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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 14th Feb 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Formula One takes stake in new competitive socialising concept from Adam Breeden: Adam Breeden, the co-founder of All Star Lanes, Hijingo, Bounce, Flight Club and Puttshack, has signed a global agreement with Formula One to launch and roll out his new immersive, state-of-the-art racing simulation concept. Formula One’s commitment to the partnership is reflected in the fact the global sporting brand has chosen to take a “meaningful equity position” in Breeden’s new Kindred Concepts vehicle, which is overseeing the launch of the new venture. Through the exclusive, long-term partnership, the companies said as many as 30 venues will be rolled out worldwide in the next five years. Kindred Concepts, which is also backed by sector investor Imbiba, aims to “roll out at pace from launch, with a mixture of owned and operated venues, joint ventures, and franchise partnerships”. Target locations include the UK, the US, key western European cities, the Middle East and Asia. As revealed by Propel in December, the debut site under the new venture will open at the One New Change scheme in London’s St Paul’s, in the final quarter of this year. The company said: “Fusing racing and gaming, with the fun of competitive socialising, and the glamour and spirit of Formula One, the concept will cater to a wide range of groups and occasions, from fun-filled nights out, to family experiences, corporate events and everything in between, boasting an impressive feature bar with an extensive offering, surrounded by dining and drinks areas with elevated food menus.” For the site at One New Change, up to 60 bespoke, cutting-edge motion racing simulators are being designed by a leading simulator design company, in collaboration with Formula One. Guests will choose from a variety of racing modes to compete against each other individually, in team-based groups or as part of all-venue racing formats, with different car modes for all ages and abilities. The venue will also provide enhanced experiences on Grands Prix weekends. Kindred Concepts’ senior management team includes chairman Stephen Murphy, former group chief executive of Virgin Group; Jonathan Peters, formerly chief financial officer for Caprice Holdings, Ivy Collection, Bill’s Restaurants, Birley Clubs and Everyman Cinemas; chief development officer Diane Jervis, who launched Bounce and brought Puttshack and Hijingo concepts to market, and chief operating officer Roberto Moretti, former UK chief operating officer of Puttshack and of Bill’s. The company’s chief technology officer is Gavin Williams, the founder and chief executive of Quander.io, which delivered multi-sensory and measurable digital brand experiences for the likes of Sky, BMW and the NBA. Breeden, founder and chief executive of Kindred Concepts, said: “When people come to one of our venues, we have to wow them and give them an unforgettable experience, and this new concept is going to take people’s breath away. With our experience creating best-in-class concepts and operations, and the strength of the Formula One brand, we are going to take competitive socialising to the next level, marrying cutting edge technology, a premium food and beverage offering, and a stunning setting, with the unrivalled glamour and excitement of Formula One.” Ben Pincus, director of commercial partnerships, Formula One, added: “We’re thrilled to partner with best-in-class operators on this global opportunity, which will create an incredible entertainment experience for a worldwide audience, and a go-to hospitality venue for Formula One fans and non-fans alike. The racing simulators will bring to life the experience of driving a Formula One car in a high-octane, stylish and fun environment, giving more people the opportunity to enjoy and get closer to the world of Formula One.”

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer and Innovator videos to be sent to Premium readers this week, next edition of Blue Book due on Friday: Propel Premium subscribers will be given access to the entire recording of The Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit Conference this week. Subscribers will be sent 31 separate video presentations, featuring 67 speakers, at 9am on Thursday (17 February). Click here to read the full reader list. Meanwhile, the next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (18 February), The Blue Book will now feature 536 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £26.7bn. The Blue Book has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 196 companies reporting a profit and 340 reporting losses. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
 
NTIA – removal of restrictions in Wales means businesses are finally able to plan for future with some level of certainty, warns government over FOI evidence: The further removal of restrictions on Welsh hospitality has been welcomed by the Night Time Industries Association (NITA). From Friday (18 February), covid passes will no longer be required to gain entry to nightclubs, cinemas and large-scale events in Wales and from Monday, 28 February, people will no longer be required to wear face masks in hospitality settings. “The withdrawal of the covid pass from the end of this week, and further relaxation of restrictions from 28 February, will see businesses finally able to plan for the future with some level of certainty,” said NTIA chief executive, Michael Kill. “Businesses have welcomed the announcement, with many suggesting these unfounded restrictions have gone on way too long.” Kill also warned the Welsh government it is still gathering evidence regarding the extended covid-related closure of nightclubs and other night-time businesses for any future public inquiry. “It will not go without notice that the actions of the Welsh government are still subject to a call by our members for evidence to substantiate the closure of nightclubs over and above other businesses,” he added. “A recent release of Freedom of Information request submitted by the NTIA will be released shortly, and will present some evidential challenges for the Welsh government within the public inquiry into this crisis.”
 
