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Mon 14th Mar 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Managed groups grow like-for-like sales by 3% in February on pre-covid levels but cost stresses mount, restaurants enjoy strong month: The lifting of all covid-19 restrictions helped Britain’s managed restaurant, pub and bar groups to raise sales above pre-pandemic levels in February, according to the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker – but high inflation continues to make real-terms growth elusive. The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, reveals groups’ like-for-like sales in February were 3% higher than in February 2019. This builds momentum from January, when comparative sales were 1% down, and a very challenging December 2021, when the Omicron variant pushed trading 11% below December 2019. Restaurants increased like-for-like sales by 9% in February, just outpacing the 7% growth for bars, which benefited from the scrapping of requirements for vaccination passes in late-night venues. Pubs had a tougher month, ending down 1% on the pre-covid-19 levels of February 2019. While the growth figures are encouraging, they are depressed by inflationary pressures. Recent editions of the Consumer Prices Index have shown that inflation is running at 5% to 6% over the last 12 months alone. Trading is also struggling to recover in London, the Tracker shows. Managed groups’ like-for-like sales inside the M25 in February were 4% below February 2019, compared with growth of 6% beyond the M25. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “These figures show managed groups are building momentum after two years of turmoil. Delivery and late-night bars are particularly buoyant at the moment, and underlying demand for hospitality experiences remains strong. However, margins are being tightly squeezed by fast-rising costs, and the cost-of-living crisis is likely to dent consumer spending as the year goes on. Some businesses remain extremely vulnerable, and there’s a powerful case for government support on tax and other issues to help them fuel the UK’s post-covid-19 economic recovery.” David Coffer, chairman at The Coffer Group, added: “I am I sure we will all be watching the central London statistics very carefully over the next few months. Hopefully, the return of overseas tourists, which is so sorely missed, will have a marked and positive effect.”

Industry News:

93 of 548 companies in next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book generating pre-tax profit of more than £1m: A total of 93 of the 548 companies featured in the next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book are generating pre-tax profit of more than £1m. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (18 March) at midday. The Blue Book shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £7.6bn being reported by 350 companies. However, a further 198 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £828.9m. The Blue Book, which is updated every month and has had 12 companies added to the latest edition, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive 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. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to a new database early next month. The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database will be an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and be updated every two months. The first edition will feature more than 100 companies, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. The first edition provides almost 25,000 words of content. 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.
 
Yapster creates operational excellence mini video series, Neil Williamson to feature: Yapster has created a mini video series focused entirely on operational excellence as part of its Take the Lead Series. In the first episode, chief executive Rob Liddiard talks to Neil Williamson, formerly of McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme and now chief operating officer at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen UK. Williamson explains the special ingredients that fuelled McDonalds and Krispy Kreme’s success and how he’s seeking to incorporate best practises into his leadership of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. They also talk values and Williamson’s “anti-values” – why the best colleagues are often recruited for character and trained for skills. The video will be sent at 9am today (Monday, 14 March).

Rise in poultry prices set to continue: Poultry prices are set to continue rising, as the war in Ukraine combined with increases in energy, transport, packaging and labour costs puts the squeeze on suppliers, catering supplier Birtwistles has warned. Earlier this month, in its monthly report, Birtwistles said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is having “serious consequences” for the price of poultry in Europe, reporting increases of at least 7% across the supply base. It has now provided updates from its EU and UK suppliers, saying the 400,000 tonnes of chicken produced annually by MHP, Ukraine’s biggest chicken producer of chicken, is now “missing from the global market”. It said Polish suppliers have reported natural gas prices going up 1,335%, barley 65%, sea freight 63%, plastic 60%, wheat 44% and broiler 25%. The update from EU suppliers in general is that of a market situation with a high degree of uncertainty, “not only because of the current war, but also with regard to the abnormally high number of bird flu cases in Europe”. Exports of wheat and maize from Ukraine have now stopped totally, “driving up feed prices, and livestock prices in particular, exorbitantly”. Birtwistles managing director, Glenn Eastwood, said: “The impact is enormous and affects the entire chain. This is a situation of force majeure; the government is not doing anything to help and support us. All retail contracts are being opened to calculate in these costs, no long-term prices are being agreed anymore.” The update from UK suppliers, meanwhile, is that labour costs and the prices of wheat, transport, packaging and energy are continuing to drive costs up.

