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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 7th Oct 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

New campaign demands the government locks in 12.5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism: Chancellor Rishi Sunak is facing calls to make the 12.5% VAT rate permanent for hospitality and tourism via a major new campaign, VATsEnough. The campaign comes in the wake of the VAT rate for industry businesses rising to 12.5% this month, with plans to return it to its pre-pandemic level of 20% come April 2022. UKHospitality is now urging customers, suppliers, hospitality venues and employees to lobby their MPs on the need to lock in the 12.5% VAT rate for sector businesses. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We’re launching the VATsEnough campaign because a failure to act risks the future of hotels, cafés, pubs, restaurants and a myriad of other venues and attractions across the country. Our businesses bring light, life and heart to communities across the country but are battling huge challenges in terms of labour shortages and the food supply chain after 18 months of desperate struggle due to the pandemic. By introducing a permanent 12.5% rate of VAT in his autumn Budget, the chancellor can help us bounce back strongly, keep prices affordable for customers and level up UK jobs. Lower VAT will foster investment in businesses and high streets, accelerating our recovery from the pandemic. We need the whole hospitality sector, its suppliers, employees and customers, to come together and demonstrate to the government how critical the lower rate of VAT is for our sector’s recovery.” UKHospitality’s calls were backed by a YouGov poll showing 57% believe hospitality’s VAT rate should not return to its former level, while 70% think the government has a responsibility to support the sector’s recovery. Critically, half of those surveyed said they would eat out less frequently if prices went up in restaurants, pubs and cafes, which would be inevitable if VAT goes back up. Other findings included 81% of respondents saying hospitality and tourism is important for providing local jobs, while 78 % believe the sectors are vital to their local communities. Some 55% are concerned about restaurant closures as a result of the pandemic, and 46% are worried more venues will close. In addition, 56% believe keeping a reduced rate of VAT would directly benefit their local high streets, with 63% saying it would have a positive impact on hospitality.

Industry News:

Third edition of The New Openings Database now available to Premium subscribers: The third edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, has been sent to Propel Premium subscribers. It shows the details of 345 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. The database shows the details of which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It has details on what type of site it is and its location. There is also a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The third edition of the database features regional brands in growth, niche cuisine, new and expanding experiential leisure concepts and a number of international growth brands making their UK debut. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (1 October). The database contained 70 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,086. The 398 sites run by those 70 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 60,531 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 6,100-word report on the new businesses added. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. 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. To subscribe, email

Just Eat launches online restaurant canteen solution for hybrid workforce: Just Eat has launched Just Eat Pay in the UK, a new employee benefit service for businesses through its corporate arm, Just Eat for Business. The solution serves as an online canteen. It allows businesses to provide employees with a daily or monthly allowance to order a meal from a wide variety of food options via Just Eat’s 58,000-plus restaurant partners. Designed for a hybrid workforce, Just Eat Pay offers the same service for those working at home and at the office, with contact-free delivery or collection options available. There are no fixed costs for Just Eat Pay and companies can manage their account through an online dashboard. Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny said: “As we all continue to adapt to the changing landscape, at Just Eat we’re committed to contributing to employee well-being both at home and in the office.” The service launched in 2019 and is being used by a wide range of businesses across a number of Just Eat markets, including Belgium, Switzerland and France, where it’s called Takeaway Pay. As part of the global initiative, Just Eat has also recently launched the Takeaway Pay Card. Through this, corporate clients are able to pay for their Takeaway Pay meal at food and beverage merchants using the debit card. It is available in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland, with plans to roll out to more markets over the coming months.
Job of the day: COREcruitment has recently launched a specialised Asia Pacific division, with a small office based in New Zealand to work alongside its London head office and hubs in Bristol, South Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Canada. The New Zealand office is supporting a hospitality business in Hong Kong that is looking for a chief people officer and is open to UK candidates looking to relocate. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The individual will join this business to lead the people function across Hong Kong. The role would suit someone with director level experience in a HR/people role within the hospitality sector, a bachelor’s degree and a passion for the industry and building supportive people functions. Ideally, they should have ten years’ leadership experience and an MBA and certifications in HR would be desirable. As well as developing and embedding great tools and functions to support the company culture and build retention and employee satisfaction they will also lead a team that will deliver 150 hires in one year so recruitment knowledge is also preferred.” Anyone interested can email with an updated CV.

