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Thu 21st Apr 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Just Eat Takeaway considers selling US arm Grubhub as orders fall: Just Eat Takeaway is considering selling off its Grubhub arm after reporting a decline in orders compared with bumper levels during covid lockdowns. The company only agreed to buy the US-based Grubhub for $7.3bn (£5.8bn) in June 2020, in a deal that was completed last year. The tie-up created the world’s largest food delivery service outside China and gave Just Eat access to the lucrative food delivery market in the US, adding to its base in some of the world’s other most profitable markets: the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium. It said: “Management is currently, together with its advisers, actively exploring the introduction of a strategic partner into and/or the partial or full sale of Grubhub. There can be no certainty that any such strategic actions will be agreed or what the timing of such agreements will be.” Jitse Groen, Just Eat’s chief executive, said: “Our priority for 2022 lies in enhancing profitability and strengthening our business. We expect profitability to gradually improve throughout the year, and to return to positive adjusted Ebitda in 2023.” The company’s shares jumped 5.23% to 2284.5p on the news of the possible disposal. Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “Shareholders in Just Eat reacted positively to a plan to potentially sell its US platform Grubhub. Just Eat shares have struggled for months as it has lost customers gained during the pandemic as consumer habits shift back to dining out rather than booking a takeaway. Key to success in this highly competitive market is scale. However, selling Grubhub could give Just Eat Takeaway the resources necessary to dominate in Europe. The price tag for any divestment will be closely watched and could embarrass current management given Grubhub was purchased for more than $7bn just last June. However, sparing management’s blushes should not be the priority, and if this is the right decision for the future of the business, then it seems logical for Just Eat to press ahead with a sale.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – join ETM Group and back Hospitality Rising: ETM Group is backing Hospitality Rising, but will you? 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. ETM Group people director Rachel Masing said: “We can’t fix this alone, and it’s not a singular problem. If we can all come together on this, we will all benefit. We can’t afford not to try to save our industry through bringing new life and attention to it. Hospitality Rising is the most exciting initiative that has been proposed for the industry, ever! The attractiveness of the industry that we all collectively love (employees and guests alike) has been dwindling as a prospective career option for many years, and yet without it, all of our lives would be so much less. Hospitality has been the means through which I have continued to stay around food, wine, and beautiful venues, which is my passion. It is the career that has allowed me to work around the most interesting, exciting, vibrant people. It provided me the opportunity to run a business, to lead teams and to develop my career with pace.” Invest in Hospitality Rising now from just £10 per employee here.

Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector losses of £7.6bn: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, 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 next edition will include 559 companies, an increase of 13 companies compared with the March edition. The 559 companies produce total turnover of £25.6bn. The next edition of the Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (22 April), at midday. It will also feature group editor Mark Wingett’s latest pick of the companies well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. 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 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.

Licensing update: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners has published its latest licensing update, providing a useful monthly summary of licensing news. This can be accessed here.

Job of the Day: COREcruitment is working with a large multinational business which has a variety of business interests spanning consumer services, hospitality and tech. It is looking to hire a systems integration and optimisation specialist. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This is a dynamic, fast-moving company who are results-orientated and are all about growing their existing interests and acquiring new businesses where they can really add value and growth. Customer data is at the heart of their growth plans, and the collation, interpretation and actions from this data really drives their business agendas. We are looking for someone who has experience of analysing, improving, overhauling and implementing new systems to make this happen.” The role is based in London with a salary of £150,000 per annum, a plus great package. For more information on this role and to apply, please contact

Company News:

Whistle Punks appoints Chris Poole as managing director: Axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks has promoted Chris Poole to managing director, Propel has learned. Poole joined the business at the end of 2019, as its head of operations. He had left Carluccio’s earlier that same year after more than ten years with the company, including stints as regional director and central operations director. Earlier this year, the business, which is backed by Edition Capital, applied to open on the former Busaba Eathai site in London’s Eastcastle Street. The group opened its fourth site earlier this year, in The Electric Press development in Great George Street, Leeds. It also operates sites in London’s Vauxhall, Manchester and Bristol. A site in Birmingham closed after the lease expired and the business is looking for a new permanent site in the city. John Nimmons and Jools Whitehorn launched Whistle Punks in 2016. On Poole’s promotion, Whitehorn said: “John and I have always been fairly upfront that we’re not great managers. Thankfully, we have Chris! He started at a time when everything was on the up, and before the covid lockdowns. Since then, we’ve had a rougher time than anyone expected, but we’re now rebuilding the momentum and growth that makes us really excited about the future of Whistle Punks again. That’s largely due to Chris’ tireless contributions across everything from HR and finance to property and innovation.”
Heineken reports surge in beer sales but warns of significant inflationary headwinds ahead: Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, delivered first-quarter beer sales ahead of expectations as people returned to pubs, bars and restaurants across Europe, but warned of “significant additional inflationary headwinds” ahead. Beer volumes rose 5.2% on a like-for-like basis, with Europe a standout performer, rising 11.5%, with beer sales in bars and restaurants almost tripling. The company said that average income per litre rose by 18.3%, driven by direct price increases plus consumers switching to more expensive beers and returning to pubs and bars. For the first quarter, net profit was €417m, higher than last year’s €168m. Revenue for the first quarter was €7bn up 35.9% on the previous year. However, Heineken chief executive Dolf van den Brink warned of “more macroeconomic uncertainty” and “significant additional inflationary headwinds” in the months ahead and indicated the company may raise prices further. He said: “We had a solid start to the year, in line with our expectations, especially benefiting from strong channel mix from the partial on-trade recovery of Europe and assertive pricing across all regions. Looking ahead, we see more macroeconomic uncertainty and expect significant additional inflationary headwinds putting further pressure on our cost base. We will take additional actions, including pricing, to manage these challenges while we continue to invest in superior, balanced growth and sustainable value creation.”
D&D London confirms Baton Berisha as new managing director: Restaurant operator D&D London has confirmed the appointment of Baton Berisha, former chief executive of the Ivy Collection, Bill’s and Caprice Holdings, as its new managing director. Serial sector investor Richard Caring took day-to-day control of his restaurant empire, which includes Bill’s and the Ivy Collection, in November last year after the departure of Berisha, who was named chief executive of The Ivy, Bill’s and Caprice Holdings and The Birley Clubs, in October 2020. Previous to that, Berisha had been managing director of The Ivy Collection since July 2018 and added overseeing Bill’s and Caprice Holdings to his remit, in January 2020 and July 2020 respectively. He will start with D&D on 3 May and work closely with founders Des Gunewardena and David Loewi on all aspects of managing the group’s restaurants. Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive, said: “This is an important appointment for D&D and signifies our ambitions for the business. We know Baton well. He actually worked for a number of our restaurants in his younger days! His experience, particularly in leading the growth of the very successful Ivy Collection, will be a huge asset to us as D&D enters the next stage of its expansion.” Berisha said: “I am very excited to join D&D, and having worked for the business in the past, I have many fond memories. I have tremendous respect for Des and David. Their vision and ambition for the future is very exciting, and I look forward to working closely with them while the business enters its next stage of growth.” Berisha’s appointment comes as D&D London is placed back on the market after talks with UK-based investment firm Montecito Equity Partners, over a deal that would have reportedly valued the business at £100m, failed. Interpath Advisory had again been instructed to kick off talks with potential buyers for the LDC-backed business after exclusive talks with Montecito Equity Partners, a little-known investment firm, failed to result in a deal. D&D owns and operates some 40 restaurants in major cities in the UK (London, Manchester, Leeds) and overseas (New York, Paris).

