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Fri 8th Jul 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Harding – we could have 200 Ocean Basket sites in the UK: Grace Harding, chief executive of Ocean Basket, has said the business could eventually have 200 sites in the UK. The South African casual dining brand that focuses on seafood made its UK debut earlier this year. The brand, which was founded in Pretoria in 1995 by Fats Lazarides, launched in Britain with an opening in the former Cafe Rouge site in Bromley’s Market Square. It has also lined up a second opening here, on the ex-Preto site in Kingston, which is scheduled to open at the end of the summer/early autumn. The brand currently operates 200 restaurants in 19 countries including Cyprus, South Africa, Mauritius, Kazakhstan, Dubai and Malta, under a franchise/licence model. Speaking at the recent Propel Multi-Club Conference that featured an all-female line-up of leaders and entrepreneurs, Harding said: “They locked us down on the 26 March [last year]. On the 3 May, I said to my colleagues, we're going to the UK. We've been talking about it for years, but Fats was so scared. We found a site on Zoom and we reviewed the site with Google! The scariest decision of our lives was done in the most confined times. Now I am more scared, but the restaurant is cool.” Ocean Basket said it is “committed to offering quality seafood at a great price in a relaxed, modern Mediterranean home”. The business is working with CDG Leisure to find prime spaces, first within the M25, then nationwide in the next two years. Ocean Basket will be included in the next edition of Propel’s UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is available exclusively to Propel Premium subscribers. The database is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK. The third edition will be published this month – providing insight on the offer, locations, cost, business background, contacts and other key details. It will be updated and sent out again 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.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – The Belfry supports Hospitality Rising, invest today: The Belfry hotel and resort is supporting 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. Chris Eigelaar, resort director at The Belfry, said: “At The Belfry we have long been proactive advocates of promoting the benefits of a job in the hospitality industry. I started my hospitality career more than 20 years ago and have benefited from working for some of the most highly recognised hotel brands in the UK. This has given me the confidence, skills, and continued passion to continue to develop and support those who are starting their journey in the hospitality world.” 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 The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, 19,100-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 8 July), at midday. It will show the details of 371 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. The database shows the details of which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location. There will also be a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. It is published on a monthly basis. The next edition of the database features expanding restaurant and cafe brands, niche cuisine, and growing experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 19,100-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases – the Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. 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 now 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. Premium subscribers will also be given exclusive access to five videos, which will also be sent out today, at 9am. They will feature Mario Aleppo, founder of the fast-growing pizza franchise Fireaway; James Hacon, global chief marketing officer of Mapal Group; Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners; Alan Laughlin, chief executive of Vapiano; and Sarah Willingham, founder of Nightcap.

Mackenzie – working together we can untap the potential of the pubs sector: Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, has said by working together the industry can untap the potential of the pubs sector. Writing exclusively in this week’s Propel Premium Opinion, Mackenzie said: “Now, our industry is facing further supply chain, cost of living and recruitment challenges. But we have emerged from the pandemic in a strong position, and we are confident that we can succeed in the years ahead. To achieve this, it will be vital that we as an industry are providing skills, training and job opportunities to people from all sections of society.” He points out pubs and hospitality businesses have a huge role to play in creating jobs and “levelling up” the country, and “we know true progress requires everyone to work together”. Meanwhile, Charlie McVeigh, the founder of Draft House and chairman of The Breakfast Club and Butchies, looks at the current sector landscape and the pricing challenge. Premium Opinion will be sent to subscribers at 5pm today (Friday, 8 July). Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Mouna – pubs must avoid short term pricing structures that will drive customers away in the long term: Former Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna has warned pub operators against short term pricing structures that will drive customers away in the long term. Mouna, who is now a hospitality coach and commentator, said they should consider what he calls “needflation” – covering rising costs and inflation, over “greedflation” – making short-term pricing decisions for personal gains rather than the long-term future of their company. Writing exclusively in Propel’s Friday Opinion, Mouna said: “I believe there is a swathe of pubs sleepwalking into a pricing structure that is neither aligned with their customers’ disposable income or perception of value for money. I remember the millennium, when pubs really pushed the envelope regarding pricing, both charging huge entry fees and putting up prices in tandem. This left a bad taste in some customers’ mouths and was a moment many started to change their New Year’s Eve celebratory behaviours. Right now could be another period where, if we get it wrong, we will spark further detrimental changes in our customers’ eating and drinking out habits. I completely understand there are some in our industry that have very good reason to increase prices as far as they possibly can. They have staggered through the pandemic crisis and emerged from it with a tremendous weight of debt around their necks, and now face rising inflation, increasing utility costs, increased labour costs and are destined to appear as a statistic in the next Altus Group diminishing pub numbers report if they don’t take action. As I write this, the sun is shining and pubs are picking up again – happy days. But remember, in six months’ time it will be Dry January, and any business that pulls the price lever too far now may not have considered the combined impact of Jack Frost and Bill Shock.” Mouna will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published today (Friday, 8 July) at 11am.

