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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 22nd Apr 2024 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Brother Marcus to return to the expansion trail, hires Dorian Waite as non-exec: Eastern Mediterranean restaurant concept Brother Marcus is to return to the expansion trail after 12 months of consolidation, with plans to reach ten sites in London over the next few years. Founded in 2016 by three school friends, Alex Large, Arthur Campbell and Tasos Gaitanos, the all-day concept currently operates sites in Spitalfields Market, Islington’s Camden Passage, South Kensington and Borough Yards. After opening two sites in its 2022/23 financial year, the company has spent its latest financial year focusing on its current sites, staff and getting the business ready to expand. To aid its plans, the company recently hired Dorian Waite, co-founder of the Active-backed Honest Burger, and former operations director of Bill’s, who has joined the business as a non-executive director. Large told Propel: “Last year was one of planning and getting to a stage where we feel confident to expand without putting too much pressure on our head office team and ensuring our current sites are performing to the best of their ability. Like-for-like sales were up 25%, full-year sales increased 35% to £6.9m, while our Ebitda stood at £690,000 after central costs. This calendar year has also started strongly, and we are now in a position to build on that foundation. We want to get to ten sites in the capital. Being in such an exciting city, there’s lots of opportunity to be able to reach that number without losing sight of where we started and what Brother Marcus is.” Gaitanos said: “The key to this is to do it sustainably, and we really want to carry this ethos as we grow. We can only improve for our guests and our team, and we should have more resources available to be better and keep improving on our previous best.” Waite has joined the business to help it get to its medium-term expansion goal without dropping its standards, which includes hiring a senior operations team. The first part of this has seen the appointment of Carmelo Ragno as food director. He joins from MJMK, where he was head of food, and before that was food director at Honest Burgers.  Gaitanos said: “Growing a business has its risks. As you grow, the quality and the service can get worse, and part of what Dorian is bringing to the table is ensuring that Brother Marcus has the right support structure in place as we grow to sustain the high standards that we’re known for, and the reason why we're so busy at the moment.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Adnams reveals new brand design across beer portfolio: Southwold brewery Adnams is rolling out a redesign of its core beer range, across the on and off-trade. Established in 1872, Adnams celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2022, which it said presented an opportunity to define its vision for the future. The range of renowned coastal brews has been reimagined to reflect the brand’s Suffolk home. Drawing inspiration from its shorelines and expansive horizons, it illustrates the rich history and natural inspiration that can be found along England’s east coast. An original painting has been created for Ghost Ship 0.5% Pale Ale, Ghost Ship 4.5% Pale Ale, Mosaic Pale Ale, Dry Hopped Lager, Southwold Bitter and Broadside. Mindful of each beer’s individual story, the company worked with local artist, Vanessa Sorboen, to unify the range while maintaining its individuality. Ghost Ship 0.5% Pale Ale, the UK’s best-selling low-and-no ale in the on-trade, was the first to feature the new creative, when a slimline can joined the range. Investment in cask was also key, and innovative, embossed, curved cask clips for Ghost Ship 4.5% Pale Ale, Southwold Bitter and Broadside were developed to extend on-bar presence. The remaining refreshed packaged beer arrive throughout April, while designs will appear on bars during May. For more information, click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email

One final place unexpectedly available for Propel Chicago study tour 2024: One final place has become unexpectedly available for the 2024 Propel Chicago study tour, which takes place between Saturday,18 May and Monday, 21 May. The trip’s itinerary includes a wide range of restaurant, bar, speakeasy, and nightclub tours, where delegates can explore and learn about the hottest concepts in the city. This includes a visit to Ennismore’s Hoxton hotel in the heart of the Fulton Market District, one of Chicago’s most creative neighbourhoods. Delegates will take in Cabra, the hotel’s Peruvian inspired rooftop restaurant, and Lazy Bird, which is its speakeasy bar tucked away in plain sight. The tour will also visit the team at Virgin Hotels to see Cerise, which is its rooftop cocktail lounge and nightclub perched on the 26th floor. Also on the itinerary is Fogo De Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse brand that is taking the US by storm and features an open-air churrasco grill in the heart of the dining room where guests can watch Gaucho chefs practice the art of churrasco as they butcher and grill a variety of fire-roasted meat. Delegates will be treated to a masterclass of its latest format, which is unique and awe-inspiring to experience first-hand. There will also be a full day at the National Restaurant Association Show, featuring more than 2,000 exhibitors. The itinerary also features a pizza making masterclass at Uno Pizzeria & Grill – the restaurant that created the deep-dish pizza – as well as a study tour of the Fulton Market and two hosted dinners. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to gain valuable insight into the trends and concepts that are shaping the US hospitality market, which will no doubt provide fresh ideas and inspiration for delegates.” The single occupancy price is £3,500 and twin occupancy is £3,250 with the price also including flights, three nights’ accommodation, transfers, and a welcome drinks reception. For more information or to book, email or call 07710 783485.

