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Fri 24th Sep 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Connell – we could look back at the next few months as one of best times to invest in the sector: Darrell Connell, partner at sector investor Imbiba, which backs operators including Farmer J, Vagabond and Darwin & Wallace, has said if businesses can get through the next three to six months, “we could look back at it as one of the best times to invest in our sector in the past 20 to 30 years”. Speaking at Propel’s Multi-Club Conference this month, Connell said: “We flapped around in the early stages of the pandemic trying to work out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, but we settled on we should stick to our knitting, which for us is backing what we deem the best businesses in each sub sector. We were careful how we structured deals, but in terms of the core of what we do it has remained the same. The question of covid-fad versus trend is something we debate a lot internally and there will be things that will be here to stay for the long term but I think it is too premature to opine on what they are. For us it is still about good solid businesses and when we decide to invest to make sure they have plenty of runway to get through. In terms of exits the pandemic has put two years on the back of everything. We are not a generalist investor, we focus on hospitality, so when the crisis hit, we were very much ‘we are all in, let’s push on’. We have been very active during the period – in the past 18 months alone we have made six new investments, and we have got four new investments due to complete in the next few months. When we are looking at new investments we are very cautious, but if we can get through the next three to six months, we could look back at it as one of the best times to invest in our sector in the past 20 to 30 years. I think the generalist private equity firms will see how the next three to six months pan out with covid but then I think there could be some real activity in the market. There are still some very good businesses out there. We are seeing a lot of entrepreneurs, who have had a really tough 18 months, have been sitting on their hands, and they really don’t like sitting still, and want to come out of this and get going. Saying 'let’s open new venues, do new things, innovate', and we are seeing a lot of that.”

Industry News: 

Sponsored message – QikServe joins forces with Wahaca to elevate customers’ digital payment and ordering experiences: Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca has partnered with QikServe to offer guests fresh digital ordering and payment services. Wahaca co-founder and chief executive Mark Selby said: “Pay at table has been a game changer. Since giving guests the power to pay in their own time with their smartphone, we’ve seen faster table turnover and enhanced customer satisfaction. With no need to fetch bills, our staff have had more time to focus on our guests, providing a first-rate Wahaca experience. We are now taking more than 90% of all payments via QikServe’s pay at table solution, delighting our guests as well as eliminating the need for printed guest receipts. This aligns nicely with our sustainability goals.” For Wahaca, like many other brands, the positive impact of digital order and pay is driving its next steps. Selby added: “We’ve got exciting plans with QikServe. We’re introducing to-table ordering, replicating the traditional restaurant experience. By keeping a tab open, food and drink can flow to the table at a pace that suits our guests. We want to make it easy and fun for people to try new things and order one more plate of a delicious special, all while keeping the conversation going on the table.” If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email

74 multi-site companies set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A total of 74 new multi-site companies, operating 418 sites, have been 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, includes international growth concepts making their UK debut, expanding vegan brands, regional coffee operators and a number of brands growing through franchise. Premium subscribers will also receive a 6,200-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. In this week’s Premium Opinion column, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (24 September) at 5pm, he looks at the next few months ahead, including staffing and pricing issues, with comment from Simon French, managing director, private capital solutions at Panmure Gordon. 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 Ralph Findlay: Propel continues its new Friday Wrap video series on Friday (24 September) at 3pm. The 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’s insights editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by Ralph Findlay, the outgoing chief executive of Marston’s, to discuss his 20 years at the helm of the pub company, what he will miss, any regrets, what he feels the sector has learned over the past 20 months, what trends will impact the market going forward and his new role at C&C Group. 

