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Tue 31st May 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Knoops set to build on ‘significant growth’ in iced chocolate market after ‘creating a sector’ in London: Hot chocolate shop Knoops is set to build on the “significant growth” it has seen in the iced chocolate market after “creating a sector” for it in London. The six-strong brand is due to open its seventh site overall and fourth site in the capital, in Covent Garden, in June – having launched in Rye, Sussex, nine years ago. Along with its hot chocolate, which can be personalised according to taste, Knoops also offers chocolate milkshakes and iced chocolate – and it is the latter which it says has seen “triple-digit growth” in 2022. “Iced chocolate is essentially a cold version of hot chocolate, made with real chocolate and your choice of dairy or plant-based milk, poured over ice, and that is a new sector we have seen significant growth in,” chief executive Tori Nunn told Propel. “It wasn’t there as a sector when we came to London, we created it. We’ve seen triple-digit growth in our iced chocolate from last year, and that’s an area we see growing significantly to make Knoops a year-round proposition. We are also going to launch an ice cream in the coming weeks – we did do a trial last year, but this time we’re going to go for it.” Nunn recently told Propel that Knoops is aiming to expand to 100 UK restaurants over the next five years, and despite claiming to be the first brand opening cafes dedicated to drinking chocolate, does not fear others following the concept. “Replication is a form of flattery,” she said. “We’ve created a sector, and naturally there will be new entrants into the market, but I believe the scale of our ambitions means we have the ability to grow and take ownership of that. They will grow the market, but we can be the biggest. There are already others trying to do the same thing, but they won’t have the financial backing, scale or ambition we do.” With a growing trend for premiumisation in the industry, it would be easy to see Knoops as “posh hot chocolate” – as it has been described elsewhere – but Nunn insists it’s so much more. “We feel we have very broad demographics,” she said. “As a brand, I think we’re very egalitarian. Obviously the more expensive chocolates will demand a more premium price, but I wouldn’t use the term posh hot chocolate.” As well as its bricks-and-mortar expansion, Knoops also intends to keep growing its online presence, which “accelerated” during the pandemic, and is adding a delivery option too. “We’re investing in staff and capability in that area,” Nunn added.
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Darwin & Wallace backs Hospitality Rising, invest today: Darwin & Wallace, the nine-strong London-based, Imbiba-backed neighbourhood bar group, is backing Hospitality Rising, but will you? The initiative aims to unite the industry by asking it to invest in and back its plan to change the perception of hospitality for the better, in the biggest sector recruitment advertising campaign the UK has seen. Mel Marriott, Darwin & Wallace managing director and founder, said: “Investing in Hospitality Rising was an easy decision for us. This collaborative approach offers the whole industry an opportunity to showcase the many and varied career opportunities available in our sector. It is an opportunity to invest in the future of hospitality itself at a time when the recruitment landscape has never been more challenging. I began my own career in hospitality with a holiday job during my studies and found the environment so infectious that after graduating I knew that was where my future career lay. As a female entrepreneur and mother, I cannot think of another industry that is as flexible, provides such incredible training and development opportunities, nurtures talent and drives ambition in the same way. I urge my operator and supplier colleagues alike to support Hospitality Rising so we can showcase our industry to the widest possible audience and perhaps bust a few myths too!” 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.
 
Cluster of London bars to feature in next edition of The New Openings Database, 11,989-word report included: A cluster of London bars 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 257 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (3 June), 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 immersive retro arcade bar concept NQ64, which has opened its eighth site, in Soho’s Berwick Street, and offers a mix of retro gaming and bespoke cocktails. Meanwhile, Morten Jensen and Darren Collins, the duo who relaunched Shoreditch’s Light Bar last April, have opened a second UK site, called The Backyard, which is a “chic, hidden terrace and secret garden oasis”. In addition, London-based taproom and bottle shop concept Mother Kelly’s, which has opened its first cocktail bar, Cherry Tiger on the top floor of Castle Square, Elephant & Castle, will be featured. Also added this month is Bar Daskal, which specialises in Spanish wine and tapas and will offer four different types of sherry, when it opens in London’s Borough Yards development next month. Premium subscribers will also receive a 11,989-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 (27 May). The database contained 42 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,481. The 140 sites run by those 42 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 65,402 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 3,212-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 have exclusive access to 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 second edition features 120 companies and almost 47,000 words of content, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost, business background, contacts and other key details. 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. 
 
