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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 18th Apr 2024 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Celebrations and early Easter holiday lift hospitality groups to 5.2% growth in March: Britain’s top hospitality groups achieved above-inflation like-for-like sales growth of 5.2% in March, the latest CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker reveals. Many operators will have enjoyed the boost to trading events such as Mother’s Day and St Patrick’s Day brought. But the high growth metrics seen in the tracker have been aided by early Easter bank holiday revenue falling into March, while last year, Easter trading fell into April. The tracker, produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with RSM UK, shows particularly strong growth for the managed pub sector, where like-for-like sales were up by 7.2% in March. Growth was softer for restaurants at 3.4%, and the on-the-go segment has seen a 5.2% decline. While bars recorded a decline of 0.5% in March, this is somewhat of an improvement from the 13.6% and 7.4% declines in January and February respectively. For the first month since November, restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved higher growth outside London than within the capital. March sales inside the M25 were 4.0% up on last year but ahead by 5.7% beyond it. Karl Chessell, director at CGA by NIQ, said: “These figures are encouraging for hospitality after a slow start to 2024 and show that people remain eager to celebrate holidays and special occasions in restaurants, pubs and bars. While spending remains tight for many consumers, we can be cautiously optimistic that their confidence will continue to increase in 2024 in line with an easing of inflation. Operators still face severe headwinds, and it may be some time before they generate sustained real-terms growth, but March showed the sector is moving in the right direction.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Samsung and TVC Technology Solutions revolutionise the F1 experience at F1 Arcade Birmingham: The F1 Arcade Birmingham has taken a thrilling leap into the future of entertainment, thanks to a dynamic collaboration between industry giant Samsung and TVC Technology Solutions in Bolton. A spokesperson said:“The adrenaline rush of Formula 1 racing seamlessly merges with the thrill of arcade gaming, complete with a real F1 car hanging from the ceiling. Combining the best of Samsung’s innovative, low-latency displays with powerful loudspeaker arrays from KV2, TVC integrated these leading technologies into an audio-video experience as thrilling as F1 racing itself. Through the alliance with TVC, Samsung is bringing its unparalleled expertise in display technology to the forefront, setting a new standard for engaging experiences. As a key north of England partner, TVC has recently inaugurated Samsung's premier innovations in its state-of-the-art experience centre, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to explore and engage with cutting-edge technology.” TVC supplies and installs a range of AV equipment for the hospitality sector. Its partnership with Samsung ensures that TVC can offer AV solutions from simple guestroom TVs to fully immersive leisure venues. Explore, watch and delve deeper into TVC’s F1 Arcade project in collaboration with Samsung here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email

Oakman Group founder Peter Borg-Neal to speak at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: Peter Borg-Neal, founder of the Oakman Group, 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. Borg-Neal will talk about maintaining the company’s award-winning standards against the backdrop of a volatile trading environment, his return as chief executive and how the sector must remain agile and respond quickly to the extraneous pressures it is facing. 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.
Next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality to feature 65 updated entries and seven new companies, released tomorrow: The next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality will feature 65 updated entries and seven new companies when it is released to Premium Club members tomorrow (Friday, 19 April), at midday. This month’s edition includes 865 companies and more than 233,000 words of content. 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 today to sign up.