Pubs and restaurants could be hit with huge energy bill hike due to Russian sanctions: Ministers are faced with the challenge of helping thousands of hospitality businesses find new energy suppliers after hitting Russian gas company Gazprom with sanctions. Around 20% of the UK's pubs and restaurants are supplied by Gazprom. The government is looking at how it can assist hospitality businesses in finding new energy suppliers as more effects on British people and businesses of Russia's attack on Ukraine continue to emerge. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, told PoliticsHome that hospitality businesses are "being forced to change supplier at the worst possible time and facing some of the worst market conditions”. She said many will have to enter insecure contracts with more costly terms, while “in a very small number of cases” some businesses may not be able to a new supplier and will be forced to close. “Those businesses that are coming out of contracts because of sanctions on Gazprom are now phoning around making sure they can get an alternative supply,” she added. Since the coronavirus pandemic, energy suppliers have generally been reluctant to enter new contracts due to economic uncertainty, Nicholls said, adding in recent days she had heard cases of suppliers asking hospitality firms to pay “very large” deposits in order to sign up. “Anything the government can do to encourage energy providers to take a reasonable approach and enter new contracts would be very welcome,” she said. A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said businesses “should exercise their own commercial judgement with regards to energy supply contracts they have in place”.

Jamie Oliver to exit Russia: Jamie Oliver is to shut his Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Russia in response to Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine, the Telegraph has reported. It stated: “Jamie Oliver Group is scrapping an agreement with its franchisee partner Ginza Project, which has operated a Jamie’s Italian in the centre of Moscow for almost a decade. Ginza this weekend was ordered to strip out all Jamie’s Italian branding from the site and will also be required to shut down all branded social media. It must also close the Jamie Oliver cookery school in Moscow that has been open for just over six years.” A spokesman for Jamie Oliver said: “We are exiting our franchise agreement and our operations in Russia will cease trading.”

Majority of people believe hospitality should get more support from government: More than eight in ten people think the government should provide financial support for hospitality businesses, according to new research from ordering and payments platform, Mr Yum. The majority said extending the reduced VAT rate of 12.5% is the best way to support the industry, with grants to cover lack of staff and rent relief also receiving broad support. Highlighting the challenges the sector faces, one in three said they have cancelled a booking at a venue for covid-related reasons over the past six months, and almost a quarter have not returned to a venue due to service-related issues. More than 40% are dining out less often now than before the pandemic, while seven in ten are now more likely to choose a pub that offers table service. Six in ten will choose a venue with outdoor seating over one without, while almost seven in ten are more likely to choose a venue where they can order on their phone. As for pricing, more than half would be less likely to return to a pub if the total cost of a meal for two increased by £5, which rises to eight in ten if the price increased by £10. However, 65% said they would still go to the pub as often as they do now if the price of a pint increased by 50p, and 40% would if it increased by £1.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a hospitality tech company that is continuing to grow. COREcruitment is assisting to recruit for a head of customer success and support position. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The position will be a key part in ensuring an excellent customer journey and continued satisfaction. The role will involve translating the needs of partners as well as seeking out commercial opportunities, and driving marketing and communications for new development. It also involves setting up face-to-face meetings with key clients and working closely with product teams and stakeholders.” The role is UK remote with occasional office visits to Hertfordshire. The salary range is £55,000 to £70,000 per annum. For more information and to apply, email hayley@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Birts – Wasabi is back to 2019 trading levels: Henry Birts, chief executive of Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain backed by Capdesia, has said the business is back to 2019 trading levels. He told Propel: “I'm delighted to say that overall we are back to 2019 trading levels, with midweek sales between Tuesday and Thursday now matching 2019 as workers get back to their offices. Sales over the weekends are now in healthy growth over 2019 with Mondays and Fridays still behind in city locations as more people continue to work from home on these days. Our grocery partnership with Sainsbury’s has delivered exceptional growth throughout the pandemic and beyond and now represents a material part of the Wasabi business. This has been an incredibly tough couple of years for the industry, business and most importantly our teams. We are now very much looking forward to an exciting future but again I would like to say a huge thank you to our amazing people who have stuck with us and helped us to emerge stronger from the crisis. We're also very appreciative of the support we have received from our landlords, suppliers, bankers and investors.” It comes as the 43-strong business filed its accounts for the 52 weeks to 26 December 2020, with the impact of the pandemic, cutting its full-year turnover from £117.6m in 2019 to £50.9m. The company, which underwent a restructure in 2020, said it was looking to grow its footprint in suburban areas in order to adapt to changing lifestyles. The group said it continued to evaluate opportunities to expand its portfolio within the UK and to maintain its competitive position in the food to go sector.

