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Fri 11th Nov 2022 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Simon Dodd – sector needs to embrace flexible working to help tackle recruitment crisis, Fridays ‘are back’ in London: Simon Dodd, chief executive of London pub operator Young’s, has told Propel the sector needs to embrace flexible working if it is to tackle the labour crisis engulfing the sector. Young’s launched the Ram Agency earlier this year to boost recruitment by offering workers easy-to-arrange flexible hours. Dodd said there was now more than 550 staff using the online platform – about 5% of its workforce – with plans to increase that to 10% in the medium term. Speaking following the company’s interim results, Dodd said: “We’ve got staff right across the board using it – from pot washers to general managers – and it’s one of the things that’s helping us with retention rates. It’s particularly attracting mothers with young children and flexible working is something the hospitality industry needs to embrace, especially if we’re going to get through this recruitment crisis. We’ve worked hard to invest in our people ang give them opportunities – 76% of our general managers are from within the company and 64% of our head chefs.” Dodd said “Fridays are back” in London, with trade picking up as more people return to the office and the resurgence of tourism in the capital. “London is the epicentre of the UK and it is bouncing back strongly,” he added. “Mondays are still quiet, but Fridays are pretty strong again, and are getting busier all the time.” Despite falling consumer confidence and spending, Dodd is confident the business can maintain its current run rate of like-for-like growth, which was up 5.5% in the last 13 weeks against 2019 levels. “Of the £29m we’ve invested in the first half of the year, half has been in the existing estate,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the first restriction-free Christmas in three years. Festive bookings are up 54% on this time last year and Christmas Day is up 48%. The average party size is also up from eight to 16, so we are seeing a return of those corporate bookings. With the FIFA World Cup around the corner and the Rugby World Cup next year, we’re cautiously optimistic. We’ve also tied in our energy costs until March 2024, so we don’t have that worry in the spring.” Dodd said while the business has made a number of off-market individual acquisitions recently – including the Griffin Inn in the East Sussex village of Fletching and the Carpenters Arms in Tonbridge, Kent – it has the firepower to do more substantial deals if the right opportunities arise. “We have an extremely strong balance sheet, so if there’s a ten, 20, 30-stong pub business that we like the look of, then we can do that,” he added. “Overall, the market is still buoyant. I’d like to buy more pubs in London, but those opportunities appear to be few and far between.”

Industry News:

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book being sent to Premium subscribers today: The latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 11 November), at midday. The Blue Book now features 656 companies following the addition of another 18 companies, while accounts have been updated for 74 businesses. The Blue Book shows 354 sector companies reporting total profits of £2.1bn while total losses of £4.0bn are being reported by 302 companies. They are turning over a collective £33.6bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of 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.

Half of UK consumers dining out less than at the start of 2022, guests increasingly looking for value and variety: Half of UK consumers surveyed for a new study said they are dining out less than at the start of 2022, while guests are increasingly looking for value and variety when they do visit restaurants. The findings came from a Revenue Management Solutions survey of more than 600 UK consumers, comparing it with the survey results of the first quarter of 2022 to determine whether or not rising inflation and the cost of living had led to a shift in behaviour. It found 51% of those surveyed are ordering less frequently from restaurants in order to save money, an increase of 12 percentage points on the first quarter, when more guests were managing their spend by trading down. Additionally, 70% said they compare prices prior to placing their order, while 72% said they always know the price of menu items they’ve selected prior to ordering. Four out of five stated they enjoy having a variety of option choices on a menu, yet half feel this is currently missing, with an additional one in three stating they no longer find satisfying value options on a menu. Some 65% admitted to purchasing a combo meal from a quick-service restaurant in the past month, with more than half purchasing multiple ones, and 53% said they represent better value than individual items. All those surveyed cited their intention to reduce their frequency of visits to restaurants across all sectors. However, socialising with family and friends in a restaurants remains important, with 43% doing as opposed to at home (versus 37% in the first quarter), while celebrating a special occasion in a restaurant also saw an increase, from 33% in the first quarter to 42%.

