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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 29th Apr 2024 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Exclusive – Boparan Restaurant Group signs deal to launch Slim Chickens in Germany: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), the owner of the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccio’s and Giraffe brands, has signed a deal to launch the Slim Chickens brand in Germany, Propel has learned. The company has signed a 20-site development plan for the country with The Foodelity Group, which BRG said was a significant step forward for both companies and “a significant milestone” in the Slim Chickens brand’s international expansion. The two businesses will open the first location under the new partnership in Berlin. BRG said that The Foodelity Group already has the first five sites in legal processes, with a plan to have all five locations open within the first 12 months. BRG currently operates 51 Slim Chickens sites across the UK, with its latest opening coming in Bromley last week (25 April). The company plans to continue its UK expansion by opening one new Slim Chickens restaurant every month for the remainder of the year, the majority of which will be company owned. Satnam Leihal, chief executive of BRG, said: “We are really pleased to be working with Foodelity Group. Over the past several months, we have developed a deep partnership, and we look forward to supporting the growth of the Slim Chickens brand across Germany.” Max Beutler, chief executive of the Foodelity Group, added: “I’m excited to be bringing fresh, delicious chicken to Berlin and beyond. I have been thoroughly impressed with the food quality, standards, and service that Slim Chickens UK delivers day in and day out. It’s a brand I love, and our team has been training in the UK for months to ensure that we can offer chicken lovers in Berlin the same fresh, delicious experience. We look forward to opening our first site soon.” On the launch of the brand in Germany, Sam Rothschild, chief operating officer of Slim Chickens, which operates more than 200 sites globally, said: “We have developed a great partnership with Boparan Restaurant Group, collaborating with our knowledge, capabilities and support that now enables Slim Chickens to initiate a relationship with Foodelity. We are thrilled to introduce Slim’s quality food and hospitality that will drive Slim Chickens as an exceptional fast casual chicken brand across Germany and beyond.” Slim Chickens features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months, and the latest version features 250 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Industry News:

Christie & Co’s Stephen Owens to speak at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: Stephen Owens, managing director – pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, 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. Owens will set the scene for the market, with an update on sector valuations, price expectations, market sentiment, who the buyers and sellers are, and what’s in store for the year ahead. 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.

Premium Club members to receive next New Openings Database on Friday, features 130 openings: The next Propel New Openings Database will be sent to Premium Club members on Friday (3 May). The database will show the details of 130 site openings, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis and Premium Club members will also receive a 6,700-word report on the 130 new additions to the database. The database includes new openings in the casual dining sector such as The Real Greek launching in Sheffield for its second of 2024, healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte increasing its presence in the capital with an opening in Richmond and Giggling Squid adding three new sites to its opening pipeline – in Liverpool, Portsmouth and York. 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 will also be 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.

McDowall – it feels like it’s a great time to be running a wet-led pub business, working on new concepts for late-night space: David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has told Propel Premium it feels like it’s a great time to be running a wet-led pub business, with trading at the group’s suburban-based sites “pretty consistent, pretty solid”. On the group’s suburban-based pubs, He said: “It’s less exposed to those peaks and troughs, and that is mirrored in our leased and tenanted estate, which is predominantly suburban pubs. The volume pattern is pretty consistent. It feels like it’s a great time to be running a wet-led pub business. When you think about the wider sector, obviously we’re proud of the success of things like Craft Union, but the most talked about pub of the last year, The Devonshire, the guys there have done an incredible job of a proper pub. It’s premium, and the restaurant is great, but it’s a proper pub front and centre. And I think there’s a current general direction of travel that says wet-led pubs continue to be here to stay, and if you get it right, they can thrive in the medium to long term, which should be great news for Stonegate.” On the group’s late-night venues, McDowall said that where the proposition is clearly differentiated, “it is still hard, but we trade pretty well”. He said: “Popworld is pretty consistent, Be At One is pretty consistent. Slug & Lettuce is not really late-night but it’s high street, high energy – we’ve worked really hard on the evolution of that business and it is going well. Some of our regional-based, unbranded nightclubs are finding it tough, just like for everyone else, because we all know that people are socialising differently. So, in the short term, that'’ quite stressful for those particular sites. We’re very fortunate that it’s a relatively small part of our estate, but it’s an important part. Firstly, we’ve got great people running that business, And the second thing is that if you look past the short-term stress, there's got to be an opportunity to think differently and innovate around the way these spaces are used, and we're working really hard on a couple of things designed to do just that. I can’t say what they are yet, but we will at some point in time. Our internal approach has been to support the team to run the businesses as well as we possibly can and make sure we get the proposition right. We continue to invest in late night, and at the same time, work hard on some innovation that might just really help us think very differently about how these spaces are used.” Propel understands that one concept the business is working on is a karaoke-based format, with the company having recently trademarked the name Careless Whisper.

