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Fri 18th Mar 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Rekom seeing customers stay 20% longer with trade 15% up on pre-pandemic levels, removes discounts, targets ten openings in 2022: Rekom UK chief executive Peter Marks has told Propel people are staying up to 20% longer in its venues while trade is up about 15% on pre-pandemic levels. Marks also revealed the business has removed discounts, which has mitigated the need to put up prices for the time being. But he said businesses in the sector “needed to be brave” and pass on costs to the customer when needed. “As an industry we’ve spent so many years trying to absorb every possible cost and that has a major impact on margins and profitability,” said Marks. “But I think people are getting used to having higher prices and understand businesses need to pass that on. After two years of various lockdowns, people want to go out and are prepared to pay for the right experience. We are finding people are coming earlier and staying longer and that has been the real win for us and the main reason our gross margin has improved by 2%. Admission numbers have stayed relatively the same.” Last week, the company launched 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. Marks said the venue, which will eventually have capacity for 650 people when work on the outside area has finished, had got off to an “amazing start”. He said: “It was always the aim to get more into the ‘party’ market and we were starting to do that with Eden, but this has taken it to another level.” Marks said the concept is flexible on space so that has opened up the property market for the business. He added the company wants to find ten properties this year to put various brands in – five of which will probably be Heidi’s. A second UK site for the concept will open in Birmingham later this spring while another Rekom brand, pub/bar concept Proud Mary, will make its British debut, in Swansea. Marks also revealed Rekom was looking to take some of the UK concepts such as Przym and Atik to Finland in the next year. “Because we have been through the pain [of administration], it means we don’t have the debt that other operators do coming out the other side of the pandemic,” said Marks. “We have three areas in the way we are looking to grow. The first is rolling out these Rekom brands in the UK, the second is piecemeal acquisitions in a city so we can build a cluster of brands and the third is by acquiring larger groups where it makes sense for the business.” 
 

Industry News:

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book being sent to Premium subscribers today: The latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 18 March) at midday. The latest Blue Book sees a further 12 companies added, taking the number of UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured to 546. The Blue Book, which is updated monthly, shows the full damage done to the sector by the pandemic, with 348 companies making a combined loss of £7.6bn compared with 198 companies in profit – making a combined £828.9m. Losses now outstrip profits in the sector almost ten times over. Total turnover of the companies stands at £25.9bn. 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 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. In this week’s Premium Opinion column, John Welsh, managing director of Hickory’s Smokehouse, writes about the work that has gone into the business securing the number one spot in the 'Best Large Companies To Work For 2022” list. Sector analyst Simon Stenning also explores the complicated ‘menage a trois’ of rising inflation, menu costing and consumer acceptance. At the same time, Propel group editor Mark Wingett looks at the succession plan at Young’s and reflects on the impact of the past two years on the sector. 
 
Last chance to book for next Friday’s Propel Multi-Club Conference, the UK’s foremost food and beverage conference series, free places for operators: Today (Friday, 18 March) is the last chance for multi-site operators to book for the next Propel Multi-Club Conference, taking place next Friday (25 March). The full-day conference – Pivot and Profit – takes place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington. Operators of multi-site hospitality companies can book two free places each by emailing jo.charity@propelinfo.com. Speakers include Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners; Seton Leung, head of UK foodservice at NPD Group; Paul Campbell, sector investor and non-executive director at Hawksmoor, Vinoteca, Hickory’s, Blacklock, 200 Degrees and The Alchemist; Colin Hill, chief executive of Nando’s UK; Brandon Stephens, founder of Tortilla; James Shapland, co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, and new venture Coffi Lab; Jyotin Sethi, co-founder of JKS Restaurants; north east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston; Jonny Boud, founder of Kitchen Ventures; Tom Snellock, founder of Clays; and Mario Aleppo, founder of the fast-growing pizza brand Fireaway. There will also be a panel session hosted by Fleet Street Communications managing director Mark Stretton with James Hacon, global chief marketing officer at Mapal Group; Sol Schlagman, co-founder of Stint; Roland Horne, founder of WatchHouse; Kate Daines, chief people officer at PizzaExpress; and Brian Trollip, managing director at Dishoom; about solving the staffing, recruitment and retention crisis.
 
