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Fri 11th Jun 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Britain’s managed pub and restaurant sales slip 26% in May against 2019 levels as restrictions continue: Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups recorded a 26% drop in total sales in May from the same month in 2019, the new edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker has revealed. The figure encompasses two full weeks of inside service for hospitality operators from 17 May, preceded by a fortnight of outdoor-only trading. The freedom to serve indoors gave a boost to the managed restaurant sector, where total sales were down 13% on May 2019. However, ongoing social distancing restrictions held down pubs’ sales at 34% below 2019’s levels, despite a sunny bank holiday weekend helping them to end May strongly. Bars were the weakest segment for the second month in a row, with total sales down 38%. On a like-for-like sales basis, groups recorded a 15% drop in May 2021 from May 2019 – a modest improvement on April’s figure of minus 26%. Restaurants were down only 6%, but pubs (down 22%) and bars (down 25%) again lagged behind on this measure. While the return of inside service has led to the reopening of the majority of restaurants, pubs and bars, a significant number remain closed. The Tracker showed rolling 12-month sales to the end of May were 48% below the previous 12 months. “May brought a solid, if unspectacular, return to inside trading for managed restaurants, pubs and bars,” said Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “While the long-term outlook for the sector remains good, so much now hinges on whether the government sticks to its roadmap to recovery. Any delay to the removal of restrictions from 21 June would badly set back hospitality’s fragile recovery just as it starts.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “The costs of compliance are higher notwithstanding the pressure on labour costs and until we see restrictions lifted, we will see closures increasing. The good news is that the public have shown they want to return to hospitality in increasing numbers and the future, once restrictions have gone, looks very positive.”

Industry News:

Additional 204 companies sign up to Propel Premium in wake of launch of two monthly ground-breaking databases, first edition of Blue Book released today: An additional 204 companies have singed up to Propel Premium in the past two months in the wake of the launch of two ground-breaking monthly databases exclusively for subscribers. The first edition of the new Blue Book database will be released at midday today (Friday, 11 June). The database, which will be updated and expanded each month, ranks the top 215 sector operators by turnover and then by profitability. It also has a five-year overview of turnover and profit and shows what percentage of turnover is converted to pre-tax profit – or otherwise. The first edition of The Blue Book shows there are 106 companies in the sector turning over more than £30m, with 76 of them turning over more than £50m and 43 turning over more than £100m. The Blue Book shows companies with franchise and tenanted operations converting turnover to profit very efficiently, with family brewers, for example, also performing well. The Blue Book also sees strong performances from some of the outstanding UK restaurant brands and operators. Each month, Propel will be expanding the scope of The Blue Book – we want to add any company either turning over more than £5m or making a £1m pre-tax profit. Email to add your company to The Blue Book universe. Propel Premium subscribers have just received their monthly update to the multi-site database, which has had 108 companies added since the last release at the end of May. They not only received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 14,000-word report on the businesses added during May. The go-to database, which now features 1,819 companies that collectively operate 58,838 sites, 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. 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. In this week’s column, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm today (11 June), Kate Nicholls looks back at her three years at the helm of UKHospitality and the challenges ahead for the sector, while Mark Wingett looks back over the past week, including an interesting couple of days for BrewDog. 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. Email to sign up.

Propel Friday Wrap video series with Brewhouse & Kitchen chief executive Kris Gumbrell: Propel continues its new Friday Wrap video series on Friday (11 June) at 3pm. The new series, which is sponsored by innovative staffing solution provider Stint, sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel insights editor Mark Wingett discussing the week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by Brewhouse & Kitchen chief executive Kris Gumbrell to discuss staffing issues, different challenges faced across different locations, what 21 June may hold for the sector and what consumers will focus on in the post-pandemic world. 

