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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 25th Mar 2024 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Black Sheep Coffee raising £15m of new funding, aiming for US IPO: Speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee is currently raising £15m of new funding as it looks to step up its international expansion plans, while it gears up to explore an IPO in the US, Propel has learned. It is understood that the business, which was founded in 2013 by Gabriel Shohet and Eirik Holth, is in the middle of its latest fundraising round and that this is “filling up fast”, while it aims to IPO in the US “soon”. The company, which operates circa 82 stores across the UK alongside a single site in France, recently made its debut in the Middle East and will open two further UAE outlets in the second quarter of 2024. It is also gearing up to launch in the US, with three sites already secured for opening later this year. The company previously said it planned to open 15 sites in its initial US launch phase. In 2021, the business received investment from NBA basketball player Kristaps Porzingis as it looked to break into the North American market. Earlier this year, Propel revealed that Black Sheep Coffee had converted a £2m loan note into equity and raised additional financing through equity issues after its turnover more than doubled in the year to 1 January 2023. Turnover rose from £10,709,936 to £21,348,236, of which £20,870,557 came from operation of coffee shops including online sales (2021: £10,706,338) and £477,679 from franchise fees and recharges (2021: £3,598). It comes as new Black Sheep Coffee franchisee Aaron Johal opens his first store with the brand. A former business management trainee, Johal signed with Black Sheep Coffee at the end of 2023 and set up his franchise business, 99 Coffee. He has now opened his debut site, at Merry Hill shopping complex in Birmingham, with the fit-out supported by a six-figure loan from HSBC UK. The 1,800 square-foot coffee house, which includes self-service kiosks, has created 13 jobs and seats up to 65 guests. “Black Sheep Coffee has grown immensely over the last decade,” Johal said. “I’m beyond excited to be part of the business’ future growth plans by opening my first coffee house, and the second Black Sheep Coffee in the West Midlands, thanks to HSBC UK.” Black Sheep Coffee also this week opened its second site at Gatwick airport. 

Industry News:

Premium Club members to receive videos from Propel Multi-Club Conference: Premium Club members are to receive all the videos from last week’s Propel Multi-Club Conference at 9am on Friday 5 April. They will include Nisha Katona, founder of Indian street food concept Mowgli, talking about the challenge of keeping close the brand’s ethos and culture intact as it grows; Sir Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, discussing the current state of the UK pub market, and the group’s approach to corporate governance with Emma Gibson, one of the company’s ‘employee directors’; Adil Group chief executive Raja Adil talking about life as a franchisee of Burger King, Costa Coffee, KFC and Taco Bell; Steve Moore, founder and chief executive of Red Engine, the Flight Club and Electric Shuffleboard operator, explaining how the company has become a £100m-turnover business; Marcello Distefano, managing director of restaurant group San Carlo, speaking about the challenges of building and evolving a premium casual-dining business; Charlie Elek, managing director of Lucky Voice, setting out how the company is taking a unique approach to evolving its offer; Stephen Freeman, chief executive of Freeman Event Partners, discussing the role F&B is playing in the evolution of the consumer/fan experience; Alastair Scott, founder of S4labour, leading a discussion with Gary Cowles, director of operations at Super8 Restaurants (Brat and Mountain), author Dulcie Swanston, Adam Martin, managing director of Tesco Hospitality, and Dan Hawkie, chief commercial officer at TiPJAR, on improving employee engagement; Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners, mapping out the current investment landscape and how we are moving into a new stage of the funding cycle; William Gordon-Harris, chief executive of Knoops, on plans for the ‘Starbucks for quality chocolate drinks’; Florian de Chezelles, co-founder at The Salad Project, talking about launching a next generation salad bar concept into the highly competitive central London market; and Rob Huysinga, co-founder of all-day restaurant and bar concept Bubba Oasis, discussing the opportunities for the ‘clubhouse’ concept. 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.

HDI’s Mark Bentley to speak at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: Mark Bentley, business development director at HDI, 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. Bentley will talk about the areas where the pub sector is and has been performing strongly and where the opportunities are for the sector to drive growth. 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, with seven category segmentation including 188 experiential leisure 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. 