NTIA – ‘path to industry’s recovery necessitates decisive fiscal action by the government rather than mere patience’: The path to recovery for the industry “necessitates decisive fiscal action” by the government rather than “mere patience”, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said after inflation fell to its lowest level in two-and-a-half years. Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed the rate dropped slightly from 3.4% in February to 3.2% in March, helped by price falls for items including meat. Despite the softening, the NTIA said it was imperative to acknowledge that this decrease “merely signifies a deceleration in price hikes, rather than a genuine alleviation of the burdens faced by businesses at the operational level”. Chief executive Michael Kill said: “Despite this statistical dip, the reality 'at the coal face' remains unchanged – operating costs continue to suffocate our industry. It's crucial for the government to recognise that the path to recovery demands more than mere patience; it necessitates decisive fiscal action. Before the impending election announcement, we urge the government to address this pressing issue through a targeted intervention, particularly in the form of a VAT cut. Such a measure would inject much-needed relief into our struggling sector, enabling businesses to not only survive but thrive amidst these challenging times. Ignoring this imperative could risk prolonging the economic hardship faced by countless establishments.” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, added: “Inflation in our sector is more than 50% higher than the national figure and this is before we see the effect of the £3.4bn increase in rates and wages, which hit the sector this month. With a clear trend of inflation easing across the economy, it’s time for central banks to support businesses and drive investment.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business that is seeking a HR change manager in London for a fixed term contract of six to nine months. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will lead and drive organisational change within the people team, focusing on the pivotal reward review project and the development of a new HR information system. You will collaborate with the head of people and senior leadership across functions to assess the impact of proposed changes, conduct stakeholder meetings to gather feedback and address concerns effectively, build robust relationships with stakeholders to garner support and commitment for change initiatives, and more.” The salary is up to £75,000. For more information, email 

Company News:

Incipio Group to bring ‘elevated F&B offer’ to new Olympia development: Incipio Group – operator of venues including Pergola on the Wharf, The Libertine and The Prince – is to bring an “elevated food and beverage offer” to the new Olympia development in west London, opening several concepts of “premium dining and drinking experiences”. The £1.3bn Olympia 14-acre development is being spearheaded by Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance International and will open in summer 2025. The historic exhibition venues are being revamped with the addition of “two globally renowned hotels, a great food and beverage scene, offices, a new AEG music arena and a performing arts school and theatre”, which will generate a projected footfall of more than ten million visitors per annum. The Ian Edward-chaired Incipio Group will take 39,000 square feet across the development, introducing several distinct concepts ranging from casual “grab and go” offers to premium dining and drinking experiences. With an emphasis on providing a broad breadth of offerings, Incipio Group has been selected due to its “exceptional track record of operating destination venues in London”. Ed Devenport, chief executive of Incipio Group, said: “Olympia is without doubt the most exciting opportunity we have come across as a group; its rich history, tradition, cultural and creative significance make it a stand-out destination within the UK. It presents an unmatched canvas for us to curate experiences that are not just about food and drink but about creating memories. We understand the legacy of this iconic landmark and see it as an opportunity to blend its rich and fascinating past with the vibrancy of its future.” Lloyd Lee, managing partner at Yoo Capital, added: “Ed and his team at Incipio have consistently demonstrated an unmatched ability to breathe life into spaces and create unique experiences for their guests. Their reputation, coupled with their innate flair for curating impressive spaces, underscores why they are a valued partner to Olympia.” Incipio said that although specific details about each of the dining concepts are yet to be revealed, visitors can expect “a unique blend of cuisines, offerings and experiences”. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that Des Gunewardena, co-founder and former chief executive of restaurant group D&D London, is planning to launch a new flagship venue at the Olympia development. Propel understands that Gunewardena is in advanced talks to open a venue in Pillar Hall, a circa 30,000 square-foot space at the scheme. 

South London smash burger brand reveals 21-store pipeline including overseas debut as it grows towards 100-store target: South London smash burger brand Smacks Hamburgers has revealed a 21-store pipeline, including an overseas debut, as it grows towards a 100-store target. The business has grown to nine sites since launching in 2021. It has two stores in Croydon (including a delivery-only location), and elsewhere in London in Thornton Heath, Gants Hill and Tooting. Outside of the capital, it has further locations in Slough, Orpington, Southport and Preston. “Smacks Hamburgers has become the most viral burger brand since 2021, serving freshly ground Angus beef daily,” a spokesman for the business said. “With 21 stores in the pipeline and counting, including international openings in Dubai and the USA, Smacks has achieved rapid growth in a short period of time. With numerous videos gaining more than 14 million organic views across social media platforms, Smacks is a trending brand. We are looking for likeminded highly driven individuals to further grow our successful brand as we drive towards our target of 100 UK stores. Our mission is to turn Smacks into the next big thing in fast food dining and to have Smacks outlets in evert major city and town in the UK.” Smacks exhibited at this month’s International Franchise Show at ExCel London as it looks to secure partners to help it grow. Smacks is also set to make its Scottish debut this year, having applied for planning permission to open in the site of a former charity shop in Glasgow’s George Street. The site is designed to be primarily an eat-in venue with 14 tables, offering a minimal takeaway offering, according to the Glasgow Times. Smacks is offering franchises for an initial franchise fee of £20,000 plus VAT, with set up costs ranging from £130,000 to £170,000 depending on the size and location of the premises. Royalties are a flat rate of £250-£500 per week, again depending on the store size and location. The company is offering exclusive territories and said the earning potential it would expect franchisees to achieve would be £65,041 in year one, £75,965 in year two and £85,092 in year three. 