UKHospitality joins Labour party’s call for economic support if ‘unlocking’ is delayed: UKHospitality has joined the Labour party’s call on the government for more economic help if “unlocking” restrictions on 21 June should be delayed. Labour warned of a “perfect summer storm” and that “if there are any changes to the 21 June ‘unlocking’ date as a result of this government’s failure, it must be paired with details of economic measures to support affected businesses and industries”. The opposition party said the “pinch points” include quarterly rent being due on 23 June, the ban on commercial rent evictions ending on 30 June, and that employers must start contributing 10% to furlough costs and 100% business rates relief tapers off to 67% business rates relief both on 1 July. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses cannot continue to operate under conditions that leave them unable to trade profitably and so we echo the importance of government support should there be any delay to the complete lifting of restrictions on 21 July. If government decides it has to keep some restrictions in place after this date then it must prioritise those that do the least damage to business and commit to further supporting the sector. Among other measures, the government must postpone business rates payments until at least October and extend the rent moratorium while a long-term solution is found. Businesses need a swift, publicly stated commitment that such support will be in place in the event of any delays, giving them much-needed reassurance after more than 15 months of closure and severely disrupted trading. Hospitality is desperate to get back to what it does best and can play a key role in the economic recovery of the UK, but only if it is given the proper support.”

Guinness launches new dispense solution for on-trade, being trialled with Fridays: Guinness, which is owned by Diageo, has launched “Guinness MicroDraught” – new “cutting-edge” technology that serves Guinness Draught on tap, no matter the size or set up of the outlet. In the UK, Guinness MicroDraught is to be trialled with Fridays from this month and “will be taken from there”. Guinness MicroDraught is the result of a two-year development process that uses a “keg so small, it comes in a can”. Guinness draught beer is delivered in unique cans, which are slotted into the Guinness MicroDraught unit and then poured. Guinness described the development as its biggest since it introduced the “widget” in 1988 and is a solution to pouring Guinness in new places and new spaces, such as restaurants, where previously it would be impossible to serve on tap due to the lack of keg system, beer lines and cooling system complexities. The MicroDraught unit has a world-first patent-pending double coaxial piercing of the can. It uses an air pump – as opposed to the gas cylinder used in the traditional system – to push the liquid out of the can and through the standard Guinness Draught spout. In July, Guinness MicroDraught will also be trialled in venues in Ireland and fully launched in Korea, where almost 20 million pints of Guinness Draught are consumed every year. Further trials in the United States, China, Hong Kong, Germany and Russia will follow later this year. Grainne Wafer, global brand director, Guinness, said: “Guinness is enjoyed the world over and globally renowned for pushing boundaries in technology. Guinness MicroDraught is the next step in this journey.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is on the hunt for a real estate director to join a fast-growing hospitality company. The salary is circa £85,000. This position, based in London, presents an opportunity to join a solutions-focused business, which, after proven success in the US, is now taking on the European market. As the business develops its senior leadership team, it is looking for creative and dynamic individuals who want to be part of a quick growth, innovative business. This is a key role, looking after all things property, maintenance and health and safety across a wide and varied business, often operating on third-party locations. The business is looking for someone who understands hospitality/food production operations while having specialist property experience. They will also be recruiting and leading a team as the business grows. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Hub Box reports 32% rise in like-for-like sales, targets 20-strong estate by end of 2022: Hub Box, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, has reported like-for-like sales up 32% for the eight-week period from 12 April to 6 June 2021 compared with the same period in 2019. The company, which counts Loungers co-founders Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop as investors, said that while restaurant capacity was extremely constrained for the five weeks from the 12 April, due to trade being limited to outside-only and delivery, like-for-like sales had still climbed by 20.5%. In the three-week period since indoor trading was permitted, like-for-like sales have been up 49.7% with the company posting a record week last week with net sales of £400,700. The company, which opened its tenth site in Falmouth on 24 May, is due to open its 11th site in Cheltenham in the summer followed by a relocation of its Plymouth site to Royal William Yard scheme in the autumn. It is understood the company is reviewing a number of additional new site opportunities and is looking to strengthen its head office team as it embarks on a period of sustained growth that should see Hub Box grow to circa 20 sites by the end of 2022. Boon told Propel: “The business is in a great place at the moment. Sales are very strong and we’ve never had such a strong sense of where we want to take Hub Box. During the various lockdowns, we worked very hard on how we improve everything that we do and we prepared well to reopen strongly and positively. Most importantly, we’ve maintained our belief that we have a business with tremendous potential and that, even though the pandemic has had a hugely traumatic impact on hospitality in general, we believe there are more exciting opportunities to grow now than there have been in recent years.’’ 
