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Thu 13th May 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

ETM Group co-founder and senior management team to launch new leisure venture: Ed Martin, co-owner of ETM Group, which operates 13 premium bars, pubs and restaurants in central London, has joined forces with two of his senior management team to form a new bar venture, Propel has learned. Martin has teamed up with ETM Group chief financial officer Landen Prescott Brann and non-executive chairman Graham Turner to launch Maven Leisure. It is aiming to raise £4.3m on Growthdeck to support the venture. Propel understands Maven’s founders are negotiating terms for a number of potential sites in central London, including a flagship rooftop bar that they hope to open in early 2022. The business is thought to be planning to open a second and third site in 2022 and add another four venues by February 2024. Maven aims to utilise three operating models for its estate of bars and restaurants, all of which have previously been proven by the founders. The first is rooftop bar concept comprising an all-day premium indoor bar and restaurant space combined with external terraces providing city views. Menus for the rooftop bars will provide all day dining in the form of small plates, which convert to larger events menus for corporate parties. The second format is a brew and sports pub with an in-house brewery delivering unpasteurised, fresh beer direct to the pumps combined with the screening of major sports events. The third model is a premium sports bar with a full drinks menu including beer, cider, spirits and cocktails with food focused on classic sports menu dishes cooked to order. Growthdeck has agreed an investment structure with Maven comprising £2.3m of Enterprise Investment Scheme qualifying equity for a 30% shareholding and £2m mezzanine debt. The mezzanine debt, which is expected to be drawn down in two tranches in July 2021 and January 2022, attracts interest at 10% per annum when drawn and a 1% non-utilisation fee pending drawdown (both paid quarterly in arrears), an equity kicker of 5% and scheduled repayment date of April 2025. It will be secured by a debenture on group assets. Martin founded ETM Group with brother Tom in 2003. Brann joined the business in 2016 from Itsu where he had spent four years helping to grow the business from 30 to 70 sites. Turner is former chairman of Channel Islands brewer and retailer The Liberation Group and also ex-chief executive of both Casual Dining Group and The Unique Pub Company. He is also currently non-executive chairman of Mexican brand Barburrito and Sessions Market, the food hall concept backed by Imbiba and led by former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne, as well as a non-executive director of Danish bakery business Ole & Steen.

Industry News:

Food-led business dominate new entries on updated Propel Premium multi-site database this month: Food-led businesses are dominating the make-up of the new companies being added to the Propel Premium multi-site database in May. The updated database, which has the most comprehensive multi-site operator information in the sector, will include a minimum of 60 new companies when it is released on Friday, 28 May, at midday. New additions with a food-led bias include Milan-based vegan burger brand Flower Burger, Burmese restaurant concept Lahpet, Manchester-based fried chicken street food vendor South Manny Flavaz and Spanish tapas restaurant Fino Tapas. Available only to subscribers, the exhaustive database was most recently sent at the end of April and included the details of 1,717 companies. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different, and what each business specialises in. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to a second exclusive monthly database, The Propel Blue Book. This database will provide an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. It will be available on Friday, 4 June, at midday. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Calorie labelling on food to be mandatory for large hospitality businesses from April 2022: The government has confirmed it will bring in mandatory calorie labelling on food for large hospitality businesses from April 2022. The Department of Health has announced legislation will be brought forward to force all “out-of-home food businesses” with more than 250 staff to display calorie information for all non-pre-packed food and soft drink items. All calorie information will need to be displayed on menus or at the “point of choice” for the customer. The new law is set to face backlash from operators, with UKHospitality warning it was “the last thing” businesses need. Public health minister Jo Churchill said the implementation of the calorie labelling law, first announced last year along with a suite of other anti-obesity measures, would “make it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices”. Other measures to be rolled out are bans on junk food adverts before 9pm and supermarket two-for-one deals. The Regulatory Policy Committee said the compulsory calorie labels will cost British companies up to £2.2bn over the next 25 years. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The majority of operators are in survival mode and their recovery will take many, many months, so creating additional burdens is hugely unhelpful. Hospitality businesses share the government’s objectives in tackling obesity and improving public health, but at a time of huge economic uncertainty these new rules must strike a balance and be proportionate.”

