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Fri 9th Sep 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Industry leaders pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: Industry leaders have paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II after the UK’s longest-serving monarch passed away on Thursday afternoon (8 September). The Queen, who reigned for 70 years, died peacefully at Balmoral, aged 96, after concerns over her health grew throughout the afternoon. The Union flag on top of Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-mast at 18:30 BST and an official notice announcing the death was posted on an easel outside. Her eldest son Charles, the former Prince of Wales, will lead the country in mourning as the new King and head of state. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “Along with the nation and the world, we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her reign and duty to the country has been extraordinary, and on behalf of our members, we would like to pass on our condolences to the royal family. In the coming days and weeks, we will be working with our nation's pubs and brewers to pay our respects in communities across the country.” Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, tweeted: “A terribly sad day. My condolences are with the Queen’s family and with all who knew and loved her.” The Night Time Industries Association tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen has been an amazing ambassador and servant for this country over the last 70 years. Thank you for your service.” Loungers chairman Alex Reilley tweeted: “What an astonishing life – RIP your Majesty.” William Lees-Jones, managing director of JW Lees, tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with HM The Queen and all of the members of the royal family.”
 

Industry News:

Speaker line-up revealed for final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, three free places per company for operators: The speaker line-up for the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022 has been revealed. The full-day conference will take place on Thursday, 10 November, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing jo.charity@propelinfo.com. Speakers will include Andrew Ball of haysmacintyre, who leads a panel discussion on the sector investment landscape with serial sector investor Luke Johnson; Darrel Connell, of Imbiba; Lisa Boden, of Edition Capital; and Robin Rowland, of TriSpan. Tim Shield, partner at John Gaunt & Partners, examines all the key legal developments that impacted multi-site operators in 2022 and looks at what’s coming down the track over the next 12 months. Big Fang Collective founders Kip Piper and Daniel Bolger talk about taking their Golf Fang brand national, and how they continue to make sure the Imbiba-backed business will remain cutting edge. Greg Ilsen, co-founder of SushiDog, discusses the creation of the quick service sushi roll concept, and its plans to build on its four-strong estate in London with another five locations in the pipeline. Club Mexicana founder Meriel Armitage talks about growing the Edition Capital-backed company’s presence in the capital and how there is a gap in the market for the vegan restaurant concept’s Mexican and Californian-inspired street food offer. Burgerism co-founder Mark Murphy sets out how the fast-growing smash burger concept plans to open a further 30 sites across the UK over the next three to four years and become the “Domino’s for burgers”. Bob & Berts co-founders Colin McClean and David Ferguson talk about how the Northern Ireland-based coffee chain has created and evolved its all-day offer and is now readying to expand across England. James Lipscombe, founder of The Chesterford Group, which operates circa 40 sites under brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, and is a Pret A Manger franchisee, discusses the challenges and opportunities faced by both businesses. Roy Ellis, founder of Mission Mars, the Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Pizza operator, discusses evolving an award-winning bar and restaurant concept, expanding a pizza brand and creating a sector-leading culture. Alex Reilley, co-founder and chairman of Loungers, talks about what comes next for the 200-strong, listed company as it cements its position as one of the UK’s leading hospitality businesses and continues to play a key role in reviving the high street. Nick Crossley, chief executive of Turtle Bay, talks about the continued growth of the Caribbean restaurant and bar concept, its expansion plans, evolving its people culture and the importance of social media in interacting with consumers and potential employees. Richard Hodgson, chief executive of Snowfox Group, the YO! Sushi owner, talks about the continued evolution of the business, its success in the retail sector, growth across North America and where the next challenges and opportunities are coming from. Stephen Owens, managing director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, talks about the current state of the market. There will also be a panel discussion led by Fleet Street managing director Mark Stretton with Owens; Jon Lake, managing director of Chopstix; Richard Boon, founder of Hub Box; and Popeyes property director Tom Byng.

Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature updated accounts for 42 companies, another 22 businesses added: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, will feature updated accounts for 42 companies. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book on Friday, 16 September, at midday. Another 22 companies have been added, taking the total to 619. 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.

Wireless Social becomes third Hospitality Rising platinum sponsor, connecting young people to campaign by rolling out free service: Wi-Fi provider Wireless Social has become the latest platinum sponsor to provide backing for major recruitment campaign, Hospitality Rising. Wireless Social will expand support for the burgeoning movement by utilising its network of Wi-Fi sign-up pages to capture data and target younger audiences with messages on the recruitment campaign throughout venues across the UK. The company joins Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and technology provider Zonal in becoming platinum sponsors for the campaign, which is aiming to tackle the 400,000 vacancies that exist in the industry while changing the perception of working in hospitality for the better. Wireless Social will be giving away between £50,000 to 80,000 worth of engagement solutions to bar owners every year, providing them with a secure and flexible solution that delivers insight into user behaviour, and helps hospitality business owners better understand their customers. Julian Ross, chief executive of Wireless Social, said: “Wireless Social is delighted to be helping such a valuable initiative and we will be extending our support to this movement by offering our guest Wi-Fi service free of charge for venues that are predominantly student focused, for 12 months.” The Hospitality Rising campaign is already on its way to securing £800,000, with money still coming in. Mark McCulloch, founder of Hospitality Rising and campaign director, said: “This is an enhanced partnership where Wireless Social will be using its technology and reach to target under 30s in student venues to promote our campaign and provide insights into the industry. This is a genius idea which is the perfect marriage of site targeting and technology to appeal to the young and young at heart audience.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a contract caterer that is seeking an operations manager within the education sector.  A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will be overseeing multiple contracts within independent education with a focus on fresh high-quality produce. You will need to understand the finances, the food and the people to succeed in this position. Contract retention through customer satisfaction is of paramount importance.” The salary is up to £55,000 and the position is based in Surrey. For more information, email amber@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Hornby – the delivery boom is over: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group (TRG), the owner of Wagamama and Brunning & Price, has told Propel he believes the delivery boom in the sector is over, and that eat-in will not lose any more share to delivery. In its interim results, the company said it was ceasing the roll-out of its Wagamama delivery kitchens in light of the delivery market softening and an increase in the capital investment required. Delivery made up 11% of Wagamama’s sales mix in P6-P8 (periods) 2019, against 85% eat-in and 4% takeout. In the same period in 2021, delivery was 24%, against 70% eat-in. In the same period this year, delivery stood at 19% of the Wagamama sales mix, with eat-in at 77%. Hornby said: “From that, you can see there has still been a significant shift back to dine-in over the past year. The good news for us, and I can honestly say I think it’s been one of the reasons that Wagamama has continued to outperform, is that it has received most of that delivery softening back into dine-in. I also think that across the market, and we are not completely immune, some of that delivery volume has gone as people are cutting back on their spend, probably buying from the supermarket, corner shop or maybe a local QSR outlet rather than use delivery. I would say over half of our delivery volume we feel we have retained, but you can’t actually prove it. My personal view, and I’m probably wrong, is where it’s settled to, which if you look at our chart, is not far off halfway between where we were back in 2019 and where we were by 2021. I think it will stay about where it is now, and I don’t think it’s going to go back to 2019 levels, but I genuinely do think that the delivery boom is over and eat-in will not lose any more share to delivery.” Earlier this year, the company acquired the 16-strong burrito bar chain, Barburrito, for £7m, with an initial expansion plan to double the existing estate over the next four years. Hornby said tTRG was “really pleased” with Barburrito, adding: “We’ve acquired a lovely little business with the right culture. We are looking at two or three potential provincial sites, at least one of which is in an airport. We are keen to get at least three or four new openings done next year.”