Hub Box features in the Propel Blue Book database, which is available to Premium subscribers at midday today, email to sign up.

Coffee#1 co-founder secures debut site for new coffee concept: James Shapland, the co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has secured a debut site for his new coffee concept Coffi Lab, Propel has learned. The company, which is led by former SA Brain finance director Hannah Gillard, will launch its first site later this summer on the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Monnow Street, Monmouth. Propel understands the fledgling business has also applied to open a further site in the High Street of the Llandaff area of Cardiff. In line with the growth of Coffee#1, Shapland is seeking sites for the new concept in neighbourhood centres and high street market towns across south Wales and the south west. Coffi Lab, which is working with property adviser EJ Hales to find suitable sites, plans to be “a heart-warming, authentic retail coffee brand in a neighbourhood setting”. The Coffi Lab website stated: “While most coffee shops use their five senses to cultivate the perfect experience we use a sixth sense – our heart. Inspired by our love of coffee, leafy neighbourhoods and lovely labs, we provide exceptional coffee, warm hospitality and cosy spaces. Our goal is to reflect the subtle nuances of the terroir in our coffee. The only way to do this is to start our story at the farm. For this reason, we have chosen a direct relationship coffee. We have teamed up with Ricardo of Finca Buena Vista in El Salvador. His coffee has a distinct sweetness that leads to exceptional results in your cup.” Shapland co-founded Coffee#1 in 2000 and went on to grow it to 15 sites across Wales and the south west, with an annual turnover of £5m a year, before selling it for an undisclosed sum to SA Brain in 2011. Caffe Nero paid almost £30m to acquire a majority stake in Coffee#1, which now operates more than 100 sites, in February 2019.

Wendy’s lines up Peterborough opening: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, which made its return to the UK with an opening in Reading last week, is planning to open in Peterborough. The company, which hopes to eventually open up to 400 sites in the UK, has submitted a building control request for 1 Maskew Avenue in the town, according to the Peterborough Telegraph. Last week, Wendy’s chief development officer Abigail Pringle told Propel the brand’s launch in the UK came after a two-year process focused on understanding the market here. Pringle said the response to the launch in Reading had so far “been very positive” and the business was looking forward to opening even more locations in the UK this year. The group has confirmed it will open sites in Oxford and Stratford, east London, in the second half of this year. Propel previously 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 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 recently applied to open a site in Croydon, and Propel understands Wendy’s is in talks on sites in Camden and Brighton. 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.

New Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant Nakanojo is to launch its debut site in Chelsea: Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant Nakanojo is to launch its debut site in London’s Chelsea, Propel has learned. The concept, which is the brainchild of entrepreneur Josh Ahmet, will open on the former Busaba Eathai site on King’s Road. Nakanojo is described as “a casual fine dining Nikkei-inspired restaurant, offering premium sushi and robata grill cuisine, with a focus on fresh and high-quality ingredients”. The property occupies 4,512 square foot across the ground floor and basement and is situated close to Bluebird Chelsea and Beaufort House. Louie Gazdar of Davis Coffer Lyons, which agreed a new lease on the site on behalf of the landlord, The Sloane Stanley Estate, said: “Following a competitive bidding process, we are delighted to have secured this exciting new brand for the landlord, which we have no doubt will be a great addition to the already-thriving Chelsea restaurant scene.’’ James Commercial advised Nakanojo.
Mercato Metropolitano to open fourth London site: London-community food market Mercato Metropolitano, which earlier this year unveiled plans for a £35m expansion into Europe and the US, is to open its fourth site in the capital. The company will launch the venue in Ilford in November. The market is a collaboration between Mercato Metropolitano, Redbridge Council and the mayor of London, and is part of a wider local initiative known as the “Spark”. The council helped to secure a grant for the project from the London Economic Action Partnership and the mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. Mercato Metropolitano founder and chief executive Andrea Rasca said: “We are heavily focused on creating a global movement to engage with residents in local communities and improve food accessibility, support local culture and foster conviviality. Our Ilford project is one of strategic importance for us.” Jules Pipe, deputy mayor of London, planning, regeneration and skills, added: “Mercato Ilford is the next step in the ambitious programme to redevelop Ilford town centre to become a new cultural and creative quarter for the local community.” Last month, Mercato Metropolitano opened the first phase of its new site at Elephant Park – the £2.5bn regeneration project being delivered by Lendlease in partnership with Southwark Council. The company also operates sites in Elephant and Castle as well as Mayfair. In January, Mercato Metropolitano unveiled plans for a £35m expansion into Europe and the US, with ten more markets creating 2,000 jobs. It has since secured its debut site in Germany.
