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Fri 17th Jun 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Managed groups’ like-for-like sales flat in May as cost crisis deepens, restaurants show modest growth but pubs behind pre-covid levels: Like-for-like sales at Britain’s leading managed restaurant, pub and bar groups in May were just 0.1% ahead of the pre-covid levels of 2019, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals. The result from May’s Tracker – produced by CGA by NielsenIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK – follows like-for-like growth of between 2% and 4% from February to April. However, given high levels of inflation since 2019, sales are significantly behind pre-pandemic levels in real terms. Restaurants recorded growth of 2% in May, while pubs were 1% down and bars were flat, the Tracker shows. Trading in London improved in May, with like-for-like sales flat within the M25 as more workers and tourists returned to the capital. Sales outside the M25, which were well ahead of London for the first four months of the year, were also flat—a sign of a tightening squeeze on consumers’ spending in many regions. The Tracker also highlights operators’ current reliance on delivery for sales growth. Dine-in only sales across all managed groups were 3% lower than in May 2019, while the CGA & Slerp Hospitality at Home Tracker – based on a different cohort of businesses – shows delivery sales have been four times higher than pre-covid levels in recent months. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “Managed restaurants, pubs and bars have shown impressive resilience since the start of the pandemic, and their appeal remains strong. However, rising costs in many areas are clearly tightening the squeeze on both operators’ profit margins and consumers’ discretionary spending. These all highlight that a number of challenges are likely to remain for the rest of 2022.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “May like-for-likes were flat, which with rising costs, is a negative. June, however, should see a bounce, with the Jubilee and warmer weather, and operators are optimistic for strong sales across the summer. The focus though is on staffing and rising costs. The issues with recruitment remain a critical problem for the hospitality sector.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Brindisa Kitchens backs Hospitality Rising, invest today: Spanish restaurant group Brindisa Kitchens is backing Hospitality Rising, but will you? 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. Ratnesh Bagdai, finance director at Brindisa Kitchens, said: “We at Brindisa Kitchens are incredibly proud to be supporting such a huge drive to raise the profile of our industry that we all know and love. Hospitality deserves to be understood as a career rather than a job, and we need to inspire the next generation to take up that mantle. Working in this industry not only provides an income, but a way of life, and is an all-encompassing lifestyle. Business, social and communication skills all develop in this path. We urge you to get involved in the campaign and join together. The recruitment crisis is not going away, and Hospitality Rising is exactly the sort of campaign the industry needs. As a uniter of people from all walks of life, hospitality provides joy, respite and escapism wherever you are and in whatever form you want it to be.” 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

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book being sent to Premium subscribers today: The latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 17 June), at midday. The Blue Book, which now features 589 companies, 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. In the next edition, 31 companies have also reported updated accounts. 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 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.

Yard Sale Pizza founder Johnnie Tate to speak at Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party, two free places each for operator: Johnnie Tate, founder of Yard Sale Pizza, 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. Tate will discuss growing a contemporary pizza business in London “villages”, operating its own delivery model, and getting ready to grow out of its comfort zone. Operators can claim up to two free places each by emailing A room can also be booked for the evening for £120.

Propel Friday Wrap video series continues with Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns: Propel’s Friday Wrap video series continues today (17 June) at 3pm. The series, which is sponsored by Mr Yum, the world’s most powerful ordering and payments platform, sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel’s group editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week they are joined by Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns, to discuss, amongst other things, the circa 1,600-strong pub company’s support for its tenants, the evolving role of a community-focused pub business, the role digital plays and what role the group will play in the any consolidation of the market.

