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Wed 4th May 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Donkin – the next few months could be more difficult to navigate than the last couple of years: Sean Donkin, managing director of The Inn Collection Group, thinks the next three to four months could be more difficult to navigate for the sector than the last couple of years – especially now government support has ended. Speaking as part of Propel’s Friday Wrap video series, Donkin said: “We are a little bit nervous around cost rises, which I think the whole world is sort of starting to panic about. There is a sense that perhaps, over the next three to four months, this could be more difficult to navigate than the last couple of years. I mean, we’ve spent a good couple of years now with the comfort blankets, as I would call them. Things have been tough for sure, and there’s nobody that budgeted for a closed model, but there was that sort of fall-back position. We thought there was going to be a great bounce after covid, which there has been, but with all these things now, it’s almost like a permanent state of crisis, and that’s going to take its toll across the sector.” Donkin said that the 32-strong group’s circa £300m acquisition by a new company backed by the Harris family, working with Kings Park Capital, earlier this year had “allowed a sort of sense of security, I think, for the team for the longer term”. He said: “We have always been very open and honest about the path we would follow down. With a privately backed route, you know there’s always going to be that sort of five or six-year outcome, or horizon to focus towards. The team is very excited because we’re on a long-term goal now, which is brilliant. And, obviously, we’re very much looking forward to a very strong summer trading period coming up. We’ve got 32 now, and in that, there’s a few of them still under development, as we did quite a rapid expansion. We actually completed on four new properties the same week that we sold the business. The aspiration we’ve discussed the new owners, it’s very much business as usual and continue with the expansion. We’re talking about a couple of decades in terms of an exit horizon, if there ever is one at all. So, that allows a much more sort of stable rate of growth. We probably won’t be doing four in a week, but we do have the availability to do so if we need that, which is good. The next sort of short-term task for us is to backfill now, in terms of the team to support those sites. In the next few weeks, we’re going to be moving offices from Northumberland down into Newcastle city centre, because we need a larger resource for our central functions.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Whitbread joins the Hospitality Rising movement: Whitbread is backing Hospitality Rising and has urged others to get behind the campaign too. 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. Lisa Taylor, head of resourcing at Whitbread, said: “Working with other key industry leaders, we are proud to be investing in this important campaign, which is gaining real momentum. We are ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with other hospitality leaders who, like us, are committed to ensuring we continue to attract talented people through showing the breadth of opportunity on offer in our hotels and restaurants. Hospitality provides an opportunity to be part of a close-knit team, plus we can grow people’s business skills from entry level to running their own hotel or restaurant within just a few years and offer free nationally recognised qualifications along the way through apprenticeships. This campaign will help bring all those benefits to life and help attract a new talent pool to our industry. If you haven’t joined the movement already, there’s still time to do so and help us 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.

Host of Italian concepts to feature in next edition of The New Openings Database, 13,610-word report included: A host of Italian concepts will feature in the next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock. The database will show the details of 309 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (6 May), at midday. The database shows the details of which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location. There will also be a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The next edition of the database features Italian pasta concept Miscusi, which was founded by Alberto Cartasegna, and is doubling up in the capital with a site in Upper Street, Islington. Meanwhile, chef entrepreneur Robin Gill is opening his fifth restaurant in Kensington in June called Maria G’s, which will offer “Italian classics made with the best British ingredients”. In addition, Wholly Gelato, which offers Italian-style gelato, and will open its first retail site at the Gloucester Food Dock, a new £3.5m waterfront dining destination in the city, will be featured. Premium subscribers will also receive a 13,610-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (29 April). The database contained 31 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,439. The 90 sites run by those 31 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 65,197 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 2,607-word report on the new businesses added. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. There is also a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which 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. 

