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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 10th Apr 2024 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Exclusive – Portobello Pub Company acquires Darwin & Wallace: Portobello Pub Company, the pub and restaurant operator backed by private equity firm Zetland Capital, has acquired Darwin & Wallace, the London neighbourhood bar-restaurant business, for an undisclosed sum, Propel has learned. The acquisition will see the Richard Stringer-led Portobello add seven sites located in “key London villages”, including Battersea Power Station, Clapham, Wimbledon and Richmond, to its current 20-strong estate. The Mark Crowther-chaired Portobello said that Darwin & Wallace will continue to operate under the same name and continue to provide guests with its “high-quality, all-day drinking and dining offer that has become revered for its high standards and award-winning design, as well as its sustainability credentials and commitments”. Portobello told Propel it plans to further grow the group, including the Darwin & Wallace collection, via selective acquisitions. Darwin & Wallace – which operates sites in Canary Wharf, Chiswick, Clapham Old Town, Ealing, Richmond, Wimbledon and at Battersea Power Station – was founded by Mel Marriott in 2012 and backed by private equity firm Imbiba and approximately 200 smaller individual shareholders, via the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme. Crowther, who was also chairman of Darwin & Wallace, said: “This is a fantastic acquisition for Portobello, bringing an extremely successful and high-quality business under our umbrella. It represents a fantastic opportunity for us to blend our existing high-quality estate of pubs and restaurants with a collection of truly excellent and premium high-street hospitality venues. Mel and her team have done an extraordinary job in creating and building the business over the past decade and we’d like to thank her for trusting us to be careful custodians; we are looking forward to taking Darwin & Wallace to the next level. We’d also like to thank the teams at both Imbiba and Zetland for supporting this deal, enabling us to start this exciting new chapter at Portobello.” The deal will see Marriott step down from day-to-day operations, with the enlarged group led by Stringer. The rest of the existing Darwin & Wallace senior team will remain in place. Marriott said: “I am incredibly proud of what we’ve built at Darwin & Wallace and am immensely grateful to everybody who has been a part of this journey. While it’s the end of an era for me, what we have created is truly special and I am looking forward to watching the business continue to flourish under the stewardship of Mark, Richard and the Portobello team.” Darwin & Wallace reported that sales for the year to 28 May 2023 were £17,844,912 (2022: £17,521,727), representing an increase of 1.8% on the prior year (without adjustment for the VAT benefit in the prior year). It said additional costs during the year are estimated to have reduced site Ebitda by circa £1,100,000. Adjusted site Ebitda for 2023 was £1,319,033 (2022: £2,608,885), while pre-tax losses stood at £1,911,425 (2022: loss of £1,118,711). Marriott told Propel last month that despite trading being sluggish particularly at the beginning of the week, the business was continuing to see “huge performances” at the weekends. Portobello recently reported like-for-like growth in the first quarter of its current financial year to the end of September 2024 was “ahead of the market”. The company also said above budget returns from recently invested sites has helped it “exceed target Ebitda”.

Industry News:

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: to book places.
Premium Club members to receive two updated databases this week: Premium Club members are to receive two updated databases this week. The updated UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database, which will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Wednesday, 10 April) at midday, will feature 16 new entries. The database now has 350 entries and more than 126,000 words of content. Among the new entries are Chicago-style deep-dish pizza concept Japes and north west frozen yogurt concept Frurt. Also included are Birmingham piri piri chicken restaurant MeriGo Piri Piri and bubble tea brand T4, which came to the UK from Taiwan in 2015 and now has 60 stores here. Premium Club members will also receive the next Turnover & Profits Blue Book on Friday (12 April), at midday. A further ten companies have been added, while 48 have updated figures. The database now features 901 companies, with 577 in profit and 324 making a loss. Premium Club members also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, in association with Virgate; the New Openings 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 today to sign up.