Payments watchdog examining tech outages at Greggs and McDonald’s: The payments watchdog is examining the tech outages that have caused chaos for a number of high-profile retail outlets. Greggs became the fourth major firm to suffer IT issues last Wednesday, following problems at McDonald’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Greggs closed several stores after its tills went down – just five days after McDonald’s customers were left unable to buy food for several hours. The Payments Systems Regulator (PSR) said it was reviewing the situation, reports the BBC. “The PSR is aware of the recent payment issues and is assessing their nature to determine whether any further action is needed,” it said. The PSR is the UK’s economic regulator for payment systems, seeking to ensure they work well for those that use them. If it identifies an issue with payments infrastructure resilience, it can pass the matter on to the Bank of England. Jamil Ahmed, an engineer at transaction firm Solace, said the potential for “disruptions and vulnerabilities” will grow as businesses rely more and more on digital transactions. “The brick-and-mortar retail industry is facing a crossroads,” he said. “Customers, accustomed to the constant uptime and reliability of online shopping, are demanding the same flawless digital experience from physical retailers.”
 
NTIA hails ‘week of action’ to combat spiking as a success: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has hailed its “week of action” to combat spiking as a success. The trade body partnered with the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) for the initiative, which commenced last Monday (18 March) and concluded yesterday (Sunday, 24 March). Throughout the week, police forces intensified their focus on the night-time economy, mobilising additional resources and implementing targeted strategies to bolster their investigations. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “Crucially, this initiative underscores a united front against spiking. Enhancing the efficacy of police investigations is paramount, and early reporting coupled with forensic scrutiny are pivotal in holding perpetrators to account. To this end, the police have forged partnerships with key stakeholders within the night-time economy, equipping staff with the requisite training to detect and address spiking incidents proactively. It is more important now than ever that we consider the broader societal environments that this crime takes place in, but it must be a collective effort with input from all stakeholders.”
 
Final hearing of select committee inquiry into grassroots music venues to be heard tomorrow: The final hearing of a select committee inquiry into grassroots music venues is to be heard tomorrow (Tuesday, 26 March). The cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry will hold a three-panel session that will start at 10am and be broadcast live on Parliament TV. Panellists will include LIVE, the Concert Promoters Association, the National Arenas Association, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Music Managers Forum, the Association of Independent Promoters and PRS for Music. The inquiry is looking into the current crisis facing grassroots music venues and will produce a full report of its findings later in 2024. Select committee chair Caroline Dinenage MP said: “One of the pillars during my campaign to become chair was to say we need to do a full review of grassroots music venues in the UK, the challenges that they are facing, but also what the opportunities are and what more we can do to support them. We will work to produce a full report and put forward recommendations not just to the government, but also to the industry and for local authorities.” Mark Davyd, chief executive of Music Venue Trust, added: “We are grateful to Caroline and the other members of the select committee for focusing their efforts on the myriad challenges facing grassroots music venues. The threat to this vital sector of our cultural life has never been more acute.”

New Glasgow parking charges would have ‘devastating impact’ on businesses: Business representatives in Scotland have said new parking charges up to 10pm in Glasgow would have a “devastating impact” on pubs, clubs and restaurants  and in the city. The “overwhelming majority” feel plans to extend parking restrictions in the city into the evening would affect their business negatively, according to a joint survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG). More than half of the respondents think they would have to reduce staff hours or staff numbers and would contemplate relocating their business. About one in four feel they might have to close their business and almost all say the plans would hurt their business. More than eight in ten fear that the changes would reduce footfall and turnover, while almost three-quarters think staff recruitment would become more difficult. The survey was completed by 205 Glasgow businesses which employ over 8,300 people. Hisashi Kuboyama, FSB’s development manager for Glasgow said the charge would “have a devastating impact on the city’s restaurants, pubs, nightclubs and theatres and could affect hundreds of jobs.” A spokesman for the council said the changes were agreed as part of a budget required to find £107m worth of savings over the next three years, and that current data shows the city centre is busier in the evening and at the weekend than before the pandemic.
 

