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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 20th Mar 2024 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Busaba CEO – we are in good shape, new site and concept set to open at Westfield Stratford: Winston Matthews, who was recently promoted to chief executive of Busaba, the ten-strong Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has told Propel the business is in “good shape” and is set to launch a new site and a new concept at Westfield Stratford later this year. Propel revealed last month that Matthews had been promoted to chief executive of the Tnui Capital-backed business. Matthews has been with the business since November 2017 and has had stints at its head of purchasing and supply chain and food and beverage director. For the past three and half years, he has been the chain’s commercial director. He told Propel: “Busaba is in very good shape, we are currently trading well. It was a slow start to the year, but the last four weeks have been very good. Tnui remains very supportive of the business. They have been on a journey with us and there are no plans for that to change. Our focus is on our product and people – the consumer and our teams. If we get these things right and our food quality remains as high as it is, then we will weather any storm.” Matthews said that in terms of expansion, he is currently looking at a “couple of sites”. He said: “The circumstances have got to be right for expansion. I think we will stay very London-centric on any future expansion. The journeys outside of the suburbs haven’t worked for various reasons. We are relocating our site at Westfield Stratford site into the vacant Omega store within the same block. This is planned for September. We are very excited about this, as it will be the first completely new purpose-built site that we've opened for eight or nine years. Our former site will be available for 18 months to two years for a new concept. It will be more wet-led, but still have an Asian influence behind it. We obviously can’t compete with Busaba, and this gives us the opportunity to create something that is more high-tempo and vibrant.”

Industry News:

Chestnut Inns MD Philip Turner to speak at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: Philip Turner, managing director of Chestnut Inns, 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. Turner will talk about creating sustainable rural managed pubs and diversifying the business, such as acquiring a wine merchant, as part of its growth strategy. 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: kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to book places. 
 
Propel’s updated Multi-Site Database to be released on Thursday, 28 March, with seven category segmentation including 761 pub and bar operators: The next Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate, providing details of more than 3,000 multi-site operators, will be released on Thursday, 28 March, at midday, to Premium Club members – and companies are now searchable in seven main segments. The database features 906 (30%) restaurant operators from the casual dining sector, 761 (25%) pub and bar operators, 504 (16%) cafe bakery operators, 415 (13%) quick service restaurant operators, 249 (8%) hotel operators, 188 (6%) experiential leisure operators and 52 (2%) fine dining restaurant operators. The database is updated each month – this edition includes 16 new companies and brings the total to 3,075. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, the New Openings Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database and the Who’s Who of UK Hospitality. Plus, 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.
 
Scottish MSPs urged to vote through rise in MUP: Scottish MSPs have been urged to vote through a rise in minimum unit pricing (MUP) ahead of a debate on the Scottish government’s proposals. Holyrood said last year that it intends to increase the MUP for alcohol by 30% from 50p to 65p from 30 September, which it said would strike a “reasonable balance” between health benefits and the effects on business. The Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee is due to debate the plans next Tuesday (26 March) and report back to parliament with its advice and recommendations three days later, ahead of a final vote by MSPs in April. A joint letter, coordinated by Alcohol Focus Scotland and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, argues that evidence shows the policy has avoided hundreds of deaths since it was introduced in 2018, as well as reducing pressure on the NHS from alcohol. The signatories warn that failure to raise MUP to 65p per unit will result in an estimated 800 more deaths over the next five years, reports The Herald. However, when the proposed increase was first announced in September 2023, the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said its “immediate view is that this increase will not be welcomed at the current time” and that the majority of people, who drink responsibly “will be negatively impacted at the check-out”. The trade body previously said that MUP cannot take all the credit for a reduction in alcohol-related health harms in Scotland. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale in Scotland said while policies like MUP will encourage people to “drink in the regulated setting of the pub” instead of drinking cheaper supermarket alcohol at home, it fears uprating it won’t have enough of an impact on its own in safeguarding the future of Scotland’s pubs, and that an action plan is needed to save them from permanent closure.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury hotel in London that is seeking a finance director. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will play a key role on the executive team in delivering the business plan, maximising revenue, leveraging business opportunities and optimising operating costs. You will also provide strategic direction and leadership to your teams. You will be overseeing the procurement and IT functions and be a trusted business partner to the senior leadership team across the hotel in order to maximise financial performance.” The position is based in London and the salary is negotiable depending on experience. For more information, email oliwia@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

