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Tue 7th Jun 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

London mayor to create new £500,000 ‘enterprise zones’ to boost night time economy in the capital: London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a new £500,000 programme to create Night Time Enterprise Zones to help support the capital’s economic recovery. The zones, of which there will be at least three across London, will enable boroughs to encourage more people to use their high streets after 6pm. Local authorities will work with businesses and communities to develop ideas to make their high streets more accessible, inclusive and welcoming at night. This will include extending opening hours, holding special events, taking measures to improve women’s safety and supporting good work standards for those working at night. It follows the success of a pilot in Waltham Forest in 2019, which helped increase footfall on Walthamstow High Street by 22% and improve safety perceptions. Khan said: “High streets are the lifeblood of our communities and have a key role to play in our economic recovery from the pandemic. Our Night Time Enterprise Zone pilot showed what is possible for our town centres at night, and by expanding the zones to more areas, we will help local authorities and businesses make their high streets more welcoming and inclusive after 6pm.” Amy Lamé, London’s Night Czar, said: “Our city is incredibly active at night, but too often our high streets shut down from 6pm, offering no reason for people to be there. We have an opportunity to work in partnership to boost local businesses, communities and the wellbeing of night workers across the capital. We want to help reimagine our high streets with innovative ideas and help councils, communities and businesses to pioneer better ways of living, working and doing business.” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality and former chair of the London Night Time Commission, added: “A diverse and vibrant night time offer rooted in the local community is something the Commission recognised as being essential in ensuring our high streets are seen as attractive destinations for everyone after 6pm. This is true now more than ever as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic and look at the exciting and emerging ways we are using our high streets and town centres around the clock.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message ­– stay customer focused and digitise daily operations with Compliance by Mapal: Compliance by Mapal is an operations, health and safety checklist solution that was created especially for restaurants, pubs, bars, coffee shops, hotels, and catering companies. Johan Berg, chief operating officer of Caffé Nero Sweden, said: “Focusing on the guest is crucial for Caffé Nero. With the help of Compliance by Mapal, we can easily measure, follow up and improve this on an ongoing basis.” Using digital checklists, cloud-based documentation management and performance tracking, you can stay compliant, save time and achieve essential goals swiftly and easily. Mapal Group will be hosting a live demo of Compliance on Monday, 20 June. Sign up to watch here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Propel Premium subscribers to receive seven exclusive videos: Propel Premium subscribers are to be given exclusive access to seven videos where sector leaders and entrepreneurs offer their insights as they develop their businesses in a post-covid world. The videos, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (10 June), at 9am will include Paul Campbell, sector investor and non-executive director at Hawksmoor, Vinoteca, Hickory’s, Blacklock, Tortilla and The Alchemist, who explains what he now looks for when investing in the sector post-pandemic, the key traits he looks for in management teams and what the next 12 months holds for the industry. Colin Hill, chief executive of Nando’s UK, discusses how sustainability is the cornerstone of the group’s future development, and the challenges and opportunities around becoming carbon-neutral in the sector, and what the industry needs to do next. James Shapland, co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, and new venture Coffi Lab, talks about the development of his new business, why he has returned to the coffee sector and discussed how he believes the sector will develop in a post-covid world. Jyotin Sethi, co-founder of JKS Restaurants, talks about the company’s move into pubs, food halls and pop-ups, and why they are all providing fresh ideas and inspiration for the growing business. Jonny Boud, founder of Kitchen Ventures, talks about the creation of the cloud kitchen and virtual dining start-up, its expansion and how it picks and develops the brands it works with. Tom Snellock, founder of Clays, discusses the development, launch and expansion of his indoor virtual clay pigeon shooting experience. The videos will also include a panel session on solving the staffing, recruitment and retention crisis hosted by Mark Stretton with James Hacon, global chief marketing officer at Mapal Group; Sol Schlagman, co-founder of Stint; Roland Horne, founder of WatchHouse; Kate Daines, chief people officer at PizzaExpress; and Brian Trollop, managing director at Dishoom. 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. Premium subscribers also receive access to three databases that are updated monthly – The New Openings Database produced in association with StarStock, the Propel Multi-Site Database produced in association with Virgate, and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. 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. 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.

