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Wed 12th Aug 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Trinity Kitchen and British Street Food Awards founder Richard Johnson to launch street food offer, seeks chief operating officer: Richard Johnson, founder of the British, European and USA Street Food Awards and the man behind Trinity Kitchen food court in Leeds and street food concepts at Euston station in London, is to launch a casual dining offer featuring the best traders, Propel understands. The concept, Vandal Kitchens, will unite the best street food traders from the Awards series and the “most original beverage vendors – in one place”. Traders will change seasonally, with the site designed on a “Glastonbury meets Borough Market vibe”. Johnson said he was progressing plans with a “growing list of landlords in repurposed retail space in key towns across the UK”. Johnson said: “After covid, people will want to continue supporting the best of their local food businesses and they will also want new casual, freewheeling dining opportunities in places that are less confined than a restaurant.” He said the concept would be a single-contact partner with landlords and councils to create, promote, lease and operate an “exciting food environment” in town centres and retail spaces. He said: "Trinity Kitchen opened five years ago and continues to increase trade year by year so we thought, ‘why don't we do it for ourselves?’ I’ve spent much of lock-down thinking about how we get this to the next level.” Johnson is looking for locations outside London – in student towns and cities with an “appreciation of independent culture, artisan coffee shops, a brewing/baking culture and male grooming set-ups”. He said the concept’s look would be modular, adaptable and based around hand-built wooden units and light boxes. His Street Food Awards have 1,200 UK traders on its app, with a database of more than 3,000. He said the concept would “think local” but wouldn’t rule out interesting concepts looking to expand and chains such as Pho and Tortilla, which really “got” Trinity Kitchen in the beginning. The concept would supervise the load-in/load-out every 12 weeks, liaise with in-house teams about utilities, cover paperwork and insurance, and walk the shop floor to test food quality. Successful traders would be moved into permanent spots. Johnson said: “That way, we own the whole ‘process’, from spotting the talent on the streets, raising it indoors and gravitating it into our bricks and mortar. We are an incubator for new talent.” Johnson said he was shortlisting partners for the launch, which would happen once covid restrictions were lifted. He is also looking for a chief operating officer. He added: “I have partnered with senior property and marketing professionals in founding the company and am now looking for a chief operating officer with a proven track record in successfully running a multi-site food and beverage or restaurant business. The right person will be prepared to work on an equity-only basis until our first site is up and running, estimate January or February 2021. The chief operating officer will be a main board partner and vital to the successful establishment and scaling of this business.” Anyone interested can email

Industry News:

McDonald’s legal battle about reputation and ethical standards, says BBC business editor: McDonald’s move to sue former chief executive Steve Easterbrook is more about reputation and ethical standards than misconduct, BBC business editor Simon Jack has said. McDonald’s is suing Easterbrook over severance pay-outs after alleging he hid details of three inappropriate relationships with employees when the company’s board fired him in November 2019 over a separate relationship. The company alleges that by lying to the board, Easterbrook led them to believe his firing could be considered “without cause”. The chain is suing to recover his pay-off, reportedly worth $40m (£35m). Jack wrote: “This isn’t really about the $40m – it’s about something much more important and current. Normally in cases like this, the board of directors is keen to move on as quickly as possible, say lessons have been learned and let the executive disappear into the sunset with a ton of cash. Actively pursuing a former executive through the courts is a departure from this boardroom norm. McDonald’s has clearly decided there’s a reputational win to be had. The wider corporate world is also under new pressure to adhere to higher ethical standards in relation to its employees, customers, society and the environment. The Easterbrook case is perhaps an example of it in action. Doubtless many chief executives have been comforted by historical precedent that if it all goes wrong, a golden parachute will be there to ease their fall from grace. It will be interesting to see whether McDonald’s has helped set a new benchmark for corporate pay-offs.” 

Derwent London chief executive – the office is ‘far from dead’: Paul Williams, chief executive of property developer Derwent London, has branded the office “far from dead” as he outlined expectations for more people returning to the workplace. Williams told the Evening Standard occupation levels across his firm’s London office blocks was about 15%. He predicts that figure will rise to 50% by the end of the year before improving further in 2021. Williams expects some home working to continue, but added: “Companies still need to bring staff together for the collaboration social interaction brings, to build culture, attract and retain talent, and to have a physical embodiment of their brand. There’s no substitute for building relationships with colleagues and clients in person.” However, he also said: “We expect rising unemployment and business closures will see the London office vacancy rate rise which, in turn, may put pressure on office rent. However, we believe our better-quality lower-rise space in West End and Tech Belt mixed-use locations, which attract a broader spread of occupiers, will be relatively resilient.”