Customers returning to shops and restaurants: The number of customers visiting shops and restaurants is on the rise as the threat from the Omicron coronavirus variant eases, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Separately, OpenTable, the restaurant booking website, has reported a six-percentage-point rise in the number of seated diners in the week to 7 February compared with the previous seven days, continuing the upward trajectory of the past month. The Times reports the figure is 12% higher than in the same week in 2020. In addition, the Bank of England has noted a rise in the number of debit and credit card purchases of six percentage points in the week to February compared with the previous week. Spending on cards is at 96% of its pre-pandemic level. Shopper numbers on high streets, retail parks and other destinations rose by three percentage points in the week to 5 February, compared with the previous week. This is the fourth consecutive weekly rise, according to Springboard. However, in the past two weeks 31% of all businesses suffered lower turnover than normally would be expected for the time of year, according to the ONS’ fortnightly survey. About 8,614 businesses responded in February. About 10% of businesses said they had no cash reserves at the end of January, down from a peak above 13% at the end of December. The number that said they had low or no confidence they would survive fell to 6.3%, down from 7.3% a month before.
 
Working from home is now a permanent fixture, say bosses: Four out five bosses expect their companies to continue to allow staff to work from home for at least part of the week, according to a survey. The Times reports 79% of leaders polled by the Institute of Directors plan to adopt remote working in the long term. More than a quarter of the 700 executives surveyed expect their organisations to be fully flexible, with individual members of staff allowed to choose their working patterns. A further 39% intend to shift to between one and four days of remote working per week, the institute said. One in ten (13%) of respondents intend to go fully remote, while only 16% will demand staff go into the workplace five days a week. 
 
16 new Bib Gourmand additions to 2022 Michelin Guide: A total of 16 new UK and Ireland restaurants have been named Bib Gourmands in the 2022 The Michelin Guide, with 13 of them new additions to the guide. Five of them are in London, including Soho pair Humble Chicken, from Japanese chef Angelo Suto, and Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, which opened on the site of the former Darjeeling Express. Alongside them representing the capital are Russell Norman’s Tuscan restaurant Brutto in Clerkenwell, the permanent home for former Italian pop-up Manteca in Shoreditch and the Fitzrovia-based Indian restaurant and cocktail bar Pahli Hill. Elsewhere in England are modern European bistro Androa in Dartmouth, Middle Eastern restaurant Burnt Orange in Brighton, small dishes venue Kintsu in Colchester, West Sussex pub The Hollist Arms, Norfolk bar-with-rooms Sculthorpe Mill – from sisters Siobhan and Caitriona Peyton – and Margate’s Sargasso, from the team behind London venue Brawn. The Irish representatives are family-run pub and restaurant Cush in Ballycotton, Waterford bistro Everett’s and Galway artisan bakery-cum-cafe and evening wine bar Éan, from Enda McEvoy of Michelin-starred Loam. Completing the list is a brace of Scottish restaurants – both in Glasgow – the Asian-inspired Ka Pao and Italian-influenced bistro Celentano’s. The new additions bring the total of Bib Gourmand restaurants in the 2022 guide to 122 and come ahead of the new Michelin star restaurants being revealed on Wednesday (15 February). 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a well-established leisure group that operates leisure sites across the south of England. The company is looking to bring in an operations director to steer this business forward, report to board level and take full accountability for its 20 venues. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The right candidate will have previous experience in the sport and fitness sector. The role is based in south London and the company is looking to pay circa £90,000 plus head office perks.” For more information and to apply, email stuart@corecrutmment.com

Company News:

Access Group reports 35% revenue growth, paid £16.8m for CPL: Sector EPOS provider Access has reported revenue rose 35% to £318m in the year to 30 June 2021. Profit before tax was £54m (2020: £29m). The company stated: “Recurring revenue represents 87% of total revenues, which is an increase of four percentage points on prior year, ensuring sustainable revenue growth. Access reported organic revenue growth of 12% on prior year.” The company completed 13 mergers and acquisitions transactions, including the purchase of CPL Technology for £16,868,000 in April 2021. The company added: “Adjusted Ebitda margin (of 43%) improved year-on-year by six percentage points through focus on value creating revenue streams, careful management of costs and accretive acquisitions.” The company spent £34m (2020: £28m) on research and development and the new financial year is expected to see a further increase in research and development initiatives. The 12 month proforma impact of the 2021 acquisitions is revenue of £45m and Ebitda of £9m. Of the total revenue, £302.2m comes from the UK, £8.1m is derived from the rest of Europe and £7.2m comes from the rest of the world. 

