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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 30th Apr 2024 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

PizzaExpress set to explore US expansion play: PizzaExpress is looking to launch in the US, and has begun the search for franchisees to aid its expansion there, Propel has learned. The Paula MacKenzie-led business currently operates more than 360 sites across the UK plus circa 100 oversea locations in countries across Europe, the Middle East and Far East. Propel understands that it has set up a new company, PizzaExpress US, to oversee its launch in the US and has now partnered with consultants whichfranchise to explore rolling out in the country. It is seeking master franchisees, multi-unit franchisees and area developers, and looking for sites of between 2,500 to 3,500 square feet for restaurants, plus 500 to 1,000 square feet for a new low-capex kiosk format, which offers a “small footprint solution for high football and captive market/locations that are heavily focused on delivery and takeaway orders”. Potential partners must be "an experienced operator with a proven track record of site openings with the appetite, capital and ability to open 50-100 restaurants", and must have both an affinity with their chosen market and a ready-to-go operational team. They must also have “the networks to rapidly build and develop out a pipeline of different asset formats” and shares the same core values as PizzaExpress – “you will share our passion for proper pizza, be transparent, courageous and ready for growth”. The business also operates a handful of franchise sites in the UK. PizzaExpress previously attempted to launch in the US in the 1990s. Firstly, it opened three sites in the mid-1990s in California with Harshad Desai, at the time PizzaExpress’ biggest franchisee in the UK. A couple of years later, the business opened a restaurant in Philadelphia, under a 50/50 joint venture established with US restaurant chain owner Avado Brands (known until 1998 as Apple South). The restaurant opened in the city’s Walnut Street under the name San Marzano, as research at the time showed that Americans thought the word “express” was too downmarket. Avado, which had also taken a 20% stake in the UK-based Belgo group around the same time, planned to open one or two further locations, as it tested the concept, including a site in Washington DC. All the sites subsequently closed. PizzaExpress 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 to upgrade your subscription.

Industry News:

HDI’s Mark Bentley to speak at Excellence in Pub & Bar Retailing Conference, open for bookings with 20% discount on tickets for Premium Club members: Mark Bentley, business development director at HDI, 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. Bentley will talk about the areas where the pub sector is and has been performing strongly and where the opportunities are for the sector to drive growth. 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.

Variety of cafe bakery operators to feature in next New Openings Database being released to Premium Club members on Friday: 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 cafe and bakery sector such as social enterprise Old Spike Roastery, which is set to open its sixth site near London’s Chancery Lane. Also featured is Blank Street Coffee, which is gearing up to launch in Birmingham, and Bewiched Coffee, which will open its third franchise site later this year in Wellingborough. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, in association with Virgate; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book; 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 today to sign up.
All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism inquiry into recruitment and retention launches: The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism has launched an inquiry into staffing challenges in the sector and is seeking views from businesses and the wider industry. The inquiry will be led by an influential group of parliamentarians and explore the reasons behind high vacancy rates, asking what more the sector can do and make a series of recommendations to government. The inquiry is seeking to clarify if the industry has a retention problem – and if so, the reasons why – and what the barriers are that businesses face when it comes to finding the staff they need. The inquiry will also look at can be done do to change the perceptions of the sector to make it more appealing, and how the industry is balancing the government”s emphasis on encouraging business to utilise UK-born workers. Furthermore, the inquiry will explore how successful initiatives to support the mental health and well being of sector staff have been, and what impact the utilisation of zero-hour contracts has on the recruitment and retention of staff. Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism, said: “Staffing challenges in hospitality and tourism has continually been raised by businesses as a persistent problem that negatively impacts trading. Given how important the people who work in hospitality and tourism are to the experiences they help deliver, it’s important that the group takes the time to investigate this issue. I’m pleased to launch this inquiry and I want businesses and representatives of the sector at its heart, to enable the members of the group to understand the issues and make appropriate recommendations to government on where it can support. This is a broad inquiry and I hope to hear from as many people involved in hospitality and tourism as possible.” The deadline for submissions of written evidence is Friday, 14 June, and should be no longer than 1,500 words. Evidence should be submitted to

BBPA urges next Scottish first minister address ‘unfair tax burden’ on pubs and abandon any plans to restrict advertising and sponsorship: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has urged the next Scottish first minister to address the “unfair tax burden” on pubs and abandon any further plans to restrict advertising and sponsorship. The trade body spoke out following Humza Yousaf’s announcement of his intention to resign as first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP). Yousaf has said he will stay on as first minister until the SNP chooses his replacement – the Scottish Parliament has 28 days to choose one before parliament is dissolved and a new election called. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Scotland’s next first minister needs to unite the parliament, unite the country, and unite behind business to grow the economy, support jobs and reinstall the confidence necessary for increased investment in the country. A key priority for our sector will be action to address the unfair tax burden placed on our much-loved pubs and bars with non-domestic rates, reducing the regulatory burden on business, and abandoning any further actions to restrict advertising and sponsorship – which would be an existential threat to Scottish businesses and the 62,000 jobs supported by our iconic industry. We thank Humza Yousaf for his engagement during his time as first minister and the positive steps undertaken by him, particularly with his New Deal for Business, and hope to continue this work with his successor.”