Six in ten tenants satisfied with their pub company although results vary widely across the big six: Six in ten (62%) of tenants are satisfied with their pub company, although results vary widely across the big six business governed by the pubs code. The annual tied tenant survey 2022 showed the number is even higher (67%) when looking at those who started their tenancy after the pubs code came into force. The percentage of tenants who are dissatisfied with their pub company is also lower for those tenants who started their tenancy after the pubs code came into force (18%) than overall (22%). Admiral Taverns is the company with the most satisfied tenants (80% with 13% dissatisfied) followed by Marston’s (73% with 17% dissatisfied), Greene King (67% with 24% dissatisfied), Star Pubs & Bars (60% with 26% dissatisfied), Stonegate (59% with 21% dissatisfied) and Punch (47% with 29% dissatisfied). An area where tenants are generally satisfied is with their business development manager – 76% think they are fair in their discussions. Satisfaction with their handling of repairs and dilapidations is notably lower at 39%, but is up from 37% in 2019. The Market Rent Only process and dealing with repairs/dilapidations remain key pain points for tenants. Awareness of the pubs code is increasing, with 79% of tenants surveyed aware of the code, up from 68% when the survey was last done in 2019, although awareness of individual rights is lower. Awareness of the pubs code adjudicator is also up with 54% of tenants aware, compared with 47% in 2019. Pub companies and internet searches/Google are key sources of information for tenants on the pubs code. Around one in three are unfamiliar with the individual rights as a tenant – rights around insurance are least understood. One in four do not find their sustainable business plan useful in managing their tenancy while one in ten do not remember submitting one. The research was carried out by Ipsos on behalf of the pubs code adjudicator and the sample size of more than 600 tied tenants was twice that of the 2019 survey. 

Brits cut back on dining and drinking out as cost-of-living squeeze continues: Brits cut back on dining and drinking out in May as the cost-of-living squeeze continues to impact consumer spending. According to the latest data from Barclaycard, spending in restaurants was down 5.9% from April and by 1.2% at bars, pubs and clubs. Overall, consumer card spending grew 9.3% in May compared with the same period in 2021, inflated both by the rising cost of living, and the fact last year’s demand was artificially dampened due to the travel and hospitality restrictions still in place. Spending on non-essential items grew 11.6% year-on-year, largely driven by hospitality and leisure spending, which increased significantly (67.2%) compared with the same period last year, when the rule of six was still in place and indoor venues were only open for half of the month. Spending on essential items grew 4.8%, largely propped up by inflation, and a 24.8% surge in fuel spend as petrol and diesel prices continued to climb. There was also a significant rise (83.3%) in public transport spending, reflecting the fact more Brits are now commuting to offices compared with the same period last year, when working-from-home guidance was still in place. It was a particularly strong month for the travel industry, which outpaced inflation and saw triple-digit growth (189.7%) compared with last year, when there were many more international restrictions in place. The sector also grew month-on-month, with travel agents seeing a sizeable uplift of 24.2% and airlines growing 6.6%, as more holidaymakers booked their summer trips abroad. Hotels, resorts and accommodation also grew (1.2%) month-on-month, suggesting a parallel rise in staycation booking in May.
 
Sector sees strong spending uplift over Platinum Jubilee bank holiday: The hospitality sector saw a strong uplift in spending over the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday. Data from Barclaycard Payments, which processes almost £1 in every £3 spent on credit and debit cards in the UK, showed spending in restaurants was up 41.5% compared with the same period last year. Pubs, bars and nightclubs saw spending climb 74.2% compared with 2021 while entertainment spend rose 67.3%. Rob Cameron, chief executive, Barclaycard Payments, said: “Despite wider concerns around the cost of living, the hospitality sector especially will be pleased by this welcome boost having missed out on two years of unrestricted trading.”
 
