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Fri 25th Mar 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Iberica in final stages of refinancing after exiting CVA two years early, set to return to expansion trail with first international site: Spanish restaurant group Iberica is in the final stages of a refinancing after exiting its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) two years early and is set to return to the expansion trail with its first site overseas. Managing director Marcos Fernandez Pardo told Propel he is bullish about the future of the business, which has managed to remain Ebitda positive during the pandemic. Iberica, which operates five restaurants in London and one in Leeds, underwent a CVA in September 2020 after rent levels took their toll on the business, leading to the closure of its Manchester and Glasgow outlets. But Pardo said he was now looking forward to the next stage of Iberica’s growth, with its first international site set to open. “We’re in the final stages of refinancing with Santander for the next three years for our UK operation as well as working on a wider refinance with Spanish institutions as we start to look at expanding again and we’re working on a restaurant in Majorca,” Pardo said. “We’d certainly look at other UK sites but we want to spread our wings and not have all our eggs in one basket by being in one country. London is still the city that is the bridge to the world. Trade is solid – London is quite a resilient city and there is a desire from people to go out and socialise again.” Pardo said cost pressures meant the business would have to put up its prices between 2% to 5%, but he said its offer still represented good value for money. “We need to do it because we want to make sure we can pay our staff a decent wage as well as meet our costs,” he added. “We’ve worked hard to improve our efficiencies and make sure we maximise our offer. All that along with the positive trade we are experiencing has allowed us to exit the CVA early. One silver lining of the pandemic has been we’ve been able to create a strong e-commerce business. We did £1m last year and we’re hoping to increase that to £1.5m in 2022. We’re also in talks to take our products into retail. The CVA has enabled us to get through the pandemic and we’re looking at a bright future.” Pardo spoke as Iberica reported turnover of £7.3m for the year ending 30 September 2020 (2019: £12.7m). Ebitda before pre-opening and exceptional costs stood at £8,000 (2019: £337,000). Pre-tax losses increased to £1.9m from £594,000 the year before. The 2021 financial year closed with revenue of £5m and Ebitda of £488,000 while the first quarter of the 2022 financial year saw revenue of £2.3m and Ebitda of £155,000.
 

Industry News:

Number of experiential concepts set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of experiential concepts 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 Metrix, which was founded by Tim Worboys, and provides “technology-inspired competitive football experiences”. Also added is four-strong Electric Gamebox, which was founded by Will Dean and David Spindler, and offers interactive digital rooms featuring projection mapping, touch screens, motion tracking and surround sound to enjoy a hyper-immersive 60-minute gaming adventure. In addition, state-of-the-art racing simulation concept, Kindred Concepts, which was founded by Adam Breeden, will be featured. Meanwhile, Topgolf, the golf entertainment brand founded by twin brothers Steve and Dave Jolliffe, and currently has three sites in the UK, which are in Essex, Surrey and Watford, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 5,155-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 17,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to another database – 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.
 
Propel Friday Wrap video series continues with UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls: Propel’s Friday Wrap video series continues today (Friday, 25 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 UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls to discuss this week’s spring statement, what it means for the sector, and whether there were any positives, and what more needs to be done to secure support for the industry. They also look back at the two-year anniversary of the first lockdown, and the position the sector now finds itself in with government and policyholders.

New rent debt arbitration law comes into force: A new law to help resolve outstanding commercial rent debts built up during the pandemic has been introduced. The arbitration process, for tenants and commercial landlords in England and Wales who fail to reach an agreement, is intended to resolve disputes and help a speedy return to market normality. The new law applies to businesses which had to close, in full or in part, from March 2020 until restrictions ended, with debts accrued at other times not applicable. It comes as the rent moratorium protecting commercial tenants from eviction for not paying rent comes to an end today (25 March). Protection remains in place for the next six months, during which arbitration can be applied for. Business minister, Paul Scully, said: “This new law will give commercial tenants and landlords the ability to draw a line under the uncertainty caused by the pandemic so they can plan ahead and return to normality.” Scully added that arbitration should be a last resort and tenants who can repay their rent debts in full should do, with landlords sharing the burden when they can’t, “so we can all move on.”
 
