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Fri 6th May 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

HOP Vietnamese raises £2.25m on back of new operating model, to return to the expansion trail: London-based Vietnamese street food concept HOP is to return to the expansion trail after completing a £2.25m fundraise, on the back of the performance of its more QSR-style operating model, Propel has learned. The business, which is led by founder Paul Hopper, currently operates two sites in the City after undergoing a restructure last February, which saw it close four of its sites. It has now raised £2.25m from a combination of existing investors and new high-net-worth angel investors, which it will use to fund a two-pronged expansion strategy, aimed at securing sites outside the City in central London, but also in more suburban areas. In the former category, the company is understood to be looking at sites in locations including the West End, Waterloo, London Bridge and Kensington. In the latter, it is focusing on areas that still have high levels of office workers but with a greater mix of residential trade. The fundraise has come off the back of the strong performance generated by the group’s switch to a kiosk-based operating model, which has cut labour costs and allowed further customisation for consumers. Hopper told Propel that the new QSR model will allow the business to trade in more dayparts, particularly evenings, and allow it to trade into weekends. He said: “As I expect for many businesses, the last two-years allowed us to revisit the DNA of the company, and in our case, it was clear we needed to move away from our grab-and-go roots. Our new kiosk-based model means all our offer is made to order, and consumers love that ability to customise. It has meant a 25% drop in our labour costs, but also our average spend has increased by around 20%.” Hopper said that although City footfall levels are only back to circa 50% of pre-covid levels, store sales are currently at circa 75% thanks to higher average spend and a significant increase in corporate deliveries, as offices look to incentivise staff to return. He said: “The new investment has come off the back of what we have already achieved with the new format and gives us the confidence we can now get back on the expansion trail.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Robin Hutson backs Hospitality Rising: Robin Hutson OBE, chairman of Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels (including The Pig), 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. Hutson said: “Where successive governments and countless operators have ‘feared to tread’, this campaign drives right to the core of the biggest threat to our beloved hospitality industry – people. Mark [McCulloch’s] ambition is a bold one, to convince the British populous that a career in hospitality is a smart choice, a proud ambition and the start of a dynamic and rewarding career. Every day, I witness young people who drift into our sector without purpose, pride or determination. I witness those same individuals blossom over the months and years they are with us, emerging as confident, skilled, rounded individuals in possession of both technical and interpersonal life skills often within a short period of time. This is a fantastic initiative that if traction is gained, could just be the catalyst for that much needed enduring change to the perception of a career in hospitality.” 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.
 
Next edition of The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, 13,610-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers today (Friday, 6 May), at midday. It will show the details of 309 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. The database shows the details of which company has opened a site, or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The next edition of the database features expanding restaurant and bar concepts, niche cuisine, regional pub operators and growing hotel and leisure concepts. 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. 
 
Propel Friday Wrap video series continues with James Watt, co-founder and chief executive of BrewDog: Propel’s Friday Wrap video series continues today (Friday, 6 May) 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 James Watt, co-founder and chief executive of BrewDog, to discuss, among other things, the thinking behind the company’s new blueprint for future growth, his decision to give £100m-worth of shares away, the company’s new profit-sharing scheme and how running the business has changed him. 

Inflation drags service sector growth to slowest this year: Rapidly rising inflation has slowed growth in Britain’s services sector to its weakest level since the start of the year, and confidence now sits at its lowest level for 18 months, according to a closely watched survey. The Times reports the sector, which includes retail, hospitality and leisure services, is suffering an unprecedented increase in costs, with prices rising faster than at any time since the S&P Global/CIPS UK services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) began in 1996. Fuel, energy costs and wages are placing the biggest strain on companies, and firms responded by increasing their charges to customers “at a rapid pace”. Many businesses also faced pressure to increase staffing levels in response to rapidly growing business demand as the economy reopened in full after the covid-19 pandemic. “The twin headwinds of the cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine started to bite on the UK service sector during April, as evidenced by a sharp slowdown in new order growth to the lowest in the year so far,” Andrew Harker, economics director at S&P Global, said. “Worryingly, companies seem to be expecting impacts to be prolonged, with business confidence dropping to the lowest in a year and a half. Indeed, cost pressures show little sign of abating, with inflation even accelerating in April to the strongest in almost 26 years of data collection. The feeding through of these cost pressures to charges for customers means that the spell of rapid inflation clearly has further to run.” Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, added: “The fall in the services PMI in April shows that the intensifying squeeze on households’ real disposable incomes is starting to slow the economic recovery.” He said that the longer-term prospects remained weak because consumer demand for services would fall in the coming months, as people felt the pinch from the rising cost of living and discovered the impact on their pay packets of the national insurance rise on higher earners, which began in April.
 