London brewery and Norfolk fish and chip shop among companies trialling four-day working week: London brewery Pressure Drop and Norfolk fish and chip shop Platten’s are among 70 UK companies trialling a four-day working week for more than 3,000 workers. The move, which will see the workers remain on full pay, is part of a global pilot scheme being spearheaded by campaign group 4 Day Week Global, think tank Autonomy and academics at universities in the UK and US. It is hoped it will help combat the labour shortages that have hit hospitality as well as other industries. Staff will be given 100% pay for 80% of their time, but they have made a commitment to produce 100% of their usual output. Kirsty Wainwright, general manager at Platten’s, which operates a fish and chip shop in Wells-next-the-Sea alongside a portfolio of coastal apartments and experiences, already works a four-day week and is confident the roll-out to all staff will be a success. “The hospitality industry has really unsociable working hours and it needs to change,” she told the Mail. “It's not surprising the industry has been struggling with recruitment given the excessively long working hours. Having that extra rest and not feeling exhausted means I can be more productive at work too.” Wyatt Watts, team leader at Platten's, added: “Morale has improved and we're hoping our productivity at work is going to be higher, meaning that stuff can get done quicker. Having a four-day week has left me feeling a lot more positive about staying and working in the industry.” Similar experiments are due to be held in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, while government-backed trials are starting in Spain and Scotland this week, and German employers have trialled the idea in start-ups and smaller firms. A trial in France found workers were putting in the same amount of hours even with a day fewer and companies were having to pay them for their extra time. In February, Belgian workers were given the right to a four-day week but have to condense their work to fit the time. In Iceland, a four-day working week trial was carried out between 2015 and 2019 and labelled an “overwhelming success” by researchers. But a similar test in Sweden in 2015 prompted mixed results, with the experiment facing criticism over its cost.
 
Struggling chip shops to ask Norway for more fish to keep prices under control: British fish and chip shops will turn to Scandinavia for help to keep prices “as under control as possible” amid surging costs. They are battling rising energy bills along with increased costs of cooking oil, potatoes and fish due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, Andrew Crook, will ask for help on behalf of his industry at the Frozen At Sea gathering in Alesund, Norway, on Wednesday (8 June). “Most vessel owners in Norway produce headed and gutted fish that is then sent to be processed elsewhere,” Crook said ahead of the summit organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council. “I am hoping I can get them to switch some vessels to produce fillets for my industry, as we need as many as we can get to help keep the price as under control as possible.” He added: “We are expecting a tariff on Russian white fish of 35%, which will force the price of all fish upwards. We cannot be so reliant on supplies from one specific region.” Crook, who runs the Skippers of Euxton restaurant in Chorley, Lancashire, also wants the Treasury to cut VAT levels to help his industry. “A third of our fish and chip shops could shut,” he added, repeating a prediction he made at the start of March. Sanctions imposed on Russia at the end of March meant price rises across the global seafood industry. Russia is one of the largest producers of seafood in the world, and was the fifth-largest producer of wild-caught fish, according to a 2020 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
 