Company News:

Roger Moxham to launch new restaurant concept in Harrogate: Roger Moxham, former chief executive of Bramwell Pub Company and divisional director at Mitchells & Butlers, is set to launch a new restaurant concept in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Property development and investment company GMI Developments has submitted plans to Harrogate Borough Council to create a restaurant and bar, retail space and three apartments at 132-136 Kings Road. Ocean House (134-136 Kings Road), the former Ramus retail unit (132 Kings Road) and an industrial unit fronting Bolton Street will be redeveloped into a lifestyle and residential development. A pre-let for the ground floor unit in Ocean House has been agreed with Moxmoor to manage a new concept restaurant and bar, led by Moxham. He has more than 35 years of hospitality expertise and co-founded Harrogate-based Cold Bath Brewing Company, which has a bar opposite the town’s International Conference Centre. Moxham said: “We will serve a diverse array of global meals rooted in Asia and the Americas, which we intend to rotate throughout the year. The menu will be underpinned by a weekend brunch offer all supported by a full range of hand crafted cocktails and beer and an interesting selection of soft drinks, tea and coffee.” GMI Developments managing director Chris Gilman added: “With a proven, successful hospitality expert in Roger on board to create the new restaurant and bar, we are confident his team will bring an exciting destination restaurant offer to the town complemented by the rest of this high quality scheme.”

Las Iguanas to open its first Southampton restaurant, looking for more sites: Las Iguanas, the Big Table Group-owned brand, will open its first restaurant in Southampton, in the Westquay shopping centre, Propel has learned. The 180-cover restaurant and bar will be Las Iguanas’ 45th site and open in time for the festive season. The menu will include a selection of fresh Mexican, Brazilian and Latin American dishes as well as the Las Iguanas Bottomless Brunch, plus two-for-one cocktails all day every day. Matt Ainger, property director at Big Table Group, said: “There’s huge demand for Las Iguanas, and we’re on the lookout for locations in major towns and city centres as we look to continue growing the brand. We’ve been looking for the right site in Southampton for some time, and we’re delighted to secure this prime location at Westquay.” The Southampton opening will be one of two on the south coast with Las Iguanas set to make a return to Plymouth, with an opening in The Barcode later this month. The Big Table Group, which also operates Bella Italia and Café Rouge, has more than 150 restaurants across the UK and Ireland.
Flip Out reports ‘rocketing’ sales, seven sites in legals, appoints head of marketing: Adventure park operator Flip Out has reported sales have “rocketed” since reopening after lockdown. Flip Out currently has 27 parks ranging from 20,000 square foot to 80,000 square foot “with wall-to-wall activities promoting healthy, family fun”. The company starts building a new “super centre” next month in the “High Street Quarter” being developed by Barratt in Hounslow, west London, which will be styled around the Flip Out Croydon that opened in July this year. Flip Out has a further seven sites across the UK that are in legals, which will be built in 2022, with more to follow. Co-owner Richard Beese told Propel: “The company has outperformed like-for-like 2019 figures in every capacity, while keeping costs in line with budget.” Meanwhile, the company has appointed Claire Kendrick, formerly of TeamSport, Top Golf UK and ITV as its head of marketing. Beese said: “We are excited for Claire to join our driven, energetic team and take the business to the next level. Claire’s acumen and experience is at the top of its game within our sector and in the next 12 months we will invest a tonne of money on marketing initiatives across all channels. Claire will be bolstering this team with some of the brightest flames in the industry and this will be coupled with a number of new partnerships and instore attractions.”
Wagamama becomes first UK high street restaurant with a 50% plant-based menu, offers free vegan side dishes: The launch of Wagamama’s new plant-based dishes has made it the first UK high street restaurant to give them an equal share on their menu. Wagamama made the pledge to reach the landmark as part of its 2021 “positive action plan” and met the commitment three months early as it launched its new autumn menu. The new dishes that helped the company reach its goal include spicy teriyaki vegan “chicken” steamed buns, spicy vegan “short rib” ramen and teriyaki vegan “chicken” ramen. In order to encourage their customers to join in, Wagamama is offering diners a free vegan side dish for the rest of October if they make their own plant pledge – and more than 8,000 have signed up so far. Wagamama chief executive Thomas Heier said: “This menu launch marks an important moment for us as a business, as we officially make our menu 50% plant-based. We’re privileged to have restaurants in most major UK cities, and therefore feel a real responsibility and exciting opportunity to make plant-based food as accessible as possible to all guests, no matter their dietary preferences. We feel passionately that plant-based food can be just as nourishing and delicious, and we hope our new menu will influence a positive spike in plant-based menu participation from our guests.”