Tough start to the year for UK brewing industry with all UK regions struggling to grow: New figures show a net closure rate of 38 UK breweries so far this year, with all regions either seeing a reduction in the overall number or remaining the same. The data, from the SIBA UK Brewery Tracker, shows the UK total number of active brewers now stands at 1,777. The south east was the worst hit in the first quarter of 2024 with a net closure rate of ten, followed by the Midlands with seven and Scotland with six. The north east and north west regions fared slightly better, each seeing a net closure rate of five, closely followed by the south west with four. The east region saw a very moderate closure rate of one during the start of the year, with Wales and Northern Ireland both finishing the first quarter with no net change in their overall brewery numbers. The year-on-year comparison shows a slightly more positive picture, with some regions seeing overall growth when compared with this time in 2023. The east has had a particularly strong 12 months with a net growth rate of 11 breweries, with the south east (up three) and south west (up two) seeing more moderate growth. But the overall UK year-on-year figure comparison is down by 47, led primarily by a net closure rate of 19 in the north west, 12 in the north east and 11 in both Wales and the Midlands. “Seeing a 2% drop in the number of breweries in the UK is a small shift, but not the start to the year the industry had hoped for, and as we look ahead to what promises to be a busy summer for pubs, I’m hopeful we’ll see the dial swing into the positive as we did in the second quarter of 2023,” said SIBA chief executive Andy Slee. “There is no single reason breweries in the UK close, but for most it is a combination of rising costs and slowing sales caused by the cost-of-living crisis, which when compounded by the repayment of substantial covid loan debts, makes many businesses struggle to turn a sustainable profit. Extending the draught duty relief to 20% would be a game-changer for the industry and go some way to keeping the price of a pint in pubs affordable, while ensuring independent breweries are able to turn a sustainable profit.”

Fuller’s launches neurodiverse recruitment guide, will roll out to wider industry: Fuller’s has launched a guide to recruiting team members who are neurodiverse or have intellectual disabilities. The guide has been produced with help and support from LVS Hassocks, a specialist school for children with autism owned by the Licensed Trade Charity, and Fuller’s corporate charity, Special Olympics Great Britain. While a handful of Fuller’s pubs – in particular The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham – are already active in this space, Fuller’s identified an opportunity to build on this. Team members with an intellectual disabilities may need shorter shifts and clear, often visual, instruction. They may also have a range of sensory needs, such as quiet spaces for respite, or the avoidance of loud, busy sessions. It said against the backdrop of these minor adjustments, the benefits of a more diverse team are huge – building camaraderie and pride while helping to enrich the life of the new team member and their family. It is also a step in tackling the 94% unemployment rate among the 1.5 million people with an intellectual disabilities in the UK. The guide covers all aspects of the process from the use of inclusive language and visual cues when recruiting, through to interview, induction and making small but suitable changes to the working environment. Written by renowned trade journalist Kate Oppenheim, the booklet is being rolled out to all Fuller’s managed pubs and will also be available to all Fuller’s tenants. Moving forwards, the Licensed Trade Charity will take the work out to the wider industry later this year. Monique Samra, Fuller’s people experience manager, said: “This is such a great booklet aimed at giving our general managers the confidence and skills to recruit team members from a whole new, and vastly underrepresented, section of the community. We had a goal of recruiting 20 new team members with an intellectual disabilities – and we’ve already beaten that target. With the roll out of this guide, I hope that number will continue to grow.” Chris Welham, chef executive at the Licensed Trade Charity, said: “Fuller’s is really leading the way here and setting a standard that we hope the rest of the industry will follow.” Laura Baxter MBE, chief executive of Special Olympics GB, added: “I can’t wait to see where this work goes next – and if more hospitality businesses can join this revolution, I will be absolutely delighted.