Appetite remains strong for country pubs in Home Counties as post-covid trends make them ‘attractive investment option’: The appetite for rural and country pubs in the Home Counties remains as strong as ever, according to Christie & Co, which said they remain an “attractive investment opportunity” due to the post-covid trend of working, drinking and dining closer to home. In March alone, Christie & Co’s completed on six individual pub sales across the region. Business agent Tim Widdows said: “We are seeing lots of encouraging signs in the market, which indicate confidence is returning to the sector. There is a broad range of operators buying across the Home Counties, from first time buyers to expanding pub groups and investors. We have seen a flurry of market activity in these areas since January, with retirement being a key driver for sales. There is a good mix of buyers continuing to look for opportunities outside of city-centres – a trend which has resulted from the pandemic and the shift towards drinking and dining out and working closer to home.” Among the deals brokered in March was the acquisition of 16th century coaching inn The Coach & Horses, in the Oxfordshire village of Chiselhampton, by Barkby Pubs, which took its portfolio to eight sites. The Baron Cardogan, in Caversham, Berkshire, was also sold to local restaurant Clays Kitchen, which required bigger premises to keep up with demand.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an international group, which is looking for a digital and marketing director based in Rome, Italy. Travel to other European countries will be occasional. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The digital and marketing director will be responsible for two luxury hotels, one in Rome and one in Lisbon. They will be responsible for designing a strategy for return on investment across paid, SEO, CRM and website (CRO and management); managing the budget and optimise the strategy to improve cost per acquisition from lead to fully enrolled.” The salary is €80,000. For more information, email Beatrice@corecruitment.com 
 

Company News:

Wingstop CEO – UK market is a clear demonstration of the power of our international growth strategy: Michael Skipworth, president and chief executive of Wingstop, has said the brand’s success in the UK is a “clear demonstration of the power of our international growth strategy”. He said the brand in the UK, which is being overseen by Lemon Pepper Holdings, now operates 20 sites with more openings planned for this year. He said: “We have an international business that is supercharged for growth. Sales for our international markets are now at or exceeding pre-pandemic levels. In fact, in the first quarter, international like-for-like sales growth was 23.8%. Our UK market is a clear demonstration of the power of our international growth strategy – one focused on a heavy off-premise digital business with premium positioning. The average unit volumes in the UK are $2m, despite the market just opening in late 2018. This market provides us with a solid playbook and a blueprint for success as we accelerate our global growth as a brand. This past quarter, we celebrated the opening of our 200th international restaurant, a proof point for the portability of our brand and the strength of our business model. We're sitting here looking at what is shaping up to be a record year for development for our international business and excited about that becoming a bigger part of this long-term growth story here we have in front of us.” Lemon Pepper Holdings recently opened its 20th Wingstop in the UK, in Bromley. It also has further restaurant openings lined up in the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton and Wood Green, plus new delivery kitchen units in Bristol and Leeds.

Hawksmoor set to open in Liverpool: Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept Hawksmoor is set to open a new restaurant in Liverpool. Hawksmoor Liverpool will open in the grade II-listed India Buildings, on the corner of Brunswick Street and Fenwick Street. Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett said: “We have spent lots of time in Liverpool over the years, and it’s one of the most exciting and dynamic cities in the country. We have found a beautiful listed building in such a great location, and we’re really excited to do it justice by building something really special. We have made lots of friends in Liverpool, many who run and own some of the fantastic independent bars and restaurants that make Liverpool tick, and have been such a key part of the reputation Liverpool has developed in the last few years. We’ve been talking to them for a long time about how we can build a restaurant that would really fit into this city.” In January, Propel revealed that Hawksmoor had secured a new debt facility to support its next three years of growth. The new funding would, in part, be used to continue to underpin the successful opening of its first US site, in New York, which opened last autumn. Beckett also told Propel that the Hawksmoor At-Home box meal kit service had been a great success, but announced this week that it would be coming to an end later this month.
 
