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Thu 6th Jan 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Happy Face Pizza eyes ten-strong estate, appoints MD to drive growth: Happy Face Pizza, the Neapolitan pizza concept from the founders of Canteen and Spiritland, is planning to expand to ten sites in London over the next three years, Propel has learned. The concept, which was launched in King’s Cross at the end of 2018 by Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake, founders of comfort food concept Canteen, and music consultant Paul Noble, recently opened a second site in Victoria, with a further opening to follow next month in Brent Cross. Happy Face Pizza plans to open a further two sites in London neighbourhood locations in 2022. Happy Face Pizza Victoria is a 50-cover, 1,200 sq ft restaurant located in Eccleston Yards and a similarly sized restaurant will open next month on Claremont Way, at the front of the new Brent Cross Town shopping scheme. Both restaurants will offer Happy Face’s signature Neapolitan pizza, “created using a 72-hour fermented dough for a lighter and easier to digest crust”. Prices for the pizza start from £7.50. Lake said: “Following the success of our flagship in Kings Cross, we are excited to be bringing our pizzas to Victoria and Brent Cross. We offer seriously good pizza, at an accessible price point, and look forward to establishing both our restaurants as part of their respective neighbourhoods.” Lake told Propel that the business planned to build an estate of ten sites over the next three years, with a focus on neighbourhood locations in the capital. He told Propel: “Trying to open sites in central London doesn’t make financial sense at the moment, and although I think the majority of people will return to working in the capital, they perhaps will do so under a hybrid format. Therefore, our strategy will be focused on neighbourhood locations.” To help drive the concept’s expansion, the business has appointed Phil Peters, formerly of Zing Zing and Kitopi UK, as its first managing director. Peters spent three years leading Zing Zing, the London-based Chinese takeout and delivery chain, before spending over a year as managing director of Kitopi, the delivery-only kitchen operator.

Industry News:

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 to book.

Next edition of the sector profitability guide lists the UK’s major accommodation providers for the first time: The next edition of the Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, will list the UK’s leading accommodation providers for the first time. This first list features 220 accommodation providers and ranks them by turnover in descending order. The Blue Book itself features 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 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.

Reduction in self-isolation period welcomed but future of Scottish businesses remain in the balance: Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on changes to the length of the self-isolation period in Scotland has been welcomed by the industry, but it warned that with no easing of restrictions or reversal of closures until at least 17 January, the future of jobs and livelihoods “remain hanging in the balance”. The Scottish first minister announced that as of midnight tonight (5 January) people will be able to leave quarantine early as long as they have no fever and have two negative tests on day six and seven, down from the current ten days. UKHospitality Scotland’s executive director, Leon Thompson said: “The reduction from ten to seven days for self-isolation will be welcomed by the Scottish hospitality businesses that are able to trade at reasonable levels and thus require greater numbers of their team. However, with no easing of restrictions or reversal of closures until at least 17 January, today’s announcement leaves the future of jobs and livelihoods remain hanging in the balance. Christmas and Hogmanay were a write-off for many of our businesses. The ongoing uncertainty on how, or indeed if, sporting and business events can take place over coming weeks and months is now sapping business and consumer confidence further. If the uncertainty around restrictions continues, Easter bookings and trade will suffer, too, as holidaymakers from Scotland and the rest of the UK decide to travel elsewhere. Financial support for hospitality is yet to reach struggling businesses – even when it does, it will help with some immediate costs but won’t save the struggling hospitality venues that so desperately need to trade at full capacity. Above all, those businesses need clarity on when restrictions will be lifted and recognition from the Scottish government that future restrictions on hospitality are not the way out of the current phase of the pandemic.”