Mosaic to open second site for social darts concept, in Cheltenham: Mosaic Pub and Dining, led by James Watson and Peter McDonald, is to open a second site for its social darts concept, 180 Club. The company will open the venue in Cheltenham on Thursday, 1 July. It will be housed in The Fire Station in St James’ Square. The 180 Club will have five oches for up to 25 guests offering social, interactive darts games. Mosaic launched 180 Club in Birmingham in April 2019. Aiming to attract a new demographic to darts, 180 Club also offers sharing cocktails and New York-style snacks. Last month, Mosaic, which operates circa 30 sites, acquired the freehold of The Larkshall in Chingford, which was previously let to brewer and retailer Greene King.
Dutch-based restaurant concept The Seafood Bar to make UK debut: Dutch-based restaurant concept The Seafood Bar is heading to the UK. The opening in London marks the fifth site for the restaurant group, owned by the de Visscher family, and its first venture outside the Netherlands. Housed in a grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in Dean Street, Soho, the restaurant is set to launch in August. The venue will span two floors comprising 190 covers and feature a seafood bar downstairs. The menu will include the “fruits de mer” platter, featuring lobster, North Sea crab, razor clams and langoustines; and The Mixed Grill – a combination of crustaceans and fish cooked on a La Plancha grill. The food is paired with a range of wine from across the world. In the evenings, the basement will transform into a bar serving cocktails and wine with the space hosting a monthly schedule of events. Fons de Visscher worked as a fishmonger in Helmond, a small city in the Netherlands. After 27 years honing his craft and imparting his knowledge to his family, together they decided to start The Seafood Bar. The first restaurant opened in 2012 in the neighbourhood of Oud Zuid in Amsterdam. He said: “It’s our dream to bring our guests incredible seafood, and we are living that dream. We fell in love with London a long time ago, and we’re very excited we’ve finally arrived.” 
Former Incipio and Hippo Inns managers to launch second site: Bird House London, led by Frazer Timmerman and Wil Fuller, is to open its second site. Timmerman, who previously oversaw the food and drinks offering for Edition Capital-backed Incipio Group, and Fuller, previously area support manager at Hippo Inns, are launching The Phoenix in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. It follows their debut site – The Hawk’s Nest – that opened in nearby Shepherd’s Bush Market last summer. The Phoenix will open in the former Jamie’s Italian site on Thursday, 1 July. The venue will hold 400 in the outdoor courtyard and have capacity for another 250 people inside. Guests will be able to choose from a range of Italian street food, Neapolitan-style sourdough pizza and a selection of salad boxes. Similar to The Hawk’s Nest, the bar will serve cocktails, mocktails, soft drinks and beer. There will be live entertainment and events throughout the week.
Experiential cinema operator Backyard hunts for new sites after Sony backing: Experiential cinema operator Backyard is hunting for more sites after securing financial backing from global entertainment company Sony Music Group. Backyard, which offers immersive destination experiences, has instructed MKR Property to find sites of between 15,000 square foot and 45,000 square foot after agreeing a deal with Sony, which is now the group’s lead investor. Backyard currently has just one site, at Capital Studios in Wandsworth, south west London, and is looking for venues in the capital but intends to gradually expand outside London and internationally. It is targeting venues that offer five-metre floor-to-ceiling heights and screening rooms of at least 2,000 square foot that it can take on leases of between five and 20 years. Backyard founder and director Dominic Davies told Property Week: “Backyard is hugely excited to be part of the Sony Music Group. With its support, we’re looking for bigger and longer opportunities to grow. We’re looking at a couple of venues in different areas and really need to find our flagship, which will enable us to service enough people, house our staff and provide us with more security. Once we’ve got that flagship, it may well be that we have a few smaller venues as well.” The group has eyed up sites ranging from former Debenhams stores to industrial sites. “Our plan is to launch the world’s first themed multiplex cinema and really start competing with traditional cinema offerings,” said Davies. In 2019, the company sold 160,000 tickets and screened 695 films. It reopened on 17 May after more than a year of being unable to trade due to the pandemic.
