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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 15th Apr 2024 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Red Engine – UK competitive socialising concepts leading the way in the US: Steve Moore, founder and chief executive of Red Engine, the Flight Club and Electric Shuffle operator, has told Propel that UK-founded competitive socialising concepts are leading the way in the US, and subsequently attracting US investment interest. The business currently has eight sites in the US, six Flight Clubs (through its franchise partner State of Play) and two Electric Shuffle venues, and is gearing up to open a flagship site under the latter concept in New York. On interest in the business in the US, Moore told Propel: “There's a fair amount of interest at the moment and if we don't die in New York, I think we'll be okay. All eyes will be on us when we launch there. Private equity, especially in the US, is very, very excited by this sector, more so than Europe, because there's not that much competitive socialising out there. The UK is definitely leading the way in the US. There's only really us with Flight Club and Electric Shuffle, Swingers, and Puttshack in the US – it really is quite quiet there. So, any sort of private equity or any money out there is very interested in the sector.” He said that the market in the US is more “event led”. He said: “In the UK it is more social led. In the US your turnover can whip around a lot in the US. Corporate spend is also higher there. All our US sites are doing well and there is obviously a much bigger roadmap out there.” 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 feet, 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.” The business has so far grown through friends and family. Moore said: “Then a few years ago we brought in some private investment – partners from a private equity firm (TDR Capital) who made private investments. We are currently growing on retained earnings and looking to do a fundraise early next year. We have all of next year paid for, so we will be raising money for 2026 onwards.” Lucky Voice, the social entertainment brand, recently told Propel it is to shift its focus to launching in the US after the opening of its latest site in the UK, in London’s Waterloo, this month. Lucky Voice managing director Charlie Elek said the business is aiming to launch in the US next year. He said: “We will shift our focus on to a US launch. We think there is a real opportunity to open there. The private room karaoke segment in the US is growing and there are currently no multi-site, multi-state operators.” Propel understands that Lucky Voice will primarily look at opening a site on the US east coast, with a site in Washington DC its initial target. Moore and Elek were among the speakers at the recent Propel Multi-Club Conference. Their videos and the rest from the conference are available to those signing up to become Premium Club members. 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:

Next Who's Who of UK Hospitality to be released on Friday featuring 865 companies: The next Who's Who of UK Hospitality will be released to Premium Club members on Friday (19 April), at midday. Another seven companies have been added to the database, which now features 865 companies. This month's edition will also include 65 updated entries. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. All Premium Clubs members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators that are Premium Club members 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 supplier. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com today to sign up.

Pret refunds subscribers over app issues: Pret A Manger has had to refund subscribers to its Club Pret subscription scheme, who have been unable to use its app since it introduced a crackdown on subscription sharing. The Telegraph reported that some subscribers to Club Pret, which allows a customer to order up to five barista-made drinks a day for a monthly fee of £30, were experiencing technical issues with the app and were unable to claim their free drinks. Subscribers must now use the Pret app in order to claim the free drinks rather than accessing their QR code in their Apple Wallet or on a smart watch, under new rules that came into force on 18 March to stop people sharing their subscriptions. Pret has now told The Telegraph it has given refunds to some customers who have struggled to log in since the changes came into effect. A spokesman for the company said: “Since we made this change in March, our team have either given refunds or applied the Club Pret discount as normal to any customers who have genuinely struggled to log in.”