Greene King plans to double Metropolitan Pub Company estate over next few years: Brewer and retailer Greene King is planning to double the size of its Metropolitan Pub Company estate over the next few years, Propel understands. The company currently operates 67 pubs under the more premium concept. The business has forecasted a number of new openings over the coming year, including pubs in Cambridge, York, Bath, Scotland, as well as additional pubs in London, where the majority of Metropolitan Pubs’ sites are located. Last year, the company acquired The Fountain House in Manchester and reopened it as the first Metropolitan pub in northern England. Metropolitan Pub Company managing director Michael Horan said: “This is an extremely exciting time for us, with a healthy pipeline of pubs being added to our estate over the next few years, including destination gastropubs, small hotels and experiential city pubs – our business is going from strength to strength.” Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie told Propel earlier this week the company’s conversions to the Metropolitan concept outside London had been well received. “We were doing it in a balanced way as ever, but actually we've got plenty of future conversions of assets in the pipeline for Metropolitan,” he said. “Part of our model is how do we drive long term value from these assets by putting the right customer proposition in there and Metropolitan I think represents a really good opportunity.”
 
Uphams Inns ‘actively exploring opportunities for further growth’, appoints new CFO: Upham Inns, the Hampshire-based operator, is “actively exploring our opportunities for further growth and an acquisition pipeline”. Kevin Todd, chairman of Upham Inns, told Propel the 15-strong business was continuing on its ongoing business turnaround. He said: “We have now completed investments on six of our core businesses, all showing healthy performance growth since reopening. A further two businesses are scheduled for transformation by the summer. With continued improvement in our financial performance and profit growth, we are actively exploring our opportunities for further growth and an acquisition pipeline.” Todd said that to support the business “on our growth journey”, the company has appointed Murray Jacklin as its new chief financial officer. Todd said: “Murray joins us from LGH Hotels where he was corporate finance director, and has previous proven experience in developing hospitality companies with private equity funding.” Earlier this year, Propel revealed Upham was in “positive discussions to achieve capital finance for both expansionary and new site acquisitions in the near future”. Upham operates village inns in affluent rural locations and its fledgling Harpers Steakhouse format in suburban locations. Most businesses have boutique bedrooms integral to the business, trading as Charming Bedrooms.

Heartstone Inns sales up 3.3% to the end of April, 97% higher than the same period in 2020: Heartstone Inns, the eight-strong, managed pub operator, has reported that its current financial year has started positively, with sales up 3.3% to the end of April compared to 2019, and 97% up on the same period in 2020. The company said that for the year to the end of 2021, sales stood at £5.9m, 43% higher than 2020 and only 25% lower than 2019 (same eight pubs) despite being closed until April/May. It said that on a true like-for-like basis since indoor trading was allowed, sales in 2021 were 9% higher than 2019. The company said it benefited from having extensive pub gardens and adding a further 20 guest bedrooms, allowing it to tap into the lucrative “staycation” market. It said: “Operationally, the company delivered a strong and profitable performance since reopening in April/May 2021. Pub Ebitda was £1.4m, representing a Pub Ebitda margin of 24.5% compared to 8.9% last year – a highly encouraging result helped by the growth in higher margin accommodation sales and the reduced rate of VAT. While central costs were well controlled, albeit helped by grant income of £0.3m, company adjusted Ebitda came in at a profit of £1.1m, representing a margin of 18.6%, well ahead of both 2020 and 2019. Net debt at the year-end was £3.9m, which represents a conservative net debt ratio of 17.9%, similar to 2020 but well below 2019. Despite the trading difficulties, the company has used its cash reserves to continue its investment programme in its estate, with £0.7m of capital additions in 2021, following an investment of £1.2m in 2020, the largest project being the addition of six guest bedrooms (giving 11 in total) to the Walhampton Arms in Hampshire. Boosted by the growth in “staycations” our room rates and occupancy levels in 2021 were very strong and our 2022 bookings would indicate that this trend is set to continue. The estate was independently valued at £22m in December 2021.” Since January, the business has also completed redeveloped the Woodborough Inn in Somerset. James Birch, managing director of Heartstone Inns, said: “The cash generated from the sale of our smaller pubs in 2020 not only provided a valuable cash buffer to see us through the pandemic, but also allowed us to continue investing in our remaining pubs. The additional 20 guest bedrooms added in 2020 and 2021 allowed us to tap into the lucrative ‘staycation’ market and have helped us deliver a strong set of results. Going forward, we are looking to add to our estate and to continue developing our pubs, while maintaining our strong operating performance.”
 