Ken Hom awarded CBE: Celebrity chef Ken Hom has been awarded a CBE for services to charity, the culinary arts and education. It recognises the impact he has made on the UK embracing Chinese cuisine, and by becoming the country’s most recognisable ambassador for Asian culture. Hom’s media career began in 1984 with his first television series, Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery, and the accompanying book of the same name, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies. He has since published more than 40 food-related books, presented seven television series and sold almost ten million Ken Hom woks. As a founding patron of the Oxford Cultural Collective, he supports opportunities for young people working in hospitality and the culinary arts through an international scholarship in his name, while the annual OCC Ken Hom lecture has been delivered over the last ten years by figures including Lord Patten, Cherie Blair, Ben Okri and Jancis Robinson. Hom also donated his entire collection of around 3,000 food-focused books to Oxford Brookes University, and in 2007, the university awarded him an honorary doctorate. He is also a supporter of Action Against Hunger and an ambassador of GREAT, the government’s international marketing campaign. Hom said: “I am honoured and humbled by this award.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a historical venue in Surrey that is looking for a general manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This is a site with multiple food and beverage outlets and so we are seeking a senior leader with a real passion for food and service. You will need to be as motivated at driving sales as you are about cost control – and fantastic man management skills.” The salary is up to £75,000. For more information, email marlene@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Liberation Group like-for-likes across UK managed pubs up 32%: Channel Islands and West Country-based brewer and retailer Liberation Group has reported that like-for-like sales across its UK-based managed pubs increased 32% in the 17 weeks to 28 May 2022 against the same period in 2019. The Jonathan Lawson-led business said that in the 52-week period ended 29 January 2022, turnover stood at £99.7m (2021: £68.3m), with pre-tax losses of £234,000 (2021: £13.9m). Ebitda for the period stood at £9.8m (2021: (£2.52m) and Ebitda contribution from its pubs division for the year stood at £10.5m (2021: £670,000), but central costs stood (£5.8m). The company said its strategy of “investing for the future” enabled the delivery of 21 major (over £100,000) development projects and maintenance capital expenditure together totalling £9.6m in the period. Lawson said: “Last year, we once again demonstrated the quality and passion of our people, which combined brilliantly with the inherent strengths of our business and its combination of pubs, brewing and wholesale drinks across the south west of England and the Channel Islands. Managed UK pubs delivering +18% LFL between May 2021 and January 2022 (compared to 2019) is a sector leading performance and has reinforced our focus on premium food led pubs, with a fast-growing accommodation business which is now 13% of our UK managed revenue. Our Butcombe Brewing volumes were only slightly down last year on 2019. In the Channel Islands, we likewise overcame the challenges of lockdowns and restrictions to deliver a robust and profitable performance and implemented some exciting changes that will deliver growth on drinks distribution over the coming years. The new financial year has started strongly, with record sales and profitability being delivered in the first four months of the year. Our tenanted partners are a vital part of our business, and we have supported them on an individual basis by market to ensure they can look forward positively to the years ahead working closely with our brewing and brands business. Strong estate management over the last few years, including divestment, investment and acquisitions, mean the quality of our pub estate has never been higher, and we are seeing this coming through in the Ebitda per pub in both managed and tenanted estate. We, like others, can see the headwinds picking up, and the concern that always goes with declining consumer confidence and pressure on disposable income. So, looking forward, we are in good shape, with robust plans and quality teams to execute our strategy, and are maintaining our strong investment plans for the year ahead to ensure we continue to deliver the best experience possible for our customers. The Platinum Jubilee Weekend delivered a fantastic week of sales across our group and in all markets, with a number of our pubs delivering record weekly sales.”

BloomsYard lines up fourth site, second in the capital: BloomsYard – the cafe wine bar concept from Bharti Radix, ex-finance director of Draft House, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group and Petersham Nurseries – is to open its fourth site and second in London. Propel understands BloomsYard is to take a site in Euston Road, Camden, for an opening later this summer. Earlier this year, the brand opened its first site with Transport for London, at Watford tube station. Radix launched BloomsYard in the Upper Mall at Watford’s Intu shopping centre in 2020. Last year, the business made its London debut, in Broadgate, after securing a site at 100 Liverpool Street. It operates the cafe in the reception area of the development and offers an espresso bar serving drinks to-go in the main entrance on the south side of the building, connecting Broadgate to the Crossrail entrance.

Popeyes to make north east debut: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, is set to make its north east debut in Gateshead, Propel has learned. The company, which will open its second restaurant in the UK later this week, in Chelmsford, is set to open a site in the Metrocentre scheme later this summer. Propel reported last month that the brand was lining up a debut site in Scotland, in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, as its looks to ramp up its expansion plans here. Popeyes made its UK debut at a former KFC site in Westfield Stratford in November 2021. The company, which is also set to make its debut in the Midlands after securing a former Burger King site in Nottingham, recently confirmed it will open its third UK restaurant in Romford and was in the process of lining up its first drive-thru site here. It has also applied, or is in talks, to open in Clapham, Oxford, Reading and Cambridge. Popeyes UK has also launched additional delivery kitchens with Deliveroo Editions in Battersea, Whitechapel, Maida Vale, and Bermondsey.

