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Thu 9th Jun 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Jubilee holidays boost food and drink sales but weekend trading disappoints: Last week’s double bank holiday lifted sales for Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants, CGA by NielsenIQ’s latest trading data has shown – but street parties dented trading over the weekend. The research revealed average on-premise sales from last Wednesday to Sunday (1-5 June) were 5% higher than the average for the equivalent period over the previous 12 weeks. However, after uplifts of 47% on Wednesday, 54% on Thursday and 7% on Friday, sales dropped by 20% and 22% on Saturday and Sunday respectively. CGA’s data showed food sales increased by 8% over the five-day period, while drinks sales achieved a 3% uplift. There was also a 12% increase in spirit sales, with vodka a key driver, and a 10% hike in cocktail sales. Furthermore, there was an 11% rise in soft drinks sales, reflecting the increase in family visits to venues, and a 4% drop in beer sales, but a 12% rise in the cider category. The research also indicated that total five-days sales increased by 8% in rural areas – a better performance than high streets (up 5%) and suburban areas (up 4%). Despite Jubilee celebrations being centred on London, the sales uplift in the capital was below the UK average at 1%. Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director UK and Ireland, said: “It was very much a Jubilee holiday of two halves for operators and suppliers, with an early upswing followed by a tough weekend. It suggests excitement about the extra bank holidays, but a desire to mark the occasion at home and within local communities. It’s not the major boost to trading that some had hoped for, but it does show pubs, bars and restaurants remain a key part of celebratory occasions.”

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

Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector losses of £5.9bn: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £5.9bn being reported by 348 companies. However, a further 241 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £1.1bn. The next edition will include 589 companies, which produce total turnover of £28.6bn. The next edition will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday, 17 June, at midday. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Premium subscribers also now have 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. 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 are also 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; Colin Hill, chief executive of Nando’s UK; James Shapland, co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, and new venture Coffi Lab; Jyotin Sethi, co-founder of JKS Restaurants; Jonny Boud, founder of Kitchen Ventures and Tom Snellock, founder of Clays. 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. 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.

Sector slams train strikes for ‘devastating’ impact on trade and staff safety: Sector trade bodies have slammed the planned UK-wide train strikes later this month for their potential impact on trade and staff safety. Tens of thousands of railway workers are set to stage three days of national strikes in what their union said will be the biggest walkout since 1989. Members of the RMT at Network Rail and across 13 train operators will take action on 21, 23 and 25 June – the first date coinciding with a separate 24-hour RMT strike on the London Underground. In a statement, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, LIVE, the Night Time Industries Association, Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre and UKHospitality said: “The proposed rail strikes will have a devastating impact on the theatre, live music and hospitality industries still rebuilding from the fall out of the pandemic. Our night-time economy relies heavily on the rail network to bring our audiences and staff safely to and from our venues, with 81% of London theatre-goers using public transport and a similar proportion of hospitality customers. We need to work together to get passengers back on the railways and back in our towns and cities enjoying everything they have to offer. This strike would be hugely damaging for our sectors and feels counter intuitive when we are facing so many other challenges. We urge all stakeholders to come together to support a recovery that we can all benefit from.”

