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Mon 20th Sep 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Prezzo announces 4% average pay rise for restaurant workers and Boxing Day closing: Prezzo, the Cain International-backed restaurant chain, will give all its 2,500 restaurant workers a pay rise in October. From next month, team members’ wages will rise by an average of 4%, and managers’ by an average of 5%, meaning every Prezzo employee will be paid above the national minimum wage. Alongside this, in line with Prezzo being shortlisted for Best Mental Health Strategy at the Employee Benefits Awards 2021, all Prezzo restaurants will close on Boxing Day to give workers a two-day break during the busiest trading period of the year. Prezzo executive chair Karen Jones said: “Reopening all of hospitality after a third prolonged lockdown has been an extraordinary challenge. Every part of the industry has felt the strain and at the front line stand our wonderful teams, front and back of house, of whom we are so proud. Making sure we get pay right is a pre-requisite; ensuring our Prezzo people feel valued and cared for is equally as important. We can never do enough in this regard to ensure the future flourishing of all. Thank you Prezzo people.” The news follows two recent appointments at Prezzo, with former Pret A Manager finance director Matt Prior joining as chief financial officer, and ex-GLH Hotels HR director Debbie Moore being named as people director. Back in December 2020, Cain International, the privately held investment firm led by Jonathan Goldstein, bought Prezzo out of administration for around £5m, pledging to keep most of its sites. Although plans to close 22 restaurants across the UK later emerged, the group announced plans in June to open the first new Prezzo restaurant since 2018, in London’s Islington Square.

Industry News: 

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Variety of vegan concepts set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies: A variety of vegan concepts are among the 67 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 1 October, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features The Tipsy Vegan, which is opening its second site in Cambridge and will feature a new menu and two outdoor terraces. Also being added is Donner Summer, which describes itself as selling vegan junk food and has opened its sixth site, in Sheffield. In addition, Bishop’s Stortford’s VegHeads, the “exclusively vegan” concept, has opened its second site. Premium subscribers will also receive a 9,000-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and 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. Alongside this, Premium subscribers will also receive the third edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Wednesday, 6 October, at midday.  It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. Premium 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 plus regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. 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. If you want to subscribe, email

Beckett – there is going to be a space race for who can offer the best jobs, Hawksmoor shelves IPO plans: Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, the upmarket steakhouse chain, believes the sector is facing “a space race for who can offer the best jobs”. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Beckett said: “It (finding staff) is really difficult, and that is down to a whole load of factors and not just Brexit. In the long-term I think the market will sort itself out. Places will have to shut if they can’t find enough staff or people will come into the sector. However, until reality sorts itself out it is about getting through that stage now, and it is hard. There is going to be a space race for who can offer the best jobs, and people will come at it from different angles, some will go at it from an overall package point of view, some will do it through remuneration, but it is challenging, and I am not completely sure what the right thing is. I also think there is a lot of stickiness at present, no one seems to be moving, although everyone has a story like “oh my CDP has been offered 20% more to be a head chef somewhere else”. And everyone is looking for staff at exactly the same time, and it won’t be sorted by Christmas, will it be sorted by the summer, by next Christmas? I don’t know. If we turn on the tap of immigration where are people coming from? Which is the country that has the massive surfeit of labour at the moment? We are talking about a labour shortage, but so is America, France, Australia. Is there some country that has so many people that are unemployed that they don’t know what to do with them? It is not just a British problem, I think Brexit exacerbates it, but if you took Brexit away it would still be a big issue, especially in big cities.” At the same time, Propel understands that the Graphite Capital-backed business has shelved plans to explore a possible IPO. In July, it was reported that Hawksmoor could join the queue of companies that are planning to float on the London Stock Exchange. The business, which earlier this month launched its first site in the US, in New York, was reportedly working with Berenberg, the stockbroker, to gauge potential demand among city fund managers for its shares. Propel understands that the business is now set to concentrate on building on the initial success of the New York opening and getting its upcoming site in Canary Wharf up and running, and trading well, before a return to a possible IPO is considered.

