Story of the Day:
Fairgame in advanced talks on second site, plans US launch: Richard Hilton, co-founder of competitive socialising concept Fairgame, which launched in London last month, has said the business is already in advanced talks for a second London site and early discussions for a first US venue. The concept from Hilton, the founder of Gymbox, and sector investor Paul Campbell, opened in Canary Wharf. Fairgame’s first site is backed by a £2.5m investment from BGF and a further £2.5m from a consortium of private investors. Hilton told The Times the fit-out began in January this year but rising costs of materials and labour meant the project went £1m over budget, with a final bill of £5.5m. For the first two weeks it operated at 50% capacity to help iron out any teething problems and still managed to break even. He estimated the first year’s turnover will “be in the region of £6m to £7m” helped by a busy upcoming festive period. “We’re almost entirely full in terms of corporate bookings for December,” he said. Hilton is keeping a close eye on costs, particularly utilities. He added: “We haven’t seen a bill yet because we’ve just opened and yes I’m slightly scared of what that may be. But it will be fine, because if we continue on this trajectory… you’re talking around the margins. [The business is] going to make money but with the extra spend on utilities it’s a question of how much does it take off the top.” On launching in the US, he said: “With Gymbox I couldn’t move it to the US and other territories because they probably had their own versions of it. This is a bigger idea and it doesn’t exist anywhere else. I want to move very quickly on this. If we don’t get momentum on it, somebody else will.” The adults-only, Canary Wharf-based site, spread over 15,500 square feet at Frobisher Passage, combines food and drink alongside nostalgic fairground games – with a competitive edge. Every game is hooked up to innovative wristband technology and linked to a custom app to track gamers’ scores. The food offer is provided by Burger & Beyond, Mission Mars-owned Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza and Don Mas Tacos, as well as prosecco-infused candyfloss, gelato and toffee apples from the Candy Stand.
Two 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 email@example.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.
Up to 12 pubs a week closing permanently as BBPA calls for government support ahead of chancellor’s statement: Up to 12 pubs a week are closing their doors for good due to rising costs across their businesses, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has warned. This has led to the Long Live the Local campaign, supported by 146,000 members of the public and backed by the BBPA, to call on the government to save pubs and breweries in communities across the country from closure ahead of the chancellor’s statement on Monday (31 October). They are calling for the freeze on alcohol duty to be reinstated and the introduction of alcohol duty reforms that support British pubs and beer as a lower strength product; lower business rates for pubs so they are equitable to other similar businesses; and the reinstatement of the lower rate of VAT for food and drink sold in pubs with a view to making this permanent. In October 2021, the now prime minister Rishi Sunak, in his role as chancellor, stated the current system of alcohol taxation was “outdated, complex and full of historical anomalies” and committed to reform and simplify alcohol duty to help breweries and pubs. Now, the Long Live the Local campaign and BBPA is urging him and chancellor Jeremy Hunt to follow through with those commitments as soon as possible. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Our pubs and brewers are in desperate need of relief. The cost of doing business is completely out of control and while we welcomed an intervention on energy it is just one of a myriad of spiralling costs our publicans and brewers are facing. The prime minister has shown before he believes in our sector and we hope he and his chancellor will once again step up and show they recognise just how important pubs and breweries are to the lifeblood of this country before it is too late.”
Last chance to take part in Plan B diversity survey:
This is the last chance to take part in a survey to better understand the sentiment of women working within the hospitality sector launched by Plan B, the mentoring platform designed to accelerate women’s representation on boards. The survey, run in partnership with UKHospitality, extends to both operators and suppliers and is designed to gather insights into the challenges faced by women working in the sector and raise awareness of the barriers to career development and retention. It aims to identify key data and themes that can be translated into strategies to improve gender diversity at all levels within hospitality businesses and increase the opportunity for the progression of women leaders. The survey can be accessed here
and the results will be revealed at the “Plan B: Accelerating Change Conference”, which is supported by Propel, on Wednesday, 23 November at 30 Euston Square, London. The conference is designed for C-level business leaders, founders and HR professionals seeking to learn how to make positive change in their organisations. The ticket price includes a “plus one” to be shared with an up-and-coming talent from an under-represented group, who may not typically be invited to attend such an event.
