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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 25th Apr 2024 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Chick-fil-A starts building UK pipeline: US fast food brand Chick-fil-A, which has targeted 2025 for a relaunch in the UK, is understood to have secured a site in Kingston-upon-Thames, as it starts building its opening pipeline here, Propel has learned. The brand, which has more than 2,800 restaurants in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, is believed to have acquired the freehold of the HSBC site in Eden Street/Clarence Street in the south west London borough. Propel understands that the site – which may or may not become the brand’s UK debut site – is one of a number the business is working on securing across the country before its returns here next year. It previously said it was aiming for five sites within the first two years of its relaunch in the UK. Propel revealed last August that Chick-fil-A had begun reaching out to landlords and seeking to secure sites as it gears up to make a return to the UK market. The company is understood to have retained property firm Newmark Group to help it with its expansion in the UK. Last September, Chick-fil-A confirmed that it was planning to relaunch in the UK just a few years after closing its first UK pop-up store following protests by LGBT campaigners over its founding family’s support for Christian organisations opposed to gay rights. Over the next decade, Chick-fil-A intends to invest $100m in the UK. The fried chicken brand launched its first UK restaurant in Reading in 2019, but just eight days after the launch, the shopping centre housing the store announced its lease would end after six months following a backlash from LGBT activists. Chick-fil-A is hoping to attract UK franchise partners with what it bills as a “unique” owner-operator model, which requires just $10,000 of investment from the franchisee. Four in every five franchisees will operate just one site, Chick-fil-A added. Anita Costello, Chick-fil-A’s chief international officer, said last year that the franchise model would bring “one-of-a-kind access to entrepreneurial opportunities”. Chick-fil-A declined to comment. 
 

Industry News:

Panel discussing the challenge sector faces to maximise performance of pub assets to take place at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: A panel discussing the challenge the sector faces in ensuring it maximises the performance of its pub assets in an era of declining alcohol sales will be held 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. The panel will feature Stonegate Group chief commercial officer Melissa Wisdom, Shepherd Neame managing director Jonathon Swaine, Greene King managing director Clair Preston-Beer, City Pub Group founder Clive Watson and sector investor Luke Johnson. 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.
 
Propel’s latest Multi-Site Database to be released tomorrow including 420 operators from the quick service restaurant 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 tomorrow (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%) pub and bar operators, 510 (16%) cafe bakery operators, 420 (14%) quick service restaurant operators, 250 (8%) hotel operators, 190 (6%) experiential leisure operators and 53 (2%) fine dining operators. The database is updated each month – this edition includes 23 new companies and brings the total to 3,098. New additions to the quick service restaurant sector include Liverpool buttermilk fried chicken eatery Patterson’s, which has two sites in Liverpool and an outlet at Manchester’s Freight Island that opened in March. Also included is kebab operator Kebhouze, which made its UK debut in December 2023 with its largest site yet, over three storeys in London’s Oxford Street, and plans five more in the capital. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, the New Openings Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database and the Who's Who of UK Hospitality. Plus, all members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators are also able to send up to four members of staff to each of our four Multi-Club Conferences for free. Premium Club members receive their daily Propel Info newsletter 11 hours earlier than standard subscribers, at 7pm the evening before. They also receive videos of presentations at eight Propel conference events two weeks after they are held. This represents around 100 videos of industry insight over the course of the year. Premium Club members will be sent a dedicated monthly newsletter that will highlight key updates in the sector and direct subscribers to all the vital content their membership offers. Premium Club members also receive exclusive opinion columns every Friday at 5pm, which include the thoughts of Propel group editor Mark Wingett and a host of industry leaders from across the sector. A Premium Club subscription costs an annual sum of £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com today to sign up.
 
Researching a hospitality venue ‘now digitally driven’: Brits are now turning to Google ahead of friends and family for recommendations when it comes to deciding which hospitality venue to visit, according to insight consultancy KAM. According to its new “Plan to Plate” research report, in partnership with customer engagement platform Paytronix, 30% of respondents said they’d first do a “general internet search”, with 20% saying they regularly use the “Google Near Me” search tool. Fewer than one in four (23%) said they ask for recommendations from friends and family – this has declined significantly since previous research in 2021. What potential customers are looking for when they research venues hasn’t changed much in the last three years, according to the findings. Most customers are looking for what’s on the food menu, reviews from other customers, prices, photos of the food and the venue itself. However, the percentage of people looking for prices before they make a decision on venue has fallen, despite the challenging economic climate.
 
