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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 10th Oct 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Metcalfe – Itsu dwarfs Pret’s historic potential, the capital is back in business, explores Germany launch: Julian Metcalfe, founder of Itsu, has told Propel his healthy Asian food chain Itsu “dwarfs Pret’s historic potential”, as the company posted FY2021 turnover of £86.5m and said “the capital is back in business”. Following post-covid uncertainty, Itsu said its City of London-based sites have seen steady growth throughout 2022 with the third quarter “exceeding pre-pandemic results”. It said increasing numbers of customers are being served midweek, with Mondays and Fridays showing similar signs of growth. The Asian-inspired food brand, which started in central London and now has 77 sites across the UK and Europe – as well as a rapidly growing grocery business – said it saw sales of its “steamed fast-food offering soar last quarter”, up 48% versus the third quarter of 2021. The company said: “Many City restaurants reopened having undergone dramatic digital transformations and now are serving record numbers of customers. New kiosks mean customers are served nutritious, affordable dishes more quickly than ever before. Furthermore, the new tech allows customers to browse the menu, check nutritional information and personalise hot dishes.” Full-year turnover grew 40% on the prior year, buoyed by an “impressive post-lockdown recovery through the second half of 2021”. Within this, Itsu restaurants recorded sales growth of 42%. Meanwhile the company’s grocery arm saw Ebitda growth of 56% and sales growth of 39%. Excluding intercompany sales, grocery’s net turnover grew 51% FY21 versus FY20 – driven by success across all aspects of the business. Pre-tax losses for the year narrowed from £19.03m to £8.3m. Greg Thorp, group chief financial officer, said: “Despite the changing dynamic of the week, with commuters continuing to work from home on Mondays and Fridays, we’re confident the City is bouncing back. 2022 trade continues to go from strength to strength for both retail and grocery.” Metcalfe, who co-founded Pret, told Propel that sales would again be up year on year in 2022, with grocery having record months – three in a row – and heading for more than £60m in sales “on our way to £120m per annum”. He said: “Itsu restaurants have seen 20 years of innovation and now enjoy outstanding success wherever we open, with about 18 openings a year, which perfectly combine a very modern menu, lots of tech, health, high returns, affordability and convenience, like nobody else. Itsu dwarfs Pret’s historic potential even now and looks forward to breaking the billion-pound sales target as more and more people globally want food that is very healthy, 40% plant based, under 500 calories and freshly made. We look forward to 2023 for another dynamic year when our academy and training centre are planning record results for positive staff engagement and retention.” Metcalfe, who is understood to be currently exploring a launch of the brand in Germany, said the group’s fourth and fifth new franchise partners are about to open in France, in Paris, and the UK, in Wembley, respectively, before the end of the year. The company is on track to open a record number of new restaurants this year. Nine sites have opened so far – with first openings in Scotland “far exceeding expectations”. A further four sites, including openings in Putney and Staines, will open before the year end. An additional four locations, including Battersea Power Station, are on schedule to open in the first quarter of 2023. 

Industry News:

Club Mexicana founder Meriel Armitage to speak at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, three free places per company for operators: Club Mexicana founder Meriel Armitage will be among the speakers at the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, which takes place on Thursday, 10 November, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “new ways of working”. Armitage will talk 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. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing
Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature 638 companies, with 18 more added: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, will feature an additional 18 companies, taking the total to 638. They are turning over a collective £32.3bn. The Blue Book shows the effects of the pandemic, with total losses of £5.4bn being reported by 314 companies. However, a further 324 sector companies are still reporting total profits of £1.7bn. The next edition will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (14 October), at midday. 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 access to three other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate, the New Openings Database, and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access 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; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
Video series launches to help operators harness technology to drive their business forwards, Trail to feature: In a new series of Propel videos, leading suppliers explain how operators can harness their technology to drive their businesses forward. In the next video, Trail operations experts Lilly Molloy and Sonia Jakku share their tips on how to reduce operational costs. The video will be sent at 9am today (Monday, 10 October).
BBPA – potential blackouts ‘will add further strain to businesses at an already critically difficult time’: Potential blackouts this winter “will add further strain to businesses at an already critically difficult time”, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has warned. National Grid has said supply interruptions were a possibility if the energy crisis escalated. In response, BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Like their customers, pubs and breweries rely on a sustained, guaranteed energy supply. It is essential they are able to provide welcoming spaces and keep production lines running. Publicans and brewers have already been facing uncertainty for some time as we emerged from the pandemic into a cost of doing business crisis and have tried to remain resilient. Many have taken measures to ensure they can keep trading, from reducing opening hours to changing menu options, but blackouts could result in a tremendous loss of stock that businesses simply will not be able to recover. This news will add further strain to businesses at an already critically difficult time.”

