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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 16th Feb 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UKHospitality – stats show ‘fundamental shift in labour market that sector must address quickly’: Vacancies in hospitality are at double pre-pandemic levels with UKHospitality warning there has been a “fundamental shift in the labour market” and the “sector must address that quickly”. Hospitality vacancies have now reached the 400,000 mark while there were almost 1.3 million job vacancies on offer in the three months to January, a record high according to the Office for National Statistics. The figures have prompted UKHospitality to call for a redoubling of efforts from all stakeholders to resource and support the Hospitality Rising campaign to promote careers in the sector. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Of course the hospitality sector is delighted covid restrictions are being lifted, but that brings a new problem: how to service increased customer demand without the staff to do it. Vacancies in our industry are now double (up 102%) what they were before the pandemic, and there has been a fundamental shift in the labour market and hospitality must address that quickly. The acute shortfall comes despite employment being close to pre-pandemic levels (minus 4%), at a time when our sector seeks to be at the vanguard of the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery. That’s why we’re backing a proposed £5m cross-sector drive to recruit for those roles; urging government to allow more flexible skills training and to enable businesses to use unspent apprenticeship levy funds from the past two years; and promoting closer partnerships between local businesses and job centres to match jobseekers with the exciting jobs that are available in our sector, and which provide long-term career prospects.” Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, told The Telegraph: “With high economic inactivity indicating that many people have left the jobs market altogether, chronic staff shortages are likely to weigh on the UK economy for a sustained period.” Matthew Percival, people and skills director at the Confederation of British Industry, said the apprenticeship levy should be ditched to help businesses train new staff. He said: “The good news is the UK economy is continuing to create jobs. The bad news is businesses are struggling to hire and pay is failing to keep up with inflation. Bold action is needed to go for growth, with steps to address skills and labour shortages. Replacing the apprenticeship levy with a Skills Challenge Fund and creating a new independent Council for Future Skills to optimise policy towards avoiding shortages in the future are important first steps.” 

Industry News:

91 of 536 companies in next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book generating pre-tax profit of more than £1m: A total of 91 of the 536 companies featured in the next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book are generating pre-tax profit of more than £1m. The Blue Book has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 196 companies reporting a profit and 340 reporting losses. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (18 February). The 536 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured have a total turnover of £26.7bn. 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. Propel Premium subscribers will also 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). 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.

UKHospitality urges operators to fill in VAT survey as it bids to convince government to keep sector rate at 12.5%: UKHospitality is making one final push to ask operators to fill in its VAT survey in a bid to convince the government to keep the rate for the sector at its current level of 12.5%. The trade body said Treasury officials were “extremely interested” in the provisional results that it presented. UKHospitality stated: “We have had a great response so far to our Deloitte survey, which we will use to better inform the Treasury of the impact that a reduced rate of VAT has had for our industry and our recovery. We presented the provisional results to Treasury officials and they were extremely interested in the data, particularly those shedding light on specific sub-sectors and regions. At the Treasury’s request, we are undertaking one last push to maximise the number of responses. The deadline, of which we have extended, is 5pm on Wednesday, 23 February. We are also continuing our digital lobbying campaign that you can support by asking businesses to write to their MP and share our materials in their venues and online using the hashtag #VATsEnough. Supporters of their local hospitality business can also support the campaign by sending a postcard. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the reduced rate extended, so we thank you again for your ongoing support on behalf of the sector.” The survey can be found here.

UK SMEs to bolster employee numbers following promising start to 2022: Two in five small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK plan to hire, on average, six new employees before the end of March, following a promising start to the year, according to the latest quarterly Barclaycard Payments SME Barometer. It comes as 56.2% of SMEs report a rise in earnings in the last quarter of 2021 against the same period in 2020. Data from Barclaycard Payments, which processes £1 in every £3 spent in the UK and services over 350,000 SMEs, supports this trend – with transaction volumes up 42.3% for in the last three months of 2021, compared with the same period in 2020. The bank said 2022 has started positively for many SMEs despite concerns around economic uncertainties, with almost three fifths (58.1%) predicting an increase in revenue this quarter compared with the same period last year when the UK was in the third covid-19 lockdown. On average, businesses forecast a year-on-year increase in first-quarter turnover by 13.5%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, hospitality and leisure operators – whose physical premises were closed this time last year – expect the largest turnover increase (33.6%), followed by retail (16.5%). Meanwhile, 32.7% of UK SMEs plan a “high level” of investment in their business over the next 12 months. Year-on-year payments volumes also demonstrate a feeling of confidence among SMEs across the UK, with leisure and entertainment, food and drink and retail SMEs seeing an increase by 471%, 110.8% and 54.1% respectively. The research, which polled 577 senior staff working in UK SMEs, found that overall business optimism is beginning to build, scoring 55 out of a possible 100, up from a low of just 40 points in the second quarter of 2020. SME leaders now view the rising cost of living as a bigger headwind than the ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic.