Company News:

Sir Tim Martin – franchising provides ‘big opportunity’ for JD Wetherspoon and will hopefully lead to first opening outside UK and Ireland: JD Wetherspoon founder Sir Tim Martin has told Propel that he hopes franchising will provide a “big opportunity” for the business in areas that don’t suit managed houses – and lead to its first opening outside the UK and Ireland. The first Wetherspoon franchise pub opened at Hull University in January 2022. This was followed by a second at Newcastle University in September 2023, and a third opened this month at the Primrose Valley holiday park in Filey, North Yorkshire, in partnership with Haven. Speaking following Wetherspoon’s interim results, where the business reported sales increased to a record £991m, Sir Tim said: “We’re hoping it’s [franchising] a big opportunity in areas that don’t suit managed houses. Maybe some smaller towns and maybe some overseas airports. I’m hopeful we’ll have a site outside the UK and Ireland in the next few years.” With Wetherspoon reaffirming plans to have a 1,000-strong estate across the UK, Sir Tim said he expects the 814-strong business to open about “half a dozen” sites in the rest of the financial year. He added there was still plenty of room for the company to grow but probably needed to do so more strategically than it has done in the past. Among its targets are “big city stations”, where Wetherspoon believes it can add between 60 and 70 pubs. With current sales at record levels, Sir Tim said drink sales have been outdoing food recently, “which is unusual”. He added: “Guinness continues to shoot the lights out and real ale is performing strongly. Spirit sales are a bit slower but wine sales are growing after a slow few years. Vodka is also making a comeback as the gin phase eases a bit.” With inflation now having fallen to its lowest level in two and a half years, Sir Tim said he hopes the “worst is behind us” but said the industry was still having to grapple with higher costs. “I’m hesitant about tempting fate but inflation has dropped faster than the pessimists feared so we will keep our prices as low as possible, and it’s becoming easier to do so”, he added.

Breal Group among bidders for Vagabond, Majestic Wines in pole position for business: Investment firm Breal Group is among the parties that have bid for Vagabond, the Imbiba-backed wine bar business which filed notice of its intention to appoint administrators earlier this month, Propel understands. Last year, Breal Group acquired rival wine bar and restaurant business Vinoteca out of administration, and is thought to be looking to put both businesses together. Propel understands that Imbiba has also submitted a bid for the business backing the existing management team led by Matthew Fleming, while Manchester-based private equity firm Inc & Co has also been linked with the process. However, its is thought that the Fortress Investment Group-backed Majestic Wines remains in pole position to acquire Vagabond, having made a bid that is thought to be substantially more than the next offer for the business. The deal would add roughly a dozen wine bars to Majestic's portfolio, as well as an urban winery located at Battersea Power Station. Propel understands that Majestic first showed an interest in the business last year and therefore was in a good position to move fast when Vagabond fell into trouble off the back of the closure of its site in Heathrow. Opened in May 2022, the Heathrow site was described by the business as a “game changer” but is temporarily closed due to reconfiguring of the security zone, while the group’s site at Gatwick, which opened last year, is believed to have failed to meet expectations. Quantuma is advising the 12-strong Vagabond and offers were due by 14 March. In January, Propel revealed that Stephen Finch, who founded Vagabond in 2009, had left the business.

Sky News – Gail’s owners plan for sale valuing it at ‘well over £200m’: The owners of fast-growing Gail’s Bakery are preparing to hire advisers for a sale that would value it at well over the £200m at which it changed hands nearly three years ago. Sky News understands that Bain Capital Credit and Ebitda Investments, a fund backed by serial restaurant investor Henry McGovern, are drawing up plans to appoint bankers, potentially before the end of this year. Gail's, which is also part-owned by sector investor Luke Johnson, has grown rapidly in recent years. Part of Bread Holdings, its sister company, The Bread Factory, is a leading independent bread producer supplying premium customers and supermarkets. When the group changed hands in September 2021, Gail's had just over 70 bakeries trading across the country, with that figure now standing at circa 125. Sources said a formal sale process was unlikely to take place until next year. Bain Capital declined to comment, as did Mr Johnson. The company, which made its debut in the north west last year with a number of openings in and around Manchester, confirmed last month it will open its first south west store in May, in Bristol.

