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Tue 22nd Mar 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Chotto Matte wants to expand to 20 venues over next five years, close to signing for Manchester site: Chotto Matte, founded by Kurt Zdesar, wants to expand its brand – which is set to open its fourth venue next month – to 20 sites over the next five years. Founded in 2013 by Zdesar, former Nobu European director and consultant for Hakkasan, the brand has a flagship restaurant in Soho as well as overseas sites in Miami and Toronto. It is set to launch in London’s Marylebone in late April, ahead of further pipeline openings in the US and Middle East. The group’s global executive chef, Jordan Sclare, who will be leading up the menu at the Marylebone site, told Propel: “We came out of covid very strong, and where other restaurants have been closing, we’re looking to open. We’re looking at Mexico, Panama and Italy, as well as Dallas and Philadelphia in the US. We have also looked at sites for Manchester and are very close to signing, it would be built from scratch and include a new hotel. We’ve had a rethink of how we expand and keep the same quality, and now we want to grow Chotto Matte to 20 sites in the next five years. We never expected back in 2013 for it to be so successful, but we’ve been packed since. We’re very big on customers getting an experience above and beyond their expectations, and enjoying immersive, elevated dining that is great value for what it offers. We’ve evolved the menu and added a vegan section that isn’t merely a trend, but food that non-vegan people want to eat too.” Indeed, the new Marylebone site will feature new dishes exclusive to the venue, including “new luxury items” with new types of wild fish and truffle. The group also sees the Marylebone site as an opportunity to showcase its offering to a new clientele ahead of openings in the Middle East. Sclare said: “Doha will be the next opening, and Riyadh too this year. San Francisco will also be this year, followed by Nashville and Los Angeles.” Sclare said Chotto Matte kept going through the pandemic by offering DIY boxes and parties for ten, “to keep the name alive”, whereby ingredients would be sent out and live cookery sessions followed on Zoom. “As soon as we reopened, we had our busiest year in every location,” he added. “Not just in revenue, but footfall too. We broke records in revenue and covers. Omicron didn’t really affect our London site – Toronto had to close and then go to 50% capacity – but we’re now back to normal and we’re so pleased.”
 

Industry News:

Host of hotel companies set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A host of hotel companies are among the 69 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 1 April, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features UK budget hotel operator Sleeperz, which currently operates four sites in Cardiff, Dundee and Newcastle along with a Cityroomz site in Edinburgh. Also added this month is Royal London Lancaster Hotel Group, which is owned by Jatuporn Sihanatkathakul, and operates the Royal London Lancaster hotel, The Landmark London in Marylebone, K West Hotel & Spa in Shepherd’s Bush, the 15 Basil Street apartments in Knightsbridge and two hotels in Thailand. In addition, hotel management and development company 4C Hotel Group, which is led by Al-karim Nathoo, and currently operates eight sites, will be featured. Also included is Brook Hotels, which is chaired by Umesh Ummat, and has sites in Chester, Colchester, Oakham and Sutton Coldfield. Premium subscribers will also receive a 5,100-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and 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. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the eighth edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 8 April, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The eighth edition also includes a 15,500-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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.
 
Sunak ‘considering freezing rate of VAT for hospitality’ as spring statement looms: Chancellor Rishi Sunak is believed to be examining the possibility of freezing the current rate of VAT for hospitality at 12.5%. The government announced a temporary reduction to 5% for the sector in July 2020 to help it recover from the ravages of the pandemic, which then rose to 12.5% in September 2021 and is due to return to 20% next month. Industry leaders including UKHospitality have long been campaigning for VAT to be kept at 12.5% for the sector, to safeguard a future for hundreds of thousands of businesses already struggling to recover from lockdown restrictions and facing rising costs in food, fuel and wages. Sunak is set to deliver his spring statement on Wednesday (23 March) and, according to the Daily Mail, is considering throwing pubs, bars and restaurants a lifeline. The chancellor is also poised to temporarily take 5p off a litre off fuel duty – currently 58p – to counteract a rise in pump prices while oil prices are abnormally high, according to the report. It said Sunak had originally hoped to avoid major spending measures in his mini-Budget but is now considering changes in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and impact of sanctions on the global economy. Another fear for hospitality operators is the current cost-of-living crisis will make people less inclined to eat and drink out. Senior Conservatives have urged Sunak to go further in tackling the crisis, with former minister, Sir John Redwood, saying: “Taking a bit off petrol and diesel is fine and welcome, but if that’s all there is it will be too little, too late. We are facing a very big cost-of-living squeeze – perhaps the biggest of our lifetimes – and we need to be cutting taxes now to relieve that pressure.”
 
