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Fri 10th Dec 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Adam Breeden planning new racing simulation concept: Adam Breeden, the co-founder of All Star Lanes, Hijingo, Bounce, Flight Club and Puttshack, is planning to launch a racing simulation concept in central London under his new Kindred Concepts vehicle, Propel has learned. Kindred Concepts – which includes Stephen Murphy, ex-chief executive of Virgin Group, and Jonathan Peters, former Ivy Collection and Bill’s Restaurants chief financial officer, as directors – plans to open the first site under the new concept at the One New Change scheme. Described as an “immersive, state of the art racing simulation experience, digitally gamified for a mass audience, in a premium venue with best in class hospitality and design”, the debut site is planning to open across the former Wahaca, EAT and Next sites in the scheme. The proposed venue will host up to 60 bespoke compact race-driving simulators, where guests will choose from a variety of racing modes to compete against each other individually or in team-based groups. A planning application for the concept, which has a working title Project Race, shows that simulators will be set out in spacious “sim zones”, integrated with “168 covers of food and beverage seating and ample standing/socialising space”. The business is understood to have invested heavily in a custom digital racing game, developed specifically for the concept, built on a software simulation engine called rFactor2. At the heart of the venue will sit an “impressive feature bar with a bespoke champagne cocktail offering, surrounded by a dedicated food and beverage area”. The venue will also feature “a luxurious private room with eight racing simulators, conference facilities and a private bar for events and meetings, with a standing capacity for up to 80 guests”. A design statement for the concept states: “The venue design aims to echo feelings of nostalgia by blending the glorious vintage history of motorsport with elements of glamour and elegance. This will create a complete assault of all senses and transport the guest to a timeless experience.”

Industry News:

Propel Premium Advent Video Calendar, Yasha Estraikh to feature: 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 three videos – which will be sent at 9am today (Friday, 10 December), tomorrow (Saturday, 11 December) and Sunday (12 December) – feature Yasha Estraikh, associate partner at leading investment firm Piper; Tim Wilks, founder of Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept; and Steve Holmes, chief executive of the Azzurri Group. Premium subscribers received the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on (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, who this week interviews Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie. 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

Concerns mount over covid measures impacting sector’s ‘fragile’ recovery with cancellations coming in ‘thick and fast’: Concerns are mounting over covid measures impacting the sector’s “fragile” recovery as Britain’s managed pub, bar and restaurant groups recorded tentative sales growth in November. The latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, shows groups’ total sales in November were up 2% on the pre-covid-19 levels of November 2019. The pub and bar sectors both achieved sales growth of 3%, just ahead of restaurants at 2%. It is the fourth month in a row that 2021 sales have exceeded 2019 levels. However, the rate has dropped from 8% in September and 3% in October, and November’s 2% growth is below most current inflation estimates. Rising costs in food, drink, energy and other key inputs have put operators’ margins under strain, while supply issues and staff shortages have added to their challenges. The impact of “Plan B” restrictions announced by the government this week are already being felt. Chris Soley, chief executive of north east-based brewer and pub operator Camerons Brewery, tweeted: “Cancellations coming in thick and fast. This is like early March 2020 when people were told not to go to the pub, but we had no support. Urgent government grants, rates, furlough, extended VAT and rates support needed. Our sector needed Xmas to try and recover.” Elite Bistros founder Gary Usher tweeted: “We have taken hundreds and hundreds of cancellations for December across the six restaurants including a party of 70 on Thursday (16 December). Telling people to work from home has instantly ripped up Christmas reservations.” The Tracker also highlighted contrasting fortunes for groups in London, where total sales dipped by 2%; and venues outside the M25, where they rose by 4%. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “The next few weeks will be crucial to give hospitality some momentum for growth in 2022, but new restrictions may threaten the future of thousands of fragile businesses and jobs.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “This is a fragile recovery. November’s sales were relatively strong, but the current uncertainty is going to hit Christmas badly. However, the outlook is much brighter and despite some bumps in the road we expect a strong 2022.”

