a population of a third of the size of our average store, they’re doing the sales of the national average or more in some instances. So, it gives us great confidence at the moment. We’re only covering 85% of the UK and Ireland population, so we’ve got 15% of white space. We don’t expect to get those numbers (in excess of 2,000 stores in 2033) and stop, they are minimum targets from our point of view, they’re not caps.” Rennie said the business was now in a position to introduce a loyalty programme, but it was important that it did so “in a disciplined, structured, and profitable way”. He said: “We will not rush into this with an active customer base of circa 13.5 million. We will take a three-stage approach to this. We will begin with a simple test to assess how offering a free incentive impacts customer order behaviour. Subject to this test, a second stage, larger scale test would be launched by the third quarter of 2024. Pending the success of this test, we will assess the optimal structure for a loyalty programme for a potential 2025 launch.” Domino’s 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 to upgrade your subscription.

Industry News:

Oakman Group founder Peter Borg-Neal to speak at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: Peter Borg-Neal, founder of the Oakman Group, will be among the speakers at the Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference. The all-day conference takes place on Tuesday, 14 May at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Borg-Neal will talk about maintaining the company’s award-winning standards against the backdrop of a volatile trading environment, his return as chief executive and how the sector must remain agile and respond quickly to the extraneous pressures it is facing. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers. There is a 20% discount for operators and suppliers who are Premium Club members. Email: to book places. 
Next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality to feature 866 companies, released on Friday: The next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality will feature 866 companies when it is released to Premium Club members on Friday (15 March). This month’s edition includes 11 new companies and 36 updated entries as well as more than 232,000 words of content. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. All Premium Clubs 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 that are Premium Club members 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 supplier. Email today to sign up.
Brits prioritising going out despite economic pressures: Research from Zonal’s latest GO Technology report, in partnership with CGA by NIQ and UKHospitality, reveals that despite the cost-of-living crisis, eating and drinking out remains as important to Britons as ever, with 65% of consumers saying it’s still a priority for them. This rises to 71% of those aged 65-plus. The survey of more than 5,000 British adults also showed that 74% of consumers believe hospitality needs and deserves support from the government. Three in five (60%) want to support the sector themselves, with regular visitors even more likely to show their backing (72%), and two-thirds (64%) believe hospitality plays an important role in their local community, rising to 71% of consumers who visit weekly. The main reasons are for going out for food and drink were to socialise with friends and family (50%), to celebrate a special occasion (44%) and as a treat (41%). The top three motivating factors to ensure return visits were the quality of food, great service and the experience being value for money. Tim Chapman, Zonal’s chief commercial officer, said: “Despite a squeeze on spending, hospitality is and remains an integral part of Britain’s social life, with socialising with friends and celebrating special moments topping the list of priorities when it comes to eating and drinking out.” Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food EMEA, said: “Spending may have been muted for some people in recent years, but as inflation hopefully eases and they start to feel more cash in their pockets, we can be optimistic that it will pick up as 2024 goes on. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “We have proven time and time again that with the right support in place, even when times are at their toughest, we have the creativity and commitment to invest in local areas, create jobs and drive growth right across the country.”
Industry’s first ‘people metrics’ benchmarking report to launch: The industry’s first “people metrics” benchmarking report is to launch ­– the first time the industry will have the ability to compare people metrics and improve performance. Pineapple is the brainchild of Philip Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burger; Will Fraser, former Saracens player and founder of 100 & First; Charlotte Kemp, former people director of Mission Mars and now managing director of Sixty Eight People; and Abi Dunn, founder of Sixty Eight People. They have joined forces “to create a community of operators, keen to develop their people culture through data and insights”. The initiative will allow operators to submit people data on metrics including employee turnover, internal progression, team stability, diversity, salaries and labour costs, and see their results benchmarked against peers within their sector and their headcount size. The team has an in-house data scientist that will not only produce benchmarked reports but go on to produce insights reports that create hypothesis such as what correlation exists between team diversity and employee retention, and whether operators with higher labour costs achieve higher team stability.
