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Thu 8th Sep 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Frequency of visits set to decline over next year, operators must focus on increasing spend per head and visit: The frequency of consumer visits are expected to decline over the next 12 months, but this will create opportunities to increase spend per head and visit. Those are the main changes in the industry expected for the rest of 2022 and first three quarters of 2023, according to Jonny Jones, CGA’s managing director UK and Ireland. “We’re expecting frequency to decline further, but spend per head and per visit will still provide opportunity, as while consumers scale back, they will still want those treat occasions, and if we get that offer right for them, we can still make sure we’re driving value through that spend per head,” Jones told last week’s Propel Multi-Club Conference. “Many consumers are saying the cost-of-living crisis will affect their frequency and spend per visit, so we need to really think about how we extract that spend per head and spend per visit and make sure our offer caters to their demands. While 72% of operators have noticed a dip in frequency, 59% have also noticed an increase in spend per head. People want a great experience and are willing to trade up and spend, so we need to get the offer right to facilitate that. We’re not seeing any slowdown in like for like sales yet – operators are fearing impact of cost-of-living crisis but not seeing it yet.” Jones also expects to see more closed signs go up over the next 12 months as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, but not to the extent of the 10,000 possible sector closures UKHospitality has warned of. He added: “We hope government support will come through, but it won’t save everybody.” CGA stats show the rate of closures during the pandemic (down 9,149 sites between March 2020 and June 2021) has flattened out, with the rate of closures between June 2021 and June 2022 (5,298) not only slowing down, but being offset by new openings (5,251) as investment comes back into the market. “The investment sector has kept its powder dry but pulled it back rather than pulled it away completely, and there’s quite a lot of cash reserves ready to be deployed for the right concepts and locations,” Jones added. “It’s similar to what we had in 2008, which sparked a lot of entrepreneurs coming into the market with new venue styles and new experiences, and that really drove positivity back into the market.” 

Industry News:

Only 26 of 619 companies in next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book generating pre-tax profit of more than £10m: Only 26 of the 619 companies featured in the next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book are generating pre-tax profit of more than £10m. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday, 16 September, at midday. The Blue Book 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 619 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured have a collective turnover of £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.

Reilley – without a clear plan on energy many businesses will opt to throw in the towel: Alex Reilley, executive chairman of café bar operator Loungers, has warned that without a clear plan on how the government is going to tackle rising energy costs, businesses will “throw in the towel”. New prime minister Liz Truss promised in her opening speech on Tuesday (6 September) to “deal hands on with the energy crisis” and said she would “take action this week to deal with energy bills and to secure our future energy supply”. And while her words were welcomed by UKHospitality, chief executive Kate Nicholls warned that the devil will be in the detail, which will be outlined further today (Thursday, 8 September). And for Reilley, “vague promises” are not enough for businesses already wondering how they will survive the winter months. He said: “Businesses desperately need to know what the plan is regarding energy. It’s been suggested that we’ll simply be told support for business is coming but that it won’t be outlined. This isn’t good enough! Many hospitality businesses can’t wait any longer and a vague promise of support will simply not cut it. If Truss truly aspires to grow the economy, this has to start with protecting existing businesses, and at the moment, many are weighing up whether to soldier on or throw in the towel. Without a clear plan tomorrow, many will unfortunately opt for the latter. Furlough was introduced in a matter of days – energy support measures for business needs the same level of extreme urgency.”

Foodservice inflation stays in double digits for sixth month running despite easing in commodity markets: The foodservice sector continues to face high levels of inflation despite relief in some commodities, the latest edition of the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index shows. Prices in all ten categories of the index recorded upward year-on-year movement in July, with two experiencing inflation of more than 20%. Nine categories saw a month-on-month increase as well, with prices in two – dairy, and oils and fats ­– climbing by around 4% from June. Overall, food prices increased by 1.6% over the month, and year-on-year inflation stayed in double digits for the sixth month in a row. The sharp increases come despite a drop in food commodity markets. The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the global prices of a basket of food commodities, fell 8.6% during July, as markets were encouraged by the resumption of grain exports through the Black Sea, better-than-expected crop harvests and the start of a global economic slowdown. However, while the drop in commodity prices is welcome, various uncertainties – especially around weather condition – mean conditions are likely to remain extremely volatile. With ten of the Environment Agency’s 14 areas now officially in drought, the National Drought Group has agreed a range of measures to support UK farmers and growers, but the risk of reduced yields is now high, the index warned. The European Drought Observatory has meanwhile reported nearly half of Europe is under warning conditions, leading to forecasts that summer crop yields may be 16% below average, which will push up the cost of the UK’s food imports. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “While welcome news it’s too early to say whether the July easing in food commodity markets will continue. Instability continues to be the dominant feature of food and drink markets, and we predict this will continue into 2023, with inflation increasing further this year before it falls.”