Small and medium-sized operators having to pass price hikes on to their customers, warn business owners: Small and medium-sized operators are being faced with no choice but to pass rising prices on to consumers, warned Darren Simpson, founder of handmade burger business Nanny Bill’s. Speaking on the Next Big Thing panel at Casual Dining 2021, Simpson said he managed to keep on the majority of the staff at his five locations during lockdown. However, he admitted post-covid shortages in both staff and supplies are posing new challenges. He said: “We try to swallow as much of the cost as we can and not pass it on to the consumer, but it's getting to the point where we hiked our prices for the first time in five years last week by 10% to 12%. We didn't want to but we had to do it. At the moment, hiring new staff is nigh on impossible too.” For Laura Morris, co-owner and director of Yard & Coop, which runs five premium fried chicken outlets across the north west, re-training front of house staff as chefs is one solution. She believed another big challenge is turning back to being customer-focused following the euphoria of reopening sites post-lockdown. “The mentality when we first reopened was like a blitz spirit at first,” she added. “People were just excited to be back and they would overlook things like packaging being everywhere because they were excited that we were open. Now that's changed and we have to focus on what customers want, but we're having to hike prices for everything, which makes it difficult for everyone. It's a really difficult trading environment, even though the trade is there.” For Mark Wogan, co-founder of pizza restaurant chain Homeslice, which runs six sites across London, it's been all about making restaurants feel like restaurants again. He said. “Last month we took out the two-metre distancing and sanitise your hands signs as it's become the norm for people now. People come to the restaurant as they want a restaurant experience rather than a covid-compliant experience.” The lockdowns have also brought about menu changes at Homeslice, which previously offered just Neapolitan pizzas sold by the slice. Wogan added: “We've made small menu changes for the first time because, having pivoted into a delivery service, we noticed just having the pieces wasn't enough, people wanted more. We offered garlic bread for the first time, and that's stayed on the restaurant menu.”

BII warns government the future of Britain’s pubs hangs in balance without ongoing support as escalating costs derail recovery: The future of Britain’s pubs hangs in the balance as their recovery is derailed by escalating costs, the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has warned the government. The trade body has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak and business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to highlight the plight of its members with the recovery of pubs being undermined by the combination of summer trading below 2019 levels, rapidly escalating costs and increasing taxation. The BII said three key areas of ongoing support needed to be urgently addressed – a full business rates holiday for England alongside a fundamental reform of the rates system, an extension of a reduced rate of VAT and a rapid introduction of a duty cut for draught products served in pubs. A report showed 84% of members’ pubs’ summer trading was below 2019 levels, with 54% trading below 75% of pre-pandemic levels. The BII said the impact of closure and severe restrictions over the past 12 months has left pubs with an average pandemic specific debt of more than £50,000, which will now take more than four years to pay back. One in four also having insufficient funds to keep up with outgoing costs. Already, one in two operators will not invest any money into their businesses in the next 12 months due to both lack of funds and levels of existing debt, the BII said. Meanwhile, 76% of its members are paying higher wages to attract and retain staff with 70% of these paying at least almost three times the rate of inflation. Two in three pubs are seeing more than 10% increases in food costs, one in three are seeing more than 10% increases in drinks costs and one in two have utility costs increasing more than 10% Operational challenges are also significant with 61% not being able to recruit enough staff to keep up with their workload, 33% experiencing no-shows and supply issues, leaving 72% of pubs running out of core lines in their food and drink offering. BII chief executive Steven Alton said: “This insight from our membership clearly shows further investment will be required by government to safeguard the future of our nations’ pubs and enable them to be at the heart of the economic recovery. If government does not recognise the support that is desperately needed by our fragile small businesses in the coming weeks and months, there is a very real danger of widespread business failure in our sector.” 

Seven Bro7hers boss warns carbon dioxide costs will increase as government bails out CF Industries: The boss of Manchester-based Seven Bro7hers Brewery has said carbon dioxide costs will increase due to the government's decision to bail out US firm CF Industries. Seven Bro7thers chief executive Keith McAvoy said the firm has a two to four-week supply of carbon dioxide – so the announcement the government will fund production at CF Industries “couldn't have come any sooner”. McAvoy, whose company owns beer houses in Ancoats, Middlewood Locks, MediaCity and Manchester airport, told Business Live: “As little as a three-day delay in carbon dioxide supply could have a major impact on our business. It is likely our carbon dioxide costs will increase because of the government investment, which will have direct impact on our margin. The decision has accelerated our plans to carbon capture our own carbon dioxide to make ourselves more independent and self-reliant in times like this. In the brewing process one of the biproducts of the fermenting is the release of carbon dioxide. We are exploring different ways to capture this and add it to our reserve. Our goal is to become a carbon negative business.” Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the “exceptional short-term arrangement” with CF Industries will last three weeks. It will allow the company, which last week stopped production at its Billingham and Cheshire plants, to restart operations and produce carbon dioxide at Billingham once more. It's not yet known when the Cheshire plant will restart. It's hoped in three weeks' time, the carbon dioxide market will have adapted to global gas prices. CF Fertilisers produces about 60% of the UK’s carbon dioxide, used primarily by the food sector. Discussing the supply chain impacts of national post pandemic shortages, McAvoy added: “Currently every part of the production and supply chain process is being squeezed.”

