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Thu 7th Apr 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Difficult market conditions ‘a temporary pause’, hospitality sector remains ‘attractive for investors’: Difficult market conditions caused by the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, the reversion of VAT to 20% and the war in Ukraine are a temporary pause and not a fundamental shift – according to Graeme Smith, managing director at sector-specialist management consultants AlixPartners. Speaking at the recent Propel Multi-Club Conference, and looking at the current mergers and acquisitions and investment market landscape, Smith said he believes the underlying dynamics of the hospitality sector remain attractive for investors. “It’s undoubtedly been a turbulent year for the investment market,” he said. “It looked pretty tough at times in the fourth quarter last year, but right now there are very acute short-term challenges being faced. We do think this is temporary pause and not a fundamental shift in the market that will drive investment away. We still think the underlying dynamics of the hospitality sector remain attractive for investors. The propensity for eating out remains undimmed and hasn’t shifted consumer behaviour. Sellers and businesses looking to raise funds to grow are still working on those plans to launch or having conversations around that potential. But there is absolutely the need to revisit business plans and try to understand the impact of inflationary cost pressures and consumer behaviour, to have a better sense of what the future holds now.” The rise of delivery, extension of trading windows and changing working patterns have also made a broader range of locations economically viable, said Smith, especially market towns and smaller cities. “We’re seeing that with people’s roll-out plans,” he said. “There’s undoubtedly material short-term disruption that everyone is working to get a handle on, but we do think the longer-term sector dynamics are supportive of continued investment. Investor focus is more than ever on growth, but it’s a more complex picture.” Smith said while growth strategies used to be based around scaling the number of sites and exiting off the back off that, factors to consider now include omnichannel options, multi brand strategies, more volatile consumer behaviour and location, a greater expansion of franchising and the need for a coherent and integrated digital strategy. Such complexities, he said, places a premium on a strong management team able to create a “growth plan for the new world”, and demonstrate return on investment potential for all aspects of the model. 
 

Industry News:

One day to go before next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details of 385 new sites, 19,100-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, will show the details of 385 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (8 April) at midday. The database shows the details of which company has opened a site, or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The next edition of the database features expanding hotel and leisure concepts, niche cuisine, regional restaurant and pub operators and growing experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 19,100-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (1 April). The database contained 69 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,407. The 496 sites run by those 69 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 64,884 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 5,000-word report on the new businesses added. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. There is also a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to a new database this 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. 
 
Government failed to heed our warning over labour shortages, says UKHospitality: UKHospitality has said the government failed to heed its warning a year ago over chronic labour shortages. The trade body was responding to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee report on labour shortages in the food and farming sector. In the report, MPs admitted the shortages could lead to price rises and the UK becoming more dependent of food imports. “This report echoes the evidence UKHospitality gave to the committee last year, which highlighted that chronic labour shortages – 400,000 vacancies in the sector at the last count – are already harming the attempts of businesses in the sector to rebuild cash reserves and shattered balance sheets,” said UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls. “A failure to tackle the issue now will stifle the sector’s ability to drive the wider economic recovery, and we share the committee’s warning that fundamental change is needed too if wage rises are not to trigger significant price increases in the sector, further damaging hopes of recovery. We want to work hand-in-hand with the government to examine, review and reset all the policies that we had pre-covid in order to ensure that the immigration, training and skills policies we have now are fit for purpose in a post-pandemic market.”