Davis – grow-your-own can help businesses win the supply chain battle: Hospitality companies should look seriously into growing their own produce to help combat supply chain issues, Glynn Davis has argued. A leading commentator on retail trends, Davis highlighted the example of Forest Side in Cumbria, where head chef Paul Leonard grows more than 90% of his vegetables in his kitchen garden during the summer months. Not only are such moves economically advantageous, but they also tick all the right boxes in terms of sustainability credentials, according to Davis. “Such moves might be moving into the realms of necessity for higher-end food-focused operators, because with supply chains causing grief across the whole of the hospitality sector, growing your own is certainly helping them ease their burdens,” said Davis, writing exclusively in Propel’s Friday Opinion. “With more fractured and erratic supply chains looking like they could be a potentially long-term feature of the business landscape, it is not surprising we are seeing significant moves around the world by organisations to take greater control of this essential part of their business. But hospitality companies would be mistaken to think the only people able to address supply chain issues are the large global operators with their hefty resources, and the high-end restaurants with their kitchen gardens. The reality is supply chains have myriad moving parts and every foodservice business, regardless of size and modus operandi, will have numerous opportunities to tinker with their existing arrangements in order to better insulate themselves from the uncertain and rocky road ahead.” Davis will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (10 December) at 11am.

Scottish Budget has ‘failed hospitality’: Trade association UKHospitality Scotland has accused the Scottish government of failing hospitality in its 2022-23 budget. Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes today (Thursday) outlined her tax and spending proposals for the coming year against the backdrop of the pandemic. But UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson blasted plans for an extension of the 50% business rates relief. “The Scottish Budget has failed hospitality businesses across the country,” he said. “The extension of business rate relief of 50% from April to June 2022 simply moves the financial pressures a little further down the line and does nothing to eliminate the very real challenges that our businesses face. With increased cancellations, many businesses face stark months ahead. Many had pinned their hopes on today’s budget statement and will now be facing very difficult choices. It’s a difficult juncture for both owners and their workers. Businesses need support, not further measures that will limit opportunity for recovery – whenever they might come.”

MPs launch inquiry into drink spiking: An inquiry into drink spiking has been launched by MPs. The Home Affairs Committee has begun the investigation to understand better the prevalence of spiking and the effectiveness of the police response to it. Welcoming the inquiry, Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said: “This will go a long way to gaining a level of understanding of these crimes, the breadth of the issue, where they are most prevalent, and handling of drink spiking cases across the UK. We are keen to support the inquiry as an industry, and hope this can be completed quickly so that we can collectively tackle these abhorrent crimes within society.” Across the country, reports of suspected spikings by needle injection are on the rise. Last month, figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealed there had been 274 suspected cases recorded across the UK in the past two months alone.

Dunn – collaboration is the key to a better future for the industry: Hospitality leaders must collaborate rather than operate in private to secure a better future for the industry, according to Abi Dunn. The founder of hospitality consultancy Sixty Eight People, Dunn was reflecting on the recent Propel people series, sponsored by Harri, in which she interviewed five industry leaders about the challenges of attracting and retaining staff. She praised Natasha Waterfield (New World Order Trading Company), Chris Sleaford (Roxy Leisure), Hannah Plumb (The Alchemist), Miranda Jones (Everyman Cinema) and Andy O’Callaghan (Dishoom) for the speed in which their companies have adapted to the post-covid landscape. “There is an overwhelming feeling that we are in this together,” said Dunn, writing exclusively in Propel’s Friday Opinion. “The transparency and collaboration of operators is stunning to watch and can only make our sector better. Secrecy is old-fashioned, the sharing of best practice for the greater good is the future. If you aren’t seeking advice from others, or being open for questioning, you may very well be left behind.” Dunn also discussed ways in which the staffing challenges can be fought – including getting marketing departments involved in recruitment, shifting existing mindsets about shift patterns, ensuring the mental health and well-being of employees and introducing more employee benefits. She added: “Everyone has had the opportunity to re-imagine some of the day to day of hospitality life. Whether that’s offering flexibility on things like opening hours or menus, analysing how efficient we are or offering our general managers more autonomy – there is a real feeling of moving forward. Now is the time to challenge our past.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a growing hospitality brand that is looking for a head of operations in London. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “As head of operations, you will be tasked with developing a brand that leaves a lasting impression with its consumers. You will be on top of all market trends and get involved in the marketing of the business as well as the operations of the current sites. With more site openings planned, the client is looking for a high potential candidate who has some operations management experience but can take that next step into strategy and brand awareness. The individual will be a senior operator who understands great food and gets things organised. The position is paying up to £85,000 base salary.” For more information, email