Zero Carbon Forum offers operators free use of energy saving initiative: The not-for-profit Zero Carbon Forum is offering its “Save While You Sleep” resources free of charge during the energy crisis to help operators reduce their power usage overnight to cut costs and carbon. The programme was officially launched in July following member trials, which have realised energy savings per outlet worth £6,000 per annum – at 2021 market rates. It works by combining energy and carbon analytics with operational training and ongoing coaching. Existing energy smart meter data is run through Zero Carbon Services’ proprietary intelligence platform, to identify energy wastage every day and night. The “Save While You Sleep” initiative provides operators with advice and guidance on implementing simple but impactful processes to save on energy, via a two-stage “ten-minute” shutdown process. Mark Chapman, forum founder of Zero Carbon Forum, said: “We look forward to seeing what government intervention is provided to support our sector, but we want to provide all our knowledge and insight to try to help every operator in the industry during this crisis. By sharing the data and analysis gleaned from our members’ overnight energy usage made into a range of accessible resources, including engagement training and checklists, operators can engage their teams quickly to reduce energy waste and save on costs and carbon.” The resources available will include collateral for operators to freely access, download and share with their teams. They include posters and energy checklists for general and area managers.

KFC partners with UK Youth to support young people into employment: KFC has partnered with youth charity UK Youth to help more disadvantaged young people. Together, KFC and UK Youth have developed a new youth employability programme, “Hatch”, delivered through youth work, to help disadvantaged young people into long-term employment and build their work skills and confidence. Hatch is a seven module employability programme focused on empowering young people aged 16 to 24, who are ready for work but have struggled to access roles because of circumstances beyond their control. The programme, delivered in partnership with local youth organisations, provides one-to-one support, group training and work experience placements for disadvantaged young people. Each will also be guaranteed an interview with an employer on graduation. The programme is currently being piloted with 100 young people in Manchester, with 17 KFC restaurants taking part. The programme will be scaled up in 2023, with young people being recruited in KFC locations across the UK. Neil Piper, interim UK general manager at KFC, said: “Young people are the lifeblood and future of our country and the KFC brand. Today's generation of young people are resilient beyond belief, facing the current economic climate and job market with a positive, engaged and motivated attitude despite so many challenges being thrown their way. It is so important that we give them the opportunities they deserve and invest in their future.”

Edinburgh could be first UK city to introduce overnight tax, Scottish government set to give local authorities power to introduce levy: Edinburgh could be the first UK city to tax overnight visitors, with the Scottish government set to give local authorities the power to impose the levy. The proposed tax would involve people being charged an extra accommodation fee to fund infrastructure and services. The charge is common in other popular tourist destinations around the world, such as Barcelona. The plan was announced by first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Tuesday (6 September). She said: “We will introduce a Local Visitor Levy Bill to give local authorities additional fiscal flexibility. This will help councils, if they so choose, to fund activities related to tourism and related infrastructure.” City of Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day said the Scottish capital was “very proud” to be one of the world’s most popular visitor destinations, but warned the success “comes at a cost”. He added: “We believe it’s right to ask visitors to make a small contribution to help us sustain and improve our tourism offer while managing its impact. We’ve been building the case for Edinburgh to become the first city in the UK to introduce such a levy, consistently and repeatedly making the case to Scottish ministers without success – until now.” The council estimates the levy could generate an additional £15m of annual revenue for the city. In a consultation held in 2018, 85% of city residents backed the scheme, including a large number of accommodation providers and businesses.