Sector leaders join forces to call for fairer business rates: A group of hoteliers and restaurateurs have joined forces to demand fairer business rates from the government. They met this week at Nailcote Hall Hotel, in Coventry, with UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls and Midlands MP Saqib Bhatti, to discuss what action can be taken against “inequalities in the way business rates are charged in the UK”. Among those in attendance were Lovely Pubs operations manager Mark Lee and director Paul Hales; Eden Hotel Collection managing director Mark Chambers and operations manager Jayne O’Malley; Classic British Hotels commercial director Phillip Allsopp; Nuthurst Grange owner Paul Hopwood; and owner of Simpsons and The Cross at Kenilworth, Andreas Antona. They agreed a four-point action plan including supporting UKHospitality in its efforts to get a fairer deal for the sector, encouraging other businesses to get involved, lobbying MPs and sharing stories on social media to gain wider understanding. The meeting was held in response to the recent government review of business rates, which although welcomed by many, didn’t go far enough to address concerns within the industry, according to those in attendance. Nicholls said: “Despite representing only 5% of the UK’s GDP, the hospitality industry pays more than 15% of the total revenues raised by business rates, with other businesses paying little or nothing at all. Our industry is already facing so many challenges with all the other pressures on our sector, I think that gives us a special case to ask for a reduction.” Rick Cressman, owner of Nailcote Hall and organiser of the meeting, added: “Business rates are an unfair and discriminatory burden on the hospitality sector, a sector already badly damaged by the pandemic. Because of this, our businesses are unable to re-invest at the levels we need to, making it impossible for the sector to recover effectively.”

Company News:

Steve Locke leaves The Breakfast Club to focus on bar venture: Steve Locke, co-founder of the Be At One cocktail chain, has stepped down as interim managing director of all-day dining concept The Breakfast Club, to focus on his bar venture Lockes, Propel has learned. Locke, who left Be At One in 2018 after the 33-strong chain’s circa £50m sale to Stonegate Pub Company, began working with The Breakfast Club at the start of 2021, and was brought in to help put in place the structure to enable the business to scale over the next five years. Jonathan Arana-Morton, who founded the 13-strong company in 2005 with Alison Rooney, said at the time that Locke would also “help us build a vision for a business we can be proud of 30 years from now”. It is thought with a structure for growth now in place and the business trading well, especially in the regions and more suburban parts of London, Locke has decided to focus fully on Lockes, the bar he launched in 2019 in Covent Garden. Last November, The Breakfast Club opened its latest site on the former Cafe Rouge premises in Chelmsford’s Moulsham Street – its third opening outside of London. The company said at the time it was looking to triple in size over the next five years.