Marylebone Leisure Group secures Camden site: The privately owned and operated Marylebone Leisure Group is expanding with the opening of its 11th site, in London’s Camden. The business is opening a new “late-night pub concept”, the Lock Inn in Jamestown Road. The two-storey 3,500 square-foot venue with a capacity of up to 300 will include a rooftop terrace events space with a retractable roof and “generous outdoor seating”. A pub by day, the Lock Inn will offer a “high energy vibe come evenings courtesy of a varied music schedule and vinyl DJs playing until late Thursday through to Saturday, spinning records from across the centuries all night long”. Behind the bar, the group’s own-brewed craft lager and handmade spirits including apricot brandy, blueberry and maple bourbon and marmite vodka will be available alongside signature cocktails. The menu will feature finger-friendly foods including chicken wings, antipasti, boards, artisan pizza and an elevated chuck and rib burger. Founder Lawrence Santi said: “Camden has live music venues, street food operators and traditional pubs, The Lock Inn will offer the best of all these worlds with a pub atmosphere, varied and accessible music as well as great food and drink ensuring a great night out.” The group’s other sites include The Princess of Wales, The Marylebone, Clerkenwell & Social, Home Marylebone and Marylebone Live. Paul Tallantyre at DCL acted on the Camden deal.

Sourdough South closes half its Three Joes estate: Sourdough South, operator of the Three Joes and The Stable pizza brands, has closed half of its Three Joes estate. It has closed its sites in Fareham, Chichester and Cambridge – the latter two of which have been open for less than a year. Its remaining three restaurants – in Winchester, Lincoln and Sheffield – remain open. Co-founder Tim Hall said in November 2022 that he felt like Three Joes could be “a roll out brand” and said in June 2023 that he felt Three Joes is “now ready to go toe-to-toe with the chains”. Propel revealed that same month that Sourdough South had completed a funding round to support the continued expansion of its brands. The investment was secured from the group’s existing private shareholder base with the additional introduction of Christopher Mills, founder and chief executive of Harwood Capital, as a new private investor. Sourdough South still operates nine The Stable sites.
The Genuine Dining Co returns to profit as turnover grows by more than a third, work balance reverting more towards the office: Catering company The Genuine Dining Co, which is backed by serial sector investor Luke Johnson, returned to profit in the year to 28 September 2023 as its turnover grew by more than a third. Group turnover was up 38% from £26,905,623 in 2022 to £37,117,815. Of this, £33,387,788 came from contract catering (2022: £23,179,782), £3,090,986 from events catering (2022: £1,791,112) and £639,041 from reception services (2022: nil). There was no restaurant turnover (2022: £1,934,729) after its Feng Shui operation – the then eight-strong London-based Japanese restaurant group it acquired in 2017 – ceased trading in October 2022, as previously reported. The group’s pre-tax loss of £600,549 in 2022 turned into a profit of £1,411,659. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). Director Chris Mitchell said the return to profitability was largely driven by a successful exit from a commercial contract in education. He said £3,025,413 of new business contributed to the “excellent sales year” and that underlying like-for-like growth was 27%. Sales in Signature Dining, the group’s care home catering business, dropped from £6,445,133 to £5,822,385 but its events catering business, Admirable Crichton Events, had a strong year with a sales increase of 74% year on year. In its first full year of trading, its new reception business, Amplify Guest Services, traded above expectations. Positive group Ebitda of £1,685,769 was reported following negative Ebitda of £439,289 in 2022. “As is the case every year, the underlying core catering business portfolio is constantly reviewed, eliminating non-profit making contracts as well as trying to attract new ones,” Mitchell said. “The business won 23 new contracts in the financial year to September 2023. Since the end of the year, the business has won a further nine cost-plus contracts and has exited one contract. This has furthermore moved the risk profile of the business to a more assured footing.” Mitchell also said working from home is now becoming “less of a risk” for the business. He added: “The busy days of a contract are still very much Tuesday to Thursday, but Monday is now catching up in terms of office footfall. The directors are confident that despite working from home being very much the norm post-covid, that the balance has reverted more towards the office instead of the home.”