Independent pubs and restaurants set for £76m boost over Jubilee bank holiday but fears grow about cost-of-living crisis: Independent pubs, bars and restaurants are set for a £76m boost across the Jubilee bank holiday, according to the latest quarterly Barclays SME Barometer. Almost half (45%) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the hospitality and leisure sector that are open across the bank holiday expect the occasion to increase their sales for this quarter. On average, SMEs expect to see a 10.4% rise between the months of April and June 2022 against the same period in 2021, with those in the hospitality and leisure sector predicting a 34.7% increase. A fifth (20%) of businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry plan on using the occasion to increase customer engagement. This follows a successful first quarter of the year for UK SMEs with more than half (52%) reporting a rise from the fourth quarter of 2021, and 58% reporting a year-on-year rise in revenue for the same period in 2021. However, almost nine in ten (89%) of hospitality and leisure SMEs are concerned about the impact of the rising cost of living. While they remain confident about the future of their businesses, more than half of SMEs (46%) have a pessimistic outlook on the prospects for the wider UK economy and two fifths (41%) said the current business environment is unstable. Despite the challenging environment, the majority (87%) of SMEs said they are planning to invest in their businesses over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, separate research by booking platform SevenRooms showed the Jubilee could create an additional £1.5bn for the hospitality industry, with an average estimated spend of £79 per head. SevenRooms predicted 19 million people are due to flock to hospitality venues over the four-day bank holiday weekend, with Saturday (4 June) expected to be the biggest (and busiest) day for the industry, following closely by Friday (3 June). Over the weekend, it’s estimated Brits who will be visiting a pub, bar or restaurant over the Jubilee bank holiday will spend almost £40 more per head than on an average week at these locations – an almost 50% increase in spend. 
 
UKHospitality – new visa scheme for the world’s top graduates is ‘positive indication the UK wants to welcome global talent with open arms’: UKHospitality has backed the launch of a new visa scheme for the world’s top graduates, saying it is a “positive indication the UK wants to welcome global talent with open arms”. The scheme will be available to alumni of the top non-UK universities who graduated in the past five years. Graduates will be eligible regardless of where they were born and will not need a job offer in order to apply. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “This announcement is a positive indication the UK wants to welcome global talent with open arms, and that very much includes hospitality, a sector in which where there are incredible opportunities at the higher end of skilled roles. There are opportunities here for our world class hospitality schools, too, so we hope these openings will be extended to them, too, in order to showcase our excellence and attract the best candidates. That would be greatly enhanced, however, if there was also an increased use of youth mobility schemes with other nations, and bilateral arrangements built into forthcoming trade deals. It is important the communications that accompany the move convey to talent around the world that the UK is the place to be.”
 
Greene King gives pints away for free after 6p Jubilee promotion is outlawed: Brewer and retailer Greene King gave away pints of beer for free on Monday (30 May) after plans to offer them for 6p to celebrate the Jubilee were outlawed. Customers were originally told to take advantage of the discount – paying the price of a pint when the Queen took to the throne in 1952 – by saying “1952” at the bar of 408 participating Greene King pubs. However, the promotion was halted due to restrictions under the Licensing Act – with the company changing it to a free pint of Greene King’s IPA instead. A Greene King spokesman said: “Our pub and brewery teams are excited to be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a variety of events this week. One of the ideas we had was for a promotion in 400 of our managed pubs where customers could buy one pint each of Greene King IPA for 6p – the same price it was in 1952. We thought this was a great way to celebrate this remarkable occasion and we’ve been thrilled at the response from customers. However, we gave the first pint of Greene King IPA away free of charge, as we now understand it’s not permissible under the licensing act to charge the 6p.”
 