Spending in pubs and bars up 83% on 2019, almost 20% higher in restaurants: New data from Barclaycard Payments, which processes almost  £1 in every £3 spent on credit and debit cards in the UK, has revealed transactions in pubs and bars last weekend (18-20 March) were up 83% on the same weekend in 2019. It also noted restaurant transactions were up 19.6% on the same weekend in 2019, while spending in amusement parks rose by 144.7%. There were also huge rises on the figures for the same weekend in 2020 (up 476% in pubs and bars, 142% in restaurants and 1,094% in amusement parks), but this was the last weekend before the first lockdown, with many people already staying at home. Rob Cameron, chief executive Barclaycard Payments, said: “Two years on since the first national lockdown, businesses, particularly those in the leisure, hospitality and entertainment sectors, have gradually seen a welcome return to trade. With spring now in the air, consumers are spending more time out of the house, and our data is showing that sectors hardest hit by covid-19 are promisingly enjoying transaction volumes that exceed pre-pandemic levels. As many Brits look forward to celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, and with warm weather also on the cards, businesses will be hopeful this positive uplift continues.”
 
Association of Indoor Play warns activity at risk of becoming a ‘luxury spend’ with prices set to rise after chancellor fails to freeze VAT: The cost of indoor play sessions will have to rise after chancellor Rishi Sunak failed to keep the VAT freeze for the industry, with the activity at risk of becoming a “luxury spend”, the Association of Indoor Play (AIP) has warned. A recent state of the industry survey revealed 66% of operators have taken on more debt as a result of the pandemic and of them 89% are worried about cash flow. Almost seven in ten (69%) of operators have seen an increase in insurance premiums and of those one third have had an increase of more than 20%. Furthermore, 29% of operators have seen a rental increase of between 10% and 25% in addition to a 13% rise in running costs over the last year. “The biggest losers in this are the children”, said Janice Dunphy, chair of the AIP. “The industry will be forced to increase prices to continue to provide fun and safe indoor play but it risks becoming a luxury spend and inaccessible to the lower income families and communities who rely on our services the most. Our customer base is the one that is highly impacted by the current run away cost of living and in turn this will impact what and where children can afford to do and go.”
 
Under-threat rural English pubs saved by government funding and put into community ownership: Three under-threat remote English pubs have been rescued by government levelling up funding and put into community ownership. Silks on The Downs in Ogbourne, Wiltshire (£237,500); The Prince of Wales in Helston, Cornwall (£240,000); and The Bell Inn in Leicestershire (£100,000) have all got a slice of a £1.8m pot the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has given to ten different projects. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Pubs truly are the heart of our communities, and it is brilliant to see so many receiving support through the government’s Community Ownership Fund so they can continue to thrive. The past two years have been devastating for our sector, with many businesses still struggling as we emerge from the pandemic due to rising overheads and concerned consumers. While funding such as this which will help some pubs in the short term is welcome, longer term support for our sector is needed to ensure pubs across the country aren’t forced to close and we don’t lose our locals forever.” The only cafe and tea garden in the Dorset village of Fontmell Magna, housed in the village shop and post office, has also been saved with a £204,800 cash injection.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a charitable organisation that runs conferences, meetings and events across two venues and is seeking a head of operations. They will be responsible for providing operational direction and proactive management of the business, to ensure they are delivering and maintaining high standards of service and best business practices, and to exceed customer expectations. Responsibilities include developing the overall business strategy across sales, marketing, service, and sustainability and accountability for all events across operational delivery and P&L This role is based in London and the salary is circa £60,000 plus benefits. For more information and to arrange a confidential conversation, email Marlene@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Coco di Mama makes its roadside debut with Roadchef: Motorway service area operator Roadchef has partnered with the Azzurri Group-owned, Italian food-to-go brand Coco di Mama, to bring the concept to motorway users for the first time. A first site under the partnership has opened at Roadchef’s flagship Norton Canes service area on the M6. If the trial is successful, Roadchef will look at extending it to its other service areas. Howard Lockwood, catering and brand development director at Roadchef, said: “We are very excited to be working with Coco di Mama on this pioneering project to bring its innovative Italian food to the motorway. We are constantly striving to add new creative concepts and delicious menu options to our service areas, and we feel this partnership will give road users a broad range of exciting food options while still having great synergy with the other offerings already in place. The company’s ethos is firmly focused on providing good, honest food with the freshest ingredients and a seasonal focus, which chimes perfectly with our philosophy of constantly striving to delight our customers with the experience that we offer.” Coco di Mama currently operates in 145 locations nationwide, however, this will be the brand’s first foray into the travel sector. Managing director Jim Atwood said: “We are delighted to partner with Roadchef to offer our iconic, generous pasta pots to roadside customers served at speed. We first opened in London in 2011 and have been building up our ‘food-to-go’ stores, delivery kitchens and grocery channel partnerships since. This move into the travel hospitality sector is a bit of an extension for us, but one that we believe fits well with our business and will suit the model of the motorway service industry perfectly.” 
 
