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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 14th Oct 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Corbin & King has ultimate vision ‘to put The Wolseley restaurant in every major capital city around the world’: The ultimate vision of London-based restaurant operator Corbin & King is “to put The Wolseley restaurant and hotel in every major capital city around the world”, managing director Zuleika Fennell has said. Speaking at Propel’s Women’s Entrepreneurs and Leaders Conference last week, Fennell said the company, which is backed by Minor Hotels and owns restaurants including the Colbert and Delaunay in London as well as The Wolseley, had already explored some lease possibilities in Europe. She said: “For us, the priority is to get our three mothballed leases going – Manzi’s in Soho, which is three quarters completed; the property we have in King William Street in the City, which is like a big Wolseley-esque brasserie; and we also have another neighbourhood, community restaurant, a bit Colbert-esque, in Notting Hill ready to go. Beyond that, if you talk about our ultimate vision for Corbin & King, it is to put The Wolseley in every major capital city around the world. We have aspirations in Europe, in Asia-Pacific and to go heavily into the US. What we will not do is stick The Wolseley in every single London suburb and up and down the country, that is not for us. We did one deviation, which was Cafe Wolseley in Bicester Village because we were invited to go there. So, we agreed to do a Wolseley-lite for it and that’s the version we have done there. But for us it will be about international The Wolseley restaurants and hotels expansion.” Fennell also described how the company had turned to its customer base to help support its staff during the crisis. She said: “We were battling the issue with furlough pay and tronc, and the fact some of our staff were getting 40% less than they had before and had bills to meet. And through a process of collective intelligence and talking, we said what if we went to our customer base and explained the situation to them and said please help us to help our staff because we have no money coming in at all. Although I won’t say the amount we raised, for the 645 staff that we had at the time, they managed to go through the pandemic relatively unscathed financially due to the generosity and support of our customers, which was incredible and very humbling.” Earlier this week, the company reopened its St John’s Wood-based, bistro-style, venue Soutine following a temporary closure. The company announced in late September it had closed the restaurant due to “critical staff shortages” across the wider business. 

Industry News:

Ten of 21 companies being added to updated Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book turning over in excess of £20m: Ten of the 21 companies being added to the updated Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, are turning over more than £20m. The next edition of the Blue Book, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (15 October) shows the 21 companies are turning over £856.6m. The Blue Book will now feature 427 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £30bn. The Blue Book has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 208 companies reporting a profit and 219 reporting losses. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. 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
A founder’s perspective of being a people leader to feature in Yapster video mini-series: Yapster has created a mini-series focused entirely on people leaders as part of its Take the Lead Series. In the fourth episode, chief executive Rob Liddiard chats with Dom Jones, one of the founders of Maray Restaurants, about his passion for recruitment, engagement and culture; but also the pros and cons of being a founder and also a company’s “official” head of people. Find out why founders can sometimes “care too much” about people issues, when “founder authority” can be useful in making change happen and how Jones thinks about company vision and values. The video will be sent at 9am on Thursday (14 October).
Sustainable food delivery ‘disruptor’ aimed at independents eyes up national coverage: Foodstuff, the fledgling delivery start-up, is planning further expansion across the UK after receiving new backing. Focused exclusively on independents, Foodstuff aspires to a “viral, post-gig economy” model where all stakeholders are treated fairly. The fast-growing start-up is already operating in Manchester, Bristol, Bath and Cambridge and launches in Oxford this week with the aim of achieving national coverage of key urban areas by 2023. The business, which is fixing what founders Toby Savill and James Perry think is a broken model, is understood to have secured backing from a number of sector players, including Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh and Trail co-founder Joe Cripps, to aid its expansion plans. Savill and Perry started Foodstuff in Cambridge in May 2020 and made the early deliveries on bikes themselves while on furlough from jobs at hospitality tech firms Trail and AddToEvent. Launched as an alternative to the big names like Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats, the business charges restaurants a smaller, flat fee, and is exclusive to independents, which Savill said makes it an attractive option for people trying to support their local businesses and want to find the good stuff quickly. Foodstuff curates the selection of “quality restaurants that share its values of sustainability and community”. Delivery riders are paid the Real Living Wage with a package of benefits including holiday pay and other benefits. All delivery bikes and electric vehicles are emissions-free. Savill said it was a movement away from the established “gig economy” food delivery model, “ditching high commissions in favour of a simple subscription model with the aim of keeping more profits in the pockets of the restaurants”. Savill told Propel: “Foodstuff was launched to connect food enthusiasts with quality, independent retailers in the fairest possible way. There’s a massive attitude swing among consumers to support their local businesses as a result of the pandemic and we want to be the vehicle that allows them to do that.”