Poké House continues overseas expansion with Honu Tiki Bowls takeover: Poké House, Europe’s largest poké restaurant chain, has continued its overseas expansion after becoming the majority shareholder of Honu Tiki Bowls, Austria’s leading poke brand. It is a first expansion into Austria for the company, founded in 2018 by Matteo Pichi and Vittoria Zanetti, which is already active in the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and the US. It currently has 90 stores and plans to open 80 more in 2022, as well as 65 new UK sites over the next two years. The Austrian investment marks the fifth of its kind by Poke following those already carried out in the UK (acquiring Ahi Poké), the Netherlands (Poké Perfect), Portugal (the eponymous Poké House) and the US (investing in Sweetfin). “We are very proud to continue our growth path that has existed seamlessly since 2018 with this investment in a brand that is loved by Austrian poke fans,” said Pichi. “It is a strategic move that will allow us to operate and grow in a market of growing importance. We are happy to welcome Honu Tiki Bowls to our group – a brand that has experienced incredible growth thanks to an amazing entrepreneur, Kaspar Kunz. This represents a further step in an international expansion plan that will see us multiply our presence in major cities across the globe, with more than 170 sites in Europe and the United States planned come 2023.” Honu Tiki Bowls, founded in Vienna in 2018, currently has five locations. “I am thrilled to become a part of the Poke House family,” said Kunz. “We will support each other in identifying the best tech solutions, the best product synergies and continue the mission of nourishing the world with positivity and well-being”.

Cornish sustainable coffee roasters land Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Cornish sustainable coffee roasters Origin Coffee, which operates seven coffee shops in London and Cornwall, has been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Awarded for its industry-leading achievements in sustainable development, the honour celebrates Origin Coffee’s environmental and social ethos. As well as developing a coffee buying program underpinned by direct trade, ethical supply chains, provenance and traceability, Origin Coffee certified as a B Corporation in 2020, demonstrating its commitment to building a sustainable business model and “doing business better”. This includes supporting coffee farmers by paying a premium for coffee. The company’s new roastery in Porthleven, which it moved to last year, was built in an ecologically sensitive way, with in-built energy saving solutions, while waste nutrients are reused via a state-of-the-art industrial composter. Waste is also reduced via partnerships with companies including First Mile and Too Good to Go, and plastic has been eliminated across the company’s cafes by replacing takeaway cups with compostable alternatives. The company, which also offers barista training, is aiming to be net zero by 2030. It works with more than 480 wholesale partners across the UK and Europe and reported a turnover of £7.8m in 2021. Founder Tom Sobey said: “It is with enormous pride that we have been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen for our commitment to sustainable development. When we talk about sustainability at Origin Coffee, we talk about it in terms of each and every aspect of business operations. Asking how we can do things better, for people and the planet, is ingrained in our thinking, and seeing the impact of our actions inspire other businesses to follow in our footsteps is a fantastic reward. It is a huge privilege to receive this award and is to the credit of the whole team. This is a journey of continuous improvements, and we have a number of initiatives in the pipeline to boost our efforts further.”