BrewDog boss to lodge official complaint about BBC documentary: BrewDog boss James Watt is lodging an official complaint with the BBC and the regulator Ofcom, claiming a recent documentary on the company and his behaviour was a “hatchet job” containing dozens of inaccuracies and false claims. Watt, founder and chief executive of the Aberdeenshire business, was accused in the BBC Disclosures programme The Truth About BrewDog of unacceptable behaviour with women at the breweries, which he denies. In a blog he tells of the devastating impact of the documentary on his family and the company’s staff. He said: “We are lodging an official complaint with the BBC and the regulator Ofcom for the dozens of inaccuracies and false claims contained in the programme. We cannot simply stay quiet and allow these to go unchallenged – that isn’t the BrewDog way.” He said he again watched the programme alone, concluding: “This was simply not the BrewDog I know and love. It was a malicious caricature, based largely on untruths. I utterly refute the characterisation of me as well. For the last eight months the waves of attack on our business have been pretty relentless. I feel terrible for our team to have to endure this for most of the last year. For that, I am sorry to our team and our community. To have the world at large falsely accuse you of terrible things is soul destroying. I am really concerned about the impact this documentary has already had on our fantastic people. I am crushed by how this programme has impacted my family and the abuse our social media and our customer service teams have received is simply extraordinary. To them I apologise and thank them for their stoicism in the face of this storm.”

Katona – don’t shackle yourself to rents that give you even a shadow of anxiety: Nisha Katona, founder of Indian street food concept Mowgli, has said her advice to other entrepreneurs is “not to shackle yourself to rents that give you even a shadow of anxiety”. Writing in The Times about her decision to open a site in London, in Charlotte Street, Katona said: “Mowgli now employs more than 700 people across 14 restaurants and has donated more than £1m to house charities. We continue to grow, with openings in Preston, Glasgow, Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh and Hull planned for the next 18 months. Much of this stable growth comes from our non-London estate keeping our average rents at about £20 per square foot as opposed to London sites that can average £60 to £70. We can keep our rents to 5% of our sales; 10% is normal for many businesses. It is right that I would only venture to cities that kept these safe statistics intact. Then lockdown came and became the great leveller. Suddenly rents in London became sensible. Thankfully we had built an estate out of London that meant that we could transport 27 members of Mowgli into London to run the restaurant. These financial and recruitment protections were crucial. Mowgli Charlotte Street opened and is thankfully trading her socks off. I am aware our customers in London’s suburbs are calling for us and I shall go there before the rents creep up to their previous levels of toxicity. I have found the most important frame of mind on entering a negotiation is to set a ceiling that your gut will dictate and be true to it. One must be willing to walk away. A little faith that the right doors will open if the wrong deal is offered does not go amiss in the journey towards the acquisition of new sites. There is a lot to be said for growing a business outside London but there is a lot to be said for having the courage of your convictions to take your unique product, boldly, to the people that want it. My advice to other entrepreneurs is not to shackle yourself to rents that give you even a shadow of anxiety. Imagine the quiet weeks, the unexpected crises. Create a business that does not give you any kind of heart heaviness. If that means starting in the suburbs, then do it there.”

Topgolf to launch fourth UK site, first in Scotland: Topgolf, the golf entertainment brand, is to open its fourth site in the UK, and first in Scotland, later this year in Glasgow. Topgolf Glasgow will feature three storeys with 72 climate-controlled outdoor hitting bays where players will experience the “unique technology-driven fun communities have grown to know and love in an open-air and energetic environment”. Topgolf Entertainment Group currently operates more than 70 venues across six countries, which attract more than 30 million players per year combined. The experience features point-scoring games, chef-driven menus, signature drinks, music, and year-round programming for all ages, with private event rooms also available. Steve Lane, Topgolf vice-president of international, said: “The UK holds a special place in our hearts as it’s where our Topgolf story began. It seems very apt that the next leg of our journey takes us to Scotland, the original home of golf. The Glasgow venue will be like nothing the country has ever seen.”
 