Former Novus director launches service to help grow pre-booked sales: Rupert Macfarlane, former Novus Leisure sales director and managing director of The Advanced Sales Network, has launched “Prebookers”, which is designed to support hospitality businesses in growing pre-booked sales. It provides training on proactive and reactive sales, implements booking systems and provides permanent and temporary staffing solutions. “The economic climate has led many businesses to question their pre-booked sales model, in terms of strategy and structure”, Macfarlane said. “Prebookers helps to identify the way forward, maximising productivity of sales teams and offering alternative resourcing options, via consultancy and outsourcing.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a historic luxury country estate on the outskirts of London that is looking for a food and beverage director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will be overseeing the food and beverage outlets along with training and developing the heads of department. You will be responsible for the smooth running of all the food and beverage outlets along with the private events, manage and train staff to the highest level, work closely with all departments to ensure the best results are met and assume responsibility of the operations and financial results.” The salary is up to £65,000 and the position is based in Hertfordshire. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Marugame Udon plans 150 sites in Europe by 2027: Marugame Udon has unveiled plans to open 150 kitchens across Europe by 2027. The roll out will commence with six new UK kitchens that are set to open by spring 2023, including its first out-of-London site, in Reading. Following six openings in the capital, the Japanese brand will add further sites in London ¬– in Bromley, Kensington, Liverpool Street and Waterloo stations, and The Strand. Marugame Udon’s expansion will include launching its first regional site in February at The Oracle shopping centre in Reading plus its first sites located in south and west London with kitchens opening in Bromley in mid-November and Kensington in January. The UK growth will also see the brand open branches in transport hubs for the first time, at London Waterloo in late-November and Liverpool Street station in mid-February. A third flagship kitchen will open at The Strand in late-February and will join Liverpool Street and the recently opened Oxford Circus location as one of the largest restaurants in Marugame Udon’s UK portfolio. Keith Bird, Marugame Udon Europe chief executive, said: “We have always set out to be a brand that is available to all in the UK and not solely focused on London. We also have bold ambitions to become a household name in Europe and while we may not be as well known here as we are in Japan just yet, the opening of six new kitchens including our first UK regional site in Reading means we are well on our way to achieving our mission to introduce udon to all.” The growth in the number of Marugame Udon’s kitchens will create 300 jobs in the UK by February 2023 and a further 10,000 throughout Europe over the next five years. The growth to 150 will comprise a mix of company-owned, and franchise kitchens as the brand starts to engage with potential partners for multi-unit franchise opportunities. Marugame Udon made its UK and European debut in London last year with its flagship site off Liverpool Street, followed by The O2, Canary Wharf, St Christopher’s Place, Brent Cross, and Oxford Circus. Marugame Udon’s planned expansion will grow its UK estate to 12 restaurants.
Longbottom – we are pleased with the performance of our exclusive virtual brands: Simon Longbottom, chief executive of Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has told Propel the business has extended its partnership with virtual food brands operator Peckwater Brands to more than 100 of its sites across the country. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Stonegate had invested £4m to acquire a minority stake in Peckwater. It came on the back of a trial that had seen Peckwater’s brands – mostly Seoul Chikin and Flip the Bird – made available for delivery out of 30 of Stonegate’s managed sites. Longbottom told Propel: “We are pleased with the performance of our exclusive virtual brands K-Town and Chik Box as we continue to roll out dark kitchens across the country in partnership with Peckwater. With more than 100 now in operation, our kitchen teams have been expanded as incremental revenue continues to grow.” Propel revealed last week that Peckwater is to open its first standalone restaurant. The business, which earlier this month closed its latest crowdfunding campaign with more than £15m raised, has secured the former Bird site at 42-44 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch. The 3,200 square-foot space will serve as a restaurant, development kitchen and engagement centre for the company. It is understood to be a trial site and that no further restaurant openings are planned at present.
Wendy’s adds UK franchisee Blank Table for east of England opportunities: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, is understood to have signed up franchisee Blank Table to open sites under the brand across the east of England, Propel has learned. It is understood Blank Table is a new company launched by Aly Kachra, managing director of the 30-strong Peterborough care home business, Country Court Care. It is thought to be targeting drive-thru sites and leisure and retail parks, with locations including Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Hertford, Hitchin, Ipswich, Kings Lynn and Letchworth Garden City under consideration. Earlier this month, Propel reported Wendy’s was set to link up with Papas Hospitality Group, the company behind the Papas Fish & Chips chain, as one its first franchisees in the UK. Papas Fish & Chips was founded in 1966 in Margate, Kent, and operates ten sites under its eponymous brand across Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Blackpool. The company has applied to open a Wendy’s site in a vacant former phone shop in Sheffield High Street. In August, Todd Penegor, chief executive of Wendy’s, said the brand’s potential in the UK remains “vast” and the business had six traditional franchisees approved in the region “who we expect will begin opening restaurants in early 2023”. Gunther Plosch, chief financial officer at Wendy’s, added: “We remain very bullish on the UK market. We expect to have about 35 restaurants by the end of the year, ten on the company side, so that development schedule is in place, and the remaining are going to be Reef units.” The company, which returned to the UK last year, has so far opened restaurants in Reading, Stratford, Oxford, Croydon, Brighton, Ilford, Camden, Romford and Maidstone. It is understood to have further openings lined up in Sutton, Kingston, Colchester, Peterborough and Uxbridge.
