Story of the Day:
Itsu – ‘well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities created by the unprecedented level of disruption within the industry’: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain founded by Julian Metcalfe, has said it is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities created by the unprecedented level of disruption within the industry, after deciding to strategically reshape its central London store footprint. The business said it spent the majority of 2020, re-engineering its operating model for the ‘new-normal’, continuing investment in its digital customer journey, pivoting the UK growth strategy to focus on further regional store expansion and on a successful re-engagement with international partners. The company said: “Due to the changing shape of central London footfall the company has decided to strategically reshape its central London store footprint. Given the current economic uncertainty seen in the USA, the group is unsure of when it can restart operations of its store in New York, therefore the group has decided post year end to impair the full carrying value of its investment in the USA division. The impact of these decisions will see the company focus on regional and new international store expansions however the short term, non-cash impact of this decision, estimated at date of approval of the 2019 accounts, could result in an impairment of its fixed asset carrying value by £2.5m to £4m.” The business, which carried out a CVA last year, said that like-for-like trading across its sites in the final quarter of 2021, prior to the government’s work from home guidance issued on 8 December 2021, was close to 2019 levels. It said: “Off the back of a record-breaking 2020, the Grocery division continued its impressive trading performance by generating further revenue and Ebitda growth in 2021. 2021 also saw the opening of Itsu’s first partnership stores in the UK and Europe, creating the platform to open 25 new stores in 2022. A key priority for the group has been the development of a Partnerships Division, with the intention of opening Itsu stores with corporate franchise partners both internationally and domestically, the foundations for which were put in place in 2019. The strategy focuses on partnering with the very best operators in each geography that have both the skill and scale to grow Itsu stores across the UK, Europe and, in time, further afield.” Last year, the business also successfully renegotiated and extended its current banking facility, of £10m, until the end of 2022. This period extends beyond the end of the CVA period, which the business said created further security and certainty over the company’s future liquidity. On 10 June 2021, Bridgepoint acquired 30% of the business from Ambrosia SPV. In September, Itsu announced it planned to expand to 100 UK restaurants by 2026.
Sponsored message – Strykk launches new packaging:
Innovative non-alcoholic spirits brand, Strykk
, distributed in the UK by Funkin Cocktails, has new packaging and an updated brand identity. The bold aesthetic incorporates significant environmental and sustainable improvements. Strykk’s four core alternative spirits, Not G*n, Not V*dka, Not R*m and Not Vanilla V*dka are presented in new, bespoke premium 70cl bottles, made using 40% less glass than before and with longer bottle necks for easier handling. The strapline, All the Spirit, None of the Alcohol, is embossed on the side and the palette of colours remains true to the respective alcohol categories. All plastic on the bottle and packaging will be removed by March. Elegantly Spirited chief executive and Strykk co-founder, Alex Carlton said: “No and low is booming and as early innovators and leaders, we are working to create a forward-thinking, sustainable category. Quality and value are paramount, but environmental impact is also hugely important. Consumers want balance and choice and are looking for credible alternatives to alcohol. Strykk products are part of a modern drinker’s repertoire and totally complementary to alcohol. The update marks the next stage of growth, ensuring Strykk has a solid brand platform domestically and internationally and provides a clear path for development into a global brand.” If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full speaker schedule for Restaurant Marketer and Innovator this month unveiled:
The full speaker schedule has been unveiled for the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event held later this month. Click here
to view the full schedule. Operators taking part include: The Alchemist, Coco di Mama, Vapiano, Individual Restaurant Company, Anglian Country inns, Compass, Dishoom, BrewDog, Elior UK, Punch, Greene King, Just Eat, TGI Fridays, Big Mamma Group, Gamechangers Hospitality Investments, Lane7, Mission Mars, Wing Shack, London Cocktail Club, Incipio Group, Kerb Food, PPHE Group, Hilton, Pho, Ennismore, Eataly, Pizza Pilgrims, Le Pain Quotidien, Bone Daddies Group, YO!, Rum Kitchen, New World Trading Company
and Arc Inspirations
. One day operator price is £345 plus VAT, two-day operator price is £575 plus VAT. One day supplier rate is £445 plus VAT, two-day supplier rate is £795 plus VAT. Email email@example.com to book
Next edition of sector profitability guide, featuring 500 companies, shows the toll of pandemic losses:
The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, will feature more than 500 companies when it is published on Friday 14 January at midday. The next edition shows the pandemic’s effect on the sector with 321 companies making a combined loss of just over £8bn. A further 186 companies are in profit, making a total of £797m – about one-tenth of the losses. Total turnover of the 500 biggest sector companies stands at £28.5bn. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranking companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. 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. 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 single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up
. 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.