Propel Friday Wrap video series continues with Oakman Group management team: Propel’s Friday Wrap video series continues today (Friday, 18 March) at 3pm. The series, which is sponsored by Mr Yum, the mobile menu, ordering and payment platform used by leading hospitality and entertainment venues, sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel’s group editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by the management team of Oakman Group, including chairman Peter Borg-Neal and chief investment officer Steven Kenee, plus Steve Crosswell, of Cynergy Bank, to discuss life after the pandemic, funding models and the upcoming spring statement.
 
Yapster creates operational excellence mini video series, Megan’s operations director to feature: Yapster has created a mini video series focused entirely on operational excellence as part of its Take the Lead Series. In the fifth episode, chief executive Rob Liddiard talks to Christobell Harrington-Jones, who is currently leading a phase of rapid growth for all-day dining brand, Megan’s. She was originally a management graduate for Mitchells & Butlers and later an operations leader at various levels for Wagamama. Christobell explains why hard-charging operations leaders must take time to understand what made their brand special in the first place and have the self-discipline to deliver great customer experiences – and ultimately commercial success – through front-line colleagues. The video will be sent today (Friday, 18 March) at 9am
 
BBPA urges chancellor to provide long-term support to sector ahead of spring statement, with more than 800 pubs permanently shut during pandemic: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of the spring statement next week calling for long-term support for the sector to ensure a strong and sustainable recovery. The letter urges the government to mitigate the energy cost crisis through the extension of the energy price cap to small businesses and supply to joint residential and commercial premises; extend the lower VAT rate for food and drinks sold in pubs and the wider hospitality sector with a view to making this permanent; and to bring forward proposals for a fairer business rates system. A study by Oxford Economics has calculated that despite the significant government investment in the sector during covid, more than 800 pubs have shut permanently. As key financial support measures are now withdrawn, trading levels have still not returned to pre-pandemic levels, costs are rising sharply, and confidence among many pub goers remains fragile, the BBPA said. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “Our sector can deliver jobs and additional economic value in every part of the UK. We are at the heart of communities fostering social cohesion as we reconnect and recover. This is why we are calling on the government to heed the calls of our Long Live the Local campaign and support the sector during this energy crisis. Pre-covid, our businesses were already operating under tight margins due to the disproportionate tax burden that we face. As we come out of the pandemic it is crucial this is redressed to ensure business not only survives, but indeed returns to sustainable growth, which will in turn support the Levelling Up and High Streets agendas.”

Delivery and takeaway sales more than double pre-covid levels in February but growth slows: Britain’s managed restaurant and pub groups’ delivery and takeaway sales still run at more than twice the level seen before covid, the CGA & Slerp Hospitality at Home Tracker reveals, but trading has dipped from the peaks of early 2021. The latest edition of the Tracker shows that groups’ combined delivery and takeaway sales in February were 131% higher than in February 2019. This growth has been powered by delivery orders, which were nearly four times higher than three years ago, with eat-at-home sales accounting for around 26p in every pound spent with managed restaurant and pub groups in February 2022. However, February’s sales were 17% lower than in February 2021, when national lockdowns were in place, with the removal of covid restrictions this year leading more consumers to eat out instead of ordering in. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “As restrictions end and restaurants and pubs recover their eating-out sales, it’s not surprising to see a drop in deliveries and takeaways from the heights of last year’s lockdown. However, the ordering-in habits that consumers have established during the last two years are not going to disappear. People have grown accustomed to the convenience of hospitality at home, and this is now an established part of their repertoire of eating occasions.” Slerp founder, JP Then, added: “The hospitality sector has forever changed. The brands that not only survive, but thrive, are those who are able to bring their brand to their customers, wherever they are.”
 