Government to outlaw restaurants keeping staff tips: Restaurants will be banned from keeping the tips intended for staff under new laws, which are expected to be announced this week. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wants to stop businesses keeping the service charges paid on bank cards. As the law stands, owners cannot pocket cash tips left for waiters and waitresses, but when a customer pays a tip by card, the business can decide whether to keep it or pass it on to staff. The new rules will ensure that pub, restaurant and cafe workers are entitled to 100% of the tips on cards. 'Workers going above and beyond for their customers can now rest assured that their hard-earned tips will be going directly in their pockets and nobody else's,” a Whitehall source told the Daily Mail. “We're putting an end to dodgy tipping practices and making sure hard work pays off. We are also levelling the playing field for businesses, ensuring good firms which give all the tips to workers are not undercut by the firms which keep the money.” The move followed the introduction of a bill by Conservative MP Dean Russell which removed the power of restaurants and pubs to deduct money received by staff in tips, with workers either keeping the money directly or agreeing to a pooling system with colleagues.

Covid passes ‘could be the last straw’ for Welsh operators: David Chapman, UKHospitality executive director for Wales, has blasted the Welsh government’s decision to give the thumbs-up to covid passes, warning they could be “the last straw” for some operators. From Monday, 11 October, people in Wales will need to show a pass proving they have been fully vaccinated, or had a negative covid test, to attend clubs and large-scale events. This approach, which allows people to use a negative lateral flow test to gain entry, differs from the covid passports that will be introduced in Scotland from Friday, 1 October. But Chapman, who called the move “incredibly disappointing”, said: “This decision comes despite several weeks of meetings in which UKHospitality Cymru has repeatedly made the case against covid passports because of compliance difficulties over definitions of business, concerns over conflicts with customers and a range of other implementational problems, all while the industry struggles to maintain viability and is trying to cope with desperate short staffing. Those affected businesses, already in a fragile state following repeated lockdowns and periods of onerous trading restrictions, now find themselves facing further economic and resourcing pressures. It is likely this extra burden will prove the last straw for some operators, who will be forced to finally close, resulting in job losses.” Emma McClarkin, chief Executive of the Welsh Beer & Pub Association, added: “Welsh brewers and pubs are at a critical stage in their recovery, so an early indication that covid certification will not apply to pubs is vital. Layering restrictions back on could mean businesses not surviving to the end of the year, resulting in the loss of jobs, homes and the heart of communities.” The Night Time Industries Association Cymru added: “We are disappointed the Welsh government has felt it must mandate covid passports at this stage, albeit a more liberal implementation with the inclusion of testing. We still feel these measures will have a negative impact on businesses and will create considerable market distortion.” Although England will now not go down the vaccine passport route, Downing Street warned they could be introduced if data suggests they are needed to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS over the winter months.

British pubs and brewers ‘not affected’ by gas shortages hitting some sectors: Gas shortages threatening parts of the UK food supply chain have not yet hit the pub and brewing industry. According to the Financial Times, the UK government has held emergency talks with meat suppliers after fears that CO2 shortages resulting from fertiliser factory closures could seriously impede the country’s meat supply chain within a week. The talks came with the UK food industry bracing for disruption after a second fertiliser group announced production curbs, as the impact of Europe’s gas shortage threatens to ripple through the supply chain. Norway’s Yara International, one of the world’s largest fertiliser producers, said 40% of its European production capacity for ammonia would be curtailed by next week to protect its margins. But Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said British drinkers should not fear a beer shortage. "We are aware of other sectors affected by some disruption in the availability of CO2,” she added: “We will be keeping a close eye on the situation in case it threatens to impact brewers and pubs in the UK. We are liaising with suppliers to understand the extent of the situation, but pub goers should rest assured there is plenty of beer to go round.”

