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Mon 13th Jun 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pitcher – Revolution can run a bigger operation, acquisition very much on our agenda: Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, which operates 67 bars trading mainly under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has said an acquisition is “very much on the agenda” for the business. Speaking in Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Pitcher said: “Over the last six months, we’ve been really focused on refurbishing the estate and starting to expand again, but we’ve also looked at a couple of acquisition opportunities. We haven’t found the right one just yet but it’s very much a ‘watch this space’. I believe we’ve got a management team here that can run a bigger operation, and therefore an acquisition is very much on our agenda. But you’ve got to find the right one. We feel we could play our part in that (sector consolidation).” The company recently returned to the expansion trail, with openings lined up in Exeter and Preston, and Pitcher said it was in negotiations on four more sites. He said: “We recently lost out on a site we really wanted because the landlord wanted a competitive socialising offer rather than a bar, and competitive socialising seems to be the flavour of the month with some landlords. There is still competitive tension to get hold of the best sites, but that’s also something for us to think about. We may actually slow down a little bit on the new openings in so far as we see potentially a more favourable property market say in the winter, when utilities move again and, potentially, trading is tough because of cost of living.” Pitcher said the business was also looking for second sites for both its new concepts, Founders & Co and Playhouse. On the “community market” concept Founders & Co, which launched in Swansea last year, Pitcher said: “It’s got a lovely feel and we’re really happy with what we’ve created. We’re desperately trying to find a second site. We’ve looked at a couple in the last couple of weeks. We’re really keen to get a second one of those, but this has been designed to fit brilliantly into any retail space on the high street, so we see that a having good potential and a rollout platform for us.” Playhouse, which is the group’s foray into competitive socialising, launched in the former Revolution site in Northampton last November. Pitcher said: “It is very much designed as a as a high margin proposition. So, where we’ve got legacy Revolution sites which we may have had for 20-odd years, and they might have been out of position where the circuit has moved slightly in those towns or cities. We can basically take a low performing or legacy site for Revolution, take the same amount of sales and then convert that through to much higher profits. Again, we see a good runway for this, and the performance of that site has given us a view that we could start taking standalone sides for this as well. We’ve got the second site lined up now.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Revolution Bars Group CEO Rob Pitcher backs Hospitality Rising: Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, has called for all in the sector to step forward and show their support for the industry by joining him in supporting Hospitality Rising. The initiative aims to unite the industry by asking it to invest in and back its plan to change the perception of hospitality for the better, in the biggest sector recruitment advertising campaign the UK has seen. Pitcher said: “We all know how awesome the world of hospitality is and the positive impact it can have on the lives of both our teams and guests, which is why we couldn’t miss the opportunity to be part of a campaign that aims to bring to life the amazing opportunities that a career in hospitality can afford people. I arrived in the UK when I was just 18 and got a bar job, and I immediately knew a career of service was for me. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by plenty of talented role models who all left their own special footprint on my life, and it is therefore extremely important to me that I’m able to provide those same opportunities for others.” Invest in Hospitality Rising now from just £10 per employee here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector losses outstripping profits almost six times over: The damage done to the industry by the pandemic is highlighted in the latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book with losses outstripping profits in the sector almost six times over. The Blue Book, which is updated monthly, shows 348 companies making a combined loss of £5.9bn compared with 241 companies in profit – making a combined £1.1bn. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (17 June). The 589 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured have a total turnover of £28.6bn. 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 have also been 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 were sent on Friday (10 June), 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 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.

