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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 26th Aug 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Moore – bottom line is challenging but we’re being careful not to pass it on to customers: Red Engine co-founder Steve Moore admits current cost pressures are making the bottom line challenging, but insists the company is being careful not to pass price increases on to its customers where possible. Moore told Propel in March that trading was getting back to pre-pandemic levels in Red Engine’s Flight Club and Electric Shuffle sites. Since then, the rate of VAT has returned to 20%, utility bills have gone through the roof and the effect of the war in Ukraine on food and energy costs have been realised. “The government got a lot right with business support during covid, but what we are all now facing with increased VAT, high inflation, a lack of business rate support and no price cap on electricity for small businesses is increasingly challenging and concerning for the industry,” Moore told Propel. “That said, we’re holding on to trading nicely, and I hope we differentiate ourselves by being good value but giving people an occasion to remember and doing something special. So far, revenues are holding well, and customer numbers are very good, but as a business, it is getting more difficult. The top line is good, but the bottom line is more challenging because of things like electricity and ingredients, and we’re trying our best not to pass that on as we appreciate how tough it is out there at the moment. Who knows what the next six months will bring? But if people are going out less, we’ve got to make sure they’ve got somewhere special to go. Protect the occasion and make sure you’re the one people want to go to.” In order to keep its offering ahead of the game, Red Engine has been investing heavily in new tech and has several new product releases in the pipeline. “We’ve got a pretty strong in-house tech team now, about 15-20 animators, developers, designers and so on,” he added. “Electric Shuffle will get action replay, which will replay your winning shot through computer-generated imagery and then video. It’s been in development for about a year, and we hope to release it by Christmas. On top of that, early next year it will have stories, where the morning after your visit you will be sent all the leader boards, photos and action replays for free. We produce millions a year for Flight Club, it’s like a timeline of your night. It’s a nice little marketing tool as well as the customer shares it a lot. It’s full tilt on the development side and we’ve started in earnest on the next version of the gaming software for Flight Club as well, which is a two-and-a-half-year project and should be ready by next Christmas.”

Industry News: 

Sponsored message – Heinz launches Battle of the Burger competition offering £5,000 prize to winning restaurant: Heinz is calling the nation’s independent burger houses to bring on the bunfight and create the ultimate burger using a Heinz sauce for a chance to be crowned the country’s best and win a marketing package worth £5,000. Whether it’s a meaty masterpiece or plant-based perfection, entries will be judged on overall appearance, creativity and quality and must use at least one Heinz sauce in its original form. The winning restaurant will receive a marketing support package to the value of £5,000 to run their burger special as a limited time offer with the brand. Charlotte Crane, junior brand manager at Kraft Heinz Foodservice, said: “The UK is a nation of burger lovers, eating 2.5 billion burgers per year. And we all know key to a burger’s success is that final flourish of sauce. Whether it’s classic Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Heinz [Seriously] Good Mayonnaise or Heinz Smokey Baconnaise, we’re excited to see what our country’s talented kitchens cook-up.” If you want to be in the running, register your interest by emailing before Monday, 5 September, using the email subject: Heinz BOTB Entry: [insert name of restaurant]. The first 30 to register will receive a Heinz starter pack featuring a selection of six Heinz sauces. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies released today at midday, 47 businesses being added: A total of 47 new multi-site companies, operating 293 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released today (Friday, 26 August), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional bar and restaurant operators, expanding bakery brands, and growing entertainment concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 3,200-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and 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. The database now features 2,617 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 2 September, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 14,300-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers have also been given exclusive 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 is updated every two months. The third edition features 140 companies and almost 60,000 words of content, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. 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 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.