More than a fifth of UK adults deemed not to be actively looking for work: More than a fifth of adults in the UK are deemed not to be actively looking for work, official figures suggest. The UK’s economic inactivity rate was 21.8% between November and January, marginally higher than a year earlier. It means 9.2 million people aged between 16 and 64 in the UK are not in work nor looking for a job, reports the BBC. The total figure is more than 700,000 higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, amidst concerns over worker shortages affecting the UK economy. The figure also showed that wage rises slowed again, although pay is still outpacing inflation. However, the number of people not employed or actively looking for work has remained at a persistently high level in recent years since it first surged during the pandemic. Long-term illness has been cited as the main reason for about a third of the working-age inactive population not being in the labour force, while women tend to be classed as economically inactive compared to men. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said its latest figures suggested the number of people inactive due to being sick fell in recent months but remained higher than estimates a year ago. It added there had been an increase in people aged 16 to 34 becoming economically inactive but that the number aged 35 to 64 had fallen. A recent report suggested people in their early 20s were more likely to be not working due to ill health than those in their early 40s, with cases of poor mental health believes to be on the rise. As well as the economic activity figures, the ONS also revealed that the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.9% in the three months from November to January, which was marginally higher than economists had forecast. It said growth in regular pay, which excludes bonuses, slowed again, but at 6.1% is still outpacing inflation by 2%. Furthermore, there were 203,000 working days lost because of strike action across the UK in January 2024. And while job vacancies from December to February 2024 were down by 224,000 from the previous year, they remained 107,000 above pre-covid levels.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury hotel in Kent that is seeking a restaurant director. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “As restaurant director, you will manage and develop the food and beverage team in the hotel to the highest level, manage the team and ensure that the staff morale is high, oversee the training and development of the team, conduct staff reviews and action the areas in need of training, support the restaurant manager with the day-to-day running of the restaurant, report to the owner, and many other duties.” The salary is up to £70,000. For more information, email 

Company News:

Atis – planning four more openings this year, part of a new vertical within the industry: Phil Honer, co-founder of healthy bowl concept Atis, has told Propel that the business plans to open a further four sites in London this year, as it gears up to launch its sixth venue, in Regent Street. The company, which was launched by husband-and-wife team Honer and Eleanor Warder with operations director Connor Arnette, in Shoreditch in 2019, is to open on the former Illy Café site at 295 Regent Street. Honer told Propel: “It is really exciting for us, it is a 3,000 square-foot site, north of Oxford Circus. We will be moving our office there too as there is a mezzanine floor within the site. It will be great for us to be based actually within one of the restaurants. We have another four sites on the way, two in the City, one in Covent Garden and one south of the river, which will all happen by the end of the year. It’s an exciting time. Over the last few years, we’ve probably grown slower than perhaps we would have liked to, and it was very much about making sure we were ready for growth. We are hiring for senior roles to make sure that foundation is there. It’s testament to a new vertical within the industry, which is a hybrid format between typical convenience-led, grab-and-go and fast casual, but with an enhanced cooking aspect that Farmer J and Salad Project and ourselves are starting to do and roll out. It marks a departure from pure-play convenience driven concepts, which are very good, but I’m excited that the sector here is starting to lean towards some of the operating models that have done so well in the US. Food-to-go brands there have a bigger following because you’re doing more on site and people seem to align with it more and the brand aspect is enhanced. You can do more with the sites, with the design, and they are closer to full-fledged restaurants.” The business is backed by property developer Graham Hedger, who has funded Atis from the start. Honer said: “We co-invested in the first few sites and Graham has done the rest. He is incredibly supportive. We haven't spoken about it yet, but I suspect at some point in the future, we’ll do a larger round.” As for further expansion, Honer said: “We will look at some point in the regions, but not right now. We only look nine months to a year ahead, and for now, there is masses of white space to go after in London. When we were looking in 2019 it was such a different environment, it was so competitive and so difficult. As a new concept, we were having to fight tooth and nail to even get in front of landlords. The nice thing in the last six months is landlords are starting to come to us quite a bit more, and that makes things a lot easier. I think once people have confidence that you can fit out units comprehensively, with security for them, they have more faith and it becomes a lot easier.”