Liberum – we expect consumer demand to remain resilient despite inflationary pressures, number of casual dining outlets down 17%: Liberum leisure analysts Anna Barnfather and Andrew Wilkinson have argued they expect consumer demand to remain resilient despite inflationary pressures, with a reduction in supply “helping to rebalance the equation”. They stated: “In particular, we expect the more experiential focused operators to outperform as consumer priorities are reset. Office for National Statistics spending data shows a decline in ‘delayable’ and increase in ‘social’ expenditure as UK consumers prioritise experiences, which should cushion recessionary impacts. The number of casual dining outlets has fallen 17% with survivors taking share, cushioning them against a drop in consumer confidence.” Barnfather and Wilkinson said their current expectation is daily commuting will remain circa 20% down on pre-pandemic levels, equivalent to one day a week on average, meaning a permanent shift of demand to the suburbs. They added that should help operators such as Loungers maintain their momentum. Additionally, the rise of food delivery offers an incremental revenue channel for select winners, the analysts said. The addition of this channel, with limited apparent substitution for dine-in, “could leave several operators more profitable than before covid”. They added: “Clearly some operators are better placed that others, depending on cuisine type and price point, but generally we expect branded restaurants at the fast-casual end of the spectrum with less generic cuisine types to be the main beneficiaries. In the quoted arena, this includes The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) pan-Asian Wagamama and Tortilla Mexican Grill, which should sustain delivery sales at twice pre pandemic levels on a per site level.” While wage inflation has fallen back in recent months, Barnfather and Wilkinson said it looks set to remain above its long-term average in 2022 due to the combination of an increase in living wage, reduced overseas workforce and challenges in attracting talent into the industry. They added: “We believe the sector as a whole offers value but highlight Hollywood Bowl, City Pub Group, The Gym Group, Loungers, TRG, SSP and Ten Entertainment as particularly attractive.”
 
Night-time businesses reaching ‘tipping point’ and at the mercy of chancellor’s spring statement: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has warned that many cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs across the UK face closure without critical support from the government. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is facing mounting pressure to cut taxes, particularly around VAT, fuel and energy, as he prepares to announce his spring statement on Wednesday (23 March). The NTIA said businesses across the night-time economy have seen cost inflation soar over the last few months, with many relying heavily on the spring statement to alleviate financial pressures. They now face rocketing energy and insurance bills, with even small premises seeing prices double or treble compared with previous contract rates, costing them up to £60,000 extra per year. As more and more businesses fall out of their energy contract, renew insurance policies and take on increasing operating costs each month, up to 50% of night-time businesses could reach a tipping point in the next 12 months, said the NTIA. “We must now rely on the chancellor, once again, in his mini budget, to shore up the financial support and relief to allow headroom for businesses to survive, in light of the current debt levels and cost inflation, specifically around VAT, energy and fuel,” said chief executive, Michael Kill. “Billions of pounds in public funding will be wasted if the chancellor lifts taxes within the budget, crippling an industry that has worked hard to survive, only to be let down at the last hurdle. The rhetoric from government of ‘leave no one behind’ is becoming a distant memory for businesses that committed to supporting the government’s public health strategy but have been left, once again, awaiting their fate.”
 
