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Fri 2nd Sep 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fixed term contracts being ‘ripped up’ by utility companies, operators warned: Sector operators have been warned that fixed term energy contracts are not necessarily a safeguard against rocketing utility bills. Businesses across the UK, which unlike households have no energy cap, have been left reeling by price rises of, in some cases, between 300% and 1,000% when renewing their contracts. And while some have managed to stave off the worst of the crisis with fixed term contracts, one operator has warned that prices may not be as secure as they seem. Andrew Parker, central operations director at Admiral Taverns, which owns 1,600 predominantly wet-led community pubs, posted on Twitter a letter one of his pubs had received from its utilities provider, BES Utilities. In it, BES outlined that, in line with the terms and conditions of the supply contract, it has “no choice but to increase your prices”. The pub was told its prices would be going up from 50.6p to 68p per kwh during the day, and 34.2p to 45p per kwh during the night, from October. It also gives the option of termination “as a gesture of goodwill”. Parker, who joined the Admiral operating board following its acquisition of Hawthorn, where he had been director of leased and tenanted operations, in 2021, tweeted: “So now @BESUtlitiesUK can just rip up contracts pubs have entered into claiming Ts & Cs of contract. So even if you thought your prices were secure, they are not.” The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which earlier this week warned that soaring energy bills are becoming more expensive than rent and rates combined, urged businesses to check their contracts and email their MPs with any concerns. It tweeted: “We are seeing some reports of energy companies negating on current fixed term contracts, where a clause within T&Cs state that if the network price significantly increases, they are able to overturn the contract! Please check your contracts everyone!” It comes as The Fontmell, a pub with rooms in Fontmell Magma, Dorset, announced its closure this week following a £58,000 increase in its utility bills. A spokesperson said: “This is not a decision that has been made lightly. Supplier prices have increased to such a point that we are no longer able to pass that cost onto our guests.” The British institute of Innkeeping earlier this week warned that one in three pubs will fail in the next three months without urgent government support, while UKHospitality wrote to the chancellor and business secretary demanding a comprehensive package of measures to the end of March 2023 for sector businesses. The Association of Indoor Play (AIP) has also written to the government warning that indoor play operators face an uncertain future, and possible closure, if Downing Street does not help with energy costs. Janice Dunphy, AIP chair and owner of The Web Adventure Park in York said. “Play operators are primarily smaller, privately owned businesses. They simply do not have the margins in their businesses to cover the costs. Admission fees cannot be increased further – our customers are already feeling the pinch. Operators are already announcing reduced opening times and making staff cutbacks.”
 

Industry News: 

Next edition of The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, 14,300-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, 2 September), at midday. It will show the details of 315 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 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 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.

NFFF calls for immediate return to 5% VAT rate with fish and chip shops closing ‘on daily basis’: The National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) has called for an immediate return to the 5% rate of VAT, with fish and chip shops closing for good “on a daily basis”. The government reduced the rate of VAT to 5% for hospitality between July 2020 and September 2021 to combat the effects of the pandemic before returning it first to 12.5% in October 2021, and then to 20% in April this year. UKHospitality has regularly called for a return to 12.5% for the sector, but Andrew Crook, president of the NFFF, insists even this wouldn’t go far enough as, on top of rising costs, its members are also subjected to the tariff imposed on Russian-caught white fish, which has started to come into play. Crook told Propel. “We have been having regular meetings with government officials who have been very supportive, but now is time for action. I’m getting calls on a daily basis from shops that are going under. I think many are hanging on to see what the government does. My own shop is losing money, and that is before an increase in energy costs. I have just taken the keys back to one I was the landlord of, and I’m better leaving it closed than trying to trade. Business rates reform helps only around half my members, so would not be a solution for many small businesses. We need a return to 5% VAT immediately to help give operators a lifeline, but we think now is the time for reform of an outdated system. We think the hospitality sector could benefit from a permanently lower rate of VAT, which would create a stronger industry that is more resilient to cope with issues that may come our way.” He added: “We also need more rights when it comes to energy contracts as many are being forced to take out three-year deals as shorter term ones would be way too expensive. Once they are in contract, it is impossible to get out. I think we also need the option to be able to borrow money by adding to our bounce back loans. If the pandemic wasn't enough to spark a root and branch reform of the hospitality sector and how it is viewed by the government, then surely this situation is!” Crook last month warned fish and chip shops are “facing extinction” and said about two thirds had reduced opening hours to save money.
 