UKHospitality Cymru – sector needs immediate increase in support: An immediate increase in financial support and the lifting of trading restrictions is urgently needed to prevent Welsh hospitality businesses closures and job losses, UKHospitality Cymru has warned. “Across the board, enforced sub-viable trading and the associated cautionary climate has fuelled a festive flop in our pubs, restaurants, hotels and wider hospitality,” said David Chapman, executive director of UKHospitality Cymru. “A disastrous Christmas and New Year under the latest restrictions has left many facing a perilous financial position with grants falling way short of what is needed. In particular, retaining staff on current government supports is unsustainable. Wales’ nightclubs are closed but are expected to keep a full staff roster, for maybe as long as two months, with a grant that doesn’t even amount to a busy night’s takings,” said Chapman. “Their English counterparts are reporting falling footfall and heavy losses even without the stringent additional set of restrictions being imposed in Wales – revenue is at least 25% lower than across the border at present. If financial support isn’t swiftly forthcoming, grave commercial impacts are inevitable, which will hugely damage communities across Wales,” Chapman added.
Antigua luxury hotel offers new restaurant opportunity:
A luxury hotel operator in Antigua has contacted Propel to offer the “job of a life-time”. A new restaurant is to open at Tamarind Hills complex in late March and an operator is being sought – on a profit share. Keith Martel said: “Tamarind Hills comprises 22 luxury two, three and four bedroom luxury villas, plus 43 luxury one bedroom suites, which goes someway to providing a captive market for the restaurant. The villas regularly require private chefs, though, and it is very much intended the restaurant is open to outside guests. We’d like the restaurant to earn a reputation in its own right and not be a hotel restaurant. The restaurant will have seating capacity of around 100 covers. It will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – it will be important to transform the setting for each. The operator will need a proven track record of running restaurant businesses, as this restaurant will trade as a separate business, with profit sharing. Terms and conditions are all generally open for discussion – Caribbean experience would be an advantage.” Keith Martel can be contacted on email@example.com
Leon – The US still represents an opportunity for the brand: Natural fast food brand Leon, which is owned by the EG Group, said it still believes that there is an opportunity for the business in the US. Filing accounts for the year to 27 December 2020, the company said it had taken many learnings from its fledgling US operations, which it exited earlier this year, due to the impact of covid-19. The business launched in the US in September 2018, with an opening in Washington DC, in L Street. It had grown its US business to four sites, opening a further two sites in Washington DC and making its debut in Virginia, in the Mosaic District, last August. The company said: “Our long-term strategy is based on our mission to enable as many as possible to eat and live well. We will continue our UK expansion and to develop the brand in new markets and new formats. Following a strategic review at the beginning of 2021, the board decided to exit from USA market to focus on the UK. The impact of covid-19 was particularly felt in our US operations, where Leon was in its early years of developing the brand and customer base. There have been many learnings, and the board still believes that the opportunity still exists to take Leon to the USA in the future. On 17 April 2021, EG Group acquired 100% of Leon Restaurants Limited, in a deal valued at circa £100m. Following the acquisition, EG Group said it intended to invest in the Leon brand and broaden the current foodservice offer across its extensive global site network. Last month, the company said it planned to increase the number of UK restaurant openings this year from an original target of 20 to more than 50, creating 1,000 jobs, and a total of 4,000 posts over the next three years. New restaurants will include new formats such as drive-thrus, smaller branches on petrol forecourts and in Asda stores, plus Leon To Go coffee shops. Much of the expansion will be focused outside London, with openings in Scotland and Wales early next year. Leon, which also sells its products in supermarkets, will open its own company-run restaurants in the Netherlands. The first will be opened in Honswijk, on one of the country’s busiest motorways, followed by a further ten more before a wider European push. Throughout the lockdown Leon said it kept at least 12 restaurants. By April 2021, it had reopened 38 of its 41 restaurants. The group claimed £6.4m from the job retention scheme (furlough). In the year to 27 December 2020, turnover stood at £37.9m (2019: £76.3m), with pre-tax losses widening to £16.6m (2019: £2.1m).”
