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Mon 24th Jan 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Osmond – I hope the crisis will enable a new wave of exciting offers on the high street: Serial sector investor Hugh Osmond has told Propel that he hopes the impact of the pandemic on the sector will “enable a new wave of exciting, fun offers on the high street” to appear. Osmond, who previously backed Punch Taverns and PizzaExpress, said: “I hope this episode will enable a new wave of exciting, fun new offers on the high street, but otherwise I hope the future looks like a higher quality version of what we had before, not some tedious ‘new normal’ where the ghost of covid lingers on in public memory with a threat of coming back to life at any moment. Hopefully this will accelerate a bit of a necessary clear out of boring high street concepts that have had their day and enable high quality and, most importantly, fun-loving new entrants to take on premises at good prices and thrive.” On what sector ills the crisis had exposed that still needed plenty of work to rectify, Osmond put forward “a very out of date and not fit for purpose structure of the property industry”. He said: “The landlord-tenant relationship with upward only rent reviews and intensely landlord favourable leases are completely unsuitable to the modern commercial environment, let alone a pandemic. Same goes for rates. There have also been too many private equity-backed businesses taking on too much leverage and treating hospitality as if it was a retail commodity business. It isn’t – it’s a business where talent, quality, enthusiasm, fun-seeking and a little sprinkle of stardust make a venue rock and roll.” Osmond, who is currently backing Coppa Club-owner Various Eateries, said the government forming “some sort of coherent policy, communicating it clearly and actually sticking with it” would help the sector gain momentum. He added: “Then we can go back to getting on with life without a bunch of irrational, capricious idiots randomly destroying our businesses every other week. Then people remember that the whole point of hospitality is not to have to book a table and sit furtively in the corner worrying about covid patrols, but to enjoy themselves, meet other people, be spontaneous and have a great time.”

Industry News:

Number of brands growing through franchise to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of brands growing through franchise are among the 87 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 28 January, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features the Optimum Group, which operates 25 Costa Coffee stores throughout Merseyside and the north west of England, alongside three Kaspa’s Desserts stores in Liverpool, Smithdown and St. Helens. Also included this month is South African seafood dining brand Ocean Basket, which currently operates 200 restaurants in 19 countries and is set to make its UK debut this year – which will be the first of many. Meanwhile, Veggie Master, which was founded by Rajveer Singh in 2016 and is set to open its 11th site in Nottingham this year, will be featured. In addition, 83-strong Energie Fitness, which was recently ranked tenth among the best franchises by the Elite Franchise Top 100, is included this month. Premium subscribers will also receive a 6,430-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the sixth edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 4 February, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The sixth edition also includes a 22,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to another database – the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