Individual Restaurants set to open Home Counties sites, makes management changes: Individual Restaurants, which comprises 31 venues across its Restaurant Bar & Grill, Piccolino, Piccolo and Riva Blu brands, is set to take its Piccolino concept past 20 sites with pair of openings this summer in the Home Counties. A 5,000 square-foot Piccolino is set to open in the Market Square in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, in June following a £2m investment and renovation. The 140-cover restaurant will be situated in a grade II-listed building which incorporates a river walk entrance, two bar areas, a winterised courtyard and a private dining room. The nearby Marlow Bar & Grill, at 92-94 High Street in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, which is also owned by Individual Restaurants, will also be undergoing a £500,000 renovation ahead of also reopening its doors in July as a Piccolino. Andrew Garton, chief executive of Individual Restaurants, said: “We are incredibly excited about growing our collection of Italian restaurants in the home counties. It has been our ambition for Piccolino to be a much-loved restaurant at the heart of these communities for years, so it is fantastic to see these ambitions being realised in 2024.” In January, Propel revealed that trading in Individual Restaurants' current financial year has been “strong”, despite the premium dining market being adversely affected by cost-of-living pressures. The business saw turnover fall to £65,600,000 for the year ending 26 March 2023 compared with £67,100,000 the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda for the period was a loss of £7,642,000 (2022: loss of £7,338,000). Pre-tax losses increased to £12,474,000 from £11,488,000. That same month, Individual Restaurants introduced a loyalty scheme “with a difference”, focusing on personalised offers, exceptional service and experiences. It comes as the business makes two changes in its management team. David Carroll, formerly of Fridays and Whitbread, who joined the business in summer 2021 as its group property director, has been promoted from group strategic operations and property director to chief business director. At the same time, the company has promoted Selena Green from head of commercial finance to its commercial and insights director. 

Pho adds Greenwich to openings pipeline: Pho, the Vietnamese restaurant group led by Pat Marrinan and backed by TriSpan, has added a site in Greenwich to its openings pipeline, Propel has learned. The 41-strong business is understood to have secured the Kaspas site in Church Street for an opening later this year. Earlier this month, the company opened its second site in Scotland, and first in Glasgow. Following a successful debut north of the border in the St James Quarter development in Edinburgh, Pho opened on the former Moss Bros in Glasgow city centre, on the corner of Renfield Street and St Vincent Street. Propel revealed last month that the business plans to open six or seven sites in 2024 on the back of a strong 12 months, with full-year turnover set to top £72m. The company has also taken on the former Doner Shack site in Baker Street, London. The site build is underway and the company has earmarked the site to open next month. Pho will follow this up with an opening in early summer in Norwich, on the former RBS bank site at 5 Queen Street. Over the past year, Pho has opened six sites across the country, having secured additional funding from ThinCats to aid its continued expansion. The company said it has had another strong year, with sales for the year to February set to exceed £72m, up from £58m the previous year. The business said despite the challenging economic conditions, it reported positive 7.3% like-for-like sales for the 11 months to 14 January 2024.

Site in London’s Mayfair previously home to Saltie Girl’s sole UK restaurant goes on market: The site in London’s Mayfair that was home to the sole UK site for US-based seafood restaurant concept Saltie Girl has gone on the market, Propel has learned. Saltie Girl – which specialises in lobsters, oysters, caviar and premium tinned seafood – made its UK debut on the former Prezzo site at 15 North Audley Street in November 2022, but shut the site last month. Restaurant Property is believed to have been appointed to sell the lease. Saltie Girl is part of the Met Restaurant Group, which is led by US restaurateur Kathy Sidell and owns and operates five restaurants in and around Boston, including the original Saltie Girl.

Heartwood Collection secures ex-Stonegate site, first hotel site off to ‘really strong start’: Heartwood Collection, the Alchemy Partners-backed business, has added to its openings pipeline after securing a former Stonegate Group site, The Prince of Wales, in East Barnet. As the village’s last remaining pub, Heartwood Inns said it will be undertaking a multi-million-pound refurbishment to ensure it remains at the “heart of the local community for many years to come”. It will offer 150 covers and 55 on an outdoors terrace. The deal follows the company’s recent acquisition of the 28-bedroom The Royal Forest in Epping Forest, scheduled to open in the autumn, taking the group's room offering to over 175 rooms by the end of 2024. The Heartwood Collection said it remains on track to grow to over 60 inns and brasseries by June 2027. Richard Ferrier, chief executive of Heartwood Collection, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to acquire what is clearly a much-loved local at the heart of East Barnet village. We will now embark on an ambitious development for the pub to ensure that The Prince of Wales remains a hub for the local community for years to come.” At the end of last month, the company opened its first pub with rooms, The White Horse in Dorking, with a further four already confirmed by the group for 2024. Ferrier told Propel: “Dorking is off to a really strong start and we’ve learnt a huge amount about rooms very quickly. We’ve been delighted with the feedback from our guests so far and this gives us confidence for the next few room openings over the summer.” Further openings with room for the company, which currently operates 22 pubs, include the Rope & Anchor in Emsworth (43 bedrooms), the Coat & Bear in Newbury (26 bedrooms) and the White Hart in Lewes (26 bedrooms).