XP Factory – we see an opportunity to have 50-plus Escape Hunt and 100-plus Boom Battle Bar sites in the UK alone: XP Factory has said that in the longer-term, it sees an opportunity to scale its business “considerably domestically and internationally”, with a market opportunity of 50-plus Escape Hunt and 100-plus Boom Battle Bar sites in the UK alone. It comes as the business reported double-digit like-for-like sales growth across both its owner-operated brands for the 52 weeks to 31 December 2023, with continued strong like-for-like growth in first ten weeks of 2024, underpinning the company”s “confidence in the future”. The company currently has 19 owner operated Boom Battle Bars and 20 Escape Hunt sites in the UK. Richard Harpham, chief executive of XP Factory, said: “The group is now beginning to see the benefits of our enhanced scale, providing the foundations for improved efficiency and expanding our competitive advantage. By design, our model is capital efficient, with rapid payback and high return on investment, as well as being eminently scalable with an objective to achieve accelerated market share, superior returns and deliver a consistent customer experience. Areas of further potential opportunity include upgrading our games offering in existing sites, widening our food choice, harnessing data insights to a greater extent to optimise site layouts and game offering and using technology to enhance customer experience. The experiential leisure industry has proven to be exceptionally robust despite the current pressures on the consumer. However, it remains in its infancy in terms of the wider leisure opportunity in the UK. Competitive socialising participation is growing quickly at 13% per annum and the group is ideally positioned to benefit from these structural growth trends. In the short-term, we are seeking to optimise the pace of site roll out at the pace at which we are able to generate capital. We remain vigilant of evolving trends and continue to actively manage our existing estate as well as evaluating new opportunities to drive profitable growth. We have invested in our capability to analyse data from our sites more thoroughly, both to improve existing sites and to identify the optimal locations for new sites. Initial analysis supports our expectation that in the longer term, we see an opportunity to scale the business considerably domestically and internationally, with a market opportunity of 50-plus Escape Hunt and 100-plus Boom Battle Bar sites in the UK alone.”
 
Chris Kempczinski to assume combined role of McDonald’s chief executive and chairman: McDonald’s has announced that Chris Kempczinski will assume the combined role of its chief executive and chairman after current chairman Enrique “Rick” Hernandez Jr announced his retirement. The company also announced the nomination of Mike Hsu, chairman and chief executive of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, as an independent director and that Miles White, former chairman and chief executive of Abbott Laboratories, will assume the role of lead independent director. During Hernandez’s 28 years of service on its board, McDonald’s has delivered over 2,000% in total shareholder return. The company also more than doubled its restaurant count, including expanding into more than 100 markets. Hernandez said: “It has been an honour to serve on the McDonald’s board and witness first-hand how the company has evolved to become one of the world’s most recognisable and successful brands. Having served alongside Chris, who is now in his fifth year as chief executive, I know he is uniquely placed to unify the two roles to ensure McDonald’s advances in lockstep with today’s ever-changing business and social landscape. Now is the right moment to evolve that board’s structure, and I look forward to seeing McDonald’s continue to flourish for years to come as a lifelong supporter, advocate and customer.” Kempczinski said: “As chairman and chief executive, I am committed to advancing our ‘Accelerating the Arches’ strategy and continuing to deliver strong performance. In today’s dynamic environment, I will ensure that McDonald’s remains nimble as we continue building the strength of the McDonald’s brand and work alongside our new lead independent director, Miles White, to uphold accountability and governance.”