Tortilla to open Bristol airport site: Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, is to further enhance its transport hub presence with an opening in Bristol airport. Last month, the £2.6m redevelopment of Bristol airport's departure lounge began, which is scheduled to be completed in time for the Easter holiday getaway. As part of the development, SSP will be operating a range of units to cater for passengers at the airport. It will also be relaunching the site’s airside bar with a new brand that will “reflect the heritage of the region”, and it will be upgrading its Cabin bar and Ritazza coffee shop units. The redeveloped lounge will also include a new Tortilla unit. Over the past 12 months, Tortilla has built on its relationship with SSP with its debut airport site at Gatwick and a first roadside unit at the Skelton Lakes motorway services. Last week, Propel revealed the listed company had added a further four regional sites to its openings pipeline for this year. The Richard Morris-led company has secured new sites in Lincoln, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Bournemouth, to add to already secured future openings in Bath and the Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village. Earlier this year, the 64-strong company said it remained confident in its ability to make good progress against its store roll-out strategy to open 45 new sites in the next five years. 
 
Brunning & Price founder Jerry Brunning to open fourth site under Pubs Limited vehicle: Jerry Brunning, co-founder of Brunning & Price, is to open a fourth site under his Pubs Limited vehicle, in Chester city centre. Propel understands Brunning, who founded Brunning & Price with Graham Price, has taken on the Big Hand Alehouse in Watergate Street, Chester, for an opening later this spring. Brunning opened his first pub since his return to the trade, ten years after selling the then 16-strong company to The Restaurant Group, in the summer of 2018, after he reopened The Swan in the village of Marbury, near Nantwich in Cheshire. He has since added a further two pubs to his new business – The Black Bear in Whitchurch, Shropshire, and The Hare in Farndon, Cheshire. The Restaurant Group acquired the then 14-strong Brunning & Price for £32m in 2007. It has since grown to circa 75 sites spread across the country. 
 
Mission Mars plans third Rudy’s opening in Manchester: Mission Mars, the Albert's Schloss operator led by Roy Ellis, is planning to open a third site in Manchester under its fast-growing Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza brand. The nine-strong concept has applied to open a site on the former Dawson Music Shop site in the city’s Portland Street. It already operates sites in the city’s Ancoats area and Peter Street. Propel revealed last year that Mission Mars was seeking to open further Rudy’s sites in Birmingham and London. It is working with property advisor Raven Rose and targeting locations in the capital, including Hackney, Islington, Balham, Wimbledon, Shoreditch and Richmond. Propel understands Rudy’s is also close to securing a second site in Birmingham, to join its existing restaurant in the city’s Bennetts Hill. It has also previously been linked with opening a site on the former TSB bank unit in Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton.

Lane7 secures Durham site: Boutique bowling company Lane7 has secured a site in Durham for an opening later this year. The former Fat Buddha restaurant in the Walkergate Leisure Park will undergo an extensive transformation, with work due to start on site soon. The opening will create more than 30 jobs. Propel understands Tomahawk Steakhouse is set to take a neighbouring site at the scheme. The 11-strong Lane7 is no stranger to the north east of England having been founded by Tim Wilks in Newcastle in 2013. It has gone on to open another Lane7 in Middlesbrough, as well as a sister-brand, Gutterball, in North Shields. Graeme Smith, chief operating officer for Lane7, said: “I can’t wait to bring our premium bowling offering to Durham. The chance to open another site in a region that has supported us tremendously over the past decade was a no-brainer. Every Lane7 location is fiercely independent in spirit, décor, and activity; designed with the locals in mind. It’s bowling, but not as you know it.” Tom Beaumont, associate director at Colliers, added: “Lane7 will add to an already impressive tenant line-up including Slug & Lettuce, Ebony Champagne Bar, Nando’s, ASK Italian, JD Wetherspoon and Players Bar. We currently have the remaining vacant unit under offer to a high-class restaurant as well.” Will Biggart, of Torridon, acts for Lane7. 

Wickwar Wessex adds Bristol pub for 14th site: Cotswolds-based brewer and retailer Wickwar Wessex had added The Royal Oak in Clifton Village, Bristol, to its growing pub portfolio. The newly refurbished pub has reopened its doors and joins the Wickwar estate as the 14th pub in its managed house division. The upgrades have seen two new bars created alongside two multi-purpose rooms available for hire. Wickwar Wessex director, Mike Flavin, said: “We are delighted to be investing in the Royal Oak after a couple of incredibly turbulent years for the hospitality industry. Although our industry will continue to face some challenges in the times ahead, we are honoured to be restoring this famous Bristol pub back to its former glory, and it is very exciting to be moving forward again.”
 