Michelin Guide unveils special award winners: Three brothers and London chef Philip Howard ware among the winners as the Michelin Guide handed out its five special awards for 2022. Ahead of the announcement of the new Michelin stars for this year on Wednesday (16 February), the guide has unveiled a host of individual awards that “highlight exceptional people and remarkable teams who have particularly impressed the Michelin inspectors over the past year”. Howard, who held two Michelin stars at his London restaurant The Square for 18 years, was given the chef mentor award. Describing his former Mayfair restaurant as somewhere “perpetually at the vanguard of Modern British cooking”, the guide praised Howard’s cooking as “exquisitely prepared, beautifully balanced and ultimately hugely satisfying”. Howard left The Square in 2016 to launch Elystan Street in Chelsea, which has also earned a Michelin star. Elsewhere, the Young Chef award was shared between three brothers — Luke, Nathaniel and Theo Selby — who were recognised as an “unbeatable trio” for their work at Evelyn’s Table in London, of which they took the helm just before the start of the pandemic. The Sommelier Award was handed to Isa Bal, wine expert and part-owner of Trivet restaurant in London Bridge. Outside of the M25, Aberystwyth restaurant SY23 was named as Opening of the Year, praised for bringing “a breath of fresh air to this quaint seaside town in west Wales”. And up in Scotland, Dale Dewsbury, of Andrew Fairlie at the Gleneagles Hotel, was recognised with the Welcome and Service Award.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a hospitality food-led business that is looking to hire a director of recruitment. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The company is looking for someone who has an innovative and creative approach to recruitment, a leader, and hands-on manager.” The business is only considering applications from someone who is in a head of recruitment role currently with London experience. The salary for this role is up to £100,000 and is London based. For more information and to arrange a confidential chat, email stuart@corecruitment.com

Licensing update: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners has published its latest licensing update providing a useful monthly summary of licensing news, including Luke Elford joining the John Gaunt team as a partner and the opening of a new London office. This can be viewed here.

Company News: 

Costa’s largest UK franchisee passes 100-site mark after new acquisition: Scoffs Group, the largest Costa Coffee franchise in the UK, has passed through the 100-site mark, after acquiring a further nine stores from the global coffee brand, Propel has learned. The nine stores were previously owned and operated by Costa as “equity” stores. The stores, which are all located in Cornwall, mean Scoffs now owns and operates a total of 101 Costa Coffee stores, cementing its position as Costa’s largest UK franchisee. Scoffs, which is led by Antony Tagliamonti, said: “We’re honoured to have been able to purchase existing corporate Costa stores. The acquisition sees us expand our geographical reach into Cornwall for the first time and we’re confident our knowledge of the local communities served by our store teams will help us deliver the exceptional Costa Coffee experience that our customers know and love. We have imminent plans to grow the Costa brand in the Cornwall area. All existing equity Costa team members have been welcomed into Scoffs and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such talented and passionate baristas.”

You Me Sushi MD steps down to join Roadchef: Peter Cossar has stepped down as managing director of You Me Sushi, the London-based restaurant and takeaway concept, to join motorway services operator Roadchef, as its new operations director, Propel has learned. Cossar joined You Me Sushi at the start of 2021. He was previously UK operations director at Papa John’s International for almost two years. Previous to that he spent almost four years as a regional operations director at Starbucks UK. During his time at You Me Sushi he grew the business, which was founded in 2008, from seven sites to 12, including the launch last year of its first franchise store, in Stratford. He told Propel last summer: “We are looking to build on the success we have seen over the past couple of years and grow the brand to about 30 stores in the next 18 months. We have more than ten franchise stores signed up under development agreements and will open a further three or four ourselves.”

