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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 28th Feb 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Flat Iron – 2022 has “started encouragingly”, secures Westfield London site: Flat Iron, the Piper-backed affordable steak concept, has said that 2022 has “started encouragingly” and that it has “several opportunities under consideration both in and out of London” for further growth. Tom Byng, chief executive of the nine-strong, London-based brand, told Propel: “Despite the well-publicised challenges facing the sector, we traded strongly throughout 2021, including a record week at October half term, and have been particularly pleased by our recent opening at Clink Street in September, which is performing beyond expectations. 2022 has started encouragingly, and for the first time in two years we can look forward to unrestricted trading with real confidence. Our tenth restaurant opens in Waterloo in April, and we have a further opening confirmed for early autumn at the former Le Pain Quotidien site in Westfield London. Romy Clay has recently joined as property director to help us grow further, and we have several opportunities under consideration both in and out of London. It’s an exciting time for the business, and I’d like to pay tribute to everyone in the Flat Iron team, from the pot wash to the board room, for their resilience, fortitude and good humour through the turbulence of the past two years.” The company will celebrate its tenth anniversary by opening its tenth restaurant in the spring. Situated opposite The Young Vic in The Cut in Waterloo, the new opening marks a decade since the original Flat Iron launched as a pop-up above a pub in Shoreditch. The restaurant, set over three shop fronts, will also include a large terrace for alfresco dining at the front. Flat Iron opened its ninth restaurant, a 90-cover venue at the former Gourmet Burger site in Clink Street, near Borough Market, last September. In the 52 weeks to 29 August 2021, the business reported turnover of £8.01m, down from £12.3m the previous year, while its pre-tax loss stood at £4.01m, against a loss of £5.6m in 2020. In October 2020, Propel revealed the company had completed a £6.9m refinancing with incumbent lenders ThinCats.
 

Industry News:

Host of golf-themed concepts added to the seventh edition of The New Openings Database, 15,720-word report included: A host of golf-themed concepts have been added to the seventh edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock. The database will show the details of 279 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (4 March), at midday. The database shows the details of which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location. There will also be a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The seventh edition of the database features premium golf simulation concept On the Green, which launched its debut site in Liverpool on 21 January, and has its own terrace clubhouse bar overlooking Liverpool One’s Chavasse Park. In addition, Topgolf, the golf entertainment brand founded by twin brothers Steve and Dave Jolliffe, has opened at Topgolf Glasgow, featuring 72 climate-controlled outdoor hitting bays. Also included is crazy golf experience, street food eatery and cocktail bar concept Birdies, which is to launch its second site in the capital, at Angel Central in Islington, this summer. Meanwhile, mini-golf bar and restaurant Par 59, which is part of Gareth Bale’s Elevens Group, is opening a second venue on 18 March, in St Mary Street, Cardiff. Premium subscribers will also receive a 15,720-word report on the new additions to the database, and access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (25 February). The database contained 49 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,341. The 227 sites run by those 49 new additions means the entire database has reached 64,253 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 3,750-word report on the new businesses added. The go-to database 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. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, 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 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 receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, plus regular video content and exclusive columns from Propel group editor, Mark Wingett.

