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Fri 29th Apr 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

London’s hospitality sector edges back as sales and footfall rise in Britains city centres: London’s pubs, bars and restaurants are gradually returning towards pre-covid-19 levels of visits after two years of disruption, according to new research from CGA and Wireless Social. The Top Cities Vibrancy Report combines CGA’s sales data with device log-in data from Wi-Fi provider Wireless Social, to provide a “vibrancy” ranking of Britain’s ten most populous cities over the four weeks to 9 April 2022. After finishing last in the list for three periods in a row, London has moved up to eighth this time. While trading remains just below the levels of March and April 2019, the return of more office workers and tourists to the capital leads to confidence that sales and check-ins will rise further as 2022 goes on, the report said. Glasgow has topped the list for the second successive time, where sales were up by 8% on 2019, and check-ins only 10% below. It is followed by Birmingham and Manchester, which also saw sales growth. London is replaced at the bottom of the chart by Sheffield, where sales have been flat and check-ins are still a third off 2019’s levels. Across Britain’s top ten cities, CGA’s data shows average sales in the four weeks to 9 April were 3% ahead of the same period in 2019, while Wireless Social’s figures indicate device check-ins remain 32% down. CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said while much of the pre-pandemic vibrancy is returning, cost-of-living pressures on consumers “cast a shadow over prospects”. Julian Ross, founder and chief executive of Wireless Social, added: “During the summer months we should see an uplift with a number of occasions set to drive excitement among consumers including the Jubilee, women’s Euros and the Commonwealth Games. However, huge uncertainty remains present, as city centre-based firms continue to adopt flexible working practices that, for the most part, will continue to be damaging for hospitality.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Comptoir Group CEO Chaker Hanna supports Hospitality Rising, invest today: Chaker Hanna, chief executive of Comptoir Group, is backing 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. Hanna said: “There are very few industries where individuals can join at any time in their working life, with limited experience, and earn their position in management. At Comptoir Group, we are proud to be an organisation that has many talented professionals who started as kitchen porters or waiting staff, who now have a beautiful restaurant to call their own or oversee multiple locations as area managers. The hospitality industry is a fun, social environment to work in and that is why so many of us simply love what we do. It’s in our blood and it’s in our DNA! The pandemic has taught us that this industry is a pivotal part of our economy. To my fellow hospitality professionals, I invite you to join our cause and support #hospitalityrising. We can protect the future of our industry and build a sustainable workforce for the future.” 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.
 
Updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies released today at midday, 31 businesses being added: A total of 31 new multi-site companies, operating 90 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released today (Friday, 29 April), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes growing bakery brands, regional restaurant and pub operators and a number of concepts set for UK expansion. Premium subscribers will also receive a 2,607-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 6 May, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 13,600-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers 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 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Propel Friday Wrap video series returns with Sean Donkin, managing director of The Inn Collection Group: Propel’s Friday Wrap video series returns today (Friday, 29 April) at 3pm. The series, which is sponsored by Mr Yum, the world’s most powerful ordering and payments platform, sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel’s group editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by Sean Donkin, managing director of The Inn Collection Group, who talks about how the business is looking to grow on the back of its recent acquisition by the Harris family, how it will look to continue to ride the staycation boom, the biggest challenges to its future progression, and what the sweet spot is for future sites. 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a branded coffee company that is looking to hire a head of operations based in the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk area. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “We are looking for a senior leader who has excelled in a food-led or coffee background. Our client is launching hubs around the UK, and we are looking for a senior operator to come on board to help scale and develop the business model. You will eventually have several operations managers reporting directly to you from all over the UK. As the head of operations, you will have clear vision around what this role looks like in terms of growth. The business is looking for career progression throughout your CV – it is looking for a culture fit with the business, and this is around collaborative winning and both analytical and growth mindsets. You will be able to talk confidently about your achievements within the workplace and have success in growing and developing successful teams with excellent retention.” The salary for this role is up to £75,000. For more information and to apply, email Sonny@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Kempczinski – UK continues to be one of strongest markets, Chicken Big Mac most successful promotion ever: Chris Kempczinski, chief executive of McDonald’s, has said that “sustained digital momentum and strong menu initiatives” has allowed the UK to continue to be the one of brand’s strongest performing markets. Speaking after the fast-food giant’s Q1 update, Kempczinski said: “The UK continues to be one of our strongest performing markets. In the first quarter, performance in the UK was fuelled by sustained digital momentum and strong menu initiatives like the national rollout of McPlant and the extremely successful Chicken Big Mac promotion. This quarter, the UK introduced the Chicken Big Mac as a limited time offer, and it quickly became the market’s most successful food promotion ever, selling millions of sandwiches in the first two weeks. And as customers return to our dining rooms, kiosk usage is coming back as a key order channel for customers. In Q1, kiosk sales made up more than half of in-restaurant sales in Australia, Germany, France and the UK. At the same time, McDelivery has become the largest QSR delivery program in the world. In the UK, our customers can now order delivery directly on the McDonald’s app. We plan to expand that capability to the US, Canada and Australia later this year. This will let us better control the delivery experience for our most loyal customers and to learn from the data they share ultimately about how we create more seamless memorable and personalised experiences.” Asked if the war in Ukraine had any impact on its performance in wider Europe, Kempczinski said: “We saw great growth in the UK, France, Germany and many of our large markets in Europe. So, I would say that based on Q1 results, we didn’t see a significant impact on it. I think what’s obviously on everybody’s mind is around sentiment. And what you’re seeing is concern around consumer sentiment, which is probably most pronounced in Europe, but it’s not yet showing up in business performance. It’s certainly something we’re keeping an eye on.” Meanwhile, McDonald’s has applied to open a third drive-thru restaurant in Lowestoft. It plans to build the 76-cover restaurant on vacant land south of Leisure Way, in the northern end of the Suffolk town.

Boud – we plan to get to 60 kitchens by 2027: Jonny Boud, founder and chief executive of Kitchen Ventures, the cloud kitchen and virtual dining start-up, has told Propel the company plans to grow to 60 kitchens and 17 brands by 2027. The company, which earlier this year teamed up with rapper and TV presenter Tinie Tempah to launch a new fried chicken brand, Raps, currently operates delivery kitchens in Shoreditch, Camberwell, Streatham, Kensal Green and Bethnal Green, plus the Willows on the Rooftop concept, on the roof of the John Lewis in Oxford Street. Virtual brands the business is currently working with include Giz ’n’ Green – a collaboration between chef Gizzi Erskine and rapper Professor Green; a chicken concept from Lucy Pearce (ex-Petersham Nurseries and Rawduck) called Farmbird; salad concept Local Greens; and Tacos El Ray from Breddos Tacos founders Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney. On its expansion plans, Boud said: “It's not actually that optimistic. We think we'll definitely get to [those targets] and it may go faster than that. I definitely think we might end up creating more brands. And then it is where we take these brands from here. We've actually got some meetings coming up around some of the brands becoming frozen foods. We are also potentially licensing our brands out to some operators that do similar things internationally. We may start operating other people's brands for them, putting them through our kitchen – anyone that wants to sort of expand their delivery reach without having to take on the upfront costs, and then we'll actually pay a royalty back to those guys. And then I've always wanted to take on a food and beverage project in a hotel, where we would sort of take over the kitchen and then offer a room service offering. Whether or not that's a great idea, I don't know, but it feels like something I'd like to do. And then restaurants, one day, I think it's probably fair to say we'll put some of these brands into proper bricks and mortar restaurants.” The company is set to add a sushi concept with a chef from the Amazonico restaurant in Mayfair; and an all-day, health-led concept to its brand portfolio. Propel revealed in late 2021 the business plans to launch a £5m funding round later this year.