Lane7 to open largest venue to date with Milton Keynes launch: Boutique bowling company Lane7 will open its largest site to date later this year, in Milton Keynes, Propel has learned. The 13-strong group, which will open its first international site, in Berlin, in June, will open a site spanning 38,000 square feet in Midsummer Place, in Milton Keynes. Lane7, which is due to open a second European site in Dublin later this year, is understood to have a further four sites in its pipeline for 2024. Lane7 managing director Gavin Hughes said: “Working with our partners at Ellandi, we are delighted to be taking on some of the best real estate in Milton Keynes, and we look forward to bringing the Lane7 experience to a city growing at such a fast pace. This will be our largest and most ambitious venue to date, showcasing our belief in both the area and the appetite of consumers for our unique brand of hospitality and gaming.” The Milton Keynes venue will contain the brand’s signature bowling lanes, as well as other games and activities, alongside an upmarket bar. Alongside its expansion plans, Lane7 said it is set to welcome Carl Boylan, most recently group facilities manager at Hollywood Bowl, as its new technical and facilities director in May. Boylan said: “I am excited to start working with the Lane7 group to continually enhance the customer experience in the competitive socialising market.” In December, the business opened its debut London venue, featuring a food offer from Patty&Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossmann, within The Zig Zag Building in Victoria.
Fired Up Collective eyes exploring potential county franchise model for Nusara concept: The Fired Up Collective, the business led by Andy Lennox, the founder of the Koh Thai brand, is exploring a potential county franchise model for its Nusara concept. The business recently opened its fourth site under the concept on the former Cafe Rouge site in Westbourne, Dorset. The new 120-cover site is the fourth site to open under the Thai concept in the space of three years, joining sites in Christchurch, Poole and Wimborne. The company said it now has complete coverage over the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) conurbation and is exploring more Dorset acquisitions ahead of a potential national expansion, as well as exploring a potential county franchise model. Lennox told Propel that the business has had “quite a few enquiries” in regards to franchising. On the concept’s current performance, he said: “Trade is good, people want to be out – it’s the conversion that is still incredibly hard.” Nusara is part of the Fired Up Collective, the umbrella vehicle set up by Lennox in 2020. The Westbourne site is the group’s eighth site in total. It also operates three sites under its Wessex Pub Company business and the pan-African Zim Braai restaurant in Bournemouth. At the same time, the business still plans to launch a new Italian restaurant concept called La Bocca. Lennox said the first site would open in Dorset either late 2024 or early 2025. 
Yard Sale Pizza secures 12th London site: Yard Sale Pizza, the restaurant and delivery business that has sector investor Paul Campbell as non-executive director, will open its 12th site in the capital next month, in Tufnell Park. The new site will be located on Dartmouth Park Hill and will provide pizza via the brand’s in-house delivery service to the Tufnell Park, Kentish Town and Archway neighbourhoods, as well as parts of Camden, Hampstead, Highgate, Gospel Oak, Belsize Park and Dartmouth Park. It will offer delivery and collection, along with a few seats for dine-in. To celebrate the opening, Yard Sale Pizza will be offering one lucky street within the shops’ delivery radius a chance to win pizza for the entire street. Local residents will need to nominate their street via an online form and the street with the most nominations will win. Last October, the Johnnie Tate-led business said it saw potential to grow to in excess of 150 locations across the UK. Propel revealed last June that the business, which was co-founded by Tate and Nick Buckland in 2014, was working with DSW on reviewing its options as it looks at the next stage of its growth journey.
Chopstix further builds franchise estate with Lincoln opening: Fast-growing, quick service restaurant brand Chopstix has continued to grow its portfolio with franchise partner RTL Enterprises with the opening of a new site in Lincoln. The new Chopstix site is located on Lincoln’s High Street and follows the launch of RTL’s first site with the brand in Romford, Greater London. RTL now operates circa nine Chopstix sites across London. Chopstix franchise director Aaron Moore-Saxton said: “RTL Enterprises has long been one of our longest standing franchise partners, operating some fantastic sites. Their expertise, experience and local knowledge makes Jimmy Arifaj and his team at RTL the ideal partner to grow the brand. I have no doubt RTL will drive fantastic returns with the Lincoln site, such is the franchisee’s talent as an operator and passion for the brand.” RTL Enterprises director Jimmy Arifaj added: “It’s clear there’s real momentum behind the Chopstix brand. Every site we open is met with such excitement from locals, and Lincoln has been no different. I’m looking forward to seeing how we develop with Chopstix in the future.”
Sybaritic Pub Group acquires lease of site in London’s Islington: The Sybaritic Pub Group, which operates sites in London and New York, is to open a new pub in Islington, Propel has learned. The group has acquired the lease of 58 Penton Street and is expected to reopen the property under a new concept later this year. The company already has a presence in Islington, where it operates The George & Monkey in Amwell Street. The company is also behind Ninth Ward in Clerkenwell, the Temple of Foo in St Paul’s and the Chapel Market Tavern in Angel. Restaurant Property is understood to have acted on the deal. The site was previously operated as the Hicce Hart by Pip Lacey and business partner Gordy McIntyre.
