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Tue 6th Sep 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Peckwater hits crowdfunding target within hours of campaign launch: Peckwater Brands, the virtual food brands operator in which Stonegate Group has a stake, hit its crowdfunding target of £14.65m within hours of launching the campaign and is now overfunding. The business launched the campaign early yesterday (Monday, 5 September) through Seedrs, offering 22.66% of equity, with a pre-money valuation of £50m attached. It had secured just over £3m of funding toward the new campaign pre-launch, but immediately secured two investments of over £4m each as soon as the crowdfund went live. It has so far raised just over £14.65m from 34 investors, with 30 days of the campaign left. Propel revealed on Monday that Peckwater had acquired the operations of Honest Food Company (HFC) in four European countries. The deal sees Peckwater become Europe’s largest operator of virtual food brands, operating from more than 500 locations. It sees the company, which already has operations in five countries – the UK, US, France, Belgium, and UAE – expand its international footprint by adding HFC’s operations in Finland, Sweden, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The crowdfunding money will be used to help the business, which currently has 175 outlets “from Aberdeen to Plymouth”, reach its target of becoming the largest kitchen network of any kind in the UK within two years; building an operating platform to make sure “our restaurant partners succeed in the delivery market”; and further establish its international presence. The business operates a mix of licensed brands spanning several categories including chicken (Seoul Chikin, Flip the Bird, Katsu), burgers (Dukes, Proper Tasty) and has also run shared brands with partners such as Unilever, Buzzfeed, and Heinz. 
 

Industry News:

Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector losses of £5.4bn: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £5.4bn being reported by 326 companies. However, a further 293 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £1.5bn. The next edition – which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday, 16 September, at midday – will include 619 companies, which are turning over a collective £31.3bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, and the New Openings Database, which are also updated each month. Premium subscribers also have access to the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which 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. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews, and 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; plus regular video content and exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Martin Williams – we would have to triple steak prices to beyond £100 to maintain margins had we not fixed energy costs: Martin Williams has highlighted the impact of rising energy costs on the sector by saying steak prices at his venues would have to triple to beyond £100 to maintain margins had his company not fixed its energy prices. Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants, the owner of Gaucho and M Restaurants, has joined the calls for new prime minister, Liz Truss, to provide sector-wide support in the face of the energy crisis. He said: “At Rare Restaurants we fixed our energy prices – had we not, across our 22 restaurants the impact of rising costs would have resulted in a £3.5m hit on our profitability. To maintain margins this would mean steaks would have to triple in price to beyond £100! Our brands’ current popularity means we are opening a new M Restaurant in Canary Wharf this week and plan to open Gaucho in Newcastle and Liverpool later in the year. However, unless energy prices are addressed, restaurants across the sector will be unable to viably open and many small and medium-sized enterprises will sadly collapse. It is time to reverse the VAT increase made in April and have a comprehensive review and reduction in business rates so hospitality has parity with the retail sector.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, added: “The pub and brewing sector makes a huge contribution to our economy and local communities throughout the UK, yet is in an extremely precarious position. It’s not an exaggeration to say what we are facing in terms of rising costs could have a worse impact than the pandemic in terms of business closures and subsequent job losses. This is why we have written to the new prime minister calling for urgent investment in our sector, which will enable us to weather the storm and play a key role in the prime minister’s plan for growth.” Craig Bunting, owner of cafe bar concept Bear, said: “The fun is over Liz. You now need to crack on and deal quickly with the issues at hand, such as more than 300% increases in energy costs for hospitality businesses as energy companies make billions in profit.”