Abramson – many businesses will go to the wall over next six to 12 months, but true capitalist economies benefit from a fallout every now and again: Commercial Tenants Association chairman David Abramson has warned that many sector businesses will go to the wall over the next six to 12 months as they struggle to cope with risings costs and lenders become less sympathetic. However, he insists true capitalist economies sometimes benefit from a fallout, and it will become a case of survival of the fittest. Abramson, who is also chief executive of leisure property adviser Cedar Dean, was writing exclusively in Propel’s Friday Opinion. He said: “There are a huge number of businesses which simply cannot get back to where they were in 2019, and with the rising costs, the economics are simply not working. A recent survey by Cedar Dean found that more than 80% of commercial tenants had recently taken on additional debt, and 45% are considering insolvency or liquidating their business. The way I see it is, it’s really the quick and the dead. What I mean by this is there are those who have moved quickly to change their operations, getting their price point right, offering more value to customers and keeping venues busy. Then there are those who are not moving fast enough, and essentially, they are the dead. Because if you are not able to compete with 2019 numbers by now, is it ever going to come back?” He continued: “Unfortunately, many of these businesses are going to go to the wall over the next six to 12 months, and the funders, who have historically been sympathetic to supporting these losses, we believe, are simply going to stop doing this. Like in all recessions, there are going to be winners and losers, and there will be those that pick up some great opportunities and push forward when all this calms down, but the impact will be felt for some time to come. However, the brutal reality is a true capitalist economy does benefit from a fallout every now and again, and it really needs to be a survival of the fittest. While it will be hard to see operators go to the wall, there will be some benefits in terms of reducing inflation and the job market becoming slightly looser. Government support has been key for the last two years, but it can’t go on forever, and those with focused strategies and great teams will be the ones left standing.” Abramson will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published today (Friday, 17 June) at 11am.

Covid underspend can ease sector’s rising energy costs and softening consumer confidence, says UKHospitality Scotland: Unspent funds to support Scottish businesses in the covid-19 pandemic should be used to ease hospitality’s rising energy costs and softening consumer confidence, UKHospitality Scotland has argued. A report from Audit Scotland examining the impact of the covid crisis on public spending states the Scottish government allocated £15.5bn to its covid-19 response in 2020-21 and 2021-22. So far, it has reported estimated actual spending of £11.8bn up to December 2021 on measures related to the pandemic. Leon Thompson, executive director for UKHospitality Scotland, said: “The funds spent by the Scottish government [during the pandemic] provided a lifeline to businesses, but the challenges for hospitality continue. With increased energy bills, of up to and in some instances exceeding 200%, rising supply costs and customers already scaling back on discretionary spend, now is the time to consider how it can allocate this underspend to support businesses. An obvious way for the Scottish government to help would be to extend business rate relief for the remainder of this financial year. Ministers should also look at ways to support businesses manage their uncapped energy bills. Our sector remains in a fragile state. If the Scottish government has unspent business support funds, then they must be used to help businesses through these new challenges.”

North Yorkshire operator fears pubs will no longer be able to afford to sell fish and chips with dish costs now more expensive than fillet steak: North Yorkshire operator Alex Cook has said he fears pubs will no longer be able to afford to sell fish and chips, with the cost of the dish tripling since the start of the year. Cook, who runs three pubs, said he has been forced to charge around £24 for the meal after the price of cod rose from £9 per kilo at the turn of the year to around £29 per kilo. And he believes it could soon drop off menus altogether as he claims even exclusive fillet steaks are now cheaper to list for many bar and restaurant owners. He said: “I do think at this cost to us, cod and chips is no longer a humble dish. It’s a real, real treat, and perhaps it hasn’t got a place on a pub menu. We certainly won’t be able to serve cod all the time. We just can’t do it. Something has got to give or the whole industry will implode on itself. Cod is currently more than fillet steak.” The UK imports 30% of its white fish from Russia, which controls 45% of the global market, and it is facing shortages of Ukrainian sunflower oil. Cook said the rising fish cost is just one of several price hikes affecting his pubs’ profits after a difficult few years for many in the industry. He said: “The oil we cook the fish in has also doubled in price, so it was £20, it’s now £42. Then you’ve got the fuel that you use to cook with – it’s gone from £900 per month to £4,000 per month. You’ve got to remember the last two years is horrendous because of the pandemic. So, the reserves that were once in the bank for businesses no longer exist. Gone are the days where you can have two or three bad months and it’s absorbed by the business. Smaller pubs than mine will just crumble within months. Somebody needs to stand up and say something. It’s never been as bad.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an international serviced apartment group that is looking for a director of sales, predominantly based in London with EMEA travels. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “Responsibilities will include reporting directly to the chief operating officer and overseeing a team of UK-based sales managers, co-ordinators, and a regional sales director. The EMEA director of sales has the responsibility to build a sales and marketing plan for multiple properties across the region. Specifically, they will be responsible for securing key accounts and driving those relationships forward to ensure the return of business.” The salary is negotiable. For more information, email