Company News:

Inglenook Inns & Taverns secures new investment partner to back further growth: North-west based pub operator Inglenook Inns & Taverns has secured £10m of investment through a new joint venture with a private investor to continue to expand its portfolio, Propel has learned. Inglenook, which was founded by James Waddington in 2012, currently owns 38 freehold sites under its leased and tenanted model. The company is due to acquire an additional nine sites before Christmas. Inglenook is understood to be seeking to aggregate a portfolio of 100-plus “community pubs” over the next two years. The portfolio is principally located in the north west, but the venture is believed to be willing to expand out of its core geography as the estate grows. The joint venture is separate from the group’s managed services operation, which incorporates up to 25 temporary management appointments and 16 leased pubs – operated as a managed estate. Propel understands that Inglenook has hired Alun Johnson, formerly regional operations director at Star Pubs & Bars and Punch, to aid on the operational management side of the new venture and wider group.

Boom Battle Bar and Flip Out team to launch new interactive crazy golf concept: The team behind adventure bar business Boom Battle Bar and adventure park franchise Flip Out will this weekend launch its latest concept. The first Putt Putt Noddle site – an interactive indoor crazy golf concept complete with sensory sights, sounds and smells – will open in Norwich’s Castle Quarter. The Asian-inspired attraction features several nine-hole courses, including a mini-Great Wall of China and a Cambodian bamboo jungle – as well as serving Asian street food, beer and cocktails. Operating as a franchise network, with “many more” planned and available for next year, the debut Putt Putt Noddle site will be run by David Moores, who also owns the first Boom Battle Bar in Norwich. Richard Beese, co-owner of the new brand, said: “This is the first of many Putt Putt Noodles around the country. It will follow in the footsteps of its big brother Boom Battle Bar, which has taken the UK by storm. Putt Putt has everything from delicious noodle dishes, tantalising cocktails and golf that will literally take you on a journey like no other. We have been developing some tech for the courses that will blow people’s minds, that has never been done in the adventure golf sector before.” Last month, Flip Out owners MFT Capital acquired the brand’s entire global intellectual property portfolio and paid down all its debts, including £1.44m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This was funded by the sale of Boom Battle Bars to XP Factory, formerly known as Escape Hunt, for £17.38m.

Mercato Metropolitano MD to step down: Amedeo Claris is to step down as managing director of London-community food market Mercato Metropolitano, Propel has learned. Claris is leaving to take up a new challenge, five years after joining the group as an executive director. Mercato Metropolitano currently operates three community markets in London. An additional market is due to launch in Canary Wharf’s new district, Wood Wharf, early in January, and a market in Ilford, east London, is also opening next year. Meanwhile, a European flagship market in the heart of Berlin is expected to launch during the first half of 2022, and other projects in Milan and other world cities are currently being explored. Founder and chief executive, Andrea Rasca, said: “We would like to thank Amedeo for the unwavering support, strategic contribution and professionalism during his time at Mercato Metropolitano. We wish him the very best for the future.” Claris added: “It has been a great honour to help build Mercato Metropolitano in the UK from the ground up. I hope to see an MM market in every city in the world.” In January, Mercato Metropolitano unveiled plans for a £35m expansion into Europe and the US, with ten more markets creating 2,000 jobs.