MPs warn 20,000 pubs at risk unless government urgently reviews ‘draconian’ business rates: A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG) of MPs has warned 20,000 pubs are at risk unless the government urgently addresses the business rates inequity. The report, produced by the APPBG with evidence from a cross section of sector leaders, notes pubs contribute 2.5% of the total tax collected in business rates but generate less than 0.5% of rateable turnover – which equates to an overpayment of £570m every year. Furthermore, due to an ever-increasing “multiplier” since the tax was introduced in 1990, business rates are now one of the biggest fixed overheads faced by pubs. The report said the average pub pays 3% of its turnover in rates alone while Amazon only paid 2% on its 2020 turnover of almost £21bn – calling the tax on bricks and mortar “outdated”. It also noted pubs are being further hit by an “opaque and esoteric system” for determining rates bills. The group is now making several key recommendations to the government. These include swift measures to introduce an online sales tax, so the digital sector bears its fair share of the burden, and a new and specific rates multiplier for pubs to reflect the wider contribution they make in sustaining their communities. Mike Wood, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “Urgent action is needed, and I call on the chancellor to help us level the playing field and turn back the clock on years of stealth increases to business rates that threaten to bring a sector so critical to economic and social recovery to its knees.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “Business rates in its current form is a fundamentally unfair tax for pubs and the wider hospitality sector. It actively works against government’s levelling up agenda by suppressing and deterring investment in skills and local communities. There must also be a fully functioning infrastructure to ensure that valuations are accurate and that appeals are accessible.”
 
Burger King and McDonald’s franchisees remain open in Russia, RBI boss admits he’s powerless to act: Rogue McDonald’s and Burger King franchisees in Russia are refusing to close, despite their parent companies pledging to temporarily shut down operations in the country over its invasion of Ukraine. Those refusing to shut include one Burger King franchisee that owns and operates all 800 of the company’s Russian locations. Burger King owners, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), currently has three joint venture agreements in Russia controlled by Alexander Kolobov, while RBI only has a 15% stake in his restaurants. In an open letter to employees, RBI president David Shear said the company would need Russian authorities to intervene in order to shut the franchised Burger Kings. “When master franchise agreements and joint ventures are formed, there are extensive commitments to long-term investments and accountabilities to grow the business together,” Shear said. “There are no legal clauses that allow us to unilaterally change the contract or allow any one of the partners to simply walk away or overturn the entire agreement. Would we like to suspend all Burger King operations immediately in Russia? Yes. Are we able to enforce a suspension of operations today? No. But we want to be transparent with our actions and explain the steps we have taken to stand with the international business community in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its people.” Shear said the company is in the process of disposing its stake in the business and is asking for Russian intervention to shut down the majority franchise-owned stores, but it is not likely this will happen anytime soon. Russian prosecutors warned last week the country would consider “bringing in outside management” and transferring ownership of the companies – which is being seen as a first step towards them becoming state-owned. Video footage has also emerged from Russia of McDonald’s franchises remaining open, despite the stance taken by its parent company.
 
Restaurants unite to provide employment for Ukrainian refugees: Restaurants have come together to provide employment for Ukrainian refugees seeking work as they arrive in the UK. Burger & Lobster has laid plans to develop Hospitalityforall.co.uk with the aim of speeding up the recruitment process for refugees seeking work. Hospitality businesses that have already signed up include Wahaca, Franco Manca, The Cinnamon Collection, Pizza Pilgrims, Goodman, Zelman Meats, Beast Restaurant, Sumi, Neyba and Miguel’s Pizza. Hospitality For All will take the form of an applicant-first hospitality-focused recruitment website where brands can post available jobs for refugees. It enables those looking for employment to submit one simple application form for a variety of industry vacancies. Applications will be shared across the consortium's recruitment teams. Head of people at Burger & Lobster, Alex Sheekey, said: “Our industry has always welcomed people from different nationalities, skill sets and backgrounds, and this is another example of our sector doing what it does best. We wanted to open our doors to help those in crisis, but recognise the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We’re a powerful sector when we come together, and we thank those operators who have signed-up and welcome future partners to join us in this cause.”
 
Molson Coors director becomes new SBPA president: Andrew Lawrence, strategy director at Molson Coors, has been appointed the new president of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA). Lawrence will take over from Edith Monfries, of Hawthorn, and join vice-president, Paul Wishart, of Greene King, and chief executive, Emma McClarkin, in overseeing the continued growth of the association. Lawrence said: “Working together as a group and with other trade bodies will be critical to our recovery from the pandemic, and so I am looking forward to supporting SBPA members to achieve the very best for our sector.” McClarkin added: “As our industry recovers from the pandemic, we need industry expertise and passion for our cause more than ever, and I am confident Andrew will provide just that.” The appointment follows the release of a new report by Oxford Economics, which revealed that Scotland’s beer and pub industry supports almost 62,000 jobs and contributes £1.75bn to the national economy every year.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a street food concept in London that is looking for a digital marketing manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “Key responsibilities for the role will include delivering a blend of structured annual plans with the ability to react to tactical business needs, launching new concepts with well-planned campaigns and working with the team to deliver multi-channel campaigns that reach and excite target audiences. The company is looking to speak to people with more than three years’ experience in digital marketing, particularly strong experience in producing and deploying strategic marketing plans. The individual should be able to build the strategy of the digital campaign and coordinate projects while also being creative and have excellent analytical abilities.” The role is London based with hybrid/flexible working available and the salary is circa £50,000. For more information and to apply, email Abbie@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