BPPA welcomes review into online sales tax: The British Beer & Pub Association has welcomed the government’s consultation into online sales tax, urging Downing Street to strike a fairer details for the UK’s pubs. The consultation was launched last Friday (25 February) and is set to run until May 20. Pub operators, along with bricks-and-mortar retailers, have for years complained that the business rates system, charged on most commercial properties, is archaic and hands an unfair cost advantage to online retailers. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BPPA, said: “We welcome the chancellor’s decision to open a consultation on online sales tax, which we have been calling for as part of fairer taxation review. Pubs currently overpay rates by £570m relative to their turnover, and an urgent rebalancing is needed. Within our response, we will be recommending the introduction of an online sales tax explicitly used to reduce the burden of rates from physical properties, especially those ones that cannot shift to digital platforms, like the great British pub. We agree with the stated aim that this should not be a penalty on digital shopping, but rather a welcomed attempt at a fairer tax structure which recognises our modern economy. We urge the government to support the sector’s recovery by tackling the unfair business rates system and continuing to reduce the punitive tax burden on our sector to ensure the sustainability of brewing and pubs.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an iconic bar and restaurant group to hire an international operations director. The role is responsible for the successful execution of all new-build openings and transitions across London, Dubai and Las Vegas, as well coordinating and overseeing all new openings and concepts across the whole portfolio. They will also coordinate the direction of all senior managers and general managers, plus marketing, brand, HR, IT, purchasing and project related functions. The role is responsible for coordinating all lines of communication open while overseeing the business, plus taking full control of budgets and all aspects of running a high-end luxury business in London. The hiring client is looking to pay circa £140,000 plus bonus and excellent benefits. For more information, email Stuart@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Big Mamma Group plans Kensington restaurant opening: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London-based restaurants Gloria, Ave Mario and Circolo Popolare, is planning to open a fourth site in the capital, in Kensington. Propel understands that the company is planning a site with around 180 covers in the former HSBC bank site on Kensington High Street. The company is “investing considerably” in turning the former bank into “a restaurant of the highest quality”. Propel reported earlier this month that the business is planning a “liquidity event” this summer as it plans further growth across Europe, including its first opening in Germany. Speaking last month at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, Jack de Wet, chief development officer at Big Mamma Group, said the company was set to go through a “a restructuring cycle in the summer/liquidity event”, and the business is looking to grow by ten restaurants a year over the next five years. The business currently operates 18 restaurants across London, France and Madrid, and is set to make its German debut later this year, with a site believed to be opening in Munich. On the group’s structure, de Wet said: “Up to nearly 20% of our company have shares. We are going to go through a restructuring cycle in the summer/liquidity event, and one of our founder’s goals is that every one of our staff will own a percentage of the business – the pot washer, the junior runner. The primary driver for that is to get everyone on board with what the business is looking to achieve.” Last summer, the company opened its third London site, Ave Mario. Based in two buildings in Maiden Lane, and with an entrance in Henrietta Street, the 7,000 square-foot space has seating for almost 300, two terraces, a bar featuring a 3,500-bottle wall and an inner courtyard.
 
Burger King UK £600m flotation ‘stalls’ following Ukraine invasion: Burger King UK’s £600m flotation on the London Stock Exchange is understood to have stalled due to investor nerves over the conflict in Ukraine. The firm has not formally announced plans, but has hired bankers at Investec, Peel Hunt and Bank of America to advise on a listing and had even begun to court investors. It is understood Bridgepoint, the private equity owner of Burger King UK, was planning to float before July, but two sources told The Mail on Sunday the plans had been disrupted. One said: “It’s been delayed, but not indefinitely. It’s market conditions. You have such a big sell-off. The sentiment right now is really difficult.” A third source insisted that the float could still be completed by the end of June. Burger King UK and Bridgepoint did not comment.

Tortilla partners with Chartwells Universities for 14-restaurant roll-out: Chartwells Universities, part of the education catering sector of Compass UK & Ireland, has partnered with fast-casual Mexican brand Tortilla for a roll out of at least 14 restaurants across Chartwells’ estate over the next five years. Customers will be able to dine-in, take away or order via Chartwells’ Uni Food Hub app, for collection or delivery around campus. Kerry Ford, managing director of Chartwells Universities, said: “This marks a milestone in the implementation of our new proposition for university catering and demonstrates our commitment to evolving our operating model and meeting the ever-changing demands of our students. In Tortilla, we have found a partner to help meet these demands and elevate our Mexican offer.” Andy Naylor, chief financial officer of Tortilla, added: “In recent years, we have been successful in adapting the brand for new locations and formats, and this will be another opportunity for us to showcase our ability to bring Tortilla to customers across a breadth of locations. This is a significant agreement for us and will support our long-term UK growth ambitions.” Tortilla has recently launched new sites and formats at Gatwick Airport and Leeds Skelton Lakes Services, in partnership with SSP Group. Earlier this month, Chartwells signed a £58m deal to overhaul the catering facilities at Swansea University over ten years, including franchises from Tortilla, Greggs and Subway.