Bank lending to sector SMEs falls by more than £1.4bn following end of coronavirus loan schemes, recovery loans ‘higher risk’ and ‘less generous’: Bank lending to small businesses in the sector has fallen by more than £1.4bn following the end of coronavirus loan schemes, according to new research. Since the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) ended, lending dropped to £14.6bn in April 2022, down from £16bn in March 2021, according to chartered accountants and business advisers Hazlewoods. With the cost-of-living crisis eating into consumer spending, banks have been less willing to lend to pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels given their perceived higher risk of default. This following two years that have “weakened the sector significantly through spiralling inflation and repeated closures through lockdown”, said Hazlewoods. “Banks are really starting to back away from lending to hospitality businesses,” said associate partner Rebecca Copping. “Without financial support from lenders, some pubs, restaurants and hotels are really going to struggle. With a cost-of-living crisis weakening consumer spending, securing bank lending at viable rates is no easy task for hospitality businesses at the moment.” Hazlewoods also argued the government’s new recovery loan scheme (RLS) is markedly less generous than the CBILS and BBLS schemes it replaced, meaning banks are less keen to lend to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through it. Under RLS, the government no longer pays the first 12 months interest on behalf of businesses, nor the lender’s fees, while interest rates for borrowers have also risen. Under the RLS, the government guarantee to a lender is only 80% of the amount loaned to a business, rather than the 100% under the CBILS and BBLS schemes. Copping added: “SMEs planning for the end of their CBILS and BBLS loan terms may find that they struggle to refinance their debts at rates that work for them.”

UKHospitality appoints Sandra Kelly as new skills director: UKHospitality has announced the appointment of a new skills director, Sandra Kelly, to shape the future framework of skills in hospitality. Kelly was previously the UK director at People 1st International and has had nearly 30 years of operational and strategic experience across the hospitality sector. UKHospitality said the new role will be critical to the delivery of its recently launched hospitality workforce strategy: fixing the crisis, which is a framework for collaborative action to address five key workforce challenges. The role will cover skills in secondary, further and higher education, with a renewed focus on apprenticeships and other in-work training. UKHospitality said it will continue to work with industry partners, training providers and educational institutions to provide the perfect pathway for people of all ages to realise their ambitions to join and grow in hospitality. It will focus on short-term challenges but also look to fix the pathway into hospitality, and upwards progress, for the long-term. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality said: “Hospitality is facing a workforce crisis. We are determined to tackle this for the fantastic businesses in the sector and to provide fulfilling jobs that boost social mobility. I am delighted to welcome Sandra and her wealth of knowledge and experience to the team to drive this forward. This appointment allows us to look at the short-term opportunities to tackle our current labour crisis but also to ensure there is a pipeline of talent that ensures we have great people joining hospitality and experiencing the opportunities we can provide.” Kelly added: “Joining UKHospitality is a fantastic move for me and allows me to deliver on my passion – providing hospitality employees with the skills they need to succeed. I am thrilled to be able to bring a focus on skills policy development to UKHospitality and ensure the voice of our employer membership is central to setting this skills agenda with a united voice into Government.” UKHospitality will continue to work with People 1st International as the licensed Sector Skills Council for the industry, which will play a critical role in taking forward the skills measure outlined as one of five strands in the hospitality workforce strategy.
 
Dardis – hospitality needs more attention from politicians and full-time minister: Outgoing Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis has said the sector needs more attention from politicians and a full-time minister. Dardis, who steps down next month, told the Mail on Sunday: “The industry looks after 3.2 million jobs – one in every six in every community in the country. It needs a full-time minister, looking after the people of that industry.” Dardis also wants a permanent reduction in VAT and an overhaul of the business rates system to give pub and restaurant operators some financial breathing room. He said: “The government needs to start respecting and appreciating how important this sector is to the UK economy.” Dardis announced his retirement in March after six years leading Young’s. He will formally stand down at its annual meeting in July, when Simon Dodd, the chief operating officer, will take over. He said: “If I thought we were not through this and in a good place, I would stay on another year, have no doubt about it. But we are in a stronger position.”

High food and drink inflation set to extend into 2023 amid cost and supply crises: Foodservice prices in April were 10% higher than in April 2021 thanks to high energy costs and unstable global supply, the latest edition of the Foodservice Price Index from CGA and Prestige Purchasing has shown. It is the third month of double-digit inflation in a row, and analysis by CGA and Prestige Purchasing suggests volatility in supply and costs is likely to fuel high food and drink prices for some time. The report predicts further rises in inflation are possible in 2022, and the rate is unlikely to fall below 7% until at least 2023. Inflationary pressures have been exacerbated in recent months by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has reduced the production levels of food staples including grain and oil and driven up energy and fuel costs by increasing oil prices and restricting gas supplies. Nine of the ten food and drink categories measured by the index recorded inflation in April 2022 – seven of them reaching double digits – and three exceeded 20%. The report highlights areas of particular volatility including grain, with the war in Ukraine damaging production and preventing transportation; poultry, where capacity has been reduced; Avian flu, causing feed and fuel costs to rise sharply; dairy, with reduced milk production raising prices; edible oils, the availability of which has been hit by the conflict; and fish, with salmon at its highest ever price and UK fresh fish impacted by frozen white fish price rises. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “The food and drink system continues to be in a high level of instability, with complex impacts upon both cost and availability of product.” James Ashurst, client director at CGA, added: “Energy costs have a direct impact on prices right across the foodservice sector, and the war in Ukraine has piled on even more inflationary pressure. Soaring prices are also starting to affect consumers’ spending, and on top of global supply issues and the after-shocks of covid and Brexit, the outlook for the rest of 2022 is extremely challenging.”
 
