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Wed 1st Jun 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Half of UK nightclub businesses ‘barely breaking even’ as inflation continues to climb: Half of UK nightclub businesses are “barely breaking even” as inflation continues to climb, according to new research. The findings by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) showed a further 20.2% are losing money. Half of businesses have seen a 30% increase in operating costs compared with pre-pandemic levels. Almost 45% are “unsure” if their business will survive the next 12 months, with an additional 20.8% stating they are “not confident”. Those who have renewed both gas and electricity contracts in the last four months have seen a 37% increase in energy costs, with contract renewals in electric seeing up to 54% increase and gas contracts seeing up to 151% increase for businesses. More than a third (36.5%) said their weekly sales have dropped by 30% in comparison with pre-pandemic trade levels, A further 15.5% have experienced up to a 50% loss in that period. Respondents on average were still carrying £133,957 worth of supplier and bank/loan debt. There is still some way to go to see the true impact of cost inflation on businesses, with more than half (53.8%) of businesses still to renew energy contracts. Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, said: “These figures are extremely hard to ignore, the situation is worsening day by day, with operating costs becoming untenable. We are starting to see the impact on customers through slowing tickets sales, bookings and frequency of visit. Our industry is still extremely fragile, many will struggle to survive another crisis. Time is running out and the chancellor must act now, and answer the calls from the industry to reduce VAT back down to 12.5% and an energy cap for small and medium-sized businesses.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – St Austell Brewery launches new permanent cask brand Anthem: St Austell Brewery has launched a new cask brand into its portfolio. Anthem is an all-British pale ale brewed at 3.8%. The new pale ale is made with 100% British ingredients. The four UK-grown hop varieties – Target, Olicana, Jester, and Harlequin – bring the beer’s fruit packed flavours to the fore. It’s the first new brand launched since Georgina Young took over the reins as St Austell’s brewing director in 2020. She said: “We’re delighted to see Anthem joining the likes of Tribute, Proper Job, and Korev as part of our permanent beer portfolio. We all know that nothing quite beats that pub fresh pint of cask ale, which is why continuing to introduce new beers like Anthem, and experiment with modern flavours, is so important to us. While cask is having a tough time post pandemic, we strongly believe it’s part of the fabric of the UK pub and beer market, therefore as one of the country’s leaders in the category we will continue to innovate and invest in it.” Anthem is available to stock now. For more information, click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Two days to go before next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details on 257 new sites, 11,989-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, 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 expanding experiential concepts, niche cuisine and regional pub and restaurant operators. 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 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.

Nicholls – Treasury missing out on £20bn per year from sector due to recruitment issues, new workforce strategy can ‘help fix crisis’: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has warned the Treasury is missing out on £20bn per year from a sector struggling with training, recruitment, retention and image problems. Nicholls revealed the figure as she unveiled the trade body’s new workforce strategy called Fixing the crisis: a framework for collaborative action across the sector. Launched on Tuesday (31 May), it aims to help plug the sector’s 170,000 jobs gap by examining all aspects of hospitality’s labour needs – including recruitment, skills and training, working lives, image and infrastructure to support employees. “It’s routine for me going around the country talking to restaurateurs and hoteliers who say they are deliberately capping their economic activity by about 20%, and that’s the money we’re leaving on the table,” Nicholls said at the launch. “That’s about £20bn per annum the Treasury is missing out on in terms of economic growth and the tax revenue that goes alongside that. As an industry we do need to fix it. The World Travel and Trade Congress came out with a report that said over the next decade, we are estimated to grow by 3%, which is double the rate of the economy as a whole, but less than the 5% we were generating pre-pandemic. So, that’s the lost opportunity for the economy if we don’t get our sector firing on all cylinders and fix this recruitment crisis. Covid can be a real reset moment for our sector to look at all of our ways of working. We need government to play its part too – creating the right conditions for us to thrive and invest and giving us the headroom for growth, but also in promoting the sector as a good place to work and putting in place the policies to make sure we can equip our young people of the future.” The launch comes as hospitality’s post-pandemic recovery contends with increased costs, hikes in energy bills and business rates, the return of VAT to 20% and a dip in consumer confidence due to the cost-of-living crisis. At the same time, ONS data shows vacancies now exceed unemployment for the first time. Nicholls added: “Remember summer 2019 and everyone was struggling to recruit? Vacancy levels are now double what they were then. I don’t think anyone would have believed you if you’d have said recruiting would be twice as bad. It’s crucial we work collaboratively to deliver on this strategy, it will create economic growth and help regenerate communities in all parts of the country. Higher employment rates and business levels will generate even further taxation from hospitality to fund and bolster local and national public services. It will also contribute to the UK being a leading tourist destination.” Immediate steps include engaging with industry and local partners, developing action plans and a big recruitment campaign. UKHospitality will also produce an annual report on the state of the hospitality workforce.