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a restaurant group that is seeking a head chef for a new opening in central London. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will cook seasonal British cuisine in an intimate 60-cover restaurant. The food will be refined and elegant but still affordable. This is a new opening but there will be support from a group head chef and executive chef with a Michelin background. The business already has five successful sites and has plans for more, so this could be a great career path for an aspiring head chef or senior sous chef ready to step up. This would suit a head chef who has worked in a fine dining or Bib Gourmand restaurant, with knowledge of back-of-house admin, and experience in premium restaurants.” The salary is up to £60,000. For more information, email

Company News:

Loungers CEO – the biggest learning from Brightside has been on marketing, NLW wage increase has seen us take more price: Nick Collins, chief executive of café bar operator Loungers, has said that the business remains “really excited” by its roadside diner concept Brightside, with a fourth site under the format set to open in the second half of this year. The business launched its first Brightside on the A38, south of Exeter, last February, followed by openings on the A303 near Honiton and the A38 near Saltash, Cornwall, after acquiring three former Route Restaurants sites. It will open its first purpose-built Brightside site later this year on the A1 in Rutland. Collins told Propel that it is on the marketing side of things “where we’ve learnt most and continue to learn” when it comes to the new concept. He told Propel: “It’s where Brightside contrasts with Lounge and Cosy Club. Obviously, you open on a busy high street with lots of other operators, and there is natural footfall. With Brightside, from day one, the challenge has been convincing people to stop and come in, so marketing has played a bigger role. For us, it is understanding what works and what doesn't, the degree to which we target local customers versus holiday makers, who might just be passing or might be coming from further afield. And if you look at the three existing sites, with Saltash and Exeter, both are where the customer base is more dominated by a more local catchment versus Honiton, where we see more people coming down the A303, and just thinking about the challenges that that provides. We are opening a fourth site later this year, and how we think about that will be different because it is completely new, while the first three were former businesses, and this one won’t have any kind of legacy. It will be interesting to see how people passing approach that.” Collins said the business was holding off building a further pipeline for Brightside until the first four are bedded in. He said: “We are really excited by Brightside and really pleased with it. We always recognised it was going to take time. It is really important that we demonstrate that we’ve got a really good understanding of what Brightside is and what its customer maturity profile looks like before we start thinking about what more opportunities there are. We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think there was something to work on.” Collins said that the increase in the national living wage meant the business had had to take more on price. He said: “We launched last week in Cosy Club and in Lounge a few weeks before our spring/summer menu and we did end up taking more price and that was directly related to the national living wage uplift being higher than we anticipated, which is frustrating. If you had asked us four or five months ago, we were hoping to have taken less price, but we take confidence from the knowledge that we remain great value for money and we are not taking as much price as other people.”

