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Fri 5th Aug 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Nicholls – further business failures will become inevitable without prompt government action: Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, has said further business failures across the sector will become inevitable without prompt action from the government, after the Bank of England warned the UK was set to enter the longest recession since 2008. The Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to 1.75% to try to keep a lid on inflation, which is now forecast to climb above 13% this autumn. The bank's sixth rate rise in a row is the biggest in 27 years, and comes as it warned that price rises were likely to remain in double-digits for the best part of 12 months. Its latest forecasts showed the UK is expected to start contracting at the end of this year and keep shrinking until the end of 2023. The bank also said the average household energy bill was likely to hit £3,500 this October amid a seven-fold increase in gas prices triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Nicholls said: “This double whammy of forecasts – for recession and higher energy prices – is further evidence, if any was needed, the government must act decisively and swiftly to bolster the plummeting confidence of hospitality businesses. Our sector is a massive potential driver of growth and employment but is ladened with debt, has a mammoth staffing crisis and, due to inflation and energy prices, is seeing consumer confidence and discretionary spend evaporate. Increasing monthly mortgage payments as a result of the interest rate rise will only hit that discretionary spend harder. There are many fragile companies out there and further business failures will become inevitable without prompt action. The government and prime ministerial candidates must clearly set out how they will tackle the cost of doing business – the cost of living won’t come down without it – and then explain how their plans will help consumers and the economy through this winter and beyond.” Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, added: “I am more worried about hospitality now, than I was during lockdown. The government has lost control of the economy.” Late-night wine bar, off-licence and dining room The Laughing Heart has become one of the latest casualties with owner Charlie Mello, who opened the venue in Hackney, east London, in 2016, writing on Instagram: “The business has fallen victim to these dark times we live in.” Earlier this week, James Watt, co-founder and chief executive of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, said the current inflationary pressures the sector is facing have the potential to destroy more businesses than the pandemic. 

Industry News:

Next edition of The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, 18,300-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers today (Friday, 5 August), at midday. It will show the details of 353 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 hotel and pub operators, niche cuisine, and new experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 18,300-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (29 July). The database contained 43 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,572. The 217 sites run by those 43 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 66,223 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 3,200-word report on the new businesses added. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. There is also a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, and 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 is 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. 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. 

Propel Friday Wrap video series summer special with Tom Kerridge: Propel’s Friday Wrap video series returns today (Friday, 5 August) at 3pm for a one-off summer special. 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 group editor Mark Wingett discussing this week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. In this one-off video, they are joined by chef Tom Kerridge, to discuss, among other things, the current challenges the sector and his businesses are facing, what more the government could do, highlighting the vital role hospitality plays, what motivates him, how he inspires his teams, how he picks different projects and the possibility of launching a pub concept.

Propel video series – facing up to supply chain fragility: In a new series of Propel videos in partnership with Fourth, leading industry provider of inventory and workforce management solutions, Propel group editor Mark Wingett talks to leading supply chain experts about the current challenges facing the sector and how they are navigating them. In the last video in the series, he is joined by Jane Bates, director of procurement and sustainability at Parkdean Resorts, to discuss how the business is sourcing vital ingredients from Europe, balancing cost efficiencies with the need to invest in innovation and the role technology is playing in helping back-of-house teams. The video will be available today (Friday, 5 August) at 9am.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with group of boutique and affordable hotels that is looking for a head of operations, either based in London, the Midlands or the north west. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This position is to provide inspiring and strategic leadership while directing the activities of the portfolio operations in support of the mission, core values, standards and goals established by the company.” The salary is up to £100,000 – 100% bonus potential and wellness incentives. For more information, email hollie@corecruitment.com 

Company News:

Chatterton – Loungers can be the next dominant value-for-money operator: Alex Chatteron, sector analyst at Panmure Gordon, has argued with no true direct competitor operating at a similar scale, cafe bar operator Loungers can become a dominant player in the value-for-money UK hospitality space. He said: “We believe it was somewhat symbolic that on the same day JD Wetherspoon issued a profit warning, Loungers issued another positive update, with continued outperformance of the wider UK hospitality market. While Loungers sees scope for 500 sites across the UK, we believe this is conservative and see scope for 700 sites. With no true direct competitor operating at a similar scale, we believe Loungers can become a dominant player in the value-for-money UK hospitality space. Our long-term investment case continues to rest on four key points: Loungers should be able to continue its aggressive rollout plan; Loungers is well placed to benefit from structural trends caused by covid – ie individuals spending more time in their local area; Loungers’ concepts are genuine all-day offerings and generate a broadly even split of sales between food and drink; and we do not believe Loungers has any true direct competitor that operates at a similar scale. The current target of 500 sites would represent an average site density of 1:130,000. We believe there is scope for 700 sites in the UK, split 600 Lounge and 100 Cosy Clubs. A potential target of 700 sites would represent an average site density of 1:93,000 and would still be higher than Wetherspoon.”

Bubblewrap eyes international debut as it prepares to open fourth London site: Bubble waffle brand Bubblewrap is to open its fourth London site this summer, in Westfield Stratford, followed by a debut international franchise store in Qatar, launching later in the year. Bubblewrap’s newest London outpost will open on Thursday, 18 August. Bubblewrap has signed a developer agreement with a Qatar company to open three stores in the State of Qatar over the next few years. For its first foray in the Middle East, Bubblewrap has chosen a 25 square-metre site at Hamad International airport. Bubblewrap founder Tony Fang said: “We are starting our international journey in Qatar, with plans to open three new stores in the Middle East by 2024. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this nostalgic and much-loved Hong Kong favourite being showcased to new audiences across the globe, following the great reception we’ve had across London.” Fang started Bubblewrap as a university project at Imperial College in 2015, wanting to put his creative spin on the traditional Hong Kong street food snack, remarketing it to a new UK audience. Fang adapted the simple Hong Kong staple by wrapping it into a cone and filling it with an assortment of homemade gelatos, with flavours including vanilla, dark chocolate, matcha, strawberry cheesecake and hazelnut, with customisable toppings and sauces.

Yum! Brands reveals Mexican pizza was superstar performer during second quarter: Yum! Brands has revealed the superstar performer of its second quarter – Mexican pizza at Taco Bell. The company saw mixed results for the second quarter ended 30 June 2022, with just 1% like-for-like sales growth globally and 4% unit growth systemwide. Despite the sluggish sales, particularly in global markets, Yum Brands’ second-quarter performance was bolstered by rapid development, especially KFC, which opened more than 400 gross new units last quarter. Taco Bell was again the best performing brand, with 8% like-for-like sales growth timed with the re-introduction of Mexican pizza, which in some stores, sold out after just a week on the menu. “The team achieved these results through exceptional execution of a well-balanced marketing agenda that sustained brand buzz, distinctive product news and compelling value offerings,” Yum! Brands chief executive David Gibbs said during the earnings call. Taco Bell also saw a 10% increase in loyalty programme members during the quarter, especially since members could access the Mexican pizza before anyone else.

SSP opens first Greggs site, begins Soul + Grain rollout: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group has opened its first site with food-to-go operator Greggs. The two companies have marked the start of the new partnership with Greggs taking over the unit formerly occupied by the Upper Crust cafe at Derby Midland station, Greggs’ tenth site in total in the city. Richard Lewis, chief executive of SSP UK & Ireland, said: “Great to see this new brand added to our portfolio in the UK.” Greggs plans to open circa 150 new sites over the next year, taking its total number of sites across the UK to just under 2,500. A key part of this expansion plan will involve the brand opening in further transport hub locations. Meanwhile, SSP has opened a second site under its recently launched fresh-to-go concept, Soul + Grain. Launched earlier this summer at London’s Victoria station, Soul + Grain, which offers a variety of vegan, vegetarian and nutritionally balanced options, displayed with nutritional information to help customers “make more informed choices”, has now opened a site at London City airport. The Victoria store was planned to be the first of several, and SSP said plans are underway to open more Soul + Grain outlets at other UK stations and airports. SSP operates in 36 countries around the world and has a portfolio of more than 550 international, national and local brands.