Majority of consumers want visits to pubs and restaurants personalised: Four in five (80%) of consumers are seeking some form of personalisation when visiting pubs, bars and restaurants, according to a new report from hospitality tech company Zonal and industry data firms CGA and Airship. The Go Tech report shows while discounts and deals remain popular, other opportunities to drive sales and repeat visits through personalisation remain untapped. Of 5,000 consumers surveyed, it said 33% expect and 45% would like loyalty schemes and rewards, while 29% expect and 46% would welcome updates on their orders. Furthermore, 20% now expect to receive tailored recommendations and 19% personalised menus, while 44% and 43% respectively regard these as nice features to have. Other perks consumers would like include being able to sit at a favourite table without having to ask (17%) and details like balloons on a birthday (14%). The report also shows young people are far more likely than older people to be interested in personalised experiences, while women are more likely to engage with almost every aspect of personalisation than men and more inclined to share data. It went on to say almost half are prepared to tell venues about favourite drinks, birthday and gender, but are less likely to share information like home addresses and parental status. 
 
HOSPA gets new chairman: The Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA) has appointed Bob Silk as its new chairman, taking over from Chris Upton, who has stepped down after eight years in the role. Silk is relationship director with Barclays Bank’s hospitality and leisure team, where he specialises in funding multi-site hotel, restaurant and pub businesses. Jane Pendlebury, chief executive of HOSPA, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Bob as new chairman. He’ll bring a sense of renewed vigour to what we’re trying to achieve as an association. Chris has been an enormously important asset to HOSPA and has done an excellent job in expanding our remit in recent years. I’d like to put on record our immense gratitude for his contribution.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a start-up that is looking to expand within the Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire area and is looking to recruit a managing director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This is a position in the boutique hotel/licensed trade sector. The company currently has one site with two more in the pipeline, as it expands and diversifies. The venues serve quality food and creative cocktails, with five-star bedrooms attached.” The role has a salary package of £150,000 plus bonus and benefits. For more information and to apply, email stuart@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Hornby – recruitment still our biggest issue, trialling four-day week working pattern: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group and Wagamama and Brunning & Price operator, has said recruitment is still the company’s biggest issue, but its apprentice scheme and trial of a new four-day week pattern is helping the situation. Hornby told Propel: “There is no doubt that recruitment is still our biggest issue, but I think there are two things that are working best for us. One, and it is early days, is our apprenticeship scheme. We launched it last year with 240 new apprentices starting. They will typically end up with a minimum of five GCSEs and, depending on which course they’re on, most end up with a degree, often in chef skills or front of house/commercial skills. This year we are doubling that number and have 500 new apprentices. Obviously, the big joy of it is you’ve got to stay in two or even three years, depending which scheme you’re on, to graduate. So, it’s not just that it helps you recruit, but it also helps retain because they’re going to want to see it through. And then there is flexibility. I think what the pandemic taught people is that many are no longer prepared to work three weekends in four. And so, what we’re trialling is four-day weeks, so instead of doing 37.5 hours spread over five days, it is spread over four days. You are still working the same number of hours, and theoretically, it shouldn’t cost us any more as an employer. But it allows the employee to have three days off in a week rather than two, and I think that’s going to be critical for hospitality. I think the bigger issue is, if you get the rostering right, you can end up only having to work two Friday and Saturday nights a month instead of three. I really do believe it’s that doing three weekends a month which is a killer for your lifestyle. We started trialling it in our pubs first of all, and now we’re trialling it more widely.”

Flip Out begins buying back franchised stores, move will help increase Ebitda and boost profitability, new sites to start rolling out: Adventure park franchise group has started buying back its franchised stores in a process it says will increase Ebitda, cut costs and enhance its profitability. The first acquisition, which has now been completed, is for Flip Out Glasgow, the world’s largest trampoline centre, for an undisclosed sum. Richard Beese, Flip Out co-owner, said: “Flip Out Glasgow has been the highest-grossing store within the network year after year. This acquisition will make a significant contribution to an already strong group Ebitda, and now that it has become an owner-operated site, it will allow us to reduce costs and benefit from economies of scale. We will increase marketing spend to align with our aggressive drive throughout the portfolio this year, therefore significantly enhancing its profitability.” The group has lined up several other current franchise acquisitions this quarter, as well as continuing its rollout of new Flip Outs across the country and internationally in 2022 and 2023. Beese told Propel in October that sales at the 27-strong brand were “rocketing” since reopening after lockdown, and seven further sites were in legals, with a view to being built in 2022. Beese, who also co-founded adventure bar concept Boom: Battle Bar, also launched new crazy golf concept Putt Putt Noodle in December.

