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Thu 3rd Nov 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Creams preparing for Middle East expansion as it targets 500 stores worldwide over next five years: Dessert parlour operator Creams is preparing for expansion in the Middle East as it targets 500 stores worldwide over the next five years. The company, which has more than 100 UK restaurants, last year signed its first international franchise deal, which will see Cairo-based Mori International bring 22 new stores to Egypt. It is now targeting the Middle East to kick off the next phase of its ambitious global growth plans. “We’re looking at a variety of locations and we’re looking at opening multiple stores,” managing director Othman Shoukat told 103.8 Dubai Eye. “We’re looking at Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and we’re hopefully going to be launching a pop-up before our first store opens. We’ve had people come in from across the world, including the Middle East, and we also understand the palate is very established in the GCC, with so many different brands in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Part of our brand proposition is to make sure we have all our signature desserts in the UAE, but we may also have a few twists specifically for the UAE market. We’re looking at different adaptations and we know camel milk is part of the palate in the region. We already have a vegan menu in the UK and were the first nationwide dessert brand to bring that out, so we’re looking to develop that range in the region too.” The 500-store target was mentioned in a recent update to the company’s UK multi-unit franchise partners, of which now it now has 30, who can now network and train in Creams’ new Nottingham academy. Creams opened new outlets in New Haw, Surrey, and Hammersmith, west London, over the autumn, as well as striking a deal with Tesco to open units in two of the supermarket group’s stores.
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Heinz Professional Mayonnaise and Giraffe join forces to uncover in-house talent: Heinz Professional Mayonnaise and Boparan Restaurant Group’s casual dining chain, Giraffe, have joined forces to celebrate its hardworking teams, with the launch of a cooking competition to secure three new dishes on its nationwide menus for 2023. Following a month-long selection process, ten shortlisted chefs battled it out in front of a panel of industry judges showcasing dishes using Craft Guild of Chefs-accredited Heinz Professional Mayonnaise as the hero ingredient. Giraffe’s head chef Raf Zielinski, from London Victoria, sous chef Adam Adour, from Birmingham, and chef de partie Safia Stewart, also from Birmingham, were crowned the winners for their innovation to create spicy chicken brunch muffin, truffalo loaded fries and brisket filled dumpling. Chloé Schiltz, brand manager at Kraft Heinz Foodservice, said: “Seeing the chefs champion Heinz Professional Mayonnaise is another testament to the quality and versatility it has to elevate classics and create innovative dishes.” Andrew Hazel, head of food development, Boparan Restaurant Group, added: “The high calibre of entries has showcased the talent level in Giraffe kitchens. It’s been inspiring to see our chefs help us shape our menu and we know the winning dishes will be a hit with our customers. We are immensely proud of what they’ve achieved.” If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
One day to go before next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details of 211 new sites, 10,000-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 211 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published tomorrow (Friday, 4 November) at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. Premium subscribers will also receive a 10,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases – the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, 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.
 
Hospitality sales down 7.1% in October as they fall for second consecutive month: Hospitality sales were down in October for the second consecutive month, according to data from S4labour, the people, productivity and payroll system. Compared with the same period in 2021, sales were down 7.1% after a 6.9% fall in September, despite a better trading week over half term of minus 1.5%. Weak food sales were the biggest contributor to this total, falling 9.0%. London fared better, with a decline of only 0.9%, albeit up against weak trading in 2021. Richard Hartley, chief innovation officer at S4labour, said: “It is worrying to see two months of serious change in hospitality spending that feels like a combination of cost pressures felt through the current crisis. Although with sales up over payday, half-term and Halloween week, operators should be looking to maximise opportunities during the upcoming World Cup and Christmas, as consumers prefer to save for a big occasion.”