NHS Grampian – ‘all licensed premises in Aberdeen’ affected by covid outbreak: All licensed premises in Aberdeen are likely to have been affected by the city’s coronavirus outbreak, NHS Grampian has said. The health board gave an update on the covid-19 outbreak in the city, announcing the number of cases linked to the cluster now stood at 165. NHS Grampian said it had identified 875 contacts but, because of overlap, that figure didn’t represent 875 individuals. In the past 24 hours, 27 new coronavirus cases have been detected in Grampian, although it isn’t currently known how many of them are linked to the cluster. Dr Emmanuel Okpo, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Grampian, said it was now assumed “all licensed premises in Aberdeen” were likely to have been affected in some way. He said: “It is clear from our investigations to date that a lack of physical distancing has been the significant factor in the spread of these cases. While pubs and restaurants have guidelines to support physical distancing, it is also the responsibility of each one of us to keep our distance. We now consider all licensed premises in Aberdeen are likely to have been affected in some way. This is because physical distancing – or lack of it – has come up repeatedly in our investigation. I would stress again we must all take personal responsibility for physical distancing.” Okpo added there were no hospital admissions related to the cluster to date. Aberdeen faces tighter lock-down restrictions due to the outbreak, which has been linked to more than 25 bars and restaurants. All hospitality venues in the city were forced to close again last week.

Haven extends holiday season until end of November for first time: Holiday park company Haven, owned by Bourne Leisure, has extended its 2020 season until the end of November for the first time in its history in response to the pandemic. The “Haven Hideaway” package will be available at 16 parks until 30 November, offering holidaymakers an additional four weeks in which to enjoy a break. Gerard Tempest, director of guest and proposition at Haven, said: “With a number of travel restrictions in place and previous closures to holiday parks throughout the UK, there are many guests who weren’t able to enjoy the holiday they had previously planned for 2020. We hope by extending our season we’ll be able to allow more people a chance to get a break by the coast.” Tempest added sales for 2020 and 2021 had been “strong across all regions” since the scheme launched in May. “Because of this, we know holidaymakers are still looking for the chance to safely get away during the pandemic and want to be able to provide that for as many people as possible,” said Tempest.

Call for extension of Westminster street closures to maximise Eat Out To Help Out effect: Westminster City Council has been urged to extend current street closures to include Mondays and Tuesdays to maximise the effect of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Westminster & City of London Liberal Democrats said it welcomed the council-enforced street closures to help the City’s businesses recover from lock-down but hoped the council might be “bolder” in closing streets so businesses had “every opportunity to trade and for people to feel safe in uncrowded open-air spaces”. The group stated: “While some of the designated streets are closed to traffic seven days a week, others aren’t. Restaurants have reported Eat Out To Help Out has been successful but would be even more so if their streets were also closed on Monday and Tuesday. There are just nine more trading days of the national campaign. The vibe created by the road closures has lifted spirits and is giving our hospitality sector a much-needed boost. Now is the time to capitalise on the effectiveness of Eat Out To Help Out and close all designated roads throughout Westminster on the remaining Mondays and Tuesdays in August. The clock is ticking on this great opportunity and every day of not closing streets represents a lost opportunity to our beleaguered hospitality sector.” Propel contacted Westminster City Council for comment.

Birmingham eyes alfresco drinking and dining space: Proposals to close a key road in Birmingham to create a temporary alfresco dining and drinking space have moved closer to success. Southside Business Improvement District (BID) and Colmore BID previously said red tape was hampering efforts by the hospitality industry to bounce back from lock-down. However, following a meeting between Southside BID and Birmingham City Council the move to close Hurst Street to allow hospitality businesses to maximise space with tables and chairs has moved closer. Colmore BID chairman Nicola Fleet-Milne told The Business Desk: “Until now, the local authority and licensing departments have made it impossible for the proposed scheme to be effective for businesses in the area. Hundreds of jobs are being put on the line because of declining footfall and diminishing capacity within venues. However, the scheme is now having the discussion it deserves and we hope Southside gets the result it wants. Derby, Nottingham and Liverpool, among others, have been quick to implement outdoor seating schemes.”