Ex-Patisserie Valerie CFO denies fraud charges: The former chief financial officer of Patisserie Valerie, along with three other defendants, including his wife, have denied being part of a plot to commit fraud at the collapsed cafe brand. Christopher Marsh, a former director and chief financial officer of Patisserie Holdings (PHP), the company behind Patisserie Valerie, and his wife, accountant Louise Marsh, were charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). According to the Press Association, they appeared in the dock at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Friday (26 April) alongside Marsh’s former number two, financial controller Pritesh Mistry, and financial consultant Nilesh Lad. Each pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud. The charge states they conspired to “dishonestly” agree to “misstate and inflate” the figures for cash on the group’s balance sheet between October 2015 and October 2018. It is alleged that this put PHP Group’s shareholders and creditors, including banks, at risk. The charges relate to the financial failure of the bakery chain, which had 200 stores and collapsed into administration in 2019. Christopher Marsh also pleaded not guilty to a charge of making false representations as a company director. Christopher Marsh, Mistry and Lad also pleaded not guilty to five charges of fraud by false representation and one of making or supplying an article for use in fraud. The trio are accused of making false statements to lenders HSBC and Barclays about the bakery’s cash reserves before it collapsed and the reason that cheques were being stopped. They also allegedly made false statements to auditor Grant Thornton, including issuing certain invoices between 2015 and 2018 that were “untrue or misleading” or were not genuine. All four defendants were released on conditional bail. The trial has been set for 2 March 2026. The SFO opened a full investigation into the situation, codenamed Operation Venom, in October 2018. It came two days after the company abruptly suspended trading, closing 70 stores and causing the loss of more than 900 jobs across the country when its debts were revealed.

Hestia Hospitality – private equity backing has made casual dining market ‘lazy’: The owner of a premium hospitality investment group which is targeting revenue of £100m over the next three years has said operators in the casual dining market have gotten “lazy” because of private equity backing. Andrew Fishwick – who this month launched Hestia, a £50m restaurant fund, alongside former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King – told City AM the market had become “really lazy” and “poor value”. He said: “There will always be a need for that sector. I think what it had done is probably because of its private equity backing, [it] got very lazy. A lot of it was very, very lazy and it’d become really poor value”. Fishwick said no-frills chains “had it away” for a long time and a focus on having affordable prices may no longer work with consumers who now seem to favour experience and ‘Instagrammable’ moments when eating out. “Value is more than a price, value is an experience, value is the service you have [in] the environment,” he said. “That’s what those guys need to realise, that it’s not about shaving 50p off of the pizza or the burger. It’s about how we can add value? Why would you leave your kitchen or your couch to come to my casual dining chain?” Fishwick has noticed a “really educated demographic” of diners coming through who will “vote with their feet” if a meal is substandard. “We are seeing a whole lot of people who have placed a higher value on their own personal brand and align themselves with fine dining and premium dining,” he said. Fiswick’s new venture will be working to appeal to this new era of restaurant goers. The company is backed by a collection of private family offices and high-net-worth individuals who are on the hunt for “premium, multi-site restaurant brands with growth potential”. So far, the firm has completed three small deals and is poised to buy two larger restaurants. 