UKHospitality welcomes Labour’s plans to ‘fix broken business rates system’: UKHospitality has welcomed Labour’s plans to “fix the broken business rates system” if it comes to power later this year. The party has announced its plan for high streets, including replacing business rates with a new system of business property taxation “which rebalances the burden and levels the playing field”. Allen Simpson, deputy chief executive of UKHospitality, said government policies all too often make it expensive to run businesses in the heart of communities. “We’re pleased to see this focus on high streets and fixing the broken business rates system,” he said. “The current system is archaic and unfairly penalises businesses that have a physical presence in communities, like hospitality. It’s clear that the current system is in urgent need of reform. We need to see governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff, alongside local authorities, do all they can to rebalance and reduce the costs that businesses are paying. Reforming business rates is an ideal place to start and will enable businesses to spend more of their available cash on investment, rather than just paying the bills.” As well as replacing business rates, Labour's high street plans includes revamping empty shops, pubs and communal spaces, with communities given the right to buy their assets. Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader and shadow communities secretary, said the UK’s town and city centres are an “untapped strength” of its economy but people “just aren’t getting what they want when they visit town”. She added: “Labour will use the full force of government to get behind our high streets and spark the decade of national renewal that communities deserve.”
Zero Carbon Forum launches new directory to help hospitality operators reduce supply chain emissions: The Zero Carbon Forum has officially launched a new directory to help hospitality operators reduce their supply chain emissions. Called Marketplace, the world’s first directory of pioneering sustainability products and services is designed to connect operators with supply chain businesses to help them reach net zero faster. Marketplace already connects 63 operators in more than 35,000 sites to an extensive network of suppliers. It follows a recent Zero Carbon Forum study that revealed that Scope 3 emissions account for more than 90% of overall emissions in the brewing and hospitality sectors. Mark Chapman, chief executive at the Zero Carbon Forum, said: “The brewing and hospitality sectors have some of the most complex supply chains with a wide range of suppliers who may not have the same level of commitment to reducing emissions. They also often have limited control over their suppliers’ emissions from the transportation methods to the suppliers they use. Through our detailed roadmaps, members can take actions to reduce Scope 3 emissions and now, through Marketplace, they can source the best in essential sustainable services and solutions that help accelerate the transformational change the industry needs to make. It’s essential to have a collaborative effort to tackle the challenge of reducing emissions across the value chain, and this is why we conceived Marketplace. The platform has grown at such a rate, showing the need for such a service.”

Robinsons announces passing of life president Dennis Robinson: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has announced the death of its life president, and the last of the fifth generation who worked for the company, Dennis Robinson. Dennis joined the family's business in October 1953, starting as a trainee brewer. The company said: “During the succeeding 71 years, he has taken an active role in the company’s affairs. In 1962 he became a main board company director, becoming life president in 2020. He remained committed and fully engaged as the chairman of the trustees of our historic pension schemes, and with the evolution of the business over the last ten years right until his death. He will be sadly missed by his family, friends and colleagues inside and outside the business, who were such a large part of his life for many years. For the Robinson family, the loss of the last of the three brothers, the fifth generation of the business, is the end of an era. Their wise counsel will be deeply missed.” Joint managing director and son of Dennis, William Robinson, added: “He will be remembered by many colleagues across the business as a true gentleman with a fastidious attention to detail. He was a walking almanac of all things Robinsons, custodian of the company’s history and keen to ensure this was brought to life and shared widely.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a drinks wholesaler in the London and south east area that is looking to double in size over the next six years and is seeking a sales director. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for managing and executing all sales strategies at a senior level within the business. You will be directly responsible for revenue growth, expansion of the business and developing the market presence, and responsible for the expansion of the sales team in line with budgets and revenue. You will report directly to the directors, with regular trips to the headquarters in the south east. Overall, you will need to be passionate and driven with a thirst for success, along with a strong background in the drinks industry across both on and off trade.” The salary is up to £90,000. For more information, email

Company News:

Exclusive – Crosstown appoints advisors as it seeks new investment: Crosstown, the artisan doughnut and speciality coffee brand, has appointed advisors as it looks to secure new investment to aid its next stage of growth, Propel has learned. Crostown, which was co-founded ten years ago by Adam Wills and JP Then and opened its first shop on Broadwick Street, in London’s Soho, currently operates more than 30 sites including shops, trucks, kiosks and pop-up stalls across the south of England. Crosstown, in which Foresight, the backer of Mowgli and Roxy Leisure, invested £3m in 2022, is understood to be working with advisors from Interpath Advisory on its investment options. Crosstown, which is chaired by Beatrice Lafon, said it is aiming its ambitions towards global growth, with initial plans to open stores into the Middle East. Howard Ebison, chief executive of Crosstown, said: “As we seek to expand our offering into more locations across the UK and grow internationally, the time is right to bring in new investment to help us fulfil our growth aspirations.” The company, which also serves specialty coffee and small-batch ice-cream, alongside its handmade fresh sourdough doughnuts, said that its recent retail offering, a new permanent kiosk in Battersea Power Station, has been a “resounding success”. Ebison joined Crosstown last March after more than three years at Hammerson, including a year as managing director asset management. Previous to that, he had stints at Manchester airport and Manchester Airports Group. The majority of the group’s sites are based in London, with five regional sites – in Bristol (Clifton and Cabot Circus), Bath, Brighton, Cambridge and Oxford. In March 2022, Foresight invested £3m in Crosstown for a minority stake in the artisan doughnut and speciality coffee brand. The deal saw co-founders Wills and Then retain a 35% stake in the business.

