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Tue 14th Jun 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate takes minority stake in virtual brand operator Peckwater: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has taken a minority stake in Peckwater Brands as part of a £15m series A seed funding round for the virtual brand operator. The latest funding round, which is led by Stonegate and was reported by Propel on Monday, follows a £3m seed round in October 2021 and brings the business’ post-money valuation to £65m. Stonegate has now taken a minority stake in Peckwater, for an undisclosed sum, having trialled Peckwater Brands in up to 30 of its circa 4,500 pubs, with the intention is to extend the partnership to “as many sites as possible”. Investors in this latest round also include SoftBank Investments (SBI), as well as follow-on investment from Peckwater’s previous backers Fuel Ventures and Pembroke VCT. Suzanne Baker, commercial director of Stonegate Group, said: “Peckwater Brands’ partnership with some of our pubs has demonstrated the company’s exciting potential. As such, we were delighted to collaborate with them, participate in their latest funding round and offer support to this promising team. We look forward to working closely with Peckwater Brands in the coming years to ensure the Company's continued success.” Peckwater Brands’ series A funding will be used to develop technology, including machine learning-generated menus, and accelerate its expansion, with its UK team planning to take the company from operating in 150-plus sites to being the largest kitchen network in the UK. The company also plans to level-up its international operations, which will involve the development of its US division – launched in Miami in early 2022. The business also plans on expanding further into Europe, with confirmed sites in France and Belgium due to launch in the coming months. As part of the investment, co-founder Sam Martin will become Peckwater Brands’ chief executive, with co-founder Leo Bradshaw taking up the position of executive chair. Martin said: “We have always been incredibly ambitious with where we can take Peckwater Brands. And, given the rapid success we’ve seen in the UK, we’ve now set our sights on the international stage. Not only have we established a strong presence within the US and UAE, but we are set to make waves across Europe in the very near future – and our latest funding round success will certainly accelerate these plans.” The business operates a mix of licensed brands spanning several categories including chicken (Seoul Chikin, Flip the Bird, Wham Bam Wings, Katsu), burgers (Dukes, Proper Tasty) and have also run shared brands with partners such as Unilever, Buzzfeed, and Heinz.
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – overcoming Hospitality Rising campaign doubts: Hospitality Rising 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 – but why are some people not backing us? You told us: “Investment in this area may be too much for lots of businesses to bear at this time, given the battering that has been handed out.” We know times are tough, and that’s why we’re only asking operators to contribute £10 plus VAT per employee to our ‘Army: Be the Best’-style national media campaign, to double the number of applicants for hospitality jobs. We can’t afford to let this staffing shortage eat away at our businesses, to see increasingly desperate operators poaching staff via hashtags on social media. After the past few years, we’re used to hustling for every penny, fighting our own corner and grinding on in hostile conditions, but we can’t continue to stick our heads down and tip more budget into combative recruiting, sweat over service complaints and scratch our heads about retention. As the pool of good staff shrinks further, the real issue – the perception of our industry – continues to block the pipeline. If you have more questions, get in touch with the team via mark@supersonic.marketing. If you’re ready to step up, make your pledge here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

Only 24 of 589 companies in next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book generating pre-tax profit of more than £10m: Only 24 of the 589 companies featured in the next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book are generating pre-tax profit of more than £10m. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday, (17 June) at midday. The Blue Book shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £5.8bn being reported by 348 companies. However, a further 241 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £1.1bn. 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 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.

Butchies founder Garrett FitzGerald to speak at Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party, two free places each for operators: Garrett FitzGerald, founder of Butchies, will be among the speakers at the Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party, which takes place on Wednesday, 31 August, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Oxford Belfry, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “prospering in a post-pandemic world” and will be followed in the evening by the summer party, with a barbecue, live band and more. FitzGerald talks about the company’s journey from street food and music festival pop-ups to the roll out of the buttermilk fried chicken concept, and how it plans to stand out in a highly competitive category. Operators can claim up to two free places each by emailing jo.charity@propelinfo.com. A room can also be booked for the evening for £120.