German pizza and pasta brand L’Osteria closes one of its two UK sites: German pizza and pasta chain L’Osteria, in which investment firm McWin became a majority shareholder last year, has closed one of its two UK sites. The company has shut its restaurant in Southampton’s Westquay, with the Daily Echo reporting that a chain and lock now sits across the front door of the empty venue. L’Osteria’s Southampton site is a 7,400 square-foot premises that spans over ground and first floors. The venue also has a first-floor balcony of 610 square feet and an external 1,140 square-foot seating area at ground floor level. A spokesperson for Westquay said: “Since 2020, we have worked collaboratively with L’Osteria and provided considerable support to enable the restaurant to operate and serve customers. However, regrettably we can confirm that L’Osteria has now closed. We remain engaged with the brand.” The business has more than 150 restaurants across Germany, Austria and Switzerland and made its UK debut in 2016 with an opening in Bristol. The 220-cover, 5,400 square-foot site, in the Quakers Friars area of the city’s Cabot Circus, is now the UK’s only L’Osteria site. The Southampton restaurant opened the following year. At the time of the Bristol launch, the business said it planned for 30 restaurants in the UK by 2026 as part of a £32m investment. McWin, the investment firm from food industry entrepreneurs Henry McGovern and Steven Winegar, which has backed brands including bakery concept Gail’s and pasta chain Vapiano, acquired a majority stake in L’Osteria in January 2023 in a deal that valued the restaurant brand at around €400m. The move was aimed at driving the brand’s growth across Europe, with McWin investing alongside Klaus Rader and Friedemann Findeis, who founded L’Osteria in 1999.
Leon partners with Roadchef for its most westerly location: Natural fast food brand Leon has partnered with motorway services company Roadchef for its most westerly location and second in Somerset. A new Leon site will open at Sedgemoor on the M5, located at the southbound services between junctions 21 and 22. It will offer all the Leon menu favourites plus several self-order kiosks. This new opening will mark a continuation of an ongoing partnership, which has seen Roadchef open 11 Leon outlets at its locations since 2018. Howard Lockwood, catering and band development director at Roadchef, said: “We are thrilled to welcome a Leon outlet to Sedgemoor southbound. Leon’s focus on healthy and delicious food aligns perfectly with our commitment to providing travellers with a wide range of quality food options. Leon’s reputation for tasty and nutritious meals will be a major draw for travellers seeking satisfying on-the-go dining options. This partnership reflects the changing tastes of consumers and highlights Roadchef's commitment to cater to those evolving preferences.” Roadchef operates 30 service stations across the UK, including 17 hotels in partnership with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Roadchef also has partnerships with brands including McDonald’s, Costa, Chozen Noodle and Coco di Mama, while its own branded offerings include Garden Square Deli and Fresh Food Café. Propel exclusively revealed yesterday (Wednesday, 17 April) that Mac Plumpton, formerly of Tapas Revolution and Rosa’s Thai, has been hired as the new managing director of Leon. Plumpton succeeds Ashley Davis, who has been interim managing director at Leon since last November following the departure of Glenn Edwards. Supermarket operator Asda took full ownership of the circa 75-strong chain last November after completing the acquisition of EG Group’s UK business for an enterprise value of £2.07bn. 