Lord – more than half a million could lose jobs without government support for pub sector: More than half a million people could lose their jobs this winter if Britain's pubs fail to receive government support, Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has warned. Lord said the scale of job losses that would follow the widely predicted closure of pubs would be “unimaginable” and have a devastating effect on the country's economic fabric. He said it is predicted more than 619,000 jobs could be lost from the 880,000 roles within the UK pub sector, creating further pressure on the unemployment market during the cost-of-living crisis. More than a quarter of million (270,900) of those losing their jobs would be aged under 25. The losses would add to youth unemployment figures, resulting in nearly 700,000 young people unemployed across the UK by December. Lord issued fresh calls for immediate government intervention for the hospitality sector as a part of a three-point support plan that includes a reduction in VAT for the industry as seen during the pandemic, an energy price rebate and a relaxation of visa regulations to encourage workers into the sector. Lord, who has also requested an urgent meeting with chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, said: “We are now in a catastrophic position, bigger than what we experienced during the pandemic. These figures speak for themselves, and emphasise just how significant the sector is to the economic fabric of the UK. Hospitality is a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of families across the UK and without support, we are in very real danger of these livelihoods being stripped away and plunging hard working people into unaffordable circumstances.”

Contract catering sales remain down on 2019 levels, 1,116 fewer units to serve than pre-covid: Sales in the contract catering sector remain below pre-covid-19 levels, though slow but steady growth is being seen, new research from CGA by NielsenIQ and Bidfood’s Contract Catering Tracker reveals. Between April and June 2022 sales were 56% up on the second quarter of 2021, when lockdown restrictions remained in place for the majority of the period. However, sales are 11.5% below the second quarter of 2019. The deficit reflects the extent to which contract catering venues have been lost during and since covid-19. The tracker denotes there are now 1,116 fewer units for caterers to serve than there was this time three years ago, as inflation and rising costs are impacting spending. In addition, it’s indicative of lower footfall at venues, despite an almost complete easing of consumer hesitancy. However, there are causes for optimism that consumer confidence is returning. Comparison with 2019 data shows three-year sales at minus 11.5% in the second quarter of 2022. This marks a steady upward trajectory from minus 20% in the first quarter of 2022 and minus 26% in the fourth quarter of 2021. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Despite a complete return to the ‘new normal’, the tracker shows the contract catering sector continues to lag behind. Recent working from home and hybrid working models are a contributory factor, alongside inflation concerns that are causing businesses and consumers to tighten their belts. But there’s progressively been less loss of units and sales in three consecutive quarters now, indicating a slow but steady return of confidence in the sector.”
 
Dream the Impossible event launches with charity auction: The Tim Bacon Foundation (TBF) has begun the build up to its second Dream the Impossible event, with the launch of its charity auction. Next Thursday (8 September), 15 companies and 11 restaurants across Manchester will raise cash for eight cancer charities in memory of Living Ventures founder Tim Bacon. This year's initiative will look to reprise the enormously successful 2017 Dream the Impossible event held shortly after Bacon’s death. Jeremy Roberts, founder and chair of TBF and Bacon’s partner and co-founder of Living Ventures, which created brands from The Living Room to The Alchemist, said: “Not everyone can attend the dinners and the party on 8 September but you can still be involved by participating in the auction, which will finish at midnight on the night of the event. We have more than 60 incredible prizes from a private jet weekend in Champagne or a weekend on a private yacht in St Tropez to amazing dining opportunities in some of the country’s top restaurants from Gordon Ramsey to Mark Birchall.” To take part in the auction, click here.
 