Significant drop in confidence sees just 59% of sector operators confident about future prospects: Optimism for future trading has waned among hospitality businesses, according to new research by haysmacintyre. The accountancy firm’s first Hospitality Snapshot Survey of 2022 revealed that over the past six months, confidence has fallen significantly. Just 59% of firms said they are currently either confident or very confident about their business’ future prospects, down from 71% in November 2021. Of these, significantly more hotels and restaurants are reporting a lack of confidence. In November, no hotels or restaurants reported being ‘not at all confident’ in their future prospects, but this has now swelled to 14% of hotels and 7% of restaurants. Furthermore, pubs and bars are reporting significantly more uncertainty, up from 8% in November to 32% today. Staff costs and recruitment remain the greatest challenges for the firms surveyed, with 46% ranking this as their most urgent priority. However, rising food and energy costs are now similarly significant, with 33% predicting this would be their biggest challenge over the next six months. Passing cost increases on to customers via price increases is the predominant strategy for 57%, while the vast majority (93%) reported increased staff cost as a percentage of turnover over the last 12 months. Gareth Ogden, partner in haysmacintyre’s hospitality team, said: “Following the pandemic, the resilience and optimism of the hospitality industry was oft noted and frequently praised. However, this survey shows a denting of that confidence, with operators hit hard by economic and geopolitical headwinds. Last year, the prospect of workers returning to the office amid the multi-booster covid vaccine programme was a cause for optimism amongst hospitality firms. However, despite office attendance rising and a decline in the perceived threat of new covid variants, external factors have led to significant challenges. With the recruitment squeeze continuing and food and energy costs showing no signs of cooling, it is unsurprising the sector is reflecting the wider economic concerns of the nation.”

UKHospitality welcomes government food strategy: UKHospitality has welcomed the first ever government food strategy white paper, which it says “recognises the importance of the entire food chain to UK communities and economy”. Published on Monday (13 June), it sets out Number 10’s strategy for “creating a more prosperous agri-food sector that delivers healthier, more sustainable and affordable diets for all”. Proposals include taxing products high in salt and sugar. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “With pressures on food supply chains mounting due to war in Ukraine, the publication of the government’s food strategy white paper is both timely and welcome. It rightly recognises the importance of the entire food chain to UK communities and economy. It is particularly heartening to see the importance of sustainability highlighted in the report, as this is a key focus for the industry and aligns with UKHospitality’s wider sustainability drive. We will be responding in due course to the consultation on mandatory food waste reporting for larger businesses to ensure the regime is workable for hospitality operators. As a sector, we already provide healthy options and a wide range of choice for our customers, and will be engaging with the government on proposed streamlining of targets and that information to consumers reflects current operational practice in the sector. Hospitality businesses serve food in many diverse and innovative ways, and any new targets or requirements need to reflect this. We will also be responding to the consultation on public sector food and catering policy, which is of particular importance to food service businesses. In addition, the report’s focus on food education in schools is something we particularly welcome. This is a powerful tool to help shift behaviours to healthier choices and will hopefully also act as a bridge to bring a new generation of workers into the hospitality business.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a global provider of facilities services based in London, seeking a global head of commercial for a key client contract. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will be a key member of the global team and will need to develop strong relationships with multiple stakeholders in order to pursue and secure commercial opportunities, with particular focus on sustainable growth.” The salary is up to £100,000. For more information, email sheila@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Popeyes confirms next six sites, eyes next raft of locations: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand which made its debut in the UK last November, has confirmed its next six openings, which will create 600 new jobs. As revealed by Propel last week, the business has secured sites in Gateshead (Metrocentre) Reading (Broad Street), Nottingham (Burger King, opposite the Victoria Centre), Brighton (Tui unit in North Street), Ealing Broadway (Next store), and Oxford (Queen Street) – all set to open this year. The company is also understood to be in talks on sites in Glasgow and Cambridge. The company, which also operates delivery kitchens in Bermondsey, Maida Vale, Whitechapel, launched its second sit-down site at the weekend, in Chelmsford, with a third set to open Romford, next month. Its debut UK site, in Westfield Stratford, which opened last November, is the brand’s highest-performing restaurant in the world – out of 3,600 restaurants worldwide. The company said it has stepped up its expansion plans to meet “rapidly growing demand in the UK”. Tom Crowley, chief executive at Popeyes UK, said: “From north to south, we’re building communities of chicken lovers across the country. It’s such an exciting time for the brand, and we have even bigger plans in the works; we’re dedicating a lot of focus currently to our rollout of drive-thrus alongside our strong pipeline of sit-down restaurants. Accelerating our UK growth strategy in this way enables us to provide a much-needed jobs boost to the hospitality economy across both construction and hospitality roles. Across these six sites, we’re expecting to provide 600 employment opportunities, and we’re already eyeing our next raft of locations, with announcements due imminently.”