One in three nightclubs set to shut by end of 2022 as closure rate accelerates: One in three nightclubs are set to shut by the end of 2022 as the rate of closure accelerates, according to new research. Figures by CGA Vanilla show there were 1,446 UK nightclubs in December 2019. That fell to 1.191 in December 2021 and was at 1,068 in September this year. The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) warned if nightclubs were to close in line with the current trajectory for the remainder of 2022, it would see one in three nightclubs lost since 2019, up from one in five at the end of 2021. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “The government is ripping the heart out of nightlife, with cost inflation accelerating closures of nightclubs. This inflationary circle is taking its toll on our sector, with businesses trading 15% down across the board, costs up more than 30% taking the shine off the golden quarter. Independent nightclubs across the UK are fighting to survive, managing cash flow on a day by day basis, waiting on a Budget that has failed them twice before. The chancellor must consider support based on the important role this sector plays in the economic recovery of this country. Independent businesses across the night-time economy need him to reinstate the alcohol duty freeze, extend business rates relief and reduce VAT across the board for everyone.”

Just 8% of multi-site leaders confident about next 12 months: Just 8% of leaders of multi-site businesses feel confident about the next 12 months for the eating and drinking out market, according to the October Business Confidence Survey from CGA by NielsenIQ and Fourth. This is a sharp drop from the figure of 23% in the last survey in June, which in turn was a steep fall from 65% in March. The proportion of leaders feeling confident about prospects for their own business over the next 12 months is higher at 29% – reflecting the greater resilience of multi-site operators than independents, who have borne the brunt of closures in recent months. However, this number has also dipped, from 53% in the last survey. The research highlights the escalating costs facing businesses at the moment, with 86% of leaders reporting significant inflation in the prices of both energy and food. Challenges have been deepened by a chronic shortage of staff in hospitality, and 11% of roles are currently vacant. While four in five (80%) leaders said their business is still operating at a profit, more than half (53%) report margins lower than they were before the covid-19 pandemic. One in eight (13%) expects their business to be either running at a loss or unviable by the end of 2022. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Hospitality businesses have shown remarkable resilience since the start of the pandemic, but these figures show they are facing their greatest challenges yet. With no sign of relief on inflationary pressures for firms and consumers alike, sales and margins will be under severe strain and thousands of companies are now vulnerable. Political upheaval and market shocks have only made things worse, and urgent and targeted government support is needed to sustain the sector through this very difficult period.”

Food inflation hits a high of 11.6%: Shop prices are rising faster than ever, which with Christmas less than eight weeks away, is likely to deepen concern among households struggling with the worst cost-of-living crisis for decades. The Times reports average shop prices in October were 6.6% higher than in the same month a year ago, the latest data from the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen shows, surpassing the record of 5.7% set in September. “Prices were pushed up because of the significant input cost pressures faced by retailers due to rising commodity and energy prices and a tight labour market,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said. “While some supply chain costs are beginning to fall, this is more than offset by the cost of energy, meaning a difficult time ahead for retailers and households alike.” Within the headline figure, food prices continued to rise at an unprecedented pace. Compared with October 2021, food prices in shops were, on average, 11.6% higher last month. That represented an increase on the 10.6% annual rate of food inflation in September and is the highest reading since the BRC-Nielsen IQ shop price index started in 2005. The BRC noted a “significant” rise in the price of a cup of tea, with tea bags, milk and sugar all rising sharply last month. Fresh food prices are climbing particularly fast. In September, prices of fresh food had increased by, on average, 12.1% compared with the same month last year. However, that picked up to 13.3% in October, which the consortium said was another record. Ambient foods such as sauces, cereals and canned soups are also rising in price quicker than ever before. Over the past year, prices of such products have risen by 9.4%, compared with 12.1% in September. It is not only food that is getting ever dearer as non-food inflation accelerated last month, too, increasing to 4.1% from 3.3% in September.
 