Squatters take over Gordon Ramsay's £13m London pub: Squatters have taken over a pub owned by Gordon Ramsay in central London, which is currently up for sale with a guide price of £13m. BBC News reported the group of at least six people have boarded up windows and put up a “legal warning” defending their occupation of the grade II-listed York & Albany hotel and gastropub near Regent's Park. Two accounts on Instagram called the Camden Art Cafe and Autonomous Winter Shelter have posted about a “new squatted community space” at the York & Albany hotel. Kitchen Ramsay called the police last week but was unable to have the squatters removed, it is understood. The Met said it had been called but it was a “civil matter”. In 2007, film director Gary Love bought the freehold of the former 19th century coaching inn and subsequently leased it to Ramsay on a 25-year term with an annual rent of £640,000. Propel reported last year that a new sub lease had been made available on the site in Camden, which currently offers 150-plus covers in total, nine hotel rooms and private dining. The property went on sale at the end of last year with a guide price of £13m.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business in the catering equipment manufacturing industry that is looking for a supply chain manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for managing the complete supply chain function of its UK business including stock, inventory control, supply chain, procurement, warehouse, and logistics.” The salary is up to £65,000 and the position is based in Cambridge. For more information, email mikey@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Subway franchisee takes on UK master franchise for Smoothie Factory, aiming for at least ten stores by the end of the year and sees potential for 100-strong estate: Subway franchisee Peter Olowe has taken on the GB master franchise for US juice bar brand Smoothie Factory – targeting at least ten stores by the end of the year and seeing the potential for an eventual 100-strong estate. Smoothie Factory was established in 1996 by US Olympic athlete James Villasana and has grown to more than 120 sites in 20 countries. It made its UK debut in 2022 with a launch in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, followed by a second Northern Ireland site in Bangor's Bloomfield shopping centre. The brand then came to the UK mainland last summer with a launch at The Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury, London. These sites will continue to be operated by existing franchisees, and the company intends to open equity stores in the UK, too, but its growth here will be led by Olowe, who owns Subway stores in London and Essex, alongside his wife and realty, Kemi Olowe. “Peter already has four sites agreed in and around London, and we think we can be in double digits by the end of the year,” said Andy Hulbert of Bee Smart Franchise Consultancy. “We believe we can eventually take Smoothie Factory to more than 100 sites here as they're really easy to do, with kiosks being the main driver, although shops are not out of the question. It is about more than just smoothies, though, despite the name, with a range of healthy superfood bowls, salads and acai dishes, too. With a rich background in the retail sector, Peter and Kemi bring a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success to the table. Their profound understanding of local consumers and market dynamics positions them to drive unprecedented growth and achievement for Smoothie Factory GB. The brand has already made a notable entry into the UK market, marking the commencement of an exciting journey to establish itself across Great Britain.” Hulbert said Smoothie Factory already has more than 200 prime locations identified for possible expansion and that multi-unit investors are welcome as it looks to sign up more franchisees to work with Olowe. Turnkey operations are available from £100,000, including franchise fee, with a return on investment in under 24 months. Compact 300-square-foot trading areas suitable for standalone units or kiosks are being sought, while custom-designed stores can be tailored to individual requirements. Comprehensive support is also available, including site selection assistance and guidance on marketing/promotions.
 
Little Caesars seeking multi-store operators 'with a vision to develop about 20 stores in a five to six-year term': Little Caesars Pizza, the world's third-largest pizza brand, has told Propel it is seeking multi-store operators “with a vision to develop about 20 stores in a five to six-year term”. Little Caesars, which previously operated in the UK but pulled out of the market in 2000, made its comeback here with a restaurant in Chellaston, near Derby, in February 2023. This was followed by a second site, in Nottingham, in January, and a third outlet in Greenford, west London, last month. It will also open a second site in London and a restaurant in Liverpool later this year. “We have open opportunities for new franchisees to incorporate the UK growth and are looking for multi-store operators, with a vision to develop about 20 stores in a five to six-year term,” Carlos Vidal, vice-president of international development at Little Caesars, told Propel. “We were thrilled to open our first site in London as our sights have been set on launching the capital for quite some time, as we want to be present within an exciting and dynamic quick service restaurant scene. Since we opened our first store in Derby, we've noticed a steady flow of sales. Given the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, there is a distinct appetite for a value-first offering which doesn't compromise on quality or fresh ingredients, and trading has reflected this. We are a very ambitious brand, but we can't definitively confirm how many sites we want to open in the long-term as this is very much based on finding the right franchisees – we are incredibly excited about our franchisees we have on board. We left the UK more than 20 years ago as we wanted to focus on our internal structure and offering in North America. In the time since we were last here, we've developed our signature Hot-N-Ready model that allows customers to walk in and out in 30 seconds or less with an affordable pizza that is as fresh as it is delicious. We've noticed there is a trend where UK consumers have an appetite for convenient, quick meals at low prices, given the current economic climate.”
 