Backman – we should be asking where the customer is instead of who: Foodservice analyst Peter Backman has said a trinity of changes that are pressuring the foodservice sector means perhaps the sector should be asking where is the customer, instead of who. Backman said: “These are the three changes: working from home, travel and delivery. Working from home is shifting the shape of demand although not reducing it. Whether people work from home or from an office, they need to be fed and watered. But the places where this occurs are shifting from city centres to suburban and rural areas, from workplace feeding to local coffee shops and restaurants, from foodservice to grocery and back again. Residual fears over covid, combined with working from home, have reduced travel. These shifts exert an impact on foodservice in many ways. For example: The City of London and Canary Wharf suffer from working from home; the West End suffers both from loss of overseas tourists and working from home. Less travel reduces aggregate demand for foodservice in places such as these; even though the demand may still exist. Changes to travel are transporting it to other places, such as outer suburbs that benefit from working from home, even while inner suburbs are probably much as they always have been. Delivery is driven fundamentally by consumer demand – and in the UK, as elsewhere, consumers are demanding food to be delivered to their homes. A number of formats are involved including: restaurant delivery, meal kits and ultra-fast grocery delivery. Taking all these issues together, it seems to me that a useful way to look at the market is not from the aspect of who is the customer? Instead, the question we may usefully be asking ourselves when developing new ideas is where is the customer?”

London lags behind other cities as commuters shun the office: London has been left at the back of the pack as commuters and tourists stay away, with think tank Centre for Cities finding the capital languishing at the bottom of its recovery rankings. The Telegraph reported footfall recovery in the capital lags well behind other UK cities, with weekday numbers at less than three-fifths of its February 2020 levels. Paul Swinney, director of policy and research at the Centre for Cities, said: “You have this decoupling of knowledge workers from the surrounding high streets. The sectors that require footfall for in-person sales – like retail and leisure – are being very hard hit.” Data shows a new dynamic emerging, with weekend activity closer to a full recovery and midweek busier than Mondays and Fridays as office staff work from home either side of the weekend. “Everything will hinge on how workers behave, and whether tourists return, Swinney said. “If we don't see that recovery, then it might well mean we see fewer retail and leisure businesses in central London.” The New West End Company, a partnership of around 600 businesses based in the city’s retail district, said footfall is at 80% of its 2019 levels, driven by a combination of reduced tourist visits but also fewer trips by commuting workers. Jace Tyrell, its chief executive, said companies are learning to work around the three in, two out crowd, with spending recovering more strongly than footfall as people splash out more in the midweek. Friday nights have become “surreal”, Tyrell added, with the city centre often “very quiet” between 4pm and 7pm, while Sundays have become more important.

Greggs among retail companies forming alliance in fresh push for business rates overhaul: Food-to-go retailer Greggs is among a group of companies forging a new coalition to urge chancellor Rishi Sunak to plough ahead with reforms to Britain's decades-old business rates regime. The group, calling itself the Retail Jobs Alliance, has been set up by some of the country's biggest chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waterstones, and has written to Sunak to demand he “cuts the shops tax”, reports Sky News. The letter said the Retail Jobs Alliance would be “making the case for an overall cut in business rates for all retail premises, and we are open to the possibility of funding this through the introduction of a new online sales tax”. In February, the Treasury launched a consultation on the merits of an online sales tax in the wake of a business rates review that it claimed would save companies £7bn. In their letter to Sunak, the retailers said: "We are all, like you, acutely concerned with pressures on household budgets and the rising cost of living, and we all have a role to play in keeping costs down as far as we can. Business rates – the shops tax – are a significant part of retailers' overheads. A meaningful cut in the shops tax would make a big difference to retailers' ability to invest more in the shops and stores that we know customers value, as well as to create jobs.” It pointed out several of the Retail Jobs Alliance's members “are businesses with significant online operations as well as physical shops, so would expect to pay any new online sales tax as well as benefiting from a business rates cut”. The group, which will be temporary, said it intended to respond to the Treasury's consultation, which closes this month.

More than two-thirds of UK hospitality staff don’t trust they are paid correct tips: More than two-thirds (67%) of UK hospitality staff have said they have questioned tips on their payslip because they believed the amount was inaccurate. Meanwhile, 92% of staff believe there needs to be more transparency surrounding tips and how they are shared, according to new research from KAM commissioned by cashless tipping platform Tipjar. The survey showed a lack of trust in contactless tipping in the hospitality industry with the majority of staff (84%) worrying they are not getting their fair share of credit/debit card tips and service charges. Two-thirds (66%) of staff said they have knowingly had tips held back or had deductions taken from their tips, with almost three quarters (74%) of them claiming they were never told the reasons for this. Meanwhile, 88% of staff said the fairness of the tip process influences where they work and how long they stay in a role. When it comes to consumers, two in three said they don’t understand where tips go despite a large majority (87%) expressing concerns for where their card tips or service charges end up. Providing this transparency could increase tips as 43% of consumers said knowing their tip goes directly to the staff would prompt them to leave one. One in two customers also said they were more likely to visit a venue if they knew “non-cash” tips were being shared fairly. 