Company News:

Steve Worrall leaves Big Table Group to join Punch, Lisa Gibbons takes MD role: Punch Pubs & Co, the Fortress Investment Group business, has appointed Steve Worrall as its new business development director, Propel has learned. Worrall joined the Epiris-backed Big Table Group as brand director for Cafe Rouge last summer, before becoming chief operating officer for Café Rouge and Las Iguanas last November. He was formerly managing director of pubs, inns and hotels at St Austell Brewery, and marketing sales and support director at Greene King. He also had stints at Spirit Pub Company and Scottish & Newcastle. Clive Chesser, chief executive of Punch Pubs, told Propel: “Steve is highly respected within our industry and has more than 25 years of experience having held senior roles in operations, commercial, marketing and property across several major hospitality businesses. His addition will add further strength and depth to our executive team. The role will strategically link support team initiatives with operational execution, ensuring we continue to drive performance and remain focused on key strategic projects across the business.” Alan Morgan, chief executive of Big Table Group, told Propel: “Steve joined the Big Table Group to oversee a significant period of change for Café Rouge, and successfully delivered the launch of our Rouge trial sites in Haywards Heath and Birmingham, and we wish him every success in the future. Lisa Gibbons has taken the role of managing director of a portfolio of brands including Café Rouge, Amalfi, Center Parcs concessions and our franchised business.” Gibbons, who has been with the company for more than ten years, was appointed chief operating officer for Bella Italia and the group’s concessions business last November. At the same time, Lloyd Bloom, has moved from brand director of concessions and franchising at the Big Table Group to chief operating officer for its Bella Italia brand.
 
US restaurant business 50 Eggs Hospitality Group plans UK launch: 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, the US restaurant company, is planning a launch in the UK for one of its brands, Propel has learned. It is understood property firm Etch is working with 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, which was founded by John Kunkel in 2001, on its entry into the UK market. The group's restaurants include the award-winning Yardbird concept, Latin-American restaurant brand Chica, as well as the fine dining Japanese restaurant Wakuda – helmed by Michelin-starred chef Tetsuya Wakuda. The business owns 12 restaurants in total, including eight under the Yardbird brand in Miami, Las Vegas, Singapore, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington DC, Chicago and Denver; and three under the Chica concept, which is a collaboration with celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, in Las Vegas, Miami and Aspen.
 
City Pub Group to launch JV with Jam Tree co-founder Ashley Letchford: City Pub Group, which owns and operates 42 premium pubs across southern England and Wales, is to launch a new joint venture with Ashley Letchford, founder of the Jam Tree pub concept, in London’s Chelsea, Propel has learned. The new entity will launch with the opening of the King’s House on City Pub Group’s Lost Hours site in the King's Road. The site used to be one of three in the capital formerly operated under the Jam Tree name. It is thought that City Pub Group may look to do further sites with Letchford if the King’s House is successful. City Pub Group acquired The Jam Tree’s two remaining leaseholds in Clapham’s Old Town and King’s Road from Letchford, who is also the co-owner of Clapham nightclub Lit, for £2.4m in 2018. 
 
Leon owner EG Group reports foodservice gross profit up 10.7% in second quarter and 28.9% in year to date: EG Group, the owner of Leon, has reported gross profit in its foodservice operations increased 10.7% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2022, to $177m. The company said the performance was driven by the contribution of the group’s 2021 acquisitions and the pipeline of outlets opening across continental Europe and UK & Ireland regions. A total of 33 foodservice outlets were opened in the quarter, bringing the total number of group outlets to 1,889. For the year to date, foodservice gross profit is up 28.9% to $352m. Group Ebitda in the quarter decreased 6.5% to $355m year-on-year, primarily attributable to adverse foreign currency movements, alongside the impact of ongoing inflationary and cost-of-living pressures on customer behaviour. Total revenue was up 23.7% to $8,306m and has increased 24.4% in the year to date, to $15,217m. The company has also appointed Michael Bradley as group chief financial officer to replace Paul Altschwager, who has informed the board that he will step down and leave EG Group in July 2023 following a transition period. Bradley, who has more than 25 years of experience in the role, joins from High Speed Two, Britain’s new high speed rail line, where he has been chief financial officer since 2018. Zuber Issa, co-founder and co-chief executive of EG Group, said: “Despite a backdrop of challenging market conditions, we continued to perform resiliently in the second quarter of the year, supported by our geographically diverse portfolio and complementary foodservice, grocery and merchandise, and fuel operations. The cost-of-living squeeze remains front of mind for all of us, and the group is laser-focused on supporting our employees and helping customers with value for money at this time. EG Group’s robust performance over the quarter has demonstrated our adaptability, and while the economic outlook remains uncertain, we look forward to the second half of the year confident in our ability to outperform the wider market.”
 