Employee benefits platform Wagestream raises £17.5m to support growth: Employee benefits platform Wagestream has raised £17.5m in new funding from investors including a subsidiary of the British Business Bank (BBB). Sky News reported that Wagestream, which enables the employees of its customers that includes sector companies Burger King and PizzaExpress to receive their salary early every month, has raised the funds from a combination of new and existing shareholders. Used by three million people, Wagestream offers a range of services through an interactive payslip, including choosing when they get paid, saving money on household bills and accessing free debt advice. The company was founded six years ago by Portman Wills and Peter Briffett with the objective of addressing the premium that low and middle-income households face paying high street providers. Wagestream's fundraising consists of money from British Patient Capital, an arm of the BBB; Lombard Odier Investment Managers; and existing investor Northzone. The valuation at which it has secured the capital was unclear. Briffett said: “Together we're closing the gap, with a platform that helps wherever people are in their financial life – from paying off debt, to saving for the first time, to building a credit file and planning for the future. The result is a better experience at work, better quality of life at home, and business impact for the employer – because healthy teams are loyal, productive teams.” Wagestream operates in the UK, Spain and the US, and intends to use the new funds to expand its range of services and become a broader financial platform for low and middle-income workers. Its new services this year are expected to include a credit-builder card for individuals previously denied access to credit and shopping discounts for those impacted by soaring inflation. The company will also offer artificial intelligence-powered coaching for those priced out of the financial advice sector, and loans for those previously overcharged by credit providers. Ian Connatty, managing director of direct and co-investments at British Patient Capital, said: “Wagestream is growing at a rapid pace, while still delivering on the important social mission at its core. We've been impressed by the team’s clear vision and agile execution.”
Pilpel strengthens presence in central London: Family-owned restaurant group and falafel bar Pilpel, which specialises in Middle Eastern street food, has strengthened its presence in central London after securing its eighth site. The business, which was founded by Uri Dinay and Joseph Cohen in 2009, has secured a new site in the City, in Fenchurch Street, with an opening planned for later this spring. The company, which previously operated the Badolina concept in the capital, operates Pilpel sites in Aldgate, two in Spitalfields and others in Canary Wharf, St Paul’s, Lime Street and Fleet Street. Pilpel’s falafel is made to a secret recipe handed down to Dinay by his grandfather, who ran a falafel and hummus kiosk in Tel Aviv for more than 60 years. Sammy Weinbaum, of CDG Leisure, acted on the Fenchurch Street deal.
Kent Domino’s franchisee sees slight drop in turnover and larger fall in profit: Kent Domino’s franchise Zaan Group saw a slight drop in turnover and a larger fall in profit in the year to 30 April 2023. Its revenue was down from £21,909,838 in 2022 to £21,721,211 while its pre-tax profit of £1,888,715 dropped to £266,137. The company received no government grants compared with £35,717 in 2022. Dividends of £120,000 were paid (2022: nil). Post year-end, in January 2024, Zaan Group opened its 17th store, in a former Truman’s pub in south east London. The takeaway opened in Woolwich Road, Charlton, in the former The Victoria pub, which has been a derelict shell since closing in the 1990s. Based in Gillingham, Zaan Group was founded in 2004 and is led by Babar Mumtaz. “The turnover has marginally reduced by 0.88% and the sale is consistent throughout the franchise stores operated by the company,” Mumtaz said. “The company reported another year of sales target attainment and cash generation especially given the challenging market conditions faced. The delivered food market is expected to grow at just under 10% and the Domino’s franchise Is one of the leading brands. The directors are of the opinion that in additions to operating within such an attractive, growing segment of the market, the company also has the opportunity to improve capabilities, drive efficiencies and become more innovative in how the business operates. The company reduced its net debt by £605,000. The company has strong liquidity position with net current assets of £2.13m and net assets of £4.1m.” 