Trof Group founders looking to launch beer hall, brewery and food hall in Manchester: Joel Wilkinson, Adelaide Winter and Dan Mullen, founders of the Trof Group, are looking to open a beer hall, brewery, night market and food hall in Manchester. The trio are aiming to breathe life into historic, derelict buildings in the Piccadilly East neighbourhood with the launch of Diecast. The project would also feature a bakery, offices and expansive gardens. The area they are looking to develop is a 200,000 square foot space between Store Street and Ducie Street. It includes a die-cast foundry that dates to 1870, and a larger modern warehouse from 1983. The proposal includes a beer hall and brewery, complete with visible brewing vessels, long communal tables and a large selection of beer taps. There’s also set to be a night market, featuring small traders, stalls, and even circus and theatre performers. During the daytime, the Store Street corner of the building will be transformed into an artisan bakery, deli, coffee shop and taproom, while a Barbecue Open Kitchen will serve “simple, rustic street food cooked on the wood grill”. Outside, the garden will feature long tables with a herb garden and bee hives; “a city centre place to sit in nature”. The site will also feature a range of independent shops, plus offices, workshops and studios, and a neighbourhood “old school” gym. It will also provide 1,000 jobs as well as a venue for independent operators, makers and creatives to sell their products, reports Manchester’s Finest. The trio are behind wood-fired restaurant concept, Firehouse, and neighbouring Detroit-style pizzeria, Ramona, which both launched last year. They joined forces with Revolution founders Neil McLeod and Roy Ellis to form hospitality group Mission Mars and launch the Albert’s Schloss concept but have since left the business.

Concept Taverns acquires Leeds snooker centre: West Yorkshire-based Concept Taverns, the sister company of Roxy Leisure, has acquired the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. The company has bought the venue from the Williamson family, which has owned “The Northern” since 1974, in a deal brokered by Christie & Co. Managing director of Concept Taverns, Ben Warren, said: “While Concept Taverns operates a portfolio of independent pubs in the West Yorkshire area, the management team has significant experience in the cue sports sector. When the Northern Snooker Centre became available, we saw this as a one-off opportunity to acquire a great asset on our doorstep and one that would fit exceptionally well with our knowledge base.” Chris and June Williamson added: “We are delighted to be leaving The Northern in good hands after so many years. Chris’ brother Ian and sister Vanessa will be continuing their coaching and front of house roles with the business and assisting with continuity.” In 2018, Jones Bar Group became a separate entity from sister company Roxy Leisure and relaunched as Concept Taverns, which focuses on a “fast-growing estate of freehold Yorkshire pubs”. Blacks Solicitors represented the Northern Snooker Centre and ALT Legal acted on behalf of Concept Taverns.

St Austell Brewery launches six-figure recruitment campaign: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery, which operates 180 pubs, inns and hotels across the south west, has launched a six-figure campaign to attract new talent to the hospitality industry. The visual-led campaign, entitled Your Adventure Starts Here, showcases the breath-taking scenery the region has to offer with imagery of employees carrying out their day-to-day roles – from housekeepers to chefs – against a backdrop of sun, sea, surf, and the great outdoors. The company said it wanted to highlight the benefits of working and living in the “beautiful regions of the south west including the laidback lifestyle, access to some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches, and the opportunity to adopt a healthy work-life balance”. The campaign has launched across a dedicated recruitment website and its social media network that includes targeted advertising on its Facebook and LinkedIn channels, which will run over the weeks ahead. Tamsyn Allington, people and communications director at St Austell Brewery, said: “Undoubtedly, tackling the skills shortage is one of the most urgent challenges that hospitality businesses face. As we see demand for UK travel and room bookings increase in the lead-up to summer, filling both front and back-of-house positions will be crucial to ensure we can continue to deliver a standout experience for customers and guests throughout the peak periods. As a family-owned business, we place our people right at the heart of everything we do, and we hope that this campaign will help us to find passionate and talented people to join our teams and help us deliver unforgettable experiences.”