Blank Street Coffee eyes Birmingham opening: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its regional debut in the UK in December, in Manchester, is gearing up to launch in Birmingham. Propel understands that the business has begun the search for a general manager to oversee its launch in the city. Last December, the company, which made its UK debut in summer 2022 and currently has 27 stores in London, opened on the former Caffe Nero site in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. A second site in Manchester is set to follow on the ex-EAT site in the city’s Cross Street. It is also thought that Cardiff is on the company’s radar for future openings. Ignacio Llado, UK managing director of Blank Street, told Propel last year: “2024 is going to be an exciting one for Blank Street. We are seeing more and more demand from customers and landlords to open up in new neighbourhoods in London and beyond. We will be looking to expand our footprint in London, alongside exploring other UK cities.” Last month, Blank Street revealed plans to launch a subscription service, which would likely be similar to the offering from Pret A Manger, which offers five drinks a day and a discount on food for £30 a month. Simon Carson, of Newmark Retail UK & EMEA, acts for Blank Street Coffee. 
London all-day brunch and coffee concept Flying Horse Coffee on hunt for further sites after opening fourth, in Shoreditch: London all-day brunch and coffee concept Flying Horse Coffee has told Propel it is on the hunt for further sites in the capital after opening its fourth, in Shoreditch. The Holywell Lane site, which is its biggest to date, has 60 seats inside and another 30 outside on a wrap-around terrace. The menu features a Mexican Breakfast and is an amalgamation of founder Phillip Way’s travels through Central America, consisting of scrambled eggs, refried beans, pico de gallo, in house queso fresco, guacamole and tortilla – served with a bottle of extra hot sauce. Other dishes include wild trout on sourdough with smashed avocado and poached eggs. There are four coffee blends used on site, all roasted, and the team has spent six years blending its signature Espresso Blend, currently from Brazil, Peru and Guatemala. Way said: “I’m really excited to be landing slap bang in the middle of Shoreditch, where my east London life began in 2000, with the biggest and most exciting location so far. Older and wiser, I’m bringing brunch and coffee to the Shoreditch masses that used to rave in the warehouses that made way for the Shoreditch overground line. It’s less late nights and more morning buzz that gets me going these days.” A Flying Horse Coffee spokesperson told Propel that the business is in the process of looking for further locations. Way launched Flying Horse Coffee in 2018, in Mare Street Market, with a roastery and hatch window, as a nod to The Flying Horse Inn, a staging post for travellers and their horses in the 16th century. The second site came soon after, in the historic BBC Television Centre in White City, and a third site followed on the corner of Portobello Road in 2022. In 2000, Way helped set up Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen and went on to become operations manager for Barworks. He left to set up his first solo venture, Mr Buckley’s, in Hackney Road, which he sold four years later, before taking a year out to travel across Central and South America. It was in Cuba where Way found himself on a horse trip across coffee farms that he began his idea to start a coffee roastery.

Mowgli confirms Lincoln opening, eyes Bridgend site: Indian street food brand Mowgli has confirmed that it will open a new site in Lincoln this summer. The TriSpan-business will open on the former Two Seasons store in Lincoln’s High Street. Mowgli founder Nisha Katona said: “I have been looking for that perfect cute Diagon Alley kind of building in Lincoln – a city close to my heart as I worked there as a lawyer and always dreamt of taking my family dishes back there as a thank you for fond memories. Well Lincoln – lots of Chat Bomb love is heading your way! Opening at the end of May/June.” The 21-strong group also plans to open on the former Cafe Royal, in Newcastle’s Nelson Street and in Knutsford’s King Street this autumn. At the same time, Propel understands that Mowgli is eyeing an opening at the Designer Outlet in Bridgend.