BrewDog reports bar sales down 2.5% so far in 2024 but 10% ahead of wider market: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has sales at its bars fall 2.5% so far in 2024 compared with last year but said performance is still 10% ahead of the wider market. Updating on the company's first-quarter trading, co-founder James Watt said the teams had delivered a “phenomenal” performance against a “very challenging” period for craft beer and hospitality. He said: “The bar industry in the UK is down more than 11% versus last year and last week the UK bar industry was an alarming 22% down. Our BrewDog bars over the course of 2024 so far have been 2.5% down. Not where we want to be, but it is hard to be too unhappy with our hospitality performance when we are 10% ahead of our wider industry.” Watt said while beer sales in UK grocery were down 1% on last year, volumes are up 34%, “making us the fastest growing beer business in the UK in 2024 so far”. He added its Black Heart stout was already at 25% of Guinness Draught sales in Sainsbury's and Morrisons despite it only being born last year. Watt said: “We also have some amazingly exciting new bar openings on the horizon with Denver opening next week, Columbus airport next month and Bangkok the month thereafter. We also have our new lager, Cold Beer, launching nationwide in Tesco next week. While our first-quarter performance has been good, during these uncertain economic times, as a team we remain fully focused on delivering the best possible beer and customers experiences we can while running our business as diligently as we can until the wider economic picture in the UK improves.” James Brown, managing director of BrewDog Bars, 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. Brown will discuss building temples to craft beer in the UK and internationally, evolving the group's model and its approach to hiring, training and retaining staff. 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.

Greggs – plans to expand its Outlet sites to 50 locations, doing good is our secret sauce: Greggs is planning to open six more of its Outlet stores, which aim to tackle food waste, in the UK this year. The Sun reported the business currently has 35 shops open across the UK and hopes to have 50 by the end of 2025. Greggs Outlet's stock some of the brand’s most popular items including the much-loved sausage roll – but the prices are up to 75% cheaper. It means you can get a four-pack of sausages rolls for £1.85, instead of £4.35, which works out at just 46p per sausage roll. Whereas a sandwich could cost £1.22, instead of £4.50. Prices vary across Greggs shops in the UK based on where you visit. The Outlet shops sell food that hasn't been sold elsewhere, so it's nearing its expiring date. It aims to help the chain tackle food waste and help those living in disadvantaged areas to buy food at a huge discount. Roisin Currie, Greggs chief executive, told The Sun, that “doing good” has been an important part of the business for more than six decades, going back to when “we served free pie ’n peas suppers to elderly residents in the 1960s”. She said: “It’s part of our secret sauce. We’re proud to be one of the UK’s largest food-to-go retailers, but one lesser-known part of our business is our Outlet shops. Selling unsold products the next day at a big discount, the Outlets allow customers on a tight budget to enjoy their favourite goodies. Our Outlets support our ambition to ensure all surplus food is redistributed to those who need it daily. Tackling food waste is a huge problem, and accounts for 10% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions. The nation bins a staggering 9.5 million tonnes of food every year. We collect around 50 tonnes of unsold products from local stores each week and redistribute them. In 2023, we diverted more than 2,600 tonnes of surplus food to our Outlet network — an increase of 44% from 2022. That’s more than 2.6 million sandwiches, 2.2 million savoury snacks and 2.6 million sweet treats saved from the bin. For items left on the shelves, we donate them to our network of 956 local charities or Too Good To Go. Any surplus food not redistributed is sent to an anaerobic digestor. None of our surplus food goes to landfill.”