Ticket touts target London’s restaurants: The race to secure a seat at the hottest tables in London is becoming even harder as online “scalpers” are hoovering up restaurant bookings using bots. The Times reports that as dining has gone digital with booking platforms such as OpenTable, Resy and Tock, the winners in the reservation game are those with the best tech. A simple online program can instantly scour thousands of restaurants online, snapping up in-demand vacancies which are then sold on secondary sites, sometimes for hundreds of pounds. The problem has plagued dining hotspots such as San Francisco and New York for a while, and now the practice has migrated to Britain. Among its most-traded British restaurants is Gymkhana, the two-star Michelin restaurant in Mayfair, London, where £256 would secure a table for two in May. The Japanese restaurant Zuma, where black cod sells for £48 per person, could also be booked for £180 for a table for two in May, while nearby Novikov costs £220 for a similar booking. The Ivy in Brighton has also been very popular, with prices for a Saturday night reservation varying from £100 to £160. Someone on the site is currently offering a reservation at Core by Clare Smyth on Friday, May 17, for £408 – before the buyer has even had anything to eat. Both the Ivy and Zuma were unaware their reservations were being sold when alerted to the practice by The Times. Some in the industry are aghast at the development. James Chiavarini, who runs Il Portico, an Italian restaurant in Kensington, said he found it “a little bit depressing”. “Restaurants are fundamentally a human-driven business,” he said. “They’re an emotional business and that’s what makes them so wonderful and so inefficient. When you start introducing bots and algorithms, it just seems quite detrimental to its fundamental essence.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a drinks business that is seeking a head of sales. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for managing and executing all sales strategies at a senior level within the business. You will be directly responsible for revenue growth, expansion of the business and developing the market presence and increase expansion of the sales team in line with budgets and revenue. The ideal head of sales will come from a background in luxury spirits, experience in managing route to market relationships and building the presence across the on and off-trade.” The salary is up to £80,000 and the position is based in Manchester. For more information, email mark@corecruitment.com.

Company News:

Popeyes UK CEO – in just 30 months we’ve created a business with £100m-plus annual sales: Popeyes UK, the US fried chicken quick-service restaurant brand backed here by TDR Capital, has reached £100m-plus annual sales since its launched here in November 2021. Posting on LinkedIn after the brand opened a drive-thru site at 288-292 Bury New Road, Manchester, Popeyes UK chief executive Tom Crowley wrote: “Manchester drive-thru open. Our second restaurant in this brilliant city, 11th opening of ‘24 and store #47. In just 30 months, the outstanding Popeyes UK team have created a business with +£100m annual sales, a pipeline of ‘top drawer’ new sites including +25 for the year ahead, and we are now achieving our highest product ratings ever!” Last year, parent company Restaurants Brands International said system-wide sales across Popeyes UK reached $39m (£31.4m) in the year to 30 June 2023. In a presentation on its brands – which include Burger King, Tim Hortons, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Firehouse Subs – the company said Popeyes in the UK had generated those sales from 26 sites, ranking it fifth among its international markets. When it launched in Britain, the business said it was planning 350 UK sites within ten years. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that the brand had hired Peter Gibson, formerly of Chicken Shop, Flat Iron and Nando’s, as its new director of acquisitions and estates. The appointment came after Popeyes announced plans to double its estate in 2024, opening over 30 new locations by the end of year.

Maven Leisure plans £2m fundraise: Maven Leisure, the venture from ETM Group’s co-founder Ed Martin, chief financial officer Landen Prescott Brann and non-executive chairman Graham Turner, is planning a £2m fundraise. The company is aiming to raise the funds through Growthdeck for growth capital. The pitch states: “The fundraise will accelerate the group’s development of new premium bars in central London, including a landmark sports bar and a rooftop bar in two of the most iconic locations in the capital. The group currently boasts a flagship bar and restaurant, Wagtail, situated on a rooftop in King William Street in the City of London, providing 360-degree panoramic views of the City and beyond. Alongside Wagtail, the group operates three thriving sports bars. This new funding round follows a period of strong growth for Maven Leisure. Established in 2021, the group saw revenue increase to £10.2m and Ebitda rise to £1.4m at the end of the last financial year. The new venues are forecast to drive further growth. Maven Leisure has been established by Ed Martin and the management team of ETM Group, which grew from a single site to a business turning over £33m.” As well as Wagtail, Maven Leisure also operates Northwood at Angel Central in Islington, Beechwood Sports Pub & Kitchen in Principal Place and Goldwood Sports Pub and Kitchen in Old Jewry Street.