The Athenian to expand delivery kitchen network after record-breaking sales: Greek street food restaurant group The Athenian is set to grow its delivery kitchen network. The company has entered into a multi-site agreement with Growth Kitchen, the food tech start-up building smart satellite kitchen networks. Growth Kitchen will provide The Athenian with kitchens in select areas with delivery demand in ten sites this year and dozens of sites in London and the wider UK by 2023. The Athenian operates within Growth Kitchen’s Balham hub and achieved month-on-month growth in average weekly sales for the past six consecutive months with three of the six months seeing double-digit growth. “We were looking for a more feasible way to grow our delivery operations,” said Tim Vasilakis, founder and chief executive of The Athenian. “The potential to see areas where people want to order food, but can’t get great supply, alongside other demographic and competitive data will give us the confidence we are growing in the right places and help us scale faster.” The Athenian operates 14 UK delivery kitchens along with restaurants in Shoreditch, White City and Victoria in London, as well as Bristol. It has also opened delivery kitchens in Spain and the Middle East.
 
Fine & Country Inns adds two further sites to estate: Fine & Country Inns, the growing pub business run by Gary Hunt, has added a further two sites to its estate. The business took over The Bulls Head bar and restaurant, in Denby, near Ripley, Derbyshire, at the turn of the year. Most recently, the company reopened The Shepherd's Rest pub in Lower Bagthorpe, Nottinghamshire, which became its seventh venue overall. Last year, the company bought Brocco on the Park in Sheffield, which features a restaurant and eight bedrooms. Launched in 2014, Fine & Country Inns also operates The Strafford Arms in Stainborough, The Mason Arms in Thorpe Hesley, The Parish Oven in Thorpe Salvin and The Rose & Crown in Barlborough.
 
White Rabbit Projects adds to Scottish portfolio with new bar and restaurant venture: Chris Miller’s White Rabbit Projects will open its latest venture, The Rabbit restaurant and its sister bar, The Seal, in Scotland’s Marine Troon this summer. The venues will open as part of the Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts collection at the South Ayrshire destination, owned by Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners. White Rabbit Projects’ portfolio includes 18 St Andrews, The Lawn, Garden House, The Alice, Lina Stores, Kricket, Island Poké, Rusacks St Andrews and Marine North Berwick – the latter opening in September. The Rabbit’s menu has been led by Marine & Lawn Rusacks St Andrews’ executive chef, Derek Johnstone, who will champion hyper-seasonal local ingredients together with Scottish seafood and game. Dishes will include Ayrshire mussels with nduja, fennel, cider and lovage; and chicken liver parfait with pickled chicory and toast. The 78-cover restaurant, which will open daily for lunch and dinner, will also have a separate Sunday roast menu. The Seal bar, meanwhile, will offer all-day dining, cocktails and light bites, including cured local charcuterie with pickles and bread; and haggis bon bons with Arran mustard. Afternoon tea will also be served from noon-4pm Friday to Sunday. Johnstone said: “Troon is a stunning coastal town with plenty of amazing Scottish produce on its doorstep. The menus feature hearty and comforting dishes expertly created by our talented team.” Marine Troon overlooks Royal Troon Golf Club’s Old Course, which is set to host The Open Championship in 2024.
 
Sessions Market signs up new concepts from Jay Morjaria and Salt Shed for Shelter Hall site: Shelter Hall, the Brighton-based debut food hall venture from Sessions Market, has signed up two new food concepts for this month. Chef Jay Morjaria, who ran London’s first vegetarian cookery school and had a stint on BBC show My Million Pound Menu, is launching modern Korean concept Tiger and Rabbit. London-based salt beef curers Salt Shed will also be bringing its Sear by Salt Shed concept to the venue. Morjaria, who in 2020 held a residency at Dalston bar Untitled, last year teamed up with Stephen Finch, founder of Vagabond Wines, and Kieran Sherlock, director of sector investor Imbiba, to launch new sandwich concept Mamma Pastrama. Salt Shed, meanwhile, was founded by schoolfriends Frank Sweeney and Laurence Stevens and has sites in Wandsworth and Boxpark Shoreditch, as well as a Mill Hill pop-up and a site at Pergola Paddington, which are both temporarily closed. The two new concepts will join Patty Guy, the smashed burger brand from MasterChef 2018 winner Kenny Tutt, which Propel reported last month would be coming to Shelter Hall in May. Sessions Market, the food hall concept backed by Imbiba and led by former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne, earlier this year raised $10m (£7.4m) in Series-A funding from a syndicate of investors led by Guinness Asset Management to fuel its expansion plans.
 
