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Tue 25th Oct 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Peter Marks – I fear the government can’t afford to help the sector further: Peter Marks, chairman of Rekom UK, has told Propel he fears there will no further help for the sector in terms of a VAT cut or extension of business rates relief “because the government simply cannot afford it”. Marks said new prime minister Rishi Sunak must focus on building financial stability and restoring consumer confidence, which is “shot to pieces”. Speaking following the release of the latest Rekom Night Index, which revealed 88% of people are reviewing their expenditure to see where they can cut back, Marks said: “For the first time in living memory, it’s the markets that have dictated who should be prime minister. The country needs financial stability and Rishi is the best person to deliver that in the circumstances. There’s no doubt the sector needs help, in particular the late-night industry, which is struggling with covid-related debts, but my fear is the government simply cannot afford it. Judging from the OBR forecasts, we’ve probably got to sit back and see where it’s going to raise money and cut spending so I just don’t see where the support will come from in the short term. Rishi has been a good supporter of the sector in the past, but we are in a different place now. We are concentrating on making sure we are running the business so it can stand on its own two feet – we can’t rely on anything else. The other thing the government needs to do is restore consumer confidence – that is paramount. At the moment it is shot to pieces – people are frightened and that’s reflected in the 88% of people looking to cut back on their expenditure. People talk about having a general election. What we need is to calm down, have a proper plan in place and get on with it – we must end the uncertainty.” Despite the cost-of-living crisis, Marks said people, in particular the younger generation, will continue to go out, and will spend less by other means “whether that be drinking at home beforehand or buying fewer new clothes”. He added: “It’s natural against the backdrop of a looming recession that people will choose to cut costs, but we must remember that people will always want to prioritise socialising with friends and come together to enjoy fun, shared experiences.” Marks said trading for the business had remained “stable” but as the months of July, August, September and October last year were boosted by the covid bounce back, it would be in November when the business would have a better idea about performance. He added the group, which operates circa 50 venues in the UK, was still pushing on with its expansion plans, although its aim of hitting 60 sites by the end of 2022 may move back into 2023 slightly as “some things are taking a little longer to get over the line”. Marks added: “Our plans have not changed – we’re cautiously optimistic.” 

Industry News:

Three days to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, 30 businesses being added: A total of 30 new multi-site companies, operating 190 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday (28 October), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional restaurant and hotel operators, growing bakery brands, and expanding franchise operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 2,200-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,704 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 4 November, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes an 8,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com 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.

Sector warns new PM will be judged on ‘words not actions’: Sector bosses have warned new prime minister Rishi Sunak will be judged on “actions not words”. Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “We look forward to working with the new prime minister, and hope he can address the current instability, uncertainty and begin a journey to build back consumer confidence for night-time economy and hospitality businesses. At such a critical time for our sector with many businesses on a cliff edge, I would remind him that 10% of something is better than 20% of nothing. At the next Budget announcement, I would encourage him to extend business rates relief, reform the entire business rates system and lower the current rate of VAT. Independent businesses will not survive without it.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls also called for Sunak to extend business rates relief, reform the entire business rates system in the longer term and lower the current rate of VAT. She added: “This is a critical time for hospitality businesses as they battle soaring energy costs, workforce shortages and waning consumer confidence, so stable political leadership is absolutely critical. Now is the time to steady the economy, deliver for the needs of the country and support businesses to help drive growth and create jobs. Hospitality clearly displayed its ability to grow prior to the pandemic and was on the road to a strong recovery before the energy crisis hit. It can return to those levels through pragmatic decision-making that eases the acute challenges businesses are facing.”