McDonald’s McPlant burger now available in all UK restaurants: McDonald’s has released its vegan burger – the McPlant – in all of its UK and Ireland sites following a successful trial. The McPlant was co-developed with Beyond Meat and is marked as the fast-food giant’s first official fully plant-based burger option. Taking over three years to develop, the new item features a Beyond Meat Patty with a vegan cheese slice based on pea protein, vegan sauce, vegan sesame bun, mustard, onions, pickles, ketchup, lettuce, and tomatoes. It joins the menu as part of Veganuary and the chain has also confirmed that the vegan option is cooked separately from all other McDonald’s products and uses dedicated utensils. Michelle Graham-Clare, chief marketing officer for McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “We’re so pleased that our McPlant is now officially ‘everywhere’ and available for more of our customers to taste and enjoy. We saw a remarkable response to the trial period back in October and now McPlant is on the high-street, in retail parks and service stations all over the UK and Ireland so all of our customers will be able to try it.”

Trade body urges support for pubs in Dry January: Trade body British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) expects 7.8 million pints of low and no alcohol beer to be sold this month, as some consumers look to abstain from alcohol for ‘Dry January’. However, the vast majority of that low and no alcohol beer will be sold in shops and supermarkets, not pubs, the trade association has warned. It is therefore urging Brits to support their local this Dry January by enjoying a pint of non-alcoholic beer at the pub – including non-alcoholic beer on draught. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “It has been a torrid Christmas for pubs, which now need the support of the communities they serve in the difficult months ahead. The range and quality of non-alcoholic beers in the UK has never been better. Some are now available on tap in pubs, making them the perfect option for those doing Dry January who are thirsty for a pint.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is currently looking for a head of operations to join a street food concept London in London, paying up to £75,000 per annum. A spokesman said: “This London-based street-food chain turned well-loved high-street favourite is looking for a head of operations as the business progresses on its growth journey. The hiring company is seeking a dynamic, forward-thinking, and energetic leader for this amazing concept. Starting out in the London street-food scene they now have a strong portfolio with a huge fan base behind them! The role would suit someone who loves all things food as the product is key in this business. The brand has a strong family led culture where people come first so you must also hold similar values! You will be for creative and strategic development of the business, driving process and efficiency as well as standard and quality. Additionally, you will work with business development teams to drive new business as well as maintain amazing existing relationships.” If you would like to find out more about this opportunity, please get in touch with with your up-to-date CV.

Company News:

Olga and Alex Polizzi hotel business remained profitable in pandemic year: Hotel Tresanton, the company that was founded by Olga Polizzi and operates the Hotel Tresanton, Mawes, the Endsleigh Hotel in Milton Abbot, and whose subsidiary operates The Star, Alfriston, has reported a pre-tax profit of £455,307 (2020: £633,306) on turnover down to £4,259,642 (2020: £6,140,502) in the year to 31 January 2021. The business has retained earnings carried forward of £6,068,000 (2020: £5,752,501). The company stated: “The group has been affected by the covid-19 pandemic and periods of enforced lockdown. As a result, consolidated turnover has decreased by 30.6% (2020: 3.4% increase) on the prior year. Gross margins have seen an increase to 83.8% (2020: 79.6%) in part due to the impact of the reduction in the VAT rate to 5% in the year.” The group continues to trade from a strong asset position which at the balance sheet date stood at £9,069,000 (2020: £8,753,000).

Lola’s Cupcakes defies pandemic to increase turnover and profit thanks to online presence: Lola’s Cupcakes has reported it grew turnover and pre-tax profit in the first year of the pandemic to 31 December 2020. Turnover rose to £15,050,700 (2019: £14,493,528) and pre-tax profit rose to £956,638 (£2019: profit of £567,717). The company stated: “We are fortunate that the growth of our online business has meant that the business continues to be cash generative. The company ended the year with £544,001 of cash (2019: £419,533), reduced its long-term loans by £1,099,045 to £773,967 and has access to an overdraft facility of £350,000, although there is no expectation to use it. A 4% increase in sales was a creditable performance considering many of our outlets were closed for long periods during the year. Our strong online platform and product ranges meant we were able to maintain sales at satisfactory levels and the business remained profitable and cash generative. The company’s continued growth reflects its reputation for providing premium quality celebration cakes and cupcakes through its high-profile stores and strong online platform. The business has also seen growth in its ‘mailed’ business, principally brownies, and we are currently trialling posted cupcakes and have received positive results and feedback from this new business line.” 