Chopstix builds strong bank of openings, ‘gathering very strong momentum’: Jon Lake, managing director of Chopstix, the pan-Asian noodle chain, has told Propel the company is “gathering very strong momentum, not just in terms of sales but also the amount of opportunity we have to expand”. The company, which operates circa 75 sites, including 22 franchise stores, has recently launched three new sites in Glasgow, Oxford and Britain’s busiest retail park – Middlebrook. It also has openings lined up in Brixton, Canary Wharf, Cardiff St Davids (a second site in the Welsh capital for the brand) and Kingston, which will all be open by the end of July. The expansion comes as the company reported turnover for the year to 25 April 2021 stood at £16.2m (2020: £32.3m), as the business was impacted by enforced closures and trading restrictions due to covid 19. During the year it opened three new restaurants, plus trial stores with two new franchise partners, Sparta Foods in Burslem and CSDK in Sheffield. Lake told Propel: “Like all companies in our space, these historic numbers look somewhat different to what was originally budgeted, and represent a very robust performance, given the circumstances and challenges of the health crisis. What has been most pleasing is how the Chopstix team pulled together and drove the business through this period and ensured we recovered quickly. I’d like to thank all our store teams and the support centre for their dedication and commitment. Although challenges remain, the Chopstix business has bounced back and is gathering very strong momentum, not just in terms of sales but also the amount of opportunity we have to expand through equity stores, franchise partnerships and also through brand extensions and collaborations. As such we are very confident about the year ahead and the prospects for the Chopstix brand overall, and look forward to sharing more on these various initiatives in due course.”

Bubblewrap opens third London site and first franchise, more to follow including three Middle East stores: London-based waffle cone concept Bubblewrap has opened its third site in the capital, and its first franchise. Founded in 2015, initially as a Soho pop-up, by Tony Fang, Bubblewrap launched its first bricks-and-mortar-site in Chinatown two years later, which was followed by a second site at Covent Garden. Bubblewrap last year announced plans to expand across the UK and abroad and has now taken its first step in franchising with the opening of a 100 square-foot kiosk in London’s Old Spitalfields Market. More locations are to be announced in the near future, with Fang planning to open at least three new stores in the Middle East by 2024. He said: “The future of Bubblewrap is exciting, and I’m incredibly proud to announce the beginning of our expansion model through this partnership with our new franchisee. Our brand is unique, and we are proud to position ourselves as a branded fast-food product by using fresh, premium quality ingredients and waffles that are cooked to order. This is a growing market with fantastic opportunities and growth market potential. Since 2015, we’ve worked hard to establish the Bubblewrap brand in the UK. Opening in London’s destination hotspots has enabled us to bring our unique desserts to a wide-ranging global audience and open up our channels to driven and passionate operators who are keen to replicate our success in other areas of the world.” Bubblewrap is included in The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK which will be updated every two months. The first edition features 100 companies, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details, and provides 27,000 words of content. It went out to Premium subscribers for the first time earlier this month. 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. 
 
RedCat acquires further three sites from Anglia Restaurants: RedCat Pub Company, the investment vehicle from ex-Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand, has acquired three further sites from Anglia Restaurants, which operate under the Castle Carvery format. Propel revealed last week that RedCat had acquired the Wherry Hotel and Pub in Suffolk from Anglia Restaurants, which is owned by the Williams family. Overlooking the Oulton Broad, the business features 32 en-suite bedrooms, ten boat moorings, event space for up to 160 guests, plus the Castle Carvery restaurant and bar. RedCat has also acquired the Castle Carvery restaurants at the Racecourse and Clocktower in Norwich, and the Castle Freehouse in Caister-on-sea. Anglia Restaurants will continue to operate and develop its Fatso’s diner restaurants in Sprowston and Riverside locations in Norwich. It is understood RedCat, which currently operates more than 100 sites across the country, intends to continue with the Castle Carvery brand at the sites. Michelle Williams, director of Anglia Restaurants, said: “We are really pleased with the outcome of this deal and are looking forward to beginning a new phase of our businesses and focusing on our Fatso’s brand.” Howes Percival acted on the deal. 