Cask Ale Week kicks off: Cask Ale Week has kicked off in a bid to attract more people into pubs, with The World’s Biggest Ale Trail recording a major milestone – it has generated a million pub visits. The CaskFinder app, where people register to join in The World’s Biggest Ale Trail, records QR code scans made by ale trailers. They can each scan any single pub only once – an encouragement to head out for numerous pub and beer adventures over time. As a result of the pandemic, the doors of 2,000 of the country’s 47,000 pubs had already been permanently closed by March this year. Paul Nunny, Cask Marque director and instigator of Cask Ale Week, said: “That’s why Cask Ale Week is this year more important than ever. Cask can play a huge role in encouraging people out of their homes and into the sociable atmosphere of the pub.” Cask Ale Week runs until Sunday, 3 October.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to recruit a head of marketing and events for a London-based, multi brand, hospitality business, paying up to £60,000. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will take ownership of the overall marketing strategy and use your business expertise to define growth initiatives to accelerate customer acquisition and profitability, launch new initiatives, grow all channels and help meet our portfolio companies’ KPIs. You will be responsible for developing and implementing the events programme across all brands that will help build awareness and meet the business objectives. You will ensure all brands within the portfolio have a quarterly marketing strategy and drive sales in all shops within the portfolio through specific promotions and campaigns. You will also develop and implement the events programme across all brands and take lead on all events from concept to implementation across internal events as well as customer events. You will lead all concept, product and menu launches from concept to implementation. This will include granular understanding of current sales performance, to analysing marketing trends, briefing the development chefs, presenting the range and cost of goods to the board, through to implementation with the operations team. You will ensuring the shops hit forecast sales through a strong local marketing and awareness campaign. This is a fast paced and multifaceted role that would suit an engaged, dedicated and very organised events and marketing professional.” Anyone interested can email

Company News: 

Watson – I’d rather have the challenge of employing staff than furloughing staff: Clive Watson, chairman of City Pub Group, owner and operator of circa 50 premium pubs across southern England and Wales, has said he would rather have the challenge of employing staff than furloughing staff. On the back of the group’s interim results, he also called on the government to introduce temporary worker visas to plug the gaps in the labour market. Talking to Propel about the staffing issue, Watson said: “It is not easy, there are vacancies of about 7% to 8%, but in a funny sort of way it doesn’t feel as bad as July, when we were getting pinged all over the place, having to close pubs and send staff home. I’d rather have the challenge of employing staff than furloughing staff. It is an ongoing challenge – you have to make sure that you are seen by your staff as a responsible, progressive and inclusive employer and that’s what we have always tried to do. While this is very frustrating, we believe the end of the furlough scheme in September will increase the pool of labour able to work in our industry and the returning students should also help with staffing. It would seem sensible for, and we call upon the government to, introduce a two to three-year working visa to European nationals so people can come to the UK, work, study and return home extolling the virtues of the British pub. This, we believe, will also encourage much needed tourism, which is essential in helping our sector to get back on its feet.” Watson said he believed “UK plc is heading for 5%-plus inflation”. He added: “We are going to be pushing our prices up to overcome those inflationary increases. I think staff salaries are going to go up, so hopefully our prices won’t be above inflation and those people getting 5% pay rises won’t be concerned by us putting our prices up by 5% or a little more. My job is to make sure we cover the inflationary costs the best way we can – we can’t keep taking costs out of the business. The best way to do that is to put prices up at the pump level. We were running 46 businesses, each had its own menu and drinks list. It is not just streamlining suppliers, it is also making the business less complex, which makes it operational easier to run. We also now have more room revenue as a percentage of sales, which helps the sales mix and margins. For us we weren’t at optimal efficiency going into covid and a lot of things we have done to change that we should have done before.”