Knoops secures Covent Garden flagship site: Hot chocolate shop Knoops has secured a new flagship site in London’s Covent Garden, Propel has learned. Knoops, which opened its seventh site last month, in Oxford, is understood to have secured a site in New Row for an opening later this spring. The brand, which launched in 2013, opened new stores in Brighton and Richmond last year. Guests can choose from 20 different percentage-based hot chocolate options, from a 28% creamy white up to a 100% rich cocoa extra dark. All the drinks above 54% are suitable for vegans, and there are six non-dairy milks available. Last October, Knoops chief executive, Tori Nunn, said the company intends to “push forward with its growth plans”, with opening new sites central to this, despite rapid online growth during the pandemic. Austin Commercial, the new property firm from Jamie Harvie-Austin, acted on the Covent Garden deal.
 
Wendy’s plans Sutton opening: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has added to its UK openings pipeline, after lining up a site in Sutton. Propel understands Wendy’s, which made its return to the UK last summer, is planning an opening in the town’s High Street, on a closed double-fronted retail unit. Last week, Propel reported Wendy’s had lined up a further drive-thru site in the UK, in Peterborough. The company 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 city. The business secured a drive-thru site in Colchester last year. 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 UK restaurant, in Brighton’s Western Road. 
 
Franco Manca lines up Chichester opening: Fulham Shore is to open a site in Chichester, under its fast-growing pizza concept Franco Manca. The David Page-chaired company plans to take on the former Russell & Bromley unit in the town’s South Street. Last week, Propel revealed Franco Manca was set to take over the former White Stuff site in Windsor’s Peascod Street, for an opening later this year. It will open sites under the brand in Bishop’s Stortford and Cheltenham this month, with sites in Canterbury and Didsbury set to come online next month. The business recently applied to turn a former clothes shop in Lincoln High Street into a Franco Manca. Last month, Fulham Shore secured the lease for a former PizzaExpress restaurant in Stockbridge, Edinburgh for a second Franco Manca site in the city. It has also applied to bring Franco Manco to Wales, via a former Cornish Bakehouse site in Cardiff, and plans are in the pipeline for openings in Esher, Salisbury, Liverpool and Lewes too. 
 
Bundobust plans York opening: Bundobust, the Indian street food and craft beer concept, is planning to open a new site in York. The company has applied to open a site in the former Argos building in the city’s Piccadilly Street. Founders Marko Husak and Mayur Patel opened the first bricks-and-mortar Bundobust in Leeds in 2014. They subsequently added venues in Piccadilly, Manchester; and Bold Street, Liverpool. Last year, the business opened its second site in Manchester, in Bruntwood’s grade II-listed St James’ building in Oxford Street. It features the company’s first in-house brewery. Tom Byng, the founder of Byron and chief executive of Flat Iron, is chair of and investor in Bundobust. 
 