Edinburgh’s alfresco dining measures extended by a month: The City of Edinburgh Council has allowed its restaurants to keep their temporary outdoor dining spaces for a further month, until Sunday, 31 October. After this date, planning and other permissions may be needed to continue the measures. The council has also waived any fees and charges for the structures until the end of the year, but a road occupation permit may be needed. Council leader Adam McVey said: “Unfortunately, we’re all still very much living through the effects of this pandemic. Our local pubs, cafes and restaurants have had an extremely tough 18 months, and so and it’s important we continue to do everything we can to support our local businesses as they begin to recover with many restrictions now no longer in place. This needs to be balanced with local needs, and so that’s why if you created an additional structure for extra outdoor capacity during the pandemic, you need to apply for the appropriate permission after 31 October. This will also provide a welcome boost to surrounding retail businesses as more people are attracted to safely enjoy the outdoor spaces throughout Edinburgh.” Deputy leader Cammy Day added: “Last year we streamlined the application process for using outdoor spaces for tables and chairs as part of our drive to support the city’s economic recovery. Our aim is to help businesses safely make use of outside space at no cost to them. We’re continuing to implement the permit system to allow us to monitor where businesses are providing outdoor space to make sure they are doing so appropriately and safely, while also considering the needs of local people.” 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a high-volume London restaurant that is seeking a new senior general manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This is an iconic business with an outstanding reputation, with regularly weekly sales in excess of £100,000. The business is hoping to speak to ambitious and committed senior restaurant professionals who have a love for the sector, high-volume experience and a great understanding of creating guest experience and delivery exceptional service. The position would suit an individual who has strong financial know-how, P&L control of a similar sized business and good understanding of driving sales. This is also a role with a huge responsibility for people management, training and mentorship so it would best suit a manager who is committed to this as well as growing the business.” The position is based in London and pays up to £80,000. Anyone interested can email

Company News: 

Morrisons announces StarStock link-up: StarStock’s online marketplace, launched last month as a one-stop shop for independent hospitality operators to order directly from major drinks brands, has agreed a partnership with supermarket giant Morrisons. Pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK will now have direct access to 1,500 products from Morrisons’ Market Street counters, its own brand range and branded items. The agreement signals Morrisons’ first move into the pub, restaurant and hotels foodservice sector, using StarStock’s new ecommerce platform to give operators direct access to its range. Sam Ulph, StarStock Group founder and chief executive, said: “We are fully committed to making StarStock the platform of choice for pub, bar and restaurant operators when purchasing their food and drinks range. For too long, these businesses have been restricted by how and when they can order food and it’s time to shake this up. We’re thrilled to be working with Morrisons to give on-trade businesses access to high-quality, competitively priced food, as they continue to bounce back from what has been a devastating 18 months for the sector. The StarStock platform brings some long overdue modernisation to the hospitality supply chain as, through ground-breaking partnerships like the one we now have in place with Morrisons, it enables operators to order fresh food directly, at a time that suits them, creating a next-gen marketplace for the on-trade sector.” James Badger, online and wholesale director at Morrisons, added:  "We’re excited to be working with StarStock and serving pubs, restaurants and hotels across the country through our wholesale business.”

Rekom to launch Heidi’s Bier Bar concept into the UK: Scandinavian company Rekom Group, the owner of the former Deltic Group business, is to launch its Heidi’s Bier Bar brand into the UK, in Cardiff, Propel has learned. Rekom UK, which is led by Peter Marks, is believed to have secured a site in the Welsh capital’s Mill Lane for an opening under the Heidi’s brand. Rekom currently operates 20 sites under the brand, which lets consumers “experience the authentic après-ski atmosphere complete with beers and dancing on the tables Oktoberfest style”, across Denmark, Norway and Finland. In April, Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK, told Propel the company planned to introduce brands from its new parent company here. Scandinavian company Rekom Group, which operates circa 120 late-night venues across Finland, Norway and Denmark, acquired 44 of Deltic’s 55 sites out of administration at the end of last year in a circa £10m deal. Speaking at the time, Marks said: “Our number one goal will be to expand our estate more cautiously by finding individual business premises that may have been retail or may have been casual dining and make them one of the Rekom brands. We really like some of their brands. I haven’t been able to see them first-hand but from the walk-throughs that we have been doing remotely, there is one brand I particularly like the look of called Heidi’s Bier Bar, and that is probably going to be one of the focuses to roll out a number of those. There is one called Rabalder Bar, which is another one they have got that might also work here. So that might be the route for us when it comes to expansion.” Propel understands that another two Rekom brands – the pub/bar concept Proud Mary, and club concept Lola – have now been added to the list for possible UK launches.