Leading hospitality businesses throw weight behind VAT cut proposal: Six leading UK hospitality businesses have published an open letter in The Telegraph in support of a policy proposal to cut VAT and help hospitality businesses deal with astronomic energy price rises this winter. They are KFC, Itsu, Just Eat, Pret A Manger, Pizza Hut and Kebab Alliance. The letter reads: “News that cutting VAT is one of the measures under consideration for the coming fiscal event (Liz Truss weighs up cuts to income tax and VAT, 28 Aug) is encouraging for high street hospitality businesses. Reports suggest that a cut could come in the imminent economic package or later, as part of a longer-term review. Either would be welcome – but our experience suggests that decisive, urgent action on VAT is both possible and exceptionally beneficial for businesses facing unprecedented short-term headwinds. In July 2020, the government temporarily cut VAT for our sector, mitigating the damage done by the first covid-19 lockdown. It was a massive boost. We must all adapt, to adjust to cost increases in supply chains and to seek new ways to reduce energy usage. Government intervention is only justified in the most severe situations. Unfortunately, we are in such a situation. Some businesses in our sector face energy price rises of up to 400%. Viable businesses face ruin. A rapid VAT cut would allow businesses the flexibility to divert funds into energy bills or inflated supply costs, cut prices, soften price increases, or maintain essential investment in areas like decarbonisation. Delay, however, can only diminish the impact of this proposal.” It is signed by Ganan Kanagathurai (UK chief executive Itsu), Collette Bird (head of UK external relations Just East Takeaway), Ibrahim Dogus (chair Kebab Alliance), Neil Piper (acting managing director KFC UK & Ireland, (Neil Manhas (managing director Pizza Hut UK) and Guy Meaking (interim UK managing director UK & Ireland Pret a Manger). Liz Truss, who was yesterday (Monday, 5 September) confirmed as prime minister, last week said she was considering a “nuclear option” of slashing VAT to 15%, although some in the industry have said the cuts would need to go further. The National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) last week called for an immediate return to the 5% rate of VAT, to stop the closure of fish and chip shops “on a daily basis”.

Pubs and restaurants get boost but overall spending sees smallest uplift in almost 18 months: Pubs and restaurants saw a boost in spending during August – but overall spending saw its smallest uplift since March 2021. According to the latest data from Barclaycard, spending in restaurants and bars increased 6.6% year-on-year and 8.8% at pubs and clubs. The domestic travel sector also performed strongly, with summer staycations boosting hotels, resorts and accommodation by 4.1% month-on-month. Overall, consumer spending grew 4.7% – a 1.7% decline month-on-month as consumers become more selective with discretionary purchases to ensure they can afford rising household bills. Spending on non-essential items grew 3.6% year-on-year – the lowest growth since February 2021. As a number of categories saw declines, Brits admit to being more selective about their discretionary purchases, with 31% now assessing whether every individual purchase is necessary amid the cost-of-living squeeze. The energy price increase in October is also weighing on consumers’ minds, with 32% planning to cut down on discretionary spending to afford energy bills during the autumn and winter and 21% reporting they can no longer afford small luxuries as a “pick-me-up”. Many feel the worst is yet to come, as 82% believe the cost-of-living will continue to rise. Optimism in the UK economy has also declined to 21%, down from 26% last month and 37% in August 2021 – its lowest since August 2020 (19%). Despite the challenging outlook and ongoing headwinds, 60% of consumers remain confident in their household finances, albeit down on last month’s 66%. This relative stability may be owing to changes many have made to their spending behaviour to offset rising costs in preparation for the months ahead, Barclaycard said.
 
Staff at Grosvenor Casino venues in London to strike over pay: Staff at Grosvenor Casino venues in London have voted to walk out for 72 hours this weekend in a row over pay. About 150 workers at the group’s seven casinos across the capital voted by 91% to reject retention bonus payments of £600 and £800, branding them “totally inadequate”. The workers are mainly croupiers and dealers but also include food and beverage waiting and kitchen staff. The Unite union insisted Grosvenor Casinos, which is part of the Rank Group, could afford to offer more. Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Here we go again: Grosvenor Casinos is another big money company that is raking it in but refusing to pay its workers a wage they can live on. It’s just not acceptable, and this huge vote for action underscores the sense of anger across this workforce.”
 
Meeting for cocktails instead of dinner rising in popularity, two third prefer a cocktail to a pint: Meeting for cocktails instead of dinner is rising in popularity, according to new research from Fridays, while two thirds of those surveyed said they prefer a cocktail to a pint. Fridays polled 1,524 UK people who said they regularly drink alcohol, and 38% said they find meeting friends for cocktails much more fun than doing dinner. A similar number (42%) said they prefer a cocktail to a pint every single time, while almost half (46%) said cocktails served in pubs and bars have greatly improved during the last decade. And while four in ten always order the same cocktail, 60% prefer to experiment with different concoctions, with piña colada the most popular (34%). Brendan Quinn, head of beverages at Fridays, said: “Our research shows just how much the nation appreciates a good cocktail, from an iconic piña colada to a margarita or classic Cosmopolitan.”
 
