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Wed 18th May 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

The Acai Girls aiming to build 20-strong estate in next three years as it secures first standalone sites: Healthy plant-based concept The Acai Girls is aiming to build a 20-strong estate in the next three years as it secures its first standalone sites, Propel has learned. The Acai Girls, founded by sisters Megan and Georgia Salama, currently operates three delivery kitchens in London. Now the business is set to open sites at the Grosvenor-owned 18 Eccleston Street in Belgravia and 705 Fulham Road in Parsons Green. These deals come on the back of an agreement to do a series of pop-ups at White City House, Shoreditch House and Soho Farmhouse throughout the summer. Propel understands Acai Girls is targeting Zones 1 and 2 in London for its expansion under three formats – grab and go, dine-in and dark kitchens. It is believed to be seeking sites of between 500 square feet and 1,500 square feet for grab and go, with corner units preferred. The business is thought to also be looking for sites of between 1,500 and 2,500 square foot with outside seating for dine-in and units of between 300 square foot and 700 square foot in industrial areas for dark kitchens. Megan previously led food and beverage marketing at Mondrian London, turning over £10m annually, and worked at luxury fitness members club Equinox as its marketing director. Georgia has recently graduated from culinary school Le Cordon Bleu. Her love of cooking and curating dishes led her to apply to BBC One's Britain's Best Home Cook in 2020, where she finished as runner-up. The Acai Girls’ menu of salads, bowls, juice and shakes is inspired from the sister’s trips around the world and their desire to “inspire and motivate people to do better and be better by first and foremost caring for themselves”. Oliver Serrant, of Stance, acted for The Acai Girls and Ian Simpson, of Miles Commercial, and Lucy Cope, of Bruce Gillingham Pollard, acted for Grosvenor on Parsons Green and Belgravia respectively.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – HIT Training backs Hospitality Rising, invest today: HIT Training 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. HIT Training managing director, Jill Whittaker, said: “The fact the hospitality sector is a great place to work is possibly the UK's best kept secret. Other countries celebrate the opportunities within this extraordinary industry with great pride, whereas here we advertise jobs as ‘unsociable hours, minimum wage’. There's no mention of opportunities for development, lack of ageism, flexible employment, breadth of the sector – and this has to change. None of us has the bandwidth to make this happen on our own, that is why we need Hospitality Rising – a robust, substantial, national, well-funded campaign – to revitalise the perception of the industry we love. We all need to get behind this so that while we are fixing today's staffing problems, Hospitality Rising is looking after 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
Dessert shop concepts among those added to second UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, released on Friday: Two dessert shop concepts expanding in the UK are among the 20 new franchisors featured in the second UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (20 May), at midday. The second edition will feature 120 companies and almost 47,000 words of content, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. Among them is Egg Free Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, which currently has circa 190 stores in the UK and announced in 2021 that it planned to open at a rate of two to three new sites a month – its latest opening being at Rugby’s Swan Centre. Also featured is crepe and gelato brand Crepe Delicious, which has grown to 70 outlets overseas and has targeted having 28 UK locations by 2025. Premium subscribers also receive access to The New Openings Database, the Propel Multi-Site Database and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett. 
PCA reports number of open arbitration cases continuing to fall as it publishes ‘new and improved’ quarterly report: The pubs code adjudicator (PCA) has reported the number of arbitration cases that are open has continued to fall as it published its “new and improved” quarterly report. It now provides more detail on the types of disputes referred for arbitration, the outcome, and duration. It also gives the industry more information to compare by pub company. The report showed in the first quarter of 2022 that Stonegate Group and Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, the two pub companies who had the highest number of cases at the end of the last quarter, have notably closed a number of cases this quarter. The majority of arbitrations – 15 across all pub companies – ended this quarter with the parties agreeing a Market Rent Only tenancy. PCA Fiona Dickie said: “I think it is right the PCA publishes more detailed data, such as about arbitration outcomes, and to enable comparisons to be made by pub company. It is encouraging to see the number of open arbitrations continuing to fall. We nevertheless continue our work to ensure that where arbitration is required, the parties receive a quality service.”