Dubai-based hospitality company Addmind to open third UK site: Addmind Hospitality, the Dubai-based restaurant and bar operator behind Soho’s Sucre and the recently opened CLAP London, is to open a third site in the capital this spring.  The company will open pan-Asian dining concept UBA on Great Eastern Street, forming part of the Hart Shoreditch Hotel, on 2 April. It features a 105-cover restaurant plus a private dining room seating 12. A statement marble bar, offering counter dining for up to 14, will take centre stage. Behind the menu is executive chef, Paul Greening, formerly of Aqua Restaurant Group, Novikov, Harrods and Australasia. Signature dishes will include spicy salmon tartare with Japanese herbs, salmon roe and Nori rice crackers served on an ice plate; Thai-inspired Wok-fried Monkfish with kaffir lime, sweet chilli and oyster glaze; and an Angus beef gyoza with onion ponzu, tomato miso and a charcoal veil. UBA, which will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, will also offer an “up-tempo vibe through a carefully curated soundtrack that changes as day turns to night along with regular DJ sets”. Zeev Godik, group chief executive of Addmind, said: “This is our third London restaurant and the new location showcases our commitment to delivering captivating experiences and genuine hospitality. UBA’s Pan-Asian sharing menu, accessible prices and great music reflect its vibrant Shoreditch location. There’s nothing like it in the area and we can’t wait to open our doors.”

Subway signs agreement with McWin to expand its presence in Europe: Global sandwich chain Subway has signed a new master franchise agreement with McWin, the backer of Gail’s, Sticks‘n’Sushi, and Big Mamma Group, which will result in the opening of almost 600 new restaurants across France, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Belgium. Under the new partnership, McWin will acquire exclusive rights to oversee and develop Subway restaurants in the four countries. This includes assuming responsibility for the nearly 400 existing franchise restaurants in the territory and plans to open approximately 600 new restaurants over the next decade. The expansion is expected to more than double Subway’s footprint in France and Luxembourg, and significantly increase its presence in Belgium and the Czech Republic, where it currently has limited operations. Mike Kehoe, chief development officer for Subway, said: “The multi-country agreement will mark another significant milestone in Subway’s plans to strategically expand its international presence and allow us to accelerate development in a key region.” Starting later this year, Subway said that guests in the region will also benefit from modernised restaurants and improved operations. Carrie Walsh, president of Subway EMEA, said: “With extensive market expertise and a proven track record of successfully growing and developing [quick-service] brands across Europe, we’re looking forward to working with the McWin team to elevate the guest experience and bring even more guests their favourite subs.” The agreement with McWin is expected to be finalised in the second quarter of 2024. Harry Goss, partner and head of Foodservice at McWin Capital, said: “We are delighted to partner with Subway, an iconic global brand that is well-positioned to meet the increasing consumer demand for convenient, affordable and better-for-you options. We will leverage our expertise, platform and network to support Subway in accelerating its growth across these markets over the months and years ahead.” Subway features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK available exclusively to Premium subscribers. 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 Propel Premium 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.

EL&N to open in Lebanon: Cafe and lifestyle brand EL&N, the 35-strong business, is to further strengthen its presence in the Middle East with an opening in Lebanon. The company, which already operates sites in Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, will open a café in Beirut later this year. Earlier this week, the company opened a site in Birmingham, in the former Carphone Warehouse unit which also recently served as a Commonwealth Games Store for the 2022 Games, in Birmingham’s Bullring centre. The company currently operates eight sites in London, plus further sites in Manchester and Edinburgh, and Propel revealed last month that it would be opening a circa 2,600 square-foot, 92-cover site in Westfield London this summer. The business, founded in 2017 by Alexander Miller, entered its 12th international market in October when it opened at the Westfield Arkadia scheme in Warsaw, Poland.
 