Incognito Bars to open Richmond site: Cocktail bar operator Incognito Bars is to open its third site later this year, in London’s Richmond. Propel understands that the company, which was founded by Nick Robinson in 2018, has secured the former The Duke pub in Duke Street for the new opening. The company opened its debut site in Winchester’s St Johns House, The Broadway, and followed that up last year with an opening in Kingston’s grade II-listed Griffin Centre building. The Kingston site houses the group’s Chadwick’s Home of Zoology on the ground floor and its “more sophisticated upstairs neighbour”, Incognito Cocktail, Prosecco and Gin Parlour. On the forthcoming Richmond site, the company said: “We are very proud and excited to announce that we have secured a truly amazing venue in the heart of Richmond upon Thames, opening this summer. We cannot wait to introduce the people of Richmond to our World of Pure Imagination.”

Soho House owner appoints Thomas Allen as new CFO: Membership Collective Group (MCG), the New York-listed vehicle behind the Soho House chain of members’ clubs, has appointed Thomas Allen as its new chief financial officer, effective from June 23, 2022. Allen joins MCG from his current role at Morgan Stanley as a managing director in equity research, where he has led US gaming, lodging, and leisure sector research since 2013. He was ranked in the top three in the Institutional Investor All Americas poll. MCG announced in March that its current chief financial officer, Humera Afzal, was leaving her position this month “due to factors outside the company”. Nick Jones, founder and chief executive of MCG, said: “We have got to know Thomas over the last year following our IPO. His depth of understanding of our business and the opportunities ahead of it will be of great value as we continue to grow MCG as a global membership platform. We’re really excited that he will be joining the team.” Allen, who in his new role will lead all financial and investor relations functions for MCG, reporting into president Andrew Carnie, said: “I am very excited to be joining MCG in what I still see as the very early stages of its growth. MCG has such a strong global brand with Soho House, which is just at the beginning of capitalising on the huge market opportunity ahead of it. The team’s experience of scaling a private membership club and expanding it into other attractive verticals has created an amazing platform for future growth, when appropriate.” Propel revealed last month that MCG is set to make its debut in Scotland after submitting plans for a site in Glasgow. Propel understands that the business has applied to open on George Street, in the former home to the city’s Parish Council Offices. Soho House, which recently opened Brighton Beach House, is also set to open in Manchester – in the former Granada TV studios – and is also looking for sites in Leeds and Birmingham. The company, which operates 35 Soho House members clubs, plans to open eight to ten new sites going forward. 

Turtle Bay appoints Libby Andrews as new marketing director: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper, has appointed Libby Andrews as its new marketing director, Propel has learned. Andrews will join the Nick Crossley-led, 44-strong business next month after nine years at Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho. During her time at Pho, which included three years as its marketing director, Andrews helped build the TriSpan-backed business from nine to 33 restaurants in the UK. Crossley said: “Turtle Bay is the leading Caribbean brand in the UK, and we have strong ambitions for growth over the coming years, with six more sites opening in the current financial year. Libby is a talented marketeer with a huge amount of energy and skill and will be a great asset to us as we continue to drive on with our expansion plans.” Andrews said: “Turtle Bay is a really dynamic, fun brand with so much potential for growth. I am really excited to join a fantastic team of people and I am looking forward to helping build and develop the business.” Propel revealed last month that Turtle Bay had secured two new sites and plans to open a further four by the end of its financial year. The group has secured the ex-Real China site in Salford Quays, due to open in August, and a site in Brindleyplace, Birmingham, scheduled to open in early autumn. Propel understands the company is also in talks on two openings in London. Earlier this year, Propel revealed that Turtle Bay had appointed advisors as it seeks a new investment partner to help drive its further growth ambitions, and has Rothschild & Co to oversee the process. 