KFC UK & Ireland appoints Lucy Taylor as new COO: KFC UK & Ireland has appointed Lucy Taylor as its new chief operations officer, Propel has learned. Taylor joins from its parent company Yum! Brands, where she has worked for the past 11 years. For the past eight years, Taylor has been chief operating officer for KFC in the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey. Meanwhile, Jenny Packwood has been promoted to chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at the brand. Packwood has been with KFC UK & Ireland for more than 13 years and, until recently, was its director for responsibility and reputation. Neil Piper, interim managing director of KFC UK & Ireland, said: “Both Lucy and Jenny bring almost 30 years of KFC knowledge to our team between them, and we all get to benefit from their leadership as they’ll steward two of our most critical agendas; our team and customer experience and our brand reputation and sustainability strategies respectively. Having known Lucy and Jenny for well over a decade, I can also say how proud we are to have such inspiring leaders making a difference to our whole organisation, as aspirational role models to our female talent and as people who make our company culture better for everyone, every day.” Taylor replaces Rob Swain, who became chief operating officer for KFC Global, earlier this year. Earlier this month, KFC announced Paula MacKenzie had left the company after five years as its managing director for UK & Ireland to pursue a new role. Subsequently, it appointed Neil Piper, previously its chief people officer, as interim managing director UK & Ireland. Propel revealed last week that Chris Drew was to leave his role as chief finance officer at KFC UK & Ireland, to take up a global role with parent company Yum! Brands. 
 
Dorbiere stays profitable despite covid challenges after disposing of ‘underperforming’ pubs: Manchester-based pub operator Dorbiere, which operates circa 40 pubs around the north west, north east and Midlands, stayed profitable last year, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, after disposing of two “underperforming” pubs. Its accounts for the year ending 30 September 2021 showed a £1.6m profit – the same as in 2020 – despite a drop in turnover from £9.3m in 2020 to £7.1m. A statement accompanying the accounts said: “For the second year running, the company has faced unprecedented challenges due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The main focus of the business in the short term was to manage the continued impact on the business. During the year, the company disposed of two underperforming outlets, thus releasing further funds to acquire more profitable replacements. We expect turnover in the financial year 2021-2022 to return to normal levels last seen in the 2018-2019 statements. This, together with improved margin and cost control, will combine to maintain current company profitability.” The company also took the decision to furlough all but a skeleton team of staff while its pubs were closed and received £1.5m in job retention scheme and other covid-related government grants. The statement concluded: “The ongoing business is secure, solvent and has access to funds if necessary.”
 
We Are Bar Group reports slow trading since reopening in January, full-year turnover more than halved and losses doubled: We Are Bar Group, a collective of bars, pubs and restaurants in London, has said trade has been slow since reopening in January following the ending of Omicron restrictions. The company made the statement in its accounts for the year ending 27 September 2020, in which turnover more than halved and losses more than doubled compared with the year before. Turnover was down to £3m from £6.8m, while pre-tax losses rose from £63,000 to £1.4m. The period saw the group reduce its footprint from nine venues – with one lease taken on, one coming to an end, one terminated and a further venue vacated after being given notice by the landlord after a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) was entered into in November 2020. As the first lockdowns hit, the group found itself unable to access the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Bounce Back Loans or make a business interruption claim, and so found itself “wholly supported by its shareholders”. It received an interest free unsecured loan of £56,000 from Hector Capital, taking its total interest free unsecured loan to £355,000, and undertook a restructuring of its debt, after which all shareholder loans became redeemable on 31 December 2025. In November 2020, in the period following the accounts, We Are Group entered into a CVA that requires it to pay £600,000 over five years. A statement looking at further post-balance sheet events said: “The group reopened its venues in September/October 2021 into a quiet trading environment as a result of significantly reduced footfall in the City of London. Trading gradually improved through to December 2021, but customer demand was devastated two weeks before Christmas as a result of government pronouncements, and all venues were closed shortly thereafter. Trading since reopening in January 2022 has again proved to be slow.”
 
