Story of the Day:
Andrew Andrea – strategy over the last year to create pub ‘to be proud of’ now paying off and means we can look at acquisitions again, lots of customers still trading up: Andrew Andrea, chief executive of Marston’s, has told Propel its strategy over the last year to create a pub “to be proud of” is now paying off, with the business in a position to look at acquisition opportunities again. Speaking following Marston’s full-year trading update, Andrea said the business’ more wet-led focus had resulted in customers realising its pubs “are a place they can also just drink in rather than thinking we’re a restaurant”. But he added food sales were playing a part in the further improvement in its overall like-for-likes, which were up 3% on pre-pandemic levels in the last ten weeks, with its Rhythm of the Week offer being a particular draw in the current climate. On different days, customers are able to get selected dishes and a drink for £10. Andrea said: “The key thing is we set out a strategy a year ago of creating a ‘pub to proud of’. That’s resulted in us investing in our teams, our outside spaces and simplifying our food offer. We’re seeing the benefit of that, with our like-for-like sales improving, and means we’re now in a position to act on pub acquisitions if the right opportunities arise. The transition away from our value food Two for One brand was completed at the end of August and the move to a single price point had seen engagement and customer feedback scores go up. Removing those boards has made people also realise we’re not a restaurant, although we do offer food of course. The Rhythm of the Week deal has been a great hook – people know exactly what they are going to spend. Saying that, a lot of people are still trading up, particularly when it comes to lager. I was in Hull last week and the premium lager was what people wanted – people are still happy to pay an extra pound for a good pint. We’ve also removed our rotisseries and put our Signature menu in. They are big ovens that use a huge amount of energy, and we’ve not had any negative feedback.” Despite consumers cutting back, Andrea said he was confident people will continue to visit the pub. “In 2008, when the sky was falling in, people still did Christmas, and the World Cup this year will give a boost to wet-led pubs in particular, and the tournament won’t compromise the festive season,” he said. “It’s the big ticket items that people cut back on. They still want to socialise, especially after all the restrictions caused by the pandemic in the last few years, and the pub offers great value for money to do that.” The business has put up prices twice this year – in April following the increase in the VAT rate and a “modest” rise in July, but Andrea does not envisage further rises this winter. He said: “I think we’ve got the balance about right on pricing – and made the correct call to do it earlier in the year. Consumers have got enough to worry about right now without us adding more to the cost of a pint. Despite the increases, you can still get three pints for £10 in most of our pubs.” Andrea said the business would also be driving its digital offer next year, including improving its pay-and-order app. The business will also invest “several” million in improving more of its outside spaces.
Bob & Berts co-founders Colin McClean and David Ferguson to speak at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, three free places per company for operators:
Bob & Berts co-founders Colin McClean and David Ferguson 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”. McClean and Ferguson will discuss how the Northern Ireland coffee chain has created and evolved its all-day offer and is now readying to expand across England. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing email@example.com
Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector companies increase collective turnover to £32.3bn:
The next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book
shows sector companies have increased their collective turnover to £32.3bn – up from £31.3bn in September. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (14 October), at midday. The Blue Book shows more sector companies are making a profit than a loss for the first time since the pandemic. While total losses of £5.4bn are being reported by 314 companies, a further 324 sector companies are reporting total profits of £1.7bn. An additional 18 companies have been added to the Blue Book, taking the total to 638. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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, Mapal Group 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, James Hacon and Harry Bennett, of Mapal Group, dive into the intricacies of an effective onboarding process and examine how a smart, technology-focused approach can help source and retain talent. The video will be sent at 9am today (Wednesday, 12 October).