Glendola Leisure reports 93% drop in turnover: Waxy 0’Connor operator Glendola Holdings, which is owned by the Salussolia family, has reported a 93% drop in turnover to £2,871,000 in the year to 27 March 2021. Loss before tax was £3,807,000 (2020: £7,988,000). The company stated: “In May 2021 the group extended the expiry date of the main facility of £26,700,000 to July 2023. In addition, the CBILS facility was increased from £6m to £8m giving the group access to a total funding of £34.7m. The impact of covid-19 on the operations has been unprecedented and led the directors to rationalise its business and exit from some underperforming businesses. The group disposed of a number of underperforming assets which led to significant impairment of its fixed assets in the prior year accounts. These operations had an operating loss of £887,000 and a net loss of £1,350,000.” As of 29 November 2021, the UK group had £12,627,000 of liquidity, consisting of cash on hand of £4,327,000 and undrawn facilities of £8,300,000.

McDonald’s franchisee reports profit despite pandemic: McDonald’s franchisee DNP Restaurants, which operates eight sites in the south east and is owned by David Padmore, has reported a pre-tax profit of £961,597 in the year to 31 December 2020 (2019: loss of £86,645). Turnover dipped to £21,881,789 compared to £28,369,272 the year before. The company stated: “(We are) pleased to report the profitability of the business considering the current trading restrictions in place due to the pandemic. Sales decreased by 22.8% due to the national lockdown for three months. Gross profit decreased by 3.58% from 40.81% to 37.23%.” The directors’ report stated self-order kiosks and double drive-thru lanes “continued to have a positive impact on sales growth”. It added: “The demand for home delivery is increasing – the company will continue its partnership with UberEats and Just Eat.”

Peter de Savary reports return to profit at hotel company in pandemic year: Havana West, the hotel company owned by Peter de Savary that includes the Beachcroft Arms in Bognor Regis and the Cary Arms and Spa in Torquay, has reported a pre-tax profit of £545,920 (2019: loss of £435,697) on turnover that rose slightly to £10,682,149 (2019: £9,674,552). Last year the company placed its Bradley hotel in Cheltenham on the market for £1.95m through Colliers.

Mogford Hotels reports £1.8m loss after turnover halves: Mogford Hotels, which operates the Old Bank Hotel and Quod restaurant in Oxford and is owned by Jeremy Mogford, has reported it lost £1,816,396 in the year ended 31 December 2020 (2019: loss of £70,605) after turnover more than halved to £3,889,493 (2019: £8,281,379). The company stated: “The results are dominated by the effect of the pandemic with the hotel and the restaurant being completely closed for over four months and when it opened, it was under strict restrictions. This is reflected in the fall in turnover in the year. However, despite this, the company, when it was open, traded profitably and is in a position to take advantage of the better trading conditions in future years.”

Big Table Group secures Ealing site for Las Iguanas: Big Table Group, the Bella Italia and Café Rouge owner, which operates more than 150 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, has secured a site in Ealing for its Las Iguanas brand. Propel understands that the company is to take over the Bill’s site at 28-30 New Broadway, for an opening later this spring. It follows openings in Plymouth’s Barcode scheme and Southampton for the brand last year. Last October, the Alan Morgan-led Big Table Group announced plans to open 50 new restaurants; 35 under the Las Iguanas brand. The programme will see more than £50m invested in total, and create 1,250 new jobs. As part of this capex programme, it will also refurbish a further 70 restaurants. A spokesperson for Big Table Group told Propel: “We’re delighted to have secured this site for Las Iguanas, in what is a great location for the brand. We have exciting plans to open a significant number of new Las Iguanas restaurants and look forward to announcing more sites in due course as we build our pipeline for growth.” Last November, the company launched the pilot of a new concept for its Cafe Rouge brand in Haywards Heath – which saw Cafe dropped from the name.