Jamie Oliver opens first Jamie Oliver Kitchen site in Europe: Chef Jamie Oliver has opened his first Jamie Oliver Kitchen site in Europe. The restaurant is located in Limassol in Cyprus and includes a terrace overlooking the marina. It marks the eighth new venue for Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group in 2022, with a total of 12 sites planned this year. In June, the business appointed former Vue International managing director Kevin Styles as its new chief executive. He is responsible for the group’s global commercial strategy, managing partnerships with retailers, franchisees and content partners, and driving growth across all areas of the business – which includes 60-plus global outlets and a Jamie Oliver cookery school in London.

Popeyes eyes Liverpool opening: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, is eyeing an opening in Liverpool, as it continues to bolster its regional openings pipeline. Propel understands the business, which will make its north east debut this month with an opening in Gateshead’s Metrocentre, has lined up an opening on the ex-EE site in Liverpool’s Lord Street. Popeyes – which has opened UK sites in Westfield Stratford, Chelmsford and Romford – has also secured venues in Derby, Reading, Nottingham, Brighton, Ealing and Oxford for openings this year, and is understood to be in talks on sites in Glasgow, Croydon and Cambridge. It hopes to have its first drive-thru open by the end of the year or the start of 2023, and has been linked with drive-thru sites in Dorset and Northampton. The restaurant at Westfield Stratford is the brand’s highest-taking restaurant globally.

Music producer Stephen Lironi to open third London site next month: The husband of former pop singer Clare Grogan will launch his third restaurant in London next month. Propel understands Stephen Lironi, a successful music producer, has lined up the former Yumchaa site in Berwick Street, Soho, for a new restaurant called Maresco. It is described as “a new Spanish restaurant with a strong focus on high quality Scottish seafood”. At the start of 2016, Lironi opened his second site in London – Escocesa in Stoke Newington, which “serve the best of Scottish produce and champions the country’s finest seafood”. Lironi’s other restaurant is Bar Esteban in Crouch End.

Lantana to operate cafe restaurant at new London HQ of Unherd: London cafe operator and caterer Lantana is to operate the new cafe restaurant opening inside the headquarters of publication Unherd, in Westminster, Propel has learned. Opening later this year in Old Queen Street, the new venue will consist of a 50-cover restaurant and a large private members and event space. The company said: “Lantana will be designing and delivering this one-of-kind customer experience; a place to debate the news of the day over quality British food in one of the most unique restaurant launches of 2022.” Unherd said: “As well as a cafe-restaurant, open to all and serving delicious food and drink all day, there will be a stunning space upstairs for events and gatherings of all sorts.” At the end of last year, Lantana appointed Colin Bell, formerly of Sodexo and Harris + Hoole, as its group managing director. Lantana was launched in 2008 by Shelagh Ryan, Michael Homan and Caitlin Ryan. It currently operates four cafes across the capital – in London Bridge, Shoreditch, Camden and Fitzrovia. It also offers catering services and runs exclusive residencies.

OakNorth lends JMK Group £15m to buy hotel freeholds: OakNorth Bank has completed a £15m loan to JMK Group, a family-run hotel business, to fund the freehold buyout of its Seraphine hotels in Kensington and Hammersmith. The capital will also support the upgrading of its Seraphine hotel in Kensington, which will include refurbishing the hotel’s 40 existing rooms, turning it into a four-star boutique hotel. John Kajani opened a small boutique hotel in Kensington in 2009, growing it into an extensive portfolio of hotels, properties and coffee houses known as the JMK Group. Zain Kajani, director of JMK Group, said: “The hospitality market is ever-changing, so as a future-orientated company, we are always looking forward and regularly review our business strategy to ensure we’re staying on top of emerging trends and customer expectations. The freehold buyouts and upgrades to Seraphine Olympia are prime examples of this.”