Hospitality tech start-up raises £1.3m to help combat last-minute cancellations: A new tech platform that seeks to combat late cancellations by matching people with real-time availability has completed its third pre-seed funding round. Ambl has raised a further £700,000 from investors including serial entrepreneur Mark Gordon, who becomes chairman, to take its total investment since June 2021 to £1.3m. Due to officially launch across London in September, the pre-seed investment will accelerate product development and test the product during its soft debut across Chelsea and surrounding areas. It will also help fund the appointments of a head of customer experience and an advisory chief technology officer. Ambl said no-shows for reservations made at pubs and restaurants cost the sector £17.6bn a year, and its mission is to fill those empty seats. Aaron Solomon, chief executive and co-founder, said: “From unprecedented staff shortages and supply change issues to a growing trend in last-minute cancellations as consumer confidence falters, it’s mission-critical that solutions are available to help an industry we know and love thrive again. Ambl has been designed to give venues the power and the platform to combat the detrimental impact of the last-minute cancellation culture.” Ambl recently opened its fourth pre-seed funding round to its close network, to raise a further £1.2m ahead of the third quarter of 2022. Funds raised will be used to continue growing the team and launch and prove the concept ahead of its Series A fundraise, which will allow for national and global expansion.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury city boutique hotel group that is looking for a cluster hotel general manager in Ireland. They must have experience managing at least two properties within a city centre environment. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will manage ongoing profitability of your hotels, ensuring revenue and guest satisfaction targets are met and exceeded while developing the hotel executive team to ensure career progression and effective succession planning within the group.” The salary is up to €140,000. For more information, email bea@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Clive Watson – lack of staff and not current economic climate holding back City Pub Group plans to expand at faster pace: Clive Watson, executive chairman of City Pub Group, has told Propel it is not the current economic climate that is holding back the company’s expansion plans, but the lack of available staff. Speaking following the 42-strong company’s trading update, Watson said it was imperative the government brought back a three-year working visa scheme for EU workers to help tackle the ongoing hospitality staffing crisis. “We have the balance sheet and the opportunities to expand faster, but what is holding us back is not the current economic uncertainty, but the shortage of labour,” Watson said. “There are geographical areas that we want to go into but we are finding unless they are the bigger university cities there is just not the staff levels that we need, particularly as we are opening bigger venues. Levels of unemployment are low because people have not come back from the EU. These are valuable people to a number of sectors, including hospitality, and we need a working visa scheme to help address the situation. We’d be able to expand at a much faster rate if the staff were there.” Watson remains adamant that despite costs rising on an “almost daily basis”, the business will not put up its prices. “What we don’t want to do is alienate our customers,” said Watson, who added the fact the cost of a pint had risen to £8 in parts of London was “bonkers”. “I think the only way to get through this is to trade our way through, and I’m confident we can do that. For the first time in two and a half years, we have real momentum behind us. We’ve recently opened Tivoli in Cambridge and we’ve got The Nest in Bath about to come on – these are big sites. Momentum builds success and because of that I’m confident we can hold on to this like-for-like growth.” Watson said current costs were impacting margins by about 4% but said the business had a three-year fixed agreement with its drink suppliers. He added there was plenty of opportunities on the market for its new all-day dining concept Damson & Wilde that has opened in Bury St Edmunds, but there will be “no mass roll out”. “We’re concentrating on getting this one right first and then we’ll see,” said Watson. “If we had say six open by this time next year then I’d be happy with that.”

David Page – we did record £2m last week, office-based sites down just 1% on 2019 levels: Fulham Shore chairman David Page has told Propel the business did a record £2m last week as the Franco Manca and The Real Greek operator continues to build momentum. Speaking following the company’s trading update, Page said sales at its restaurants near offices are down just 1% on 2019 levels. He added: “All our sites are profitable. The city centre ones have improved gradually over the last three to four months. Last week was a record week where we did £2m for the first time.” Eight further Franco Manca sites are being fitted out throughout the UK including in Peterborough, The Trafford Centre in Manchester, Church Road in Hove, Didsbury, Stockbridge in Edinburgh, Windsor and King Street in central Manchester. The group has also exchanged contracts on a site in Lincoln for Franco Manca and a site for The Real Greek in Gloucester Quays.

State of Play to bring Flight Club to Denver: State of Play Hospitality, the Toby Harris-led group, is to bring darts concept Flight Club to Denver, Propel has learned. The venue will launch in the 1601 Wewatta building in the Union Station area of the city in early 2023, and will be the brand’s sixth venue in the US. Flight Club Denver will offer multi-player games set in semi-private playing areas alongside food and cocktails. State of Play operates Flight Club in North America under licence from the brand’s owner, Red Engine. The new site builds upon State of Play’s other recent new venue announcements. In February the group revealed it had signed a lease for a new Bounce in London’s Battersea Power Station development. The group also recently announced the completion of a fundraise of more than $35m of growth capital to expand in the US and UK. Harris said: “We are thrilled to announce our upcoming opening in Denver as we continue to bring the Flight Club experience to more locations across the US. The vibrant Denver Union Station area boasts a dynamic variety of dining and entertainment venues and by opening Flight Club we are excited to add a new and immersive group socialising experience to the line-up.” State of Play launched the first US Flight Club in the downtown Loop area of Chicago in 2018. Since its North American debut, State of Play has also brought Flight Club to Boston, which opened in late 2019, and Houston in early 2022. Atlanta and Las Vegas are both set to open in late 2022 and multiple further locations are in the pipeline.

