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Thu 1st Sep 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Martin Williams – restaurant industry is on ‘knife-edge of collapse’: Martin Williams chief executive of Rare Restaurants, the owner of Gaucho and M Restaurants, has warned the restaurant industry is on a “knife-edge of collapse” due to the energy crisis. Williams has joined UKHospitality in writing to chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng – the latter a regular of M Victoria Street – calling for sector-wide support. Williams said: “The restaurant industry is on a knife-edge of collapse with 500,000 jobs at risk. Spiralling energy costs (which would have had a net increase of £3.5m across Rare Restaurants) are likely to mean closing time for many independent restaurateurs, start-ups and founders (of which I was one from 2014-2019). Food and wage Inflation, plus ridiculous rates have already wiped practically all profitability out of our sector – now energy costs will simply mean closure for many small and medium-sized enterprises – unless the government steps in. It is time to reverse the VAT increase made in April and have a comprehensive review and reduction in business rates so that hospitality has parity with the retail sector.” Hamish Stoddart, managing director of the 20-strong gastropub operator Peach, told the Oxford Mail: “We think the cost of power could rise to £90,000 to £100,000 per annum per pub. We try not just to pass the cost on to our guests and really think how we keep loyal guests. We managed to buy two years’ worth of renewable electricity and gas ten months ago, so actually, our challenge is a 15-month project to find a way. We are also working to reduce gas and electricity usage by better kitchen kit, better insulation, better cooling in the cellar and more choice on the menu of lower carbon impact dishes. This will get us to net zero and to power reductions of 15-30% that we need.” Chris Manners, co-founder of pub operator Dodo, said the business is seeing its energy bills increase by 250% compared with last year.  He added: “We’re working hard to be as efficient as possible with our usage and have so far, managed to avoid price increases for our customers, but it’s likely to become a reality very soon.”

Industry News: 

One day to go before next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details on 315 new sites, 14,300-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, will show the details of 315 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published tomorrow (Friday, 2 September), at midday. 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 restaurant operators, niche cuisine and international brands making their UK debut. Premium subscribers will also receive a 14,300-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 (26 August). The database contained 47 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,617. The 293 sites run by those 47 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 66,609 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 will be updated every two months. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. 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.

NTIA – soaring energy bills more expensive than rent and rates combined as it becomes second largest operating cost: Sector businesses have seen energy costs spiral out of control, with many seeing these costs having a greater financial impact than rent and business rates combined, according to the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). Energy has risen from the fourth largest operating cost to the second in a matter of months – behind staffing, the trade body said. It cited the example of a bar operator that had seen energy costs rise from £35,000 over the last two to three years to then double in the early part of this year to £85,000, which was unsustainable for the business. The NTIA said quotes that some operators have reported in the last week are £150,000 to £200,000 a year, making their energy bills moving forward more than ten times the cost two years ago, and dwarfing the rent and rates costs combined. The culmination of a range of escalating costs – from staffing, supply chain increases, PRS/PPL and insurance – are placing businesses in an untenable position, with many facing closure over the coming months without intervention, the NTIA warned. It added energy suppliers are adding to the financial pressures by demanding “unachievable” commercial terms, such as six months’ security energy deposits to engage with new contracts, with limited companies willing to take on new contracts for night-time economy businesses. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “Each day we are seeing businesses receive energy contract demands of between 300% to 1,000% of their current contract rates. This is unsustainable! It is vital the new prime minister acts swiftly to implement a rescue package for businesses, which should include a reduction in VAT, extension of business rates relief and an energy cap for small and medium-sized enterprises.” Sacha Lord, chair of the NTIA and night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester, added: “Without immediate intervention, I have no doubt we will see the closure of thousands of venues across the UK, an outcome that will have dire consequences for our country’s economic growth.”