CAMRA urges government to support new law to stop another Crooked House ‘scandal’: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is urging the government to throw its support behind a new law being proposed to better protect community pubs in the wake of the Crooked House “scandal”. The Heritage Pubs Bill has been presented to the House of Commons by Dudley South MP Marco Longhi and has been inspired by the “purposeful destruction” of the 18th century pub the Crooked House, in Himley, which was destroyed last August. This worldwide news story highlighted the drastic need for better planning enforcement laws to protect and save pubs around the UK, CAMRA said. Gary Timmins, CAMRA’s pub and club campaigns director, said: “We welcome this proposal from Marco Longhi MP. The support he and West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, have provided for the protection of heritage pubs has been vital in helping to save the country’s historic pubs. After the tragic and deliberate destruction of Crooked House, great work has been done to order the reconstruction of the heritage pub. But this must never be allowed to happen again, and stronger planning enforcement laws must be implemented by the government to prohibit any more vital, historic pubs being lost again. This is why CAMRA supports the Heritage Pubs Bill and why we are calling on the government to give its support to make sure this Bill becomes law. We are also campaigning for the Scottish and Welsh governments to significantly strengthen their planning laws so that demolition or conversion of a community local always requires planning permission.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a contract catering company that is seeking an operations director. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for a large portfolio of independent education contracts with multiple direct reports. This role would suit someone with a background in contract catering, ideally within independent education. Your career experience will have given you a sound understanding of contract catering senior management and an ability to take a step back to understand the bigger picture. You will be a savvy and financially astute operator who can appreciate what it takes to be in a client facing role. It is imperative that the experience you bring to this role is that of a senior level within contract catering with a focus on a significant volume of contracts with the fundamental understanding around the complexities that this brings.” The salary for this national role is up to £110,000. For more information, email dan@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Exclusive – BabaBoom placed on the market as annual sales exceed £2.1m: BabaBoom, the kebab concept which operates two sites in London, has been placed on the market, with new owners sought to build on its potential. The business was founded by Eve Bugler in Battersea Rise in 2016 and currently operates its original neighbourhood site alongside a premium quick service restaurant site in Westfield Stratford. Propel understands that BabaBoom comes to market on the back of a strong financial year, with annual sales of more than £2.1m, site level Ebitda exceeding £150,000, and sales growth of 16% year on year. It is thought that the company’s Westfield world food court site recently broke its single day trading record, taking more than £7,000 one Saturday. Bugler, who has been chief operating officer at café bar operator Loungers since the end of 2020, told Propel that BabaBoom is thriving and that this the right time for a new owner to take it on and maximise its potential, especially as the market is “showing a real appetite for growth brands in big market segments that are still unsaturated by chains”. She said: "With both BabaBoom sites profitable and growing, we have positive momentum and now is the time to be proactive in pursuing a sale. Even without the advantages of scale, our sites have strong unit economics with gross profit at 72% and labour at 30%. The thing I’m most proud of isn’t the numbers though – it's the energy and vibrancy of the concept that our team has built one kebab at a time. It shines through in everything we do; in our unique food, our distinctive interiors, our inclusive service style and our flagship Kebab Chase event that more than 6,000 BabaBoom fans have completed.”
 
