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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 5th Apr 2024 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Red Engine CEO – we think we can do more than 200 Flight Club sites in the UK: Steve Moore, founder and chief executive of Red Engine, the Flight Club and Electric Shuffleboard operator, has said he believes the company can grow to more than 200 Flight Club sites in the UK, helped by taking a smaller format into market towns and villages. The business currently operates 12 sites in the UK, six in the US and two in Australia. Speaking at Propel’s Multi-Club Conference, Moore said he believed Flight Club could eventually operate 200 sites in the US, but could possibly open more than that here. He said: “We think we can probably go to about 200 in the US. Vegas is as big as 16,000 square foot, which is about 900 people, but in the UK we go as high as that but we also go as low as our site in Islington, which is 100 people, and we can do everything in between. We're still trying to work out in the US if that smaller model works. The big one does, but does the smaller one work to really give you that runway? We want to do a bit more of a hub and spoke approach because it is exhausting having one in Boston, in Vegas and in Denver. So, I think it could be more than that [in the UK] because we came up with the concept in Croyde in Devon, and it was in a little pub and we wanted to bring that sense of community back like when we grew up in the 1980s. If we can prove the smaller model, we can go into more towns and more villages and create that sense of community for groups of friends and families gaming. That will be excellent. Some of the major cities will run out, probably about 30 or 40 of the big towns and cities, but there's nothing stopping us from expanding more with smaller models. In London we’ve got six venues. We're probably going to 12 but then I would love to get down to that kind of Croyde level or Wimborne in Dorset, like a little market town with a little pub, three or four play spaces – a real community-led space and make it more accessible.” Moore said the business gets “quite a lot of requests for the technology to be licensed”. He said: “We've always declined it mainly because with social darts/Flight Club or the electric shuffleboard/Electric Shuffle, they're so connected. If you were to take out everything we did there and just plonk it somewhere else it would be very odd, whereas the full integration between the interior design with the play space, the vibe and all the other products, we see it as part of our brand package.” Moore was among the speakers at the Propel Multi-Club Conference and Premium Club members will receive access to all 12 videos from the conference today (Friday, 5 April) at 9am. 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.

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.

Premium Club members to receive next New Openings Database and videos from Propel Multi-Club Conference today: The next Propel New Openings Database and the videos from Propel’s March Multi-Club Conference will be sent to Premium Club members today (Friday, 5 April). The database will show the details of 54 site openings, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis and Premium Club members will also receive a 3,300-word report on the 54 new additions to the database. Premium Club members will also receive all the videos from the recent Propel Multi-Club Conference at 9am today. They will include Marcello Distefano, managing director of restaurant group San Carlo, speaking about the challenges of building and evolving a premium casual-dining business; and Charlie Elek, managing director of Lucky Voice, setting out how the company is taking a unique approach to evolving its offer. 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 are also 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.

Tom Kerridge – the entire UK food industry is on the brink of going bust: Restaurateur Tom Kerridge has warned that almost every UK food business was now on the brink of going bust – including his own Michelin-starred outlet. Kerridge, who operates eight restaurants and pubs, warned unprecedented inflation had hit every single cost along with customers financial difficulties during the cost-of-living crisis. As a result, he stressed that many businesses would regard breaking even as a success. Speaking on The Rest Is Money podcast, Kerridge said he had closed his own big event company before Christmas and admitted his established Michelin-starred pub, the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, was only just eking out a tiny profit. Kerridge said if he wasn't involved in a range of interrelated business around food, which includes books and television, he'd now be “absolutely terrified” if he was relying on a restaurant only. He added: “The cooking is the easy bit. The running of the business, the understanding of the margins – the kind of macros of running a business like that is very, very difficult, and the profit margins, no matter how busy you see your local pub on a weekend or even a top-end restaurant packed, the actual margins are very, very small.” Asked if he'd squeezed his profit as inflation rocketed, he said: “Exactly. I think most operators, every operator, will be going ‘I think if we can make the next two years and we just break even and survive, we're in a good space’.” Kerridge said his gloomy outlook was based on him being involved with all price levels, where they are all feeling the pinch. “Eating out isn't cheap, even if you're going to a high street pizza place – a family of four will still spend £100 on a Tuesday night and that's a lot of money,” he said. “When you've got a low price point you have to have volume, but the volume isn't there because everybody's fighting for that market space. That's the one that we're finding we're struggling with – that's the one that is most difficult right now.”