Boisdale – focus on destination diners and high quality live music acts results in record revenue at remaining sites: London restaurant and whisky bar operator Boisdale has said changing its operations to focus on destination diners and high quality live music acts has resulted in record revenue at its remaining two sites. The company exited its Bishopsgate and Mayfair sites, in October 2022 and February 2023 respectively, leaving it with venues in Belgravia and Canary Wharf. It comes as Boisdale reported turnover increased to £10,591,027 for the year ending 30 April 2023 compared with £9,976,387 the year before. Boisdale posted a pre-tax loss of £20,926 compared with a profit of £494,367 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are satisfied with the performance of Boisdale of Belgravia and Boisdale of Canary Wharf during the during the year, with both sites trading better than prior year and better than pre-pandemic levels. Boisdale of Bishopsgate ceased trading in July 2022, and the lease was surrendered in October 2022. The lease of Boisdale of Mayfair was assigned to a new owner in February 2023. The operations have been adjusted to be more focused on destination diners and high quality and well known live music acts. As a result, trading has been better than any year. During the year, the group faced several shocks as a result of the war in Ukraine and the resulting impact on the global economy, resulting in input cost inflation, labour shortages, wage inflation and energy cost increases. The group has sought to mitigate the effects of these by increasing prices where necessary, adapting recruitment polices and using the government protected energy cap. The group remains in a strong financial position. Persistent challenges in staff recruitment within the broader hospitality sector persist. While staff remuneration remains above average, long-term staff retention is robust.” The company did not receive any government grants (2022: £129,791) or insurance claims (2022: £25,699). No dividend was paid (2022: nil).

Siren Craft Brew ‘open to future expansion’: Berkshire-based brewer and retailer Siren Craft Brew has told Propel it is “open to future expansion” as it gears up to open its second tap room this spring. The business, which is led by Darron Anley, is planning to open a 3,800 square-foot space in the Reading’s new Station Hill development. This will add to the company’s first pub, The George & Dragon, in Swallowfield, near Reading, which it acquired in 2021. “We took on a small country pub local to the brewery in 2021 – it's been what you might call an adventure,” said head of marketing Andy Nowlan. “It's taught us a lot about hospitality, team structure, experience to customers and what we want to achieve. It's also allowed us to start building the wider team around it in preparation for Reading and future growth. It hasn't been without its challenges – with both external factors like energy prices, ingredients costs and even local flooding, and some unique challenges around the building itself and the big upgrades we've needed to made to the kitchen. It's now serving the best food, the most exciting menu and delivering the best service of our tenure, and we’re loving the community spirit that's building around it. The Reading tap room concept is totally different, but we go into it with confidence gained from our work with the pub, and also really enjoying and that the Siren brand can work in these different environments. Regarding the future, yes we’d love to open more in future. Independence and maintaining sustainable growth are important to us, and we do see our own venues as a strong way of progressing. Right now though, all focus will be on making the Reading site as good as it can possibly be.”
 
Jackson Boxer and Experimental Group to launch Covent Garden bistro Henri: Chef Jackson Boxer and Experimental Group have announced they are to open Henri, a bistro at The Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden, later this spring. Henri will follow on from their latest creative collaboration, Cowley Manor Experimental, which opened in summer 2023 and was selected this week as a winner in the inaugural Condé Nast Traveller’s The UK’s Top New Restaurant Awards. Xavier Padovani, partner and director of Experimental Group, said: “Jackson’s cooking is a poetic blend of British cuisine with subtle nods to French classics, and he never ceases to amaze us. Working with him at Cowley Manor has been an incredible treat, and bringing him along for the ride at Henrietta couldn’t come at a better time. We can’t wait to see what he does once we open our doors at Henri.” The menu will reflect the “culinary traditions and timeless appeal of a Parisian bistro, serving Jackson’s take on French classics and signature Experimental cocktails until late into the evening”. Boxer, chef proprietor of Brunswick House and Orasay, said: “As a young cook, my most eye-opening and palate-enlarging dining experiences involved a cheap early morning Eurostar ticket away. For all the affection and admiration I hold for the global and eclectic nature of my home turf, my reverence for the exceptional produce and imaginative verve of the Parisian bistros of my youth remains undimmed. I'm so proud of what we've achieved in reimagining the luxurious country house hotel [Cowley Manor] for a contemporary, cosmopolitan crowd. Now I'm excited to do the same for a late-night theatreland restaurant in Covent Garden.”
 