Chicken Shop seeing strong trading as consumers switch to more premium offer, strengthens management team: Chicken Shop, the Sir Charles Dunstone-backed business which was previously known as Chik’n, has told Propel it has continued to benefit from strong trading momentum as consumers increasingly look to trade up to premium chicken offers. John Nelson, chief executive of the six-strong business, told Propel: “The momentum we saw across the business in the final quarter of last year continued over the first quarter and we traded strongly. As with the better burger category, it feels like consumers are now trading up to what is the better chicken category, and we are benefiting from that move.” It comes as the company, which is understood to be in legals on a number of new sites, has strengthened its management team with the appointments of a head of acquisitions and a head of sales and marketing. Chris Pashley, formerly of McDonald’s and Starbucks, is set to join Chicken Shop as its new head of acquisitions. He joins from McDonald’s, where he has been a senior acquisitions surveyor for the past 22 months. Prior to that, he spent a year at Starbucks as a property acquisitions manager. At the same time, David Souter, who has a fast-moving consumer goods background and was previously the marketing director for Human Race, the UKs largest mass participation events company, joins Chicken Shop as its new head of sales and marketing. Last autumn, Dunstone, who also backs Five Guys here, invested a further £8.275m into Chicken Shop in the form of a loan to aid its further expansion. 
 
Tortilla set to explore regional UK franchise play, to invest more in driving brand awareness: Andy Naylor, chief executive of Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, has told Propel the business is set to explore regional expansion partnerships to supplement its focus on “grade-A company-owned store openings”. Naylor was speaking after the business reported a 3.6% increase in like-for-like sales for the year ending 31 December 2023, as it launched a new strategic approach to drive “disciplined profitable growth and expand Tortilla in the UK and overseas”. One of its five new strategic pillars will be to double down on franchising and comes as regional openings have been slower to mature. Naylor told Propel: “Independent market research shows lower brand awareness for Tortilla than for similar sized restaurant groups, but with a higher conversion rate. We know that we are a much-loved brand for customers that know us and therefore there is a compelling case to invest more heavily in driving awareness through an exciting series of marketing strategies. In terms of where we want to focus deployment of capital this year, we’re still going to be opening eight sites in total. We did seven last year, but five of them are franchise sites. And I think it just allows us time for a bit of a breather to reset our property strategy, to go after the grey-day sites like Manchester Arndale, which we’re opening at the end of May, but also to give us the bandwidth to work more promotion and product. These are critical initiatives that we really want to make sure the team is properly focused on, and we’re really excited about what we can do on that front. But we are also looking at new partnerships. Are there certain regions of the UK where we can supplement our grade A location rollout with a regional partner? I think that’s a well-trodden path once businesses get to sort of near the 100-site mark over the years, and our business model is really well suited to franchising. It would be ridiculous not to explore how we do more of it because I think the economics of it worked really well for us. I think it would enable us to access locations that would probably otherwise have been too small.” Naylor said he saw similarities to the journey Domino’s Pizza took. He added: “We are probably at a similar point in the journey to what it did, which would have initially been a corporate heavy rollout and a pivot towards franchise. We’d obviously love to emulate its success.” Meanwhile, Naylor, who replaced Richard Morris as chief executive in February, came up with a novel way of meeting a large number of the employees now under his leadership. Having missed out on a London Marathon place, he instead undertook a “burrito marathon” at the weekend, running over 28 miles to each of Tortilla’s 21 central London restaurants. He said: “We have some excellent people in the business and it’s great to feel the energy as we discuss our exciting plans for the future. With our headquarters based in London and the buzz around the marathon, I thought what better way to show our London crew the love than by recreating our very own burrito marathon.”
 
Esther Arnanz joins Poke House as country manager UK: Esther Arnanz, formerly of Honest Burgers, EAT, Comptoir Group and Pret, has joined Poke House UK as its new country manager UK, Propel has learned. Arnanz’s appointment comes as it is thought that both co-country heads for the brand, which operates ten sites in the UK, all in London, have left the business. Rob Wickenden, who joined Poke House in November 2022, has left to take a role at Gatwick airport. Prior to that, he had been a senior expansion manager (international markets) at Deliveroo. Before that, he worked at Anheuser-Busch InBev, with responsibility for finding sites to roll out its fledgling Goose Island bars format in Europe. He also spent just over 18 months as real estate and development manager (UK and Europe) for Vapiano and was formerly a property acquisitions manager at Mitchells & Butlers, and an acquisitions surveyor at Wagamama. Wickenden has left Poke House to be an account lead for food and beverage at Gatwick. At the same time, fellow co-country head Juan Mosqueda, who has been with the brand for four years, is also thought to have left the business. Poke House, which has more than 160 sites in nine countries globally, opened its tenth London site in October last year, at 32 Maddox Street in Mayfair.
 