Sector job vacancy numbers dropping but significant number of posts remain unfilled: Sector job vacancy numbers are dropping but a significant number of posts remain unfilled, UKHospitality has said. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), UK unemployment hit a new multi-decade low in the three months to August as long-term sickness kept more older workers out of the labour market. It said unemployment stood at 3.5%, 0.3 percentage points down on the quarter and the lowest since 1974, due to many people being counted as inactive rather than unemployed because they are not job-seeking or available to start work. But while hospitality vacancy rates are dropping, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls warned more has to be done to ease recruitment challenges faced by sector businesses. “Hospitality businesses have taken significant steps to attract new employees with higher wages, attractive training and development opportunities and flexible working practices, and this drop in vacancy numbers shows this work is beginning to pay off,” she said. “Despite this decrease, there are still significant vacancies, stifling our ability to drive growth. There is still work to do, and we continue to hear from businesses about how recruitment challenges are putting the brakes on recovery. Steps from government such as ensuring skills and recruitment initiatives are open to all sectors, a comprehensive employment and skills strategy and making the Skilled Worker Visa route more streamlined and affordable would be significant in realising hospitality’s potential to drive economic growth.”
Operators urged to take part in latest Haysmacintyre’s snapshot survey:
Hospitality specialist Haysmacintyre is inviting operators to take part in its latest snapshot survey of the sector as it continues to monitor the industry’s recovery from the pandemic and the effects of the cost-of-living crisis. The company launched a series of snapshot surveys in 2021 to track developments in sector sentiment. The business is now conducting a second snapshot survey of 2022 following on from the one in May. The survey will deliver an update from operators on future prospects for the sector, as well as the challenges operators currently face, and may face in the future. The survey consists of nine key questions covering future prospects, the outlook for the industry, challenges facing operators, strategic priorities and staff costs. The survey will close on Sunday (16 October) and operators can choose whether to remain anonymous or submit their details. Results will be shared with participants alongside expert commentary from Haysmacintyre’s specialist team. To complete the survey, click here
Consumers ordering more delivery and takeaways in spite of inflationary pressures: More people are purchasing takeaway or delivery orders today than they were before the recent increase in the cost of living, according to new research. The survey, which was commissioned by Deliverect and conducted by Censuswide and questioned 7,000 people, found just over 57% of consumers are now purchasing up to three takeaways in a week, in comparison with 49% prior to the inflation increase. The research found while people are putting more thought behind how they spend their money, they are more likely to cut back on other activities such as buying clothing (44%), going out for drinks and dinner (47%) and traveling more (43%). More than two thirds (69%) of people said the taste of food is more important when watching their spending, as is the quality of restaurant ingredients (67%). People are also looking for social proof before selecting where to eat, with nearly three in five (59%) saying restaurant ratings/customer reviews are now more important than ever. Overall, the top reason customers would order from a restaurant again is because of its good quality of food (52%). Zhong Xu, chief executive and co-founder of Deliverect, said: “The research findings may be surprising to some, but evidently people are continuing to prioritise and enjoy the convenience of takeaway and food delivery – yet their expectations continue to rise.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a growing hospitality business that is looking for a group head of HR. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will support the leadership team in the creation and manifestation of a culture where people feel genuinely invested in, personally and professionally. Part of your duties would be to set and drive a people strategy, drive a culture of performance management with a clear career route, ensure all operational HR policies and procedures are both commercial and continually drive efficiency throughout the business, continuously produce and review management information in all HR areas and identify trends/variances and make commercial recommendations.” The salary is up to £75,000 and the position is based in Kent. For more information, email email@example.com
Pret to invest an additional £10m in staff pay: Pret A Manger is to invest an additional £10m in staff pay, surpassing the £9.2m investment made in April this year. From Thursday, 1 December, all of Pret’s employees across the brand’s shops and its support centre will receive a 5% pay increase. The company said this will mean 8,600 shop staff will see an average baseline pay increase of 13% within a year, which is currently above inflation. This will be the second consecutive year Pret has given two pay increases in the same year and will take the total it has invested in pay in 2022 to almost £20m. This makes it the company’s biggest pay investment in its 36-year history. Guy Meakin, interim managing director at Pret A Manger UK & Ireland, said: “Our people have always been at the heart of our business. With the rising cost of living putting increased pressure on our people, we wanted to do more to support them, and to say thank you for continuing to go above and beyond for our customers. We aspire to always be a top employer, with all our employees earning well above the National Minimum Wage irrespective of age. We hope this further investment, alongside staff discounts and free food and drink while working, will go some way in helping our teams through the winter months and beyond.” The company said the 5% pay increase will be applied to shop employees irrespective of age, although some differences may apply depending on role, experience and location. Team members will see pay increase from between £9.80 and £11.00 per hour to between £10.30 and £11.55 per hour. With the brand’s mystery shopper bonus included, Pret said team member pay could be as high as between £11.55 and £12.80 per hour. Overall, 6,500 team members will receive a pay and benefits package worth more than £11.55 per hour, with the majority earning above £11.75 per hour. Barista pay will increase from between £10.30 and £11.90 per hour to between £10.85 and £12.50. With the mystery shopper bonus included, barista pay could be as high as between £12.10 to £13.75 per hour. The company said on average, team members and baristas working 35 hours a week have the potential to see an annual increase of up to £900 and £1,000 respectively.
