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Wed 20th Apr 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Number of licensed premises in Britain down 9,200 since start of pandemic: The number of licensed premises in Britain has fallen by 9,200 since the start of the pandemic – a net decline of 8% of all sites, the latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners has revealed. In the first quarter of 2022, the number of licensed premises fell 0.9% year-on-year, indicating Britain had just under 106,000 licensed premises at the end of March 2022. While the small decrease did represent a slowdown in the rate of closures since the start of the pandemic, sharp rises in energy, food and labour prices, the end to VAT relief, and the expiration of the moratorium on landlord action means many fragile hospitality businesses remain at risk of closure in the months ahead, the report warned. In the first quarter of 2022, the independent sector saw a net decline of 1.0% of venues when compared with the previous quarter’s figures. This was fractionally ahead of the managed world, which saw a 1.3% net decline in the first quarter of the year. However, on a two-year measure since the start of the pandemic in 2020, independents’ total site numbers are 8.7% down – a much steeper drop than the 4.8% decline in the managed sector. Some market segments are also faring worse than others in the current climate. For example, nightclubs suffered a significant net decline of 1.7% between the first quarter of 2022 and the final quarter of 2021, while drink-led community pubs saw numbers trimmed by 1.5% over the same period. In contrast, channels including bars and casual dining restaurants have grown, albeit modestly. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Consumer demand and investor confidence remain strong, and it has been encouraging to see a stream of new entrants into the market in early 2022. But while they have kept numbers of licensed premises nearly flat on the surface, there is a lot of turmoil going on underneath. We can expect to see a steady flow of both closures and new openings as the year goes on.” Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners, added: “During this extremely challenging time, many businesses will be revisiting liquidity forecasts that may have become out-of-date and reassessing the validity of any capex and new site roll-out plans.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Punch Pubs supports Hospitality Rising, invest today: Punch Pubs is supporting Hospitality Rising. The initiative aims to unite the industry by asking it to invest in and back its plan to change the perception of hospitality for the better in the biggest sector recruitment advertising campaign the UK has seen. Punch Pubs HR director Jackie Burn said: “We believe hospitality presents an abundance of unique, fulfilling career opportunities in a progressive and forward-thinking industry. With people at the core of everything we do, we know our pubs are the heart of communities across the UK, and, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that pubs are a lifeline of social interaction for many. A career in hospitality is incredibly rewarding. We must celebrate those endless opportunities for both professional and personal growth. This campaign truly embodies everything we are doing to welcome talent into the industry and to nurture them throughout their success journey. Hospitality is suffering from a labour shortage that is severely damaging trade and business viability when the sector remains at a delicate stage in its recovery from the pandemic. The sector wants to end this crisis by providing meaningful careers of choice for those who would thrive in the roles it provides, which is why we are encouraging as many businesses as possible to join the campaign. Together we can make a real difference.” Invest in Hospitality Rising now from just £10 per employee here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Mark Wingett’s latest Ones to Watch to appear in next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will feature group editor Mark Wingett’s latest pick of the companies well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. His picks are: Big Mamma Holdings, Ole & Steen, Wahaca, Parogon, Rekom UK, Itsu, Soho House and New World Trading Company. The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, will see 13 companies added, taking the total number to 559. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (22 April) at midday. The Blue Book shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £7.6bn being reported by 347 companies. However, a further 212 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £1bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Premium subscribers have also been given exclusive access to a new database. The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and will be updated every two months. The first edition, which was sent last Friday (15 April), features 100 companies, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. The first edition provides 27,000 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 Mark Wingett.
 
Recruitment and retention challenges remain major concern for industry leaders, four in five offer better pay: Staffing issues continue to set back hospitality’s recovery from covid-19, according to new research from CGA and Fourth’s Business Leaders’ Survey. The poll of sector leaders shows intense competition for team members. Three in five (59%) said they will recruit at a greater rate than usual this year, a jump of 13 percentage points since the last confidence survey in December. However, almost one in ten (9%) roles remain vacant and open for applications – though this marks a drop from the figure of 14% in late 2021. Only half (52%) of leaders said they feel confident about their recruitment and retention in the next 12 months. Staff shortages are leading business leaders to sharpen their HR strategies in a variety of ways. Almost four in five (77%) said they have offered better pay to try to retain staff, increasing their levels by an average of 11%. High numbers are meanwhile stepping up levels of communication with staff (85%), creating more learning opportunities (82%) and focusing on staff well-being and mental health (72%). Two thirds (67%) of leaders said the increases in the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage will be a key challenge in 2022. Meanwhile, two in five (42%) leaders think technology is most useful for managing bookings and payment, 18% for managing workforces, and 14% for controlling inventories and stock. When considering their business’s technology innovation, just 22% of leaders think their business is ahead of the market average, while 25% think they are behind the market average.