UKHospitality – urgent resolutions needed to avoid further rail and tube strikes damaging the industry: Urgent resolutions are needed to avoid further rail and tube strikes that are damaging the industry, UKHospitality has said. Staff from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union walked out on Thursday (10 November) in their sixth 24-hour strike this year in a row over pension changes and job cuts, closing the majority of the tube network in London. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “At a time when hospitality businesses are grappling with soaring costs and chronic staff shortages, the cumulative effect of strikes by rail and tube workers is enormous. Businesses continue to lose customers who can’t travel, and they struggle to serve the ones that do visit, due to staff being unable to get into work. Footfall in cities across the country still remains well down on pre-pandemic levels, and stifling that even further through strikes is incredibly damaging to businesses. It’s essential all parties now work together to come to a resolution that can ensure further rail and tube strikes are avoided at all costs.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury residential portfolio in central London that is seeking a head of residential. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will manage, support, and train the team along with building client relations and maintaining the highest level of customer service. You will oversee the operations throughout the concierge departments on the sites; establish and develop relationships with clients; establish and maintain effective working relationships with all teams; provide motivation, coaching and knowledge to your front of house team members; help identify business development; manage monthly performance reports and other duties.” The salary is up to £60,000 plus benefits. For more information, email

Company News:

Coffee#1 reports sales at 111% of pre-pandemic levels, plans five new openings in next three months: Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has reported strong trading for the first five months of its financial year (June 2022-October 2022), with strong like-for-likes sales growth taking sales to 111% of pre-pandemic levels. In September and October, sales reached 117% of 2019 levels, giving Coffee#1 its first £1m gross sales week. This record was then broken again during the October half-term, which saw more than a quarter of a million people served in a single week for the first time. During the period, Coffee#1 opened four new stores and now has 106 UK sites, making it the fourth largest coffee shop brand in the nation. Another five new openings are anticipated over the next three months as the business continues to expand its geography. Its most recent opening in Buxton is Coffee#1’s most northerly store to date. Coffee#1 has also launched a delivery partnership with Just Eat in more than 60 locations and will look to expand the service further. A new click-and-collect function, which will run through the brand’s app, will also go live in the coming weeks. Coffee#1 managing director, Bruce Newman, said: “While the business faces obvious cost pressures, our locations at the heart of the community mean we are well placed to deal with the challenges ahead, respond to the changing working patterns we see around us and continue to grow and expand. The launch of both delivery and click-and-collect services will complement our core drink-in offer and we look forward to an exciting festive trading period.” 

Kindred Concepts secures second F1 Arcade site, in Birmingham: Kindred Concepts, the parent company of F1 Arcade, the first Formula 1 licensed experiential concept, has secured a second site, in Birmingham. F1 Arcade will occupy an 11,000 square-foot unit at Two Chamberlain Square at Paradise Birmingham. F1 Arcade, with a main entrance in Centenary Way, will offer an immersive, cutting-edge F1 racing simulation experience for individuals and groups. The concept was created by Puttshack and Flight Club co-founder Adam Breeden. Ross Fittall, senior development manager at MEPC, development and asset manager of Paradise, said: “F1 Arcade will be a major new attraction for the city and one that will appeal to all ages and backgrounds. With cutting-edge gameplay, high quality food and drink and an inviting, innovative space, it will be an exciting venue.” The debut F1 Arcade site will open at the One New Change scheme in London’s St Paul’s on Thursday, 24 November, with further national and international expansion to follow. This includes a mixture of owned and operated venues, joint ventures and franchise partnerships, with target locations including the UK, US, key European cities, the Middle East and Asia. 

Danieli Group to invest more than £7m to bring Stack concept to two sites in County Durham: North east operator Danieli Group is to invest more than £7m to bring its Stack container leisure venue concept to two sites in County Durham. The company has submitted a planning application to convert the former Marks & Spencer store in Silver Street, Durham, into a Stack site. It has also unveiled a project at Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland, after being appointed a development partner by Durham County Council. Stack Durham, which is set to open in winter 2023, will include seven street food outlets, five bars, a coffee shop, stage, communal seating and a rooftop terrace, creating more than 180 jobs. The plan also includes a games room for competitive socialising, which will offer a range of interactive gaming experiences such as shuffleboard and darts, using the latest technology. Stack Bishop Auckland will be a new-build over two floors with a retractable roof and will offer the opportunity for a number of street food traders to take up residence alongside three bars, which will surround a central plaza area with a stage for live music and entertainment. The venue, set to launch in early 2024, will create around 120 jobs. Neill Winch, chief executive of Danieli Group, said: “We are in the business of transforming places, and we hope to be a catalyst for transformation in County Durham, with a combined investment of more than £7m.” Danieli Group runs a Stack site in Sunderland and also previously had a venue in Newcastle that shut earlier this year due to office development work. It is also opening a Stack site in Lincoln.