Pret makes board changes, founder Sinclair Beecham returns: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has made a series of board changes as the business “doubles down on its long-held values, innovation and its next phase of international growth”. Having served as chairman since JAB’s acquisition of Pret in 2018, Olivier Goudet will be succeeded by his colleague and JAB partner, Konrad Meyer. Under Goudet’s chairmanship, Pret said it successfully navigated the pandemic and developed a new plan for growth, including major franchise partnerships for the first time and significantly expanding Pret’s digital capabilities through its Club Pret subscription model. Meyer led the acquisition of Pret by JAB in 2018 and has been a Pret board member since then, working very closely with the business as well as serving as its interim chief financial officer at the height of the pandemic in 2020. He joined JAB six years ago after a decade in private equity. At the same time, Sinclair Beecham, one of Pret’s founders, and Larry Billett, Pret’s chairman from 2003 through 2011 and a board member until 2018, will return to the business. Both have continued as significant supportive investors in Pret since JAB’s acquisition in 2018, and while Beecham will not formally rejoin the board, Billett will return as a non-executive director and chair of Pret’s audit committee. Separately, Patrice de Talhouët and Nathalie Roos will step down as non-executive directors. Meyer said: “We are very proud of the transformation of Pret over the past few years. As a final step in leaving the pandemic behind, we are implementing plans to reduce debt. I would like to thank Olivier for his strategic vision and leadership throughout the turbulent pandemic, and for tripling the number of Pret’s international markets. Olivier is handing over Pret as it returns to its pre-pandemic strength, now with much enhanced international and digital footprints. I am also delighted to be welcoming Sinclair and Larry back to the business. With Larry’s return to the board and Sinclair’s continued support, we are bringing together the brilliance of Pret’s past with the promise of Pret’s future.” Chief executive Pano Christou added: “Olivier has been a great champion of Pret, and on behalf of all of us in the business, I want to thank him for his support and leadership. We are delighted that Konrad will be succeeding Olivier as chairman, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working closely with him over the past six years. Together, we have transformed Pret since I became chief executive and built it into an emerging global business today. Our priority now is to build on the foundations that are in place for substantial further growth around the world.” Pret is now serving customers in 18 markets, including the UK, US, Canada, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and the Middle East, up from four markets in 2018. The company said the board changes will support Pret as it enters into further development partnerships with strong local franchise partners in a growing group of countries.
 
Cocotte eyes regional launch next year, to trial smash burger concept: Healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte plans to explore a regional launch in 2025 after opening two new sites in London this year. Propel revealed earlier this week that Cocotte is to increase its presence in the capital with an opening in Richmond. 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. Cocotte told Propel that it will be looking to add one more site to its estate in 2024, taking it to seven sites, and will likely look outside of London in 2025. At the same time, the business is set to trial a new smash burger concept called Supra Burger. The concept will operate in Cocotte Queens Park, from the first week of May, as a pop-up. 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 and South Kensington. MKR Property and Restaurant Property acted on the Richmond transaction.
 
Irish neighbourhood restaurant concept looking to expand to the UK: Irish neighbourhood restaurant concept The Pantry is looking to expand to the UK. Founded in 2016, The Pantry has grown to nine sites in Ireland – in Clare, Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Meath, Roscommon, Waterford, Wicklow and Wexford. The Pantry was among the exhibitors at this month’s International Franchise Show at ExCel London, as it seeks partners to bring the concept to Britain. “Family designed and built, The Pantry was established with two key attributes in mind – delicious home-cooked food and quality service,” a spokesman for the business said. “We are extremely passionate about wholesome seasonal ingredients from local producers. We began in Cork and quickly established ourselves as one of the leading cafes and restaurants. With our seasonal menu change ensuring in-season local produce is used in all our menu items, we quickly got a reputation for serving consistent quality fresh food, and our own roasted bean smooth blend barista coffee. Over the years, The Pantry brand has evolved to include high streets, shopping centres, holiday resorts, containers on quay front locations and small towns. As we continue to expand throughout Ireland, we are actively seeking master franchisees for the United Kingdom.” Potential franchisees can opt for a full café and restaurant with full dine-in breakfast and lunch menus and in-store bakery, or an express unit based around in-store baking, sweet treats, hot and cold drinks and daily specials. An estimated €100,000-€150,000 capital would be required for a full flagship pantry, €75,000-€150,000 for a restaurant or café conversion, and €50,000-€70,000 for an express unit. Although previous experience in hospitality would be an advantage, it is not a requirement. 
 