Wickwar has capacity for up to six new openings, business in ‘robust’ shape after giving up on brewing: Bristol-based pub group Wickwar Wessex Pub Company has said it has space for up to six new openings after getting back on the expansion trail. Having just added the Royal Oak in Clifton to its portfolio, the business, established in 2013, now has 14 pubs. “From our perspective, it’s such a positive to be on the front foot at last, having spent the last two years defending ourselves and trying to survive,” co-owner Mike Flavin told Propel. “There’s going to be some challenges ahead for the industry, but it’s time to be positive, take some opportunities and continue to grow our business. We’ve got a little shortlist we’re slowly working through; we’ve got our eye on a couple of others that may or may not come to fruition, and we’ve got another pub currently run as a leasehold which we’re looking to convert to a freehold. It’s on a case-by-case basis, but we do have headroom within our infrastructure to take on another three or four pubs quite easily, maybe five or six without taking on extra overheads. But we won’t be taking on pubs just for the sake of adding numbers, it’s got to be the right pub in the right location.” Those locations are certain to remain in and around Bristol, with no plans to move outside the company’s heartland. “We know our local market pretty well and we’re known around the vicinity, and that adds extra value,” said Flavin. “Bristol is a very vibrant city, and it’s getting even more so.” Pre-pandemic, Wickwar also ran a separate brewery, which was unable to recover from the impact of covid on the industry. There are no plans to resume brewing, with on-trade numbers for cask “not terribly encouraging”. Flavin said: “It became inevitable, as cask ale has a very short shelf life, and brewing it for a relatively small business like ours didn’t match up. When you find yourselves tipping thousands of pounds of ale down the sink on two occasions, you have to be realistic about it.” They do, however, still own the Wickwar and Moles ales brands and are looking to continue supplying them through contract production. In its latest accounts, Wickwar revealed it was helped through the pandemic by government grants, cancelled business rates and a £250,000 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme payment, but said the business “remains robust” and “well positioned to take advantage of the post-covid trading environment”. Flavin added: “We pinch ourselves every day. Our like-for-likes versus 2020 were 10% up, so we’re absolutely over the moon, and confidence is clearly coming back.”

Young’s secures two further Lucky Onion Group sites: London pub retailer Young’s has acquired a further two sites from The Lucky Onion Group. Earlier this month, it was confirmed that The Lucky Onion Group, the Cotswolds-based business owned by Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton, had sold some of its pubs and hotels to London pub retailer Young’s. The company’s Onion’s flagship, No 131 restaurant, bar and boutique hotel in The Promenade in Cheltenham, was not part of the deal, with Young’s initially acquiring five sites from the business – The George Hotel, No 38 The Park and the Tavern (all in Cheltenham) plus The Crown in Minchinhampton and the Wheatsheaf in Northleach. It is now understood that in a further two separate deals, the Patrick Dardis-led Young’s has acquired two more Lucky Onion sites. Firstly, it has acquired The Cheltenham festival’s “favourite pub” – The Hollow Bottom. The company said: “We can confirm that Young’s has agreed to acquire The Hollow Bottom in Guiting Power from The Lucky Onion Group.” Although Young’s hasn’t confirmed, it has also taken over the Wild Duck at Ewen near Cirencester, which is closed for remodelling. The Lucky Onion was founded in 2006 by former lawyer Georgie Pearman and her husband, former Gloucester Rugby player Sam Pearman, before Dunkerton took control in 2017. The Pearmans have recently joined the board of London-based premium pub operator Cubitt House.