Daylesford Farm owner Lady Bamford acquires third pub: Carole Bamford, wife of JCB owner Sir Anthony Bamford, has acquired her third pub with rooms. Propel understands Lady Bamford, who also owns Daylesford Farm, has acquired The Maytime at Asthall near Burford, Oxfordshire. The 17th century inn has a restaurant, bar and six bedrooms. It had previously been run by Ken and Dominic Wood. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Bamford had acquired The Fox in Lower Oddington, Gloucestershire. The 16th century inn will reopen at the beginning of next year and house eight bedrooms, while The Coach House, situated opposite, will offer a self-catering alternative. Recently awarded a Green Star by the Michelin Guide, the farm is home to the flagship farm shop, cookery school, Bamford Wellness Spa and three restaurants – The Old Spot, The Trough Café and The Legbar. Lady Bamford acquired her first pub, the Wild Rabbit in Kingham, in the Cotswolds, in 2013.

Lantana appoints Colin Bell as group managing director: London-based cafe operator and caterer Lantana has appointed Colin Bell, formerly of Sodexo and Harris + Hoole, as its group managing director. Bell spent more than four and a half years at contract caterer Sodexo, mostly as a business unit director. Before that he was at Harris + Hoole for four years, half of which was spent as the cafe chain’s customer and operations director. He has also worked for Yum! Restaurants and Odeon. Lantana was launched in 2008 by Shelagh Ryan, Michael Homan and Caitlin Ryan. It currently operates four cafes across the capital – in London Bridge, Shoreditch, Camden and Fitzrovia. It also offers catering services and runs exclusive residencies. 

Gail’s to open in Baker Street: Gail’s Bakery, the fast-growing, Bain Capital credit-backed business, is to further grow its presence in London, with an opening in Baker Street. The Marta Pogroszewska-led business is to replace Turkish cafe concept Simit Saray at 114 Baker Street. Earlier this summer, Bain Capital Credit acquired a stake in Gail’s parent company Bread Holdings in a deal that valued the company at more than £200m. Gail’s has recently opened sites in Paddington and Bracknell, taking its estate to 78 sites. George Collison, of Colliers, acted for landlord Criterion on the Baker Street deal.

Gordon Ramsay Restaurants appoints Marc Wilson as operations director: Gordon Ramsay Restaurants has appointed Marc Wilson, formerly of Prezzo, Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), as operations director for its fast-growing burger and pizza concepts. Wilson was head of operations at GBK. Prior to that he spent two and a half years as a regional operations director at Prezzo. He also had stints at Byron and PizzaExpress. In his new role he will aid the expansion of Ramsay’s Street Burger and Street Pizza concepts. Earlier this week, Propel revealed Simon Ward-Nicholson, formerly of SSP and Ole & Steen, had also joined Gordon Ramsay Restaurants as a new operations director. 

Jamaica Blue makes Scottish debut: Foodco-owned international cafe restaurant brand Jamaica Blue has made its Scottish debut. The outlet has opened in the Braehead shopping centre in Glasgow. It marks the 11th Jamaica Blue site in the UK with another launching in Ilford, east London, next week. Foodco also operates Muffin Break in the UK and the 58th store opened last month, in Dunfermline. Jamaica Blue was founded in Australia in 1992 and operates more than 120 cafes worldwide. Foodco opened the first Jamaica Blue cafe in the UK in Cambridge in December 2014, which has since closed, although a site in nearby Royston opened in May.

GSG Hospitality opens second Bold Street Coffee site, in Manchester: Independent restaurant and bar business GSG Hospitality, has opened a second site for its Bold Street Coffee concept, in Manchester. The company has launched the venue in Cross Street, adding to its outlet in Liverpool. The concept serves up speciality coffee that’s roasted in-house and independent guest roasters on rotation as well as a selection of tea and iced drinks. There is also a food menu covering breakfast, lunch and brunch. GSG Hospitality co-founder Matt Farrell said: “It’s an exciting time to be opening our second Bold Street Coffee site – this time in Manchester. Our Liverpool venue has created a wonderful community of people and we very much look forward to welcoming all our guests to our Manchester site and meeting some new faces. Bold Street Coffee’s core focus will always be producing stand-out coffee using our house and guest blends, as well as producing tasty food.” GSG Hospitality expanded from its Liverpool heartland to Manchester earlier this year when it brought its Salt Dog Slims concept to the city. 

