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Tue 11th Jan 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fireaway to open 100th site this month five years after inception: Fast pizza brand Fireaway will open its 100th site later this month, in Walsall, just five years after the business was launched. The business has doubled in size within the space of a year, with the quick growth due in large part to the company’s initiative to open 25 new branches in 25 weeks in the latter half of 2021. Additionally, a further 20 franchise agreements have been signed, and locations for them are being sought. Fireaway has launched a global strategy aimed at following in the footsteps of Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Master franchisees have come on board in Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Founder and chief executive Mario Aleppo opened the first branch in Mitcham, south London, in 2016 and is aiming to eventually see several Fireaways in every UK city. Aleppo said: “Shortly after we opened our second store, we started attracting other franchisees through word of mouth. It started with a new franchise opening every six months. A year later it was every three months, then one a month and now it’s roughly one a week.” Aleppo added he believes the global potential of the brand is “limitless”. He said: “We’re taking this very seriously, so much so I have appointed my two younger brothers to spearhead our efforts, with Luca managing our German operation and Fabio overseeing The Netherlands.”
 

Industry News:

Mark Wingett’s next quarterly pick of Companies to Watch to feature in updated Turnover & Profits Blue Book: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book for Premium subscribers, to be published at midday on Friday (14 January), will feature group editor Mark Wingett’s next quarterly pick of the companies well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. His latest pick of companies are Brakspear, Simmons Bars, Hub Box, Park Holidays, Vaulkhard Leisure, Hostmore, QFM Group, Caprice Holdings and Ivy Collection. The picks are also accompanied by a 2,100-word report. The next edition of the Blue Book, which is updated monthly and produced in association with Mapal Group, will feature more than 500 companies. It shows the full damage done to the sector by the pandemic, with 321 companies making a combined loss of £8.17bn compared with 186 companies in profit – making a combined £797m. Losses now outstrip profits in the sector ten times over. Total turnover of the 500 biggest sector companies stands at £28.5bn. The Blue Book 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. 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 Mark Wingett. 

Propel and COREcruitment spotlight BAME entrepreneurs, Ganan Kanagathurai to feature: Propel has partnered with COREcruitment to spotlight some of the leading sector individuals from the UK BAME community this week. Today (Tuesday, 11 January), in a video released at 9am, Krishnan Doyle talks to Ganan Kanagathurai, chief executive of Itsu. Kanagathurai has spent his working life between the UK and the US, within the media, retail and hospitality sectors. He currently runs and sits on the board of Itsu, the British chain of east Asian-inspired fast food shops, restaurants, and a grocery company.

UKHospitality – longer licensing hours for Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations would be vital fillip for covid-hit businesses: Plans to extend licensing hours in England and Wales to 1am for this year’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations for the queen will give covid-devastated businesses “vital extra trading time” during an extended four-day weekend of revelry, UKHospitality has said. Since last summer, UKHospitality has led calls for licensing hours to be extended during the specially lengthened bank holiday – from Thursday, 2 June until Sunday, 5 June – to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years as monarch. In its response to the government’s consultation on extending drinking times, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “As Britain’s longest reigning monarch, her majesty’s Platinum Jubilee is a rare and special event that millions of people across the UK will want to celebrate, and it will be extra-special for thousands of hospitality businesses hit by covid-19, because it affords them a wonderful opportunity to recoup some of their pandemic losses. We welcome government proposals that recognise the role that licensed premises will play in the celebrations. We’re therefore urging the Home Office to go ahead with plans to extend licensing hours in England and Wales to 1am on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the four-day bank holiday weekend.”

Smaller businesses ‘will need government support’ to implement anti-terror measures: Smaller and independent businesses will need support from Downing Street to implement any new measures resulting from the Protect Duty public consultation, the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) has warned. The government has published its response to the consultation on making venues and public spaces safer in the wake of terrorist incidents like that at the Manchester Arena in 2017. There is currently no legislative requirement for venues to employ security measures at the vast majority of public places. Michael Kill, NTIA chief executive, said: “Our industry takes its role in protecting our staff and customers extremely seriously, and has proactively engaged with the government throughout the Protect Duty consultation. It’s been a challenging year for the sector, and now under new regulations presented by the home secretary, the industry will be asked to contingency plan for potential terror threats within venues and events. Larger clubs, events and festivals that work with large crowds address the challenges as part of their planning process, working closely with police and local authorities on counter terror measures. But there will be challenges for smaller businesses, which will need a considerable level of support from government and local authorities.” In its response to the consultation, the government said there was “agreement that venue capacity should determine when the duty applies” and “an understanding that small and medium-sized enterprises should not face the same requirements as larger venues”. Half of the 2,700-plus who responded were in favour of an inspectorate to identify key vulnerabilities and areas for improvement, and half also supported the use of fines to ensure compliance.