Wingstop sees potential for 300-plus sites in the UK: Wingstop UK, which is being rolled out here by Lemon Pepper Holdings, has said it sees potential to grow to more than 300 sites here in time. The brand currently operates 43 sites nationwide, including 12 delivery kitchens. Wingstop’s recent openings include sites in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Leeds, and it is on track to open 15 sites this year, including further restaurants in London, in Clapham, Croydon and its largest site yet, at Westfield Stratford City. The brand, which launched here in 2018, recently secured a former Burger King site in the Midsummer Place scheme in Milton Keynes. Lemon Pepper Holdings co-founder Herman Sahota told City AM: “In assessing the UK market, we’ve identified a significant opportunity for expansion, driven by the fact that chicken is more widely consumed compared to other cuisines. Based on thorough research and an understanding of our competitive landscape, we’re confident in our capability to open at least 100 sites in the next five years, with a total market potential to exceed 300 locations.” Like many businesses, they have not been immune to inflationary pressures, but fellow co-founder Tom Grogan said they have only raised prices twice and remain in good financial health. He said: “Our financial trajectory for January to December 2024 is set to reach the nine-figure mark in revenue. Despite our aggressive expansion strategy, the business remains healthily profitable at the group level, a testament to the effectiveness of our operational efficiencies and the strength of our business model.” Last November, Michael Skipworth, president and chief executive of Wingstop, said the brand’s debut UK restaurant (in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue) was hitting record sales volumes, and that the UK was a “playbook for its future restaurant development”.

Yolk lines up London Wall opening: Fast-growing “fine fast food” business Yolk has secured a site in the City for its next opening in the capital. The six-strong business, which earlier this year opening its first “double decker store” in The Strand, has secured a site at 150-151 London Wall, for an opening later this summer. Speaking to Propel last autumn, founder Nick Philpot said the business, which began as a pop-up in 2014, had worked hard to build strong foundations for scaling the business. It also plans to open a site in Victoria this year. He said the group’s then five sites were profitable and the business was approaching £5m in run-rate revenue. Philpot said: “We are about to close an equity funding round, enabling us to open three more sites within six months. These will be all larger-format sites in The Strand and Victoria, which are great mixed-use locations, and London Wall – a super-busy, five-days-a-week, office-led location. Our target is to reach 25-plus sites by the end of 2026. We really believe in our potential to thrive in a number of location types – central London, neighbourhood London, travel hubs and regional city centres. We’ve worked hard to build strong foundations for scale, including a robust site model. New openings turn a profit swiftly and generate attractive returns. Sites range from 400-1,200 square feet and deliver £13,000 to £25,000 per week.”

Escapism Bars reports marginal revenue boost but slight dip in profit, planning to open new trading venues: Escapism Bars, the bar business founded in 2004 by husband-and-wife team Phil and Mel Harrison, has reported a marginal revenue boost but a slight dip in profit for the year to 30 June 2023. The company's turnover rose from £6,817,481 in 2022 to £6,877,343 while its pre-tax profit fell from £1,570,680 to £1,426,674. It received no government grants compared with £31,981 in 2022. Dividends of £125,300 were paid (2022: £106,000). Post year-end, in September 2023, the company paid £1,002,155 for two investment properties. “The directors plan to continue with their plans for expansion by opening more new trading venues and purchasing more commercial buy to let investment properties,” Phil Harrison said. Last month, operations manager David Aldred said Escapism Bars is looking to open three further sites for its Mean-Eyed Cat concept. With venues already established in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, Escapism is looking to roll out the concept into Sheffield, Birmingham and Nottingham. Escapism Bars also operates Tiki Hideaways in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, plus Call Lane Social, The Maven, Cuckoo, Brooklyn and Verve themed bars in Leeds. The company previously said he it is targeting national expansion.