Kerridge to end partnership with former Manchester United footballers to focus on Marlow and London ventures: Chef Tom Kerridge is to end his partnership with former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. Kerridge is stepping away from The Bull & Bear, the restaurant within the Stock Exchange Hotel in Manchester’s Norfolk Street co-owned by Neville, Giggs and hotelier Winston Zahra, after three years. Kerridge said: “Gary and I have jointly agreed to end our partnership at The Bull & Bear within the Stock Exchange Hotel and will part ways on 31 December. It follows a three-year successful partnership with GG Hospitality that has seen the hotel go from strength to strength, with consistently high occupancy rates. We feel the need to concentrate on our Marlow and London sites, and this allows us to look at further opportunities within these areas. Therefore, we have mutually decided to part ways. We would like to thank all our guests for the amazing support they have given us, and all staff have been offered roles elsewhere within the business, and head chef Connor Black is returning to Australia, where he worked for several years. We wish GG Hospitality and The Stock Exchange all the success in the future.” Neville said he would announce next week his future plans for the Stock Exchange.

Sam Harrison opens second site for deli and grocer shop concept: Restaurateur Sam Harrison has opened the second site for his deli and grocer shop concept, Sam’s Larder, in Chiswick. Harrison and business partner Fanny Stocker, owners of the Sam’s Riverside restaurant and the original Sam’s Larder, both in Hammersmith, have opened their latest venue, in Turnham Green Terrace. It marks a return to Chiswick for Harrison, who ran his first restaurant, Sam’s Brasserie, there from 2005 to 2015. A company spokesman said: “Sam is excited to be returning to his motherland. Sam’s Larder will provide the Chiswick neighbourhood with an expansion of their deli-cum-grocer model, complete with an eat in and takeaway café. Born out of lockdown, Sam’s Larder has continued to evolve into a foodie treasure trove that champions artisan producers, all handpicked by Sam and Fanny themselves.” Among the offering is the duo’s ready meals collection, Frozen by Sam’s Riverside, while various lunch options, as well as fresh bakes, bread and coffee, can be ordered to go or eaten on-site. In the evening, Sam’s Suppers offers “a refined menu of small plates, bowl food and a select choice of Sam’s favourite wines by the glass”.

Fledgling north east pub group launches first loyalty scheme: Fledgling north east pub group The Inn Hospitality Group has launched its first loyalty scheme. The four-strong group, which was launched during the pandemic by Oliver Bennett and Matt Daniel, has introduced a free card that gives holders a point, worth 10p, for every £1 they spend. The points can be redeemed against food or drink at any of its sites – The Olde Ship at Seahouses, The Percy Arms at Chatton, The Anglers Arms at Longframlington and The Derwent Arms at Edmundbyers. Card holders will also get early access to a range of food and drink promotions, and the chance to take part in members-only events throughout the year. “Although our pubs are spread out geographically, they are each at the absolute centre of their villages and communities,” said Bennett. “We value our customers, which is why we announced earlier this autumn that each of our pubs would provide warmth, free hot drinks and book sharing libraries throughout the winter, so no one need sit alone and cold in their home. This loyalty scheme is another way for us to give back to those who are supporting us – and helping them out a bit at a time when the cost of living is on the rise.”

Cavendish Hotels acquires seafront site in Port Talbot: Expanding hotel group Cavendish Hotels has acquired the Aberavon Beach Hotel in Port Talbot, South Wales, for an undisclosed sum. Trading under the Best Western brand, the seafront hotel features 68 updated en-suite rooms, many with sea views, and several additional facilities. This includes a bar and lounge; large ballroom, which is often used for weddings and parties; two boardrooms, 12-metre indoor swimming pool; and a heated spa and sauna. Head of operations for Cavendish Hotels, Mark Aldridge, said: “Aberavon Beach Hotel made a perfect purchase for us. Having experienced good occupancy over the years, our aim is to improve this for the business overall.” Christie & Co acted on the deal.