Exclusive – Crêpeaffaire plans to ramp up UK expansion through franchising: Crepe brand Crêpeaffaire is looking to ramp up its UK expansion plans through partnering with franchisees across the country, Propel has learned. Crêpeaffaire has teamed up with property adviser Christie & Co as it looks to find “entrepreneurial food retail professionals” to aid its expansion plans. Founded in London in 2005, Crêpeaffaire currently operates 13 sites around England and has more than 30 sites in total now operating across the world, including its recent airport partnership with SSP. Crêpeaffaire is also planning a US launch in the autumn of 2024. It said that there is “enormous appetite for accelerated UK expansion through franchise partnerships in various formats and investment levels”. With the support of Christie & Co, Crêpeaffaire said it is looking to secure “lasting partnerships with a number of ambitious hospitality entrepreneurs or investment groups, by combining their concept with entrepreneurs’ knowledge, experience and desire to develop in a new region”. Daniel Spinath, Crêpeaffaire’s founder, said: “We are thrilled to work with Christie & Co on the development of the Crêpeaffaire business in the UK. The opportunities for growth are enormous, and we look forward to partnering with fantastic regional operators and building the brand’s presence to its full potential.” Simon Chaplin, senior director – pubs, restaurants and franchise at Christie & Co, added: “We are delighted to be representing Crêpeaffaire in this new UK expansion plan. The brand is tried and trusted, offering a franchisee a solid platform from which to build. The formats can be adapted to suit most locations, from kiosk to full dining venues. We see demand coming from existing hospitality operators seeking a stand-out brand and those entering the industry looking to develop a region using their local expertise.” Last year, Spinath said that he was targeting 300 sites over the next five years as he aims to make Crepeaffaire “a global business”. 

McMullens acquires ninth managed pub in London, three more ‘waiting in the wings’: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullens has acquired its ninth managed pub in London and said it has three more “waiting in the wings”. It has completed the purchase of The Lock, located at 35 Chalk Farm Road in Camden, which last changed hands in 2018 when it was bought by East London Pub Co. The pub, along with three others – The Ten Bells and The Gun in Spitalfields and The Saxon in Clapham – were put up for sale in January after their owners filed for insolvency in 2023. The pub will join the managed estate at McMullens, where it will operate just as it does now – “an eclectic Camden pub, with historic roots and an exciting local vibe”. It will be the company’s ninth managed pub in the capital and the second London pub it has purchased in the current financial year. It said three further pub acquisitions are “waiting in the wings”, on lease to other operators, and will join the managed estate in future. The next to join the wider estate is expected to be the newly developed Duchess & Dressmaker, in Brentwood, Essex, which is currently in the planning process. McMullens said that despite the recent challenges impacting the sector, its team has delivered “a consistently strong profit performance which, together with a commitment to high levels of reinvestment, enables the purchase of quality freehold pubs, free of debt”. It added that a focus on team development and engagement, and maintaining a quality offer to guests, “continues to provide a firm foundation for further growth and acquisitions”. Elysia Wilson Gunn of Fleurets acted for McMullens on the acquisition, working with Jenny Strathern, McMullens’ property director. “I’m so pleased to have secured this well-known and much-loved public house in Camden for McMullens and thank Fleurets for their assistance,” Strathern said. “We selected this particular site from a small group of pubs as it adds further diversity and quality to our London estate, and we continue to seek quality freehold pubs, conversion properties and new builds to join our existing pubs and hotels estate across London and the south east.” McMullens’ joint managing director, Hayden Mizon, told the Propel Multi Club Conference last September that the business was not averse to taking on debt if it’s for the right opportunity and was keen to add rooms to its portfolio. Last month, the business sold The Crown in Waltham Abbey, Essex, to Red Oak Taverns.
Treetop Golf plans Bristol opening: Discovery Adventure Golf, a partnership between former Goldman Sachs entrepreneur Elizabeth Stanway and experienced leisure operator Chris Richards, is planning to open a site under its Treetop Golf concept in Bristol. The five-strong business will occupy a 17,000 square-foot space at the Hammerson-owned Cabot Circus scheme in the city later this year. Treetop Golf will replace the Jungle Rumble crazy golf venue, which closed its doors at the end of last month after 15 years of trading. Treetop Golf will bring its two immersive indoor 18-hole mini golf courses to Cabot Circus, as well as the bonus 19th hole – offering all players the chance to win a free round. Visitors will also be able to relax in The Market where they can tuck into handmade pizza from Pizza Cabana, sample tropical cocktails and mocktails from The Thirsty Toucan bar or grab coffee and snacks at the Jungle Buzz Café, which all feature products from a range of local suppliers. Stanway said: “We can’t wait to bring our immersive mini golf destination to Bristol. We’re on a mission to spread wonder and to help our guests connect through new experiences and share special moments together. It’s great to be working again with the Hammerson team and we’re thrilled to be supporting its plans in growing Cabot Circus’ entertainment offering.” Last October, Treetop Golf opened a 17,500 square-foot site at Metrocentre, Gateshead, following a £2.5m investment, having previously signed a 25-year lease. The group also operates Treetop Adventure Golf sites in Cardiff, Manchester, Leicester and Birmingham.
White Rabbit Projects to open first international site with Portugal launch: White Rabbit Projects (WRP), the McWin-backed business, is to open and operate its first international site later this year, in Portugal. Under its White Rabbit Hospitality vehicle, which designs, develops and operates bespoke hospitality concepts for hotels and landlords, it will curate and operate the food and beverage offer at Locke de Santa Joana in Lisbon. The business will oversee the concept creation and operation of ten food and beverage outlets for its partners, Edyn. The outlets will include a Mediterranean restaurant, reception café, poolside bar and all-day Portuguese seafood brasserie. The property will also feature multiple bars to include a Japanese style listening bar with London-based Spiritland, whoich will also curate the music at the property. The business is also understood to be in discussions with a well-known chef to be its partner on the new project. Last year, the company partnered with Edyn to open the Eve restaurant and bar at the Ember Locke in Kensington.