Six Nations ‘big opportunity’ for UK pubs: UK pubs have a big opportunity to make up some of the revenue lost to covid when the Six Nations begins next month, according to research from MatchPint and KAM Media. Their supporters’ survey shows 44% of sports fans plans to watch the rugby tournament in a pub this year – more than football’s Champions League (43%) and FA Cup (39%) finals. But when publicans were asked which events they plan to show live in 2022, the Six Nations only ranked fifth in their responses. Dom Collingwood, co-founder of MatchPint, said: “It’s easy to forget how incredible a big Six Nations afternoon in a great pub can be. The gap we’re seeing between public interest and publican intent highlights a real opportunity for the pubs who are showing the Six Nations to capitalise on the event. Entering the tournament with limitations on stadium capacity will arise further opportunities for pubs.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an independent restaurant in central London to find a senior sous chef. The hiring company specialises in authentic modern Sri Lankan cuisine using both traditional and modern cooking techniques. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “We are looking for a senior sous chef who has a passion and experience working with Asian cuisine and is confident working with authentic, fresh ingredients. You’ll also need to be comfortable in working within a fast-paced volume restaurant environment as well as having a natural flair for leadership in helping to manage the brigade alongside the head chef.” The salary for the role is up to £42,000 depending on experience. If you would like to find out more about this opportunity or any other chef positions, contact Clive@corecruitment.com with an up-to-date CV.

Company News:

Joule’s Brewery reports £1m loss and steep revenue drop but business ‘in good shape’ and open to expansion: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s made a £1m loss (2019: £1.1m profit) in the year ended 31 March 2021 while turnover fell from £6.6m to £1.7m, but the company feel it is in “good shape” and is open to further expansion. The company, which runs a 41-strong tenanted-pub estate as well as a pub attached to its Market Drayton brewery, also received just shy of £560,000 in coronavirus job retention scheme payments and government grants. It focused, during the pandemic, on supporting its franchisees through rent concessions and refunds for unsold stock. “Now that the industry is beginning to rebuild after almost 18 months of uncertainty, the business is well-positioned to emerge from the pandemic in good shape, financially stable and ready to make the most of any opportunities that fall our way,” it said. Despite the “toughest of years”, the company completed the development of The Swan at Forton and The Offley Arms in Madeley, and continued the development of The Crown Wharf in Stone – where its original brewery was based.

Wimpy UK makes £1.2m loss, new restaurant to open in Aylesbury: Wimpy UK made a £1.2m loss for the year ending 28 February 2021 (2019: £1.3m profit), with revenue down from £6.6m to £5.3m. The company received £83,547 in government grants. Wimpy currently has 64 locations in England and three in Scotland. A third Buckinghamshire site, in Aylesbury’s Hale Leys Shopping Centre, is set to open next month – a fifth site for franchisee Altan Ogretici. Its last remaining Dorset branch, in Swanage, owned by franchisee Mehmed Kaplan, is set to reopen next Monday (17 January) following a month-long temporary closure. Last month, the company launched a £2.50 reusable hot cup scheme, with a 25p discount on hot drinks for users.

Big Smoke Brew Co appoints Jenn Merrick as MD: Surrey-based brewer and retailer Big Smoke Brew Co has appointed Jenn Merrick to the newly created role of managing director. Merrick was previously head brewer and director of operations at Beavertown Brewery. She has also had stints at Meantime, York Brewery and Dark Star. Big Smoke Brew Co said: “Jenn is a leading expert in the UK craft brewing industry, with a wealth of experience in brand expansion, brewing, brewery operations and building outstanding businesses; notably leading growth expansion projects for Beavertown, Dark Star and Meantime. Her appointment is the culmination of our recent expansion and represents a huge leap forward for our team, and an epic start to 2022!” Last year, the business launched a joint venture with Punch, which has so far led to the opening of eight pubs. The joint venture most recently opened the Crystal Palace in Berkhamsted and the Abercorn Arms in Teddington, with a number of other sites also under consideration for this year’s pipeline.

Greenhalgh’s reports return to profit: North-west craft baker Greenhalgh’s has reported pre-tax profit of £763,599 (2019: loss of £1,198,517) on turnover in the year to 30 January 2020 of £21,085,389 (2020: £23,843, 218). The company stated: “The company continues to seek out suitable retail opportunities to expand its portfolio and there are a number of premises under active consideration in the Bolton, Burscough, Astley and Aspull regions. Three outlets have closed either at the year-end or subsequently as their leases expired and the landlords have identified the premises for future development. The company purchased three new sandwich vans during the year as this is an area that has been identified for future growth.”