New National Living Wage to benefit front-of-house workers, proportion of EU workers plummets to lowest levels since 2019: New National Living Wage (NLW) rates will mostly benefit front-of-house workers, who will see their hourly wage increased to be more in line with that of their back-of-house counterparts, according to figures from hospitality software provider Fourth. But for businesses, it means a further squeeze on margins to accommodate the new rates. Back-of-house workers, typically those employed in the kitchen, are already earning above the new NLW of £9.50 per hour that came into force on 1 April, while front-of-house workers, typically waiting and bar roles, are paid significantly below the new rates. Fourth’s data, which comes from the analysis of more than 700 companies across the sector, reveals that wages for back-of-house workers have increased significantly over the last 12 months due to the ongoing recruitment crisis. Those working in pub kitchens have seen the biggest rise, with rates of pay up 6.8% over the past 12 months, while wages for back-of-house restaurant workers have increased by 3.7%. Furthermore, the data reveals that over the last 12 months, the rate of pay for pub workers has increased by 4.9%, and for restaurant workers by 2.9%. Overall, hospitality staff headcount is up by 27% on March 2021, but down by 12% on March 2020 and down 15% on March 2019. British workers make up 55% of the workforce, with EU workers 28% and non-EU workers 17%. The restaurant workforce has seen the biggest shift, with British workers making up 52% compared to 41% in March 2021. The proportion of EU workers currently makes up 31%, a significant decrease from 47% last year. The quick-service restaurant sector has seen a decrease in EU workers but an increase in non-EU workers from the rest of the world, rather than British nationals – the proportion of non-EU workers increasing from 7% in March 2021 to 20% now, with the proportion of EU workers falling from 47% to 36%. The number of hours worked in March 2022 was 12% higher than the previous month but still 12% down on pre-pandemic levels recorded in February 2020. Pubs have seen the biggest recovery, with hours worked just 4% down on pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. This is followed by QSRs at 8% down, hotels at 11% down and restaurants at 16% down. 
 
Pub customer confidence back at pre-pandemic levels but challenges remain: Pub customer confidence has returned to pre-pandemic levels with more than half of pub-goers saying they will visit the pub at least once week over the next 12 months, according to KAM’s new “Return of the Pub” report. The research, based upon an online survey of 500 UK adults who had visited a pub at least once in the last six months, said 35% believe the role of the pub has grown in importance for them since the various lockdowns. Pub-goers now feel significantly safer visiting a venue than in June 2020 but still expect certain measures to remain in place “post-pandemic” such as caps on numbers, outside seating areas and decent spacing between tables. The research highlights that, compared with two years ago, there is a clear desire to be more adventurous with choice of venue, while demand for friendly and helpful staff has also grown in importance. Pub-goers are increasingly looking for an experience that they can’t get at home (78% in 2022 compared with 63% in 2019), with a clear trend towards local pubs over town or city centre ones and independents over chains. Food-led pubs are also attracting higher footfall than wet-led pubs, and 47% want to see more locally sourced food. With VAT on the increase, most pub-goers (75%) are expecting a price rise, and that a fair increase is likely to be accepted (80%), but half admit it may mean they visit pubs less frequently. A third also feel pubs have fallen behind other hospitality and retail venues when it comes to tech.
 
Sector companies highlight importance of apprenticeships to ministers: Sector companies have highlighted the importance of apprenticeships to ministers and MPs as the Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase (HAS) returned to being an in-person event. The HAS brings together companies to display the diverse range of roles within the industry and reiterate the importance of cross-party support for the sector. Apprentices from industry companies including Brewhouse & Kitchen, Everards, Greene King, Marston’s, Mitchells & Butlers and Stonegate Group were among 200 people at the House of Commons after the event was forced online last year. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are pleased to celebrate once more the unique opportunities that our industry presents and provides from entry-level jobs to management positions. We are one of few sectors in the economy that people can enter with no experience and rise very rapidly to management and senior levels.” Research commissioned by HIT Training has shown of parents asked, 76% believe jobs in the hospitality sector can offer a long-term career route. Moreover, 89% of parents and 79% of teachers would recommend an apprenticeship as an effective career route for young people when they finish school. Also, 78% of employers said hiring an apprentice has improved the productivity of their business while 74% said apprentices improved the quality of their products or services. 
 