Utter Waffle secures second site: Utter Waffle, four-times winners in the British Street Food Awards, has opened its second site in London. Co-founded by James Timmins and Julia Jefferis, the concept is set to open a site later this spring on the former Crust Bros site in Hildreth Street, Balham. The concept, which offers savoury and sweet waffles, opened its debut site in Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, in 2021. The company also operates Reggie, its award winning, flagship food truck, and an event catering business. Adam Bowers, of onepoint2, acted on the Balham deal. 
 
Pebble Hotels – forward bookings look promising, established a platform for growth in 2023: Ted Kennedy, chairman of Pebble Hotels, has told Propel that forward bookings for bedrooms and events look promising and that the business has a better grip on costs. Pebble Hotels runs the Potters Heron in Hampshire and the White Swan in Arundel, West Sussex. Kennedy, who was previously managing director of Whitbread’s managed pub division, told Propel: “Our current financial year is almost over. Same story as the rest of the market – sales versus costs! We should end up okay. The next financial year is about getting our mojo back. We are doing some upgrade works to both hotels, while forward bookings for bedrooms and events (weddings mainly) look promising, and we have a better grip on costs.” It comes as the company reported turnover of £3,453,766 in the year to 31 March 2023 (2022: £3,049,735), and a pre-tax loss of £1,171,455 (2022 (£230,468)). The business said the year allowed it to reset its goals and “established a platform for growth over the coming years.” It said: “The prime focus was on driving accommodation sales forward by focusing on new leisure markets and maintaining a strong business trade. Accordingly, accommodation sales increased by 21% in the year. In addition to an £1,000,000 impairment, the cost pressures on energy and labour, as well-reported across the hospitality sector, impacted along with the rising interest rates and contributed to a loss for the year of £1,171,455. Shareholders' funds were £1,249,550 at the financial year-end. This is after making a prudent impairment charge of £1,000,000, which given current performance, is expected to reverse in the coming year. The hotels delivered growing sales and an operating profit of £111,396. However, it is clear to the directors that further upside should be delivered by an ongoing focus on driving sales and a tighter grip on costs.”
 
New restaurant and wine bar to open in Farringdon this spring: Friends and wine importers Joe Haynes and Ben Butterworth, together with chef Tom Hurst, are set to open a new restaurant and wine bar, Cloth, in London’s Farringdon this spring. Having spent years supplying London's top restaurants through their separate wine businesses, Haynes and Butterworth have joined forces with Hurst, who has worked at Brawn, The Marksman, Levan, Salon and Larry's, and most recently as head chef at Lasdun, to launch the trio's first restaurant together. Located in a grade II-listed building on Cloth Fair, Cloth is taking over a double fronted corner site beneath the former home of poet John Betjeman and next door to the two oldest residential buildings in London. It will have both a bar area offering drinks and snacks from 12pm until closing, plus a more formal restaurant open for lunch and dinner. Hurst’s seasonal menus will celebrate the best of British produce. There will also be a weekly-changing set lunch menu offering up the likes of mussels, fennel and lardo on toast, and hogget sausage with chickpeas, at £25 for two courses or £29 for three. 
 