Job of the day: Sixty-Eight People is working with a hospitality business that is seeking an operations director. Sixty-Eight People founder Abi Dunn said: “After being introduced to some of the most creative, humble and transparent founders we’ve met, we are buzzing to be helping find an operations director to turn their vision into reality. Not for the faint-hearted, this unconventional operator has a history of reimagining industrial sites of old into urban expanses of art, music, food, cocktails and gaming. A truly immersive experience overflowing with energy, fun, love and Instagrammers – perfectly placed for explosive growth. This is a banging role for an operator with big ambitions, looking for autonomy in a creative setting. We are looking for someone who loves the idea of growing a business through people, who understands the importance of consistency but fears ‘death by process’. We are looking to speak to experienced operations directors with growth, volume and creative flair in their locker; someone industry renowned for looking after their people, with their eyes on the next step to managing director.” The salary is £90,000 to £120,000 plus package. For more information, email

Company News:

Song Capital and Cerberus set to win race for circa 100-strong SA Brain pub portfolio: Song Capital and Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Admiral Taverns, are set to win the race to acquire the freeholds of circa 100 pubs from Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain, in a deal valued at £85m-£90m, Propel has learned. In January, it was reported Song Capital and Cerberus were close to agreeing a deal for the package of pubs, but Propel revealed in March that real estate investment company Aprirose had entered the race, and is thought to have been at one point granted a period of exclusivity. However, Propel now understands Song Capital, established by real estate executives Daniel MacKinnon and Tom Pritchard, and Cerberus have again moved ahead for the portfolio of pubs, and are set to exchange on a deal this week. SA Brain put the freehold investment of 99 pubs on the market for in excess of £87.3m last year, and a purchase at this level would reflect a net initial yield of 5.75% in return. A successful transaction will generate substantial proceeds for Brains’ family shareholders, with the funds expected to be used to pay down debt. The pub freeholds are understood to represent the core of the Brain’s pub estate, leaving the company as a family-owned brewer with a small residual pub portfolio. The portfolio provides an annual gross rent roll of £5,420,000 (£5,410,518 net) and has a weighted average unexpired lease term of 24.35 years to expiries, and 14.35 years to tenant break options. Propel revealed last July the portfolio, consisting of 93 freehold and six long leasehold properties let to Marston’s on 25-year leases, was being put on the market through real estate advisor Avison Young. At the end of 2020, SA Brain announced contracts had been exchanged with Marston’s to operate its portfolio of 145 pubs in Wales on a combination of leased and management contract arrangements. Marston’s has been operating 135 freehold pubs on a leasehold basis since last February and is operating the remaining ten short-leasehold sites on a management contract basis for a period of two years.