Hospitality Rising launches world’s biggest sector recruitment initiative: Hospitality Rising, the world’s biggest sector recruitment initiative that aims to help tackle the industry’s crippling jobs crisis, which stands at around 400,000 vacancies, has launched. The new recruitment campaign, “Rise Fast, Work Young”, is backed by more than 300 businesses. #RiseFastWorkYoung aims to attract the next generation of new recruits by showcasing the opportunities and promise that come with a career in hospitality. A dedicated Hospitality Rising website has just gone live highlighting the current vacancies across the entire industry. A series of campaign images will feature in phase one of a six-figure advertising campaign involving TikTok creators, digital ads and high-profile outdoor spots across the UK. Animated figures will take centre stage representing the diversity of the industry and workstyles on offer, alongside slogans such as “Don’t grow old for a living” and “9-5ers wouldn’t get it”. The recruitment drive will highlight how quickly workers can climb the hospitality ladder with the powerful message “you can’t go further faster”. Mark McCulloch, founder of Hospitality Rising and campaign director, said: “To have so many leading names support this initiative shows the importance of it to our industry. In the last few months, we have been working behind the scenes with plans to promote working in hospitality as the ultimate choice for the ambitious, and as an act of rebellion against the 9-5.” By asking backers to pledge £10 per employee, it aims to reach a £5m target allowing for a “government-sized” collaborative campaign that will change the perception of the industry and bolster its workforce for good. The campaign’s efforts have so far raised £850,000. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The diverse businesses in the sector have a real thirst to expand and drive growth but the high level of vacancies we continue to see is holding that back. That’s why this campaign is so important in seeing companies, leaders and investors from hospitality join forces to attract young people into the sector.”

UK hotel market recovers at faster rate than anticipated with performance nearing or surpassing 2019 levels: The UK hotel market has recovered at a faster rate than first anticipated since January 2022, with overall performance nearing or surpassing 2019 levels since May this year, according to a new report by Christie & Co. However, it warned the coming months may prove more challenging for the sector’s different stakeholders due to the cost-of-living crisis, weakened GDP, and increasing inflation rates. Regional UK markets such as Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool saw the highest increase in revpar in the first half of 2022, surpassing 2019 levels by 6.9%, 8.5% and 7.5% respectively. In comparison, London has been slower to recover as the capital relies on international source markets and business travellers. Since January, operators have maintained high average daily rates in order to balance some of the increasing cost pressures as well as partly protecting their profit conversions. The success of this strategy has been made possible by a change in consumer behaviour in the face of rising costs, with holiday spending being prioritised, the report said. Transactional volumes have remained strong and a total of £1.9bn was spent on UK hotel transactions in the first half of 2022, an increase of 32% compared with the first half of 2021. Interestingly, domestic buyers are far more active in the market compared with last year. In 2021, cross border investors represented 52% of the buyers yet this number dropped to 23% in the first half of 2022, likely due to international travel restrictions imposed over the past few years due to the pandemic, although this is unlikely to be a long-lasting trend, the report said. Following the pandemic, hotels that were considered popular “staycation” destinations have seen increased performance, particularly in more rural areas such as Belfast, Cardiff, and Newcastle. Hybrid hotels have also continued to perform well since the pandemic, as guests seek more flexibility in these spaces. At present 77% of the UK volume is credited to domestic investors, a number which may continue to rise, the report said.

McDonald’s axes free coffee stamps in loyalty scheme shake-up: McDonald’s is axing free coffee stamps and it means some customers will have to spend more on drinks to get a free reward. The Sun reported McDonald’s has undertaken a huge shake-up to its loyalty scheme, which will see consumers no longer able to collect digital stamps. At the moment, McDonald's customers can get a digital stamp when buying a drink – known as McCafe Loyalty. When they collect digital stamps through the My McDonald's app, they get the sixth hot drink free after buying five. This means if they were to buy five cappuccinos, for example, they would have to spend £10.45 before getting a free drink. But McDonald's is ditching this system, and rolling it into its new MyMcDonald’s Rewards scheme. Under the new scheme, customers will have to spend £6.27 more to qualify for a free drink after an introductory double points offer ends. From next Monday (31 October), McDonald's customers will have to earn 1,500 points to get a free, regular hot drink. They can get double points on hot drinks until Saturday, 31 December, which means they’ll need to buy only four drinks – costing £8.36 in total – to earn enough points for a freebie. But after that, they’ll have to fork out more to get the free drink – and more than under the current scheme. Each £1 spent at McDonald’s gets 100 points. If they buy a large cappuccino at £2.09, they’ll get 209 points. From 31 October, customers will have to spend £16.72 on eight cappuccinos to reach 1,500 and qualify for a free hot drink. This means they will need to spend an extra £6.27 before they qualify for a reward when it changes. McDonald's said the new scheme means all purchases contribute to the overall points total compared with the old scheme, which was just based on hot drink spending. For example, if they spend £4.09 on a box of six chicken nuggets, they earn 409 points. That would earn points for a hot drink, whereas previously it did not. The ditching of stamps comes after McDonald’s switched from stickers on hot drinks to digital stamps over the summer. Now they will end too and anyone who has existing McCafe stamps will need to sign up for MyMcDonald’s Rewards before next Monday.