Tourism and recreation posts fastest growth of any sector as UK recovery accelerates, but prices set to keep rising: Tourism and recreation – which includes pubs, hotels, restaurants and leisure facilities – posted the fastest growth of any sector in March as the UK’s recovery accelerates, according to the latest Lloyds Bank UK Recovery Tracker. Using a system whereby a reading above 50 signals output is rising, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction, the sector was given a mark of 68.5, compared with 58.8 in February. The sector’s activity was bolstered by holidaymakers booking more trips abroad following the easing of covid-19 travel restrictions, as well as higher city-centre footfall, the tracker found. But while March saw 12 out of 14 UK sectors monitored by the tracker report output growth, by contrast, many manufacturing sectors struggled to achieve higher production levels amid rising input costs and supply challenges, driven by the impact of the war in Ukraine. Soaring commodity prices and deteriorating supply conditions caused the output growth of food and drink manufacturers to fall to an eight-month low (50.1 versus 55.5). Cost inflation was most acute among food and drink manufacturers, which registered a reading of 94.3 – the sector’s highest reading on record. These factors contributed to the largest gap between the manufacturing (51.8) and service sectors (62.6) output indices since 2009. Jeavon Lolay, head of economics and market insight at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Alongside labour market shortages, the unrelenting pressure from rising costs represents another major challenge for most UK businesses. The tracker shows more businesses are raising prices, likely as a direct effort to help offset higher input costs. All eyes will be on how sustained and widespread this trend will be in the months to come.”
 
Restaurants, pubs and QSR score lowly on adhering to disabled peoples’ needs: Restaurants, pubs and quick service restaurants (QSR) all scored very lowly on adhering to disabled peoples’ needs in a new consumer survey. The Accessibility in Hospitality survey, from Blue Badges Access Awards founder and Bespoke Hotels president Robin Sheppard, in collaboration with customer feedback platform HGEM, was conducted using a large sample of HGEM’s mystery guests, both non-disabled and disabled. Hotels were found to have a good reputation for adhering to disabled people’s needs (58%), but the results for other hospitality sectors were more concerning, with leisure scoring 16%, restaurants 14%, pubs 7% and QSRs just 5%. Almost three in four (71%) guests believe there is not enough focus on accessibility in the industry, while almost a third (30%) would leave a venue immediately if access for disabled people was inadequate, and more than half (58%) said they would not return to a venue where access was difficult. Shepperd said: “The figures unveiled in this report are a stark reflection of consumers’ attitudes towards accessibility in hospitality – and the results aren’t pretty. More importantly, they make you realise that what is currently deemed normal is simply not good enough. We must establish a new normal and erase years of historic insouciance on accessibility.” This year’s Blue Badge Access Awards will be held on Thursday, 28 April at Hotel Brooklyn in Manchester.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury lifestyle and leisure business that is looking for a chief financial officer within the next six months. The business is looking to appoint a London based senior executive to take over all strategic, financial control, working alongside the board and the executive director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The role will require full financial responsibility for an existing business turning over at least £20m as well as modelling and strategic planning for extensive European growth.” The role is based in central London and paying a salary of circa £180,000. The hiring company will be shortlisting in May for interviews in June. For more information and to apply, email Hollie@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Camerons Brewery returns to profit, confident of further improved trading during 2022: North east-based brewer and pub operator Camerons Brewery has reported it made a return to profit in the eight months to December 2021, and it was “confident of further improved trading” during the year ahead. The Chris Soley-led business, which has 34 managed and 43 franchise/leased and tenanted sites, said the ability of those sites to trade outdoors from 12 April 2021 and then indoors from 17 May, significantly helped with the return to generating profits. In the eight months to December 2021, turnover was £50m, which compared with £22.9m for the full year to 2 May 2021. Profit after tax for the eight months to December 2021 was £400,000, which was nearly circa £8m higher than the prior year loss of circa £7.4m. The company said while trading was on an upward trajectory as it progressed through the 2021 calendar, the business was slightly derailed by the emergence of the Omicron variant in mid-December and the associated restrictions reimposed on the sector just as the company was entering the busiest time of the year. The company said: “The directors are very appreciative and have worked closely with our supportive bankers, HSBC, and wider creditor base as they progressed through 2021. Pub trading is strong across all divisions and we continue to win new contract brewing, canning and bottling business.” Camerons said it expects to be at a pre-pandemic normal level of gearing later in 2022. Soley said: “Alongside the governmental support, we have worked closely with our external stakeholders to ensure we emerge from the pandemic in a position of strength and are now planning for further growth. The return to profit provides a solid financial platform to build upon for the future and we are delighted to once again be looking forward and investing in the expansion of our brewing and retail business.” 