Stonegate begins setting out case in insurance trial: Stonegate Group, which is suing MS Amlin, Zurich Insurance, and Liberty Mutual for £1bn over lockdown losses, battled the covid-19 pandemic “day by day, venue by venue”, the trial for the case has heard. Reuters reports that Ben Lynch, a lawyer for Stonegate, said the company’s 760 insured pubs, bars and night clubs at the centre of the case had each faced separate challenges, opening and shutting at differing times according to regional rules – and seeing business drop by up to 90% below projections. If successful, the Stonegate case could give fresh momentum to a second wave of claims against insurers that might cost the industry billions of pounds, further damage reputations and push premiums even higher for businesses and consumers, experts say. Stonegate is suing MS Amlin, Zurich Insurance, and Liberty Mutual, alleging the pandemic, government-ordered closures and restrictions triggered business interruption cover multiple times, and that the interruption and interference will continue until April 2023. Insurers accept Stonegate’s businesses were covered by their policies, but contend that cover was limited to one business interruption payment of £2.5m, which has been paid, court documents show. In total, the insurers have paid £14.5m, including £12m for additional increased costs of working (AICW), and say their liability is limited to £17.5m. They label the claim “hugely overstated”, filings show. MS Amlin led the Stonegate policy with 55% of exposure. Both of the other insurers have 22.5% each. Multi-million-pound claims by Greggs against Zurich, and Coppa Club owner Various Eateries against Allianz will be heard next month.
 
Hush plans five Cabana sites in Saudi Arabia: The Hush Collection, which is led by Jamie Barber and Ed Standring, plans to open five Cabana restaurants in Saudi Arabia over the next five years. The company has confirmed it has commenced construction on its second international Cabana, in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh’s Sikha District, which will open in September. The first Cabana in the region opened in August last year, in the Nakheel Mall. The company’s first international franchise partner, the multi-brand hospitality and entertainment business Innovative Union Company, is committed to open five Cabana restaurants over the next ten years in Saudi Arabia. As reported by Propel last month, the new 2,700 square-foot site in the Sikha District will also feature a 2,440 square-foot barbecue terrace and has been designed to reflect the décor of its London counterparts. The menu will showcase Cabana’s signature dishes, including those featuring the brand’s Spicy Malagueta sauce, alongside new menu innovations, including Latin-inspired burgers, flatbreads, hot pots and salads. Standring, chief executive of The Hush Collection, said: “We have a growing international strategy for Cabana’s ‘espirito amazonico’ in the Middle East and are actively looking to sign new territories such as the UAE. Following a large capital investment in the London restaurants post-covid, including new menu and graphic development, tableware, music and uniforms, the brand has experienced strong growth, and the response to the opening of our first Saudi Cabana has exceeded all expectations. It’s an incredibly exciting time for Cabana as we look to grow our footprint overseas.”
 