Major energy firms refusing to supply small hospitality businesses or demanding large up-front deposits: Major energy firms are refusing to supply small hospitality businesses over fears they could go bust, while some are demanding £10,000 up front. Business owners said they were struggling to find a supplier in the run-up to the autumn renewal period for gas and electricity contracts, leaving them facing “extortionate” bills or demands for a deposit. Suppliers named as having refused service, or having asked for a down payment, include SSE, Scottish Power, E.On Next, Drax and Ecotricity, according to The Guardian. Teresa Hodgson, landlord of the Green Man pub in Denham, near Uxbridge, was initially told by her supplier, SSE, that it could not give her a quote for energy because prices were increasing so fast. “When I did pin it down, it said before we can go any further, we want a £10,000 deposit,” Hodgson said. “When I asked why, because it’s never had an issue with me, the company said it doesn’t think a lot of pubs are going to make it this year and it needs security. There were other suppliers who just wouldn’t entertain it at all because it’s hospitality.” The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said one of its members had recently been turned down by five suppliers. “With many energy suppliers now refusing to provide contracts to pubs, they are being put in further jeopardy because a lack of competition in the market is forcing them to take on extortionate contracts or remain in punitive out of contract rates,” said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin. “The market is failing the hospitality sector, and we need an energy price cap before this crisis forces pubs and other businesses across the country to close.” William Robinson, whose Robinsons business is a landlord to more than 200 pub tenants, also called for urgent action. “If the government doesn’t address this, the knock-on effect could be huge,” he said. “The key thing is that it happens quickly, we can’t have a period of paralysis.” Mark Dickinson, chief executive of energy broker Inspired, said some firms were only choosing to renew contracts with customers they already had, effectively withdrawing from new business, while others didn’t even want to renew current customers. He said this was partly down to volatile prices in the wholesale energy markets, caused by the war in Ukraine, which have made it harder for suppliers to price long-term contracts.

SME owners fear utility bill rises will put them out of business this winter: Small business owners fear they will not survive the winter due to looming increases in their energy bills. Firms have reported a 424% rise in gas costs and 349% increase in electricity since February 2021, data from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows. With fixed-price supply deals coming to an end in the autumn and no energy bills cap, they are at the mercy of volatile wholesale gas markets. Paul Bright, who runs Glasgow bar and restaurant Strip Joint, told The Guardian his annual bill will rise from £22,000 to £80,000 if he stays with E.ON. “No one is surviving that,” he said. “The only thing that’s keeping me sane is that no one can survive that – something has to be done.” Daniel Mussard, the owner of the eight-bedroom Bennachie Lodge hotel near Aberdeen, said an energy bill rise from £2,780 to £6,000 from November means he will make less of a loss by remaining closed. “There are only so many cutbacks we can make before we simply do not have enough staff to run the operation,” he added. Muhammad Kamran Zahoor, who has been running a branch of the Sam’s Chicken takeaway franchise in Peterborough since last year, said he was having sleepless nights over his electricity costs with British Gas rising from an average of £1,500 to £5,000 a month in January. He said: “There is no possibility that my business and thousands like mine could survive.” At the Salop Fish Bar, which has operated in Oswestry for 46 years, Harry Haralambous says his annual energy costs are going from £9,000 to upwards of £35,000. “People are starting to tighten their purses and buy cheaper things – for example, instead of fish and chips, sausage and chips,” he said. Lisa Allsop and her husband, Ian, who run a garden centre, farm shop and cafe in Snowdonia national park, said they were unable to get a quote from their supplier, E.ON, adding: “Our current bill is about £300 a month, so we’re dreading what the increase will be.” Tina McKenzie, the policy and advocacy chair of the FSB, said: “Examples of small firms having to close due to their gas and electric bills are piling up, each one a sad loss to the community and the wider economy. The damage that will be caused by this toll rising even further risks wider contagion. Current government inaction is just not good enough. Inaction risks devastation, and the avoidable loss of the small firms that add vibrancy and character as well as employment and vital services to local communities.”