Caravan in ‘strong position’ to focus on future growth opportunities, opens Euston Road site: London-based restaurant, bar and coffee-roasting concept Caravan has said it is in a strong position to be able to focus on future growth opportunities, and is exploring a number of new sites both inside and outside of London. The Active Partners-backed company performed a refinancing exercise of its existing bank facilities under the Covid Recovery Loan Scheme at the end of 2021, with the maximum facility of £2.75m available, which has a maturity date of December 2027. The company said at the date of writing its full-year report (8 April 2022), sales had returned to “significant growth on pre-covid levels”. Propel has learned the business, which opened a site in Canary Wharf, has launched another new site, in The Office Group property in Euston Road. Last month, Propel revealed Caravan had appointed Jo Fleet, formerly of Wahaca, Flat Iron and Hawksmoor, as its new managing director, to be responsible for growth of the company through “measured expansion”. The company, which also operates Vardo in Chelsea, said: “The business is now in a strong position to be able to focus on future growth opportunities, and following the opening of our seventh site in Canary Wharf in February 2022, we are exploring a number of further opportunities for new sites, both inside and outside of London. Although the events of 2020 and 2021 have been very challenging, particularly for businesses in the hospitality sector, we have taken the-opportunities available to place the business on a very sound financial footing, and can look forward with confidence to the next phase of our growth.” For the year to 27 June 2021, Caravan posted turnover of £9.05m (2020: £11.69m), with adjusted Ebitda of £857,955 (2020: minus £169,192). Pre-tax profit stood at £244,002, versus a loss of £707,625 the year before. The company said: “Despite all of the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic throughout the period, we focused on controlling our cost base and maximising our performance at the times that we were able to open our restaurants for trading, and as a result we recorded our best adjusted Ebitda (before pre-opening and exceptional costs) performance as a multi-site business.”

Hero Brands appoints new director to help grow portfolio, working on completing several ‘key acquisitions’: Hero Brands, which operates German Doner Kebab, Island Poké, Choppaluna and Virtual Hero, has appointed Salman Siddiqui as its new group corporate development director. Siddiqui will help bring to life the company’s “ambitious plans to create a portfolio of cross-category, genre-defining brands of the future”, as well as “developing and implementing the growth strategy of the group” and “helping realise the acquisition strategies of brands across the entire portfolio”. He has worked with investment firms such as KPMG and the Qatar Investment Authority – working with companies including Harrods, Volkswagen, Miramax, and Sainsburys – where he held investment management and M&A transaction roles across multiple sectors. “Hero Brands has an impressive, and rapidly growing stable of the brands of the future, and I am looking forward to playing my part in successfully implementing the group’s innovative, cross-vertical growth plans,” said Siddiqui. His arrival comes at a time when Hero Brands is working on completing several key acquisitions. “Salman brings to the team a wealth of international experience in investment advisory and M&A transaction roles with world leading investment firms,” added Athif Sarwar, chairman of Hero Brands. “His experience will be invaluable as we look to build on our tremendous growth and work to complete a number of key acquisitions in the near future.”