Savills acquires rival property advisor James A Baker: Savills has acquired James A Baker (JAB), the specialist advisor in licensed property, for an undisclosed sum, Propel has learned. JAB was established by Jim Baker in 2000, building a broad client list to include Star Pubs and Bars, Greene King, Marston’s, Stonegate, Mitchells & Butlers and Punch. The team provides sales and lettings, acquisitions, landlord and tenant, asset management and valuation advice. Comprising a team of nine, directors include Jim Baker and Jack Sinclair as well as associate director Matt Whiteley. They will join Savills’ existing licensed leisure team and office network, forming a combined force of more than 25 professional services and agency experts in this arena. Siân Tunney, UK board director and head of leisure at Savills, said: “James A Baker is a well-established business, providing us with an excellent opportunity to expand our licensed leisure offer with individuals whose expertise perfectly aligns with our own.  We are hugely positive that this combined force will provide greater resources to service our clients, and most importantly, provide broader expertise.” Jim Baker, of JAB, added: “It is hugely important to see a business and team of which I am very proud evolve to the next stage. After over 20 years of success, I feel Savills is the right home to take it forward, and I am delighted to join the team.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a sports and leisure retail betting company that is on the hunt for a regional manager in the Midlands. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The business is a large multi-brand national and international operator with a strong track record and excellent presence as a market leader in the sector. The business has developed culturally and operationally, adapting and developing to meet its growing employee and customer needs, and has a strong and loyal customer base.” The salary is up to £65,000 per annum plus car and bonus. For more information, email sonny@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Mark McQuater chairs and backs new all-day dining café and bar concept: Deckhouse, a new all-day dining café and bar concept chaired and backed by Mark McQuater, the former chief executive of Revolution and Barracuda, is set to launch, with a target of having 18 sites within five years, Propel has learned. The concept, which “combines coffee, restaurant and bar culture”, plans to serve “affluent under serviced quality market towns and suburbs in the south of England, home counties and the southern Midlands”. The business is understood to have initial funding of £2m in place, with a plan of initially developing two sites this year, three to four sites in 2023 and 18 sites within five years. The business is targeting towns with “more than 20,000 people or higher quality smaller demographics”. The company states: “Deckhouse is new, independent, authentic and well invested high quality investment and fittings with a relaxing zoned fit out. It’s artisan coffee, it’s fresh food, it’s vineyard wines and it’s local and in your neighbourhood – super friendly service. Our bar is at the heart of Deckhouse with wine expertise. It’s a curated experience – a streamlined list of authentic products with a story, e.g. uniquely sourced wines and locally roasted coffee. Our prices are accessible but customers can trade up to premium.” Alongside McQuater, who is also currently chair of Roxy Leisure, the Deckhouse management team comprises Tom Cullen, former director of property at Barracuda Group, who has also held senior positions in Mitchells & Butlers and Greenalls, as property director; Dominic Doherty, formerly of Revolution de Cuba and Ivy Collections, as operations director; and Nick Morgan, formerly chief financial officer at Barracuda Group and Port Haven Care Homes, as finance director.

Cineworld files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, UK business unaffected: Cineworld has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. The company, which operates in ten countries including the UK and the United States, has 9,139 screens globally. The UK business, which includes 127 cinemas and the Picturehouse brand, is not impacted by the bankruptcy filing. However, in the US, the business will begin talks with landlords about potential closures and renegotiating lease terms. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will let the company stay in business while restructuring its debt. The company is creaking under a debt mountain of £7.5bn, almost 140 times its market cap of just £53.6m. Cineworld stated it has “commenced Chapter 11 cases in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas” but stressed during the restructuring process, it expects to operate its global business and cinemas “as usual without interruption”. The company added: “As part of the Chapter 11 cases, Cineworld, with the expected support of its secured lenders, will seek to implement a deleveraging transaction that will significantly reduce the group’s debt, strengthen its balance sheet and provide the financial strength and flexibility to accelerate, and capitalise on, Cineworld’s strategy in the cinema industry. The group Chapter 11 companies enter the Chapter 11 cases with commitments for an approximate $1.94bn debtor-in-possession financing facility from existing lenders, which will help ensure Cineworld’s operations continue in the ordinary course while Cineworld implements its reorganisation. As previously announced, it is expected that any deleveraging transaction will result in very significant dilution of existing equity interests in the group, and there is no guarantee of any recovery for holders of existing equity interests. The company does not expect the Chapter 11 filing to result in a suspension of trading in its shares on the London Stock Exchange.”