US burger, shake and craft beer concept Black Tap hires UK head of operations, linked to Shaftesbury Avenue opening: US burger, shake and craft beer concept Black Tap has hired Matt Chapman, formerly of Tortilla and Cornish Bakery, as head of operations ahead of its proposed launch in the UK. Chapman joins the brand, which operates six sites in the US and circa 20 internationally, after a brief stint as head of operations at Cornish Bakery. He spent nearly eight years at Tortilla, including 11 months as its franchise director, and three years as operations director. Chapman has also worked at Kout Food Group, Patisserie Valerie and Krispy Kreme. Propel reported at the end of 2022 that Black Tap was set to make a second attempt to launch in the UK. Gillingham Bell International and Highland Global were jointly appointed by Black Tap to manage its expansion into London in the next phase of an ambitious global roll out. The business was founded by New York entrepreneur Chris Barish – a long-time promoter, nightclub owner and former business partner of Gordon Ramsay – in 2015 in Soho (New York City), and he had teamed up with Old Northampton Group founder, Sunny Kooner, to bring the Black Tap venture to London. Chapman’s appointment comes as the brand has been linked with an opening in Shaftesbury Avenue. It is thought that the brand is eyeing an opening close to Blackwood, the new sports venue from ETM Group, which is set to open in the first half of this year.

HOP to open second Manchester site: Vietnamese street food concept HOP is to double its presence in Manchester with an opening in the city’s The Arndale scheme. The Paul Hopper-founded business made its debut in Manchester last year after opening a kiosk in “The Orient” food court at The Trafford Centre. HOP has now agreed a 15-year lease on the 3,777 square-foot former Samsung unit in Market Street, for an opening later this year. Hopper said: “We’ve been blown away by the welcome we’ve received at our first Manchester based location at The Trafford Centre, so when this incredible opportunity arose at The Arndale it just felt right for a second opening. HOP’s offering is perfectly matched to both the needs of busy professionals as well as shoppers and tourists looking for a more interesting alternative to the regular fast-food offerings typically found on the high street. Manchester has one of the UK’s most exciting city centres as well as dynamic food scenes and myself and the entire team at HOP cannot wait for our Viet-inspired street eats to be a part of this.” HOP, which also operates sites in London’s Moorgate and St Paul’s, debuted its new all-day, seven-day a week format last summer in Bond Street, in the West One shopping centre.
Former Costa barista promoted to global new markets entry operations manager: Mike Stankiewicz, who started out as a barista with Costa Coffee just eight years ago, has been promoted to the company’s global new markets entry operations manager. Stankiewicz started out as a barista at one of Costa’s Bedford stores in 2016 and worked there for the next five years, as barista maestro and assistant store manager. In 2021, he moved to Dubai, first taking the role as brand excellence coach MENA, and then operations excellence lead MENA. His most recent role, which he began at the start of last year, was new market operations manager Europe & MENA. “I’m absolutely thrilled to announce a significant milestone in my journey with Costa Coffee,” Stankiewicz said. “After a fantastic time leading the operations function for new markets in Europe and the Middle East, I’m stepping into an exciting new role as the global new markets entry operations manager. It’s been an incredible journey witnessing Costa Coffee's growth and impact across the EMENA region. I’m excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead and look forward to collaborating with new partners and contributing to the brand’s continued success on a global scale.”
RedCat Pub Company puts award-winning Nottingham restaurant up for sale: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle founded and chaired by Rooney Anand, has put its award-winning restaurant in Nottingham up for sale. It has instructed Christie & Co to sell Tom Brown’s Brasserie in Gunthorpe, situated on the banks of the River Trent. Established more than 30 years ago, it has in recent years gained two AA rosettes (2008 and 2019) and featured in the Michelin Restaurant Guide in 2018-19. It also features a cocktail bar area and modern multi-sectional dining areas. Matt Hill, business agent at Christie & Co, said: “Tom Browns Brasserie is an extremely popular and well-known venue. This listing will provide an experienced operator an opportunity to further expand their portfolio with an iconic venue.”
You Me Sushi gearing up for Hackney launch: You Me Sushi, the London restaurant and takeaway brand, is preparing to launch a new restaurant in Hackney. It will be opening in the coming weeks at 368 Mare Street, in a former mobile phone shop. You Me Sushi currently has circa 25 UK locations and is also has sites “coming soon” in Putney and Manchester. It also has a partnership with immersive entertainment business We Do Play, opening restaurants at its Putt Putt Social crazy golf venues in Telford, Poole, Norwich, Bedford and, most recently, Gloucester. In November, Propel revealed that You Me Sushi’s openings pipeline included further London sites in Canary Wharf, Canning Town, New Malden and Battersea, as well as a Milton Keynes location.