Bosses haul staff back to the office as remote working boom peaks: Britain’s work-from-home boom has passed its peak, according to new data that reveals bosses are ditching remote job adverts and hauling employees back into the office. The Telegraph reports the jobs site LinkedIn said remote adverts declined for a fifth straight month in September as power shifts back to employers, mirroring trends in Europe and the US. Fewer than 12% of adverts were for fully remote working in September as hiring begins to cool, compared to a peak of 16% in January. This is the lowest level since data collection began in September 2021, just after the UK emerged from covid restrictions. Josh Graff, managing director for Europe at LinkedIn, said: “The balance of power is starting to shift back to employers as economic storm clouds gather and hiring slows. We’re already seeing companies freeze hiring and request that employees return to the office.” The LinkedIn study found that three-quarters of executives intend to rein in flexible working because of the worsening economic backdrop. Bosses are cracking down despite strong demand for home working from employees. Remote jobs make up 12% of ads in the UK but attract 20% of applications, it said. The decline in remote working adverts in the UK matches falls in France, Germany, India and the US, according to LinkedIn. However, Britain still has the second-highest share of home working job ads of the five countries tracked, after the US. Employees have embraced the flexibility offered by the homeworking revolution but the shift has had a lukewarm reception from bosses, economists and ministers. Sir James Dyson and former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane have been among those in the business world to raise concerns over the shift.

Consumers want more guidance to make more environmentally friendly menu choices: Consumers want more guidance and information from hospitality brands to make more environmentally friendly menu choices, according to new research by Foodprint from Nutritics, the food software (SaaS) company. The survey, which gauged the attitudes of 2,000 respondents, assessed consumer attitudes and views relating to eating and drinking out and found that British consumers actively want to make more sustainable choices and want more transparency from restaurants, pubs and bars on its menus to demonstrate this. Nearly two thirds (64%) of people surveyed think eating and drinking out venues/brands could do more to reduce their environmental impact, while almost half (45%) say a venue’s commitment to sustainability is an important part of deciding where to go and spend money. The report also found that over a quarter (27%) of consumers would like to know the carbon footprint of a meal when eating out, and one-third (35%) feel they currently have the right information to make sustainable food choices when eating or drinking out. Stephen Nolan, chief executive  of Foodprint from Nutritics, said: “Operators are in a powerful position to use their resources, including technology, not only to accelerate their own journey to net zero, but also in doing so to drive increased footfall from environmentally savvy diners.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a Japanese concept based in central London that is seeking an executive chef. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The ideal candidate will have exceptional skills in contemporary Japanese cuisine and be a true leader and mentor for the team. You will have the experience required to create the most outstanding menus following company standards and values, be organised and thrive in a busy and fast-paced environment. You must have worked in leading high-volume Japanese restaurants. The restaurant offers styles of sushi and sashimi together with a selection of innovative and contemporary dishes from the robata grill and hot kitchen with brunch available on Saturday and Sunday. The team consists of 18 chefs.” The salary is up to £110,000. For more information, email clive@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Mike Tye appointed chairman of Arc Inspirations: Mike Tye, the former chief executive of Spirit Group and current chairman of the Big Table Group, has been appointed chairman of Arc Inspirations, the Martin Wolstencroft-led business, which operates the Banyan, Box and Manahatta brands. Tye, who previously served as chairman of Haulfryn Group and Moto Hospitality Group, has more than 30 years’ board and leadership experience in the UK hospitality sector. He will support the senior team at Arc, led by Wolstencroft, in the ongoing development of the business. The appointment of Tye comes as Arc embarks on a phase of significant growth, having recently posted record group sales and profits, and revealed plans to open five sites in key cities in the next 12 months. The new openings will see three new Manahatta cocktail bars open in Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, alongside two new BOX premium sports bars, in Nottingham and Birmingham, creating 500 new jobs in total. It follows a £19m investment by BGF earlier this year, paving the way for a doubling of the 18-strong business over the next three-to-five years. The appointment of Tye comes after non-executive director Steve Richards, who is also the current chief executive of Parkdean Resorts and chair of UKHospitality, decided to step down after nearly five years in the role. Wolstencroft said: “This is a cornerstone appointment for us following the successful conclusion of our recent investment process with BGF, as we take our business into the next phase of its growth and development. Mike is one of the standout business leaders in our industry. It is a real coup for us and speaks volumes for the strength of our business and the opportunities we have in front of us.” Tye, who is also a former non-executive director of The Restaurant Group and previously led Costa Coffee, David Lloyd Leisure and Premier Travel Inn, said: “I’ve followed Arc’s progress for a number of years, and it’s clear that Martin and his team have built a high quality and brilliantly well-run operation, with great consumer propositions and outstanding growth prospects. I’m delighted to join the board and am looking forward to what promises to be an exciting time ahead, as we work together to bring even more success to the business.” Of Richards’ contribution to Arc, Wolstencroft said: “We are extremely grateful to Steve for the invaluable guidance, support and wise counsel he has provided to the business and the management team over the past five years. He has played a key role in helping us to deliver all of this and in shaping our business into the thriving operation it is today, and one that is ready to expand further and grow.” In September, Arc posted record group sales and profits of £38.9m and £7.5m (adjusted ebitda) respectively, for the financial year ending March 2022. The business said it continues to “perform strongly” and expects to produce another record year of revenue in the financial year to 31 March 2023, “notwithstanding the current macroeconomic challenges”.