Drinkers back cask as greenest choice at the bar: Almost 70% of consumers in the UK believe having a draught beer or cider in a pub is the greenest way of enjoying a tipple, according to new research. The YouGov survey was commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as it releases the 50th edition of its Good Beer Guide on Thursday (27 October), which celebrates the very best pubs serving cask beer across the UK. This year’s guide highlights the environmental benefits of choosing to drink cask beer and outlines how CAMRA aims to support sustainability initiatives across the sector. CAMRA chairman Nik Antona said: “Enjoying a pint of cask in your local is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to enjoy a drink and boasts a huge range of social and well-being benefits. It's great to see 69% of drinkers recognise it is the best way to drink greener too. Traditional cask beer is a no-waste option with every element of the process from brewery to bar being able to be reused.”

Company News:

Gordon Ramsay restructures management team, with three new MDs: Chef Gordon Ramsay has restructured the management team behind his restaurants group, with the appointment of three new managing directors, Propel has learned. It is understood the three managing director roles have been created to cover three core areas of the business – super premium and international, premium casual and casual dining, and global franchise and licensing. Alyson Park, the former HR director at Caprice Holdings, who joined Gordon Ramsay Restaurants as its new chief operating officer, at the start of 2021, has become managing director of the chef’s super premium and international division, while Mat Horvath, formerly of Drake & Morgan and Canteen, who has been with the business for the past eight years, has become managing director of premium casual and casual dining. Stephen Evans, formerly of Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) and Tonkotsu, moves from being the company’s property director to managing director – global franchise and licensing. Evans, the former GBK development director, stepped down as managing director of ramen restaurant group Tonkotsu at the start of 2020. It is thought all three will report into chief executive Andy Wenlock. 

Inn Collection Group adds third Welsh site to portfolio: The Inn Collection Group has added a third site in Wales to its growing pubs with rooms estate with the acquisition of the historic St Kilda Hotel in Llandudno. The company has bought the 60-room establishment as it continues its expansion beyond its north of England heartlands and brings its total number of venues to 33. Located on the central promenade in the seaside town and dating to 1854, The St Kilda overlooks Llandudno Bay. Under family ownership for the past 21 years, the new acquisition joins the Swallow Falls Hotel in Betws-y-Coed and The Bull in Beaumaris as properties owned by the group in North Wales. Sean Donkin, managing director of The Inn Collection Group said, “We are delighted to be bringing The St Kilda Hotel into our pubs with rooms family and continue our expansion into Wales. It’s of the correct size to enhance our presence in the area and we’re thrilled to be having it join our existing coastal properties.” The St Kilda Hotel is The Inn Collection Group’s sixth purchase of 2022 as it continues to expand with strategic “buy and build” growth plans. The group is owned by the Harris family in conjunction with Kings Park Capital. Christie & Co acted on the Kilda Hotel deal.

McMullen adds Stevenage pub to Chicken & Grill estate: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen has acquired The Fisherman in Stevenage. It is the second trading acquisition in recent weeks for the business, following the purchase of The White Hart in London’s Whitechapel last month. This site will become the 15th pub to join the company’s Chicken & Grill concept, delivering “fresh rotisserie chicken, pub classics as well as freshly brewed beer and lager, made in the Hertford brewery”. Heydon Mizon, joint managing director of McMullen, said: “We are thankful to Woodland Inns for allowing us to become the new custodians of this fantastic pub. This is a pub, much loved and familiar to us, having been the area manager for it more than 25 years ago. The entire team will join McMullen’s and after a very brief closure to induct everyone and add some Chicken & Grill touches, the pub will soon be back open.” The business, which operates 40 tenanted sites and 85 managed pubs, said the new acquisition will be followed swiftly by the significant redevelopment of its 35-bedroom Salisbury Arms Hotel, Hertford, and then the recently acquired Saint & Sinner pub in St Albans. The company said it continue to seek “excellent quality freehold and long leasehold property in London and the south east, either current trading pubs and hotels, new-build opportunities or property conversions”.