Roti King opens in Battersea for second site: London-based Malaysian restaurant Roti King has opened its second site, at the Battersea Power Station development. The restaurant, in Circus West Village, adds to its sister venue in Euston, which opened n 2014. Roti King serves Malaysian street food from the childhood of its chef owner, Sugen Gopal. The Battersea menu features Roti King favourites such as laksa and beef rendang, as well as the new vegan roti, which will be a permanent feature at the new restaurant. The drinks range includes south east Asian beer by the bottle alongside canned wine. Gopal said: “We are excited a new group of Londoners can experience the food I loved so much growing up, and that is becoming increasingly popular all over the capital.”

US juice bar brand to make UK debut: Juice bar brand Smoothie Factory is to open its first UK and Ireland store, in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. The American franchise has signed a lease agreement to open at ARC Retail. Established in 1996 by US Olympic athlete James Villasana, Smoothie Factory serves products including real fruit smoothies, cold pressed juice, salads, sandwiches, superfood bowls, coffee and gelato. It has more than 120 stores in 20 countries. Andrew McQueen, managing director of Smoothie Factory – UK and Ireland, said: “We are excited to open our flagship store here in Belfast and look forward to working closely with local suppliers to establish our brand in the UK and Ireland.” CBRE Northern Ireland acted for Titanic Quarter. 
 
BrewDog plans Australia’s first beer hotel as part of expansion push: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is pressing ahead with plans for Australia’s first beer hotel, set to be located in inner-Brisbane. The initiative is part of the company’s two-year expansion push, which also includes launching several new sites across Australia and entering the New Zealand market by 2023. The DogHouse Brisbane is set to be built as an extension of the brewery’s existing site, the DogTap – a 3,000 square-metre brewery and canning facility located in Murarre, which has been operational since early-2020. The Brisbane hotel will be based on the model of BrewDog’s first craft-beer hotel, located in Columbus, Ohio, alongside the brand’s US headquarters. Its US hotel offers 32 beer-themed rooms, including eight deluxe suites, overlooking the brewery’s large beer barrels; beer-paired continental breakfast; multiple bars and a full-service restaurant; and craft beer-infused soaps and shampoos. BrewDog said it also had plans for its first locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Auckland – complete with microbrewing facilities. “It’s been a pretty wild ride so far, but we have ambitious plans for Australia and New Zealand, building a fast-paced sustainable business that can be a force for good,” said BrewDog Australia chief executive Ed Bott. BrewDog has also appointed Cushman & Wakefield to “find the right location, between 500 square metres to 1,000 square metres”, for its second bar in Brisbane – a 400-seat taproom set to be operational by the end of the year. The DogHouse Brisbane is expected to open mid-2022, while new BrewDog sites in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are on the cards between now and 2023.

Burger & Lobster and Wild Tavern co-founders to give Belvedere new lease of life: George Bukhov-Weinstein and Ilya Demichev – the co-founders of steak chain Goodman, surf and turf restaurant group Burger & Lobster and Mediterranean restaurant concept Wild Tavern – are set to relaunch Holland Park hotspot Belvedere. Formerly run by Marco Pierre White and Jimmy Lahoud, the restaurant, based off Abbotsbury Road, has been closed since last year. But the former 17th century ballroom is now to be given a new lease of life, with an offering leaning towards the Mediterranean dishes of Wild Tavern, according to Hot Dinners. Due to open in late summer, it will have covers for 120, including an upstairs section for private dining and a balcony for alfresco eating. Bukhov-Weinstein told Friends of Holland Park: “This is the most amazing restaurant project I have had a chance to work on. We will do our best to bring The Belvedere restaurant to the old glory.”