Inamo – Greater London could readily support 20-plus Inamo Sukoshi locations: Noel Hunwick, co-founder and marketing director of London tech-restaurant group Inamo, has told Propel the business believes the Greater London area could readily support 20-plus locations for Inamo sukoshi, the company’s sushi and fusion street food sub-brand, and that this model is well suited to expansion regionally. Earlier this month, the business opened its fourth Inamo sukoshi site, which was created for use in food court operations, and its first with Boxpark. Inamo, which operates restaurants in Soho and Covent Garden, has opened four sites in two years under the new sub-brand, with the latest venue at Boxpark’s Wembley site. The first two Inamo sukoshi sites opened in 2022, in Market Halls Oxford Street and Canary Wharf, and a third followed at the 200-seat Market Place Vauxhall. The concept serves Inamo favourites such as dragon rolls and bang bang cauliflower, alongside a selection of sushi and Asian tapas including ramen, katsu curry and poké. Hunwick told Propel: “We’re pleased to say that we have recently signed heads of terms for our fifth Inamo sukoshi due to open in August/September this year and are targeting up to five further openings in our ‘little Inamo’ format by the end of 2025. We believe that the Greater London area could readily support 20-plus Inamo sukoshi locations and believe that this model is well suited to expansion regionally, which could help us create footholds within new areas for potential expansion of the core restaurant brand too. We are open to conversations with interested parties regarding funding opportunities to enable accelerated roll out.”

Greene King opens 50th Hive Pub: Greene King Pub Partners, the leased, tenanted and franchise business unit of Greene King, has opened its 50th Hive Pub – The Robert Kett in Wymondham, Norfolk – less than three years since the launch of the concept. The pub, named after Wymondham’s most famous resident who led the Norfolk rising of 1549 against Edward VI, has been transformed with a £485,000 investment by Greene King. Fittingly for the 50th Hive Pub, The Robert Kett is also due to mark its 50th birthday as the pub was built in 1974. As a Hive Pub, the Robert Kett will feature a fully upgraded bar and décor throughout, as well as a fully refreshed outside trading space for full year-round use. It will also serve a series of signature dishes exclusively available in Hive Pubs that feature ‘hot honey’, as well as specific offers such as Pizza and Moretti Wednesdays and a steak dinner for two deals on Thursdays. It will be operated by franchisee Daniel and Daryl Seamons, who previously ran a social club and will be running the pub with their youngest of three daughters, Emily, who will be working front of house. The company said: “A Hive Pubs franchise agreement offers licensees a ready-to-trade pub within a proven branded concept for just £5,000 ingoing cost. Franchisees can expect a minimum guaranteed income of £20,000 and they also get a percentage of food and drink sales. On top of this, they get a share of the profits in their pub and can earn a bonus as well.” Dan Robinson, managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, added: “We’re incredibly pleased to hit the 50 Hive Pubs mark! The momentum we have behind our franchise pub offer remains and through Hive Pubs and our newest franchise pub concept, Nest Pubs, we’ll continue to open sites in 2024 and beyond. At our heart, we still remain a leased and tenanted business, and this will not change, but we are excited to continue the growth of our franchise pub offer.” Earlier this year, Propel revealed that Greene King Pub Partners was to launch a second franchise concept, Nest Pubs, a more wet-led franchise pub offer. The first Nest site, The Palmer Tavern, located in Wokingham Road in Reading, launched last month following a £360,000 investment by Greene King. The pub is operated by Samantha Lane, who became the first Nest Pubs franchisee.