Nick Miller shares learnings from career in beer in new book: Nick Miller, former chief executive of Meantime and managing director of Miller Brands UK, has written a book sharing some of his learnings from his career in beer. In The Meantime details how Miller started in the bingo halls and working men’s clubs of east London, before moving up to promoting world-class beer brands into nationwide pub chains and supermarkets. Using a powerful blend of creativity, dedication and discipline alongside a smart sales and marketing strategy, Miller and his team turned Peroni from a niche Italian import into the UK's premier lager. Later he took the helm at Meantime, leading to the brand's turnaround and eventual sale to SABMiller for £120m. The book distils the lessons Miller picked up during his career to show leaders how they can think strategically about selling and marketing, maximise the strengths of their team and unlock the confidence to believe in their own abilities. Miller also takes the opportunity to thank the key people who have helped him along the way, including Propel managing director Paul Charity. The book can now be pre-ordered on all the main booksellers’ websites and will be available from Thursday, 22 September.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a provider of high-end working spaces that is searching for a people director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The people director will support the leadership team in the creation and manifestation of a culture where people feel genuinely invested in, personally and professionally, and are aligned and accountable for the delivery of business success. As people director, you will define, communicate, and advocate for a high performing culture with employee well-being and engagement at its heart.” The salary is up to £80,000 and based in London, with flexible working (four days per week). For more information, email gemma@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Rekom to open fifth site in Cardiff: Rekom UK, the Peter Marks-led nightclub operator, has lined up a fifth opening in Cardiff. The company has acquired Story nightclub from Excalibur on Greyfriars Road, in the Welsh capital, for an undisclosed sum. The 1,400-capacity venue will reopen later this month as District, creating 30 jobs. The company already operates PRYZM nightclub in the city and Heidi’s Bier Bar on Mill Lane, which opened earlier this year. The company’s first UK Proud Mary pub will open in Cardiff, in October, following a £1.2m investment. Work is underway to convert the former Yard Bar in St Mary’s Street into a Proud Mary’s operating over two floors and with a 950 capacity, creating more than 50 jobs. A second Proud Mary venue is planned to open at the former Idols club on the city’s Wind Street in early next year. Rekom UK executive director Russell Quelch said: “Cardiff is a vibrant city with a thriving late-night economy and is a key part of Rekom’s expansion strategy across the UK. District means we can build on our cluster of businesses in the Welsh capital, which now range from our après ski themed Heidi’s Bier Bar to two nightclubs, party bar Steinbeck & Shaw and modern pub Proud Mary, offering something for everyone. We believe Cardiff can accommodate two clubs of Pryzm and District’s size, giving us the scope to put on a wider range of events and cater for more of the late-night market in the city.” Last month, the business secured the former Bierkeller site close to its existing Fiction nightclub in Swansea for what will be its third site in the city. The new site is just down the road from its currently under construction Proud Mary venue and is thought could reopen under the company’s Scandinavian ski bar concept, Heidi’s Bier Bar. Rekom operates more than 200 bars, pubs and clubs internationally, and 49 in the UK.

Applegreen appoints Martyn Brett-Lee as UK managing director: Applegreen, the owner of roadside services operator Welcome Break, has appointed Martyn Brett-Lee as its new UK managing director. Brett-Lee joined Welcome Break in October 2019 as commercial director after more than two years in the same role at Merlin Entertainments. Before that, he was group head of operational transformation at Odeon Cinemas for a year. The Welcome Break portfolio comprises 34 motorway service areas, three trunk road service areas and 29 hotels (23 at service areas and six standalone). In July, Boparan Restaurant Group – the owner and operator of brands including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccio’s, Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, and Slim Chickens – appointed Michael O’Loughlin, former managing director of Applegreen UK, as its new director of foodservice. 

Roxy Leisure plans Welsh debut with Cardiff opening: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ballroom concepts, is planning to make its debut in Wales with an opening in Cardiff’s Queen Street. The company has applied to take on the former JJB sports site in Cardiff’s city centre for an opening under its Roxy Lanes concept. Earlier this summer, the company opened a Roxy Lanes in Sheffield, with a further opening under the concept set to launch in Edinburgh in November. The Sheffield site is beneath Telephone House at 40 Charter Square, while the Edinburgh one will be located in Rose Street. Both openings will bring the group’s portfolio to 13 sites. The 25,000 square-foot Edinburgh site will feature ten-pin bowling, ice-free curling, American pool, air hockey, karaoke, arcade games, basketball, beer pong and shuffleboard. Earlier this year, the group opened Roxy Lanes in Bristol. It has also lined up a site for a second Roxy Lanes in Birmingham.