Shaftesbury reports hospitality and leisure tenants continuing to see monthly sales ahead of pre-pandemic levels as date set for shareholder vote on £3.8bn Capco merger: West End landlord Shaftesbury has reported its trading performance so far in the second half of its current financial year “has been in line with expectations”. The company stated: “Footfall remains good, underpinned by domestic visitors, residents and local workers and with growing numbers of international tourists. Shaftesbury's hospitality, retail and leisure occupiers continue to report monthly sales, on average, ahead of pre-pandemic levels. Leasing momentum continues and vacancy has reduced further. During the period from 1 April 2022 to 30 June 2022, Shaftesbury concluded commercial lettings, renewals and rent reviews with a rental value of £10.1m and residential lettings with a rental value of £1.7m. At 30 June 2022, vacancy had reduced to 4.1%. (31 March 2022: 4.7%), of which 1.7% was under offer.” The update came as Shaftesbury announced a general meeting for shareholders to vote on its proposed £3.8bn merger with Capital & Counties (Capco) will be held on Friday, 29 July. Capco shareholders will also vote on the deal on the same day. Capco also stated as at 30 June 2022, the external property valuation of its Covent Garden estate was approximately £1.82bn, representing a like-for-like increase of 5% in the first half of the year. Shaftesbury, which has a portfolio spanning parts of Soho, Chinatown and Carnaby Street, has a market capitalisation of £2bn. The structure of the deal will see shareholders in Shaftesbury, excluding the quarter of the business held by Capco, owning 53% of the combined company, with Capco shareholders owning the remainder. It is intended the combined group will be called Shaftesbury Capital on completion and retain Capco’s listing on the stock exchange. If approved by shareholders, the merger is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

Whistle Punks eyes further expansion as it prepares to launch Europe’s largest axe-throwing venue in September, second quarter ticket sales up 30%: Axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks is eyeing further expansion as it confirmed its new site in London’s Fitzrovia will open on Thursday, 1 September. Propel revealed in January that Whistle Punks, which is backed by Edition Capital, had applied to open on the former Busaba Eathai site in Eastcastle Street. The 7,000 square-foot site, which will be the largest axe-throwing venue in Europe, will offer nine lanes of axe-throwing, a bar area and sourdough pizzas. Co-founder Jools Whitehorn said: “I think a large part of the appeal is that it feels like something you shouldn’t be allowed to do. It’s a visceral experience that is physical without being too demanding. It all takes place under the close watch of our instructors who make sure everyone stays safe while having a unique night out. With our new and world-beating Oxford Circus location, we couldn’t be prouder to be bringing the signature Whistle Punks experience to such a large audience.” The group also operates sites in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and London’s Vauxhall, while a site in Birmingham closed after the lease expired. On further expansion, Whitehorn, told Propel: “We have been delighted to see the growth of axe throwing awareness and demand across the UK over the past couple of years. We are looking for prime locations in key cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff to add to our existing locations at London, Leeds, Bristol and Manchester.” The new opening comes as the business said trading had been strong over the last quarter. James Bidgood, head of marketing told Propel: “Post pandemic, trade has been strong with ticket sales up 30% up in the second quarter of 2022 versus the same period in 2019.” Whistle Punks, formed in 2016 by John Nimmons and Whitehorn, earlier this year promoted former Carluccio’s central operations director, Chris Poole, from head of operations to managing director.

Daisy Green Collection confirms launch this month of floating barge restaurant in Richmond: Australian restaurant group Daisy Green Collection has confirmed it will this month launch a floating barge restaurant in Richmond for its 12th site. Propel revealed in May the Prue Freeman-led group was planning to open its first site outside central London on Richmond riverside. Opening on Wednesday, 27 July, Peggy Jean, which will be moored on the Thames at Richmond Bridge, is the former Jesus College Boat Race barge, restored with “relaxed and inspired Aussie beach club vibes” in mind. The 120-plus-cover space will offer both indoor dining and open-air dining on the pontoon for warmer days, offering bottomless brunches including “fancy” bacon rolls, banana bread sandwiches and buttermilk pancakes. By night, it will transform into an evening restaurant and bar, offering wood-fired pizza, steaks and sustainably sourced seafood dishes. Founded in 2012 by Freeman and Tom Onions, Daisy Green Collection started life as two vintage ice cream vans serving coffee across London, and at festivals throughout the country through street food collective Kerb. Over the last decade, the independent business has expanded to include a mix of restaurants and cafes across London, including two other floating barge restaurants on the Grand Union Canal. Freeman said: “Peggy Jean, named after my two grandmas, will be one of the most special and historic riverside dining destinations in London. Boats and water have been a large part of our story, also collaborating with Sir Peter Blake to deliver our iconic Darcie and May Green barges on the Grand Union in Paddington. The allure of the water and feeling of calm is unbeatable and reminds me of home.” The company, which is also believed to be in talks on a further site in Bishopsgate, last November closed its latest crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £2.7m. It said at the time it was hoping to open a further four sites in the capital this year.