Lucky Voice turns to franchise route for UK expansion plans: Lucky Voice, the social entertainment brand, is actively seeking franchisees for prime city locations across the UK, Ireland and the Middle East. The business is working with Seeds Consulting on its franchising plans, alongside the group’s focus on launching company-owned sites in the US. Lucky Voice managing director Charlie Elek told Propel last month that the business is aiming to launch in the US next year. He said: “We will shift our focus on to a US launch. We think there is a real opportunity to open there. The private room karaoke segment in the US is growing and there are currently no multi-site, multi-state operators.” Propel understands that Lucky Voice will primarily look at opening a site on the US east coast, with a site in Washington DC its initial target. Matteo Frigeri, managing director of Seeds Consulting, said: “Lucky Voice is a trusted and tested brand with a solid franchise proposition. It benefits from the trend towards experiential leisure and it is uniquely positioned to benefit from it. This provides an excellent opportunity to diversify for hospitality and leisure companies like multi-unit restaurant and pub groups, hotels and casinos located in key cities in the UK and overseas.” It comes as Lucky Voice, which already operates a site in Dubai, recently opened in London’s Waterloo. The 3,000 square-foot site is the company’s first location in the capital south of the river and joins sites in Soho, Islington, Holborn and Liverpool Street. The business also operates a site in Brighton. Elek said: “We’re thrilled to introduce the Lucky Voice experience to Waterloo, offering guests the ultimate fusion of music, drinks and memorable moments, solidifying our position as the go-to destination for anyone looking to sing their heart out. Bolstered by consistent sales growth and strong Ebitda performance over the past year, including a record-breaking holiday season, Lucky Voice is poised for continued success and growth.”
WatchHouse secures second New York site as it gears up to launch final EIS raise: Specialty coffee concept WatchHouse has lined up its second opening in New York as it gears up to launch its final EIS raise tomorrow (Wednesday, 1 May). The business opened its first international site, in New York, earlier this month, in 5th Avenue. It will follow this up with an opening at The Chrysler Building, Manhattan, later this year. The business, which currently operates 18 sites in the UK, will open its latest site in London, in Hampstead, this week. WatchHouse founder and chief executive Roland Horne said: “With our next opening penned for The Chrysler Building later this year, and some great new additions to London houses set to open in the meantime, it's a great time to re-engage our community.” The business is set to launch the new crowdfund campaign through Crowdcube. It comes after WatchHouse completed a $10m (£7.9m) Series A fundraising round in December to continue the company’s rapid growth in the UK and US over the next 36 months. With the upcoming founding round, it plans to build a state-of-the-art roastery and bakery space in Brooklyn, to serve its houses in New York City, and a new bakery adjoined to its roastery in London Bridge. The company has further openings lined up in London, in Fitzrovia in July, and a further site in Canary Wharf in August.
Padel operator PadelStars secures investment to support expansion: Padel operator PadelStars, which has plans for sites across the south of England, has secured investment to support its expansion. Founded by Andy Knee and Jamie Brooke, PadelStars aims to operate “the best padel clubs in the UK and to be at the forefront of the growth of the sport”. The business opened its first padel facility in Reading, to be followed by further centres in Southampton, Bracknell, St Albans, Bournemouth, Folkestone, Basildon and Chigwell. Dwellcourt Group, which is the owner of Surrey’s Silvermere Golf & Leisure complex and Kingswood Golf and Country Club, will take a significant stake in PadelStars and provide strategic advice that it hopes will accelerate the development and growth of the business. Knee said: “We’ve met several times with Dwellcourt over the past year and discussed multiple opportunities. It’s a great match and we’re very excited about what its investment and expertise will bring to the PadelStars business.” Jeff Hilliard, chairman of Dwellcourt Group, added: “Having had several approaches by padel operators hoping to build courts on our sites, Andy and Jamie stood apart for their vision, dynamism and professionalism. With a pipeline of strong new sites being secured, we have decided to once again back impressive people and see how we might offer our operational experience as well as our investment to help them scale their business. These are exciting times for padel and we are excited to be a part of the PadelStars journey.”
DiningSix co-founder – we’re hopeful of opening another London restaurant this year: Morten Ortwed, co-founder of Copenhagen-based business DiningSix, has told Propel it hopes to open another site in London this year. DiningSix made its UK debut last March with an opening under its Danish steakhouse brand, KöD, in Devonshire Square in the capital. DiningSix operates 22 sites across Europe under various brands that also include Basso, Klokken, Keyser Social and Feed Bistro, as well as the takeaway format Burger Shack. Ortwed, who moved to the UK last year with his family, said: “It’s going great – we are very happy with how KöD is performing here so far, but I didn’t move here just to open one restaurant. We are speaking with landlords and we are hopeful of opening another site this year. What we’re not sure yet is whether it will be another KöD or one of our different brands. We think any of them could work in the UK.” Ortwed also said the restaurant is bucking the labour trend and actually has a waiting list for staff wanting to join. He added: “We’re a team – we all muck in and support each other. I might be a founding partner but I’ll still wash the dishes and put out the bins. We have one ask of our staff: be nice to each other and the customers. Everything else we can teach. Our ethos is to make a profitable business with nice people and have fun along the way.” Ortwed’s life in hospitality started more than 15 years ago, waiting tables in his native Aarhus in Denmark. A chance opportunity to take on the franchise of a cafe with a handful of friends in 2010 propelled him into the world of ownership and DiningSix was born. In February, Propel reported former Casual Dining Group brand and marketing director Georgia Hall, who has also worked at Hawksmoor and YO!, had joined DiningSix as a non-executive director.