Nick Collins – IPO allowed Loungers to come through covid stronger than it would have done otherwise: Nick Collins, chief executive of cafe bar operator Loungers, has said the group’s 2019 public flotation “could not have come at a better time”, considering what lay ahead, and allowed it to come out through covid a lot stronger than it would have otherwise. Speaking at Casual Dining 2021 at London's ExCeL centre, Collins also said about a quarter of its employees are now shareholders in the company. He said: “We had two very good experiences with private equity in 2012 and 2016, but we didn't want to be in that constant cycle of putting yourself up for sale and being exposed to a private equity exit, and the impact that can have on a business We were also really keen to have more employee shareholders, and a plc is a great platform for that. We now have about 1,250 to 1,300 out of 5,000 employees, from kitchen porters to general managers, all of whom have contributed to our growth. If we had gone into covid as a private equity-backed business we'd have been significantly more leveraged – pre initial public offering (IPO) we had £70m to £80m debt and post covid we had £30m – so the outcome could have been very different. The banks would have had a much bigger say in our future, but we spoke to our shareholders, went back to the market and raised £8m, so we were very fortunate.” Collins was also keen to emphasise the group's impressive like-for-like sales growth over the past five years has been driven not just by new sites, but “consistently by every site”. He said: “We compete with everyone – coffee shops in the morning, independent sandwich shops at lunchtime, local pubs in the evening – everyone who trades from a leisure perspective in that location. Generating revenue all day allows us to open in places with quite small populations and allows us to generate greater returns on capital on low rents, and as such we don't need to generate the high levels of revenue you might associate with other leisure businesses.” Collins admits he is still learning, however, and it took the lockdowns to get him on board with digital advances. He said: “Pre-covid we were massive digital sceptics as we pride ourselves on the nature of the people who work in our lounges, and we ruled out apps as they'd take away what we're best at. But then covid came along and we thought we'd better do something, and last summer it immediately took 50% of our sales. We found it didn't take away from the hospitality, but shifted the point of hospitality from when food and drink was ordered to when it was delivered. It's just an ordering platform, we're not into data-mining or being intrusive we want to rely on our hospitality for that kind of engagement.” The company now operates 180 sites – 149 Lounges and 31 Cosy Clubs. Collins said: “We can open sites at a rate of 25 a year and do that confidently, but the important thing is that we're delivering well for our customers, and that's down to the strength of our teams. Rent-revenue ratio is also really important. We're about 5.5% rent to revenue, and if you consider the leisure setting broadly, that's the lowest by a country mile, which allows us to generate great returns on capital at relatively low levels of sales.”

Benihana plans Covent Garden opening: Benihana, the worldwide Japanese teppanyaki restaurant chain, is set to open its first site in London for more than 20 years, in Covent Garden. Propel has learned Benihana, which is backed by Minor International, is set to take the Fire & Stone site in Maiden Lane. It currently operates sites in Chelsea and Piccadilly. In 2018, Minor International acquired a 75% stake in Benihana to spearhead the business and oversee its expansion programme. Last year, the company closed its only UK site outside London, in Glasgow, less than a year after its launch.

CG Restaurants & Bars returns to expansion trail as it brings Dirty Martini to Bristol: Leisure operator CG Restaurants & Bars is to bring its premium cocktail group Dirty Martini to Bristol. The company has acquired the lease for 47 Corn Street previously operated by The Bristologist. The 3,300 square foot premises will undergo a £1.2m refurbishment and is scheduled to open in time for the Christmas festivities. Dirty Martini was founded in 2010 with a basement bar in Covent Garden and has expanded to 11 sites across London, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. The acquisition will be the company’s first new site since the start of the pandemic. Chief executive Scott Matthews said: “Bristol is an iconic city renowned for its vibrant nightlife and we are thrilled to be part of the rejuvenation of the Corn Street part of the city. Dirty Martini has been on an amazing journey the past 11 years and we are proud to take this next important step in Bristol.”
CG Restaurants & Bars features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has recently been updated for Premium subscribers. CG Restaurants & Bars has turned over an average of £23m 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.