Three quarters of night-time venues facing bankruptcy without covid rent solution, NTIA warns government: Three quarters (75%) of night-time venues are facing bankruptcy without a solution to the £2.5bn rent crisis, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has warned the government. The trade body has written to Downing Street to demand ministers step in immediately to help alleviate the issue. The letter also includes results from a survey that showed the precarious situation for the night-time industry. It found 93% of commercial tenants have already encountered substantial job losses, while 80% of those surveyed continue to experience unproductive discussions with their landlords. The letter, in which the NTIA expressed frustration over “the short-term reprieve” from evictions that is set to expire next month, stated: “Large swathes of the nightlife sector have been closed since March 2020 with no meaningful opportunity to open and trade. As a result, businesses have been unable to pay rental arrears, through no fault of their own, and have accrued considerable debts. While the government put in place a moratorium on evictions in March 2020, this is due to expire on 30 June, and the prospect of repaying these debts, for most in the sector, is largely unattainable.” A “shared burden” is one possible solution to the crisis that has been put forward by the NTIA, which would see tenants, landlords and the government contribute towards rental arrears to avoid mass evictions and “a race-to-the-bottom among prospective landlords for the leasing of premises, alongside an extension of protections to allow businesses to regenerate”. Rekom UK chief executive Peter Marks said: “We have always recognised landlords are victims alongside us operators in the covid world, but to have full reparations even over time would shift all the cost on to beleaguered operators, many of whom would simply not survive, rendering any public money spent on support wasted.” Tokyo Industries chief executive Aaron Mellor added: “While, of course, we understand the public health reasons why, we cannot be expected to take the full rent burden alone while receiving no income. Mandatory 50% rent waivers for the affected period are needed. Codes of conduct do not work with institutional landlords.” 

Reilley – probably the most long-lasting legacy the impact of covid will have on hospitality is recruitment: The most long-lasting legacy the impact of covid will have on hospitality is recruitment, Alex Reilley, chairman of cafe bar operator Loungers, has warned. He said the sector urgently needs a “government-led plan or we’re going to face a severe and inevitable labour crisis”. Reilley said: “People already in hospitality or those considering hospitality as a potential career will look at how easily the sector was closed down by the government and, understandably, worry about the potential for future lockdowns and therefore long-term job security. In addition, due to the pandemic (and Brexit), there’s been an acceleration in EU nationals who worked in hospitality returning to the EU, who are not now coming back to the UK. Next Monday will see the next stage in the long road to recovery for hospitality. Next, we need to see the government deliver on its aspiration of dropping all social distancing measures on 21 June – only then is the sector in a position to properly stand on its own two feet. However, well beyond a return to trading normality I fear the effects of the pandemic on recruitment will be acutely felt. We urgently need a government-led plan or we’re going to face a severe and inevitable labour crisis.” Andy Dempster, operations director at the Romet Group, which operates Italian restaurant concept Figo, tweeted: “We’ve lost 35% of our workforce as they’ve enjoyed furlough and not returning, or being offered silly money by desperate competitors. There’s no way hospitality is bouncing back Monday – we will not be able to facilitate the business.”

Hospitality and leisure SMEs anticipating 21% increase in revenue this quarter as restrictions continue to ease: Hospitality and leisure small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are anticipating a 21% increase in revenue in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the first quarter as restrictions continue to ease, according to new research. The Barclaycard Payments SME barometer showed hospitality and leisure SMEs saw the number of payments processed up 105% in the last week of April, compared with the first week, following the reopening of outdoor hospitality. Restaurants, pubs and bars expect to be busy, with more than a quarter (29%) of hospitality and leisure SMEs anticipating high demand between now and 21 June. Hospitality and leisure venues taking reservations are currently booked at half (49%) of their capacity, with more than a third (35%) expecting customers will need to book at least five days in advance to secure a reservation for mid-June. Hospitality and leisure SMEs are also looking at ways to increase revenues after a difficult year, including increasing prices (21%) and investing in improving outdoor spaces (16%). Looking ahead, SMEs are forecasting an 18% increase in revenues a year from now, with the hospitality and leisure sector expecting a 42% boost. Overall, 85% of SMEs are planning to invest during the next 12 months by adding staff, new equipment or technology, and ramping up their marketing. Business sentiment stands at 110 points out of a possible 200. This is up from a low of just 79 points in the second quarter of 2020, and means SMEs are back to the same pre-pandemic sentiment levels last seen in February 2020.