Grosvenor – growing partnerships with occupiers drove leasing success in 2021: Central London landlord Grosvenor has said that “growing partnerships with occupiers and delivery of innovative services that support their operations” drove leasing success in 2021 at a time where a quarter of the year was spent in lockdown and Omicron’s rise again shook business confidence in the capital. The company said in the last 12 months, 33 new brands opened their doors in Mayfair and Belgravia including JKS Restaurant’s new concept Bibi. It said this drove low vacancy across its London portfolio at the year-end of approximately 3% versus a UK average of 14%. Amelia Bright, executive director, Grosvenor, said: “In the past two years, we’ve worked hard to turn the concept of a landlord on its head and to make the choice of who occupiers contract with as important to them as the choice of street, connectivity and rent. When lockdowns hit our goal was that Mayfair and Belgravia would come out the other side as strong as when we went in, with shops and restaurants open and ready to welcome everyone back. Waving rent in lockdowns was a highly effective early intervention. But it’s really been our actions since then, like the Tenant Investment Fund, which have fundamentally changed the nature and number of the conversations we’re having. If we want to safeguard the long-term future of a place we need to nurture enterprise. And we know this formula works. Not only is vacancy at the levels you’d expect in a buoyant market, but in October 2020, half term footfall exceeded 2019 levels and, pre-Omicron, footfall on key streets in early Christmas trading was very encouraging.” In January, Propel revealed Inception Group’s latest Mr Foggs cocktail bar will open in Mayfair in late spring following backing from the Tenant Investment Fund.

Leon launches app: Natural fast food brand Leon, owned by EG Group, has launched the first iteration of its app, “Leon Club”. The app has been launched following learnings gained from its web-based click and collect platform last year. Leon saw its web smart order customer frequency increase to a level that guests were asking for a mobile app to make it easier to use more often. The app allows users to pre-order restaurant food, reorder dishes and earn points along the way. For every £1 spent, users will receive 100 points. After spending £30, customers will be able to redeem their 3,000 points against anything on the menu for free. As users journey to reach 3,000 points, they will receive a number of mini milestones along the way in the way of treats and freebies. After this initial launch, Leon said it would be quickly adding more features in response to guest feedback. 

Heavitree reports full-year pre-tax profit on the back of disposals: Exeter-based tenanted pub operator Heavitree Brewery reported a pre-tax profit of £1.1m (2020: £414,000) in the year to 31 October 2021, on the back of the disposal of seven properties. The company, which operates circa 65 tenanted pubs across Exeter and south Devon, reported turnover decreased by 7.98% to £4.6m (2020: £5.0m), and an operating loss of £59,000. The company continued its programme of selling some non-core assets and this realised a book profit of £1.3m (2020: £293,000) during the year. Within the financial year, the company made a reduction in borrowings of £661,000. Early in the new year following the completion of further sales of The Victoria Inn in Ashburton with a small adjoining cottage and the Maltster's Arms site in Clyst St Mary, a prepayment on the term loan of £750,000 was made. Chairman Nicholas Tucker said: “The trading environment remains testing; although there was no actual lockdown, Christmas trading was hindered as customers became unsettled by the recent infection rate peak caused by the Omicron variant. Staff shortages and increasing costs are also a continual concern. However, the success of the vaccination programme has clearly helped in encouraging customers to support pubs and enjoy everything they have to offer and some comfort for the future was drawn from the strong trade during late summer and autumn. Also, the houses I visited during the variant affected build up to Christmas and in the early new year showed not only how professional and robust our operators are but also how determined our customers are to enjoy the offer provided by our great pubs.”

Chipotle opens 3,000th restaurant, plans up to 250 new sites in 2022: Global chicken concept Chipotle has opened its 3,000th restaurant in total, in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the next year, Chipotle plans to open between 235 to 250 new restaurants. In 2021, Chipotle opened 215 new locations in the US, Canada and Europe, and approximately 80% of the new restaurants featured a Chipotlane – its digital order drive-thru pick-up concept. Brian Niccol, chairman and chief executive of Chipotle, said: “This achievement is a testament to our phenomenal teams and their relentless pursuit of bringing ‘Food with Integrity’ to more communities. We are thrilled to celebrate our 3,000th restaurant opening, and the progress we've made towards our goal of having 7,000 restaurants or more in North America.” The brand operates 12 sites in the UK, all in London, but has recently been linked with an opening in Watford. 