Dates revealed for Cask Ale Week 2022: Cask Ale Week 2022 will take place from 22 September to 2 October – designed to encourage footfall into pubs using cask ale as the central theme. Pubs can create their own events or link into planned activity for the week, which will be included on the Cask Ale Week website and promoted on social media. The event, created by Cask Marque, involved 150 different breweries and pub groups last year and led to 114,000 online interactions. Among those to take part in 2021 was Cornwall-based Sharp’s Brewery, whose communications manager, Rachel Williams, said: “Cask Ale Week is a key moment in the year for the beer, brewing and hospitality industries. Cask ale is unique to the Great British pub, and this year more than ever it’s important that we encourage people to support our pubs, try cask ale and celebrate all that is great about our national drink.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with “one of the world’s well known restaurant chains” that is seeking an acquisitions manager with experience working in a multi-site environment. The company launched in 1992 and is looking to grow its team and expand further. The salary is up to £70,000. For more information, email paris@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Peckwater Brands secures £15m of new investment, Stonegate amongst backers: Virtual restaurant brand company Peckwater Brands has raised £15m from investors including Stonegate Group, Britain’s biggest pub company, and Japanese fund giant SoftBank. The Sunday Times reports that the Series A fundraising gives Peckwater Brands a £65m valuation and will power new investments in its technology and expansion in Europe and the US. Peckwater, founded in late 2019, has developed 12 food brands, ranging from fried chicken to katsu curry, which it offers to restaurants to make in their kitchens and then sell for delivery via platforms such as Uber Eats. The start-up supplies branding and recipes for the food, which is prepared by kitchen staff alongside the restaurants’ own dishes. Peckwater claims its brands help individual restaurants boost turnover by up to £45,000 a month. Stonegate already sells Peckwater food brands through about 30 of its pubs, and the intention is to extend the partnership to “as many sites as possible”, said Sam Martin, the company’s cofounder and chief executive. Martin credited the company’s success to software it has developed which can scan food delivery apps to see which types of food are proving popular with customers. “We can spot food trends as they appear,” he said. Stonegate, which has a portfolio of 4,500 sites, is owned by private equity firm TDR Capital, a co-owner of Asda. Suzanne Baker, the pub group’s commercial director, hailed Peckwater’s “exciting potential”. Last month, Propel revealed that Peckwater Brands, which last year secured £3m in seed funding, had appointed Barry Cook, formerly of Gail’s, PF Chang’s and West Cornwall Pasty Co, as its new managing director. The company currently has a mix of owned and licensed brands spanning several categories including Seoul Chikin, Flip the Bird, Wham Bam Wings, Katsu and Cluck & Run.
 
Big Mamma Group eyes Marylebone opening: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London-based restaurants Gloria, Ave Mario and Circolo Popolare, is lining up a fifth restaurant opening in the capital, in Marylebone. Propel understands that the business has submitted plans to convert the former Natural Kitchen site in Marylebone High Street to a restaurant spread over ground and first floors. The company, which recently opened a debut bricks-and-mortar site for its pizza delivery concept, Napoli Gang, in Ladbroke Grove, is planning to open a fourth site in the capital, in Kensington. The company is planning a site with around 180 covers in the former HSBC bank site on Kensington High Street. The company is “investing considerably” in turning the former bank into “a restaurant of the highest quality”. Propel reported earlier this year that the business is planning a “liquidity event” this summer as it plans further growth across Europe. It recently opened its first site in Germany with the launch of trattoria Girogia, in Munich. Speaking at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit at the start of the year, Jack de Wet, chief development officer at Big Mamma Group, said the business was looking to grow by ten restaurants a year over the next five years. The business currently operates 20 restaurants across London, France and Spain.
 