Fridays appoints new chief marketing officer: Fridays, part of Hostmore, has appointed Rhiannon Scarlett – who helped launch Tesco’s retail marketing programme – as its chief marketing officer. Scarlett, who takes up the position on Monday (25 April), replaces Dan Staples, who joined the business in December 2019. Scarlett started her career at customer insight, data and communications agency dunnhumby, where she worked with Tesco, along with food brands including Unilever and P&G, to help promote and engage customers in store and online. She has also worked in the US for the Kroger Company, leading its loyalty programme in California, North Carolina and Utah. In her latest role as UK marketing director at The Body Shop, Scarlett was responsible for leading its marketing strategy to attract new customers and retain existing ones. She will now be responsible for marketing and public relations for Fridays and 63rd+1st, including all customer relationship management, loyalty and digital operations. She will also support Fridays’ focus on guest loyalty, acquisition, retention and growth. Robert B Cook, Fridays chief executive, said: “As a retail marketeer with rich consumer knowledge, combined with her background in data and customer insight, Rhiannon will play a key role as we deliver against our ambitious growth plans. We are on a mission to make Fridays famous again, and Rhiannon will help us build creative, standout initiatives to spread that Fridays feeling to new and existing customers right across the country.” 

Wingmans secures Shoreditch site: Chicken concept Wingmans is set for further expansion in London with an opening in Shoreditch, Propel has learned. Wingmans has secured the premises in Curtain Road that was previously occupied by Spanish restaurant group Brindisa Kitchens. Wingmans has taken the unit on an assignment. Founded by David Turofsky and Ben Ford in 2015, the concept focuses on homemade comfort food such as gourmet chicken wings in signature sauces and American-style sides. Complementing the food is a selection of craft beer and cocktails. The business operates sites in Soho and Kilburn and is running the kitchen at Brixton venue Market House. Brindisa Kitchens announced last week it had closed the Shoreditch restaurant and planned to open a new central London venue. Dan Rogers, of Restaurant Property, acted on behalf of Brindisa, while Tom Richards, of Arc London, represented Wingmans.
 
Cake Box expects sales to jump 50% as expansion drives pandemic recovery: Cake Box, the London-based specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has said it expects to report record sales for the past year as the business rebounded from the impact of the pandemic. In a trading update, the company said sales are expected to jump by around 50% for the year to 31 March 2022, after it was buoyed by strong momentum over the last six months. Cake Box said it also saw particularly strong growth at the start of the financial year, which compared with full lockdown in the same period of 2020. It highlighted sales over the ten months to March, excluding the period of full closures, increased by about 32%, with franchisees reporting 12% like-for-like growth. Broker Shore Capital left its 2022 pre-tax profit forecast unchanged at £7m and retained its 2023 taxable profits forecast of £7.8m. Sukh Chamdal, co-founder and chief executive, said: “We have delivered another record performance for the year, demonstrating the continuing appeal of our customer and franchisee proposition.” Chamdal said online delivery and click and collect options helped support growth, with franchisees reporting a 41% jump in online trade over the period. The business said it was boosted by the opening of 31 stores over the period, taking it to 185 locations by the end of the year. Cake Box added it has also expanded its kiosk deal with Asda, opening ten new sites in supermarkets during the year. Chamdal said: “Our strategy to reach customers across the UK is starting to deliver. With a strengthened team and investment in our operations and processes, we have all the right ingredients to continue to sustainably grow the Cake Box customer base, brand and family.”
 
Wing Shack launches third site and biggest yet, plans more openings this year including further expansion outside London: Wings-based concept Wing Shack has launched its third site and biggest yet – ahead of further openings this year and further expansion outside of London. The business, founded by Joshua Jarvis and business partner Nurudeen Shiro in 2018, has opened a 90-cover site on the restaurant terrace at The Glades Shopping Centre in Bromley. This adds to its restaurants in Holloway in north London and Loughton in Essex, which have operated alongside several pop-ups in sites such as Selfridges and Soho House. Further Wing Shack restaurants are due to open in Brixton Village later this month and Manchester soon after, with a St Albans site also in the pipeline. Jarvis said: “We’re excited to be opening new Wing Shack venues across London and nationwide. Our brand champions UK culture, and we’re really looking forward to celebrating this at our new locations with creative brand collaborations, live music and events.” Wing Shack is the sister concept of Eggs ‘n’ Stuff, which was developed as a delivery-only concept during lockdown before operating as a pop-up in what is now its combined permanent home with Wing Shack in Holloway.
 
Wingstop to expand delivery kitchen estate with Bristol and Leeds openings: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out US chicken brand Wingstop across the UK, is to further add to its delivery kitchen estate with new openings in Bristol and Leeds. The company will launch sites in both cities with Deliveroo Editions, with the opening in Bristol set to support the brand’s existing site in Cabot Circus in the city. It recently opened its ninth delivery kitchen, in Bermondsey. The company, which currently operates 19 sites in the UK, will open on the former Benito’s Hat site in Bromley next week. It is also starting the build on upcoming openings in the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Nottingham. It also has openings lined up in Brighton and Wood Green for later this year. In February, Charlie Morrison, then chairman and chief executive of Wingstop, said the UK market was on track for a record year and in terms of expansion its business here is “on fire right now”.
 