Music producer Stephen Lironi plans third London restaurant: The husband of former pop singer Clare Grogan is planning to open a third restaurant in London. Propel understands Stephen Lironi, a successful music producer, has lined up the former Yumchaa site in Berwick Street, Soho, for a new restaurant called Maresco. At the start of 2016, Lironi opened his second site in London – Escocesa in Stoke Newington, which “serve the best of Scottish produce and champions the country’s finest seafood”. Lironi’s other restaurant is Bar Esteban in Crouch End.

Black Sheep Coffee secures Midlands debut site: London-based speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has secured its first site in the Midlands, in Birmingham. Propel understands the circa 45-strong brand will open a site on the ground floor of the AC Hotel by Marriott in the city’s Mailbox scheme, next month. The company recently opened its first site in Scotland, in Glasgow Central station, as part of its plans to become a national brand in the UK. Propel revealed earlier this month that Black Sheep Coffee has more than 30 new openings planned for the next seven months, including its first domestic franchise site. Gabriel Shohet, co-founder and co-chief executive, told Propel the business had 35 sites either signed, being built or in legals, with plans to have them all open by the end of next March. This will include ten openings in Scotland, comprising five in Edinburgh, four in Glasgow and one in St Andrews. Meanwhile, the business is planning to open in Leeds, Liverpool, Guildford, Colchester, Birmingham and Chelmsford. It is also planning to add further sites in Manchester, London and Oxford. The company is also understood to have signed its first UK franchisee for a further opening in Birmingham, with another one set to be signed for west London. 

Former Incipio and Hippo Inns managers eye Notting Hill for third site: Bird House London, led by Frazer Timmerman and Wil Fuller, is eyeing an opening in Notting Hill for its third site. Propel understands Bird House London has applied to open a site in Portobello Road, which would feature a wine bar. Earlier this year, Timmerman, who previously oversaw the food and drinks offering for Edition Capital-backed Incipio Group, and Fuller, previously area support manager at Hippo Inns, launched their second site, 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 opened in the former Jamie’s Italian site and holds 400 in the outdoor courtyard and has capacity for another 250 people inside.

The Restaurant Group selects Yumpingo for leisure division: Yumpingo, the guest experience management platform for hospitality, has been selected by The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) leisure division, to drive optimal guest experiences throughout its Frankie and Benny’s, Chiquito, Coast to Coast, Est, Filling Station, and Firejacks brands. After a pilot in April, TRG’s leisure division progressed its partnership with Yumpingo across all of its 126 sites. TRG’s leisure division teams now receive more than 2,000 live reviews per venue, per month, with Yumpingo’s proprietary one-minute review process. The review is incorporated into any in-store and digital customer journey to collect a greater volume of insights that accurately define how operations are performing against guest expectations. Jon Knight, managing director of TRG”s leisure and concessions business, said: “Yumpingo offers a solution to keep our front-line teams focused on the areas of improvement that will have the greatest impact. Receiving that level of insight with Yumpingo’s smart actions has already proven to drive action where it matters most.” Yumpingo said its newly released smart actions, the prescriptive analytics component within the platform, builds a weekly game plan for general managers that helps them address critical guest feedback impacting the customer experience. Gary Goodman, chief executive and founder of Yumpingo, said: “It’s important to the entire team at Yumpingo that we understand new market challenges and priorities and adapt our solutions around that. The smart actions component of Yumpingo could not have come at a more critical time in the industry as restaurateurs face staffing and supply chain shortages.”

Buzzworks launches One Good Turn employment initiative: Scottish restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks has unveiled a new initiative, One Good Turn, to ease the recruitment crisis while also giving back to their loyal customers. A spokesman said: “It’s all about word of mouth and if an applicant mentions your name when applying to join their front of house team, Buzzworks will be in touch after they’ve successfully completed their first three months to arrange a £50 Buzzworks gift card.” Kenny Blair, managing director of Buzzworks, said: “We are looking for passionate and talented people to join our front of house teams as waiting staff, bartenders, receptionists and managers. No experience is required for these roles as all necessary training is provided with the opportunity to learn while you earn. Whether you know someone who has previously worked in hospitality or are a complete beginner looking to seek a complete change of career, we’d love to hear from them. We pride ourselves on offering flexible working hours, a competitive rate of pay as well as generous tips on top of this. All of our rotas are created two weeks in advance and we offer a 40% staff discount. We know our customers are our biggest ambassadors and word of mouth has played a huge role in the success of our business to date, so our One Good Turn campaign extends this way of thinking and allows us to give a little something back in the process.” Buzzworks has been named in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work list consecutively for five years. 