Caring plans Victoria-based restaurant: Caprice Holdings, the Richard Caring-backed business, has submitted a license application to open a new venue in London’s Victoria, Propel has learned. The serial sector investor, who plans to open a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant called Bacchanalia on the ex-Porsche Garage site in Mayfair’s Mount Street, is believed to be looking to open a new venture at Terminal House in Grosvenor Gardens, opposite Victoria Station. An application seen by Propel shows that no name or concepts has been submitted for the site, although the Harry’s name has been crossed out next to the proposed plans for the property. Caring currently operates Harry’s sites in Knightsbridge and Marylebone. Separately, Caprice Holdings plans to open Scott’s Richmond in September. The new site, which had run into planning issues, will share “the glittering heritage of the famous Mayfair original”. The new restaurant and oyster bar will bring “sophisticated old-world glamour to its new riverside setting, offering a local destination for the finest fish and seafood in town”.
 
The Chestnut Group acquires Bib Gourmand pub in north Norfolk: East Anglian pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group has acquired The Wiveton Bell in north Norfolk. The pub in Holt, which offers Michelin-rated Bib Gourmand dining and AA four-star accommodation, marks the 17th site for the business. “We are delighted to have acquired one of Norfolk’s best-loved dining pubs,” said Philip Turner, founder and managing director of Chestnut. “We’ve made no secret of the fact we believe north Norfolk is one of the region’s leading tourism destinations and have brought a number of new locations into the Chestnut fold recently. However, with such a fantastic established reputation and loyal customer base, the addition of The Wiveton Bell really puts Chestnut on the map in the area. In the last 24 months, we’ve been very focused on Norfolk as an area for growth and see the potential to offer outstanding hospitality to the local community and visitors alike. With this latest addition, we now have five locations along the coastline, stretching from Holt to Wells, and hope our investments continue to enhance the tourism offer in the area, employment opportunities and support the communities we operate in.” The addition of The Wiveton Bell to the Chestnut portfolio comes shortly after the acquisitions of The Feathers and The Lawns in Holt and The Maltings in Weybourne – all of which took place in the last 18 months. The company has also just reopened The Globe in Wells following a major refurbishment, and The Feathers reopens on Monday, 20 June, following a significant investment.
 
Heineken appoints new UK MD: Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, has appointed Boudewijn Haarsma as its new UK managing director. Formerly managing director for Heineken in Russia, a role he has held since 2018, Haarsma will start his new position on Monday, 8 August. During his time in Russia, Boudewijn developed Heineken’s premium portfolio, accelerating innovation and implementing operating efficiencies. He joined the company in 1995 as a management trainee and worked in a number of commercial and management roles before moving to Nigeria in 2010, where he led the merger of Heineken’s breweries in Nigeria as managing director of Consolidated Breweries. In 2015, he was appointed as managing director east and west Africa, during which time the operating companies in his area realised double-digit revenue and profit growth. Haarsma will also be a key member of Heineken’s Europe management group and will report to Soren Hagh, the company’s president for Europe. “Boudewijn’s strong track record in managing change and driving growth in large, complex markets will be a crucial contributor to our continued journey as the UK’s leading pub, beer and cider business,” said Hagh. “As managing director in Russia, Boudewijn demonstrated huge courage and resilience, as well as care and consideration, for our people affected by the war in Ukraine.” Haarsma said: “The UK Is well regarded as one of the most advanced beer and cider markets in the world and, of course, the home of the pub! I’m really looking forward to working with our teams to deliver great service for customers and fantastic experiences for our consumers.” Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, will continue as interim managing director for Heineken UK until the end of July.
 