McMullen opens new-build Milton Keynes pub under Destination Inns portfolio, takes £100,000 net in first week: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen had opened canalside Milton Keynes pub, the Warbler on the Wharf, taking £100,000 net in its first week of opening. Located at Campbell Wharf Marina, the new-build pub, which is part of McMullen’s Destination Inns portfolio, has two floors including a private dining room and waterside dining and drinking areas. It follows the recent openings of the Kings Arms in Fitzrovia; The Horse and Guardsman in Whitehall Traitors Gate; Old Bank of England in Fleet Street; and The Cambridge Tap in Cambridge. “It is fantastic to see the new pub completed and the team of more than 90 people trained and ready to look after our guests,” said Heydon Mizon, joint managing director at McMullen. “With more than 250 external seats and two floors, it is a wonderful pub for seriously relaxed dining and drinks.” McMullen continues to seek good quality freehold and long lease hold property in London and the south east – either current trading pubs, new-build opportunities or property conversions. The company operates 40 tenanted sites and 83 managed pubs, of which 14 are Chicken and Grill pubs, 14 Destination Inns, 15 Premium high street and London pubs and two hotels, with the remaining sites not externally branded.
 
New World Trading Company plans Durham opening: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) plans to open a site under its The Botanist concept in Durham. The Jesper Friis-led business is planning to open the site at The Waterside scheme in the city. The company already has six sites confirmed for opening this year, including The Botanist sites in Ipswich (next month), Barnsley, Edinburgh (its first site in Scotland) and Worcester. It will also open a The Club House site in Cardiff Bay, and a The Florist in Chester. The Botanist grew to 23 sites when it opened in Exeter at the end of last year. NWTC is also believed to be in talks on sites in Bracknell and Portsmouth.
 
Jones – we are very respectful about what we pass on to our members, heres a huge opportunity for people to take British ideas abroad: Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, has said when it comes to rising costs, the company is “very respectful about what we pass on to our members”. Prices of stays in some of its properties went up by as much as 30% in the last quarter of 2021, while food and drink prices moved 5% to 10% higher. Talking to The Telegraph, Jones shrugged off the question of whether it will mean some potential members are simply priced out. He said: “We care deeply about the fact our house is for everyone. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what social background you come from, what job you have, what salary you have. We are very careful about our memberships. We have local memberships which are considerably less, under 27 memberships, fellowship memberships.” A local membership, which lets people visit one of the clubs, is around £700 a year. Jones said: “We’re aware the cost of living is going up. We see it ourselves every day in running our houses. This is a business that has been going for 27 years. We’ve seen many examples of what’s going on at this precise moment, and what we always find is members really hold on to their memberships and use them in different ways.” The business is “very respectful about what we pass on to our members,” Jones said. “The advantage of opening more houses is we can buy better and we have more effective buying power. So it’s an everyday thing we’re always looking at. It’s challenging at the moment, on inflation, on staffing, on all of these issues.” Jones reiterated the company is on track to become profitable in the next 18 months, and urged more British companies to explore international opportunities. He said: “You know, Britain is such a brilliant place. I would encourage anyone who has a company in Britain to take it global. I think there's a huge opportunity for people to take British ideas abroad.”
 
Chipotle launches $50m venture fund to aid ‘strategically aligned’ start-ups: Global chicken concept Chipotle has announced the creation of a new venture fund called Cultivate Next to be used as an investment arm for early-stage funding into strategically aligned companies. The venture fund will have an initial size of $50m (£38.4m) with the restaurant brand the only backer. Cultivate Next's stated goal is to support seed to Series B stage companies that can accelerate Chipotle's strategic priorities such as "running great restaurants, amplifying technology and innovation, further advancing its Food With Integrity mission, and expanding access and convenience for consumers”. Chipotle chief technology officer Curt Garner said: “We are exploring investments in emerging innovation that will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionise the restaurant industry. Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle's aggressive growth plans.” Chipotle recently began testing an artificially intelligent robot, Chippy, to cook its tortilla chips, as well as radio-frequency identification to trace and track ingredients in its restaurants. In February, the brand opened its 3,000th restaurant in total, in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the next year, Chipotle plans to open between 235 to 250 new restaurants. It currently operates 12 sites in the UK. 
 