Three in four business say recruiting staff ‘more difficult than ever’: Three in four businesses have admitted hiring the right staff members is “more difficult than ever” with one in two also finding staff retention more of a challenge, according to new research. The findings by KAM and Only A Pavement Away – the charity aiding prison leavers, veterans and those facing homelessness back into employment within the hospitality sector – also showed 74% of hospitality operators have several vacancies across front of house roles at present, while 87% have a high number of vacancies within their back of house staff. The research also reflected why employers are hesitant to hire a candidate who might be facing homelessness. When asked about the preconceptions they had about hiring people from this background, prior to joining the Only A Pavement Away programme, the findings showed 59% felt that those coming through the programme wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job, 59% felt they would be unreliable, and 29% felt they would be more likely to use drugs and/or alcohol while at work. However, these negative preconceptions are being challenged, with employers using the Only A Pavement Away employment programme now responding their preconceptions are changing, with 70% disagreeing candidates wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job, a lower 50% feeling they would be unreliable and 60% disagreeing candidates are more likely to use drugs and/or alcohol while at work. The research has been released today (Monday, 10 October) on World Homeless Day and Only A Pavement Away’s fourth anniversary. It now connects an average of three people facing homelessness per week into stable, purposeful employment within the hospitality industry.
Companies collapse at fastest rate since financial crisis: UK companies are collapsing at the fastest rate since the height of the global financial crisis as surging energy bills drive thousands of firms out of business. There were more than 5,600 insolvencies in England and Wales in the second quarter – the highest level since 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics. The sharp rise in energy bills was cited as the biggest problem for businesses, while difficulties paying debt, rising costs of raw materials and supply chain disruptions also took their toll. While the squeeze on finances has hit all businesses, construction, retail and accommodation and foodservices suffered the highest number of insolvencies in the first half of the year. The government has outlined support to help companies and public sector bodies struggling with their energy bills. However, the scheme for businesses will run for only six months, unlike the two-year programme aimed at households. Insolvencies slumped in 2020 as the government rolled out support to protect businesses during the pandemic. But the number of failures has since spiked sharply as companies grapple with fresh challenges even after lockdowns ended.

London faces consumer growth slowdown: Footfall in the West End of London remains about a fifth lower than before the pandemic, according to research by the New West End Company (NWEC), which represents more than 600 businesses in the area. The FT reported the group warned domestic spending in the capital’s main shopping areas will be further squeezed as a result of the economic slowdown, leaving retailers more reliant on overseas travellers who will benefit from a cut in VAT for their shopping outlined in last month’s “mini-Budget”. NWEC – whose members include retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair – said monthly sales since May had been in line with or above pre-pandemic levels for most trading areas. But it added overall forecasts for the remainder of 2022 had been revised down since its last survey in January because of a weaker economic outlook. The report also said there would be reduced consumer expenditure in 2023 compared with previous forecasts. The research said total sales across the West End’s shops, bars and hotels had reached about £4bn so far this year, more than double the same trading period in 2021, when the UK was still emerging from pandemic lockdowns. But it found sales were outpacing the rate of recovery in West End footfall, suggesting a smaller number of people are spending more. Domestic footfall growth has climbed during 2022 to between 20% and 30% below 2019 levels in the first half of the year. NWEC said further help was needed from the government to help boost the number of visitors given the challenging domestic consumer climate and cost-of-living crisis, including reforms to business rates and a relaxation of Sunday trading laws in the West End and Knightsbridge. International footfall has increased significantly in recent months as overseas travel has picked up, but rates also remain about 20% to 30% lower than pre-pandemic levels. NWEC expects international visitor numbers to recover in 2023. 