NTIA appoints Sacha Lord as chair: Sacha Lord, the night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester, has been appointed as chair of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). Lord, who is also the co-founder of both Parklife and The Warehouse Project, has worked closely with the NTIA over the last two years, as the industry battles to recover from the effects of covid-related restrictions. The NTIA said Lord’s appointment will “add considerable weight to the board, in the drive to raise awareness of the importance of the night-time industry to the UK economy”. Lord said: “The NTIA is a critical player in the sector and has been a key voice in representing operators, not just in London, but nationally across the UK. I am honoured to be joining as chair at this pivotal time in the sector’s recovery. There is still so much work to be done to help operators through these difficult times, and I wholly support the NTIA in its efforts to create better working practices for those in the industry, achieve greater funding for businesses nationwide and develop vital initiatives to ensure everyone working within, or using the night-time economy, gets home safely.” Michael Kill, NTIA chief executive, added: “I have been lucky enough to have worked very closely with Sacha over the last three years, and alongside welcoming him as the chair of the board of directors, would like to personally thank him on behalf of the industry for his exceptional work and support during the crisis. As a leading figurehead within our industry, we are looking forward to harnessing his passion and drive in establishing a stronger voice for the sector, adding another dimension to the public and political agenda to drive home positive change, and support an extremely ambitious strategy for the sector in the future. The unanimous appointment by the board is testament to the tireless work he has put into representing this industry.”
 
Gin and English wine set to sparkle over Platinum Jubilee weekend: Gin and English wine are set to be the winners this Platinum Jubilee weekend, with 30% of consumers set to drink a British-distilled gin and one in five planning to drink English wine, according to research by drinks insights agency, Proof Insight. The findings showed a third (33%) of 18 to 34-year-olds have planned an occasion in a pub or bar and a quarter of consumers (25%) have planned to go out for a meal. Around 30% plan to consume a gin ‘n’ tonic, predicted to be the most popular cocktail serve of the Jubilee weekend. The patriotism of the Platinum Jubilee weekend also extends to English wine with 19% of consumers planning to drink it – 17% plan to consume a sparkling wine over 7% wanting to drink a champagne. 
 

Company News:

Extrawurst pausing on bricks and mortar to roll out smaller format sites, focusing on Midlands before further UK expansion: Extrawurst, one of the leading German bratwurst fast-food to go brands, is pausing its bricks-and-mortar roll-out to focus on its “midi and micro” sites, and will concentrate on the Midlands before expanding further across the UK. The brand, which signed a UK master franchise agreement last year and plans to open “hundreds” of sites over here, last week opened its second, in Birmingham’s New Street. A restaurant in Nottingham was originally next on the agenda, but that will now wait until later in the year while its midi format – “anything from a shipping container to a trailer” – and micro – “a pop-up bike with a grill and a big umbrella” sites take centre stage. “We’ve put Nottingham on hold, and we’re using the investment we would have put into it to accelerate the smaller format models,” Sam Shutt, chief executive of Extrawurst UK, told Propel. “We’re being realistic about what is achievable. We’re bringing a new brand to the UK and opening a business off the backdrop of the pandemic, cost headwinds and the cost-of-living crisis, so we’ve just had to adjust our lanes a bit. We’re working hard on our investment profile and spending a lot of time ensuring our franchise model is as competitive as it can possibly be. We’ve got some really exciting opportunities for the smaller formats over the next three to six months, and we’re aiming to land several of those between now and the autumn. We plan to start recruiting franchisees from the back end of the summer with a view to building the pipeline across all formats from the beginning of 2023. I’m not going to say we won’t do another macro shop this year, and I’m not short of offers, but it’s important to understand how Extrawurst operates over all formats before we actively push to recruit franchisees. If you want to scale a franchise model, it’s going to be more realistic to scale bigger, quicker, faster in the smaller formats as it will be more affordable. Our growth model is not just franchise, we have wholesale, grocery and e-commerce routes to market available, but the focus for the immediate future is the smaller container unit style format, several of which we have under construction to be deployed later this year.” Shutt also believes the Midlands is the perfect place to test the brand over here before rolling it out further. “We decided to look at the Midlands because I still think London and the south is quite distressed,” he added. “There’s a lot of noise going on, and as a new brand, you can get lost in all that. If we can make it work in the Midlands and push out from there, I think we can make it work anywhere in the UK. But I keep an open mind, because if a killer opportunity came up, I wouldn’t not look at it.”