Company News:

Marugame Udon appoints Judd Williams as new head of franchise for UK & Europe: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon has appointed Judd Williams, formerly of Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), to the newly created role of head of franchise for UK & Europe, Propel has learned. Williams, who has more than 20 years of global hospitality franchisor and franchisee experience, joins from BRG where, as international development director for the last four and a half years, he delivered expansion through franchise across its multiple brands including Giraffe, Carluccio’s and Slim Chickens.  Williams has also previously held international franchise leadership roles in brands including Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Costa Express. Marugame Udon, which is led by Keith Bird and backed by Capdesia in the UK, made its UK and European debut in London last year with a flagship site opening off Liverpool Street, followed by sites in The O2, Canary Wharf and St Christopher’s Place. In mid-June, the fast-growing brand opened its fifth restaurant in London at retail and leisure destination Brent Cross. It has also secured further sites on The Strand and in Argyll Street, near Oxford Circus. Also in its pipeline is the former Carluccio’s site on The Balcony, at Waterloo station, which will be its transport hub debut in the UK. The brand has more than 12,000 restaurants worldwide and said earlier this year it plans to have at least 100 outlets in the UK and Europe within five years. In his new role, Williams will be responsible for leading growth of the Marugame Udon’s operations through franchise in the UK and Europe, recruiting and working in partnership with experienced multi-unit brand operators. The brand said it has “exciting plans to roll out further sites across London, the rest of the UK, and Europe”. Williams said: “This is a really exciting role with an iconic brand. I’m looking forward to working to help deliver our growth ambition to bring the Marugame Udon experience to more new customers through experienced franchise partners.” Bird, chief executive of Marugame Udon Europe added: “We’re thrilled to welcome Judd into our growing team. We have exciting expansion plans, and with his knowledge and experience, he will be an integral part of us achieving this.”

Paddy & Scott’s reports most successful year yet with sales up 82% on pre-pandemic levels, makes management changes: Independent Suffolk coffee shop operator and wholesaler Paddy & Scott’s has reported the most successful year in its history as the business marks its 15th anniversary this month. The company has seen an 82% increase in revenue versus pre-pandemic levels, with some of its coffee shops enjoying increased sales of 46.5%. This year also sees some changes at the top as co-founder Scott Russell shifts his focus towards community interest projects, including the Paddy & Scott’s Foundation, while managing director Jon Reed is promoted to chief executive, supported by operations director, Zoe Hill. The Meru Farm Project in Kenya has seen the firm assist a coffee growing community to create a viable farm that supports the local community. Alongside providing equipment and education, it has also funded the installation of a water filtration system, helped rebuild the local primary school, created model farms for future generations to learn the trade and is currently building a multipurpose hall and science laboratory at the school. Russell, who founded the business in 2007 with Paddy Bishopp, said: “When I started this hobby, I never thought we’d get to the teenage years or help change the lives of so many! In that time, we’ve helped several team members become successful entrepreneurs and launch their own businesses, donated thousands to good causes and worked to transform a coffee growing community in Kenya.” Reed added: “Paddy & Scott’s has always been about more than just great coffee. We want to help coffee farmers thrive and give people opportunity. Plans for the future include more direct trade, supporting more communities, roasting new coffee and taking the concept of a drive-thru to new heights.”