Four-day week workers face huge pay cuts: Workers moving to a four-day week are facing big wage cuts as only 1% of companies plan to offer full pay for reduced hours. The Telegraph reported a third of companies expect most workers to be on a four-day week within the next ten years, new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has revealed. However, the survey revealed only a tiny number of companies plan to reduce hours while maintaining pay. A tenth of firms said they have cut working hours without slashing pay while only 1% of companies said they would move to a shorter week and maintain staff wages. A number of countries and companies are trialling a four-day working week. But there are major concerns any boost to productivity will not offset the losses to output. Jonathan Boys, economist at the CIPD, said: “The major sticking point is the need to increase productivity by a whopping 25% to make up for the output lost from fewer days of work. This point came through in our findings with a majority of employers saying they would need to work smarter and adopt new technology in order to reduce working hours without cutting pay.” CIPD found 32% of firms said a four-day week would not suit all of their staff while 30% said they would be unable to achieve the same volume of output. More than two thirds of workers said they are happy with working hours compared with 31% who wanted to do fewer hours. However, only 11% would take a pay cut for fewer hours.

Fridays ordered to stop opening sites: The owner of the Fridays restaurant chain has been targeted by veteran fund manager Christopher Mills, who has demanded it scale back expansion plans and instead return cash to shareholders. Hostmore, which owns the chain formerly known as TGI Fridays, is listed in London. The Sunday Times reported Mills, whose Harwood Capital has a 6% stake in the chain, has given the company until Friday, 4 November to respond to demands, or he will call an extraordinary general meeting. Hostmore demerged from Electra Private Equity last November and its shares hit 156.2p on the first day of trading. However, since then they have plummeted, closing last week at 17.5p and valuing the company at just £22.1m. Last month, Hostmore said it would pause new openings until it began to see some “green shoots of recovery” in the UK. Chief executive Robert Cook told investors while it was on track to deliver 100 Fridays and 25 of its 63rd+1st cocktail bars, it was not planning on opening any new restaurants in the first half of 2023. Hostmore had about £32.5m of debt at the start of this month, and reported sales of £98.5m in the six months to 3 July. Harwood has demanded Hostmore prioritise paying down the debt, and then use any extra funds to buy back shares rather than open new sites. Cook said he would discuss Harwood’s demands with the company’s board, and respond by the 4 November deadline. Last week, Propel revealed Edward Bramson, the activist investor behind self-styled turnaround specialist Sherborne Investors Management, had taken a stake in Hostmore. Bramson took his personal holding in the company to circa 3.6% at the end of last month. At the same time, Stephen Welker, Bramson's fellow co-founder of Sherborne, upped his stake in the business to 3.2% through Beechenbrook Holdings, where he is sole owner. Welker also became a non-executive director of Hostmore last month. In 2015, Bramson seized control of Electra Private Equity through his Sherborne vehicle after a boardroom battle.

UberEats launches £250,000 fund to support black-owned restaurants across UK: Black-owned restaurants across the UK are set to receive a cash boost as UberEats significantly expands its Black Business Fund in 2022. In collaboration with Enterprise Nation and Be Inclusive Hospitality, the UberEats Black Business Fund will award a total of £250,000 to 25 small black-owned businesses. At least half of the grants will go to small businesses outside of London. Black-owned restaurants with fewer than five locations can now apply to the UberEats Black Business Fund with applications opening on Friday (14 October) and closing on Friday, 25 November. As well as funding to help grow their businesses, restaurants will receive special mentoring from Enterprise Nation. Matthew Price, general manager at UberEats UK & Ireland, said: “Small businesses and restaurants are the heart of local communities, and we’re honoured to give so many a platform on UberEats. Given the barriers that black owners face, we are incredibly proud to expand our support of small black-owned businesses across the country. Through this fund we want to help the next generation of chefs and entrepreneurs thrive.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a development set in 60 acres that is home to a number of types of accommodation as well as restaurants, bars, and spa that is looking for a chief engineer. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will join before the opening, which is set for spring 2023, so you have the chance to oversee the final commissioning for a number of technical installations and be involved in recruiting members of your team. From there, the primary function is to provide leadership, management, budget, and operational control for the engineering department. Leading a team of ten-plus, you will be directing, co-ordinating, and performing routine preventative and emergency interior and exterior maintenance and repairs to the buildings and grounds. You will also manage the maintenance and appearance of a fleet of vehicles.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in Oxfordshire. For more information, email

Company News:

Martin – all we can do is look at every area of expenditure and try to make sensible decisions, without affecting customer service: Tim Martin, founder and chairman at JD Wetherspoon, has told Propel that in the face of the current cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation, all the business can do “is look at every area of expenditure and try to make sensible decisions, without affecting customer service”. Talking after the business reported a loss of £30.4m in the 53 weeks to 31 July 2022, Martin said: “It’s just extraordinarily hard and to quote Tom Petty ‘there ain’t no easy way out’. We have spent heavily on repairs, labour, including bonuses and free shares – and so on. The pubs look smart and the staff are on good form after a traumatic few years. We’ve tried to keep our eye on the ball in mundane day-to-day matters, so we’re still top in the pub world for hygiene standards, as judged by local councils in respect of Scores on the Doors. Food has been strong recently and we’ve added a few chicken dishes, for example, that are taking off. Real ale suffered post-pandemic so we’ve worked hard in that area with good progress being made. We’ve also introduced a few new products like Au Vodka in order to maintain our reputation as the world’s grooviest pub company, but really, we’re trying to improve everything.” Like-for-like sales were down 4.7% in the year but rose to plus 10.1% in the nine weeks to 2 October. Martin said recent sales were encouraging “but not shooting the lights out” and that customer habits were “reverting to norm, but only slowly” after lockdowns. Wetherspoon paid £30.1m in respect of bonuses and free shares to employees in the period, of which 98.8% was paid to staff below board level and 91.5% was paid to staff working in its pubs. Traditionally cash staff bonuses have been around 50% of post-tax profits. Over the last few years, the business has still paid out around £80m to staff despite post-tax losses. That has translated through to the company’s ability to retain pub and kitchen managers. The average pub manager’s length of service at Wetherspoon now stands at 13.9 years and the average kitchen manager length of service is 10.4 years. Last month, it placed a package of 32 of its pubs on the market. On whether the package had generated any interest so far, Martin said: “Yes, enormous interest, surprisingly. I even got a message that Mike Ashley wants to meet. We were both squash players so I offered to play him best of five sets, winner takes all, but he’s gone quiet.” He added the business was “looking at quite a few sites in central London but prices are still too high I think”.

Las Iguanas plans 30 new sites over next three years, introduces service robots: The Big Table Group, the operator of Banana Tree, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, has said it plans to open 30 new sites under its Las Iguanas brand over the next three years. The Epiris-backed business said Las Iguanas is one of the “best-performing brands in the casual dining sector, consistently outperforming its competitor set and the wider casual dining sector both on customer feedback and sales metrics”. It said it was now looking to capitalise on the popularity of the brand by opening as many as 30 new restaurants in the next three years. Recent openings at Elveden and Canterbury will be joined this autumn by a new site in Peterborough, with a 160-cover restaurant, bar and terrace spread across 4,500 square foot in a grade II-listed building in the heart of the city centre, and early next year by a 269-cover restaurant and bar in Center Parcs’ Sherwood Forest site. The company said it is “proactively speaking with landlords in a number of towns and cities about further opportunities to expand the thriving brand”. The brand has also introduced service robots at two restaurants. Through a trial partnership with Cambridge-based Soft Bank Robotics, six new bots have been introduced to the new restaurant at Center Parcs Elveden Forest, while two robots have been added to the brand’s Cambridge site. The robots will support team members with everyday tasks such as delivering food and drinks to tables, and returning used dishes to the kitchen, allowing team members to spend more time interacting with guests “and delivering an optimum experience”. On average, each day the robots travel 6.2km, complete 257 tasks, and “work” for five and a half hours. Since launch, the bots at the group’s Bella Italia Whifnell Forest site have travelled more than 1,000km in total. The business has also introduced a Triple Grande Nachos Challenge, to mark the launch of its biggest ever grande nachos on its autumn menu. Coming soon to all restaurants, consumers have just 25 minutes to finish 3 servings of Las Iguanas’ new Grande Nachos, Winners of the challenge will earn their £45 nachos platter for free, a free t-shirt, and a spot up on Las Iguanas’ Wall of Fame. Alan Morgan, managing director of Las Iguanas, and chief executive of The Big Table Group, said: “Las Iguanas is a fun, vibrant and innovative brand, and we’re always looking for progressive ways to deliver the best possible experience for our guests, whether that’s by exploring new technologies, or through new product development. With the robots quite literally doing the heavy lifting, our serving staff will have more time to do what they love, engaging with customers and delivering amazing experiences, which in turn will lead to bigger tips and better guest feedback.”
Brewhouse & Kitchen appoints advisers as it assesses options: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK's largest brewpub operator, has appointed advisers as it assesses its options, Propel has learned. Propel revealed last month Brewhouse & Kitchen was set to appoint advisers and now understands it is working with advisory firm BDO. The company said it is considering a number of options as it “decides the best way forward” including looking at attracting fresh investment and a potential refinancing. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell told Propel last month that given the uncertainty of the economic landscape, the group would look at all avenues, but stressed the company was in “great health” with trading ahead of 2019 levels. The 23-strong group is also set to add to its portfolio as it finalises the acquisition of a new freehold site while its venue in Angel, north London, will close for about two years while the landlord redevelops the site, which will include a revamped Brewhouse & Kitchen pub. “Coming out of covid there’s been a lot of pressures on the business but we’ve developed and we’re in a very strong position,” said Gumbrell. “We’ve got plenty of cash in the bank, with reserves still in place from a rights issue in 2020, low levels of debt and very supportive shareholders. Now we’re looking at what the best way forward is – do we put our foot down or is it better to batten down the hatches? There’s no firm plans so we will have those discussions with advisers and then as a business decide what is best.”