OAPA opens applications for nationwide relationship manager role: Only A Pavement Away (OAPA), the industry charity that supports the homeless, ex-offenders and veterans with jobs in hospitality, has opened applications for a nationwide relationship manager role, funded by national homeless charity Crisis. The position, primarily based in London, will see the successful applicant support more than 100 homeless OAPA members into careers in the hospitality industry – a first for an industry charity. Working closely alongside charity partners such as Crisis, St Mungo’s, The House of St Barnabas, Centrepoint and Walking With The Wounded, the relationship manager will serve as a conduit between charities and hospitality employers with day-to-day responsibilities including overseeing job applications, managing the OAPA Jobs Board and attending meetings with prospective hospitality employers, charities and associations. The successful applicant must possess strong communication and presentation skills and be able to commit to occasional evening and weekend work. Candidates have until Wednesday, 19 August to email a cover letter and CV to OAPA founder Greg Mangham at Interviews will take place on Friday, 28 August.

Company News:

Dominic Paul – growth opportunity for Domino’s stronger than before covid, franchisee relationship breakdown ‘emotional as well as economic’: Dominic Paul, the new chief executive of Domino’s Pizza Group, has argued the strength of the brand means the growth opportunity for the business is now stronger than it was before the coronavirus crisis. Paul, the former Costa Coffee managing director who joined Domino’s in May, also told analysts during a presentation of the company’s first-half results the breakdown in the relationship between the company and its franchisees was “emotional as well as economic”. He said the company was working on a multi-year plan that would benefit franchisees as well as shareholders and was working to rebuild trust with its operating partners, although he acknowledged that would take time. Paul said: “We have a world-class brand with experienced franchisees and an exceptional supply chain. The business has a dynamic and responsive model and the coronavirus crisis has shown when we worked together we can win and that has resulted in record customer satisfaction levels. We have certainly taken market share during this crisis and I believe the business has significant growth potential. In fact, the opportunity is probably stronger now. We think some interesting location opportunities will become available as a result of other operators shedding sites. The trend of delivery was always growing but has accelerated and we are in a great position to take advantage of that.” Paul argued the franchise model meant some inherent tension was always present but said the company was working hard to rebuild trust. He said he had held virtual meetings with almost all the company’s franchisees and was now getting out and about to meet them in person as lock-down restrictions lifted. “I learned a few important lessons from my time at Costa including about being open with communications,” he said. “Helping support our franchisees is really important and is one of the reasons we invested £3.4m on personal protective equipment, Perspex screens and other measures to allow them to continue trading. One of the first steps in rebuilding the relationship has been working together closely during the crisis and I think we have done that really effectively. We believe the multi-year plan we’re putting together will help our franchisees grow their businesses as well as their profits over time.” The company said franchisee store average Ebitda had increased to £85,000 in the first half compared with £69,000 the previous year, while Ebitda margin was at 16% compared with 13% the year before. Paul said trading for the first few weeks of the second half of the year had been “encouraging” but the company refused to reveal further details. The vast majority of stores have now reopened for collection after the service was suspended during lock-down and collection sales are now in excess of 50% of last year’s level. He added the group’s 36 corporate stores in London were being used to test different operational procedures and the role they would play in the growth of the business was still being determined. The company expects to open about 11 sites in total a year. Domino’s has also been testing a vegan pizza and, following “encouraging” results, plans to roll it out later this year. The company earlier reported a “resilient” first half, with UK like-for-like sales up 4.8% in the 26 weeks ended 28 June.

Rosa’s Thai Café gears up for two new openings in London: TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Café is to add two sites to its London estate, with openings in Queensway and Waterloo. Propel understands the 19-strong group will open a venue on the former site of an Italian restaurant in Queensway as part of the West Walk Estate next month. The Gavin Adair-led business will follow this with an opening in The Cut, Waterloo, in October. The company has so far reopened 14 of its restaurants for dine in after keeping several reopen in the capital for delivery and collection during lock-down. Demand during the period is understood to have been “extraordinary”. Rosa’s will reopen its Bluewater site on Thursday (13 August). Meanwhile the company has opened two delivery kitchen sites with Deliveroo, in Blackwell and Crouch End. It also has a site lined up at the new Paradise development in Birmingham alongside Dishoom and Vinoteca. Saiphin and Alex Moore opened the first permanent Rosa’s Thai Cafe in London in 2008. Thomas Rose, of P-Three, acts for Rosa’s.