NTIA – Welsh government needs to be held to account over covid closures: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has called on the Welsh government to be held to account after a Freedom of Information (FOI) response said there is no guarantee about where someone caught covid-19. Welsh nightclubs have been closed since December 27 over fears of the spread of Omicron, but are set to reopen from Friday (28 January) should cases continue to fall. Responding to the FOI, the Welsh government said: “There is no guarantee about where someone caught covid-19, therefore there is no data on cases caught in specific locations.” Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, said: “Following the release of what seems to be a recent response from a FOI request to Welsh Government, it clearly states that there is no supporting data or evidence on the specific location of people who have caught covid. Months of requests for evidence or justification for nightclubs or other businesses of similar settings being closed or restricted against in Wales. Business and livelihoods decimated; a sector brought to its knees! The first minister and Welsh government wilfully and intently crippled an entire industry! It’s time to take accountability.”
The Chinese Buffet unveils robot waitresses to combat serving staff shortages: The Chinese Buffet, a nine-strong chain of restaurants across the north west and north east of England, has introduced robot waitresses to help serve customers. Owners Paolo Hu and Peter Wu unleashed four “BellaBot” robots which as well as serving customers can chat to them and even sing Happy Birthday. The Chinese Buffet spokesman, David Ramsden, said: “It’s quirky and customers love it. We have people doing TikToks, others saying the children loved the robot. During the pandemic, because people needed to remain seated, rather than being a traditional buffet it became a table-service buffet. You ordered via the app and it was delivered directly to your table, but that became much more onerous on the waiting staff. With covid issues causing staff issues, most often in hospitality, it’s difficult to get the staff, so robots became top of mind. It’s timely because there’s a big staffing issue in hospitality.” The robots have four shelves and so can serve four tables at once, freeing up staff to interact with customers and address other issues, according to Ramsden. He added: “I was in one restaurant on Sunday evening talking to the managers, and they wouldn’t do without them now. They were sceptical to start with, but since they’ve had them, they make a massive difference. It’s primarily to solve the staffing crisis, but the reality is, it's making such a difference to the restaurant that it will become much more commonplace. We’re now importing the robots and providing them to anybody that needs them – with hospitality being the initial target market.” The Chinese Buffet has branches in Bolton, Wigan, Liverpool, Blackpool, Bury, Darlington, Huddersfield, St Helens and Wakefield. Tea Room brand Tea Terrace recently introduced its second robot waitress, in its new Woking branch, while Gravity Southside has employed a team of three android restaurant staff since opening last summer. Tech-led Chinese restaurant ShaXian Delicacies, which launched its second site last October in London’s Chinatown, also features a noodle-chopping robot in its window.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a hospitality and catering business that is looking for two London sales roles – a business development manager, which is paying £80,000, and a sales manager, which is paying £45,000. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The business is looking for polished, articulate and relationship-focused sellers who can work with tender documents/proposals to really win large-scale contracts. Both roles are hybrid working.” For more information and to apply, email

Company News:

Douglas Jack – TRG has the scale and quality to manage through the many challenges of the first half of 2022: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack says The Restaurant Group (TRG) has the “scale and quality to manage through the many challenges of the first half of 2022”. Issuing an “Add” note on the shares with a target price of 110p following the company’s trading update, Jack said: “In October and November, trading was strong for the Wagamama, pubs and leisure businesses, ahead of the restaurant market. The 35% of the estate that operates next to cinemas benefited better from film releases including ‘No Time to Die’. Omicron affected trading for TRG and the sector in December. Only circa 25 of the 42 concessions sites are currently trading. 2021E adjusted EBITDA (IAS 17) is expected to be at the upper end of the £73-£79m guidance, despite Omicron. However, covid-related restrictions in January and an expected gradual recovery in February are expected to take £6m off sales and £5m off Ebitda in 2022E. Net debt is lower than expected. Relative to 2020, net debt is down almost 50% and the number of shares is up circa 30%. We forecast net debt/Ebitda (IAS 17) to be 1.1 times in 2023E, a level from which expansion could step up or dividends could resume. We have not downgraded forecasts, other than for Omicron’s impact, despite the more inflationary backdrop. We believe TRG has the scale and quality to manage through the first half of 2022’s many challenges while the restaurant market’s supply continues to fall. Our positive recommendation is based on 2023E and the associated 8.3% equity free cash flow yield.”

Thunderbird Fried Chicken opens joint-venture site with Jurys Inn: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, has opened a delivery site in Milton Keynes in a joint venture with hotel chain Jurys Inn, Propel has learned. The Paul Gilchrist-led concept is available through Deliveroo out of the Jurys Inn kitchen in Milton Keynes’ The Hub. The new joint venture builds on the partnership the brand has with Parkdean Resorts. Last June, the brand opened a franchise site with Parkdean at its Camber Sands resort, and a month later, opened its second at Trecco Bay Holiday Park in Porthcawl, south Wales. The fried chicken concept is now lined up to open at Parkdean’s sites at Vauxhall in Great Yarmouth, Ruda in Devon and Southview in Skegness later this year. Last month, Propel revealed the business had secured the former Creams British Luxury site in The Broadway, Wimbledon, for an opening this March. As previously reported by Propel, the business is also set to open on the former Good Morning Vietnam site in St John’s Hill, near Clapham Junction station, a month earlier. Thunderbird currently operates restaurants at Earl’s Court, Charing Cross, Westfield Stratford and The O2.

