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Thu 9th Dec 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Kitchen Ventures plans £5m funding round, makes regional debut: Kitchen Ventures, the cloud kitchen and virtual dining start-up, is to launch a £5m funding round next year, Propel has learned. Kitchen Ventures is the brainchild of Jonny Boud, co-founder of what was Goodlife Projects, the brand, marketing and consultancy business that helped launch Rum Kitchen and Island Poke among others. Kitchen Ventures recently concluded another round of funding, raising £750,000, to add to £1.4m it secured at the start of the year. Boud told Propel the new funding would be used to help the business continue to grow in London, but also spread across the UK, with plans to add 12 new sites to its estate next year, and then “double in size each year after”. The company currently operates delivery kitchens in Kensington Olympia, Clapham and Bethnal Green, plus the Willows on the Rooftop concept, on the roof of the John Lewis in Oxford Street. Virtual brands the business is currently working with include Giz ’n’ Green – a collaboration between chef Gizzi Erskine and rapper Professor Green; a chicken concept from Lucy Pearce (ex-Petersham Nurseries and Rawduck) called Farmbird; salad concept Local Greens; and Tacos El Ray from Breddos Tacos founders Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney. Propel understands Kitchen Ventures has recently launched its first regional site, in Birmingham, with Jacuna Kitchens. The site is currently offering just Giz ’n’ Green at present, but Kitchen Ventures expects to launch further brands though the delivery unit in time. It is also set to launch a new delivery site in London’s Kensal Rise. Boud told Propel the business also plans to add four new brands to its portfolio – a fried chicken concept; a Korean fried chicken concept; a sushi concept with a chef from the Amazonico restaurant in Mayfair; and an all-day, health-led concept. 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – QikServe and Acteol integration to deliver deeper customer data insights for hospitality brands: QikServe, the digital ordering solutions provider, is working with Acteol – the enterprise CRM solution for the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors – to provide restaurant brands with more accurate, individualised data on their customers for better marketing experiences. The integration between the two platforms allows hospitality brands to capture more detailed information about their customers’ purchasing behaviours including what they order, how much and when, as well as marketing preferences and contact information such as the guest’s email address. This information is captured by QikServe and passed to Acteol’s CRM system to be used by brands to help them better understand their customers and to deliver more effective marketing campaigns with a better return on investment. QikServe captures the necessary data automatically as the guest progresses through QikServe’s online ordering and payment journey. The brand can then use the data to send offers to customers or more personalised experience surveys based on the time they visited and meals they enjoyed. Daniel Rodgers, founder and president of QikServe, said: “Personalisation is key to any successful marketing activity.” Stephen Powell, founder and director of Acteol, added: “It’s this kind of powerful integration that’ll give brands a strong advantage in driving repeat visits and spend.” If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Propel Premium Advent Video Calendar to feature Regina Borda: Propel has launched its Premium Advent Video Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. The next video – which will be sent at 9am today (Thursday 9 December) – features Regina Borda, managing director at Pizza Hut Europe, UK and Canada, who talks about the brand, its development internationally, its future strategy and working with entrepreneurs and franchisees to maintain its growth and success. Premium subscribers received the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday (3 December). The database showed the details of 366 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. 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 group 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
Crowdcube reaches own £2m crowdfunding target in just 12 minutes: Crowdcube, Britain’s biggest crowdfunding platform, has closed its own crowdfunding campaign after raising £2m in just 12 minutes. Crowdcube launched the campaign following “overwhelming interest” from the platform’s community, giving investors the opportunity to own shares in it. “Wow, we reached our maximum funding target in just 12 minutes!” said a statement on the campaign’s funding page. “Thank you, and welcome to all of our new investors. We’re sorry to anyone who may have missed out, the round was a small allocation of £2m that was available on a first-come-first-served basis. We’ll let you know of any future opportunities to invest in Crowdcube.” Last month, Crowdcube announced major expansion plans after securing a £10m investment from US cryptocurrency business The Circle – extending a partnership it already has with The Circle-backed US start-up funding platform SeedInvest. Crowdcube owner Darren Westlake plans to use the cash injection to fund expansion into Europe, and hopes the business will be fully licenced to operate across the EU by the end of the year. Founded in 2011, Crowdcube was recently valued at £140m, while more than £1bn has been invested over its platform to date. The company turned over £7,969,993 in the year ending 30 September 2020 and made a loss of £3,023,577. Earlier this year, the Competitions and Markets Authority put the brakes on Crowdcube’s mooted merger with rival funding platform Seedrs, which now looks set to be sold to US start-up investment platform Republic in a $100m deal.