Russell Norman steps down as director of Polpo: Russell Norman has stepped down as director of Polpo, the restaurant business he founded in Soho in 2009 with business partner Richard Beatty. Norman’s directorship of Polpo has been terminated on Companies House. Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg, who first flagged up the news, tweeted: “Norman will only say, ‘things change’. I can't reach his business partner Richard Beatty for comment.” The business underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) last year. Propel had exclusively revealed the business was seeking a CVA and would sell two loss-making central London sites as it faced a £500,000 tax bill and a deteriorating trading position. Earlier this year, Propel revealed the business had placed two of its sites in the capital, in Farringdon and Covent Garden, on the market through property adviser CDG Leisure. At the same time it closed its remaining regional site, in Brighton. Last year the company put its Polpetto site in Soho’s Berwick Street and eponymous restaurant in Notting Hill Gate up for sale, with the former taken over by all-day concept The Breakfast Club. The company recently reopened its site in Chelsea and also still has its original site in Beak Street, Soho. Polpo was a ground-breaking concept when it launched in Soho in 2009. Its design and food and drinks offer had been finely honed by Norman, who had spent significant time in New York and Venice. His creation fused the scruffy bars he frequented in Manhattan’s Lower East Side with the food and wine he enjoyed in the back-street bacaris of Venice.

Itsu to start reopening train station sites: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, is to start reopening some of its sites in railway stations. The company, which is currently undergoing a company voluntary arrangement, will reopen five of its stores on Friday (14 August) – Euston, Victoria station, Islington, Reading and Victoria Street. Itsu is also giving away 75,000 gifts to customers, including its coveted pink card, which entitles the owner to 50% off everything for three months – the same length of time stores were closed during lock-down. As well as the pink cards, the brand will give out gifts such as sushi boxes and refill flasks. Itsu has also unveiled nine new menu items including vegetarian meatballs and coconut pot “soup” and a low-carb Japanese sushi salad. Metcalfe said: “It was heart-breaking for us to close in March so the fact we’re reopening our doors makes me well-up with gratitude. I wanted to celebrate this big moment by giving back to our returning customers.” As part of Itsu’s enhanced hygiene measures, all surfaces are cleaned with disinfectant every 20 minutes with hand sanitiser available and face shields worn by all team members. Customers are also asked to pay by card or contactless methods where possible. Since March, Itsu has donated meals to NHS hospital staff more than £80,000.  

Comptoir Group announces CFO departure: Comptoir Group, the owner and operator of Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean restaurants, has announced chief financial officer Mark Carrick has handed in his resignation. Carrick will remain in his role until 10 November “to ensure an orderly handover of his role and responsibilities”. Comptoir said it has begun a process to identify a successor and a further announcement would be made in due course.

Tattu appoints Gemma Peel as finance director: Contemporary Chinese restaurant group Tattu has appointed Gemma Peel as finance director, Propel has learned. Peel joins four-strong Tattu after stepping down as finance director of Palatine Private Equity-backed Gusto earlier this summer. She joined Gusto in July 2015 after 13 years with Lime Pictures. Before that she was an operations accountant at McDonald’s. Brothers Adam and Drew Jones opened the first Tattu restaurant in Manchester in 2015, with sites following in Leeds in 2017 and Birmingham and Edinburgh in 2019. Last year the company began working with adviser Clearwater International to map plans for growth, including bringing in a strategic partner to help it with expansion in the UK and overseas, with the US a possible destination. Earlier this summer Gusto appointed Frank Bandura, formerly of Carluccio’s and Gaucho, as chief financial officer. It has been working with restructuring advisory firm RSM on an accelerated sales process. It’s thought the 18-strong business will have to undergo some form of restructuring, whether it receives an appropriate investment offer or not.