Zizzi launches loyalty scheme: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi has launched a loyalty scheme. The Zillionaires’ Club rewards customers each time they visit a Zizzi restaurant and also allows them to use click and collect and purchase Zizzi for delivery. The programme is a long-term commitment from Zizzi to its customers “rewarding loyalty, frequency and recency”. The launch follows Azzurri Group’s recent investments in order and pay platform Speedy and there are plans to deliver even more personalised experiences for customers over the coming months. “Zillionaires” are offered the chance to earn credits (Zs) each time they visit a Zizzi and spend more than £10. Zs can be exchanged for “perkz” from the menu including food and drink. With each visit, they have the chance to earn a greater number of Zs – the first visit being ten Zs, the second 20 Zs, the third 30 and the fourth 40. After their fourth visit, customers qualify for a surprise perk including free food and prizes such as holidays. The launch of the Zillionaires’ Club comes after a successful trial in Zizzi’s Scottish restaurants, “which demonstrated both great value to the customer alongside an increase in frequency of customer visits”. Harry Heeley, managing director of Zizzi, said: “We are delighted to have launched the Zizzi Zillionaires’ Club and progress with our transformation of Zizzi into a super brand. This omnichannel platform allows us to thank Zizzi customers for their ongoing support. The club will also act as a great communication tool where we can share news about the Zillionaires’ Club and other areas that are important to our customers, such as improving our sustainability, reducing carbon, and supporting great mental health and well-being. In the near future, members of the Zillionaires Club will be able to earn Z’s across the breadth of Zizzi’s channels including our retail at home range, while also be able to donate their Z’s to charity and good causes.”

Big Mamma Group to open new ‘pleasure palace’ site Jacuzzi in Kensington: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London restaurants Gloria, Ave Mario and Circolo Popolare, has said it will open Jacuzzi, a four-storied “pleasure palace”, in High Street Kensington in January. It will be the company’s first restaurant in west London and its “most luxurious restaurant to date”. The company said: “Jacuzzi will be more than just a trattoria; it's a divine Italian mansion, a trove of bounties sprawled across 4,000 square foot, 170 seats and a spiralling four floors, with highlights including a Sicilian mezzanine on the third floor with a retractable roof and glitter ball disco toilets in the basement.” The menu will include lobster risotto with half lobster, clams, red gurnard and cuttlefish and a colossal truffle pasta for two with fresh black truffle, truffle cream and parmigiano foam, in a four kilogramme wheel of pecorino. In August, the group opened its second site in Germany, in Berlin. The company, which made its debut in Germany earlier this year, with the opening of Giorgia Trattoria in Munich, opened Coccodrillo in Berlin’s Weinsbergpark. The group, which operates circa 20 restaurants across France, England and Spain, is thought to have lined up a further opening in Germany, in the former Die Bank restaurant site in Hamburg. The company, which opened a debut bricks-and-mortar site for its pizza delivery concept, Napoli Gang, in London’s Ladbroke Grove earlier this year, has also submitted plans to convert the former Natural Kitchen site in Marylebone High Street to a restaurant spread over ground and first floors.

The Athenian reveals further international expansion plans for 2023, opens two more UK delivery kitchens: Independent Greek street-food group, The Athenian, has revealed plans for further international expansion next year and has added to its UK estate. The business plans to add to its Middle East presence having opened four sites recently in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with another four sites in 2023. In Spain, three sites have recently opened in Madrid and Murcia, and ten more sites will be coming across the country in 2023. Growth is also happening in the UK too, with two new delivery-only sites in Brent Cross and Glasgow having launched this month in partnership with Deliveroo and Jacuna. The Athenian has also recently completed a full refurbishment of all UK sites, introducing digital screen menus and a new self-checkout experience. The menu is also being refreshed. Founder Tim Vasilakis said: “We have always had big plans for The Athenian and I feel now is the perfect time to launch further afield. We are still as dedicated as we always have been to provide healthy, high quality Greek street food.”

Danieli Group to begin expansion of pan-Asian restaurant concept The Muddler as part of growth plans: North east operator Danieli Group is to begin expansion of its pan-Asian restaurant concept The Muddler as part of the company’s growth plans. The group launched the concept in Grey Street, Newcastle, in December 2018. It offers dim sum, Asian-style tapas and more substantial dishes. Now it plans to bring The Muddler to Middlesbrough by transforming the former Kalinka bar and nightclub at the corner of Exchange Square. If the plans are approved by Middlesbrough Council, the venue – in part of Commerce House – will become a 100-seater pan-Asian restaurant and cocktail bar, with a private dining area in the domed space on the top floor. The scheme for the grade II-listed building also includes an outside mezzanine level at the back, with additional seating facing on to Exchange Square. It is hoped once planning and licensing applications are in place, the venue will open in April 2023. Neill Winch, chief executive of Danieli Group, said: “When we saw the investment that has been made in Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter and the real steps that have been taken to revitalise the area, we knew this was a great location for us. It fits perfectly with The Muddler concept and we hope we will be something very different to the town in terms of both the food we offer and the high quality of the setting.” Danieli Group is now looking at other sites across the region as part of its plans to expand into other locations. It is also taking its Stack container leisure venue concept to Lincoln for its first site outside its north east heartland.