Colicci to open cafe spaces at Forest Hill museum in new partnership: Colicci – which operates cafes, restaurants and kiosks across London parks and a kiosk at Westfield Stratford – has partnered with the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill. A complete refurbishment of the main cafe space is due to start in June and reopen later in the summer. A Colicci spokesperson said: “The vision for the Horniman is a sensitive transformation of the cafe space, through a considered interior and carefully crafted food offer, to establish itself as a destination in its own right. With this site being the first in the Colicci collection connected to a museum, the aim is to create an elegant yet accessible cafe environment that acts as an extension to the visitor attraction – supporting customers’ experience through a seasonally inspired cafe dining concept with speciality coffee at its spine.” Colicci will also be operating a new cafe within the gardens, adjacent to a new nature-inspired play area and close to the Horniman Nature Trail. This additional cafe development is due to start in the autumn. Founded in 1982 by Ernie and Josephine Colicci, the family business started out as a single ice cream van and has grown to 13 sites across the capital.
Simone Remoli opens largest site yet and launches rebrand: Simone Remoli, the chef-founder behind the Pasta Remoli restaurant business, has opened his largest site to date. The restaurant, in Queens Gardens within The Glades shopping centre in Bromley, is the fourth Remoli location following sites in Wembley Park, Ealing Broadway and Westfield Stratford. “We are excited to introduce our fourth restaurant, Remoli, into the Pasta Remoli family,” Remoli said. “Today is the day that we will change the pasta perception in the hospitality world. Remoli will launch its first flagship store in Bromley with the new look and menu with the introduction of a cocktail list paired with our recipes. Our venture in Bromley underscores our commitment to bringing the best Roman pasta to London and offering our customers an unparalleled Italian dining experience. The new 140-seater restaurant represents our biggest and best establishment yet, featuring our refreshed Remoli branding to bring a fresh new look to the Remoli brand. This journey is ours to take together, and I’m excited for the milestones ahead. Cheers to new beginnings!” In 2023, Remoli closed his sites in St Pancras and Finsbury, saying it was “the right move for a much larger expansion plan”.
London’s £1.3bn Olympia regeneration project hires former MGM Resorts vice-president of hospitality to oversee F&B operations: The developers behind the £1.3bn regeneration project at London’s Olympia has hired Abe Berry, former vice-president of hospitality at MGM Resorts in the US, as its new as director of hospitality. He will oversee the food and beverage offering at the new Olympia, which will include a new theatre, a 4,400-person live music venue and performance spaces alongside 135,000 square feet of dedicated food and beverage space when it opens in 2025. This will include 4,000 covers over 14 new restaurants and bars – a notable shift from the previous Olympia set-up of one public restaurant. Having started out at Hyatt Hotels, Berry’s career included an eight-year stretch at MGM Resorts, including leading the food and beverage transformation in the $500,000,000 renovation of the former Monte Carlo resort and casino into the Park MGM Las Vegas. “Rarely does an opportunity like this come your way,” he said. “This project will touch a lot of people because we are focused on the greater good of the community and the evolution of a landmark.” Lloyd Lee, managing partner at Olympia, added: “The reason we’re really excited about bringing Abe on is we envision Olympia will provide a guest and visitor experience of a quality and variety that London has never seen before.” The Olympia development is being led by Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance International.
Wagamama preparing to open in Epsom: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, is preparing to open a new restaurant in Epsom, Surrey. It will open on Monday, 25 March, at 5 High Street in the Surrey town. The 110-cover restaurant will open daily and create 50 jobs, bringing Wagamama’s total to 162 restaurants across the UK. Alice Eagle, Wagamama’s regional marketing manager for London, said: “Our benches will soon be welcoming the local community and visitors, and we can’t wait to serve up our newest menu launch and fresh favourites! Our fantastic new team have been working hard to ensure we’ll bring our much-loved Wagamama experience to our guests and they’re so excited to land in their beautiful new restaurant once work is complete.” Further launches in the pipeline include Doncaster in April, followed by Chatham Maritime and Woodside Leisure Park in Watford, both in May. The business has targeted ten new openings in 2024 and has already launched this year in Bentley Bridge in Wolverhampton and St Enoch Square in Glasgow.