Giggling Squid makes changes to its executive team: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by BGF, has made several changes to its executive team, including two new operations directors. The 45-strong company, which recently opened in Maidstone, Harrogate and Alderley Edge, has promoted Simon Gallagher and Darko Salaj from regional managers to operation directors, reporting to chief commercial officer Vikas Agarwal. This follows the departure of chief operating officer Rory Marthinusen earlier this month. Marthinusen was previously managing director of Brasserie Bar Co’s Brasserie Blanc brand and River Cottage Canteen before joining Giggling Squid in April 2018. At the same time, Sylfest Muldal, previously head of property at Giggling Squid, becomes property director, and Hannah Johnson moves up from the company’s head of marketing to become marketing director. Both join the company’s new executive team structure. Andy Laurillard, chief executive of Giggling Squid, said: “These promotions reflect the individuals’ commitment and hard work to make this business a success during the most turbulent of times for the hospitality sector. I’m delighted to have them on our exec team and excited to see their ongoing ideas for our future. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Rory for his contribution to the business and wish him well for the future.” The company has openings lined up in Winchester, Manchester, Cardiff Mermaid Quay and Cardiff St David’s. It is also thought to be exploring opportunities in Edinburgh, Bracknell and Glasgow.

Plant-based burger concept Halo Burger crowdfunding for flagship site: Plant-based burger concept Halo Burger has launched a crowdfunding campaign, as it looks to secure funding to open a flagship site. The company, which currently operates three sites, is looking to raise £250,001 through Seedrs and is offering 5.86% of equity, with a valuation (pre-money) of £4m. It has so far, at the time of writing, raised £239,587 from 87 investors. The business, which says it is the first UK plant-based restaurant to serve Beyond Meat and Impossible Food, generated revenue of £1.5m in 2020/21 and saw 70% year-on-year growth in sales between 2019/20 and 2020/21. Halo Burger launched its first bricks and mortar site, in Shoreditch, east London, in 2020 – at the former Selekt Chicken site in Great Eastern Street. It also operates out of Pop Brixton and the Fountain Head pub in Brighton’s North Road. Founder Ross Forder said: “During the pandemic, our established delivery business proved an essential and stable revenue stream, supplementing dine-in and ensuring substantial revenues continued even when dine-in was banned mid-pandemic. Our sites differ from bricks and mortar, a shipping container and a pub kitchen take over. Testing the business model in very different sites has allowed us to figure out the perfect ingredients for a Halo restaurant, while maintaining agility during unexpected global events. This adaptable approach has also allowed us to identify opportunities for the next stage of our business. Our intention is to scale Halo Burger by launching new sites, including a mixture of low capital outlay sites and full Halo experiential joints fitted out to our brand specifications. With sufficient funding, we plan to make one of our next sites a very special flagship. The aim is for one of our three sites to be a flagship and folks would go to the till. The other two will be low capex sites, such as pub kitchen takeovers or concessions on forecourts.” Earlier this spring, the company appointed Nicola Pegues, formerly of Bababoom, Fridays and Nando’s, as its operations director. Marcel Khan, formerly of Five Guys, Nando’s and Thunderbird Fried Chicken, is a strategic adviser to the business.

K10 returns to the expansion trail with a new site in the City: K10, the London-based sushi concept, has returned to the expansion trail after securing a new site in the City. Propel has learned the business has taken on the former Wasabi site in Old Broad Street on a short-term lease. It is thought the company is also exploring a further opening in the capital as it looks to grow steadily after undergoing a restructure in the summer of 2020. K10, which was founded in 1999 and at one time operated five sites in the City, also operates sites in Fetter Lane and Queen Street. 