Pub People adds two more freeholds to its estate: Midlands pub company Pub People, which is backed by investment manager Downing, has further increased its freehold estate with the addition of two new sites. Managing director Andy Crawford said: “After a rollercoaster week, we managed to nudge two more great pubs over the acquisition line. The Nags Head in East Leake, near Nottingham, comes into the Pub People freehold estate having been a tenancy since 2016. The Foresters (nee Great Gatsby) in Division Street in Sheffield city centre, was our second freehold purchase of the week.” Last month, Propel reported that Pub People had acquired two pubs formerly owned by Derby Brewing Co. Pub People acquired the freeholds of The Greyhound, Friar Gate; and Derby Brewing Tap House, Derwent Street; both in Derby. Pub People said that it had “exciting investment projects” planned for both. Last November, the 44-strong business acquired The Spotted Cow in Holbrook, from the Holbrook Community Association, and The Miners Arms near Nuneaton, which took its freehold estate to 34. In September, Propel revealed that Pub People had raised its expansion target to 75 sites as Downing opened a new bond for investment.
Buckinghamshire pizza concept makes London debut: Buckinghamshire concept @homepizza has opened its fourth site and its first in London, in Canary Wharf. The business, which was founded 12 years ago and is led by John Kalpakiotis, has opened a site in Bank Street. It is the largest site the business has opened to date. The family-owned business, which previously operated sites in South Africa, opened its first site in the UK, in Gerrards Cross. The company has subsequently added further sites in Beaconsfield and Chesham. 
Burrito Picante to begin expansion under new ownership with Manchester dark kitchen opening: Mexican-themed, quick service restaurant concept Burrito Picante, which was acquired by Scotland-based investment firm Edison Capital last month, will begin its expansion under its new ownership by opening a dark kitchen in Manchester next month. Burrito Picante was originally founded in 2016 by Nick Dodman, who had looked to expand the business through franchising and introduced a programme offering full franchise and dark kitchen options, but sold the business to Philip Walker in October 2022. Burrito Picante currently has sites in Altrincham and Sheffield. “Burrito Picante is opening a dark kitchen in Manchester,” the company posted to social media. “We are super excited to serve the great people of Manchester with delicious authentic Mexican street food. The kitchen will be open third week of May, customers can order through Deliveroo, Uber and Just East. From 1 August, customers will also be able to order from our own website, where they will enjoy fabulous offers.” Propel revealed last month that new owner Edison Capital is planning to expand Burrito Picante to 20 sites by the end of 2026 – including stores in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2024. The business said: “We believe there is significant growth potential through franchising to expand the concept UK wide and internationally through a franchising model.”
Valiant Pub Co hires Darran Jacklin as new ops director: Valiant Pub Company, which was founded by Hawthorn Leisure co-founders Gerry Carroll and Mark McGinty at the start of 2021, has hired Darran Jacklin, formerly of Hawthorn and Admiral Taverns, as its new operations director. Jacklin joins the circa 55-strong Valiant after nearly two years at Admiral Taverns as a business development manager. Prior to that, he spent six years as a business development manager at Hawthorn. In February, Valiant hired Jennifer Sloyan, formerly of Next and Mitchells & Butlers, as its new chief financial officer, having also acquired four pubs from McManus Pub Company located across Northampton. Last October, Valiant, which is backed by investment firm Njord Partners, reached the 50-site mark and told Propel it had the firepower to triple that number if “the right opportunity” came along.