Whitbread launches Bar + Block in Scotland: Whitbread will open a debut Scottish site for its steakhouse restaurant brand Bar + Block on Friday (11 June). The restaurant is within the new 249-bedroom Premier Inn hotel in Glasgow’s St Enoch Square. A Bar + Block restaurant will also open on Friday at Whitbread’s latest Premier Inn in Milton Keynes. The launch at the new 180-bedroom hotel in Avebury Boulevard in the city centre takes the Bar + Block portfolio to 17 sites. The new sites will follow the brand’s all-day trading format. Bar + Block focuses on steak, rotating specials from the butcher’s block, grazing plates and handmade burgers alongside craft beer, wine and cocktails. Rebecca Donaldson, commercial marketing director, Whitbread Restaurants, said: “We’re very excited to be back in business post a year full of restrictions and to be in the position to begin growing the Bar + Block brand again.” Whitbread plans to open an additional Bar + Block restaurant in Edinburgh later this year.
The Pudding Pantry opens third site: Nottingham-based coffee shop and dessert restaurant The Pudding Pantry has opened its third site. The company has launched the outlet in Beeston. The deal for the 2,500 square foot site, in High Road, was brokered by agents FHP Property. The Pudding Pantry specialises in puddings, cakes, pancakes and brunch and also operates sites in Nottingham city centre and Sherwood. Director Anthony Quinn said: “We are thrilled with how it has come together and are proud of what we have been able to achieve. Beeston is an ideal fit for us. The high street is still very busy and there is investment being made by the council. There is a real mixed demographic from students to professionals and families.
Trio of operators to open at Bonnie & Wild’s Scottish Marketplace in July: A trio of food operators are joining Bonnie & Wild’s Scottish Marketplace within St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Stefano Pieraccini, director of Edinburgh-based Rocca Group will launch Rico’s Pasta Bar in a 16,700 square foot area in the Food Hall. Rico’s will be joined by Broken Clock Cafe & Patisserie from Anna Medjanskaja and Artem Podburtnoi, and start-up restaurant Chix, which is run by Max Murray and Ed Cresswell. Pieraccini said: “I want Rico’s Pasta Bar to be a place where guests know they will get excellent, authentic Italian dishes made with the freshest local ingredients.” The pasta bar will complement the business’ main restaurant, Rico’s, on North Castle Street. Medjanskaja and Podburtnoi have built up their artisanal cakes company Broken Clock Cafe & Patisserie in Glasgow during the past two years. Medjanskaja said: “Last year, we went through one tonne of Belgian chocolate. This year, I expect that to double.” It will focus on using Scottish fresh fruits, with the cakes changing regularly to reflect the changing seasons and will serve coffee sourced from Loch Lomond Coffee Co. Chix aims to give fried chicken a fine dining makeover within the more casual setting at Bonnie & Wild. Cresswell, who worked as chef de partie at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin three-starred Fat Duck prior to co-founding Chix, said: “We’re bringing a refined and classy approach to this wonderful dish, but enhancing it with an unrivalled range of innovative and complex dips and sauces that will tantalise people’s palates.” Bonnie & Wild’s Scottish Marketplace is scheduled to open in July. 