Urban – if we can make Browns work in suburban areas it could become our next growth brand: Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has told Propel that the group’s Browns Brasserie & Bar brand has the potential to be the company’s next growth vehicle. Last month, the company opened the 25th site under the Browns brand, but first in a suburban area, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, after converting its Vintage Inns site, The White Hart. Propel understands that The George in Ruislip, currently a Harvester, will be the next suburban site to be converted to a Browns, and Urban said the company thinks it could have “50, 60, 70 of these open”, if it can “make it work in suburbia”. He told Propel: “M&B was guilty of buying a successful business and then not doing anything with it. We haven’t invested in it for ten years really at a time when Cote and Ivy Café have come about, and you are a brasserie, and arguably should have had the lead on all those guys. You’re allowing your senior amenity to deteriorate, you’re allowing your menu to get a bit stale and you have new competitors on your doorstep. It’s like a lose-lose-lose situation. So, it’s actually amazing that Browns does as well as it does, and probably punches above its weight. I think now we’ve got a menu that stands up to anybody else’s, I think the environment stands up and we’ve got the name. If this works, then if Ruislip works, who knows where it can go? We wanted to do the first one just to get the learnings. Browns tends to be quite iconic city centre leasehold businesses. One, we don’t want leaseholds, and two, these businesses are really hard to come by. So, while we could stick with that, we’re probably talking at best opening one a year. Whereas if we can make it work in suburbia – and it’s unproven – but if we do, I think we can have 50, 60, 70 of these open. Miller & Carter has two or three years of growth in it, and then I really wouldn’t want it to get much bigger.” A longer interview with M&B chief executive Phil Urban will appear in this week’s Propel Premium, where he discusses the current trading environment, what the sector needs from the government and how the group’s other brands, including Harvester and Nicholson’s, are performing.

Oodles Chinese targets 100 sites by 2025, appoints two new directors to lead growth plans: Indo-Chinese concept Oodles Chinese has targeted reaching 100 sites by 2025 and appointed two new directors to front its growth plans. Founded in 2010, Oodles opened its 35th branch last month, a 30-cover restaurant in Bridge Street, Peterborough, operated by franchisee Mohammed Naseer. The company has now appointed Ian Jeffery as commercial and global director and Simon Robinson as operations director, effective from this week. Jeffrey, who was most recently head of global development (UK & International) at Chicken Cottage, has also worked as head of compliance operations at Creams Franchising and senior operations manager at Starbucks and KFC. He will have full responsibility for leading Oodles’ business development and franchise recruitment in the UK and abroad. Robinson’s 21 years in senior management roles within the sector include working for German Doner Kebab, Heavenly Desserts and Starbucks. He will oversee all operational elements of the business and help lead and support its growth plans. Oodles founder and chief executive, Mohammed Shoyab Umar, said: “We have a very exciting time ahead of us at Oodles as we bring our unique Indo-Chinese flavours to customers across the UK, while at the same time continuing to raise the bar for customer service and satisfaction. We are delighted to welcome both Ian and Simon to the Oodles team, as they bring a wealth of industry experience and knowledge to the brand. Their expertise will be invaluable to the Oodles network by providing franchise partners with ongoing business support and delivering operational efficiency, as well as achieving our ambitious plan to grow and develop the network to at least 100 stores by 2025.” Jeffrey said: “I am looking forward to working with all our franchise partners and valued suppliers to accelerate the development of the brand both here in the UK, and around the globe.” Robinson added: “Together, we will elevate the brand standards to become a respected international brand and create a consistent and positive experience for Oodles. Through a strategic approach, we will elevate both the customer experience and that of the franchisee.” Oodles features in Propel’s UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is available exclusively to Propel Premium subscribers. The fourth edition will be published next week – providing insight on the offer, locations, cost, business background, contacts and other key details of companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK. 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.
 