Ottolenghi appoints Emilio Foa as group CEO: London restaurant operator Ottolenghi has appointed Emilio Foa, formerly of OKA, as its new group chief executive. Foa joins the company after over three and a half years as chief executive of furniture and home accessories retailer OKA. The company said: “Emilio brings over 20 years of experience at global high-end consumer brands. Previously, he held senior roles at Rapha and Burberry, where he was part of the leadership team during the brand’s key transformation and growth period.” Ottolenghi currently operates five eponymous sites in London, plus Rovi in Wells Street and Nopi in Warwick Street. Yotam Ottolenghi said: “We are so pleased to have Emilio on board. He represents everything that we hold dear to the brand: perfectionism, deep respect for brand values and for food, wide-ranging strategic view and meticulous execution. Myself and the other founders, Noam Bar and Cornelia Staeubli, will be supporting him in his role to bring respectful, measured growth to a brand that we love so much.” Foa added: “I’m really excited to join Ottolenghi, an amazing brand with clear positioning and such a strong culture. I’m passionate about food and I’ve been an Ottolenghi enthusiast for more than 15 years, since I moved to London - I’m obsessed with quality and customer satisfaction, so this is a dream come true. It is also a big responsibility as I’m the first external exec taking the chief executive role, and I look forward to partnering very closely with Yotam, Noam and Cornelia on the next stage of the journey.”
New sustainable plant-based chicken brand launches in more than 50 UK restaurants, London pop-up partnership with The Sidemen to follow next week: Tindle, a new plant-based chicken substitute, has made its entry into the UK market by launching in more than 50 restaurants, and will next week host a three-day pop-up in London. The brand’s UK debut follows its Amsterdam launch six months ago and is part of an expansion into Europe and the US following a $100m Series A funding secured through global investors, including MPL Ventures, in February. Among the UK restaurants it has partnered with are Aqua Shard, BrewDog, City Spice, Get Plucked, Let’s Do Maki, Neyba, Other Side Fried, Paternoster Chop House, Refuel Your Soul, Sketch London and Unity Diner. Tindle will also next week (27-29 April) host a three-day pop-up shop in Soho in partnership with Sides, the food brand from YouTube collective The Sidemen, where guests can sample complimentary Tindle sliders. The brand is available in 500 restaurants worldwide, having also launched in Singapore, Dubai, Macau and the UAE. Rachel Soeharto, vice president global communications at Next Gen Foods, which produces Tindle, told Propel: “We’re testing the market with chicken, then looking into other products like dairy, fish and beef. It’s not just for vegans, but also consumers who likes the taste of meat but prefer a better solution. It’s just as nutritious as chicken but without any of the downsides of chicken production, and less of a footprint. Being plant-based, we’re also not at the mercy of world events like we’re seeing at the moment. The pandemic put the spotlight on the meat industry from price and public health perspectives. We’re currently a dollar more than typical chicken dishes but eventually want to be on a par or cheaper – we have found people are willing to pay it where we have launched. We’re open to all concepts – we want to be everywhere chicken is served and have started to work with delivery brands and virtual concepts in Singapore, and you’ll see Tindle food trucks going to festivals this summer.” Next Gen Foods was founded in 2020 by Andre Menezes and Timo Recker. Menezes added: “We are thrilled to be working alongside some fantastic restaurant partners and chefs in the UK, who are helping us achieve our goal of bringing delicious but sustainable options to diners.”
Hollywood Bowl to open fifth Puttstars site, in Peterborough: Puttstars, the indoor mini-golf brand operated by the Hollywood Bowl Group, will make its regional debut at Peterborough’s Queensgate Shopping Centre later this year. It will be a fifth location for the concept since its launch in 2020. The 20,000 square-foot venue will offer three unique interactive nine-hole golf courses, designed for families and young adults. It will also offer food, drinks and arcade games. Puttstars will be part of a £60m 80,000 square-foot experience-led extension to the shopping centre, which will include a ten-screen Empire cinema, set to complete later this year. Laurence Keen, chief financial officer of Hollywood Bowl Group, said: “Joining the brand-new extension to Queensgate provides us with a bespoke space in a destination that has a huge customer base and great accessibility. The leisure market is developing fast, with people looking to socialise in new ways. As the new home of mini golf, Puttstars is perfectly placed to offer safe and entertaining experiences for everyone – families, friends and work colleagues alike.” CBRE and Time Retail Partners represented Queensgate, while Bruce Gillingham Pollard acted on behalf of Puttstars.
Better burger brand Fat Hippo lines up Birmingham and Edinburgh sites: Better burger brand Fat Hippo is to further boost its national expansion plans with restaurant openings in Birmingham and Edinburgh, as part of four new sites it has lined up for this year. The company, which was established in Newcastle in 2010 by founder and managing director Mike Phillips, has secured the former Fillet of Soul site on Birmingham’s Bennetts Hill, for an opening later this year. The company, which made its Scottish debut last July with a concession site in the newly launched Lane7 site in Edinburgh’s new St James Quarter, has also secured a standalone opening in the Scottish capital, in George Street. As previously revealed by Propel, the business is also set to open at 86 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, at the end of spring. It will also make its debut in Wales later this year, with an opening on the ex-Bub’s Bar and Kitchen in Cardiff’s Church Street. The ten-strong Fat Hippo also has restaurants in Newcastle, Liverpool, Headingley, Nottingham, Durham and Jesmond, plus further Lane7 concession sites in Manchester and Sheffield and a further Sheffield concession site with Kommune. Phillips said: “We couldn’t turn down the opportunity to open Fat Hippo in Birmingham city centre, especially as the building on Bennetts Hill is the perfect location for our new restaurant. 2022 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting year for Fat Hippo, with several new locations for our restaurants in the pipeline.”