Flight Club confirms Welsh debut with Cardiff opening: Flight Club, the darts concept owned by Red Engine, has confirmed it will make its Welsh debut, with an opening in Cardiff. The business has signed a 25-year lease for 16,327 square foot of space at 3-4 St Mary Street – including a 4,000 square foot roof terrace – after agreeing a deal with landlord Thackeray. The venue, which will have capacity for 500 people, will house 13 oches with three bars. It will be Flight Club’s tenth site in the UK and its largest outside of London. An opening date for the venue has yet to be confirmed. Chief executive Steve Moore, who co-founded Flight Club alongside Paul Barham, said: “We’re thrilled the licensing application has been granted for Flight Club Cardiff. Whenever we look to join a new neighbourhood, we always work closely with the community to ensure that we’re adding to it in the best way possible, and we look forward to maintaining these positive relationships moving forwards.” Flight Club will further add to its UK portfolio with an opening in Cheltenham next month while it is also set to make its Scottish debut with a launch in Glasgow. The brand also has sites overseas in the US with its licensed partner State of Play Hospitality and in Australia. Thackeray was advised by EJ Hales and Davis Coffer Lyons while Flight Club was advised by The Leisure Partnership on the Cardiff deal.

Cubitt House appoints James Crilly as finance director: London gastropub operator Cubitt House has appointed James Crilly as its new finance director. Crilly joins Cubitt House after over six years with sector specialist accountancy firm haysmacintyre, including the past two as an audit manager. He joins Cubitt House as it gears up to reopen the former Pomona’s site in Notting Hill as The Princess Royal pub – returning the venue to its original use and name. The move is part of former Salt Yard Group chef director Ben Tish’s overhaul of the Cubitt House offering since taking on the same role at the group after leaving Fitzrovia restaurant Norma. His brief was to ensure each of Cubitt House’s current portfolio of six pubs had a distinctive menu and will oversee their development alongside Richard Sandiford, previously of Hawksmoor and The Double Red Duke. The Princess Royal is one of two openings the group has planned, the other being launching The Barley Mow in Mayfair. It also plans to refurbish The Alfred Tennyson in Belgravia and The Orange in Pimlico but will first focus on The Coach Makers Arms in Marylebone. 

Onvi appoints ex-Deliveroo Group CFO as non-executive director: Onvi, the mobile-first POS solution for hospitality businesses, has appointed ex-Deliveroo group chief financial officer Philip Green as non-executive director. The company said that having held chief financial officer positions at Amazon, Groupon and Deliveroo, Green brings “extensive experience, and a wealth of relevant knowledge regarding the hospitality industry garnered during a finance career spanning more than 25 years”. As non-executive director, Green will advise on the brand's ambitious growth plans as it looks to scale at pace. He said: “Having spent more than a decade at Amazon and Deliveroo, a key takeaway is winning companies maintain a relentless focus on customer experience, service and value. The product needs to go far beyond technology, becoming an integral but seamless part of every interaction across the business. To achieve this is incredibly difficult; few companies can deliver and execute consistently to these high standards – Onvi has.” Prask Sutton, Onvi founder and chief executive, added: “We are delighted to welcome Philip to Onvi. The insight and knowledge he brings from an impressive and varied career, combining financial and hospitality experience, will be invaluable in developing our strategy as we look to rapidly scale up and build on our traction in the fast-growing mobile POS sector.”

London-based chef Ajay Chaurasia to open second Indian restaurant, in Wimbledon: London-based chef Ajay Chaurasia is opening a second Indian restaurant in the capital. Chaurasia has teamed up with his friend and business partner Ram Singh to launch Bombay Delight in Wimbledon on Thursday (18 February). The Broadway venue will seat up to 120 covers and have a bar area and large private dining room. The menu will feature a number of lesser-known, regional Indian dishes alongside “all-time favourites”, with a focus on fresh ingredients and fragrant spices. Dishes will include the Bombay Butter Chicken, alongside more unusual options such as the Nashila Gosh lamb curry with red wine and rum and the Lamb Angara, a spicy slow cooked curry using smoked lamb, onion, tomato, ginger and garlic. The drinks menu will include wine, beer and cocktails. Chaurasia said: “With Bombay Delight I really want to showcase all that Indian cuisine has to offer. Having a variety of curries and other regional dishes that Londoners might never have heard of on the menu gives me the chance to introduce them to lesser-known Indian specialities.” Chaurasia opened his first restaurant, Mumbai Delight, in Vauxhall in 2013 and also heads a cloud kitchen in Battersea, preparing food for three brands – Bombay Delight, Biryani Box and Vegan Deluxe. 