Starbucks offering British Sign Language training to all its 18,000 UK employees: Starbucks has said it is offering British Sign Language training to all its 18,000 UK employees – “enriching interactions with customers” and “creating a more inclusive environment”. It has partnered with the British Deaf Association and AI-powered virtual training business Attensi for the game-based training. “This Sign Language Week, Starbucks UK is proud to promote and celebrate the importance of British Sign Language (BSL), highlighting the power of signing to grow genuine human connections as more of us embrace it,” said Sara Williams, HR director at Starbucks UK. “At Starbucks, we believe in the strength of inclusivity and diversity, guided by our mission to nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection. Our partnership with the British Deaf Association and Attensi has enabled us to enhance our communication skills through innovative BSL training for all 18,000 Starbucks UK employees. It has enriched our interactions with customers and partners, creating a more inclusive environment for all. During this Sign Language Week and beyond, let’s continue to champion BSL and celebrate the power of sign language as a bridge to connect hearts and minds. We’re proud to embrace diversity and inclusivity, making a positive impact through every interaction.”
 
Bewiched Coffee gearing up for opening of second drive-thru: Midlands cafe operator Bewiched Coffee is gearing up for the launch of its second drive-thru site later this year. The 17-strong business, founded in 2010 when Matt Fountain ploughed his redundancy money into starting a small coffee shop in Wellingborough, opened its first drive-thru in April 2021, at Moulton Park in Northampton. Its second will be located in the Glenvale Park area of Wellingborough, offering 55 internal covers. “Back to our roots. Wellingborough Glenvale Park will become our second drive-thru store when it opens later this year,” Fountain said. “And it’ll be only the second purpose-built independent drive-thru coffee offer with internal seating in the UK and Europe, the first being our Northampton Moulton Park store. As a brand that was born just a mile from Glenvale Park, we are very proud to be opening another drive-thru unit in Northamptonshire. The superstructure of the new local centre at Glenvale Park has been completed ahead of launch later this year.” At the time of opening his first drive-thru, Fountain said: “Since starting this business, I have had a dream to open a drive-thru, but obviously you have to get past the likes of Costa and Starbucks first or find a site that they are not interested in. To get a new-build drive-thru open, we have had to build a business which holds up to financial scrutiny from developers, who in turn often have to raise funds to finance the building project, so I am very proud that our business has the strength of covenant to pass those tests. That is not to say that we do not also have ambitions to open more inline units in town centres as well, we will continue to focus on those projects too.” Fountain told Propel in November that Bewiched is aiming to open five new stores in 2024, followed by a first designer village outlet in 2025. It launched in Market Harborough’s The Square last month, and as well as the Wellingborough drive-thru, also has sites in Leamington Parade, Northampton Grosvenor and Bedford lined up.
 
Ottolenghi Group to make regional debut: London restaurant and deli operator Ottolenghi is set to make its regional debut with an opening in Oxfordshire today (Wednesday, 20 March). Propel revealed in January that Ottolenghi is set to open on the former Le Pain Quotidien site in Pringle Drive, Bicester Village. At the end of last year, Propel reported Ottolenghi was planning a further opening in the capital, in Richmond. The business, which opened its sixth deli and eighth location overall in December, in the former Carluccio’s unit at 32-34 Rosslyn Hill in Hampstead, has applied to open on the former And So To Bed site in Hill Street. Founder Yotam Ottolenghi said last year that he also wants to expand internationally, with an opening in Paris being planned. The business also operates the Nopi and Rovi restaurants in London.