Lane7 to open two new sites in Newcastle, including launch of new concept: Boutique bowling company Lane7 is to open two new sites in its hometown of Newcastle, including a brand-new concept for the business. The 13-strong group, which will open its first international site, in Berlin, in June, opened its debut site in the city’s St James’ Boulevard, in 2013.  The boutique bowling brand will open its second venue in the city, on the former The Lofts site at The Gate, in the summer over 28,000 square feet. The company said: “Boasting a prime location in the heart of the city centre, Lane7 the Gate promises to be a vibrant hub of activity where guests can immerse themselves in the full Lane7 experience with premium bowling, golf, shuffleboard, darts, beer pong, arcades and a pool hall.” In addition to The Gate location, Lane7 will also be introducing a brand-new concept in the autumn with the third venue for the brand in its hometown. The business said this venue will have a unique proposition that will be “a first not just for Newcastle, but for the UK”. Tim Wilks, founder of Lane7, said: “Newcastle has always been our home, and we couldn’t be more excited to continue our journey here. The overwhelming support we have received has been incredible, and it’s inspired us to dream even bigger.” Last month, Propel revealed that Lane7 will open its largest site to date later this year, in Milton Keynes. The business will open a site spanning 38,000 square feet in Midsummer Place. Lane7, which is due to open a second European site in Dublin later this year, is understood to have a further four sites in its pipeline for 2024. In December, the business opened its debut London venue, featuring a food offer from Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossmann, within The Zig Zag Building in Victoria.

Laine Pub Co reopens flagship seafront site: Laine Pub Company has reopened its flagship seafront site, Tempest, in Brighton, following a £350,000 refurbishment. The company said: “Its revamped sea-facing terrace, adorned with rustic wooden tables, industrial chic accents, Glastonbury-style flags and mesmerising lighting, provides guests with panoramic views of the coastline and the backdrop for an unforgettable coastal soiree. However, it’s the enchanting labyrinthine interior that truly sets Tempest apart. Step through its doors, and you’ll find yourself transported to a world with intimate caverns and art and light installations that reverberate with the rhythm of the building. These cave booths, available for private bookings, offer a unique and exclusive haven for gatherings of all sizes.”

Wingers set to open first taproom: Buttermilk fried chicken restaurant concept Wingers is set to open its first taproom, Propel has learned. Wingers, which was set up during the pandemic by brothers Amran and Dylan Sunner and their dad Bill, has grown to nine locations around the Midlands, including its travel hub debut at Birmingham International railway station. A social media post from the brand states, “Something is brewing in Birmingham”, with the hashtags #WingersTapRoom and #ComingSoon. Earlier this year, Wingers’ development agent TJ Choongh acquired a neighbourhood beer and burger bar concept in Birmingham – the Bun and Barrell in Harborne. Choongh, who is also a franchise owner with Wingers, Subway and Thai Express, acquired the site in partnership with friends Bobby Nahal, Raj Sandhar and Rav Mangat. Propel understand that this will be the site for the Wingers Taproom. In December, Wingers said it had signed a 30-store development deal for west London and the Thames Valley.

Travelodge owner in talks to buy £40m of hotels from landlords, opens 600th hotel with six more under construction: The US hedge fund behind Travelodge is in talks to buy £40m of hotels from their landlords as it gears up for a fresh tilt at a sale. The Sunday Times reports that GoldenTree Asset Management has created a structure that increases its options to cash out of the budget hotel chain. The moves follow its £210m purchase of 66 hotels from LXi REIT this year. Travelodge has traditionally opted for an “asset-light” business model that is popular across the hotel sector. Rival Premier Inn has challenged this model, owning many of its freeholds. However, its buying up of freeholds from landlords has stoked City speculation that Golden Tree will sell the business. Last year, GoldenTree explored a £1.2bn sale after buying out its fellow hedge fund shareholders. It comes as Travelodge has opened its 600th hotel – located at the London Oval Cricket Ground and developed in partnership with Surrey County Cricket Club. The 95-bedroom hotel is also the group’s 81st in London and has created more than 30 new jobs, featuring the group’s new, premium look and restaurant concept, 85 Bar Cafe. With sustainability in mind, it also has air source heat pumps for heating water, EV car charging, roof mounted solar panels, a green roof to regulate temperatures, low energy lighting and aerated showers and taps to reduce water usage. The hotel is the first new opening for Travelodge in the UK this year, with a further six currently under construction – in Rotherham, Colchester and Bristol, as well as three more in London; Bermondsey, Beckenham and Chiswick. The group has over 300 target locations for hotel sites across the UK, including more than 100 sites across London. Travelodge chief executive, Jo Boydell, said: “London Oval Cricket Ground Travelodge is a special opening for us. Since opening our first hotel in the UK in 1985, Travelodge has grown across the UK, Ireland and Spain, and we now operate over 46,000 rooms, employ 13,000 colleagues and welcome over 22 million business and leisure customers to our hotels each year. We are focused on continuing to grow our portfolio, with over 300 locations identified for new hotels across the UK as well as 20 target locations in Spain.”