Hub Box to open new Plymouth flagship site: Hub box, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, is closing its existing site in Plymouth, as it starts work on a larger, flagship opening in the Devon city. Boon said: “With a heavy heart, we’ve decided to permanently close our restaurant on Old Town Street, Plymouth, but are thrilled to announce that work has started on our new flagship site in the iconic Melville Building in Royal William Yard. Taking up residence on the ground floor of the Grade1 listed Melville block, we’ll be the first business to open in the building following extensive renovations. Expected to open around Easter, we cannot wait to show you how we’ve transformed this historic building.” The group’s existing site in the city is expected to close this week. Work is due to start this month on the new 3,400 sq ft Hub Box at the listed former naval victualling yard, creating a 180-cover restaurant. The 11-strong business is set to open a site in a disused beach shelter on Worthing beachfront in Q3. Target locations for further expansion include Bournemouth, Bath, Weymouth and Brighton.

Sushisamba to launch retail concept in Harrods: Fusion restaurant brand Sushisamba is to open a new retail concept in luxury department store Harrods. Propel understands the Orange Brands Management-backed business will open Sushisamba Rapido at the store in Knightsbridge. The new concession will offer a selection of premium sushi. Orange Brands Management, the global restaurant group behind Sushisamba, Duck & Waffle and Duck & Waffle Local, is scheduled to open a site under the former brand in Edinburgh, at the city’s St James Quarter, later this year. The international restaurant brand will occupy the rooftop at the W Edinburgh hotel, located on levels ten and 11 of the scheme, and be part of its final phase. The restaurant will be the brand’s third UK location and its first outside of London, joining Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Dubai and two sites in the capital – Heron Tower and Covent Garden.

Wolfox plans Horsham opening: Brighton-based coffee shop and bakery concept Wolfox is planning to open in Horsham, West Sussex, Propel has learned. The five-strong business has applied to open a site in the town’s Carfax area. Last September, Propel revealed that the business was set to make its London debut, after securing the former Little Kolkata premises in Shelton Street, Covent Garden. The Fabio Lauro-led business is also reportedly set to open a cafe and wine bar at Savoy Taylors Guild, a Grade II-listed site on The Strand. Wolfox currently operates three sites in Brighton as well as outlets in Haywards Heath and Leeds. It also operates the Japanese restaurant Kusaki, in Brighton. 

George Bateman reports trade has recovered to 2019 levels, potential to be more profitable with lower costs: Lincolnshire brewer and retailer George Bateman has reported that trade has recovered to similar levels achieved in 2019. Chairman Haydn Biddle added: “With lower costs the business has the potential to be more profitable in the future although the directors are very aware there may be further negative impacts from covid-19. The willingness of staff to respond flexibly to requests for modified work patterns has played an important part in reducing the potential impact of covid and the Boar is most grateful.” The company lost £583,000 before tax in the year ended 31 January 2021 (2020: £290,000) after turnover dropped to £8,507,000 (2020: £16,933,000).

Harvey & Son reports losses in pandemic year, £750,000 boost from e-commerce: Lewes-based brewer and retailer Harvey & Son has reported turnover declined 49% to £11.5m in the year ended 31 December 2020. Loss before tax was £162,267 (2020: £3,284,575). The company stated: “With many costs fixed, gross profit reduced by 77% resulting in an operating loss of £157,317 after restructuring costs. Harvey’s production volumes mirrored company turnover with a decline of 48% during the year, but e-commerce activity delivered £750,000 of new sales. These are the most challenging times the company has faced in the last half century but have a resilient business and many supportive customers and staff. Company cash reserves remain reasonable (£5,057,000 cash at bank and in hand compared to £6,630,201 in 2019) under the circumstances, but we recognise that depending on the pace of hospitality revival, there could be a significant call on reserves during the recovery period. With this in mind, several investment projects have been deferred until the position is clearer. The increase in the deficit on the defined pension scheme (deficit of £1,658,880 compared to deficit of £660,150 the year before) can be attributed to external economic and demographic factors but remains a concern. The directors and pension trustees are committed to examining all options.”