Four in ten Brits cutting back on eating out and takeaways to combat cost-of-living crisis: Four in ten Brits have said they are cutting down on eating out and takeaways to help combat the cost-of-living crisis, according to new data. Research from personal finance website Finder found 41% of people surveyed said they will not be eating out as much as before, and 40% said they will not be ordering as many takeaways. A further three in ten (30%) said they are planning to go on either fewer night outs, or none at all, for the foreseeable future, while 15% will be avoiding domestic “staycation” holidays. More than a fifth (22%) also said they will cut back on entertainment such as trips to the cinema and theme parks, while 17% will go to fewer gigs and events. The data was gathered from a survey of more than 2,000 people aged 18 and over. Liz Edwards, editor-in-chief at Finder, said: “There’s no doubt it’s a very difficult time for many of us. Inflation continues to rise, and energy prices are set to go even higher, so it’s understandable something has to give when it comes to our spending.”

Delivery and takeaway sales double pre-covid levels but drop year-on-year for ninth month running: Restaurant and pub groups’ delivery and takeaway sales have again fallen since covid restrictions ended but remain well ahead of pre-pandemic levels, the latest CGA Hospitality at Home Tracker reveals. Combined sales in July 2022 were 19% down on July 2021, when the delivery and takeaway sector was inflated by lingering trading restrictions and consumers’ hesitations about going out. It is the ninth month in a row the tracker has recorded a year-on-year decline. However, sales are still running at more than twice the level seen before the pandemic. Groups recorded combined delivery and takeaway growth of 112% in July 2022 compared with July 2019, when they were operating as normal. Delivery sales were up by 265%, while takeaway and click-and-collect sales achieved more modest growth of 46%. This reflects an ongoing shift in buying habits, with more consumers embracing the ease of online orders via third-party platforms and opting for door-to-door delivery. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “July’s hot weather prompted many consumers to head out to pubs and restaurants—especially those with outdoor areas—rather than ordering food in. As we move further away from covid restrictions, we can expect year-on-year delivery and takeaway sales to drop further below the peaks of lockdowns. However, demand remains high, and our latest tracker data is a reminder of the seismic shift towards deliveries in the last three years.”

Nine in ten consumers shunning cash when visiting hospitality venues, new tech payments growing in popularity: Nine in ten consumers are now avoiding using cash when visiting hospitality venues, a new study from Zonal and CGA by NielsenIQ shows. Their latest GO Technology report reveals how the balance of payment methods has tipped decisively from cash to card, with 89% now using cards or contactless payment every time, or most times, they visit a pub, bar or restaurant. The survey, commissioned in partnership with PayPal, found 71% of people no longer frequently pay with cash when in hospitality venues, and 69% of UK consumers now withdraw cash less than once a week. Card payments are also in danger, however, with mobile methods and wearable tech growing in popularity. Nearly a quarter (24%) of consumers said they now frequently use digital wallets – like Apple or Google Pay – in hospitality venues, and nearly one in seven (13%) said they use a device – such as a smart watch – every or most times, rising to 25% of 18 to 34-year-olds. Furthermore, a significant number are interested in newer technologies such as “pay-with-your-face” recognition software, which a third (34%) said they find appealing. Close behind are options like digital IDs (33%), invisible payments or just-walk-out technology (31%), and microchips under the skin (29%). Olivia FitzGerald, chief marketing and sales officer for Zonal, said: “While cash remains an option for some, the overwhelming use of digital payment combined with a growing interest in futuristic and ‘invisible’ payment methods shows that attitudes have changed hugely. We’ve reached a tipping point where venues will miss out on business if they can't keep up.” 