Accor HR boss – recruitment and retention crisis worse in UK than Europe, working in sector not seen as ‘prestigious’ enough: Hospitality’s recruitment and retention crisis is being felt more keenly in the UK than in Europe – and part of the problem is it’s not seen as prestigious an option than on the continent. So said Sophie Kilic, senior vice-president of HR at global hotel group Accor, who was speaking on a panel at UKHospitality’s new workforce strategy launch. Kilic said: “It’s an international crisis, but the UK probably has the worst situation in Europe at the moment. Obviously there was Brexit, then the pandemic came along and we didn’t care so much about Brexit, and now we are back. What I would say is probably different is the way we look at hospitality in the UK. I come from France, where it is seen as quite prestigious to work in hospitality, and I haven’t felt that in 17 years working here. There is definitely huge work to do, and it’s important apprenticeships are really high on the agenda as it means young people are involved in hospitality really early on. We need to become more professional and expert in engaging them – the beauty of this crisis is we will do more and be more professional about talent acquisition and retention.” Kilic went on to say that, for the first time at Accor, among the KPIs for bonuses is engaging with at least two colleges or schools. “Before it was a nice thing to do, now you have to do it as we really need them,” she added. Also speaking on the panel was Sarah Hammond, head of people at YO, who agreed capturing young hearts and minds was key to attracting more people into the sector. “We’re actually going into primary schools with our sushi schools, and they absolutely love it,” she said. “It’s about getting that foot in the door early on. They are really engaging with it and love getting messy with sushi. There’s not enough of it, and we don’t always have the resources or the support, but we are pushing that much further now. I’d also like to see the government bring topics relating to our sector back into the curriculum.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an expanding hospitality group with a range of restaurants, properties, and hotels that is looking for a head of IT. The group has a strong presence in mainland Europe and has huge growth plans there and in the UK and also has plans for digital transformation and scale up. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “We are looking for IT leaders, either head of IT or IT director, with a background in a global hospitality setting. It would suit someone that has managed large scale digital transformation and growth in a group with a number of different brands. Candidates should be comfortable with regular travel, especially to the Netherlands, with the potential for overnight stays.” The salary for the position is £150,000 per annum plus benefits. For more information, email hayley@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Escape Hunt operator narrows losses, secures new Norwich site: Experiential leisure business XP Factory has narrowed its pre-tax losses as owner-operated sites recovered with the return of trade after covid-19 restrictions were lifted. The owner of the Escape Hunt and Boom Battle Bar brands reported a pre-tax loss of £885,000 for the year ending 31 December 2021 against a loss of £6.6m the year before. Revenue was £7m compared with £2.7m the previous year. The company said it is well positioned for growth, but it is mindful of increasing uncertainty from the current macro-economic environment, inflation and cost pressures. Meanwhile, XP Factory has secured a second site in Norwich for Escape Hunt. Having opened its first Norwich venue in 2020, Escape Hunt is launching at the Castle Quarter shopping centre. The business has agreed a deal with landlord RivingtonHark for units six and seven in Timberhill Terrace on a new ten-year lease, next to its Boom Battle Bar premises. RivingtonHark was advised by Jamieson Mills and Roche while Escape Hunt was represented by Western Ridge.