Bannatyne Group in ‘great shape’ as it reports record £138.9m turnover and pays off covid loans: Health club company Bannatyne Group, led by Duncan Bannatyne, has said it is in “great shape” as it reported record turnover and revealed it has paid off all covid loans. The company, which operates sites across the UK, is now unencumbered by loans under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, having repaid them all on 29 February 2024. For the year ending 31 December 2023, the business turned over £138.9m, up from £127m the previous year. Ebitda climbed from £29.6m to £38.3m, while pre-tax profit jumped to £10.1m – up from £1m in 2022 and a loss of £12.9m in 2021. At the year end, the company had 215,659 members. Bannatyne said: “These results demonstrate what can be achieved when a business focuses on core activities and delivers what customers want at the right price. We have introduced new classes, such as our own Pulse offering, the equipment has been refreshed with fewer cardio machines and more body toning devices, and our price increases have been modest, protecting members from the worst elements of inflation. The turnaround has only been possible because of the hard work of our staff. They have helped increase membership as we use app-based technology to offer people new experiences in our health clubs. Realising numerous marginal gains and focusing on customer experience is a well-trodden path to business success and I am pleased it has worked after the shock of the pandemic and the recent economic turbulence. Like many of our members, our business is in great shape and committed to staying fit for the future.”
 
Investment from Hogs Back Brewery MD secures future of London craft brewer Mondo following pre-pack administration: Hogs Back Brewery managing director and brewing industry veteran Rupert Thompson has agreed an investment deal with London craft brewer Mondo that secures the future of the Mondo brands, as well as its brewery and taproom in Battersea. Following a pre-pack administration, the deal will see brewing continue at Mondo’s Battersea site. As well as delivering a fresh injection of capital to drive continued growth of the Mondo brands, the financing will allow investment to be made in the Mondo taproom, and in additional sales and marketing activities. Thompson, who bought Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery in 2011, becomes chairman of a new company, Mondo Beer, working to support the management team led by Mondo founder and managing director, Todd Matteson. Under the agreement, Hogs Back will support Mondo as a sister business in areas such as packaging, sales and marketing, while Mondo will be the exclusive distributor in London of beer from Hogs Back’s new subsidiary, One Planet Brewing, launched last year and brewing with 100% solar power. Thompson said: “I’ve known and respected the founders of Mondo for several years. We’ve sold their beer in our brewery shop and we brewed a collaboration beer in 2022. It is a challenging market, but despite that, Mondo has been growing. The beer and branding are excellent, and I think it has a bright future ahead. Partnerships such as this are one way that smaller brewers can continue to compete. Global players have taken a lot of share from London’s craft beer market through acquisition, but consumers still want choice. I expect to see more businesses focused on craft and quality working together, and I hope to continue be part of that process.” Matteson added: “We found ourselves in a situation where there is strong demand for our beer, but we were hit by all the challenges that have beset so many small brewers. So, it’s wonderful that Rupert has been able to help, and this allows us to move forward. His experience of developing successful beer brands will be invaluable and we’re delighted to have him working with us at Mondo Beer, and to have the back-up of Hogs Back Brewery. We are also excited to have exclusivity for One Planet beer in London and we think it will really resonate with our customers.” A former Carling brand director, Thompson was also previously a board member at Morland, developing Old Speckled Hen before its sale to Greene King. He went on to establish Refresh UK at the Wychwood Brewery in Oxfordshire, developing brands including Hobgoblin before selling the business to Marston’s in 2008. Mondo was founded in 2014.
 