Hong Kong-style tea restaurant concept to make UK debut this summer: Hong Kong-style tea restaurant The Eight is set to make its UK debut this summer, in London’s Chinatown. Inspired by the traditional Hong Kong tearooms of the 1950s, The Eight has taken an 80-cover 1,500 square-foot space at 68-70 Shaftesbury Avenue. It will serve a selection of traditional Hong Kong dishes, including signature abalone wanton noodle, rice wrapped in omelette with wagyu beef and rickshaw noodles. It will also offer snacks such as Hong Kong curry fish balls and red bean pudding cake, alongside traditional milk tea and the brand’s home brewed Ginseng drink. A spokesperson for The Eight, said: “Since originating in the 1950s, the style of the Hong Kong tea restaurant has evolved. The tea rooms back home are heavily inspired by cuisine from around the world, and we wanted to bring this unique experience to the UK. Chinatown London has an incredible selection of global flavours, and we know The Eight will feel right at home here.” Landlords Shaftesbury have also confirmed the signing of Zhang Liang Malatang, which Propel reported in November 2021 would be making its UK debut in the same location. The China-based brand, which has more than 5,500 sites, has secured a 1,200 square-foot site at 112 Shaftesbury Avenue. The Sichuan concept will allow diners to customise their hot pot with a choice of fresh ingredients, including crab legs, fish balls, and seafood sausages. Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director at Shaftesbury, added: “Both The Eight and Zhang Liang Malatang are brilliant examples of concepts launching their UK debut offering within the Chinatown London community, providing our visitors with yet more unique regional Chinese and Pan-Asian foodie adventures.”

Brighton set to be first opening as real estate group targets UK hotel market in JV with Cairn Group: A new division of The Cairn Group – which has grown to a portfolio of 33 hotels and more than 30 bars and restaurants across the UK – has entered into a joint venture with global real estate firm PGIM Real Estate as it targets the UK hotel “staycation” sector. Madison Cairn will partner with the $209.3bn real estate business in a value-add investment strategy to buy, develop and reposition UK hotels, with a focus on domestic leisure demand. In particular, it is targeting key “staycation” destinations and selected UK locations which it thinks will perform strongly because of the “geopolitical environment”. The joint venture said it has already secured a strong pipeline of activity, with the first investment in an undisclosed asset in Brighton. Charles Crowe, managing director and head of UK transactions at PGIM Real Estate, said: “At PGIM Real Estate, we’ve been investing in Brighton hotels since 2013 and have tracked this opportunity for some time. We are delighted to be working with the Madison Cairn team, who are one of the most experienced operators in the sector. We share conviction that the prospects for selected good-value domestic leisure markets have strengthened in light of recent events, and we look forward to expanding our venture soon in locations such as these.” Aneil Handa, director of Madison Cairn, added: “The acquisition of our first hotel together is a key milestone, with the joint venture having appetite for further expansion.”
 
Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant Casamia to shut with ‘more accessible’ dining venture planned in its place: Casamia, the Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant from chef owner Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, will close in August, with a “more accessible” dining venture planned in its place. Sanchez-Iglesias reopened Casamia after lockdown with a dramatic change in direction, focusing on a “progressive, creative form of Michelin-starred dining – one where its culinary excellence remains centre stage, yet the experience is heightened by a tailored approach to music, lighting and art to guide diners through the menu”. The new iteration reflected Sanchez-Iglesias' ongoing desire to serve world-class food in a more contemporary, creative environment. Sanchez-Iglesias said: “The project has served some amazing food ¬– imaginative, complex and fun and for me personally it's been a breath of fresh air and really invigorating to see a restaurant operate so well in such an original way. But in the spirit of creativity the team and I are ready for a new project. We have great plans for this site to become something new, and a little more accessible, later this year.” Casamia, which is based in Lower Guinea Street, has retained a Michelin star since 2009. The venue will continue with the same team remaining in place until Saturday, 20 August.
 
Just Eat for Business adds Franco Manca and German Doner Kebab to offer, food orders to offices at ‘all-time high’: Just Eat for Business, the food delivery service’s corporate arm, has added Franco Manca, the pizza brand owned by Fulham Shore, and German Doner Kebab (GDK), which is owned by Hero Brands, to its offer. It comes at a time when Just Eat for Business said food orders to the office are at an all-time high, with the business seeing rapid levels of growth as workers gradually return to the office. GDK can be delivered to offices across London, with Franco Manca available in proximity to Tottenham Court Road and Bishopsgate. Matt Ephgrave, managing director at Just Eat for Business, said: “The pandemic has not only changed where we eat at work but also what we eat. Creating an office environment that employees feel excited to visit is all so important to business leaders and they’re increasingly understanding the need for food and its role in developing workplace culture. That’s why we’re delighted to welcome Franco Manca and GDK to offer employees what they love, at work.”
 
Harrison Leisure UK acquires eighth holiday park: Holiday park operator Harrison Leisure UK has added to its portfolio with the acquisition of Rawcliffe Hall Country Club and Caravan Park in Lancashire for an undisclosed sum. The 42.7-acre park developed with 233 pitches, which has been in the same family ownership since 1993, came on to the market to allow the former partners to pursue alternative ventures and opportunities. The sale also included six cottages, additional agricultural land and the 12th century Rawcliffe Hall, in which various leisure facilities and bars are located. Rawcliffe becomes Harrison Leisure’s eighth holiday park in a portfolio that includes sites across the north west, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Northumberland. Billy Harrison, managing director of Harrison Leisure UK, said: “We are excited to take over such a well-established business and look forward to operating the park to the highest of standards for decades to come. We have some exciting plans for the property but the ethos of operating a successful family business and high levels of customer satisfaction will always remain at the core.” David Bagot, former owner of Rawcliffe Hall Country Club and Caravan Park, added: “As a family we are delighted to be handing over the business, which has meant so much to us, to another family, which we believe has a similar ethos; it is good to know we are leaving it and the people within it in safe hands.” Colliers acted on the deal.
 
North east virtual reality concept set to double up following £150,000 investment, third site planned: North east virtual reality concept, The Gaming Hideaway, is set to open a second site following a £150,000 investment. The cash injection, from the North East Growth Capital Fund Loan Fund, will help fund the opening of a Bishop Auckland site. The 6,000 square-foot venue, which will open in July, is almost twice the size of the original, which was opened in Thornaby in May 2021 by Rachel and Kaiyn Crooks. It will be spread over two floors, with gaming and simulators, gaming PCs and consoles available as well as racing stations with 65-inch screens. Catering and a private area for parties and corporate events will also be on offer, while further plans are in place for a third venue, with hope of opening one by the end of the year. Rachel Crooks said: “The idea behind The Gaming Hideaway was to offer a cost-effective destination venue that would offer something for people of all ages and would enable families to spend quality time together. Bringing all these advanced gaming technologies together under one roof is something that hadn’t been done before, but the success of our Thornaby venue has shown that we’ve got the concept right, and we’re excited to now be bringing it to County Durham.”
 