Young’s launches platform to boost flexibility for staff: London pub operator Young’s has launched a new internal platform, The Ram Agency, to give employees the power to pick their working hours as part of its recruitment drive. With a growing desire for flexible working and achieving a work-life balance, The Ram Agency is designed to offer workers the option to choose their own working hours across Young’s pubs. The company stated: “Flexible working has been identified as a key deciding factor for taking a job and in continued job satisfaction. The Ram Agency is a new online platform available for chefs, front and back-of-house staff, wherein they can create their own working rota by viewing and choosing available shifts across Young’s 210 pubs. To access, prospective staff can apply online with their CV and once accepted, will have access to daily available shifts across the Young’s estate, with no fixed rota or location. The agency is available for all hospitality staff to apply, from those with industry experience to students, parents or those looking for part-time work. Staff will be employees of Young’s with a competitive salary, plus all the company benefits including discounts across the pubs and hotels, career development opportunities and a chance to opt into company shares.”

Edinburgh-based African-inspired pop-up concept finds permanent residence: Farin Road, the African-inspired pop-up concept from Edinburgh-based chef Tunde Abifarin, is to have a permanent residence. It will be housed at independent cafe Tani Modi in Hanover Street. Opening on Friday, 6 May – initially on Fridays and Saturdays from 5.30pm – Farin Road at Tani Modi will offer Abifarin’s pan-African cuisine “with a special twist”. The Farin Road journey began in Edinburgh with a series of pop-ups and private events by Abifarin, who has worked at The Balmoral Hotel, The Pompadour at the Waldorf Astoria and The Murrayfield Hotel. He said: “The vast Scottish larder tells an African tale. Farin Road finds its origin in the abundant Scottish larder, which is readily available to the kitchen. The team have taken a bold leap into the uncharted world of curating the cuisine of the African continent in a new way.” Abifarin plans to expand to more days as the business grows, as well as add takeaway and delivery services.

Wimpy makes Brentwood return after 25-year absence: Burger brand Wimpy has made its return to Brentwood in Essex after an absence of more than 25 years. The company has opened the outlet in the former Next premises in High Street, transforming it into a 42-seater Wimpy restaurant. Wimpy first opened in Brentwood in 1971 and remained in place until 1983, when it closed before reopening under new management in 1990 for a further five years. Chris Woolfenden, Wimpy UK general manager, told Essex Live: “We’re thrilled Wimpy has finally returned to Brentwood. It’s always been on a wish-list destination for us.” Wimpy, which is owned by South Africa-based Famous Brands, has 67 restaurants in the UK.