Geek Retreat to open in Harrow, on track for 100 new stores in 2022: Geek Retreat – a cafe that offers free-to-play consoles and board games alongside its food offerings, will open its latest venue, in Harrow’s Station Road, on Saturday, 26 February. A menu including vegetarian, vegan and kids’ options has been developed in partnership with food service firm Booker. Geek Retreat has also partnered with the National Autistic Society to make sure it provides an inclusive and welcoming environment for its more vulnerable customers, including those on the autistic spectrum or with mental health issues. A spokesman for Geek Retreat Harrow said: “We are thrilled and exited to bring Geek Retreat to the heart of Harrow’s community. It offers something very different on the high street – a place to play and have fun, but also somewhere that it safe, inclusive and where people with the love of geek culture and games can meet and make friends.” Geek Retreat, which opened its first store in 2013 and now has circa 46 sites, says it is on track to open a total of 100 new stores in 2022.
 
Former Mr Fogg’s general manager takes on first pub: Philippe Laché – who in five years at the Inception Group launched two Bunga branches before overseeing turnover of £4.2m at Mr Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair – has taken on his first pub. Laché has taken on the lease of Shepherd Neame’s Market House in Earl Street, Maidstone, after moving to Kent from London. At the Inception Group, he was also general manager at Mr Fogg’s Tavern and Gin Parlour, but always had aspirations to run a traditional English pub. He said: “I have lots of experience within the hospitality industry, but what I hadn’t tried was running a pub. I wanted to experience what it was like to run a traditional English pub. The experience of the covid lockdown made me realise you can manage a business, but for me there is nothing better than having someone there at the bar for you, seeing a smile and feeling there is someone there for you. Hospitality is all about meeting people, and what better place to do that?” The historic pub has undergone a major refurbishment, adding a rooftop terrace and alfresco seating area, and now also runs a programme of live music events.
 
Gordon Ramsey Restaurants opens new Bread Street Kitchen & Bar in Liverpool: Gordon Ramsey Restaurants has opened the latest site for its Bread Street Kitchen & Bar premium casual dining concept, in Liverpool. Ramsay has launched the venue in the former Jamie’s Italian in Liverpool ONE. The restaurant is set over two floors and seats 163 people inside, with outside dining for a further 32 people. There is also an eight-seater kitchen table experience with the chef and a bar area serving cocktails. Executive head chef Gareth Jones is overseeing the all-day dining menu. Ramsay currently operates three Bread Street Kitchen & Bar sites in London, plus a Bread Street Cafe in Ealing, and recently opened a Bread Street Kitchen in Edinburgh. The chef is also understood to be the lead bidder to take space on the upper floor of 22 Bishopsgate in the City.

Ivy lines up Belfast opening: Plans for a new Ivy restaurant in Belfast have been hailed as “a great addition” to the city centre. The brand wants to open a restaurant at units 3 and 4 of 56 Cleaver House – the site previously occupied by Burger King. Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said: “The Ivy would be a great addition to Belfast city centre. The restaurant has established a presence in other cities across the UK and Ireland. Its arrival in Belfast would be a positive sign for our city and a vote of confidence in Belfast. We are fortunate to have a super hospitality sector in Belfast already and alongside our excellent existing offering, the Ivy will be welcomed by people here and be attractive to visitors too.” Earlier this month, it was revealed Burger King was set to move from its location at Cleaver House in Donegall Place to Victoria – it opened 37 years ago.
 
Hello Oriental food hall opens in Manchester: A new food hall opened in Manchester on Saturday. Hello Oriental aims to showcase a huge array of street food, inspired by cuisines from across east Asia, as well as offering a dine-in experience. The venue in the Circle Square development off Oxford Road originally hoped to open last year. Hello Oriental boasts an Asian-inspired bakery and cafe, a new Vietnamese restaurant, the UK’s very first Hello Oriental supermarket, and Downtown Oriental food hall. The set-up has been inspired by infamous Asian dining destinations such as London’s Bang Bang Oriental and 1800 Lucky in Miami, owners said. Hello Oriental is already known for its online supermarket specialising in east Asian ingredients, and was founded by the Chi Yip Group, which was set up in Manchester in the 1980s.
 