UK hotel M&A market sees strong recovery but volume of European deals almost down 40% on pre-pandemic levels: The UK hotel M&A market saw strong recovery last year with deals totalling €4.9bn, up 146% on 2020 levels. More than half of these deals involved properties in London, making the UK capital the hottest market in Europe with €2.6bn-worth of transaction activity. The UK accounted for 30% of total transaction volume in Europe last year, according to the latest European Hotel Transactions report from global hotel consultancy HVS and its brokerage and investment services division HVS Hodges Ward Elliott. Last year was one of strong recovery for European hotel transactions with €16.4bn-worth of deals, twice that of 2020. The report revealed 322 European hotel transactions took place during 2021 involving 494 properties and 79,000 rooms. While total volume in 2021 doubled that of 2020, it fell almost 40% short of 2019 levels on account of significantly fewer portfolio transactions. Sale prices per hotel room were generally higher, however, due to rising demand from potential buyers of single assets. Single asset sales amounted to 65% of all transactions with more than half being in the UK and Spain, and reached a total volume just 15% shy of 2019 levels. The average sales price per room for single asset sales reached their highest level recorded at €260,000, driven by covid-aid related inflation and the sheer weight of capital waiting to be deployed. Portfolio deals accounted for 35% of European transactions during 2021, double the level of the previous year, but still more than 50% down on 2019 suggesting there is further recovery to come. The UK and Spain also dominated portfolio transactions, although sales prices per room tended to be flat compared with the previous year. In the UK, the average sales price per room for portfolio deals was significantly lower than in 2020. Looking forward, single-asset transaction activity is expected to remain strong this year as investors hunt for opportunities now that pandemic restrictions have largely subsided, the report said.

UKHospitality urges government to simplify post-16 qualifications: Trade body UKHospitality has urged government to simplify post-16 qualifications following a Department for Education consultation. According to Downing Street, the aim of the review is to streamline the complex qualifications landscape, creating clear choices for young people and adults. It says it wants to ensure every qualification approved for public funding is of high quality, has a distinct purpose and supports progression to positive outcomes. UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “With more than 8,000 qualifications for students at Level 2 and below in England – including more than 200 for hospitality and catering – UKHospitality believes it is essential to simplify and streamline the system. This will aid students to make informed choices from a range of options that suit their individual needs, and therefore set them up for success in their future careers. It will also be easier for businesses to interpret. This re-evaluation is an opportunity to ensure every qualification has a clear, distinct purpose and clear progression routes. It can also drive changes that improve social mobility, further inclusion and open up more opportunities for young people to transition from education into further studying or employment. Employers will undoubtedly benefit from such changes, which will create a clearer skills system based on employer needs and standards.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a global hospitality and e-commerce business to hire a chief of staff based in London. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “As a job role, chief of staff might be something that you more associate with American politics rather than running a business in the UK. The primary objective is very much the same ‘get people on board and get the job done’ – we are looking for a strong influencer with great people skills. This is not a role where you need to care about being popular – you need to get results. You will work alongside a senior leader who is growing a fast-paced global company. You will be involved in all meetings at senior level and will have exposure to the inner workings of the company. Great computer, admin and organisational skills are essential.” The salary is £60,000. For more information and to arrange a confidential chat, email gemma@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Young’s adds award-winning Hertfordshire pub to estate: London pub operator Young’s has made a further addition to its premium managed pub portfolio, with the acquisition of The Bedford Arms in Chenies, Buckinghamshire, in an off-market deal, Propel has learned. The Bedford Arms is a country pub with 18 bedrooms and was previously run by the Ratcliffe family for 20 years. Last month, Young’s added the freehold of the multiple award-winning 16th century pub, the White Horse in the village of Hascombe, Surrey, to its portfolio. Over the past few months, Young’s has also added seven pubs in total from the Cotswolds-based Lucky Onion Group; The Pheasant near Hungerford, Berkshire, from Jack Greenall, a scion of the Greenall Whitley brewing family; and The Bull in Ditchling, East Sussex, for an undisclosed sum. Jeremy Drake, of Drake & Company, acted on The Bedford Arms deal.