Giggling Squid plans double Cardiff opening: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by BGF, is set to make its debut in Wales later this year, after lining up two openings in Cardiff, Propel has learned. The 42-strong business, which opened in Welwyn Garden City earlier this month, is understood to have lined up openings in Mermaid Quay and in the Welsh capital’s city centre. Last month, Propel revealed that the business had secured its first site in North Yorkshire, in Harrogate, in the former Las Iguanas site in the town’s John Street, for an opening in the first quarter of 2022. Propel revealed in November that 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 this year. It is thought Giggling Squid is in talks on a site in Liverpool and is exploring opportunities in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The business already has openings for this year secured in locations such as Winchester and Maidstone. Giggling Squid has also expanded its delivery kitchen estate with an opening in Acton, to add to its existing site in Wandsworth. A further delivery kitchen unit is set to open in Brent Cross.
Temper to return to the expansion trail with Shoreditch opening: Temper, the Imbiba-backed, Sam Lee-led modern barbecue concept, is to return to the expansion trail with an opening in Shoreditch, Propel has learned. The three-strong business, which is operated under the Casper & Cole umbrella, has secured the former Jones Family Project site in Great Eastern Street, for an opening in early summer. The menu at the new site will be overseen by the concept’s chef director David Lagonell. Temper opened its first site in Soho’s Broadwick Street in November 2017. It followed this with an opening at the Angel Court development in the City, and a site in the Mercers Walk development in Seven Dials. Nick Garston, of the Found Agency, acted for Temper on the Shoreditch deal, while Rob Meadows at DCL acted for the landlord.
Moto planning further Pret openings: Motorway services operator Moto is planning to add a further nine Pret A Manger sites to its estate by the end of 2022. It comes as Pano Christou, Pret chief executive, told the FT that its three current Moto sites were taking 25% more in sales than its average high-street location. “All of them are beating expectations,” he said, adding that it was an opportunity Pret would explore further as it expanded into other countries. Moto chief executive Ken McMeikan said the business also planned to accelerate the addition of KFC restaurants to its estate, having agreed a franchise deal before the coronavirus crisis. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, “we have seen a continued increase in operators that would love to get into Moto service stations”, said McMeikan. The increasing number of electric vehicles on the road also stands to benefit service stations as customers wait to recharge car batteries. McMeikan said that average “dwell time” for customers at a Moto site was about 17 minutes but was double that for those charging an electric vehicle. He added that, counter intuitively, rapid chargers were causing drivers to stay longer as users tend to fully recharge batteries rather than topping up a small amount. For investors, the growth of electric vehicles and limited number of roadside sites that receive planning permission make established operators of service stations attractive acquisition targets. Roadchef, bought for £153m in 2014, is up for sale for roughly £1bn, according to a person involved in the process.