Real Eating Company appoints Brian Gillan as new operations director: Real Eating Company, the independent cafe and coffee concept led by Helena Hudson, has appointed Brian Gillan, formerly of Wagamama, Honest Burgers and Nando’s, as its new operations director, Propel has learned. Gillan joins the nine-strong business after two years as operations director at Honest Burgers. Prior to that, he spent 18 months as regional director at Wagamama, having previously been operations director at Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho and held various roles at Nando’s. The company, which was founded by Hudson in 2004, plans to open further sites “in desirable locations”, including expanding its footprint in the capital. It plans to grow to 25 sites over the next three years.
 
Five Guys adds a further four sites to 2022 openings pipeline: Better burger brand Five Guys has added a further four sites to its openings pipeline in the UK for this year. The 136-strong brand, which earlier this month secured a further flagship site in the capital in Marylebone, is understood to have secured sites in Cheshunt, Cardiff, Staines and Tamworth. The Cheshunt site will open on the Brookfield Park retail park, while the brand’s third site in the Welsh capital will open in Newport Road. Propel understands the Tamworth site will open on the Ventura Park scheme. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Five Guys had acquired the former Pelican State site in Wigmore Street, Marylebone, for an opening later this year. The business, which is backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has also lined up openings in Tunbridge Wells and the Scotch Corner Designer Village, off the A1 near Richmond. It will open its next site in the UK, in Manchester Piccadilly, next Monday (28 March). Last year, Five Guys chief executive John Eckbert told Propel the diversity of the better burger brand’s consumer base provided it with further growth opportunities, and the business has “a clear shot to 250 to 300 stores” in the UK. At the end of 2021, the brand made its first move into the delivery kitchen segment with the opening of two trial sites in London, with Deliveroo Editions, in Brent Cross and Dulwich.
 
Neat Burger looking to make a regional debut early next year: Zack Bishti, co-founder and chief executive of Neat Burger, the Lewis Hamilton-backed plant-based concept, has told Propel the brand will look to make its regional debut in the UK at the beginning of next year. He said the business would look at using dark kitchens and delivery points, as “kind of data points to leverage growth”. He said the company would ideally look to open five delivery kitchens for every bricks-and-mortar site in a “hub and spokes” approach to expansion. He told Propel: “To give you context to that, before we opened our Canary Wharf and Bishopsgate sites, we had dark kitchens there that were performing really, really well. And for us, that's just a risk-free indicator of the health of our growth strategy – low capex, great way to test the market, and they are great brand builders.” The company previously operated a dark kitchen site in Reading. Bishti said: “This was a perfect example of how we use them to understand the market. And what we learned from the Reading site was actually you really benefit from having a bricks-and-mortar presence as well. Because what we’ve seen is dark kitchens tend to perform a lot better when you have real world presence, and I think that says a lot about the kind of state of the industry today and virtual brands – you need that two-pronged attack.” He said the group’s plans to launch overseas were “developing really well” and more news would follow later this year. The brand’s international expansion will be a combination of both company-owned and franchise sites across territories. Bishti said the brand’s next opening, in London’s King’s Road, its ninth in total, will be a “big deal for us”. He said: “We’re opening up our new product development facilities there, as well as kind of experiential tasting room. I think what we’re also looking to do is pilot some of our groceries, and possibly work our way up to a prestige listing. What we’ve seen now is a 15 to 16-week uptrend. The world is coming back.”
 