Propel’s latest Multi-Site Database to be released on Friday with seven category segmentation including 910 operators from the casual dining sector: The next Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate, providing details of more than 3,000 multi-site operators, will be released on Friday (26 April), at midday, to Premium Club members – and companies are now searchable in seven main segments. The database features, 910 (29%) operators from the casual dining sector, 765 (25%) pubs and bars, 510 (16%) cafe bakery, 420 (14%) quick service restaurants, 250 (8%) hotel, 190 (6%) experiential leisure and 53 (2%) fine dining. It is updated each month – this edition includes 23 new companies and brings the total to 3,098. New additions in the casual dining sector include Sri Lankan concept Kolamba created by husband-and-wife team Eroshan and Aushi Meewella. They are launching their second site following the opening of their first restaurant in Soho in 2019. Plus, award-winning chef Adebola Adeshina is forming the Heritage Social Group, under which his existing sites, The Chubby Castor and The Yard Castor alongside his new ventures in Grantham, Lincolnshire will sit. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, the New Openings Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database and the Who’s Who of UK Hospitality. Plus, all members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators are also able to send up to four members of staff to each of our four Multi-Club Conferences for free. Premium Club members receive their daily Propel Info newsletter 11 hours earlier than standard subscribers, at 7pm the evening before. They also receive videos of presentations at eight Propel conference events two weeks after they are held. This represents around 100 videos of industry insight over the course of the year. Premium Club members will be sent a dedicated monthly newsletter that will highlight key updates in the sector and direct subscribers to all the vital content their membership offers. Premium Club members also receive exclusive opinion columns every Friday at 5pm, which include the thoughts of Propel group editor Mark Wingett and a host of industry leaders from across the sector. A Premium Club subscription costs an annual sum of £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. Email today to sign up.

Alcohol charity loses legal battle over ‘dry January’ trademark: A group that campaigns against alcohol abuse has lost a legal case to have exclusive rights to the term “dry January”. A tribunal rejected an application from Alcohol Change UK (ACUK) that it should have a monopoly on the term, reports The Times. Big Drop Brewing, a manufacturer of alcohol-free beer, challenged the charity after the campaigners sent “cease and desist” letters to brands that were using “dry January” in marketing materials. The alcohol-free brewer argued that the phrase was not legally capable of being the subject of a trademark. Rob Fink, who founded Big Drop eight years ago, said that by attempting to gain monopoly rights to the term, the campaign group was “hindering the efforts” of “start-up brands which have driven the alcohol-free movement over the last few years”. Dry January 2024 was thought to be the driest on record, with a survey of more than 2,200 people showing that 11% took part in the month of not drinking, with a third of those doing so for the first time. In 2020, Alcohol Change, under its previous name of Alcohol Research UK, applied for the trademark of “dry January”. If successful, the trademark would have meant no other organisations or businesses could use the words in their marketing. Big Drop opposed the application, arguing that the trademark would have “monopolised the term” and would restrict the sales and marketing activity surrounding alcohol-free drinks. Alcohol Change argued that it had a history of using the term, saying it had run a campaign and provided related services and merchandise under the term “for many years”. In rejecting Alcohol Change’s case, the tribunal said the term was not capable of qualifying for a trademark. It went on to note that the words were frequently used in advertising and other promotional activity to signify to consumers the availability of “beverages to consumers having a dry January”. The tribunal noted that the term was widely used by pubs and restaurants that “need to make more effort to attract customers who are detoxing after the excesses of the festive season”. Welcoming the ruling, Fink said that the “alcohol-free movement has been driven by innovative start-up brands over the last few years by offering drinkers palatable alternatives for January and beyond”. He added that “high quality alcohol-free drinks give people a reason to go and support the hospitality industry in January.