Fridays to open in Barnsley next week: Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays’, 63rd+1st and Fridays and Go, will open its 86th UK Fridays restaurant next week. The new venue will open in Barnsley’s Glass Works development on Wednesday (16 November), spanning around 5,300 square feet with covers for 200 both indoors and outdoors, creating 70 jobs. Among the offers will be the new festive bottomless brunch, for £29.95 per person, and with the FIFA World Cup coming up, endless chicken wings for £15 per person and £4 American Pilsners during sporting events. Julie McEwan, chief operating officer, said: “This new cocktail bar and restaurant captures the very best of Fridays, including a greater focus on the bar and our amazing cocktails. We cannot wait to bring that Fridays feeling to Barnsley.”

Hairy Bikers star confirms plans for Sunderland restaurant: Hairy Bikers star Si King has confirmed plans to open his first permanent restaurant, in Sunderland. It is set to open in Sheepfolds, the town’s new £2m leisure and events destination, which will launch in a grade II-listed former stables next summer. King will offer a menu of dishes inspired by flavours from around the world and will also use the space to stage pop-ups from independent producers. He said: “Sunderland is a transforming city, and one with great provenance when it comes to local produce. It’s a city by the sea, with access to fresh fish and seafood, plenty of allotments for homegrown fruit and vegetables, and a spirit of innovation that really appeals to me as a creative person. When I met [designers] BDN and heard more about the vision for Sheepfolds, I could see the opportunity to co-design a space that would allow me and my sons, both of whom work in hospitality, to bring some of the unique flavours I have sampled from around the world during my time as a Hairy Biker to the people of Sunderland. That’s what I’m most excited about, offering exceptional, unfussy food to Sunderland – delicious dishes that are inspired by other cultures and that take people on a journey.”

German boutique hotel group Amano to open Spanish-Israeli restaurant at debut UK site: German boutique hotel group Amano will open a Spanish-Israeli restaurant at its debut UK site next month. Penelope’s will launch on Thursday, 1 December, at the hotel in London’s Covent Garden. The restaurant will feature a fusion of Spanish and Israeli flavours, inspired by Amano co-founder Ariel Schiff from his Tel-Aviv and southern Spain upbringing, reports Hot Dinners. Head chef Shimon Peretz, from Amano’s Mani restaurant in Berlin, and executive chef Fezile Ozalgan – formerly of José Pizarro, Hovarda and Barboun – are behind the menu. It will offer sharing-style tapas dishes such as Iberico ham carpaccio with raw tahini and pomegranate syrup; and paella Israeli style, with whole lobster, freekeh and gin-tomato sauce. There will also be DJs playing at the weekend.

Essex steakhouse brand set to open fourth site and first under new luxury concept: Essex steakhouse brand Wood Grill is set to open its fourth site, and first under a new luxury concept. The business – which operates restaurants in Chelmsford, Stansted and Royston ­– will open in the site of former Italian restaurant The Villa, at 7 Station Road in Bishop’s Stortford, on Wednesday, 16 November. It will be the company’s first opening under a new Butcher and Grill concept, offering “a different experience” to the other Wood Grill restaurants. “It’s all about good value and luxurious food,” owner Patrick Benabid told the Hertfordshire Mercury. “We created the Butcher and Grill to make it the next level of the Wood Grill. Wood Grill is a more casual dining experience, and Butcher and Grill is similar but with a little twist. It’s a steakhouse, it has a variety of food, and the restaurant will have live music from a grand piano throughout the week and at weekends.” The food will include premium black angus cattle, bred on hand-selected farms in Argentina, where it grazes on 17 different types of grass.

German Doner Kebab to open in Leeds: German Doner Kebab (GDK), owned by Hero Brands, is to open a site in Leeds. The brand will open at the Cardigan Fields scheme in Burley next month, creating 40 jobs. Daniel Bunce, GDK global chief operating officer, told the West Leeds Dispatch: “Our game-changing kebabs are revolutionising the kebab in the UK, and we are excited to be bringing a new fast-casual dining experience to the area, offering great tasting fresh food in a relaxed and modern setting.” GDK now has more than 130 restaurants worldwide.