US celebrity chef Matthew Kenney to make London return next week: US celebrity chef Matthew Kenney’s second attempt at cracking London will begin next week (12 January) with the opening of Adesse at Selfridges. Kenney, who runs 40 restaurants in cities including New York, Bahrain and Sydney, first brought his plant-based cuisine to London in 2019. However, Essence Cuisine in Shoreditch, which offered 100% plant-based dishes designed by Kenney to eat in or take away, closed within a year of opening. His new venture will be based at the site of the former Corner Restaurant on the second floor on the flagship Oxford Street store. Among its offerings will be avocado tikka with grilled potato bread, curry leaf yogurt, coriander leaves and flowers, and a hibiscus cheesecake with strawberries and pistachio. Kenney said: “I am thrilled to partner with Selfridges to open a new restaurant in London. Adesse exemplifies what we do so well at MKC – serve innovative and unique cuisine alongside excellent wine and cocktails in a stunning setting.” Alex Gilmour, head of Restaurants at Selfridges, said: “One of the best ways we can improve both our health and the environment is to adopt a more plant-based diet. We’re delighted to introduce Matthew Kenney’s concept with its fresh take on plant-based dining and menu that aligns with our values of offering more planet-friendly food. We look forward to welcoming guests to come together and be inspired as we explore the future of food.”

Byfords of Holt operator maintains profit: Byfords of Holt operator Hidden Talents Group, which is Norfolk-based and led by Iain Wilson, has reported pre-tax profit of £1,163,000 in the year ended 31 March 2021, up from £1,041,1328 the year before. Turnover at the company, which also undertakes property development, dropped to £3,121,697 from £7,223,498 the year before. The company stated: “The group has managed to maintain profits versus that of the prior year. Costs have been closely controlled and although investment has continued the group has continued to be profitable and remains in a healthy cash position given the circumstances.” Cash at bank and in hand rose to £1,170,532 compared to £483,781 the year before. 

The Hush Collection launches Little Planted Kitchen as a permanent stand-alone brand: The Hush Collection, is bringing back Little Planted Kitchen, its vegan delivery-based concept, as a permanent standalone brand. Created during the first lockdown, Little Planted Kitchen initially launched as a dark kitchen concept delivering from Hush Collection’s portfolio of restaurants – Haché, Cabana and Hush – with a concise menu of vegan dishes. In response to demand, the plant-based menu has been expanded with dishes created exclusively for the brand. Available for delivery across London via Deliveroo and Uber Eats in Balham, Camden, Chelsea, Clapham, Covent Garden, Greenwich, Hammersmith, Holborn, Kingston, Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford, Little Planted Kitchen will offer a menu of small bites, loaded bowls, stacked burgers, sides and desserts, alongside vegan shakes, beer, wines, soft drinks and juices. Jamie Barber, founder of The Hush Collection, said: “Little Planted Kitchen is a real success story for us and we’re incredibly proud of what we have created. To have launched a brand during one of the most challenging business climates imaginable is a testament to the entire team’s hard work and creativity. It was a real demonstration of innovation to utilise the kitchens of our temporarily closed sites in this way, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the brand.”

Parkdean buys caravan transporter: Parkdean Resorts has bought Beverley-based Hanson European Caravan Transport, the UK’s leading specialist static caravan transport company. Hanson offers a full, door-to-door delivery service of static caravans in the UK, and is the most experienced among its peer-set. The acquisition by Parkdean will facilitate the servicing of Parkdean Resorts’ 67 holiday parks around the UK and ensure a closer relationship between the two companies. Following the acquisition, Hanson will not be integrated into Parkdean. It will keep its headquarters and operations in Beverley, Yorkshire and will continue to operate independently, serving existing clients across the UK.

Stonegate hires James Richards as director of legal operations: Stonegate Group has appointed James Richards as director of legal operations to focus on legal and estate transactions as well as taking responsibility as code compliance officer under the Pubs Code across the Stonegate Group Pub Partners business. The company stated: “James brings a wealth of experience having worked in the industry for circa 16 years with Spirit Group and more latterly with Punch Pubs, in the role of head of legal and compliance and code compliance officer. Prior to joining Stonegate, James held the position of chairman on the BBPA Estates Panel working with the industry across matters covering insurance, licensing, rating and wider estates management.”