Bangerz ‘n’ Brewz team secures sixth site, two more set to follow: The team behind Bangerz ‘n’ Brewz in Portsmouth has secured its sixth site, at 144-146 The Street in Rustington. The company is bringing its Bangerz ‘n’ Burgerz format to a 2,424 square-foot site in the West Sussex coastal town after agreeing a deal brokered by Flude Property Consultants (FPC). Established in 2018, the handcrafted burgers and craft ales specialists already operate restaurants in Southsea, Chichester, Havant, Brighton and Portsmouth. According to its website, it also has sites in Port Solent and Southampton “coming soon”. FPC director, Sebastian Martin, said: “It is great to see such a fantastic brand doing so well and wanting to expand their operations in what are challenging times for some occupiers.”

Buzzworks to open live music bar for third Troon venue: Scottish independent restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks Holdings is set to open its third venue in Troon with the launch of a new live music bar. The Fox will begin trading “in the coming weeks” at the site of the former Papi Milano restaurant in West Portland Street. The redeveloped site will have capacity for up to 160 people and will initially create 20 jobs. The new team will be led by operations manager Johnny Blair, who has worked with Buzzworks for the past ten years. “We’re proud to be investing once again in Troon, not only creating a further 20 jobs in Ayrshire, but bringing another exciting venue to the area,” he said. The venue will host live music and sport throughout the week, including a late licence on Friday and Saturday nights. Guests will also be able to book time on an in-house golf simulator. Headed by Kenny Blair, who runs the business along with brother Colin and sister Alison, Buzzworks currently has a portfolio of 13 venues. 

Starbucks drops ‘vaccination or weekly testing’ mandate: Starbucks has told its employees it is dropping its mandate for vaccinations or weekly testing, as had previously been required by US health chiefs. This follows the Supreme Court blocking US president Joe Biden’s requirement for employers with more than 100 workers to provide proof of vaccination or get tested regularly. “We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks chief executive John Culver said in a memo sent to employees. “Given the court’s ruling, we expect more jurisdictions may move quickly to pass local mandates. Starbucks will continue to follow all laws, mandates and public health regulations.” Starbucks had initially announced a plan to implement a vaccination or weekly testing mandate from next month. Culver said the company will continue encouraging its employees to get vaccinations and booster shots and disclose their vaccination status. It has also asked employees to stop wearing cloth masks and instead opt for medical-grade surgical masks provided by the company. Starbucks is the among the most high-profile US companies to back track on vaccinations following the ruling, while many have not yet announced how employee policies will change following the decision.

Vice chairman of Manchester United amongst backers of Barber’s My Supper Hero venture: Ed Woodward, the vice chairman of Manchester United, has backed My Supper Hero, the meal delivery start-up founded by singer Myleene Klass and serial restaurant entrepreneur Jamie Barber. The Mail on Sunday said Woodward contributed to a seed funding round for the new venture, which has raised £500,000. Saracens rugby club chairman Neil Golding and former executives of delivery firm Deliveroo and women’s magazines Elle and Grazia have also backed the business. Propel revealed last November that Barber, founder and chief executive of Hache and Cabana, had teamed up with TV presenter Klass to launch the finish-at-home meal kit venture. A pilot initially launched across 200 homes in London but is set to spread across the capital, with the business also planning to go national. 

Red Lion Holdings reopens Newbury pub-with-rooms: Red Lion Holdings (RLH), the pub investment group led by sector entrepreneurs Jason Myers and David Ramsey which last year acquired Red Mist Leisure and Grosvenor Inns, has reopened the Hare & Hounds in Speen, Newbury. An extensive renovation has seen the 17th century site relaunch as a premium quality 30-bed coaching inn with pub and dining, which will work closely with Newbury Catering College to offer apprenticeship opportunities within the hospitality sector. The boutique bedrooms feature Nespresso coffee machines and “welcome decanters” of sloe gin, while the dining room includes two private rooms for up to 12 guests and a covered garden terrace. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, it will offer “farm-to-table menus that roll with the seasons and champion local farming and produce heroes”. While owned by Red Lion Holdings, the Hare & Hounds is being run as an independent coaching inn. It’s the fourth property owned and managed by Myers and Ramsey following Wild Thyme and Honey & The Crown at Ampney Brook in Cirencester, The Cricketers on the Green in Pirbright and The Kings Arms in Egham.