Jamie Oliver to launch delivery focused pasta concept: Chef Jamie Oliver is launching a pasta concept designed for delivery. Pasta Dreams has been created by Oliver in partnership with Taster, the delivery-first restaurant group. Pasta Dreams launches in London tomorrow (Thursday, 13 October) from a delivery-first pop-up in Archer Street, Soho. The pop-up will be open for customers to click and collect from, as well as order on delivery platforms. Over the coming weeks, Pasta Dreams will be rolled out to further sites across London and other UK cities, with the ambition to become the UK’s number one delivery pasta brand. Pasta Dreams also launches tomorrow in France, Taster’s original market. Pasta Dreams showcases Oliver twists on some of the UK’s favourite Italian-inspired dishes including “Carta Di Musica” Sardinian crackers, cacio x carbonara bowls and margarita gnocchi, through to tiramisu jars. Budding chefs will also be able to win the chance to work with Oliver’s development team, creating seasonal specials featured on the Pasta Dreams delivery menu. The “Dreamers” competition will launch in early 2023 on the Pasta Dreams Instagram. Oliver said: “Taking some of my favourite Italian dishes and making them ready for delivery has been an epic journey. By partnering with Taster, we’ve created a menu that is vibrant and delicious. I’m proud to be launching Pasta Dreams. I know you’re gonna love it.” Anton Soulier, chief executive and founder of Taster, added: “It’s no secret the way we eat has fundamentally changed, with food just a few taps away. It’s been a pleasure working closely with Jamie and his team to dream up iconic pasta dishes for delivery. Through Pasta Dreams, we want to redefine how people view and experience food designed for delivery.”
Lucarelli prepares for London debut: High-end Italian restaurant and bar Lucarelli will make its London debut next month, Propel has learned. Celebrity chef Aldo Zilli has again designed a signature menu of Italian dishes for the restaurant, which will open on the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols in London’s Knightsbridge on Monday, 7 November. It will be a fourth opening inside 12 months for the brand, led by Carmine Sacco, which also has three sites in the Midlands. The 60-cover restaurant, which will feature an open kitchen, will use ingredients sourced directly from Italy for dishes including bruschetta, signature seafood, pizzas and freshly made pasta and risotto. Zilli, who has previously designed menus for the Lucarelli restaurants in Birmingham, West Bromwich, and Solihull, said: “In true Italian style, the Sacco family has welcomed me to its family, so I am thrilled to see the fourth Lucarelli restaurant opening is such an iconic London venue. Some of the recipes and methods have been passed on through generations of the Zilli family, so I’m thrilled to bring them from my family to our guests.” Sacco, who opened his first Lucarelli restaurant in 2021 after creating the concept during the pandemic, added: “At Lucarelli, we invite people to arrive as guests and leave as family. I believe food is a centrepiece of family time, and we hope the time spent in our new London location becomes as important and special to our diners as it is in my family home.”