Ole & Steen plans Marlow opening: Danish baker Ole & Steen is set to further increase its regional presence in the UK with an opening in Marlow. The company, which earlier this summer opened its second regional site, in Windsor, is set to take on the former Barclays bank at 10 High Street, Marlow. Propel revealed earlier this year that the 21-strong business was also in talks to open in Guildford (ex-Ted Baker unit) and in Henley-on-Thames (ex-Superdrug unit). It is also thought to be in talks on sites in Blackheath and London’s St Paul’s. The business, which earlier this year opened sites in London’s Seven Dials and Clapham, already operates a site in Oxford’s Westgate scheme. RAB Retail acts for Ole & Steen.

Pizza Pilgrims secures Cambridge site: Pizza Pilgrims, the London-based pizzeria brand, is to increase its regional presence with an opening in Cambridge, Propel has learned. The company, which will reopen its former Slice site at 266 Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park as a Pizza Pilgrims next month, has secured the former Monsoon site in Cambridge’s Sidney Street for an expected opening later this year. The imbiba-backed, 19-strong business also operates sites in Oxford and Brighton. Propel understands that the Gavin Smith-led business is also in talks to secure sites in Nottingham, and London’s Queen’s Park and Paddington. In July, the company reported it had increased hourly pay for all its staff to no less than £10.41. Additionally, this year it is investing a further £175,000 in its academy in Camden, where it has, to date, graduated 84 salaried roles in under three years.

Company behind Yorkshire Wildlife Park reports record turnover and Ebitda: The company behind Yorkshire Wildlife Park has reported turnover increased to a record £20,228,363 for the year ending 31 November 2021, compared with £11,994,348 the previous year. The figure exceeded the £13,517,418 reported in 2019 despite the attraction being subjected to continued restrictions as a result of the pandemic. Pre-tax profit rose to £6,442,754 from £2,795,304 the year before (2019: £2,857,571). Despite a government-enforced three and a half month closure, Ebitda grew to a record £8.52m. Since the year end, the attraction has opened its new themed restaurant, Evolution, and indoor play area, Uproar. Construction is ongoing on a number of other projects including a bistro, 104-bedroom hotel, a 2,500-seat theatre/conference venue, more shops and further additions in the park itself. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Visitor numbers in the eight and a half months we were open reached 861,133 – another record – and an increase of almost 290,000 against last year which would, we believe, have been significantly enhanced had it not been for ‘social distancing’, a ban on large indoor gatherings, a drop of more than 80% in school visits and a general cap on daily and sessional capacity.” In September 2020, Yorkshire Wildlife Park secured a £15m investment from BGF to support the expansion of the attraction with the aim of doubling its size and significantly increasing the annual visitor numbers. Lloyds Bank also committed an £18m debt facility.

US virtual brand MrBeast Burger opens first bricks and mortar restaurant: MrBeast Burger, the US virtual brand, has opened its first restaurant – with the launch attracting thousands of fans to an American shopping centre. Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson is one of YouTube’s most successful creators thanks to his expensive and philanthropic videos, shared online to more than 62 million followers. And on Sunday, hordes of them turned out at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for the opening of his first physical venue. Donaldson founded his MrBeast Burger concept, which currently has more than 1,000 locations across North America and Europe, in 2020, with plans to expand the business ongoing. In April, Propel revealed that it had expanded to more than 30 sites across the UK after linking up with KSL Capital Partners-owned Village Hotels. Locations the brand is now available from include Aberdeen, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Maidstone, Swindon and Walsall.
 
Cornwall’s Headland Hotel reports turnover above pre-pandemic levels as it builds back from covid: The Headland Hotel in Cornwall has reported turnover increased to £10,895,669 for the year ending 30 November 2021, compared with £7,604,059 the year before. The figure was also above the £9,193,128 reported in 2019 despite the hotel, which overlooks Fistral Beach in Newquay, being shut for the best part of four months at the start of the financial year. Pre-tax profit was up to £2,157,283 from £1,318,158 the previous year (2019: £1,104,520). Wage to turnover ratio fell to 37.6% from 47.6% primarily due to staff shortages, which the hotel adapted to by “deploying team members efficiently and the careful management of restaurant opening hours”. A business interruption insurance payment as a result of the covid-19 pandemic is continuing to be pursued. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Due to increased confidence in trading, the hotel undertook several refurbishment projects at significant cost and investment, making use of the periods of closure early in the financial period to tackle areas of the hotel usually inaccessible when guests are present. This investment has continued post year end to ensure quality standards are maintained.” The grade II-listed, 88-bedoom, five-star hotel opened in 1900 and was taken over by current owners the Armstrong family in March 1979. There are three restaurants on-site – the Samphire, the Terrace and the Deck.
 