Gym Group reveals plans for circa 50 new UK sites over next three years and sees potential for 1,000-plus portfolio: The Gym Group has revealed plans for circa 50 new openings across the UK over the next three years and believes there is eventually potential for up to 800 additional sites, giving the business a 1,000-plus portfolio. The company, which currently operates about 240 gyms, has appointed Savills to advise on its site selection. At its 2023 annual results in March, the group shared its Next Chapter plan for growth, which includes “disciplined rollout of high-quality sites that deliver attractive returns and create shareholder value”. The Gym Group said analysis from PwC shows that the opportunity in the UK extends to potential for between 600-800 additional sites in the low-cost gym segment. Will Orr, chief executive at The Gym Group, said: “We look forward to working with Savills to support our Next Chapter growth plan. We have identified the characteristics for high-performing gyms, and as we accelerate the rollout of quality sites, we are prioritising the best gym locations and delivering on our mission to give our members even greater access to our high-quality, low-cost fitness.”

Midlands better burger brand lines up five more UK stores and overseas expansion: Midlands better burger brand Phat Buns has lined up five more UK stores plus possible overseas expansion. Forthcoming openings in Liverpool and Wolverhampton will bring the company’s estate to 15 stores, and it has five more lined up to bring it up to 20, as well as speaking to potential international partners. Founded in 2019, the business is owned by Hussein Sacranie and Ahtesham Moosa, who are also the co-owners of the four-strong Doorstep Desserts brand. “Phat Buns is on a roll, we’re thrilled to announce our expansion,” Sacranie said. “With 15 stores already in the UK, we’re adding five more locations to bring our total to 20. Our mouth-watering burgers are taking over the UK, now we’re setting our sights on a global takeover, with potential deals in the UAE and Canada. Let’s bring the Phat Buns experience to every corner of the world!”

Various Eateries to open debut Welsh Coppa Club site next month: Various Eateries, the Hugh Osmond-backed business, will open the debut Welsh site for its Coppa Club brand next month. Propel revealed in August 2022 that Coppa Club had lined up a site at The Hayes scheme in Cardiff. The Cardiff Townhouse will open on Monday, 13 May in the former David Morgan department store and be the brand’s 13th site. The Cardiff Townhouse will be split over two separate floors, with the ground floor featuring its own bar. Upstairs, the first floor will be anchored by cocktail bar Atrium, as well as a brasserie and two spaces that can be used for private events. There will also be a private dining room and larger restaurant space. Rebecca Tooth, managing director of Coppa Club, said: “Building on the success of The Bath Townhouse and Guildford Townhouse, we are delighted to be opening our third Townhouse location in one of the most iconic areas of Cardiff. We are fortunate to be opening in a building steeped in history and envision it becoming a real go-to in the city for drinks, dining and events.” Various Eateries also operates the Noci concept, and in December last year, the business raised £10m with the aim of rolling out ten new Noci and three new Coppa Club sites over the next 18 months.