New pizza concept Doughnation to launch in Covent Garden: Doughnation, a new pizza concept backed by Game Changers Investments, will launch in London’s Covent Garden this spring. Located on the ground floor of 3 Henrietta Street, the new restaurant will offer artisan-crafted pizza on stretched dough using “meticulously sourced ingredients with unique and delicious toppings, shaking up traditional pizza flavours”. A menu of salads, side dishes and pizza crust dippers will also be available. An alfresco Doughnation terrace will also open on Covent Garden's piazza opposite the restaurant, offering pizza brunches and a spritz menu. Doughnation said it is committed to making a “meaningful impact, one slice at a time, with the cost of a slice from each pizza being donated to causes close to the concept’s heart”. The 96 square-foot site will be a new ground floor addition of 3 Henrietta Street, joining existing British restaurant Pivot Bar & Bistro by Mark Greenaway and Hawaiian street food restaurant El Ta’koy. Doughnation is the latest concept to gain support from Game Changers Investments, the London-based investment company established to create opportunities for the hospitality industry. Drew Clover, development director for Game Changers Investments, said: “We are thrilled to introduce a new and exciting concept to 3 Henrietta Street. This project is part of our incubator hub with the purpose to grow and develop agile chef-led concepts where they go on to become successful, scalable and profitable.”
 
Team behind The Crystal Maze Live set to bring immersive go-karting experience back to London for second UK site: The team behind The Crystal Maze Live challenge attraction is set bring its immersive go-karting experience, Chaos Karts, back to London for its second UK site. The business, which is backed by Edition Capital, initially launched in London’s Shoreditch in the summer of 2021 as a temporary unit until October of that year, promising to return with “multiple locations”. Chaos Karts opened in Manchester in September 2023 before earlier this month launching its first international location, in Dubai. Chaos Karts is now set to return both to the UK and to London with a launch this winter in an as-yet undisclosed site in the capital. Developed by The Ents, Chaos Karts uses state-of-the-art technology that immerses competitors in a live-action video-game experience that combines real-life racing with augmented reality. The experience comes complete with varying track designs, a fully reactive and drivable electric kart and usable in-kart power-ups. Chaos Karts is also set to introduce a series of new complex tracks including Midnight in Tokyo, Venetian Carnival and a Manchester Bee-themed track. Tom Lionetti-Maguire, founder and chief executive of The Ents, said: “The new tracks are so incredibly beautiful and imaginative; they look more like pieces of art than something you might find at a video-game attraction. We have been inspired by the vast world of video games and the artistry that often goes into their creation. This is just the beginning of an entertainment revolution – our next announcement is just around the corner – a completely different and utterly unique second game that will also take place in these games arenas that it is going to blow people away.”
 
Starbucks planning coffee experience pop-ups in cities across world and experimental releases: Starbucks is planning coffee experience pop-ups in cities in the US and around the world next year. Customers will be able to enjoy exclusive and “unexpected” collaborations and experimental coffees “from unique origins made with innovative techniques”. The plans were revealed at the first Starbucks Promises Day. The company also shared plans to explore a new line of limited-release, special-edition coffees and breakthrough collaborations, “rooted in passion and curiosity for coffee, culture and sustainability”. Its first offering will be Starbucks Milano Duetto, a new whole bean coffee offered in two different roasts. Global chief executive Laxman Narasimhan also announced the launch of Starbucks’ global barista championships to connect its partners around the world “in celebration of their coffee passion and expertise”. Barista champions from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean will be invited to compete in the inaugural event at Hacienda Alsacia in Costa Rica next year. Starbucks also announced that it will expand its network of coffee innovation farms, with four new farms across Africa, Asia and Latin America in the coming years to continue global agronomy innovation. The company will also break ground on its new sustainability learning and innovation lab at Hacienda Alsacia. In support of the company’s community promise, Starbucks announced that moving forward, it will give back from purchases of select whole bean coffees each year. To support its environmental promise, all North American staff will receive a reusable cup to use for their drinks while on shift.
 