Sides to open Lakeside site: YouTube collective The Sidemen will open the latest site under Sides, its chicken concept, in the Lakeside scheme in Essex tomorrow (Thursday, 11 April). The restaurant, which will be the Sidemen's fifth across the country, promises stylish décor, comfortable seating and “attentive” service. The Sidemen opened its first high street Sides locations, in London’s Dalston and at the Merry Hill shopping centre in the West Midlands, before adding further sites in Manchester Arndale and Bluewater, Kent. It also had locations within Boxpark Wembley and Croydon. Founded in 2021, Sides grew initially as a delivery-only brand but intends to expand across the country, with as many as 200 sites over the next decade.
Michel Roux Jr to open Chez Roux at The Langham: Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr is to open a new restaurant in Palm Court at The Langham, London, called Chez Roux. The restaurant – which will open on Wednesday, 22 May – has been inspired by the chef’s childhood memories: life in rural Kent in the 1960s, being raised at the Fairlawne estate where his father Albert Roux worked as a private chef for the Cazalet family, and the first menus from Le Gavroche in 1967. Menus at Chez Roux will showcase “historical British classics and traditional French cooking methods, presented in contemporary, refined dishes”. Roux Jr said: “I have such fond memories of growing up at Fairlawne, where my father spent seven years cooking for the Cazalet family. From relaxed lunches to extravagant dinner parties, it’s safe to say everyone ate very well! Dad had to learn the great British classics but used all his French technique and skills to cook for the family and esteemed guests. When my parents had to cook dinner parties, the wife of the head butler, Mrs Bradbrook, would babysit, introducing me to the wonders of great British desserts such as crumble and custard, and steamed puddings. The menu at Chez Roux is inspired by these early memories. Many of the recipes that were popular during the 1960s have been consigned to history, yet there is so much to love about the dishes I remember from this time – British classics combined with traditional French techniques. So, with a touch of nostalgia and much excitement, I can't wait for guests to try the menus at Chez Roux at The Langham.” Last August, Roux Jr announced the closure of Le Gavroche at its Mayfair site, where the restaurant had operated for more than 55 years. The restaurant officially closed in January.

Monica and David Galetti to close Mere restaurant: Monica and David Galetti are to close their Mere restaurant in London's Fitzrovia next week (Tuesday, 16 April) after seven years of trading. Monica Galetti, a judge in BBC television series MasterChef: The Professionals and former senior sous chef at Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche in Mayfair, opened her own restaurant in Fitzrovia as a joint venture between her and her sommelier husband David. The venue in Charlotte Street is set over two floors, with a 20-seat ground-floor bar that offers cocktails and snacks and a basement restaurant with more than 60 covers. The name Mere came from a combination of the French word for mother and the Samoan word for Mary, the name of Galetti’s mother. The project was backed by catering company WSH, which is chaired by Alastair Storey. The Galettis said on Instagram: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the closure of Mere restaurant- but we feel this is the right time after seven years! We want to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly thank Alastair Storey and everyone who has supported us and our loyal patrons and dedicated staff throughout this journey. To our customers we thank you for your loyal and joyous visits. We hope to raise one last glass together before we close. Our last service will be Tuesday, 16 April. To our Mere team, the greatest gratitude for all your devotion, passion, love and laughter shared together, you will always be family to us. Here’s to the next adventure!”