Blackrose continues roll out of Dirty Habit concept, plans to acquire more sites: Blackrose, the circa 40-strong pub company backed by real estate investment company Aprirose, has launched the third site under its new Dirty Habit concept after a £365,000 investment. The new look The Porter Cottage by Dirty Habit, in Sheffield, has reopened following a full revamp inside and out, including a new beer yard. This follows the successful switching of its venues in Gateshead and Whitley Bay to the Dirty Habit brand, in December 2001 and May 2022 respectively. Business development manager for Dirty Habit, Alex Brumwell, said: “The Porter Cottage is steeped in history and a well engrained name within the local area. We are taking an already successful site, refacing it and increasing the offer to make a versatile venue. Set in a strong local setting with a vast student base nearby, we are seeking to offer something for everyone. The Porter Cottage will be a real contributor to the community. The site has cocktails, cask, craft cans and an amazing draught and spirit range.” The pub’s entertainment offering will include live bands and DJs. It is the Daren Knipe-led Blackrose’s 20th capital expenditure project since the group was launched in 2019, and the company has plans to increase its portfolio, with new sites coming on board soon. In March, Propel revealed Blackrose had raised £5m of new funding to invest in the Wear Inns estate, which Aprirose paid £22.4m for in July 2018. Blackrose raised the new funding from existing investors and its banks to carry out an extensive refurbishment of the Wear Inns sites.

Patty&Bun opens in Portobello Road for tenth site: Patty&Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossmann, has opened its second London site this year and tenth overall, in Portobello Road. The restaurant has 45 covers indoors and 12 outdoors. It offers the signature Patty&Bun menu alongside its sister roast chicken and sides brand “Sidechick”, available for delivery. Grossmann said: “Portobello marks an exciting moment for Patty& Bun – our tenth site but more importantly re-entering the Notting Hill community on such an incoming landmark on Portobello Road, just when the summer is incoming.” Patty&Bun is set to further add to its estate with an opening in Canary Wharf this summer.

Hard Rock Cafe set to head to York: Hard Rock Cafe is set to head to York. Property development company North Star has secured the rights to bring the restaurant brand to the city. The flagship venue will be located in Coney Street in the premises occupied by TK Maxx. A planning application is currently in progress. The new venture is expected to create 75 jobs. A stage at the venue will showcase both local and international acts, while private event spaces will also be available. There are also plans for an open-kitchen concept. A spokesman for North Star said: “This is exciting for us and demonstrates our passion, confidence, and commitment to both the city and the region. We are in positive discussions with York Council and very much hope to bring Hard Rock to York, as part of our commitment to investing in and further enhancing what we believe is the best city in the UK.” Hard Rock Cafe has sites in the UK in London, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Manorview acquires Largs hotel for tenth site: Scottish independent hotel group Manorview has acquired the Brisbane House Hotel in Largs for its tenth site. The group has had growth plans firmly in its sights for some time, as it looked for ways to strengthen and expand the business following the challenges of the covid pandemic. “Brisbane House is a fantastic fit for our varied portfolio of boutique hotels” said Steve Graham, founder and director of Manorview. “We have admired it for a long time and many of the team have been frequent customers themselves. It mirrors the venues that we already operate in lots of ways. But like everything in our collection, it also has something unique that we didn’t already have for our expanding customer base.” The group will continue to operate the venue as it is, and all bookings made at the hotel will be honoured. Manorview will bring new benefits to the existing Brisbane team too, through its Living Wage accreditation and profit share scheme. Manorview, which was formed in 2007, also operates two nightclubs, two pubs, a fitness and leisure centre and a luxury spa.

Rishim Sachdeva hits £150,000 crowdfunding target within day of launch to open permanent London restaurant for ‘mostly vegan’ concept: Vegan chef Rishim Sachdeva has hit his £150,000 fundraising target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs within a day of launch as he looks to open a permanent London restaurant site for his “mostly vegan” concept, Tendril. The plan comes after a residency for Tendril at Soho’s Sun & 13 Cantons – a starting ground for notable restaurant success stories, such as Sambal Shiok, Sarap and Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express. Tendril’s menu focuses on fresh, seasonal produce, and takes inspiration from Sachdeva’s kitchen experience in London and India, as well as the food he likes to eat at home – having been a (mostly) vegan himself since early 2019. Signature dishes on Tendril’s menu include Tostada, with muhamarra, winter squash and chard kimchi, and Chipotle mushroom, barbecue kale, walnut, crispy potato and gremolata. Sachdeva is offering 17.94% equity for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £800,000. So far, £175,000 has been raised from 80 investors with 29 days of the campaign remaining.