UKHospitality – latest rail strikes to inflict £387m hit on sector with total impact of dispute now totalling £5bn: Industrial action across the rail network from today (Friday, 5 April) to Monday (8 April) will cost the hospitality sector an estimated £387m, UKHospitality has warned. Strikes in 2024 have cost businesses close to £750m in lost business, and the total impact since the start of the dispute in 2022 has now totalled £5bn, the trade body said. Tube strikes in London planned for Monday and next month have been called off but drivers at 16 rail companies are staging a fresh wave of strikes, plus a six-day overtime ban. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The cumulative cost of rail strikes continues to pile up for hospitality businesses, with potential lost sales of up to £387m over the next four days alone. There is never a good time for strikes but this disruption will be particularly damaging. Families looking to enjoy the Easter holidays will now find plans disrupted and hospitality businesses trying to generate much-needed sales will see customer numbers dwindle. As April marks the cost of wages and business rates increasing annually by £3.4bn for hospitality, businesses were looking to a successful Easter to help cover those new costs. That now looks like an increasingly difficult prospect. Hospitality continues to suffer as collateral damage in this dispute and it’s putting at risk the many ways hospitality serves Britain – through offering great experiences, employing millions of people and putting billions of pounds into the economy. This dispute has gone on for far too long and we need all parties to urgently get back round the table to negotiate. A solution that brings ongoing disruption to an end will be good for workers, businesses and the economy.” On the cancellation of the tube strikes, Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, posted on X: “A collective sigh of relief from London hospitality venues.”

Stout seeing sales surge as new flavours and non-alcoholic options attract more diverse audience: Stout is seeing a surge in sales in the UK with new flavours and non-alcoholic options helping it find a more diverse audience. The beer, part of the ale family and usually a very dark colour, is sometimes thought of as the drink of older men in pubs. But it is now attracting a range of consumers, including young women, drawn in by new flavours and lower alcohol options. The consumption of stout globally, by volume, increased by 11% between 2021 and 2022, according to drinks market analysts IWSR. In the UK, the growth over that period was 23%, making it one of the largest stout volume markets globally alongside Nigeria, the US and Ireland. Roisin Vulcheva, head of beer insights at IWSR, told The Guardian: “A lot of growth in stout is coming from Europe, and momentum is especially being driven by an expanding consumer base. People also show interest in 0% varieties. Innovation is also being seen in the on-premise with stout served on draught.” Waitrose said stout sales had increased by 29% compared with the same time last year. It also noted a higher split of women buying the beer: 61.3% of the volume was bought by women and 37.5% by men. Tesco said stout had become so popular it was now its fastest-selling beer variety in the UK, with sales rising by 35% over the past year. New ranges are launching all the time. Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog’s stout, Black Heart, which was brought on to the market in January 2023, is now Tesco’s most popular after Guinness. Tom Holmes, head of the independent brewery Vocation, said: “We think there is something around the sweeter flavours of stout being introduced that are bringing more females in, as it does not have the same bitterness typically associated with hops so it’s more accessible.”