Marugame Udon to open Soho flagship site this month: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon has confirmed its flagship site in London’s Soho will open on Sunday, 18 September. Propel reported in October 2021 the brand, which is led in the UK by Keith Bird, had secured the former Frankie & Benny’s site in Argyll Street. The 5,756 square-foot venue will be Marugame Udon’s fifth in London, and, set over two floors, its largest yet in the capital. Offering 125 covers, it will include new click-and-collect kiosks for udon on the go. Bird said: “We’re excited to be opening our second flagship in Oxford Circus. It’s such an energetic and buzzing area, and we can’t wait to bring Marugame into the heart of central London. Our new casual dining concept will fit perfectly into the liveliness of the area to give diners freshly prepared restaurant cuisine with a fast-food time.” Marugame Udon made its UK and European debut in London last year with its flagship site off Liverpool Street, followed by further openings at The O2, Canary Wharf, St Christopher’s Place and Brent Cross. In July, Propel revealed the brand has secured its debut regional site, in Reading’s The Oracle scheme, and has also lined up an opening in Bromley. It plans to open 12 new UK sites over the next 12 months, and in June, appointed former Boparan Restaurant Group international development director Judd Williams to the newly created role of head of franchise for UK & Europe.
 
Holiday park operator acquires Cumbrian site: Cove Communities – operator of several holiday parks in West Sussex, Cornwall and Scotland – has added another to its portfolio. Cove Communities has acquired the 130-acre Solway Holiday Village, in Silloth, Cumbria, from Hagans Leisure for an undisclosed sum. The sale includes Meadow View and Lido residential parks, which were also owned by Hagans Leisure and continue to be operated as part of Solway Holiday Village. Solway’s facilities include an indoor swimming pool, outdoor play park, sports hall, arcade, clubhouse, gym, tennis courts and food and beverage outlets. It has capacity for 1,600 pitches including touring, camping and static caravans, and employs 50 staff. Cove is the UK’s fourth largest caravan park operator, with more than £450m of property acquired in the UK over the past three years, including deals for Bunn Leisure in August 2019, Medmerry Park in August 2021 and Argyll Holidays in February 2022. Mark Seaton, Cove UK managing director, said: “We have a clear strategy of only adding beautiful and well-maintained sites in great locations to our portfolio and Solway Holiday Village fits that profile. Under the leadership of Hagans Leisure, it has moved from strength to strength. Our plan is to invest in the site and in our colleagues to ensure we enhance the great offering that is already there at the village.” Sam Hagan, managing director of Hagans Leisure Group, added: “We wish Cove the best with the park moving forward and feel it is ideally placed to unlock the enormous potential the park offers; while continuing to provide the excellent facilities and services the park and staff offer to customers.”
 
Popeyes set to announce another raft of UK openings as it reveals date for Oxford launch: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, will open its new site in Oxford this month – and is set to announce another raft of UK launches. The company will open the restaurant in the former Paperchase unit at 36-37 Queen Street on Saturday, 17 September. Tom Crowley, chief executive at Popeyes UK, told the Oxford Mail: “From north to south, we’re building communities of chicken lovers across the country. We’re proud to bring our world-famous Louisiana chicken to fans all over the UK, and give them a real taste of Southern US hospitality. It’s such an exciting time for the brand, and we have even bigger plans in the works; we’re dedicating a lot of focus currently to our rollout of drive-thrus alongside our strong pipeline of sit-down restaurants. Accelerating our UK growth strategy in this way enables us to provide a much-needed jobs boost to the hospitality economy across both construction and hospitality roles and we’re already eyeing our next raft of locations with announcements due imminently.” Popeyes – which has opened UK sites in Stratford, Chelmsford and Romford – has also secured venues in Derby, Gateshead, Reading, Nottingham, Brighton and Ealing for openings this year, and is understood to be in talks on sites in Glasgow and Cambridge. The restaurant at Westfield Stratford is the brand’s highest-taking restaurant globally.

Everards gets go-ahead for Leicestershire hotel scheme: Leicestershire brewer and retailer Everards has received outline planning permission to build a 120-room hotel. It wants to build the hotel alongside eight office blocks at its Everards Meadows site, not far from junction 21 of the M1. The site already features a new brewery and beer hall, a coffee shop and 70 acres of public space alongside the River Soar. Everards relocated there in 2019 after selling its previous home, located just the other side of the A563, to shopping centre Fosse Park, which has since redeveloped the building. Councillor Nick Chapman, vice-chair of planning at the local authority, said: “This is an exciting proposal for both Everards and the district, and we were delighted to approve the plans. We have worked closely with Everards to get this application to an acceptable position, and we have no doubt the final product will be as well thought out, and as popular as Everards Meadows is currently.” Everards operates more than 150 pubs across the UK, mainly in the Midlands. 
 