Stint reports record demand as hospitality venues gear up for Jubilee bank holiday: Stint, the student work platform, is experiencing record demand as hospitality venues across the UK strive to capitalise on the unprecedented footfall expected over the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday. The platform, which connects businesses around the country with students who perform simple tasks during short, flexible shifts, has already seen a record number of “stints” posted, overtaking a mark set during this year’s Easter bank holiday weekend. Sam Schlagman, co-founder and chief executive of Stint, said: “The upcoming bank holiday is a fantastic opportunity for hospitality venues to showcase the best of what they have to offer, and customer experience will be the key to success over the festive weekend.”

T&R Theakston optimistic about future prospects as it narrows losses: Yorkshire-based family brewer T&R Theakston has said it is optimistic about its future prospects after reporting a rise in turnover, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. Theakston was established in 1827 and is based in Masham, North Yorkshire. It produces ale including Old Peculiar and Best Bitter, and is controlled and run by direct descendants of the founder Robert Theakston. The company reported revenue of £5.9m for the year ended 31 December 2021, up from £5.1m in 2020. Pre-tax losses reduced to £2,000 from £334,000 the year before. Theakston continued to face the ongoing challenges of the covid pandemic during 2021, with its on-trade business, which pre-covid accounted for 75% of revenue, affected by pub closures during lockdown. The impact was partially mitigated by growth in off-trade and e-commerce sales. In November, the company agreed a termination of its distributor arrangements with Kingfisher Beverages Europe and the appointment of Beer Britannia, a specialist sales business that forms part of the Real Drinks Group. Significant investment was made into the business' digital platforms during 2021. It also began trading on Amazon, as well as through other e-commerce and beer subscription platforms. Simon Theakston, joint managing director at Theakston Brewery, said: “As our 2021 results show, we are well on the road to overcoming this latest challenge. We are absolutely confident about our future, as we continue to recover from the covid-19 pandemic.” 

New Japanese fine-dining restaurant and bar to open in Manchester: A new Japanese fine-dining restaurant and bar is opening in Manchester. Kitten will launch at the Deansgate Square development in June. The kitchen team will be led by head chefs Josh Gabrielides and Daniel Zhou, who have joined from the Ivy Asia and Peter Street Kitchen respectively. The semi-open kitchen will feature a charcoal robata grill that will offer dishes including chicken yakitori with pickled heritage carrots and pink ginger as well as whole sea bass served with ginger, sake steamed clams and seaweed. The bar will serve a cocktail menu enhanced with Japanese influences. Across the weekend, diners will be able to enjoy live music, DJs and entertainment.

Midlands better burger concept makes restaurant debut: Midlands better burger concept Patty Freaks, which has been operating as a mobile pop-up for several years, has opened its first restaurant. Patty Freaks has launched its street food offering in Lichfield after agreeing a five-year lease on a 1,300 square-foot unit at the town’s City Arcade. Among its neighbours there will be Otto Pizza and Mexican restaurant Los Banditos. City Arcade director David Hemming said: “The arrival of Patty Freaks represents a great vote of confidence in Lichfield. It is a street food operator, and this is its first restaurant, which I’m sure will prove to be very popular. I’m looking forward to seeing it thrive. We are bringing in a great mix of new, independent, young and exciting restaurant operators which, when combined with well-known national names, makes Lichfield a very attractive food destination.”