Compass Group UK & Ireland appoint head of social value: Catering group Compass Group’s UK & Ireland division has appointed Laura Neville as its head of social value, focusing on its employees, clients and communities. Neville will develop and deliver social value for the company, supporting its climate promise as well as social mobility and health and wellbeing strategies. She previously led the social value agenda for Compass’ procurement division, Foodbuy, and in 2020 became Compass Group PLC’s global responsible sourcing lead. Neville said: “The covid pandemic has further highlighted the impact that corporate organisations can have in delivering social value. Compass employs thousands of people, supporting many clients, so sharing best practice and ideas in this area will have a huge impact for us and those we work with.” Robin Mills, managing director of Compass Group UK & Ireland, added: “Our social mobility strategy ensures whatever your background, you have an opportunity to progress and develop a career with us. Laura’s expertise and passion will further enhance our work in this area, especially through understanding our clients’ agendas alongside the communities they operate in.” Compass is also partnering with the Social Value Portal, an online tool that allows organisations to measure and manage the contribution they and their supply chain makes to society. It recently revealed plans to create the Compass Group Academy, a multi-million-pound investment designed to develop skills in the hospitality industry, with a focus on supporting young people from disadvantaged areas.
Papa John’s opens Horsham site: Papa John’s has opened a new restaurant at a former Pizza Hut site, at 24 Queen Street in Horsham, as it continues its UK expansion. Amit Pancholi director of business development for Papa John’s UK, said: “The expansion of our brand both on the high street, and in non-traditional locations such as holiday resorts, stadiums and leisure venues, will continue in 2022. Horsham is a historic market town with many families living in the area. We are now delighted to welcome new customers to our brand-new store, and excited to have our dedicated team deliver top-quality, fresh Papa John’s pizza to the local community. The new Horsham store is one of the first high street outlets to benefit from our updated branding. It’s hugely satisfying to see our new stores up and running, and our thanks go to our whole team for their hard work to make this happen.” The new branding was unveiled in Potters bar last month and is being rolled out across the UK estate, which now consists of more than 500 sites.
Brixton-based independent operators secure new £5,000 grants: Ten independent businesses in Brixton will each receive a £5,000 grant as part of the Dine Local programme, run by the International Downtown Association Foundation and Brixton BID, and supported by American Express. The grant funding will enable the venues to make critical improvements that drive their business forward. Among the recipients is Lounge Brixton, which is supporting local artists by expanding its live performance space; Papa’s Café, a park-based community cafe serving local residents; and family-run restaurant Banh Banh Café, that plans to install new kitchen equipment for the summer. The other businesses comprise Beast of Brixton – an LGBTQIA+ friendly café and bar; the Black and White Café; Etta’s Seafood Kitchen; Jalisco – a family-run Latin American inspired restaurant; Kamome – a casual Japanese; May Foods – an Afro-Caribbean restaurant; and Share a Slice – a Pizzeria pop up and social enterprise. According to research commissioned by American Express, over half of people (56%) think independent hospitality businesses in their local area are struggling with staff shortages, while over two thirds (67%) believe the owners of these businesses are worried about their future. Encouragingly, 85% of respondents said they plan to support independent hospitality businesses this year by visiting more frequently or buying takeaway food and drink from them. Gianluca Rizzo, director, Brixton BID, said: “Brixton is all about small and independent businesses. With the hospitality industry being hit hard, Dine Local was the perfect programme for Brixton, coming at a critical time for some of our restaurants. The response from our community was great as always, and I would like to congratulate the winners and encourage everyone local and new to Brixton to discover all our amazing venues and businesses.”

Tibetan street food concept set to double up with second London site: Tibetan street food concept MoMoMo, which launched last year with a restaurant in Houndsditch, near Aldgate, is set to double up with second London site. The concept, which sees steamed dumplings filled with vegetables, meat and traditional spices – popular in Tibet, Nepal, India and Bhutan – will open at 1 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia, on Friday (April 22), with 32 covers both inside and outside. Founders Sanjeev Chibber and Arthur Magoulianiti came up with the idea after finding the snack, which they say is much sought-after globally, was still not readily available in London. Chibber said: “In India, momos are available on every street corner and at every food market, but they are much harder to find in London. I found myself craving some for lunch one day but couldn’t find them anywhere, so called up my friend Arthur, and we decided there and then that we needed to do something about it. Momos are meant to be shared, and Londoners are missing out!” Fillings include Timur pepper chicken, fragrant spiced beef and spicy jackfruit with greens, although guests can build their own combinations by picking their preferred momo, base, sauce and garnish.