YO! takes fresh step to show appetite for stock market float: The owner of the sushi restaurant chain YO! will this week take a further step towards a stock market flotation that could come as soon as next month. Sky News reports that The Snowfox Group will hold a presentation for City analysts as it prepares to announce a formal intention to float in London. City sources said the listing could be unveiled as soon as mid-October, although a definitive date has yet to be decided. A listing, which will be led by bankers at Numis, would cap a turnaround for one of the numerous UK-based casual dining businesses that was forced into an insolvency process as a result of the pandemic. Snowfox has been able to recover relatively quickly because of the growing dominance of its American operations, which trade under the Snowfox name at hundreds of grocery store counters. The group is majority-owned by Mayfair Equity Partners, the London-based private equity firm which has also backed businesses including OVO Energy.

Bird & Blend Tea Co closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £1m: Brighton-based tea business Bird & Blend Tea Co has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising £1m as it looks to add further shops to its portfolio. Bird & Blend Tea Co was founded in 2012 by Kristina Smith and Mike Turner with the couple setting up the business in their bedroom. It now operates 13 stores, including a flagship site in Brighton as well as a growing e-commerce business. To support its expansion, Bird & Blend Tea Co was aiming to raise £300,000 and was offering 2.97% equity, giving a pre-money valuation of £18m. The campaign has now closed with more than 1,800 people investing a total of £999,999. This is the second fundraise by Bird & Blend Tea Co, with its last campaign only fully live for four hours before closing. The pitch stated: “We’ve grown from packing tea in a back bedroom and selling at market stalls, to operating multiple retail stores, employing 125-plus people and running a global e-commerce platform attracting 100,000 monthly users. We achieved £3.97m turnover in FY21 despite lockdown closures of our retail stores, with £271,000 net profit and £362,000 Ebitda. Since our 2017 crowdfund, we’ve continued to grow our retail portfolio and now have 13 experiential retail stores across the UK and grown digital revenue 143% year-on-year during the pandemic. We’re proudly championing the concept of tea mixology.” Last month Propel revealed Bird & Blend Tea Co is launching a store in Exeter and opening its debut Scottish site, in Glasgow.

Itsu to make Midlands debut with second franchise restaurant, more regional openings planned: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Julian Metcalfe, will this week open its first Midlands restaurant – and is eyeing further sites in the region. The store, which will be operated by Ghanshyam Ramparia, founder of the Savvi Dining Group, is the brand’s second franchise and will be based at Leicester’s Fosse Park Shopping Centre. Ramparia, who was born and raised in Leicester and has operated business concepts and franchises in the area for more than 25 years, said: “The Itsu brand is growing rapidly, and we felt now is the perfect time to make this investment. The opening in Leicester is our flagship restaurant in the Midlands, and we are delighted to introduce the brand to the region. We now have many more regional openings planned for 2022. Itsu’s commitment to continuous innovation, combined with a laser focus on customer experience, made it an incredibly attractive proposition.” The new restaurant, which measures 2,000 square feet and will seat up to 78 customers, will create 20 jobs. Earlier this month, Itsu announced it hopes to open 20 new venues this year – with work underway at sites in Bromley, Bath and Edinburgh – as part of its plan to expand to 100 UK restaurants by 2026. Founder Julian Metcalfe said: “It’s very exciting to see our doors open in Leicester as our franchise operation continues to gain momentum. Savvi Dining Group has an incredible track record in franchising, and we’re excited to see what the organisation brings to our brand.” Last week Itsu announced an 11% increase in hourly pay for its team members.
Itsu features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has just been updated for Premium subscribers. Itsu turned over an average of £93.6m in the past five years. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks 410 companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. 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.