Black Sheep Coffee opens third Middle East store: Speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has opened its third Middle East store. Propel revealed in May 2023 that Black Sheep Coffee had signed a franchise deal with Al Farran Investment to expand into the region, with plans to open more than 250 shops there in its initial 15-year term. Marking the London brand’s Middle East debut, the first two outlets opened at ACT Towers and Boulevard Plaza Tower in Dubai in March, serving regional products alongside Black Sheep Coffee’s full menu. It has now opened a third, at Dubai Malls, which will be followed next by a store in Yas Mall Abu Dhabi. Black Sheep operates circa 80 stores across the UK, alongside a single site in France, and is also set to make its US debut this year.
Multi-format padel concept to open rooftop venue at Wandsworth shopping centre: Multi-format padel concept Padel Social Club is to open its third London site, at the Southside shopping centre in Wandsworth. The company has agreed a deal with landlords, Landsec and Invesco Real Estate, to transform the rooftop of the centre’s multi-storey car park into a 30,000 square-foot innovative sports and recreational space. Once open in late 2024, Padel Social Club will feature six covered courts, including an exhibition court, changing rooms and a fitness centre complete with wellness rooms, as well as a rotating line-up of food and beverage kiosks across two floors. Kristian Hunter, chief executive at Padel Social Club, said: “We’re delighted to see this project coming to life and to be able to bring our all-encompassing padel experience to Wandsworth. Working alongside Southside shopping centre, we are excited to create a vibrant community space that introduces more people to the social sport of padel.” Padel Social Club operates sites in Earl’s Court and at The 02, as well as at Soho House’s Babington House in Frome, Somerset.
Chiltern Street Deli to open second London site: Chiltern Street Deli, the neighbourhood café and deli concept, is to open its second site in London, in Fitzrovia. The business, which was founded by Tom Stanley and Mauro Buzzurro, has acquired the former King Panther site at 144 Great Portland Street. The concept opened its debut site in Marylebone, in 2019. The business offers “homemade treats and coffee alongside a carefully curated selection of artisan produce”. Salvatore Di Natale and David Kornbluth, of CDG Leisure, acted on the Great Portland Street deal. 
Leeds operator sells Boston Spa restaurant to focus on core operations: Elizabeth Cottam, the patron chef behind Home and The Owl in Leeds, has sold her Cora restaurant in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, to focus on the business’ core operations. The restaurant in High Street has been sold for an undisclosed sum to local chef, Nikki Pybus, who will reopen the venue under the new name Amor. The venue has capacity for up to 20 customers in its open plan setting. Cottam said: “We had a fantastic time there, but the time had come for us to focus on our core restaurants in Leeds.” Pybus added: “2024 is a special year that will see the opening of our new Restaurant ‘Amor’. My vision is to bring not just Boston Spa, but the north east, a fantastic dining experience with top notch food and wine, all in a fun environment. Our ultimate goal is every guest leaving satisfied with a memory not to forget. Providing everything goes to plan I would like to open in late spring/early summer, initially offering a casual yet top-class lunch from Wednesday to Sunday. In the coming months we will look to extend our servings to an evening service.” Christie & Co acted on the deal.
Caprice Holdings confirms plans to open Sexy Fish in Dubai: Caprice Holdings, the Richard Caring-backed, high-end restaurant business, has confirmed it is to open a site under its Sexy Fish brand in Dubai later this year. Caprice Holdings – which already operates Sexy Fish sites in London, Manchester and Miami – is to open a site in Dubai’s International Financial Centre (DIFC), in its new Innovation Hub tower. It will mark Caprice Holdings’ return to Dubai for the first time since 2016, when it closed a site under The Ivy concept there. The company said: “A luxurious dining and entertainment destination that will be located in the heart of the vibrant DIFC scene. Inspired by our iconic London counterpart, Sexy Fish Dubai will offer exquisite fusion of innovative cocktails, world-class cuisine, and captivating ambiance.” Caprice Holdings is also set to open a Sexy Fish site at the Via Riyadh scheme in Saudi Arabia. Last summer, Caprice Holdings opened a site under its Scott’s brand at the luxury shopping and entertainment complex. 