Takeaway coffee top spending priority for Generation Z over next 12 months: Takeaway coffee is the top spending priority for Generation Z over the next 12 months, according to new research by AXA UK. In a poll of 2,000 UK adults, 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they would prioritise spending on takeaway coffee, 35% on insurance, 33% on clothes, and 33% on eating out. A total of 19% said they would prioritise spending on “nightlife socialising” such as nightclubs, bars and pubs. The research found Generation Z spent more than any other age group on impulse buys (£28.80 per week) – compared with just £11.90 for those aged 55 to 64. The study revealed the younger generation are also planning to spend three times as much money on takeaway coffee than the over-55s. It also emerged 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds are set to spend more on experiences with family – compared with just one in ten 55 to 64-year-olds. Among all age groups, eating out (31%), holidays and travel (27%) and clothes (22%) are the things people are looking to spend more money on. The study also found when it comes to tightening the purse strings over the next 12 months, 24% of the nation plan to spend less on clothes, while others will cut back on eating out (19%) and buying electronics and gadgets (18%).
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an international hospitality group that has multiple concepts across all major markets to recruit a global head of talent. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “We are looking for someone who can really drive the talent agenda. This role will lead a team who are focused on attracting and retaining the best external talent but also nurturing and supporting the existing teams and making sure internal development is also key on the agenda. International or remote experience and a solid track record of influencing is really important in this role.” The salary is circa £90,000. For more information and to apply, email Gemma@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Parogon ‘looking seriously’ at two sites following finder’s fee launch, another in legals, new FD starts this month with refinancing brief: Parogon Group’s reward scheme for finding new sites to acquire is already paying off – with around 50 replies in the first few days and two being seriously looked at. The Staffordshire-based pub group earlier this week announced a finder’s fee of £5,000 for anyone who finds them a suitable venue that in turn becomes a new site, as it forges ahead with plans to double its nine-strong portfolio by 2025. It is looking to expand across Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, the East Midlands, south Manchester and north Birmingham regions in a £15m investment. Of the finder’s fee initiative, managing director Richard Colclough told Propel. “It’s about finding quality new sites and getting in there first, because there will be a lot of competition for them in the coming months. Phil Sharp, our property director, said he had 48 replies within the first day of announcing the scheme, and two of them we’re looking at seriously as they’re right in our sweet spot. We’re trying to grow out of our heartland, and we’re looking very strongly at Shropshire – towns like Telford, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth. Then there’s the north Birmingham belt – towns like Aldridge and Lichfield – and the A50 corridor between Stoke, Derby and Nottingham.” One site that Parogon was looking at beforehand has now gone to legals, with a possible opening in the fourth quarter of this year, while planning permission has just been granted to build 13 bedrooms at The Red House in Lilleshall, which should take place in the third quarter. Before that, new financial director Simon Wright, formerly of Mitchells & Butlers and Marston’s, will start his new role this month. “Simon has done some work with acquisitions and due diligence with initial public offerings, and he will have a brief to refinance our relatively small debt and secure a facility to fund our expansion,” Colclough said. “We will also be refinancing our £1.5m obtained through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.” As well as such government support, Parogon, in its latest accounts for the year ending 30 June 2021, credited its newest openings – Willow at Trentham Gardens and The Broughton in Crewe – for helping it turn a profit during difficult trading conditions. “We weren’t surprised by The Broughton, but Willow did take us by surprise,” said Colclough. “It was a smaller site and more value based than we usually do, but it has exceeded all expectations.” Colclough added trading in the nine month period since the year end has been “really good”.
 
Marugame Udon accelerating growth plans on back of trading ahead of expectations: Keith Bird, chief executive of Marugame Udon Europe, has told Propel the international udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand is trading is well ahead of expectations in the UK, which has “encouraged us to accelerate our growth plans”. The brand, which is backed by Capdesia in the UK, opened its first site here near Liverpool Street in the City of London last July. It has added sites in the O2, Canary Wharf and St Christopher’s Place, and has openings lined up in Argyll Street – on the former Frankie & Benny’s unit – and at the Brent Cross shopping scheme. Propel has learned Marugame Udon has also secured the former Carluccio’s site on The Balcony, at Waterloo station, for its transport hub debut in the UK. It is also believed to be in advanced talks on a site in The Strand, as the company, which has more than 850 restaurants in Japan and a further 250 across Asia and the US, looks to build a strong pipeline. Bird said: “Trading is well ahead of expectations, which has encouraged us to accelerate our growth plans. This (Waterloo station) is our first transport hub and we will be also looking at other location types too. For example, we are excited as we build our first shopping mall site at Brent Cross. We have multiple location types in Japan and we will be looking to roll out to these too, on top of our successful launch phase.” The Times reported earlier this week the brand plans to have at least 100 outlets within five years in the UK and on the continent. It will open another eight to ten company-owned outlets this year. Bird hopes to then start upping the ante by taking on franchise partners. The business is working with Richard Brown, of RAB Retail, on its expansion plans.
 