Your chance to win a copy of ‘Outstanding Operations Directors’ book: Propel has five copies of professor Chris Edger’s book “Outstanding Operations Directors – 31 Case Studies Showcasing Excellence” to give away to its readers. To enter, email with your postal address, and a draw will take place. The five winners will receive a free copy of a book that has been extremely well received by the industry since its publication in June. Packed with case studies from chief executives, managing directors and operations directors from across the licensed hospitality sector, it is described by Stonegate Group chief executive Simon Longbottom, who has written the foreword, as “a brilliant handbook and guide for operations directors wishing to accelerate their impact and progression during these challenging times”.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a global hotel and lifestyle business as it develops its concept and expands in new regions. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The business looks to match its hotel properties with the local environment, offering guests a unique experience that is authentic to the destination. The food offering, accommodation and entertainment, and activities will vary accordingly. To support this ever-changing and development part of its brand and concept building, the business is keen to appoint a destination manager. This role will be instrumental in creating concepts for new and existing locations and managing the overall experience, based on customer pull, environment and local trends. The destination manager will lead the strategy for the concept, working with the executive team from the early stages of property evaluation. The destination manager oversees processes, partners, tools, and compliance to help scale the company’s brand experience and build unique destinations. You will work at a country level, reporting into a global destination team.” For more information, email

Company News:

Giggling Squid to open in Harrogate for debut Yorkshire site: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by BGF, is to open its debut Yorkshire site, in Harrogate, Propel has learned. The 41-strong business, which recently opened in Chelmsford, is understood to have secured the former Las Iguanas site in the North Yorkshire town’s John Street, for an opening in the first quarter of 2022. Propel revealed last month Giggling Squid had secured a site in Cheshire, as it looks to establish “a northern/Scottish region”. The business, which has already secured the former Carluccio’s site in Manchester’s Spinningfields area, is to invest circa £500,000 in the former Bar & Grill site in Alderley, which was previously operated by Individual Restaurants, creating up to 25 jobs. The site will open in the first half of next year. It is thought Giggling Squid is in talks on a site in Liverpool and is exploring opportunities in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The company will open a site before Christmas in Welwyn Garden City. The business already has sites for next year secured in locations such as Winchester and Maidstone. Giggling Squid is also set to expand its delivery kitchen estate with openings in Acton and Brent Cross, to add to its existing site in Wandsworth. 
Greene King to reward staff with £6m incentives package: Brewer and retailer Greene King has announced a Christmas rewards package for its 40,000 team members to recognise their “outstanding efforts since pub restrictions were lifted”. The scale of the incentives package for its pub teams, brewery and support centre employees, is worth more than £6m, and includes a variety of rewards for different roles such as £300 cash bonus, extra holiday allowances, an uplift in hourly rates, increased team discount and a meal per shift. The company said it recognises the “amazing contribution its team members have made since the summer and the work they do during the busy Christmas season”. Andrew Bush, Greene King’s chief people officer, said: “The past two years and recent months have seen incredible resilience and outstanding commitment from all our team members who continue to offer a warm welcome for all our customers. This is a ‘big thank you’ from us. The scale of the festive rewards reflects the real day-to-day efforts everyone is making to deliver a quality pub experience for all.”