Ole & Steen to open in Windsor for second regional site: Danish baker Ole & Steen is to open its second regional site in the UK, in Windsor, Propel has learned. The 18-strong business, which already operates a site in Oxford’s Westgate scheme, will open a site in Kings Edward Court, in the Berkshire town, later this summer. The company recently increased its presence in London, with an opening at More London, after taking over the former Caffe Nero site at the scheme near London Bridge. Last month, the business announced it will open a two-floor, 2,411 square-foot corner site at 39-43 Neal Street, Seven Dials, which will be its largest in the capital so far and sit alongside more than 100 global locations. The openings will be part of the operators’ ambitious 2022 expansion plans as it gears up for several new sites throughout this year. RAB Retail acts for Ole & Steen.

London-based taproom and bottle shop concept opens first cocktail bar: London-based taproom and bottle shop concept Mother Kelly’s has opened its first cocktail bar, Cherry Tiger, on the top floor of Castle Square, Elephant & Castle. The opening is a deliberate expansion into the cocktail bar scene for a company that opened its first taproom in 2014 and operates four New York-inspired Mother Kelly’s sites across the capital. It is being led by founder Nigel Owen, who has decades of experience in the hospitality and mixology industry across London. As well as an “exciting and evolving” cocktail menu, Cherry Tiger will soon grow its offering to include snacks and food collaborations with local restaurants. Owen said: “We are delighted to be expanding our venture into Elephant & Castle, opening our very first cocktail bar. Cherry Tiger promises to deliver a delicious menu of cocktails and food, which will add to the diverse culinary offering at Castle Square.” The Mother Kelly’s format allows customers the freedom to scan the fridges and help themselves instead of peering over the bar, before drinking in or taking out their purchase.

Mr Ji’s confirms Camden opening: Taiwanese-inspired chicken concept Mr Ji has confirmed it will open a second site, in Camden. As revealed by Propel in March, the concept, which launched in London’s Soho at the end of 2019, is to open in The Parkway in Camden. The business previously operated a pop-up in Camden. Mr Ji is the brainchild of restaurateur Samuel Haim, who also founded Camden-based fish and chip restaurant Hook, and was inspired by his visits to the Taiwanese capital Taipei. Mr Ji will replace the closed Hook site in Camden and is set to open in June. New dishes on the menu will include Brawn Tacos – barbecued braised pig’s head and chilli pickle cucumber salad on top of a deep fried pancake. The drinks list will feature a more wine-led offer, with a low intervention international wine list to accompany the array of flavours from Mr Ji’s menu. There will also be saké and cocktails. Haim teamed up with Ta Ta Eatery and Tou duo Ana Goncalves and Zijun Meng to launch Mr Ji’s Soho site. Goncalves and Meng said, “We’re excited to be breaking away from the Taiwanese chicken label. Now it’s about embracing creativity, without restrictions or rules, we want to challenge tradition. We’re taking elements we like from Asian food, mixing them up with western culture and creating new possibilities, twists on the familiar!”

Gousto reports ninth consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth, up 67% on 2020: Recipe box subscription service Gousto has reported a ninth consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth, with sales up 67% on 2020. The meal kit provider has reported £315m in revenue in FY21, up from £189m the previous year. Despite investing heavily in technology, automation and production capacity, it managed a 10% increase in underlying Ebitda to £20m compared with £18m in 2020, and 136% growth in net cash generated from operations, to £37m. The London-based company said it sold more than 90 million Gousto meals in 2021, up from 53 million in 2020, which amounts to three meals every second. Timo Boldt, founder and chief executive said: “It was a standout year for Gousto as we grew headcount, invested significantly in automation, further improved the customer offer, raised capital and welcomed a number of new blue-chip investors onto our shareholder register. And we achieved all this while growing customer numbers and delivering a ninth consecutive year of strong revenue growth, cementing the gains we achieved in the prior year and fully capitalising on the embedded megatrends that are driving today’s grocery market.” Looking ahead, Gousto added it was “well-positioned” to capitalise on continuing long-term trends affecting the grocery market. In February, Gousto said it raised a further $230m, a month after sealing its unicorn status with a $100m placing.