Poke House extends London footprint, five further sites to follow in the capital this summer: Poke House, Europe’s largest poké restaurant chain, has opened its latest London restaurant – which will be followed by five more in the capital this summer. The brand, which now has 100 restaurant sites across the globe, made its UK debut in September 2021 with an opening in Notting Hill, while announcing plans to open 65 new UK restaurants over the next two years. Its latest opening, in Covent Garden’s New Row, will be followed by sites in Battersea Power Station, Borough Market, St Paul’s, St John’s Wood and Mayfair in the coming months. Matteo Pichi, co-founder and chief executive, said: “Covent Garden has always been one of our key areas to open a Poke House in. Not only does it have huge footfall, but some of the world’s most impressive brands are also in the area. To be open in such an iconic area is truly an amazing testament to where we have come. We opened in London in September last year and it’s very quickly becoming one of our key cities across the globe. We’re also opening further sites across the capital.” Poke House’s ever-evolving all-day dining menu includes chicken, salmon, spicy tuna and vegan bowls, with dressings created in-house, while each location takes inspiration from the area’s community and heritage. Founded in 2018 by Pichi and Vittoria Zanetti, Poke House expanded into Austria in April by becoming the majority shareholder of Honu Tiki Bowls – Austria’s leading poké brand – having made similar moves in the UK (acquiring Ahi Poké), the Netherlands (Poké Perfect), Portugal (the eponymous Poke House) and the US (investing in Sweetfin). It is planning to grow to 170 new sites across the US and Europe by 2023, and looking to move forward with initial public offerings in both New York and London.

Virtual Hero set to launch 200 Sides sites globally, including 50 in UK: VirtualHero – which is owned by Hero Brands, the company behind German Doner Kebab, Choppaluna and Island Poké – is set to launch 200 sites for its virtual fried chicken concept, Sides. Developed in collaboration with YouTube collective The Sidemen, Sides’ ambitious growth plans have been facilitated by Reef, the world’s largest operator of virtual restaurants. Sides already has a number of delivery sites across the UK – including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Southampton – and earlier this year launched its first physical location, at Boxpark Wembley. Virtual Hero aims to launch 50 new UK Sides sites for delivery only by the end of 2022, as it also continues to grow its presence in the US and Middle East. Following its success in the UAE, it is lining up 40 new sites across the US, with launches expected in Atlanta, San Diego, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Washington, Portland, Memphis, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit by July. Virtual Hero chief executive Robin Mehta said: “At Virtual Hero, we are responding to emerging consumer trends in this fast-growing market and building the virtual brands of the future. Our sustained growth in the UK displays the demand for delivery only fast casual food still exists post-pandemic and our business model allows us to quickly respond to this call across the nation. To close the year with 50 sites in the UK shows how far the brand has grown in its first year and is a testament to the popularity of the Sidemen. The Sidemen are representative of exciting and relevant British talent being at the forefront of new trends and the expansion of Sides shows this collaborative concept not only works but thrives. I am also thrilled to expand Virtual Hero into the US and tap into a huge market, as we continue to innovate in the dark kitchen space in partnership with Reef.”

Hoxton Bakehouse to embark on £1m fundraise to open more sites: Hoxton Bakehouse, the south coast-based concept led by Florence Hellier and Darren Bland, is set to embark on a £1m fundraise as it look to open further sites. The group will launch a crowdfunding campaign next week as it looks to add to its eight-strong estate. The business is offering up to 20% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £5.9m. Shares will be offered at £10 each. Hoxton Bakehouse has identified sites in Southampton and Southsea as well as potential sites in the Bournemouth region and the southern part of Surrey. In addition, the funds will be used to expand production, its marketing and sales teams and also its IT infrastructure to expand its online offering. Hellier said: “We’re so proud of all we’ve accomplished so far with Hoxton – growing from one to eight bakehouses in just a few years, launching our fresh roasted coffee range and beginning our ever popular sourdough bread making classes. We’ve always said a loud and clear no to boring bakes made from pre-mixed or frozen ingredients, instead committing to fresh, fun and delicious every time – made with love, and made by hand. Now, we have our sights set on even more tasty missions and are launching an equity crowdfund to help us on our way – and we’d love our customers to join us as we grow.”