Bespoke Hotels secures two new management contracts: Bespoke Hotels, the UK’s largest independent hotel group, has added two new management contracts. The company, which operates 70 independent hotels across the UK, has added The Green House Hotel in Bournemouth and Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel & Spa in Wales to its management portfolio. It follows Bespoke Hotels recently revealing its plans for the year ahead, which includes the planned openings of Hotel Gotham Newcastle and Hotel Gotham Bristol, and the opening of Bailiffgate Hotel in Alnwick. The Green House Hotel is a 32-room grade-II Victorian villa in the heart of Bournemouth, while Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel offers 44 bedrooms and has a large indoor swimming pool, gym, tennis courts, courtyard and a day spa. Thomas Greenall, chief executive of Bespoke Hotels, said: “I'm thrilled to welcome two stunning properties to the Bespoke family. The hotels perfectly complement our commitment to providing exceptional hospitality and unforgettable experiences. We're confident that our proven track record of success, combined with the unique strengths of these properties, will create exceptional value for both guests and ownership.”
Public House Group confirms plans to reopen the Hero of Maida: Public House Group, the umbrella company from the team behind The Pelican in London’s Notting Hill, has confirmed it will reopen The Hero of Maida later this spring. As revealed earlier this year by Propel, Public House Group will reopen the pub, which is based in Maida Vale between Warwick Avenue and Little Venice, as The Hero. The duo behind Notting Hill's The Pelican and The Bull Charlbury, Phil Winser and James Gummer, are joined by Olivier van Themsche, who leads business and acquisitions for Public House Group, in reopening the four-storey space, which will comprise a pub, a grill room, a cocktail bar and a top-floor events area. Winser, who led the refurbishment, said the building has been respectfully restored. He added: “We're paying homage to the building by stripping it down to its original features and leaving them bare. The lights and staircase will serve as storytellers, narrating the history of this pub.” Last August, Propel revealed The Coach and the Hero of Maida had been acquired by a private investor in a deal believed to be valued at circa £9m. Both were previously owned by Harcourt Inns. Propel understands that the Public House Group is backed, in part, by investment management firm BNP Capital, and is in talks on a further site in the capital. Savills acted on the Maida Vale deal.
Bedfordshire Mexican street food concept launches franchise programme: Bedfordshire Mexican street food concept Sabrosa Tacos has launched a franchise programme as it looks to expand. The business was launched in 2020 by Hamim Ahmed and Nadira Miah and currently operates a single site, at 84 Old Bedford Road in Luton. Ahmed said the idea came to him while exploring different takeaway food during the pandemic and finding “barely any Mexican food spots (especially halal ones)”. He said: “We officially launched in January 2022 from our humble home kitchen and our trusty frying pan, but we weren't ready for what was to come. The demand was very high, and we were running out of tacos within one hour of being open. That’s when we knew we were on to something special. It wasn’t long before we moved into a ghost kitchen unit – this gave us the space and equipment needed to scale up. After a very successful year, it was time for a change. That leads us to our current home in Luton town centre, a fully-fledged casual dining restaurant, and the rest is history. Tacos is one thing, but birria style tacos is a whole different level. We’re one of the very few restaurants in the UK that serves birria (a slow cooked traditional stew) style tacos and we are the only place in the UK that serves halal birria tacos in four different styles. We’ve taken the concept from across the pond and tailored it to the UK food scene.” The company said it is “fully committed to growth” and is seeking “passionate individuals and companies” that “embody the Sabrosa spirit” – namely exceptional people skills, strong communication abilities, boundless ambition and leadership qualities.

Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company reports ‘significant’ progress in sustainability strategy: Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company (CMBC) has reported “significant” progress in its sustainability strategy, including a 10% reduction in absolute brewery carbon emissions. The company’s third environmental, social and governance report showed CMBC uses 22% less carbon than it did in 2015. Alongside CMBC’s efforts in environmental sustainability, the business has also improved diversity at the organisation – a key focus in 2023 – achieving the 2024 target of 30% women in senior leadership roles a full year early. Paul Davies, chief executive of CMBC, said: “As we work together towards net zero and beyond, the dedication of our teams and the partnerships we have formed across the industry play a vital part in delivering the important progress we’ve made up to now. From our breweries to our depots, customer service teams and head office colleagues, we all play our part to make CMBC a better business every day.”