Red & Blue Restaurants reports 15% Ebitda on £7m turnover as it appoints new operations director and looks to add more sites: Liverpool-based Red & Blue (R&B) Restaurants has reported 15% Ebitda on turnover of just under £7m, as it looks to build on its estate of five sites in 2022. Helping push these expansion plans along will be new operations director Caryn Philip, who has taken on the role after 11 years as a director with the company. “We have added two more restaurants to the group in the last eight months and trading is strong,” said co-owner, Jonathan Poole. “In an extended financial year due to covid ending December 21, Ebitda was 15% on just under £7m in turnover, with £8.5m forecasted for 2022. We’re now serving more than 7,000 guests per week across the group, and from our base in Liverpool, Caryn is a perfect fit for the role. She knows our culture inside out and has been a very important part of our team in creating what we have today.” A further role change has seen Luke Creedon move from head chef to executive head chef, where he will assist group executive chef and director, Matt Walsh, in supporting all kitchens operationally. R&B last month acquired its first Cheshire site when it took on Libby’s Bread & Wine in Marple Bridge, and already operates Liverpool venues Salt House Tapas, Hanover Street Social, Bacaro and Bouchon. It has now identified Bacaro, an Italian small plates concept, for further expansion. Co-owner, Paddy Smith, said: “R&B’s recent appointments create the opportunity for further expansion into other locations for our ever-busy concept Bacaro. We’re very interested in attractive sites in good trading locations.” Poole added: “Bacaro has been incredibly successful since we opened it in 2016, and I believe it would be equally popular elsewhere.”

Mowgli closes one of its Manchester sites: Indian street food concept Mowgli, the Nisha Katona-led business, has closed its site in University Green, Manchester. The company opened the restaurant as part of Bruntwood’s University Green development, just off Oxford Road, in early 2019. However, the business, which also operates a site in the city's Corn Exchange, is understood to have called time on the University Green site after three years of trade that was disrupted by the pandemic. Propel revealed in December that Mowgli had appointed advisors to help review its funding options for its next stage of growth. The 12-strong business, which has been backed by Foresight since 2017 and is chaired by Karen Jones, is understood to be working with PwC on its options. It is thought the process is focused on securing new funding, via a refinancing of Foresight’s minority stake in the business, to back the Katona-led management team to continue to expand the business across the UK. It has openings in Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh and Glasgow lined up for this year.
 
Surrey-based cocktail bar set to launch second venue, Itsu and Gail’s openings confirmed: Surrey-based independent cocktail bar Komo is set to open a second venue, in Woking’s Victoria Place, in April. The drinks and live entertainment venue has been operating in Guildford since 2015. The 4,654 square-foot bar, at 21-25 Commercial Way, will include covers for 250 and a booth for DJs. Food will be served from midday six days a week, and brunch on Sundays. Komo will also run cocktail masterclass and be available for private parties and corporate events. Victoria Place co-owners, Woking Council and Moyallen Group, have also confirmed the arrivals, over the coming months, of Asian health food chain Itsu and Bain Capital credit-backed business Gail’s Bakery at the scheme. Propel reported last month that Itsu had secured a site in the development as part of its regional pipeline, and that Gail’s was set to launch in Woking. The Itsu site will be a 3,300 square-foot unit at 1 Mercia Way, opening in April, while Gail’s will be based in a 4,129 square-foot unit at 1 Commercial Way. National gym chain The Gym Group will also open an 11,500 square-foot gym in The Peacocks, which forms part of Victoria Place. This follows the recent openings of Italian restaurant Luciano’s, and independent brands The Tea Terrace Restaurant & Tea Room and Ol’ West Grill & Diner, at the development. Woking Council leader, Cllr Ayesha Azad, said: “As we approach the official opening of Victoria Place, the £700m regeneration of the town centre, Woking is fast becoming a destination of choice for well-established F&B brands. We’re very proud Itsu, Gail’s and Komo have chosen to open in Woking, as all three brands enhance our existing F&B offer.” JLL and Nash Bond acted for Victoria Place, while PF Retail represented Itsu and Gail’s and Komo dealt direct.
 
Suffolk-based restaurateur brings Dough&Co and Burger Amour concepts to Daventry development: Chris Sharman, who worked as a fine dining chef under Marco Pierre White, has leased two restaurant sites at Daventry’s new flagship £12.5m Mulberry Place cinema development. Sharman, who operates in more than a dozen locations around the east of England, will open new branches of pizza concept Dough&Co and burger brand Burger Amour there in April. He said: “We’re delighted to announce our new restaurants at the fantastic new Mulberry Place development. Daventry has a great feel to it. and it’s really exciting to be part of this new leisure development.” The new restaurants will join a four-screen The Arc Cinema, which will offer state-of-the-art immersive surround sound systems and luxury electric recliner seats as standard, when it opens on 4 March. Brian Gilligan, of The Arc Cinema, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Burger Amour and Dough&Co as our neighbours in Daventry. They will help make a great entertainment experience even better for those who want to dine as well as catch a film.” Sharman last month announced that he has added three new sites to the openings pipeline for his ten-strong Dough&Co brand, including debut sites in Yorkshire and Somerset. It also last month opened a site in Bishop’s Stortford, has lined up openings in Bexleyheath and Southend and is thought to be exploring opportunities in Horsham and Telford.