Peyton sisters to open their first pub-hotel: Experienced operators Siobhan and Caitriona Peyton, who are sisters of Great British Menu judge Oliver Peyton, have bought their first pub. The Sculthorpe Mill, on the River Wensum, near Fakenham in Norfolk, will open on 12 July. Having acquired the lease from Greene King, the freehouse pub is currently undergoing a six-figure refurbishment and will have an expanded pub area, two dining rooms, a private events suite and two dining terraces. The Peyton & Byrne operators are also creating six en-suite bedrooms that are set to open towards the end of July, with additional rooms and garden cabins to be installed for 2022. Elliot Ketley, formerly of Soho House Group, Square and Coast, is heading the food operation, with all-day menus and weekend barbecues throughout the summer. Siobhan Peyton said: “We’ve been regulars at Sculthorpe Mill for nearly 20 years and having relocated permanently to Norfolk, we jumped at the opportunity to acquire the lease.” The business is looking to recruit about 40 staff members. Siobhan and Caitriona, together with brother Oliver and sister Marie, have operated Atlantic Bar & Grill restaurant, Mash microbreweries, The National Dining Rooms at the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection. They continue to operate Peyton & Byrne, British bakeries in Greenwich and on central London’s Great Portland Street.
Staycity to open new sites in Germany and France this month: Aparthotel operator Staycity will open properties in Heidelberg, Germany, and Bordeaux, France, this month, as part of its expansion plans. The 299-room site in Heidelberg offers hotel rooms plus one and two-bedroom apartments, a bar, lounge and dining area. The property, which is owned by German institutional fund Commerz Real, is Staycity’s second in Germany after opening 48-apartment Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity, Berlin, in 2019. Staycity has further sites under development in Frankfurt and Nuremberg. Meanwhile, it will open a 125-apartment in Bordeaux – owned by La Francaise Group – that offers studio apartments sleeping two, three or four people as well as a cafe and gym. Bordeaux and Heidelberg are the first Staycity properties to open post-lockdown with the Dublin-based company’s European estate set to increase by ten further sites opening during 2021-22. Staycity commercial director Paula Mullaney said: “The UK in particular has been busy since restrictions were lifted in the middle of May. Across all 11 of our UK properties, occupancies reached 85% during the second May bank holiday, which compares favourably to the same weekend in 2019 when occupancies were 91%. The same weekend last year, during the height of the pandemic, saw occupancy drop to just 25%.”
Chipotle raises US menu prices by 4% citing increased wages for staff: Chipotle has raised its prices by about 4% at its US restaurants, citing increased wages for staff as the reason for its decision. Workers had their hourly rate raised from $11 to $18 last month, an indicator of the tight labour market faced by restaurant companies in the US. Businesses are struggling to hire employees as the US economy recovers, with job openings reaching record levels in recent months. The leisure and hospitality sector opened up 292,000 jobs in May, as restaurants and bars sought to rehire employees that had been let go during the pandemic. Chipotle’s announcement came after a drive to recruit 20,000 new staff. Speaking at the Baird Global Consumer, Technology and Services conference, Chipotle chief executive Brian Niccol said while it prefers not to raise prices, “it made sense in this scenario to invest in our employees and get these restaurants staffed and make sure we had the pipeline of people to support our growth”. Niccol insisted the cost of the company’s food remained reasonable, with the price of a chicken burrito still “well below $8” in most markets. Chipotle is not the only restaurant company to increase pay in an effort to attract applicants. In May, McDonald’s entry-level wage for new employees in company-owned restaurants rose to between $11 and $17 an hour. Current employees’ pay rose by an average of 10%.
Big Mamma Group sets July opening date for third restaurant brand Ave Mario: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London-based restaurants Gloria and Circolo Popolare, will open its third London site, Ave Mario, on Friday, 2 July. Based in two buildings in Maiden Lane, and with an entrance in Henrietta Street, the 7,000 square foot space will have seating for almost 300, two terraces, a bar featuring a 3,500 bottle wall and an inner courtyard. The business has overcome obstacles including Brexit and difficulty in bringing decor to the UK. Big Mamma Group said it was “0% Brexit compatible” when the referendum vote took place in 2016, and it still is, but has managed to employ 120 Italian staff members at Ave Mario. It added: “Did you hear about a certain container ship in the Suez? Si, we had some trendy cool materials aboard that distracted the captain.” The restaurant also said it lost “a whole bathroom set” at the UK border. While Gloria was inspired by Capri, and Circolo by Sicily, Ave Mario takes Florence as its starting point. Dishes will include carbonara ravioli and the Cotoletta Milanese. There’s also going to be a new caviar section to the menu, using Baeri caviar from Venice. The basement will feature Big Mamma Group’s first counter dining experience where guests will also be able to watch the chefs at work in the kitchen. Big Mamma Group operates 20 Italian restaurants across major European cities, including London, as well as delivery-only pizza restaurant Napoli Gang.