KAM Media hires Chris Welham as non-executive chairman: Research consultancy KAM Media has hired Chris Welham as its non-executive chairman, effective immediately. Welham brings over 25 years hospitality experience to the company having previously been chief executive of Wadworth, divisional managing director at Spirit and operations director at Greene King. He is currently managing director at S4Labour. He said: “KAM Media is a really innovative business with a very strong management team. There is no doubt that the insight, creative content and bespoke research projects KAM undertake are hugely valued across hospitality and the grocery sector and I’m excited to be able to support the team with their plans for the future and the development of the business.”

Floozie lines up second opening: Floozie, the all-vegan stuffed cookie concept, will open its second London near Harrods – will be located on Hans Crescent just outside the main store. Opening on12 January it will offer its signature range of five cookies with a monthly rotating sixth cookie. Pastry Chef Kimberly Lin founded Floozie in 2020. She earned her stripes working in some of the best kitchens in London including Claridge’s, Corinthia and the iconic Dominique Ansel.

Shake Shack makes vegan burger permanent menu fixture: Shake Shack is making its vegan Crispy Shallot Burger permanent at all UK Shacks. Shake Shack’s Crispy Shallot Burger is 100% vegan and features a vegan patty topped with smoky cheddar, beer-marinated crispy shallots, lettuce, & Dijonnaise sauce on a toasted potato bun. The vegan patty has been created in partnership with Chef Neil Rankin and is made from roasted mushrooms and onion, miso, bulgur wheat and a blend of spices.

Northampton sports bar owner doubles up with coffee shop opening: Harry Barnes, who owns Jimmy’s Sports Bar in Northampton’s Harlestone Road, has opened an independent coffee house in the unit next door. The Coffee Press offers takeaway as well as dine-in options including scones, sausage rolls, cakes, milkshakes and vegan dishes. “There’s nothing around here for people to chill and work, so we wanted to do a really good coffee shop,” a Coffee Press spokeswoman told the Northampton Chronicle. “We have our own in-house pastry chef and everything is homemade. The story behind Jimmy’s Sports Bar was that it was Harry’s local, and he wanted somewhere to go with his friends to watch sport. It’s the same with the coffee shop, Harry wanted somewhere to go and something nice to eat without having to travel far.”

Vine Hotels adds the former Premier Inn site in West Bromwich to its portfolio: Vine Hotels, which is co-owned by former BBC boss Greg Dyke, has added a West Bromwich site for its portfolio. The hotel management company has secured the West Plaza building, which was previously home to a Whitbread-owned Premier Inn. Vine Hotels, which operates 12 venues across the country, is now planning to reopen the 85-bedroom West Plaza, in High Street, following a refurbishment. Chief executive Garin Davies said: “The West Plaza is an exciting property for Vine Hotels, given its excellent location. The hotel has immense potential for the future.” Lambert Smith Hampton completed the letting on behalf of landlord Real Estate Investors.

Xercise4Less founder’s new fitness studio concept opens second site: A new fitness studio by Xercise4Less founder and former professional rugby union player Jon Wright has opened its second site. Feel Electric Wellness, which is one of only a handful of gyms in the UK to offer Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) technology, has launched at Roundhay, in Leeds’ Street Lane. This follows the concept’s debut in Harrogate in the summer. Wright started out selling gym memberships in London after injury forced him to quit rugby in the mid-1990s, just before the game turned professional. He rose to become sales director at Pulse Fitness, then left to advise other gym owners before opening his own fitness club in 2006. He went on to found Xercise4Less, which he built up to more than 50 clubs before selling them in a series of private equity deals to focus on Feel Electric Wellness. He said: “Once I had tried and seen the results from this revolutionary training (EMS tech), I realised that there is a fantastic opportunity to bring this to the UK market. It’s very popular on the continent, in the US and in the Middle East.”

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