NTIA – Brixton Academy reopening marks new era of crowd safety within performance spaces: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said the reopening of the Brixton Academy marks a new era of crowd safety within performance spaces. The south London music venue’s licence was suspended in December 2022 after Gaby Hutchinson and Rebecca Ikumelo died when fans without tickets tried to force their way into a show by Nigerian Afrobeats artist Asake. The venue, which is owned by Academy Music Group (AMG), reopened on Friday (19 April), having survived the threat of permanent closure after the Metropolitan Police urged Lambeth Council to remove its licence. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “We are pleased that the Brixton Academy will finally be able to open its doors again, with a comprehensive safety plan and extended licensing conditions which have been agreed by authorities to safeguard future events within this iconic building. It is important to recognise at this point the immense efforts made by all parties to ensure a safe and successful reopening, as well as establishing a new operating best practice for safety within licensed and performance spaces across the UK. We also recognise the profound responsibility that accompanies this and acknowledge the tragic events of December 2022 which resulted in the loss of two amazing individuals, to which our heartfelt condolences remain with their families and friends. Brixton Academy has consistently held a special place in the hearts of music aficionados, and its cultural significance is immeasurable. We have consistently advocated for its safe reopening, and today we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to ensuring its continued success as a safe hub for live music and nightlife. This is also a testament to the potency of collective action and the enduring passion for live and electronic music culture, and we are indebted to each and every individual who signed petitions, participated in meetings, and voiced their support through various avenues. As the venue embarks on this new journey, we eagerly anticipate it welcoming music enthusiasts, artists, and the community to partake in the enchantment of live performances once more within this iconic space.”

‘Work from pub’ 40% cheaper than booking a co-working space for the day: Working from a pub is 40% cheaper than booking a coworking space for the day, saving Brits an average of £9 a day, according to a new analysis. The Evening Standard reports that figures from catering supplier Alliance Online analysed the cost of five nationwide co-working spaces and six major pub chains that offer workspace deals. It found that a table at a pub for the day comes out at £13 on average, compared to £22 at the coworking spaces. However, most co-working spaces offer monthly deals as well, at lower prices per day. The analysis found that the average monthly cost at a co-working space is £253. That is slightly less than the cost of 20 days, a normal working schedule, at the pub. For those working every single day in the month, as would be possible with a monthly co-working deal, the pub is more than 50% more expensive. “Work from pub” deals typically allow a remote worker to book a table for an entire workday with the purchase of a meal and a hot drink. The pub chains whose remote working offers were used in the research included Young’s, All Bar One, BrewDog, Brewhouse & Kitchen and Joseph Holt.

Employers including Pret A Manger and Wagamama offering teenagers ‘virtual work experience’: Employers including Pret A Manger and Wagamama are offering teenagers “virtual work experience”, claiming to provide them with “essential skills” to enter the job market. The online courses, provided by a platform called Springpod, are said to give teenagers the “relevant skills” to land careers in several fields including hospitality, reports The Telegraph. But despite these sectors traditionally involving manual or customer-facing work, the programme is completed entirely from home, without young people stepping foot in the workplace. Pret’s work experience is advertised as “an immersive journey into product development” where students are given the chance to design their own product for the company, which could fast-track them onto a Pret apprenticeship. “Dive into the heart of one of the high street's most iconic brands with Pret’s exclusive virtual work experience in collaboration with Springpod,” the programme states. “Successful ideas may even fast-track you onto a Pret apprenticeship, a three-year long opportunity that’s great for any young person starting out in their career. You’ll have the chance to take part in some unique opportunities and learn about the benefits of doing Pret's fast-track apprenticeship.” The Wagamama programme states: “Unveil the secrets of hospitality with experts at Wagamama. Join this virtual journey to explore diverse roles, from back house to head office, and participate in a project to craft Wagamama's next menu item. Dive into back house, front of house and head office roles, whilst also making your way through this programme’s project where you’ll get the chance to develop Wagamama’s next menu item.” The courses are open to students based in the UK aged 13 or above, with a certificate of completion at the end.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with the team behind a new high-volume venue opening in London’s Soho that is seeking a general manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The concept is something fresh and exciting that the area hasn’t seen before. The team is looking for a seasoned general manager who is well versed with new openings and dealing with stakeholders. As an all-round role, you’ll be looking at all the usual preopening tasks, dealing with suppliers, site layout, hand-picking an epic team, the works! The site will have 150 covers and will be doing high volumes.” The salary is up to £80,000 plus bonus. For more information, email

Licensing update: John Gaunt & Partners licensing solicitors has just published its latest licensing update. This month has seen confirmation of the previous temporary pavement licence regime has been made permanent. The full update can be accessed here

Company News:

BrewDog USA opens new Denver brewery for first franchise location in country: BrewDog USA has opened its new Denver brewery, located in the RiNo neighbuorhood, for its first franchise location in the country. Owned and operated by Hop Dragon Holdings, a Denver-based family business founded by Juan Carlos Mondragón, son Eduardo, daughter Paloma and her husband Elliot, the outpost serves BrewDog’s beers alongside Denver-exclusive Mexican specialties and other local brews on tap. Dishes will include carnitas tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa, pickled onions and cilantro; carne asada with seared prime flat iron steak, spicy avocado crema, pico de gallo and guacamole; and cochinita pibil with slow cooked pulled pork marinated in orange and achiote, pickled habanero and red onion. “This is an exciting step for BrewDog USA as we welcome our first-ever franchised location stateside,” said BrewDog USA chief executive, John Graham. “BrewDog Denver has been an incredible journey for us and the Mondragon family, who have created a unique BrewDog experience. Bringing their Mondragón family recipes to the menu alongside their relentless passion for this project, we’re thrilled to be entering the incredible craft beer scene here in RiNo and the Mile High City.” Juan Carlos Mondragón added: “This is a dream come true for our family. We’re excited to showcase our amazing location and family recipes alongside BrewDog’s innovative brews to create an unforgettable experience for our Denver community.” The 10,000 square-foot site includes a taproom, an in-house brewery and two patios. It will also offer guided beer tasting experiences, shuffleboard and old school arcade video games. In the US, BrewDog has established locations in Ohio, Atlanta and Las Vegas, but Denver is its first franchise bar there. BrewDog USA is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with a craft beer hotel and a 100,000 square-foot brewery. 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: to book places.

Brewhouse & Kitchen disposes of Bedford site to Amber Taverns, plans further freehold acquisition: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, has sold the freehold of its site in Bedford to Amber Taverns, for an undisclosed sum, Propel has learned. The company said that the disposal, which leaves Brewhouse & Kitchen with 22 sites, comes following an ongoing review of its estate. It said contracts have been exchanged on the site in Bedford High Street and the sale will complete on 2 May. Brewhouse & Kitchen executive chair Kris Gumbrell told Propel: “As our brand evolves, it’s important to redeploy our capital into sites and locations that best reflect our target demographic and the requirements of our concept. The B&K team are working closely with Amber Taverns to ensure a smooth handover of the business.” It comes as Brewhouse & Kitchen has recently completed a successful rights issue with existing and new shareholders, with a view to acquiring a further freehold site in this calendar year. The company said that this follows the “success of our recent development in Chelmsford, Essex”. Earlier this month, Amber Taverns, the 171-strong, wet-led, freehold community pub operator, said it had traded well over the Easter weekend, with the full week last year versus this up 9.6%. The James Baer-led business said the four days over Easter were ahead by 11%. It came after the business saw its turnover increase by 15% to £110.4m in the year to 4 February 2024, with underlying earnings rising from £22.4m to more than £25m. Like-for-like sales increased by 11.3% for the year and were up 6% in the first six weeks of the new financial year, driven by a mixture of volumes and price. On further expansion opportunities, it said: “In addition to continued organic investment in the existing estate, Amber has an encouraging pipeline with a variety of good new site opportunities”. It is looking to add another 15 new pubs to its growing portfolio each year. 

Adam Gregory steps down as Turtle Bay operations director: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper, is in the process of hiring a new operations director following the departure from the role of Adam Gregory, who joined the business five years ago. Gregory joined the new circa 55-strong Turtle Bay from cocktail bar brand Be At One. Having started his career at TGI Friday’s, he spent a decade at Welcome Break before moving to Wagamama as regional director and later managing director USA, where he led the launch of the operator’s flagship restaurant in New York. He then became director of restaurants at healthy fast food chain Leon before joining Be At One as operations director. The Nick Crossley-led Turtle Bay is planning to open a site in Chester’s Northgate scheme later this year.

Loungers plans to open Cosy Club in Sheffield: Cafe bar operator Loungers is planning to add to its Cosy Club estate with an opening in Sheffield. Propel understands that the Nick Collins-led company is close to securing the Pitcher & Piano site in the city’s Holly Street, which was recently closed, from Marston’s. It is set to be added to the group’s current 36-strong Cosy Club business, which is led by Lucy Knowles. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that Loungers is set to further strengthen its presence in Bristol with the acquisition of a site on the city’s harbourside – the Pitcher & Piano site in Canon’s Road. A Loungers spokesperson told Propel: “We have been in discussions regarding opening a Cosy Club in the Pitcher & Piano site on Holly Street, Sheffield. If successful, the site would open sometime this summer.  We already operate Cosy Clubs in York and Leeds and we’re looking forward to opening a third location in Yorkshire. We are also opening a Lounge in the former Pitcher & Piano site on Bristol Harbourside in a few months’ time. Should everything fall into place, then we look forward to welcoming Pitcher & Piano team members from Sheffield and Bristol into the Loungers family.” Last week, Loungers said it had continued its rapid site rollout with an opening every ten days so far in 2024. The business said several new openings since its last update on 29 January brought its current total of sites to 257. In the past three months, the group has opened new Lounges in Bromsgrove (Verraco Lounge), Chepstow (Pontio Lounge), Macclesfield (Panadero Lounge), Westwood Cross (Riparo Lounge), Bracknell (Pineto Lounge), Ilkley (Vitello Lounge), Sidcup (Sarto Lounge) and Yeovil (Barolo Lounge). Alex Reilley, chairman and co-founder of Loungers, said: “We still firmly believe that there is scope for over 600 Lounges and are more excited than ever about the future of this business.”