James Low – government’s decision to return VAT to 20% ‘nonsensical’ given rising costs, Deep Blue raising funds as it plans up to ten openings in next year: Deep Blue Restaurants founder and chief executive James Low has told Propel the decision to raise VAT back to 20% for the industry was “nonsensical” given rising costs, arguing the dynamics of running a takeaway “have completely changed”. Low said: “It’s the first time I can remember the cost of virtually everything going up. Fish, oil, packaging, gas, electricity, labour – they’ve all gone up. There are more than 10,000 fish and chip shops, but we are going to see 30% to 40% of those disappear if this continues. We are fortunate because we have a sound financial base, but I fear for the future of independent fish and chip shop operators as costs climb across the board. The government’s decision to put VAT for the hospitality industry back to 20% was bewildering. It fuels inflation and VAT at that level just doesn’t work for today’s hospitality industry, particularly for takeaways as delivery aggregator costs have not gone down and the dynamics of running a takeaway have completely changed. In Ireland, they’ve kept the VAT rate for hospitality at 9% – that’s the sort of support we need, and the government needs to act quickly or I fear there will be many more business failures.” Deep Blue, which operates 46 sites across its eponymous brand and Harry Ramsden’s, is currently raising funds from shareholders as it looks to open eight to ten sites across the next year. The company has just completed a £1.5m refurbishment of the Harry Ramsden’s site in Bournemouth, which is Britain’s biggest fish and chip restaurant, with projects also planned at its coastal sites including Brighton and Eastbourne. Low said it will be a challenging time over the next three to four months for the core Deep Blue estate as consumers adjust to the increase in the cost of living but believes the Harry Ramsden’s coastal sites will benefit from the staycation boom and forecasts the Bournemouth restaurant will turn over £200,000 a week in the peak summer season. The group has also just signed a new five-year agreement with The Oval, which includes a permanent unit for Deep Blue at the South London cricket ground, with its licensing and franchising business “making solid progress”. Low said its partnerships with Boparan Restaurant Group and the Iceland frozen food chain also continues to go from strength to strength. He said gross sales in the current financial year are up 31% on the previous 12 months. Low spoke to Propel as Deep Blue Restaurants reported turnover rose 14% to £22.9m for the year ending 28 September 2021, compared with £20.0m the year before. Ebitda doubled to £5.4m, compared with £2.7m the previous year (excluding adjustments for IFRS 16).
New World Trading Co eyes Brighton opening for The Botanist: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) plans to open a site under its The Botanist concept in Brighton. Propel understands the business, which recently opened a site in Ipswich under the now 23-strong The Botanist brand, has applied to open a first-floor site in Brighton’s Churchill Square. Propel revealed last month the Jesper Friis-led business is also planning to open the site at The Waterside scheme in Durham. The company already has five sites confirmed for opening this year, including The Botanist sites in Barnsley, Edinburgh (its first site in Scotland) and Worcester. It will also open a The Club House site in Cardiff Bay, and a The Florist in Chester. NWTC is also believed to be in talks on sites in Bracknell and Portsmouth.
Gordon Ramsay awarded $4.5m payout after winning eight-year legal battle with ex-business partner: Gordon Ramsey has won a $4.5m (£3.6m) payout following an eight-year legal battle with a former business partner. Ramsey fell out with Rowan Seibel over a dispute relating to The Fat Cow, a restaurant in Los Angeles that they founded together in 2012. Judge Melissa Crane has ruled in favour of Ramsay and his company, GR US, and ordered Seibel to pay $1.6m (£1.3m) as well as 50 to 70% of his rival's $5m (£4.1m) legal fees, reports Page Six. When The Fat Cow closed two years after opening, Seibel sued Ramsay for $10.8m (£8.7m), claiming he had formed a new company with new partners and “secretly negotiated a deal with his Los Angeles landlord” to open a new eatery on the same site. Ramsay counterclaimed, claiming Seibel was orchestrating a “fraudulent scheme to freeload upon the renown and acumen of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay”, also calling him “inept”, “self-dealing”, “incompetent” and “dishonest”. The court found Seibel had taken kickbacks from suppliers and withdrawn money from the restaurant's bank accounts when the business was failing. A spokesman for Ramsay said: “Mr Ramsay was earnest in his efforts to sever all business dealings as these problems with Seibel were discovered, and we’re pleased, but in no way surprised by the ruling.” A lawyer for Seibel said he plans to appeal. 