Electric Group secures Newcastle music venue, plans further expansion: Independent music venue operator Electric Group has secured a site in Newcastle – and is on the hunt for further properties. The former O2 Newcastle Academy, which will now be known as the NX Newcastle, was acquired in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. Opening in October 2022, NX Newcastle will be a “state-of-the-art 21st century independent music venue” following a comprehensive £1.5m refurbishment of the historical building, with work scheduled to begin in March. The plans for NX’s main room include creating a more intimate gig experience for artists and audiences alike, with the introduction of mezzanine platforms and staircases, four new bars, and access to a contained roof terrace. As part of the group’s ongoing acquisition drive, Christie & Co is retained to acquire multiple city centre opportunities for redevelopment, with target locations including London, Brighton, Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Southampton, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Suitable properties could include nightclubs, theatres, performance venues, bingo halls, cinemas and churches, as well as existing live music venues, which are capable of providing a minimum of 18,000 square foot to 20,000 square foot of floor area, with the majority of open-plan space on a single level. Both freehold and leasehold situations can be considered subject to leases having a minimum of 15 years unexpired.

Middle East-based Lebanese restaurant concept Em Sherif to make UK debut: Middle East-based Lebanese restaurant concept Em Sherif is to make its UK debut. Founder Mireille Hayek opened her first site in Beirut in 2011 and has since added venues in Kuwait, Doha, Dubai, Cairo and Damascus. Now the concept is heading to London, with an opening in Harrods later this year. Em Sherif is named after Hayek’s son, who also works on all her restaurant projects. The menu at the Harrods restaurant is set to include Hindbeh (sautéed dandelion greens and caramelised onions tossed in olive oil and lemon) and Toshka (flatbread stuffed with kebab meat and white cheese).

Lina Stores confirms debut City of London site: Delicatessen brand Lina Stores has confirmed it will open its first site in the City of London. As previously revealed by Propel, Lina Stores, which is backed by White Rabbit Projects, has secured space in the Bloomberg Arcade. The 90-cover restaurant, which opens next month, is being designed in Lina Stores’ signature style that has been part of its identity since it first opened in Soho in 1944. The menu will feature signature Lina Stores antipasti dishes, handmade pasta and a number of larger sharing secondi dishes. Along with a central bar, there will be a mezzanine for private dining gatherings for up to 40 people. In addition, there will be a terrace running along the front of the restaurant. Head chef Masha Rener said: “We’re so proud to arrive at Bloomberg Arcade with a location that is all about the Italian art of celebration.” Lina Stores, which recently opened its first site outside the UK in Shibuya in Tokyo, currently operates restaurants in London’s Soho and King’s Cross as well as its original delicatessen in Brewer Street.

Yorkshire-based True Independent Group to open trio of Barnsley bars: Yorkshire-based True Independent Group is set to open a trio of venues in Barnsley. The company has agreed a deal with developer Queensbury to open two bars at The Glass Works scheme while the operator is also planning to launch a speakeasy-style venue in the town. The Glass Works bars will be Salt Rock and Black & White. The largest of the two venues, Salt Rock, will be located in the new building to the north of The Glass Works Square, sitting on the corner between Eldon Street and Kendray Street. The day-to-night venue will serve local and continental food alongside specialist cocktails. Black & White, located in May Day Green, will offer more than 100 wines alongside a tapas menu – made from locally sourced produce. True Independent Group is also lining up speakeasy-style bar Long Island, the details of which are being kept under wraps for now. Managing director Matthew Crisp said: “We are delighted to be investing in Barnsley – a town that really is on the up. Our new venues in The Glass Works will open before Christmas and we are confident they will take Barnsley’s nightlife to a new level – bringing a more refined and sophisticated offer right into the heart of the town.” Alex Hyams, senior leasing manager at Queensberry, added: “Interest in Barnsley and The Glass Works remains strong. We are delighted with these latest deals, which see a regional operator bring two fresh and contemporary concepts to The Glass Works Square.” True Independent Group currently operates Cucina Sky Lounge in Barnsley and the Barista coffee shop and Cucina bar in Penistone. The company is also launching The Works – Yorkshire’s first life space with a cocktail lounge, in Barnsley.