Honest Burgers completes reshaping of management team: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed business, has completed the reshaping of its management team with the appointments of a new chief marketing officer and people director, Propel has learned. The 43-strong business, which earlier this summer opened in Leeds, has appointed Marcus Denison-Smith, formerly of Caffe Nero, as its new chief marketing officer. Denison-Smith spent more than seven years at Caffe Nero, including three years as its marketing director. At the same time, the Frank Hayes-led Honest has appointed Maureen Sandbach, formerly of BaxterStorey, as its new people director. Sandbach spent nearly 16 years at BaxterStorey, including six years as its people director. Their appointments follow that of Matt Brandon, formerly of Snowfox Group and Restaurant Brands International (RBI), as its new chief financial officer, and Esther Arnanz, ex-EAT, Comptoir Group and Pret, as its new operations director. Founder Tom Barton will continue to oversee the group’s food development and sustainability functions, while fellow founder Phil Eeles steps into a non-executive director role. Propel understands that the company also reshaped its head office team during the summer, with circa ten roles affected, as it focuses on a more streamlined structure. Hayes told Propel: “I am delighted to have attracted such a talented and experienced exec team to Honest and we are really excited about realising the enormous potential of the business over the coming years.”

McMullen adds to London estate with Whitechapel pub deal: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen has acquired The White Hart in London’s Whitechapel, Propel has learned. The pub is located on the Mile End Road, situated near transport links and the company’s “rapidly growing London pub estate”. The White Hart will join McMullen’s Social Specialist group of pubs, located on high streets, offering “informal relaxed vibe with a tempo that goes up as the lights go down”. The site is the latest acquisition for the company following the Warbler on the Wharf, Milton Keynes and The Cambridge Tap, Cambridge. The next acquisition to open will be the Saint & Sinner in St Albans. Heydon Mizon, joint managing director, said: “It is fantastic to be offered the opportunity to take over the reins from the Mulligan family, who have been the custodians of The White Hart for a total of over 20 years. While considering the pub, we spent many evenings there as guests, and both the pub and the friendly, vibrant team really won us over. Both are a credit to John and Patrick Mulligan. The pub will trade as now while we settle in and plan any required investment opportunities.” AG&G represented the Mulligan family on the White Hart deal. McMullen, which operates 40 tenanted sites and 83 managed pubs, said it continues to seek “excellent quality freehold and long lease hold property in London and the south east, either current trading pubs and hotels, new build opportunities or property conversions”.
 
Popeyes UK strengthens senior team with three new appointments: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, has made three new senior appointments to its management team – with Drew Taylor, Chris Raaff and David Jewell joining as finance director, head of talent and head of digital product respectively, Propel has learned. Taylor brings over a decade’s worth of retail and consumer experience to Popeyes UK, having most recently been finance director at Boux Avenue following stints at Ted Baker and M&S Food. Jewell was formerly at McDonald’s and The Restaurant Group. Popeyes said Jewell’s remit will span consumer-facing digital products such as online ordering and delivery. Raaf joins from Five Guys, where he handled talent acquisition, employer branding and internal comms for the past six years. Prior to that, he spent seven years at Wagamama. Popeyes UK chief executive Tom Crowley said: “Drew brings a wealth of experience from some of the most recognised brands in the UK, and we have no doubt that the commercial infrastructure he’ll build will be a crucial support to our planned, sustained growth. Similarly, building a category-leading digital offering for our customers under David’s stewardship will further underpin our ambitious expansion. People and culture have always been a central tenet to the Popeyes UK business strategy. We’re very excited to welcome Chris for this reason, and I’m looking forward to working with him on building a market-leading talent strategy as we continue our expansion.” Since launching in the UK, the brand has opened in Stratford, Chelmsford, Romford and Gateshead, plus a handful of delivery kitchens. It has also secured venues in Derby, Reading, Nottingham, Brighton and Ealing for openings this year, and is understood to be in talks on sites in Glasgow and Cambridge.