Company News:

Six BrewDog sites set for closure revealed: The six BrewDog sites set for closure have been revealed – including three in London and two in Scotland. Propel reported yesterday that the Scottish brewer and retailer will be closing six of its UK venues following escalating energy costs. The sites which will close include: 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston; The Bower, 211 Old Street, Shoreditch; 55 Charterhouse Street, Farringdon; Hop & Anchor, Aberdeen; and 59-61 Marischal Street, Peterhead. Propel understands that the sixth site is a taproom attached to one BrewDog’s warehouses. The five bars will be actively marketed for sale by Hay Hill property services, but not the taproom. Upon announcing the closures yesterday, BrewDog founder James Watt lambasted the “zombie government” for a lack of support for the industry over rocketing costs. He said: “Industry experts estimate that up to a staggering 70% of the UK’s bars, pubs and restaurants could be forced to close due to soaring energy prices and huge cost price increases and unfortunately, we are not exempt from these headwinds. Last night we confirmed we were to close six bars around the UK, and it is heart-breaking to lose these locations, but I pray this is not a sign of things to come. Reality in the hospitality space is starting to bite and bite hard, and the government needs to get a grip, now. If nothing happens the UK looks set to lose half of its pubs and bars and all the millions of jobs these locations provide, as well as the vital role they play in local communities.”

Red Oak Taverns appoints Graeme Bunn as new property, investment and strategy director: Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, has appointed Graeme Bunn as its new property, investment and strategy director. Bunn, who has been managing director of Fleurets for the past seven years, will leave the business after 22 years at the end of September to take up his new position. He will have overall responsibility for delivering Red Oak’s expansion strategy, which is being supported by a £110m six-year loan secured in August. Of the funds, £50m of the facility serves as an acquisition facility to drive the purchase of new assets and new investment, including capital expenditure into the existing 208-strong estate. Bunn will be replaced at Fleurets by Paul Hardwick, who is a board director with the company. The business has also promoted Andy Frisby, who heads the London-based transaction team, and Kevin Conibear, who leads the urban markets division, to its board. Hardwick said: “It’s been a pleasure working closely with Graeme in the operational management of the firm and supporting him in leading Fleurets during his time as managing director. He has been a great ambassador of the firm, successfully navigating us through some very interesting and challenging times and I wish him every success in his new career.” Bunn added: “Fleurets is in great shape, Paul is the perfect leader of the business and I look forward to working with Fleurets in my new role at Red Oak.”
Fuller’s set to acquire former cafe in Bourton-on-the-Water: London pub operator Fuller’s has started the process of buying the former De La Haye’s Cafe Tea Room in Bourton-on-the-Water, in the Cotswolds, which went into liquidation in 2020. Savills was marketing the property for £2.895m, and Fuller’s has announced it is close to completing its purchase of the site. The restaurant can cater for 110 internal covers and a further 295 within two gardens. A spokesman for Fuller’s said: “We are delighted to be so close to completing our acquisition of this outstanding Cotswolds site for an undisclosed sum. As a family company, with a rich heritage, this is a perfect location for a wonderful Fuller’s pub, and we are looking forward to playing an active role in the community. We have been granted planning permission to make some changes and we will be revealing our plans shortly. It’s a wonderful location and we can't wait to bring the great Fuller’s experience of delicious, home-cooked, locally sourced food, a fantastic range of drinks and outstanding customer service to Bourton-on-the-Water. We are hoping to be open early in 2023.” It follows the opening, in July, of Fuller’s first landside airport pub, The Queen’s Arms at Heathrow terminal two, and the reopening of The George & Dragon in Westerham, Kent – the eighth site in its Bel & The Dragon portfolio – following a £2.5m refurbishment.

MeatLiquor closes Clapham Old Town site less than a year after opening: Scott Collins-led concept MeatLiquor has closed its Clapham Old Town site less than a year after opening. The 11-strong restaurant group, which last summer opened its first pub, launched at the former The Yard site at 13-19 Old Town in October 2021. But it this week posted a message on Instagram saying: “Apologies, SW4 is now closed for good. Still available in real life at Northcote Road, SW11 6QL.” MeatLiquor, which opened its first restaurant 11 years ago, still operates nine London venues as well as sites in Brighton and Leeds.