Chop’d halves estate after acquisition out of administration: Salad bar chain Chop’d has closed more than half of its estate, including all three of its regional sites, after undergoing a pre-pack administration, Propel has learned. Last February, the then 12-strong business was acquired by Inc Retail Group. Last November, Propel revealed offers were being invited to acquire the business, pending an anticipated administration process. It was working with Manchester-based advisors Robson Kay on the process. As flagged up by Propel at the time, the administration process has seen Inc Retail retain ownership of the business under a newly formed vehicle, but has led to six of its sites closing permanently. The company reopened eight of its London-based sites last year, but its sites in Westferry in Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester remained closed. Those four sites have now been closed permanently, along with the brand’s units in Canary Wharf, City Point and St Pancras. The group continues to operate sites in Long Acre, Mark Lane, St Paul’s, Curzon Street and at the ExCeL exhibition and international convention centre. The deal saw Inc Retail back the existing management team and secure the future of the brand’s sites. All jobs at the business, which was founded in 2004, were also kept in the share purchase.
 
Soho House recruiting more than 250 staff at UK sites to meet demand, bolsters employee benefits including new late-night rate: Soho House is recruiting more than 250 staff across its UK sites as it continues to see high demand following the lifting of restrictions. The company is also bolstering its employment benefits, including the introducing of late-night shift rates. Soho House is offering 1.5 times the hourly rate for all team members who work from 10pm until close. Employees also receive a £10 contribution towards taxi journeys home as part of the group’s commitment to the safety of its staff. To help provide job security in a post-pandemic world, the company changed employment contracts last year to guarantee contracted hours and holiday entitlement, and weekly payment cycles. Soho House also recently introduced enhanced family leave. This includes maternity and adoption leave for the primary caregiver starting from three months up to six months at full pay and four weeks paternity leave. Tom Collins, UK managing director at Soho House, said: “Reopening after covid has been a challenge but our teams have risen to the challenge. They continue to make us who we are and give our members best-in-class service and experiences. We’re committed to making sure they feel valued, supported and compensated as part of the Soho House family.”
 
Italian pasta concept Miscusi to open second UK site: Italian pasta concept Miscusi is to open its second UK site. The company, which launched in Britain earlier this year in Covent Garden, is doubling up in the capital. Miscusi will open in the former Masala Zone premises in Upper Street, Islington. Originally launched in Milan, Miscusi has 13 restaurants in seven Italian cities. The UK launch is being overseen by Marcel Khan, formerly of Five Guys, Nando’s and Thunderbird Fried Chicken, who is the brand’s head of international development. Miscusi champions a Mediterranean diet and the brand’s ethos is “rooted in respecting the planet through the power of food”. At the beginning of 2021, the business, which was founded by Alberto Cartasegna, secured a €20m investment from MIP, a venture capital fund, and the American fund Kitchen Fund, which includes SweetGreen as an investment.
 
Junkyard Golf unveils new branding and head of marketing, close to securing second London site and international expansion on horizon: Crazy golf brand Junkyard Golf Club has unveiled its new branding and hired a new head of sales and marketing, as it closes in on a second London site. The new brand identity and strategy, the group’s first rebrand since launching as a pop-up venue in 2015, will see Junkyard Golf Club “evolve its original proposition to a more established and customer-centric position”, enabling it to “deliver stronger and more mesmeric crazy golf experiences”. It will be rolled out across the group’s current portfolio of six sites, with a second London site close to being secured and international expansion on the horizon. Managing director Sam Jones said: “Junkyard Golf Club began as a pop-up in 2015, and at the time, we genuinely believed we would only be hosting the experience for about three weeks! Seven years, six locations and one pandemic later, it’s obvious we’re here to stay. We are always reviewing our brand position, but now feels the right time to review our branding and marketing strategy in a way that reflects where we are heading as a company. We will always keep investing in our core estate, and we’re always looking for the next coolest trick or design to bring our courses to life.” The group has also appointed Lauren Cassells as its new head of sales and marketing, having previously held similar roles at Revolution Bars Group and Inventive Leisure. She said: “As a brand, we are going through a massively exciting transition that reflects who our customers are and how we can make their experience with the brand that much more exciting.” Post-pandemic, sales at Junkyard Golf Club have seen a 23.4% like-for-like increase against pre-covid levels, on average per month. This year, the brand is on target to provide more than 1.8 million games of crazy golf to the public.
 