Inception Group to open new bar concept at Battersea Power Station: Inception Group, the hospitality group behind Maggie’s, Bunga Bunga and Cahoots, is to open a new bar concept in the Battersea Power Station’s historic Control Room B. The new bar will open on 14 October, when the grade II-listed property officially opens its doors to the public. The company said the immersive experience will be completely unique to Battersea Power Station and will take inspiration from the building’s iconic architecture and history. It said: “The establishment will feature mid-century furniture and glassware, and there will also be a beautiful centrepiece bar, which is a turbine-inspired radial sculpture – paying homage to the character and form of Battersea Power Station’s electric history. Once open, the new Control Room B bar will bring the history of the power station to the present day. This one-of-a-kind setting will make for a truly unrivalled bar concept, and patrons will have the chance to get up close and personal with the Control Room’s original dials and controls that have been restored to their former glory. Offering an all-day experience, Control Room B will open at 10am, serving coffee, tea and pastries. Staff donning utilitarian boiler suits in a nod to the power station’s employees back in the 1950s, will always be ready to shake up and serve a selection of innovative cocktails. Each drink will be influenced by the power station and the 1950s control room through vessels and ingredients used. With a setting so unique, it really will be the ultimate drinking destination for any occasion.” Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, said: “We couldn’t be more excited to be opening a bar within the most iconic part of one of London’s most important landmarks. Having lived in Battersea my whole life, it’s amazing to be playing a part in the most exciting redevelopment project for many years and to be bringing this space back to life.”

The Celtic Collection returns to profit but turnover still almost a third down on pre-covid levels: The Celtic Collection, which operates a number of hotels including Celtic Manor, has reported turnover increased to £41,563,000 for the year ending 31 December 2021, compared with £21,609,000 the previous year. However, the figure was still below the £58,687,000 reported in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. The business saw a pre-tax profit of £1,663,000 compared with a loss of £12,876,000 the year before (2019: profit of £566,000. Ebitda stood at £6.6m (2020: minus £4.4m). The business received HM Revenue & Customs and Welsh government covid support totalling £2.5m (2020: £7.6m). No dividend was paid (2020: zero). Average occupancy for the year for the resort hotel was 50% (2020: 34%), with an average room rate of £135 (2020: £88). Revpar for the resort hotel for the year was £219 (2020: £113). Average occupancy for the Coldra Court hotel was 73% (2020: 58%). with an average room rate of £77 (2020: £61). Average occupancy for the Ty Magor Hotel was 43% (2020: 23%), with an average room rate of £63 (2020: £53). The year also saw the group commence its first hotel management contract with the opening of the Parkgate Hotel in Cardiff.

Various Eateries eyes Farnham opening for Coppa Club: Various Eateries, the Hugh Osmond-backed business, is eyeing an opening in Farnham, Surrey, for its Coppa Club brand. Various Eateries, which recently opened a Coppa Club in Bath – The Bath Townhouse in the city’s Old Bond Street – is understood to be in talks to take space at Crest Nicholson’s Brightwells Yard development in the centre of the market town. Propel reported last month that the business is also set to take on the former No5 restaurant in Exeter. Linda and Charles Horner, the founders of No3 in Topsham and Exeter gin bar Crocketts, took over the former ASK site in the grade I-listed building, dating to the 16th century, in the city’s Cathedral Green at the end of 2020. However, they closed the site last week. The couple posted on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart that we have closed No5. On a positive note, our beautiful iconic building will have new custodians in the Coppa Club, which is well known for creating venues in beautiful locations.” The opening in Bath was Coppa Club’s 11th location and second in the west country following an opening in Bristol. Various Eateries has been granted permission to open a Coppa Club in Cardiff and is also believed to be lining up a site in Guildford.

Curzon reports admissions remain below 2019 levels: Boutique cinema chain Curzon has said admissions remain below 2019 levels. It comes as the business reported turnover increased 33% to £12,056,462 for the year ending 31 December 2021, compared with £9,050,311 the year before. This is below the £14,902,968 reported in 2019, the last year before the pandemic. The company saw a pre-tax profit of £2,348,054 compared with £115,112 the previous year (2019: loss of £838,681). The business received £674,810 through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (2020: £1,386,091) and £252,266 in grants (2020: £45,000). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company opened two new London cinemas in 2021 – in Hoxton and Camden – and continued working on future cinema developments. Throughout the year, covid-19 has had a significant impact on the business, with cinemas being closed in line with government regulations from January to May and suffering in December, when the Omicron variant was prevalent. The turnover increase was due to cinema admissions recovery in October and November, mainly driven by No Time To Die, Dune and The French Dispatch, as well as cinema private hires, which were strong from June to December. At the time of approval of these statements (1 September 2022), cinema admissions remain lower than 2019.”