Licensees to have their say in KAM Media sentiment tracker survey: Licensees across 19 leading pub companies and family brewers will have their chance to speak out this month with the launch of the 2021 “Licensee Index” – an operator benchmarking sentiment tracker for the UK licensed and tenanted pub sector. As part of the annual industry programme, KAM Media captures licensee satisfaction with their pub company across 49 different measures including recruitment, training and information, ordering and delivery, product support, promotional support, landlord services, communication and the role of the business development manager. Despite a challenging year last year, the average satisfaction ratings in 2020 increased across 44 out of the 49 criteria measured. Licensees rated their pub companies eight out of ten for covid-related support, with 53% of licensees rating the support they had received over the previous 12 months as “outstanding”. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “It was really uplifting last year to hear the vast majority of licensees were more than satisfied with the support they received from their pub companies. Given the year the industry has had, it is even more critical pub companies stay close to their licensees in order to evaluate their performance and ensure their offer for their tenants remains competitive.” Despite the overall satisfaction with support from their pub companies, last year’s Licensee Index confirmed the UK licensed and tenanted pub sector was obviously feeling incredibly vulnerable. The research tracked their level of optimism for the 12 months ahead, which at the end of 2020 was at its lowest since the programme began (5.6 out of ten). Only 12% of licensees said they were “very optimistic” about the months ahead and Moses stressed that showed the clear need for continued support.
Operators urged to take part in third haysmacintyre snapshot survey of sector: Hospitality specialist haysmacintyre is inviting operators to take part in a snapshot survey of the sector following the industry’s reopening. This is the third of a series of snapshot surveys to track developments in sector sentiment during the recovery. Previous snapshot surveys have examined operators' views on the outlook for the sector, with a key focus on the return to normal trading, new innovations, government support initiatives and fresh challenges. The latest survey will deliver an update from operators on future prospects for the sector, as well as taking soundings on the issues being faced on the road to recovery. The survey consists of four key questions covering future prospects, current challenges facing operators and long-term impacts of the pandemic, and takes about 60 seconds to complete. Operators can choose whether to remain anonymous or submit their details. Results will be shared with participants alongside expert commentary from haysmacintyre’s specialist team. To complete the survey, click here.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an investment house that is expanding outside of London. The investment house is currently in the process of acquiring the rights to grow an attraction/leisure business across the UK. To support the growth of this brand and lead new concept development, the group is looking to appoint a managing director for a long-term opportunity. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The role would suit a candidate based in the north west of England or perhaps the Midlands and the business is looking to pay between £100,000 and £150,000 base salary plus equity and bonus. The ideal candidate will have proven experience scaling a branded business – ideally a leisure or attraction concept, high-volume restaurant or pub brand.” Anyone interested can email

Company News:

Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken secures debut London site, signs up a further two franchisees: South west-based operator Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken will make its London debut next month, in Walthamstow, Propel has learned. Propel revealed earlier this summer the ten-strong company, which is led by Carl Traill and backed by HBM Investments, planned to open ten sites in the capital in the next five years under a new franchise agreement. It will open the first site under this agreement on Monday, 29 November in Walthamstow. It is currently looking at further sites across London, with a site in Romford under consideration. Propel also understands Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken has recently signed up another two franchise regions – Kent and Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire – with plans to open ten sites in each. The brand is thought to have six new openings already lined up for next year. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken was to begin its national expansion after signing a franchise deal to open in Essex. The company opened the first site under the new agreement with franchisee Joe Bhangal in Billericay, on the site of the former Wimpy in the town’s High Street. The Billericay site will be the first of ten stores planned in the Essex area over the next three to five years for the brand, with openings lined up in Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend. Traill previously told Propel that Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken was actively recruiting multiple site franchisees across the country and had mapped out 85 regions in which the brand could expand into.
Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars secures seventh site: Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars, the north west of England-based, multiple operator led by Tim Bird and Mary McLaughlin, is set to open its seventh site, next month, on the Whitmore Estate, Staffordshire, Propel has learned. The company is taking on the Mainwaring Arms in Whitmore, with an opening scheduled for the middle of November, after a refurbishment. The pub, which will open offering “fresh, seasonal and innovative premium gastropub food, premium wine and craft beer”, was previously operated by Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s. Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars’ new pub will be located five miles from its award-winning, Fitzhurbert Arms in Swynnerton. Propel understands the company is looking to add rooms to the Fitzhurbert Arms next year.
Simmons Bars to open Leicester Square site: Simmons Bars, the London-based, Lonsdale Capital Partners-backed cocktail bar operator, is set to open a site in Leicester Square, Propel has learned. The Nick Campbell-led company, which earlier this month secured the lease of the former award-winning steak and cocktail restaurant Silk & Grain in Cornhill, is understood to have lined up an opening on the ex-The Lost Alhambra site that was previously operated by Adventure Bars. Established in 2013 in Kings Cross, Simmons currently has a portfolio of 20 locations and has most recently opened sites in Brick Lane, Putney, Tottenham Court Road and Old Street. Earlier this summer, the group expressed its ambitions to expand to 30 sites over the next two years with new sites in both London and regional cities.
Simmons Bars features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers. Simmons Bars turned over £10.3m in its most recent reported financial year. 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.
Yotam Ottolenghi plans Chelsea opening: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi is planning a further opening under his eponymous deli concept in London’s Chelsea, Propel understands. The chef is believed to have applied to open a site in Pavilion Road. Earlier this summer, Ottolenghi opened his first deli site in six years, in Marylebone: The deli, the fifth in total, is in Marylebone Lane, and is the chef’s most central deli yet, with the other sites located in the neighbourhoods of Notting Hill, Islington, Belgravia and Spitalfields. Ottolenghi also operates the Fitzrovia-based restaurant Rovi and Nopi in Soho.
Marston’s increases food and drink prices, expects simplified menus to remain permanent feature: Marston’s has put up its food and drink prices following the recent hike in VAT rates from 5% to 12.5%. The group, which had already pushed up its prices by about 10p a drink and 20p to 30p a dish on food, increased them further by about 5p to 10p a drink and another 20p for a main course this month, chief executive Andrew Andrea told The Telegraph. This follows Marston’s reporting this week that its trading had surpassed pre-pandemic levels in the period 25 July to 2 October, with like-for-like sales at 102% of 2019’s figures. “You’ve got to strike that balance, because if you’re greedy you’ll get found out and customers will just stay at home, and we certainly don't want to encourage that,” said Andrea. “There has been some quite material price-taking in the sector, and certainly in London we’re seeing some eye-watering prices for a pint of beer.” Andrea also revealed the carbon dioxide shortages affecting the meat industry had forced Marston’s pubs to take chicken pies off the menu temporarily – and he expects simplified menus to now be a feature of the future. “There were a couple of days where we had an issue with chicken pie supply – we had a bit of a shortage,” he added. “We didn't run out of pies altogether, but we had to source alternatives and offer people alternatives. As a sector, pub companies have simplified menus already coming out of the pandemic, and we expect simple menus to remain a permanent feature because I don't think customer demand is there for a vast array of options. It feeds right through from the supply chain right through to what we're asking chefs to do in the kitchen.”