American-inspired fast food restaurant franchise concept Chickaros to make Scottish debut, four more openings lined up: American-inspired fast food restaurant franchise concept Chickaros is to make its Scottish debut – with four more openings lined up. The new site will be based at 488 Victoria Road in Glasgow, reports the Glasgow Evening Times. Chickaros was founded in 2019 in Aldridge in the West Midlands as a takeaway, and serves fast food favourites with a “unique twist”. Dishes include gourmet burgers, waffles, fried chicken and artisanal desserts. The business has since opened dine-in and takeaway sites in Birmingham, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton. Openings are lined up in Edgbaston and Hodge Hill in Birmingham along with Bournemouth and Cardiff – its first site in Wales, according to its website. 

Former The Laughing Heart chef opens Japanese restaurant in Battersea: Singaporean chef Lynus Lim, who trained under Tom Anglesea at Hackney’s The Laughing Heart, has opened a Japanese restaurant in London’s Battersea. Lim has opened Evernight at 3 Ravine Way in the Embassy Gardens development in Nine Elms. Joining him as head chef is Chase Lovecky, formerly of Clove Club and Two Lights. “My vision is of an izakaya which is slightly progressive in the drinks and food offerings while utilising ingredients and produce locally (mostly), from the British Isles,” Lim told Hot Dinners. “I always enjoyed the play between traditional/regional, and also progressive techniques. This allows guests to not go too far away from what they recognise or know, but just a slight push in a different direction.” Dishes will include monkfish liver cured with barley and saikyo miso on buttered toast and finished with wasabi and chervil, and chawanmushi served with smoked eel, grilled corn and pickled shimeji. Among the drinks is low intervention wine and a wide selection of nigori sake and shochu.

Monterey Jack’s to make franchise debut with tenth site, in Braehead: Scotland-based, American-style restaurant Monterey Jack’s is set to make it franchise debut when it open its tenth site, in Braehead, this autumn. The brand, which specialises in American classics such as burgers, hot dogs and fried chicken, is set to open at the XSite entertainment hub in Braehead. Its last opening was in October 2019, in the former Bukharah Indian restaurant in Falkirk’s Vicar Street. The company also has sites in Airdrie, Dunfermline, East Kilbride, Glasgow (two), Hamilton, Perth and Stirling.
 
Yum! Brands to replace former Pizza Hut in Taunton with new KFC drive-thru: Yum! Brands will replace its former Pizza Hut site in Hankridge Road, Taunton, with a new KFC drive-thru. The restaurant closed its doors for the final time as a Pizza Hut earlier this month, but Yum!, which owns both brands, has had permission granted to turn it into a KFC. A spokesperson for Pizza Hut said: “Like many hospitality businesses, Pizza Hut Restaurants has faced disruption following the pandemic. We are saddened by the closure of our Hankridge Way restaurant in Taunton, however this was beyond our control. Customers can continue to enjoy our pizza from Pizza Hut Delivery, 40 Station Road, Taunton.” KFC has an existing restaurant at 29 East Street in Taunton, which also offers delivery. The application stated: “The unprecedented situation presented by the covid-19 pandemic has brought about changes in demand and consumer habits. In light of this, retailers have been favouring the drive-thru format in recognition of their dual functionality, enabling the retailer to offer both restaurant format services as well as drive-thru capabilities.”

Glasgow sushi and ramen restaurant to double up: Glasgow sushi and ramen restaurant, Maki and Ramen, is to double up in the city. The company is opening the new venue at 90 Renfield Street, which was formerly home to Cook and Indi's World Buffet, reports the Glasgow Times. Signs in the windows read: “Stay updated. Maki and Ramen Glasgow two will be coming soon.” Maki and Ramen’s current restaurant is located nearby at 21 Bath Street.
 
Taco Bell to open restaurant in Dover this week: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is to open a restaurant in Dover on Wednesday (7 September). The company is opening the outlet at the St James retail and leisure park, reports Kent Live. Last month, Taco Bell opened its 100th UK site when franchisee Adil Group opened a restaurant in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Taco Bell is also lining up openings in Canterbury and Ipswich.

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