UKHospitality Cymru welcomes clarity on rule of six and extra financial backing: UKHospitality Cymru has welcomed the news that six people from different households will be allowed to drink and dine at pubs and restaurants in Wales from Monday (17 May). The sector had long been waiting for clarity on rules as the reopening of indoor hospitality approached. The trade body also welcomed the announcement of extra financial help from the government but added more would be needed as the industry emerges from hibernation. UKHospitality Cymru executive director David Chapman said: “We are delighted the Welsh government has listened to our members’ strong feedback that six adults per table from different households was vital if they were to start climbing back towards profitability upon reopening. Any and all support is vital and very welcome, a case we have been repeating in discussions with Welsh government since the last tranche of finance ran out more than a month ago. The support rightly recognises the industry’s continued plight but it will need further, extended help to enable employers to protect jobs while sub-viable trading continues under necessary but limiting restrictions.”
 
UKHospitality Scotland says easing of restrictions is ‘much-needed psychological boost’: UKHospitality Scotland has welcomed the government’s confirmation to ease restrictions on 17 May as a “much-needed psychological boost”. The Scottish government has said all mainland local authority areas with the exception of Moray, which is experiencing increasing numbers of covid cases, would move down to Level 2, while the islands would be placed into Level 1. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “The easing of restrictions provides a much-needed psychological boost and promises some economic respite for businesses that have experienced 14 months of severely disrupted trading. Getting to Level 0 and then beyond that as quickly as possible is absolutely critical. Only then will venues begin to operate in economically viable conditions. Even after all restrictions have been lifted, hospitality will still be in a very fragile state and continued government support will be vital in ensuring the sector’s full recovery and in enabling businesses to play their full role in Scotland’s economic and social renewal.”
 
UK hotels in stronger position to recover than European countries, London occupancy levels highest since October: The UK hotel market is in a stronger position than neighbouring European countries for future bookings, according to hospitality data research company STR. The company said improved on-the-books occupancy in the UK was due to the upcoming reopening date of 17 May and the success of the vaccine rollout. Meanwhile, its preliminary data for April showed occupancy levels at London hotels at their highest since October 2020. STR also found the average daily rate (ADR) and revpar were at their highest in the capital since December last year. STR’s data for April shows rates for occupancy at 28.6%, ADR at £67.13 and RevPar at £19.23 in London. 
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to experienced finance directors to join a London-based quick service restaurant business. The finance director will work closely with operations to rectify financial issues and provide weekly analytics on the accounts, identify problem areas, sales reconciliations, and manage accounts and payment runs. Additionally, the finance director will work with the leadership team to identify growth areas, manage project and growth plan performance, and work with current and future investors. The ideal finance director will have fast casual, franchise or grab-and-go restaurant experience and be ACCA, ACA or CIMA-qualified. Anyone interested can email Oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Wendy’s evaluating more than 20 potential franchisees in UK: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has said the company is evaluating more than 20 potential franchisees in the UK. Chief executive said the company remains on track to open the first UK site, on its return here, in Reading on Wednesday, 2 June, which will be operated by the company. Earlier this week, Wendy’s chief development officer Abigail Pringle said there was an opportunity to open between 300 and 400 sites in the UK. Speaking to analysts after the brand’s first-quarter update, Wendy’s chief financial officer Gunther Plosch said: “The UK consumer seems to be ready for us. We have built a robust franchise pipeline. We said it in the prepared remarks about 20 franchisees put up their hands. The chief development officer said in one of the interviews in the UK that there is no reason to believe why the long-term potential of the UK for us shouldn't be 400 restaurants. Just to be clear, there's no development agreement signed for the UK. It's a belief we have, and that we'll be going after, and that's where we're going to make our investment.” The group has confirmed it will open sites in Oxford and Stratford, east London, in the second half of this year. Last month, Propel revealed Wendy’s had lined up its first out-of-town site for its UK return, in Essex. The company, which plans to open five sites in the UK this year, with a target of eventually operating about 20 company-owned branches in Britain, is understood to be in advanced talks on taking a site at Thurrock Shopping Park. It is thought it could even be the location of its first UK drive-thru. The company plans to enter the UK with company-owned and operated restaurants in 2021 and, in its second phase, will launch in priority areas with multi-unit franchisee operators. It is believed to have a strong pipeline of locations in place in the UK, including some drive-thrus. It recently applied for planning to open a site in Croydon and Propel understands Wendy’s is also in advanced talks on a site in Camden. In March, the company said it plans to open ten sites in the UK in 2022, and that it had secured multiple locations and was engaged with several potential franchisees.