Boo secures site at Merry Hill shopping centre: Better burger brand Boo has secured a site at the Merry Hill shopping centre in the West Midlands. The company has agreed a deal with landlord Sovereign Centros from CBRE to open the restaurant this spring. The 2,000 square-foot venue will be part of Merry Hill’s leisure quarter and have space for 60 diners. The restaurant will serve Boo’s selection of burgers, including the OG Classic Angus beef burger and the buttermilk fried Chick-a-Boo burger. Also on offer will be a variety of sides and drinks including rustic skin-on fries, chicken wings, crunchy bites and milkshakes. Since its launch in Leicester city centre in 2017, Boo has gone on to operate ten sites across the UK and globally, with its first overseas restaurant in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall opening last year. Juan Fernando, marketing manager at Boo, said: “The foundation of Boo came from a family partnership, striving for innovation in dining experiences and taste. It is important for us to maintain a strong base in the Midlands and the announcement of our upcoming Merry Hill restaurant is a testament to this. The destination has a strong, dedicated community, aligning with our values at Boo as a family-oriented business, and offers a dynamic location for our next restaurant.” Last year, co-founder Zainab Suleman told Propel that Boo was eyeing 300 sites in the UK over the next ten years. JLL, Time Retail Partners, and Font Real Estate represent Merry Hill. Space Retail Property Consultants acted for Boo. 
 
Greggs opens 30th drive-thru, extended hours at such locations part of strategic growth plan: Food-to-go retailer Greggs has opened its 30th drive-thru and said extended hours at such locations form part of its strategic growth plan. Drive-thru number 30 has opened at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, hot on the heels of a launch at Rue End Street in Greenock. At the end of last year, Greggs opened its first 24-hour drive-thru and said it would “see how that delivers” before looking at further round-the-clock operations outside of airports. “In less than we a week, we have opened two new drive-thru locations,” a company spokesman said. “The first was Greenock, Rue End Street, and today we are delighted to open our 30th Greggs drive-thru, located in Bristol, Cribbs Causeway. The drive-thru format is larger than Greggs standard shops and further increases our presence in locations where people travel, work and access by car. Drive-thrus play a pivotal role in our multi-channel operation, which incorporates digital channels, delivery services, as well as in-store purchases. Extended trading hours at these locations are part of Greggs’ strategic growth plan, addressing evolving consumer habits and enhancing the evening offer with a focus on pizza and hot food’ such as southern fried chicken goujons and wedges. These sites continue to drive our ambitious growth plans, as we look to have significantly more than 3,000 shops in the UK.”
 
Heavenly Desserts lodges plans for Dundee site: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has lodged plans to open a site in Dundee. The company has applied to the city council to convert the former Mazaj restaurant premises in Reform Street. The Arabic eatery opened in 2021 but shut last year. If its plans are approved, it would be the seventh Heavenly Desserts in Scotland, adding to outlets in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Livingston and Glasgow. Yousif Aslam, co-founder of Heavenly Desserts, told The Courier: “We’re really pleased to be adding another opening to our Scottish footprint with our next location in Dundee. The Dundee store is set to become our seventh in Scotland and will take us ever closer to our goal of launching 100 UK-wide restaurants. We’ve worked hard to perfect our premium dessert dining offering and we pride ourselves on guest experience that’s second to none, alongside the consistent innovation of our menu.” Earlier this week, Propel reported that Heavenly Desserts had signed up former Pizza Hut franchisee, Shafiq Jivraj, to boost its expansion plans in London. Jivraj, from High Wycombe, will look to develop Heavenly Desserts in the capital with new sites in north and west London. Last month, Heavenly Desserts opened its 55th UK site, in Sutton Coldfield.
 
Awesome Chips set to open in Nottingham: Belgian frites concept Awesome Chips is set to open a new site in Nottingham. The company, founded by Roni Dalal in 2015, has applied to erect signage at a former vape store at 16 Albert Street, reports Nottingham Live. The restaurant serves a variety of fresh hand-cut and twice-fried chips, inspired by the food served on the streets of Amsterdam, with options including classic chips, classic fries, sweet potato chips and waffle fries. The company currently has sites in Leicester, Wood Green in North London and the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham. In January 2023, it launched a franchise programme and announced plans to “bring the best Belgian chips to new customers in locations across the UK”. It is seeking both single and multi-unit franchise deals in locations across the UK and Europe, with average start-up costs of £100,000 and a minimum personal contribution of £50,000. Its franchise expansion is being led by Anthony Round, who is also franchise director at burger concept Burger & Sauce and head of business development at chicken restaurant brand Wingers.
 