MeatLiquor posts FY turnover of circa £13m, continues to look for new opening opportunities: MeatLiquor, the Scott Collins-led concept, posted turnover of £13,615,000 for the year to 25 June 2023 (2022: £16,307,000), during a period in which the business closed two sites. The business reported a pre-tax loss of £65,000 (2022: pre-tax profit of £616,000), while headline Ebitda stood at £470,000 (2022: £1,346,000). The group delivered a cash balance at year end of £1,819,000 (2022: £4,061,000) and net funds at the year end of £152,000 (2022: £1,544,000). In January, the company closed its site in Bloomsbury and currently operates seven sites in the capital and one each in Brighton and Leeds. The business said: “The company will continue to adapt its trading to deliver ongoing profitability of the existing group of restaurants and look to take advantage of property market opportunities in order to open further restaurants across the UK.”

Urban Chocolatier set to make debut in Wales: London dessert concept Urban Chocolatier is to make its debut in Wales, with an opening in Cardiff. The business, which currently operates nine sites in and around London, will open a site in the city’s Mermaid Quay on Saturday, 27 April. Founded in 2013 by the Ali brothers, Sadaq and Waqas, it offers gelato, French toast, cookie dough, crepes, pancakes, waffles, sundaes and drinks including milkshakes and mocktails. Last year the business set a target of having 50 UK stores by 2030. Urban Chocolatier said it was seeking to bring onboard new franchisees in order to reach its target and was looking to set up in other major UK cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool and Edinburgh. 
 
Rishim Sachdeva to open plant-first café concept at London's Somerset House: Vegan chef Rishim Sachdeva is to open a plant-first café at London's Somerset House. Sachdeva, who is behind the “mostly vegan” Mayfair restaurant Tendril, is launching Café Petiole next month at the creative hub in The Strand. Named after the connecting stalk that attaches a plant stem to its leaf, Café Petiole will be located just off the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House. The 27-cover space will offer food throughout the day, with a “grab-and-go” or “grab and stay” menu. Sachdeva will also launch a range of home condiments under the Café Petiole name, including “chilli garlic”, “white bean spread” and his “Chinatown soy glaze”, which all available to purchase exclusively from the cafe. Dishes are set to include salted piquillo peppers with coriander salsa and ancho chilli dressing, mustard mushroom focaccia with daikon pickle, and grilled aubergine with pumpkin seed and curry leaf dressing. Alongside the food will be an all-vegan drinks list featuring kombucha and low-intervention European wine on tap. Sachdeva, who opened a permanent spot for Tendril in Princes Street last year, said: “This is a whole new concept for me, and to be launching at a venue I've loved since my first visit to London all those years ago is an incredible honour, and we are super grateful to our friends at Somerset House for the opportunity. Café Petiole will be a more casual menu, but take the same plant-first approach and ethos of our restaurant menu.” Diana Spiegelberg, Somerset House's deputy director, added: “Café Petiole's plant-first ethos chimes perfectly with Somerset House's commitment to sustainability and creative innovation.” Distrkt acted for Sachdeva on the deal.
 