The Celtic Collection set to open largest all-electric hotel in Wales: The Celtic Collection, which operates a number of hotels including Celtic Manor, is set to open the largest all-electric hotel in Wales. With 146 bedrooms, the £20m Tŷ Hotel Newport will be the only hotel in Wales with more than 100 rooms operating without any natural gas, and among only a select number of large hotels across the UK to run on all-electric energy. Opening on Friday, 31 May, the hotel will source its electricity from 100% renewable sources, with solar panels mounted on the hotel roof creating renewable electricity, contributing around 20% of the property’s overall power. The kitchen for the hotel’s Mediterranean-inspired Casa Restaurant will operate using energy-efficient electric ovens and induction hobs – the start of a major upgrade programme to decarbonise kitchens across The Celtic Collection as it works towards achieving net zero by 2050. Low energy LED lighting has also been installed, with passive infrared sensors to adjust lighting levels based on guest and staff use, while water saving devices include aerated shower heads and wash basin taps. The latest air source heat pump technology creates hot water, while all equipment is connected to an intelligent building management system that efficiently controls heat and cooling where and when required. As with all Celtic Collection hotels, zero waste is sent to landfill and all food waste is sent to create renewable energy, while outside the hotel, more than 1,200 trees and shrubs have been planted. The Celtic Collection’s vice-president of facilities and development, Russell Phillips, said: “We are delighted to be opening this landmark all-electric hotel and Tŷ Hotel Newport sets new standards for sustainable hospitality across The Celtic Collection and, we believe, for hotels in Wales. Tŷ Newport brings together a modern, sustainable construction design with energy efficient technologies, demonstrating our commitment to reducing our environmental impact.” The Celtic Collection also includes the five-star Resort Hotel, the historic Manor House, Coldra Court, the Newbridge on Usk country inn, Tŷ Hotel Magor, Parkgate Hotel and Tŷ Hotel Milford Waterfront. 

Pasture confirms May opening for Birmingham site: Steakhouse and late-night bar group Pasture has confirmed its new site in Birmingham will open next month. Pasture Birmingham, the group’s biggest site yet, will occupy 6,500 square feet across one floor of the former Barclays Bank building at 15 Colmore Row when it opens on Monday, 27 May. With existing restaurants in Bristol and Cardiff, the new venture is creating around 100 jobs. Chef-owner Sam Elliott also operates separate restaurants in Bristol and Cardiff, called Radius and Parallel, respectively. In late 2024, he will add Prime by Pasture – a butchery, deli, cookery school and burger joint in the Redcliffe Quarter of Bristol – to the estate. “Work is progressing really quickly now, which is hugely exciting,” he said. “This is our biggest restaurant to date, and when it’s finished, we’ll have seating for up to 40 people in our bar, and a further 180 covers in the main dining room. Guests will be surrounded by custom-built wine cabinets, an open kitchen to display our theatrical open-fire cooking, along with the biggest, glass-fronted dry-aging fridge of any restaurant in the UK. All of this will be complemented by the huge floor to ceiling windows that run across the front of the building with views over the bustling streets of Birmingham.” Elliott told Propel in September last year that Birmingham will complete his “Pasture triangle” and that he is not looking to build it into a chain.
Macaron shop brand Ladurée set to launch new cafe concept in London’s Notting Hill: Macaron shop brand Ladurée is set to launch a new cafe concept in London’s Notting Hill. The venue, at 216 Westbourne Grove, will be only the second Ladurée Café Concept site to open following its launch in Paris. Opening next month, it will offer signature macarons, coffees and even a coffee with a macaron on top, reports Hot Dinners. There will also be new patisserie and pastries and soft serve ice cream, while a terrace will provide outdoor seating. Ladurée currently has ten UK stores – eight in London plus one in each in Manchester and Bicester. Founded in France in 1862, Ladurée now has in excess of 100 boutique stores in more than 20 countries around the world. French businessman Stephane Courbit acquired a majority shareholding in the business in 2022 through Lov Group.

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