Printworks Manchester set for £22m transformation as Vue signs new 20-year lease: Printworks Manchester is set for its first major transformation since its launch in 1999. Plans for a £22m investment have been approved by owners DTZ Investors following planning approval by Manchester City Council last year. The refurbishment of the venue will include the installation of a 900 square metre digital ceiling – “Europe’s largest”. The immersive ceiling will also be complemented by a large interactive screen. Alongside the internal transformation, which will begin this month, the Printworks façade will also be given a facelift. DTZ Investors has also secured a new 20-year commitment to continue its ongoing partnership with cinema operator Vue, which operate 23 screens at Printworks, including Europe’s second largest IMAX. The cinema is set to undergo a multimillion-pound flagship refurbishment in tandem with the wider work. Ben Haller, associate director at DTZ Investors, said: “Printworks has shown resilience through the pandemic and refurbishing this iconic venue remains part of our vision for the asset. The leisure sector continues to transition as consumers seek the ultimate experience with technology redefining both expectations and possibilities. Consumers at Printworks will soon benefit from just that with a fully immersive and interactive environment on a scale not previously seen in the UK. This in turn will drive footfall and provide our tenants with the best opportunity for trade.” DTZ Investors purchased the Printworks site in February 2017 from Land Securities for £108m.

London-based Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co to shut after a decade: London-based Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co is to close after a decade in the capital. Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer will shut the Warren Street venue in April, saying they were not offered the opportunity to renew their ten-year lease. Srulovich said: “Sadly the time came to renew and the building was sold instead. While it was a bit of a blow after such a crazy 18 months, we are moving on and excited for the next ten years of Honey & Co., whatever that may bring. We had this simple idea to open a little place of our own – at first, we thought it would be a kebab shop, but we came to the idea of serving up all the dishes we missed from home: shawarma in the oven, delicious fresh salads, tahini with everything.” The duo will continue to run nearby Honey & Smoke in Great Portland Street and deli Honey & Spice in Warren Street.

Hidden Gem Restaurant acquires Hampshire village pub: Hampshire-based Hidden Gem Restaurant has acquired The Shoulder of Mutton in Hazeley Heath for an undisclosed sum off a guide price of £600,000. The company has bought the freehold from Tavern Property Company in a deal brokered by Savills. The traditional country inn, which closed permanently before the pandemic, spans 3,918 square foot across ground floor trading and ancillary areas and has a four-bedroom flat on the first floor. There is a terrace and beer garden at the back. Jon Taylor, director at Hidden Gem Restaurant, said: “My family have lived around the corner from The Shoulder of Mutton for 15 years and were saddened to see this local favourite close. We have bought the pub with a family friend who is a chef at one of the top restaurants in the country and have a vision to transform it back into a warm, inviting pub offering good quality, locally sourced, food and an extensive range of local beer and spirits.”

New destination bar concept to open at Hilton London Metropole: A new destination bar concept to its Hilton London Metropole hotel in Paddington. Bow Bar, which opens on Thursday (17 February), aims to bring the “creative dynamism” of the east end to West London. Headed by Pietro Fania and Francesco Betti, the venue will offer an ever-changing, seasonal creative mixology menu, featuring “artistic, decorative and complex cocktails” alongside beer and spirits. There will also be shareable, creative small plates made with British ingredients, including jellied eels. The venue will also host an array of DJs from Thursday to Saturday. Fania and Betti said: “We both live in bustling Brick Lane and are excited to bring a taste of the east end to West London. We spend time with guests to understand the preferred flavour profile to suggest one of our unexpected creations. We love challenging the norm and enticing guests out of their comfort zone.”

PubLove’s planet positive happy hour plants 100,000 trees: PubLove, the hostel-pub company founded in 2007 by Ben Stackhouse, has reported its planet positive happy hour – believed to be a world’s first – has now planted more than 100,000 trees. The happy hour, which sees a tree planted in partnership with Eden reforestation projects for every drink purchased between 5pm and 7pm daily across PubLove’s six London hostel pubs, has passed the milestone in just over ten months.

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