Safestay signs first management contract: Hostel operator Safestay, which owns and operates hostels across Europe, has signed its first management contract. The company will run the resort-based 120-bed Calpe Seafront Hostel on Spain’s Costa Blanca on behalf of a property investment company. The hostel, which has a mix of rooms with four to six beds in each and some private rooms, was acquired after being put into administration during the pandemic, when trading was severely curtailed, but has been closed since. Safestay said as an established hostel operator in Spain, it was well positioned to take over the management under the Safestay brand and incorporate it into the group’s booking system. The management contract is for an initial 20-year term and the company said it should form the template for further management deals. Some refurbishment work is required to prepare the two-storey building for reopening and this work, funded by the landlord, has commenced and is scheduled to complete in June. Under the management contract, Safestay will receive a fixed management fee plus a percentage of revenue and profit above certain levels. The Calpe Hostel will be Safestay’s fourth Spanish hostel and 18th overall. Larry Lipman, chairman of Safestay, said: “This is the first management contract signed by Safestay and we are already discussing other similar opportunities with the aim of adding an asset-light portfolio of hostels to sit alongside our expanding freehold and leasehold portfolio. Safestay Calpe Seafront, while different in being resort based, is a unique hostel that will fit naturally into our network. I believe it will be a strong addition alongside our new Edinburgh hostel, which is also opening in June.”
Grind partners with Tesco: Coffee brand Grind has partnered with supermarket Tesco to offer its products in stores across the UK. Three product categories are available: coffee beans and ground coffee, home-compostable coffee pods, and ready-to-drink iced coffee cans. The partnership between Grind and Tesco is part of Tesco's Accelerator Programme, which helps innovative brands in the UK reach a wider audience. Grind's products are available in select Tesco stores, with the exact product range varying by location. Grind products are also available online through Tesco's website. Grind founder and chief executive David Abrahamovitch said: “This partnership with Tesco marks a really exciting step in Grind’s journey. To have the support of such a massive retailer in the UK is huge for us and we can’t wait to see our range in store, and get our speciality coffee into more hands and more homes.” Grind, which operates 14 sites in the UK and earlier this month attained B Corp status, also has retail partnerships with companies including Waitrose, Co-op, Ocado and Selfridges. 
Tom Cenci opens rooftop restaurant and bar at London members’ house: Former Duck & Waffle executive chef Tom Cenci has opened a new restaurant and bar on the rooftop of members’ house 1 Warwick in London’s Soho. Yasmin is situated on the sixth floor of the building. The venue offers seasonal small plates and cocktails as part of the menu from Cenci, who also oversees the kitchen at 1 Warwick’s ground floor restaurant, Nessa. By day, the secluded 64-cover terrace at Yasmin offers a space for Middle Eastern sharing plates, while the indoor space has seating for a further 30 guests. Dishes include sesame smoked duck, black za’atar, and grilled corn salad; and lamb rump skewer, coal roasted aubergine, yoghurt and smoked oil. To drink, signature serves include the Grand Bazaar – Yasmin’s take on an Old Fashioned – with Evan Williams, Mancino Rosso, bitter honey aperitif and fig; and At the River, which mixes Mermaid vodka, aperol and rose liquor with notes of citrus. 
London private members’ club narrow losses and returns to positive Ebitda, secures new 15-year leases: London private members’ club KX narrowed its losses and returned to positive Ebitda in the year to 31 December 2022, and has secured new 15-year leases on its premises. The club, located at 151 Draycott Avenue in Chelsea, also features a gym, spa and restaurant. The company reported an Ebitda profit of £262,179 for the year, following a loss of £99,913 in 2021. Its turnover rose from £5,604,835 to £8,044,768 while its pre-tax loss of £3,273,124 in 2021 was narrowed to £209,696. Of its 2022 revenue, £3,808,676 came from membership subscriptions (2021: £2,426,553), £149,435 from joining fees (2021: £141,523) and £4,086,658 from secondary sales (2021: £5,604,835). It received no government grants compared with £444,803 in 2021. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). Post year-end, in October 2023, a group subsidiary secured two 15-year leases for the Chelsea property. Its long-term lease had expired in March 2021, since when it had continued to occupy and trade from the premises on a rolling over basis. Director David Till said the directors believe the business “remains in a strong position to continue to recover and trade increasingly profitably”.