Wagamama launches music initiative: Wagamama is to launch “Symphony Sessions” – a nationwide tour of young aspiring musicians performing intimate restaurant gigs. From 14 June for three weeks, the company will welcome talented musicians to perform in selected restaurants across the country. The musicians, Lyvia (@Lyviamusic), Naiko (@naikojacques), Stefan (stefanmahendramusic), Jamie (@jamieyostmusic) and Matty (@mattyhaynesmusic) will perform at Manchester St Peters, Lincoln, Leeds Trinity, Exeter, Plymouth, Cardiff, London Bankside, Hammersmith and Old Street. Guests arriving at the restaurants during the gigs can quote “symphony sessions” and receive a free summer drink. Wagamama regional marketing manager Alice Eagle said: “We are so excited to be introducing symphony sessions exclusively at nine key locations across the UK. This is a midweek celebration of summer featuring live music performances to experience the sounds of Wagamama through local grassroots musicians. We welcome you to head down to the bench between 14-30 June and enjoy some music with your favourite food.”
 
Berkshire brewer set to open second pub this month after raising £150,000: Berkshire brewer and retailer A Hoppy Place is set to open its second site this month after raising £150,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Founded in 2019 by husband-and-wife team Naomi and Dave Hayward, the company currently operates as a craft beer micropub and bottle shop in Windsor – offering drink in, take away, click-and-collect and delivery. It now plans to open a second site and has agreed a lease on a 1,511 square-foot unit in Maidenhead – offering space for 42 seated and 40 standing inside and 24 seated outside – and potential for a food truck in a private outdoor area. To help fund the opening, it launched a £100,000 fundraise in May and quickly reached its target. The campaign has now closed with just short of £150,000 raised through more than 150 investors, offered 11.86% equity, and a June opening date confirmed. With the cash raised earmarked for building and designing costs, the overfunding “will be held to provide liquidity to the overall business”. The second site will be larger than its first one, which has only 20 seated covers inside and 12 outside. The company said: “We believe craft beer is for everyone, and the key to our success is our community first approach.”
 
Brunning & Price to add further to Shropshire presence: Brunning & Price, the pub operator owned by The Restaurant Group (TRG), is to further add to its presence in Shropshire after acquiring the Mytton and Mermaid in Atcham, near Shrewsbury. The company, which already owns The Armoury in Shrewsbury and The Woodbridge in Ironbridge, has submitted an application to Shropshire Council to carry out a range of works including a revamp of the pub, a new walled garden area, three electric car charging stations and a re-designed car parking area. The firm also wants to remove the existing entranceway for a new glazed opening and install new staff rooms. Brunning & Price is set to open its latest new pub, The Architect, in Bath on 23 June, the 84th in site in its estate. Propel revealed in September 2021 that Brunning & Price had begun a push for new sites following TRG’s £175m recapitalisation. This followed an announcement by TRG six months earlier that it planned to eventually double the size of the brand’s then 70-strong estate.
 
Pub co-owned by England cricketer Stuart Broad severely damaged in fire: A pub part-owned by England cricketer Stuart Broad has had to close after being badly damaged by a “significant fire”. Firefighters were called to the award-winning Tap & Run in Upper Broughton, between Nottingham and Melton Mowbray, at around 3.20am on Saturday. The blaze destroyed the first floor and roof of the pub, co-owned by Broad and former cricketer Harry Gurney. Nottinghamshire fire and rescue service said the property had been severely damaged, with a fire in the roof still burning by mid-morning on Saturday. A statement on the pub’s website said the venue would not be trading “for the foreseeable future”. It read: “We are so sorry that we cannot honour our bookings or take any further bookings. We will keep everyone fully up to date on social media over the next few weeks. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the outpouring of support. And finally…we will be back! Watch this space.”
 