BBPA urges government to step in over fears of another carbon dioxide shortage as ammonia producer pauses production: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has urged the government to again step in over fears of another carbon dioxide shortage after CF Industries announced the temporary closure of its only remaining UK plant. CF Industries said it was pausing ammonia production at its Billingham complex due to market conditions. With the UK relying on carbon dioxide as a by-product of ammonia production, if prolonged, the closure could have a significant impact on the wider food and beverage industry. A supply chain crisis was averted last year when the government brokered a three-month price-fixing deal between carbon dioxide producers and industry – and the BBPA has urged Downing Street to step in again. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The timing of this news couldn’t be worse as our pubs and brewers are already dealing with severe headwinds and pressures on their supply chains. This decision raises serious concerns for the sustainable supply of carbon dioxide to the brewing and pub industry. A guaranteed supply is essential for operations across pub and brewing businesses and this announcement comes at a time when they are already facing extreme cost rises that are threatening businesses and people’s livelihoods across the country. We urge the government to urgently convene stakeholders to ensure there is a reliable supply of carbon dioxide to our industry and others that depend on it.”
Mayor encourages Londoners to rediscover their capital as tourism campaign steps up: Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is encouraging Londoners to discover their city anew as his tourism campaign sends a love letter to the capital. Emotive adverts will be running across the Tube network, on posters and billboards, in cinemas, on the radio and all over social media in the coming months to promote some of the most exceptional aspects of life in the capital and encourage people to “make a date with London”. New film, art and nature trails have also been created to help Londoners see their city with fresh eyes. The promotions are part of Love London – the latest chapter of Khan’s Let’s Do London campaign, which has been encouraging people to visit the capital following the devastating impact of covid-19 on its retail, cultural, hospitality and leisure industries. Last year, the biggest domestic tourism campaign the capital had seen generated an additional £81m in expenditure and 330,000 more overnight visitors to the city. Earlier this year, Khan extended the campaign with a £7m investment to encourage international tourists back to London. Khan said: “There is so much to love about London with our incredible cultural attractions, world-class shops, bars and restaurants, and, most importantly of all, the fantastic people who live here. That’s why London is the greatest city in the world and I’m proud my Let’s Do London campaign is encouraging everyone to enjoy the many varied and unique experiences our city has to offer.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business that transforms under-used spaces into thriving epicentres for local communities and businesses. With its continued success in the UK, the business is looking for a real estate operations director to support its growth plans. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The real estate operations director will be responsible for leading all operations and providing overall planning, direction, and execution in each assigned group of locations. They will hustle, execute, problem-solve, and lead a growing business in their region. They will be responsible for the success of the business and business partners in their market.” The salary is up to £115,000 and based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees opens 90th site as it reaffirms plans for 300 outlets by 2027: Starbucks first and largest UK franchisee, 23.5 Degrees, will open its 90th store today (Friday, 26 August). The opening in Blaydon, Tyne and Wear, is part of an ambitious expansion programme for 23.5 Degrees, which has a strong pipeline of approved stores and the business reaffirmed plans to reach 300 stores by 2027. 23.5 Degrees managing director Mark Hepburn said: “In just over nine years we have built this company one store at a time. We could not have achieved our success without our investors, contractors and Starbucks itself. Most importantly, I’d like to thank our partners who have delivered day in day out to ensure we continue to serve our customers and build the business.” The company opened its first Starbucks store in Liphook, Hampshire, in February 2013. 23.5 Degrees is seeking both freehold and leasehold drive-thru opportunities on main arterial routes, close to major retail destinations or on large industrial estates. These opportunities should be able to be designed into three standard sized units: 1,500, 1,800 and 2,200 square foot. They can either be modular or traditionally built.  23.5 Degrees will also consider retail park and drive-to destinations, as well as high street units in prominent high footfall locations with a minimum size of 1,500 square foot. The company has invested more than £31.5m in the UK economy to date through building and buying stores.
Middle Eastern restaurant group set for UK debut: Middle Eastern restaurant group Nothing But Love is set to make its UK debut next month with Mayha in London’s Marylebone. The group will open the omakase restaurant over two floors at 43 Chiltern Street in late September. Founded 20 years ago, Nothing But Love, which originated in Lebanon, operates ten restaurants in the Middle East including Meat the Fish, Maryool, Skirt and The Backburner. It also recently launched Nothing But Love Kitchens, a gourmet cloud kitchen venture catering to seven in-house brands and one external brand. The London opening is a big step for Nothing But Love after two of the group’s restaurants, including Mayha Beirut, were destroyed in the chemical blast that shook the Lebanese capital two years ago. Head chefs Jurek Wasio and Yuichi Nakaya, who have previously worked in London at Yashin Ocean House and Yashin Sushi, have been recruited direct from Mayha Beirut. Their menu will use seasonal ingredients sourced from local and Japanese suppliers, while the drinks list will include sake, spirits, wine and beer. The ground floor will be home to an intimate counter where guests can interact with the chefs as they prepare and serve the day’s tasting menu, while the lower ground floor will offer a Japanese raw bar and courtyard.