Hostmore to close 63rd+1st in Harrogate: Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays and Fridays and Go, is to close its 63rd+1st site in Harrogate next month, just one year after opening in the town. The concept named after the street the iconic Fridays brand hails from also operates sites in Cobham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. A spokesperson for 63rd+1st told the Harrogate Advertiser: “We have made the difficult decision to close our Harrogate location on Sunday, 13 November. While it has been popular with guests, the current economic climate has impacted trading, as it has done across the wider hospitality industry. We would like to thank our team for its hard work, and loyal guests for their support.” 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.

Yorkshire restaurant chain Catch goes into administration: The Yorkshire fish and chips shop chain Catch has been placed into administration. Catch operated five restaurants across the Leeds and West Yorkshire area – in Harrogate, Halifax, Headingley, Holmfirth and Moortown, which have all now closed. Assistant manager of Catch Seafood in Harrogate, Sarah Knox, who joined the Catch “family” of Yorkshire restaurants in 2020, said the staff were “shocked” by the news. She told the Halifax Courier: "The people in charge said the restaurant had stopped trading. We are all gutted. We've spent today cleaning everything down and answering phone calls from customers.”

Coal Shed and Burnt Orange team reveal plans for new concept in Brighton after launching Italian restaurant: Black Rock Restaurant Group, which owns The Salt Room and Burnt Orange in Brighton, as well as two Coal Shed restaurants in London and Brighton, has revealed plans for a new concept in the south coast city after launching its new Italian restaurant there. Founder Razak Helalat has opened Tutto, which promises an “informal atmosphere in traditional Italian style”. The menu “brings together the best of regional Italian cuisine made with simple, seasonal ingredients” and is headed up by head chef Thomas Catley. It includes beef carpaccio, pickled walnut, truffle and parmesan; and potato gnocchi, Cacio e Pepe and black truffle. There is also a 90-bottle list of Italian wine sitting alongside classic cocktails and a separate menu of spritzes and negronis. The 70-cover restaurant in Marlborough Place is set in a grade II-listed 1930s former bank and also has a theatre kitchen, while a further 30 covers are provided on an outside terrace. As well as the new concept, details of which are being kept under wraps at this stage, Helalat is also planning a “new direction” for the Coal Shed restaurant in Brighton.

Burger King UK to scrap single-use plastic lids from drinks: Burger King UK has said it will scrap single-use lids on drinks to cut down on plastic waste. The company said that the initiative, which launches this week, is predicted to remove 17 million plastic lids from circulation and save more than 30,000kg of plastic every year. It is part of Burger King UK’s commitment to end its reliance on single-use plastic by 2025, and builds on the removal of all plastic toys from King Jr Meals in 2019. Katie Evans, chief marketing officer at Burger King UK, said: “We’re excited to be introducing this permanent removal of plastic lids in restaurant, ultimately reducing single-use plastics. Our Meltdown campaign in 2019, removing plastic toys from King Jr Meals, was the first significant step on our journey and this next step will take us closer to reaching our target of removing all single-use plastic by 2025.”

Blank Street Coffee to open two more London sites next week: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee is opening two more UK sites next week. The company, which made its debut in Britain in July, will add to its seven London sites with launches at 86 Kingsway in Holborn on Monday, 31 October and the following day at 2a Eastcheap in the City. Earlier this month, Blank Street boosted its presence in the capital, after acquiring 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.

Award-winning chef Rohit Ghai to open Muscat restaurant: Award-winning chef Rohit Ghai, who is renowned for earning upmarket London restaurant Jamavar a Michelin star in under a year, is to open a site in Muscat, Oman. Contemporary Indian restaurant Aangan by Rohit Ghai will open in Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa. Aangan meaning courtyard in English, is referred to as a warm and welcoming dining space where food is shared and enjoyed with family and friends. Ghai said: “I wanted to bring the spirit of ‘aangan’ to Oman and inspire diners to celebrate special moments together while enjoying the diverse flavours of Indian cuisine. Indian food is complex and steeped in tradition, but through Aangan, I’m able to showcase Indian food in a new light. Using locally grown fresh produce, authentic Indian spices and innovative cooking techniques, I’ve evolved and tweaked the very best of the cuisine to create a contemporary menu that is unique.”