Brother Marcus planning to more than double the size of its estate and expand outside London: Brunch brand Brother Marcus, which this month launched its third site, in London’s Borough Yards, is planning to more than double the size of its estate and expand the business outside the capital. Founders Tasos Gaitanos and Alex Large (third founding member Arthur Campbell has taken a back seat) already have in mind the areas, both inside and outside London, they want to expand to, but have not put a timeline on the growth plans. “Seven is probably our sweet spot for London, after which you get a degree of cannibalism of your existing sites,” Large told Propel. “We’re looking at Soho first and foremost, then Clapham/Battersea, South Kensington/Notting Hill, and Kings Cross. We’d consider going outside London too, but not to cities like Manchester or Liverpool as we’d have to open three at the same time and set up a whole new operations team. We could probably expand to places like Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge and use the same operations team we have now.” The group currently operate two other sites, in Islington and Spitalfields, having taken the tough decision last October to close its debut site, having outgrown the former Balham-based greasy spoon cafe it bought for £9,000 in 2016. Gaitanos said: “It was taking up a lot of our time and becoming a bit of a distraction. It was really small and didn’t make any business sense or fit where we were going. In terms of brand management, we needed to evolve.” The duo admit they could do without the forthcoming increases in VAT, business rates, minimum wage and National Insurance contributions but are proud to have come through the pandemic owing their landlords nothing, and having just a £350,000 loan to pay back through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. “We’re in a position where everything affects the bottom line, so we will have to raise prices in April, and customers will bear the brunt of it, but the only way around it is creating the best experience possible for them,” said Gaitanos. “The market is very experience driven, and you don’t look at the bill as much if you have a great time.” The group also navigated the pandemic by flipping its Balham site into a dark kitchen and trialling takeaway and cook-at-home boxes, but have moved away from the format after finding it “far from lucrative”. Omicron also made it a tough start to 2022 for the business, with the first three weeks of January “absolutely dreadful”, after which it had its “best ever” final week of January. “Building a new site not knowing when you can open it was not ideal, but the response has been good so far,” said Large. The recent tube strike also resulted in the group’s quietest February day ever, and while a flexible return to the office means “40% less people coming to city centre venues”, weekends are still very busy. Gaitanos added: “We’re well ahead of where we first imagined we’d be in 2016, but a little bit behind the vision we had in 2018 due to covid.”
 
Laine to return to expansion trail with two new pubs: Laine Pub Company is to return to the expansion trail with the opening of two new sites, Propel has learned. The company will begin by opening its first new site in a number of years in its home city of Brighton & Hove. Laine has converted the former Boutique nightclub into the Oculist, which takes its name from the building once being home to a Victorian eye hospital. The pub will open on Thursday (17 March). Chief executive Gavin George told Propel: “We have converted Boutique into a pub that has two trading floors – one of them vaulted – two roof terraces, all day food and beverage and opening late. It’s an honour to restore this building on the edge of Brighton’s historic Lanes area. At the end of Boyce’s Street is the famous Hippodrome where the Beatles played, currently being lovely restored to its former glory and, along with the Oculist, brings exciting new propositions to Brighton’s night-time economy.” The decor will have a nod to the history of the building and the Oculist story. Laine is also opening a new site in the capital. The Spark House will open in the Walthamstow area next month after the company acquired the freehold of the building in January.

Pho to open in Plymouth: Vietnamese street food restaurant group is to open in Plymouth. Propel understands the TriSpan-backed business has secured a site at the Royal William Yard scheme in the Devon city for an opening later this year. It will join operators including Hub Box, Loungers, New World Trading Company and Le Bistrot Pierre at the development. The Patrick Marrinan-led company recently opened sites in Nottingham and Edinburgh, the latter marking its debut in Scotland. The 33-strong company will soon open a site in The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham.