Chopstix – shopping centres offer ‘a great deal of untapped potential’, two new sites opening this month: Jon Lake, managing director of fast-growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix, has said shopping centres offer “a great deal of untapped potential” for the group. It comes with the business set to add to its portfolio of shopping centre stores with the launch of two new sites this month – in St Johns, Liverpool, and St David’s, Cardiff. Having identified markedly strong performances across existing Chopstix sites in this category, the latest openings will bring the total number of shopping centre locations in the estate to 31, and follows launches in Kingfisher Shopping Centre, Redditch, and Edinburgh Gyle Centre over the last 12 months. Chopstix opened its first shopping centre location in Lakeside, and its best-performing shopping centre venue is in Westfield Stratford City. Encouraged by the popularity and performance of these sites, the Chopstix team has invested further in shopping centres to support the company’s growth plans, with extensive market mapping identifying significant opportunities for expansion in the category. Jon Lake, managing director of Chopstix, said: “Shopping centres offer a great deal of untapped potential for Chopstix and will continue to be a significant part of our thinking as we grow the brand. We’re thrilled to have secured these two carefully selected locations and look forward to growing our shopping centre footprint further in the near future.” Founded in Camden Market in 2002 by entrepreneurs Sam Elia and Menashe Sadik, Chopstix, which comprises more than 80 locations across the UK and Ireland, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. 

Heineken UK takes full ownership of Beavertown, Logan Plant steps down as CEO: Heineken UK has purchased the remaining shares in Beavertown Brewery, assuming full ownership of London’s largest brewery. As part of the agreement, Beavertown founder Logan Plant will step down as chief executive and take on a new advisory role, with Jochen Van Esch, taking on the new role of managing director. He has worked for Heineken for more than 20 years and has been at Heineken UK since 2014, when he began as brewery operations director. Heineken UK purchased a minority share in Beavertown in 2018 and since then has invested significantly, developing a new state-of-the-art brewery in north London. Beavertown will continue to be operated separately to Heineken UK with its own functional teams, including sales, marketing, brewing and wider existing teams. Plant said: “Beavertown began in my kitchen, ten years ago. From brewing in a rice pan to one of the most successful British brewers in recent years, employing more than 160 people and brewing 360,000 hectolitres of beer, its success is something I could never have predicted back then, and I am extremely proud we have agreed the deal with Heineken UK. It is the natural next step for Beavertown, its brands, and most importantly, its people.” Boudewijn Haarsma, managing director at Heineken UK, added: “This is a hugely positive step and builds on a partnership that will see Beavertown continue to expand and flourish while remaining committed to its independent creativity. Heineken will fully support Beavertown’s brand position, inimitable creativity and huge growth potential, and will do so in a way that preserves its unique approach to beer.” It is expected that the new ownership structure will allow the brand to grow significantly and could see up to 50 jobs being created.

Ian Edward joins Incipio Group board: Incipio Group, operator of venues including Pergola on the Wharf, The Prince and Lost in Brixton, has appointed Ian Edward and Archie Ward as non-executive directors, Propel has learned. Edward, who has advised and invested in leisure businesses for more than 30 years, was co-founder of Hippo Inns, recently sold to Stonegate, and is a founding investor and board member of Pizza Pilgrims. His previous investing directorships include Geronimo Inns, La Tasca, Thunderbird Fried Chicken, Brasserie Blanc, Megabowl, Duke Street Capital and Ritz Bingo. Advisory transactions include the sale of New World Trading Company, Brannigans and Loch Fyne, and fundraisings for Pho and Be At One. Edward is also an investor in Vagabond, The Boat and Double Dutch. Ward is the founder and managing partner of Consortia Property Group, a residential and commercial property developer based in London with projects across the UK. Ward also works closely with his family-owned and managed Armajaro Holding on a wide range of business interests, primarily focused in the UK and South Africa. Incipio co-founder and chief executive, Ed Devenport, said: “Ian and Archie bring a wealth of experience, which will undoubtedly help support Incipio’s ambitious growth plans to grow the group. Ian’s outstanding track record working with a number of the industry’s most respected companies, and Archie’s extensive knowledge of the property market and experience working in international markets with Armajaro Holding, will ensure Incipio is poised to enter its next exciting chapter, which includes two new openings in 2022.” Incipio recently announced it will open The Libertine, located in The Royal Exchange, and The Palm House, Victoria, this year.

Just Eat expands on-demand grocery to more than 60% of UK population, looks to grow offering: Just Eat’s on-demand grocery and convenience offering is now available to more than 60% of the UK’s population, and the company is looking to grow it further. Its grocery estate in the UK has expanded from 20 sites to more than 1,500 on the platform since launching in January. The service has seen rapid growth over the summer, with more than 450 sites rolled out on the platform in July alone, due to partnerships with brands such as Asda, Londis, Budgens, One Stop and Central England Co-Op. Just Eat currently offers more than 2,000 products for customers, including essential items such as milk, eggs and bread. On-demand delivery will continue to be an area of significant focus for the company, according to Amy Heather, director of strategic Partnerships at Just Eat. She said: “Just Eat’s grocery offering is going from strength to strength. We’ve demonstrated to our partners the huge value we can provide with on-demand delivery, and it’s amazing to see us expand so quickly. Since launching earlier this year, we’ve seen more and more of our customers relying on grocery delivery to support them in their busy lives. This is only the beginning, and I look forward to announcing future big moves in this space to expand our grocery offering even further.”

Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company proposes closure of Cockermouth brewery: Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company (CMBC) has announced proposals to close Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth, Cumbria, in early October. CMBC said logistics based at Jennings Brewery will continue to operate as normal while options for the site are explored, including potential for sale. Following the closure of the brewery, Jennings Cumberland Cask ale and bottled beer brands will be produced at Marston’s Brewery in Burton. The business said it is providing support to colleagues throughout this period and is exploring opportunities for redeployment within CMBC. Chief executive Paul Davies said: “Jennings has operated below capacity for a number of years and has seen a significant decline in volumes, the impact of which has been made more significant by the pandemic. Over the course of the past year, we have carefully considered all options for the brewery and have reached the extremely difficult decision to close the brewery. We understand this news will be very difficult for our team at Jennings and disappointing to many other colleagues, consumers and customers. But with the economic headwinds impacting our industry, we must continue to make the difficult choices we believe are needed to ensure CMBC is well placed to navigate the unprecedented external challenges we are facing, and ensure we are able to grow and sustain our position as a leading business in the brewing industry.”

Hotel company Veladail narrows losses but turnover still more than half of pre-pandemic levels: Hotel company Veladail has reported turnover increased to £8,748,298 for the year ending 31 December 2021, compared with £6,602,650 the year before. However, this was still less than half what the business – which owns and operates hotels in London's Mayfair and Hatfield Heath in Essex and investment properties – was turning over pre-pandemic having reported revenue of £20,362,109 in 2019. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £3,668,499 from £6,433,433 the previous year (2019: loss of £2,337,293). The company received government grants of £885,000 during the period (2020: £1,518,378). No dividend was paid (2020: zero). Veladail also owns a golf course in Bushey, Hertfordshire, which has been closed since October 2019 while the business explores redevelopment plans. 

Wok&Go opens in Shoreditch: UK noodle bar brand Wok&Go, from Dough Dough operator Pheby Food Concepts Group, has opened in Shoreditch. The restaurant, at 132 Bethnal Green Road, is the 17th Wok & Go in the UK. A spokesperson said: “We couldn’t be more excited for this latest opening as the brand continues to expand and each store becomes a part of each community they operate in. There is ample seating in the store, where customers can enjoy their food with family, friends and or grab a solo box on the go. Shoreditch is the heart of innovation, and we have no doubt the new concept store will be a success.”

New sports coaching competitive socialising concept to launch: A new sports coaching competitive socialising concept is to launch, in Hull. ISE is a technology driven sporting and entertainment academy facility, providing an experience that combines both sports coaching and socialising. The multi-use leisure facility will offer world-class coaching of cricket, darts and golf “alongside a more social experience traditionally seen in the competitive socialising market”. The debut site will open at King William House in Hull in a deal brokered by Savills. ISE has taken 19,000 square feet on the ground floor on a ten-year lease in space formerly part-occupied by Argos. The site will also house a bar and restaurant. Guy Kilner, co-founder of ISE, said: “The site at King William House is the ideal location for one of our first experience centres, with its perfect thoroughfare of foot traffic and ideal location for those travelling in to Hull. Our doors will open to the public in early 2023, offering an all-inclusive multi-sports indoor coaching academy, along with an immersive experience that everyone can feel a part of.”

Malhotra Group outlines £75m hospitality development pipeline: North east pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group has outlined a development pipeline of about £75m to expand its hospitality portfolio. The family-run company, which also operates in the property and care home sectors, was established more than 30 years ago and has a leisure portfolio that includes venues such as Leila Lily's and The Three Mile. Chief operating officer Atul Malhotra told Insider Media while the hospitality sector is “tough” at the moment it “hasn't wavered our confidence”. In March, the business revealed a £23.2m funding package from HSBC UK to support its plans. Malhotra explained the company is sitting on some “huge development plans” but is taking more of a strategic approach in terms of when to commence schemes so they “complement the rest of what is happening in the city”. Specifically, its Grey Street scheme, which looks to create a 105-bedroom hotel complex with a rooftop swimming pool, nightclub, restaurants and retail outlets, lies within the vicinity of the major Reuben Brothers HM Revenue & Customs scheme, which is expected to complete in 2026. He said: "We are still going to develop the best part of £75m in our hospitality side of the business over the next five years, but we have just taken a more strategic approach of when to press the button.” Despite challenges within the hospitality sector, Malhotra said its hotel portfolio is “flying and breaking records”. He added: "Our short-term plan is to keep our fundamentals strong and keep everything tight for the next 12 months and get through this cost-of-living and energy crisis. We are investing in our staff, providing an environment where they can excel, realise their own true potential, and taking the group forward through them. After that we've got planning, licensing, and it will be full steam ahead.”