Food procurement company’s ‘Pitch Social’ initiative identifies new socially conscious SME partners: Food procurement company FoodBuy, part of Compass UK & Ireland, has held its second Pitch Social event, designed to deliver social value and diversify its supplier base. The event gives social enterprises, minority-owned suppliers and other small to medium-sized enterprises a platform to access a multibillion-pound supply chain within the foodservice industry. The initiative drives Foodbuy’s commitment to incubate and support small suppliers, who are giving back to communities and tackling wider social and environmental issues. To date, it has spent over £8.9m with social enterprises, surpassing its initial goal of £5m. The event, at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, featured 18 social enterprises, B-Corps, minority-owned businesses and other organisations with strong social and environmental values. Partners were invited to pitch their business to a panel consisting of Foodbuy colleagues and clients, with the opportunity to become listed as Foodbuy suppliers upon successful selection. Alternatively, they were offered the opportunity to undergo a three to six-month mentorship programme with Foodbuy stakeholders. Since the inaugural event in 2022, Foodbuy has onboarded six suppliers with strong social and environmental values. These include English winemaker The Uncommon; The Glasshouse, which provides horticultural training and employment for female ex-offenders; and Tap Social, a craft brewery that employs prisoners and prison leavers. Harinder Singh, Foodbuy’s head of sustainability and compliance, said: “We believe in celebrating diversity within our supplier base and meeting the increasing demand from clients for innovative, regional solutions that support their sustainability targets. We are excited about the potential to make a meaningful difference through our Pitch Social events and developing ongoing partnerships.”

Boss Pizza lines up Manchester launch: Franchise pizza concept Boss Pizza, founded during the pandemic by Ajmal Mushtaq, is set to launch in Manchester. Mushtaq has two stores in Scotland and earlier this year launched in Acton for its English debut, with a further London site, in Shepherd’s Bush, due to open soon. In the meantime, the company has confirmed that its next opening will be in Manchester. Boss Pizza secured its first franchisee in January when Muhammad Ali, whose 20 years within the UK fast-food industry includes managerial and consultancy roles with McDonald’s and German Doner Kebab, became master franchisee for the London and Dubai regions. That same month, angel investor Shalim Abs acquired a 5% stake in Boss Pizza for £100,000, valuing the company at £2m. Mushtaq previously told Propel that he was aiming to grow the concept to 100 stores through franchising. He previously operated Indian restaurant Mushtaqs in Hamilton, which at 20x12 metres has what it claims to be the biggest takeaway kitchen in the UK. He sold the restaurant, which his family had been operating in Hamilton since the early 1970s, in November 2023.

Cosmo gearing up for Telford opening: Buffet brand Cosmo is gearing up to open its latest restaurant, in Telford’s Southwater Centre. The 8,000 square-foot unit will be a second site for Cosmo’s smaller casual dining brand, Umami World Kitchen, which first launched late last year in Coventry’s Corporation Street. The company also operates 21 full Cosmo restaurants across the UK. Cosmo is also planning to launch Umami World Kitchen sites in Blackpool, Colchester, Leeds and Newcastle this year, as previously revealed by Propel. Cosmo operations director Kan Koo said on launching the new concept last year: “The last three years have been extraordinarily difficult for everyone in hospitality, but we feel the tide is turning within the pan Asian dining scene. Although Umami is an entirely new brand, we think Cosmo customers, families and students in particular will love our offering because nowhere offers such a wide range of dishes for all tastes and ages.”

Roadchef partners with University of Bristol students to create ‘service station of the future’: Motorway services operator Roadchef has collaborated with University of Bristol students to create “the service station of the future”. Working with the university’s centre for innovation and entrepreneurship, Roadchef tasked students as part of their design futures module to come up with concepts for what they think the service station of the future could look like. Ideas needed to align with the business becoming net zero, but still offer what motorists need. Combining some of the most pioneering ideas, the business has created a 3D walkthrough to transform its Watford Gap services on the M1 and make it what it said could be the most sustainable service station of the future. Plans include futuristic concepts from turnstile turbines to generate energy and wireless car charging to wellness centres and outdoor green areas to give back to nature. Sajid Yacoob, EV and renewables director at Roadchef, said: “We have continued to be astonished by the incredible level of engagement, imagination and sustainable thinking that has been shown by students for this project. The inspiring concepts have given us some serious food for thought to reimagine what our service stations can look like in the near and distant future. We look forward to seeing how we can work these solutions into our current sites with the potential to replicate the service station of the future in years to come.”