Middlesbrough-based operator opens second experiential concept in the town: Middlesbrough-based operator Level Up Entertainment has opened a second experiential concept in the town. The company, which opened its escape room attraction Project Escape in 2018 in the town’s Dundas Centre, has opened a new 18-hole adventure golf course, Putter Chaos, also in the Dundas Centre. The course takes up 9,000 square feet above a former B&M shop and features work created by local artists. Level Up also operates a second Project Escape venue, in Hexham, Northumberland. Managing and operations director, Graham Huntley, said: “We just want to give something back to the town. We’re trying to make the town centre an exciting environment where people can go to have fun. We’re doing this to create jobs and provide enjoyment for people, and that’s something we’re proud of as well.” Richard Wilson, senior associate at Dodds Brown, which manages the Dundas Centre, added: “For many people, just visiting the shops isn’t a sufficient reason to make the effort when they might be able to buy what they want online. They need restaurants and bars, cinemas and theatres and, increasingly, this new wave of indoor attractions. Project Escape has been incredibly successful, and I’m extremely confident Putter Chaos will also be a hit.”

Team behind Mackie Mayor to open first pub: The team behind the Mackie Mayor food hall, Altrincham Market and the Tender Cow concept, is to open its first pub, the Nags Head near Chester. The company, which is led by Nick Johnson, is looking to reopen the pub in Houghton Moss just outside of Tarporley, on 9 June. In an Instagram post, it said it was joining forces with chefs behind fellow experienced market eateries including Honest Crust pizza, Picos Tacos and Altrincham’s Little Window to help put together this “proper, British pub”. The pub will focus on “really great British pub food by building on our relationships with current suppliers, rearing our own animals, incorporating whole animal butchery and celebrating our own charcuterie. It said: “With this we’ll be making a massive step in the direction of everything we all want to be. Sustainable, local and honest. Working with some of the greatest producers in the North West and across the UK you’ll have access to some of the best produce the UK has to offer. The kitchen will be headed up by Alex (Coppenhall) who’s been running our kitchen in Macclesfield and at the forefront of moving us along as a business. It’s safe to say we’re incredibly excited about this new adventure and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure the pub is held in high regard with locals and nationwide.”

Kent-based burger restaurant concept to open in Tunbridge Wells for third site: Kent-based burger restaurant concept Chuck & Blade is to open its third site. The company, which operates sites in Rochester and Canterbury, is coming to Tunbridge Wells. It will be the first franchise site for the concept, which offers the "juiciest, filthiest handmade burgers in Kent". The branch in Camden Road is expected to open in June, reports Kent Live. Chuck & Blade’s menu includes the Big Charlie, made with “custom cuts of local British beef”, the Halloumi Honey Monster and a Veggie Kray, which is a falafel burger. There are sides including triple mac ‘n’ cheese, fries, desserts along with soft drinks, milkshakes, alcoholic milkshakes, beer and cider.

Taco Bell to open in Gloucester this month: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell will open a site in Gloucester this month. The company will open the drive-thru restaurant at St Oswalds Retail Park on Thursday, 28 April in the premises previously occupied by The Restaurant Group-owned brand Frankie & Benny’s. The outlet, which will create 60 jobs, will be the second Taco bell in Gloucester following its debut in Cheltenham in December. The restaurant will join other food and beverage brands at the retail park, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola-owned Costa Coffee and Subway, reports So Glos. Taco Bell operates 95 sites in the UK. The company has more than 7,500 restaurants across the globe with Glen Bell having opened the first in Downey, California, in 1962.

Lancashire-based dessert shop to open third site: Lancashire-based dessert shop, The Chai Guys, is to open its third site. The company, which has two outlets in Nelson, is expanding to Great Harwood. The new Queen Street branch will be a dessert shop “with a twist” in that it will also sell savoury snacks, curries and other hot food alongside its sweet offerings. The site is undergoing renovations and is expected to open at the start of May. The menu includes doughnuts covered in a variety of toppings, homemade Kinder and Biscoff brownies, milkshakes and ice cream. Director Ashaan Zaroof told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We have a lot of customers in Great Harwood who travel to Nelson just to visit us, so it made sense to open there.”

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