Rick Stein Restaurants launches flexible careers scheme: Rick Stein Restaurants has launched a flexible careers scheme. The group is welcoming applicants of all ages and levels of experience to join the team for as little as one shift a week, effective across all its restaurants in Cornwall, London, Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire. Co-founder and company director Jill Stein wants to welcome those with no or little experience of hospitality. Taking a more inclusive approach to recruitment, Rick Stein Restaurants hopes to attract talented people from all backgrounds and combat the challenge of industry-wide staff shortages following the combined knock-on effects of Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic, as well as a growing desire for flexible careers that enable a positive work-life balance. Part-time and flexible members of the team will enjoy all the same benefits as those working more hours, including service charge, paid holiday and 50% discount in the restaurants. Stein said: “We know that hospitality is a hugely rewarding career, and we welcome people from all walks of life to experience that, without personal circumstances getting in the way. I am so proud we’re broadening our horizons, moving with the times and offering people the chance to join our team on a basis that works for them. Welfare is so important to us, and we understand that for some people a day or two a week is all that’s needed, so we’re ready to offer that with some amazing roles across the restaurants and shops.” Founded in 1975, the family-run business includes seven restaurants, hotel accommodation and self-catered properties, a cafe, a bar, a coffee shop, a pub, a fish and chip shop and a deli. 
McDonald’s to launch on Deliveroo in UK as part of an expanded global partnership: McDonald’s is to launch on Deliveroo in the UK as part of an expanded global partnership. The companies are evolving their existing agreement, which will see McDelivery become available on Deliveroo during the second quarter. The partnership is expected to initially cover a number of McDonald’s UK restaurants, with expansion across the country planned for later in the year. Deliveroo consumers will have full access to McDonald’s menu. Alistair Macrow, McDonald's UK and Ireland chief executive, said: “Since we launched McDelivery in 2017, the service has gone from strength to strength. More than 1,200 of our restaurants now offer delivery, and our delivery offer continues to be incredibly popular with customers. We look forward to welcoming Deliveroo and their riders into our suite of McDelivery partners enabling us to deliver directly to more of our customers across the UK.” Deliveroo chief business officer UK & Ireland, Carlo Mocci, added: “We are delighted to be expanding our partnership with McDonald’s through this global agreement. Deliveroo already works with McDonald’s in several markets and expanding our partnership to the UK will excite our UK consumers.” In addition to the UK, McDonald’s and Deliveroo currently partner in France, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Hong Kong, UAE and Kuwait.
Dishoom to open in Canary Wharf: Indian restaurant group Dishoom is to open a new restaurant in Canary Wharf later this year. Five years on from the company’s last London opening, in Kensington, the new 8,800-square-foot site in Wood Wharf will seat 355 across a double-height restaurant, bar and terrace overlooking the water. Dishoom Canary Wharf will join a family of eight restaurants opened by cousins and co-founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar. Since the first opening in 2010, there are now five cafes in London, plus sites in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. The business, which also operates a dozen delivery kitchens and an online store, was previously linked with an opening in the Borough Yards scheme.
Former Roti King duo and Tamila founders to open pub together: Former Roti King executive chef Prince Durairaj and operations director Glen Leeson, who last year launched south Indian street food concept Tamila in Hackney, are set to launch a pub together. The duo will reopen The Cuckoo, a 19th century pub in Islington’s Hemingford Road, as The Tamil Prince on Friday, 24 June, again offering south Indian cuisine. The menu will be a mixture of small and large plates, with the small plates including crab soup, dhal makhani, okra fries and a spiced chicken lollipop with a selection of chutneys. Among the large plates will be robata lamb chops, grilled king prawns in a masala marinade and spicy grilled chicken with mint chutney. There will also be a selection of desserts, and the drinks will include bottled and draught beer, wine, spirits and cocktails including Jaljeera, a popular north Indian drink made using coriander, mint and spices. Leeson is also a former general manager at JKS and operations director at Market Halls, while Durairai worked in various kitchens across London before the pair teamed up at Roti King, the Euston-based Chinese and Malaysian restaurant.