Gloucestershire McDonald’s franchisees take on three more sites: A husband-and-wife team who run five McDonald’s restaurants in Gloucester have taken ownership of three more in the county, bringing their portfolio to eight and workforce to more than 1,000. McDonald’s franchisee Paul Toner and wife Amanda have taken ownership of two Cheltenham restaurants, in Lower High Street and the Kingsditch Business Park, and one in Stroud town centre. The couple first took over a restaurant in Westgate Street, Gloucester, in 2016 under the franchise name Incito Group Holdings. They gradually expanded their portfolio to take over the McDonald’s in the city’s Bristol Road, Barnwood, Hardwicke and St Oswald's, increasing annual turnover to more than £20m. “We’ve had quite a fast-paced expansion,” Amanda told Punchline. “We’ve been very lucky. We’ve been in the right place at the right time. Never say never (to further acquisitions)! We’ve had eight restaurants in less than six years. We’ve had a pandemic in the middle of it all. It’s been pretty rapid expansion, you’ve had to learn quickly, and we are both looking forward to running the business. We live in Cheltenham, and all the restaurants are within a 30-minute drive, which is great.”

London indoor climbing gym concept secures second site, lines up further venues in capital: London indoor climbing gym concept The Font has secured a second site and is preparing for further expansion across the capital. The Font Borough will be located near London Bridge and will occupy a 6,726 square-foot unit comprising of state-of-the-art climbing walls and a fitness gym. It will also offer coffee from neighbouring 92 Degrees, as well as craft beer and food from local dark kitchens. The Font opened its first site in Wandsworth in April 2021, centred around a “climb, train and connect” ethos. It is now working with property agent Shelley Sandzer to secure several new sites, with more set to open in London over the next few months. Joey Powis, co-founder and managing director of The Font, said: “We’re excited to be taking our concept to a new area of London. The Font Wandsworth has been well-received, and we are confident this is the time to begin our expansion to further sites in the capital, allowing more people to experience our one-of-a-kind proposition. Fitness is important, but we’ve tried to balance it out with other leisure elements – good food and effective social space to connect with others.” Shelley Sandzer acted for The Font.

Mission Mars confirms November opening for £3m Albert’s Schloss in Liverpool: Mission Mars, the Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza operator led by Roy Ellis, has confirmed its new £3m Albert’s Schloss in Liverpool will open in November. Propel reported in March the group, which also operates Albert’s Schenke in Hanover Street in the city, had been given the go-ahead to convert a former food market in Radiant House, at 18-26 Bold Street, into a third site for its Bavarian beer hall concept. The 1,000 square-foot venue was formerly home to The Liverpool Gas Company and has been empty since 2019. Spread across two floors, it will feature a large stage that will host cabaret and live music performances, alongside two large bars, a fresh tank bier system and a Cook Haus dining area on the ground floor. The first floor will be home to Ludwig’s Tavern, offering artisan Schnapps, a vermouth bar shuffleboard and other tavern games. The 130-cover Cook Haus restaurant will serve all-day dining daily. The Bier Palace will serve a wide range of European beer. Roy Ellis, chief executive of Mission Mars, said: “Liverpool has been a wonderful home to Albert’s Schenke, and we cannot wait to have Albert’s Schloss join the party. We’ve designed a beautiful space, restoring a 1,000-square-foot glazed atrium while installing a large stage, green room, two large bars, an artisan bakery, a fresh tank beer system and restaurant dining across the two floors. We also have plans for a rooftop terrace and large open-air beer garden around the back.” Mission Mars also operates Albert’s Schloss sites in Manchester and Birmingham, and the Liverpool one will create 200 jobs. The group also this summer secured sites in Sheffield, Chapel Allerton (Leeds) and Didsbury (Manchester) for its Rudy’s concept, and has several other sites in legals.