Matt Healy to launch new tapas concept at Leeds summer pop-up: MasterChef finalist Matt Healy is to launch a tapas concept as part of a new pop-up opening in Leeds this summer. Multistories will launch on Friday, 25 June, and will take place at Level 8 Citi Park in the Merrion Centre, with capacity for up to 350 guests. As well as food and drink via table service, there will be a range of entertainment. Already confirmed for a food residency is Healy with his new “Tapas Xperience” concept. Healy, who was a finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals in 2016 and owns the Scandi-inspired vegan cafe Gron in north Leeds, said he was remaining tight-lipped on the “Tapas Xperience” menu, but it will be “a feast for all senses”. Savannah Roqaa, who started her Savvy Baker business when she began baking from home at the start of the pandemic, will also be serving her range of cakes, biscuits and desserts. Multistories is the brainchild of Xperience Partners, recently appointed as an operating partner for the Box On The Docks concept at MediaCity UK. Taking the form of deluxe sheds and greenhouses, they have been placed outside restaurants and cafes across the development. Xperience Partners said the aim of Multistories was to “maximise the use of space in the city centre that has otherwise gone empty and breathe new life into the hard-hit hospitality industry”. The name is inspired by the car park setting and the “fascinating stories from the people involved in bringing it to life”. 
Former Darby’s head chef to open Glasgow restaurant with his wife in August: Former Darby’s head chef Dean Parker will open his first restaurant in Glasgow with his wife Anna, in August. Parker, who also lists Sorella and The Dairy as former workplaces, will open Italian restaurant Celentano’s in August. The restaurant will be housed in Glasgow’s Cathedral House building and has a focus on being a low-waste kitchen. The menu includes Celentano’s house-made sourdough with Le Ferre extra virgin olive oil and chicken liver mousse; house-cured pork and fennel salami with pickles; smoked cod doughnuts; agnolotti with ricotta, cimi di rapa, artichoke and pomelo; parpadelle with beef ragu made with locally reared meat and pecorino; Free Company’s turnip with muscat grapes, pine nuts and garden herbs; affogato with malted barley and chocolate; and almond tart with reduced milk gelato. It will also have larger sharing dishes, including whole fish served on the bone. Drinks include negronis made with house-made vermouth alongside small-batch biodynamic and natural wines, and beer from local brewery Brewgooder. Hot Dinners reports the restaurant will have 32 covers inside, 40 in the covered garden and a 50-seat private dining room. 

Grounded Kitchen opens fifth site: Midlands-based Korean-inspired restaurant Grounded Kitchen has opened its fifth site, in West Bridgford, Nottingham. The regional franchise that specialises in nourish bowls has opened its doors at Tudor Square. Oliver Marshall of FHP Property Consultants, which completed the deal, said: “West Bridgford is one Nottingham’s most popular suburbs and there is still strong demand for the town where there are very few vacant shops. We were aware of several active requirements and targeted those accordingly – this resulted in multiple interested parties. Grounded Kitchen was successful in its offer and we feel it is a perfect fit for West Bridgford.” Grounded Kitchen opened its first restaurant in Leicester in 2017 and has since added sites in Market Harborough, Loughborough and Birmingham.
Glasgow-based superfood and health bar concept Juicy to double up: Glasgow-based superfood and health bar concept Juicy is to double up in the city – and is planning further expansion. Fallon Carberry launched the concept in Byres Road in May and is adding to the outlet with an opening at the Silverburn shopping centre in early August. Juicy offers cold-pressed juices, custom açai bowls and customisable salads. Carberry said: “Glasgow has really embraced the Juicy concept and we are ready to expand to our second site. Our rapid expansion is testament to the passion and confidence we have in the concept. We are now seeing a growing trend for health-consciousness and it’s reshaping our consumption habits. We have further expansion plans in the pipeline and are extremely excited about our partnership and the opportunities to bring Juicy to Silverburn.” Silverburn general manager David Pierotti added: “Our customers love to support Scottish brands, so it’s great to be welcoming Juicy to Silverburn.”

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