Soho Coffee opens new London site: Soho Coffee Co, the privately-owned coffee company led by Penny Manuel, has expanded its portfolio to 42 sites with the opening of a new London shop. The Baker Street store offers a seasonal menu of hot and cold meals alongside its range of drinks, including a strong vegan offering. The opening comes hot on the heels of two recent openings, at Leicester’s Fosse Park and Lisbon airport, and at least one more is expected to follow this year, with the company hoping to reach further into the travel market. Having opened its first directly managed travel unit at Bristol airport in October 2020, the company also now has shops at airports in Las Palmas, Faro and Malaga, as well as Liverpool Street station. Last week, the company reported revenue for the year ending 31 January 2021 fell 63%, to £4.2m compared with £11.5m the previous year. However, the company said it is now seeing positive sales growth on 2019 levels. Its directors minimised the impact of the covid pandemic on the business by making use of government initiatives, tightly controlling overheads and working closely with landlords. The company is also working on plans to expand its digital business after developing its online coffee range.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels reports full-year turnover down more than 60% but narrows losses: Andrew Brownsword Hotels has reported turnover fell by more than 60% to £5.1m for the year ending 3 January 2021, compared with £13.8m the year before as a result of the pandemic. However, the company narrowed its pre-tax losses to £3.1m from £7.5m the previous year. The company stated: “The pandemic resulted in the hotels closing from 23 March to 4 July 2020. This temporary closure resulted in no revenue, while at the same time the hotels continued to have certain fixed costs (insurance, utilities, IT contracts etc). The hotels utilised the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to minimise the cost of payroll while they were closed. Once reopened the hotels performed well throughout the summer months. However, towards the end of the year the government mandated further closures that resulted in further disruption throughout the months of October to December and once again impacted revenues. The board are satisfied with the overall trading performance throughout a period of challenging market conditions. The loss for the period will be transferred to reserves. No dividends were paid or proposed in the year.” The company operates 13 sites across the UK.

Brighton-based Trading Post Coffee Roasters secures fifth site, expands into West Sussex: Coffee house company Trading Post Coffee Roasters has secured its fifth side, and first outside of Brighton and its surrounding towns. The company has expanded into West Sussex with the leasing of a site in South Street, Chichester, with the deal concluded by Flude Property Consultants. The shop, which will open on the site of a former Steamer Trading Cookshop, has four floors, with the main retail space on the ground and first floors. Trading Post’s original site, in Brighton’s Ship Street, opened in January 2017, followed by a second shop in nearby Lewes’ Cliffe High Street in March 2018. Two more Brighton sites followed – at Kensington Gardens in February 2019 and Sydney Street, where the company’s operations hub is based, in July 2020. The Chichester shop is set to open later this month.

Pret A Manger launches coffee subscription service in US following UK success: Pret A Manger has introduced a new subscription service in New York City and Washington DC. The scheme allows subscribers to pay a monthly fee for up to five coffees and teas a day, according to the London-based division of Pret owners JAB Holdings. This follows the conclusion of Pret’s previous “coffee pass” programme, which was used as a tester in the US market and that ended in July. Under the new service, customers can choose between a $29.99 premium plan or $19.99 classic plan, with a free first month for new subscribers. A spokesman said: “After seeing success in the UK market, Pret A Manger is eager to offer its US customers a programme with similar benefits. We used ‘coffee passes’ as a test in the US market to see if there was interest in a programme like this, which has ended to make room for our shiny new Pret Coffee Subscription.” The company has invested in new technology to aid the subscription rollout, with a new mobile app allowing customers to make purchases, manage subscriptions and order ahead for pick-up. Jorrie Bruffett, president of Pret A Manger USA, said: “We recognise our customers’ need for ease, flexibility and value, and this subscription model will be able to provide that. This innovation in technology comes with a new app redesign, and more exclusive perks to be launched later this year.” Another JAB Holding-owned company, Panera Bread, has also launched an $8.99 per month tea and coffee subscription service, while Mexican food brand Taco Bell is testing an in-app subscription service in some of its Arizona stores. 