McDonald’s JV reports record revenue of £114.6m, up 33% on pre-covid levels: South Coast Foods, the McDonald’s joint venture that operates 24 sites across the south of England, has reported record turnover with revenue exceeding £100m for the first time. The company saw turnover rise 54% to £114,571,814 for the year ending 31 December 2021, compared with £74,421,875 the year before and 33% up on 2019 when the business was operating in a pre-covid trading environment with 23 restaurants. Pre-tax profit jumped to £8,248,842 from £1,384,570 the previous year, and was also significantly up on the £1,839,460 in 2019. The Grant Copper-led company, which includes two McDonald’s directors on its board, stated: “During 2021, the covid-19 pandemic continued to impact on the restaurant and quick service restaurant sector in which we operate. However the easing of covid restrictions coupled with strong demand has contributed to the most successful set of financial results reported by the company. We had exceptional demand in our drive-thru restaurants and for our McDelivery service. By the end of quarter one, our restaurants had returned to full operating capacity with customer numbers across our estate increasing when compared with the pre-covid trading conditions in 2019. Again, we are pleased to report there were no permanent restaurant closures and more importantly no redundancies. We continued to participate in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which played a critical role in securing jobs. CJRS grants totalling £623,995 were received and these contributed to total annual staff costs of £29,081,563. CJRS grants were significantly lower compared with 2020 (£5,355,871) due to increased customer demand and fewer government lockdowns. We continued to enjoy the benefits of an industry leading supply chain and the significant scale of McDonald's. This has enabled the company to navigate 2021 successfully.”
 
KFC and Taco Bell franchisee reports turnover and profit boost as it builds back from pandemic: Caskade Group – which is a franchisee of KFC, Pizza Hut and Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell – has reported turnover increased to £43,889,927 for the year ending 30 November 2021, compared with £32,222,381 the year before. This was also higher than the £35,212,401 reported in 2019 prior to the pandemic. Pre-tax profit rose to £4,637,003 from £2,409,352 (2019: £1,384,711). In his report accompanying the accounts, director Hamid Ali stated: “The margins have been improved to 29% compared with the previous year of 26%. We consider the profit achieved on ordinary activities before taxation to be satisfactory. The company is in a good position to take advantage of business opportunities.” A dividend of £100,000 was paid (2020: £3.1m). The business received government grants of £23,416 (2020: £2,440,104). Caskade operates more than 100 KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut stores in the UK, Netherlands and Malaysia. In July, the business acquired the Hotel Indigo in Birmingham off a guide price of £12.5m.
 
Absurd Bird parent company invested more than £8m in the loss-making business: The parent company of Absurd Bird, the fried chicken brand, which went into administration earlier this summer, invested more than £8m in the business since it was founded in 2015. A report by FRP Advisory, administrators for Absurd Bird, said the five-strong restaurant business had been loss making since it started trading and had relied upon “substantial funding from the parent company”. The business was controlled by KBox Global and previously owned by Splendid Hospitality Group. Absurd Bird operated restaurants in Glasgow, Soho and Spitalfields in London, Exeter and Leeds. The report states: “Despite substantial financial investment, by mid-2022, the parent company had taken the view the company was never going to become self-sufficient and further funding was therefore withdrawn.” Sales of the leases for the sites in Exeter, Soho and Spitalfields had been agreed in principle prior to the appointment of the administrators, and these are continuing.
 