Stack chosen as operator for Leeds Kirkgate Market site: Leisure venue concept Stack has been chosen by Leeds City Council as its preferred operator to develop and run a brand new food village at the city’s Kirkgate Market. The proposed container-style venue will offer a mix of street food, drinks and live entertainment. The company said: “This opportunity allows us to contribute to the city’s growth while creating a diverse and engaging space for the community and visitors alike. The development aims to bring more foot traffic, job opportunities and enhance the overall market ensuring both new and existing traders can thrive, so it remains a key attraction in Leeds.” Last week, Propel reported that Stack had been given the go-ahead to open sites in Northampton and Wigan. The plans are the latest in a number of announcements made by the company as it rolls out its master plan to become a nationally recognised brand. Stack Lincoln will be opening in the next few months and the creation of a new home for Stack Newcastle is currently underway. Stack is currently operating at Seaburn in Sunderland, and in the pipeline are schemes in Durham, Bishop Auckland, Whitley Bay, Carlisle, Manchester and Sheffield, which are a mix of container villages and repurposed underused sites. In January, parent company Danieli Group secured new backing from investment firm Kings Park Capital to accelerate Stack’s growth.

Chick-fil-A opens first-ever mobile pickup restaurant: US fast food chain Chick-fil-A, which is planning to make its UK debut in early 2025, has opened its first-ever mobile pickup restaurant. The New York City-based restaurant is one of two digital-focused test concepts the company plans to open – the second of which is an elevated drive-thru concept slated to open in Atlanta later this year. The mobile pickup restaurant will focus solely on delivery and mobile app ordering and will be alerted by geofencing when customers are on their way to speed up the process. Inside the restaurant will be active status board screens designated for delivery or mobile pickup, so customers and delivery drivers can see when their orders are ready in real time. While the restaurant will not offer a seating area or dine-in services, Chick-fil-A said the company’s “signature hospitality” will be “prominent in every step of this digital-focused experience”. According to the company, digital orders make up more than half of total sales in some markets, and this number continues to grow. “New York City’s use of mobile exceeds that number, so we know our customers in NYC have a strong appetite for convenience,” a spokesperson from Chick-fil-A said.

Jason Atherton to close Pollen Street Social: Chef Jason Atherton has announced his restaurant Pollen Street Social in London’s Mayfair will close in the summer after 13 years. The chef said the Michelin-starred restaurant will close its doors on 31 July. He said: “Thank you to all our loyal customers, staff, supporters and suppliers. It has been a rollercoaster of a ride and wonder journey but it’s time for us to say goodbye. Please come and visit us as we bid farewell to one of the iconic restaurants in London.” Pollen Street Social won a Michelin star three months after opening in April 2011.

Papa John’s franchisees target 20-store estate after opening Lincolnshire restaurant: Papa John’s franchisees Kam and Sukhy Bains have targeted a 20-store estate with the business after opening their latest restaurant, in Lincolnshire. The husband-and-wife team, who opened their first franchise with Papa John’s in Nottingham in 2010, have just opened site number 17, in Lincoln Road, Sleaford. “It’s a real family business, they said. “Ourselves and our children have both gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry working with Papa John’s. Starting with one store over ten years ago, and today opening our 17th is such an achievement and reflection of our hard work. We thought Sleaford was the ideal location for a new Papa John’s as it’s a vibrant town, but with limited pizza options. The Sleaford launch is a step in our goal to open 20 Papa John’s. We look forward to sharing our great pizza with the local community and now we are ready to deliver to the people of Sleaford.”

French-Swiss food journalist set to make restaurant debut, in London’s Fitzrovia: French-Swiss food journalist Solynka Dumas is set to make her restaurant debut with the opening of July in London’s Fitzrovia next month. She has partnered with Julian Oschmann, who she met during lockdown when they were both living in the same apartment block in Berlin, for the Alsatian-inspired restaurant and wine bar, which will launch at 10 Charlotte Street on Saturday, 25 April. The pair bonded over their love of bringing friends together over shared meals, which led to hosting clandestine supper clubs and, in turn, to their restaurant venture. July will be an all-day affair, serving pastries and coffee in the morning, a concise lunchtime offering and an evening menu featuring bar snacks, seasonal small plates, charcuterie and cheese. The kitchen will be led by former 40 Maltby Street sous chef Holly Hayes and feature a regularly changing menu, with dishes such as lamb hearts, white asparagus and hollandaise; lemon sole, clams and leeks; and whole roast Fosse Meadows chicken with homemade mayonnaise. The wine list will feature a variety of low-intervention wines from small producers in Europe. Alongside her food writing, Dumas has worked at Contemporary Food Lab in Berlin, MJMK restaurant group in London and hosted a pop-up at natural wine bar Mosto. Oschmann has more of a tech background but has worked at Hotel Bauer in Munich and MeatLiquor in London.
 