Hunky Dory Group to open new £1m Chinese restaurant in Glasgow tomorrow: Scottish operator Hunky Dory Dining Group will open its new high-end restaurant offering contemporary Chinese dining in Glasgow city centre tomorrow (Friday, 19 April). As revealed by Propel in February, Zhima – which translates to sesame in Mandarin – will open at the former site of Prezzo in St Vincent Place, creating more than 60 jobs. The interior of the site has been transformed following a £1m investment fit-out into a “contemporary and elegant” restaurant. The business said that Cantonese, Hunan, and Sichuan influences will underpin the cooking style and small plates will be catered for at its “elegant cocktail bar”. The menu will include almond butter garlic prawns, Xi An cumin lamb chops and drunken monkfish. There will be a business lunch, a pre-theatre, and evening menu, with private dining available for up to 12 guests. Hunky Dory Group also operates the Chaakoo Bombay Cafe, Panang, and Topolabamba concepts. The new restaurant will be the ninth opening for the business, which was established in partnership with Scottish restaurateurs Mario Gizzi and Tony Connetta of Di Maggio's Restaurant Group. Paul Sloan, co-founder of Hunky Dory Dining Group, said the new venue will bring an “elevated” dining experience to the Glasgow restaurant scene. Earlier this month, Sloan told Propel that UK-wide expansion is a long-term plan for the business. 
Gym franchise UBX opens first London site and sets new pre-sale membership record for UK & Ireland business: Gym franchise UBX has opened its first London site and set a new pre-sale membership record for its UK & Ireland business in the process. Co-founded in Australia by four-time world champion boxer Danny Green and fitness and tech entrepreneur Tim West, UBX has more than 100 gyms across Australia, New Zealand, the US, Japan and Singapore, offering boxing-based strength and fitness workouts. It made its UK debut in April last year when franchisees Ben Waldron and James Worrall launched in Manchester’s Media City. At the time, master franchisee Empowered Brands said it will roll out 250 UBX sites across the UK and Ireland over the next five years, as UBX maps out a road to 500 clubs globally. Further UBX franchise openings in the UK have followed in Dublin, Sheffield, Bath and Alderley, in Cheshire. New franchisee André Hordagoda has now opened its first London site, at 1 Olympic Way in Wembley. Mark Pinner, chief executive at UBX UK & Ireland, and Empowered Brands, told whichfranchise: “It’s little surprise that UBX Wembley has got off to such a great start, André and his team have absolutely driven the business from the very start and achieved fantastic membership numbers in their pre-sales. We’re looking forward to some further UBX franchise openings in London, with Islington and Kingston scheduled soon. Outside of London, we also have Windsor and Brighton opening in the coming months. With Alderley and Wembley already open this year, 2024 is off to a strong start for the UBX brand and our franchisees.” 
Moto set to build new motorway service station in Preston: Moto, the motorway services operator, is set to build a new site on the outskirts of Preston. The UK’s largest motorway service areas operator with circa 69 locations, Moto has franchise partnerships with brands including Subway, Costa, Greggs, Miss Millie’s, Coco Di Mama, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Pret A Manger and Burger King. The new site is earmarked for junction two of the M55 motorway and is located to the immediate north of the junction, extending to about 34.3-acres. The plans include a main amenity building with indoor and outdoor seating alongside a petrol station and children's play area, reports Insider Media. A full planning application has not yet been submitted, but a second screening opinion regarding the development’s environmental impact has been requested. In July last year, Moto reported that turnover passed £1bn for first time in the year to 28 December 2022, growing from £791,282,000 in 2021 to £1,058,407,000. Its pre-tax profit rose from £35,386,000 to £38,124,000 during the period while its adjusted Ebitda increased to £96,200,000 from £84,500,000.