Advocate Group acquires lease of Hessle bar, restaurant and events venue: Advocate Group, which operates a portfolio of 30 pubs across Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, has added The Country Park Inn in Hessle to its portfolio. Located on a 2.2-acre site beneath the Humber Bridge, the property is a bar, restaurant and events venue with letting rooms. Since being acquired by the previous owners seven years ago, the business has undergone a number of significant renovations and refurbishments. Needing to focus on other business interests, the previous owners decided to seek a new tenant for the business with the help of Christie & Co. Advocate Group said it plans to build on the venue’s reputation and establish a schedule of year-round events, “while also maintaining the quality food and beverage offering”. David Lee, regional hospitality director at Christie & Co, who secured the new lease, said: “The venue enjoys a fantastic position on the banks of the River Humber and is well-known within the region, so there were a number of parties interested in taking on the lease.”
Brad Carter launches kebab bar in Manchester: Brad Carter, chef-director of the Michelin-starred Carters of Moseley in Birmingham, has opened a kebab shop at the Escape to Freight Island urban market in Manchester. Carter’s One Star Döner Bar is the latest arrival at the 2,000-capacity venue based at Depot Mayfield, part of the £1.4bn regeneration of Manchester’s Mayfield district. The bar is inspired by Gemüse Kebab, which Carter cites as one of the best dishes he has ever eaten, along with other Berlin street kebab vendors. It will join the likes of Voodoo Ray’s pizza, Madre, Choo Choo eclairs and Camden Town Brewery among the food and beverage offerings at Escape to Freight Island – which also has regular live events, comedians and DJs. The venue was launched in the summer of 2020 at the site of a former freight depot and is home to a variety of bars, restaurants and food trucks. Carter, who has sourced his flatbreads from a Turkish bakery in Manchester and uses Cornish lamb, Tamworth mortadella and Cotswold white chicken, opened Carters of Moseley with partner Holly Jackson in 2010. He is also the founding member of the Slow Food Birmingham movement, which aims to inspire interest in local food production by allowing customers to shop for quality local, seasonal produce.
Aberdeen-based Big Mannys’ Pizza set for expansion following six-figure investment: Aberdeen-based Big Mannys’ Pizza is set for expansion after receiving a six-figure investment. The concept was launched by brothers Phillip and Ashley Adams and consultant chef Calum Wright at the city’s The Adams bar in October last year. Simon Cowie, managing partner at Aberdeen accountant Infinity Partnership, has provided the cash injection for a minority stake and will advise on the firm’s ambitious growth plans. A second site near Pittodrie Stadium – home of Aberdeen FC – is due to open at the start of November following a £300,000 fit-out, creating 40 jobs. The Big Mannys’ Pizza founders have pencilled in plans to open a third city site at the start of next year while they are also looking to open an Aberdeenshire location in 2022. Phillip Adams said the business was inspired to bring an investor on board by the BBC TV programme Dragons’ Den. “Cowie is the ‘fourth Big Manny’,” he said. “We call him our fire-breathing dragon – he is very clear on what we need to do when we ask him for advice.”