Deliveroo and GMB sign Respect Charter: GMB Union and Deliveroo have launched a landmark Respect Charter pledging positive relationships between riders and restaurants. A total of 30 national restaurant chains and big-name supermarkets, including The Restaurant Group-owned brand Wagamama, Wingstop, Big Table Group’s Bella Italia brand, Morrisons, The Co-op, Farmer J, Thunderbird and Whole Foods, have already signed the new charter. The Respect Charter, which includes principles on treating everyone with dignity, communicating openly, access to facilities and working together to achieve operational excellence, has been signed by GMB Union, Deliveroo, and rider representatives. GMB and Deliveroo struck a first-of-its kind agreement in 2022 giving self-employed riders guaranteed earnings, representation and benefits. Tom Warnett, GMB Deliveroo lead, said: “Everyone has the right to go about their work safely and be treated with respect. Time is money for couriers and a commitment to reducing waiting time is really important. GMB union is involved in the gig economy to bring the standards up. We will do this by making sure couriers are paid fairly, treated with respect and maintain the flexibility that they came into the industry for.” Camilla Kater, senior vice-president of care and rider at Deliveroo, added: “This charter is the first of its kind across our industry and demonstrates the positive impact working hand in hand with the GMB Union has had. Our partnership with the GMB is already delivering for our riders and through jointly creating the Respect Charter we have solidified our commitment to create a positive and supportive environment for riders and merchants.” Jonathan Recanati, chief executive and founder of Farmer J, said: “At Farmer J, we are proud to stand alongside industry leaders in committing to the Deliveroo Respect Charter, fostering a culture of dignity, communication, and collaboration within our community of riders and restaurants.”

Harden’s launches annual diners’ poll to find the UK’s best and worst restaurant experiences: Harden’s has launched its annual national diners’ poll where UK diners share their best and worst restaurant experiences of the last 12 months. The survey forms the basis for the Harden’s annual London and national print guides, and top 100 listings. Diners can submit as many reviews as they wish but they must be for different restaurants, and all who participate will be entered into a prize draw for a luxury break for two at Gleneagles, complete with dinner at UK Top 100 winner, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie. Harden’s co-founder and editor of the guides, Peter Harden, said: “Our annual diners’ poll is a fantastic opportunity for people to get behind the restaurants they’ve enjoyed over the last 12 months and help the hard-working members of the hospitality industry to achieve the recognition they deserve. Equally it’s a chance to share valuable feedback with fellow diners regarding places that they feel missed the mark. But to enable us to produce this valuable resource, we need to ask diners themselves to spare some time to share their experiences.” Around 2,500 diners usually take part in the Harden’s annual survey, providing up to 30,000 reports. Restaurants at all price levels are included: from street food vendors to the country’s most ambitious dining rooms, with 2,800 eateries listed in total. Reviews have to be submitted by midnight on Monday, 6 May.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a restaurant brand that is seeking an experienced head chef. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The business has created a new position for an experienced team leader to join it and improve and maintain standards in its kitchens. The kitchens are large with cook lines, wok lines, steaming facilities for its famous dumplings and hot sections. This key to this role is real leadership qualities. The business is looking for someone with presence, motivational skills and the ability to manage teams to really drive standards across the kitchens. You will also have the ability to think ahead especially when managing staff payroll, orders, compliance and new openings.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email olly@corecruitment.com.

Company News:

San Carlo MD – we need to retain our magic as we grow, opportunities internationally for premium brands: Marcello Distefano, managing director of restaurant group San Carlo, has said that the business is constantly thinking about what size it can grow to and how it can retain its “magic” in the process, as it looks to grow further internationally. The company currently operates 24 sites in the UK, eight in the Middle East and one in Bangkok, under brands including San Carlo, Cicchetti and Signor Sassi. Speaking at Propel’s Multi-Club Conference, Distefano said: “I think about how to retain our magic as we grow all the time. We always were real traditionalists and everyone always says how warm they feel when it comes to visiting our restaurants. I still truly believe in the role of the maître de, in that warm welcome. I hate nothing more than when you turn up on a site and you can't identify who the person in charge is. They should have big charisma and personality when you walk in for us. That's really key and I think that spills out to the other people in the business. We've also tried to create amazing spaces whereby there's just sort of a certain electricity that happens on-site. In terms of how big we can go, I think as long as we're enjoying it, and we're still being creative and the people that are in the business are inspired, we will continue to grow. I think for us it will be around what kind of business we want to be running and how big a company do you want to work in as a family business? Do you start to get to a certain size and think, is that as far as we really want to take this?” The company is just starting on the build stage for its first opening in the US, in Miami, and Distefano said there are great opportunities overseas for premium dining concepts. He said: “We've got an opening in Bahrain coming up. We've got Morocco and Egypt in the pipeline, and one in Vietnam. There are huge amounts of opportunity with a lot of these places, because there's very little in the premium end of the market especially from international brands. I think the world's become a much smaller place. Successful brands, especially in London, are wanted and looked for. So, I think the opportunities are there internationally. Because of tax laws and not having maybe the same business rates and all that kind of stuff, the potential for Ebitda generation in some cases we've seen is double what we can achieve in the UK.” Distefano was among the speakers at the Propel Multi-Club Conference and Premium Club members will receive access to all 12 videos from the conference today (Friday, 5 April) at 9am. 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.