Newcastle-based US-inspired restaurant opens second site, eyes three more: Newcastle-based US-inspired restaurant Meat:Stack has opened its second site and set its sights on the next three if it proves a hit in Leeds. The American cheeseburger concept was founded as a pop-up in 2016 by Allan Hyslop, Tom Westman and Charlie Mair, based initially at Newcastle’s Sunday Quayside Market before making its bricks-and-mortar debut in the city’s weekday Grainger Market (now a home for the group’s fried chicken brand, Feds). A first permanent site opened in the Bigg Market in May 2020, with number two opening in Leeds’ Bishopsgate Street over the weekend. “Since we opened the first site, the plan was always to open a second within a year or two, and Leeds was top of the list as it has a really strong food scene and is also only a couple of hours away,” Hyslop told Propel. “We want to be a high street chain in time, but we want to see how Leeds goes first – this is the crucial one. It’s about getting this right, and then we would love to open more – whether that be another one in Leeds, or Manchester or Liverpool. We would probably know in the first six months (if it can expand further) and then we’d go for it. It’s something we’ve designed from the bottom up to be easy to expand, with a central prep kitchen so all the sauces and essential prep will be the same.” The original Meat:Stack restaurant was due to open early in April 2020, but the pandemic hit the day after its silent angel investor, who helped fund the first site (the group is now self-funding), had agreed to get involved. “We did home deliveries and cook-at-home kits to keep in peoples’ eye-line, and instead of opening as a restaurant, we opened as a delivery packing station,” Hyslop added. “The seats weren’t in for the first three of four weeks, which was odd!”
 
Hyatt set to launch new Sicilian restaurant at east London hotel: Hotel company Hyatt will today (Monday, 13 June) launch a new Sicilian restaurant at Hyatt Place London City East hotel in Whitechapel. Zoom East Kitchen & Bar will be led by Sicilian chef Vittorio Meli, taking inspiration from the food of his home region while celebrating local London suppliers. Meli has previously worked as head chef at restaurants including Polpo Soho and Senor Ceviche, and was most recently executive development chef at Scarpetta and executive sous at the Strand Palace hotel. His menu is influenced by north African, Spanish, Greek and Italian cuisines, and Zoom East will work closely with Billingsgate Market to produce seafood dishes like grilled octopus with preserved lemon sauce and monk’s beard crispy chickpeas, and a soup of Cornish hake, olives, potato and capers. There will also be Sicilian-inspired small plates, vegetable-based dishes and desserts. The venue will also feature its own private dining orangery, courtyard and an aperitivo deli bar, which will serve British charcuterie, vegan cheese and Sicilian ingredients. The Zoom East team is also planning a series of collaborative dinners with its suppliers. The 280-room Hyatt Place London City East opened in June 2021 – the third Hyatt Place hotel in the capital – and is owned on a franchise basis by Resolution Property in collaboration with Berkeley Capital, and managed by Cycas Hospitality.
 
Robinsons continues estate investment with refurbishment of three south Cheshire pubs: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons is continuing to invest in its estate with the refurbishment of three pubs in Congleton, south Cheshire. The recently reopened Church House in Buglawton, the Waggon and Horses in Eaton and the recently acquired Swettenham Arms are all benefiting from substantial investments. The Church House reopened last Thursday (9 June) following a major refurbishment that included a new bar and an extension to the rear that includes a larger kitchen area to cater for the increase in dining covers. The Waggon and Horses will close in July for a five-month refurbishment, benefiting from a large extension to link the bar area around to the beer garden, with a new entrance to the side. The Swettenham Arms, which was acquired by Robinsons last August, will shut in January for a major refurbishment. William Robinson, managing director of Robinsons Brewery (pub division), said: “Last year, we invested a significant amount of capital expenditure across our pub estate. We are continuing our developments into this year and planning for 2023. Our focus for Congleton in particular centres around developing food opportunities, creating additional jobs and restoring these landmark local pubs.”
 
Greene King lands diversity award: Brewer and retailer Greene King’s LGBTQ+ employee-led inclusion group, The Village Greene, has been awarded the new employee network of the year award at The Bank of London Rainbow Honours. It saw off competition from a number of brands and organisations including Deliveroo, Kingfisher, Sheffield LGBT+ multi agency network, Surrey County Council, University of Birmingham, WPP and WTW UK. The Village Greene triumphed through enabling Greene King to listen to the challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community, act accordingly and help create an environment where all feel a sense of belonging. It is one of four employee-led inclusion groups within Greene King, which will later this month launch a LGBTQ+ themed beer called Progress Pale Ale. Scott Frankham, lead for The Village Greene and head of social media and content at Greene King, said: “It’s fantastic to see the dedication and passion of our team be rewarded with such a prestigious award. We’re on an exciting journey with The Village Green, and there’s lots more to come.” Karen Bosher, managing director at Greene King and Village Greene executive sponsor, added: “It’s absolutely vital our LGBTQ+ team members feel they belong and are valued at Greene King, and their beliefs, challenges and concerns are heard.” 
 