Blank Street Coffee acquires Over Under business, reception in London has been ‘wonderful so far’: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its UK debut in July, is to boost its presence in the capital, after acquiring the Over Under, the coffee brand founded by Ed Barry in 2017. The deal sees Blank Street take on Over Under’s eight sites across London, in South Kensington, Clapham Common, Earl's Court, Ladbroke Grove, West Brompton, Wandsworth Town, Gloucester Road, plus a coffee truck in Battersea Power Station. Over the next year, Over Under will work closely with Blank Street to integrate its teams, leveraging both brands' experience and skill set. The companies said the deal would combine Over Under's “in-depth knowledge and experience in the London coffee market with Blank Street's innovative approach to delivering quality coffee and a great customer experience”. Barry will become a “key part of Blank Street going forward”, and will be leading the team's gradual integration. Barry told Propel: “We had got to the stage where we needed to take the business to the next level, and with Blank Street's help we can do that. Myself and my teams can provide it with the knowledge and expertise of operating in the London coffee market, and it can aid us to take our company mission to the next level, creating greater value for our customers and providing exciting growth opportunities for our team.” Blank Street and Over Under kicked off their partnership with the first rebranding happening at the South Kensington store this weekend, with the conversion of the Gloucester Road site happening later this month, and the other sites to follow gradually. All stores will remain trading as Over Under until the individual rebrands begin. Blank Street recently opened its seventh site in London, in Notting Hill Gate. Propel understands it has further openings lined up in Waterloo station and near Monument. Ignacio Llado, Blank Street Coffee managing director, told Propel: “The reception at our seven locations across London, from Fitzrovia and Shoreditch to the Strand and our newly opened Notting Hill store, has been wonderful so far. Currently, we are focused on ensuring we make each of our London locations just as successful as New York. We are eager to learn from UK consumers and we plan to grow our business based on what we gather from our customers and baristas in our first London stores this year, as well as our experience in New York City to date. Overall, we plan to have close to two-dozen shops in the UK this year and will continue to look to offer new food and drink options.” Blank Street Coffee was started in Williamsburg in 2020 by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha and has already grown to circa 40 locations across Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Bakery and cafe concept Libby’s secures second site: London bakery and cafe concept Libby’s has secured its second site in the capital. The business, which was founded by Simon Wolanski, will open its new site at 41 England’s Lane, in Belsize Park. The business started last year as a pop-up in Queen's Park. The gluten and sugar-free concept opened its first permanent site in Notting Hill last October, and followed it with the launch of an online shop with nationwide delivery earlier this spring. The entire Libby’s product range was created by award-winning pastry chef and ex-MasterChef Professionals winner Keri Moss. Emma Wright, of CDG Leisure, acted on the Belsize Park deal. 
Greene King pledges to help tackle climate emergency by adding ESG as core strategy driver: Brewer and retailer Greene King is taking a defining step in its 220-year history to help tackle the climate emergency by adding environmental social governance as one of its core strategy drivers. It means the company will put an even greater focus on supporting communities, giving people better lives and reducing environmental impacts. This follows a pledge earlier this year by the group that it would become carbon net zero by 2040. Previously the company had seven strategic drivers, introduced under the leadership of chief executive Nick Mackenzie. The drivers include leveraging digital, investing in people and grow reach through compelling profitable brands. Mackenzie said: “We are building a sustainable business for the future that places our care for the environment and social purpose at the heart of our decision-making. We’re serious about meeting our net zero target by 2040 as we play our part in tackling the climate emergency. We know it’s a monumental task so it’s important we add it into our strategy to ensure it remains a goal that we’re all working towards.” Earlier this year, Greene King committed to set near-term emissions targets in line with climate science with science based targets initiative, reducing absolute Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2019 base year, and be carbon net zero by 2040.