Corbin & King changes name to The Wolseley Hospitality Group ‘to reflect international reputation’: London restaurant operator Corbin & King has changed its name to The Wolseley Hospitality Group. The Wolseley is the founding restaurant within the portfolio dating to 2003, the best known and “with a wide-reaching international reputation”. Parent company Minor International stated: “With ‘hospitality from the heart’ and good food at the centre of the principles, values and integrity of the company, the new name was chosen to encompass both, and to speak to the quality of the operation in the UK and on the international stage. Minor is committed to upholding and continuing the legacy of all the restaurants within the Corbin & King portfolio. Minor International is focused primarily on the development of the current UK leases including a new Wolseley site in London city, and a Soho site and is looking at selective sites globally to plan a strategic expansion.” Minor International acquired 100% of Corbin & King in April this year after the business was placed into administration, having held a 74% share since 2017. The acquisition saw co-founder Jeremy King leave the business. The Wolseley Hospitality Group’s current portfolio includes The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel, Colbert, Fischer’s, Bellanger and Soutine, as well as Café Wolseley at Bicester Village in Oxford. William E Heinecke, chairman and founder of Minor International, said: “We have the utmost respect for The Wolseley Hospitality Group team, which has created The Wolseley and all the other fine restaurants in the portfolio over the last 19 years. And now we look forward to expanding the restaurants not only in the UK, but globally with the support of Minor’s international footprint and team while ensuring the continued success of The Wolseley Hospitality Group.”

Goals’ founding management team buys back business from private equity firm: The founding management team of Goals, the UK-wide operator of small-sided football centres, has bought back the business from private equity firm Inflexion. This follows several divestments by Inflexion, including the successful exits of Marley, Alcumus, Halo and Medivet. Goals was founded in 1987 and operates more than 400 five-a-side and seven-a-side floodlit football arenas across 44 locations. Goals founders Barry and Ian McDermott said: “The partnership with Inflexion has enabled us to return to the business we love and take Goals to the next level. The business is well placed for future growth and to continue to offer a healthy way of socialising for people across the UK.” Simon Turner, managing partner at Inflexion, added: “Goals benefits from strong customer loyalty and demand, and we have every confidence the business will continue to flourish in the hands of the ambitious and capable founders.”

Crieff Hydro acquires Scottish safari experience: Crieff Hydro, the eight-strong Scottish hotel operator led by Stephen Leckie, has acquired a safari experience based in Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Highland Safaris will continue its operations as a standalone business within the Crieff Hydro portfolio, whose portfolio is set around the Scottish Borders, Highlands, Perthshire and Dundee. Opened in 1992 by husband-and-wife Donald and Julie Riddell, Highland Safaris grew from a single Land Rover operation to an attraction welcoming more than 50,000 guests each year. It comprises Land Rover safaris, boat trips on Loch Tay, a deer centre, walking and biking activities, a gold and gem panning centre and an award-winning cafe. Julie Riddell said: “Donald and I started the business the same year we got married with one Land Rover, and we have put 30 years of hard work into the business to grow it to what it is today. Our commitment to first class customer care remains as strong today as it was then.” Donald Riddell added: “The time is right for us to take a step back and create the opportunity for the business to continue to thrive with the investment and energy Crieff Hydro family of hotels will bring. There is so much synergy between Highland Safaris and the Leckie family’s business, including a shared love of the local area and its wonderful wildlife.” Leckie said: “Welcoming Highland Safaris to our family will help us to achieve our growth strategy and expand our offering to guests, particularly for visitors at our hotels in Crieff. It’s important to us the businesses in our portfolio exist in their own right and retain their local identity. Highland Safaris has an enthusiastic, long-standing team in place that will continue to manage the day-to-day running of the company, with our support, to allow it to do just that.”

Mary-Ellen McTague among four high-profile chefs to lead F&B line-up at new Treehouse hotel in Manchester: Four high-profile north west chefs and restaurateurs will be leading the food and beverage line-up at Starwood Capital Group’s new Treehouse hotel in Manchester. Mary-Ellen McTague, who has more than 20 years’ experience in hospitality and owns three restaurants in Manchester, will be curating the offerings on the ground floor of the hotel. The all-day menu will change seasonally, with a focus on utilising produce sourced from local farms, alongside a crafted biodynamic wine list. Sam Grainger, who will be the mastermind of the hotel’s 14th floor destination restaurant and standalone bar, is collaborating with ex Refuge curators, Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford. Grainger is chef owner at Belzan in Liverpool, and Madre in Manchester. Grainger, who recently opened Carnival with Hawksmoor founder, Richard Turner, will focus his menu on south east Asian dishes. Cowdrey and Crawford began their career path in Didsbury, with Volta. The duo then opened The Refuge by Volta in Manchester and will be partnering with Grainger to work on the food offering, drink and music programme of the 14th floor restaurant. They will also curate activations in the rooftop bar and the ground floor restaurant. Set to open early 2023 in Deansgate, Treehouse Manchester will have 216 bedrooms. 