Burger King to trial fully vegan flagship restaurant: Burger King is turning its flagship restaurant in London’s Leicester fully vegan for a month on a trial basis. The branch will go meat-free from today (Monday, 14 March) through to Sunday, 10 April – the first Burger King restaurant worldwide to do so. The menu will include 15 new options, among them a plant-based bacon double cheeseburger and vegan cheese and bacon burger, as well as vegan nuggets, fries, onion rings and ice cream. An all-vegan children’s menu will also be available. The company said if the concept is a success, it may permanently open more meat-free restaurants in the future. “We’re incredibly proud of our new meat-free menu,” said Katie Evans, of Burger King UK. “The limited-edition menu is a direct result of our focus on vegan and plant-based innovation, and goes hand in hand with our target of a 50% meat-free menu by 2030, as well as our commitment to sustainability and responsible business. We can’t think of a more fitting way to relaunch our new-look flagship in Leicester Square.”
 
Rekom UK reports trading ‘remains strong’ as debut Heidi’s site in Britain launches: Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK, has said trading has “remained strong” in 2022 as the business opened the debut site in Britain for Danish concept, Heidi’s Bier Bar. The après ski themed bar, which was first launched in Copenhagen in 2004 and now boasting 20 venues across Norway, Denmark and Finland, has opened in Cardiff. A further opening in Birmingham will follow later this spring. Rekom UK has invested £2m into the Cardiff site, which has created about 70 jobs. The building in Mill Lane spans three floors. The business said the launch of Heidi’s is the first major milestone in its growth and acquisition strategy, which will involve merging successful UK and Scandinavian concepts to both regions. Marks said: “Trading has remained strong for Rekom UK in 2022, and we are continuing to see high demand for nights out following a very difficult two-year period during the pandemic. As a result of our healthy performance, we are delighted to be in a position where we can grow our business and help to reinvigorate high streets across the UK’s towns and cities that have been impacted by the pandemic.” Heidi’s joins Rekom’s portfolio of 47 nightclubs and bars, made up of 22 brands, which include Pryzm, Atik, Fiction, Kuda and Cameo.
 
Berkeley Inns secures £3.22m loan to refinance business and acquire three freeholds of its pubs: Berkeley Inns has secured £3.22m to enable it to refinance existing high cost external loans and acquire the freeholds of three of the pubs it operates. The company, which operates five premium country pubs in rural Derbyshire, has been provided the funding by Cynergy Bank through the British Business Bank’s Recovery Loan Scheme. The loan was provided on flexible terms with an initial 12 months interest-only period and thereafter repayments modelled over a 24-year period. Howard Thacker, managing director of Berkeley Inns, said: “Our deal with Cynergy Bank has substantially improved our balance sheet, enhanced our cash flow, and consolidated our debt position.” Steve Crosswell, relationship director, Cynergy Bank, added: “Berkeley Inns now has the base from which to grow its wonderful estate of pubs, something we are keen to support.”

Greene King launches scheme to provide team members with grants of up to £5,000: Brewer and retailer Greene King is launching a new team member support scheme by offering a one-off grant of up to £5,000 for employees in most financial need. The long-term scheme has been designed to help team members experiencing an unexpected life emergency, such as threat of homelessness, loss of income due to sickness, relationship breakdown or bereavement, which could result in financial difficulties. The scheme will be managed independently by the Licensed Trade Charity on behalf of Greene King, where team members can access support through its helpline which is available round the clock. This follows the success of two covid-19 emergency funds launched by Greene King and managed by the Licensed Trade Charity, which supported team members experiencing financial shortfall while furloughed with essential shopping and retail vouchers. A total of £1.1m was distributed through these schemes, funded from a combination of voluntary salary sacrifices from the executive board and leadership team at Greene King and a company donation.
 
Store Group strengthens executive team as it prepares for expansion: Grocery store and hospitality hybrid, Store Group, has strengthened its executive team as it looks ahead to a year of expansion following a 100% growth in turnover over the last 12 months. Lee Rhodes joins the team as chief operating officer, bringing with him a wealth of experience from the senior leadership team at Sainsbury’s. Rhodes progressed within Sainsbury’s, working in store operations, developing customer offers and experience and leading change. He was also heavily involved in developing and growing the convenience presence, leading the development of the convenience range to match the demands of the local market. Rhodes heads up the entire operation at Store Group, shaping and developing the internal and external offer to support the continued growth and development of the brand. Meanwhile, Kevin Boyle has joined Store Group as its new chief financial officer, appointed to help achieve growth plans and build strong internal controls, systems and processes. The business now owns and operates eight venues across Greater Manchester, having launched three new sites in 2021. This year, the group already has two new sites in the pipeline with Kampus General Store expected to open in May in Manchester city centre and the brand’s third Foodhall site – and first in Cheshire – set to open in Northwich this summer. The team now has its sights set on Yorkshire. Mital Morar, founder of Store Group, said: “Lee and Kevin bring the perfect blend of experience to take the business to the next level. Together we are looking forward to delivering a considered expansion plan that will take the company in the right direction in a post-pandemic retail world.”
 