Chef behind burger concept Chuck to launch new Mexican restaurant in Gloucester: Chef Lewis Spencer, who was part of the team that developed London-based burger concept Chuck, is set to open a new Mexican restaurant in Gloucester. Spence, who lives in nearby Cheltenham, will run Elote at Gloucester Food Dock, where he will also oversee a branch of Chuck set to open at the £3.5m development. “Elote will be another name to join, bringing authentic Mexican cuisine to Gloucester Food Dock,” Sarah Mansfield, of landlords Ladybellegate Estates, told Punchline Gloucester. “This unit will have a slightly different feel and vibe to other street food type offers. It will have cool and natural interiors, fine attention to detail and ingredients sourced directly from Mexico.” Elote and Chuck will be among 15 independent food and drink businesses based at Gloucester Food Dock once completed, including Bella Mia, Wholly Geolato, Siblings Gin and Strip Steak. Mansfield added: “Despite the strange times and cost of living crisis, we still seeing a huge level of interest for this project. We are actually turning away national brands because we want it to be filled with local and independent businesses. We are still looking for southern and east Asian food businesses, as well as a cafe, coffee and brunch food place.” Chuck is the sister brand of American barbecue restaurant Hotbox, which Spencer also helped developed from its street food roots in 2012 and returned to last year as executive head chef.
 
Kent food hall operator to launch third site in county: Kent food hall operator Macknade is set to launch a third site in the county, in Folkestone’s Harbour Arm development. Macknade already operates sites in Faversham and Ashford, which include a cafe, restaurant and street food village as well as butchers, delis, florists, grocers and wine merchants. They also host weekly live music events. The Folkestone site will offer a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating for 120 people, as well as a retail range that includes a selection of produce used on the new menu. All of the wine on the shelves will also be available with free corkage in the restaurant. Shane Godwin, managing director of Macknade, said: “Folkestone represents an incredibly exciting phase for us, and our new space forms a key part of the development and regeneration that is taking place across the town. In true Macknade fashion, we will be showcasing the abundance of fantastic growers, producers and farmers on our new Folkestone doorstep through our menu and on our shelves.” Paulo Kingston-Correia, general manager for Folkestone Harbour and Seafront Development Co, added: "We are delighted to welcome Macknade as we continue to reinvent the English seaside experience and helping us continue to demonstrate that some of the best in food and drink in the Garden on England can be found in Folkestone.”
 
Scottish chef Jimmy Lee opens second restaurant at Bonnie & Wild in Edinburgh: Scottish chef Jimmy Lee has opened a second restaurant at Bonnie & Wild – the food hall concept from the founders of Scottish restaurant brand Mac & Wild – at the St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Lee, who has appeared on BBC show Great British menu and presents STV cookery series Julie and Jimmy’s Hot Woks, has launched Leith Woks. It is described as a “wok-based street food restaurant with a cultural twist, serving fiery Cantonese cuisine while incorporating some of the finest fresh ingredients Scotland’s larder has to offer”. The restaurant joins the line-up of chef-led eateries within Bonnie & Wild, including Lee’s Hong Kong street food concept, Salt and Chilli Oriental. Dishes at Leith Woks include slow cooked scotch beef curry with coconut rice and Ramsays of Carluke pork chow mein, reports the Edinburgh Evening News. Lee also operates Salt & Chilli in Glasgow’s West End and Lychee Oriental in Glasgow city centre.
 
US fashion brand Aimé Leon Dore launches cafe at new flagship London store: US fashion brand Aimé Leon Dore has launched a cafe at its new flagship London store. The Greek-inspired restaurant is based at the brand’s Soho store, at 32 Broadwick Street, which is its first opening outside the US. Among the offer is Freddo espressos and Freddo cappuccinos alongside Greek mountain tea and cold brew, reports Hot Dinners. There is also a choice of croissants or Greek cookies including Kourabiedes (almond), Melomakarona (honey and walnut) and Kulourakia (butter).
 