James Cochran to open sports bar concept, and first permanent home for lockdown fried chicken project, next month: Great British Menu winner James Cochran, who co-owns Islington restaurant 12:51, will open sports bar concept Valderrama’s next month. Named after flamboyant former Colombian footballer Carlos Valderrama, the 48-cover bar will be based at 163 Upper Street in Islington, not far from sister restaurant 12:51. Opening on Thursday, 7 July, it will also be a first permanent home for Cochran’s lockdown fried chicken project, Around the Cluck. The menu will be built around Cochran’s buttermilk fried chicken, served in burgers with toppings including blue cheese mousse, bacon scratchings, scotch bonnet jam, truffle fondue, smoked mushroom relish and chip shop curry sauce. Sides being include gourmet takes on hash browns and jerk-spice fries, while among the drinks will be frozen margaritas and beers from Beavertown on tap. Cochran said: “Valderrama’s is exactly the type of bar I’ve been searching for my whole life. I’m so happy to have found a permanent home for Around the Cluck, and where better than a bar I’ve created with some of the best in the business? This is a game changer. It’s a sports bar, but we’re inclusive — there’s no discrimination here, just good drinks, great food and an amazing atmosphere. I can’t wait to open the doors and show everyone what we’ve made for them.” Cochran, who launched Around the Cluck in June 2020, worked in Michelin-starred restaurants including The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms before launching James Cochran EC3 in 2016 and 12:51 in 2018.

Jollibee secures Sheffield opening: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, is set to open in Sheffield later this summer. The brand, which operates 11 sites in the UK, has secured an opening in the city’s Meadowhall scheme. Propel understands that the business is also in talks on opening a site in the Lakeside shopping scheme, and on the former Carphone Warehouse site in Manchester’s Market Street. Last year, Jollibee, which operates about 1,200 sites worldwide, said it plans to be in “every major city in the UK” and was planning a further 15 to 20 openings here in 2022. The company said it would invest £30m to open 50 sites in the UK by 2025 and expects to invest almost £1m per site.

Fleet Street completes management buyout and unveils new brand identity: The senior team at Fleet Street has completed a management buyout of the business and unveiled a new visual brand identity. The move means that a new management team – comprising long-serving director Tess Pennington, plus founders Mark Stretton and Steve Dann – will lead the ongoing development and growth of the company, as it marks its 11-year anniversary. The process saw co-founders Francis Patton and Arti Halai step away from the business, with Pennington acquiring a significant stake in the group. A new look board is completed with the appointment of marketing and hospitality expert, Ann Elliott, as non-executive director, who will help further strengthen Fleet Street’s insights and strategy proposition. Having completed the buyout, the evolved partnership will take Fleet Street into a new phase of growth, with the business focusing on business-to-business, corporate and consumer services in the industries in which it specialises – food, drink, leisure and hospitality – while further building its creative, digital and environmental, social and governance divisions and credentials. As part of this new phase, and following the appointment of Steve Sharp to head up a new brand strategy and creative services arm, the Fleet Street brand has received a new visual identity, which has been rolled out across all its platforms, including its website. Stretton said: “We’ve come some way over the past decade and are proud to now count some of the very best brand owners and businesses as clients. At the same time, we still feel like we’re only just getting started and are extremely excited about the opportunities we have in front of us. Francis and Arti’s expertise in the hospitality and communications industries helped establish our agency as experts in the sector, bringing industry knowledge and a broad network of contacts. We are incredibly humbled to have worked with them, and I am extremely grateful for their contributions over the last decade.”