Belgium-based VR experience concept The Park Playground plans UK launch: The Park Playground, the Belgium-based, VR experience concept, is set to make its debut in the UK, with openings linked up in Birmingham and Leeds, Propel has learned. Founded in 2018, the business operates 12 sites across Belgium and Holland. Propel understands its first UK site has been lined up to open at Brindleyplace, Birmingham, with an opening in Leeds to follow, and sites in Manchester under consideration. The launch in the UK is part of plans to expand the concept across western Europe, and into the US. The business said: “We offer large ‘free-room’ fields of about 100-300 square metres to play VR in group. Our locations have a comfy atmosphere, a cosy bar, meeting rooms and intro booth games to learn all the tricks to prepare for the bigger game experience. Our games vary from family games to competitive shooters to escape rooms.”
Roxy Leisure planning three to five openings in 2023 as it prepares to open new Edinburgh site: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ballroom concepts, is planning three to five more openings in 2023 as it continues its growth plans, Propel has learned. Roxy Leisure also said trading is “better than expected” with a positive like-for-likes on pre-covid trading levels. It comes as the business prepares to open its new venue in Edinburgh on Friday, 18 November. The 25,000 square-foot venue in Rose Street will feature a range of activities including ten-pin bowling, duckpin bowling, ice-free curling, American pool, air hockey, karaoke, basketball, beer pong, bank shot shuffleboard and shuffleboard. Edinburgh is the 13th site for the group with its most recent opening being in Sheffield in August. Roxy Leisure commercial manager, Joel Mitchell, said: “The city of Edinburgh is iconic and historic, with a huge creative spirit. Its abundance of nightlife venues made it the perfect place to bring our latest competitive gaming concept to.”
Young’s adds Tonbridge pub to Kent estate: London pub operator Young’s has acquired a pub with rooms in Tonbridge, Propel has learned. Simon Dodd, chief executive of Young’s, said: “Welcome the Carpenters Arms, Tonbridge, to the Young & Co family. This is a wonderful, premium pub, complete with bedrooms that will fit perfectly in our estate and strengthens our presence in Kent.” Last month, Young’s bought the freehold of The Half Moon in Windlesham from the Sturt family, which has owned and operated it for more than a century, in an off-market deal. It followed the acquisitions by Young’s this summer of two Buckinghamshire pubs – Merlin’s Cave in Chalfont St Giles and The Bedford Arms in Chenies.
Various Eateries reports strong Christmas bookings but mindful of record-low consumer confidence: Yishay Malkov, chief executive of Various Eateries, has told Propel that Christmas bookings are looking strong but he is mindful of the record-low consumer confidence. Speaking following the company’s full-year results, Malkov said: “Most of the estate is on track to fill up with particularly strong pre-bookings across a number of our venues. People are definitely making up for a lack of Christmas last year so we expect strong trading, but we will be mindful of how this evolves over the coming weeks.” Malkov also said daypart usage at its Coppa Club restaurants is “similar to what we saw last year” with a good spread across the day “with a bit of an uptick for dinners and weekends”. He added the business’ staffing situation was “ok” with the vacancy rate hovering around 6%. “We have put a lot of the work in over the last year, which is bearing fruit,” Malkov said. “There’s still work to do of course but we’re getting there.” Malkov also called on the new government to “stay in office for longer than a weekend because a semblance of stability is what all we need to start reversing the record-low consumer confidence we’re facing”. He added: “As far as actions I’d say dropping VAT to 15% is doable and will pay back dividends both to the industry and to the Treasury. Confidence will go up, people will go out more and businesses will be able to keep going and pay their taxes.”
Caprice Holdings appoints Tony Rimbault as sales director, David Ray joins Ivy Collection as director of bars: Tony Rimbault, formerly of Gordon Ramsay Restaurants and D&D London, has joined the Richard Caring-backed Caprice Holdings and The Ivy Collection as sales director, Propel has learned. Rimbault previously spent two years as sales director at Gordon Ramsay Restaurants. Aside from a brief stint as head of account management at HeadBox, he spent five years working for the high-profile chef as head of events. Prior to that, he spent more than two years at D&D London, as an events manager. At the same time, The Ivy Collection has appointed David Ray, formerly of Mission Mars and Living Ventures, as its new director of bars. Caprice Holdings will open Bacchanalia on One Mount Street, Mayfair, later this year, which is set to offer an “immersive experience” celebrating Greek and Italian cuisine. Last month, the company opened its new Scott’s on the River site, in London’s Richmond.