Italian pasta concept Miscusi closes second UK site: Italian pasta concept Miscusi has closed its second UK site, just a few months after its launch, Propel understands. The company, which launched in Britain earlier this year in Covent Garden, opened on the former Masala Zone premises in Upper Street, Islington, in June. Propel now understands the site is closed and has been placed back on the market. Originally launched in Milan, Miscusi has 13 restaurants in seven Italian cities. Miscusi champions a Mediterranean diet and the brand’s ethos is “rooted in respecting the planet through the power of food”. At the beginning of 2021, the business, which was founded by Alberto Cartasegna, secured a €20m investment from MIP, a venture capital fund, and the American fund Kitchen Fund, which includes SweetGreen as an investment.
Domino’s franchisee turnover passes £100m mark: Domino’s franchisee Bansols Beta, owned by Moonpal Grewal, saw turnover pass the £100m mark in 2021. The Oxfordshire company reported revenue of £107,307,135 for the year ending 26 December 2021, up from £88,348,932 in 2020 and £41,123,426 in 2019. It made a pre-tax profit of £20,272,755, compared to £11,054,805 in 2020 and £3,789,176 in 2019. Ebitda was £23,762,865, up from £14,558,393 in 2020 and £5,280,529 in 2019. Its gross profit margin was 34.2%, compared to 31.3% in 2020 and 28.3% in 2019. Having been paid £665,000 in government grants in 2020, it received none in 2021. Post year-end, the company acquired KL Horley for £1,023,969 and KL Trowbridge for £2,088,175 in March 2020. In April 2020, it paid back its existing bank loan in full before taking out a new loan of £12m.
Frankie & Benny’s launches ‘adults eat free’ half term offer: Frankie & Benny’s, owned by The Restaurant Group, has launched a half term “adults eat free” offer. Switching around the usual “kids eat free” offers, the chain will be offering parents accompanied by children aged under 11 free meals to help with the cost-of-living crisis. The deal will be valid in Scotland from 17-21 October, England from 24-28 October and Wales and Northern Ireland from 31 October-4 November. Frankie & Benny’s head of brand, Sasha Story, said: “Unexplainable tantrums, shopping trips that consume the whole day, disturbed nights, the list goes on. Our lovely little dictators get their fill of the fun, so this half term, it’s your time to enjoy a perk for yourself. Get your meal for free when little diners eat with us during the half term holidays. Something for you, on us.” Guests can sign up to the offer through a QR code, redeemable once only, which can be found via the Frankie & Benny’s website. They can choose one free adult meal for every child’s set menu paid for, including small eaters, big eaters and gluten-free.
Zip World returns to profit and 180% reports revenue growth following strong covid rebound: Adventure tourism operator Zip World has returned to profit for the first time since 2018 and reported a 180% jump in revenue for the year ending 31 December 2021, citing a rebound in the UK leisure market following the lifting of restrictions. Revenue increased from £8,344,330 in 2020 to £23,542,833, and was also up from £15,577,546 in 2019, the last full pre-covid year. A pre-tax loss of £6,765,920 in 2020 was turned into a £1,868,367 profit (2019: loss of £3,646,166). Group Ebitda jumped to £10.8m from £2.2m (2019: 5.4m). The average number of employees in the group grew from 301 to 448 and the number of customers over the year increased nearly three-fold, from 193,000 in 2020 to 542,000 in 2021. Furlough scheme grants of £552,599 were received (2020: £1,461,281), alongside Welsh government revenue grants of £456,000 (2020: £510,093), and no dividends were paid. The company stated: “The directors attribute this growth to a combination of strong post-covid trading during the summer of 2021 as the UK holiday market benefited from continued international travel restrictions and reduced trading in 2020 due to the covid pandemic. The group continued to invest in its content marketing strategy to widen reach and engagement while many of our competitors dialled down their own marketing budgets. As a result of extremely low acquisition costs, the group was able to grow market share and gain brand advocacy at a much faster rate.” Since the year-end, the group has acquired the Tyn Y Coed hotel in Snowdonia and Treetop Trek, an adventure business comprising of two sites in northern England. It also opened new rides at two of its existing sites.