Baa Bar in ‘much stronger position’ after paying back £1.5m of £2m loan, sales up on previous years: BaaBar, the Liverpool bar and pub company, has said it is in a “much stronger position” in 2022 after paying back £1.5m of a £2m loan. The company – which operates Modo, Baa Bar, Frederiks and Café Tabac in Liverpool and Baa Bar in Nottingham – said it was seeing a strong performance across all its venues, with sales up on previous years. For the year ending 31 July 2021, it reported turnover of £3.5m (2020: £4.3m) and a pre-tax profit of £88,000 (2020: £379,000 loss). It received £1m in government grants (2020: £423,000). The company said: “In 2022, the business finds itself in a much stronger position, having repaid £1.5m towards its £2m loan, with the £500,000 balance rolling forward under a supplemental variation agreement. This puts the business in a much stronger position, with smaller interest payments with flexible terms and lower debt. When sites have been allowed to trade, performance has been strong across all venues, with sales consistently ahead of prior years. Key events have been cancelled across the reported year, but the appetite of our customers to make up for this post-covid has been massive. We remain focused on trading conditions and navigating our way through any potential restrictions and supply chain issues over the coming months. Further improvements are expected through enhanced employee training and incentives, combined with increased local marketing initiatives.”

Stay Original Company eyes growth through further acquisitions, trading strong: Somerset boutique hotel and pub group Stay Original Company is eyeing growth through further acquisitions and has reported that trading is strong. The business, which owns and operates five freehold coaching inns throughout the south west, reported a pre-tax profit of £132,000 (2020: loss of £352,000) on turnover of £7.5m (2020 £4.7m) for the year ending 30 September 2021. The company said: “After reopening in April and May 2021, trading resumed at a very strong level, and continued so for the remainder of the financial period, boosted in particular by the VAT cut and restrictions on overseas travel. Post period end, trading has continued to be strong, despite the effect of Omicron on November and December sales. The company has continued to strengthen both the operational and head office teams and is well positioned for growth through further acquisitions. The company is actively looking at new acquisitions.” Work on adding 16 bedrooms to the Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury, and seven bedrooms and a function room to the Kings Arms in Dorchester, was completed in recent months, and further work is set to get under way to add four bedrooms to the Swan in Wedmore. Two mews houses behind the Grosvenor Arms have also been sold “at a substantial uplift to the acquisition price”, while a third may be turned into three extra bedrooms. The group added: “The company has emerged from the pandemic in a strong position. The directors are confident trading will continue to be strong for the foreseeable future.” Propel revealed last July that Stay Original Company secured a £4.7m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and £4m from the Recovery Loan Scheme with the aid of Cynergy Bank, to refinance multiple loans from existing lenders.

Pelicana opens second UK site, joins sister brand: Wasabi founder Dong Hyum Kim, who owns the UK franchise rights to South Korean fried chicken brand Pelicana, has opened the second site under the concept, in London’s Angel Central. Following the brand’s UK debut site in Hammersmith, the new Angel Central restaurant occupies a 2,172 square-foot unit above Monsoon, seating 80 covers. The site offers both takeaway and dine-in options from a range of traditional Korean dishes including vegetarian and vegan options, and Pelicana’s signature flavours, ranging from “classic crispy” to “volcano”. Joining Pelicana for its UK debut is its sister brand Myungrang Hot Dog, which has opened a 1,600 square-foot site on Angel Central’s ground level, with both takeaway and dine-in options. Myungrang Hot Dog, which has a strong presence in the Philippines, Singapore, Mexico, Indonesia and Taiwan, has circa 730 stores worldwide. Kim said: “Opening our largest Pelicana site within the UK and at Angel Central is an exciting move for us as a brand. This launch, in addition to Myungrang Hotdog finally opening to a UK audience for the first time, is something to celebrate. We look forward to welcoming consumers from London and further afield, to experience our unique Korean culinary offerings, and delivering something distinctive for the Islington community as we expand our brands further.” CBRE acted for Angel Central.