New wine and oyster bar to open in former Brother Marcus debut site in Balham: A new wine and oyster bar is set to open in the former Brother Marcus debut site in Balham, south London. Oy Bar will open soon at 9 Chestnut Grove, offering “affordable seafood” and aiming to “educate guests” about oysters and wine pairings. “Thrilled to announce a new addition to Balham's vibrant culinary scene,” said Casey Phillips of Casey Phillips Leisure Property, who represented the landlord on the transaction. “Oy Bar, a new oyster bar concept, has flipped the modern UK perception of eating oysters on its head by offering reasonably priced seafood and wine in a relaxed and accessible environment. Soon to open at 9 Chestnut Grove in Balham, the founders will seek to create a go-to venue, where community and sustainability are at the heart of the concept. Oy Bar aims to educate customers by showcasing different types of oysters and their unique flavours and guiding diners in pairing oysters with perfect wine. With a genuine commitment to building a culture of warmth and belonging, Oy Bar will offer reasonably priced sharing plates and wine and champion sustainability by sourcing from environmentally responsible farmers and supporting local suppliers. The all-day restaurant will proudly collaborate with other south west London suppliers, offering sourdough from Alma Bakery in Southwark, smoked salmon from Wimbledon Smoke House, cheese from Neal's Yard in Borough Market and charcuterie from London Smoke and Cure in Streatham.” Brunch concept Brother Marcus started out in Balham, having acquired the former cafe in 2016 before taking the “tough decision” to close it in 2021, having “outgrown the site”. Brother Marcus now has sites in Angel, Spitalfields, Borough Market and South Kensington. It told Propel in 2022 that seven sites would be its “sweet spot” in London, and that it would consider expanding outside of the capital too – into cities like Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge.
 
Karak Chaii opens in Coventry: Birmingham Indian street food brand Karak Chaii has opened a new restaurant in the city. It has opened at 402 Coventry Road in Small Heath for its 19th site. The business was founded by husband-and-wife team Sughir and Sara Javed just before covid. In December, the brand's strategic advisor Paolo Peretti, a former retail managing director for Patisserie Valerie, told Propel it would be “closing in on 30 stores by the middle of 2024”. He previously said that the concept could “comfortably” open up to 80 more sites before exploring smaller formats.
 
Bakers + Baristas set to open at Gloucester Quays: Bakers + Baristas, the artisan coffee and baking brand, is set to open a new site at Gloucester Quays. Work is underway on the new coffee shop in the unit at the end of High Orchard Way, which was awarded planning permission in January. Bakers + Baristas, which has 57 UK sites, is known for its freshly baked muffins, with more than 30 varieties on offer in each shop. In November 2023, Bakers + Baristas secured a new six-year committed term loan from AIB to support its expansion plans. The business, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, said at the time that it plans to open a further five outlets over the next 12 months, with a mixture of company owned and franchise opportunities under consideration. The business said it has recovered strongly post-covid and demonstrated impressive like-for-like growth across the UK and Ireland – and is expected to deliver sales of €22m in the current year. Headquartered in Limerick, the business has more than 300 employees and is led by chief executive James Fleming and chief financial officer Dermot McMahon.
 
Independent hotel group opens chicken-focused restaurant next to its Newcastle venue: Independent hotel group KE Hotels has opened a new chicken-focused restaurant next to its Newcastle venue. Social Bird has launched in the former Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar adjoining Hotel Indigo in Fenkle Street, which KE Hotels acquired last year. The menu offers an array of starters, mains, sides and deserts, with the highlights its signature chicken schnitzel, chicken and waffles and a slow-roasted bird – available in whole, half or quarter portions. Other menu highlights include sticky bang bang cauliflower, shakshuka and chicken bone broth. Social Bird also offers a breakfast menu for sit-in and to-go customers featuring dishes such as a full English, oat milk pancakes and smoothie bowls, while for lunch, a deli counter serves a rotating selection of freshly made sandwiches, wraps, and pastries. The restaurant's bar offers premium and house cocktails and mocktails, a selection of local beer, wine and spirits, and a variety of soft and hot beverages. General manger Emma Thompson said: “Social Bird is more than just a restaurant; it's a place where memories are made, and people come together to socialise. We can't wait to welcome everyone back to experience the magic of Social Bird time and time again.” KE Hotels also operates the Linton Lodge Best Western Plus in Oxford and Moxy Manchester hotel.
 