BrewDog secures new Australian franchise, ‘multiple sites’ in pipeline: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has signed a new bar franchise deal for Australia with Australian Venue Co (AVC), which will see “multiple sites” opened across cities including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The first of these, opening later this year, will open over three floors within the Pentridge Prison in Melbourne, featuring a dining room, a den, three event spaces, an outdoor beer garden, a container bar and a games area. Martin Dickie, BrewDog co-founder, said: “Australia is one of the most exciting and dynamic craft beer countries in the world. Since opening our taproom and brewery in Brisbane, we’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received from the local community. We’re delighted to be working with AVC, Australia’s leading pub and bar operator, to open multiple BrewDog bars in Australia.” Paul Waterson, AVC chief executive, added: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with BrewDog, we really admire the globally recognised brand and business they’ve built. It’s a great fit for us because we’re experts at delivering exceptional customer experiences at scale, and championing great food and beer in a casual, large format operation. This partnership is a gamechanger for the Australian hospitality industry and is an exciting new growth model for AVC.” BrewDog launched its debut Australian brewery and taproom in Melbourne in November 2019, and a year later launched a $10m fundraise to fuel growth in the country. Last month, it announced plans for Australia’s first beer hotel, also set to be located in Brisbane. BrewDog recently opened overseas sites in Mumbai, India and the US, with flagship bars set to open in Las Vegas and London’s Waterloo later this year.

Hawksmoor plans Dublin opening next year: Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept Hawksmoor is planning to open a new restaurant in Dublin next spring. The company, which recently announced it is set to open in Liverpool, has applied to open a restaurant in a former Bank of Ireland building on College Green. It will include a bar and private dining rooms and a new internal lobby entrance. Hawksmoor co-founder Huw Gott said: “Our goal is to restore [the building] to its former glory, enhance features that have been shielded from public view in recent decades and enable as many people as possible to enjoy this beautiful historic building.” Co-founder Will Beckett added: “We’ve been coming to Dublin for years to spend time in one of our favourite cities for food and drink, always keeping an eye open for a beautiful space. When we saw the former National Irish Bank on College Green we fell in love. It’s only taken us 16 years to finally get from London to Dublin, but we can’t wait to open Hawksmoor in what we think is one of the most hospitable cities in the world.” In January, Propel revealed that Hawksmoor had secured a new debt facility to support its next three years of growth. The new funding would, in part, be used to continue to underpin the successful opening of its first US site, in New York, which opened last autumn.

First Canadian Pret A Manger to open in Vancouver this summer: The first Canadian Pret A Manger to open under its agreement with A&W Food Services will open in Vancouver this summer. The expansion deal, to bring Pret to the country over an initial two-year trial phase, was agreed in October 2021 following Pret’s plans to launch in five new markets by the end of 2023. With the country agreement now confirmed, A&W will start to move forward with the plans, starting in Vancouver. “We are excited to introduce Pret’s fresh and delicious menu range in a select number of A&W restaurants this year,” said A&W chief executive Susan Senecal. “We believe Canadian consumers will respond very positively and come to love the Pret brand and all that it represents.” Pano Christou, chief executive at Pret A Manger, added: “I’m excited to confirm that Pret will be coming to customers in Canada this summer through our franchise agreement with A&W. We know Canadians have long been calling for Pret in their community, and thanks to this new partnership, we’re finally able to bring our freshly made food and 100% organic coffee to Canada as part of a two-year trial.” A&W is one of Canada’s fastest growing food businesses, with more than 1,000 restaurants across the country. The A&W restaurants that participate in the trial phase will launch a Pret menu and coffee range over the coming months, and if the trial is successful, it will have the exclusive right to expand the brand across Canada based on an agreed development schedule. Pret, backed by JAB Holdings, also announced plans late last year to further expand in the Middle East through One PM Franchising, a subsidiary of regional operator One Franchising Holding. Closer to home, it last month signed up Iceking to continue its franchise expansion in Kent and Sussex.