Rum Kitchen to make regional debut, in Brighton: Rum Kitchen, the Caribbean-inspired restaurant and bar concept, is to open its first site outside of London, in Brighton, Propel has learned. The Mike Parnham-led brand will open in the former Jamie’s Italian site in the city’s Black Lion Street on Friday, 11 June. The 7,000 square foot site will be the brand’s fourth site in total and its largest to date. It will comprise 300 covers spread across two floors including a roof terrace, and will also have a private dining area with its own separate bar for 70 covers. The business, which was launched in 2013, currently operates sites in Soho, Shoreditch and Brixton. Parnham told Propel: “Brighton is an incredibly energetic, fantastically eclectic and vibrant neighbourhood with a history rooted in music and the arts – characteristics that chime with Rum Kitchen and who we are. With a bigger space will come a bigger menu, which we will evolve from local feedback to include a wider range of dishes inspired by the Caribbean and more plant-based and vegetarian options.” In terms of further expansion, Parnham said: “Covid has taught us that nothing is guaranteed, but being small and agile and working with a highly engaged team is the best position we can be in. We still want to be cautious, but we also want to make up for the time we’ve lost over the last year. We are entering a period where people want to start socialising again and find spaces to have a good time. Rum Kitchen is the perfect brand for these times, so when we do see great opportunities, we will explore them.” Jake Bernstone, at Stonebrook London, acted on the Brighton deal.

District founder to branch into evening sector with coffee and wine bar concept: Chelsea Finch, founder of the three-strong London-based coffee shop brand District, is to launch a coffee and wine bar concept. Finch will open Where’s Fred’s this summer in Frederick’s Place in the City after agreeing a deal with landlord The Mercers’ Company. The 750 square foot unit at 7 Frederick’s Place will house Where’s Fred’s, which will offer an array of the brunch and lunch options that District is known for, alongside a casual evening menu featuring charcuterie boards and a selection of organic wine. Finch said: “I’m excited to branch out into the evening sector with an evolutionary concept based on the successful District brand. Tucked away in its own unique location, Frederick’s Place is the epitome of an inner-city cultural ecosystem, providing an exclusive location mostly discovered by word of mouth.” Simon Taylor, property director at the Mercers’ Company, added: “Our vision for the City home estate was to enhance the beloved traditional cul-de-sac atmosphere and create a contemporary working community in the heart of London. Our extensive investment into Frederick’s Place has transformed the location, combining the City’s heritage with modern and desirable office spaces as well as an exciting food and beverage line-up with daytime and evening appeal. The flexible offer of Where’s Fred’s will provide a chic and friendly addition to the destination and we are confident it will fit in exceptionally.” District acted on behalf of the Mercers’ Company and Where’s Fred’s represented itself.
 
Moscow-based Italian restaurant group Piazza Italiana to open debut UK site: Moscow-based Italian restaurant group Piazza Italiana is to open its debut UK site. The company is launching the venue next Wednesday (19 May) in London’s Threadneedle Street. Set in a grade II-listed former British Linen Bank building, the restaurant will offer classic Italian dishes including sea bass carpaccio, risotto al funghi porcini and a selection of pizzas. The wine list will feature about 500 varieties, including 40 by the glass. The website stated: “Originally opened in the historical district of Moscow then successfully spread over the Baltic Sea to Riga, Piazza Italiana has now arrived right in the heart of the City of London. The heritage of Italian culinary art at Piazza Italiana starts with the chef Remo Mazzucato and his extensive experience of more than 50 years across the world. Piazza Italiana brings the ambience of classic Italian cuisine – palate-enlightening and focused on quality and seasonal ingredients. Polished service and extensive wine list culminate in an Italian dining experience unlike any other.”
 