Plant-based restaurant group Mildreds appoints Ravilal Halai as finance director: Vegetarian restaurant group Mildreds has appointed Ravilal Halai, formerly of Nando’s and Casual Dining Group, as its new finance director, Propel has learned. Halai joins the Sam Anstey-led business after more than three years with Nando’s, including six months as its head of finance and supply chain in the US. He also spent a year as finance manager at Casual Dining Group, and also had stints at Just Eat and Hotel Chocolat. Mildreds recently opened its new plant-based concept, Mallow, in Borough Market. In October, Propel revealed Mildreds is set to open a site in Covent Garden, at the former Steak & Co site in St Martin’s Lane, in February. Having opened its original site in Soho in 1988, the group also runs restaurants in Dalston, Camden and King’s Cross.
Whitbread to open Bar + Block in Edinburgh next week, plans six further sites in 2022: Whitbread is bringing its steakhouse brand Bar + Block to Edinburgh next week – and is planning six further openings in 2022. The company is opening the restaurant on Monday (13 December) in Princes Street. The restaurant is housed on the ground floor of the former New Look unit and forms part of an extension that has seen 60 bedrooms added to its neighbouring Premier Inn hotel. The 181-cover restaurant and bar marks the second Bar + Block in Scotland following the launch of the first in St Enoch Square in Glasgow in June and is the 18th to open across the UK, all of which are located adjacent to Premier Inn hotels. The brand offers steaks hand-cut to order as well as a “butcher’s block”, burgers, grills, grazing plates and rotating specials and an extensive drinks list. Rebecca Donaldson, commercial marketing director at Whitbread, said: “We are excited to be opening our second Bar + Block restaurant in Scotland as we continue to grow and develop the brand nationwide. It’s the first ground-floor restaurant to open in Edinburgh’s premier shopping street under the council’s new planning guidance. We’ve taken a redundant retail site and transformed it in time for Christmas trading.”
Abokado reopens two further sites: London-based healthy eating chain Abokado has reopened two more of its sites. The company has reopened the outlets in Cutler Street, Houndsditch; and Harbour Exchange in South Quay. Both restaurants have been refurbished and feature touch screens and made-to-order hot counters. Abokado, which was founded in 2004 by Mark and Lindsay Lilley, was acquired by a new vehicle – Montway Holdings – that was set up by the chain’s founders – in October last year after the company went into administration. It currently operates six sites having previously had a 19-strong estate prior to the administration.
Incipio to launch all-day dining and drinking venue in London’s White City next month: Incipio Group, operator of venues including The Prince and Lost in Brixton, will launch Dear Grace, a “versatile” drinking and dining venue and events space, in London’s White City in January. The venue will occupy the former Wellbourne Brasserie and Motherclucker sites at 195 Wood Lane, and will be open daily for breakfast through to late-night drinks. Incipio’s head of food, Nick Wyborn, will oversee a menu of seasonal small plates and cocktails, while an events space will cater for up to 350 guests. “Unobtrusive by nature, the focus at Dear Grace is on simplicity and creating a welcoming environment for guests to unwind, decompress and use as they wish,” said a company spokesman. Incipio’s other venues also include Pergola Paddington, Pergola on the Wharf in Canary Wharf and Percy’s nightclub in Kensington, which relaunched in September following an 18-month closure. 
Hostmore appoints operations director for 63rd+1st: Hostmore has appointed Graeme Nesbitt as operations director for its 63rd+1st concept. Arriving just two weeks after the opening of the concept’s third venue in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Nesbitt, who takes up his new position on Monday (13 December), brings more than 30 years’ experience to this new role, which has been created intentionally to support the brand’s rapid growth. Formerly an executive chef, a position that he reached before the age of 30, Nesbitt has spent the majority of his career managing luxury hotels and resorts across the UK. He joins 63rd+1st from his role as group director of food and beverage at Hand Picked Hotels. The debut 63rd+1st site opened in Cobham, Surrey, at the start of this year followed by a restaurant in Glasgow and then Harrogate. The fourth venue will open in the spring, in Cambridge. Hostmore chief executive Robert B Cook said: “Graeme brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience from the luxury hospitality industry. He will undoubtedly inspire our fantastic teams in Cobham, Glasgow and Harrogate through his strategical understanding, ability to deliver under pressure and excellent leadership and motivational style.” Nesbitt added: “I am excited to be joining the company at a time of expansion and am dedicated to excel the brand’s reputation to ultimately make 63rd+1st the ‘go to place’ for any and every occasion.”