Loungers hits 150-site mark for Lounge brand with Ringwood launch, Reigate to follow: Cafe bar operator Loungers has hit the 150-site mark for its Lounge brand, with an opening in Ringwood, Hampshire. The company has launched Arboro Lounge in The Furlong. Loungers also operates the Cosy Club brand and the opening takes its total estate to 181 sites. The Ringwood site will be followed by a Lounge opening in Reigate, Surrey, next week. Corzo Lounge will be based in High Street. Loungers has also lined up an opening in Maidenhead before the end of the year. The business will open the Bardo Lounge at Shanly Homes’ Waterside Quarter development in the Berkshire town, in December. Further Lounge openings are planned in Basildon, Colchester, High Wycombe and Ealing, while the business is also set to open a Cosy Club site in Chester.
D&D London unveils permanent chef training programme: Restaurant operator D&D London is making its chef training programme permanent. It follows the launch of its summer school in July, which saw learners train and begin careers in the hospitality sector, and has seen 50 participants go on to be employed across the company’s restaurants. In partnership with Electric Mayonnaise, D&D has been working on a long-term commitment to secure employment for people with little or no previous experience looking to enter kitchens, while giving a much-needed boost to staffing numbers nationwide. The programme will kick off with two courses starting this month, which will take place at its flagship 100 Wardour Street venue and operate on a monthly basis. The Into Hospitality for Kitchens programme will be a five-day intensive course, which will see participants awarded with an entry 3 introductory certificate. Modules will include basic cooking, organisational skills and food hygiene with a focus on additional skills such as teamwork, task and time management and effective communication. The course will culminate in a MasterChef-style cook-off for a table of judges comprising of industry experts and D&D staff, and a work experience shift at a chosen D&D restaurant. Successful participants will secure employment in one of D&D’s sites. The second and more advanced option will be the chef de partie course, an eight-week deep dive, designed to cover all the basics an NVQ level 2 in professional cookery would cover. The course is geared towards commis chefs with at least six months’ kitchen experience. Modules include preparing and cooking fish, meat and poultry, sauces, pastry and food hygiene skills. Learners will be accredited with a Laser Award in “extended certificate in cookery”. 
Pi Pizza secures former Stable site in Poole for third restaurant: Pi Pizza has secured the former Stable site in Poole, Dorset, for its third restaurant. Dining at the High Street restaurant will be over two floors with views overlooking Poole Harbour and The Quay. Pi Pizza is due to open by the end of the year and the site will feature its statement glitter ball pizza oven in the middle of the restaurant. There will be waterside seating internally for up to 100 guests and a large outdoor dining space on the recently created pedestrian street area. Pi Pizza was founded in 2014 by restaurateur Rosie Whaley and is known for its 20-inch sharing pizzas made with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, using a secret dough recipe and all served up with a selection of small plates and cocktails. The business currently operates sites in Battersea and Winchester. Whaley said: “We cannot wait to open in this beautiful, listed building and offer our unique pizza dining experience to Poole.” The Stable restaurant closed in March last year when the business was under the ownership of Fuller’s. Savills acted on the deal.
Buzzworks to shut business on New Year’s Day in latest well-being initiative: Scottish restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks is to shut the business on New Year’s Day to allow staff to spend time with their loved ones. It is part of a series of initiatives launched by the company to support employees and follows the introduction of a “well-being day” earlier this month. Managing director Kenny Blair said: “We’ve made the decision that we will be closing our restaurants on New Year’s Day for the first time. Despite it being one of the busiest dates for us, we appreciate all the hard-work our staff consistently put in, and want to ensure they can spend an extra special day with their families.” The well-being day saw the family-owned business close every venue in its 13-strong portfolio to offer them a day focused on well-being and boosting mental health. More than 500 team members had the opportunity to meet up and get to know each other in the great outdoors. They also had the chance to take part in activities including horse riding, a spa day, mud run, tree top adventure and paint balling. Blair said: “This is just one part of an ongoing programme of initiatives that support our people in work and at home. We can’t wait to plan our next well-being day and continue to give our staff the rewards and support they deserve.” 