Chopstix reaches 70-site mark with its second Glasgow opening: Chopstix, the pan-Asian noodle chain, has opened its 70th site in total, and its second in Glasgow, as part of the brand’s continuing Scottish expansion. The Jon Lake-led business has opened at 115 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, with the new site featuring the brand’s “iconic ‘living wall’ and neons along with the now famous decor reflecting the quirky and fun ethos of the Chopstix brand”. The business already operates a site in the city’s Silverburn Shopping Centre. Last month, the company opened in Lewisham and is currently on site in another four locations – Oxford, Glasgow, Canary Wharf and Middlebrook (Bolton) for openings this spring.
 
Carlo Scotto to open Mayfair restaurant next month: Carlo Scotto, previously head chef at Xier in London’s Marylebone, will open his new restaurant in Mayfair next month. Scotto will launch Amethyst in Sackville Street. Spread over two floors, and with 36 covers, Amethyst will offer “an intimate gastronomic experience”. The ground floor will feature just one table seating 20 diners in full view of the pass. Amethyst’s 12-course tasting menu will be influenced by the “simplicity of Nordic and Japanese cuisine, with French and Arabic influences”. The menu will change regularly, based on seasonality. On the lower ground floor, the “Wine Cellar” will showcase Amethyst’s extensive collection of fine and rare vintages while offering a six-course tasting menu option in addition to the 12-courses. A three and five-course lunch menu will also be available on both floors. A chef’s table will be able to accommodate up to 20 diners. Scotto said: “It’s been a tough couple of years, but I am delighted to finally be behind the stoves again and in my own restaurant. It’s a dream to have been able to create the perfect canvas for my cooking and I can’t wait to welcome diners to Amethyst.”
 
D&D London appoints Michael Clark as operations director: Restaurant operator D&D London has appointed Michael Clark as operations director. It marks a return to the group for Clark, having started his career as restaurant manager at Coq d’Argent before going on to become general manager at Sartoria and then Le Pont de la Tour. Clark brings a wealth of knowledge from his time spent at Sketch and Swan at The Globe, and most recently as operations director for The Ivy Collection. D&D London has also strengthened its team at the South Place Hotel with Michael James Parker joining as general manager and Cynthia Coomb as food and beverage director. Parker, who was previously managing director at the Rosewood Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Coomb, who was general manager at The Rosewood London, plan an extensive refresh of the hotel’s diverse food and beverage operations, which include the Michelin-starred Angler restaurant. 
 
Bob & Berts opens in Cookstown as it plans up to ten new sites in 2022: Northern Ireland-based coffee company Bob & Berts has opened a site in Cookstown as part of plans to add between and ten outlets to its portfolio in 2022. Founded in Portstewart in 2013 by Colin McClean, Bob & Berts has 15 stores across Northern Ireland, five in Scotland and three in England. The company has now invested £250,000 to transform a former restaurant unit in Church Street in Cookstown into a new store, creating 26 jobs. Bob & Berts said its expansion plans will have a particular focus on England, where its recently opened coffee shops – in Lancaster, Kendal and Preston – have performed ahead of expectations. Its fourth store in the north of England will open in Bury at the end of April, with a sixth Scottish store set to open in Perth in May. McClean said: “The strength of our brand and confidence in it is reflected in the fact the business has successfully opened four new stores during the covid-19 pandemic, all of which have performed better than our original forecasts.” Co-owner David Ferguson added: “We are entering a new phase of growth and very much focused on expanding our brand right across the UK.”