Black Sheep Coffee confirms Colchester opening this summer for Essex debut: London speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has confirmed it will continue its regional expansion plans with an opening in Colchester this summer, its first site in Essex. Propel reported in September 2021 that Colchester was among the places Black Sheep intended to open this year as it announced plans for 30 new openings, including a first UK franchise site. The company has now confirmed the site will be located on the ground floor of a 1,900 square-foot unit at 79 Culver Street East, in the Lion Walk shopping centre. By day, the 86-cover venue will offer the brand’s coffee menu, and by night, it will switch to a late cocktail bar serving espresso martinis as well as craft beers, wine, champagne and prosecco. It will also have an outside seating area. Founded in 2013 by Gabriel Shohet and Eirik Holth, Black Sheep Coffee started out as a small stall in Camden and has now grown to 50 locations across the UK, with plans to expand its portfolio in major cities and key regional locations. Shohet and Holth said: “We can’t wait to open in Colchester. This will be the first Black Sheep Coffee to open in Essex and we are super excited.” Caitriona Hunter, director at landlords CBRE Investment Management, added: “Our strategy for Lion Walk is to offer interesting retail concepts, such as Black Sheep Coffee, for our visitors.” GCW and CBRE are letting agents for Lion Walk, while Lambert Smith Hampton’s are managing agents for the destination, and Prime Retail represented Black Sheep Coffee.

Walter and Monty founder set to open Clerkenwell deli: Alex Kaye – founder of WM Group, which is behind London charcoal-grilled street food concept Walter and Monty – is set to open a new deli in Clerkenwell. Kaye, who launched a first permanent site for Walter and Monty in 2016, is also part of the team behind Compton Restaurant, which opened last month at the former Modern Pantry site in 47-48 St John’s Square. The same team will tomorrow (Wednesday, 15 June) open a new deli next door to the restaurant. Serving a range of artisanal goods from small scale producers as well as freshly baked breads, pastries, hot filled sandwiches and salads, Compton Deli will be open for dine-in or grab-and-go. Loaves of sourdough and rye breads will be available alongside rosemary and olive oil focaccia and a mix of savoury and sweet pastries, including kimchi and cheese croissants, chocolate and pistachio babka and lemon and blueberry loaves. Among the hot sandwiches and bagels will be salt beef on rye and smoked cream and cheese bagels, while a rotating menu of seasonal salads will offer a taste of the Mediterranean. Available at the counter will be house-cured charcuterie and British cheeses from Lancashire’s Carron Lodge. Kaye will be creative director at both the restaurant and deli, working alongside executive head chef Michael Shaw and head chef Sam Monastyrskyj. Shaw has previously worked at London’s Michelin-starred Trinity and sister restaurant Bistro Union; Edinburgh’s The Rutland Hotel and New Zealand’s Zibibbo, which he founded with Michelin-starred chef Adam Newell. Monastyrskyj’s CV includes Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred Le Manoir Quat Saison, Marcus Wareing’s one Michelin-starred Marcus in Knightsbridge and Tom Kerridge’s two Michelin-starred pub The Hand and Flowers. Shaw said: “We are so excited to open Compton Deli and bring something different to the neighbourhood. Perfect for that quick lunch or to swing by and grab a fresh loaf on a Saturday morning – we can’t wait to meet the locals.”

Big Fang Collective plans Golf Fang opening in Leeds: Big Fang Collective, the Imbiba-backed, Liverpool-based entertainment venue operator that owns the Ghetto Golf and Golf Fang brands, is planning to open a site under the latter concept, in Leeds. The company, which was founded by Kip Piper and Daniel Bolger, is planning to open a further site under the brand in Redcote Lane, Burley. Earlier this year, the company received a £5m investment from sector investor Imbiba, to aid its growth in the UK and internationally. Founded in 2016 with the creation of Ghetto Golf, which involved the renovation of the 25,000 square-foot Cains Brewery in Liverpool, Big Fang Collective delivers entertainment concepts with a “vision to change the way the UK enjoys itself”. The company currently operates five sites in Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Glasgow, across its Ghetto Golf, Golf Fang and Birdies Bar brands. The investment from Imbiba will allow The Big Fang Collective to continue its expansion, as the group actively looks to acquire new venues in cities across the UK, with seven new venues already planned in the next two years.