Loungers appoints Kellee Torr as interim people director: Cafe bar operator Loungers has appointed Kellee Torr, formerly of Central England Co-operative and Boots, as its interim people director. Torr was previously HR and risk director at Central England Co-operative. Prior to that, she had stints at Millennium & Copthorne Hotels and Morrisons. She also spent nearly six years at Boots, including two years as its senior HR business partner. Last November, Loungers announced that Caryn Savazzi was to step down as its people after four years with the business, before the end of 2021. Last month, the company opened its 155th Lounge (186th site overall), Gallico Lounge, in Lancaster, the last opening of the year. In December, Nick Collins, chief executive of Loungers, said that the Lounge and Cosy Club operator was now confident it could add a fifth build team and increase its openings capacity to 30-32 sites a year.
Chik’n appoints Peter Gibson as property director: Chik’n, the fried chicken concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has appointed Peter Gibson, formerly of Nando’s and Flat Iron, as its new property director, Propel has learned. Gibson joins the business, which currently operates sites in Angel, Soho and Marylebone, from Flat Iron, where he had been property director since the end of 2019. Previous to that he was acquisitions and asset manager at Nando’s. Gibson joins Chik’n as it looks to return to the expansion trail. Last year, Propel that Dunstone, the backer of Five Guys UK, had become the majority backer of Chik’n, with plans to ramp up its rollout. Chik’n also currently operates out of dark kitchens in Battersea, Park Royal and Wandsworth. In May, Propel revealed John Nelson, formerly of MOD Pizza UK and Nando’s, had joined Chik’n as its new chief executive. This was followed by the appointment of Rob Cooper, formerly of Sage and TalkTalk, as the brand’s new finance director.
Zia Lucia plans Stoke Newington opening: London-based pizzeria Zia Lucia is to open a seventh site in London, in Stoke Newington, later this month. The business, which opened in Balham last month, has secured the ex-Il Bacio site at 61 Stoke Newington Church Street, for an opening on 20 January. Founders Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo opened the first Zia Lucia in Holloway Road, Islington, in 2016, and have since added sites in Aldgate East, Hammersmith, Wembley and, most recently, Wandsworth. Last year, the pair combined their Zia Lucia restaurant in Islington with their neighbouring pasta restaurant Berto to bring the two concepts together under one roof.
Burger King launches vegan nuggets; Wagamama introduces vegan fish & chips dish: Burger King UK is to launch vegan nuggets nationwide from today (Wednesday) as the company evolves its meat-focused menu to cash in on the booming popularity of plant-based diets. The brand is the first major fast-food operator in the UK to offer an animal-product-free version of nuggets. The company says the product, which has been developed by The Vegetarian Butcher and certified by the Vegan Society, is made from soy and plant proteins only and tastes the same as its meat originals. Burger King, which last year launched a Vegan Royale burger that is prepared separately from animal products, aims to make half of its menu meat-free by 2030 to help it achieve a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 41%. “Adapting to customer preferences is a key focus at Burger King,” said the Burger King UK chief executive, Alasdair Murdoch. “We are committed to helping our guests make good decisions about what they eat and drink and providing them with informed choices.” At the same time, Wagamama has announced the launch of a new plant-based vegan fish and chips dish. The brand said the new dish – called Tempura F-ish + Bang Bang Yaki-imo – makes it the first high street restaurant to offer a vegan take on the classic meal. Beer battered fish is replaced with lightly tempura coated ‘f-ish’, made from a mix of soy, rice and pea protein, replicating the taste and flaky texture of fish. The Wagamama version of chips is sweet potato chunks and red onion, coated in the brand’s firecracker sauce. Wagamama chief executive Thomas Heier said: “We’re so proud of our 50% plant-based menu and we’re committed to encouraging more people to experience our plant-based options for themselves to help make a sustainable difference for our planet. Which is why we’re focusing on offering dishes that are so delicious, they might even tempt the most uncompromising meat-eater to eat more plants, even if it’s just about making one sustainable swap a week.”