Shake Shack confirms 12th UK site as it extends London footprint: Shake Shack, the US better burger brand, is to open its 12th UK site as it extends its London footprint. As revealed by Propel in July, Shake Shack will launch in the former French Connection site in Argyll Street in Soho. Shake Shack operates nine sites in London, one in Cardiff, one in Gatwick airport’s North Terminal and one in Lakeside, Essex. It also operates ten delivery kitchen sites.

Garnsworthy closes Crockers in Henley due to ‘bleak economic outlook’: British seasonal food concept Crockers has closed its Henley restaurant two years after opening, blaming the “bleak economic outlook”. Former chef Luke Garnsworthy launched the venue at the former Loch Fyne restaurant in Market Place in August 2020, adding to his site in Tring. But the Henley restaurant with rooms has now closed. An Instagram post on Sunday (23 October) stated: “It's a sad day for us all at Crockers Henley as we bid farewell to this town and all our wonderful guests. Today is our last day of business before we close the doors one last time. We have tried everything to avoid this and the team have been amazing at working hard and doing all it were asked. Unfortunately the financial burden we have taken on over the last two years and bleak economic outlook means we simply cannot continue like this. Thank you to all our guests for the support and to our amazing team. They are the heart and soul of this little business and we wish them all the best for the future.” Crockers Tring, which launched in 2018, will “continue as normal and will be going through a restructuring”, the team said.

Cornish Bakery opens new Plymouth site: Growing independent chain The Cornish Bakery has opened a site in Plymouth as it pushes on with plans to grow to 100 sites. The 2,600 square-foot store has opened on the waterfront in a grade II-listed former glassblowing building in Plymouth Barbican. Four other Cornish Bakery locations are currently in development – at Caledonia Park in Gretna Green, Bury St Edmunds, Truro and Bakewell, with Stamford, Beverley and Whitby Harbour opening in the past few months. Major refurbishments will also open shortly in Bideford and Newquay. Founder Steve Grocutt said: “From the minute I saw it, I knew this would be an incredible space for us – and the sophisticated design and fit-out has met all my expectations. Yet again, we’re proving ‘bakery is the new coffee shop’ in the most sought-after destinations and locations across the UK, all backed with our top performing service proposition.” Cornish Bakery, which operates circa 50 sites, recently appointed KLM Real Estate to deliver further on its ambitious UK-wide expansion plans. 

Family behind French boutique vineyard opens wine bar and shop in London: The family behind the boutique vineyard Château De La Cômbe in France has opened a wine bar and shop in London’s Farringdon. 56 West Smithfield, which is named after its address, offers a range of wine alongside a selection of nibbles and charcuterie boards, with locally sourced cheese and meat. The first floor is home to the bar and wine shop while the second floor features a lounge area. On the third floor is a wine tasting room, which can also be booked for events. Co-owner Matt Landsberg said: “My family's passion for viticulture and making exceptional wine is what led us to open 56 West Smithfield. When we’re not busy during the winemaking season, we regularly visit small wineries all over the world in search of special wines that are true to their terroirs. 56 West Smithfield is our way of bringing these amazing wines to London. And as our own importers we’re able to bring customers excellent value, selling all of the wines at their original, local winery prices.”

Essex celebrity haunt Sheesh to open in Mayfair: Sheesh, the Essex restaurant and bar, which has become a celebrity favourite, is planning a launch in London’s Mayfair. The concept, which is the brainchild of Dylan Hunt, has taken on a site on the corner of One Dover Street and Piccadilly, reports Hot Dinners. The venue is expected to open at the end of this year or the start of 2023. The menu at Sheesh includes shish kebabs, wagyu burgers, truffle chicken spaghetti and lobster rolls. Sheesh’s current home in Chigwell is Ye Olde Kings Head – the second oldest public house in England and immortalised in Charles Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge as the Maypole Inn. Hunt, who began his career working on fruit and vegetable stalls in London’s East End, purchased the site in Chigwell in 2009. Propel reported in August last year that Hunt was eyeing a launch in London and had earmarked the former Topshop site at 70 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, for an opening.

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