Kaye opens third site under fledgling Storia concept: Former Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye has opened up a third site under his fledgling Italian restaurant concept Storia. As Propel revealed earlier this spring, Kaye, the ex-chief executive of Dining Street – the formerly listed Richoux Group, which was the company behind the Richoux, Friendly Phil’s, Villagio and The Broadwick restaurant brands – has opened on the former The Broadwick site in 9-10 Bridge Street, Maidenhead. Last year, he secured two sites in Hertfordshire for his new venture, launching it on the former Prezzo site in Tring High Street before a second site opened on the former Dining Street-owned The Broadwick in Radlett. The restaurant’s website stated: “Storia is an independent restaurant. We are not part of any large corporate group, and the personal touch is key to everything we do.” The restaurants showcase a selection of home-grown and international wines from countries including France, Spain, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand. Kaye has launched the new concept with business partner, and former Prezzo director, Mehdi Gashi. 

Largest bakery and cafe chain in Israel gears up to make UK debut: Roladin, the largest bakery and cafe chain in Israel, is gearing up to make its UK debut with an opening near London’s Leicester Square. The brand, which operates circa 95 sites in Israel, will open a boutique bakery concept, Donutelier by Roaldin, this summer on the former Patisserie Valerie site on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Great Newport Street. The concept, which is famous for its gourmet doughnuts, was founded in 1989 by brothers Kobi and Avi Hakak. It is thought that Arik Waiss, founder of The Urban Concepts, will oversee the launch of the business in the UK. Raven Rose acted on the deal.

Whitbread to open first Brewers Fayre pub in five years: Whitbread, which also operates the Premier Inn and Beefeater brands, will open its first Brewers Fayre pub in five years next month. It will open The Willen Dragon, located by Willen Lake in Milton Keynes, on Monday, 4 July, the company’s 153rd Brewers Fayre pub. The family friendly pub will offer 357 covers, including 164 outside, and will feature a refreshed, contemporary design. This will include banquette seating, group dining tables, an open kitchen, a carvery area and a long statement bar. Outside will be a large all-weather garden with outdoor bar, covered areas, beach-style huts, an outdoor children’s play area and water station for dogs. The pub’s all-day dining format will see breakfast, lunch and dinner served seven days a week, with a spotlight on pub classics, including a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes, and a carvery on Sundays. Rebecca Donaldson, commercial marketing director at Whitbread, said: “We are excited to be opening our first Brewers Fayre site in five years as we look to grow and develop the brand. As our new flagship pub, the opening marks a fresh and contemporary redesign of Brewers Fayre, updating the much-loved brand for our diners while still delivering on the great value and quality food and service we are known for. We look forward to joining the fellow businesses and attractions at Willen Lake for the summer and welcoming our new locals into the pub.”

Dunkin’ Donuts and Gong Cha secure sites at Nottingham scheme: Global coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts and bubble tea brand Gong Cha are to open new sites in Nottingham. The brands have secured sites at the Exchange Arcade, which is located underneath the Council House and already home to foodservice operators Pret A Manger and Patisserie Valerie. Gong Cha is the most recognised bubble tea brand globally, with 1,500 outlets in 20 territories including Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and the US. Gong Cha, which translates as “tribute tea for the emperor”, now has ten sites in the UK, which offer a range of bubble tea that can be enjoyed with or without milk. Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 20 UK sites, with openings also “coming soon” in Leeds and West Bridgford, according to its website. Box Property acted on the Exchange Arcade deals.

Loungers secures Cwmbran site: Loungers, the cafe bar operator which also operates Cosy Club, has secured a site at the Cwmbran Centre in Gwent Square, Cwmbran. The group has taken a 4,700 square-foot unit which has lay empty for a decade on a 15-year lease. It will open the Carro Lounge in the former Square Inn after reaching an agreement with LCP, which owns and manages the centre, with a view to opening before Christmas. Carro Lounge will join Geek Retreat – a concept that offers food and beverages alongside card games, board games and collectibles – which signed a ten-year lease at the Cwmbran Centre last month with a view to opening in June. Earlier this month, Loungers opened its 167th Lounge and 198th site overall, with a Correo Lounge in Newport, Isle of Wight.