Asset Match apologises after ‘unforeseen technical glitches’ during BrewDog share auction: Asset Match, the platform that provides liquidity in private company shares, has apologised after its latest auction of shares in Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog experienced “unforeseen technical issues” due to the number of people trying to access the event. Asset Match had to carry out the auction by displaying a fixed order book that was displayed and updated every 30 minutes instead of having a live order book. An email sent to investors, seen by Propel, stated: “Despite considerable prior preparations for the BrewDog trading event, our platform experienced a number of unforeseen technical issues and we, Asset Match, would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to all shareholders and interested parties. We share everyone’s frustration that the trading event has not gone as intended particularly given the time and effort gone into planning.” BrewDog was admitted to trading on Asset Match on 5 November 2014.
 
Liberation Group appoints Ashley Hamilton as operations director: Channel Islands and West Country brewer and retailer Liberation Group has appointed Ashley Hamilton as its new operations director, Propel has learned. Hamilton left Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, to join brewer and retailer Greene King’s Premium and Urban division in summer 2020. Hamilton, who took up the role of operations director at Greene King, spent five and a half years at Wagamama, including stints as regional director for the south and senior vice-president for its US operation. At Liberation he will be operations director across its managed pubs & inns division. 
 
London taco restaurant gets new home and concept: The founders of London taco restaurant Sonora Taqueria have found a new home and adapted its concept. Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier closed the doors at Sonora Taqueria, which they had operated since 2020 at Netil Market, in London Fields, in July, as they sought a larger and more permanent site. They are now launching Mexa, which will combine a traditional taqueria with a seafood restaurant, in Arcade Food Hall, at Centre Point, on Friday, 16 September. The seafood element of the menu will be made up of two dishes, ceviche and agua chile, both based on the same principle of curing seafood with acid, alongside tortillas with various toppings. Napier said: “In Mexico, a restaurant wouldn’t really serve seafood and tacos together, so Mexa has a core division: between a taqueria and a seafood place. We're excited to bring Mexa to Arcade. It’s been a unique opportunity for us to explore the other side of Mexican food, and to also introduce our version of Sinaloan Mariscos, which are close to our hearts.”
 
Tipjar launches latest investment round: Cashless tipping platform Tipjar is launching its latest investment round. Tipjar, co-founded by BrewDog bars managing director James Brown, is on a global mission to bring “transparent, fair, and staff-controlled digital tipping to the hospitality industry”. The business is seeking a minimum investment of £400,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, which has already been achieved from the current suite of anchor investors. The pre-money enterprise value for investment is £12.81m. Tipjar has so far processed more than £4m in tips to 200,000 workers. Tipjar has now launched in more than 2,000 venues across five countries, and plans to use the funds raised to further invest in their rapid growth and expansion, as well as providing its users with a neo-bank style system, able to provide them with pre-paid bank cards, savings pots and small loans to help them during difficult times. Ben Thomas, chief executive and co-founder, said: “In just three years, we have identified, defined, and now lead a new market: a digital architecture to get tips from customers straight to staff. We've estimated the global tipping market to be worth a combined $100bn per year. We're the world’s first multi-currency, scalable cashless tipping solution supporting recruitment and retention in hospitality and service businesses, during one of the most severe talent crises the sector has faced.” Backers include Honest Burger co-founders Phil Eeles and Tom Barton, Monzo co-founder Gary Dolman and Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross. 
 
Liverpool venue sold out of administration for around £3m: Liverpool venue Alma De Cuba, which owed more than £9m as it collapsed into administration, has been sold for around £3m. An offer has been accepted for the restaurant and bar, which had been on the market with an asking price of £2.8m. The business, which has also been used as a private hire and events venue, is located in the grade II-listed former St Peters Church in Seel Street. It first opened in 2005 and was acquired by Signature Living for £3.1m in 2017 to become one of its 60 entities that trade as hospitality, hotel and residential property operators and developers. The company behind the venue faced a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs due to “unpaid historical and current tax liabilities”. That prompted its secured creditor to demand its outstanding debt of more than £2.7m to be repaid. The business did not challenge the winding-up petition and the secured creditor appointed Kroll as administrator of Alma De Cuba in May 2022. Up until then, the venue was operated by UK Accommodation Ops (UKAOL) under a management agreement with the company. Avensis Hospitality is engaged by UKAOL to look after the day-to-day operations, which will continue until further notice, administrator Kroll said. According to the documents from Kroll, Alma De Cuba owed more than £2.7m to its secured creditor and in excess of £6.6m to unsecured creditors.
 