Plans unveiled to transform Donington Hall into luxury country hotel: Plans have been unveiled by the Motorsport Vision Group (MSV) to turn Donington Hall in Leicestershire into a luxury 44-bedroom country hotel. MSV, which is owned by former Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer, is Europe’s largest motor racing circuit operator with six venues in the UK: Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park, Bedford Autodrome and Donington Park. MSV has submitted its plans to North West Leicestershire Council, which would create 150 jobs. A planning statement said: “Since purchasing the site, MSV has spent considerable time and resources in developing proposals to bring this nationally significant heritage asset into a viable use that would both enable its sensitive restoration and secure its future in the long term. Proposals for a luxury hotel are as close as practically possible to the hall’s original use as a country house. As such interventions to the historic fabric are minimal and restricted to only those that are absolutely essential to the successful operation and therefore viability of the hotel.”

Ten Entertainment Group upgrades Coventry site with £500,000 investment: Ten Entertainment Group, the operator of 46 bowling and family entertainment centres, has upgraded its Coventry site with a £500,000 refurbishment. The venue at Crosspoint Business Park relaunches on Thursday, 9 June following a 14-week development, which includes two karaoke pods and an escape room experience alongside a redesigned interior. Additionally, the laser tag arena has undergone a refresh and will now hold up to 28 people. The new facilities are expected to create an additional 20 jobs.

Nobu to reopen Shoreditch hotel with new sixth floor: Nobu is set to reopen its hotel in London’s Shoreditch with a new sixth floor. The hotel in Willow Street will welcome customers back on Tuesday, 14 June. The new sixth floor will feature the stylish Nobu Shoreditch Penthouse, complete with private outdoor terrace, as well as two new bedroom types – Yuhi and Yuhi Skyline. The rooms include a luxury European king-size bed and a walk-in rainfall shower as well as a 55-inch TV. The hotel will now offer 164 guest rooms and suites, a Nobu restaurant, Nami bar, alfresco terrace, naturally lit event space for 200-plus people and a spa and gym. The Nobu restaurant, under new executive chef Sandi Richmond, offers Nobu’s famed classics alongside locally inspired dishes, served family-style. The Nami bar also returns with its extensive drinks menu. 

Revolution Bars Group to reopen Cheltenham site this week following £250,000 makeover: Revolution Bars Group, which operates 67 bars trading mainly under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, will reopen its Cheltenham site on Wednesday (1 June) following a £250,000 makeover. The Clarence Parade-based bar has had a refit themed on the building’s former life as a church. The new features include private booths, a larger dancefloor and a VIP area. From next Tuesday (7 June), the venue will also be offering Revolution’s new food menu, which includes tandoori chicken skewers with a lime pickle mayo, a blue cheese and truffle burger and a n’duja and pineapple pizza. General manager Adam Moody said: “We’ve always been proud to be part of one of the most beautiful Revolution bars in the brand’s extensive portfolio, and the refurbishment just takes it to new heights. The former church setting has given us the perfect canvas to create something special, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. With the Jubilee celebrations coming the same week we’re reopening, we couldn’t have picked a better time.” Earlier this month, Propel revealed Revolution is returning to Preston after securing the former Fishers premises in Fishergate, which was previously occupied by Greene King. The group is aiming to open the 600-capacity venue at the end of June, marking its return to the city after an eight-year absence. It is also set to open in the former Las Iguanas site in Exeter’s Queen Street in June.

Team behind Glasgow small plates restaurants to open seafood-led venue for third site: A new venture from the team behind two small plate restaurants in Glasgow will open in the city on Friday (3 June). Scamp, a sister restaurant to Eighty Eight and Hooligan, will launch in Renfield Street at the former home of Charcoals Indian restaurant. The team said Scamp will offer “the same seasonal small plates and big flavours customers have come to love and expect” from its chefs, but with a fresh new focus. Head chef Craig Maclennan told the Glasgow Evening Times: “With Hooligan being wine-focused and Eighty Eight vegetarian led, we wanted to create a space that was seafood led, with a focus on open charcoal cooking. We want to keep our dishes light, fun and most importantly, tasty. We’re all about big flavours, modern techniques and sustainability.” The menu at Scamp is designed to be shared and will feature dishes such as langoustine scampi with lemon and chipotle ketchup, barbecue spiced monkfish on the bone with bhuna sauce and sea bream ceviche with strawberry and elderflower dashi.