Holiday park operator Harrison acquires eighth site: Holiday park operator Harrison Holidays has acquired a country club and caravan site in Lancashire. Harrison Holidays has bought Rawcliffe Hall Country Club and Caravan Park, close to the village of Out Rawcliffe, for its eighth site in the north of England. The 42.7-acre site comprises holiday homes for sale and the historic mansion Rawcliffe Hall, which dates to 1154 and contains the park’s licensed club and bar. The site comprises a bar, lounge, snooker, darts and games rooms, as well as playing fields, woodland walks, a launderette, and a shop. Harrison Leisure, the holiday park’s parent group, has plans to redevelop and restore Rawcliffe Hall “to its former glory”. Ideas include a converting the hall to use as a boutique hotel in the future.

Freehold investment in iconic entertainment venue The Jazz Café brought to the market: The freehold investment of the property housing the iconic entertainment venue, The Jazz Café, in London’s Camden, has been brought to the market. Offers in excess of £6.15m, which would reflect a net initial yield of 4.35%, are being sought for the freehold investment. The Jazz Café is part of the Columbo Group, which also operates XOYO in Shoreditch and The Blues Kitchen sites in Camden, Shoreditch and Brixton. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, which is marketing the opportunity, said: “The Jazz Café is an iconic venue in the heart of Camden. The sale presents a unique opportunity to own an asset that has hosted some of the biggest names in music including Adele, Ben E King and Amy Winehouse. Properties of this nature and character are particularly robust investments as comparable space is in short supply. This leads to strong occupational demand and, subsequently, rental growth.”

Sykes Holiday Cottages expands into caravan market: Holiday property rental business Sykes Holiday Cottages has entered into the static caravan holiday market with its latest acquisition. Caravan rental website UKcaravans4hire has been snapped up by Sykes for an undisclosed sum. The move marks a new direction for Sykes, which is diversifying its range of rental properties. UKcaravans4hire was established more than ten years ago and connects holiday makers to more than 6,000 holiday homes located across the UK. Following the acquisition, UKcaravans4hire will continue to be run independently by its existing leadership teams but will sit under a newly formed parent company. The deal follows Sykes’ acquisition of Forest Holidays, the owner and operator of environmentally sensitive cabins. The combined group of businesses under Sykes’ leadership, whose own platform provides access to more than 22,500 holiday homes, are estimated to take more than 2.65 million customers on holiday in 2022. The group employs more than 1,700 people and is on track to deliver in excess of £170m of revenue in 2022. Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes, said: “It’s a transformative time for Sykes as we accelerate our ambitions to become the leading name for UK tourism. We see huge potential in UKcaravans4hire to serve what is currently an under-served market, applying our expertise and market-leading technology to grow the business and catapult it to even greater success.” Gareth Irving, chief executive and founder of UKcaravans4hire, added: “Looking ahead, we’re ideally placed to reap the rewards of growing demand for affordable staycations, working with Sykes to grow our business and promote our holiday homes to a wider audience.” Sykes is backed by Vitruvian Partners and was advised by Springboard Corporate Finance, Hill Dickinson and Mayer Brown International on the deal. UKcaravans4hire was advised by Symmetry Corporate Finance.

Rockfish restaurants to remove cod from menus due to supply issues: South west-based seafood restaurant group Rockfish will remove cod from all menus this summer due to global supply issues. Founder Mitch Tonks said it was a “great opportunity for people to embrace and celebrate other varieties of British fish”. Current pressures brought on by the significant proportion of the world’s whitefish supply accounted for by Russian boats; rising import tariffs due to sanctions and the subsequent increase in demand and price of fish from other non-Russian fisheries, including Norway, where Rockfish sources their cod, has made for an incredibly difficult supply chain to manage, the company said. To avoid making it uneconomical for the group and customers, the decision has been made to take a break from cod until supplies return to a more manageable rate. Tonks said: “This is a brilliant time for British fishing, and now is our chance to celebrate lesser consumed but excellent British fish such as hake, which is in abundance currently, plus plaice, gurnard and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified haddock.”