Anita makes UK debut: International ice cream parlour franchise Anita has opened its debut UK site, in London’s Seven Dials. The family-owned boutique has launched a 1,000 square-foot site in Upper St Martin’s Lane, offering more than 150 different flavours of ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yoghurt. It is one of several recent openings in Seven Dials. As reported by Propel, Danish bakery Ole & Steen has opened a flagship London site on the corner of Neal Street and Short’s Garden, while French restaurant The Patate has launched its second site, in Neal Street, and new dining concept St Martin’s House opened on Upper St Martin’s Lane by Aspirational Brands. Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director at landlords Shaftesbury, said: “These new openings are all unique concepts offering high quality and inspiring culinary experiences for our visitors while also enhancing our versatile hospitality offering across Seven Dials.” Hanover Green Retail, Distrkt, Shelley Sandzer, Cushman & Wakefield and Nash Bond represented Shaftesbury, while RAB Retail and CDG Leisure acted on behalf of Ole & Steen and The Patate respectively. Restaurant Property represented St Martin’s House, and Stonebrook acted on behalf of Anita.
Nando’s group CFO Luke Tait to join The Gym Group: Luke Tait, who has been group chief financial officer at Nando’s for the past five years, is to join The Gym Group as its new chief financial officer. Tait is expected to start his new role at the budget gym operator in October and will join its board of directors. From 2004 to 2017, Tait held various finance roles at UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group, including chief financial officer of its UK and US businesses and group corporate finance director, culminating as group financial controller. Prior to that he worked for Compass Group and Close Brothers Corporate Finance. The Gym Group currently operates 206 low-cost, round-the-clock no contract gyms. Chief executive Richard Darwin said: “I am delighted we have been able to attract someone of Luke's calibre to join our board and executive team. His extensive experience across global leisure businesses will be hugely beneficial as we implement our ambitious growth plans in the years ahead and continue to make fitness accessible for all.” Tait added: “I am looking forward to working with the board and management team to capitalise on the significant market opportunities ahead.”
Shaftesbury to bring more F&B concepts to Soho after Berwick Street acquisition: Shaftesbury, which owns a 16-acre portfolio in London’s West End, is to bring more food and beverage concepts to the area, after acquiring the leasehold interest in the lower floors of 92-104 Berwick Street, Soho, for £27.5m. Purchased from the administrator of Berwick Street Securities LLP, the interest comprises circa 15,600 square foot of retail and circa 3,600 square foot that is suitable for restaurant accommodation, all of which will be available from the autumn. The company said the creation of 11 new units will bring “exciting opportunities for new retailers and food and beverage concepts that fit with Shaftesbury’s retail strategy focusing on independents, concept stores and exciting new start-ups”. Shaftesbury said it will be seeking brands and new food operators to “add value to the local Soho community as well as attract domestic and international visitors to Soho”. It will install new shop fronts and will provide operators with “well configured attractive space ready to move in”. 
Roasting Plant Coffee opens fifth UK site: US coffee shop concept Roasting Plant Coffee has opened its fifth UK site, in London’s Mayfair. The business has opened at 46 South Molton Street, which links Oxford Street to Bond Street. It follows an opening at the end of last year in the LabTech building opposite the Rosewood Hotel in High Holborn. In August, Propel revealed Roasting Plant Coffee had secured £1m of growth capital, including investment from former Marks & Spencer chairman Lord Stuart Rose, to aid its further expansion. The business made its UK debut in London, in Borough High Street under the stewardship of chief executive Jamie Robertson in January 2019. It launched a second site in London last year in The Strand, with a further site following in the food hall at the Oxford Street-based department store Selfridges.