Balfour Hospitality opens tenth site: Balfour Hospitality has opened its tenth venue, Balfour at Bow, at the site of the Bow Wine Vaults in London. The food and wine destination offers four dining experiences, all with traditional food favourites alongside English wine from the company’s own Kent winery. Following a renovation, guests are able to drink at the bar, grab a bite from the bistro, dine in the Vestry Restaurant, or alfresco. Balfour at Bow also has a private space, accommodating up to 50 people. The regularly changing bespoke menu champions seasonal produce and consists of a mix of British classics alongside contemporary twists on popular dishes. Alongside the wine is a selection of cocktails. Founder Richard Balfour-Lynn said: “Bow Wine Vaults has been an institution in the heart of the city for many years, and we are over the moon to continue a fine tradition with our newest Balfour Hospitality venue, Balfour at Bow.” Located behind the famous Mary-le-Bow Church, the venue has been serving the city since 1987. Balfour Hospitality also operates pubs and hotels across central London, East Sussex and Kent through Hush Heath Inns, the managed joint venture between Stonegate and Hush Heath Estate. Balfour-Lynn – whose 40-year track record in hospitality includes operating Hotel Du Vin, Malmaison and De Vere hotels – is also opening a boutique wine hotel in Maidstone, Kent.
Crimson Hotels acquires tenth site: Independently owned hotel company, Crimson Hotels, has acquired The Trafalgar St James in central London for its tenth site. The five-star hotel is the second Hilton Curio Collection acquisition for Crimson Hotels, alongside 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel in South Kensington. The Trafalgar St James comprises 131 rooms and several food and beverage outlets, including a rooftop bar. A new destination restaurant will soon open on the ground floor, which will be operated by a high-end Asian restaurant group. The hotel will be headed up by Federico Ciampi, the current general manager of 100 Queen’s Gate, who has been promoted to the role of cluster general manager. Alykhan Kassam, chief executive at Crimson Hotels, said: “We are delighted to have acquired The Trafalgar St James hotel with the property making a welcome addition to our portfolio of London hotels. We are looking forward to working with the hotel team, under Federico’s leadership, to firmly establish the property as one of the best in the capital.”
Rosa’s Thai confirms September opening for Wimbledon restaurant: Rosa’s Thai, which is backed by TriSpan, has confirmed its Wimbledon restaurant will open on Thursday, 8 September. Propel revealed in February that Rosa’s Thai had secured the former Fielders retail unit at 54 Wimbledon Hill Road. It will be a 30th opening for the group, which has been serving Thai dishes to diners across the UK since being founded in 2007 by Alex and Saiphin Moore. It also operates two delivery-only kitchens in London, in Dulwich and Blackwall. The Wimbledon launch will follow openings earlier this year in Cardiff, York and London’s King’s Cross. Propel also revealed in April that Rosa’s Thai is set to take a unit at the Jackson’s Corner scheme in Reading.
Turtle Bay eyes Blackpool site: Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay is eyeing a site in Blackpool. The company wants to take over empty space in Talbot Square. It has applied to Blackpool Council for a premises licence for the former Che Bar and Coco Lounge on the ground floor of Forshaw's Hotel, formerly the Clifton Hotel, reports the Blackpool Gazette. It follows a £400,000 investment in the hotel, which included money from a Blackpool Council regeneration fund. According to a public notice published in the Gazette, Turtle Bay, which operates 44 restaurants, is seeking permission to sell alcohol and put on live and recorded music between 8am and midnight Sunday to Wednesday, and from 8am until 1am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Che Bar and Coco Lounge have been closed for around ten years. Forshaw's Hotel has recently been given a facelift after concerns were raised about the neglected state of the historic facade. The 90-bedroom hotel, which had been operating as part of the Ibis brand, was renamed Forshaw’s Hotel earlier this year in a throwback to the original property on the site. In its heyday as The Clifton, Frank Sinatra stayed there while in Blackpool to perform at the Opera House in the 1950s. The property, which has been owned by Yorkshire company Brook Leisure since 2008, was operated as a Travelodge until 2013 when it became an Ibis Styles as part of a franchise agreement. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Turtle Bay had appointed advisors as it seeks a new investment partner to help drive its further growth ambitions, with Rothschild & Co overseeing the process.