Harts Group continues London expansion with three new venues, all set to open early in 2022: Harts Group, which owns Quo Vadis, Casa Pastor and Barrafina, is continuing its expansion across London with three new venues. The group will open a new Barrafina, a second Parrillan and a new sherry bar, Bar Daskal, at the new Borough Yards development near London Bridge. The new Barrafina will look to replicate the Spanish tapas format of its four sister sites – in Soho’s Dean Street, Covent Garden’s Adelaide Street and Drury Lane and Kings Cross’ Coal Drops Yard – with the menu overseen by executive head chef Angel Zapata-Martin. The new Parrillan will also take a cue from its first site, also in Coal Drops Yard, with guests cooking their own meat, fish and vegetarian dishes using small, smoking metal grills known as parrillas. Daskal, meanwhile, will specialise in Spanish wine and tapas as well as sherry and is named after Vladimir Daskalof, the grandfather of Harts Group founders Sam, Eddie and James Hart. All three venues will open early in 2022, and Sam Hart told the Standard: “My love of Spain and its cuisine began as a child in the house my grandfather built in the small village of Estellencs. Even though Barrafina was largely modelled on Barcelona’s Cal Pep, the legacy of C’an Daskal has been an ever-present influence throughout my career. It is wonderful to honour these memories by bringing Bar Daskal, Barrafina and Parrillan south of the river.” Borough Yards is a new retail, leisure, restaurant and office space presently under development, which will also include an Everyman Cinema. Earlier this year, the Harts launched their fifth El Pastor restaurant at the former Hix site in Soho’s Brewer Street. Distrkt is advising on the food and beverage and leisure lettings at the 197,800 square foot mixed use Borough Yards development.
Scottish chef Tom Tsappis opens restaurant with rooms in Perthshire: Scottish chef Tom Tsappis has opened a new restaurant with rooms in Perthshire. Tsappis has launched Killiecrankie House in the Cairngorm National Park alongside his sommelier wife Matilda. The venue features a restaurant, five bedrooms as well as a drawing room and cocktail bar. Tom, who trained at Leiths, oversees the multi-course tasting menu in the 18-cover open restaurant kitchen, and at the adjacent chefs table. Dishes include kombu cured mackerel, apple and horseradish; and Highland wagyu, green tea, onions and pickled pine. Matilda, who previously ran supper club Elia London, has created a drinks list to complement the cooking, including beer, wine, sake and cocktails, as well as a non-alcoholic pairing of juice, tea and infusions.
Sharp’s Brewery reports full-year turnover down 55.2% as on-trade closures results in ‘significant reduction in profitability’: Cornwall-based Sharp’s Brewery, which is owned by Molson Coors, has reported turnover fell 55.2% to £15.0m for the year ending 31 December 2020, compared with £33.4m the previous year. Gross profit was down 64.9% to £3.3m, compared with £9.3m the year before, while pre-tax losses increased to £2.6m, compared with £417,000 the previous year. During the period, Sharp’s Brewery invested £600,000 in brewery assets, process and safety infrastructure improvements. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The covid-19 pandemic and closure of the on-trade has resulted in a significant reduction in profitability to the business, which has been partly mitigated by performance in the off-trade sales channel, which has benefited from increased volumes as a result of pub closures.” No dividends were declared or paid during the year. Net assets at the end of the year amounted to £19.3m, compared with £21.6m the previous year. Sharp’s Brewery was acquired by Molson Coors in 2011.
Two new bars and four new restaurants for £70m New Era Square development in Sheffield: Sheffield’s £70m New Era Square development is about to welcome two new bars and four new restaurants, adding to a recently-opened Nordic cafe. A sports bar and a wine and cocktail bar called La Belle Vie are both set to open at the St Mary’s Gate-based venue before the festive season. Scandinavian-style café Lykke has recently made its debut and will be followed by Japanese restaurant Doki Kagoshima next month. January will then see the launch of Portuguese restaurant Naco Brazilian Steak House, an authentic Indian restaurant with a tasting menu and a new vegetarian/vegan restaurant using Chinese cooking techniques. New Era managing director Jerry Cheung said: “In the months since covid restrictions began to be lifted, we’ve worked incredibly hard to finalise deals and bring some of the most exciting independent food and drink retailers in the UK to Sheffield. The two bars will act as important anchors to the whole development and will significantly contribute to both the day and evening local economy.” A 430,000 square-foot development that Cheung first had the idea for more than 15 years ago, New Era Square also includes 650 apartments, penthouses and student homes, an office building and gym. He added. “The whole site is now buzzing with restaurants and street food outlets, and over the next few months we’ve got several more high-quality openings planned.” New Era Development (UK) was set up in 2013 to develop large-scale projects in the north of England, of which New Era Square is the first, and has attracted several multimillion-pound investors from China.