Tortilla lines up Cheshire Oaks opening: Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, has continued to add to its 2022 openings pipeline, after securing a site in Cheshire Oaks. The company – which this week reported a 23.8% increase in like-for-like revenue in the year to 2 January 2022, compared with the same period in 2019 – will open a site later this year at the Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village. Last week, Propel revealed Tortilla had secured the ex-Monsoon site in Bath city centre for an opening later this spring. It is thought the business is also in talks on a further site in the Midlands and on the south coast. The 64-strong company said it remains confident in its ability to make good progress against its store roll-out strategy to open 45 new sites in the next five years.

Fuller’s launches new health benefit for staff: London-based pub and hotel operator Fuller’s has launched a new healthcare benefit as part of a package of improvements to its pay and benefits. Staff across its managed business will benefit from the scheme, which provides support for routine medical treatment, a virtual GP service, help with optician costs, dental plans, access to alternative and complementary therapies, and contributions to prescription costs. The new service is run in partnership with healthcare cash plan Medicash. General managers and head chefs at Fuller’s are already covered under the company’s existing private medical insurance, but the new scheme ensures all pub and hotel team members, who have been with the company for at least 12 months, have access to a healthcare benefit. The benefit in kind tax has also been absorbed by Fuller’s, to ensure the new scheme is free for staff. Dependent children are automatically covered and partners can be added at the team member’s own cost. Other improvements made in recent months to the Fuller’s benefits package include an improved staff discount that rises with tenure of service, and the launch of a new platform called My Fuller’s, which brings all of the benefits on offer together in one place. Dawn Browne, people and talent director at Fuller’s, said: “This new health benefit is, I believe, industry leading. It means every one of our team members with more than a year’s service, in every part of the company, now has access to a medical benefit. That is something we are really proud of.”

Urban Pubs & Bars reopened Fitzrovia-based pub: London operator Urban Pubs & Bars has reopened the Black Horse pub in Fitzrovia. Situated in Rathbone Place, the pub is the group’s 35th site. The company said: “We are delighted to be reopening a pub that dates to 1809. The Black Horse is a contemporary London pub with an elegant cocktail bar upstairs.” Propel revealed last month Urban Pubs & Bars will bring its Salt Yard concept to London’s Borough. The company, which earlier this year partnered with Davidson Kempner and Global Mutual to help accelerate its growth plans, is to open a site in New Hibernia House, Winchester Walk. It is also set to open a site under its Salt Yard umbrella in Westfield London. In October, Urban Pubs & Bars acquired 13 sites from London bar group Barworks, including the latter’s remaining The Diner site in Camden, which is currently being refurbished. 

TGP International partners with chef Alexander Smalls to bring new African-focused food hall to London: Hospitality concept development company TGP International, which is behind 3 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden, is set to open a new London food hall celebrating African cuisine, alongside a sister venue in New York. The company, which is also behind the openings of cookie company Floozie, The Lebanese bakery in Harrods and Chestnut Bakery, plans to call the venue Alkebulan. Alexander Smalls, the chef and restaurateur behind New York venues The Cecil and Minton’s, has been brought on board to curate the food offering. The Alkebulan concept was premiered at EXPO 2020 in Dubai, where offerings included a cocktail bar from five-star Egyptian hotel Tribe, East African seafood from chef Kiran Jethwa and Smalls’ own Sweet Ophelia’s. There will be ten chef-led spaces in the London hall, which is yet to have a location or opening date confirmed. “Despite its rich culinary heritage, African cuisine has been overlooked and underestimated for many years,” Smalls told Hot Dinners. “With Alkebulan, we look forward to bringing its diverse and spectacular culinary palates to the forefront by introducing a unique dining concept to two of the world’s most thriving food destinations.” TGP International founder, Simon Wright, added: “We see London and New York as the perfect markets to expand, putting Alkebulan on the map as a globally renowned destination for African cuisine. This is not just a dining destination but a community project that supports upcoming African talent and provides a platform for Africa’s next generation of creators.”