Luxury Cheltenham hotel collapses into administration: A luxury hotel in Cheltenham has collapsed into administration. Lethendy Cheltenham, which trades as the DoubleTree by Hilton Cheltenham, was placed into administration on 19 May with Chris Newell, Nick Parsk, and Louise Durkan of business advisory firm Quantuma, appointed as joint administrators. Established in 2015, the traditional Georgian manor house hotel, in Cirencester Road, was the first in Hilton’s portfolio to open in Cheltenham, and underwent a full refurbishment in 2017. Newell told Business Live: “The hotel is currently operating as per usual and we are confident it will remain profitable while it continues to trade under the control of the joint administrators. Alongside Nick and Louise, we are dedicated to ensuring a suitable buyer is found and the best outcome is delivered for all parties involved.” The hotel is one of four owned by Lethendy Estates – a UK holding company that invests in hotels – opening its doors to help people displaced by the war in Ukraine. A spokesman for Lethendy said in March its hotels would provide accommodation, food, and essential items to the families.

Bedfordshire-based chicken and sports bar concept set for third site: Bedfordshire-based chicken and sports bar concept, Chicken George, is set to open a third site this summer. The original Chicken George was opened by former KFC worker Ray Cheah in Luton in 1985, and the business was taken over by his son, Chris, in 2016. A second shop, in Hitchin, was added, and the business is now set to open in the former Tavistock Carvery site in Bedford’s Tavistock Street. The restaurant will have a dedicated takeaway waiting area, featuring a free-to-play arcade, plus big screens showing sporting events including Premier League football, rugby, NFL and boxing. “Bedford’s been so good to me,” Chris Cheah told the Bedford Independent. “When we did the Taste Bedford food festival a few years ago we had such a brilliant day, and we know people travel from Bedford to our other restaurants. It’s been on my radar for a while, and the location on Tavistock Street is perfect.”

Stonegate takes Norwich pub back under own management: Stonegate Group – the circa 4,580-strong, Simon Longbottom-led business – has taken a Norwich pub back under its own management after its tenant claimed their agreement was ended early. Landlord Gemma Burwood has handed back the keys to The Chestnut Tree in Reephem Road, in the suburb of Hellesdon, which was formerly called The Bull. Stonegate owns the building and will now operate it, while Burwood will focus on her other venture, The Blue Boar in Oulton, according to The Evening News. A statement from the former tenant said: “Stonegate has decided after all our investment and success, it wants to run the business itself, and has chosen to end our agreement early. This would most definitely not be something we chose to do. We have absolutely loved transforming the pub and being part of Hellesdon.” The pub closed for more than 18 months in February 2017 before reopening under its new name in November 2018. Propel revealed earlier this month that Stonegate has launched a new division aimed at growing an estate of premium food-led pubs. The group has traditionally focused on wet-led formats, with a circa 35% or under food mix, but the new format, which has been launched at The Clerk and Well pub in London’s Clerkenwell Road, will aim for a more 50/50 drink/food sales mix. The new division will feature unbranded sites but is understood to come under the umbrella of The Chapter Collection internally at Stonegate.

Veggie Master to open Nottingham site this week: Vegetarian and vegan restaurant and takeaway chain Veggie Master will open its 13th site tomorrow (Thursday, 2 June), in Nottingham. Propel reported in November 2021 the plant-based venue would open in Lenton Boulevard early in 2022 – offering pizzas, burgers, kebabs, pasta noodles and wraps with no meat and using homemade recipes. It will start with collection and dine-in only but expand later to a delivery offer. It has covers for 60 in a downstairs dining room, but the owners will also operate a function hall on the floor above, which will be available for hire. Co-owner Balwinder Singh and his family, who already operate the Derby branch of the franchise brand, have invested £100,000 into transforming the former Bag O’Nails pub. “Nottingham is an up-and-coming city with two universities, and as we are based between the two,” Singh told Nottinghamshire Live. “We are also in the heart of Lenton, which is a big student area. Nottingham also has a strong Sikh community, of which some are vegetarian or vegan, and the restaurant is a safe space for vegetarians from our community and others. The pub was shut down before covid, so we inherited a two-year-old failed pub. We are proud as we’ve given a new lease of life to something old and dingy. When we opened [in Derby] in 2020, our first few customers weren’t even from Derby. We had people driving down from other cities like Sheffield to get the food. We even had people from Birmingham, where there was already a Veggie Masters location.” Founded in 2016 by Rajveer Singh, the original Veggie Master opened in Southall, followed quickly by franchises in Birmingham and Slough. It now has sites spread as far as West Bromwich, Reading, Leicester, Luton and Wolverhampton.