Birmingham pizza restaurant to begin expansion with trio of openings: Birmingham pizza restaurant Paradiso Pizzeria is to start expanding with a trio of openings. The business operates a restaurant in Hagley Road West in Quinton but is planning to launch sites in the Jewellery Quarter in the centre of the city, as well as the suburb of Hall Green. Meanwhile another restaurant is being opened in nearby Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, according to the restaurant's Instagram page. In a post, it said: “The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness…and pizzerias! Bromsgrove are you ready? We are bringing Amalfi vibes to your town, opening very soon for you to experience our vibrant and lively atmosphere.” Jobs are also being advertised at the Jewellery Quarter restaurant, which is currently taking shape on the corner of Warstone Lane and Spencer Street. 
Edinburgh cafe group set to reopen debut site with ‘immersive coffee experience’: Edinburgh cafe group Cairngorm Coffee is set to reopen its debut site and introduce an “immersive coffee experience”. Cairngorm opened its Frederick Street site in 2014, followed by its Melville Street cafe in 2016, but the former has remained closed after struggling during the pandemic. Having seen his business thrive elsewhere through online orders and expansion of its wholesale business, founder Robi Lambie is now gearing up to reopen the site where it all began. “It’s not enough just to open a run of the mill coffee shop in the current climate,” said Lambie. “We will stop at nothing until we’ve created the most well-rounded, immersive coffee experience possible. Visiting our shop will be an event, during which people slow down and truly appreciate the very best coffee, rather than just guzzle it on their way to work.” The venue’s repositioning as an experiential brand is part of a five-year plan devised by Lambie and co-founder Harris Grant for Cairngorm to become one of the world’s leading coffee roasteries. As part of this strategy, the company has recruited World Brewers Cup judge Adrian Manusco as head of coffee. Earlier this year, the company said it is on track to turn over £1m for the first time in 2022.
Premier Inn to open new Brighton hotel: Whitbread is to open a new Premier Inn hotel in Brighton. Permission was granted in 2016 for the former Sherry’s nightclub and neighbouring buildings in West Street to be demolished and replaced with a hotel complex. Now work is nearing completion, Whitbread has applied to the city council for an alcohol licence for the site – and the developer, Lancelot Properties, has lodged proposals to rejig the hotel layout to accommodate Premier Inn’s plans for the building. A Whitbread spokesman told Brighton & Hove News: “Brighton is a very popular destination for our customers, and the site will be an excellent addition to our existing network.” Lancelot Properties is seeking to move a restaurant from the basement to the ground floor and link all parts of the site together to be used by Premier Inn.
Bath bakery and coffee house concept opens new bakery and cafe in Bristol: Bath bakery and coffee house concept Mokoko has opened a new bakery and cafe, in Bristol’s Temple Meads. The venue, at unit one Rosewood, New Kingsley Road, Box Makers Yard, is the concept’s second site in Bristol and fifth overall. It also operates two sites in Bath and one in Portishead.
Cheltenham operators open Mexican restaurant for third site: Cheltenham operators William and Andrew Coates have opened a Mexican restaurant in the Gloucestershire town for their third site. Cantina Del Barrio has launched in Bath Road in the former TSB bank premises. As well as putting its own spin on street food staples such as tacos, quesadillas and empanadas, Cantina Del Barrio also offers Mexican-inspired Buddha bowls. The drinks list includes 16 mezcals and tequilas. The Coates also operate bottle shop Bath Road Beers and the Sandford Park Alehouse pub in the town. William told So Glos: “We are so passionate about hospitality and have talked about opening a new vibrant venue that is celebrated as much for its food as it is for drink, for many years. While my background is in drinks, I’ve always been a real foodie, and think maybe I was a chef in a former life, so this really is a passion project for me.”

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