Actually Group to launch £4m luxury holiday park in North Yorkshire as it plans 15 new venues by end of next year: Hospitality and leisure developer Actually Group is set to launch a £4m exclusive new luxury retreat in North Yorkshire. The Sunderland-headquartered company, with a stated ambition to raise the bar for high-end staycation experiences, is preparing to showcase a new concept in luxury lodge holidays with the launch of Keld Spring Lodge Retreat. It is described as a flagship development of “premium quality, low-carbon lodges, blending architect-led design with contemporary elegance”. Actually Group is aiming to create 15 new destinations, together offering 1,000 lodges and providing 500 new jobs, by the end of next year. Keld Spring occupies a nine-acre site near the village of Wombleton in Ryedale, in North Yorkshire. The development will feature 30 lodges. Andy Sutton, chief executive of Actually Group, said: “Keld Spring will offer innovative, luxurious living accommodation that offers the ideal recreational space inside and out, in a stunning location with so much to do and great places to visit nearby. It lays down a new marker for high-quality, sustainable holiday lodges on a site that complements its scenic setting and showcases the quality of staycation destinations we’re creating in many of the UK’s most beautiful regions.” Earlier this month, Actually Group acquired two sites in Wales to add to its portfolio of venues in Cornwall, the Cotswolds, Cumbria, Devon, Northumberland, North Yorkshire and the Usk Valley, and it is “coming soon” to Scotland.
 
Ivy Asia Mayfair to launch later this spring: Serial sector investor Richard Caring has confirmed he will open a site under his Ivy Asia brand in London’s Mayfair this spring. The new restaurant and bar will open on the former Princess Garden site in North Audley Street, which Caring secured pre-pandemic and previously mooted opening a Caprice Café concept on. The new site will feature an open kitchen, sushi counter and bifold doors opening to unveil five alfresco tables. The kitchen will be overseen by executive chef Simon Gregory. Jean-Baptiste Requien, chief operating officer of Ivy Asia, said: “We have recruited a passionate, knowledgeable, and energetic team and we can’t wait to welcome guests and to open our doors.” As previously revealed by Propel, the company will launch several Ivy Asia sites this year. It is set to open on the former French Connection site in Leeds’ Vicar Lane, close to the company’s existing The Ivy Victoria Quarter venue later this summer. Caring has also lined up openings in Brighton and Cardiff for Ivy Asia this summer. The brand, which recently opened in Guildford, will open in Brighton’s Ship Street, next door to the existing Ivy in the Lanes site. It will also open a site in Cardiff, close to its existing The Ivy site in the city at the St Davids scheme. It is also exploring an opening in Glasgow.
 
Redemption Roasters makes north London debut: The world’s first prison-based coffee company, Redemption Roasters, has made its debut in north London, with an opening in Hampstead Heath. The group’s tenth site, the new opening is located by the Heath in South End Road. The shop offers a wide range of ethically-sourced specialty coffees, complemented by a full brunch menu, “delicious handmade sandwiches and a counter loaded with sweet treats”. Using coffee to change lives, Redemption Roasters runs barista training academies across eight prisons, and its industrial-scale roastery sits within the walls of HMP the Mount, Hemel Hempstead. Max Dubiel, who previously founded Black Sheep Coffee, launched Redemption Roasters with old university friend Ted Rosner in August 2015. Last year, it added sites in Dulwich Village and in Covent Garden to its estate.
 