Punch in talks on ex-Wear Inns business: Punch Pubs & Co, the Fortress Investment Group-backed business, is in talks to acquire the 25-strong ex-Wear Inns business, which was placed into administration last year, Propel has learned. The Clive Chesser-led Punch is believed to have moved into pole position to acquire the business, which comprises 21 freeholds and four long leaseholds, located across the north east of England and Yorkshire. It is understood that Punch is currently in talks to acquire 24 of the sites, with a deal thought to be valued at around £15m. Talking to Propel earlier this year, Chesser said: “Over the past year, we have been very active in looking for single site acquisitions in the independent sector and we have acquired some cracking pubs through that route, such as the Young Pretender in Congleton. We continue to actively pursue those opportunities, as well as large or small packages of pubs; we’re always attentive to opportunities that might arise in the market, and we expect more activity in this area during 2024.” Propel revealed in November that Milton Portfolio Op Co 3, which operated the 25 sites across the north east and North Yorkshire and was owned by investment firm Aprirose, had appointed Ryan Grant and Howard Smith, of Interpath Advisory, as joint administrators. The business had a deficiency of £8.1m when it was placed into administration. Agents Avison Young and Watling Real Estate were appointed to market the 25 pubs, which continue to trade, and include Black Bull, East Boldon; Black Bull, Morpeth; Dirty Habit, Wickham; Dirty Habit, Whitley Bay; Lambton Arms, Chester-le-Street; Old Courthouse, Barnsley; The Priory, York; The Victoria, Whitley Bay; and the Whistle Stop, Beeston. The sales process for the portfolio of pubs began in February. Propel understands that the combined group net of VAT sales for the year to 31 December 2023 was £12.9m. The portfolio is a combination of community, every day, premium and urban bar concepts, with more than half of the estate having been refurbished since 2019. Aprirose acquired the former Wear Inns business five years ago in a £22.4m deal backed by the Business Growth Fund and NVM Private Equity. It is thought that Blackrose Pubs, which previously operated the Wear Inns estate, has also shown an interest in the business. Punch and Interpath declined to comment. 

Costa Express begins tea trial: Costa Coffee has begun a trail of serving tea through its Costa Express sites, Propel has learned. Costa has kicked off the trial in ten Shell forecourt sites in the UK. A Costa Coffee spokesperson told Propel: “We're excited to introduce our new tea offering across selected Costa Express machines, launching as part of an exciting trial at ten Shell locations across the UK. With tea being such a beloved beverage in the UK, we saw an opportunity to enhance the on-the-go tea experience. Our expertise in quality and convenience ensures freshly brewed tea with fresh milk at selected Costa Express machines, promising a delightful sip for every journey.” Costa Express currently operates in 20 international markets, with more than 14,000 coffee machines in the UK and in excess of 1,700 globally. In 2022, Costa Coffee announced that it would be rolling out its new “innovative Costa Express’s Hot and Iced Drinks self-serve machines”. 