Northern Union Pub Company looks to add Highgate pub to estate: Northern Union Pub Company, the fledgling venture from Sam Moss and Michael Brothwell, who founded Leeds Brewery in 2007, is looking to add a further north London-based pub to its estate. The business has applied to reopen the Winchester Tavern in Highgate. Moss told Highgate News: “We feel very, very passionately about pubs and about their continued use and protection so we think the Winchester could be a brilliant site. It’s a beautiful pub in a good location.” Last summer, the duo, who sold their previous seven-strong pub estate to Camerons Brewery in 2016, took on the Old White Bear in White Road, Hampstead, which had been shut for seven years. The company, which also operates the Albert pub in Primrose Hill and the Haverstock Arms, reopened the Old White Bear just before Christmas. Moss said: “If you’re not someone who uses a pub it’s very difficult to quantify quite how important a really good pub is to its community. It has such a positive impact in so many different ways. The Old White Bear has been trading for two and a half weeks and we’ve seen familiar faces coming in, sitting at the bar, talking to their neighbours. So, I think it really does provide a focal point and a heart for a lot of communities.”

BrewDog has plans for second Bristol site approved but scales back opening hours, Ipswich scheme up for decision this week: Scottish brewer and bar operator BrewDog’s plans to open a new bar in the Harbourside area of Bristol have been given the green light by the city council, but the opening hours have been scaled back following opposition from residents. The company originally applied for a late-night licence to sell alcohol until 1.30am in the former Triathlon shop and Costa on the corner of Millennium Promenade and Cathedral Walk. But it has agreed to bring forward last orders by up to two hours and made other concessions after the authorities and 165 neighbours objected to the licensing application, according to Bristol24/7. BrewDog legal representative Felicity Tulloch told the hearing it was a “long held ambition” of the company to open a second bar in Bristol, having made its debut in the city in Baldwin Street a decade ago. She said BrewDog had been surprised by the level of public opposition to its licensing application, given the hours it sought mirrored those in planning permission granted for the premises last year. Meanwhile, BrewDog’s plans to open its first Suffolk site, on Ipswich Waterfront, have also met with objections from residents, according to The Ipswich Star. However, a report from independent consultant Andrew Bamber found the brewer would be a “reliable and conscientious” addition to the scheme, which already boasts four bars and four restaurants. A licensing and regulatory sub-committee at Ipswich Borough Council will make a decision on the application on Thursday (13 January). BrewDog made its Bradford debut in November and plans further openings in Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Cheltenham and Chester, as well as several overseas sites in Ireland and the United States.

Second Hot Stone site set for rebrand, third to follow later this year: London-based steak and sushi bar Hot Stone’s second restaurant, which opened in Fitzrovia last May, is set for a rebrand, followed by a third site later this year. Omakese Fitzrovia, which specialises in a six-course seafood menu – for which the whole restaurant closes to prepare each sitting – will relaunch as RAI on Friday, 21 January, at the same Windmill Street site. While still operating as an omakase-style tasting menu venue, RAI will focus on both Japanese and British ingredients, led by executive chef Padam Raj Rai. Dishes will include Scottish salmon tartare with yuzu miso, British pear and cave aged Dorset cheddar, and hand dived Orkney scallop sashimi with spicy Japanese plum and English truffle ponzu sauce. Open four days a week, its main tasting menu will be £110, but there’s also a Kobe specific add-on (£65 extra) and one just for nigri (£28 extra). Plans are also in place for the launch of The Gurkhas Nepalese restaurant later in the year. Hot Stone’s debut restaurant, in Islington’s Chapel Market, specialises in DIY cooking over hot stones.

Black Sheep Coffee set to open in Fulham: London-based speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has signed for an 800 square-foot kiosk in Fulham Broadway, set to open early this year. The company, which has around 50 sites including 30 in London, told Propel last September that it had 30 new openings planned by this spring, including its first domestic franchise, which opened in Birmingham the following month. It also that month received investment from NBA basketball player Kristaps Porzingis, as it looked to break into the North American market. Fulham Broadway landlords CBRE Investment Management has also announced the openings of its new Oseyo and Joe & The Juice outlets in nearby Hammersmith Broadway, as reported by Propel last year. It’s a seventh site for Korean food and culture hub Oseyo and a 55th for juice bar chain Joe & The Juice, which last month announced plans to double in size over the next few years, including 20 new UK sites in 2022. The new Oseyo is a 1,251 square-foot space while the new Joe & The Juice is located over 1,244 square feet. Louisa Butters, head of UK retail asset management at CBRE investment management, said: “Dining and grab and go remains a growing area of demand, so we are pleased to welcome such a strong line-up of brands to these important and busy hubs.” GCW and Nashbond act on behalf of Hammersmith Broadway and Fulham Broadway. Prime Retail represented Joe & The Juice and Black Sheep respectively while Whitby Smith acted on behalf of Oseyo.