Hall & Woodhouse adds to portfolio with historic Lyme Regis hotel, more in pipeline: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse has taken on The Royal Lion Hotel in Lyme Regis as it continues its expansion plans. The brewer plans to shut the site for a “short period” while it carries out upgrade works before reopening again in early March. Mark James, property director at Hall & Woodhouse, said: “We are delighted to purchase the highly successful Royal Lion Hotel and carry on the good work of the former owner, Lesley Stone, who operated the hotel for more than 19 years. At Hall and Woodhouse, we continually look to evolve as a business by proactively managing our estate and investing in pubs of the future. We are always seeking out further opportunities to grow through high-quality acquisitions that complement and enhance our existing estate’s offering.” Located on Broad Street, The Royal Lion Hotel was built in the 17th century and houses a wood-panelled bar, large restaurant, 33 bedrooms, a swimming pool and sauna. It will be a first pub in the town for Hall & Woodhouse, which operates circa 170 pubs across the south of England. Independent hotel consultancy ICHA acted on the deal as part of an off-market sale. Hall & Woodhouse is also due to open The Frog in Mindenhurst, on the Hampshire/Surrey borders, this spring, and has further sites in Devon, Dorset and Surrey in the pipeline.

Central England Co-op partners with Just Eat for grocery delivery across six regions: Central England Co-op has partnered with Just Eat to offer an on-demand grocery service at ten stores across six regions. Shoppers using the Just Eat app can now buy a range of food and drink, which are then picked and delivered to the door. Stores in Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, the West Midlands and Yorkshire are included in the initial roll-out. Andrew Kenny, managing director UK at Just Eat, said: “We’re excited to further expand Just Eat’s grocery offering. With over 60,000 restaurant and grocery partners on the Just Eat platform and an extensive delivery reach across 95% of the UK, this partnership marks the next stage in Just Eat’s commitment to delivering the best service and range of options for our customers.” Claire Koziol, head of stores at Central England Co-op, added: “We’re excited to partner with Just Eat to give our customers and members in these ten initial locations a quick and easy way to get their groceries delivered to their door. This partnership gives us the opportunity to not only provide another option for our communities, but also work with a recognised and respected brand in home delivery.”

Former Petrus by Gordon Ramsey head chef set to make solo restaurant debut: Larry Jayasekara, formerly head chef at Petrus by Gordon Ramsey in Belgravia, is set to make his solo restaurant debut this autumn. Jayasekara, who has also worked at the Waterside Inn, Michel Bras and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, has gone into business with businessman and gallery owner Tim Jefferies for the opening. They have taken on a site at 27 Bruton Place in Mayfair, which will operate over four floors and feature an open kitchen and private dining area. Jayasekara and Jeffries also plan to open a deli and takeaway across the road, at 38 Brunton Place.