A&S Leisure Group returns to profit after receiving £4.4m in government grants: A&S Leisure Group, owner of casino operator Napoleons, returned to profit in the year ending 30 September 2021 after receiving £4,446,959 in government grants (2020: £2,797,090). The family-owned group, which also operates Sheffield Sports Stadium (a race track also known as Owlerton Stadium) and Players Club UK, made a pre-tax profit of £154,656 compared with a loss of £2,225,136 the previous year. Group turnover increased from £16,320,091 in 2020 to £17,654,473. At the year end, Sheffield Sports Stadium owed £7,079,302 and Players Club UK owed £7,141,025 (2020: £7,268,000), while A&S Leisure Group owed a director £3.5m (2020: £1m). There are no formal repayment terms, and no interest is being charged on the loans. The company said: “While the directors are confident that an acceptable profit will be achieved in 2022, the current state of the UK economy and the continuing impact of covid-19 will put further pressure on business results. The current state of the economy, with high levels of personal debt, lower wage settlements and increasing inflation and prices, will result in customers having less disposable income available for leisure activities. However, the group has strong cash reserves to act as a cushion against any deterioration in the trading position, and efforts continue to reduce costs wherever possible. The directors expect the 2022 year to show significantly improved performance.”

Whitbread sells Premier Inn site in Glasgow to Britannia off £8.5m guide price: The 278-bedroom Premier Inn Glasgow City Centre (Charing Cross) hotel has been sold to Britannia Hotels through Christie & Co. This latest acquisition is Britannia Hotel’s 64th site and takes its total room count to almost 12,300 guest bedrooms. Alex Langsam, managing director at Britannia, said: “I am delighted with our latest acquisition, which will be our fifth hotel in Scotland. This city-centre, high rise property joins the city, coast and country hotels we offer across our group which also includes Pontins holiday parks. We remain keen to grow our group further using the cash resources we have generated over the years, which means we can move quickly to secure hotels on an all cash basis.” Brian Sheldon, regional director of Scotland for Christie & Co, added: “This is a prime example of the buoyancy across the Glasgow and wider Scottish hotel market at present, with the demand for accommodation across Scotland on the rise. We are currently speaking with buyers across all price points with genuine aspirations to add to their portfolios and often surpassing client expectations with local, wider UK and international buyers as a result.” The Premier Inn Glasgow City Centre (Charing Cross) was sold off a guide price of £8,500,000. The opportunity came to the market as Whitbread, the previous owner of the Premier Inn hotel, is reconfiguring its network of hotels in Glasgow city centre, following the opening of the 249-bedroom Premier Inn and Bar + Block restaurant in St Enoch Square in June 2021.

Yorks Cafe marks tenth anniversary with fourth opening: Yorks Cafe, the coffee roasters and eatery concept, is marking its tenth year anniversary by opening a fourth site and its second in Stratford-upon-Avon. The company is opening at Bell Court, on Wednesday (10 August) – the day it launched its first Birmingham cafe in 2012. To mark the occasion, the business is introducing a different offering, with all-day dining from 8.30am to 11pm, with global food made locally, served until 9pm. This will include dishes with inspiration from south Asia, Africa and the Middle East with a mix of small and large plates. Drinks will include coffee and travel-inspired drinks such as the Ruby Sahlab featuring ruby chocolate, rose water, pistachio and rose sugar, along with cocktails, natural wine and beer. The new site will create about 30 jobs and join its existing site in Stratford-upon-Avon – in High Street. The company’s other two outlets are in Birmingham. Owner Simon Ford said: “We are pleased to be opening a further Yorks in Stratford as we continue to build a bold, but responsible cafe and restaurant business, never diluting our soul or personality and having a lasting impact on the people we touch and the environments in which we live.” As part of its expansion plans and as previously reported, Yorks is also opening a further all-day cafe at the Paradise development in Birmingham, in the autumn, creating 50 jobs.

Wingstop plans Southend opening: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out Wingstop across the UK, plans to further enhance the brand’s regional presence in the UK, with an opening in Southend, Essex. The business, which is gearing up to open its largest UK site to date in Manchester’s Trafford Centre, has applied to open a restaurant in London Road, Southend, on a former TSB Bank site. The 3,500 square-foot, 130-cover site in the Trafford Centre will open with expectations of being the brand’s highest volume site worldwide. Propel understands Wingstop UK, which earlier this summer secured a new multimillion-pound debt facility to aid the further roll out of the concept here, is also set to shortly announce five new restaurant locations. Wingstop currently operates 23 sites here, comprising a mixture of bricks-and-mortar sites, under which the five new sites will be, and dark kitchens. The company, which recently opened in Nottingham, also has openings lined up in Brighton and Wood Green, plus a new delivery kitchen unit in Brent Cross. The UK business has 15 openings slated for 2022. 