McDonald’s pushes to attract more diverse US franchisees, plan to be rolled out overseas too: McDonald’s will provide $250m of low-cost loans over the next five years as its bids to boost diversity among its US franchisees. Following this, the company will increase its efforts globally to draw new operators from underrepresented backgrounds. McDonald’s normally requires franchisees to have at least $500,000 of liquid assets before they can even enter the applicant programme. With the total investment for traditional locations ranging from $1m to more than $2.2m, the prices involved often rule out people from underrepresented groups. The company has come under fire from current and former black franchisees in the US, who have filed lawsuits claiming they were steered to underperforming stores in low-income areas. McDonald’s has denied treating them differently from other owners and has pledged its commitment to inclusion – tying executive bonuses to diversity goals and launching an effort to increase diversity among its suppliers. People from historically underrepresented groups made up almost 30% of all US franchisees in 2020, according to the company.
Tea Terrace opens fifth site, sister brand to make restaurant debut: Tea Terrace, the “affordable tea room” brand from husband-and-wife duo Rowena and Ehab Shouly, has opened its fifth site, in Surrey shopping centre, Woking Shopping. Founded in 2009, the company already operates two other Surrey branches, in Guildford and Cobham, and two central London sites, in Oxford Street and Victoria Street. The new 4,123 square-foot Woking Tea Terrace represents the brand’s biggest site so far, offering 120 covers, and offers its “selfieccino” service, where customers can get their selfie printed on to the froth of their coffee. It will also feature a new generation of the company’s robotic waitress, Theresa, which will start serving customers from next month. The Woking branch’s Theresa will be the brand’s second after the one currently serving at Cobham and will come with autonomous navigation, voice conversation and automatic dish delivery. Located adjacent to The Tea Terrace will also be the first restaurant of the Shouly’s new concept, The Ol' West Grill & Diner, opening later this month. Occupying a 2,523 square-foot unit with space for 55 covers, the Wild West-themed American steakhouse, grill and diner will serve Argentinian steaks, gourmet Wagyu burgers and a range of Tex-Mex starters, mains and desserts. It will also feature custom-made glasses with a metal bullet piercing them, plus the only animatronic bull of its kind in the UK. Ehab Shouly said: “We have always eyed Woking as our next location as the town centre serves a broad and wealthy catchment area and is well placed to become a major destination.” JLL and Nash Bond acted for Woking Shopping while Shouly Enterprises dealt direct.
Central London property let to Bella Italia sold for £7m: The freehold interest of a central London property, housing a Big Table Group-owned Bella Italia, has been sold to a private overseas investor for £7m. The property, which is located on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Irving Street, near Leicester Square, comprises 3,955 square foot, and hosts a Bella Italia with four residential apartments above. The price of £7m reflected a net initial yield of 3.37%. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, who acted on behalf of the purchaser, said “Footfall in London’s West End has almost returned to pre-covid levels (reaching 100% of 2019 footfall on weekends and 80% on weekdays). This is particularly impressive considering the continued impact of covid on overseas tourism (2021 is expected to record less than 20% of 2019’s total visitor numbers) and is a strong show of support for London’s entertainment district, of which Leicester Square is an integral part. The West End will always be a desirable location to invest in commercial property. It is not overly reliant on office catchments and is less exposed to changes in workplace dynamics. The leisure sector has been particularly robust – strong occupier demand has kept rents in many sub-markets at pre-pandemic levels. We believe the main inhibitor of investment activity remains shortage of stock.” Savills acted on behalf of the vendor, a private client.