SSP opens new premium bar and restaurant concept at Manchester airport: SSP Group, the UK operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has opened a new premium bar and restaurant concept at Manchester airport. Evergreen Bar and Brasserie has launched in Terminal 2 serving a variety of meals including breakfast with freshly brewed coffee and sharing boards and wine. The 144-seat bar and restaurant is in the departure lounge’s main atrium. The opening comes as the airport continues to make progress on its £1.3bn transformation programme, which will more than double the size of the existing terminal when it is completed next year. Kari Daniels, chief executive of SSP UK and Ireland, said: “We’re delighted to have opened our first bespoke airside bar in this terminal, which will bring a premium dining experience to those wanting a final taste of Manchester before departure. Offering bespoke outlets is an important part of our strategy, providing a new experience each time our customers travel.” Stephen Turner, commercial director at Manchester airport, added: “Terminal 2 is the centrepiece of our transformation programme and will be used by more than 70% of our passengers. This restaurant offers something different to the existing offering in Terminal 2 while also supporting suppliers from across the north.”
 
Inflatable theme park operator set to open in Bristol for sixth site and largest yet: Inflatable theme park operator Jumpin Fun is set to open in Bristol for its sixth site and largest yet. Founded in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, in 2018 by Casey Ruse, the company also has locations in Salisbury, Derby, Rochester and Cheltenham. Jumpin Fun Bristol will cover 26,000 square feet of action including slides, air drops, jumps and an array of obstacles. Due to open this summer, it will offer children’s birthday party packages and also be available to hire for private events.
 
Manchester pasta restaurant closes two of its four sites: Manchester pasta restaurant Rigatoni’s has closed two of its four sites within the space of a month. The company was founded in 2015 by Michael and Alex de Martiis as Sugo Pasta Kitchen but changed its name to Sud Pasta in February 2023 following a legal dispute with a Glasgow restaurant of the same name. At the end of 2023, it closed all four sites before relaunching them in January as a new concept, Rigatoni’s, focusing on serving “hearty bowls of house-made rigatoni from just £7.50”. However, last month, it closed its site in Sale’s Stanley Square, and has now shut its location at the Manchester’s Exhibition food hall in Peter Street. This leaves it with just its restaurants in Altrincham’s Stamford Quarter and Ancoats’ Blossom Street. In a post on social media, Rigatoni’s said: “It’s with a heavy heart that we need to tell you folks that we’ve closed our kitchen at Exhibition food hall in the city centre. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time there but have come to realise that our Altrincham and Ancoats restaurants need our complete focus and attention with the recent launch of Rigatoni’s. Unfortunately, in this regard, our Exhibition kitchen has stretched us too thin, meaning we’re not able to give it everything that we and Exhibition require. We’d like to thank the entire team at Exhibition and wish them nothing but the best moving forward. Also, we’re upping the pasta portions on a few of our dishes. A couple of you have mentioned the portion sizes being a little small on a couple of dishes, which to be honest completely goes against the Rigatoni’s ethos of feeding people properly, and so therefore we’re acting.”
 
Non-alcoholic brand LA Brewery closes crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £725,000 to support growth: Non-alcoholic brand LA Brewery has closed its crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £725,000 to support its growth. The Suffolk-based business – which includes Dishoom, Hakkasan, Itsu and Nando’s among its customers – uses fermentation to create flavour, with ingredients including white tea, rhubarb, rose petals and hop flowers. The campaign on Crowdcube raised £723,366 from 256 investors. The business was offering 13.35% in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £4,694,779. LA Brewery plans to use the funds for upweighted digital marketing for e-commerce customer acquisition, as well as capacity investment in the company’s Suffolk brewery, which the B Corp business said will drive production efficiencies and accelerate new product launches. LA Brewery previously conducted a crowdfund in 2021, also with Crowdcube. Last year, LA Brewery’s revenue increased 88%, and similar growth is forecast for the year ahead. Louise Avery, founder of LA Brewery, said: “This second raise comes at a time when the no and low industry is booming. We have an exciting 2024 ahead of us.” In September, the business appointed Meg Ellis, who previously helped build Honest Burgers to 45 sites, as its new managing director.
 