Hawksmoor now a certified B Corp: Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept Hawksmoor has become a certified B Corp, joining a global community of businesses audited and proven to meet high environmental and social standards, accountability, and transparency. Not only does B Corp certification verify those high ethical standards, but also requires a commitment to constant improvement, with companies required to recertify every three years. Huw Gott, co-founder: “This is one of our most significant achievements. Hawksmoor has always been about more than the bottom line: 16 years ago, we set out to start a restaurant and a business we could be proud of, doing things with integrity and having a positive impact. Becoming a B Corp is a statement of intent that we will always set the bar as high as possible in the interests of our team, customers and suppliers, as well as the planet. And it is a high bar – as far as we know, no other UK restaurant group has achieved it.” Co-founder Will Beckett said: “It’s a great feeling joining a group of businesses that are playing a part in changing things for the better. The journey hasn’t always been easy, especially over the past few years, and we know there are challenges for us and the industry ahead. Many other businesses in the industry are on the journey towards B Corp status, and we hope many more join us. There’s also so much more for us to do, we’re really excited about the next few years.” Hawksmoor has seven restaurants in London, one each in Manchester and Edinburgh and one in New York. It is set to open its first restaurant in Liverpool later this year, and a site in Dublin in 2023.

West African-inspired restaurant concept The Patio to open in Farringdon: The Patio, a debut London restaurant from Brandi Akpobome, has secured a new lease on the former Bird of Smithfield site in Farringdon. The restaurant will operate across the entire 5,340 square-foot, five-storey building, with a focus on West African cuisine and entertainment from DJ’s and regular events playing soul, funk, neo-soul, jazz, R&B and alté music. The venue will operate as a cocktail bar in the basement, bar and dining area for small plates on ground floor, with a large dining room for 60 covers on the first floor. The second floor will provide a private dining room and the third floor offers a large roof terrace overlooking Smithfield Market. The company said the focus is to grow the “awareness of West African cuisine and build a physical and digital community showcasing Nigerian culture in a modern light”. Akpobome has drawn influences from her childhood growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, where the Patio currently operates another venue, established in 2017. DCL acted for the landlord on the Farringdon deal, while Ben Floyd of Lumiere Consultancy advised The Patio.

Pizza 1889 secures fifth site: Pizza1889, the concept that operates out of shipping containers, has secured its fifth site, in Oxford. The company, which was founded in 2014 by Daniel Southwell, Richard Sweet and Simon Barbato, has secured space at Templars Shopping Park in the city. The new restaurant will front the access road to the scheme, taking up space on unused surplus car parking. Pizza1889 offers “authentic stone baked pizzas prepared and cooked in minutes by fully trained pizza chefs”. It also operates sites in Bristol, Cambridge, High Wycombe and Surrey Quays. Johnny Rowland of Savills acted for landlord Hermes Investments on the Oxford deal.

Former Geales head chef to lead kitchen at new Bromley restaurant: Ralph Jones, former head chef at Geales – the long-running ‘posh fish and chips’ diner in Notting Hill which closed during the pandemic – will lead the kitchen at a new restaurant in Bromley. Jones, who has worked under the likes of Chris Galvin, Marco Pierre White, Garry Hollihead and Eric Chavot, will be in charge of the menu at Dorothy & Marshall, which is set to open in the Old Town Hall this autumn. Taking over what used to be the courthouse in the 1906 grade II-listed building, the all-day restaurant will offer classic British dishes using local ingredients. Dishes will include braised beef short rib with Guinness and black treacle, bone marrow mash and red cabbage; and baby artichoke, heritage tomatoes and Ragstone goat’s cheese puff pastry tart. Among the desserts will be golden Tate & Lyle treacle tart with raspberries topped with whipped almond clotted cream; and flamed baked Alaska with sloe gin blackberry sauce. The Old Town Hall, at 4 Court Street, has recently undergone extensive renovations and also houses Brama, a 24-room boutique hotel, and the Clockwise workspace hub.