Ann Elliott joins student work platform Stint: Hospitality strategist, connector and adviser Ann Elliott has joined the advisory board at student work platform Stint. She will lend her expertise to support the continued growth of the company, founded in 2018 by brothers Sol and Sam Schlagman. Stint connects hospitality businesses with students looking for short, flexible shifts to fit around their university work. Since launching, it has connected 100,000 students to more than 1,000 businesses in 32 cities around the UK. Sol said: “Ann is the perfect addition to our growing team. The sector experts on our advisory board bring so much vital knowledge to our business, and Ann is no exception. These are exciting times for Stint as we mature beyond a start-up business, and it’s a privilege to be able to call on the expertise of such a well-respected industry figure to support us.” Elliott also currently serves as a non-executive director for Wireless Social, Hall & Woodhouse, Tossed and Gusto Italian and runs her own hospitality consultancy business. She said: “Stint can have a genuinely transformational impact on this sector, and I’m very much looking forward to working alongside Sol, Sam and the team on their journey.” Elliott joins a number of other hospitality figureheads on the Stint board including Brigid Simmonds, Andy Holness, Fiona Ryland, Stephen Clarke and Dino Rocos. 
Lussmanns Sustainable Kitchen opens in Berkhamsted for fifth site: Lussmanns Sustainable Kitchen, the independent brasserie group backed by investor Luke Johnson, has opened a site in Berkhamsted. The restaurant marks the fifth site for the Hertfordshire-based company. The grade II-listed property in High Street was previously home to Bill’s. The restaurant also has a sizeable garden area that will open in the spring and will seat 70. Founder and managing director, Andrei Lussmann, said: “I am delighted to have opened in Berkhamsted in time for Christmas. Next year we will celebrate the restaurant group’s 20th year and we're very proud we are still popular with locals, still winning awards and our sustainability commitment is more necessary and relevant than ever.” Lussmann opened his first cafe in 2002 in Ladbroke Grove and his first fish and grill restaurant in Hertford in 2004; its success then led on to the opening of four more restaurants in Hertfordshire – St Albans, Harpenden, Hertford and Hitchin. In August, Lussmann told Propel he was wants to grow the business outside Hertfordshire and take Lussmanns “to a wider audience”.
Hollywood Bowl confirmed as first tenant for Preston leisure complex: Hollywood Bowl has signed as the first tenant for the multimillion-pound Animate leisure complex in Preston. The Hollywood Bowl venue will include 16 fully computerised lanes, a bar and diner and an arcade area. Laurence Keen, chief financial officer of Hollywood Bowl, said: “We are pleased to have secured another prime high footfall destination to enable us to continue to execute on our new centre opening strategy. We’re delighted to be bringing the Hollywood Bowl brand to Preston and to be a part of the exciting development of the Animate leisure complex.” A cinema and new restaurants and bars will also eventually be added alongside the bowling venue. Andrew Dewhurst, director of Maple Grove Developments, which is behind the scheme, said: “We’re delighted to have secured Hollywood Bowl as the first named operator for Animate, contributing massively to Preston’s goal of creating a thriving, sustainable city centre with an outstanding leisure and entertainment offer. We recently submitted a new planning application for the Animate scheme with Preston City Council and expect to be able to announce further lettings over the winter months.”
Dalata appoints new COO: Irish hotel group Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, has appointed Des McCann as chief operating officer – effective from Saturday, 1 January – after Conal O’Neill decided not to take up the position. O’Neill will instead continue as group general manager “due to a change in personal circumstances”. McCann joined Dalata in 2011 following previous experience as general manager of The Clyde Court Hotel, The Ballsbridge Hotel and Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport. Dermot Crowley, Dalata chief executive, said: “Des has been instrumental in growing the reputation of Clayton Hotels in Ireland over the last three years and has skilfully led the Clayton team through very challenging times. I look forward to continuing to work alongside both Des and Conal in the years ahead.” Founded in 2007, Dalata’s portfolio consists of 29 owned hotels, 12 leased and three management contracts, with a total of 9,166 bedrooms. The group is currently developing 11 new hotels and has plans to extend three of its existing ones, adding more than 2,600 bedrooms. In October, it revealed plans for a four-star venue in Liverpool following a £37.5m investment from Aviva Investors and Valorem Investment Partners. The group will run the 260-bedroom venue under its Dalata Maldron luxury lifestyle brand on a 35-year lease when it opens in the autumn of 2023.

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