Better burger brand Boo secures Derby site, plans five more, including Middle East debut: Better burger brand Boo Burger is set to open a further six sites, including its first international opening, in the Middle East. The company, which was founded in Leicester in 2017 by Mohammed Suleman, recently secured its fifth site, in Derby. The new restaurant will open in the building formerly occupied by Burton menswear and Dorothy Perkins, on the corner of Victoria Street and St Peter’s Street in the city, at the turn of the year. The company currently operates two sites in Leicester, a site in Loughborough, and one in Nottingham’s Trinity Square, which opened earlier this year. In addition to Derby, further stores are soon due to open in Manchester’s Circle Square, Cheapside in Preston, Alcester Road in Birmingham, and in Gallowtree Gate, Leicester, either as franchises or centrally-run restaurants. The business has also lined up an opening in Abu Dhabi, it’s first overseas, in the Yas Mall.
Nimax Theatres to launch first West End theatre in 50 years, followed by new bar and restaurant: Nimax Theatres, owners and operators of West End venues including the Palace, Lyric, Apollo, Garrick, Vaudeville and Duchess, will open a new theatre this weekend, complete with a bar and restaurant. The 602-seat @sohoplace will be the first new West End theatre to open in London in 50 years when it launches at 4 Soho Place on Saturday (15 October). It will be swiftly followed by the opening of its Stars bar and restaurant on Tuesday, 18 October, with an international menu from head chef Constantin Apostu, previously of The Standard Hotel. Menu highlights include cauliflower and stilton croquettes with piquillo ketchup; English burrata and figs, miso and smoked oil; and Hereford 28-day aged rib eye with fries. Small plates will range from £5-£13, with main courses from £14-£34 and desserts from £8. There will also be a set menu available from 5pm-7pm priced at £20 for two courses and £25 for three. The 70-seat space will also feature a 25-seat central bar, offering a mix of classic and modern cocktails with theatrical or astrological references alongside a short international wine list and a range of craft beer. Nimax Theatres was founded in 2005 by theatrical producers Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer.
Just Eat adds more brands to London offering: Just Eat has ramped up its London growth by adding several more brands to its platform. Propel reported earlier this week that PizzaExpress is now available on the platform, having ended its exclusive delivery partnership with Deliveroo. Just Eat has now also added Scott Collins-led concept MeatLiquor, fast-growing bakery brand Gail’s and sushi and yakitori chain Sticks ‘n’ Sushi. They join the likes of pasta delivery start-up Pasta Evangelists and Soho House-owned Chicken Shop, which have recently signed up too. Just Eat said the period of rapid growth follows significant investment in marketing to attract younger users who are driving growth in food delivery, coupled with an ever increasing demand for breakfast and lunch deliveries. Amy Heather, director of strategic accounts for Just Eat, said: “It’s exciting to be working with so many of London’s most popular and much-loved food spots. Our goal is to offer best in class choice for our customers while also delivering the best experience for our partners. With a customer base of 18 million, Just Eat is well placed to help restaurants drive incremental orders and reach more hungry Londoners.”
Bedfordshire hotel and leisure centre returns to profit, fully pays back unused CBILS funds: Bedfordshire hotel, conference facility and leisure centre Wyboston Lakes has reported a return to profit in its accounts for the year to 31 December 2021. A £1,212,037 loss in 2020 was turned into a £5,412,731 pre-tax profit – almost double the profit of £2,840,779 it made in 2019, the last full year before covid. Turnover increased from £8,603,158 in 2020 to £9,879,556, but still well behind the pre-pandemic figure of £21,915,828 in 2019. The company said: “The year came to a close with a record-breaking order book due to a combination of pent-up demand and clients reacting to our two recently refurbished training and events centres, which deliver cutting edge solutions to all our clients’ needs. Added to this portfolio, December saw the start of a £1.5m refurbishment of our hotel, which completes the total upgrade of the resort. During the year, as planned, we were able to fully pay back the funding unused through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Therefore, while it was not the year we had hoped for with regard to our trading turnover, the outcome is positive.” No dividends were paid.