Jurassic World-themed immersive experience coming to London in August: A 20,000 square-foot immersive experience based on the blockbuster movie Jurassic World will launch at ExCel London on 25 August. Jurassic World: The Exhibition will see guests roam amongst life-sized dinosaurs, explore prehistoric environments and interact with baby dinosaurs. Initially launched in Melbourne, Jurassic World: The Exhibition has since travelled to cities including Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Paris, Madrid, Seoul, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Universal Parks & Resorts’ president of global business development, Michael Silver, said: “What excites us about Jurassic World: The Exhibition is the opportunity to give fans a real-world, immersive experience based on the amazing adventures of the franchise and delivered to a location near them. Visitors will come face-to-face with life-sized dinosaurs and walk through richly themed environments.” Ron Tan, executive chairman and group chief executive of Cityneon, a global leader in immersive experiences, added: “I am equally excited that we are launching Jurassic World: The Exhibition in the UK for the first time so soon after the theatrical release of Jurassic World: Dominion. Stay tuned for a once in a lifetime experience and see your favourite dinosaurs come to life right in front of your eyes!”

Merseyside’s only Michelin-starred restaurant to close: Fraiche, which is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Merseyside, is to close permanently at the end of September. Marc Wilkinson opened the restaurant, which has just 14 covers, in the village of Oxton 18 years ago. He previously decided to move the restaurant to larger premises closer to Liverpool and hire a bigger team to grow the operation but had gone back on the plans, saying it would be too stressful. In a post on Facebook, Wilkinson said: “The time has now come for me to step away from the restaurant side of Fraiche and give myself some much-needed time and space to explore other projects, ideas and interests, which previously I have been unable to pursue, and finally make the transition from one man and his restaurant to one man and his dog. The intensity, drive and focus required to keep creating, developing and evolving Fraiche has been exciting but all consuming, not to mention physically and mentally draining. I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved at Fraiche over the years and feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to put Merseyside proudly on the culinary map.”

Former The Palomar head chef to open new Levantine restaurant in London next week: Tomer Amedi, former head chef and co-owner at The Palomar in London, will open a new Levantine restaurant in the capital on Monday (20 June). Pascor, a fire-focused concept serving up cocktails, “explorative wines” and Levantine small plates, will open in High Street Kensington. It signals a return to the kitchen for Amedi, who while at The Palomar, which he launched in 2014, wrote The Palomar Cookbook and made numerous appearances on TV’s Saturday Kitchen. In 2018, he returned to his home country of Israel to start a restaurant and hotel consultancy. He has since developed and launched the Sabbaba restaurant at the Grand Hotel Montesol in Ibiza and is also set to launch Jane at the La Fonda hotel in Marbella, Spain. At Pascor, which means “to indulge” in Latin, Amedi has partnered with owner Tatiana Rurenko, who first met Amedi when a regular customer at The Palomar. The restaurant spans two floors, seating 50 covers inside in a combination of booths and long sharing tables, while the downstairs has a large open kitchen and a small terrace, plus an additional bar situated on the first floor. Using seasonal British produce, the menu will include samneh butter scallops with charred leek cream, merguez gremolata and lemon balm; and kombu-wrapped halibut with pickled kohlrabi, tarragon and chilli almonds. Amedi said: “I’m so excited to bring some fantastic vibes, delicious food and exceptional wine by the glass to our fellow Kensingtonians. They deserve to have a fun place to go out to at a walking distance.” Rurenko added: “Everybody needs to have their comfort place, where they know normal life can be put on pause for a few hours and life can be lived without a care in the world. I love Tomer’s approach and knew I wanted to work with him to recreate the same feeling for the people of Kensington.”