Fletchergate Industries opens seventh site with Nottingham city centre bar-and-grill: Fletchergate Industries, which is behind Nottingham venues including The Hockley Arts Club and Das Kino, has opened its seventh site in the city. The Blind Rabbit, a New York inspired bar-and-grill and live entertainment space, has become the first major venue to launch post-lockdown in the city centre. It has opened in the former Belgo building on Weekday Cross, which has sat empty since the closure of Belgian restaurant in July last year. The heritage building, which dates back to 1875, will now house a US-themed drinking, dining and entertainments venue over three floors, which will include traditional American bar games. Michael Johnson, operations director at The Blind Rabbit, said: “We are thrilled with the success of the launch of our newest venture in Nottingham’s Lace Market. It’s a beautiful building spanning across three floors, where people can hang out together as the colder months draw in, but it also boasts a fantastic outdoor space for people to enjoy in the summer.” In May, Fletchergate also announced plans for an eighth Nottinghamshire site. The Beeston Social is to be part of the Beeston Square development, which includes cafes and restaurants surrounding a cinema by Irish operator The Arc.

SpiceBox announces October opening for second London site: SpiceBox, the London-based vegan curry house concept, will open its second restaurant in the capital on Thursday, 21 October. Having launched its first outlet in Walthamstow in 2019, SpiceBox’s new venue will be based at the site of former Vietnamese restaurant District Mot in Leytonstone High Road. Seating up to 90 people, it was not only be significantly bigger than its Walthamstow sibling but will also be one of the biggest restaurants in Leytonstone. Founder Grace Regan is introducing a bigger menu too, including her bhaigan bharta, mushroom madras, samosa chaat and mango and coconut chia pudding. In a nod to sustainable dining, SpiceBox’s Tiffin Club, which allows guests to get their takeaways in a reusable metal tiffin time and time again, will also be running from the new venue, delivered via an electric bike. Regan has also launched a retail range of SpiceBox sauces and condiments, which were originally just sold at local independent shops in London but will be expanded and offered nationwide from this month.

Cardiff approves licensing for seven new bar and restaurant units, works to begin in the new year: Cardiff licensing authorities have granted approval for the development of seven new bar and restaurant units as part of the planned Castle Quarter Courtyard regeneration. With the final public authority consent now in place, work will start in the coming months to demolish a former nightclub that sits in the space behind High Street and Duke Street Arcades. Construction will then begin in the new year to create the new open courtyard, which will be surrounded by units designed for independent hospitality businesses. Phillip Morris, the partner at EJ Hales who is leading the development team, said: “Interest has always been strong in this development. We have been talking to some very exciting chefs and restaurateurs, and with licensing now approved, we expect to be able to confirm our first deals soon. This regeneration scheme will create much needed high quality leisure spaces at the heart of the city’s historic Castle Quarter. Designed with independents in mind, it will support local businesses and further build on Cardiff’s reputation as a food and hospitality destination.” Units ranging from 500 to 10,000 square feet will be available – a small section of the 110 retail and leisure units included in the Castle Quarter Arcades estate. The Arcades are owned by a Mansford fund, and the development team includes EJ Hales, Rio Architects, TLT Solicitors, Avison Young, Le Gros, Knight Frank and Matt Appleby Consulting.

Manchester distillery to open new production facility as it anticipates sales growth of more than 30% on pre-pandemic levels: The Spirit of Manchester Distillery is opening a new 5,000 square foot facility in response to increased demand and to allow for future growth. As well as the company’s headquarters in Watson Street, Spirit of Manchester Distillery will be launching “The Vault” just outside the city centre as it expands its portfolio of spirits. Anticipating sales growth of more than 30% on pre-pandemic levels into 2022, The Vault will provide the distillery with space for bottling, labelling and shipping and enable growth to more than one million bottles a year. All spirits will continue to be distilled at the Watson Street site, which is also home to premium cocktail bar, Three Little Words and the company’s tours, spirits tastings and gin making classes. Master distiller Seb Heeley said: “Having come through a tough period for the industry we’re delighted to be looking to the future and investing in our growth. By expanding our production facilities, we’re also able to plan exciting enhancements to our distillery tour and gin tasting offering.”