Korean food and culture hub concept Oseyo secures Cambridge and Battersea sites: Korean food and culture hub concept Oseyo is to add a further two sites to its growing estate, including a second regional opening. The company, which already operates six sites in London and one in Manchester, is understood to have secured a site in Petty Cury, Cambridge. The business will also open a further site in the capital at the Battersea Power Station development. At the end of last year, Oseyo opened a site at Hammersmith Broadway shopping centre in west London. The business also has sites in Soho, Camden, Tottenham Court Road, Angel and Waterloo. The sites feature traditional Korean cuisine, a fresh ingredients section, and a Korean pancake station as well as non-food including Korean cosmetics, K-pop albums, stationery and Korean household appliances such as talking rice cookers.

Pachamama Group to open Notting Hill restaurant and cocktail bar: Restaurant operator Pachamama Group is to launch a fourth site in London, in Notting Hill. The company will open Zephyr – a Greek restaurant and late-night cocktail bar – at 100 Portobello Road. The business has signed a new 15-year lease on the 3,000 square foot site. Pachamama Group opened modern-Peruvian restaurant Pachamama Bar + Kitchen in Marylebone in 2014, launching Chicama Bar + Kitchen in Chelsea two years later. At the end of 2018, the company launched its third London site, in Shoreditch. Pachamama East opened in Great Eastern Street offering a different experience to Peruvian-style sister sites Chicama and Pachamama. The new venue focuses on seasonal produce and “applying the bold flavours, aromas, textures and spices that make Asian food so tasty”. Guy Marks, of CBRE, acted on the Notting Hill deal.

Soho Coffee set to debut new brand concept at Birmingham airport: Soho Coffee Co, the privately-owned coffee company led by Penny Manuel, is set to expand its portfolio to 43 sites worldwide with the launch of a new brand concept at Birmingham airport. Showcasing Soho’s new look and design, with development in the hot grab-and-go category – the latest venue will open in the main departure lounge on 8 July, offering fresh, handmade food to travellers and airport teams alike. Manuel said: “Birmingham Airport has been number one on our target list to open a Soho for some time. I am delighted that the airport shares our view that Soho is just right for travellers looking for great food with quick service. We are a local brand well established in the West Midlands – the airport is the perfect addition to our portfolio.” Richard Gill, commercial director of Birmingham airport, added: “This new coffee shop will be a timely addition to the departure lounge as we see more customers flying. Bringing Soho Coffee Co in as a partner complements our existing brands and ensures that our customer have choice of eateries, and takeaway options.”

Crepeaffaire to open new Leicester Square site as part of £3m F&B investment by Hippodrome Casino, offering exclusive evening concept: A new Crepeaffaire site will open in London’s Leicester Square in July as part of a £3m food and beverage investment by Hippodrome Casino. The crepe-based company will open a 1,200 square-foot all-day cafe at the venue, serving French crêpes and galettes, the brand’s new “Crepe & Roll” range, barista-quality coffee and desserts and an evening “Crêpes & Cocktails” concept exclusive to the site. Also in July, a new contemporary Chinese restaurant, Chop Chop by Four Seasons at The Hippodrome, will open on the lower ground floor. A third opening, a hidden subterranean cocktail bar concept, will open on The Hippodrome’s lower ground food later this year. Simon Thomas, executive chairman at The Hippodrome, said: “The Hippodrome has long led the way in the casino landscape, and the next phase of our development strategy is focused on elevating our position as a competitive lifestyle brand by enhancing the guest experience. We can’t wait to add these three new concepts to our already extensive hospitality offering.” Daniel Spinath, founder of Crepeaffaire, added: “It’s long been an ambition to open in a prominent destination like Leicester Square. Our versatile all-day offer is perfectly matched to the area’s demographic of families, visitors to London and local workers.” Crepeaffaire, which currently has circa 25 sites in four countries, including 13 in the UK, announced plans in October 2021 to triple its estate by opening up to 50 new franchised stores over the next two to three years. Crepeaffaire is featured in 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. The next edition will be sent to Premium subscribers later 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.