Time Out Group hires Jack de Wet as vice president of development: Time Out Group has hired Jack de Wet, formerly of the Big Mamma Group and Jamie’s Italian, as its new vice president of development. De Wet joins Time Out Group after a year working with sector property advisory firm Etch. He was previously chief development officer for the Big Mamma Group, where he oversaw market entry negotiations and openings in the UK, France, Spain and Germany for the Paris-born restaurant group. Prior to this, he spent five years as part of the leadership team tasked with global expansion for Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group and Jamie’s Italian, overseeing growth in 20 countries across Europe, UAE, Asia, Australia and North America. Last week, Time Out Group announced it had entered into a management agreement with Corvin Food Market Kft to open a new Time Out Market in Budapest, Hungary, with an expected opening date in 2025. The agreement increases the number of sites in development to nine, which are set to open between 2024 and 2027, in addition to the seven Markets already open and a pipeline of further locations in advanced negotiation. A Time Out Market is set to open in Porto next month, followed later this year by Barcelona and Bahrain. Further Time Out Markets are scheduled to open in Osaka, Vancouver and Abu Dhabi in 2025, and in Prague and Riyadh in 2027.

Estrella Damm to start brewing in Bedford: Amid surging demand among British drinkers for Spanish lager, the family-owned Estrella Damm is investing €60m (£50m) in building a state-of-the-art brewery in Bedford. The Sunday Times reports it is the first time Estrella has been made outside the Iberian Peninsula in its 150-year history, with the firm picking the UK over rival locations on the Continent. The Damm brewery in Barcelona can be traced back to 1876, when August Kuentzmann Damm left his native Alsace and, with his cousin Joseph Damm, began brewing and marketing Strasburger beer. Most popular Spanish lagers sold in the UK are already brewed here rather than being shipped in. San Miguel is made by Carlsberg in Northampton, and Cruzcampo is brewed by Heineken in Manchester. Madri, which calls itself “the soul of Madrid”, was specifically designed by Carling-owner Molson Coors for UK and Irish drinkers. It is brewed in Yorkshire. Such is the success of Madri in Britain that the beer is now exported to Spain. Damm produces 25 beer brands as well as cold drinks and coffee. In total, it sells 1.8 billion litres of drinks every year. The equivalent of 150 pints of Estrella Damm, its most popular lager, is sold every minute in the UK. The brewery remains in family control and is led by Demetrio Carceller Arce, a billionaire who inherited the business from his father. A spokesman for Damm said: “The UK is the most important market for Estrella Damm outside its home country. This investment in Bedford, where we will be producing some formats, reflects our long-term commitment to the country and our devotion to UK consumers. Bedford is strategically located within the UK. Its proximity to London makes the location very attractive for us.”

McDowall – people are getting to our high street pubs earlier: David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has said people are socialising differently and getting to the company’s high street pubs earlier. He told the Sunday Times: “People are getting to our high street pubs earlier, as well. Even at the weekends, people are arriving earlier. If you were to look at Slug & Lettuce, for example, our busiest trading hours are mid-Saturday afternoon to early Saturday evening, whereas a few years ago that would have kicked-off later on. We are really socialising differently. I think there’s a bit of a trend towards going in the afternoon, going for lunch and finishing a bit earlier. If you’ve been out earlier, you might finish a bit earlier as well and it’s more sensible.” The sale of non-alcoholic products remains a relatively small proportion of the company’s overall revenues, but people’s habits are changing significantly. McDowall said: “It’s really important to us to continue to cater for that trend towards moderation and prove to people that you can have a non-alcoholic beer or a Coke Zero and still be part of a great pub experience. And I think that’s really exciting.” He said that it will be a “wee while” before Stonegate pubs charge £10 a pint, albeit while acknowledging that prices are likely to reach this symbolic threshold within the next five years. He said: “The cost burden of running a pub, whether it be labour, business rates or cost of goods – all of that good stuff is more significant than it’s ever been, and it’s inevitable that you see that, to a point, in the price. I think that also plays into the point that people know they are paying a little bit more for a pint and expect a certain level of experience.”

Healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte secures sixth site: Healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte is to increase its presence in the capital with an opening in Richmond. Propel understands that the five-strong French-inspired restaurant group has secured the Antipodea site at 30 Hill Street in an off-market acquisition. The new restaurant is due to open towards the end of June and will comprise circa 65 covers. Chef Romain Bourrillon, who has worked in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, launched Cocotte in Notting Hill in April 2016, opening a second site, in Shoreditch, two years later. It also operates sites in Parson’s Green, Queen’s Park and South Kensington. MKR Property and Restaurant Property acted on the Richmond transaction. Marc Rogers from MKR Property, said: “We are thrilled to have secured this fantastic site for Cocotte. It’s a location we've had our eyes on for some time and we believe it’s perfect for Cocotte. Additionally, it’s exciting to witness the growing activity in the area, with other notable and complimentary openings from the likes of Rosa’s Thai along with planned openings from renowned brands such as Ottolenghi, Sticks’n’Sushi and Noci.”

Lebanese fast-food concept Za’ta to open second site: Za’ta, the London-based Lebanese fast food concept founded by Lebanese national Francis Zahar and former Pret A Manger and EAT executive Ed Grimes, is to open its second site in the capital. Propel understands that the concept, which is inspired by the recipes of Zahar’s mother, Nadia, has secured a site in Canary Wharf for an opening later this spring. The business opened its first site in September 2020 in London’s Baker Street. It has previously spoken about growing to circa 30 sites over the next ten years and believes the format is set up for a rapid rollout. The menu includes a selection of hot and cold mezzes, meat and vegetarian and vegan dishes as well as breakfast snacks, fair trade organic coffee and sweet treats with a focus on the famous Lebanese man’oushe.

Mr Bao Group set to open fourth London site next month: Mr Bao Group is set to open its fourth London site next month. Frank Yeung, who formerly owned an eight-strong chain of burrito restaurants called Poncho 8, which he sold in 2014, opened the original Mr Bao in Peckham in 2015. This was followed by Daddy Bao in Tooting in 2018, in honour of his dad, Joe, who ran The Jade restaurant in Salisbury for more than 30 years. Then came Master Bao, which opened inside Westfield White City in 2019, and a second Master Bao will open in Westfield Stratford on Thursday, 23 May. The new site will feature a brand new bubble tea menu, exclusive dishes and its very own noodle room alongside Master Bao’s signature Taiwanese fried chicken, bao buns, fresh noodles and rice dishes. Co-founder Abhinav Malde said: “We’ve had our eye on a site in Westfield Stratford for a while so jumped at the opportunity to bring our menu to a new part of London. We’ve really taken this opportunity to build on everything we’ve learnt in the past - from the menu to design – to make this new Master Bao the best it can be.”

Red Engine confirms June opening for fourth UK Electric Shuffle and largest yet: Red Engine, the Flight Club and Electric Shuffle operator, has confirmed its fourth UK Electric Shuffle, and largest yet, will open in June. It will be the second Manchester site for Red Engine following the 2018 opening of its Flight Club Darts concept in the city. Located on Deansgate and opening on 21 June, it will also be Red Engine’s second Electric Shuffle outside of London, creating 75 jobs.  It will offer semi-private shuffleboard areas and an art-deco-inspired central bar serving cocktails and a menu of small plates and sourdough pizza. At 11,400 square feet, Electric Shuffle Manchester is the biggest Electric Shuffle venue in the UK, with 15 play spaces and a capacity of 400 people. Chief executive Steve Moore said: “We couldn’t be more excited to bring Electric Shuffle to Manchester. We have loved our time in Manchester so far and the welcome that Flight Club has received over the past five years. We look forward to helping create more memories to last a lifetime at Electric Shuffle. From couples’ date nights to corporate events and everything in between, Electric Shuffle is a place that is built for friends by friends, and we can’t wait to show everyone in Manchester what we’ve been working on.” The total Red Engine and partners estate currently stands at 25 venues – 17 owner-operated, and eight partner-owned by State of Play Hospitality (Flight Club in North America) and Night Owl (Flight Club in Australia). This portfolio is set to increase to 33 in 2024, as Red Engine and its partners are poised to open a further eight sites this year alone – four owned and four partner-owned. In addition to Electric Shuffle Manchester, Red Engine will open Electric Shuffle New York and Flight Club Liverpool and Oxford, while the franchise partners opening pipeline for 2024 consists of Flight Club Philadelphia, Washington, Sydney and Melbourne.  Earlier this month, Red Engine secured a new £60m banking facility from Santander, HSBC and Barclays to support its global expansion plans.