London-based club owner Luca Maggiora opens new luxury Italian restaurant: Luca Maggiora, who was behind clubs such as Project and Toy Room and who also owns B-Soho pizzeria, has launched luxury Italian restaurant, Bardo St James’s, in London’s Pall Mall. The 150-cover, 11,000 square foot, space features an open kitchen, walk-in wine cellar, whisky room, private dining room and private lounge alongside the restaurant itself. Former Sette head chef Graziano Bonacina is in charge of a seasonally-rotating menu featuring classic Italian flavours and contemporary vegetable-led dishes. Having worked for ten years in London’s late-night industry, including the recent acquisition of the Cuckoo Club in Swallow Street, former banker Maggiora is aiming to “channel his expertise and knowledge into opening a restaurant that bridges the gap between an after dark venue and fine dining”. Bardo is not Maggiora’s first venture into the world of restaurants, however. In 2018, he co-founded Italian concept La Mia Mamma – which featured a new chef each season specialising in produce from their region – in Chelsea with Peppe Corsaro and Corrado Mozzillo.
Colette confirms Battersea opening for third site: Restaurant and deli concept Colette has confirmed it will open its third London site, in Battersea. As revealed by Propel last month, Colette will open in the former Shooting Star charity shop in Northcote Road, near Wandsworth Common, and it will be its biggest site yet. The restaurant – which launches on Thursday, 4 November – will have 14 covers inside and further outside seating for 18. The kitchen, led by Chris Hill, will offer a seasonal menu, hand-selected fine wine and artisanal sweet treats. There will also be a deli and butchers counter. This follows the opening of Colette’s second venue, at the site of former Iris fashion store in Wimbledon High Street, in April. Colette was founded by Dimitri and Mira Plaquet in 2019 and opened its debut site in Fulham Road, Chelsea, in January last year. Propel understands the company is seeking further sites to expand its London portfolio, including in South Kensington, Victoria and Mayfair. Oliver Serrant, of Stance, acted for Colette and Matthew Whitworth, of Randalls Commercial, acted for the landlord on the Northcote Road deal. 
German Doner Kebab makes festival move with Wireless partnership: German Doner Kebab (GDK), the Hero Brands-backed business, has signed a three-year brands partnership deal to be official kebab supplier at the Wireless Festival until 2023. The Glasgow-based company, which is looking to continue its UK expansion, kicked off the partnership at last month's Wireless, which attracted more than 40,000 music fans to London's Crystal Palace Park. The deal is the first of its kind for GDK, which has spread rapidly across the UK, Europe and the Middle East and is now expanding into the United States, Canada and Ireland. Daniel Bunce, GDK managing director for UK and Europe, said: “Wireless is an iconic festival, and as one of the country's fastest-growing food brands we see a great synergies with it. This has been a major strategic collaboration for us, and the festival at Crystal Palace gave us a stand-out platform to engage with festival-goers. We are now very much looking forward to building on the partnership with Wireless in the coming years as we forge ahead with creating the fast-casual brand of the future.” For the festival, GDK created a 40-foot container restaurant complete with a VIP rooftop terrace and six self-service order kiosks. GDK, which opened its first restaurant in Berlin in 1989, announced in April it would be opening 47 UK sites in 2021, and now has more than 90 restaurants worldwide.
London’s The Strand to get new restaurant, bar and bakery: A new Mediterranean restaurant and bar will open in The Strand in London on Tuesday (19 October), followed by a bakery next month. Toklas is a first venture into the world of hospitality for Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, who are known in the art world for co-founding the Frieze Art Fair. It will share a premises at 180 The Strand with the Frieze offices, as well as several other creative organisations. Chef Martyn Lyons has worked alongside Ollie Dabbous and in the kitchens at Spring and Moro, and his dishes will have a Spanish and Italian twist. Launching after the restaurant will be a bakery from Adam Sellar, the man behind Angel Bakery in Abergavenny and the Little Bread Pedlar. Opening in November, the bakery will be run by Janine Edwards, former head pastry chef at Little Bread Pedlar, who was also head baker at Brentford bakery-restaurant Rye by the Water. It is expected to be modelled on “European-style bakeries and Pasticceria”, offering bread, patisserie, sandwiches and coffee.

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