KFC UK system sales down 7% as they fall for second successive quarter: Yum! Brands has reported KFC system sales in the UK fell 7% for the third quarter ended 30 September 2022 compared with the previous year – the second quarter in a row there has been a decline. In the year to date, KFC UK system sales are down 3%. The UK, which accounts for 8% of KFC’s system sales worldwide, was the only market to see a fall in sales. Globally, KFC like-for-like sales in the quarter increased 7% with US like-for-like sales growing 2% – system sales worldwide dropped 1%, mainly due to the company having exited its Russian operations where it had 1,112 stores. Operating margin fell 2%. KFC opened 485 gross new restaurants in 56 countries during the period. Operating profit fell by 3% to $43.4m, again mainly due to the exit from Russia, which accounted for 4% of the brand’s market. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut system sales in Europe, including the UK, were down 3% – the continent accounting for 8% of Pizza Hut’s system sales globally. Year-to-date sales are up 11% in the region. Pizza Hut sales in the quarter were down 1% globally, while like-for-likes were up 1%. US system sales, which account for 43% of global sales, were up 2%. Pizza Hut opened 392 gross new restaurants in 47 countries during the period. Operating margin fell 1.6% while operating profit fell 8% to $92m, partly due to the brand having exited from Russia, where it operates 52 sites. Taco Bell like-for-like sales increased 6% and system sales were up 9%. Operating profit increased 10% to $204m. Taco Bell opened 98 gross new restaurants in 16 countries during the period. Yum! Brands’ total revenue in the quarter was up 2% to $1,640m.
 
Hall – we’re just going to make the most of what we’ve got and get through the recession: Tim Hall, co-founder of Sourdough South, operators of the Three Joes sourdough pizza concept and The Stable brand, has said that after a period of stabilising the business, it is now “just going to just make the most of what we got and get through the recession”. The business recently opened its fourth Three Joes site, in Lincoln, and also operates nine sites under The Stable brand, plus the Fistral Beach Bar in Newquay, which it acquired last summer. Hall told Propel: “We had a really good October, but I guess like everyone else, you’re waiting for something awful to happen and hoping it doesn’t. We have lots of questions about whether people are trading down. Is there an element to which people are thinking I won’t spend £40 ahead but I will spend £18 or something along those lines? But we haven’t seen the much-anticipated decline. I am conscious that we are into the winter now and we are certainly planning for things to deteriorate, but we haven’t seen it yet, and I’m very pleased to say that.” The business exited the leases of The Stable site in Exeter and Southampton over the past 12 months, and Hall said that business had now stabilised. Hall said: “Since the acquisition of Fistral Beach Bar in September 2021, we have been putting the final touches to the transformation of The Stable and the stabilisation of the group, just to get it ready to trade successfully into the future. Obviously along that journey we’ve been hitting like everyone else has with all the other economic challenges, but we quite deliberately haven’t gone on any kind of aggressive expansion programme because we expanded from three restaurants to 14 in the space of 12 months. That’s a hell of a rate by anybody’s expectations, so you can’t then go let’s go open ten more restaurants, you’ve got to get your feet under the table and stabilise the group, and that’s what we’ve done successfully. All the restaurants are profitable. They’re all in growth. If it were not for these macro-economic conditions, I’d probably be announcing a number of new store openings, but we’re not going to do that over the next 12 or 18 months. We’re just going to just make the most of what we got and get through the recession.” 
 