Honest Burgers to launch debut site for new plant-based burger concept next week: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed business, will next Thursday (20 January) launch the first bricks-and-mortar site for its new plant-based burger concept, V Honest. The brand has converted its site at 17 Garrick Street, in London’s Covent Garden, and will also operate from delivery-only kitchens across London. V Honest will offer Honest’s most extensive vegan selection to date, with a menu combining vegan takes on Honest classics with new serves including buffalo, pesto, teriyaki and chilli burgers. There will also be limited-edition specials and collaborations, with the first to follow in early 2022.

Plans lodged for York music venue by One Night Only band members: Plans have been lodged to transform the former Fibbers site in York to create new offices combined with a live music venue. The new 500-capacity venue would be operated by Jimmy's, which previously opened the Jimmy's Restaurant & Bar in Low Petergate in York. The company was founded by George and Jimmy Craig, of the band One Night Only, and aims to build on its other music venues in Liverpool and Manchester. If given the go-ahead, the proposals would result in the replacement of the existing derelict building with the new music venue and Grade A offices above. Site owner Toft Green Developments had previously proposed 100% office space. The new plans, put to City of York Council, represent a significant reduction in the scale of the replacement building, as well as refining the roofline and design. George said: “The opportunity to re-establish such a significant live music presence in our home city is a dream realised for us. The venue puts York back on the map in terms of the UK touring circuit, which will offer first-class facilities for established bands and will support emerging talent, which is core to our ethos.” A spokesman for North Star, which is working alongside the owners, added: “Creating a new music venue in York will be great for the cultural scene in the city and we are thrilled to be able to partner with such a great company as Jimmy's. It will be a fresh concept and will help the city attract top bands and musicians in a purpose built and modern premises.”

Cheshire-based piemakers set for third cafe site: Great North Pie, the Cheshire-based handmade pie company, is set to open a third pie and mash cafe this spring. Husband and wife team Neil and Sarah Broomfield, who started their business ten years ago, have taken a site in Little David Street, in Manchester’s Kampus neighbourhood. With booth-style seating inside and covered outdoor seating, the cafe will look out over the Kampus garden and canal. The Broomfields, who started out making pies in their home kitchen for local farmers markets, also operate cafes in Altrincham and Ambleside. “Since we started out, we’ve always wanted a base in the city centre,” Neil told Insider Media. “We’d been looking for a while, and as soon as we saw Kampus, we knew it was the right place for us.” In December, Manchester-based operators Anna Tutton, of wine bar Vin-yard, and Joe Maddock, of tapas bar Pinchos, announced that they are collaborating on a new wine bar and kitchen called Beeswing, set to open at Kampus in March. An early 2022 opening at Kampus is also expected for Manchester-based bakery Pollen’s second site.

Mobile coffee business operator to open dessert shop in Redditch: Mobile coffee business operator Farhan Khan is to open a dessert shop in Redditch town centre. Bakes & Shakes is the latest venture from Khan and will open in the corner building at the top of Unicorn Hill. Khan secured the lease on 940 square feet at 2 Unicorn Hill – taking both the ground floor and the basement of the four-storey building – in a deal brokered by agent John Truslove. Bakes & Shakes is expected to open in the autumn. Khan said: “I've been running a mobile coffee business for the last few years but, after the impact of covid on the festival and outside events industry over the last year, I decided to start something a bit more ‘bricks and mortar’. I’ve been mulling over the idea of a dessert shop for a while but in Birmingham, where I’m from, the market is just saturated. I thought Redditch would be a better place to open.” John Truslove arranged a five-year lease at £15,000 per annum on behalf of the landlord. Law firm Wildings represented Khan.

Sri Lankan street food trader opens brick and mortar site: Street food trader Pasan Nissanka has given up a job with Bombardier to open his first Sri Lankan bricks and mortar restaurant, Colombo Street, in Nottingham. Nissanka, who first came to the UK to study aerospace engineering at university, said: “When I first moved to the UK something I really missed was Sri Lankan food. It's not very common here. I started cooking as a hobby for myself and my mates and fed a lot of people. In 2018, I started a street food business trading out of a gazebo, going to events around the Midlands including quite a few in Nottingham.” The 29-year-old went from a gazebo to a brightly decorated truck, which made appearances at Nottingham Street Food Club at Sneinton Market and The Garage in Chilwell. Last year, he got the keys to an empty property in Adams Walk, off Fletcher Gate, which used to be Rub Smokehouse, an American barbecue restaurant. Colombo Street offers two menus – street food during the day and a traditional dining experience in the evenings.

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