Tom Cenci to open rooftop restaurant and bar at Soho members’ house: Former Duck & Waffle executive chef Tom Cenci is to open a new restaurant and bar on the rooftop of members’ house 1 Warwick in London’s Soho. Situated on the sixth floor of the building, Yasmin will open on Tuesday, 9 April. The venue will offer seasonal small plates and cocktails as part of the menu from Cenci, who also oversees the kitchen at 1 Warwick’s ground floor restaurant, Nessa. By day, the secluded 64-cover terrace at Yasmin will offer a space for Middle Eastern sharing plates, while the indoor space will offer seating for a further 30 guests. Dishes will include sesame smoked duck, black za’atar, and grilled corn salad; and lamb rump skewer, coal roasted aubergine, yoghurt and smoked oil. To drink, signature serves will include the Grand Bazaar – Yasmin’s take on an Old Fashioned – with Evan Williams, Mancino Rosso, bitter honey aperitif and fig; and At the River, which mixes Mermaid vodka, aperol and rose liquor with notes of citrus.
 
Inn Collection Group opens Lytham St Annes site following multimillion-pound project: The Inn Collection Group has opened its new site in in Lytham St Annes, in Lancashire. The company has combined the former The Lindum and The Carlton hotels into a single site called Offshore. It is Inn Collection Group’s largest sites by number of bedrooms, with 98 rooms. The multimillion-pound renovation of the South Promenade buildings has resulted in a pub area offering 250 covers inside and a large outdoor seating terrace. Inn Collection Group’s head of projects Michael Coulthard said: “It's fantastic to have Offshore open. It has been an extensive project to bring the site back to life. It has taken time to complete, but we are delighted with the results.” In October last year, Inn Collection Group chief executive Sean Donkin told Propel that the business, which operates 36 sites across the north of England and North Wales, has a “decent” openings pipeline.
 
Bristol hospitality group opens new Mexican restaurant for fourth site: Bristol hospitality group Season + Tate has opened a new Mexican restaurant in the city for its fourth site. The group, founded by Kieran and Imogen Waite, has opened Condesa at 83 Whiteladies Road, initially as a soft launch with reduced capacity and dinner service only. Then, between 25 and 30 March, the restaurant will offer all-day service, before the terrace opens and walk-ins are permitted from 1 April. The group runs three venues in Bristol already – Spanish tapas restaurants Bravas and Gambas and Mexican restaurant Cargo Cantina. Head chef Sean Martin will be moving over from Cargo Cantina to head up the kitchen at the new restaurant, reports Bristol Live. Dishes will pay homage to classic Mexican cuisine as well as taking inspiration from modern Mexican cooking, with fire and smoke a focus of many dishes. Smaller dishes include Bristol cheddar quesadilla with shallots and pineapple salsa, beef tartar tostada and fried chicken wings, while among the larger dishes are drunken mezcal prawns, grilled skate wing, smoked pork belly and charred hispi cabbage. The restaurant will also feature a hidden mezcal den, serving a selection of mezcal and tequila. Martin said: “Condesa has been a long-term passion project, and the menu is designed to work for both a quick bar snack and a special celebration.” Waite added: “In Oaxaca we fell in love with mezcal, and the mezcal den is a fun little detail to showcase that.”

JD Wetherspoon set to open new Marlow pub this summer: JD Wetherspoon is set to open a new pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, this summer. Work will start shortly to transform 3 Market Square, at the top of Marlow High Street, into a new Wetherspoon pub called The Swan Hook. A spokesperson for JD Wetherspoon told the Bucks Free Press that work on the former M&Co store would start around mid-April. The pub is expected to open by the end of July and create 50 to 60 jobs. The pub will operate between 7am and midnight from Sunday to Thursday and from 7am to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. A beer garden at the back of the building is expected to close at 11pm daily.

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