Stack & Still planning up to five openings in 2023 with business set to make English debut, aims to double in size in next two years: Scottish pancake house brand Stack & Still is planning up to five openings in 2023, with the business set to make its debut in England. Owners Graham Swankie and Paul Reynolds are launching the flagship location in London’s Leicester Square. The business, which serves in excess of a million pancakes per annum, is taking over a site on Irving Street that was previously occupied by MOD Pizza. Stack & Still, which employs 200 people at its seven locations in Scotland, aims to double in size during the next two years. Reynolds told Propel the business was looking at “four or five” openings in 2023, one or two of which would also be in London. He added the company has also agreed a deal for its eighth outlet, in London, “which will be a slightly different concept”. Swankie and Reynolds will invest £250,000 in the Leicester Square venue, which will seat 225 people spread across 5,000 square feet over three floors and an outdoor terrace, and is expected to open in December. Reynolds revealed he only viewed the site 12 weeks ago and has looked at 20 sites across England so far this year. He said: “Our model is to look at distressed inventory, and that helps us keep costs down. Our average spend is £14, so I think people see us as an affordable treat, and the concept ticks a lot of boxes for families.” Reynolds said current trading was “good”, with sales growing year-on-year. Revenue was up 100% for the year ending July 2022 to £6.5m – just four years after the brand was founded from an idea “we came up with over a weekend”. Reynolds added: “It’s long been my ambition to expand Stack & Still beyond Scotland, and the move into probably the most famous leisure destination in the UK is testament to the strength of the brand. Opening our flagship pancake house in such a location will allow us to expand beyond our traditionally busy breakfast time by serving dishes throughout the day to families and international tourists.” The site, which will be the UK’s biggest pancake house, will initially open between 9am and 5pm before moving to a 12-hour service beginning at 8am. Stack & Still will be introducing order-at-table technology working in multiple languages. Davis Coffer Lyons acted on the Irving Street deal.
 
Thwaites reports turnover and operating profit above pre-pandemic levels but warns of ‘significant’ challenges ahead: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has reported turnover for the six months ending 30 September 2022 increased 21% to £57.9m compared with £47.8m the previous year. This was also 8% ahead of the same period in 2019. Operating profit was £9.9m compared with £9.3m last year and £9.5m in 2019. Pre-tax profit increased to £15.7m from £7.5m the year before. The business said while there are significant challenges ahead, it is in a strong financial position. Net debt at 30 September 2022 was £61.1m (2021: £61.4m), a decrease of £0.3m compared with last year and down from £61.6m at 31 March 2022. The business has considerable headroom against its total banking facilities of £83m. The company stated: “Customers have been keen to get back into their local pubs, but the trading picture is extremely mixed, with a polarisation in performance. Some pubs are trading very well, others are not, and it is difficult to discern a pattern. While they traded up year on year, their costs have risen dramatically, particularly for food, meaning that margins are being squeezed.” The hotels and spas division saw turnover up 27% year on year, with profitability down 4% due to increases in the cost base and withdrawal of government support. Sales are up about 13% on 2019, with profits broadly flat. The company said it continues to look at acquisition opportunities for “high quality properties”. Thwaites sold four properties in the period, receiving total proceeds of £2.7m, making a profit on disposal of £1.3m. The business has reinstated an interim dividend at a rate of 0.75p per share. Chairman Rick Bailey said: “The recent performance of the government has left people completely lost, and between government turmoil and the relentless negativity of the media, customer confidence is being rapidly eroded. The cost of living is increasing, but people are beginning to adapt to increasing costs, particularly on food, energy and mortgage rates. Although this is likely to continue to present challenges, when people are in the mood to go out and treat themselves, it seems that on average, they are prepared to spend a little bit more, a little bit less often. The company has fixed its own utility costs until March next year and is watching the differential between spot energy prices and forward rates closely. Despite the challenges that face us, we will find a way through the uncertain and volatile world in which we find ourselves, and while this winter is likely to be extremely tough, we are investing for the future and are in a strong financial position.”
 