Former company behind Gosforth’s Casa San Lorenzo owed £1.5m as it went into administration: The company behind Italian restaurant Casa San Lorenzo in Gosforth went into administration owing £1.5m to creditors, including £350,000 to one shareholder and investor. An administrators’ report shows San Lorenzo North East – owned by Kevin Pattison and Susan Walker – owed more than £438,000 to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and more than £241,000 to unsecured trade creditors including local food suppliers. Walker, the minority co-owner and investor, was owed £350,000. Staff at both Lorenzo’s Gosforth and Washington restaurants were owed more than £19,000 in pay, pension contributions and holiday pay and administrators said they were expected to receive a “very modest” dividend. Administrators at FRP said it was likely that secondary preferential creditors – including HMRC – and unsecured creditors would not receive a dividend. Earlier this month, part of the business – including Casa San Lorenzo Gosforth and its adjoining restaurant The Lounge – was sold out of administration, saving 15 jobs. But documents show even before the impact of the pandemic, the business made a loss of £163,000 in the year to the end of March 2020, and directors had used short-term lenders to prop up the business. More than £9,000 and £75,626 are owed to IWOCA and 365 Finance respectively. Following closures brought about by pandemic restrictions, and poor trading between lockdowns, the business fell into significant arrears with utility providers, who threatened legal action and cut off energy to Lorenzo’s Washington restaurant, which was closed shortly before Christmas 2021 and 15 staff made redundant. At the beginning of February, the business – including all three restaurants in Gosforth and Washington – was put up for sale and seven offers were received, including two from connected parties that were rejected by administrators and the landlord. Geoff Knowles, a barrister at Cathedral Chambers in Newcastle and a long-time customer of the Gosforth restaurant, bought the leaseholds and fittings of both Gosforth restaurants for just under £70,000.
 
BrewDog – 12 sites under construction and three more starting imminently: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has said the business currently has 12 sites under construction, with three more due to start imminently. The company is set for further expansion in the UK, with openings in London’s Waterloo, Basingstoke and Hull. Overseas, the group is opening in Atlanta, Berlin, Brisbane, Cork, Las Vegas, Paris and three sites in India. Meanwhile, work will start shortly on bars in Durham, Ipswich and Lincoln. Writing on LinkedIn, Watt said: “We are all systems go in 2022.”
 
JKS Restaurants reveals F&B line-up for Arcade Food Hall relaunch: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, has revealed the food and beverage line up for its relaunch of the Arcade Food Hall on Friday, 22 April. The 12,500 square-foot Centre Point-based venue has been closed since the start of the pandemic, just eight months after it first opened. It will now have a whole new group of chefs and operators spread over eight kitchens, including two concepts from chef Luke Farrell – Thai restaurant, Plaza Khao Gaeng, and Indonesian street food brand Bebek!Bebek. There will also be a standalone bar and an outdoor dining terrace. The line-up will include North Indian concept Hero Indian Fast Food; Middle Eastern shawarma kitchen Shatta & Toum; American diner-style outlet Manna; day-to-night deli Arcade Provisions; Japanese sushi and omakase experience Sushi Kamon; Michelin-starred Sabor’s little sister Saborcito and Benham & Froud Jelladrome from food art studio Bombas & Parr. Drinks at the central bar will use ingredients that mirror the flavours of the kitchens, and there will be a calendar of art, events and music. Guests will be able to order direct-to-table from each of the restaurants, kitchens and bar via QR codes on their menus, and group bookings are available. Karam Sethi said: “Over the last 15 months, we’ve been working to create the nine new brands that will open at Arcade Food Hall. All the brands share the same hallmarks as our classic JKS brands – they’re fun, accessible, vibrant and serve food that is familiar but original. All the dishes created are unique to Centre Point. We hope to raise the bar in terms of food hall experience in London.” 
 
Abuelo team to open new bar and cafe concept in Covent Garden: The mother and daughter behind Abuelo, the Antipodean-meets-South American coffee house in Covent Garden, are launching a new bar and cafe concept in the London neighbourhood. Lyneet and Cloe De La Vega are opening Uncle Zorro in Bedford Street this spring. The ground floor will feature a mini cafe with through-the-window street service and some internal seating, beneath which customers can discover a 40-seat bar. The upstairs cafe will focus on takeaway, with gourmet salads and hot sandwiches available alongside the group’s specialty coffee and a selection of iced drinks. Downstairs will be a hidden basement bar, serving a curated wine list and classic cocktail selection. The menu will feature a selection of Australian wine alongside natural and biodynamic wine from new and interesting producers around the world. The bar will also serve a full cheese toastie menu as well as sharing plates. Cloe said: “Our approach to hospitality focuses on creating experiences and atmospheres through design, and we believe in meeting this with informal service and food style that feels cosy and friendly.” Abuelo opened in Southampton Street in 2018. The De La Vegas also operated Mama Fuego in North Greenwich, but that has permanently closed. 

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