Birmingham-based brothers to open second restaurant: Birmingham-based operators Paul and John Havelin are opening their second site in the city. The brothers – the owners of the Jonathans in the Park eatery, which is based in Lightwoods House in Bearwood – are launching a new restaurant in the city’s Roundhouse. Jonathans in the Roundhouse will be the sole food and drink outlet in the Roundhouse, which is alongside the Birmingham canal. Paul said: “Me and my brother have lived and worked in Birmingham all of our lives so having the opportunity to build two businesses in two beautiful locations in the city is an absolute honour for us. We have built our original restaurant ‘in the Park’ over the last five years and through the very difficult lockdown period, to be a hub for the local community to enjoy. Having an opportunity to do that again in another beautifully restored historic venue is incredibly exciting.” Paul began his hospitality career in the Jonathans restaurant in Oldbury 40 years ago, under the guidance of owners Jonathan Baker and Jonathan Bedford. The original and famous Jonathans restaurant was established in 1977. When Paul and John decided to open their own venue Jonathans in the Park, in 2017, they received permission to prefix the name from original owner Baker, with the aim of continuing the special tradition of the restaurant to deliver British dishes. Roundhouse Birmingham, a heritage enterprise and independent charity, has been created through a partnership between the Canal & River Trust and National Trust to find a new purpose for the historic building.

Rekom to open first Heidi’s Bier Bar in England next month: Rekom UK, the Peter Marks-led nightclub operator, will next month open the first English site for its Scandinavian ski bar concept, Heidi’s Bier Bar. The first British Heidi’s Bier Bar – a concept that first launched in Copenhagen in 2004 and now boasts 20 venues across Norway, Denmark and Finland – opened in Cardiff last month. The Birmingham venue, located in Broad Street, will be its biggest yet, with a 1,100 capacity, and will operate over two floors. Rekom has spent £1.5m transforming the former Bierkeller site into an Alpine getaway, which will create an authentic après ski atmosphere through specially curated soundtracks, live music, a karaoke stage, DJ booth and themed events. Heidi’s Bier Bar’s head of marketing and partner, Dennis Kastbjerg, said: “Birmingham was recently listed as England’s most vibrant city and you can see why – it is buzzing night and day, and we can’t wait to bring Heidi’s to the city. In a Heidi’s, the spirits are always high, the party is wild, and everywhere you look, you see happy people. You can’t help but have a good time! We have a strong brand identity and have built a loyal fan base. I think it’s the fact Heidi’s isn’t pretentious but just down to earth fun. It’s good for the soul and will bring a whole new vibe to the city when we open.” Rekom, which operates more than 200 bars, pubs and clubs across Scandinavia, first moved into the UK in December 2020 when it acquired 44 of The Deltic Group’s 55 sites out of administration. Rekom UK now operates 47 clubs and bars across Britain. In February, it secured a debut UK site for its Proud Mary pub/bar concept, in Swansea.

The Boundary Shoreditch set to open new bar and restaurant: Boutique hotel The Boundary Shoreditch, which was acquired by Harcourt Inns founder James McCulloch in December, will open its new ground floor bar and restaurant on Wednesday, 18 May. The opening will be led by Boundary’s newly appointed head chef Robin Freeman, formerly of 1 Lombard Street and Ekte Nordic Kitchen, who will also oversee the refurbished rooftop bar restaurant. The 100-cover restaurant, which takes over from the Albion Cafe, will offer an all-day brasserie-style menu, serving modern British fare with a European influence. The menu, which will champion seasonal, sustainable produce “cooked in a casual and simple style” will include whole roasted chicken with wild garlic butter, grilled Torbay cod and wild garlic and nettle risotto. Weekends will see Saturday brunches and Sunday roasts, while drinks will be served until late. The Boundary’s basement, an events space for up to 150 people, will continue to host private events, with catering provided by the new head chef. McCulloch said: “The ground floor of the Boundary is one of the most underutilised spaces in east London, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to reposition it into a bar and brasserie. The rooftop has always been a popular destination over the summer months, and we just want to build on its popularity by improving the guests’ overall experience, through better food and drink and introducing live music and some personality.”