Wimpy launches reusable hot cup scheme with discount for users: Wimpy has launched its own nationwide reusable hot cup scheme. For £2.50, customers will be able to buy their own double-walled and insulated 12oz reusable hot cup in-store, and every time they return with the cup, they will receive 25p off any regular takeaway hot drink. This means within ten purchases, they will have effectively got their reusable cup, which are both microwave and dishwasher friendly, for free. Chris Woolfenden, Wimpy UK general manager, said: “As a brand, we’re keen to be as sustainable as possible. Given that only a fraction of takeaway disposable cups are actually recycled, we felt it was important to offer a reusable takeaway alternative that customers can use time and again. This scheme enables them to save money and helps reduce the amount of waste, which is good for the environment and good for the wallet.”

TRG enters into green gas contract as part of plans to achieve carbon net zero by 2035: The Restaurant Group (TRG) has entered into a green gas contract with TotalEnergies Gas & Power. The deal means all TRG’s directly controlled supplies of electricity, gas and LPG used in its restaurants will be from renewable sources. The move is a key part of TRG’s sustainability strategy and roadmap to achieving carbon net zero by 2035. As founder members and co-chair of emission working groups (for scopes 1 and 2) for the Zero Carbon Forum, TRG is already playing an active role in developing sector-wide plans to reduce emissions. James Taylor, head of sustainability and environmental purchasing at TRG, said: “By moving to renewable cleaner sources for all our directly controlled supplies of electricity, gas and LPG, this means we are well on track for reducing emissions from our owned or controlled sources. This will enable us to now focus our efforts on identifying and implementing reductions in our scope 3 footprint. We recognise there is more work to do but are delighted to be playing a major role in sector-wide plans to reduce emissions.”

January opening for Sixes’ Birmingham site: Sixes, the cricket-based competitive socialising concept from the founders of Mac & Wild, will open its latest venue, in Birmingham’s Mailbox scheme, on Saturday, 8 January. It will be a fourth venue for the company, with two already in London and a third having opened in Manchester in August. Sixes’ state-of-the-art technology allows the level of challenge to be scaled up or down to suit the batters in three high-tech batting nets. The venue’s menu will include low and slow chicken wings, house-smoked sausages to order by the half-metre, overnight coals sweet potato, vegan burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes, smoked chicken Caesar salad and the signature Sixes meat volcano. Among the cocktails will be the cricket-themed Ashes Manhattan and Sixes fruit cup, and British-themed Eton mess and tea time – containing actual Yorkshire Tea. Founder Calum Mackinnon said: “We look forward to welcoming the people of Birmingham to challenge their skills on our high-tech cricket simulators and explore our fantastic menu. Just like us, the people of Birmingham love their sport. We firmly believe cricket is an inclusive game, and our mission at Sixes is to bring people together through sport and great hospitality.”

Umbrella Project set to launch debut drinks shop with tasting room: Umbrella Project, the team behind East London bars The Sun Tavern and Discount Suit Company, will launch Umbrella Workshops, its first bricks-and-mortar retail site, in Shoreditch’s Boundary Street in early 2022. Originally launched as an online store during lockdown, Umbrella Workshops will stock Umbrella Project’s bottled cocktails, natural wine and small producer spirits. An interactive tasting room will allow customers to try before they buy and will also help forge the development of future bottled cocktails, as well as those for sale in the pubs. The tasting room will also be available to hire for private events, with scope for an external bar to be added.

All-day restaurant and cocktail bar opens in Canary Wharf: Shutters Canary Wharf, a new all-day restaurant and cocktail bar based on the ground floor at One Canada Square, has launched. It is open daily, with brunch served from 8am to 11am followed by all-day dining from noon to 10pm, featuring a fish-led menu focusing strongly on Cornish produce. The breakfast offerings include steak and eggs, smoked west coast haddock kedgeree and sweetcorn and coriander fritters, while among the all-day options are Cornish crab, steamed St Austell Bay mussels, griddled octopus and whole baked Cornish sole. A Mexican-inspired cocktail bar sits on the upper level, while a separate counter is stocked with juice, smoothies, pastries and Shutters’ own blend of coffee, hand-roasted in Cornwall. By night, the counter serves wine and build-your-own deli boards of cured meat, cheese and lighter bites.

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