Cheeky Chicos set for fourth restaurant, at £2.5bn Elephant Park regeneration project: Mexican fusion restaurant and bar Cheeky Chicos is set to open its fourth restaurant. It has secured a 1,900 square-foot unit, catering to 75 diners inside and 20 outside, at the £2.5bn Elephant Park regeneration project, spearheaded by Lendlease and Southwark Council. Propel reported yesterday that the Daniel Edgar-led business has secured its third site, the former Stringray Globe site in Shoreditch, for an opening later this summer. Focusing on tacos, tostadas, and sharing plates, the menu has been created by restaurant consultant Andrew Lassetter, using a blend of locally sourced and authentic Mexican ingredients. The venue, on Ash Avenue, offers views across the park and will also feature live performances. Kasparas Azbainis, Dan Edgar, and Ray Cornwell, co-founders of Cheeky Chicos, said “Cheeky Chicos is about bringing a fun, modern take on Mexican cuisine into a lively bar atmosphere. We cannot wait to introduce this to Elephant Park.” Also coming to Elephant Park is Rarebit, a modern all-day kitchen, bar and grocery store, which has signed for its bricks-and-mortar debut. Located on Sayer Street, Rarebit is a brand-new concept from founders Mark Angell and Will Nias, who have a combined experience of more than 17 years in the restaurant industry. With 60 covers inside and 15 outside, the 1,710 square-foot unit will celebrate British cuisine, serving a signature dish of Welsh Rarebit alongside top quality British meats, fish, cheeses and wines. Angell and Nias added: “Elephant Park has quickly become a destination for world flavours, and Rarebit will offer something new to the area; the best of British produce in a relaxed and friendly environment.” Nash Bond, CF Commercial, and Shelley Sandzer represented Lendlease, while Rarebit and Cheeky Chicos dealt direct.

Black Bear Burger to open fourth London site with Exmouth Market launch: Black Bear Burger, operated by husband-and-wife team Liz and Stew Down, is to open a fourth London site this month. The concept is launching in the former Dirty Burger premises in Exmouth Market on Wednesday, 25 May. Black Bear Burger will offer its signature burgers and hand-cut fries including its eponymous burger that features dry aged beef, cheese, bacon, onion jam and garlic mayo. Black Bear Burger operates a site at Boxpark Shoreditch and a sit-down restaurant in Brixton Village while it is due to open at Market Halls’ Cargo Canary Wharf venue this month.

Zambrero opens third UK site, Chelmsford opening to follow: Zambrero, Australia’s largest Mexican quick-service franchise, which donates a meal for every burrito or bowl purchased, has opened its third site in the UK, in Twickenham. Zambrero, which operates more than 200 restaurants globally, opened the new site, at 30 London Road, over the weekend. It will be closely followed by a fourth UK restaurant in the UK for the brand, in Chelmsford. UK chief executive Emily Teh said: “We’re thrilled to now be open in Twickenham and were delighted by the welcome we received from the local community on our opening day. We’re particularly grateful to the Twickenham community for the interest and support they’ve shown us with respect to our Plate4Plate program.” With a mission to stop world hunger, Zambrero donates a meal to someone in need for every burrito or bowl purchased through its Plate4Plate initiative. To date, Zambrero’s global network has donated more than 57 million meals via its humanitarian partner Rise Against Hunger. The brand opened its debut UK site in Kentish Town last year, with a second following in Loughton, Essex, last December. 
 
Hawksmoor set to end at-home meal kit service: Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept Hawksmoor will bring an end to its Hawksmoor At-Home meal kit service later this month. The business launched the service in the summer of 2020 when the country was in its first covid-19 lockdown, with the service subsequently overseen by ex-Flat Iron and Wahaca managing director Jo Fleet. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Fleet had joined London-based restaurant, bar and coffee-roasting concept Caravan as its new managing director. Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett tweeted the final slots for delivery for the service will be 26-28 May, with final orders needing to be placed by 9am on Tuesday, 24 May. He added the brand’s steaks would still be available through Ocado. He tweeted: “We are bringing our Hawksmoor At-Home boxes to an end. For now. If you have ever ordered a Hawksmoor At-Home box then thank you so much for being part of a real source of pride for all of us.” Beckett told Propel in February the success of its at-home offer had shown there was “more white space for the brand” to go after. He said Hawksmoor At-Home did “just shy of £1m” in December. 