Comptoir Group appoints Sona Shah as group marketing director: Comptoir Group, the Comptoir Libanais and Shawa brand operator, has appointed Sona Shah, formerly of Marriott International and Aramark, as its new group marketing director, Propel has learned. Shah joins Comptoir, which currently owns and operates 21 restaurants, with a further four franchise sites, after a brief stint as marketing director UK for Aramark. Previous to that, she spent seven years at Marriott International, including almost two years as its director of marketing UK. Last month, Comptoir Group reported revenue of £20.7m, up by 66.9% (2020 restated: £12.4m), in the year to 31 December 2021. Adjusted Ebitda before highlighted items was £6.4m, up by 357.1% (2020: £1.4m). Profit after tax was £1.6m (2020: £8.1m loss). Chief executive Chaker Hanna said: “As restrictions have been lifted, we have seen trading increase to such a level that we remain optimistic about the sales performance compared to 2019, although this will be tempered somewhat by rising costs. Although the end of the rates relief, cessation of the reduced VAT rate and the introduction of 1.25% additional national insurance will impact the level of profitability our future remains very positive.”

Livelyhood set to launch eighth site this summer: Independent south London pub group Livelyhood is set to launch its eighth site this summer with the launch of The Rosy Hue in Elephant & Castle. Inspired by the 19th century small-scale ‘penny gaff’ theatres the area was once known for, the 4,000 square-foot dog-friendly pub will have room for 150 covers, plus a further 80 on a heated covered terrace outside. It joins Clapham North and The Perky Nel in Clapham; The Regent in Balham; The Faber Fox in Crystal Palace; The Old Frizzle in Wimbledon; The Mere Scribbler in Streatham and The Artful Duke in Bromley in the Livelyhood portfolio. Owner Sarah Wall, who founded Livelyhood in 2003, said: “It’s been a tough time for everyone in the industry, so we’re delighted to be able to take another positive step forward and open up a new pub in an area that’s going through some really exciting changes. We hope The Rosy Hue will become a firm favourite with locals and opens up opportunities for great people, suppliers and producers to grow with us.”

Bespoke acquires three-strong McMillan Hotels: Bespoke Hotels, the UK’s largest independent hotel group, has acquired Scottish hotel group, McMillan Hotels. The McMillan portfolio comprises three hotels in south west Scotland – North West Castle in Stranraer, Cally Palace Hotel & Golf Coursein Gatehouse of Fleet and Fernhill Hotel in Portpatrick. Business will continue as usual for all staff and customers at the luxury four and three-star venues. Thomas Greenall, chief executive at Bespoke Hotels, said: “We are delighted to add such characterful hotels to our portfolio. The trio are intrinsic to the hospitality scene in south west Scotland, and we cannot wait to develop them further, building on their excellent reputation within the community. Overall, this is another significant milestone for the Bespoke family as the acquisition will bring our group to almost 90 hotels, 26 of which are in Scotland.” Cally Palace is a four-star, Georgian country house hotel set across 150 acres of land, with its own exclusive golf course. The three-star North West Castle has its own indoor curling rink, while the Fernhill Hotel is a coastal venue that also has three stars. Douglas McMillan, managing director of McMillan Hotels, added: “As the hotels have been owned by the McMillan family for many years, it was imperative the trio were placed in safe hands. Ultimately, we could not be happier with the outcome of our sale, and we very much look forward to seeing what the future brings for the hotels.” Bespoke Hotels has more than 5,000 rooms and in excess of 6,000 staff.

Island Poke makes regional debut: Island Poké, the London-based White Rabbit Projects and Hero Brands-backed business, has made its regional debut with an opening in Bicester. The James Gould-Porter-founded business, which is currently searching for a managing director, has opened a site in Pringle Drive, Bicester Village. Island Poké, which operates 18 sites in London, including four delivery kitchens, and 11 sites in France, plans to open 100 locations across the UK in the next five years, including four new restaurants in Edinburgh. In April, the business began a search for a new managing director to work alongside Gould-Porter to help with its growth journey. This followed the appointment of Mark Comer, formerly of Loungers, as new finance director in February. Last month, the company launched a breakfast menu, which will start off being served at Island Poké Shoreditch and Battersea before rolling out at its other sites across the capital.