Wells & Co agrees extension to banking facilities, set to add more pubs to its French estate: Bedford brewer and retailer Wells & Co has agreed an extension to its banking facilities and said it plans to add more pubs to its French estate. “In September 2023, the group agreed a one-year extension on its three-year bank facilities with HSBC, which are now in place until September 2026 with the option to extend for a further one year,” chief financial officer Anthony Fryer said in the company’s full accounts for the period. “We have sold one pub from the estate in France during the current year and also completed the sale and leaseback of another site in France. This has generated £1.8m of net sales proceeds which will be reinvested into new acquisitions in France during the 2024 financial year.” As previously reported, the company’s Ebitda grew from £8m in 2022 to £9.5m, while total revenue increased by 6%. The group’s turnover was up from £55,242,000 to £62,305,000. Of this, £42,659,000 came from the UK (2022: £37,947,000), £14,005,000 from Europe (2022: £11,745,000) and £5,641,000 from UK pub partners (2022: £5,550,000). Its pre-tax profit narrowed from £5,851,000 to £1,313,000. Exceptional items included £235,000 in reorganisation costs (2022: £91,000) as the business restructured post-covid and made some roles redundant. Dividends of £6.05 per share were paid, the same as in 2022. “The critical element for us has been to ensure that our pubs remain in the best state possible state to help provide an experience people will recommend to their friends,” Fryer added. “This meant we have continued to maintain the integrity of our buildings and invest in both our people and processes in order to build a solid platform for further growth across our estate. This has allowed our business to minimise the number of vacant pubs within the estate while also working hard to ensure that we have the right offer in each site. Our strategy is, in the short term, to manage debt levels carefully within the existing bank facility limits. While continuing to invest within the pub estate, we continue to aim to manage debt levels to be in the region of 3.5 times our annual Ebitda.”

Gail’s strengthens London presence with Brentford opening, trading environment remains ‘challenging’: Fast-growing Gail’s Bakery has further strengthened its presence in London with an opening in Brentford. The company has opened the site in West Bradbury Yard. Gail’s stated: “Our new bakery in Brentford is housed in a listed warehouse building that once played host to a grocery store. We have taken inspiration from the location’s industrial heritage with food taking centre stage once again.” Chief executive Tom Molnar told Propel that the trading environment remains “challenging”. He said: “Food prices are still high. Our butter costs for example are up by an eighth and we are working hard with farmers and producers to protect ourselves as much as possible.” Last month, Gail’s confirmed it is to make its debut in the south west, with an opening in Bristol. The circa 125-strong company, which made its debut in the north west last year with a number of openings in and around Manchester, plans to open at 14 Regent Street, in the Clifton Village area of Bristol in May. Molnar said he has hasn’t looked at any further openings in the city and added: “We have to make this one work first.” Last year, Marta Pogroszewska, managing director of Gail’s, said data suggested there are 300 to 500 places that the “brand could fit”.

Costa opens first site in Italy: Costa Coffee has opened its first store in Italy, at Fiumicino airport in Rome. “We are thrilled to announce the opening of Italy’s first Costa Coffee right here at Fiumicino airport in the boarding area E,” a spokesman for Aeroporti di Roma said. “Thanks to our partnership with Autogrill, part of Avolta, we have been able to enhance our commercial offerings with this renowned international brand, which operates in more than 50 countries. The new Costa Coffee is more than just a spot for excellent coffee; it’s a culinary heaven celebrating Italian excellence with a selection of both sweet and savoury delights.” A Costa spokeswoman added: “We’re delighted to have formally opened our first store in Rome Fiumicino Airport, in partnership with Avolta. It was the Costa brothers love of Italian coffee and an inability to find it in their new home, England, that led to the birth of Costa Coffee. Their entrepreneurial spirit and Italian heritage continues to inspires us every day to reimagine new coffee experiences all around the world. Located in the non-Schengen zone within Fiumicino Airport, an important gateway to Italy, the retail store will offer an uplifting environment for travellers to sample a range of Costa’s coffees alongside local sourced artisanal delicacies, to celebrate Italian excellences, serving a menu designed to inspire transit travellers and ensure fresh, high-quality food on-the-go.