Multi award-winning north east hotel and restaurant goes on market with £2.25m guide price: Multi award-winning north east hotel and restaurant Battleseads has been bought to market by Christie & Co with a guide price of £2.25m. The 18th century venue in Wark, south west Northumberland, has been run by Richard and Dee Slade for almost 18 years, during which time it had landed 27 regional and national awards. The property offers 22 bedrooms, including five luxury lodges, along with a restaurant, bar, dining conservatory and large, heated patio and beer garden. It also features a smokery and its own observatory, which guests can use to look at the Northumberland skies. The hotel has also been recognised for its green business model and eco-features, including turning two nearby properties into staff living quarters to drive down the venue’s carbon footprint. The Dees are selling up so they can retire. Richard said: “Over the years, this has been a wonderful project. Learning about energy efficiency, sustainability and applying my newly gained knowledge to my business has become more and more relevant, particularly in the current economic climate, with ever-increasing operating costs. It has also helped me to realise greater profits, and I would hope that the new owner will carry on this ethos and enjoy even greater levels of rewards.”
Nightcap confirms November opening for Covent Garden Barrio: Nightcap, the owner of The Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group and the Barrio Familia group of bars, has confirmed a November opening for its flagship Barrio site in Covent Garden. Propel reported last month that the group, which already operates a Blame Gloria bar in Covent Garden, would also be launching a Barrio there. It will now open on 4 November, following a soft launch on 28 October, next to the New London Theatre on Parker Street. It will be Nightcap’s fifth Barrio site, with number six set to open in Watford later this year, at the former Bosleys bar premises in The Parade.
Haute Dolci set to open second Manchester store: Premium dessert and gourmet burger concept Haute Dolci is set to open its second store in Manchester and 15th overall. It will open at 25 Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, along Manchester’s “Curry Mile”, on Sunday, (16 October), creating 40 jobs. Haute Dolci already operates a site in Manchester’s Trafford Centre, and last month made its Scottish debut with a site in Edinburgh’s St James Quarter. Imran Khan, restaurant manager at the new venue, said: “We are excited to be building on Haute Dolci’s presence in the city of Manchester and making our renowned dishes available to even more diners.” Signature dishes include huge sharing chocolate fondues, pancake stacks, cookie dough, ice cream sundaes and waffles, as well as build-your-own combos.
Cardiff coffee shop and restaurant concept opens third site in Welsh capital: Cardiff coffee shop and restaurant concept Gathering Ground has opened its third site in the Welsh capital. It has opened in the former La Crêperie de Claudie site, whose owner closed the business and moved back to France earlier this year, in Victoria Park Road West, Canton. Gathering Ground, which is co-owned by Terry Murrell and Ross Williams, is an independent, family-run restaurant and coffee shop with two other sites, in the Roath and Whitchurch districts of Cardiff. The dog-friendly business offers coffee and cakes as well as hosting burger nights and live music events. “I think it’s a great choice because it’s a great location next to Victoria Park, and it had a fantastic reputation before with the previous owner,” Murrell said of the new site. “Customers like what we’ve done with the place, and we’ve got good feedback. Hopefully people will start to find it and like it.”
Leicester bar operators set to open cafe: Leicester siblings Jack and Hannah Suffolk, who operate two bars in the city, are set to add to their portfolio with a cafe. The brother and sister, who already own Leicester bars The Bottle Garden and 45 West, have applied to open a cafe at 19 King Street, which was formerly home to sandwich shop Willi Canes. The application includes a licence for a street cafe, with six outside tables contained by barriers. The Suffolks opened The Bottle Garden, in St Martin’s Square, in 2017, then last year took over and reopened 45 West, in Hotel Street, which had closed during the pandemic.