Whitbread joins Zero Carbon Forum: Whitbread has joined the Zero Carbon Forum to assist with its journey to achieving net zero. Whitbread has set targets to bring directly controlled (Scope 1 and 2) emissions to zero by 2040 and its target for Scope 3 emissions is to reduce by 90% by 2050. Already, 98% of Whitbread’s UK electricity is sourced from renewable energy, with a goal of 100% renewable electricity across the entire estate by 2026. October 2023 saw the opening of the first all-electric Premier Inn hotel, in Swindon. Heat pumps are installed in 40 Premier Inn hotels and solar photovoltaic for renewable energy generation is included across 20% of its estate. The company has also worked to reduce waste, saving more than 76,000 cubic metres of water through internal water auditing and leak detection and diverting 99% of operational waste from landfill. Surplus food is donated to a range of charity partners, with more than 42,000 meals delivered between 2022 and 2023 through its partner FareShare, as part of Whitbread’s goal to reduce food waste by 50% compared with 2018. Will Silverwood, head of sustainability at Whitbread, said: “We are extremely proud of the progress we have made at Whitbread, which stems from a company-wide passion and firm belief that net zero is attainable. But we know there is still much to do and working collaboratively with Zero Carbon Forum will give us the guidance that will be key to achieving our aspirations.” Mark Chapman, founder and chief executive of Zero Carbon Forum, added: “We are thrilled to have Whitbread officially on board with the forum as the number one hotel operator in the UK. This is testament to the increasing output of the work that we do at Zero Carbon Forum to help operators understand the many complexities of net zero transition and achieve on their targets.”
 
Redemption Roasters plans to treble revenue and increase UK presence after completing £2.7m investment round: The world’s first prison-based coffee company, Redemption Roasters, has said it plans to treble revenue over the next three years after completing a £2.7m investment round. With a pre-money valuation of £22m, the ten-strong company said it is set to launch four new retail premises over the coming months in London and expand its wholesale network, which currently includes clients KPMG, Meta and Amazon. KPMG has recently partnered with Redemption Roasters to supply the coffee for the cafe in its London headquarters. The Macquarie Group Foundation, R&Co4Generations (the Rothschild & Co Group Foundation) and Barrow Cadbury Trust were among those companies that invested in Redemption Roasters’ latest fundraising round. Launched in 2017, Redemption Roasters has recorded more than 60% year-on-year growth since 2019, with annual revenue forecast to exceed £25m by 2026. The company is planning to open a further 17 shops in the capital by 2026. The business said that its employed participants (who make up more than 20% of shop workforce) have a 4% reoffending rate compared with the national average of 38%. With a company mission to “reduce reoffending through coffee”, Redemption Roasters’ partnership with the Ministry of Justice provides barista and coffee technician training programmes in HMP Pentonville and HMP High Down. Redemption Roasters also operates a roastery inside HMP The Mount where resident “trainees” benefit from spending extended periods out of their cells working in a positive environment alongside Redemption Roasters’ team. Through 14 partnerships with UK prisons to date, more than 1,500 individuals have taken part in Redemption Roasters’ programmes. Founder Max Dubiel said: “As a purpose-driven business that has achieved phenomenal growth, we are very excited about this next chapter in our journey. The proceeds will drive further growth of our brand and help us achieve even greater profitability through scale.”
 
Bubbleology strengthens retail offer with B&M partnership: Bubbleology, the bubble tea bar operator, has strengthened its grocery retail offering with the launch of its brown sugar home kit single serve tea, which has hit the shelves of 700 B&M stores nationwide. Since Bubbleology’s strategic partnership with Aimia Foods in June 2023, the Bubbleology home kit range has brought bubble tea to consumers at home across more than 1,500 retail stores nationwide including Asda, Tesco and Morrisons. The brown sugar home kit single serve is the latest addition to its milk and fruit tea home kit offerings, which include flavours such as passionfruit and raspberry, as well as Taro milk tea. Bubbleology founder and chief executive Assad Khan said: “We are delighted with the phenomenal response to our home kits. Our partnership with Aimia has allowed us to develop and grow the range, significantly extending our brand reach and cementing our position as the frontrunner in the UK bubble tea market, both in and out of home. Our goal has always been to be at the forefront of consumers’ mind and with our continuous growth in the fast-moving consumer goods space, we are achieving just that.” The introduction of the brown sugar milk home kit into B&M is part of the Bubbleology’s ambitious plans to further grow its out-of-home presence while expanding its high street store presence over the next 12 months to more than 50 sites. The company operates 33 sites across the UK.
 