Berkshire brewery set to become employee-owned, seeking bigger site, appoints new MD: Berkshire brewery Elusive Brewing is looking to become employee-owned and is seeking a bigger site for its brewery and taproom. The company, founded by Andy Parker in Finchampstead in 2015, is currently working towards an EMI share scheme, which gives employees share options. It is also looking to move its brewery and taproom, located on the Hogwood Industrial Estate, to a larger site nearer the town centre. Parker, who oversees seven employees, said: “I decided to go down the employee ownership route as it helps them feel engaged and share in our success. We’ve just put our valuation in and hope the process will be completed in a couple of months. We’re also looking to potentially move to a new site next year as we’ve reached capacity where we are, and we’re aiming to double our capacity and production, as well as make the taproom more permanent and open longer hours.” Overseeing the changes will be new managing director, Ruth Mitchell, who joined the business last year as operations director following spells with Utopian Brewery, Adnams and West Berkshire Brewery. “It feels like a natural progression to now hand the day-to-day running of the business over to such an experienced individual, and I’m excited to give Ruth the freedom to execute her vision for the brewery’s next phase,” Parker added. “Since joining us last year, Ruth has delivered consistent sales growth and demonstrated strong leadership skills while increasing our operational efficiency across all areas of the business.”

Cardiff operators to open new wine bar tomorrow: The team behind Taco restaurant La Pantera and cocktail bar Dead Canary in Cardiff are set to open a new wine bar in the Welsh capital tomorrow (Friday, 2 September). Nighthawks will offer artisan, small batch and out-of-the ordinary wine from a site on the corner of Castle Arcade and Castle Street. It will feature table service and expert staff on hand to help people choose from the list of wine, all served by the glass. The team will be buying from all over the world, including a selection of natural wine, but keeping orders of each wine limited “so there will always be something new to try”. Alongside the wine will be a simple cocktail list, with a focus on cocktails made with sparkling wine, as well as local craft beer and a small plates menu designed for pairing with the wine. Co-founders David Adams and Rob Clark also plan to convert the venue’s cellar for use as an event space. Adams said: “Rob and I have both worked in hospitality for more than a decade and both have a passion for great wine and champagne. With Nighthawks, we’re bringing together our experience from in the kitchen and behind the bar to create a venue that’s not stuffy or intimidating, somewhere that’s down to earth where everyone feels welcome. We’re keeping everything really simple – a stripped back list of only a dozen or so wines that we’ll keep changing up. We’re taking that simplicity through to our menu too – things that go really well with wine like cheese plates and cured meat.” Owen Cahill, partner at EJ Hales, acted on behalf of landlord Mansford LLP.

Nightcap confirms opening date for Tonight Josephine’s northern debut: Nightcap, the owner of The Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group and the Barrio Familia group of bars, has confirmed it will launch its Tonight Josephine brand in the north of England on Friday, 21 October. Propel revealed in November last year that Nightcap had secured a lease for 85-89 Hanover Street, Liverpool, to bring the cocktail bar concept to the city. Split across a ground floor entrance, basement and lower basement, the 7,893 square-foot venue will be the brand’s biggest yet when it opens. It will be slightly larger than the Bristol site, which will measure 7,824 square feet when it launches on Friday, 30 September. However, while Liverpool will have a 400-cover capacity, the Bristol site will be able to hold 450. Liverpool will be the seventh Tonight Josephine bar to open, and 11th in total for the Adventure Bar Group. Tom Kidd, Adventure Bar Group founder, said: “With the success of the Tonight Josephine brand already in London and Birmingham, we are thrilled to be bringing it to Hanover Street. Liverpool is such an incredible city and known for its party antics. We feel it is the perfect location for Josephine’s first foray into the north.”