Hotel group acquires Sheffield property off £10m guide price, several more sites to follow: Hotel group Sandman has acquired a Sheffield hotel off a £10m guide price. The company, part of Northland Properties UK, is the new owner of the 128-bedroom Quays Hotel and adjacent multi-storey car park. Brought to market by Christie & Co on behalf of Furnival Quay, the hotel had previously traded as one of Hilton’s core-branded, four-star UK properties, and was rebranded in 2020 as a Best Western Plus. Northland Properties UK is the British arm of Canadian group Northland Properties, the parent company of multiple hotel chains and restaurants founded in 1963 and owned by the Gaglardi family. It currently operates three other hotels in the UK under its Sandman Signature brand – in Aberdeen, Newcastle and Gatwick with several new locations currently in negotiation and under consideration. Northland Properties director Mitch Gaglardi said: “The acquisition of the Quays Hotel is a strategic one for our group as we look build our UK platform. The extensive real estate plays to our development skills and we look forward to showcasing the next Sandman Signature following the significant programme of investment we envisage being undertaken in due course.” Furnival Quay director Dale Fixter added: “As experienced, local developers and investors, we acquired the former Hilton hotel and adjacent multi-storey car park with a view to either redeveloping all or part of the site, given it was a building of more than 100,000 square feet on a three-acre site close to the city centre. Together with the Christie & Co team and Legacy Hotels, we worked through a variety of scenarios, and the competitive bidding achieved for the property validates our decision to proceed with the sale to a long-term owner with significant operational expertise.”

Design-led Margate hotel with restaurant and bar set to open next month: A design-led Margate seafront hotel with a 35-cover restaurant and 60-cover bar is set to open next month. Fort Road Hotel, which will open on Monday, 1 August, is a collaboration between Frieze co-founder Matthew Slotover, private residential developer Gabriel Chipperfield and artist Tom Gidley. The 14-bedroom venue aims to be “a reinterpretation of the traditional hotel that provides a unique experience rooted in design, art, architecture and food”. The ground-floor restaurant will open all day, offering “seasonal home-cooking with a focus on quality ingredients sourced from local suppliers”. Head chef Daisy Cecil will collaborate with consultant Gioconda Scott on a menu “inspired by late 19th and early 20th century female food writers” including Isabella Beeton, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. The kitchen will host a series of chef residencies, collaborations and workshops with local foragers and micro-producers. Dishes will include clay baked sea trout with bay leaves, and lemon and parsley risotto with dandelion salad. The subterranean mezzanine bar will serve cocktails, spirits and gin infused with foraged fruits and grasses, and feature a 24-cover bookable vault for special occasions.

Popeyes plans drive-thru in Northampton: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, has submitted plans to open a drive-thru site in Northampton. According to a planning application submitted by Godwin Developments, the US brand plans to open on the former Buddies USA Diner in Sixfields. The proposals include bringing the vacant site back into use as a restaurant as well as the provision of a drive-thru. Earlier this month, Propel reported the company is set to open a drive-thru site in Dorset, its first opening in the south west. According to a planning application submitted by Godwin Developments, the US brand will open on an undeveloped site, based in North Street near to the Townsend roundabout that connects the A35 and A31, in Bere Regis. Popeyes, which made its debut in the UK last November, recently announced a swathe of new sites as it looks to build a national presence here. The business, which recently opened its second permanent UK site, in Chelmsford, has secured sites in Metrocentre (Gateshead), 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 these sites are set to open this year. The company is also understood to be in talks on sites in Glasgow and Cambridge. The brand, which launched its first UK restaurant at Westfield Stratford, has also secured a site in Romford and hopes to have its first drive-thru, understood to be based in Essex, open by the end of the year or the start of 2023.