Liars Group to open first Midlands Crazy Pedro’s site this week: Manchester-based The Liars Club Group will open the first Midlands site for its Crazy Pedro’s pizza concept this week. The new pizzeria will open its doors in The Courtyard, at The Custard Factory in Digbeth, on Friday (17 June). The 5,000 square-foot four-storey venue, the Liars Group’s fourth Crazy Pedro’s venue, will have a whole floor dedicated to its bottomless brunch offering, which includes unlimited slices, frozen margaritas, beer and prosecco. The concept specialises in all things tequila and mezcal, showcasing one of the largest agave collections in the UK, and will serve up frozen margaritas on tap. It’s somewhat unusual pizza creations, such as crème eggs and steak, and chippy tea with curry sauce, will be served daily until 3am, alongside a delivery offering via Deliveroo. Jobe Ferguson, Liars Group owner, said: “Birmingham has welcomed us with open arms, and we are thoroughly excited to officially bring the Crazy Pedro’s concept to the city. We’re looking forward to serving up our frozen margaritas and trademark pizzas to the people of Digbeth, Birmingham and beyond.”

Cardiff casino returns to profit, revenue down by £10m, reports trend towards enhanced tech offering: Long-established Cardiff casino, Les Croupiers Casino, has reported a return to profit in its accounts for the year ending 30 September 2021, although turnover was down by £10m. Revenue dropped from £24.5m in 2020 to £14.4m, but pre-tax profits recovered from a £67,000 loss in 2020 to a £805,000 profit. The company received £586,000 in government grants. Gross profit fell to £3.44m (2020 £5.30m), while gross profit margin increased by 2.2% to 23.8% (2020 21.6%). The company noted that the 12-month period is being compared to a prior 18-month one (effectively six months versus 12 months of actual trading due to lockdowns). It said: “When taking this into account, the directors are satisfied with the results. The directors believe the positive results reflect the continued attention to customer service and customer engagement with an increasing technology-based gaming environment, together with an ability to react swiftly to changing needs. Customer interest with enhanced slot machine offers has continued to grow in the past 12 months. The directors are committed to the future of the casino and will continue to invest in order to ensure the gaming experience had by members continues to be exceptional. A potential increase in the permitted number of slot machines is being encouraged by our national trade body, and our poker room attendance continues to grow.”

Pub Invest Group launches ‘interactive games and party venue’ in Liverpool: Liverpool operator Pub Invest Group has launched an “interactive games and party venue” in the city. The company has opened Top Darts Club in Bold Street, located directly above its Cheers Big Ears venue, which is based in the former premises of the Craft Chandler. Tops Dart Club has its own space as an interactive games floor, offering a mix of digital darts and cocktails. The outlet also has weekend DJs and sports viewing. Head of marketing Philip Gillespie said: “Cheers Big Ears has already brought its one sense of fun and laid-back attitude to Bold Street, which retains its own eclectic blend of bars, restaurants and retail outlets, which we are really proud to be a part of. Opening Tops Dart Bar directly upstairs from Cheers made perfect sense to us, to make the best use of such a valuable space.”