Yum! Brands to fully exit Russia with deal to sell KFC business: Yum! Brands is to fully exit Russia after signing a deal to sell its KFC business in the country to Smart Service, operated by one of the brand’s existing franchisees, Konstantin Yurievich Kotov and Andrey Eduardovich Oskolkov. The new owner will be responsible for rebranding the restaurants to non-Yum! concepts and retaining the company’s employees. Yum! said after the transaction it will cease having any corporate presence in Russia. The company previously sold Pizza Hut in Russia to a local operator in June, which has started rebranding the locations. Yum, which also owns Taco Bell, said in August it had removed 1,112 KFC units in Russia from its global store count, about 4% of its total locations.
Dessert operator G Factory to begin expansion with first franchise opening: Dessert operator G Factory is to begin expansion with the opening of its first franchise site. The concept was created in 2008 by Giuseppe Trivigno and pastry chef Chris Zammit and operates a site, known as Creams Factory, in Tonbridge, Kent. Now the business is set to start growing with a ten-year lease signed for a 1,869 square-foot site at the Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke, Hampshire. The G Factory offers an array of freshly produced artisan desserts, complemented by a variety of freshly brewed coffee flavours. After years of successfully managing the concept, The G Factory is looking to expand on a national level. Trivigno said: “We are proud to launch our venture at Festival Place. We have been working hand in hand with our franchisee and the Festival Place team to make it a great success.” Joint agents for Festival Place are Lunson Mitchenall and Cushman & Wakefield. CBRE is the managing agent for the centre, which is owned by AEW.
Woky Ko to close two Bristol sites: Woky Ko, the Asian fusion concept from former MasterChef finalist Larkin Cen, has announced it will close two restaurants leaving it with just one site in Bristol, citing the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic as reasons for the decision. The business will close its restaurants in Wapping Wharf and Queens Road, in the city, the latter of which had only just reopened for dine-in customers in September. The company’s site in the city’s St Nicholas' Market will remain open as usual. Cen said: "It is with great sadness and a heavy heart we will be closing our Woky Ko Queens Road and Cargo. With fantastic commitment and hard work from the Woky Ko team, we managed to stay open throughout the main outbreak of covid, creating a delivery service for our loyal customers. Unfortunately, over the last year, increasing costs, staffing shortages and wage pressure impacted the viability of these two parts of the businesses. Further covid related closures totalled more than 200 days across all our sites and now on top of that we are experiencing a very substantial drop in sales at Wapping Wharf due to the main footbridge being closed for prolonged works. The price pressure on our takeaway orders caused by the economic squeeze has meant both locations are no longer viable. This sadly means after they are paid this month we will have to make our amazing staff redundant and would ask if any other restaurants have vacancies to please get in touch and we can share this with the team.”
Team behind London tailor Cad & The Dandy opens Mayfair coffee shop: The team behind London tailor Cad & The Dandy has opened a coffee shop in Mayfair. The Service has launched at 19 Savile Row in collaboration with Bristot Coffee. Cad & The Dandy was launched in 2008 by James Sleater and Ian Meiers and as well as its tailors in London, it has sites in New York and Stockholm. Sleater said: “We wanted to bring a new concept to Savile Row to give our customers and visitors a place where they can take time out of their day to relax and enjoy some of the best coffee available in London.”
Camden’s Buck Street Market welcomes three new F&B operators: LabTech, owner of Camden Market, has announced the openings of three new food and beverage operators at Buck Street Market, the UK’s first eco-conscious consumer market. Leading the trio of new openings is a 40-cover unit for gourmet burger concept Stack & Dome. Its Buck Street Market location offers handmade, dry-aged beef burgers, topped with premium additions like confit garlic aioli, with sides of mac and cheese or loaded fries. Joining Stack & Dome is South American eatery Taste of Venezuela. Operating via delivery across the UK and Europe since 2018, the concept now provides a range of authentic Venezuelan dishes at its new Camden location. Completing the trio of operators is Indian street food traders Frankies. LabTech’s commercial director, Maggie Milosavljevic, said: “Stack & Dome, Taste of Venezuela, and Frankies all add something unique to the Buck Street Market ecosystem, and that of Camden more widely.”