KFC UK & Ireland CFO Chris Drew promoted to global role: Chris Drew is to leave his role as chief finance officer at KFC UK & Ireland, to take up a global role with parent company Yum! Brands, Propel has learned. Drew has been chief finance officer at KFC UK & Ireland for the past five years, and with the chicken brand for almost eight years in total. He was also previously finance leader for KFC Central & Eastern Europe. A KFC spokesman told Propel: “After five great years as chief finance officer of KFC UK & Ireland, we’re pleased to announce Chris Drew has been appointed vice-president, strategy for Yum!” His successor as chief finance officer is set to be announced in due course. Drew’s departure follows closely after the company announced Paula MacKenzie had left the company after five years as its managing director for UK & Ireland to pursue a new role. Last week, it appointed Neil Piper, its current chief people officer, as interim managing director UK & Ireland.

Wendy’s lines up drive-thru site in Peterborough: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has lined up a further drive-thru site in the UK, in Peterborough. The company, which returned to the UK last summer, is set to join Taco Bell and Costa Coffee in opening drive-thrus on the former Royal Mail ParcelForce sorting and distribution site in the town. The business secured a drive-thru site in Colchester last year. At the same time, the business is set to return to Uxbridge, with an opening on the former Bonmarche unit in the town’s High Street. Earlier this month, the company said it plans to “build about ten restaurants in the UK in 2022”, and at the same time open circa 50 dark kitchen sites under its partnership with Reef. At the start of this month, the company opened its sixth restaurant here, in Brighton’s Western Road. It is thought the business is in talks to open further restaurants in Wood Green, Camden, Ilford and Maidstone, with Savills aiding the brand’s UK expansion. The business has so far opened six dark kitchen units with Reef.
 
Caring-backed businesses appoints Una O’Reilly as new group chief people, culture and sustainability officer: Una O’Reilly, formerly of Westfield and McArthurGlen Group, has been appointed group chief people, culture and sustainability officer across the Richard Caring-backed Ivy Collection, Bill’s Restaurants and Caprice Holdings, Propel has learned. Reilly joins the Caring-backed group of businesses after almost four years with Westfield, including three as group director engagement. Previous to that she spent five years as HR director at Westfield Europe. She also spent four years at McArthurGlen Group, including 12 months as its group HR director. 
 
Slim Chickens plans opening in the City: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) plans to open a further flagship site under the Slim Chickens brand in London, in the City. Propel understands BRG, which recently confirmed it will open a Slim Chickens on the former Shake Shack site in Cambridge Circus, is understood to be in talks to take on a unit at 224 Bishopsgate. It would become the brand’s fifth opening in the capital. Slim Chickens currently has 16 restaurants in locations across the country, including Bournemouth, Birmingham, Manchester, Gateshead, Exeter, Bristol and Cardiff, where the US brand made its UK debut. It recently opened in Guildford, where it is trialling the use of service robots. BRG is understood to also be in talks on a site in the White Rose Shopping scheme, in Leeds, and on openings in Plymouth and Brighton.
 
Chopstix adds to London estate as it builds openings pipeline: Chopstix, the pan-Asian noodle chain, has added a further site to its growing London estate, as it builds its openings pipeline for the coming months. Earlier this month, the Jon Lake-led business opened in Lewisham, which marked its ninth opening in the capital, and its 74th store in total. Propel understands Chopstix is currently on site in another four locations – Oxford, Glasgow, Canary Wharf and Middlebrook (Bolton) for openings this spring. Rob Burns, marketing director for Chopstix, said: “We have been looking forward to announcing the opening of the latest Chopstix store in London for a while. We have such a loyal set of customers in the London area, with our very first store being in London’s famous Oxford Street, so we’re thrilled to be able to open a store in the vibrant area of Lewisham.”
 