Blackrose begins roll out of Dirty Habit concept: Blackrose, the pub company backed by real estate investment company Aprirose, has launched the second site under its new Dirty Habit concept, after a £565,000 investment. The new look Dirty Habit in Whitley Bay opened last week, and features a first floor that has a “music festival” vibe creating an “outside in” area. The company will launch the next site under the new concept – Porter Cottage by Dirty Habit – in Sheffield this week. The concept, which features a new food and cocktail menu as well as an urban, industrial interior, was launched at the group’s site in Whickham, Gateshead, earlier this year. It is thought the company is lining up further sites to open the fledgling concept in. The business has also invested £385,000 on one of its existing sites – The White Bear in Barnsley. The site now features a dedicated student and sports area and a new “inside-outside” space, “The Yard”. The White Bear represents the 18th capex development to be completed by Blackrose since the company was launched in 2019 by Aprirose. Blackrose has three more refurbishments happening this month, including at The Black Bull in East Boldon. In March, Propel revealed Blackrose had raised £5m of new funding to invest in the Wear Inns estate. Aprirose paid £22.4m for the then 25-strong Wear Inns in July 2018. The Daren Knipe-led Blackrose, which operates circa 40 pubs in total, has raised the new funding from existing investors and its banks in order to carry out an extensive refurbishment programme of the Wear Inns sites.
Lennox secures third site for Nusara brand: Andy Lennox, the founder of the Koh Thai brand, has secured the third site in 15 months for his fledgling, high-end Thai concept Nusara. The brand, which is part of Lennox’s Fired Up Collective vehicle, will open a 120-cover site in the centre of Wimborne, Dorset, with a Chiang Mai Garden, terrace and treehouse restaurant in early August. The first Nusara opened on the former Koh Thai site in Christchurch in November 2020. A second site under the concept opened in the grade II-listed, ex Royal Navy command headquarters building in Poole, last August. Lennox said a fourth site under the concept could potentially open this year. The group has plans to add several more restaurants in Dorset, before a potential nationwide rollout. Lennox said: “Nusara was born out of covid and not something that we planned. I’m proud to see we’ve managed to create something special out of such a tough time – it’s great to have such an amazing group of people in the room for something that is a bit of a passion project and to open three sites in what will be just over 18 months is nothing short of remarkable and is a testament to the team we have here.” The Fired Up Collective, which was created in 2020, also operates the southern African-inspired restaurant concept Zim Braai in Ashley Cross and Poole Hill – and the Old Thatch pub site in Dorset. Lennox said: “Each of our brands stand out for fantastic service, great value and amazing food all wrapped up in an infectious atmosphere. With six sites under the belt in a very short time, it will be exciting to see how the brand develops.”
TV pastry chef Cherish Finden to launch debut patisserie next month: Singaporean pastry chef Cherish Finden – who has appeared on TV programmes including Bake Off: The Professionals, MasterChef and Heston’s Great British Chef – will next month launch her first standalone patisserie. Located in Devonshire House, adjacent to the Pan Pacific in London’s Houndsditch, Shiok! will be influenced by the flavours of Finden’s Singapore childhood. Open from 7am-6pm Monday to Friday and 10am-6pm at weekends, the 25-cover patisserie will serve breakfast as well as sweet treats throughout the day. The sweet treats will include a selection of petit gateaux, chocolate bon bons, cookies and Finden’s take on the Singaporean pineapple tart. The breakfast offer will include polo buns with various fillings, sausage shokupans, pork floss buns and croissants. Bubble teas in a variety of flavours will also be available to drink alongside a selection of champagne and wine. Finden said: “In Singapore, the word Shiok! conveys a feeling of pure pleasure and happiness, and this is what I want to capture. The patisserie is going to be somewhere you will want to bring your loved ones, any time throughout the day, for an out-of-this-world pastry.” Finden, who is currently pastry chef at Pan Pacific London, has also worked at Raffles, Marco Polo, The Sheraton Tower, The Great Eastern Hotel, The Langham, Godiva and helped plan and roll out John Lewis’ brasserie and bistro concept.