The Sea, The Sea to pivot Hackney site from chef’s table concept to space spotlighting new talent and supporting its wholesale business: The Sea, The Sea – the fish shop, deli and seafood bar concept launched by Bonnie Gull co-founder Alex Hunter – is set to pivot from its current chef’s table set-up to a space spotlighting new culinary talent and supporting its wholesale business. The 11-course chef’s table experience from Leandro Carierra will be served for the final time on Saturday, 30 March before the Hackney venue switches to a space for up-and-coming chefs, cookery writers and supper club hosts – along with an expansion of its wholesale facilities. It follows a weekly “Untapped” series Hunter has been running at the venue since November, showcasing emerging talent from around the UK. He will now be offering the space for a longer period to both emerging and established chefs and restaurant concepts looking to showcase new experiences, as well as those wanting to run pop-ups and residencies. The Sea, The Sea’s seafood bar and fishmonger in Pavilion Road in Chelsea will continue to operate as normal. Hunter said: “I’m enormously proud of what Leandro and the team created in Hackney and will miss it greatly, but as the business evolves we look forward to the next chapter in Hackney, which will host new concepts, test kitchens and both rising and established stars, all with unique approaches to seafood cooking.”
Big Table Group to open Banana Tree site in Portsmouth this month: The Big Table Group, the Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge operator, has confirmed its Banana Tree brand will open in Portsmouth this month. The company is converting its Café Rouge site at Gunwharf Quays to what will be the 20th Banana Tree restaurant. Opening on Sunday, 24 March, the venue will have seating for 130 guests inside and a further 120 in the outside area. The brand offers an all-day menu, as well as its express lunch menu and its lunchtime tapas sets. Alan Morgan, chief executive of Big Table Group, told Propel in December that he believes the company can grow Banana Tree to a “Las Iguanas-sized business in 18-24 months”. Big Table Group currently operates 50 sites under its Las Iguanas brand. Founded 30 years ago, Banana Tree has since grown to 19 restaurants across London and the south east, and recently expanded into the West Midlands and the north west with openings in Birmingham and Salford Quays.

ASK Italian moves to 100% regenerative flour for its pizza: ASK Italian, the Azzurri Group-owned brand, has said it has become the first chain to serve up pizza dough using 100% regenerative flour to offer customers pizzas. The company said the new move, in conjunction with Wildfarmed, is part of its journey to become net zero by 2040, with all pizza and garlic bread served at its 66 restaurants made using flour that reduces the carbon impact of the dough by 50%. The Wildfarmed dough rollout comes as ASK Italian launches its spring menu, bringing more “sustainable options to the high street”. The new range of pizza toppings include the Garlic King Prawn pizza with sweet slow-roasted tomatoes; the Fiery Calabria Di Capra, a spicy pizza with ‘Nduja sausage, melted goat’s cheese and a drizzle of honey; and the vegan Pianta featuring spinach, balsamic onions, peppers, tomatoes and Mozzarisella served on a spicy plant-based creamy base. Through a 50% reduction in the carbon impact compared with ASK’s previous dough, the switch supports a farming system that “prioritises biodiversity and soil health, for a healthier planet”. Corinne Prior, marketing director at ASK Italian, said: “The work that Wildfarmed does to improve farming and biodiversity is hugely important when looking at making a positive impact on the way we farm our food. Dough is among the top five ingredients that directly contribute to ASK's food emissions so our partnership with Wildfarmed is a significant step towards our net zero goal.”
Cinnamon Collection awarded three stars by SRA: Cinnamon Collection, which operates five restaurants in London and one in Dubai and is owned by Boparan Restaurant Group, has been awarded three stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). Cinnamon Collection, led by Vivek Singh, has been accredited with the highest possible Food Made Good award – awarded to businesses at the forefront of positive change across the foodservice industry. It recognises Cinnamon Collection’s ongoing commitment to operating sustainably across three core pillars of sourcing, society and environment. An SRA spokesman said: “This result is a testament to Cinnamon Collection’s commitment to people and the planet. It is clear that great care is paid to sourcing high-quality, sustainable ingredients from suppliers that share the group’s values.” Singh added: “This is just the start of our journey – we are committed to continually evolving and aligning our practices, and with the support of our team and customers, we can make a positive impact on our environment while enjoying delicious and responsible dining experiences.” The group scored highly for its commitment to staff well-being, offering support with mental health and general wellness as well as ensuring team members do not work more than 48 hours a week and are paid for overtime. The brand has also increased its vegan offering and reduces food waste by optimising portion sizes, utilising all food parts and exploring sustainable composting options. The group opened its second Cinnamon Bazaar last week, in Richmond, adding to its site in Covent Garden. It also operates Cinnamon Kitchens in Battersea and the City, and Cinnamon Clubs in Westminster and Dubai.

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