Cornish Bakery starts 2022 on a high as staff and customer feedback figures outperform market: Growing independent chain The Cornish Bakery has started 2022 with a set of staff and customer feedback figures that exceed all others in the UK. The company finished 2021 with an industry-leading score on Indeed of 4.83 and a net promoter score of 62.3. Cornish Bakery is working with Feedcheck, which has built a live system that continually monitors all Cornish Bakery customer feedback and scores against all of their direct competitors locally and nationally. Founder Steve Grocutt said: “One of Cornish Bakery’s core values is ‘Aim Higher’, and the final 2021 scores show that this objective is being continually achieved both internally and externally. Our commitment to, and investment in, our feedback mechanism ensures precision delivery, in every location. It also provides us with a deep insight into what our competitors are doing, while we take their market share. Alongside our explosive growth numbers, these quality scores show us we’re doing all the right things, in the right ways and we’re on course to raise every bar that there is across the bakery sector.”

Celebrity chef Glyn Purnell set to open new Warwickshire pub and restaurant: Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell is set to open a new pub and restaurant in Warwickshire, in March. The Mount by Glynn Purnell will be located in a 200-year-old building on the High Street of the market town of Henley-in-Arden.The premises was formerly occupied by bar and restaurant The Butchers Social, which has relocated to the Forest Hotel in Dorridge, Solihull. The focus of The Mount’s menu will be pub food, but with “an unmistakable Glynn Purnell twist”. Purnell told Birmingham Live: “The Mount is my first venture outside of Birmingham city centre and I’m very excited to be joining such a thriving community as Henley-in-Arden. We’re currently taking bookings from the end of March, and until then, we’re undergoing a refurbishment which will keep the feel of the 16th century pub, but with a modern twist in the restaurant area.” The BBC Saturday Kitchen star also operates the Michelin-starred Purnell’s restaurant in Birmingham city centre and also ran the nearby Purnell’s Bistro, which closed just before Christmas in 2020. Most of the bistro staff are moving to The Mount, including general manager Pete Casson. Purnell had initially planned to open a replacement for the bistro in Knowle, Solihull, but the venture fell through last year. He added: “Having to close The Bistro (because of lockdown) meant we got to the point where we decided to just let the lease run down. The plan had been to move that business to Knowle, but we didn’t get the agreement we wanted with the landlord there.” Purnell is also set to open a fine dining restaurant in the historic Coventry Charterhouse, off London Road in Coventry.

BrewDog to launch in Chester this autumn: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is set to open a new bar in Chester Northgate when the development fully opens this autumn. The 3,000 square-foot unit will face Princess Street and the newly named Exchange Square at the heart of the city centre scheme. The bar will sit alongside restaurants The Florist, Tapas Revolution and Cosy Club and a Picturehouse Cinema, in the £72m development. Cllr Richard Beacham, Chester’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, said: “We are delighted to secure such a high-profile and innovative brand to join us at Northgate, BrewDog will be a fantastic asset to the scheme.” The council was advised by RivingtonHark on the deal. Propel revealed earlier this week that BrewDog has placed six of its bars on the market – three in London and one each in Leeds, Leicester and Sheffield. The company also aims to open more than 30 new sites in 2022 and recently received approval to open a second bar in Bristol, with plans for further UK openings in Basingstoke, Bournemouth and Cheltenham. It also has plans for bars in Atlanta, Berlin, Las Vegas, Milan, Mumbai and Paris in the pipeline, as well as its biggest site to date – complete with a brewery, bowling alley and coffee shop – in London’s Waterloo.