Yorkshire better burger business introduces flat base rate wage and ‘learn to earn’ scheme: Yorkshire better burger business, Urban Fresh Burgers & Fries, has introduced a flat base rate wage and a “learn to earn” scheme for its employees. “We believe our team members deserve recognition for their hard work, so we’re pleased to announce our new flat base rate wage to replace the staggered age-based wages,” a spokeswoman for the business said. “It’s only fair to pay equally for hard work, regardless of age, so this is a change we’re pleased to introduce. Every ‘burger master’ over 18 is now on a base hourly rate of £11.45, with the potential to increase their hourly rates through our ‘learn to earn scheme’, which rewards completion of training modules across the various stations in our restaurants. Being able to reward our team for their dedication and hard work makes us incredibly proud as we prepare for the next step on the Urban journey. Watch this space.” Founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife team Mehmet and Zerin Kent, Urban currently operates two restaurants in Doncaster and one each in Barnsley and Rotherham. It also opened a site in Halifax in the summer of 2022, but this has now permanently closed. The business also operates a franchise programme and said it has “opportunities nationally” as it looks to expand in the UK and, eventually, overseas. Target cities here include Leeds, London, Manchester and Sheffield. Zerin previously worked at her father Metin Pekin’s restaurant in Doncaster, Zest Bar and Grill. Mehmet’s father also owned a restaurant in Doncaster after the family moved to London from Turkey, and he also previously ran a takeaway in Rotherham. To assist with its expansion plans, Urban has hired Helen Smith, former marketing manager at Doncaster motor vehicle manufacturing business Synetiq, as its new marketing manager.

Team behind The Crystal Maze Live opens immersive go-karting experience in Dubai: The team behind The Crystal Maze Live challenge attraction has launched the first international site under its immersive go-karting experience, Chaos Karts, in Dubai. The business, which is backed by Edition Capital, has opened its first international franchise site next to Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz. Last year, the business launched a site at the Old Granada Studios scheme in Manchester. Chaos Karts is the UK’s first live action video game experience combining racing with augmented reality. Players can drive around an infinite number of tracks in a digitally projected world, while their vehicle interacts with the virtual track and any challenges other players might “launch” their way. Using state-of-the-art technology, the karts are kitted out with features to produce real-life sensations and reactions to immerse competitors fully into the ride. 

Liverpool brewery Love Lane reopens under new ownership: Liverpool brewery Love Lane has reopened under new ownership. The business first entered administration in June 2022, owing more than £1.5m to its creditors, and was saved when former Iceland boss Nick Canning invested a further £300,000 in the company, then increased his shareholding after it underwent a pre-pack administration. It entered administration again in October 2023, with Begbies Traynor appointed to oversee the process at the Baltic Triangle-based gin distillery, bar and restaurant and events space. It was saved from closure in January after Home Bargains owner TJ Morris bought the brand out of administration, and it reopened this week following a refurbishment. At the time of January’s takeover, TJ Morris told the Liverpool: “The intention is that the venue will continue to trade independently, and the brewery will re-commence operations, supplying product to both the venue itself, as well as third party operators and retailers.” Love Lane Brewery was founded in 2017 as H1780, in recognition of Higsons, the Liverpool beer which was first brewed in 1780. It then changed its name the following year. Founder Stephen Crawley has more than 25 years’ experience in the brewing industry, including as managing director of Edinburgh’s Caledonian Brewing Company, which he left in 2013.

Team behind Paparazzi Café set to open new Italian restaurant in London’s Chelsea: The team behind the former Paparazzi Café in London’s Chelsea is set to open a new Italian restaurant in the same area. Tony Aalam’s Paparazzi Café, which was located opposite the Royal Marsden Hospital in Fulham Road, was a popular haunt with Premier League footballers and Formula One stars during the 1990s. Aalam will now open Fellini at nearby 49 Draycott Avenue on Monday, 6 May, offering a range of sharing options through a menu of classic Italian dishes and specialities, made with ingredients from suppliers in Italy and around the UK. Showcasing a healthier, holistic approach to Italian food, it will offer dishes such as Fellini Primavera, with homemade aubergine and basil pesto and courgettes, and the vegan Ravioli Rossi, consisting of spicy chickpea-filled pasta served with a butter and sage sauce. There will also be pizza and pasta alongside grilled fish, an ever-changing specials board and a Sunday “feasting menu”. The dining room will seat 75 covers inside, with a wrap-around terrace providing another 20 alfresco covers that will open to the public in June. “We’ve been looking forward to opening our door at Fellini for some time now,” said Aalam. “Our commitment to ‘come era una volta’, or ‘how it used to be’, will be prevalent in the restaurant as we revive the personal touch of 20th century Italy, delivering true hospitality and timeless service.”