Pret A Manger takes on Tottenham Court Road site: Pret A Manager has signed a ten-year lease on a former Hema retail store in The Avenue development on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Tottenham Court Road, in London. The 4,109 square-foot site, which has Danish bakery brand Ole & Steen among its neighbours, is expected to open in early July. Tom Smithers, property director at landlords AshbyCapital, said: “With the Elizabeth Line now open and central London buzzing again following the pandemic, we are pleased to welcome Pret A Manger to The Avenue, which adds to the food and beverage offering at our Tottenham Court Road development.” CBRE and Nash Bond acted for The Avenue. Earlier this week, Pret announced its first Canadian store, in partnership with A&W Food Services, is set to open in Vancouver this summer.

Papa John’s opens Felixstowe store: Papa John’s has opened its latest store, in Felixstowe, Suffolk. Director of business development, Amit Pancholi, said: “Felixstowe is a wonderful coastal town and a great location for our newest store. It is one of the first in the UK to incorporate Papa John’s updated branding. We’ve created a fresh bold look and feel that also illustrates our quality ingredients even better, and the fun, friendly font of our logo is inspired by our stretchy dough.” The new branding was unveiled in Potters Bar in March and is now being rolled out across the Papa John’s UK estate, which consists of more than 500 sites.

South London coffee roasters set to open second cafe, appoints new head of food: South London coffee roaster Elsewhere is set to expand its offering with a second cafe, close to its roastery in Deptford. The 30-cover cafe, based at 361 Brockley Road, will open on Saturday, 18 June, with a menu led by newly appointed head of food, Adam Andrews. Previously the executive chef of Farm Girl, Andrews has devised an offering of “bold flavours that challenge most brunch offerings”. These include fresh avocados smashed with orange zest with whipped feta and Greek yoghurt, topped with grape molasses, roasted crushed hazelnuts, and mint. A separate weekend offering includes three different types of eggs benedict – with fresh heritage tomatoes, Korean pulled beef short rib, and smoked salmon – all served with grapefruit-cut hollandaise and toasted sourdough. Fresh bread, soft pastries and breakfast buns will also be available alongside a range of sandwiches to eat in or grab and go. Andrews has worked with Elsewhere before, when the founder Jack Howells opened its first cafe, in Herne Hill, in 2021. Howells said: “We’re confident the good people of Brockley and beyond will want to come and see us again and again for this menu alone. We’re not looking to just be a cafe with great coffee and average brunch, we’ve made our dishes as sensational and satisfying as our drinks. Adam is a genius when it comes to turning seemingly ordinary ingredients into extraordinary meals, and that perfectly captures Elsewhere’s escapist ethos.”

Boutique hotel group The Doyle Collection appoints new CEO, well positioned for strong returns: The boutique hotel group behind The Marylebone, The Kensington and The Bloomsbury in London has appointed a new chief executive. Gordon Doyle – previously of Westmont, Six Senses, Kingdom Hotels (owners of Four Seasons, George V Hotel in Paris and The Savoy Hotel in London) and Rocco Forte Hotels – has replaced Pat King at The Doyle Collection. As well as its London locations, The Doyle Collection includes Dublin flagship The Westbury Hotel; The Bristol in Bristol; The River Lee in Cork; The Croke Park Hotel in Dublin and The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington DC. Over the last four years, the group has completed a €65m investment across its portfolio, with the extensive refurbishment of its bedrooms, bars and restaurants. Chairman Bernie Gallagher said: “Throughout the years, we have transformed The Doyle Collection into an international luxury group competing at the highest level, in which Pat King played a seminal role. The appointment of Gordon will strengthen the team and facilitate our vision to push the boundaries of luxury Irish hospitality and hotel design. We are conscious the hotel industry has had a difficult time and has an uncertain immediate recovery due to macro-economic and geopolitical factors, but I believe the strongest returns will be in the leisure sector in the near term, and we are well-positioned in each of our markets in this regard.”