Proper Pubs tops KAM Media's Operator Managed Index: Proper Pubs, the operator managed platform of Hawthorn, has come top of the latest KAM Media Operator Managed Index (OMI). It outperformed other nationwide managed pub companies surveyed in 49 of the 59 categories, with an overall satisfaction score of 8.2 out of ten. Mark Brooke, Proper Pubs director, said: “These results are a ringing endorsement of what we set out to do when we developed the Proper Pubs platform. We’ve been able to build on the strong foundations of the original Hawthorn operator managed model and provide better support than ever for our operators. The Proper Pubs brand is all about giving our operators the freedom and confidence to support their customers and local community in whatever way they see fit and make their pub a place where the whole community feels welcome.” Proper Pubs was launched by Hawthorn in August 2021 and runs more than 140 community pubs across the UK.

Hub Box becomes official restaurant partner and sponsor of Somerset County Cricket Club: Hub Box, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, has become an official restaurant partner and official sponsor of Somerset County Cricket Club. Hub Box founder and chief executive, Richard Boon, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Somerset County Cricket Club. I’ve got many happy memories from my childhood down there with my dad. With restaurants located in many areas that Somerset County Cricket Club’s fans come from, it seemed a no-brainer in becoming part of the club’s family. Its commitment to striving for the best and being fiercely proud of its heritage are most certainly values that we share.” The ten-strong business is currently relocating its site in Plymouth to the Royal William Yard scheme in the city, which is expected to open ahead of Easter, and is planning to open another two to three sites in 2022, including one in Worthing, West Sussex.

Inn Collection Group to merge two Lancashire venues into single 99-bedroom site: The Inn Collection Group has been given the green light to merge two of its adjacent beachfront Lancashire venues into a single 99-bedroom site. Plans have been approved to redevelop The Lindum and The Carlton in Lytham St Annes into one venue that will include a family-friendly restaurant with 250 covers, plus a large outdoor seating terrace. Once complete, the venue will operate under The Inn Collection Group’s “Eat, Drink, Sleep and Explore” concept. Chris Moor, operations manager for The Inn Collection Group, said: “We are delighted plans have been given the go ahead and that work can now begin to give this site a vibrant new lease of life. The redevelopment is a major investment by The Inn Collection Group, which specialises in rejuvenating aspirational sites like this, while being careful to retain the individual character and appeal that makes our venues so distinctive.” The Inn Collection Group purchased The Lindum as its debut Lancashire site in 2020, followed by the acquisition of The Carlton in 2021. The group, which last month also go the go-ahead for the multimillion-pound redevelopment of its debut Tyneside venue, has 30 further pubs with rooms across the north of England and Wales. The group was last month bought by a new company, backed by the Harris family working with Kings Park Capital, in a £300m deal.
 
Flight Club opens in Cheltenham: Flight Club, the darts concept owned by Red Engine, has opened its ninth UK site, in Cheltenham’s Brewery Quarter. It’s a first town-based site for the concept, which operates venues in cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester, as well as overseas in the US and Australia. The new venue is home to nine oches and has space for 250 guests. Groups of 37 or more can also hire an event space for a tournament hosted by an expert gamesmaster. The food and beverage offer includes bespoke cocktails, sharing platters, pizzas and small plates, with brunch available from Thursday to Sunday. Chief executive and co-founder, Steve Moore, said: “It’s great to have opened Flight Club Cheltenham and bring some unexpected, ridiculous, joy to the already buzzing Brewery Quarter.” The business also last month secured a venue for its tenth UK site, in Cardiff, which will not only be its first in Wales, but also, at 16,327 square feet, biggest outside of London.
 
David Bowie-themed cocktail bar to launch in London next week: A cocktail bar inspired by legendary musician David Bowie will open in London’s Soho next week. The Thin White Duke, named after one of Bowie’s many personas, is a collaboration between set designer Sasha Almonte and musician Giovanni Almonte. Based in Great Windmill Street, it will officially open on Tuesday (15 March). It will offer an all-day cicchetti menu, Bowie-themed cocktails from Dav Eames and speciality coffee from Girls Who Grind, alongside members’ recording studio suites manned by an in-house engineer. Almonte said: “David Bowie was a lover of culture, made a home of the world, made a life that was far from oppressed or oppressive and we celebrate these values too. The Thin White Duke is a special, welcoming site in Soho, which we see as the epicentre of bohemian spirit and creativity in the UK music scene. We really want our guests to feel like they are entering not just another bar, but an immersive space – an inviting realm of surprise and inspiration.”
 