Esquires set to open in Sudbury as part of 14-store pipeline: Esquires, the Cooks Coffee Company-owned business, is set to open in Sudbury, Suffolk, as part of a 14-store pipeline. Signs for the business have gone up in the former WHSmith unit in the town's Market Hill, while jobs for the store, which received planning permission last summer, are now being advertised, reports the East Anglian Daily Times. The venue is one of 14 listed as “coming soon” on the company's website, including three in London – at Eastcote, Pinner and Ruislip. The others are at Aylesbury, Bury St Edmunds, Cardiff, Clifton, Colchester, Congleton, Cranleigh, Maidenhead, Newbury and Newport. Esquires reached the 60-store landmark in the UK last month with an opening in Crawley, West Sussex, having made its Oxfordshire debut with an opening in Bicester in February. Parent company Cooks Coffee also last month promoted Aiden Keegan to chief executive, having been managing director of the Esquires UK business since 2018. During his leadership, the business has witnessed substantial growth, increasing from 38 to 60 stores. The company previously said it is aiming to grow Esquires to 100 UK stores by 2026. In January, Cooks Coffee reported UK store sales were up 18.6% to £17.5m in 2023 (2022: £14.7m), while in Ireland, store sales increased 11.0%, totalling £9.4m (2022: £8.5m). Like-for-like sales in the UK for 2023 were up 6.0%, and in Ireland up 6.8%, while the sales from the new stores opened during 2023 accounted for 12.3% of total sales in the UK and 13.4% in Ireland in 2023. Esquires achieved weekly store sales of £600,000 for the first time across the UK and Ireland in December 2023 – a record month for the group.
 
West Sussex train station coffee shop business opens third site with fourth set to follow: West Sussex train station coffee shop business The Carriage has opened a third site, with a fourth set to follow later this year. Ayse Mevlit, who already operates The Carriage sites at East Grinstead and Haywards Heath stations, has opened her first site outside of the county, serving passengers on platforms 5 and 6 at East Croydon station. “We are thrilled to announce the opening of our newest coffee shop at East Croydon station,” Mevlit said. "We are excited to extend our renowned service and quality offerings to East Croydon. This expansion marks a significant milestone for us, and we look forward to welcoming commuters and locals alike to experience our exceptional coffee and warm hospitality.” Also opening at the Govia Thameslink Railway-owned station is Tasty Bites, which has moved into a unit on East Croydon’s northern footbridge that has been empty since 2020. It is owned by Dan Tyson, who has operated Coffee by Dave, the outlet next to Tasty Bites, for two years. “We are excited to introduce something new to East Croydon – Tasty Bites, with a mix of homemade Caribbean and English cuisines to tickle your taste buds,” Tyson said. ”We also offer Coffee By Dave, at the rear exit of the station, specialising in coffee and confectionery with the same fast, effective, competitive and convenient service.”
 
Brighton operator partners with All England Jumping Course director for third site: Brighton operator Rob Shenton has partnered with Charlie Bunn, a director of the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead, for his third restaurant in the city. Shenton already operates two venues for his champagne and oyster bar concept, Riddle & Finns, which has locations on Brighton's beach and in South Lanes, in the city's Jewellery Quarter. He has now opened the music-inspired Drifter restaurant with Charlie Bunn, son of showjumping legend Douglas Bunn, who launched the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead in 1960. Inspired by Japan's analogue listening bars, where people go to listen to music, Drifter plays only vinyl records, including low-key jazz, 1990s hip hop, soul and African disco. The restaurant, in King's Road Arches, also offers wood-fired small plates and a drinks menu focused on natural wine. "We wanted to create a relaxed space on the seafront that represents the diversity and vibrancy of Brighton's food and music scene,” hospitality consultant Jake Northcote-Green told The Argus. “We chose a strictly vinyl music policy as these recordings represent a moment in time. It's someone saying: look at what I have created, please enjoy it. I love that.” The 70-cover, two-storey site, which has an outdoor terrace with views over the beach, will host regular collaborations and events.
 