Merlin Entertainments expands Korean operation with aquarium acquisition: Merlin Entertainments has acquired The Coex Aquarium in the Gangnam district, Seoul. The Coex Aquarium is one of largest aquariums in Korea, holding a total of 3,000 tons of water and housing more than 180 immersive marine exhibits. The acquisition complements Merlin’s already existing expertise in running Sea Life aquariums “to create amazing experiences that educate and inspire current and future generations to care for the world’s waters and global marine wildlife”. This continues Merlin’s expansion in Korea with other attractions including Sea Life in Busan, which rebranded in 2014 and is situated in Haeundae Beach in the Haeundae District, and Legoland Korea, the country’s first global theme park that recently saw a soft opening in Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province. The acquisition marks the third business to join Merlin since the beginning of the year. Previously Merlin announced it would take over This is Holland in The Netherlands in January and the following month announced plans to acquire the operations and brand licences for Cadbury World in the UK. YP Kim, general manager and director for Midway APAC Division, Merlin Entertainments, will be based in Seoul to oversee the day-to-day management of The Coex. Rob Smith, divisional director for APAC added: “This is an exciting addition to our APAC Midway attractions and highlights our overall investment in Korea, as well as our wider APAC Midway strategy, which will be bolstered by The Coex Aquarium coming into our attraction portfolio.” Meanwhile, Merlin has lodged plans with Warwick District Council to build a 60-bedrrom hotel and extend the restaurant at the site of Warwick Castle. 

Former Manchester United footballer opens gym in Oldham in partnership with his children: Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has partnered with his children, Arron and Alicia, to launch a new gym in his home town of Oldham. The family has invested £500,000 in Scholes Gym, a 10,000 square-foot former tool hire warehouse in Lees Road. Run by siblings, Arron and Alicia, who are both level 3 qualified personal trainers, the site comprises a fitness studio and gym featuring a state-of-the-art cardio, strength and conditioning machines. Set across two floors, it also includes a coffee shop at the front of the building. The development took around six months to complete, with the family acquiring the site in September 2021. Scholes said: “Oldham is where I grew up and got a first taste of sport. To open Scholes Gym here is really important to me. It's the sort of venue I dreamed of having access to back then.” He added the idea for a gym came about when the family worked out in their back garden during lockdown. Alicia said: “Gyms can often feel quite cold and functional spaces. We wanted to challenge that head on and create the type of warm and welcoming environment in which we as a family like to train.”

Salcombe Distilling Co raises more than £1m in first 24 hours of crowdfunding campaign: Devon based Salcombe Distilling Co passed the £1m mark in the first 24 hours of its latest crowdfunding campaign. The fundraise is first step of the company’s plan to raise £5m over the next 12 months, as it looks to continue growing globally. A similar process took place in 2019, when the company reached its crowdfunding target in under 24 hours. This has helped it achieve 100% growth in the last two years, launch both its Salcombe Gin and New London Light brands in the US and create the world’s first distillery at sea. It has recently achieved strong export growth, with its products shipped to the likes of the Middle East, China, Singapore and across Europe as well as the US. The current investment opportunity will stay open until mid-May. Co-founder Howard Davies, who started the business with Angus Lugsdin in 2016, said: “The funds raised will allow us to take our exceptional tasting Salcombe Gin and New London Light to an even greater audience, building on partnerships we’ve already established and creating exciting new ones. We have high ambitions for continued rapid growth. In the last six years, I’m really proud to say we’ve grown rapidly, with an increase in turnover of 100% in the past two years, despite the global pandemic.”