Kricket partners with Growth Kitchen to optimise delivery-only operations: Indian restaurant group Kricket has partnered with Growth Kitchen, the food tech start-up building smart satellite kitchen networks, as part of its plans to focus on the quality of its delivery operations. The restaurant, backed by White Rabbit Fund, has joined Growth Kitchen's body of food brands in its Bermondsey hub. Founded by Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell in a shipping container in Pop Brixton in 2015, Kricket had already launched delivery at its brick and mortar locations in Brixton and White City, as well as exploring delivery-only kitchens before the pandemic. Kricket was the first to open in Growth Kitchen’s Bermondsey hub and the restaurant group said the location was already benchmarking well against total sales across existing sites. Campbell said: “As a growing brand, it’s important we focus on the sites that are working hardest for us and our Bermondsey kitchen with Growth Kitchen is one of our highest performing locations. We look forward to furthering our relationship in the future.”
 
Funky Bear founder to launch new roller disco nightclub concept in Birmingham next month: George Kafetzis, founder of Funky Bear Restaurants, which has branches in Mere Green and Solihull, will next month launch Roller Jam, a new roller disco nightclub concept based in Birmingham. Kafetzis is one of four business partners behind the concept, which will open on Friday, 10 June in Glover Street, Digbeth. His co-founders are Jerry McGrath, a former English roller-skating champion who has run mobile roller disco company Jerry’s Mobile Roller Rink for 25 years; Lenny Scarlett, who is involved in former pop-up Digbeth Dining Club and burlesque nightclub Mama Roux’s; and Rue Jay, who has run nightclub events in the West Midlands and Ibiza. Kafetzis said: “We are excited and are really looking forward to bringing something new and fresh to Birmingham and Digbeth. This will be the first purpose-built roller disco in Birmingham and has got everything from a food quarter with different vendors to cocktail bars and live music. In the future, we want to introduce virtual reality and a retro arcade area here too.” The venue will feature a skating rink with private booths, live DJs, stage shows, cinema screens, street food and bars. Alongside food and beverage offerings from The Funky Bear and Gyros Guru, the venue will also welcome weekly guest traders.
 
Tim Hortons makes Manchester city centre debut: Canadian quick service restaurant brand Tim Hortons has opened its first restaurant in Manchester city centre and eighth in Greater Manchester. SK Group, which is leading the rollout of the brand in the UK, has opened the venue in Market Street, in The Arndale, the brand’s 53rd UK site. Kevin Hydes, chief commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “The introduction of Tim Hortons in the city centre is a momentous occasion for us, having received such a warm welcome over the years from the community in Greater Manchester.” It follows the recent opening of a Tim Hortons restaurant and drive-thru at Birchley Island Retail Park, Oldbury, strengthened the brand’s presence in the West Midlands. It is also preparing to open a new restaurant at the Merry Hill shopping centre in the premises previously occupied by The Restaurant Group-owned brand Frankie & Benny’s. Last week, Hydes told Propel that by the end of this year, the brand “should be able to say that it has got nationwide coverage in the UK”. Tim Hortons, which will make its London debut later this year, has plans to add another circa 30 locations by the end of 2022.
 
Pepe’s Piri Piri opens first Kent site, two more to follow: Pepe’s Piri Piri has opened its first site in Kent. The flame-grilled chicken brand, which operates circa 150 UK sites as well as five in Pakistan and one in the UAE, has opened in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells. Two more sites in the county will follow, but their locations have not yet been confirmed. The 1,600 square-foot Tunbridge Wells site has covers for up to 30 diners and also offers delivery and takeaway services, which can be ordered on the restaurant's mobile app. It launched following a six-figure funding package from HSBC UK, secured by the restaurant's franchise company. Franchisee Kunal Dhande said: “We’re delighted to have opened our first store in Tunbridge Wells. We’re so lucky to have found such a good team to guide us as we start our journey and look to open more sites in Kent.”
 