Haidilao to open fourth UK site and first outside London, in Birmingham: Haidilao, China’s largest hot pot restaurant chain, is to open its fourth UK site and first outside London. The company has agreed a deal with Hammerson to open the venue at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham. The 8,073 square foot restaurant will join Mitchells & Butlers brand Brown’s and Wagamama, which is owned by The Restaurant Group, in St Martin’s Square when it launches in early 2021. Founded in 1994 in China’s Sichuan province, Haidilao has more than 750 restaurants globally including in China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, the US, Canada and Australia as well as the UK. The new restaurant will include traditional hot pots at every table, with customers able to choose from the brand’s soups as well as cook their choice of meat, vegetables and noodles in the Chinese tradition. A Haidilao spokesman said: “As the UK’s second city, and one with a large multi-cultural population, Birmingham is the ideal location for our first restaurant outside London. In our national expansion plans, the Bullring provides us with the high footfall, strong reputation and central position we seek.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Hammerson, added: “Bullring and Grand Central remains one of the nation’s leading retail and leisure destinations and the fact a global brand such as Haidilao has chosen the centre for its first restaurant outside London demonstrates that. Restaurants and bars are having a tough time at the moment but today’s announcement shows, with the right brand in the right location, there’s still scope for growth.”

Out Of The Woods Group placed into administration: Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, which operates four pubs in London, has been placed into administration, Propel has learned. Chris Farrington and Simon Jagger, of ReSolve Advisory, have been appointed joint administrators of the group’s four subsidiary companies – Woodys Inns, Hillmaster, Willow Inns (UK), and Forest Inns (UK). In July, Propel revealed founder Jasper Gorst had left the business. Gorst opened The Oak W2 in Notting Hill in 2001 followed by The Bird In Hand in Brook Green in 2011 and The Oak W12 in Goldhawk Road two years later. Last year he opened The Oak SW11 in Battersea having transformed the former Butcher & Grill in Parkgate Road. All four sites are currently closed.

Drink Eat Sleep secures funding to reopen pubs: Derbyshire-based hospitality business Drink Eat Sleep has landed funding from Barclays through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to open its pubs again. The Drink Eat Sleep estate consists of three pubs, including the Ladybower Inn in Hope Valley. Despite being fully booked up on Mother’s Day, with more than 1,200 bookings across the three sites, the business was forced to close and missed out on trading on its busiest day of the year. Since then, the sites have remained closed for three months because of their remote locations. Shaun White, director of Drink Eat Sleep, applied for funding from Barclays through the government-backed Bounce Back Loan scheme, which helped ease the pressure on cash flow and allowed the business to retain all 55 staff. White said: “While we’ve lost 25% to 30% of our capacity, the key is to make our customers feel safe. I think it will be a slow start but with a decent summer we should be in a good position – and our rooms are already fully booked.”

Leeds-based bar operator APN Group goes into administration: Leeds-based APN Group, which operates three bars – Viaduct Showbar, Fibre and Mission – in the city centre, has gone into administration. The company has appointed Darren Brookes and Molly Monks, of Milner Boardman & Partners, as joint administrators. APN Group’s website states Fibre is the company’s flagship bar and has been “independent for 18 years”, while Viaduct Showbar is the UK’s “leading drag cabaret venue with a recent £1m refurbishment”. Mission is branded as a “super club with a 15-year history”. APN Group is the brainchild of entrepreneur Terry George. The Yorkshire businessman recently set up 168 Briggate – which is the address for Fibre – suggesting this vehicle may acquire at least that venue, The Business Desk reports. APN Group’s website also states the company operates hotels and apartments, media services, and property and facility management services.

Zero-waste restaurant Silo to pivot as wine bar until social distancing eases: Zero-waste restaurant Silo is to pivot into a wine bar at its home in Crate Brewery’s The White Building in Hackney Wick, east London, until social distancing guidelines ease to allow the restaurant to reopen fully. Silo X Wine Bar will launch on Thursday, 20 August featuring a new zero-waste menu and drinks offering designed to complement the reconfigured space. The menu by Silo founder Douglas McMaster will feature small plates and snacks alongside more substantial dishes such as grilled cuttlefish kebab with umami dipping sauce. The drinks list will focus on minimum intervention wine from small producers alongside Crate beer and a new cocktail list created by long-time collaborator Ryan Chetiyawardana. Silo wine bar will initially open in the evening from Thursday to Saturday and for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. McMaster said: “Silo wine bar is the perfect way for us to invite back guests and regulars and will help us segue towards reopening the restaurant towards the end of the year.” Silo moved from Brighton to London in November 2019 to join CRATE in its Hackney Wick home. Crate and Silo said they would continue to develop a sustainable system throughout The White Building, including workshops, events and plans for a weekend market. Earlier this week Chetiyawardana and McMaster said they wouldn’t reopen their Hoxton venue, Cub, although they plan to continue the brand through pop-ups and events.