Worcestershire operators acquire second pub: Worcestershire operators Henry and Emma Pearman have acquired their second site. The couple, who own The Horseshoes in Belbroughton, have added The Chequers in Cutnall Green, near Kidderminster, to their portfolio. The business was previously owned by Roger Narbett, who was a former chef to the England football team, and his wife Jo, who bought the pub in 2000. The current team at The Chequers will remain with the business. Roger and Jo Narbett told Birmingham Live: “Following more than 20 years ownership at The Chequers, we have decided that now is the time to pass the baton on to the next generation. We know we are handing over the pub to very capable hands. We are now excited to be moving on to the next chapter in our lives and spending more time with our family.” Henry and Emma Pearman said: "We are thrilled to announce we are expanding our business to another pub. The Horseshoes will continue as normal, bringing you everything you have come to love – great food, service, and atmosphere.”

Suffolk restaurant owners double up with new Asian food and cocktails concept: Suffolk operators David Little and Kevin Wainwright have opened a second site together – an Asian food and cocktails concept. The pair, who are also the co-owners of Graze at The White Horse in Beccles, have opened Easytiger in the town – offering authentic Asian dishes and cocktails. Dishes include papaya salad, Indonesian beef rib rendang and massaman chicken curry, while the cocktails include the Thai basil gimlet and a lychee martini. The restaurant, which has covers for 32, is already booked up for the next month. The pair moved to Beccles in 2005 and have previously operated the Bear and Bells pub in Old Market and the Satis House Hotel in Yoxford, which featured on Channel 4 show Four in a Bed. “The response we have had so far has been incredible,” Wainwright told the Eastern Daily Press. “To come out of a pandemic and with prices going up, we are incredibly grateful that our customers continue to support us. People still want to come out, but they want to make sure they are spending their money on quality food and service. Beccles is fast becoming a culinary hotspot. It is a wonderful town.”

Bournemouth bakery to open second site: Bournemouth family-run M’s Bakery is to double up with an opening in nearby Christchurch. The new premises, which will be in the Saxon Square, will offer a selection of freshly made artisan bread, pastries, and cakes. Owners Istvan and Marta Nadhazi first began baking cakes at home, which they’d then sell at local markets, reports the Bournemouth Echo. Inspired to take their passion further, they then launched M’s Bakery and opened their first store in the Pokesdown suburb of Bournemouth.

Marriott set to launch rooftop restaurant at latest opening for its Courtyard brand: Marriott is set to launch a rooftop restaurant at the latest opening for its Courtyard brand of “mid-priced” hotels. The View will open this week at the multi-million pound Courtyard by Marriott Exeter Sandy Park, the 250-bed hotel that opened last month. The venue already has a ground floor all-day dining Kitchen and Bar, events spaces and a 24-hour fitness centre. Being based next to the home ground of rugby union side Exeter Chiefs, it also has The Match Day Bar, which is open on match days only. The View restaurant, overseen by executive chef Richard Hunt, will include two private dining rooms, with covers for 180 diners. Kirsty Holburd, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Sandy Park Hotel, said: “The official opening of the View restaurant is generating huge excitement, not just among the staff here at the hotel, but also locally. With Richard Hunt as our executive chef, we have in place someone who is acutely aware of the quality local produce that is on offer from all across the region. Together with his team, he has created a mouth-watering menu and dining experience that we believe is hard to rival.” Marriott also recently opened a 184-room new-build Courtyard hotel at London City airport, and announced plans to revamp the brand in North America. 

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