Virtual Hero brings virtual fried chicken concept to Leeds: Virtual Hero – which is owned by Hero Brands, the company behind German Doner Kebab, Choppaluna and Island Poké – has launched its virtual fried chicken concept, Sides, in Leeds. Developed in collaboration with YouTube collective The Sidemen, Sides launched in November 2021 as a delivery-only concept. Facilitated by virtual restaurant operator Reef, it is currently available only in the UK and UAE but has plans to expand to the US and open 200 sites globally by the end of 2022. Sides’ debut physical site opened at Boxpark Wembley in February. Sidemen member, Vik Barnes, said, “As huge fans of fried chicken, we’re excited to launch a further location outside London and bring Sides to the people of Leeds, as we continue to expand rapidly throughout the UK and beyond.” Virtual Hero chief executive, Robin Mehta, added, “The pandemic has escalated the rise of delivery only brands, and we’re excited to bring Sides to Leeds and give consumers a new and delicious food experience to try as we ramp up our expansion.”

Virtual restaurant brand company Peckwater Brands appoints Barry Cook as new MD: Virtual restaurant brand company Peckwater Brands, which last year secured £3m in seed funding, has appointed Barry Cook, formerly of Gail’s, PF Chang’s and West Cornwall Pasty Co, as its new managing director. Cook was previously managing director of West Cornwall Pasty Co, the Samworth Brothers-owned chain. Previous to that, he was business director for PF Chang’s in the UK, overseeing the launch of the brand’s debut site in London, in Great Newport Street, Covent Garden. Cook stepped down from the then Luke Johnson-backed Gail’s at the end of 2016 after two years as managing director. Previous to that, he spent over four and a half years as head of operations for Aubaine. Last year, Peckwater said the new funding round, which was led by Fuel Ventures, teed the business up for its next stage of growth after a boom in sales during the covid-19 pandemic. The company currently has a mix of owned and licensed brands spanning several categories, including Seoul Chikin, Flip the Bird, Wham Bam Wings, Katsu and Cluck & Run.

Fridays launches Tex-Mex range: Fridays, part of Hostmore, has unveiled a new Tex-Mex range – including quesadillas, tacos and refreshed and rebranded fajitas. The “Fri-jita” options now include steak and cajun spiced chicken, and a plant-based chicken from Meatless Farm. The tacos now come with a choice of blackened salmon, beef, chicken or meatless chicken, while the quesadillas are available with chicken or vegan mushroom and cheese. Alyson Scott, Fridays’ food and beverage and procurement director, said: “We are so pleased to be adding even more delicious options to our world-famous menu and tapping into our brand’s heritage. We’ve worked hard to ensure guests can customise their dining experience with a range of delicious and nutritionally balanced fillings and toppings to suit all preferences.” Fridays’ new partnership with Meatless Farm, which expanded its range of plant-based dishes, was launched in March.

Nutritics MD shortlisted for entrepreneurial award: Foodservice technology company Nutritics’ managing director, Stephen Nolan, has been shortlisted for the EY Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The award recognises entrepreneurial achievement among individuals and companies that demonstrate vision, leadership and success, and the winners will be announced at the EOY Gala Awards in Dublin on the 30 November. Nolan joined the business in 2013 after several years in corporate finance and led Nutritics to become a trusted partner of foodservice operators including WSH, Brakes, TRG, Boparan and Fullers. He said: “Nutritics has always had an entrepreneurial focus, which is reflected in the innovative products we offer to the hospitality sector. As we continue to expand, we’re starting to see just how valuable food data can be, solving some of the sector’s biggest challenges around climate change and business performance. We’ll have some exciting product announcements over the coming months as our journey continues.”

Rosa’s Thai confirms June opening for York restaurant: Rosa’s Thai, which is backed by TriSpan, has confirmed its York restaurant will open on 1 June. The company secured the former Joe’s Kitchen site at 1-3 Coney Street last summer, and the 80-cover restaurant will be housed in an early 18th Century building with an enclosed courtyard for al fresco dining in the warmer months. It will be a 29th opening for the group, which has been serving Thai dishes to diners across the UK since being founded in 2007 by chef Saiphin Moore. Dishes will include Rosa’s favourites like drunken noodles and stir-fried aubergine with yellow bean sauce, chilli, soy sauce and sweet basil, as well as meat-free and vegan options such as fluffy sweetcorn cakes with kaffir lime and butternut red curry with sweet basil. Managing director Gavin Adair said: “We’re delighted to bring Rosa’s Thai to York – it has been a long time coming, and we can’t wait to showcase Saiphin’s delicious Thai dishes to the local community.” Rosa’s Thai last month acquired a site in Reading for an opening later this year, following the Wimbledon site it secured in February, and also recently opened in Cardiff’s Church Street.

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