Travelodge reports ‘extremely encouraging’ trading in 2022, returns to profit: Travelodge has reported a strong recovery in 2021 while trading this year has been “extremely encouraging”. For the year ending 31 December 2021, the business saw revenue rise from £284.4m in 2020 to £559.8m. Adjusted earnings before tax were £81.1m from a loss of £74m a year before. In the final quarter of the year revenue was up 1.8% to £185.1m – ahead of the pre-covid level in 2019 of £181.8m. Travelodge opened 17 new hotels during the period and had 592 hotels and 44,984 rooms at the end of the year. The company said this year there has been an improvement in trading following the lifting of the work from home guidance towards the end of January, with strong leisure trading expected to continue, driven by staycation demand. This year, 60 Travelodge hotels are being upgraded to the new budget-luxe design. Chairman Martin Robinson said: “Travelodge reinforced its position as a resilient business with a powerful brand throughout a challenging 2021. Trading so far in 2022 has been extremely encouraging, despite a slow start amidst the Omicron restrictions in January, and we are excited to launch our new budget-luxe hotel design, which offers a more premium look and feel while maintaining our great value price proposition.” Travelodge started 2021 with around 300 hotels open for essential business travel, with a gradual reopening of the estate in line with demand over the following months, before restrictions on leisure travel were partially lifted in May. More than 10,000 people were working across the business at the end of 2021.

Park Holidays acquires trio of sites: Holiday parks operator Park Holidays UK has acquired two new sites in Scotland and another in Cornwall that fell into administration two years ago. The company, which now has 43 parks in its portfolio, has bought Waterside Cornwall near Bodmin – formerly known as Lakeview – and Lossiemouth Bay Holiday Park and Burghead Beach Caravan Park on the Moray Firth near Elgin. The venues were acquired for an undisclosed sum. Waterside Cornwall fell into administration in March 2020. The 100-acre park will be re-named Bodmin Holiday Park. Its grounds feature fishing lakes and woodlands as well as a range of facilities including a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and gym. The park has around 70 holiday lodges, but Park Holidays said there could be an “opportunity” to more than double the number of lodges as part of future investment. In Scotland, Lossiemouth Bay Holiday Park and Burghead Beach Caravan Park have more than 250 pitches in total including holiday lodges and caravan holiday homes. Park Holidays UK director Tony Clish said the acquisitions would allow the company to “serve even better” the growing demand for domestic holidays in Britain. Park Holidays said it was planning to invest further in each of the parks' facilities, infrastructure and accommodation. Clish added: “We now enter an exciting new phase of our expansion in Britain's most dynamic tourism sector, and will continue delivering first-class experience at an affordable cost.” Park Holidays was bought in November by real investment trust, Sun Communities, in a £900m deal.

Britannia Hotels cut almost 1,000 jobs as losses near £10m due to pandemic: Almost 1,000 jobs were cut by Britannia Hotels as it lost almost £10m and its turnover slumped by more than £80m during its latest financial year. According to newly filed documents with Companies House, the Cheshire-headquartered business posted a pre-tax loss of £9.5m for the 12 months to 31 March 2021, compared with a profit of £13.7m in the prior year. Turnover fell from £120.4m to £38.3m over the same period. When the company revealed its accounts for the 12 months to 31 March 2020, it said it was “likely” to post a loss for the following year. The latest accounts also show the number of employees was cut from 2,740 to 1,765 during the 12-month period, with office and management staff reducing by 62 and direct workers falling by 913. Britannia has 61 hotels across the UK. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Sales have reduced 68% for the year. This reflects the impact covid-19 has had on performance and the trading conditions throughout the economy in 2021. The gross margin achieved for the year equated to 47.4% (2020: 61.9%). Again, this significant drop in margin reflects the trading conditions since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. Our priority continually remains to maintain occupancy levels and manage operating costs, so the business is well placed to exploit further investment in new properties. The directors remain confident the company is in a good position to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.”