Slater Investments doubles stake in Loungers: Slater Investments, the investment management company led by Mark Slater, has doubled its stake in Loungers, the café bar operator. The investment management company has taken its shareholding from 5.12% in Loungers to 10.22%, making it the second largest shareholder in the Nick Collins-led business, behind Lion Capital. Loungers share price stands at 212p, giving it a market cap of £219.94m. Speaking to Interactive Investor last November, Slater said: “There is fear of recession in most markets. That will affect, and has been affecting, some of the forecasts and it's been affecting some companies. But what's surprising to me is even those companies that haven't put a foot wrong, which are very unlikely to be affected by recession, they're treated pretty well the same as the others that might be affected. So, it's pretty indiscriminate. It’s a very aggressive de-rating, more so than I think I've ever seen.” When asked to give examples of companies that, from a share price perspective, haven't performed well, but from a business operation perspective are doing great, he said: “Well, a company like Serco Group, which is one of our biggest holdings. It hasn't been terrible, the price action, but it just doesn't really move and that business is so much better than it was a few years ago. That’s on a 10% free cash-flow yield, so it's throwing off cash. It’s retiring 6% of its equity per annum, it’s cancelling it. It’s trading on a price to earnings rating of about ten or 11. It's growing at a much faster rate than that. And that’s a company that is very unlikely to be affected by economic factors. It's got a very long-term order book. It's a very predictable business. But there are lots of examples. Franchise Brands – its shares are half what they were two years ago. It’s done nothing wrong. It’s always beat forecasts. They do all those things, Loungers similarly.”

Burhill Group hires new COO for Adventure Leisure and Ninja Leisure division as Andrew Scholey joins Lane7 as MD of family entertainment concepts: Burhill Group has hired Stephen Brown as the new chief operating officer of its Adventure Leisure and Ninja Leisure business division. Brown replaces Andrew Scholey, who is joining boutique bowling company Lane7 in June as managing director of its family entertainment concepts, Level X & Gutterball. “We are delighted to welcome Andy on board,” said Tim Wilks, founder of the Lane7 Group. “His extensive background and success in building leisure ventures, aligns perfectly with our vision for growth and innovation. He will be joining an accomplished team consisting of David Bence (chief finance officer), Gavin Hughes (managing Director of Lane7), and Graeme Smith (chief operating officer), all of whom boast impressive resumes in the leisure and hospitality industry. Together, they form a formidable leadership core, each bringing unique expertise to the table. The timing of Andy's appointment couldn't be more opportune, with several exciting projects on the horizon, including the overseeing of the launch of two new sites for Gutterball and Level X, as Lane7 expands into Berlin.” Brown – who joins Burhill Leisure on Monday, 15 April – has accrued almost 35 years’ experience within the leisure industry, with the majority of that time spent in the sports and fitness realm. In addition to working for non-profit organisations and registered charities, Brown also spent a significant period as operations director and business support director at David Lloyd Clubs – Europe’s largest operator of health and fitness clubs. Brown said: “It’s an exciting time to be part of the experiential leisure industry, with new avenues opening for leisure and sports experiences all the time. Burhill Group’s Adventure Leisure and Ninja Leisure brands have grown exponentially in recent years and continue to evolve and develop to match the latest industry trends. There’s no sign of this slowing down, and I’m excited to get to work with the team to further enhance our position within the leisure sector.” In June, the company will open a site for its Mulligans adventure golf brand in Hemel Hampstead, Hertfordshire. The venue will become Burhill Group’s 30th overall and 20th competitive leisure venue from brands that also include Bunkers, Ninja Warrior UK and Total Ninja. The group also operates ten golf clubs. Colin Mayes, chief executive of Burhill Group, said: “We’re excited for what the next few years will hold for us and we are in discussions about a number of other sites too.” Scholey told Propel last year the business was looking to open four sites in 2024.