Cosmo reopens Oxford site after two years closed: Buffet brand Cosmo Authentic World Kitchen has reopened its Oxford branch following a two-year closure due to the pandemic. The reopening of the 250 capacity, 10,200 square-foot venue has created 50 additional jobs. The all you can eat buffet concept offers a large selection of international cuisines, with more than 150 dishes on offer. Many of them are prepared in front of diners in an open kitchen. Suzanne Wink, head of operations at Cosmo, said: “It is fantastic to have reopened our Oxford branch again, and the response has been incredible. We have taken a huge volume of bookings and are enjoying re-engaging with old and new customers. We have added some new dishes to our menu and offer exceptional fresh food in an energetic, luxurious environment.” Cosmo, which first opened in 2013, launched its 20th site, in Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre, last month. It is also looking to open restaurants in Bournemouth, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Northampton and Preston.

Harts Group confirms June opening for new sherry bar concept: Harts Group, which owns Quo Vadis, Casa Pastor, Parrillan and Barrafina, has confirmed its new sherry bar concept, Bar Daskal, will open on Wednesday, 15 June. Specialising in Spanish wine and tapas and also offering four different types of sherry, the bar will open in London’s Borough Yards development. Harts Group last year announced it will also be opening two restaurants at Borough Yards – a fifth Barrafina site and a second Parrillan one.

Soho Bars Group opens third site: Soho Bars Group, the team behind Freedom Bar and Soho Residence, has opened a third venue, theatrical bar and restaurant The Act. Located in the heart of Notting Hill, The Act features singing and dancing as part of a programme of live entertainment, alongside cocktails and dining. As well as regular pop-up performances by casts from the latest West End productions, The Act’s bar team break into live performances as they fill the glasses. With space for 180 covers, The Act holds weekly theatrical brunch parties on Saturdays and Sundays, with rotating feel-good themes. The cocktail menu, curated by Benji Purslow, European ambassador for Heaven Hill Distillery, includes a twist on the espresso martini with Bacardi Spiced Rum, Mr Blacks Coffee Liqueur, fresh coffee, Cherry Liqueur and homemade vanilla syrup. The food menu has been put together by the team from the Richmond restaurant Chatora, featuring authentic Indian cuisine with a contemporary twist including semolina shells with pomegranate, honey yoghurt, paneer tikka and quail keema naan. Soho Bars Group founders, Siobhan McGill and Keith Todd, have been joined in the venture by Michael Belle, who has previously led operations at the group. McGill has previously been involved in The Cross Keys in Chelsea, The Pheasantry in Kings Road and Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill.

Shay Cooper heads up new restaurant at Belgravia hotel: Chef Shay Cooper is heading up the new restaurant that has opened at The Lanesborough hotel in London’s Belgravia. Cooper, who won a Michelin star while at The Goring, is leading The Lanesborough Grill. The “flagship modern British restaurant” has replaced previous restaurant Celeste, which had a Michelin star but lost it in this year's guide. Dishes at The Lanesborough Grill include beef wellington, royale chestnut mushroom, oxtail, and bone marrow potatoes; and poached native lobster cooked with spring radishes, broad beans, peas and lemon verbena butter.

Titanic Brewery opens sixth site for Bod concept: Titanic Brewery has opened a sixth site for its cafe bar concept Bod. The company has opened the site in Stone, Staffordshire, adding to the concept’s venues in Stafford, Stoke, Trentham, Newport and Matlock. The site in High Street has launched in the premises previously occupied by cocktail bar The Lounge. It is Titanic Brewery’s second site in Stone, as it already runs The Royal Exchange pub in Radford Street, which it opened in 2008. Titanic Brewery was launched by brothers Keith and Dave Bott in Stoke in 1985. Alongside the brewery, which produces more than four million pints a year, and its Bod concept, the company also operates eight pubs.

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