Filli to open second UK site today, in Manchester: Filli, the fastest growing chai and Indian street food business in the United Arab Emirates, is set to open its second UK site today (Monday, 29 April), in Manchester. The concept, founded by Rafih Filli in Dubai in 2004, has since grown to more than 40 fast casual stores across eight countries. It made its UK debut in the summer of 2022, opening in a 2,000 square-foot store in Harewood Avenue, in London’s Marylebone. The business said at the time it was in negotiation on stores in Luton, Leicester and Manchester, with plans to open up to ten new UK stores over the following two years through franchising. It will now open at 496b Wilbraham Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a suburb of Manchester. “Bismillah: off to beautiful London for the Filli Manchester store opening this Monday,” Filli said. “For the last two decades, our vision has been to perfect the art of tea blending. Having found a loyal following in London with customers who truly embody the spirit of Filli, we are excited to be brewing in the north. The commitment of our loyal customers to uniting people through tea has inspired us to bring the Filli experience to Manchester.”

Liverpool burger concept to start expanding with second site in city: Liverpool burger concept Nashville Cluck is to start expanding with the opening of its second site in the city. The business, which was recently shortlisted for UberEats’ Restaurant of the Year Award, is launching at Baltic Market on Wednesday (1 May). Nashville Cluck opened in Myrtle Street in October 2022 offering its variety of burgers including the Nashville Cluck Burger, the Texas Kentucky, and The Cajun Chick. Nashville Cluck stated: “We’re so excited to be opening a second spot in Liverpool within Baltic Market. We’ve always been the perfect delivery food and have gained thousands of followers and reviews from online orders. But we’ve always wanted our customers to be able to sit, relax and enjoy our burgers within an amazing atmosphere and Baltic Market will facilitate this perfectly. Our unique selling point is our fresh ingredients; we’ve never used frozen chicken, and it’s always the most authentic Nashville buttermilk, American cheese and big brioche buns.” Since opening in June 2017, Baltic Market has welcomed more than 50 restaurants and in excess of 100 market traders, allowing small businesses, new concepts and independents to showcase their dishes to a broad audience.

General manager of UK’s new largest indoor arena resigns after series of delays and criticisms: The general manager of the UK’s new largest indoor arena has resigned after a series of delays and criticisms. Gary Roden has quit his role after comedian Peter Kay’s opening shows were cancelled as the £365m Co-op Live in Manchester was not ready in time. Some tickets for the arena’s first test event last week were also cancelled at the last minute to reduce capacity. Kay’s performances, which was cancelled as work on the arena’s power supply was behind schedule, were rescheduled for next month. The venue will hold up to 23,500 people when fully open. There was also a backlash over Roden’s comments to the BBC that some small music venues were “poorly run”. In response, the Music Venue Trust called his comments “disrespectful and disingenuous” and pointed out “insurmountable and highly specialist challenges” they faced. It added: “Obviously, the irony of making ill-judged, unnecessary and misleading comments about grassroots music venues on the day that the launch of their new arena has unfortunately fallen into such difficulties is not lost on anyone in the music industry, on artists, or on audiences.” A statement from the arena said it did not “share the sentiment” expressed by Mr Roden and that “Co-op Live remains committed to grassroots music in Manchester and beyond”. The statement also thanked Roden for his “help bringing the UK’s newest arena to live entertainment fans” and added that Rebecca Kane Burton, an ex-boss of London’s O2 Arena, would be interim general manager.

Wagamama opens site in Doncaster: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, has opened a site in Doncaster. The restaurant at The Doncaster Dome leisure centre has 162 covers and has created 55 jobs and brings Wagamama’s total to 163 restaurants across the UK. Milly Pearson, regional marketing manager for the north, said: “We are so excited to open the doors to our new restaurant in Doncaster. Our benches are ready to welcome the local community and visitors at The Dome, and we’re excited to be serving up some of our newest dishes and fresh favourites. Our fantastic new team has been working hard to ensure we’ll bring our much-loved Wagamama experience to our guests and they’re thrilled to land in their beautiful new restaurant now work is complete.” The launch follows openings this year in Epsom, Glasgow and Wolverhampton. Further launches in the pipeline include Chatham Maritime and Woodside Leisure Park in Watford, both in May. The business has targeted ten new openings in 2024. Meanwhile, Wagamama has unveiled its new summer menu. Dishes include the Thai beef salad, which includes strips of marinated premium cut steak. 

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