Rudy’s adds to London openings pipeline: Mission Mars, the Business Growth Fund-backed operator of Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana, has added a further site in London to its 2024 openings pipeline for the latter 24-strong brand, in Clapham. The company, which aims to open a further ten pizzerias in FY24, has recently opened in London’s Shoreditch High Street, Tottenham Court Road and Spitalfields, and has a further opening in the capital lined up on a former Domino’s Pizza site in Queensway. Propel understands that Rudy’s has lined up an opening on the former The Dairy site in The Pavement in Clapham, subject to licensing and planning. Mission Mars also has openings lined up for Rudy’s in York, West Bridgford and Altrincham. Talking in January on the back of the company’s full-year results, Roy Ellis, chief executive of Mission Mars, said: “Strong trading across all venues for a sustained period gives us confidence that both our Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s brands are well set to deliver growth and are likely to trade successfully in all parts of the UK. We continue to search for the best locations, with 12 new Rudy’s and one new Albert’s Schloss currently in legals.” Josh Rose, of Matter.London, acts for Mission Mars in London.

McDonald’s buys Israeli franchise restaurants amid damage from Middle East turmoil: McDonald’s will buy its 225 franchise restaurants in Israel, just weeks after saying that the Israel-Hamas war was hurting its business. The company said it had struck an agreement with Israeli franchise Alonyal to buy the firm’s McDonald’s franchise restaurants in the country. Omri Padan, chief executive and owner of Alonyal, said: “For more than 30 years, Alonyal has been proud to bring the Golden Arches to Israel and serve our communities.” Alonyal employs more than 5,000 people across its McDonald’s restaurants in the country. McDonald’s added it “remains committed to the Israeli market and to ensuring a positive employee and customer experience in the market going forward”. The vast majority of McDonald’s stores around the world are run by local franchise operators. These operators act in many ways as independent businesses – they set wages and prices and, when they feel appropriate, make statements or donations at their discretion. In the aftermath of attacks on 7 October, in which Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 Israeli soldiers and civilians and kidnapped some 200 more, Alonyal offered discounts to local soldiers and security forces. Many McDonald’s operators in the wider region quickly distanced themselves from Alonyal’s actions. Franchise groups in Kuwait and Pakistan, for example, issued statements saying they did not share ownership with the Israeli franchise. Like other American brands, McDonald’s has been hit by boycotts in several markets in the region. In January, chief executive Chris Kempczinski said the company was experiencing a “meaningful business impact” in the Middle East because of the war between Israel and Hamas. During its latest earnings presentation in February, McDonald’s reiterated that message and said the conflict would likely continue to weigh on its business.

Tom Brown looking to relocate Michelin-starred restaurant Cornerstone to larger premises: Chef Tom Brown is aiming to relocate his Michelin-starred fish restaurant Cornerstone, in Hackney Wick, to larger premises in London, Propel has learned. Brown has instructed Restaurant Property as sole agents and is seeking space of between 1,500 square foot and 3,000 square foot further west in the capital. Brown is looking for premises in either Marylebone, Mayfair, Covent Garden or Soho. Brown, originally from Redruth in Cornwall and a protégé of two Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw, opened Cornerstone in 2018. Cornerstone was awarded a Michelin star in 2021 and has retained it since. At the end of last year, Brown launched the seafood-led Pearly Queen in Spitalfields – a nod to the east end Pearly kings and queens and a play on the provenance of oysters. A Restaurant Property spokesperson said: “Restaurant Property is excited to be helping Tom Brown in his Cornerstone expansion and will be bringing its wealth of experience and expertise in helping him to grow its success further in a new home.”

Two Magpies to hit ten-site mark as it opens largest outlet to date: Suffolk bakery Two Magpies will open its tenth site today (Friday, 5 April), in Framlingham. Housed in the former Barclays bank premises in Market Square, the site has been revamped to create Two Magpies’ largest bakery and cafe at more than 3,000 square feet. The site will offer 50 covers and open daily, from 8am-5pm, offering a limited lunch and breakfast menu to start with, rolling out to a full menu as per all larger Magpie sites. Also available will be takeaway hot drinks, pastries, cakes and bread, all handmade by the Two Magpies team. Steve Magnall, owner and chief executive of Two Magpies, said: “We are delighted to be opening another branch in Suffolk and expanding the Two Magpies family. We have received huge support from locals and visitors over the years and are thrilled to be celebrating our tenth opening.” Last year, Two Magpies begun the rollout of its smaller format, Mini Magpies, with an opening in Wells-next-the-Sea. Magnall said that if the new smaller format was successful, the group saw a mixture of Mini Magpies and fully serviced Magpies being opened going forward as he saw potential for up to 50 sites in East Anglia. Two Magpies also has sites in Norwich, Blakeney, Holt, Woodbridge, Beccles, Aldeburgh, Darsham and Southwold.