JKS Restaurants to open second Berenjak site next week: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, will open the second site under its Iranian concept Berenjak, in London’s Borough Market, next week. The concept, which launched in Soho in October 2018, will open on the former Flor site in Bedale Street on Wednesday, 25 May. Berenjak takes inspiration from the traditional Iranian townhouses found in the rural foothills of the Alborz mountains, which surround the city of Tehran. The ground floor will feature an open kitchen while the first floor has a traditional Iranian dining room, seating 26, where groups dine around large tables. Sharing dishes will include a lamb fillet kabab served with ta-dig; lamb shanks with dill and broad bean ta-dig; and a charcoal rotisserie saffron chicken with sweet and sour barberries and shirazi salad. A wine list showcasing Middle Eastern winemaking will sit alongside drinks such as a watermelon vodka with rose kombucha and Cocchi rosa vermouth, and a new addition made with pomegranate gin distilled in-house. Founder Kian Samyani opened the original Berenjak following stints at The Bingham, Jamie Oliver Group, Gymkhana, and Brigadiers, and in 2020, he launched online marketplace Berenjak Bazaar. JKS Restaurants co-founder Jyotin Sethi last month told Propel that Berenjak was one of the brands it was looking to grow, along with Sri Lankan and south Indian concept Hoppers and Taiwanese concept Bao.
Marugame Udon confirms June opening for UK shopping centre debut: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon has confirmed its first UK shopping centre site, in London’s Brent Cross, will open in mid-June. Propel revealed in February the brand, which is led by Keith Bird and backed by Capdesia in the UK, has secured the former Burger King at Brent Cross. It will be a fifth UK site for Marugame Udon, which made its UK and European debut in the capital last year with its flagship site off Liverpool Street, followed by openings in The O2, Canary Wharf and St Christopher’s Place. Last month, Propel revealed Marugame Udon had also secured a site in The Strand for its next opening – one of “eight to ten” it intends to launch here this year. Also in its pipeline is the former Carluccio’s site on The Balcony, at Waterloo station, which will be its transport hub debut in the UK. The brand has more than 12,000 restaurants worldwide and said earlier this year it plans to have at least 100 outlets in the UK and Europe within five years. The Brent Cross site will be located over 350 square metres on the centre’s top floor restaurant level and offer 129 covers for dining in, with takeaway, click and collect and delivery options also available. 
BaxterStorey appoints new finance director as it expands into new markets: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has appointed Frederic Trotignot as its new finance director, starting on Wednesday, 1 June. With more than 20 years’ experience in the consumer, retail and services industries, Trotignot was most recently international finance director at Domino’s. With 2022 seeing the business investing more in technology, including artificial intelligence and app advancements, Trotignot will play a key role in accelerating its ambitions of revolutionising the workplace dining experience. Ronan Harte, chief executive of BaxterStorey, said: “It’s an exciting time for the business as we relaunch our training academies, continue our technology investment and expand into new markets both in the UK and wider Europe. Delighting our customer with memorable food experiences has always been at the heart of BaxterStorey, and we look forward to welcoming Frederic as part of our leadership team advocating this culture and focus.” 
Seren acquires hotel in Snowdonia National Park to continue Welsh expansion: West Wales hotel and restaurant group Seren has taken on ownership of the Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel, near Dolgellau in the Snowdonia National Park. The company, which privately owns a group of hospitality venues in south west Wales including the five-star Grove of Narbeth hotel, Coast Restaurant in Saundersfoot, and Michelin-starred Beach House restaurant in Oxwich, will be taking over the hotel from Monday, 13 June from its current owners, Lorraine Fielding and Mark Watson. The luxury 14-bedroom venue, located at the foot of Cadair Idris mountain in Meirionnydd, is Seren’s first venture in north Wales as it looks to grow its footprint across the country. Managing director Neil Kedward said: “Penmaenuchaf has that rare quality of being a luxury hotel that instantly makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. The hard work starts now for our team, as we search to fill key management roles in the hotel, with Lorraine and Mark retiring. The current hotel team already operates at a great level, and we look forward to working together with it to build on its success. Over the next few years, we’re planning significant refurbishments at the hotel, to create an iconic Welsh country house hotel.”

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