Tim Hortons’ Derby opening thrown into doubt: The opening of a new drive-thru in Derby by Canadian quick service restaurant brand Tim Hortons is under threat after council planners recommended its refusal. SK Group, which is rolling out the brand in the UK, wants to open the drive-thru at a former Pizza Hut restaurant, which has been closed since January 2021, at The Wyvern, near the busy A52. But with a new Marks & Spencer Food Hall set to open just yards away too, planning chiefs fear traffic chaos could be created. They have recommended the council refuses the application. Their report states: “Highways officers are of the opinion that the proposed development is likely to contribute to an unacceptable impact on highway safety that cannot be acceptably mitigated. Therefore, given that there are real concerns about public safety on an important and busy part of the local highway network, a recommendation to refuse permission is provided.” Tim Hortons currently has circa 45 UK outlets, with its Braintree site set to become number 46 when it opens on Tuesday (15 February). It also has sites in Milton Keynes, Dunstable, Plymouth, Weston-super-Mare, Stockport, Stirling and Antrim “coming soon” and has also submitted plans for a drive-thru in Bolton and a debut Kent site, in Broadstairs.
 
Merseyside-based doughnut business lines up third site: Merseyside-based Doogle Donuts, which already has sites in Prescot and Aigburth, is set to expand into Kirby. The company, founded by Christian Anderson, will open a kiosk in St Chad’s Parade in the town centre in the coming weeks, offering a range of doughnuts, muffins, vegan options and drinks. Its gourmet doughnut flavours include biscoff biscuit, Kinda Bueno, Eton mess, cinnamon sugar, chocolate orange and lemon cheesecake.
 
Roxy Leisure’s new Roxy Lanes location in Leeds opens: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ballroom concepts, has opened its new Roxy Lanes Leeds site. The company has relocated its bar and bowling alley concept to The Light in The Headrow, which at 15,000 square feet is three times the size of the Bond Street site that had been its home since 2014. The site incorporates all the elements of existing Roxy venues under one roof, with two bars plus a basement dedicated to gaming, including ten bowling lanes, shuffleboard, American pool tables, air hockey and, in a new addition to the offer, ice curling. In November, Propel revealed Roxy Leisure is planning to open a new Roxy Ballroom in Sheffield. It also has plans for further sites in York, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Birmingham, plus a further Roxy Lanes in Bristol.
 
Muriel’s Kitchen lands National Gallery catering contract: Casual dining brand Muriel’s Kitchen will launch a new cafe, bar and bistro in the National Gallery after taking over responsibility for all food at the central London venue. Called Ochre and due to open in April, the restaurant will have its own separate entrance, allowing it to operate outside gallery hours. Chef Alex Drayton, formerly of Texture and 28-50, will head up a menu of “seasonal British ingredients, blending international flavours and modern European cooking” – including suckling pork belly with celeriac purée and Cornish mackerel with sea lettuce tacos. The restaurant will also have a private dining room and DJ booth, and there are plans for afternoon tea and brunch offerings. Founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Sam and Charlotte Miller, Muriel’s Kitchen once boasted sites in South Kensington, Soho and Richmond, but only the South Kensington original survives. It’s grab-and-go concept MK by Muriel’s Kitchen, which opened in Putney High Street in 2016, has also since closed permanently.
 
Kingfisher Resorts set to have plans for large-scale extension of Dorset hotel knocked back: Truro-based Kingfisher Resorts looks set to have it plans for a large-scale extension of a Dorset hotel rejected. Having acquired the Knoll House Hotel in 2017, Kingfisher has been undertaking a detailed review of the existing infrastructure and buildings, many of which date to the 1930s, and considers much of it to be “deteriorating and in need of major new investment”. It said plans for a 30-bed extension, as well as six villas, 41 apartments and 16 maisonettes, will “secure the role of Knoll House as an asset to the tourism offer in Dorset and the wider south west region”. The additional buildings would also house a restaurant, function room and leisure facilities including a pool, spa, jacuzzi and steam room. The application stated: “It will provide the basis of a sustainable business in the long term. In essence, it will provide a modern equivalent to the initial conception of Knoll House as a tourist destination when it first opened as such.” However, Dorset Council’s planners have recommended the application for refusal due to concerns over its scale. Kingfisher last year acquired the Meudon Country House Hotel and Bream House in Cornwall from Harry and Val Pilgrim off a guide price of £3.5m. Its portfolio also includes the Gara Rock leisure retreat in Devon and holiday home and spa complex Una St Ives.

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