Greek-inspired street food company to open Mediterranean cafe and deli at West Midlands McArthurGlen Designer Outlet: Greek-inspired street food company Street Kitchen Brothers is to open a Mediterranean cafe and deli at the West Midlands McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock. The company, owned by Paul Polyviou and Chris Butcher, launched Greek street food restaurant Kouzina at the complex last year. Now it is adding Meli Café and Patisserie, which will offer a menu of gourmet sandwiches, freshly baked cakes, pastries and salad bowls in its main cafe, while the deli counter will sell a range of imported goods including honey, olives, herbs, spices, olive oil and hard-to-find Greek sweets. The cafe, which will open on Saturday (20 April), will have capacity for 80 diners. Polyviou told Birmingham Live: “Following the success of Kouzina, we're thrilled to be continuing our partnership with McArthurGlen . We love being part of this community and can't wait bring a Mediterranean flavour with the finest cakes, pastries and hard to find products to the outlet.” Street Kitchen Brothers also operates a Kouzina restaurant at the East Midlands McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Alfreton.
 
Greater Manchester burger concept to open in Bury for third site: Greater Manchester burger concept That Burger Place is to open its third site, in Bury. Owner Ryan McDermott is launching the outlet in Sunny Bank Road this summer. It comes just a few weeks after the opening of its second venue, in Bolton Road in Salford. McDermott founded the first That Burger Place restaurant in Swinton in 2017, a 60-seater restaurant specialising in California-inspired burger smashers. Though the shop closed due to rising costs and impact of the pandemic, he fought back in the years following, and now has sites in Walkden and Salford. McDermott has modelled the concept's burgers on the Californian style of extreme smashing, which sees the meat smashed so thin that the edges crisp up. Layered with toppings such as American cheese, “bacon rain”, and its secret burger sauce. McDermott told the Manchester Evening News: “We've been looking for a site in Bury for almost two years and were thrilled when this spot came up! We're very passionate about the area and want to invest in another local high street. We've been working hard to elevate the burger scene in Manchester by travelling across the States and eating at places like the viral sensation Easy Street Burger, which inspired us to rethink our menu, smash style and even buns! So we're excited to bring a next level That Burger Place experience to Bury this summer.”
  
Team behind A Bar with Shapes for a Name to open second London site: The team behind London bar, A Bar with Shapes for a Name, is to open its second site. Warehaus will launch later this month in Kingsland Road, Dalston, in the former Untitled premises. Warehaus will be a little different to the team's first bar, reports Hot Dinners. During the day, it is where the team will produce all its pre-batched cocktails, mainly for use in the original bar in nearby Hackney. Come the evening, when the cocktails production shuts up shop for the night, that space will become a bar. On top of that, chef collaborations are also possible.
  
Birmingham coffee shop concept shuts city business district site: Birmingham coffee shop concept Urban has shut its site in the city's business district. Urban has operated the site in Church Street since 2019. The company's sister site in the Jewellery Quarter remains open. A spokesperson told Birmingham Live: “We've had glorious pop-ups, banging brunches, unforgettable regulars and have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Colmore Row community. It's said all great things must come to an end, and we've decided to prioritise a reasonable work-life balance, giving us space to bring you even more exciting news further down the line. We're still a stone's throw away, thriving in the Jewellery Quarter, with the same smiley faces behind the counter armed with quality coffee and all-day brunch, onwards and upwards.”

Glasgow cafe set to open second site: Glasgow cafe Spitfire Espresso is set to open a second site in the city. The cafe, which already has an eatery in the Merchant City, is set to open a new spot in Great Western Road in the city's West End. Owners Danny and Emiy Gorton said they are in the “very early stages” of renovating the new store and that an opening date will be unveiled soon. “We are very excited to be opening another Spitfire Espresso, this time in the west of the city,” the owners said on social media. “We're at the very early stages of a full-on renovation so we'll announce the official opening date in a couple of months – but at least the sign is up!” The Gortons opened Spitfire Espresso in 2015, named after the iconic fighter aircraft that Danny's great grandfather flew in the Second World War. Its interior is painted in RAF colours, with many of its cakes and sandwiches named after Second World War aircraft.

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