Piazza at the Royal Opera House to relaunch this month, open to all: Piazza at the Royal Opera House, the restaurant and terrace housed within the iconic London building, will relaunch on Tuesday, 27 September, and will be open to all. Previously open exclusively to ticket holders, it will now offer a new menu of seasonal, modern British dishes, as well as a fifth-floor terrace with panoramic views of Covent Garden, to all-comers. A regularly changing menu, created in collaboration with long-standing catering and hospitality partner Company of Cooks, will be overseen by executive chef Richard Robinson, formerly of Tom’s Kitchen, The French Laundry and Per Se. The menu will include the likes of London burrata and heritage beetroots; lemon sole, English sparkling wine and mushroom; and Pershore broccoli with citrus and pine nuts. A wine list of new-world and old-world bottles will come from Ellis Wines, while a list of cocktails made using seasonal products that would otherwise go to waste in the kitchen has been created. Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, said: “We’re delighted to be opening Piazza at the Royal Opera House, another great reason to visit our beautiful home in the heart of Covent Garden. We look forward to welcoming visitors old and new to enjoy the food, views and warm hospitality in our award-winning and internationally renowned building.” 

Just Eat partners with Booker Wholesale to offer delivery to Symbol group convenience stores: Just Eat has partnered with Booker Wholesale to offer delivery to thousands of Symbol group convenience stores. Operators of Londis, Premier, Budgens and Family Shopper stores can now offer customers a range of fresh food, everyday essentials, drinks and tobacco delivered to the door within 25 minutes. As part of the agreement, Booker Wholesale’s sales team will promote Just Eat delivery to its store customers as a preferred partner. Once the site is live on the food delivery platform, the site can begin receiving orders from the Just Eat app and website. Just Eat said the new partnership is set to accelerate its expansion in the convenience sector. Amy Heather, strategic accounts director, added: “Consumers are increasingly looking to have anything and everything delivered to the door, not just their favourite takeaway. That’s why convenience stores are among the fastest growing sectors for delivery. It’s an exciting next step in the expansion of our grocery offering.” Just Eat first began offering on-demand grocery delivery last year, launching with a partnership with Asda. Since then, it has also partnered with One Stop and Co-Op Central England, steadily rolling out delivery to more stores across their estates. Through these partnerships, Just Eat now offers more than 1,500 stock keeping units of grocery products.

The Gym Group opens new site in Fareham: The Gym Group, the operator of 219 gyms across the UK, has opened a new site in Fareham, Hampshire. The 11,000 square-foot site is part of a mixed-use development in the residential suburb of Locks Heath. Oliver Tester, property acquisition director, said: “Following the success of recent openings across the country, we are excited to be providing affordable, inclusive fitness to the people of Fareham. Physical and mental health is more important than ever before – we are proud to be making further progress towards our goal of breaking down barriers to fitness across the country.” The opening is part of the group’s expansion strategy, which will see it open 28 new gyms in 2022, with the ambition to reach 300 sites by 2025.

Immersive racing car simulation experience set to launch in Sheffield: An immersive racing car simulation experience is set to launch in Sheffield. Simulation Station, which is the brainchild of Daniel Eshelby, has agreed a deal to open at the Orchard Square development. Customers will be able to choose to race each other on laser-scanned tracks with more than 100 cars to choose from. The venue will also host a car-themed bar for visitors. Eshelby said: “I’ve loved motorsport since my dad bought me a go-kart when I was 13 years old. As a teenager, we travelled up and down the UK racing at different tracks, and I went on to manage a kart track for several years. Karting is seen as the gateway to motorsport but it is very expensive, and the cost can put off a lot of people. My ambition with Simulation Station, having visited more than 30 kart tracks from Northern Ireland right down to Cornwall, is to launch and nurture the new grassroots of motorsports, offering a much cheaper way to enjoy and get involved in a competitive motorsport without compromising on enjoyment.”

Team behind Belfast pop-up chicken shop to open first standalone restaurant: The team behind a pop-up chicken and junk food shop in Belfast is opening its first standalone venue. Hey Chick! is bringing forward a 30-seater fast casual restaurant in the city’s Botanic development, with the project in the final stages of a fit-out. The concept – which began life as a pop-up hatch serving fried chicken burgers at Belfast’s Botanic Inn in 2021 – now operates two locations at Common Market in Cathedral Quarter and the Trademarket venue in Dublin Road. Its popularity has inspired the team to secure a site for its first restaurant, with directors Mark Craig, Joe Goudie, Michael McKeown and Oisin Montgomery behind the venture. Goudie said: “This is such an exciting announcement for us, and we can’t wait to welcome diners to Hey Chick! in Botanic when it opens in September. The success of our other locations in Belfast has been beyond our wildest dreams, and it’s because of the support of our loyal customers that we’re able to open our first restaurant here in the city.”