Berkshire hotel group reports profit boost after making £3.2m on disposal of Bath business: Berkshire hotel group Nilvip Holdings reported a profit boost in the year to 31 July 2023 after making £3.2m on disposal its business in Bath. During the year, in September 2022, the group disposed of the subsidiary which owned its hotel in Bath, and it subsequently reported a £3,221,775 profit in sale of shares in the subsidiary. This saw its pre-tax profit climb to £4,284,693 for the year, or £1,063,007 without discontinued operations. This compares to a profit of £617,374 in 2022. Its turnover for the period was £3,376,309, including £117,457 from discontinued operations. This compares to £3,339,827 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). The company received no government grants (2022: £90,777) but did benefit from a £28,498 insurance payment (2022: nil). The disposal of the Bath operation left the business with two hotels in Berkshire, including The Mercure George in Reading. The group had previously marketed The Mercure George and Ibis Styles Reading Hotels for sale in 2021, but only managed to dispose of the Ibis Styles, which was sold off a £4.5m guide price. Net assets at 31 July 2023 were £14.2m (2022: £13.8m). “The directors have been actively managing the business to cut costs and this has contributed to the increase in operating profit by £0.5m, while turnover increased by £0.1m,” director Nilesh Patel said. “As seen over the covid-19 pandemic years, successfully operating in the midst of change and uncertainty is a track record of the management and continues to be one of our greatest strengths. Our strategy of developing alternative revenue streams in the form of food and beverage, and a change in our customer base means we remain resilient through varying economic cycles. Continuing to evolve with changing consumer trends, we will expand further into both new and existing markets. Our hotels are well placed to cater for the returning tourist and corporate markets.”

Chock Shop founder – I decided to franchise after a staff member stole from me while I was fighting cancer: Chock Shop founder Greg Sherman has revealed that he decided to franchise his business after a staff member stole from him while he was fighting cancer. Shearman, who previously worked in catering following various hospitality roles within Hilton hotels across the UK, founded Chock Shop in 2012 as an artisan producer of chocolate brownies. It has two bricks-and-mortar sites in Wales, in Abergavenney and Saundersfoot, as well as operating pop-ups at markets, festivals, shows and live events. “Eleven years ago, I was almost single-handed baking, cutting, decorating and then going out selling Chock Shop brownies at festivals and events in South Wales,” he said. “Within a couple of years, the company grew, and more selling staff were recruited to support our upward trajectory. Suddenly, South Wales turned into the Midlands, south west and London, then two years later, I was diagnosed with cancer. As I waited to find out my outcome hooked up to 24/7 chemotherapy, a certain member of staff stole cash from me at events. This was the light bulb moment. If I survived the cancer, then I would franchise the business and have business partners selling our wonderful product in their areas. I spent the next six months planning in my mind how I could do it, and quite frankly, it took my mind away from more serious concerns. Roll on seven years and we now have franchise partners across the UK, with more waiting in the wings. At peak times, we are producing more than 40,000 brownies per week from our production hub in Abergavenny, and in 2024, we will surpass 1,000,000 for the first time.” Chock Shop is looking for more partners to help it continue to grow and was among the exhibitors at this month’s International Franchise Show at ExCel London. Franchise packages are available from £10,000 (plus VAT), but franchisees will need to fund a suitable vehicle and livery and buy their brownies and other supplies from the franchisor or its nominated suppliers.

Team behind two Stoke-on-Trent Greek bakeries set to open Italian restaurant: The team behind two Greek bakeries in Stoke-on-Trent are set to open an Italian restaurant. Anasma is opening in the former Cafe Davide unit in the Trentham Estate, which has been empty for a number of months. It will be run by the team behind Anasma Greek Bakery, which already has a cafe within Trentham Shopping Village and a bakery in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The new restaurant is due to open next month and comes as Anasma Greek Bakery has been offering an Italian menu for the past six months. “We’ve decided to take things up a notch and give Italian food a fully-fledged kitchen, because let’s face it, our family loves food more than anything, and we’re always excited to share this love with you,” the business said in a social media post. “In the past year, we have been blessed to build a strong team with the same passion for food and we’re ready to take on another delicious challenge. Yes, we know it’s a scary time for food businesses but we’re staying positive and committed to offering only the best to our beloved Stoke-on-Trent community. We can’t wait to share our love for food with even more people. Keep an eye out for the opening date and we hope to see you soon.” Husband-and-wife team Costas and Marianna Anastasiou and their three children – Demos, Eleni and Angelos – moved to Newcastle from Cyprus in 2015. They opened their Newcastle bakery almost three years ago and opened Anasma Greek Bakery at Trentham a year ago, replacing Riverside Fish and Chips, which had shut in February 2023.

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