Hull street food business goes from pop-up to permanent: Hull street food business Oishii Ne has gone from pop-up to permanent. Owner Tom Would has opened the venue in Paragon Arcade, having built up his customer base with various appearances across the city. Allenby Commercial has turned the arcade into a launch pad for independent local businesses and is in discussions with other new arrivals. Georgia Allenby, design and marketing manager at Allenby Commercial, said: “We are committed to making the arcade a unique, vibey place in the heart of Hull. This involves a lot of thinking outside the box and adapting quickly. Tom is a great fit with that approach, and we have other like-minded business owners who are keen to join him.”

Bespoke opens second Hotel Brooklyn, in Leicester: Bespoke Hotels has opened its second Hotel Brooklyn site, in Leicester. The £22m, 191-bedroom hotel, restaurant and bar follows the launch of its Manchester sibling in February 2020. The hotel is located beside the expanded Welford Road Stadium – home to the Leicester Tigers rugby team. As with its Manchester site, Hotel Brooklyn in Leicester pays homage to the New York borough from the early 20th century to the present day, with the versatile dining offer showcasing both European and American influences. Linked with the central bar, the restaurant seats 120 guests, with a “theatre-style” kitchen and serving area. Founded in 2000, Bespoke is now the UK’s biggest independent hotel group, with more than 90 properties in the UK. It manages 5,000 hotel rooms and has more than 6,000 employees.

Wagamama to open restaurant in Stoke next month: Wagamama, which is owned by The Restaurant Group, is to open a site in Stoke. The restaurant at the Etruria Mills leisure park will launch on Monday, 8 August. Wagamama has taken the last remaining unit at the complex where it will join other operators including Fridays, Nando's and Costa Coffee. Wagamama has applied to Stoke-on-Trent City Council for a premises licence to open from 8am to 12.30am daily. It wants to serve alcohol from 10am to midnight every day, reports Stoke on Trent Live. Wagamama operates more than 150 restaurants across the UK.

Ayrshire operator to open second site: Ayrshire operator Maria Timis is to open her second venture in Largs. Timis is launching the Riviera Largs restaurant on the seafront in the former Bean and Leaf Cafe premises. Timis, who operates Italian eatery Allegria, told the Largs & Millport Weekly News the new venue will offer fresh coffee and pastries “with everything done in-house”.

Taco Bell gets go-ahead to open in Southend: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has got the green light to open a new restaurant in Southend. The business will open in a former Moss Bros store in High Street, offering 25 covers for dining in as well as takeaway options. Taco Bell currently has four other sites in Essex, and last month received planning permission for a fifth, in Hornchurch. Taco Bell, which operates circa 180 restaurants in the UK, also announced earlier this month it will open a site in Stafford’s Hough Retail Park in July. 

Historic Edinburgh department store set to reopen as luxury hotel: A former Edinburgh department store dubbed the “Harrods of the north” is set to reopen as a luxury hotel. Plans to give the former Jenners building in Princes Street a new lease of life as a retail destination with food and beverage outlets on the basement and first floor, and a 96-bedroom boutique hotel on the upper floors, have been approved by the city council. A new seventh floor will be added to the extension on the corner of South Street, David Street and Rose Street, which will make space for a gym and roof terrace bar. The building, which Jenners occupied for 184 years, has lay empty since last year when previous occupants Frasers Group shut up shop. The plans have been put forward by AAA United A/S, the holdings company owned by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who bought the store for £53m in 2017, reports STV. In a statement submitted with planning documents, AAA United A/S director Anders Krogh said: “We understand the scale of the challenge and are fully dedicated to honouring this building and its place within the future of Edinburgh. We knew one day the Jenners building would be standing vacant, and we would have the moral obligation of bringing it back to its former glory. We do hope we can build support to fulfil this highly important task. The original Jenners building will always stay and is the very DNA of our plans.”

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