Loughview Leisure Group sees turnover plummet and losses rise due to pandemic, buys new hotel and looks to make further acquisitions: Northern Ireland-based Loughview Leisure Group saw its turnover plummet from £8.3m to £1.6m and pre-tax losses rise from £462,300 to £2.8m in the year ending 30 June 2021, due to the pandemic. The company, a subsidiary of aparthotel developer and operator Kilmona Group, nevertheless managed to buy a new hotel, the Hilton in Templepatrick, last summer and is looking to acquire more. A statement accompanying the accounts said: “The directors intend to develop and maximise the inherent medium to long term economic value of the Kilmona Group’s asset base and acquire additional assets at value for development. The group intends to develop the former Hilton into a luxury five-star destination, which is expected to add significantly to the profitability and asset value of the group.” The company also leased two hotels to the government for housing asylum seekers in a deal expected to last 18 months, made use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and placed most of its staff on furlough while its hotels were closed. The statement added: “The directors consider the results for the current year and position of the company at year end to be satisfactory. The company’s management team have devised and implemented a strategic plan to ensure the continued viability of the company. The company is capable of servicing its ongoing agreed obligations and operate with the continued support of the bank (and fellow group companies).”
 
Liverpool-based Cantonese restaurant to double up with Manchester opening: Brothers Adam and Neil Wan, who operate Cantonese eatery Yum Cha in Liverpool’s Lark Lane, are set to expand outside their home city for the first time with an opening in Manchester. The siblings have taken a unit in the city centre’s Kampus neighbourhood, due to open in the spring, offering authentic Chinese small plates, roasted meat and tea. Adam Wan said: “We’ve always had big dreams to expand Yum Cha and bring our delicious, home-cooked dim sum to new communities, and Kampus couldn’t be more perfect. We’ll be among a family of foodies in one of the most amazing places in the city.” Adam Brady, of Kampus developers HBD, added: “Yum Cha is exactly what we’re all about – delicious food, an effortlessly stylish venue and spaces custom built for people coming together as a community. We’re chuffed to be adding another business born in the north west to the neighbourhood.”
 
Wildes Group pushes back opening of £5m Chester luxury hotel and spa until 2023, Harry Guy’s solo debut restaurant to open in September: Hotel and spa operator the Wildes Group has pushed back the opening of its £5m luxury boutique hotel and spa in Bridge Street, Chester, from this summer to early 2023 to “further develop the luxurious spa offering”. However, the debut solo restaurant for former Savoy Grill, Le Carré Gourmand and Mallory Court Hotel chef Harry Guy, which will sit adjacent to the hotel, is set to open in September this year. The adjustments to the hotel plans will see additional rooms created, as well as further development of the spa and rooftop pool, including treatment rooms and a thermal suite. Paul Wildes, chief executive of The Wildes Hotel Group, said: “Nearly four years after seeing the site for the first time, we want to make sure we guarantee an exceptional guest experience, and we are more than confident Wildes Chester will be worth the wait.” The restaurant, X by Harry Guy, has also undergone a design transformation and will now sit across two floors. A spokesman said: “This ‘experience’ restaurant will take diners on a culinary adventure from the moment they step across the threshold, with each aspect of the dining experience designed to ignite every one of the senses.” Wildes Group also plans to open “W”, an exclusive private members club, in Chester this summer – featuring a cinema, casino, gym and cocktail bar. 
 
Devon hotel to build staff accommodation in response to ‘scarcity of affordable housing’ in area: Burgh Island Hotel in Devon has outlined plans to build 27 rooms for staff in response to the “scarcity of affordable housing” in the area. Providing affordable accommodation has been identified as a “necessary step” for the hotel to “gain and retain the best possible staff”, with the plans also including the construction of a new cafe. The work forms part of an £8m development plan that will bring forward the changes required “to keep the hotel operational in the future”. Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, said: “We are pleased to announce these plans to provide affordable accommodation for our staff, who quite simply cannot afford to rent in the area, nor can they afford to buy, given the landscape of the local property market. We are eager to ensure the hotel remains a sustainable venture, and we are extremely keen to support our staff, so the building of this accommodation is a sound investment that will yield considerable benefits in future for them, our guests and the local community.”
 