Bury cafe set to double up: Bury cafe Cosalea is set to open a second site this week. Lisa Moore, who opened the debut outlet in Walshaw Road in September 2000, has taken on a site at Killelea House, in Brandlesholme Road, which will open on Wednesday (15 June). “At Cosalea, the local community is at the heart of everything single thing we do – being there for our customers is what we love and what we do best,” Moore told The Bury Times. “We’ve built a loyal base of regular customers who love nothing more than popping in for a coffee, something to eat and chat with our friendly team and one another. Killelea House is the perfect place to help us continue this fantastic service.”
 
The Coffee House opens 11th site: North west independent coffee shop The Coffee House has continued its expansion in the region with the opening of an 11th site, in St Helens. The company, which was established by Chris and Stephen Shelmerdine in July 2011, has opened in a former Clarks store in Church Street. The Coffee House also has sites in Sale, Partington, Widnes, Huyton, Northwich, Bootle, Runcorn, Warrington, Lymm and Winsford.

Manchester operator opens Blockbuster video store-inspired bar: Manchester operator Stewart Dean has opened a bar inspired by video rental chain Blockbuster. Dean, who owns South African restaurant and bar Chakalaka in Oldham Street, has launched Blockbuster NQ in the same road. The walls of the venue are covered in video cassettes, while vintage TVs scattered across the premises play cult films. The cocktail list is film-themed, while guests are also able to try classic popcorn with modern twists. “Back in the day, Blockbuster was everywhere,” Dean told I Love Manchester. “We miss it, and we think it’s about time the brand made a return – one where you can drink, and the only returns here are for another hit of fun and nostalgia. We are here to stay well into the future, so be kind and rewind with us.”
 
Folkestone Thai restaurant operator acquires pub for second site: Folkestone Thai restaurant operator Chris Brown has acquired a pub in the Kent town for his second site. Brown, who owns Thong Dees in Sandgate Road, has bought the Park Inn, which shut in December. The pub in Radnor Park Road has now reopened following a refurbishment. Brown told Kent Live: “When it closed and no one was buying it, I thought it was a real shame. I knew the pub as I used to drink in here from time to time, so just decided to go for it. I want to create a traditional warm welcome for all the family.”
 
Manchester seafood restaurant set to double up: Manchester seafood restaurant Oystercatcher, based in the district of Chorlton, is set to open a second restaurant, in nearby Sale. Launched in 2018, Oystercatcher offers a regularly changing menu of fresh, seasonal fish dishes cooked over coals, with vegan and vegetarian options too. These include crab arancini, chargrilled black sea bream and seabass, swordfish kebab and Panang curry that is served with a seabream fillet – alongside a selection of cocktails, wine and local independent beer. The Sale restaurant will be located in Stanley Square, reports Manchester’s Finest.
 
Esquires Coffee opens in St Neots: Cooks Global Foods-owned Esquires Coffee has opened a new franchise store in St Neots. The site, a former Edinburgh Mill store in High Street, has come full circle as it used to be a tea house in the 1920s. It has been taken on by Matthew Webb and his son, Charlie, who restored the site together, reports the Hunts Post.

Wimpy eyes further expansion with Tonbridge opening: Wimpy is eyeing further expansion with an opening in Tonbridge. The company has applied to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council to open in High Street in the premises previously occupied by Shoe Zone. It would add to the eight restaurants Wimpy currently operates in Kent. Wimpy has applied to open from 9am to 8pm daily, reports Kent Live. Wimpy, which is owned by South Africa-based Famous Brands, has 66 restaurants in the UK, including openings this year in Aylesbury and Brentwood.
 
Eastbourne coffee shop doubles up after closing restaurant: Eastbourne coffee shop Nelson Coffee has opened its second site in the East Sussex town. The owners, who also operate Nelson Coffee in Terminus Road, used to run the Station Parade site as all-day restaurant and bar Company. But they have now scrapped that venture in favour of a return to coffee, reopening it as Nelson Coffee – The Roastery. A spokesman from the company said: “Thank you to everybody that joined us during our closing week at Company, and we are delighted to open our doors again. It’s an exciting new chapter for the whole group, and we can’t wait to welcome you to The Roastery very soon.” Fast-food pop-up Four Bears Burger Club will also operate from the site.

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