Greene King prison leavers employment scheme reaches 100-person landmark: Brewer and retailer Greene King’s Releasing Potential scheme has now helped 100 prison leavers find employment. Launched in 2019, the scheme gives those released on temporary licence or having completed their sentence the opportunity to join Greene King in a series of roles. Specialist training and support is given prior to their release, which also helps those selected prepare for life outside of custody. If a successful work trial and job interview is completed, the applicant is immediately offered a relevant role, which include front of house, back of house and housekeeping positions. Greene King now has a partnership with more than 35 prisons across the UK. Andrew Bush, chief people officer at Greene King, said: “We understand that everyone has a past, but regardless of background, we want to help people build a successful future in the hospitality industry. Releasing Potential isn’t just a one-off drive to help prison leavers, it’s a key focus for our business that will continue to grow and expand, supporting those in the prison system on their journey to a successful rehabilitation. We’re pleased 100 prison leavers have already joined the Greene King family and look forward to welcoming many more successful applicants in the coming months.” Greg Mangham, founder of hospitality charity Only A Pavement Away, added: “The work Greene King is doing is really making a difference. We know that a prison leaver who has a steady job is 87% less likely to re-offend.”
 
Pret to set up Ukrainian employment programme: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, is to set up a Ukrainian employment programme, which will help fast-track Ukrainians who want to come to the UK and are seeking work. The company said: “We're extending our legacy work in helping refugees into employment, helping to fast-track Ukrainians who want to come to the UK and are seeking work, and offering the emotional and financial support they may need.” The new programme will offer support such as one-to-one counselling, English tuition, vouchers to cover household items and assistance with housing. It follows a long heritage of the Pret Foundation taking on refugees, working with the likes of Cardinal Hume Centre. Over the last decade, Pret said it has employed refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Iran and Yemen.
 
New York coffee chain Blank Street plans UK expansion play: Blank Street Coffee, the fast-growing, New York-based chain, is to launch in the UK this June, with plans to make London its “second-biggest city”. According to Bloomberg, the first UK location for the business is set for Fitzrovia, near University College London. The company plans to open additional locations in quick succession in the area while expanding into the Marylebone neighbourhood. The chain was started in Williamsburg in summer 2020 by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha, and now has 29 sites around New York. The brand plans to have 100 locations in the city by the end of this year. It also plans to open two-dozen shops in the UK this year. “Our second-biggest city will be in London,” said Freiha, who grew up in the UK, and is a former managing partner at Reshape Ventures, a venture capital firm. Last year, the company raised $60m, including $25m in Series A Funding from General Catalyst Partners LLC and Tiger Global Management LLC, to fuel its expansion plans. Key to the Blank Street formula is to undersell its competitors. A Blank Street latte sells for $3.50; at Starbucks, a grande latte costs $4.95; at Dunkin’ Donuts, a medium latte goes for $4.29. “We’re about 25% to 35% cheaper than Starbucks on espresso,” said Menda. The price of a London latte hasn’t yet been determined. "I can tell you we'll serve high-quality specialty coffee, and our prices will be cheaper than Costa and either the same price or cheaper than Pret A Manger," said Menda. A further aspect of Blank Street’s formula is to sell its drinks out of small spaces with inexpensive rents, as well as from retro-styled trucks that could double as mini-Airstream trailers. Occasionally, it will share a space with another brand.
 
Merlin Entertainments strikes deal with Sony for Jumanji-themed experiences: Merlin Entertainments has secured an agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop and operate attractions, rides and themed hotel rooms based on the Jumanji film franchise across its theme parks and waterparks in Europe, including the UK, and North America. The first Jumanji experience to be launched will be a ride at Merlin’s Gardaland resort in Italy, with a second already in development at a different theme park for a 2023 launch. The Gardaland ride, which will feature the “pitfalls, surprises and dangers through the wild jungle”, will open in April and be complemented by the launch of fully themed Jumanji hotel bedrooms. The deal supports Merlin’s broader global strategy to work with leading brands across its global estate, with existing partnerships including Lego, Marvel, Peppa Pig and CBeebies. It also further builds on Merlin’s successful relationship with Sony, which has already seen the previous roll out of Ghostbusters themed experiences at Heide Park in Germany and Madame Tussauds New York. Mark Fisher, chief development officer for Merlin Entertainments, said: “We are excited to be taking our relationship with Sony to the next level with this strategic partnership. Our team are already hard at work developing brilliant creative concepts which will bring to life the Jumanji film across our theme parks and waterparks.”  Merlin runs more than 135 tourist attractions in 24 countries across Europe, America, Asia and Oceania.
 