Sukho Group extends Zaap brand with supermarket opening: Sukho Group has opened a new supermarket venture as a brand extension to its Thai casual concept, Zaap Thai, in Nottingham. Zaap Thai Market has opened on the former Lifestyle Express shop in the city’s Upper Parliament Street. The supermarket stocks a range of Asian groceries. Zaap Thai ready meals, handmade by the group’s chefs, and a selection of hand-prepared Zaap starter packs are also available, plus a range of grab-and-go hot food and bubble tea for takeaway. The company said: "Our story begins in 2015 when we launched our sister restaurant Zaap Thai in Nottingham in Bromley Place. During the years that followed Zaap built a fantastic reputation and is now one of the most popular restaurants in Nottingham, still offering the same quality food in funky street-style surroundings as we did when we first opened. Fast forward seven years to 2022, we’re now opening Zaap Thai Market – an oriental supermarket with a twist! We want to be able to offer a place where you can find the unique Asian ingredients we use in our kitchens, but also a wide range of Asian staples including exotic fruit and vegetables you might not have seen elsewhere.” Earlier this year, the company told Propel it is looking to open two or three new sites a year for Zaap Thai, and plans to move south after further northern expansion. The group, which also operates the three-strong Thai fine dining brand Sukhothai, recently opened its sixth Zaap site in seven years, in Sheffield’s Eccleshall Road. 

Chef John Javier to open debut UK restaurant this month: Chef John Javier will open his debut UK restaurant this month. The Tent (at the end of the universe) will open on Wednesday, 17 August on the ground floor of private members’ club, Portland Club, at 17 Little Portland Street in London’s Mayfair. The restaurant will serve a modern representation of Middle Eastern food. Guests will be joined by a seated DJ in the 34-cover dining room, which is designed in the theme of a tent. This is Javier’s first foray into the region’s cuisine, usually known for his playful take on Chinese food. The Filipino-born chef was raised in Australia and started out in the kitchens of acclaimed Quay, Noma and Momofuku Seiobo before opening rock and roll Chinese restaurant Master in Sydney, and more recently at the helm of Happy Paradise in Hong Kong. The menu at The Tent will change weekly. The drinks list will be concise and see Japanese whisky sit alongside wine, cocktails and mezcals.

Burger & Beyond opens Borough Yards site: Burger & Beyond, the London concept founded by Tom Stock and Craig Povoas in 2015, has opened a new site in Borough Yards. The company, which opened its debut restaurant in Shoreditch in 2018, has opened the 89-cover site, which also features an outdoor terrace. It offers “all the signature burgers and sides that have made it one of London’s best-loved burger restaurants”, as well as exclusive dish the Legit Truffle – a signature dry aged beef patty, double American cheese, fresh black summer truffle, black truffle butter and port braised onions. There is also an extensive drinks list of beer, cocktails, wine and house-made soft drinks. Burger & Beyond was originally launched from a converted Citroen H van before taking up spots at London’s street food markets Kerb and Street Feast. The business, which opened in the ex-Temakinho site in Soho’s Old Compton Street in June, also operates several delivery kitchens across London, as well as appearing at major music and food festivals in the UK and around the world. Distrkt represented Borough Yards and the Found Agency acted for Burger & Beyond.