Stockport-based pizzeria launches crowdfund to open second restaurant: Stockport-based pizzeria I Knead Pizza has launched a £50,000 crowdfunding scheme to help fund the opening of a second restaurant in the town. Co-owner Paul Corrigan launched the brand’s first restaurant in 2019, in the Reddish area of the town, after four years of serving up his pizzas at food markets and festivals. During lockdown, Corrigan and co-owner Michael Overend took advantage of a massive increase in delivery orders by doubling the size of their kitchen, but lost the bulk of their seating space in the process. They have since opened a dark kitchen in Manchester to help deal with deliveries and have also opened a spot at pop-up destination The Hatch, on Oxford Road. Seeking a proper restaurant space, they have now taken a lease on the former Donatello’s unit in the Heaton Chapel area of Stockport. They have invested £90,000 of their own funds but need to raise another £50,000 to help pay for the renewal of the building. Aiming to open in August, they have launched a Kickstarter campaign which has 45 days left to run, and has so far raised more than £7,000 from around 150 backers. The project will only be funded if it reaches its £50,000 goal by 14 April. Investors are being urged to buy vouchers that will entitle them to an offer when the restaurant opens. “We’ve seen people like Sugo and Loaf doing a Kickstarter, so we thought it could be an option, and banks are still quite dubious about lending to little independents,” Corrigan told the Manchester Evening News. “The end goal has always been to open a family restaurant. As much as we’d love to be in the city centre, we’re thinking it’s about the suburbs. Things have changed, and we’ve seen the trend with people working from home, so we’re staying in the suburbs.”

Deliveroo launches new office in Manchester as number of restaurant partners in city increases almost 150%: Deliveroo has launched a new office in the centre of Manchester after tripling its headcount in the city over the last year. The company has moved into a new base in New York Street, near Piccadilly Gardens, after agreeing a deal with landlord Bruntwood Works. The new flagship office comes after the company grew the number of employees in Manchester to around 180. The expansion also comes after the number of restaurants available on Deliveroo in the city increased by almost 150% to more than 2,900 since February 2020. Deliveroo’s chief business officer UK & Ireland, Carlo Mocci, told Business Live: “When it comes to Manchester, we have great business with local chains, but in order to really win a city, the secret formula is to make sure that you are mixing those national brands that everybody knows with your local favourites.”

Dalata opens new £43m Manchester hotel, second for Maldron brand in UK: Irish hotel operator Dalata has opened a new £43m, 278-bedroom hotel in Manchester – the first for its Maldron Hotels brand in the city and second in the UK. The 17-storey hotel sits off Oxford Road, opposite Circle Square, a newly developed neighbourhood of independent bars, restaurants and event spaces. It has received more investment to the ground floor than any other Maldron hotel, hosting a bar and restaurant with a menu of fresh seasonal produce from local suppliers. The hotel also features the Red Bean Roastery Coffee Shop, a fitness suite and meeting rooms. Construction will also start later this year on a second Maldron hotel in Manchester, in Chapel Street. Both these will sit in the Dalata portfolio alongside the £45m Clayton Hotel Manchester City Centre, which opened last month. Dermot Crowley, chief executive of Dalata Hotel Group, said: “I am delighted we are opening a second hotel in Manchester in the space of two months. It demonstrates our belief in Manchester as a city. Our Maldron hotel is located within an area of the city that has received significant investment over the last few years, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.” Founded in Ireland and operating since 2008, the Maldron brand consists of 19 three and four-star hotels across Ireland and the UK. Overall, Dalata operates 46 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Germany.

Dorset-based restaurant wound up owing almost £1m a ‘victim of Omicron’: A Dorest-based restaurant which went out of business during Omicron has debts which outstrip its assets by almost £1m. A report estimates that La Cave Dorset, which traded as Poole bistro Maison Sax, owes £936,150 to creditors, the Bournemouth Echo reports. The restaurant, which closed in January and never reopened, has been put on the market for sale or rent. Liquidators from advisory firm RSM UK said: “Despite an increase in trade through the summer of 2021, public concern regarding the Omicron variant of covid-19 hindered the business further and significantly reduced its festive bookings. The company subsequently ceased to trade.” The business took over the former Brit pub in Brittania Road in 2018, and founder David Sax left as a director in 2020. Savills is marketing the premises at guide price of £95,000 a year on a freehold basis.