Tim Hortons eyes Coventry and Burton openings: Canadian quick service restaurant brand Tim Hortons is eyeing sites in Coventry and Burton. SK Group, which is leading the rollout of the brand in the UK, has submitted plans to the city council to convert the former Topshop store in Broadgate into a new 160-seat restaurant, reports Coventry Live. Meanwhile, SK Group is looking to move into the former Frankie and Benny's building in Burton. The premises in Middleway Park have been empty since during the first lockdown two years ago, reports Staffordshire Live. A planning application from Tim Hortons, which includes a drive-thru, has now been submitted to East Staffordshire Borough Council. Tim Hortons has rapidly expanded across the UK in recent years and now has 50 sites over here. A further seven are “opening soon” – in Dunstable, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Oldbury, Teesside, Mansfield and Portadown. It has also submitted plans for a drive-thru in Bolton and a debut Kent site, in Broadstairs.
 
Danieli Holdings to shut Newcastle shipping container leisure venue to make way for development: North east-based Danieli Holdings is to close its shipping container leisure venue, Stack Newcastle, in May to make way for office development works. The food, drink and music hub opened in Pilgrim Street four years ago and has since welcomed more than three million visitors. The venue will shut to make way for the major development, which includes the nine-storey building that will be occupied by HM Revenue & Customs, bringing 9,000 staff into the city. Neill Winch, chief executive of Danieli Group, said: “We have been working closely with the landlord to keep Stack on site for as long as possible, however, we have reached a stage in the Pilgrim Quarter redevelopment works that requires the land we occupy to be vacated. Although this is devastating for the team, tenants, and our customers, we have always known the site was going to be temporary and that there were longer term plans for the site to be redeveloped. The Pilgrim Quarter scheme is an exciting project bringing thousands of office workers into the city centre that will no doubt have a positive effect on the local economy and city centre businesses. Wherever possible we will be relocating staff to our other venues or supporting them to find new jobs.” Stack Newcastle will close on Monday, 2 May. Danieli Holdings other venues in the city include The Muddler, Yolo Ponteland and Yolo Townhouse while it also operates a Stack venue in Seaburn.
 
Leeds-based online bakery to open first bricks-and-mortar site: Leeds baker Savannah Roqaa, who built online brownie “care package” delivery business Savvy Baker during lockdown, will open her first bricks-and-mortar site, Savvy Cafe, later this month. Having started out producing 30-40 boxes of brownies per week from her small Roundhay kitchen, Roqaa’s recipes soon earned her a large social media following, including 50,000 followers on Instagram. She then moved on to hosting pop-ups and small business events, and will open the Savvy Cafe in Roundhay on Thursday, 31 March. She said: “I’ve lived in Roundhay my whole life, so I couldn’t think of a better area to launch. The Savvy Baker is something I want to share with the local community, and being surrounded by residential properties, it made sense to put the cafe right in the middle of it all.” Initially selling brownies, brookies, cookies, flapjacks, cakes, tarts and North Star coffee, Roqaa intends to expand the offering in the coming months. Roqaa is opening the business with partner Jordan Simms. 
 
East Coast Concepts submits plans for Newcastle branch of Victors: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts has submitted its plans to open a site under its Victors brand in Newcastle. The plan for the £1.5m restaurant, first reported by Propel in November, is expected to get the green light from the city council next month. Situated on the site of the former Las Iguanas restaurant in Newcastle Quayside, the venue would cater for 175 diners, with 80 outside seats, serving American sharing plates. East Coast Concepts, which was acquired in 2020 through a pre-pack administration deal by an investment group led by Naveen Handa of The Cairn Group, currently operates Victors sites in Alderley Edge, Hale and Oxford. It also operates the Neighbourhood concept and is believed to be planning to open a Neighbourhood-style concept on the former Vapiano site in Soho’s Wardour Street.

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