Asian street food concept Chi secures fifth site: Asian street food concept Chi has secured its fifth site, in Eastbourne. The concept, which is the brainchild of Aidan Tjinakiet and Lamen Reddy, has secured a site on the ground floor of the East Sussex town’s The Beacon scheme, for an opening at the end of June. Chi was launched at The Grafton shopping centre in Cambridge in March 2019, with a second site opening at Intu Watford in December of that year. Further sites have since opened in Basingstoke and Norwich, and the company is understood to be keen on further expansion across the country. Reddy said: “We started Chi as a street food concept in Cambridge then decided to elevate that idea to a new full table service restaurant that offers a range of pan-Asian dishes from Japanese to Korean. We were introduced to The Beacon and the town of Eastbourne and quickly decided this was the perfect venue. We really like the area and what has been done with the centre. It’s really exciting for us to be coming to Eastbourne. We believe the town offers us a lot of potential and can’t wait to open in the summer.” The concept offers “Asian street food with a modern twist served on a base of bao, banh mi, noodles or rice with a wide range of snacks and sides”.
 
Turquoise founder plans expansion of new Mediterranean concept: Cevdet Mutlu, the founder of Turkish restaurant brand Turquoise Kitchen, is to begin the expansion of his new Mediterranean concept Turkuaz, with two new sites lined up. Mutlu currently operates sites under the Turkuaz brand in Dorking, Crawley and Tunbridge Wells. He is set take on the ex-Bella Italia site in Newbury for an opening this summer. The company is also understood to have applied to open a Turkuaz in the Piries Place scheme in Horsham, West Sussex. A further outlet is also thought to be under consideration in Winchester. Turquoise Kitchen was launched by the team behind the Real China brand, focusing on dishes originating from Turkey’s south eastern region. It operates sites in Highgate, West Bromwich, Chelmsford and Letchworth. 
 
Urban axe throwing concept Hatchet Harry’s set to open in Derby for seventh venue, more sites to follow: Urban axe throwing concept Hatchet Harry’s is set to open its seventh venue next month, in Derby’s Albion Street, with more sites set to follow. The concept, which sees participants compete by throwing hand axes at wooden targets, started in Newcastle in 2019 and has opened further sites in Nottingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Aberdeen, with another in Middlesbrough opening soon. Derby was chosen as the next location after the owners learned of moves by Nottingham property business ALB Group to buy-up commercial units in Albion Street. Jack Beadle, who co-owns Hatchet Harry’s and sister business Harry’s Handcrafted Doughnuts with partner Richard Bridge, said: “Derby was always near the top of our list – we were just waiting for the right venue to come on the market. The people of Derby are going to love Hatchet Harry’s. It’s harder than it looks, but there’s a sharp learning curve, and it’s a real slice of fun. Now the city’s residents can enjoy a bit of shopping followed by a bit of chopping!” Talks are currently underway to open new Hatchet Harry’s centres in Brighton and Reading.
 
Leeds nightclub operators set to launch £3m cafe, rooftop bar and social space concept: Kirk Allen and Will Habergham, who operate Warehouse nightclub in Leeds, will this spring launch a new £3m cafe, rooftop bar and social space concept in the city. Located at 36 Wellington Street, The Green Room will operate as a coffee bar and eatery by day, and a bar serving local beer and cocktails by night. It will have also have space for meetings and functions, and will house two luxury two-bedroom apartments available to rent. Food will be provided by vegan cafe Grön, which operates sites in Leeds and Harrogate, selling Scandi-inspired plant-based food. Coffee will come from Leeds-based North Star Coffee Roasters, while craft beer and ale from local breweries Northern Monk, Kirkstall and Magic Rock will be available alongside cocktails like watermelon mojito and peach margarita at the rooftop bar. Habergham and Allen, whose background is in clubs, events and festivals, took inspiration from a trip to New Zealand, which has been at the forefront of championing healthier lifestyle venues. Allen said: “We believe the people in this city are more than ready to embrace venues that champion a strong focus on sustainability and healthier living, while providing a setting and atmosphere both fresh and unique to the city.”
 