Pidgin owners to launch second site for sandwich bar concept: James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, who operate Michelin-starred restaurant Pidgin in Hackney, are set to open a second site for their sandwich bar concept, Sons + Daughters. The duo, who also briefly operated Magpie in Heddon Street, off Regent Street, opened their first Sons + Daughters in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, in 2019. They have now taken on a second site, the former 26 Grains unit at 2-3 Stoney Street in Borough Market, for an opening next month. “After a long search, we couldn’t be more pleased to be opening in Borough Market,” Ramsden told Hot Dinners. “It’s vibrant and exciting and gives us great scope to serve delicious sandwiches, salads and snacks, soft serve ice cream, cocktails and coffee.”
Chinese concept Xiongqi Hotpot to open in Leicester for seventh site: Chinese concept Xiongqi Hotpot is to open its seventh site, in Leicester. The company is launching the venue at the Highcross shopping centre, in the premises that were previously home to Foxie Brown's Lounge Bar. Xiongqi Hotpot has applied to the city council for a new premises licence with plans to operate daily from 11am to 11pm, reports Leicestershire Live. The new Leicester branch is listed on Xiongqi Hotpot's website as “coming soon”. The concept already has six branches, some of which are franchises, around England – in London's Charing Cross, Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester, Sheffield and Southampton. According to the website, it aims to offer customers “authentic and healthy hotpot”. Essentially, a hotpot features a hotpot of broth or soup, into which diners can add items of their choosing. The menu includes Xiongqi beef rolls, fresh sliced mutton and ox tongue. Seafood, such as tiger prawns and mussels, is listed, along with tofu and beancurd roll, and vegetables such as Chinese leaves, white radish and oyster mushroom.
London bar operators partner for south east Asian restaurant: Adam Papa, co-owner of Happiness Forgets in Hoxton and Ever After in Shoreditch, has partnered with Jamie Younger, who heads up the kitchens at Peckham’s Begging Bowl and Catford’s Perry Hill, for a new south east Asian restaurant in Covent Garden. Sunda Kitchen has opened at the former Wahlburgers site at 8-9 James Street, reports Hot Dinners. The venue offers snacks and small plates including Thai KFC cauliflower with tamarind mayo, Vietnamese jelly fish salad with pickled fennel and chilli salad, and Malaysian red chicken curry with seasonal vegetables. Drinks include pre-batched cocktails from Papa’s Twenty Light Spirits business, including a bubble tea bellini with lychee “caviar” and a Thai negroni with lemongrass gin, coconut Campari and sweet vermouth. Younger, who used to own The Palmerston in East Dulwich, last year partnered with Phil Sutton and Oonagh McCormack, of fledgling pub company Doghouse Pubs, to reopen the Perry Hill, which had been closed for two years.
Tim Hortons lines up first Lancashire site: Canadian quick service restaurant brand Tim Hortons is lining up its first site in Lancashire. SK Group, which is leading the rollout of Tim Hortons in the UK, is set to open in Burnley’s Anchor Retail Park later this year, creating more than 50 jobs. Kevin Hydes, chief commercial officer of Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “Opening in a new county is always a momentous occasion for us so I am delighted we can bring our renowned offering to the doorstep of the Burnley community and to those that have already developed a taste for Tim Hortons.” Tim Hortons now has circa 60 UK outlets and a further 11 “coming soon”, including a site on Trafford Park, Manchester, opening on Monday (29 August). Having first come to Britain in 2017, Tim Hortons has plans for a further circa 25 sites this year.