Former MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist to lead menu at new London African restaurant: Victor Okunowo, who was a MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist in 2020, will head up the kitchen at a new West African restaurant in London. Okunowo, who has previously worked at Talking Drum in Peckham, The Wolseley and Chiltern Firehouse, will be head chef at Isibani when it opens on 11 July. Set up by co-founders Anthony Douglas Chuka and Abdul Malik Abubakar, the restaurant will be based over two floors at 9 Knightsbridge Green. It will have 22 covers downstairs, 24 upstairs, space for four people on the street outside and a 16-cover roof terrace. The ground floor restaurant will provide a more refined fine dining experience, whereas the first floor and roof terrace will offer a more relaxed menu. Okunowo said: “The menu is a very personal one and draws inspiration from my childhood and the flavours I grew up eating in Nigeria. I want it to be a fun place where people can enjoy great food, wine and company.” His menu will include smoked monkfish fillet with charred okra, kachumbari, sea herbs and brown shrimp, and jerk poussin taco with pimento mayo, baby gem, heritage tomatoes and escabeche.

SFG Club confirms July opening for second site under Birdies concept: SFG Club, which operates competitive socialising venue Roof East in Stratford, east London, has confirmed the second site under its Birdies brand will open on 15 July. Propel revealed in January that the crazy golf experience, street food eatery and cocktail bar concept would be doubling up with an opening in Angel Shopping Centre, Islington. The nine-hole, 500 square-metre venue will feature holes of varying terrain and a “kaleidoscope of colour”, using lighting, exaggerated colours, movement and a “constant dark-to-light shift”. It also features a one-shot roulette style victory hole at the end. A variety of burgers on offer include the Elvis, which features a patty smothered in peanut butter and caramelised onions, alongside vegan options, while among the drinks offering are cocktails like the pink gin and elderflower-infused English Garden Party. Birdies opened its debut site in Battersea in 2019.

Alcohol-free craft beer brewer Big Drop to launch £800,000 crowdfunding campaign to support expansion: Alcohol-free craft beer brewer Big Drop is launching an £800,000 fundraise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support its expansion plans. The company was launched in 2016 by Rob Fink and James Kindred, two long-time friends who wanted to create alcohol-free craft beer “that didn’t compromise on taste”. Big Drop, which said revenue is up on average 100% year-on-year in the last five years, brewed 2.9 million pints of beer in 2021. The business currently brews in Australia, Canada, the US and the UK, and is available in more than 20 countries. Big Drop plans to use the funds to drive growth in key areas including with UK supermarkets and pub groups and capitalise on its growth in Australia and the USA. The company is offering 5% equity in return for the investment, giving the business a pre-money valuation of £14.2m. Last year, Big Drop raised £3.5m in equity investment in a Series A funding round, taking the total raised by the company to £6.5m. Big Drop has previously raised funds through a mix of private investment and crowdfunding campaigns.

TV pastry chef Cherish Finden launches debut patisserie: Singaporean pastry chef Cherish Finden – who has appeared on TV programmes including Bake Off: The Professionals, MasterChef and Heston’s Great British Chef – has launched her first standalone patisserie. Located in Devonshire House, adjacent to the Pan Pacific in London’s Houndsditch, Shiok! is influenced by the flavours of Finden’s Singapore childhood. Open from 7am-6pm Monday to Friday and 10am-6pm at weekends, the 25-cover patisserie serves breakfast as well as sweet treats throughout the day. The sweet treats include a selection of petit gateaux, chocolate bon bons, cookies and Finden’s take on the Singaporean pineapple tart. The breakfast offer features polo buns with various fillings, sausage shokupans, pork floss buns and croissants. Bubble teas in a variety of flavours are also available to drink alongside a selection of champagne and wine. Finden, who is currently pastry chef at Pan Pacific London, has also worked at Raffles, Marco Polo, The Sheraton Tower, The Great Eastern Hotel, The Langham, Godiva and helped plan and roll out John Lewis’ brasserie and bistro concept.