Sunderland operators set to open seafood restaurant: Sunderland operators Ben Wall and Neil Bassett, the team behind taco restaurant Mexico70 and The Ship Isis pub in the city, are set to open a new seafood restaurant. Called North, the restaurant will open in a renovated former storage shelter on the Seaburn promenade, reports the Sunderland Echo. Wall said: “Our vision is to create an all-day seafront restaurant, showcasing contemporary dining in a stunning but unstuffy and unpretentious relaxed environment. It gives us an opportunity to showcase the amazing and beautiful coastline that we have here, alongside current and future development of the seafront.” Launching in the coming weeks and offering a selection of seafood and small plates, the restaurant is part of a wider restoration of the area’s seafront that has so far seen the Davis family open a third site for their small-scale gin bar concept, Tin of Sardines, in a former bike shelter. Future openings include the transformation of an old tram shelter by the team behind the Blacks Corner deli in East Boldon, and the renovation of a former shelter into a beachfront bar by the Vaux Brewery.

XP Factory lines up Stevenage Boom Battle Bar: XP Factory has lined up an opening in Stevenage for its Boom Battle Bar concept. It has applied to open in the former Bar & Beyond site in Stevenage Leisure Park, offering axe throwing, curling, shuffleboard and beer pong among other games. The 24th Boom Battle Bar opened this week, in Southampton, and is set to be followed next week by number 25, in Leeds, and then by a 15,000 square-foot venue in London’s Oxford Street at the end of the month. Meanwhile, a new branch of board game and console cafe concept Geek Retreat has also opened in Stevenage, at Unit 1 in Mulberry House, Park Place Plaza. The brand now has 25 venues nationwide.

Burger King gets green light for drive-thru in Bradford: Burger King has been granted planning permission to build a new drive-thru restaurant in Bradford, in partnership with developer Opus North. The drive-thru will be built alongside six retail units on a 2.8-acre site at Eccleshill Park, off the A658. Opus North managing director Andrew Duncan said: “There has been a lot of interest in this proposed development, and having secured Burger King UK as a tenant, we are very keen to get on to the next stage. Our contractors will start on site towards the end of this year, and we are aiming to have everything ready for occupation by the third quarter of 2023.”

Essex waffle bar concept to double up: Essex waffle bar concept Waffle Bar is to double up with an opening in Hornchurch. The company – which offers a selection of authentic Belgian waffles, crepes, milkshakes, cakes and Italian coffee – currently operates a site in Maldon. Now it is launching its second outlet, at Ardleigh Green Road in Hornchurch, according to a statement shared on its Instagram account.

Holiday Inn Darlington unveils new open lobby concept with cafe, Starbucks outlet and workspace pods: Holiday Inn Darlington has unveiled its new open lobby concept, featuring a cafe, Starbucks outlet and workspace pods. The hotel, located on the A1 at Scotch Corner, hopes the lobby refurbishment will make it “a modern destination for the local Darlington community”. It is aiming to attract remote workers with a new media lounge that houses multiple meeting areas and two semi-private state-of-the-art media pods, each for up to five guests. It also features a To Go Cafe with its own Starbucks coffee shop. Tim Snowdon, general manager at Holiday Inn Darlington, said: “The open lobby concept is unique to the Holiday Inn brand, and we are proud to be unveiling our new refurbished space to the Darlington community.”

Essex cafe doubles up with second site: Essex cafe Something Scrummy has doubled up by opening a second site. Andrew and Emily Pennock launched their debut cafe in Coggeshall Road, Braintree, in September 2012. They have now, after ten years, opened a second, inside the town’s museum, in Manor Street.

Edinburgh micro-bakery set to go from pop-up to permanent: Edinburgh micro-bakery Hobz is set to go from pop-up to permanent. The company, which has made several pop-up appearances in the Scottish capital in recent years, now has its first permanent site after acquiring the former Cassia Coffee Shop unit at 106 Leith Walk. The bakery and coffee shop will specialise in sourdough bread, pastries and coffee. The company posted on Facebook: “It feels so good to finally announce Hobz will be a permanent feature in Edinburgh. After months and months of waiting, we finally have the keys. We’re stressed, nervous, and scared, but also incredibly excited! Stay tuned, Hobz will be different.”

Travelodge plans 83-bedroom hotel in Shrewsbury: Plans have been submitted for a new 83-bedroom hotel in Shrewsbury that would be operated by Travelodge. Morris and Company want to redevelop a car park in Barker Street to create a hotel across three floors, with an entrance and reception area on the ground floor, plus three retail units. An applicant statement filed with Shropshire Council said: “The development will provide high quality visitor accommodation, helping to address the current lack of hotel rooms in the town centre. This will lead to a significant increase in visitor numbers to Shrewsbury town centre, which will assist the council in delivering on its objectives for economic growth.”

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