MyLahore opens sixth site, in Blackburn: MyLahore, the brand that offers a self-proclaimed British and healthy twist on Asian food, has opened its sixth site, in Blackburn. Founded in 2002 by cousins Asghar Ali and Shakoor Ahmed, MyLahore has restaurants in Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as a separate delivery-only kitchen in Bradford. It has now opened a new 130-cover restaurant at the former Red Lion Hotel, at 98 Whitebirk Road in Blackburn, creating 50 jobs. “We have been selective as to where we open and the sites we open at,” Shakoor told the Lancashire Telegraph. “Blackburn itself, we feel, has a booming hospitality and restaurant market, and there is good access to the surrounding towns and cities. It is not just a matter of launching anywhere. Here, we have found the area to be moving in the right direction.”
Fireaway Pizza franchisee to open fifth branch on Monday: Fireaway Pizza franchisee Harry Singh is set to open his fifth franchise store with the company. Singh, who already owns two stores in Kent, one in Gloucester and another in Dudley, will open at a former betting shop in Worcester’s Angel Street on Monday (29 August). Singh said: “We’re excited to be launching in Worcester, it really feels like a city with incredible character. We look forward to being a solid part of the community going forward.” Founded in 2016 by Mario Aleppo, Fireaway has since grown to circa 120 UK sites. Aleppo told Propel in March that he sees the potential for it to grow to 500 sites within the next ten years. That same month, Fireaway made its international debut with a site in Amsterdam, while master franchisees have also been signed up in Canada, France, Germany, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
Norwich bakery to open sixth site: Norwich artisan bakery Bread Source is opening a sixth site in the region. Norwich Cathedral has appointed the company as the new operator of the Rectory Cafe from October, and its staff will become Bread Source employees. It comes after the cafe’s partnership with Jarrold, which has run the venue since 2019, comes to a close at the end of September. Hannah Winter, who founded Bread Source with husband Steven in 2012, said they are “very grateful” for the opportunity to serve their customers in a “unique and wonderful” setting. Bread Source already operates four bakery shops in Norwich and one in Aylesham, serving up artisan bread and cinnamon buns alongside a range of pastries, sandwiches, coffee and specialist tea. “Bread Source is well known throughout the city and county for the team’s delicious pastries and its passion for creating and serving quality, locally sourced food and drink, and we are excited to welcome it to the Refectory Cafe,” the Reverend Canon Andy Bryant, from Norwich Cathedral, told the Norwich Evening News. “The Refectory Cafe is a unique and much-loved venue, and we are looking forward to building on its success and exploring new opportunities for the future with Bread Source.”
Manchester cafe and bar concept set to open third site in city: Claudio Ribeiro, owner of Manchester cafe and bar concept Federal Cafe & Bar, is set to open a third site in the city. Ribeiro will this autumn move into a unit at the new Circle Square development, adding to his sites in the Northern Quarter and Deansgate. It will feature inside and outside seating, as well as some retail space, while Ribeiro told The Manc he has been experimenting with new healthier dishes and is considering a French toast menu. The former hotel manager has also applied for a late licence, allowing the venue to stay open longer and serve cocktails, beers and natural wine into the night, as well as hosting occasional events.

Belfast steakhouse concept to open in Portadown for second site: Belfast steakhouse concept Top Blade is to open a second site, in Portadown. The company will launch the venue in Mandeville Street at the end of September or beginning of October. It will occupy the former Flamin’ Grill premises, according to a post on Top Blade’s Facebook page. On its website, Top Blade, whose existing restaurant is in St Anne’s Square in Belfast, said it prides itself on being a “much more affordable and accessible steak eatery”. As well as specialising in flat iron steak and a range of sauces, it offers weekly specials along with favourites such as buttery champ, sweet potato fries and market greens. There is an extensive drinks menus, including bespoke cocktails. The Flamin’ Grill, which opened in January 2019, closed in April this year, citing the continuing impact of the pandemic along with the “ridiculous hike in stock and energy prices”.

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