Sector Associates acquired by David Roberts & Partners: Sector Associates, which specialises in hospitality insurance, has been acquired by fellow insurance broker, David Roberts & Partners. “Following a recent strategic review, we are simplifying our legal structure to better reflect our brands and the nature of our business,” a Sector Associates company spokesman said. “Uniting with David Roberts & Partners marks a significant new chapter in the Sector journey, and we are excited about the opportunities it brings to our team and our much-valued clients.” Steven Swift, a consultant with the business, has now become a director.

Former Winteringham Fields head chef takes on first solo restaurant venture: Gareth Bartram, former head chef at the Winteringham Fields restaurant in Scunthorpe, has taken on his first solo restaurant venture. Bartram and his wife Lucy have taken over the Auction House restaurant in Louth’s Cornmarket, whose previous owners shut up shop last May after four years, citing ill health and the cost-of-living crisis. Bartram has spent the last nine years at Winteringham Fields, which was established by legendary Swiss chef Germain Schwab in 1988. “We’ve been looking at premises for the past 18 months, we wanted to take our time and find the right place,” Bartram told Hardens. “Then we stumbled upon the Auction House, and it was a great building with such character – it was perfect. We want to offer relaxing and comfortable dining with a great atmosphere and nice music that will allow people to have great conversation, as well as fine dining.”
  
Leeds bakery kiosk concept closing in on 30 sites as it expands across Scotland: Leeds bakery kiosk business Batch’d, which champions small-batch bakeries in the north, is closing in on 30 sites as it expands across Scotland. It has just opened its third store in the country, at Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow, which will be followed by several more north of the border in the coming months. Founded by Dave Richmond in 2021, the first Batch’d kiosk opened in 2022 and has since experienced rapid expansion, growing to 23 sites. The new kiosk is located outside the Lego store in the centre, serving a “huge selection of baked goods” including artisan brownies and cookies, reports the Glasgow Times. Harry Clavane, managing director at Batch’d, said: “We are very excited about opening site number three in Scotland at Buchanan Galleries, which falls perfectly with the launch of the Easter product range. With more Scotland sites opening in the next few months and these recent additions, our network will span over 28 locations across the UK.”
 
Big Table Group converts Café Rouge site in Witney to Bella Italia: The Big Table Group, the Las Iguanas and Banana Tree operator, has converted its Café Rouge site in Witney, Oxfordshire, to its Bella Italia brand. The restaurant in Marriotts Close is adjacent to Cineworld. Open daily from 8am to 10pm, extending to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant can accommodate 100 diners indoors and an additional 40 outdoors. A Bella Italia spokesperson told the Oxford Mail: “We’re thrilled to be joining the Witney family and are very much looking forward to welcoming new guests to enjoy our delicious range of Italian-inspired dishes.” In December, Alan Morgan, chief executive of the Big Table Group, told Propel that its 70-strong Bella Italia brand continues to deliver and that it has “some of the highest value for money scores of all its competitor set”.
 
Bloomsbury Leisure set to open fifth Bristol site: Bloomsbury Leisure, the pub, bar and leisure venue operator led by Jonathan Dalton, is set to open its fifth site in Bristol. The group, which runs circa 14 hospitality businesses, including pubs in London, Bristol and Manchester, has started work on converting the former Poundtrecher in East Street, Bedminister, into a restaurant called Thumps. Billed as Bristol’s first specific nachos bar, its centrepiece will be a giant production line machine which will produce fresh nachos for guests. The building has been empty since Poundstrecher closed in 2020. Dalton said the idea for Thumps came from a visit to California, where he saw the tortilla chip production line in action, reports Bristol Live. Bloomsbury Leisure also operates the Crofters Rights and Llandoger Trow pubs in Bristol, as well as ten-pin bowling, karaoke, craft beer and pizza concept The Lanes. It is also working on converting the derelict former Seaman’s Mission Church on Prince Street, which dates back to 1880, into a new live music venue, restaurant and bar.

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