Great British Menu winner Kirk Haworth to open relocated Plates restaurant in July: Kirk Haworth, the 2024 winner of Great British Menu, will open his relocated Plates restaurant in Shoreditch, east London, in July. Haworth, along with sister Keeley, runs the business that was previously in Shoreditch and then Dalston, which shut in 2022. Plates will open in Old Street on Wednesday, 3 July. Work is under way at the 25-seater restaurant and outdoor dining terrace. The six or seven-course plant-based tasting menu will aim to “change the perception of how fruit, vegetables and plants can be transformed”. Dishes will include carrots, brined in Korean aromats, lightly smoked and caramelised over coals, topped with leek-top kimchi, whipped aioli, crispy wild rice, and spirulina powder and served with pickled kohlrabi and spiced pear. Kirk Haworth said: “Since launching Plates in 2017, I have been on a mission to change the perception of fruit and vegetables through my passion for flavour in this unique style of cookery. After many years of searching for the perfect restaurant we're thrilled to be opening in Shoreditch this summer.” Kirk and Keeley Haworth’s father Nigel is former managing director of Northcote Leisure Group.

Flat Iron to open Hammersmith site next week: Flat Iron, the Piper-backed affordable steak concept, will open its new site in Hammersmith, west London, next Thursday (11 April). Propel revealed in November that the Tom Byng-led business had secured the ex-Wing Wing site in The Broadway. The new Flat Iron restaurant will offer 120 covers. Flat Iron’s head of beef, Fred Smith, said: “Our passion for high quality, accessible steak remains at the forefront of everything we do at Flat Iron. We are looking forward to sharing this with new and old friends in our new restaurant in Hammersmith.” In January, Flat Iron reported a record year of sales for the year ended 27 August 2023, with full year sales of £35.9m, up £12.4m (52.9%) on the previous year, while adjusted Ebitda was £3.8m (2022: £3.5m). At the time, Byng said the business is targeting four or five new restaurants a year and believes there is room for at least 30 more sites in London.

Chopstix opens at The O2: Fast-growing, quick service restaurant brand Chopstix has opened a site in the Entertainment District at The O2. The venue, which is owned and operated by Waterfront Limited Partnership, a joint venture between AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners, said the opening of the new 1,991 square-foot location marked a milestone moment for the destination as it reached full leasing completion, and for the Chopstix brand which continues to “grow its footprint at pace”. Janine Constantin-Russell, managing director at the Entertainment District and Outlet Shopping at The O2, said: “We are pleased to welcome Chopstix to The O2, marking the final piece to the puzzle as we celebrate a fully leased Entertainment District and commend the success that we have achieved over the last few years. Grab-and-go was an area that we were keen on expanding to deliver a variety of food and beverage concepts for visitors, and mixed with our fantastic leisure operators and high-quality dining offers, Chopstix complements the destination and reaffirms our position as being one of London's most desirable retail, food and beverage, and leisure locations.” Menashe Sadik, co-founder and director at Chopstix, added: “This is a huge moment for us – The O2 is an iconic location that we've long had our eyes on. The Entertainment District at The O2 is a space with such a buzz, delivering live entertainment, popular retailer destinations and leading hospitality outlets, and we know Chopstix will add to this, bringing tasty pan-Asian dishes to more people than ever.”