Freshly Chopped signs 120-site partnership deal: Dublin-based, healthy fast-food brand Freshly Chopped plans to open 120 new sites across Europe over the next five years after agreeing a new partnership deal with Dutch company Fresh Food Fast Company International Holding. The deal will see the business open new sites in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Launched in Dublin in 2012, Freshly Chopped currently operates sites across Ireland, the UK (Manchester and Leicester) and Cyprus, employing over 1,000 people. The new deal will see Fresh Food Fast Company own the Freshly Chopped master franchise until 2032. The first site under the new partnership will open in February in Leiden, Netherlands, with a further seven outlets planned to open in the country in 2022. Both company and franchise restaurants will then open across Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden over the next five years. Brian Lee, founder and chief executive of Chopped, said: “Without a doubt, 2020 and 2021 have been difficult years for everyone but we know that whatever happens, customers across the world want convenient, fresh, healthy food and there is no brand better than Freshly Chopped at meeting this demand.” Hans Wingender, the managing director of Fresh Food Fast Company, said: “It is my strong belief that leading food brands must be able to respond to this and play a more active role in offering healthier food at the right price and for the past number of years. Global brands must be able to respond locally to these trends and play a more active role in serving the needs and trends underpinning local markets using local knowledge. I have been exploring brands that could do this. In 2020, when I first encountered Freshly Chopped, I knew this was the brand that we could grow across Europe.”
Dough Dough closes remaining site: Dough Dough, the pizza concept from Pheby Food Concepts Group, has closed its last remaining site, in Warrington. The business had grown to four sites in Chester, Derby, Liverpool and Warrington. The Warrington branch in Golden Square Shopping Centre closed on 12 December without any warning to customers. It came just a month after the concept’s original site on Northgate Street in Chester closed after failing to secure a new lease on the site. Dough Dough’s Liverpool branch, which opened at the end of 2020, also closed without much forewarning. Des Pheby, the founder of Dough Dough, told Cheshire Live: “All Dough Doughs have now closed unfortunately. Our original restaurant in Chester was really the lynch pin of the restaurants and we were [unfortunately unable] to secure a new lease on this.” Pheby said that the ongoing pandemic has caused uncertainty and issues with staffing that have forced the Golden Square site to also close its doors. He said: “With the continuing uncertainty and recruitment retention issues Warrington unfortunately is not financially viable to stand on its own feet.” Pheby said there are “no plans at present” to open another Dough Dough restaurant. Pheby Food Concepts Group is also behind the expansion of the Wok&Go brand.
Zaap Thai lines up Sheffield opening: Sukho Group is lining up an opening in Sheffield for its Zaap Thai street food restaurant concept, Propel understands. The company, which opened a fifth site under the concept last April in Headingley, is set to open the new restaurant in the city’s Ecclesall Road. Sukho Group opened its first Zaap Thai in Leeds in 2015, followed by Nottingham, Newcastle and York. The company also operates three Sukhothai restaurants – in Leeds, Chapel Allerton and Harrogate.
Arcade bar concept Four Quarters to make regional debut in Bristol: London-based arcade bar concept Four Quarters is to make its regional debut in Bristol in the first quarter of this year. The Edition Capital-backed business, which currently operates three sites in London, will open in the city’s Park Street, on the former The Bristol Ram pub site. The newest Four Quarters will host over 15 arcade machines and retro console booths over two floors. The site’s beer and cocktail menu will feature collaborations with local brewery Lost and Grounded. The business, which was established in 2014, is also understood to be in talks to open a site in Newcastle. Last summer it opened a third site at the Elephant Park development. Its first bar opened in Peckham, with a second following in Hackney Wick.