Haché to launch loyalty app: London neighbourhood burger restaurant Haché, part of The Hush Collection, is launching a loyalty scheme. Haché has partnered with Slerp to launch Haché Society, designed to reward regular customers with discounts and exclusive offers. Anyone who downloads the app – which will be available from Monday, 26 September – will be able to enjoy a free small plate as they long as they visit one of Haché’s seven restaurants  before the end of October and spend a minimum of £20. Haché Society members will also be able to enjoy a complimentary Social Roasters coffee every time they dine at the restaurant, and will be the first to know about exclusive discounts and launches. Members will be able to build up points for every spend with Haché; which will then turn into rewards that can be spent in the restaurant, or for home delivery via Slerp. They’ll receive one point for every £10 spent in Haché, with five points earning them a £5 reward and ten points £10. Haché chief executive Ed Standring said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do here at Haché. We have always had an extremely loyal fanbase; customers who have grown up with us and have followed us from our first tiny spot in Camden to the beautiful new Haché Riverside Social in Kingston. We’ve long wanted to find a way to reward their loyalty, and are delighted to be partnering with Slerp to do so.”

Two new openings in London’s Chinatown, including UK debut for overseas concept: Two new openings in London’s Chinatown include a UK debut for an overseas concept. Seoul Plaza has launched a Korean grocery-led store over 2,500 square feet at 65-67 Charing Cross Road, offering kimchi, tofu, noodles, and canned drinks. It also offers authentic Korean grab-and-go hot and cold food, with seating for up to ten on the mezzanine level. Meanwhile, Kung Fu Noodle, from restaurateur Alex Xu, has opened on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Wardour Street. The 50-cover, 1,800 square foot restaurant is the first live hand-pulled noodle concept within London’s Chinatown and specialises in dishes from the Gansu province in north-west China. Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director at landlords Shaftesbury, said: “Seoul Plaza adds a new element to the emerging hub of Korean brands on Charing Cross Road, and hand-pulled noodles will be on show at Chinatown London for the first time, as Kung Fu Noodle celebrates the traditional art. We’re delighted to have them as part of the line-up here.” It follows the signing of Pochawa at Chinatown London, with the casual Korean BBQ concept set to launch on Wardour Street later this year.

Digital payments to hospitality sector start-up secures £3m investment to boost growth: Digital payments start-up wi-Q has secured £3m investment from Manchester-based venture capital investor, Praetura Ventures, to enhance its product offering and expand its international footprint. Founded in 2014, wi-Q provides mobile ordering and payment solutions to the hospitality and leisure industry to help its clients drive efficiencies and improve guest experience. Its services include Dash, a platform that allows hospitality venues to manage online food and beverage orders in real-time, and Enterprise, a platform that allows customers to order and pay for food and drink via their smartphone. With headquarters in Manchester and offices in London and the Middle East, wi-Q will now focus its efforts on expansion into the US and the Asia-Pacific region. Patience Tucker, chief executive at wi-Q, said: “I am excited for what will be the most transformational phase for both wi-Q and hospitality technology. The global pandemic has accelerated both the demand for, and adoption of, mobile ordering, and hospitality brands will want to have much more than ordering functionality to give them a competitive advantage. With this investment, we are looking ahead to the next chapter that will see convergence of technology to generate revenue and digital engagement.”

Byron joins Uber Eats: Byron, the Famously Proper-owned burger brand, has signed up to offer delivery via Uber Eats. Its meat and plant-based burgers are now available for delivery to 18 towns across the UK. Famously Proper chief executive, Gavin Cox, said: “We are thrilled to be able to offer our famous burgers to even more people across the nation. Our daily lives have all changed since the pandemic, with convenience at the forefront. For the many working from home and needing a quick fix lunch delivered right to their door, to others requiring a late night burger at the click of a button, or for others simply wanting to treat the family to a great dinner at home, this roll out with Uber Eats makes Byron even more accessible.”

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