Greene King launches eighth Hive Pubs site, more in pipeline: Brewer and retailer Greene King has launched its eighth Hive Pubs site, transforming The Norfolk Terrier in Thetford with a £340,000 investment. The pub, which had been closed for almost three years, will be run by new franchisee Louise Burden, who previously operated The Green Dragon in Thetford. It offers an extensive range of food and drink in line with the Hive Pubs branded concept, including a menu of pub classics curated by the food team at Greene King. It also serves an extensive range of drinks. Sporting events will be shown via Sky Sports and BT Sport subscriptions, and the pub has plans to host the local darts, pool, bridge and cricket teams. Burden said: “Having run a franchise pub with a different operator, taking on a Hive Pub as a franchisee was the natural next step for me.” Aimed at those with experience of running a pub, the Hive Pub franchise agreement gives licensees a ready-to-trade pub within a proven branded concept for £5,000 ingoing cost. Franchisees get a minimum guaranteed income of £20,000 plus additional income based on performance such as share of turnover. Wayne Shurvinton, managing director for Greene King Pub Partners, added: “The pub looks brilliant and has a bright future ahead of it. This is our eighth Hive Pub opening in quick succession and we have more in the pipeline to come.”
 
Thunderbird Fried Chicken opens latest London site, in Wimbledon: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, will open its latest outlet today (Wednesday, 20 April), in Wimbledon. As previously reported by Propel, Thunderbird Fried Chicken will open in the former Creams British Luxury site in The Broadway. Thunderbird Fried Chicken opened in Clapham last month and also operates sites in Earl’s Court, Charing Cross, Westfield Stratford and The O2. Thunderbird Fried Chicken chief executive, Paul Gilchrist, said: “We’re excited to be bringing Thunderbird Fried Chicken to the people of Wimbledon. We are confident this location will do very well.” Founded by Matt Harris, Thunderbird Fried Chicken has been backed by private equity firm TriSpan since January 2019 and is looking to continue its expansion across the capital. 
 
Honest Burgers partners with Northern Monk for summer pop-up ahead of Leeds opening: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed business, has partnered with Northern Monk to launch a summer pop-up at the brewer’s Old Flax Store in Leeds. The partnership will grow Honest Burgers’ presence in the city ahead of its opening in Cloth Street this summer, as revealed by Propel in November. As part of the link-up, the two companies have collaborated for two special burgers exclusive to the pop-up: The Northern Monk – which includes Heathen Hazy IPA beer cheese and Faith Hazy Pale Ale pickled onions, and The Roast – which includes Honest’s signature bacon gravy and is only available on Sundays. Both burgers are priced at £14 and include Honest’s signature homemade rosemary salted chips. A new exclusive side dish has also been created, which sees the chips tossed in Heathen Hazy IPA beer cheese and finished with bacon gravy – priced at £5.50. Adam Layton, head of brand collaboration at Honest Burgers Brighton, said: “The brewery pop-up is the first in a series of collabs with Northern Monk this year.” The pop-up will be open noon-10pm Tuesday to Thursday (kitchen noon-9pm), noon-11pm Fridays and Saturdays (kitchen noon-9pm) and noon-9pm on Sundays (kitchen noon-6pm).
 
Barnsley-based operator adds historic Derbyshire hotel to growing portfolio, Welsh acquisition next: Barnsley-based The Brook Group – which owns and operates several hospitality businesses across the north of England including hotels, pubs, restaurants and late-night venues – has acquired the historic The Priest House Hotel in Castle Donington, Derbyshire. The Mill Tower at the hotel is a remnant of a mill complex dating to the time of the Doomsday Book, much of which was destroyed by a fire in 1927, with only the tower remaining. The new owner plans to work with the 42-bedroom hotel’s team to re-establish The Priest House as one of the area’s premier hotels. Jason Brook, chief executive at The Brook Group, said: “We have worked hard over the last year to acquire the Priest House and see it as an important part of our evolving strategy to develop a group of quality hotels in outstanding locations. This acquisition follows on from our purchase of the Aysgarth Falls Hotel in the Yorkshire Dales last September and takes our hotel portfolio to three sites, with a fourth planned in the South Welsh Valleys.” The Priest House was bought by Norton Motorcycles chief executive and Donington Hall owner, Stuart Garner, in 2015. Donington Hall Estate, which included both Priest House Hotel and Donington Hall in its portfolio, was placed into administration in January 2020.

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