Leeds cafe business owner opens fourth site in the city: Leeds cafe business owner Lou Henry has opened a fourth site in the city. Henry opened the first Opposites Cafe at Leeds University in 2006, followed by a second site, in Victoria Quarter, three years later. A third site followed in Chapel Allerton in 2013, and site number four has just opened in Stonegate Road, in the Meanwood area of the city. “I love that shop – I love the mix of people working from home and kids, people who live locally and that community vibe,” Henry told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “We managed to find this spot and it’s absolutely perfect because it’s exactly the right size. We’ve got a huge space downstairs for our kitchen, we’ve got access for our catering deliveries, we’ve got a massive outdoor seating area. It’s on the main road, and we’ve got amazing places like Wildcraft Bakery and Humbl. These lovely little businesses keep popping up, there’s lots of really vibrant stuff happening here. It just feels like the right time, the right place.” A further site, in Blenheim Terrace in the Woodhouse area of the city, closed after the pandemic and has been replaced by Taiwanese concept Little Snack Bar, which has two branches in Sheffield. The sale of the site, which struggled to bounce back from covid, helped fund the purchase of the new one.
Team behind Birmingham Vietnamese street food business set to open new seafood restaurant: The team behind the three-strong Vietnamese Street Kitchen in Birmingham is set to launch a new seafood restaurant in the city. It is preparing to open Seafood City in the Arcadian centre, offering a Vietnamese twist on the American Deep South seafood boil dish. Diners will be offered a bib apron to wear as they “enjoy seafood in an unpretentious way”. General manager, Oliver Ngo, said he wants friends, family and seafood lovers to “enjoy the riches of the sea in the simplest way possible” when the restaurant opens in early June, reports Birmingham Live. “The seafood boil is a wonderful way to enhance individual flavours and textures,” he added. “Our concept is simple, you can boil your choice of seafood, pairing it with our signature sauce, garlic butter or our XXL sauce for those who like it hot.” As well as lobster and prawns, there will be crab, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams and crawfish on offer. The 1,700 square-foot restaurant is taking over the former unit of the Rozu restaurant and cocktail lounge, at 70 Hurst Street. It will have space for 99 people inside as well as outdoor seating and will create 22 jobs. Vietnamese Street Kitchen originally opened in Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, with that site closing in 2020. A further site opened in the city’s Bullring centre in 2021 before moving to the Arcadian last year. It also has a full service restaurant and a separate express takeaway unit at Resorts World in Solihull.
Glasgow operator set to open third site: Glasgow operator John Traynor is set to open a third site in the city. Traynor started out as an apprentice at The Hilton hotel in the city before becoming head chef at The Finneston and then executive chef at its owners, Kained Holdings, aged just 20. He also worked in recipe development for Dawn Fresh Fish, which makes products for Marks & Spencer and Aldi among others, and operated pop-up concept The Undercover Dinner Society before opening his debut restaurant, La Pastina Deli, in Glasgow’s Byers Road in 2021. This was followed by brunch spot Serendipity West, at 657 Western Road, in November last year, and this in turn will be followed by Lagom Bakery and Eatery, which will open at the former Sips & Baker cafe site at 521 Great Western Road. Traynor told Glasgow Live he is hoping to open later this month and that the new venue will not only be a sit-in and takeaway in its own right but will serve his other two locations too. “Lagom is not only our new venue, it’s also a hub for all our baked goods for the other units,” he said. “We have always baked fresh but we have stepped up our game to make all our pastries from scratch with a very talented team of bakers. We will have a full breakfast and lunch menu available, serving great brunch bowls, breakfast bagels and even Scottish ice cream for the hotter days, not to mention the fact we will also be serving afternoon tea.” Later evening opening is also on the cards once the new venue is up and running, with a “market menu” made up of seasonal produce. Sips & Baker closed last year, having been opened in 2021 by Alana Milne and her two sisters in law, Carla Thomas and Romana Knowles.

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