Wadworth appoints Mark Fulton as operations director: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth has appointed Mark Fulton, formerly of Fuller’s and Grosvenor Pubs & Inns, as its new operations director, Propel has learned. Fulton joins Wadworth after a brief spell as operations director at the Jason Myers-led Grosvenor Pubs & Inns. Before that, he spent more than 16 years at Fuller’s, including six as head of operations for hotels Bel & The Dragon and Cotswold Inns & Hotels. It is believed that Fulton will replace Nick Young, the former Byron chief operating officer, as operations director at Wadworth. Last month, newly filed accounts revealed the Devizes-based brewer and retailer was burning through £1.5m a month at the beginning of the pandemic. However, the company managed to reduce its losses to less than £500,000 per month following a restructure that incurred costs of almost £4m and saw the number of staff more than halve. The company has reduced its bank borrowings to £25m following the reorganisation of its “underperforming” managed house division that also saw 21 pubs sold to Channel Islands-based brewer and retailer Liberation Group in December last year, and a number transferred to its tenanted estate.

Mowgli to open in Preston next year: Indian street food concept Mowgli, which will make its London debut next month, has secured a site in Preston for an opening next year. The Nisha Katona-led company has signed a lease on a unit in the town’s Miller Arcade, with the aim of opening the site next spring or summer. Before that, he business is set to open in London on the former Cote site at 5 Charlotte Street this October. Propel revealed last month that the company had also applied to open on the Oasis unit in Brighton’s Dukes Lane. The 13-strong group recently opened in Cheshire Oaks and Cheltenham and has an opening in Bristol lined up for later this year. It has also secured sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow for 2022. Katona said the business, which is backed by Foresight and chaired by Karen Jones, was looking at Newcastle and Cambridge for 2023-24, and the brand would “continue to build at the steady rate of four sites a year as long as you want us”. 

Gymbox founder Richard Hilton and sector investor Paul Campbell line up Canary Wharf site for new competitive socialising concept: Richard Hilton, the founder of Gymbox, and sector investor and non-executive director Paul Campbell have lined up a site in Canary Wharf for their new competitive socialising concept, Propel has learned. Propel understands the new, as-yet named concept will be spread over 15,500 square feet and located in Fisherman’s Walk. It is believed that that the concept, which will be centred around “simple, nostalgic games'', is scheduled to launch next spring and will feature three internal bars, multiple private hire areas, a raised DJ booth, three street food kitchens, and a 400 person-capacity riverside terrace with food trucks and an outside bar. The new venture is backed by BGF. Earlier this year, Propel revealed that a new competitive socialising concept was set to be launched by Hilton and Campbell. Toby Cowan, formerly of Cote, Young’s and Urban Pubs and Bars, has been appointed chief operating officer of the new business.

PizzaExpress launches “Vegan PizzaExpress” pop-up to highlight new menu: PizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, has launched a “Vegan PizzaExpress” pop-up at its site on The Strand, London, to highlight its new autumn menu. The opening of the pop-up, which doesn’t have a set end date, mark’s PizzaExpress’ brand-new menu, launching 21 September, which sees the biggest ever number of new vegan additions, including vegan versions of the brand’s “most famous favourites”. Jane Treasure, food and beverage director at PizzaExpress, said: “The launch of our Sloppy Vegan – the vegan version of our popular Sloppy Giuseppe – this summer was just a taste of what was to come. Sloppy Vegan was a huge hit with customers, and it goes without saying that we’re incredibly excited to launch even more vegan versions of classic PizzaExpress recipes across the UK this autumn. Every single one of our new vegan pizzas stays true to the unique flavours of the original versions. It took just over a year to develop an exclusive new Vegan Pepperoni ingredient with our partners Jack & Bry, working tirelessly with our tasting panels to perfect them – so our customers can enjoy the same mouth-watering flavour profiles as the originals, without any animal products.” Shadi Halliwell, chief customer officer at PizzaExpress, added: “Our new vegan menu is so wide ranging and delicious that it deserves a pizzeria of its own – so that’s exactly what we did. Vegan PizzaExpress is our first restaurant that will serve our vegan menu exclusively and is a true showcase of these authentic flavours that we’ve been perfecting since 1965. We’re thrilled to finally open the doors and can’t wait to welcome everyone from across London and beyond as they come to enjoy our wonderful new vegan menu.”

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