Drop Bear Beer plans world’s first carbon neutral alcohol-free brewery: Craft brewer Drop Bear Beer is planning to build the world’s first carbon neutral alcohol-free brewery, in South Wales. The company is set to open the brewery later this year, by which time it will have successfully backdated 100% of its carbon emissions, dating to its formation in 2019. The Swansea-based company, which was created by Joelle Drummond and Sarah McNena, has put environmental, ethical and social responsibility at the heart of its ethos. Drummond said: “As Drop Bear continues to grow, we are determined the company does so responsibly and ethically. Building our carbon neutral brewery involves an unprecedented level of innovation in our industry. Rather than relying on offsetting for future footprint, we want to reduce emissions from the brewery from day one.” Its plan to create a “green brewery” is being supported by a £92,000 grant from the Welsh government’s Decarbonisation and Covid Challenge Fund. Plans include employing heat exchange and steam recapture technology to reduce energy consumption and transforming waste through anaerobic digestion into renewable energy for the brewery and community.

Cheshire-based hotel Carden Park sees turnover fall 58.8% due to impact of pandemic: Cheshire-based hotel Carden Park has reported turnover fell 58.8% to £5.6m for the year ending 31 March 2021, versus £13.6m the previous year, due to the impact of the pandemic. Pre-tax losses rose to £4.7m from £1.2m the previous year. The business received almost £2m in support from various government schemes. The 197-bedroom hotel is based near Chester and has three restaurants, two bars, a spa and two golf courses.

Coventry-based craft bakery opens third site: Coventry-based craft bakery, Luxury Bakery, has opened its third site in the city. The company has launched the outlet in the former premises of coffee machine retailer, My Expresso, in Longford Road, adding to its long-running stores in Riley Square and Alfall Road. The new store sells a range of hand-made pasties and pies as well as bread, sausage rolls, doughnuts and cakes, reports the Coventry Telegraph. Luxury Bakery was opened in 1970 by Alan and Jean Miles. After their retirement in 1990, their son, Paul, and his wife, Tracey, took over the running of the business.

Bristol-based Season + Taste to open second city site for bakery concept: Bristol-based hospitality group Season + Taste is to open a second site in the city for its bakery concept, Bakers & Co. Husband-and-wife team Kieran and Imogen Waite are launching the outlet at Cargo in Wapping Wharf next month after agreeing a deal with landlord Umberslade. It follows on from Bakers & Co’s original site in Gloucester Road, which offers bread and pastries. Season + Taste already has two restaurants based at Cargo – Gambas and Cargo Cantina. Head baker Brett St Clair said: “Bakers & Co is all about community, and nothing has reinforced that idea to us more than the past two years. Being able to bring people comfort with something as simple as a great cup of coffee or a loaf of sourdough bread has meant a lot to all of us. With Wapping Wharf, it's all about bringing that same sense of community to the harbourside.” Season + Taste also operates tapas restaurant Bravas in Cotham Hill.

Cheshire-based Beartown looking to grow pub estate as it plans to open larger brewery: Cheshire-based Beartown Brewery is looking to grow its pub estate as it plans to move its brewery operations to a larger premises. The new brewery, set to open in late spring, will offer four times the capacity of the original facility, which opened in Congleton 1994. It will have the ability to continue adding to its fermenter farm and produce eight times more capacity. The move comes as the business invests further in new kit and continues to upscale its offering across 2022. Joseph Manning, managing director of Beartown Brewery, said: “2021 saw us achieve record sales, higher than pre-pandemic, something which really affirmed that now was the right time to expand the brewery, investing in new kit and giving us the opportunity to grow the Beartown brand.” The new brewery will also feature a taproom. Manning said the business was also looking to identify new sites for pubs to add to its two existing outlets, Ye Olde White Lion and The Beartown Tap, both in Congleton.

Rutland-based hotel opens new restaurant as part of wider renovation works: Rutland Hall Hotel & Spa has opened a new restaurant as part of its complete refurbishment and rebrand. Called Blossoms, the restaurant offers covers for 130, including two private dining rooms, and features an open kitchen and grill – with an actual blossom tree taking centre-stage in the bar. Overseeing the kitchen is executive head chef, Sumit Chakrabarty, who has worked in Michelin-star establishments and has a background in classical French cuisine. John Higham, manager of Rutland Hall Hotel & Spa, said: “With our newly renovated dining space and range of dining options, we hope we have created a restaurant that adheres to each customer’s need.” Rutland Hall Hotel & Spa, which also had facilities for conferences, events and weddings, is aiming to complete its renovation works, which includes its bedrooms, by November.

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