Inception to launch latest Mr Fogg’s site in June: Inception Group, the hospitality group behind Maggie’s, Cahoots and Bunga, will open its latest Mr Fogg’s site in June. Mr Fogg’s Apothecary will open at 34 Brook Street in Mayfair, offering drinks based on the potions and mixtures that Jules Verne’s fictional character, Phileas Fogg, collected on his 80-day voyage around the world. These include The Traveller’s Tonic, which mixes Hennessy XO Cognac, Woodford Reserve Rye whiskey, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth and Grand Marnier orange liqueur; and gin cocktail Rose Remedy, which features Secret Garden Apothecary Rose gin, Lillet Blanc wine-based apéritif, Apothecary shrub, rose water, lime juice and egg white. The Elixir Room, which has its own entrance, houses separate booths and 24 Hennessy cabinets for regulars to store their spirits, and is available for private hire. It will be a seventh Mr Fogg’s site for Inception Group, which also operates Sloane Square speakeasy Barts, Second World War-themed bar Cahoots, two Bunga pizzerias, 1980s-themed nightclub Maggie’s and The London Gin Club in Soho. The new Mr Fogg’s will be based at the former Balls Brothers site, which Inception Group is leasing from Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, as revealed by Propel in January.

Greene King introduces energy saving initiatives for licensees as part of new ‘powering change’ scheme: Brewer and retailer Greene King has launched a new initiative that includes introduces energy saving deals for its Pub Partners licensees. “Partners Powering Change” will enable Greene King’s Pub Partners to get involved in important causes under three strands – communities, environment and people. The communities strand will focus on charity work, the people strand will focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in Greene King Pub Partners’ pubs as well as developing apprenticeship opportunities and the environment strand will focus on reducing the energy used by Greene King’s licensees and improving waste management. To kickstart “Partners Powering Change”, Greene King Pub Partners is offering its licensees energy and cost saving initiatives. These include access to waste management solutions as well as access to a cellar management system that optimises energy use in cellars and the installation of LED lighting further reducing energy usage and costs. Wayne Shurvinton, managing director for Greene King Pub Partners, said: “It’s the beginning of an important and very exciting journey for us. It’s us, working together with our partners, to do the right thing.”

Award-winning bartending duo Joe and Daniel Schofield to open new concept Sterling at Manchester’s Stock Exchange hotel: Award-winning bartending duo Joe and Daniel Schofield and wine expert James Brandwood are to open a new cocktail bar called Sterling at Manchester’s Stock Exchange hotel. The new venture will take over the lower ground floor previously known as “The Vault” at the Gary Neville-owned hotel when it opens this summer. Sterling will be spread over a 2,400 square foot space and will have a capacity of just over 100 covers. It will be open five days a week. It will feature a bar snack menu developed by Lush by Tom Kerridge, the two-Michelin starred chef responsible for the Bull & Bear restaurant located in the former trading floor of The Stock Exchange. The Schofields already operate Schofield’s Bar and Atomeca in the city. Joe Schofield said “We have been planning this new concept for a long time and now it’s nearing completion. It is a particularly meaningful venue for us as our mother used to work at the Stock Exchange. As we continue to evolve our operations in Manchester, it’s warming to have a connection to the past, as that very much reflects our approach to our offering.” 

Fever-Tree chairman to retire: Fever-Tree chairman Bill Ronald has informed the board of his intention to retire and to step down from the board at the time of the annual general meeting (AGM) in May 2023. Ronald was appointed to the board as chairman in June 2013 ahead of the company's initial public offering in November 2014. The nomination committee, led by senior independent director Coline McConville, will initiate a process to identify and appoint his successor and a further announcement will be made in due course. Ronald will remain in his position until the AGM in 2023 to facilitate effective succession planning. 

Freehold investment in Islington-based property let to PizzaExpress sells for more than £4m: The freehold investment in 335 Upper Street, Islington, which is let to PizzaExpress, has sold for £4.05m, to a private investor, Propel has learned. PizzaExpress opened one of its first sites in London in the unit and have since been in occupation for more than 30 years. The price of £4.05m reflected a net initial yield of 3.73%. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, who acted on behalf of the private vendor, said “In the past few months we have observed a rapid recovery in the restaurant investment market as investor confidence returned following encouraging and consistent sales performance from operators. Many restaurant chains are now returning to the expansion trial and the best sites remain in high demand. We expect plenty of transactional activity throughout 2022, particularly at the premium end where we anticipate further yield compression.”

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