Grubhub launches first virtual brand: US delivery company Grubhub has launched its first virtual brand, created in conjunction with contestants from the MasterChef TV programme. Available in more than 20 markets across the US, MasterChef Table features 11 gourmet dishes, complete with appetisers, sides, and main courses, created by selected contestants. Grubhub said it will provide marketing support for the brand and will pay for restaurants’ first round of inventory, while also offering “competitive rates” on future products. MasterChef Table orders will be subject to the same commission as a regular order, with no additional licensing fee attached. Marnie Boyer, vice president of restaurant acquisition at Grubhub, said: “We’re always looking for ways to deliver new experiences to diners. Our partnership with MasterChef gives them exactly that – a seat at the table in the comfort of their home.”

LPM Restaurant & Bar lines up Mediterranean debut with Cypriot launch: LPM Restaurant & Bar – which opened its first site in London in 2007 before adding restaurants in Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Miami, Riyadh and Dubai – is lining up its Mediterranean debut by launching at a seafront resort in Cyprus. It has partnered with real estate company Mediterranean Hospitality Venture to revamp of the culinary offerings at Parklane, a luxury resort and spa in Limassol, this summer. Nicolas Budzynski, LPM’s global operations director, said: “Getting closer to our roots with our first Mediterranean location, we are looking forward to this new addition to the LPM family. Like every LPM, this one will have its own characteristics. It has also been the opportunity for us to make an evolution of the brand with a unique outdoor seafront location. For the last 15 years, we’ve been focusing on delivering a great experience for our guests, and we are confident Limassol will bring some exciting surprises.” Louisa Ioannidou, general manager at Parklane, added: “The addition of LPM to our culinary portfolio will play a significant role in further enhancing the resort’s reputation as a premium gastronomy hub. We look forward to welcoming guests to enjoy the exceptional menu and exclusive ambience of this soon-to-be landmark hot spot for dining and entertainment.”

Brighton opening confirmed for urban axe throwing concept Hatchet Harry’s: A Brighton opening for urban axe throwing concept Hatchet Harry’s has been confirmed. Propel reported in April that the seven-strong business, which opened its latest site in Derby last month, was in talks to open new venues in Reading and Brighton. Flude Property Consultants has now confirmed it has let the 2,000 square-foot former Pizza Hut restaurant in Dyke Road, Brighton, to the company on a ten-year lease. Flude director Will Thomas said: “This was an interesting and initially large space that came back to our client when Pizza Hut, who had been in occupation for a long time, suddenly left last year. The space was quickly reconfigured, and with Brighton having such a strong leisure market, the letting to Hatchet Harry’s was agreed, and I am sure axe throwing will be well received.” The concept, which sees participants compete by throwing hand axes at wooden targets, launched in Newcastle in 2019.

Le Bab confirms June opening for Brixton restaurant: Kebab restaurant concept Le Bab, founded by Stephen Tozer, Manu Canales and Ed Brune, has confirmed its Brixton site will open later this month. Propel revealed in November 2021 that Le Bab had secured a site in Coldharbour Lane for its fourth venue, which will be its south London debut. The 20-seater restaurant will join the group’s existing Soho, Seven Dials and Shoreditch locations when it opens on 15 June. Classic cocktails and “ethical and sustainable kebabs” will be served until late from Thursday to Saturday. Sharing mezzes (from £2.95-£13.95) will be available alongside a kebab selection including fried chicken, spiced paneer and sausage shawarma. There are also halal and gluten-free alternatives and regular vegetarian and vegan specials. Alongside the cocktails on the drinks list will be wines, gin and tonics and no-and-low alcohol beers. Tozer said: “We’re incredibly excited by this one – we’ve wanted to be in Brixton for years, and it’s local to me. The site’s been a long time coming as we’ve been working with the structure of the old market building. The design from Angus (Buchanan Studio) is amazing, and we’re so pleased to be able to stay open so late – just as a kebab shop should be!” Tozer and Brunet launched Le Bab in Soho’s Kingly Court in 2016 and opened a second London restaurant, in Covent Garden, two years later, under the Maison Bab name. The business also operates a collaborative venue with German Kraft Beer in the Dalston Locke hotel.

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