Popeyes to open Aberdeen site on Monday: Popeyes UK, the US fried chicken quick-service restaurant brand backed here by TDR Capital, will open its new site in Aberdeen on Monday (15 April). The outlet will launch in Union Street and seat up to 50 people for dine in, with takeaway also available. The restaurant will be the brand’s 11th site to open in 2024 as part of plans to open 30 new locations this year. The next opening will be a drive-thru restaurant in New Bury Road, Manchester, on Wednesday, 24 April, with further sites set to open in Swansea, Glasgow and Nottingham. Popeyes has 42 sites in the UK.

Team behind Berber & Q open Carmel site in Fitzrovia: Brothers Josh and Paul Katz and Mattia Bianchi, the team behind Berber & Q and Shawarma Bar, have opened a second site under their Carmel concept in London’s Fitzrovia. The original Carmel – a north African and east Mediterranean-inspired concept – opened in Queen’s Park, London, in 2021. The new site has now opened just off Market Place, near Oxford Street, with room inside for 95 diners and, once the weather is warmer, a terrace that seats 38. Dishes include scallop crudo with tomato and chilli peach gazpacho, herb oil and spring onion; and Lebanese beef tartare with cracked wheat, pickled cucumber, shallot, amba and za’atar. Among the larger, sharing plates which be grilled urfa chilli chiclem with pomegranate and mustard jus, burnt lemon and borrettane onion; and 24-hour braised beef short-rib with date and prune jus, parsley lokshen, rose and pistachio. Fresh pasta will serve as a focal point on the menu while weekends will see the introduction of brunch plates such as Eggs Levantine with za’atar hollandaise, gravadlax and spinach; and a steak and egg sandwich served with green tahini and pickled red onion. Co-founder and wine buyer Mattia Bianchi has curated a wine list featuring low-intervention producers from across the world alongside established old vintages, available by the glass, bottle and large formats such as magnum or jeroboam. There will also be an extensive cocktail menu inspired by the flavours of the region. Josh Katz said: “Carmel in Queen’s Park has become such a cherished, local favourite and we wanted to bring the sense of this to central London. The menu continues to focus on the eastern Mediterranean cuisine, which I love, but with a bigger kitchen and space, we can explore more with our menu. Mattia has done what he does best and has created an incredible wine list, highlighting some of the Med’s most exciting, lesser-known wine producers.”

Yotel to launch at Lake Geneva: Yotel, the budget accommodation chain launched by YO! founder Simon Woodroffe, is set to launch at Lake Geneva for its 22nd site. Opening on Thursday, 18 April, the 237-room Yotel Geneva Lake is located close to the banks of the lake, as well as Geneva’s airport and city centre. Its “elevated food and beverage offerings” are centred around Hvgee Place, a Nordic-inspired dining and entertainment hub for both locals and guests, covering more than 21,500 square feet. At the centre of this will be the Hvgge Restaurant, with a menu cultivated around Danish comfort food and its smorrebrods – which combine bread, butter, cold cuts, seafood and vegetables. There is also a seafood bar, Copenhagen 1960, offering high-quality dishes such as fresh lobster, crayfish, shrimp, oysters, caviar and salmon accompanied by Danish beer, wine and champagne, and Hvgge Roottop, offering views over the lake and mountains. The Hvgge Banqueting and Conference Centre will be able to host up to 150 guests while the Hvgge Auditorium can hold up to 200. “We are thrilled to announce the full opening of Yotel Geneva Lake, marking a significant milestone in our expansion journey,” said Hubert Viriot, chief executive of Yotel. “With its breath-taking views and innovative design, Yotel Geneva Lake embodies our commitment to delivering exceptional hospitality experiences for our non-stop guests, including Hvgge Place, a new dining and event hub, created from our new partnership with Caviar House Airport Premium Switzerland.”