Duo behind Four Legs and The Plimsoll to open Spanish influenced fish bar in north London: The duo behind the Four Legs at the Compton Arms in Canonbury and The Plimsoll pub in Finsbury Park are set to open a Spanish influenced fish bar in north London. Ed McIlroy and Jamie Allan will open Tollington’s in June at 172 Tollington Park, celebrating regional Spanish coastline dining. The “relaxed fish bar” will preserve the site’s original name, paying homage to the iconic neighbourhood fish and chip restaurant but giving it a more European twist. Inspired by Spanish dining culture, guests will be encouraged to drop in to eat, drink and socialise while enjoying a seafood-focused menu including plates of cured, fresh and fried options, with a small selection of larger dishes including some cuts of meat on a regularly changing menu. The drinks menu will be simple and concise with everything available by the glass, including beer, wine, port, cider and Spanish vermouth. McIlroy said: “Jamie and I have spent a lot of time in Spain with family based there and we just love the no-nonsense way of doing things. We want people to come in, have a drink, lean on a ledge and have a quick bite or stay for a while and enjoy some big plates around a table. There won’t be any frills, just good food and a place we want locals and visitors to eat, drink and have a good time. It’s as simple as that.” The space will be split in two, with the front bar available for walk-ins and standing guests, while at the back will be a seated restaurant space. There will also be some outdoor seating.
 
Team behind Manchester casual dining bistro Another Hand set to open new bread kitchen: The team behind Manchester casual dining bistro Another Hand is set to open a new bread kitchen. Chef patrons Max Yorke and Julian Pizer will open Jaan in the city’s Exhibiton food hall on Wednesday, 8 May in an effort to expand the business’ sustainable practices. Since opening in 2022 in Deansgate, Another Hand has striven for sustainability, with produce sourced from across the north west and the vast majority of ingredients travelling no more than 40 miles. Through opening Jaan, the team will take this a step further by taking unused or unsold produce from one kitchen to another. A whole sirloin will be carved up to create both Another Hand’s aged ex-dairy sirloin dish with the strip loin, while the meat trimmings will be turned into Jaan’s beef tartar. The tail and trim from Another Hand’s seared trout will feature in Jaan’s fire roasted sea trout fatoush salad, while one squash will create Another Hand’s winter squash small plate as well as Jaan’s scorched summer squash. Another Hand’s wildfarmed house flatbread will also be a linchpin on the menu at Jaan, served alongside a selection of small and larger plates. Yorke and Pizer said: “Over the last few years, our small 24-cover restaurant has generated a large waiting list, and we are excited to showcase our new concept to a wider audience. Most importantly, as we make more steps to improve our environmental standards, our food waste systems showed an obvious area in which we could develop. By opening a second kitchen in such a fast-paced venue, we can take unused produce from Another Hand and even further reduce, and hopefully eradicate, our wastage.”
 
Former head of cocktails at Mestizo Chelsea set to open Mexican cocktail bar in Camden: Aima Indigo, former head of cocktails at Mestizo Chelsea – the second site for the Mestizo concept that opened in 2022 – is set to open a new Mexican cocktail bar in Camden. El Cenote will open at 2 Inverness Street in mid-May, also offering a food menu led by chef Daniel Sanchez, a native of Mexico City who has worked at Mexcalito and Chingon Tacos and was instrumental in opening Ella Canta with Marta Ortiz. He will serve up traditional Mexican street food such as Cochinita Pipil Tacos (soft corn tortillas with pulled pork slow cooked for seven hours); Taco Birria (a spicy and Mexican beef stew that’s slow cooked until the meat is falling apart) and Carne Asada Norteña (a traditional Mexican dish composed of marinated skirt steak or flank steak that has been grilled and thinly sliced). There will also be a plant-based vegan selection, while Indigo will create a list of signature cocktails inspired by Mexico. “I am thrilled to bring the vibrancy and layers of beauty of my culture to Camden,” she said. “Our cocktails and food menu are inspired by the rich traditions and flavours of Mexico, promising an authentic and exciting culinary journey.”

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