McDonald’s to gradually reopen restaurants in England and Wales for dine-in from next week: McDonald’s is to gradually reopen its restaurants in England and Wales for dine-in from Monday (17 May). Restaurants will reopen with table service-only and, in some cases, limited seating to accommodate social distancing. McDonald’s said it was strongly encouraging customers to order via its app where possible. All customers will be asked to wear a face covering when entering the restaurant, unless they are exempt. McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “Monday is another big step forward for both England and Wales. As the country starts to open back up more fully – so are we. As with every stage of reopening, safety has been at the forefront of decision making for McDonald’s, with customers being welcomed back to dine-in slowly and carefully.” Looking forward, Pomroy acknowledged there is some way to go before a full return to normality, and stated the importance of customers and restaurant teams continuing to support each other. He added: “We appreciate the measures in place mean the McDonald’s experience may be a little different to normal, and we are once again asking that our customers bear with us.” With the reopening plans in place, the business will turn its attention to the next phase of a return to the full McDonald’s experience. Therefore, expanding the menu as well as extending opening hours are both on the agenda for the coming months. McDonald’s in England and Wales will be following Scottish restaurants in allowing dine-in, and restaurants in Northern Ireland and Ireland will be following suit once regulations allow.

LabTech signs up ten F&B brands for Hawley Wharf development: Landlord LabTech has announced the signing of ten food and beverage brands covering more than 5,000 square foot at its Hawley Wharf development in London’s Camden. Bringing a Cantonese flavour to the scheme will be Bun House, which is opening its second site, and Three Uncles, which is adding to its Liverpool Street location. Rounding off the south east Asian offer is Thai and Malaysian concept Ekachai, which operates four restaurants and a delivery kitchen in the capital, and Taiwanese concept BaoziInn, which is launching its third site. Greek farm-to-table grill brand Mikos Gyros will add its seventh site while compatriots Stilvi will make their debut. The scheme’s Mediterranean offer is rounded off by Italian grab-and-go concept A’do’re Fritto. French pastry chef Philippe Conticini will be opening a dedicated production kitchen and café, supplying the brand’s existing Camden Market and Buck Street Market outlets. Specialist drinks will also be on offer at Hawley Wharf, from nutritious, cold-pressed juice brand Juice Junkiez, and Amar Café – the Colombian coffee roaster. Colliers and CBRE represent Hawley Wharf Camden.

Black and White Hospitality reports strong bookings and ‘healthy pipeline of enquiries’ for new openings: Black and White Hospitality, which operates and manages the Marco Pierre White group of franchised restaurants, is reporting strong bookings in the run-up to reopening on Monday (17 May). The company has 10,000 covers already booked for the week across 23 sites. The business is also reporting 28,000 advance covers for May with more than 10,000 covers already booked for June. Chairman and chief executive Nick Taplin is also optimistic in terms of new openings, citing “a healthy pipeline of enquiries for new franchised restaurant sites”. He said: “The level of covers so far proves that people right across the UK are itching to get out to enjoy a meal with family and friends. With more people looking to do a staycation this year, this will only go on to fuel demand even more and my view is we’re in for a very busy time over the next few months. We have had a tremendous amount of enquiries during lockdown as owners review their businesses and focus on food and beverage as a forgotten revenue stream within hotels. We’re now working on some very exciting potential new openings across both the UK and Europe.”
 
Spanish chef Dani Garcia heads to UK for sixth Bibo restaurant: Spanish chef Dani Garcia is heading to the UK to open under the sixth restaurant under his Bibo concept. Garcia will launch the venue this summer on the lower ground floor of the Mondrian Shoreditch hotel – which is owned by the Reuben Brothers – in London, and was previously known as The Curtain before it was taken over by operator Accor. Bibo will be housed in the space that was previously occupied by Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. It will seat 120 guests, including 20 on the Spanish courtyard and 12 in the private dining room on the floor below. Garcia said: “We are excited to establish the property as the heart of the Shoreditch food scene. I have always been fascinated by the vibrant energy of London and look forward to seeing our most iconic dishes being enjoyed by this new public.” The new brasserie and tapas bar will offer dishes such as a pulled oxtail brioche with thin mushroom slices, DG sauce and rocket; and Russian salad with quail eggs. Garcia had three Michelin stars at his eponymous Dani Garcia restaurant in Marbella, which closed in 2019. He now runs Bibo restaurants in Doha, Madrid, Malaga, Marbella and Tarifa. 
 