New Forest hotel goes on market with £12.5m guide price: Independent operators Chris and Alison Wilson have put their family-owned New Forest hotel on the market, with a £12.5m guide price, after 25 years. The pair have decided to sell the 54-bedroom Brockenhurst venue, which has planning permission for another 38 bedrooms and increased function capacity, enlarged spa facilities and a barn housing six staff bedrooms. The four-star hotel recently launched its outside dining concept, The Lodge, which was built to be covid-compliant and served 7,812 covers in the first five weeks after opening in April 2021. The former hunting lodge was used as a field hospital during the First World War and an Army college in the Second World War, and has welcomed King George V and Sir Winston Churchill among its guests. Alison Wilson said: “Over the last 25 years, Chris and I have dedicated our lives to the continued refurbishment and development of Balmer Lawn, though we now feel the time is right to hand over the reins. We’ve worked incredibly hard to improve our array of facilities on offer, and there is no doubt a new owner will be keen to deliver the granted planning permission and secure the future position of the hotel. All the staff at the hotel have been informed about our decision and have been incredibly supportive. Combining general manager Michael Clitheroe’s desire to expand with that of his longstanding team and a new owner wanting to move the hotel to the next level, it would mean securing a very exciting future for all involved.” Property consultancy Knight Frank and independent hotel broker Simon Stevens Associates are marketing the property.

Birmingham’s Symphony Hall to get new all-day cafe and restaurant: A new all-day cafe and restaurant will open at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and Town Hall in July. B:Eats, created by BMusic, the music charity responsible for the venue, will be offering both a daytime and evening menu to run alongside music events. The breakfast menu includes a ‘Big Beats Brekkie fry-up alongside a vegan version, while among the brunch options will be eggs benedict, southwest chorizo hash and Brummie bacon cakes. The lunch menu includes buttermilk fried chicken wings, sticky maple fried chicken and Middle Eastern lamb tagine, while various hot and cold sandwiches and side dishes will be available Monday to Saturday from 10am.
 
Rishim Sachdeva to launch three-month summer pop-up in London: Vegan chef Rishim Sachdeva will this Friday (17 June) launch a three-month London summer pop-up for his ‘mostly vegan’ brand Tendril, while he continues the search for a permanent home for the restaurant in the capital. Sachdeva, who earlier this month hit his £150,000 crowdfunding target on Seedrs to help fund a site for the restaurant, held a successful chef residency at the Sun & 13 Cantons in Soho and recent crowdfunding campaign. The pop-up restaurant will be located at 5 Princes Street, just off Regent Street, part of The Crown Estate’s London portfolio which was previously home to Mark Jarvis’ Stem restaurant. Rishim will serve a selection of his signature Tendril dishes, as well as some brand-new ones developed especially, alongside a mostly vegan wine list. New dishes include a sticky soy beetroot fritter bao with daikon and sesame scallion; and a blue corn tostada with smoked beetroot nduja, chilli fennel pickle and tapenade; plus a new dessert of panacotta with berry peppercorn soup and fennel shortbread. The menu will evolve over the coming weeks, and guests will be able to choose from the a la carte menu, or opt for a ‘discovery’ set menu option. He said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the crowdfunding campaign this month, as we continue to search for a permanent restaurant home for Tendril. In the meantime, we were offered the opportunity of a summer pop-up restaurant for Tendril by the Crown Estate, which means we can continue to showcase our mostly vegan signature dishes, as well as develop some wonderful new dishes and offer some brilliant vegan wines in the pop-up restaurant space. The site is perfectly located in the Regent Street neighbourhood, right between Soho and Mayfair. We hope to see some familiar faces and Tendril regulars, as well as lots of new ones.”

Five Guys set for Lancashire debut: Better burger brand Five Guys is set to open its first Lancashire restaurant, in Preston, after having a planning application approved. Preston City Council has given the company the green light to take over the Frankie and Benny’s site at Deepdale Retail Park, Blackpool Road, as long as certain conditions regarding illuminated lighting are met. Five Guys has more than 1,000 venues worldwide, with more than 140 in the UK. The company recently added Sheffield and Windsor to its 2022 openings pipeline, which includes sites in Basildon, Tunbridge Wells, Cheshunt, Staines, Tamworth and Richmond. Propel also revealed in March that Five Guys had secured a further flagship site in the capital, in the former Pelican State site in Wigmore Street, Marylebone.

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