Mexican-born chef Adriana Cavita to launch long-awaited debut solo venture in May: Mexican-born chef Adriana Cavita is launching her long-awaited debut solo venture, in London in May. Cavita, who last year held a residency on the rooftop at The Dorchester, is launching her eponymous restaurant in Wigmore Street, Marylebone. The chef, who trained at some of the world’s top restaurants including El Bulli and Pujol, is putting together a menu that will be inspired by the flavours of her childhood and feature Mexican street food and large sharing plates. Dishes will include Pollo al Carbon – char-grilled corn-fed chicken, fresh herby verde mole with tomatillo and roasted poblano; and Puerto Nuevo lobster – crispy fried half lobster, ajillo sauce with garlic and mixed chillies, avocado and tomato salsa and black beans. The restaurant – which opens on Friday, 6 May ¬– will have a chef’s table as well as a downstairs standalone mezcal bar called Mayahuel, which will also have its own street entrance. Mayahuel will serve margaritas alongside snacking plates such as tuna tostada and esquites with added bone marrow. 
 
Chantelle Nicholson to open new Mayfair restaurant Apricity next month: Chef Chantelle Nicholson, who closed her Covent Garden restaurant Tredwells last year, will launch her latest venture, sustainability-focused restaurant Apricity, next month. Located in Duke Street and opening on Tuesday, 12 April, Apricity will continue the award-winning chef’s “commitment to running a socially conscious endeavour with her team of innovative and like-minded people, who share her values of a sustainable lifestyle”. This follows the success of her recent Hackney-based pandemic pop-up All’s Well, which was set up to preserve jobs, morale and positivity within the industry. Nicholson has worked closely with head chef, Eve Seemann, for a menu that will be centred around hyper-seasonal produce from small-scale farmers and locally foraged ingredients, with a zero-waste approach to cooking. Dishes will include Cornish mackerel with Shetland mussels, sambal butter and fennel, and venison with pickled walnuts, wild garlic and pickled rhubarb. There will also be menus dedicated to both British vegetable and seafood, while English and Welsh wine will sit alongside zero-waste cocktails, using juice and off-cuts from the kitchen, on the drinks list. As well as the main dining room, guests can also eat at a small terrace or a basement chefs’ table. Nicholson said: “Apricity, meaning the warmth of the sun in winter, is such an exciting opportunity for myself and my team. We can’t wait to hero the amazing growers and farmers within the UK, as well as partnering with other organisations that have an aligned ethos and culture.” 

National Chef of the Year finalist opens new restaurant in five-star Chester hotel, reports successful first week of trading: Elliot Hill, a National Chef of the Year finalist in 2021, has opened a new restaurant at five-star hotel The Chester Grosvenor, and reported a successful first week of trading. Hill is executive chef at Arkle, which has replaced its previous offering, Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor, following Radley’s departure in October. Having closed for a £250,000 refurbishment, the restaurant is now up and running under its new name and team, offering a tasting menu as its focal point, which is also available in vegetarian and plant-based options, Dishes include chicken en gelée, blanc of wild turbot, fillet of beef and Tatws Pum Munud – Hill’s take on a traditional Welsh dish. Hill was formerly head chef at both Panoramic 34 in Liverpool and Oddfellows in Chester, executive chef at The Park Tavern in Wandsworth and part of the opening team at Hotel Gotham in Manchester. His kitchen team is completed by head chef and The Chester Grosvenor veteran Raymond Booker, head pastry chef Declan O’Driscoll and senior sous chef Sam Griffiths. Richard Grove, general manager of the Chester Grosvenor, said: “We’ve had a fantastic opening week for the Arkle, with the reception and feedback from guests being extremely positive. It’s an exciting time at The Chester Grosvenor across our entire food offering.” The restaurant has held a Michelin star since 1990 but didn’t make this year’s guide due to its closure. Grove added: “With the Arkle now fully open and boasting a team that’s been immersed in our 30-year history of Michelin-standard fare, we are excited to be delivering the same exceptional standards of service and food for which we have always been known.”

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