Irish operator to open debut UK Elephant & Castle restaurant at South Yorkshire shopping centre: Irish operator Press Up Hospitality Group will open its debut UK Elephant & Castle restaurant at Frenchgate Shopping Centre in Doncaster. The restaurant, which focuses on American-style cooking, is set to open on Tuesday (18 May) and will be open seven days a week for dine-in, collection and delivery. The brand has been part of the Irish food scene for more than 30 years, growing from its original Temple Bar flagship site to 11 locations throughout Dublin and Cork. Its menu includes the char-grilled Elephant Burger and crispy chicken wings, as well as fresh pastas, desserts and kids’ meals. Elephant & Castle head of brand operations Alun Friswell said: “With over 30 years of success in Ireland, we have no doubt the good folk of Britain will absolutely love Elephant & Castle. They can expect a wide-ranging delicious menu full of flavour and character, amazing service in a casual and friendly atmosphere and, of course, our world-famous wings.” The opening has created 20 jobs. Press Up Hospitality Group also operates about 20 burger concept Wowburger sites in Ireland and opened its debut UK site in December also at Frenchgate Shopping Centre in South Yorkshire.

Mule and Atomeca sign up to Deansgate Square development: Coffee and brunch specialist Mule and European bar concept Atomeca have both signed up to open at the Deansgate Square scheme in Manchester. Atomeca is a partnership between award-winning bartending duo Joe and Daniel Schofield and wine expert James Brandwood. It will provide Manchester’s newest public square with its first “European Drinkery”. It is an all-day venue, “championing the best drink and food from the UK and continental Europe”. Atomeca, which will open on Friday, 21 May, will focus on serving tea, coffee and locally baked pastries in the morning, through to tapas style plates in the evening and afternoon. Following on from the recent opening of Mule Ancoats, Mule at Deansgate Square aims to open this summer. James Sidlow, senior development manager at the scheme’s developer Renaker, said: “Following the announcement of General Store joining us we are delighted to welcome the next two operators to join us at Deansgate Square. We admire the Mule team for their flair and creativity and Atomeca for their attention to detail. We hope together they will bring all this and more to Deansgate Square, as we look to create a new destination for residents, locals and visitors alike.”

Viehard to open third site with all-day cafe-bar in Newcastle: Newcastle-based operator Viehard, which operates restaurants Uno’s and Hibou Blanc, is set to open a cafe-bar called Grey Owl in the city centre, in August. Viehard, which is led by Stevie Pattinson and Richard Nellis, have taken the site that was home to the city’s last independent jewellers, Davidson’s, on Grey Street, which had traded for 120 years. Pattinson told Chronicle Live: “It’s with huge pride we can announce the arrival of Hibou Blanc’s first offspring, the Grey Owl. The Hibou family ethos is built on three things, luxury, quality and excellence and this runs through everything we do from the building to the decor and, of course, the food and drinks.” The Grey Owl is set to open at 8am for breakfast and operate through to the evening when sharing boards and tapas would be served alongside cocktails and wines. The owners added events such as poetry nights, book clubs and music nights are slated to take place too.

All-day restaurant and bar concept Bubba Café to launch in Islington: A new all-day restaurant and bar concept called Bubba Café is to launch its first site, in London’s Islington. The concept from Rob Huysinga, the founder of the ice cream chain Pan 'n' Ice, will open its debut site on the former Vivo site at 57-58 Upper Street. Bubba Café will operate an all day and night restaurant and bar across the ground floor and first-floor roof terrace. There will be a focus on healthy bowl foods, salads and wraps, with “an expansive wine, beer and cocktail menu”. Davis Coffer Lyons agreed a new lease on behalf of the private landlord for the property, which occupies 4,822 square foot internally, plus a roof terrace of approximately 750 square foot. Saul Fierstone, of Lewis Craig, advised Bubba Café. 