Coast & Country Hotel Collection sells two seafront sites: Coast & Country Hotel Collection has sold two of its sites in separate deals. The company has sold the Majestic Hotel in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and The Royal Hotel in Whitby, North Yorkshire, for undisclosed sums. Located on Eastbourne's Victorian seafront, the 19th-century Majestic Hotel features 95 bedrooms, many of which have clear sea views, as well as a bar and lounge area. The 115-room The Royal Hotel also has sea views and features a reception hall, a ballroom for functions and events, a restaurant and dining rooms. Both deals were brokered by Christie & Co, which has been marketing a 33-asset portfolio of Coast & Country Hotel Collection sites. A Christie & Co spokesperson said: a “very limited number” of these assets remain available.

Grind attains B Corp status: Coffee brand Grind has become a B Corp-certified business. Based on the B Impact assessment, Grind earned an overall score of 82.5, with the median score for businesses which complete the assessment currently 50.9. David Abrahamovitch, founder and chief executive of Grind, said: “Since Grind started serving coffee in 2011, we've grown, changed, and evolved significantly, with sustainability always at the heart of what we do. We've always strived to do things the right way, even when it isn’t the easy way. We originally applied for the B Corp certification two years ago, but our rapid growth meant evaluating every area took time. Finally achieving certification is worthy of celebration. It's another step in our journey towards collective action and continuous improvement, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to minimising our impact on the planet. I am immensely proud of how committed the team at Grind is to sustainability.” Grind was the first coffee roaster in the UK to introduce certified home-compostable coffee pods in 2018. The business also sources coffee from small-scale farms that deploy regenerative agriculture practices, has introduced recyclable coffee packaging and organises ocean clean-up projects in partnership with Ocean Co.

Michel Roux Jr to oversee new restaurant at Glasgow luxury hotel: Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr is to lead a new restaurant opening at the Crossbasket Castle hotel on the outskirts of Glasgow. Trocadero’s forms part of the £15m expansion project of the luxury hotel by owners Steve and Alison Timoney. Due to open in August, the restaurant will be a nod to the celebrated 1950s dance hall in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, of the same name and aims to transport guests of the “new” Trocadero’s “to a magical bygone era with a sophisticated new twist”. Established and emerging artists and musicians will provide nightly entertainment with Roux Jr overseeing the restaurant and cocktail bar. Steve Timoney said: “We took inspiration from Glasgow’s legendary live music scene and the enthusiasm and energy of its audiences. Scotland has a long history of excellent live music and talented performers, and we want to showcase that to allow our guests to kick up their heels and have fun whilst enjoying exceptional food in a sensational venue.” Roux Jr added: “Trocadero’s is going to be the talk of the town and the most iconic venue in Scotland. We will offer fabulous, delicious food, great entertainment, and somewhere people will want to keep coming back to time and time again.” Managed by Inverlochy Castle Management International, the expanded 40-bedroom hotel and restaurant, which will also include a luxury spa with its own designed Scottish based product line, will open later this year.

Big Fang Collective to bring in-house pizza and arcade concepts to Cardiff site: Big Fang Collective, the Imbiba-backed entertainment venue operator that owns the Golf Fang brand, is bringing its in-house pizza and arcade concepts to its Cardiff site. On Wednesday 24 April, Big Fang Collective will be introducing Nothing Cheezy alongside the Big Fang Arcade. Following launches at its Liverpool and Sheffield venues, Big Fang Collective is bringing its New York-style slices to Cardiff. Nothing Cheezy Cardiff will also be the home of the new Pizza Dog – signature smoked dogs in freshly baked buns and smothered in cheese with a range of toppings on offer. The Cardiff location will be the second venue to feature Big Fang Arcade, after its launch in Sheffield in March. The arcade will feature a “blend of all the best retro games of years gone by and a selection of current favourites”. A Big Fang Collective spokesperson said: “We’re excited to be enhancing the Golf Fang experience of our guests. After many research trips to New York, we knew NYC slices were going to be a hit. We can’t wait for the people of Cardiff to try our menu.”

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