St Austell signs new ten-year deal with Thatchers: South west brewer and pub company St Austell Brewery has signed a new ten-year deal with Somerset cider-maker Thatchers. The two companies have been working in close partnership since 2002, and as part of the new, long-term strategic deal, St Austell will stock Thatchers cider in its managed pubs. Thatchers will also continue to be a key drinks partner for publicans across the company’s 122-strong leased and tenanted estate. St Austell chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “Working collaboratively with other businesses in our region, and building strong long-term relationships, is something tjhat has always been important to us. It’s fantastic to continue supporting one another by growing Thatchers’ west country distribution while bolstering our drinks portfolio and cider offer for pub guests and wholesale customers.” Martin Thatcher, fourth generation cider maker, added: “This ten-year deal, which may seem short in comparison to the combined 292 years of family expertise our companies have, is a testament to our shared commitment to collaboration and sustainability. We look forward to raising a glass in a St Austell pub to celebrate!”

Arkell’s reopens Cheltenham pub following acquisition: Swindon brewer and retailer Arkell’s has reopened a pub in Cheltenham it acquired in December following a £1m refurbishment. Arkell’s bought The Sudely Arms, on the corner of Prestbury Road and Portland Square, at the end of last year and signed up Dodo Pub Company as its new tenant. An eighth site for Dodo and its second in Cheltenham, the pub has been renamed The Airs & Graces after the cockney rhyming slang for the races, due to its proximity to the town’s racecourse. Arkell’s managing director, George Arkell said: “Since covid, the hospitality trade has been under huge pressure. However, well run community focused pubs are still fantastic businesses to be involved with. The Airs & Graces, run by the enthusiastic pub group Dodo and its young team, fits squarely in that category. Over the last two years we have invested well over £5m in upgrading our existing pubs and purchasing new ones.” Dodo co-founder, Leo Johnson, added: “We’ve been looking for an eighth site for a while and expanding in Cheltenham seemed like the natural choice for us.” Johnson told Propel in January that Dodo has seen trading return to pre-covid levels and that it is aiming to add two sites a year to its portfolio. That same month, Propel revealed that Arkell’s borrowed £4.3m to complete two acquisitions and buy its first new-build pub in 20 years during the year to 31 March 2023. It has also put three “unviable” pubs on the market and said it is looking to acquire new sites but funded by disposals rather than taking on additional debt.