Lakeshore Leisure Group sold by Kings Park Capital to new UK subsidiary of French holiday park operator: Holiday park operator Lakeshore Leisure Group has been sold by sector investor Kings Park Capital (KPC) to a new UK subsidiary of Capfun, a pan-European operator of 175 family-focused campsites and holiday parks headquartered in France. Lakeshore was created in July 2019 when KPC partnered with its chief executive, Stephen Twiss, to acquire under-invested and undermanaged domestic holiday parks and drive performance improvement through targeted capital investment, product innovation and application of operational excellence. The first two sites, Otter Falls and Clawford Lakes in Devon, were acquired at the same time, followed by the addition of a third site in the county, Lakeview Manor­, in early 2020. In 2022, Lakeshore agreed an option to buy a second greenfield site on the north Devon coast, Clovelly Falls. Under KPC’s ownership, revenues grew at a compound annual growth rate of 51% and Ebitda increased at a compound annual growth rate of 77%. The exit delivers a money multiple of three times and an internal rate of return of 46% for KPC’s investors. Twiss said: “In a relatively short period of time we have, as a team, been able to establish an innovative and enviable brand in the UK holiday market that truly provides a unique experience for the guest. Our ability to achieve this was, in many ways, facilitated by the team at Kings Park Capital, which wholeheartedly supported the vision and backed myself and the team to deliver it.” Artjom Dashko, partner at KPC, added: “With proven organic growth opportunities and the ability to transform existing and greenfield sites, the business represents an excellent platform for developing a leading player in the domestic holiday market, and we are proud to have played a role in launching the business alongside Stephen Twiss.”

Fat Hippo eyes Reading opening: Better burger brand Fat Hippo, which made its London debut last month, is planning an opening in Reading. The company, which was founded in 2010 by Michael Phillips, is eyeing an opening in the Jackson’s Corner development in King Street,as part of plans to open six sites across the UK in the next 12 months, including a second in the capital. The company opened its debut London restaurant on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch on 14 October. It has subsequently opened in York, occupying the former Jimmy’s site in Low Petergate, to take its estate to 16 sites. Those two openings are expected to create around 70 new jobs.

Greenhalgh’s planning up to four new openings by next summer as it builds back from pandemic: North-west craft baker Greenhalgh’s is planning to open up to four new sites by next summer as it builds back from the pandemic. Turnover increased to £22,186,708 for the year ending 30 January 2022 compared with £21,085,389 the previous year. The figure was still slightly below the £23,842,218 reported for the year ending January 2020 – the last full year before the pandemic. Pre-tax profit was down to £648,285 from £763,599 the previous year (2020: loss of £1,198,517). The business, which operates circa 50 sites, received £143,417 through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (2021: £777,425) and £109,527 in retail, hospitality and leisure grants (2021: £473,671). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “A number of the company’s shops closed immediately after the first lock-down and some have remained closed since. The majority of those affected have, however, now reached the end of their respective leases and are no longer within the company’s portfolio. The company did not open any new shops during the period under review. We do have plans to open new shops within this current financial year, and leases or agreements for lease have already been signed in respect of two premises in the Bolton and Burscough regions. There are a number of other active negotiations concerning other outlets in place, and we are hopeful as many as four new retail outlets will be opened before June 2023.”
 