Waterloo Tea set to open sixth site in former park ranger’s hut: Wales-based independent tea operator Waterloo Tea will later this month open its fifth Cardiff site – and sixth in total – in a former park ranger’s hut measuring just seven square metres. The new site will be based in Waterloo Gardens, the park which inspired the brand’s name, and situated just metres from the first ever tearoom in the Waterloo portfolio. Waterloo Tea founder Kasim Ali said: “The last few years have shown us all the importance of outdoor spaces and embracing our local areas. Our hope is that the refurbishment of the hut will be something everyone in the local area can be proud of. In terms of our offering, we’re still in the planning stages, but it will be all about being local, delicious and mindful of local population needs. We also want to make sure that it never impacts the feel of Waterloo Gardens, as it is too special to us to allow that to happen.” Waterloo Tea, which also runs a wholesale operation supplying venues across the UK and Europe, has launched a new spring/summer menu too, featuring a range of dishes with tea as a key ingredient. These include pulled jackfruit ciabatta with smoked tea BBQ sauce, avocado mayo and pickled red cabbage, and Welsh rarebit with leeks, smoked cheese and Yunnan tea.
 
Alex Xu to launch hand-pulled noodle concept in Chinatown London: Alex Xu, the restaurateur behind Chinatown London restaurants Happy Lemon and Meet Fresh, is to launch a live hand-pulled noodle concept. Xu will open Kung Fu Noodle in Chinatown London later this spring after agreeing a deal with landlord Shaftesbury. The two-floor, 1,800 square foot unit on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Wardour Street, will cater for up to 50 diners, and will serve an array of authentic noodle preparations, specialising in Lanzhou beef noodle soup, a revered dish from the Gansu province in north west China. The concept takes its name from the hand-pulling of noodles, which sees the chefs look like they are practicing kung fu. Xu said: “The beauty of Chinatown London is it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It’s safe to say with my three businesses in the area, I love Chinatown London, and I’m so thrilled to be debuting the Kung Fu Noodle concept here soon.”
 
Gusto pushes team financial well-being with new pay and pension set-up: Gusto Italian, the premium casual dining restaurant group, is pushing team financial awareness and well-being up the agenda. The company has partnered with PayCaptain as it looks to strengthen its employee proposition. Gusto employees will benefit from greater flexibility over pay, savings and pension planning, as well as having the opportunity to access pay on-demand. As part of its deal, Gusto Italian will introduce a new pension provider, Collegia, which directs funds exclusively towards companies that score high in environmental, social and corporate governance and stakeholder management metrics. Matt Snell, chief executive of Gusto Italian, said: “This is a really important move for our business. We want to be a best-in-class employer, and that means working to introduce leading benefits. This investment means we are transforming what we do in this area for our teams – to a more flexible, engaging, and easy-to-access pay and pension set-up. It provides a solution that really benefits our restaurant family.” Cloud-based PayCaptain is fully integrated into Yapster, Gusto Italian’s internal communications channel. As part of Gusto Italian’s commitment to transparency, anybody within the business is encouraged to submit a question through Yapster, anonymously, and the Gusto Italian management team commits to replying to them all, openly and for everybody to see. Founded in Cheshire in 2005, Gusto Italian has almost 600 employees across 13 restaurants. The company’s most recent site opened in Nottingham in late 2021.
 
Cosmo to reopen Oxford site for first time since start of pandemic: Buffet brand Cosmo will reopen its Oxford site later this month for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The restaurant in Magdalen Street is creating an additional 50 jobs to build a team of around 80 at the 250 capacity, 10,200 square foot venue. Suzanne Wink, Cosmo head of operations, said: “We can’t wait to welcome people back to enjoy our exceptional fresh food in an energetic, luxurious environment. We pride ourselves on offering a five-star dining experience at great prices.” Cosmo offers more than 150 dishes covering six cuisines, including India, China and Thailand and classic European dishes, from English carvery to Italian pizza. Since launching in 2003, Cosmo has expanded throughout the UK and Ireland and last month opened its 20th site, in Glasgow. Cosmo also has sites in Bournemouth, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Northampton and Preston in the pipeline, according to its website while its Leeds site remains temporarily closed.

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