Great British Menu winner Dan McGeorge to open debut restaurant: Chef Dan McGeorge, winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2021, is set to open his debut restaurant later this spring. Vetch, located at 29a Hope Street in the heart of his home city of Liverpool, is being transformed into a 26-cover fine dining restaurant over two floors. Once open, the restaurant will serve up a seasonally inspired five-course lunch and a seven-course dinner, showcasing modern British cooking interspersed with Nordic and Asian flavour influences. After starting out studying for a law degree before deciding it was not for him, McGeorge changed tack to train as a chef. On graduating, he worked in several high-profile kitchens, with stints alongside the likes of Simon Rimmer; Sam Moody at the one Michelin starred, three rosetted Bath Priory; and Ben Mounsey at the three rosetted Lawns Restaurant, Thornton Hall Hotel. He then made the move to the Lake District in September 2017 as head chef at the then two AA rosetted Rothay Manor. He left Rothay in October 2023, having secured a third AA rosette, in January 2019, along the way. In 2020, he joined the likes of Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton, and Marco Pierre White as he was presented with an Acorn Award. He added a Michelin Plate to his accolades in January 2021, which he followed by being crowned “Champion of Champions” in BBC Two’s Great British Menu programme. Since then, he’s relocated to his native Liverpool, where he is now opening his first restaurant that takes its name from a wild member of the pea family often found growing in hedgerows, meadows and the edges of woodland. McGeorge said: “It was a big decision leaving Rothay, but it was the right one to make.”
Milton Keynes gourmet wings concept opens first franchise site: Milton Keynes gourmet wings concept Wing Kingz has opened its first franchise site. Propel revealed in November that the business, which was founded by Parm Bhangal, Harminder Singh Dhisna and Aaron Murrell in 2021, had secured a site for its first franchise location, with six more nearing completion. It has now opened in the former YO! Sushi unit at 10-11 Sun Street in Canterbury, Kent, for its second site overall. “Canterbury has officially opened!” Murrell said. “We opened the doors to our second site with our first franchisee partners and since then it’s been absolutely manic, fully booked as locals, tourists and students have dined in non-stop. The brand is now going from strength to strength and it’s humbling to see that in a different city completely different to Milton Keynes, the Wing Kingz experience we have created works. In the next few months even more news will be announced and we can’t wait to share it.” Bhangal added: “Our first franchise officially opened last weekend. One of my businesses I don’t talk about as much on here is Wing Kingz. We’re expanding rapidly, opening franchises up and down the UK, serving great food, drink and vibes while showing the best sports on TV!” The first Wing Kingz opened in Milton Keynes’ Xscape destination in October 2021.
Scottish leisure hub acquired by international investment group: Scottish leisure hub, OMNi Centre Edinburgh, has been acquired by international investment group, Triple B. OMNi Centre attracts more than 4 million visitors a year and features venues such as JD Wetherspoons, The Glasshouse Hotel, Nuffield Health Club, Nando’s, Vue Cinema, Boom Battle Bar and the recently opened Edinburgh Street Food market. Triple B director Thomas A. Bata said: “We are thrilled to welcome OMNi Centre Edinburgh into the Triple B portfolio. This acquisition aligns with our mission to invest in projects that foster meaningful experiences for communities. OMNi Edinburgh has established itself as a cornerstone of leisure and entertainment in Scotland, and we are excited to build upon its success.”
Afrikana opens in Hayes for 16th site: African restaurant concept Afrikana has opened a restaurant in Hayes, west London, for its 16th site. The venue, at 4 Vantage building in High Point Village, Station Approach, is a first in the west of the city for the brand. Its other London locations are in Mile End, Dalston and at the The O2. Further London locations in its pipeline include Hounslow and Ilford, while it is also planning sites in Leeds, Sheffield, Southampton Sheffield, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Oxford, Reading and Ipswich. It comes a month after Afrikana opened a restaurant in Coventry’s Moor Street featuring a bar and two indoor seating areas, plus an outdoor seating space. In February, Propel reported that Afrikana has a pipeline of 50-plus restaurants, with up to ten set to open this year.
Boojum opens debut UK mainland site, in Leeds: Mexican fast-casual brand Boojum, which was acquired by the Azzurri Group last summer, will today (Wednesday, 10 April) open its first mainland UK site. The company will launch the 45-seater outlet at the Merrion Centre in Leeds. David Maxwell, managing director at Boojum, said: “Team is excited, the store looking unreal, food tasting great. Alongside our investment in our new store, we’ve opened a new 7,000 square-foot kitchen to ensure we have the biggest, freshest, tastiest burritos in the UK.” Having opened its first site in Belfast in 2007, the brand has grown to 16 sites on the island of Ireland. Propel revealed in January that Boojum is aiming to open 25 sites over the next five years in major UK student cities. The company’s current mainland pipeline extends into Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. 
Universal Studios expected to make decision on its first UK theme park in the coming months: Universal Studios is expected to make a decision on its first UK theme park in the coming months. The business, which has theme parks in the US and Asia, confirmed in December that it was planning to make its UK debut and had bought a large plot of land in Bedfordshire. The site covers acres of land either side of Manor Road and Kempston Hardwick station. Giving an update on social media, Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) deputy leader Hayley Whitaker said: “Universal says it’s now looking to explore planning permission via a special development order. This means the planning decision wouldn’t be made by CBC or Bedford Borough Council, but by the government. The Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has agreed to act as the sponsor for the project within government. Indications are that Universal should make a final decision on the project within the coming months. It’s then down to the government to decide on the special development order.”
Carousel and Home open in Leeds, site set to be ‘flagship developments within UK expansion plans’: John O’Donohuge, owner of the award-winning Home nightclub and Carousel bar that combines cocktails, street food and arcade games, has opened a site for both concepts in Leeds, which he said will be “flagship developments within his UK expansion plans”. He has opened a Carousel on the ground floor in the venue once occupied by Tiger Tiger, within The Light development on Albion Street, with a Home nightclub downstairs, in a £2.25m investment. Both venues are firmly established in Lincoln, with Home first opening in 2011 and Carousel in 2021. “We’re thrilled to join the thriving hospitality scene in Leeds, and to be opening two fantastic, new spaces within the city with Home Nightclub and Carousel – both of which are set to be flagship developments within our UK expansion plans,” O’Donoghue said. “We’ve been absolutely blown away by the response since announcing our opening, so it’s great to finally be able to open our doors, welcome guests in and let everyone experience our unique brand of fun and entertainment.” Carousel features private karaoke rooms, shuffleboard tables, interactive darts lanes, beer pong and a range of arcade games, while the 960-capacity Carousel includes two club rooms, headline DJs and VIP areas. Highlights of the food and beverage offering include Asian-inspired bao buns, burgers, loaded fries and a Sunday roast served in a giant Yorkshire pudding, while there will also be funfair-themed cocktails, with bottomless and two-for-one offers. O’Donoghue told Propel in December that 2024 would be a transformative year for the business, with further openings planned for Bristol and Worcester.

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