Chicken Cottage begins £500,000 Greater Manchester expansion with cloud kitchen launch: Halal fast food company Chicken Cottage has begun a £500,000 expansion in Great Manchester with a cloud kitchen launch, which could be followed by two more restaurants. The Ardwick-based cloud kitchen, launched to meet increased online demand, will offer the company’s recently launched plant-based Impossible “chicken” nuggets, and a build your own burger range. A further two quick-service restaurants are also currently in the planning stages, with several potential sites being reviewed across Greater Manchester. Chicken Cottage group chief executive, Shahrin Imran, said: “This is in response to increased demand from customers in the region who are looking for the authentic east meets west fusion of flavours our famous products offer.” The cloud kitchen and two new sites will be operated by the Chicken Cottage head office team. However, the company said it would welcome any enquiries from individuals in the region who wish to operate their own Chicken Cottage franchise. Chicken Cottage has also launched a new app.
 
NQ64 makes London debut with Soho opening: NQ64, the immersive retro arcade bar concept backed by Imbiba, has made its London debut with an opening in Berwick Street, Soho. The company has invested £1.4m in the 6,000 square-foot former Ballie Ballerson site it secured in February, offering a mix of retro gaming and bespoke cocktails. The games include Time Crisis, Guitar Hero, Dancing Stage and Pac-Man, plus classic consoles, which are free to use for guests buying drinks. The drinks offer includes several gamer-themed cocktails alongside a selection of craft beer, wine, soda and spirits. The venue, the eighth in total, also has a private room for hire by groups of up to 60. NQ64 first launched in Manchester in 2019 and has since opened sites in Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool. Co-founder Matthew Robson told Propel at the end of last year the brand is targeting growing to 20-25 sites, at a rate of four a year.
 
Birmingham independent coffee retailer to double up: Birmingham independent coffee retailer Gorilla Cafe is to double up. The concept will be leasing 1,800 square foot of space on the ground floor at Foundry in Brindleyplace from June. The new premises sees the company expand its existing operation in Kings Heath. Gorilla will be linking up with X+Why, the flexible workspace provider, to offer clients its coffee and food. James Connolly, owner of Gorilla, said: “Being based at Foundry brings our cafe culture to a new audience in Birmingham city centre. We will stay close to our core offer – a welcoming club-house, that is a cross between ‘cheers’ and the best cafe you’ve been to. Fantastic food, wonderful beer and great service are at the heart of what we do, it will complement the ambience of Brindleyplace perfectly.”
 
Browns founder Jeremy Mogford reopens Oxford restaurant and bar following £1m-plus revamp: Hospitality entrepreneur Jeremy Mogford, who founded the Browns brasserie and bar chain, has reopened his Gees Restaurant & Bar site in Oxford after an overhaul of more than £1m. Gees Restaurant & Bar is an independently-owned venue set within north Oxford's famous grade II-listed Victorian conservatory, once home to the Gee family's greengrocers and floristry, in Banbury Road. It has operated since 1989, serving a Mediterranean-inspired menu. The eatery closed in February for a complete revamp that has seen it combined with the property next door, which has been remodelled over the last six months to create Gees Gallery and Secret Garden. Gees has more than doubled in capacity with the addition of Gees Gallery – an adjacent private dining space for up to 50 guests – and Secret Garden; a heated private terrace for up to 60 diners. Gees Restaurant, Bar, Gallery and Secret Garden now accommodates more than 220 guests in total. Gees Gallery also operates as a multifunctional space, including an art gallery and shop, and function room. Matt Smith has taken the helm as head chef having previously run his own restaurant in Whitby and prior to that headed up the team at The Ivy Oxford.

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