Giggling Squid confirmed for Chelmsford: Giggling Squid, the BGF-backed Thai restaurant chain founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, has confirmed it will open a new site in Chelmsford this summer. As revealed by Propel earlier this week, the 37-strong company has secured the ex-Loch Fyne site at Aquila Holding’s Bond Street mall in the Essex city. The new Giggling Squid will include a 1,100 square foot river-facing dining terrace. In addition to Giggling Squid, Aquila has signed Spritz Social, an alfresco bar serving craft beer, cocktails, champagne, Aperol Spritz and food able to be ordered from nearby Bond Street operators via QR codes. Situated in a dedicated events space located adjacent to Bond Street’s restaurant terrace, Spritz Social provides 200 socially distanced covers, including a covered pergola and heated beach huts for up to six people. AG&G acted for Giggling Squid.
 
BBQ Dreamz founders to join Kerb’s Seven Dials Market line-up for second Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen site: Lee Johnson and Sinead Campbell, founders of My Million Pound Menu winner BBQ Dreamz, are to open a second site for their Filipino restaurant concept Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen. The duo will open the outlet on Monday (17 May) at street food collective Kerb’s Seven Dials Market in Covent Garden. Having launched their street food truck BBQ Dreamz in 2014, Johnson and Campbell signed up with Kerb and started trading at King’s Cross before expanding and having a presence at all the Kerb sites across the city. After working with further street food sites and festivals, the duo opened the first Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen in Hackney Road, Bethnal Green, in October 2019. The menu at Seven Dials Market will include its Lechon Kawali – fragrant crispy pork belly served with steamed jasmine rice, sesame bean salad, pickled cucumbers and a coriander, fish sauce and ginger dressing; and Adobo Glazed Cauliflower – served with lime aioli, spring onion, coriander, chilli, nigella seeds and lime. The drinks list will feature cocktails, bottled beer, wine and calamansi lemonade. Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen will be located on the ground floor of Seven Dials Market.

Marston’s confirms all pubs across England set to reopen from Monday: Marston’s has confirmed that all of its circa 1,300 pubs in England will be able to reopen for both indoor and outdoor service from Monday (17 May). Table service will take place, but guests will also have the option to order via Marston’s online ordering system called “Marston’s Tap”, which is available across the majority of the estate and is being rolled out to the remainder of pubs. Outgoing chief executive Ralph Findlay said: “It’s fantastic our pubs can reopen, inside and out. Over the past few weeks, we have seen people visit pub gardens, come rain or shine, for the pure enjoyment of socialising with friends and family. Our teams can’t wait to fully open the doors and welcome back guests, it’s been a long time coming and we encourage everyone to safely visit and support their local.”

Signature Living founder poised to lodge CVA recovery plan ‘within weeks’: Lawrence Kenwright, founder of aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living, is poised to lodge a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) recovery plan with the business’ administrators “within weeks”, as preparations for the reopening of the company’s venues from 17 May continue. Kenwright has been working with his creditors to regain control of the property side of the business that went into administration in April 2020, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic struck. The operational side of the business remains unaffected. Kenwright has been restructuring Signature Living under a company, UK Accommodation Group, with a new board that includes representation from his unsecured creditors. Following February’s announcement that more than 95% of Signature Living’s largest group of unsecured creditors are backing efforts to bring the company out of administration, a further 98% of the last remaining group of unsecured creditors are supporting the effort. Kenwright said: “Having invited my investors into the business, the board and I are working hard on pulling together a CVA with the backing of the vast majority of our investors and funders and I’m confident we’ll submit that plan within weeks.” Board chairman and investor Thomas Scullion added: “With new venues being completed and others close to the finish line and a new spirit of collaboration between funders and investors, Signature Living will be in a great position to capitalise on people’s desire to embrace restored freedom of movement and socialising as hospitality opens up again shortly.” Kenwright said Signature Living venues have been “trading well” under current guidelines with the garden areas at the Shankly Hotel, Arthouse Hotel and Alma de Cuba, all in Liverpool, and Rainhill Hall, in St Helens, currently open. 

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