Hero Brands opens first German site for healthy eating restaurant Choppaluna following London launch: Hero Brands, which operates the German Doner Kebab brand, has opened the first German site for its healthy eating restaurant Choppaluna following the concept’s launch in London last year. The restaurant has opened in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin and further growth and franchise recruitment is planned during the next 12 months. Championing healthy eating, Choppaluna is bidding to show salads “don’t have to be boring” and offers a menu of vegetarian and vegan options, and a choice of superfoods. The Choppaluna experience allows customers to choose from more than 60 fresh toppings before watching the kitchen team chop live in front of their eyes. Co-founder Nikras Agha said: “It’s exciting to be launching our first restaurant in my home city of Berlin – it’s where our inspiration and idea for Choppaluna was born. It is particularly pleasing to open our restaurant in Berlin so quickly after the launch of our first restaurant in London’s Bloomsbury in October last year – it’s a huge achievement for our team. The opportunity is truly resonating with our franchise network within the Hero Brands group and we will work with it to explore opportunities for growth throughout the UK.” Hero Brands chief executive Athif Sarwar added: “Eating-out is changing and younger consumers are demanding a shorter dwell time, great-tasting healthier food and an aspirational-experience that is shareable on their social channels. Choppaluna responds to this trend and we worked very closely with Nikras and Bijan to develop the brand and a proposition that truly disrupts the healthy eating space.”

Turkish restaurateur Salt Bae opens long-awaited first UK site: Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, has opened his debut UK site, in Knightsbridge, central London, – four years after it was first planned. Gökçe has launched Nusr-Et Steakhouse at The Park Tower Knightsbridge. Dishes include roasted asado short rib, Nusr-Et meat spaghetti and the Nusr-Et special, with Gökçe “personally selecting every cut”. Gökçe operates eight restaurants in Turkey as well as sites in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Miami and New York. He was dubbed Salt Bae after he sprinkled salt on a steak in a video that has been viewed more than 17 million times on social media.

Travelodge targets parents wanting to return to work as it looks to fill 750 jobs: Travelodge has launched its autumn recruitment drive as it looks to fill 750 jobs at its hotels across the UK. The jobs are a mix of full and part-time, offering flexible working hours for posts including receptionists, bar staff and managers. Travelodge said it was targeting parents wanting to return to work now that schools have reopened, with initiatives such as hours that match the school run. Head office jobs in marketing, sales and finance are also on offer. Travelodge chief executive Craig Bonnar said: “There has never been a better time than now to join the UK hospitality sector – the career opportunities are endless. We need to fill 750 positions immediately. We operate a dedicated programme to help parents work around the school run, by offering jobs close to home and flexible working hours so that they can raise their family and keep one foot firmly on their career ladder too.”

Freehold of Walkabout site on market for offers in excess of £1.7m: Agent Savills is marketing the freehold of 13 Bird Street in Lichfield, currently let to Stonegate Pub Company and operating as Walkabout, with a guide price of offers in excess of £1.7m. The business remains unaffected by the sale. The sale price represents a net initial yield of 6.27%. The two storey property, which spans 6,376 square foot, is let to Stonegate on a 30-year lease expiring in 2044 at a rent of circa £113,000 per annum that benefits from fixed rental increases every five years equivalent to 2.5% per annum. Stuart Stares, associate director at Savills, said: “This property provides a mix of indoor and outdoor trading areas in a central location in the cathedral city of Lichfield. The current occupier is part of the UK’s largest pub company and has recently extended the lease so that it now expires in 2044, illustrating its strong belief in this location, providing investors with an attractive investment opportunity offering guaranteed rental growth throughout the term.”

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