Bookmaker Fitzdares to open permanent private members’ club in London: Bookmaker Fitzdares is to open a permanent private members’ club in London next month. Following a number of pop-ups, the venue will launch on Tuesday, 1 September in Mayfair as somewhere for members to “watch live sport in comfort and luxury”. Davies Street has been chosen as the location of the club as it is the “spiritual home of bookmakers” and where Fitzdares was founded. Spread over two floors, the venue will feature a restaurant, bar, two private dining rooms and a dedicated racing room screening sport daily alongside a weekly schedule of previews and talks by sports stars and pundits. The Fitzdares Club menu will offer dishes such as bresse chicken and truffle dippers, burgers made from rump and bone marrow, and lobster croissants. Discreet headphones will be available so diners can continue listening to sports commentary. The drinks list will include wine and locally brewed Fitzdares ale. Fitzdares chief executive William Woodhams said: “While most bookies are closing their doors or going online, we believe the future of bookmaking isn’t algorithms or bombarding customers with mass advertising, it’s the connection between the bookmaker and sports fan that really counts.”

Tipjar launches £300,000 fund-raise for expansion: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to grow. As revealed by Propel last month, founder James Brown, who is retail director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, and Rosa’s Thai Café co-founder Alex Moore, who invested in Tipjar a year ago, aim to engage with a number of fintech and hospitality industry investors directly. Tipjar is offering 6.25% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £4.5m. The pitch states: “Tipjar provides a solution for guests to tip workers in less than eight seconds via their phones, with no app required. Tipjar set out to solve three problems – tipped workers are earning less each year as cash transactions reduce; businesses are struggling under the administration burden, tax compliance and levels of transparency needed to manage tips; and consumer confidence in tipping is at an all-time low. We’ve used tech to allow customers to tip staff directly. This transparency gives consumers confidence the money goes to who it was intended. By facilitating the direct payment of tips between customers and staff, we remove the business from the equation, removing its liabilities, the burden of complying with tax legislation and reducing the cost of running a compliant tronc system. We’ve estimated the global tipping market to be worth $100bn per year. Tipjar is the world’s first multi-currency, scalable solution, which allows us to quickly solve this problem in multiple countries around the world. We’ve already appointed a chief executive in the US with the aim of having live clients by November and have plans to expand across the EU and Australia.” 

Administrators place three hotels previously operated by Shepherd Cox on the market: Three hotels formerly owned and operated by Shepherd Cox Group have been placed on the market by its administrators. Harrisons Business Recovery has instructed Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) to sell the New Hobbit Country Inn in Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax; Allerton Court Hotel in Northallerton and Hallgarth The Manor Hotel near Durham. Three-star Allerton Court Hotel, which comprises 44 en-suite bedrooms, two restaurants, a 120-cover bar and 240-capacity function room, has an annual net turnover of £1,239,858. The 16th century Hallgarth The Manor, which recently underwent a £2m refurbishment, offers 24 en-suite bedrooms, three restaurants totalling more than 140 covers, a bar and residents’ lounge, and a 240-capacity function room set in a four-acre country estate. It has an annual net turnover of £954,611. The New Hobbit has 30 en-suite bedrooms, a bar and restaurants totalling about 60 covers and a 120-capacity function room. The hotel has an annual net turnover of £747,009. Martin Davis, director of hotels and leisure at LSH, said: “All three of these hotels have been trading under the Best Western brand and are extremely well located.” Offers are invited for the hotels individually or as a group and should be submitted to Davis and Hugh Anderson, of LSH, by no later than midday on Friday, 4 September.

Edinburgh-based Mimi’s Bakehouse to open fifth site in city: Edinburgh-based baker Mimi’s Bakehouse is set to open its fifth site in the city, in a castle. The company is scheduled to take over the on-site cafe in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. Mimi’s Bakehouse is a family-run business with its other sites in Corstorphine, Leith, Royal Mile and Edinburgh’s arts centre. All sites offer socially distanced dine-in and a delivery service across the city. The brand’s menu includes breakfast, sandwiches, soup, pies and hot drinks alongside wine and cocktails. Lauriston Castle, near Cramond, has huge grounds to explore with views across the Firth of Forth, making it a popular destination for woodland walks in the city. The castle grounds are free to explore by foot and bicycle, Edinburgh Live reports. 