Glasgow-based superfood and health bar concept Juicy opens second site: Glasgow-based superfood and health bar concept Juicy has opened its second site, in the city’s Silverburn shopping centre. Founder Fallon Carberry launched the concept, which offers cold-pressed juices, custom açai bowls and customisable salads, in Byres Road last May. Carberry said: “We are so excited to kick off 2022 with our much anticipated second site at Silverburn. We are ideally located beside Cineworld and think cinema goers will love our ‘nacho average nachos’, which are perfect for the more health-conscious consumer. Silverburn is perfect for our second site, we love the location and the convenience that the centre provides, and we really feel like the Juicy offer is perfect for busy shoppers on the go.” David Pierotti, general manager at Silverburn, added: “Our customers love to support Scottish brands, so it’s great to be welcoming Juicy to Silverburn. As a local, independent with a unique offer, it confirms our position as a great destination for emerging businesses.” Juicy will be open daily from 9am.

Dalata invests £45m in second Manchester hotel, third to follow next month as UK expansion plans continue: Irish hotel group Dalata has opened its second hotel in Manchester, located in a former office block in Portland Street. The £45m four-star Clayton Hotel Manchester City Centre houses 329 bedrooms over 18 storeys, with a mezzanine overlooking the ground floor bar area and five meeting rooms which can host up to 153 people. Dalata already operates the Clayton Hotel Manchester Airport, and next month will open the Maldron Hotel in Manchester city centre. The largest hotel group in Ireland with a growing UK presence, Dalata announced plans last September for 11 new hotels and has since invested £37.5m in a 35-year lease on Liverpool’s One Park Lane. Dermot Crowley, chief executive of Dalata, said: “This is the first of six new hotels that we are opening in the first half of this year, four of these in the UK. We have four further properties in our UK hotel pipeline, showing our continued commitment to our UK expansion strategy. We continue to look for further opportunities in the large cities around the UK.” He added: “Dalata has had a presence in Manchester since 2015, and by the end of February we will have a Clayton and Maldron hotel in the city centre, with construction due to get underway this year for another Maldron hotel in Chapel Street. I look forward to seeing this new hotel become an established part of the Manchester community in the coming months and years.”

Forest Holidays to open second Welsh holiday park later this year: Derbyshire-based holiday park operator Forest Holidays will open its second location in Wales, and 12th across the UK, later this year. Garwnant will be based in the Brecon Beacons National Park, with work beginning this month on the multimillion-pound investment. The venue will include 40 eco-sensitive cabins ranging from one to five bedrooms, including one adapted for wheelchair access, and treehouses. There will also be upgrades to the existing visitor centre and cafe as well as a new shop, bike hire facilities and outdoor activities. The company’s first Welsh location, in the Snowdonia National Park, opened in 2018. Bruce McKendrick, chief executive of Forest Holidays, said: “We are looking forward to making a valuable and eco-sensitive contribution to the growing tourism economy in south Wales, with the creation of new local jobs, enhancements to the forest environment and the economic benefits our new location will bring to the surrounding area.” Jodie Bond, public affairs manager at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, added: “The authority welcomes sustainable rural development within Brecon Beacons. Forest Holidays will not only create jobs but inward investment to the local economy.” Forest Holidays opened its 11th site, in Cheshire’s Delamere Forest, last April.

Neighbourhood wine bar, restaurant and music venue to open in Notting Hill: A new neighbourhood wine bar, restaurant and music venue will open in London’s Notting Hill. Founded by locals Rishabh Vir and Tim Lang, Caia – named after the Roman goddess of fire – will offer an extensive list of wine alongside a seasonally changing menu of wine-friendly food cooked on a custom-made, open fire grill. The 60-cover space in Golborne Road, which will open in March, will feature a bar and open kitchen along with a 12-cover wine room, complete with a floor to ceiling wine display. The basement will be home to a music venue that will also host guest DJ’s and live acoustic sessions.