Genting returns to pre-tax profit as revenue soars: Birmingham-based casino operator Genting has reported pre-tax profits of £15.8m for the year to 31 December 2021, up from losses of £145m in 2020. The accounts also show revenue climbed from £102.2m to £178m over the same period. The company owns 55 of the 154 operating UK casino licences as of 31 December 2021, in addition to a casino in Cairo, and its portfolio includes Resorts World Birmingham, comprising a casino, 182-room hotel and spa, leisure facilities and a range of bars and restaurants. During the period, Genting closed its online gaming operation and partnered with a white-label operator to provide online gaming under the Genting brand. The business also sold its wholly owned subsidiary, Authentic Gaming, for £37m. A statement accompanying the accounts said: “The UK casino and hospitality industries continued to face an unprecedented challenge in 2021 due to the ongoing global covid-19 pandemic. Land-based operations for Genting UK, which represented more than 90% of revenue, were mandated to close until the second quarter as the UK entered a second national lockdown. Upon reopening in May, our UK casino divisions performed strongly, with a rapid return of revenues and increased profitability.”
 
Ma Pub Group to open third Liverpool site: Independent Liverpool bar operator Ma Pub Group is opening its third site in the city. Following a £250,000 investment, the group, which is headed by operator Iain Hoskins, is launching Nova Scotia in the Mann Island building. Due to open in May, the venue will feature a restaurant and bar and extensive outside space. The opening follows on from Ma Boyle’s Alehouse and Eatery and the Tempest on Tithebarn, which opened in May last year. Hoskins said: “Mann Island is a perfect fit for us. Operating two neighbouring bars locally, we know the area very well. With our other two sites, we’ve found the perfect balance appealing to the business district footfall, local residents and tourists. We plan to build on our track record at Ma Boyle’s and Tempest, enhancing their localities and encouraging other businesses to follow suit.” The new venue takes its name from the area around the Dock at Mann Island which was once known as Nova Scotia. Hoskins said his other two venues are busy again, and the sense of optimism is returning across the city region.
 
Sicilian restaurateur to open all-day artisan Italian bakery and restaurant in Putney: Sicilian restaurateur Giuseppe Tuttoilmondo is to open an all-day artisan Italian bakery and restaurant in Putney, south west London. Soffice, which launches on Saturday, 2 April, will offer a Sicilian-style dining experience with a modern and contemporary twist. The 58-cover restaurant in Upper Richmond Road will be set across two floors – a ground floor and a mezzanine – with a few additional spaces on the outdoor patio. Guests can also enjoy an “open kitchen” experience in the basement. The all-day menu will feature a selection of antipasti, charcuterie, fresh pasta, pizza, pan brioche stuffed with fresh ingredients, sweet pastries and desserts. The bakery will also serve speciality roasted coffee, cocktails, craft beer and wine from Sicily and various regions in Italy. Tuttoilmondo, who has more than 20 years’ global experience in the hospitality industry, including management roles at Norma London, D&D London and Zelman Meats, came up with the concept for Soffice during the pandemic. He said: “Soffice is a one-of-a-kind culinary adventure aiming to pioneer our ‘gastro-bakery’ offer in London. We hope to serve our guests a range of thoughtful and surprising dishes rooted in authenticity and sustainability, while enabling them to explore a new breed of Sicilian cuisine.”
 
Butchies to open Ealing Filmworks site next month: London-based chicken sandwich concept Butchies, which is chaired by Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, will open at Ealing Filmworks next month. Taking its place in the development alongside a branch of Japanese ramen restaurant Kanada-Ya and a new Picturehouse cinema, Butchies will open on Saturday, 2 April. Featuring an outdoor terrace with seating for 20, the Ealing restaurant, which will have room for 45 diners inside, will be Butchies’ sixth and its biggest yet. Founder Garrett Fitzgerald said: “We’ve come so far from our pop-up days, but our mission to serve the best buttermilk fried chicken sandwich in the world is still the same as it’s always been. We cannot wait to spread the Butchies love in Ealing.” A further Butchies opening at London’s Borough Yards is planned for this summer. Butchies also launched new sites in Earls Court and Market Halls Victoria last year, and is understood to be planning an opening at Market Halls West End. It also has sites in Clapham and Shoreditch.

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