Popeyes plans south Tyneside drive-thru site: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, which made its debut in the north east last month, is planning to also open a drive-thru site in the region. A planning application stated the business, which recently opened in Gateshead’s Metrocentre, is looking to open a drive-thru site at Boldon Leisure Park, south Tyneside. The business 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 Essex, Dorset and Northampton. 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, Liverpool, Croydon and Cambridge.
 
Edyn Group acquires London hotel to expand Locke portfolio: Aparthotel operator Edyn Group has acquired the NH hotel in London’s Kensington and Chelsea to expand its Locke portfolio. The property, at 202-220 Cromwell Road, will be Edyn’s sixth Locke in London – joining Kingsland Locke, Buckle Street Studios by Locke, Locke at Broken Wharf, Leman Locke and Bermonds Locke. Due to open in June 2023, the new aparthotel will feature 121 apartments, ranging from studios to one and two-bed open-plan living spaces. There will also be a lobby, common areas, bar, restaurant, co-working spaces, meeting areas and private gardens. Stephen McCall, chief executive at Edyn, said: “I’m proud to announce Edyn’s first acquisition in west London, underlining our commitment to our dynamic home market as we continue to build our presence across the city and broader Europe with all of our brands. London remains one of Europe’s most desirable destinations, with demand for hotels in June hitting its highest level in almost three years. Locke’s innovative hybrid model, which blends apartment living with high concept design and a range of immersive cultural experiences, has proven its appeal across Europe, and this acquisition marks the latest chapter in the brand’s growth story. We are excited for the future and for our continued growth.”

The Gym Group opens 15th site this year, first in Middlesbrough: The Gym Group, the operator of 220 gyms across the UK, has opened its 15th site of 2022, and first in Middlesbrough. The 15,000 square-foot site is located on Cleveland Retail Park and has employed eight fitness professionals. It adds to the group’s presence in the north east and is further progress towards its target of reaching 300-plus sites across the UK by 2025. Oliver Tester, property acquisition director for The Gym Group, said: “In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, providing access to affordable health and fitness facilities to people across the country is a priority. In light of this reality, we are excited to be opening new gyms across the country but specifically, our first site in Middlesbrough. Our team is passionate about delivering a supportive environment and we look forward to welcoming new members to our Middlesbrough gym, no matter what stage of their fitness journeys they may be on.” The Gym Group has, over the last few weeks, also opened its 18th site in Scotland and its ninth in Birmingham.

Experienced bar managers open jungle-themed venture in Leeds: Experienced bar managers Lydia Phillips and Andy Hedley have opened a jungle-themed bar in Leeds. The duo have launched Delirium and Revelry in New Briggate, in the premises previously occupied by cocktail and wine bar Hardy’s. Delirium and Revelry promises “inventive cocktails, eclectic music, and vintage-inspired interiors with a modern spin”. Having enjoyed success in management roles for a variety of different bars across Leeds, Newcastle and Durham, Phillips and Hedley decided to join forces to create their own concept. Delirium and Revelry has adopted a jungle theme that includes animal light fittings along with upcycled furniture. A small private VIP room on the first floor can accommodate up to ten guests and features a secret sliding bookshelf. The bar also has a large second floor, which Phillips and Hedley plan to transform into a speakeasy complete with retro arcade machines at a later date. Phillips said: “I first fell in love with Leeds about seven years ago when I came here for university and was blown away by the nightlife. Having worked both behind the bar and later behind the scenes, I feel I’ve got a good eye for what works and what doesn’t. My business partner and friend Andy is a local lad who’s had similar experiences to myself, and we just decided the time had come to give it a shot ourselves.”

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