Blank Street Coffee confirms double opening: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its UK debut earlier last month with a double opening, has confirmed it will open two more sites this month. As revealed by Propel last month, the fast-growing New York chain, which is looking to quickly build a presence in London, will open in the ex-Co’m Vietnamese site in The Strand on Tuesday (9 August). This will be followed with a launch in the former Knoops site in Clapham Junction on Saturday, 13 August. The business, which has “two-dozen shops slated to open this year”, previously said it plans to make London its “second-biggest city”. It launched in the UK with openings on the former EAT/Cubitts site on the corner of Goodge Street and Charlotte Street, and 3 Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. Propel understands it is also currently in talks on five further sites in the capital. The small-format, specialty coffee brand, which also offers a selection of takeaway sweet and savoury pastries, has prices starting at £3 or under for a small coffee – from an Americano to an oat flat white. Blank Street Coffee was started in Williamsburg in 2020 by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha and has already grown to 40 locations across Brooklyn and Manhattan. In May, Propel revealed Blank Street Coffee had hired Ignacio Llado, formerly of the Singapore-based Flash Coffee, as managing director to oversee its UK expansion. Simon Carson, of Harper Dennis Hobbs, represents Blank Street Coffee.

Steampunk-themed experiential concept opens in London, F&B partnerships with Pieminister and Munchies: Steampunk-themed experiential concept Phantom Peak has opened in London. The four to five-hour immersive exploration, which includes a full Wild Western town, has opened in a 30,000 square-foot space at Canada Street, off Surrey Quays Road. Among its food partners is Cuban cuisine concept Munchies, which offers tacos, burritos and nachos with original handmade sauces, and Pieminister, which offers sustainably made pies include portobello and chestnut mushrooms with asparagus and white wine, and jackfruit steak with craft ale and black pepper. Draught beer and cocktails are available at Phantom Peak’s hidden speakeasy saloon, complete with an in-house robot band, while ice cream from Hackney Gelato and coffee from Notes Coffee are also on offer. Phantom Peak aims to be 100% reusable, with food served on renewable trays and drinks in refillable cups. Founder Nick Moran said: “Phantom Peak is a bold new step for immersive entertainment, building on the decades we’ve spent building and designing interactive immersive experiences. It's a fully featured world with its own living ecosystem.”

Derby street food market to double up with Nottingham launch: Derby street food market, Bustlers Market, is set to expand into Nottingham. Having launched in 2017, the business will make the move across the East Midlands this autumn. Work is currently underway at Sneinton Market Avenues to transform the newly renovated “Avenue E” into Bustler’s new home. The premises will have capacity for 500 people indoors and 300 outside. The venue will offer a wide range of street food, cocktails and craft beer. Olivia Pritchard, managing director at Bustler Market, said: “We are extremely excited to finally bring Bustler Market to our neighbours in Nottingham, in a thriving part of the city surrounded by other fantastic independent businesses. When we saw the chance to join Sneinton Market Avenues, it was a no-brainer. The large space to the north east part of the site is the perfect location for what we want to create.”

The Apartment Group to open new luxury north east hotel: North east hospitality company The Apartment Group has transformed a former country hotel in County Durham into its latest luxury venue. The group, which owns Newcastle bars ChaChaBuchi, The Holy Hobo and Zarabanda, first outlined plans to invest millions of pounds into Jersey Farm Country Hotel and Whitworth Hall Hotel & Deer Park after acquiring them two years ago. Plans to turn them into luxury boutique hotels were put on hold during the pandemic lockdowns, but the company – which also has Northumberland hotels Newton Hall and Le Petit Chateau – is now putting the final touches on Runa, the renamed Jersey Farm, ahead of its opening this month. The Apartment Group has invested a significant sum into Runa, which is based close to Barnard Castle and the North Yorkshire border, taking its name from the first two letters of “rural” and “nature”. Chief executive Debrah Dhugga told Business Live: “It was our plan to create an individual and special destination for a ‘boho, honest and earthy’ experience with the farm and its produce at the very heart. he result is a loveable, laid-back, and luxurious County Durham country retreat complete with standout spaces and suites, field-to-fork dining, inviting people to gather, feast, stay, and enjoy every element of its feelgood spirit and endless appeal.” Alongside the 30-bedroom hotel, the company has refurbished the original farmhouse. It sleeps 14 with up to six bedrooms, spread over the first floor and ground floor. It also has a private kitchen and lounge, with a private chef available for hire. The Smithy Pub is the main hub of the farm, with food and drink available all day.

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