Subway UK & Ireland appoints Steph Hedger as new director of development and learning: Global sandwich franchise Subway has appointed Steph Ledger, formerly of Diverse Dining, as its new director of development and learning for UK & Ireland. The company said that Ledger brings with her over 15 years of global experience, as a strategic property and development expert, within the hospitality, wellness, retail and leisure industries. As former property director for the Alshaya Group, during her 13-year tenure, Ledger delivered its expansion strategy and drove development for multiple brands, including Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works across the Middle East, Egypt, Russia, Poland & Turkey. She recently spent a year and a half as head of property at Diverse Dining, which oversees Shake Shack in the UK. At Subway, she will focus on business development strategy and building the brand for the long term, in partnership with the brand’s business developers. Last year, Propel revealed Subway had appointed Nigel Doughty, the former managing director of Paul UK, to oversee its circa 2,500-strong UK and Ireland business. Doughty replaced Colin Hughes, formerly of Pret A Manger and EAT, as the brand’s country director for the UK and Ireland.
Korean street food concept Bunsik to open second site: Korean street food concept Bunsik is to open a second site in central London, near Embankment tube station. The concept, which made its debut last summer in Charing Cross Road, has secured the former Herman ze German site on Villiers Street, for its next opening. It said: “We’re so excited to announce we’re coming to Embankment very soon. Many of you have asked us to open another Bunsik. Here we go!” The concept offers corn dogs, cupbap (rice in a pot with toppings) and ddukbokki (fried rice cakes). There are six hotdog/corndog options – original, octo legs, potato, potato mozzarella, cheese and beef. For the cupbap, customers can choose between bulgogi, spicy pork, chicken mayo, and sweet and spicy chicken.
Plonk to open in London’s Borough: Crazy golf brand Plonk is to open a site in London’s Borough later this week (7 January). The site – “hidden inside vaults of London Bridge in bustling Borough Market”, will be the fourth in the capital for the business, which was founded by a group of set designers from the film industry. The company also operates sites in Camden Market, London Fields and at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, south London. Plonk said that the new nine-hole course at Borough Markets will contain its “biggest and best golfstacles yet, including some never-before-seen concepts our master makers have been tinkering with at the Plonk workshop”.
Queensway Coffee Houses opens 20th Starbucks site: Queensway Coffee Houses, which is part of the Queensway hospitality group, has opened its 20th Starbucks site in the UK, in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The business, which is led by Karim Jivraj, opened its latest coffee shop in the town’s Market Place. It follows the opening of two further new sites at the end of last year, in Aylesbury and Northampton. The Aylesbury store is located within a new Sainsbury’s superstore and is the first for the brand in the local area. The store in Northampton replaces a former Carphone Warehouse shop in the Kingsthorpe Shopping Centre. The Queensway group also holds the KFC franchise for Austria and Slovakia, and operates the hotel brands – Point A Hotels, Montagu Place and Sloane Place, with seven hotels in London, and one each in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Yori makes regional debut in Cambridge: London-based Korean barbecue brand Yori has made its regional debut with an opening in Cambridge. As revealed by Propel in November, Yori has opened on the former Varsity site in the city’s St Andrew’s Street. Yori, which means “cooked food” in Korean, was founded in 2016 by Jong Soon Kim, who is also behind Japanese restaurant Nori and Korean dessert cafe Cake & Bingsoo, both in New Malden, Surrey, and Japanese dessert parlour Cafe Mori in Wimbledon. Yori operates sites in Clapham Junction, Covent Garden, Ealing, Fulham Broadway, King’s Cross, Piccadilly, Richmond and Wimbledon. Dan Rogers, of Restaurant Property, acted for Yori on the Cambridge deal while Everard Cole represented Varsity.
Kent-based Spanish and Latin American restaurant concept Rico Sabor opens third site, in Dover: Kent-based Spanish and Latin American restaurant concept Rico Sabor has opened its third site, in Dover. Owner Julian Ramirez has launched the outlet at St James Leisure Park. The restaurant, which is based in the unit next to Marks & Spencer and the Lord Nelson pub, has two floors, an external seating area and a rooftop terrace. Rico Sabor, which operates restaurants in Gravesend and Rochester, serves a variety of ribs, steaks and seafood, alongside Mexican-inspired offerings of nachos, burritos and fajitas, and an extensive tapas selection. AS Retail acted on the Dover deal.