Heineken UK removes plastic bottles from its on-trade network and e-commerce website: Heineken UK has removed all plastic bottles from its on-trade network, saving 170 tonnes of plastic per year. The company has also taken all third-party plastic stock from its e-commerce website, encouraging customers to switch to more sustainable alternatives like aluminium or glass. To further reduce its environmental impact, following successful trials, Heineken UK is also offering on-trade operators, festivals and stadiums environmentally friendlier cups for events, as an alternative to single-use plastic. Replacing them will be reusable rental cups, which can be used as many as 500 times before being recycled, or paper cups, which can be instantly recycled. Over the past ten years, Heineken has looked to lay a solid foundation towards a better environmental footprint with its sustainability strategy Brew a Better World.
Supper reports revenue growth of 700% as it makes trio of hires ahead of expanding overseas: London-based premium food delivery service Supper has reported revenue growth of 700% between February 2020 and September 2021 as it adds to the team with a trio of hires ahead of expanding overseas. The company has appointed Arabella Wentworth Waites as head of marketing. Previously head of marketing for Coya UK and Europe, Waites has ten years of marketing experience within luxury food and beverage business-to-consumer businesses, having also worked with The Ginger Pig and Caprice Holdings. She said: “I will be applying a data-driven approach to lead the Supper London marketing function in order to support our exciting growth plans.” Supper has also appointed Christian Black as corporate sales director. He previously held responsibility for strategic partnerships at Harrods restaurants, overseeing the opening of the Tom Kerridge, Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton venues at the Knightsbridge store. Meanwhile, Georgia Lee has joined as partnerships director. Following a career within the music industry, including roles at US talent agency CAA, she worked for luxury travel marketplace Mr & Mrs Smith, heading the firm’s commercial team as partnerships director. Supper founder and chief executive Peter Georgiou said: “I’m delighted to welcome Arabella, Christian and Georgia and to begin working with them to accelerate Supper’s growth plans in London and to begin our overseas expansion.” Founded by Georgiou in 2015, Supper uses a fleet of specially adapted scooters and directly employed drivers to cater for the premium end of the market.
Tao Group Hospitality set to open ‘Sky Bar’ at the Trocadero by the end of 2021: US- based Tao Group Hospitality is hoping to open what is being billed as Europe’s largest rooftop bar and restaurant, at the top of the Trocadero in London’s Piccadilly, by the end of the year. The group is looking to launch the Sky Bar, which will have space for more than a thousand guests from the Zedwell Hotel and beyond, by the end of 2021. Plans are for a lounge bar and restaurant with a terrace on the 12th floor, and a club on the 13th floor, with access either from the hotel or a street level lift. Earlier this year, Tao Group acquired Hakkasan Group, creating a “premium hospitality powerhouse” that operates 61 entertainment dining and nightlife venues in 22 markets across five continents. 
Itsu continues UK expansion with first Bath restaurant: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Julian Metcalfe, will this week open its first restaurant in Bath, at 43 Stall Street. The new venue, which opens on Friday (8 October), measures 1,500 square feet and will seat up to 52 customers in store and 12 outside. Customers will have the choice of dining in, taking their food away or getting it delivered, while 20 jobs will be created. Metcalfe said: “We are very proud to open our new destination restaurant in Bath, which is renowned across the world as a Unesco World Heritage Centre. In our alfresco dining area, our patrons will overlook one of the UK’s most famous and important historical cities.” Itsu chief executive Ganan Kanagathurai added: “Bath marks the latest step in our dynamic expansion plans for Itsu in the UK and internationally. In the city, there is significant demand for quality food options from the growing number of home workers, and from casual diners wanting meals that are freshly prepared.” Itsu last month opened its first restaurant in the Midlands when it launched at Leicester’s Fosse Park Shopping Centre with its second franchisee, Savvi Dining Group. Further openings are expected this year, with work under way at sites in Bromley and Edinburgh, as Itsu pushes to expand to 100 UK restaurants by 2026.
Ex-Mission Mars people director Charlotte Kemp joins recruitment company Sixty Eight People as MD: Charlotte Kemp, former people director at Mission Mars, has joined hospitality recruitment company Sixty Eight People as managing director. The company said Kemp’s appointment marked a “new, proactive attitude to tackling the recruitment crisis in hospitality by utilising her wealth of lived experience to create roles aimed at not only retaining existing talent, but attracting new people into the industry”. Kemp said: “I want to help shape our industry and the opportunity to broaden what Sixty Eight offers in terms of people consultancy and training really excites me! Can we help influence the operators of tomorrow to have brilliant people-focused cultures? Too bloody right.” Sixty Eight People chief executive Abi Dunn added: “Talent is in crisis right now and will continue to be for some time. By applying Charlotte's operational understanding we can find the perfect candidates for our clients, but also help them shape the roles to encourage retention of existing hospitality staff and attract new people to the industry.”