Greene King set to reopen formerly family-run hotel in north Wales: Greene King is set to reopen a formerly family-run hotel in north Wales ahead of a wider investment in the 19th century site. The company’s Chef and Brewer brand took on The Victoria Hotel in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, which had previously been run for 43 years by the same family, in November. The site will reopen in the coming weeks ahead of plans being submitted for a major refurbishment. A Greene King spokesman said: “We are putting in place some exciting investment plans for later this year. In the meantime, we are planning to reopen the pub and hotel again to customers.” Former directors Anne Smeaton, Kate Elias and Nicky Campbell added: “While the decision has been tough and hugely emotional after 43 successful years at the helm, we, as a family have decided to move on to new ventures.”

Hyatt partners with M&L Hospitality to acquire two London hotels: Hotel company Hyatt has partnered with M&L Hospitality to acquire two hotels from Stratford City Hotels. The 225-room Hyatt Regency London Stratford and the 127-room Hyatt House London Stratford, which are both expected to open in Q2 2022 following refurbishment, are both located within Westfield Stratford City. Felicity Black Roberts, Hyatt’s vice president of development Europe, said: “The addition of these two hotels will be another exciting step in growing Hyatt’s brand presence in the UK and in creating a network of hotels across the key commercial and leisure markets in the country. We worked closely with M&L Hospitality to choose the right brands for the location and are pleased to be continuing our relationship with them following the successful openings of Hyatt Regency Manchester and Hyatt House Manchester in 2019.” The Hyatt Regency will offer 6,673 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, bar and an open-air terrace, while Hyatt House will provide guests with apartment-style suites with fully equipped kitchens and flexible workspaces. Neil Maxwell, chief executive officer of M&L Hospitality, added: “We are pleased to be able to continue our work with Hyatt in the UK. Our strategy focuses on identifying key gateway cities with strong economic growth. Stratford is experiencing a real boom, and our plans to introduce these hotels to London will capitalise on this.”

Proper Pubs takes on Stoke-on-Trent pub: Proper Pubs, the operator managed division set up last year by Hawthorn, has taken on The Robin Hood in Norton, Stoke-on-Trent. Following a £120,000 overhaul, the Ford Green Road pub is set to reopen next month with a new name, The Ford Green. A pub has operated on the site since 1845 but the venue shut down last summer, just weeks after reopening following the coronavirus lockdown. A spokesman for Proper Pubs told Stoke-on-Trent Live: “We’re delighted to share that the former Robin Hood will reopen in February following a £120,000 investment, under a new name. The Ford Green will be a proper community pub, offering a warm welcome for everybody and giving back to the local community as well.” Proper Pubs consisted of about 20% of the circa 674-strong Hawthorn estate when the platform was created last summer. It was set up at the same time that Hawthorn was acquired by Admiral Taverns for £222.3m.

Everyman launches vegan menu: Everyman, the independent premium cinema group, has launched a new selection of vegan dishes across its 36 venues nationwide. The new menu sits alongside the existing food and drink offering at Everyman sites and includes a selection of new vegan main dishes, sides and a dessert milkshake. The mains include a vegan cheeseburger served with plant-based smoked cheese, pickle, onion, baby gem, mustard, ketchup and plant-based mayo, and a vegan pizza topped with chargrilled artichoke, sun dried tomato and plant-based mozzarella. A new Biscoff milkshake made with plant-based vanilla ice cream and soya milk is also available. Rich Linford, head of food and beverage at Everyman, said: “We pride ourselves on providing a luxurious food and drink experience for every cinema-goer enjoying the latest movie releases. With vegan and plant-based products becoming increasingly popular, we have taken time to develop new vegan dishes that we’re really proud of.”

Restaurant debut for foodie friends in south west London: Three friends who grew up together in the Punjab and developed an interest in food by tasting produce on the family farms they worked on have opened their first restaurant together. Eli & Dhani, which means cardamom and coriander in Sanskrit, has opened in Church Road in Barnes, south west London. Harry Rai, an experienced restaurateur in Frankfurt for two decades, will run the restaurant on a day-to-day basis, while his partners are Gaurav Saini, who runs the nearby Barnes Pantry, and Rogesh Saxena. Saini said he believes the area is crying out for a modern, family-friendly North Indian restaurant.

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