Pacha Group to launch debut UK site in February with reopening of Café de Paris as Lio London: Entertainment brand Pacha Group will open its debut UK site in February. The company will launch Lío London in the former Café de Paris premises in Coventry Street, having acquired the site in March 2021. The venue will offer a “one-of-a-kind show and dining experience”, building on its Lio venue in Ibiza that has been operating for more than ten years. Its immersive cabaret show brings together a troupe of singers, dancers, acrobats and international artists for an evening of eclectic performances. Lio London will have space for 200 diners and a moveable DJ booth. After the show, the room will transform into a late-night club, welcoming up to 715 revellers. The space will also be available for exclusive events from Sunday to Tuesday. Chef Adam Rawson, previously of The Standard in New York, will be overseeing the food concept. The menus will be complemented by wine selected by head sommelier Romaine Aurdrerie. Sanjay Nandi, chief executive of Pacha Group, said: “Since opening its fabled doors in the 1920s, Café de Paris has long been a symbol for indulgence, style and glamour, and we are thrilled to be taking it into the next phase of its life.” Pacha Group also operates sites in Mykonos and Las Vegas.
 
Norfolk multiple pub operators acquire fifth site: Norfolk multiple pub operators Pete Harvey and Frances Chisholm have acquired their fifth site. Harvey and Chisholm are now running The Drawing Rooms, formerly known as The Birdcage, in Norwich. The site has been transformed by a £430,000 investment from owner, brewer and retailer Greene King. As part of the investment, the venue in The Lanes has been overhauled externally and internally with a 1920s art deco theme. In line with its transformation and name change, the new look bar has also changed its offer to that of a cocktail and entertainment bar in a speakeasy format. Alongside operating The Drawing Rooms, Harvey and Chisholm operate two other pubs in Norwich and another two on the Norfolk coast. They said: “As soon as we saw the plans for The Drawing Rooms, we knew we just had to take it! The pub is now firmly positioned as a cocktail and entertainment bar, which matches perfectly with our experience as operators.”
 
Boxpark to introduce four new concepts to Croydon and Shoreditch sites: Boxpark, the hospitality and leisure operator, is set to introduce four new brands to its Croydon and Shoreditch sites. Among them will be plant-based concepts Vegan Wing Shack, which is Wing Shack’s entry into the vegan market, and Vegan Shack, which was launched in Manchester in 2019. Also arriving are London pizza concept Crust Bros, which has two sites in the capital, and Dough Bakehouse, from The Apprentice winner Carina Lepore, which also has two sites in London. Boxpark announced in September that it had secured a location for its sixth site, and first outside of London, in Liverpool’s Canning Hall. Set to open in late 2023, the 16,000 square-foot venue will hold 400 internal and 200 external covers, with space for around ten kitchen units, three internal bars and additional external bars.
 
Murger Han opens in Elephant and Castle for fourth site: Murger Han, the first restaurant to bring Xi’an food to London, has opened its fourth site, in Elephant and Castle. The venue has opened in Castle Square, adding to its restaurants in Euston, Bank and Mayfair. The menu includes the signature Murger, which is the world’s oldest sandwich and means “meat sandwiched in bread”, which can be ordered with pork, spicy beef with peppers and cumin or roasted duck. There are also steamed cold noodles served with seasonal vegetables and a variety of soups. Owner and head chef Bin Li said: “We are delighted to join the diverse offering of food and drink in the area and look forward to serving up more of our authentic Chinese street food dishes.”
 
Five Guys partners with Just Eat as it expands delivery channel: Better burger brand Five Guys has launched a partnership with Just Eat as it expands its delivery channel. Following a rapid rollout, 137 restaurants across the country are now live on the Just Eat platform, with free delivery on orders more than £20. The partnership comes amidst a period of rapid growth for Just Eat. The food delivery app works with more than 68,000 partners across the UK and Ireland. John Eckbert, chief executive at Five Guys, said: “We are thrilled to now offer Five Guys to more hungry customers via our new delivery partner, Just Eat.” Just Eat UK strategic partnerships director, Amy Heather added: “We know Five Guys will be a firm favourite among our 19 million customers.”
 