Lanarkshire Indian restaurant owners take on former Italian restaurant: Lanarkshire-based Taal Restaurant, which operates Taal Restaurant in Strathaven, has taken on a former Italian restaurant in the nearby town of Carluke. The business has acquired, for an undisclosed price, La Piazza, a 90-cover venue with a bar and a beer garden, based in Lanark Road. Previous owner Angelo Palazzo, who owned the restaurant for 30 years, said: “We enjoyed our years at La Piazza and all of our lovely customers, many who became friends. We're looking forward to enjoying our retirement, but at the same time will miss it very much. We hope the new owners will get the same great support that we did.” Tony Spence, business agent at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, added: “La Piazza is well known within the community and has built a great reputation with the local clientele, so it’s great to see it passing over to enthusiastic new owners.”

Chinese porridge concept launches in Greenwich: Chinese porridge concept Juk Pou has launched at the Design District Canteen in Greenwich, south east London. Founded by street food specialists Shiqi Liu and Stan Yang, the concept marries Chinese porridge congee (served both savoury and sweet) with youtiao (deep-fried breadsticks). The menu also includes Yuxiang tofu, buttermilk fried chicken, bubble red bean and Hong Kong milk tea. Before launching Juk Pou, Liu and Yang pursued different careers with a shared passion for street food. Liu runs an influential foodie channel on Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), a social media platform described as China’s answer to Instagram, while Yang has travelled the world, trying street food offerings in more than 25 different countries. Yang said: “I’ve grown up around the smell of congee while living with my grandparents and since then, whenever I miss home, I cook some to relive my childhood memories. Congee in particular is a blank canvas on which you can innovate anything, and so it makes sense that Greenwich Peninsula, the creative hub in south east London, should be Juk Pou’s home.” Other food operators at Design District include Mexican-inspired Hermanos Taco House, Venezuelan concept Guasa, Indian street food concept Raastawala and Malaysian-inspired Eat Lah, along with a bar.
 
Gym Group secures Uxbridge site: The Gym Group, the operator of 207 gyms, has signed a lease for a new site in Uxbridge. The property, leased from Kingsbridge Estates, is located in The Leisure Building, Vine Street, and is expected to open in early 2023. It will comprise 17,000 square feet over three floors, fitted with a wide range of exercise equipment and featuring The Gym Group’s new branding. Abbie Scudamore, senior acquisitions manager at The Gym Group, said: “We are delighted to be creating employment in Uxbridge and to bring our great value 24/7 facilities to people who live and work in the area. With our friendly and inclusive atmosphere, our members will always feel welcome, whatever their fitness level. We are very much looking forward to playing our part in the health and well-being of the community here.”

Honey & Co reopens at new site in London’s Bloomsbury: Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co, which last month closed its original site in London’s Warren Street, has reopened at 54 Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. Husband-and-wife duo Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich have moved their concept to a site that can hold more than double the number – with 55 covers as opposed to 25 – than the original, which they opened ten years ago. The new venue also has a private dining room for parties of up to ten, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Packer said: “This restaurant feels like the perfect continuation of everything we built in Warren Street – the same welcoming feel and the same delicious, generous Middle Eastern food that people have always come to us for. Now we can just do all of that from a bigger kitchen, in a bigger space, for more people.” Srulovich added: “We knew as soon as we saw the site in Lamb’s Conduit Street that it was the one for us, and we rarely agree on things. The space on the corner is perfect, and the neighbourhood is so warm and friendly.” The duo also run Honey & Smoke in Great Portland Street and deli Honey & Spice in Warren Street.

GG Hospitality reports record-breaking year for football-themed hotel: GG Hospitality, the company co-owned by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, has reported a record-breaking year for its football-themed hotel. Hotel Football, based adjacent to the Old Trafford football ground, has enjoyed strong growth since opening seven years ago and welcomed more than 260,000 guests, along with 50,000 match-day walk-ins. The venue, which has also upgraded the technology systems within its meeting and events spaces, has now put plans in place for a full refurbishment of its Cafe Football venue. Jessica Southworth, director of sales and marketing, said: “Since launching seven years ago we have had incredible success and we are delighted to see how much the venue has grown, and how much we have been able to develop our offering. We are really looking forward to watching our team expand as we continue to strive to position Hotel Football as not only one of the greatest sporting hotels in the country, but as a leading destination for corporate delegates, families and tourists.” As well as Cafe Football, the hotel houses 133 rooms and five events spaces, including an indoor rooftop football pitch.