Searcys adds London social enterprise restaurant to portfolio: British restaurateur and events caterer Searcys has added London social enterprise restaurant, Brigade Bar + Kitchen, to its portfolio. The move – which sees Searcys take on the day-to-day management of the London Bridge eatery – also incorporates a continued commitment to founder Simon Boyle’s Beyond Food Foundation, Searcys’ charity partner since 2018. Housed in the capital’s oldest fire station in Tooley Street, Brigade is known for its live wood-fire cooking and now offers an all-day menu of British classics with a fresh, modern twist, alongside a creative new cocktail menu. Founded in 2004, Beyond Food supports individuals towards positive change by providing life-changing work placements, practical training and development courses – predominantly in the hospitality sector – with the aim of helping individuals into full-time employment. Paul Jackson, Searcys’ managing director, said: “The Searcys team has already raised thousands of pounds for Beyond Food, and we are honoured to be able to contribute to their success even further by providing Brigade with our operational, sales and marketing expertise to open the restaurant to even more diners.” Boyle added: “It’s going to be incredible to be able to offer our programme beneficiaries the opportunity to learn new skills and reshape their lives through practical experience and work opportunities with Searcys.”

Trio of bartenders open cocktail bar in Birmingham: A trio of bartenders have joined forces to open a new cocktail bar in Birmingham’s Custard Factory. Tommy Matthews, former bar manager of Couch, has teamed up with Matt Arnold and Eve Green, of The Edgbaston and Grain & Glass respectively. Passing Fancies has taken up residence in the Custard Factory with space for 54 covers. With a layout akin to “the kitchen at a house party”, the bar is the centrepiece of the venue. The bar’s name is a nodsto the trio’s vow to move with the times, regularly changing its menu and straying away from a set theme. The food offer is provided by Dan Sweet, former chef at Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant in Edgbaston.  Dishes include smoked deep-fried potatoes with crispy chilli mayo and coriander; and charred courgette, dressed borlotti beans, confit lemon, black olive cracker and whipped ricotta. The bar serves a variety of cocktails as well as a selection of wine and beer. Matthews said: “We have, for a long time, hoped to be able to use our passion for the industry to create a space that would provide a comforting and high-end experience for people to create long-lasting memories. We want Passing Fancies to represent not just a bar, but also a community.” The former home of Sir Alfred Bird’s namesake company, the Custard Factory is now a creative and cultural hub in the heart of Birmingham. 

BaxterStorey opens new restaurant at Reading workspace development: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has opened a new restaurant at Campus Reading – a 375,000 square-foot workspace on the outskirts of the Berkshire town. Taking a “made from scratch” approach, menus change daily, although firm favourites will become regular features. The restaurant is also engaging with local street food providers to host weekly takeovers while educating customers on the need for more sustainable farming – with a target to reduce meat consumption by 30%. The breakfast menu features hot breakfast wraps, protein balls and freshly baked pastries. Lunch options include wood fired pizza and deli sandwiches, mezze salad boxes and daily staples including homemade soups and ramen. The Health Bar serves acai bowls as part of the breakfast offer and “build your own” poké bowls for lunch. The kitchen is led by chef manager Chris Tanton, who has joined from Park Kitchen at the nearby Thames Valley Business Park. BaxterStorey operations director Michael Cunningham said: “We’re excited to be part of this revolutionary new workspace and really pushing boundaries when it comes to workplace dining. Our talented teams are hugely passionate about delighting our customers with menus that celebrate the best in seasonal British produce.”

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