East Sussex gourmet fish and chip concept eyes 15-strong estate as it prepares to begin expansion: East Sussex gourmet fish and chip concept Fisssh is eyeing a 15-strong estate as it prepares to begin expansion. Owner Kevin Gibbons is adding to his restaurant and takeaway in Crowborough with an opening in nearby Tunbridge Wells, just across the county boundary in Kent. The outlet in Monson Road is opening “very soon”. Gibbons told Kent Live: “We are looking to roll the brand out across Kent and Sussex over the next seven years, opening as many as 15 new locations. This is a great opportunity not only for me, but also the local towns and villages that crave the nation's favourite dish, cooked to perfection by our highly skilled team.” Fisssh’s menu includes traditional fish dishes along with pies, gourmet burgers, sausages, chicken and vegetarian options.

Elmesthorpe Brewery Company acquires Nuneaton site for Crafty pub concept: Leicester brewer and retailer Elmesthorpe Brewery Company has acquired a site in Nuneaton for its Crafty pub concept. The company has bought the George Eliot Hotel, which has shut and will reopen as The Crafty George Eliot. A spokesman told Coventry Live: “It is a great opportunity and location to be part of with the new developments and changes happening. We have 12 sites within our group, and the hope is to have a Crafty location in different places. Together, owners Nirad and Payal Solanki have worked extremely hard to support all the businesses and careers during covid and create mass job opportunities. Although trade has decreased dramatically since pre-covid, Payal and Nirad strongly believe in the hospitality trade.”

Nando’s opens first site in Northern Ireland since start of covid-19 pandemic: Nando’s has opened its first site in Northern Ireland since the start of the covid-19 pandemic. The restaurant, which is the brand’s eighth in the country, has launched at Coleraine’s Riverside Retail Park, creating 40 jobs. Nando’s opened its last outlet in Northern Ireland at The Junction retail park in Antrim in late February 2020, reports the Irish news.

Beeston bar and brewery owner eyes second site in town: Robert Witt, who owns the Totally Tapped micropub and bottle shop in Beeston’s Chilwell Road, plans to open a new pub on the same road. He has submitted plans to convert an empty estate agent into a craft beer specialist pub where customers can drink in or take away their beer. Witt also runs the Totally Brewed microbrewery in Meadow Lane in Nottingham, which opened in 2014.

Hooters gets go-ahead for Manchester opening despite objections: US sports bar and grill chain Hooters has been given the green light to open in Greater Manchester, despite objections from local campaigners and MPs. The brand, which is operated in the UK by West End Wings, a subsidiary of US firm Amergent Hospitality Group, applied in April to take on the ex-Frankie & Benny’s unit at Salford Quays. Hooters announced plans for 36 new UK locations in 2008 but only Cardiff and Bristol opened, and both have since closed, leaving a single UK branch in Nottingham. The chain has been accused in the past of sexism and objectification due to its scantily clad waitresses, and the Salford Quays site, which will be located at 3 Capital Quay, received 91 objections. Among them was the Labour MP for Worsely and Eccles South, Barbara Keeley, who tweeted: “The application for a Hooters restaurant in Salford has been approved, I am deeply disappointed by this decision. This negates the good work being done in GM on ending misogyny. There should be no place for this archaic and sexist treatment of women employees.” An application to open a site in Liverpool’s New Zealand House earlier this year met with similar objections but was also given the go-ahead in March. Rachael Moss, who will manage the Liverpool Hooters, defended the chain, saying: “The Hooters brand is empowering and celebrating beautiful, strong women. We thrive on making people happy, and I proud to be part of this venture.”

Essex bottomless pizza restaurant to start expansion with Colchester opening: Essex bottomless pizza restaurant Moto is to double up with an opening in Colchester. The concept launched in Chelmsford in 2018, and now Moto is beginning its expansion with its second opening. In a post on Instagram, Moto stated: “We are so nervous but excited and can’t wait to spread our wings down the A12 and give Colchester a slice of the good stuff! It's been a wild ride over the past four years in Chelmsford! We hope we’ve brought something new and great to Chelmsford and blown fresh life into Baddow Road. It’s been a tough but brilliant journey so far and we can’t wait to see what Colchester has in store for us!” Moto is described as “your very own pizza roulette where no piece is the same”.

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