US-based seafood concept Saltie Girl to make UK debut next week: US-based seafood restaurant concept Saltie Girl is set to make its UK debut next week, with an opening in London’s Mayfair. Saltie Girl, which specialises in lobsters, oysters, caviar, and premium tinned seafood, will open on the former Prezzo site at 15 North Audley Street on Tuesday, 8 November. As previously reported, the concept is part of the Met Restaurant Group, which is led by Kathy Sidell and owns and operates five restaurants in and around Boston, including the original Saltie Girl. For the launch, Sidell has partnered with Varun Talreja, co-founder of contemporary Greek restaurant Meraki, which opened in Fitzrovia in 2016. Meraki has since expanded into Riyadh, Porto Cervo and Mykonos, and in 2023 will open two further locations. The pair met in 2019, but their plans to launch Saltie Girl London were put on hold by the pandemic. The Boston restaurant currently offers 65 varieties of tinned fish at any one time, and Sidell is looking forward to “tapping into the plethora of fresh seafood in and around the waters of Great Britain”. Richard Turner, who has worked at Le Gavroche under Albert and Michel Roux Jr, La Tante Claire under Pierre Koffman and The Restaurant under Marco Pierre White, will be consultant chef. His menu will feature Saltie Girl classics such as clam chowder, New England lobster roll and whole fried seabass alongside dishes developed specifically for London including turbot, monkfish and Dover sole. Sidell said: “As Britain is obviously a nation that loves fish, whether it be fried, smoked, potted or sautéed, I feel Saltie Girl will speak enthusiastically to the British palate, with its many iterations of seafood.  Londoners and visitors alike will be intrigued by our offerings and the fine food and service that we pride ourselves on.” The opening of the London restaurant coincides with the launch of a third US Saltie Girl outpost, in Los Angeles.
 
Loungers to open three sites in a week: Cafe bar operator Loungers is to open three new sites in a week. The Nick Collins-led company opened a site for its Cosy Club brand, in Milton Keynes, earlier this week. The 6,000 square-foot venue has launched in centre:mk, at 3-5 Silbury Arcade, spanning two floors and seating 180 covers. Jon Birtles, property and acquisitions manager for Loungers, said: “Opening our 35th location is a key moment for Cosy Club and we are delighted to have launched within the centre:mk. We are thrilled to be bringing our opulent yet welcoming experience to the city of Milton Keynes for the first time.” Loungers has also opened a site for its Lounge brand in Stratford-upon-Avon, launching Prospero Lounge in the former Laura Ashley premises in Bridge Street. This weekend, it will open Barco Lounge in Selby, North Yorkshire. Loungers operates 209 sites and expects to open a further 15 in its current financial year.
 
SSP expands in Norway with deal for 19 new airport outlets: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group is set to expand in Norway after securing four contracts to roll out 19 units in airports across the country. The units, in locations including Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger and Oslo, will open from January 2023. Of these, 17 will be ‘Point’ outlets – a concept developed by SSP for consumers on the go, which offers hot and cold drinks alongside magazines and newspapers. New brand Ymse will also make its debut at Bergen and Stavanger airports, offering similar products but developed specifically for the substantial number of offshore industry workers who travel through the airports regularly. Supporting SSP’s sustainability targets, the majority of food will be produced on site, and there will be a focus on using locally sourced food. The units will also feature self-service options, and one will be entirely digitalised and self-service. Åste Haukvik, business development director of SSP Norway, said; “These airports expect to welcome around 30 million travellers each year, and it’s a source of enormous pride that Avinor AS has entrusted us to bring our brands to even more of their customers.” Last month, SSP extended its footprint in Sweden to operate 18 new food and beverage and convenience store outlets at Stockholm Arlanda and Gothenburg Landvetter airports.

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