Ivy Asia confirms opening date for debut Welsh restaurant: Ivy Asia, the Richard Caring-backed concept, has confirmed it will make its debut in Wales, in Cardiff, on Tuesday, 20 September. The concept, which recently opened its sixth site, in Brighton, will launch in The Hayes, adjacent to sister restaurant The Ivy, which itself opened in late 2019 at the St David’s shopping scheme in the Welsh capital. The 3,900 square-foot Ivy Asia will cater for up to 166 guests, with indoor dining and a terrace space. Open from lunch to late, with weekend brunch, the menu will be overseen by executive chef Simon Gregory, with an array of dishes from across the continent. Highlights include an extensive collection of sushi and sashimi, with vegetarian and plant-based options available. There will also be a sushi bar on the mezzanine level, with dishes prepared in front of diners. The brand, which is overseen by chief operating officer Laura Mills, is also set to open on the former French Connection site in Leeds’ Vicar Lane, close to the company’s existing The Ivy Victoria Quarter venue, in the autumn. Caring is also exploring an opening in Glasgow for Ivy Asia, and has spoken previously about taking it overseas.

Crazy golf concept Caddies opens in Crawley for second site: Crazy golf concept Caddies has opened its second site, in Crawley, West Sussex. Caddies has launched in unit 4C at Crawley Leisure Park in the building previously occupied by Xenia Lounge, a Brazilian restaurant that closed earlier this summer. As well as crazy golf, the venue offers shuffleboard and a bar with a range of different drinks. The food menu includes burgers and hot dogs as well as chicken and plant based options, while small plates are also available. Caddies also has a site in Southend. The website states: “You’ve never experienced crazy golf like this. Our courses are loaded with challenging obstacles and hilarious interactive features, from celestial sausages and singing chickens to a raving fireplace and more. Forget mini golf – this is crazy golf!”

London gin distillery opens new ‘brand house’ with coffee shop, bar and restaurant: London gin distillery, Jim & Tonic, has opened a new “brand house”, including a coffee shop, bar and restaurant. It has taken over the former The Print House bar and kitchen site at 133 High Street in Stratford, east London, which closed earlier this month after eight years, reports Hot Dinners. The restaurant, which serves pizzas, burgers, salads and Turkish dishes, and the alfresco cocktail bar, based in a former double decker London bus, are already open. The company will now turn its attention to the venue’s riverside courtyard, where it plans to build a new distillery, tasting room and craft spirit shop. Jim & Tonic was founded in 2016 when James Mark set up a mobile craft gin bar, which catered for events and corporate functions. It has since expanded to a flagship distillery bar at Elephant & Castle’s Mercato Metropolitano, a micro-brewery at Mercato Mayfair and a Brixton Village pop-up in Coldharbour Lane. Last year, it also partnered with German Kraft Brewery and Le Bab for bar and restaurant collaboration, Kraft Dalston, which also features a sustainable micro-distillery.

Loungers eyes Kendal opening: Cafe bar brand Loungers is eyeing a site in Kendal, Cumbria. The company has lodged plans with South Lakeland District Council to convert the vacant former Burton clothing store in Stricklandgate into a Lounge, reports the Cumbria Crack. A premises licence has also been submitted for the site. A statement accompanying the planning application said: “The aim of every Lounge is to tie in with local customers so that they can make of the Lounge what they will; whether a customer wants to come in for a coffee after dropping children to school, a working lunch, or a tipple after work, Lounges can provide an environment for all these purposes.” 

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