Just Eat partners with Lincolnshire Co-Op as it expands grocery delivery service: Just Eat has partnered with Lincolnshire Co-Op as it expands its grocery delivery service. A total of 27 stores across the society’s trading area now offer delivery from Just Eat, with a further ten live on the platform taking orders for collection. Locations where the service can be accessed include Lincoln, Grantham, Boston and Sleaford. Customers can choose from more than 950 different food, drink and household essentials. The new partnership follows the collaboration with Central England Co-op that saw the retailer partner with Just Eat to offer delivery from stores across Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, the West Midlands and Yorkshire. Just Eat UK strategic accounts director, Amy Heather, said: “As we continue to expand rapidly in the retail space, on-demand grocery delivery will continue to be an area of significant focus. Our partnership with Lincolnshire Co-op signals our commitment to continually offer convenience across all parts of the UK.” Just Eat’s grocery estate in the UK has expanded from 20 sites to more than 1,800 sites on the platform since launching in January. Meanwhile, Just Eat Takeaway supports more than 25,000 grocery and convenience stores on its platforms globally.
Freehold of north London site let to PureGym on market for £2.95m: The freehold of a north London property let to PureGym, Britain’s biggest health and fitness club operator, has gone on the market for £2.95m. The property at 163 Tottenham Lane is arranged over ground and basement floors, totalling 12,453 square foot. The site is let to PureGym for a further 14 years with five-yearly Retail Price Index reviews and a cap of 3% per annum. PureGym pays £180,000 a year in rent. The price reflects a net initial yield of 5.73%. The site is being marketed by Allsop.
Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company puts Cumbrian brewery site on market for offers in excess of £750,000: Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company has put its Cumbrian brewery site, Castle Brewery, up for sale for offers in excess of £750,000. The company recently announced the closure of the Cockermouth brewery, which was developed by Jennings Brewery, the occupiers since 1874. It was acquired by Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company in 2005 and continued to be used as a commercial brewery operation. Towler Shaw Roberts has been instructed to market the property. The property features an extensive complex of interconnecting buildings, extending in total to approximately 63,125 square foot on a total site area of 1.73 acres. The principal brewery operation, comprising a range of period buildings, is on the south side of Brewery Lane, with more modern buildings providing storage and warehouse accommodation set around the principal courtyard entrance. A visitor centre and bar/catering facility has been developed in one of the older buildings, with an outside seating area overlooking the River Cocker.
Kirkby cinema and restaurant scheme paused due to escalating costs: A council-backed scheme to build a new cinema in Kirkby has been paused as a result of inflation significantly pushing up costs. Knowsley Council had previously put finance in place, secured planning permission and appointed a preferred contractor to the development, which would comprise a new multi-screen cinema that will be operated by Reel and three food and drink outlets. As a result of national market conditions, the overall cost to implement the scheme has surged by £5m – nearly double the original figure. The council added finding the additional money would be a “considerable challenge” and a risk in the current economic conditions. Plans had also been in place to borrow some of the funds to pay for the project, with these costs to be repaid from rents charged to the cinema and restaurants. However, rising interest rates mean the project would “now have to be delivered at a loss to public funds”. Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley Council's regeneration and economic development cabinet member, said: “I want to stress our ambition for Kirkby, and indeed for Knowsley as a whole, has not diminished – and, to be absolutely clear, we aren't writing this project off – we are pausing it. The financial conditions are just too uncertain. Thankfully, Reel understands our concerns and fully support our decision, which we will keep under review. Very importantly, it remains fully committed to Kirkby. We will also continue to seek firm commitment from food and beverage operators with an interest in the development.”
Tribute to reopen restaurant at King’s Cross hotel following rebrand and concept redesign: Tribute Hotels is to reopen its restaurant at the Great Northern Hotel in London’s King’s Cross under a new name following a rebrand and redesign of the concept and offer. Formerly Plum + Spit Milk, the restaurant will now be called Rails, with a separate bar area – previously The Snug – to be known as Little Bar. Rails will be an 80-cover restaurant and grill that will serve a menu of modern British cuisine with subtle French accents, acknowledging its proximity to the Eurostar. Little Bar will specialise in classic French cocktails reimagined with a twist. A 95-strong wine list will feature a mix of old and new world wine with 50% of bins from France. There will also be a range of craft beer, ale and soft drinks. Kelechi Kay, food and beverage manager at Great Northern Hotel, said: “Our proximity to King’s Cross station means we have a cosmopolitan and international audience, and we wanted to create something that had a unique sense of identity but also widespread appeal. We have focused on quality and provenance, as well as creating an accessible offering.”