Former Noma chef set to move Nigerian concept Ikoyi to new site: Former Noma chef Jeremy Chan is set to move Ikoyi, the Nigerian concept he originally founded as a pop-up, to a new site. Chan and business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale moved Ikoyi to a permanent site in the St James’s Market development, off Regent Street, in 2017, and it now looks set to move again. Its current home has been put up for sale, and an application has been submitted to reopen the restaurant at the 180 Strand building, reports Hot Dinners. The site, which covers the corner space in Surrey Street and The Strand, has hosted several pop-ups in recent times, most recently a recreation of the Le Sans Blague Cafe from the Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch.

The Boundary Shoreditch opens new bar and restaurant: Boutique hotel The Boundary Shoreditch, which was acquired by Harcourt Inns founder James McCulloch in December, has opened its new ground floor bar and restaurant, Boundary. Formerly the Albion Café, the 100-cover restaurant and bar serves modern British fare with a European influence, inspired by Swedish-born head chef Robin Freeman. Formerly of 1 Lombard Street and Ekte Nordic Kitchen, Freeman is overseeing the new bar and brasserie as well as The Boundary’s refurbished rooftop bar and restaurant. With a focus on provenance and with much of the produce coming from the British Isles, Boundary’s dishes include Devon diver scallops in anchovy and parsley butter; grilled cod with roe beurre blanc, wild garlic and nettle risotto; and 72-hour short rib with polenta. Drinks include cocktails and beer from global and local brewers, while Saturday brunch and Sunday roast menus will be launched soon. McCulloch said: “The ground floor of The Boundary is one of the most underutilised spaces in east London, and it’s incredible to see it transformed into this wonderful bar and brasserie.”

Searcys to temporarily close St Pancras Champagne Bar ahead of refurbishment: British restaurateur and events caterer Searcys will temporarily close its St Pancras Champagne Bar by Searcys venue later this month ahead of an extensive refurbishment. Featuring Europe’s longest Champagne bar, it will close on Saturday, 25 June and reopen in September following a full redesign and tech upgrade. This will include a modernised bar which “puts the spotlight on the extensive Champagne range of bottles and magnums”, along new booths and a seafood bar. The St Pancras Brasserie by Searcys will remain open throughout the summer, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, alongside afternoon tea.

Scottish baker set to open seventh cafe this month: Scottish baker Fisher & Donaldson is set to open its seventh cafe later this month, at 197 South Street in St Andrews. It will be a second St Andrews location for the 103-year-old company, which also had two tea rooms in Cupar and three in Dundee. It will be Fisher & Donaldson’s first standalone cafe, rather than the bakery counter and tea room set up in its other venues. Chloe Milne, co-director and fifth generation of Fisher & Donaldson owners, told The Scotsman: “With a 100-year-old business, we have a lot of history, great recipes and products, but also some tired shops that could do with some love. We recently did a brand refresh, and after opening this new cafe in St Andrews, we are looking to roll out our new branding into some of our existing shops and cafes.” The site of the new cafe was already part of the company’s portfolio but operated under the name of MacArthur’s, another bakery. “When we shut the doors in the first lockdown we chose to use the closure as a time for change and to finally open a cafe in St Andrews, something we have been longing to do for a very long time,” Milne added. “The past two years have been tricky for our family in terms of managing huge change and constant flux in the business, but we have remained successful.”

Tim Hortons lines up Basildon site: Canadian quick service restaurant brand Tim Hortons is lining up a site in Basildon. SK Group, which is leading the rollout of the brand in the UK, is looking to open a drive-thru restaurant in the Essex town. The company has applied to Basildon Council to convert the former Burger Brats building in the Pipps Hill retail park in Miles Gray Road. The restaurant would also include a 158 square metre indoor dining space, reports Essex Live. Last week, Tim Hortons opened its first Manchester city centre restaurant, in The Arndale, for its 53rd UK site while its next opening will be at the Merry Hill shopping centre on Monday, 20 June. Last month, Kevin Hydes, chief commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, 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.

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