Inn Collection Group reopens historic North Yorkshire property following major revamp: The Inn Collection Group has reopened its historic The Black Swan in North Yorkshire following the completion of the first phase of a major refurbishment to the site. The company, which bought the 15th century former coaching inn in Helmsley last year, has repurposed and enhanced the site’s bar and dining areas as well as refurbished 15 of the bedrooms. The addition of a new West Bar has created an area for private dining or smaller groups at the 146-cover inn. Inn Collection Group managing director Sean Donkin said: “We have been meticulous in our planning and throughout the renovation process to preserve the property’s charm and character, while enhancing the environment and facilities for our customers to enjoy.” The second phase of the redevelopment is underway to repurpose space from the site’s former kitchen into additional bedrooms along with refurbishments to existing rooms in the inn’s garden wing, which will create a 60-room site in total. The Black Swan currently employs a team of 36 staff, which will increase to 50. The Inn Collection Group’s 25-strong portfolio includes a further four sites across Yorkshire as well as pubs with rooms in Northumberland, the Lake District, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and Lancashire, The Alchemy-backed group has further acquisitions in the pipeline as it continues to widen its customer base and group presence across the north of England.
Former Ibis budget hotel in Bradford goes into private ownership: A former Ibis budget hotel in Bradford has been bought by a businessman who comes from a family with a background in hotels. Ali Sadrudin, who also operates the Red Lion Truck Stop service station off the A45 in Northampton, purchased the 86-bedroom property off a £1.95m guide price. Located in Canal Road, the hotel operated under a long-term franchise agreement with Accor Hotels under its Ibis budget brand, and since opening in 2008 it has been managed by Bradford Prince Court. The company decided to bring it to the market through Christie & Co as the hotel no longer fitted into its future investment strategy. Sadrudin has run the Red Lion Truck Stop, which features an award-winning cafe and bar as well as cleaning and washing facilities for long-distance drivers, for the past 14 years. He added: “I look forward to taking the hotel to the next level.”
Historic Oxford pub set to reopen after community group secures long-term lease: Oxford’s historic Lamb & Flag pub is to reopen in time for Christmas following an agreement between owners St John’s College and social enterprise The Inklings Group. The grade II-listed pub, which has been serving pints since 1566, was taken over by the nearby college in 1997, but it closed in January due to a loss of revenue during the pandemic. However, the Inklings, established as a community interest company, last month signed a 15-year lease and has now unveiled plans to reopen the iconic venue. Kate O’Brien, chairman of The Inklings Group, said: “Several hundred people, brought together by a love of Oxford and the Lamb & Flag, have established The Inklings Group to secure the future of this well-loved pub. The funds to ensure a sustainable future for the pub have already been committed and this community project is not exclusive in any way – all are welcome to become an Inkling.” Zoe Hancock, principal bursar at John’s College, added: “We are delighted to be working with The Inklings Group to reopen the Lamb & Flag pub. The Lamb & Flag is much loved by our students, staff, fellows and the wider community, and we believe the vision of The Inkling Group will bring great benefit to all.” Former patrons of the Lamb & Flag are believed to include authors JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis, Thomas Hardy and Graham Greene. Savills directors Nick Rees and Chris Bickle advised St John’s College on the letting. Savills has also been instructed to market the historic Eagle & Child public house on behalf of St John’s College, and recently let the former Pint Shop in George Street to Thai restaurant group Busaba. 
Camden opening is fifth restaurant venture for Jinli: Jinli, the Chinese restaurant chain specialising in authentic Sichuan food, has opened its fifth site at a former Panda outlet in Mornington Crescent, off Camden High Street. Having started out in 2015, it’s a first venture into north London for Jinli's Chendu-born restaurateur Yi Fei, who also runs two restaurants in Chinatown, one in Uxbridge and one in Birmingham. Dishes will include sliced fish in hot chilli oil, braised beef brisket hotpot, dry pot duck with beer and gong bao chicken.

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