Crockers doubles up with Henley launch: British seasonal food brand Crockers has started expansion by opening a second site, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Founder Luke Garnsworthy has launched the venue at the former Loch Fyne restaurant in Market Place, which closed in May 2018 after almost two decades in the town. Crockers Henley was supposed to open in early April but has been operating a casual takeaway service as an introduction to the community during lock-down. The venue features two 16-seat chef’s tables – The Thames Table and The Gardiner Table – a bar and grill, and seven rooms in The Quarters. Each chef’s table has its own head chef, with guests able to watch them create dishes. The Thames Table serves a seasonal British tasting menu, while The Gardener Table offers a pan-Asian tasting experience. Both offer a seven-course lunch and 12-course dinner. The Grill offers a “more relaxed approach to drinking and dining”. Garnsworthy opened the debut Crockers in Tring in spring 2018. He said: “Crockers was founded on the dream of changing the way the hospitality industry works. Set menus, limited numbers and pre- bookings mean time management is easier, offering staff a better work-life balance. The chef’s table model also brings chefs out of the dark and often windowless kitchens into the front row. Interaction and experience is key to delivering the Crockers signature style of dining.”

Events company to launch £1.2m music, arts and entertainment venue at Hull Marina this week: Yorkshire-based Sesh Events UK is to launch £1.2m music, arts and entertainment venue Social at Hull Marina on Friday (14 August). The venue, formerly known as Fruit, will initially open as an arts cafe bar, with the aim to gradually introduce a programme of entertainment and events including live music, visual performance, comedy, theatre and film when live performance restrictions ease. The venue features a purpose-built performance space with green room, box office and bar. Sesh Events UK runs the annual Humber Street Sesh grass-roots festival and weekly music nights Made In Hull and Trinity Live. Mark Page, of Sesh Events UK, told The Business Desk: “The venue opens around the time Humber Street Sesh Festival should have been taking place. Sadly, we can’t deliver a festival this year but we have put our creative energy and love into Social, which we believe will be the beating heart of Humber Street.” Hull’s live events industry was hit last month by the closure of The Welly and Polar Bear music venues.

Victor Garvey launches premium at-home dining service from Soho restaurant SOLA: Chef patron Victor Garvey has launched a premium at-home dining service from SOLA, his modern Californian fine dining restaurant in Soho. Bento by SOLA is available from Tuesday to Saturday via on-demand ordering platform Slerp. As in the restaurant, diners are offered a five-course fixed-price menu or a ten-course tasting menu. The meals are served in fully recyclable bento boxes and designed to be eaten with no additional heating or finishing. Dishes include torched mackerel with kohlrabi, and squab pigeon with white peach, togarashi jus and roasted sand carrot. There is also an optional pairing from SOLA’s all-American wine list, served in 100ml bottles. Garvey said: “We know some people aren’t ready to return to our – or any – restaurant yet so with Bento by SOLA we’re taking the restaurant to them.” SOLA reopened in Dean Street last month. Garvey launched the concept in November 2019 as a replacement for his Catalan restaurant Rambla. SOLA is a combination of Soho and Los Angeles.

Freehold riverside pub near Glastonbury brought to market for £950,000: The Sheppey Inn in Lower Godney, near Glastonbury, Somerset, has been put on the market for an asking price of £950,000. The freehold inn and restaurant features a 150-cover riverside beer garden and terrace, linked trade areas with vaulted dining seating for 180 people, and three boutique-style letting rooms. The business sits in a 17th century former cider house, which occupies a two-storey building. The pub has a reputation for craft beer, local cider and live jazz and folk music. The venue offers modern British food plus an indoor wood-fired barbecue, the sales of which make up about 60% of the business’s trade. The inn has been owned by Mark Hey since 2010 and has undergone major refurbishments, including a full reroofing, the addition of underfloor heating and a vaulted roof in the barn. Hey, who has developed a significant social media presence for the pub including almost 10,000 Facebook followers, has decided to relocate to Portugal. Nicholas Calfe, director of Pubs at Christie & Co, who is handling the sale, said: “The Sheppey Inn is a hidden gem and people travel far and wide to experience its quirkiness.”

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